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my life in my words


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I Know You Care

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One of our Westside Kids ministry workers told me a story about a kid in her Pre-K Class. During part of the lesson, the teachers were to ask the kids, “Who is the strongest person you know?” As she asked, one of the little boys said, “Jesus is! You told us that two weeks ago!” It was exciting to hear how the kids in our church are remembering the things they are being taught week after week. I’m consistently inspired by the efforts of our Kid’s Ministry workers, who don’t always get a chance to see the progress week after week. We realize that in kids’ and teen ministry, that you may not get to see the fruit of your labor until these children become college students and professional young people with families, holding a solid foundation in their faith and instilling those Christian values into their own family life.

 

 

Similarly, I was reminded this past week of how we hang on to the things we are taught far beyond the day that they were taught to us. While I was working at GTAustin in Texas, my pastors and mentors consistently  emphasized the importance of “becoming a regular” in local businesses. Our Master’s Commission Director (whom I served under) would always study at the same coffee shop (Genuine Joe) and get to know the baristas that worked there. We also held our Off-Site staff meetings in that same coffee shop. They knew who we were and where we worked and it was up to us to share the practical side of Christ’s love with them. Even when I go home to visit, I always make it a point to stop in for coffee at Genuine Joe. Through the years, that practice has stuck with me and I’ve established the same connections here in Seattle. As I’ve adopted this concept, it hasn’t really been about the coffee as much as it has been the building of relationships. . . . I’ll admit, it does help that I LOVE coffee. ;)

 

 

In my own neighborhood, I frequent 2 coffee shops: The Jewel Box Cafe (which I call Hogwarts) and Cloud City Coffee. When I’m working at the job downtown, I either stop by Metropolitan Market or Caffe Ladro. I’ve taken time to get to know these baristas and they have taken efforts to remember my name and my drink/food order. They notice when I’m not around and when I do show up again, we play catch-up. It’s been really fun to find a local coffee shop “where everybody knows your name.”

 

Caffe Ladro Uptown | Queen Anne, Seattle, WA

Caffe Ladro Uptown | Queen Anne, Seattle, WA

 

Every Sunday morning and afternoon, I get coffee from Robertino’s, a coffee shop just a couple of blocks away from Westside Church. I know the baristas and they know me. They know what I do, where I work, and also notice when I don’t stop by. Often, some of the 2Twelve youth students will stick around with me after morning church services and we will hang out together until youth group in the evening. When it was still in business, our routine was to eat lunch at Great Harvest Bread Co. (we miss it dearly), then grab coffee at Starbucks, and finally head back to the church to get things set up for the youth service. Since Robertino’s closes at 5p, we would always head there at 4:30 to grab some pre-service drinks and treats. The baristas have always been warm, friendly, and attentive while we placed our large and often times confusing order. Then we’d head back to the church and get on with our evening. Over the past month, our youth schedule has been off-and-on due to holidays and special events, so I haven’t been able to bring them in with me as much.

 

Robertino's near Westside Church

Robertino’s near Westside Church

 

It’s been sweet to have the baristas at Robertino’s ask me how the 2Twelve students are doing and how our youth group is going. I even got a chance to meet a new barista the other day and invited her to join us for a service at Westside. She appreciated the offer, but told me she attends another church in the area. However, that didn’t stop us from talking about our faith and I even found out that just like me, she has “faith roots” in The Assemblies of God. It was cool to share some quality time with her and begin to build that relationship. On Saturday, as I was preparing the Easter Baskets for our Westside Kids Crew Leaders, I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to make an Easter Basket for the baristas at Robertino’s. I tried to drop it off on Sunday, but they were closed, so I decided to drop it off yesterday and the barista was so excited to enjoy and share the treats with her co-workers. She then asked me how our Easter service went and what I was up to at work that day. We chatted for a bit about before the next customer walked in and went on with our day.

 

Happy Easter to Robertino's!

Happy Easter to Robertino’s!

 

I treasure those special connections and I’m looking forward to even more when I move to Green Lake! What about you, do you have any “regular” spots that make you feel like you walked into an episode of Cheers? If not, I really encourage you to do that—the power of intentional connection in community is a gift that keeps on giving!

 

★ Breakfast of Champions ★


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When I’m With You

Hoppy Easter, y’all!

