be[ing] a spark

I totally wasn’t expecting this.  I got a Christmas present from my boss!DSCF5695

And the card [aside from being epic project (RED) and saving lives, since that is one of my favourite things ever] just hit me so, so much.

I work at a rough school.  A few of the kids in grade 3-5, use worse language than my friends used in grade nine [when we all swore the most, pretty sure].  I broke up a physical fight between two boys today when I was the only one in the gym, in the span of 3 minutes when my coworker Bethany was gone to the crafts room, and had to deal with them.  It sucked.  Because when I talked to them, we had a discussion about why they seemed to think it was okay to fight.

“Well, my step-dad hits my mom and they’re grown-ups.  And then one time he stabbed her with a knife over and over and over again.”

My heart just breaks sometimes.  It hurts that kids have to see this kind of stuff.  It hurts that kids have to think ‘if my parents do it, it must be okay’.  It hurts that kids are exposed to this kind of stuff at home, where they should feel safe and loved.  It hurts that some of these kids are so desperate for love.  Two kids simultaneously clung to my legs today.  A boy hugged me and didn’t want to let go.

This is my job.  To, with my coworkers, let these kids know that someone cares.  Let them know that someone cares enough to see that they, at least one day a week [all we’re funded for], have somewhere fun and positive to go after school.  Where they will not go home to an empty house, but get a snack and to talk to people, connect with friends, play some games, do a craft, and get a hug or two if that’s something they need.

We are the sparks that will hopefully IGNITE these kids—for some of them, to ignite them to see the good of the world beyond the pain they have seen in their young lives.

And as hard as it is, as much as work sucked today because the kids were crazy . . . this, this longing to be a spark . . . is why I am here.  A tiny thing, that can light a huge flame of motivation . . . of hope.

trust, hope and isaiah 53:5

I’m really realizing that God puts me where I am for a reason.  I’ve been learning lessons in trusting Him lately, which is very cool.

The other day I said to Kim “What’s the point of having a story if you don’t share what’s strengthened you cause of it, right?”

So I hope it helps.  I hope that this will be God using me, speaking through me when I’m telling my story tomorrow afternoon.  Praying it’s used in HEALING for one of the youth girls.  And because God knows the specifics, please just pray.

He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole, and by His wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

my heart . . . is alive

My thoughts have all been really tangled lately, so much so that I haven’t been able to write a coherent post.

God is definitely moving in me and that’s really, really cool.  I am learning more about TRUSTING His faithfulness every day; even now.  I’m finding myself once again contemplating phrases, contemplating past and present and future.  Where I’ve come from, where I am, where I’m going.  Contemplating this crazy thing called life, where God has saved my life before I even knew Him, and then again when I met Him. 

My heart is beating because of my God; my God who knows I can’t do this on my own, my God who knows more about me than I know about me, my God who has turned me from nothing into something.  My God who has LOVED this broken heart to healing.

My God who has given me life and hope.

i am finding out / that maybe i was wrong / that i’ve fallen down / and i can’t do this alone . . . stay with me.  this is what i need, please

sing us a song and we’ll sing it back to You / we could sing our own, but what would it be without You?

i am nothing now / and it’s been so long / since i’ve heard a sound / the sound of my only hope . . . this time i will be listening.

this heart, it beats, beats for only You.  this heart, it beats, beats for only You.  my heart is Yours.  [my heart it beats for You, it beats, beats for only You, my heart is Yours, please don’t go now, please don’t fade away].

my heart, paramore

“In this world you will have trouble; take heart!  For I have overcome the world” // john 16:33

remain ‘10 – youth leader’s retreat

Friday night at the leader’s retreat was chill, and good.  We got to know each other a little better as cabin groups – girls and guys.  We had a fun drive out, Tara, Shira and I, and I surprisingly semi-knew where we were going, at least to get into the park.

Friday night featured an epic girls’ dance party and then Remain part one.  We spent the weekend digging deep into John 15, and it was a very cool study to do together as youth leaders.  Then after the guys left we had girl talk till nearly 2 am—you know, about ridiculousness and how we all imagine Michael Buble [as a young boy holding an ice cream cone and wanting to play tag].

I have to say, I was really reserved all weekend, which isn’t like me.  I only knew one person really well [Tara], and I’m not the most social in situations like that.  But I think I did open up a little bit over the course of the weekend, and as my relationships with my fellow youth leaders grow, I’ll be able to do the big-group stuff a little better.  Small groups, I am fine.  Groups of twenty, I kind of tend to take a backseat and just chill.

