Saturday, November 26, 2011


"So," I asked 11-year old *Monique (name changed for confidential reasons), "What do you like about Thanksgiving?"

I was expecting an answer related to stuffing, pie, whipped cream, shopping, or having a couple of extra days of no school.

"I love that we have a day to think about all the little things we're thankful for, because we don't usually do that."

This was a conversation I had with one of the girls who was recently matched with a mentor in our program. I arrived at her home a few minutes early, and I was making small talk with this bright, mature young girl. I certainly didn't expect that answer, and it put a huge smile on my face. From the mouths of babes...

Thanksgiving Day 2011 has come and gone. In the weeks preceeding this annual day of feasting, I, like most people, tend to reflect on those things I am thankful for, since that is the nature of the holiday.

I find the word "thanksgiving" to be a difficult word, mostly because I believe that it has lost its power in this culture. We use this in conjunction with phrases like "counting blessings." When a clerk at a grocery store gives us our change, we say thank you, because it's common courtesy. When a loved one gives us a gift that is meaningful and impacts our lives, we also say thank you. Certainly these are at two ends of the spectrum. I believe that we should be grateful for both.... remembering to thank someone doing a job that serves us for little pay....and expressing gratitude for the acts of love that those closest to us display.

I believe in living a life of gratitude and remembering to thank God for His activity in our lives. I believe in the importance of reminding those close to us how much they mean. I believe that the practice of gratitude is a crucial spiritual practice. I had a seminary professor who shared once that, "Gratitude is the beginning of humility." Beautiful. When we truly practice gratitude, we are reminded that it is God who provides all things...not my own efforts. When I remember who my provider is, I am reminded that God takes care of all things, and that His grace truly is sufficient. When we practice gratitude, I am reminded that (from the words of the movie Rudy) that, "I know two things. God is God, and I am not."

And not only is practicing gratitude important, it's how we enter into the deepest part of God's heart...

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I believe that, for the most part, we live in a world where we don't remember to share with others how important they are to us. I just sometimes wish I had a word that had more depth and power to convey what it means to be utterly grateful and thankful.

I certainly don't want to be cliche, but I'm about to be. I am about to share the obligatory list of all that I am thankful for, because I believe this to be an important thing to remind myself of.

Today, I am thankful for...

*a family who loves me.* friends who encourage and believe in me.* good health, and steadily improving health.* the ability to improve health by doing easy and natural things.* renewed relationships* God's constant provision.* God's grace, especially in the midst of my mistakes.* new opportunities.* a job I love* co-workers who typically feel more like family than officemates.* my dog* beautiful Kentucky weather.* the hospitality of both friends and strangers.* never having to go without* having opportunities to impact this world in a positive way.* challenges.* wisdom*mentors* words* scripture* laughter.* tears.* music.* the ability to think.* medicine.* doctors.* good memories.* fun experiences.* the ability to continually learn.* hugs.* children.* life giving conversation.* exercise.* travel.*board games.* ice cream.* hot chocolate.* books.* movies.*inspiration.*perspective.* advice.* the faithful who have gone before me.* shared experiences.*

Sunday, November 06, 2011

All Saints Day

Today is the day in the year of the church calendar when many Christians celebrate All Saints Day. This is a day that is typically set aside for thinking about those mothers, father, brothers, and sisters in the faith that have gone before us and that are now enjoying the other side of eternity. It's a beautiful day, as being a Christian was never, ever meant to be a thing of isolation. Even when we practice solitude, we are doing it in celebration with the Church. After all, Jesus died not for just me or just you, but for His whole church.

Several months ago, I was at a one-day ministry conference at a local church here. One of the speakers talked about the importance of remembering certain people and times in our lives....the moment that we knew how loved we are by God, the moment we knew that we wanted to commit our lives to loving Jesus, the moment we knew that we were called to vocational ministry, etc.