 

Whew! What a rip-roaring fun weekend this has been! I don’t have much mental power or time to really expound on all that went down, so I will let the pictures and videos do some of the talking. Here are some written highlights, though:

  • Taking care of Ben and Ryan while their parents were away for the weekend. These boys are awesome and so much fun to hang out with! I talked them into watching 2 episodes of CSI:NY with me and we also cracked up watching Zoolander together! 
  • I went Ice Skating with the 2Twelve crew! The last time I went ice skating was in Junior High, so the fact that I was able to actually skate “off-the-wall” was FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC!
  • Our Easter morning service at Westside Kids was wonderful and hectic and awesome and exhausting—everything a special service should be ;) 
  • Ben & Ryan’s folks returned on Sunday afternoon, and after church, I got to spend family time with them catching up and watching HACHIE (I HIGHLY recommend you watch it!!!—tears galore!) and then I made them a yummy Easter dinner so that they could unpack and unwind without any extra responsibilities. It was my first time making Easter dinner (smoked ham, garlic roasted brussels sprouts, and mashed sweet potatoes) and it was a HIT! 

And now for the pics and videos! 

 

Deep down inside, I know the Miller boys are *really* excited to have me taking care of them this weekend!

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This was so fun that I couldn’t NOT post it!

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Pre-Chill at Menchie’s before the Big Chill on the ice at our Sk8 D8!

2Twelve Sk8 D8

Shenanigans On Ice

Enjoying a rad SK8 D8 with the 2Twelve Crew!!!

 

 

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Even though they’re in High School, those boys totally deserved an Easter Basket . . . you’re never too old, right?? ;)

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E. Stubbs crafting the Easter snack—Dough Bunnies

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Even with all of the rushed craft prep, E.Stubbs still managed to spell out her love for me in jelly beans ;)

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Me and my widdle wabbit fwiend at Westside Kids!


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Holding On And Letting Go

★ A sneak peek into my near future ★

★ A sneak peek into my near future ★

 

My housemates are calling this The End of an Era and it feels just as awkward to label it as it does to live through it. However, the time has come for me to move on to the next season of life and for me, that means moving out of my little room in my beloved Roosevelt House into a new larger, more consistent living space with two of my friends from Westside Church. Having lived at the Roosevelt House for the past 6 years, it’s been a surreal transition even from the get-go. The thought of leaving the Roosevelt House before entering into a romantic engagement was never fully formed in my mind. According to my road map, I’d stay there until there was a ring on my finger and a date set for a wedding ceremony. It appears that someone moved my cheese and things are shifting—for the bittersweet better!

 

 

The years I’ve spent there have been packed full with fun memories, treasured traditions, housemate dates, ugly cry sessions, hallway chats, and even recovering from one of the most traumatic experiences of my life to date. As I was procrastinating the beginning of the packing process, I looked back on some of these photos from when I first moved in and I barely recognized the place! My walls, once bare, were now covered in Christmas cards, love notes, concert posters, movie posters, and more memories than I could count. I moved into this house with next-to-nothing (seriously, the bed isn’t even mine—it came with the room!) and now I am leaving with boxes of memories, ready to be scrap-booked and set on a shelf in front of bare walls once again.

 

 

For the most part, my housemates have been a genuine source of positive momentum. In general, they haven’t had solid religious beliefs, which challenges me to share the truth of God in new and practical ways. It also gives me a constant perspective on life outside of the “bubble” of Christian thought. They’ve never judged me (well, except for one of them) based on my own religious beliefs and many times have asked me to pray for them and their families. And even those who have not been ideal housemates—a klepto, a sociopath, those with severe OCD, language/cultural barriers, personality clashes, and nudists—I have learned greater people skills, safer boundaries, and empathy on new levels. I’m still FAR from perfect, but I’m excited for another round with new housemates. My landlady has also been an incredible source of life and strength for me in my many years at the house. She’s let me become a part of her life when most in her position wouldn’t. She’s been an encouragement to me in hard times. She’s been more than a landlady . . . she’s been a friend! It will be hard not being able to see her quite as often once I move. I’m just glad we are still Facebook friends! :)

 

 

I have loved making traditions with those in my current place and look forward to even more when I move. The great thing about seasons of life is that we can take some of the best things with us into the next, while leaving the rest behind. One of my housemates already commented that when the next person takes over my room, she’s going to have a talk with that girl and let her know that she has “some big shoes to fill.” My other housemates are concerned they’ll get a weirdo to replace me and she won’t be as fun to live with. I hope to high heaven that the next tenant in my room embraces these incredible ladies and this house with their whole heart. I’ve mentioned it on more than one occasion, but my housemates have become my friends and I would ‘go to the mats’ for them in a heartbeat!