On Saturday we rounded up at the guys cabin for breakfast and then headed back to our cabin for Remain part two, then determination of our spiritual gifts and how we can use those to serve in youth ministry [my top two were faith and mercy]. 

Later in the afternoon, six of us went for a hike.  Now, here’s the deal.  I didn’t take runners with me.  I went for a hike in pink Chucks.  I stepped in mud.  That sucked.  I also had to walk over a log and balance, which was really scary—I have crap balance.  One guy was behind me making sure I didn’t kill myself, and Brenda came back across to help me and hold my hand.  I am not an athlete.  Chucks probably did not help.  Also probably did not help that it was a four foot drop beneath me into like, swampy mud.  I survived.  We kept walking and at one point, four of them wanted to climb some hill or something, so Leslie and I turned around and went back by ourselves, which was a nice opportunity to get to know her better.  She’s an occupational therapist, so we had lots to talk about :-).

We had a really chill afternoon playing Catch Phrase with the other female leaders on either side of the hike, and had four hours of free time in which to just chill and play silly games.  At about 6:20, ten minutes before dinner, we looked out and saw that we had one car to get nine of us to dinner—apparently all our cars were at the guys’ cabin 2 kilometers away.  We could’ve called the guys, but instead, we piled nine of us into Shira’s small car – folded the backseat down, myself and one other leader sat on the edge of the backseats, Brenda in the trunk, three others half in the trunk and half in the backseat, two others in the front seat and of course, Shira driving.  It was crazy.  There are pictures, but nobody has Facebook’ed them yet.

We had some dance parties at the guys cabin on their deck, Tara, Brenda and I.  It was a blast.  That was the theme workout of the weekend – dance party.  I can dig that.

After dinner, we were back at our cabin for Remain part three and some Saturday night worship.  Worship and prayer was definitely one of the highlights of my weekend [see also: nine of us in a car].  Singing How He Loves in a circle in the living room with Jamie and his acoustic guitar in the living room, with huge windows and the lake looming around us, it was just gorgeous.  So, so focused.  We moved into prayer afterwards, which was equally amazing.  It is hard to be in a place that’s breathtakingly beautiful with eighteen other faith-focused people you’re a team with and not feel very close to God, very hard to feel not part of something big.  I think God really worked overtime in all of us over our weekend together, and it was really amazing.  I don’t think anybody stayed tear-free during prayer, it was just amazing.

I used to not understand the need for fellowship as a follower of Christ.  I didn’t get it.  But I think after this weekend, I understand why we need to be a body in Christ—to meet each other where we’re at, to support each other, to care for each other, to pray for each other, to LOVE each other.  To be vulnerable.  To heal.  I learned things about my fellow leaders that yes, I’ve gone through too.  Yes, I’ve felt that too.  And that’s really cool.

I also learned I have a lot of work to do in my relationship with God.  Granted, I know that I’ve been a Christian for much less time than most of my new friends have.  I wasn’t raised in a Christian home, I didn’t go to Sunday School.  In some regards, I, five years later, am still really just beginning.  However, that makes my journey no more or no less valuable than anybody else’s.  I shared my testimony with Shira [and Tara again] on the way to the cabins.  It’s not something I do often, just when it comes up, but transformation just amazes me.

Transformation by Christ just amazes me.  The transformation He’s done, the transformation He did in us this weekend as a body, and the transformation that is yet to come.  Growing in Christ is a metamorphosis, in which we only continue to get more beautiful from the inside out [Romans 12:2 / 1 Peter 3:4].

It was an amazing weekend, and I feel totally blessed to have been a part of it.  God is SO freaking good it blows my mind sometimes.  He provides.  He loves.  And He builds us, changing us from His glory to a bigger piece of His likeness, even deeper into His glory [2 Corinthians 3:18]. 

I can’t wait to see where He takes us next as a church community . . . as new friends.

london fog, smiling . . . and my God

Tara has introduced me to the London Fog.  It is delicious.  I meant to have an awesome moment this morning drinking a London Fog and writing a blog post reflecting on God making me smile, except, the London Fog was gone too fast because it was that good.

