my life in my words

Pioneer | #Wholehearted Review

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Oh 2014, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways . . .

It’s been a while since I’ve visited this here blog. I’ll be real with ya—I’ve been cheating on you! *sigh* It’s true, with my current schedule, I’ve only had time to work on one devotional/blog a month and it’s all been put into our Westside Kids weekly newsletter, THE REFRIGERATOR DOOR:


See, look! Our youth and children's ministry parents get one of these delivered to their  Inboxes each week! :O They take a bit of work, but it's a labor of LOVE. :)

See, look! Our youth and children’s ministry parents get one of these delivered to their Inboxes each week! They take a bit of work, but it’s a labor of LOVE. 🙂


Still, I wanted to let you know that I think of you often, and I’ve made it a goal this year to get back on track with this blog (along with our weekly RD). There are a lot of cool conversations, design ideas, and stories I really want to share with you in 2015 and I’m moving you up on the priority list . . . HOORAY!!

However, before we dive into a new year, I find it’s only right for me to take some time to share with you how this past year has shaped up with my yearly focus of WHOLEHEARTED. I can honestly say that I’ve seen every aspect of that word show itself in my life this past year. For example, this blog. I’ve been so focused on getting my whole heart wrapped up in the present that I haven’t taken much time to reflect on it here to store for memory’s sake. That doesn’t mean logging it in wasn’t on my mind, it just didn’t make it to my heart this time around. So here’s the recap you’ve all (2 of you reading this) have been waiting for!! (You HAVE been waiting, right?! . . . even just a little? No, okay. Well then just humor me here . . . )


{Take Inventory of Where You’ve Been And How That Will Propel You To Where You Want To Go}

I cleaned my schedule up for the first time and made it a priority to set some important things as actual dates on my calendar. For instance, my ministry meetings, family phone calls, and workouts. I spent the beginning of the year focusing on what was most important to me and what I wanted to build on for 2014 > time with family. I flew home to be with my family at the beginning of the year and redeemed a lot of time lost with them across the miles. I said NO to a few things that were wants but not needs, and made sure to give myself plenty of downtime to just “BE”—early morning quiet times, walks around Green Lake, walks around Downtown Seattle, crafting, CSI Binges . . . you know, all the GOOD stuff! I still stayed pretty busy, but it wasn’t a bad busy. It was a fulfilling busy that allowed for some special and precious moments to treasure for years to come.

My first (and only) Seahawks shirt! My little buddy Joe is a MUCH bigger fan than I am. ;)

My first (and only) Seahawks shirt! My little buddy Joe is a MUCH bigger fan than I am. 😉

{Cultivate Authenticity}

I got even more honest with my accountability partners and with myself. I stopped giving excuses for my actions and said things (in love) that were honestly on my heart. I eased up on the sugar-coating with co-workers and allowed them to see a more vulnerable side of my life. I questioned a lot of the things I had been doing and cut out the things I was doing as a form of escapism from having to face tough life choices. Though I was at church on Superbowl Sunday, I DID NOT watch the Seahawks win the game . . . because if I’m being AUTHENTIC, I really could care less about football. But what I do care about is spending time with people who aren’t afraid to be goofy. So I was upstairs watching Battle of the Year with 2 of my youth group kiddos, having dance parties and eating lots of yummy food!

One of my last nights with my Roosevelt Housemates

{Cultivate Self-Compassion}

This one actually took a lot of work throughout the month. Forgiving and offering grace to others is pretty easy to do. Yet when it comes time to forgive yourself or offer grace to yourself, the resistance kicks up a notch. It’s so easy for me to hate on myself, and not in a humble way either. I’ve struggled with self-pity quite a bit in life. God did a lot of work on my heart during the month of March and brought me to a place of reciting to myself in the mirror each morning: God chose to wake you up this morning. You are beautiful and you matter to God. Today is your day to live life to the fullest. Go get ‘em! I think it was a timely discipline because toward the end of the month, I was making a big move . . . from Northgate to Greenlake. It was a big move that was coming at the same time that I was heading out to Atlanta, Georgia for my first experience at The Orange Conference. I was nervous I would forget something, or that things wouldn’t work out, but reciting those kind words to myself each morning eased the stress and made the process easier for me. Though it’s not always those same words, I’ve continued the practice of self-encouragement and it’s made life a bit brighter—to believe for myself that my shortcomings and imperfections don’t define me.