 

 

Leaving convenience is never easy. Moving to a new neighborhood means that the grocery store isn’t just a block away anymore. It’s no longer a 5 minute walk to the gym, it’s now a 20 minute commute (still worth it). I won’t be living 15 minutes away from the movie theater and transit center. There will be a lot of trial and error as I learn to navigate the new commutes, but I’m thankful that both buses near my new place will get me where I need to go quickly and that I’ll be able to get to know a whole new set of bus drivers. Moving from Northgate to Greenlake will introduce me to a whole new culture of people, pace, and places, which is pretty exciting!

 

 

What I do know is that once I move, the old familiar things like my favorite coffee shop (The Jewel Box Cafe) and Target shopping sprees will be much more appreciated and valued. It will cause me to plan better and become more efficient with my schedule, which I’m all about! However, it will create more distance between me and my best friend, Heather. Although she has a car, living in close proximity to her has been a comfort through the years. Truthfully, my initial move to the Roosevelt House was inspired by the comfort of home. Moving halfway across the country with no friends or family to call my own, I craved some form of stability and connection to my life in Texas. That came in the form of a mall, double decker Target, Ross, and eventually movie theater. Those were all happy places for me back home and not having grown up in a culture where each neighborhood has its own local markets and shops that people frequent it was a good transitional culture for me. After 6 years of living in Seattle and exploring almost all of the diverse neighborhoods, the move to Greenlake seems less scary and more filled with adventure.

 

 

Now this is where things start to seem a bit silly and wonderful. As I was taking a tour of the new house to decide whether or not it would be the right place for me to move to, there were a few things that drew me in. First of all, the front flower bed had these beautiful purple flowers that resembled Texas Bluebonnets, which I’ve grown up with and have always loved. Secondly, the upstairs bathroom tiles and layout reminds me of my grandmother’s bathroom—a little piece of traditions and memories. Thirdly, having a downstairs kitchenette all to myself is quite liberating! I love cooking and meal prepping, so the convenience of having my own designated space for that was a big sway. Fourthly, they are building a brand new Starbucks right on the corner by my new house! If that isn’t the voice of God, I don’t know what is! ;) Just kidding, I had already prayed about this move and felt comfortable with it, and after praying even more about the house after the tour I believe God has some special stuff in store for me in the new place with the new housemates.

 

♥ Looking forward to a season of new beginnings ♥

♥ Looking forward to a season of new beginnings ♥

 

I will miss many things about living in the Roosevelt House. Mainly, my housemates and my amazing landlady, but also other elements of communal living in that culture. There will also be things I don’t miss. What I hope I don’t miss the most during this move is the opportunity to make every last moment and new moment between houses count. I hope I don’t miss taking in the beauty of change, the treasure of growing friendships, and the renewal of a fresh start! For now, it’s packing, packing, packing. Then it’s off to Atlanta for a Children’s Ministry conference. The day after I return is moving day. And that next Monday begins a new Era—one I’m very much looking forward to! One month is all I get to hold on to what matters before letting go of my own plans and stepping into the one that God has in store!

 

Enjoying precious moments with my housemates, sharing memories of our former rotating housemates and how our friendships have grown in this house.


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Let My Soul Sing

Part Of Our Westside Kids P&W Crew!

Part Of Our Westside Kids P&W Crew!

 

One of the fun aspects of working in Children’s Ministry is integrating my bent toward creative communications with practical ministry tools. As a Children’s Director, my inbox is constantly flooded with “the next best thing” . . . which actually looks and sounds a lot like the previous best thing, which actually wasn’t something that I think would appeal to our kids. All of that has taught me that though it may be a great thing, it’s not the best thing, and that’s okay. Different strokes for different folks, eh?

 

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Singing along to SHINE by North Point Kids—this one was a total favorite for all of our kids!

 

Our Children’s Ministry curriculum is supplied through a four-year package from a well-known ministry resource company that I’m sure supplies hundreds (if not thousands) of ministries with the tools necessary to make ministry a lot less stressful, more engaging, and easier to manage than what has been used in the past. While I truly appreciate all that the company, and its curriculum creators invest into providing said resources, there are some aspects that are not my idea of the “best” thing for our particular ministry. This shows up mostly in the form of their praise and worship resources. Each quarter of the curriculum comes with its own set of videos and songs to use on that particular set of lessons. Those songs are designed to help reiterate the theme and engage the kids in a meaningful time of praise and worship. However, that hasn’t always been the case for our kids. On more than one occasion, kids in our ministry have noted that the songs are not exciting, the moves are too difficult to follow, and they find it hard to move past the cheese factor on some of the videos. I get it—I really do—I also find myself conflicted in some of those circumstances. After going through a couple of series experiencing a lack of momentum during our worship time, I decided to look outside of our set curriculum. What I found was a fresh take on kid’s praise and worship songs!