As I reflected that day, I remember thinking about so many people and experiences that will forever mark my life. I thought about professors from college and other experiences from college that shaped my understanding that I was called to ministry in some shape or form (and ironically, the day of this conference was the day that my alma mater announced its closing. but that's a whole different can of worms...). I thought about family members (particularly my grandma, Evelyn Middleton) who prayed for me and reflected the love and passion of God to me, and encouraged me to give my life completely to God. I thought about so many other people I have been amazingly blessed to know... friends who love selflessly, married couples who have displayed for me what a Godly marriage looks like, ministry leaders and supervisors who have believed in me and shown me what a life of ministry looks like, peers in the same journey... the list goes on.

There's been a lot that has happened this week that I can't write about in a public space (hopefully in the next several weeks, though, I'll be at liberty to share), but these things have reminded me of God's calling on my life-and that it is never what I expect it to be. I've been reminded that our experiences of God are both dynamic and static...He is always the same, yet always revealing how He desires us to change and become more like Him. And it's been through the lives of the community and the lives of the saints in my own personal life that I've watched Him work so often.

Since I've started the journey of physical transformation, here's a verse I've been reflecting on a lot:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. -Hebrews 12:1-3

We are surrounded by the Holy Spirit and by His witnesses. These are reminders that God is forever with us, always working, always seeking to transform us into people who are intimately seeking His face and His Kingdom.

We're not alone.

What an unbelievable gift.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Most of the people who are close to me know about what I'll share here, but I haven't yet talked about this in a public forum. Part of it is because this is one of those areas of my life that is and always has been a weak spot, but it's starting to get stronger. It's something I've always been a bit embarrassed and sensitive about, so I try to not bring it up. However, I've recently made some strides, and I think it's ok to celebrate.

I've struggled with my weight and been on some spectrum of the heavy side my whole life. There were a few points in college when, without really trying, I did shed some pounds, basically through being really busy. However, I still ate junk all the time, so when I became less active, the pounds came back on.

By the time this past summer rolled around, I realized I was at my heaviest. I like having energy. I like feeling active. I like being around kids, and I like being able to play with them. I don't like getting out of breath from going up a flight of stairs. I don't like dealing with anger or other emotions through eating. I have some athletic and active friends and I want to be able to play soccer or tennis with them. I've always imagined myself as an active person, but I realize that I wasn't doing in reality what I imagined in my head.

Every few months, throughout my entire life, I would say, "This is the week I'll start. This is the week that things will change, and this is the year that I will finally lose this unwanted weight." And of course, it hasn't ever really happened. This past May, I decided to adopt a dog from the humane society. Most of my reasons were the normal ones.... I've always liked dogs, it seemed like a fun idea, etc. However, in the back of my mind I also realized that, since I don't have a fenced-in back yard, this would force me to walk every day, whether I wanted to or not.
I started walking my sweet dog, but only for short distances, without losing any weight.

In all of my wisdom, I decided that the heat of a Kentucky July would be a great time to start running. Of course, I have never been a runner, nor do I enjoy running, but why not.... I began running once a day or every other day while Abner and I went out for a walk. I discovered that it wasn't so bad, and that I really liked feeling active and feeling like I had control over something.

I was running for about a month when I realized I hadn't lost any weight, and was super frustrated by that. In August, I began attending a regular excercise class. In September, I finally bit the bullet and decided to talk with my doctor about all of this. I was very tempted to try some easy things like trying all the quick weight loss products I saw at the pharmacy, but that felt a little like cheating to me. As I began to talk with my doctor, I realized that no amount of exercise in the world would help me if I was taking in soda, sweets and fast food every day. I have slowly begun to change my eating habits, and have seen some positive things. Most notably, I have lost 15 pounds so far (it may be closer to 20 at this point), and I'm just generally healthier.

More importantly, here are things I've learned so far....