{Cultivating a Resilient Spirit}

Cultivating a resilient spirit made more sense toward the end of the month as I spent a couple of weeks trying to understand what that looked like in light of working in ministry. It was my first year to attend The Orange Conference in Atlanta, GA and for the first time in a long time, I found “my people.” I found youth pastors who had been down the same road that I had, children’s directors who knew exactly what I was talking about when asking ministry questions, and I found people who weren’t afraid to be Big Kids and ‘let their freak flag fly!’ I flew to the conference solo, representing my church’s kids and youth ministries. When I actually attended the conference, I gained a new large group of buddies to network with. We called ourselves TEAM DETERMINED because we were determined to be on the first two rows at the conference. We wanted to be up-close-and-personal with these mighty voices who had paved, traveled, and re-routed the same roads we’d been traveling on in ministry. We would wait together in line and rush to the main floor once the doors opened each session and we’d save seats for each other. Each session began with praise & worship and I was overwhelmed with the freedom I felt during those worship experiences—something I hadn’t experienced at my own church in over a year. Not that my own church doesn’t do that, but here’s where I’ll get honest. I rarely get a chance to go upstairs for the main service. Is that bad? Yes, I’m sure it is on some level, but Sunday mornings are not always smooth sailing for me. I still get volunteers who say they’ll be there and then don’t show up at all. I still have those moments where I’m ready to sneak upstairs and one of our kids with special needs is in need of a shoulder to cry on while their Small Group Leader leads the rest of their crew in craft or prayer time. I don’t regret it for a second. Do I miss going upstairs to connect with God? Not really. I connect with God in a pretty powerful way on Sunday mornings with our kids, and then I get to listen to the sermon when it’s posted online later that week. But understanding what my resilient spirit is in light of ministry is what made me feel so overwhelmed at Orange. I wasn’t afraid to raise my hands, I hadn’t forgotten how to worship God—I even threw in some kid’s praise choreography ;). I am realizing that my church experience just looks different during this time of my life, and I’m more than okay with that as long as I still know how to connect with God and others in the midst of it.


{Cultivating Gratitude and Joy}

Gratitude and joy overflowed in my heart as I moved into a new, bigger, space in Greenlake during the month of May! I had new places to explore, and each morning gave me a new view at this special treat of a living space. I missed my old housemates, but I also love my new ones. We spent extra time in May getting to know each other better and creating precious moments. This month, I nailed my focus!


Summer and Eve making their debut at the Women’s Retreat!

{Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith}

Our annual Women’s Retreat was held during the month of June and though I had been working on cultivating that trusting faith and figuring out how intuition worked into all of it, the retreat was a much-needed boost. I was able to come face-to-face with some of my bigger faith questions and got answers to them. I opened my heart a little more to the small group of women I was with and felt challenged to carry that on through the rest of the year (and I have).


Who says VBS prep has to be boring? I think Perry the Parrot and The Silver Bullet would beg to differ! ;D

{Cultivating Creativity}

Preparing for this year’s VBS was a giant motivator for cultivating creativity. I wanted it to be a more organized, quality experience that focused less on numbers and more on connection. Praise God because that is exactly what happened! We did reach our goal of kids in attendance, which I had cut down to better serve the ratio of leaders to kids, and a large chunk of them were kids that didn’t normally attend our church or previous VBS experiences—it was a whole new crew! The entire month was spent building new sets out of the most random objects and transforming rooms into weird and wild landscapes. It also brought on a new creative challenge—I was going to take a one-week VBS experience and stretch it out to use over the course of a month as part of our Westside Kids curriculum. It was a big undertaking, but my team and I finally got things wrapped up to present a new spin on VBS, both as a series and as a summer camp experience. And since the theme was WEIRD ANIMALS, they even learned a dance to “What Does the Fox Say?” to perform on our first and last days of VBS!