 

Our Children's Ministry Intern, Chelsey D., leading the kids in one of our songs!

Our Children’s Ministry Intern, Chelsey D., leading the kids in one of our songs!

 

Some of my favorite artists to utilize have been AMBER SKY RECORDS and NORTH POINT KIDS, and GATEWAY NEXT. When I swap out songs in the series soundtrack, I usually stick to lyrics videos because they are readily available from those groups, however the motions are not. That poses a new problem, but also opens many new doors for ministry. It is in those moments that I’m able to integrate creative communications with practical ministry tools. In the anticipation of planning the next series, I will review the curriculum-included songs and watch the accompanying motion videos. From then, I’ll decide which ones fit with our ministry style and which ones I don’t think would fit. Then I’ll whittle down the list to see how many songs I need replaced, making sure there is a good balance of both praise and worship tunes. Then, I will preview other songs from various sources and ask myself:

  • What is the biblical truth found in this song?
  • Is it catchy enough?
  • Does it fit with our theme?
  • Does it provide too many lagging moments?
  • Would it be easy to choreograph and teach?

We also try to include some more traditional favorites to “pass-on” to the kids. Last series, we did THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE and it was so sweet to see the kids singing along to the same song I learned when I was their age. As I finalize the list of  songs we’ll include, I buy the ones I need to and make sure that they are all loaded on my phone’s music playlist. I’ll listen to them for a couple of weeks everywhere I go so that I can get them stuck in my head and allow for any creative inspiration to arise. Then, when I’m at home, I’ll shut myself in my room and practice some sample choreography. From there, I decide what works, what doesn’t and what is too repetitive. These moves have to be easy enough for our Pre-K crowd and engaging enough for our Elementary crowd (we do an all-ages worship set in our main meeting space). After settling on moves for the 4 or 5 songs (on average) that need choreography, I steal away to the dining room upstairs in my house where we have a full wall of mirrors. I’ll blast the songs from my headphones and then watch myself in the mirror to see how everything flows and work on transitions. A few weeks before our new series, I’ll create and burn a soundtrack CD/DVD for all of our workers and volunteers to have so that they can get accustomed for the songs we’ll be doing in the next series.

 

With the new songs we've introduced, we have more kids coming up asking if they can dance with us in front of everyone because they know the moves! I love seeing them so excited for praise and worship time!

With the new songs we’ve introduced, we have more kids coming up asking if they can dance with us in front of everyone because they know the moves! I love seeing them so excited for praise and worship time! [Photo by Corbett Stubbert]

 

A lot of the assistance I receive in this aspect of ministry comes from our first service teenage volunteers (from our youth group). They show up about an hour and a half before service check-in time begins and they help me do “last looks” to be sure that all of our rooms are set to go for the morning with all supplies needed. Then, we’ll vote on and organize the song set list for that morning, since they help me lead in both services. During that time, I’ll also introduce new songs that I’ve been working on and they’ll start learning those moves, as well as helping me re-choreograph trouble spots and give me honest feedback on how they’re feeling about the flow and moves of each song. They’ll also look at the videos provided by our curriculum and let me know ahead of time if they think those songs are workable, too cheesy, or not engaging enough. We’ll go over the new things we’ve learned and that morning’s set list a few times before we all head upstairs for a quick bite to eat and coffee to sip on. Then, it’s GO time!

 

This song is called RAISE YOUR HANDS by Amber Sky Records

Kids take to the sides to give themselves ample dancing room and sometimes they ask to join us up front! I love seeing our Westside Kids Crew Leaders joining us onstage and in the crowd, helping kids to not just wake up (gotta love those early Sunday mornings) and start the day with praise & worship, but also to get a head start on the fun times they’ll be having in class that day. It’s great knowing that our team is passionate about being involved with this process. We can already see the foundation it is building in the lives of our kids. During class time, some of the kids will request specific songs from our series soundtrack to play as they work on their crafts. This past Sunday, even after service was over, some kids stayed behind and danced on the stage to another one of our soundtrack songs. I love knowing that we get to join God in helping to guide these kids as they begin to understand the beauty, fun, and freedom that comes through praising and worshiping our King of Kings!

I love seeing our kids get excited about taking a next step to help lead their peers!

It’s so fun seeing our kids get excited about taking a next step to help lead their peers!