-I feel so much better about myself when I'm not eating junk.
-I feel so much better about myself when I'm active.
-Both of the above statements have reminded me that I have lived several patterns of just allowing bad habits to control me. It's been incredibly freeing to take control of those things.
-Any physical transformation that one goes through is directly linked to spiritual issues, in many ways. That's another blog post for another day.
-Losing weight is not always easy, but not as difficult as I thought it would be. However, just like any change, I've realized the importance of being committed to it. You have to just bite the bullet and decide you're going to do it.
-Sometimes starting small leads to the most significant change.

I still have a long way to go, but it's a start...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Update

Life has been full of busy and not so busy things. Workwise, it's been a jam-packed summer so far, but a pretty good one. Here's a quick update:

-I had a really great birthday at the beginning of June. My co-workers celebrated with me (and adequately embarrassed me, the Amachi mentees and mentors sang to me, and I had an awesome birthday dinner with close friends. And my mom sent me seasons 5-7 of the Gilmore Girls. Not bad.

-I'm going to Santa Monica next week to visit my brother, sister in law, and nephew. I can. not. WAIT! Looking forward to great family time on the beach. Plus, I am in major need of a vacation. Things in that department got majorly derailed last summer, so this has been a long-awaited week away.

-I started running last week. Keep in mind that I don't run for all that long or very fast, but at least I'm moving. I'm counting this past week as a success for the following reasons: 1. I have not died or even passed out and 2. I have found that I've looked forward to running every night. Also important to keep in mind that I absolutely do not like much about exercise. However, I've found that running with the pup helps and makes it fun.

-In dog-related news, I LOVE having a dog! Why did I wait so long to do this? He is super fun and really loving. It's fun having this little guy around the house and having a running buddy.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Simple Update

Here's a simple update on the happenings in my life....

What I'm reading these days:
  • The Good and Beautiful God, by James Smith
I have been reading this book for the past month or so as part of a Bible Study I am in. So far, I have found this to be a fantastic book on understanding our relationship to God. This is the first in a series of three books based on Christian spiritual formation. So far, it's been a helpful read in reminding myself about who I am in relationship to God.

  • Odd Girl Out, by Rachel Simmons
I have been following the work of Rachel Simmons for about a year or so now. She has done a lot of research in the area of girl's development, and is also a life coach and trainer for young girls and women. She seems to specialize in areas of empowerment and self esteem for pre-teen and teen girls. This book researches the issue of how girls are equally aggressive to boys, but in different ways. For girls, aggression happens relationally. Instead of beating each other up, girls are more prone to gossip and withhold relationships as a means of dealing with conflict. Girls are taught at a young age that physical aggression is a boy's world, so they are forced to find other ways to handle conflict. This is a concept that I studied in seminary, and I'm finding it interesting to still be reading about this.


Work continues to be good and busy. Our staff has grown by a few members in the past year, and our program continues to increase, in both numbers and content. We've started doing events every month, have added new trainings, and we're continually trying to impact kids and families in Lexington. There are so many kids and moms I've come to love so much, while my heart breaks for so many of the stories I hear. I continue to be encouraged by so many amazing mentors, and I love how quickly they come to love these kids. In addition to the job, I'm also a mentor myself. It's been good for me to have more direct contact, and I love my mentee. I'm so proud of her...she's been through so much, but I can tell that she truly wants to be making good decisions and wants to succeed. She's recently started trying a lot harder in school, and I love getting to help her.

What I'm listening to:

I can't seem to get enough of The Avett Brothers. If anyone wants to get me any of their music or buy me tickets to a show, I wouldn't be opposed.

What I'm feeling:

antsy... to be outside once spring finally decides to stay for good.
hopeful...that I'll be able to take an actual vacation this year.
curious...about what the rest of this year will bring. see God more fully, and to understand what it truly means to be a Kingdom person.

Things I'm thankful for:

forgiveness, encouragement from friends, pretty weather, new opportunities, a job that gives me the opportunity to experience and to serve, great co workers, perspective, words, hugs, God's protection, tears, movies, rest, challenges, seafood, orange leaf, creativity, hope, chances to start over, kids, smiles, laughs, ideas, excitement