Our WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY dance was a total hit! Oh what fun it is to answer life's biggest questions. ;)

Our WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY dance was a total hit! Oh what fun it is to answer life’s biggest questions. 😉

{Cultivating Play & Rest}

WEIRD ANIMALS was a huge success, both as a series and a summer camp experience. The kids loved it, the volunteers loved it, our pastoral team loved it, and I already have a handful of folks who have requested to be on the VBS team for 2015! During the rest of the month, I took extra time to unwind and rest, recounting all of the blessings that God had given us. Not only did we get a more focused KidMin team, we also got a bunch of kids that asked their parents to bring them back to our church.


Garden of Remembrance | Seattle, WA

{Cultivating Calm & Stillness}

To cultivate calm and stillness, I took extra time out each week to just explore the city with no agenda. I allowed myself to wander and take in the beauty of my surroundings. I would go to a new coffee shop and relax with some yummy coffee and a good book. I also spent more time at home, resting and enjoying the surroundings there. It refreshed me and gave me a lot of time to think on the journey I had been on thus far, and allowed me to look forward with hopeful anticipation for the rest of it.


{Cultivating Meaningful Work}

Taking over a role in any capacity makes you a magnet for tension. The first year that I was Children’s Director, I carried on our Halloween tradition of doing an “outreach” called CANDY ZONE. It was a big fall festival at our church with games, candy, and prizes. However, as I looked back on years past and got feedback from previous volunteers, I discovered that it was less “outreach” and more of a burden. We didn’t get a lot of visitors from the neighbors, just a lot of our own kids from our church. By the end of the night we’d just be dumping half a bag of candy into their buckets to get rid of it. The volunteers were wiped out and some didn’t feel fulfilled in their work afterward. One of my burning passions is to connect more with the community. That was one of the big prizes for me at the church I attended in Austin. We would host a community Easter Egg hunt at a nearby school and do community service at the local parks. Now, they have moved to having Small Groups/Ministries host neighborhood Halloween parties, giving folks a chance to connect even more with the folks ‘in their own back yards.’ So I asked myself and prayed for God to show me a way for our Kid’s Ministry to better connect with our community during Halloween. Then I got connected to an event in the Ballard neighborhood—their annual Market Street Trick-or-Treat. Thousands of kids and their families would trick-or-treat along the main thoroughfare while businesses & organizations handed out candy to them. I got our team to jump on board and the Ballard Chamber of Commerce loved it! Last year, I randomly set up shop at a main intersection and this year, they excitedly asked if our church would take that same spot again because they loved having us there! This year’s event was such a success and brought so many warm fuzzies to my heart and to the Ballard neighborhood . . . or maybe that was just the candy. 😉


{Cultivating Laugher, Song, and Dance}

‘Nuff said! I was able to cultivate all of those things into a month filled with things to laugh, sing, and dance about!

Dec. 22nd: Reflecting on the generosity of loved ones & colleagues during this season. Whether it's been an encouraging word, a thoughtful prayer, or a warm hug ;D, it has helped to ease the homesickness of the holidays this year. ♥ #AmoXMas2014

Dec. 22nd: Reflecting on the generosity of loved ones & colleagues during this season. Whether it’s been an encouraging word, a thoughtful prayer, or a warm hug ;D, it has helped to ease the homesickness of the holidays this year. ♥ #AmoXMas2014

{Celebrating The Journey}

This year has come and gone so fast! December was a perfect setup to reflect on the journey and celebrate every step. I made it a point this year to run a series of photos on my Instgram to help me look back at milestones along the way, so that I’d keep the moments near and dear. If you want to see those, just do a hashtag search on Instagram for #AmoXMAs2014.


Thanks for making it to the end here with me! I hope that your year was filled with excitement, wonder, and accomplishments far beyond what you originally set out to achieve. I know mine has! Thanks for sharing 2014 with me. I look forward to sharing even more adventures with you in 2015!



Happy New Year, Y’all!


Author: Amanda Martinez

I am a mexican chick, born in Germany, raised in Austin, TX, lived in Seattle, WA, and now back home in Texas! I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a graphic designer, a youth pastor, a comedienne, a songwriter, a screenwriter, and a lover of music, art, people, and the world around me! Join me on the journey as I share with you my thoughts, dreams, passions, and experiences!

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