For those involved in ministry who are looking for some fresh new songs/choreography to add to your Sunday mornings, here are a couple of the new songs (not part of our provided curriculum) that we are featuring during this current series, READY, SET, GO!:


This song is called GROW UP by Amber Sky Records and was recorded at our Kid’s Praise & Worship Workshop


This song is called HERE I AM TO WORSHIP by Integrity Music and was recorded at our Kid’s Praise & Worship Workshop

And as a bonus, here’s one I am strongly considering for our next series, SCHOOLED:

 


This song is called LET YOU KNOW by Amber Sky Records

Again, it’s a couple of months away and it may not make the cut, but I think it’s might be a fun mid-set song. We’ll see! For those on our Kid’s Ministry crew reading this—THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for ALL of the time and energy you put into making each Sunday a truly Fun Day for the little lives entrusted to our care! You rock!


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Love Alone Is Worth The Fight

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
[Psalm 30:5]

— feeling discouraged.

 

That was my Facebook status a couple of days ago. It was a rough day. It was a rough couple of days. From feeling inadequate at both jobs, to family concerns, to doubts of self-worth, to feeling unneeded, to having nobody show up for my ministry team meeting . . . I went to bed  with my pity party hat on, crying (yes, big girls DO cry), and wondering if what I was doing even mattered. I wondered why I was trying when it didn’t seem like I was actually making a difference. I poured my heart into my work, my passions, my family, and over those couple of days, it seemed as though I had taken 2 steps forward and 15 back—I was failing big time and bringing the people I cared about down with me. I posted the above statement on Facebook, partially wanting to just “leave it behind,” partially wanting to show my weakness, and partially as a landmark frozen in social networking time. So I posted it and traveled from FB Land to my Pillow Palace. The only thing I could do in that moment to calm the mind games was ask God to be with me. No really, I simply whispered as I lay in bed, “God, be with me. Please.” Then, I turned on this song and fell asleep, unmotivated, discouraged, and defeated.

 

 

Then I woke up to a brighter day. The thoughts of inadequacy were still hiding out in the corners of my mind, even as I looked in the mirror and said, “Today will be better. It’s a new day.” The feelings lingered and I kept pressing on. I knew they would—I’ve served in ministry long enough to recognize the mind games and the trying seasons post-victory. I just wish they would get easier to deal with as time goes by. Sadly, they get trickier and hit harder the further in you go. I played some of my favorite praise & worship songs as I got dressed and headed downtown to the waterfront for a special quiet time. The water is where I connect with God the most. The boundless wonder of the fluid mass reminds me that every particle that makes up that large body of water was handcrafted by the same Creator that made me. The the same God that orchestrates the tides also orchestrates my life. The stretch of water that spills over the horizon is as boundless as the Father’s love for me. As I sat by the water, meditating on 1 Kings 19:11-12, I asked for that whisper. I asked for the peace that passes understanding. I asked for the courage to face the earthquake and the fire, and to be able to walk away like guys do when walking away from an explosion . . . in confidence, without looking back. (Look, not all my prayers are PC.)

 

 

After that quiet time, I did what any normal human being would do when they realize they are the solo kid hanging out on a pier by the cold water—I checked my text messages and I checked my Facebook. What I got was that whisper. A very loud whisper. Friends had commented and texted some of the most ENcouraging things and it combated my discouragement like a rookie in a prize-fighting ring. Though the thoughts still clung to me for dear life, they were weakened, primed for a TKO. Part of that TKO came when I showed up to work at Westside. Our associate pastor’s mother noticed me walk in, but my headphones were in (as per my usual bad habit), so I didn’t hear her calling to me. Instead, she followed me into my office and I turned in shock that someone had followed me into my office, and stumbled to my desk as I belted out a terrified scream. Once I calmed down, she asked how I was doing and knowing she hadn’t seen my Facebook post, I broke down in her arms and let it all out. I’m not sure how much of those tears were induced by the circumstances and how much was induced by having the bejeebus scared outta me, but it felt great to cling to her and just cry it out. My co-workers at the other job would be so proud of me (it’s a Counseling Resource Center and they LOVE when you show emotion). After drying my eyes a bit, I went upstairs to see my G-Mama (our Office Admin), who invited me to come talk to her about what was going on, since she had seen the post on Facebook. I talked it over with her and was left even more encouraged and finally began to feel a strong peace about things. My heart had endured some good healing that morning.