I think it would be cool to have coffee with Jesus.  One of my camp counselors, Lisa, once wrote in her blog that she was a firm believer that the Bible should be enjoyed along with something hot and yummy.  I would definitely have to agree with this statement.  Which I guess is probably the closest equivalent we would have to being able to have coffee with jesus.  I also think something hot and yummy would be an excellent addition to reflecting on God and what God is doing.  Blogging with a London Fog would have been awesome, except, I was too distracted.

So, on the way to school, I wrote this:

My God is making me smile this week.  He is igniting things in my heart, and promises of His love that I’ve heard dozens of times before, in church, in songs, are making me smile.

It’s true.  Yesterday Sam, Tara, TaraLin, Kim and I joined in the sea of pink and white and did the Run for the Cure.  It was awesome, albeit, rushed.  Too rushed.  Time was not taken as fully to reignite hope for all those and their families and friends still facing breast cancer, scared of cancer, every single day.  I’ve been there with my grandma . . .  It could have been done differently, and it was not one of their better presentations.  It should be about fun, but it should be about something more . . .

Hope.

Afterwards, Sam, Tara and I made it to church.

Church was awesome.  I was feeling it hardcore.  Real.  A simple topic, the Bible, being explored for real.  Like, that there is good stuff in there.  Stories with impact and fire that are only a couple verses long.  But the hardest part . . . is getting your Bible open.  Indeed.  Completely.  Worship involved songs that truly resonate in me – In This City, Our God . . . it was awesome . . .

Then I realized something.

So music is a huge way that I connect with God.  But here’s what I realized: I could sing He Loves Us every day.  And not get sick of it, and not have it lose any meaning.  I feel so alive whenever we sing it in church; I kinda missed it yesterday.  The message in He Loves Us is one that I feel really resonates with me, which I wrote about before.  The words make me smile.

But yesterday, I was finding other lyrics that made me smile.

  • and if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us, and if our God is with us, then what could stand against?     –Our God, Chris Tomlin

The other thing with Our God, is that it holds the quality of NOT rejecting other faiths even though they may not be what we believe, as many songs do.  “Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God You are higher than any other”.  As a Christian, I worship only my God, not others.  But does that mean I reject that other gods could exist?  Of course not.  Surely my God created belief and disbelief in His and other faiths for a reason.  Everything for a reason.

Our God is bigger than life itself.  God inspired those lyrics, those same lyrics that made me smile . . .  God inspired every single Bible verse that makes me happy.  God creates the hope that we need to be happy.

God makes me smile.

what i’ve overcome

what i've overcome

The thing I dig so much about this song is that it isn’t preachy in any way.  Because Fireflight is a Christian band, and I’m a Christian, I read it in the Christian context.  But it doesn’t need to be interpreted that way.  The Someone saving us, could be anything—a Higher Power, a significant other, a friend, who saves us from ourselves . . .

I know for me, the Someone saving me, though, is God.  God came into my life at a point where I still didn’t actually believe He existed, but I was ready, so ready, to give up and just quit life.  He continues, day after day, to not let me fall into the same traps of desperation, but to continue to seek out happiness, love and LIFE.  Our passions keep us breathing, believing.  My passion . . . Jesus.

Before I had Him, though . . . I was depressed.  Bullying and the delayed by two and a half years realization that one of your best friends really has died, out of nowhere so it seemed, and really generally just feeling crappy about yourself does that.  I spent the summer of ‘05 in a dark place, and either numb or really down.  I felt defeated, and I felt like there really was no purpose to being here . . . I remember questioning my grade seven social studies teacher on the meaning of life if we’ were all just gonna die anyways . . . that was before the depression stuff really kicked in.  I was curious, but maybe it was a lead.  Because really, what is the point if we’re all just going to die?  I thought that.  I thought death was the answer.

That’s why we need passion.  A reason to change this world while we’re here, and something to keep on living for.

But I overcame that lifelessness inside me.  I opened up my heart to feel again, feel things other than desperation. 

Because the desperate spot?  It was filled with Jesus.

These things, though, the things I’ve done in the past—the depressed stuff, the eating-issue stuff, the mistakes . . . have all shaped who I am.  They have no impact on the way the world perceives me now unless I speak of them, but they’ve changed me.  But in a bigger way, God has changed me.  He gives me second, third, fourth, fifth chances.  He lets me make mistakes, He lets me fall, so He can say “Okay, so what have you learned?”

God has used these things in my past, to break me and build me stronger.