 

 

 

The pinnacle of it all, and perhaps the driving force behind this post, was what happened later that evening. As our youth group game night began, one of my students asked if they could talk to me in private. We headed to my office and they began to share with me that one of their siblings had undergone tests and that it’s more than possible that their sibling has cancer. The student was overcome with fear and the tears were flowing as they asked me to pray for their sibling and their family. In that moment, I felt a fresh wind in my sails. I felt needed again—not to be their Savior, but to stand in the gap and assure them that their family wasn’t in this fight alone. My faith activated and I prayed one of the most passionate prayers I’d prayed in a while. We both walked out of that office with empty shoulders, having cast all of our fears and doubts on God, believing for the best. We spent the rest of the evening surrounded by people who share our hope, our faith, and our love for full life. Things came full circle and I had seen that not only was this a time for me to lean on others, but to be reminded that whether I’m in ministry or not, God wants me to be a refuge for those in need. In that moment, the student and I were twinsies—both broken, both hoping for greater things, and both putting our hearts in each others’ hands. I believe that’s what God intended from the beginning and it’s one of the lessons that it’s taken me what seems like forever to put into practice: To be able to surrender that image of “having it all together” and walk with others through the truth of “I have no clue what I’m doing, or why I’m doing it because nothing makes sense right now.” In the end, we were left with a hopeful future, knowing that whatever comes our way, we still have each other and we still have God. Before I went to bed last night, I thought to myself, “What you’re doing does matter. Stay the course.”

 

 

To everyone who left encouraging messages on my Facebook, THANK YOU! To Donna Stubbert, THANK YOU!! To Glenda Wright, my G-Mama, THANK YOU!!! And to my 2Twelvers, THANK YOU!!!! Thank you all for helping me stay on the right track and for reminding me of the complete greatness of God! I think I’m ready to go another 5 rounds!

 

rocky


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Hearts Go Crazy

Powerful leaders and rockin' guitars? Hmm. I MUST be in Austin! ;)

Powerful leaders and artsy rockin’ guitars? Hmm. I MUST be in Austin! ;)

My visit home to the ATX was nothing short of jam-packed, fast-paced,
FUN FUN FUN!!

Along with that fun, it was also filled with a lot of growing! I was finally in a place mentally/emotionally/spiritually where I was able to focus on more positive things and choose joy despite inconveniences & last-minute changes. I became more flexible and more vocal about what was really happening in my mind. I gave grace out of true love, not out of “obligation.” I sat and listened while I was dead tired because I didn’t want the speaker to think that they are invaluable—because they certainly are not! They are, in fact, some of the MOST valuable people in my life. I know that we are going to continue to grow as individuals and as a family this year in fresh new ways. The distance is INDEED making our hearts grow fonder, our ability to ask for help more frequent, and our honesty even more valued. Now that I’ve had time to grow close to my family while visiting last week, I’m looking forward to growing even closer to my family across the miles this year!

Here are some of my favorite moments from vacation:

Cupcakes

Being greeted by Mr. Hello Kitty at the airport and heading right over to Anabelle’s school for her big Birthday surprise!

school

Anabelle was SO focused on what the teacher was saying that she didn’t even see us come in through the classroom door (off to the right front side)!

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But when she saw us, she was on CLOUD 9! It was a perfect surprise!

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And then even better because Grandpa and Aunt Mandy got to join her for lunch and playground time!

seargent

We even made a special pit-stop by Grandma’s work, where the nice soldiers gave Anabelle some sweet Birthday moolah!

Trivia

Trivial Pursuit at breakfast with my mom & sis was priceless!

Nate

We got to celebrate family with quality time at my Mamo’s (Grandma’s) house and I got to watch my little cuzzo cub, Nate, walking around!! Precious moments to the max!

Pops

Quality time with this dude was always a win! :) I just forever love my pops!

We were SO loud in the restaurant and it was quite possibly one of the happiest moments we’ve shared as siblings in a VERY long time! :)

Grandma

I *rarely* get to see my Grandma Martinez when I go home to visit, so it was super special to spend time with her before I flew home.

science

Vanessa got to show off her science project + got to share some treasured time together discussing/planning her visit to Seattle next summer! ;)

hearts

Vanessa and I also got a chance to compare heart tattoos and talk about life/school stuff. I love quality time with that little Miss!

I got to treat my mom to her 1st EVER pedicure! She said, “You made me feel like a Queen!” That’s good, because she TOTALLY is! ♥

Even though I had a short amount of time to spend with everyone, I took any opportunity I could to squeeze in time . . . even if it meant staying out late at the restaurant with my dad and keeping myself occupied with work projects while waiting for his breaks. TOTALLY worth it! :)

Even though I had a short amount of time to spend with everyone, I took any opportunity I could to squeeze in time . . . even if it meant staying out late at the restaurant with my dad and keeping myself occupied with work projects while waiting for his breaks. TOTALLY worth it! :)

 

Thinking back to those treasured times with my family brings me peace, knowing that there is healing and maturation in store for this divided heart of mine. Yes, you read that right—divided . . . but not divided for long, I’m sure. You see, currently on one side of my heart is my family back home, and on the other side is my family here in Seattle. These two pieces of my heart are miles apart from each other. Yet I have high hopes and firm beliefs that as I grow this year, they can find a healthy way to come together to make up one WHOLEHEARTED Amo. In pursuit of that merger, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my Pastor a few weeks ago. We were discussing something in one of our staff meetings and I kept referring to GT Austin (the church I used to attend in Austin) as “My Home Church.”  While I kept saying, “My Home Church,” he stopped me for a second and said, “This is your home church.” In that instance I realized just how right he was and just how much I’d been living with my feet on Seattle soil and my mind on Texas life. I wanted the best of both worlds (don’t we all) but now it was time to settle the roots down into something solid. He meant no ill-will by correcting my phrasing, he simply wanted me to focus on the present and embrace the church family that consistently embraces me. I truly appreciate that wake-up call and refocusing that has me set on a forward path. It’s not wrong to keep my family and their well-being in my heart, however, it is wrong to allow the long-distance concerns to keep me from pursuing my goals and dreams for my life and for my future family. As I continue to travel through this year of WHOLEHEARTED living, I’m learning to change the inner-voice that helps to guide my mindsets. By shifting that inner-voice, I am hoping that I will be able to take full inventory of the life around me and truly embrace all that God has for me here in Seattle!


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Hot Patootie — Bless My Soul

10 points to you if you just started singing the song. ;)

Puget Sound view from Grace's place! ♥

Puget Sound view from Grace’s place! ♥

 

As I sit here in the C Terminal at DFW airport, I find myself mulling over some the wonderful conversation pieces I shared with my friend Grace last night. It’s been a long while since I’ve gotten to hang out with her, so we had a lot of catching up to do during our pre-flight hangout. So much of the conversation was edifying to my soul and gave me a great opportunity of refocus. We talked a lot about the premise of perfection. We talked a lot about the risks that we don’t take due to our upbringing of perfection and how we’ve developed it in our own lives and seen it focused on in the lives of friends.

 

Tram Time at DFW . . . killin' time during my 3 hour layover!

Tram Time at DFW . . . killin’ time during my 3 hour layover!

 

Often times through our discussion, we reverted to the Pinterest Perfect phenomenon. It’s that moment when you’ve seen something on Pinterest, attempted it, failed, and given up because it’s not PINTEREST PERFECT. We discussed the frustration of spending hours on a craft project only to put in our closet of shame and refuse to share it with anyone because we failed. It not only permeates the way we view our next project (if we even decide to take on another), it affects our willingness to risk the next big step in life . . . what if we fail?

 

 

Failure has always been a struggle for me. I’ve grown up on stories of how so-and-so was a failure, and how I would be failure if I didn’t accomplish A,B,C,D, and E. Why don’t I have kids yet? Why don’t I have a boyfriend yet? Why am I not publishing my own books? Why am I not doing ______ in the ministry. Why is our youth group not running 500 students strong? What is the hold up? Why am I not successful? Well, let me tell you, it’s because:

 

I’m not there yet.
We’re not there yet.
Things are moving in that direction, but it’s just not there yet.

 

And that’s OKAY. I think. I believe. I hope. It’s taken me an entire year of RENEWAL to truly understand and be okay with that. Is it perfected in me, nah. But is it a reality I’m growing in, you betcha! I have friends whose focal points of conversation seem to be: 

  • I can’t seem to get this baby weight off fast enough.
  • I just want a bigger house.
  • My family will never succumb to the pressure of society.
  • Being a stay-at-home-mom is the best thing for children.
  • A proper Christian attends small group, a church service, and serves ministries on the street 5 days a week, while wearing the fanciest Sunday best.
  • All the best moms throw Pinterest Baby Showers/Birthday Parties/Spa Nights 
  • I can totally snack at this party because I took all my diet pill supplements today.
  • By the time you’re 30, you should be married with kids and getting your kids learning sign language by the time they are 2 years old. 

 

And if these are the perceptions of “where I should be,” then by all accounts, I’m hosed.

  • I can’t seem to get this baby weight off fast enough. . . . color me Devil’s Advocate, but didn’t you JUST give birth to a tiny human? Give yourself a break—you still have time to slowly get back into a healthy shape. I also mentioned to Grace that one of my favorite things about watching The Biggest Loser is that it reminds me that it’s NEVER too late to turn your life around and make the next best wise choice.
  • I just want a bigger house. . . . A better, bigger, life is not made in a building, it’s made through a lifetime of experiences. If I can’t be satisfied in a small house, I’ll have a rough time being satisfied in a large house. We must make the most of the space we’re given.
  • My family will never succumb to the pressure of society. . . . Because following your child around 24/7 isn’t creepy at all . . . 

  • Being a stay-at-home-mom is the best thing for children. . . . There is a 95% chance that I will never be a stay-at-home mom unless I work from home, and even then, those kids are getting shipped off to school. Color me selfish all ya want. 
  • A proper Christian attends small group, a church service, and serves ministries on the street 5 days a week, while wearing the fanciest Sunday best. . . . Sometimes I just don’t wanna. Sometimes I am too exhausted to. Sometimes I just want to meet with Jesus while I’m sitting by the waterfront and not in a chair in a church building. I don’t always have time to get gussied up in my Sunday best.
  • All the best moms throw Pinterest Baby Showers/Birthday Parties/Spa Nights . . . Clearly I won’t be winning any Mother-Of-The-Year Awards in this category. Come over to my house for a chick-flick, popcorn, veggies + hummus, and irreverent conversation.
  • I can totally snack at this party because I took all my diet pill supplements today. . . . I can totally snack at this party because I now have a healthy relationship with food and I understand why I’m eating it and it’s not to cover up the fact that I feel I’m the odd person out and can’t relate to anyone at this party. I can totally snack at this party because these fruits and veggies are healthy and these cupcakes were made from scratch and not manufactured and over-processed. I don’t have diet pill supplements because I like the confidence that comes with being able to pick out my own foods and be responsible for what I put in my body.
  • By the time you’re 30, you should be married with kids and getting your kids learning sign language by the time they are 2 years old. . . . I’m just starting to learn a little bit of sign language to teach our kids in Kid’s Church right now. I’m hoping to adopt a teenager sometime early next year whether I’m married or not.

And that’s OKAY.

I’ve got a few secrets to share with you:

I went to public school.
I spent the majority of my life eating Ballpark food.
I got caught booty dancing on a table in a classroom at school and flipped off an administrator once.
I sweet-talked (lied) my way out of consequences for that incident.
My mom didn’t use cloth diapers on me.
I’ve never eaten grass-fed beef. Though I HAVE eaten Grass-Fed Beef, it clearly wasn’t  different/memorable enough for me to be able to tell that it was . . .  and I doubt that it will be something commonly found on my own dinner table in the future.
I still don’t eat ONLY ORGANIC food.
I’ve attempted 4 Pinterest projects and failed all of them with flying colors.
Even when I was “required” to wear dress clothes to church, I refused and wore jeans instead.
I have experienced periods of time where I’ve had no social contact for days and been COMPLETELY content with it!

And in the end, I somehow turned out “okay.” ;) 

Amirite??? ;)

 

Do I still have quirky behaviors and a random sense of humor? Yep! and I love it!
Do I have to wake up at 3 a.m. to breast feed my child? Nope! And I love it!
Am I speaking at conferences to crowds of thousands? Nope! And I might someday but for now, the audience I have in Westside Kids and 2Twelve is MORE than enough!
Do I sometimes say the wrong thing at the wrong time? Absolutely! Please forgive me. I’m still learning.

 

 

All that to say, I’m enjoying the journey—the journey of being okay with growing and learning. The journey of being okay with not being perfect. The journey of understanding that not only was I born for greatness, but I am great right here and right now, simply because God loves me. I don’t have to rise to perfection. I can finally come to terms with living my best life possible right now, complete with victories and valleys! Also, let me (hopefully not) be the first to tell you that life is SO much fun when you don’t have it all figured out! ;)

 

So many great things come out of my quality times with my Gracie Lou Who! :D

 

As Grace & I finished up our conversation, we reflected on the beauty of seeing mistakes as stepping stones in a forward motion. We rejoiced that we were both on a good track to make the best of the worst situations. It reminded me of a moment yesterday morning (oh stressful Sunday mornings) and one of my youth girls asked me how I was “keeping it all together” when I had teachers out with the flu, last-minute changes, etc. and I said, “I choose joy. If I allow these circumstances to push me down and get me running away, nobody wins. I will be miserable and ineffective for what God has called me to do. These situations suck,* but I choose joy. It’s the only way forward for me.”

 

Today, let’s choose joy. Let’s choose to be imperfect. Let’s choose to be okay with being completely ourselves and not let our mistakes define us. Let’s step forward and move on to the greater things that God has in store for us!

 

* That’s youth pastor of the year award material right there, folks!

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