a day in a ghetto minivan full of and covered in paint

yes, my minivan here is pretty ghetto. i’ve spilled paint on the front, thus it’s nickname freckles. paint was spilt inside, i added purple. the window wipers work when they want to, on one speed: super fast. rear wiper only works in reverse. passenger window is off track and falls in if you try to run it down. forget the AC. i’ve got 2/60 ac. 2 windows down goin 60 miles an hour….well 1 window now i guess.

anyways. this is not a post about a minivan.

what a day it was today. what a summer it’s been.

the bittersweetness is beginning to set in. a week from now i will be done with programming. family weeks are sunday night-thursday morning, so ministry (work project) days are monday, tuesday, wednesday. only three more. i’m anxious and excited to go home and see my family, my friends, and Tom again and get to work on wedding stuff, but i will miss this place, these people, the not deathly hot summer, and this job.

i spend my days meeting with people who are mostly elderly or imporverished asking if they would like us to do landscaping and paint their homes whatever color we have and then get to see that project through. sometimes, like a house we worked on this week, she didn’t necessarily want the only color we have left: steel blue, so the tribal office offered (since she’d worked there til she was diagnosed with cancer) to buy the paint for her in her dream color: navajo (brick) red. and we got to paint it. i got to just sit and listen to her tell me stories of her life in minnesota. tribal stories, life stories, family stories, just listen. it was beautiful. and there’s well water here which is SO much better than city water.

this is most of my day.  its beautiful. i’m gonna miss it terribly.

i want and pray daily to find a way to do something similar as a full time career but i have NO idea what it looks like. i LOVE work projects and involving youth in them. i love showing up in my ghetto minivan with a 24 foot ladder falling out the back praying the paint doesn’t spill and a kid doesn’t get stabbed by a scraper and getting to make dreams come true for this community.

there’s no way i could do what i do here 40 hours a week and not die of exhaustion, but i pray that this can transfer into something more full time. maybe without the minivan and the running around all day on 4 hours of sleep, but still the same impacting, relationship building, opportunity creating…all in the name of simply sharing God‘s love with the community.

this has been the hardest, most beautiful, life changing, faith strengthening, best summer i could have dreamed of.

oh. and today, the president of youth specialties (tic long) and president of youthworks (paul bertelson) came to visit our site which was amazing. i got to drive someone who’s blog i’ve read, who i’ve seen at conferences (YS) who’s just an all around great genuine guy around as we held ladders from falling while driving into the middle of nowhere. i love this place and this job.

pray that something like this can fall into my lap as a career

curveballs of life

life throws curveballs at you. alot.

nothing you cannot handle with the strength of God from the Holy Spirit. I remind myself of this daily because a lot of curveballs have come my way these past few months, weeks especially.  nothing i can really talk much about, but just pray that I would daily be encouraged by the strength and peace of the Lord. that He would renew me, that I would die to self and live solely for Him.  that others around me would do the same.  that those going through difficult times would be renewed in their strength and that miracles of healing would be performed. God does not give us more than we can handle, sometimes it’s just hard to understand why he gives some people so much to handle though. I trust Him, i know He has a plan and a purpose, but sometimes it just seems that things are undeserved. i guess that is the old “why do bad things happen to good people?” argument, and I don’t know. that’s the only answer I have.

just pray that work-wise, i’d remain focused these last 2 weeks and that distractions from home or work would not negatively impact my quality of work. that i would die to self daily. that i would rely on His strength for all and always carry my burdens to Him.

pray that personally I’d not keep my emotions bundled up inside, that i’d deal with them, that i get to talk them out. for strength, peace, and understanding. i can’t say much more, but just pray for strength for those closest to me as difficult times arise and continue.

thank you

pray always.

Oh life.

I intended to blog more this summer.

It has been without a doubt the best, hardest, most life changing, God filled summer. Unexpected things at every turn. Amazing things just around each corner. Challenges I never expected. Easy things I thought would be difficult. But through all of this…

God.

I’ve said this before, but it was drilled into our heads for a reason so I’ll remind you. The God who brought me to this summer, brought me through it.  So whatever you’re going through, the God who brought you to it, no matter how crappy it seems, is the same one who is there with you. No matter how lonely it gets. No matter how dark, scary, unknown. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Pray. Pray always.

If I have learned anything in 2010 that has been reaffirmed day after day, minute after minute this summer it is never cease praying. Several verses have been laid on my heart about this throughout 2010 but mostly the last few weeks.

Romans 8:26-28

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Phillipians 4:6-7

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

James 1:2-8

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

God has shown up miraculously this summer. There is zero way I could have made it through 6am-12am days with the energy and sanity I have without him. One cup of coffee on most days and those of you who know me know that’s unusual for me. Usually its 2-3 a day during school and this is 100x more exhausting than school. Playing silly games of cow math, green glass door, etc in the evenings. Taking kids out every day to touch lives by offering a smile and a fresh coat of paint. Teaching them why this paint is so important to this community. Then getting to know their stories as they get to know each other. Late talks with adult leaders about anything and everything.  Talking with community members and simply listening to the hearts of this community. The pain, the struggles, the sickness. The things these people have overcome. What it’s like to be a native america. What it’s like to live in minnesota winter. What its like to live without sonic or chick fil a. What it’s like to have everyone in your family die of cancer except your sisters who refuse to come to your cancer treatment. It’s been a beautiful collision of a summer. Faith, hope, love, the midwest, me, 70 kids a week from 4-6 different places. Beautiful. Oh, and coffee.  Sloppy joe Sunday, pizza Monday, taco Tuesday, cookout Wednesday, and pasta Thursday, sleep a bit, go to walmart, sleep some more, and repeat. Bunyan bag warm and fuzzy notes that would brighten even the darkest days.  This summer has been a million percent God and zero me. There is no way and I thank Him every day.

I know this blog hasn’t been much about details of the past month since I’ve blogged. That’s on its way.

If I could encourage you in any way, it is to pray never ceasing. Pray always. Pray whatever is on your heart in the way it is on your heart. He knows all. He knows what you’re thinking, so why try to force it to be poetic and proper? He is God, He created us. He knows how many hairs are on our heads. If there is anyone we can be 100% honest with, it is Him. At all times. Prayer journal. Cry out. Talk as you drive down the road. Question, be 100% honest. Hold nothing back. It was always told to me and I would hold things back. I wonder why now, He knows already, and we are called to carry our concerns and burdens to Him.  To lay them at His feet. Do it. It’s simple.  He already knows but needs us to bring them to Him. He needs us to recognize our need for Him and our brokenness without him.  Cry out to your creator. Thank him for things around you. Thank him for health, strength, family, the prayer of friends, the tears of loneliness. Thank Him for all things at all times.

This is all for now.

More to come.


halfway

the end of this week marks the halfway mark of this summer. time flies. i will be flying home exactly a month from today. i have officially been away from home 49 days and come home in 29 days.

this will be brief and a much less in depth story of my week.

god is amazing. as always. there is zero way i could be here (in every sense of the word) without Him. He gives me the words to say, the energy to be awake, the patience throughout the day, the reassurance when it all feels like its failing, the comfort when i feel alone, the strength quite literally to constantly be lifting paint/ladders/etc, and he grants me peace when it all seems to be on the edge of crashing down or falling apart.

he moves the rain clouds. breaks the hearts of this community. shatters hearts of students and adults who come here for mission trips. he makes the paint last and the students remember why they’re here. He does it all. not me.

this summer, as i’ve said before has been yet another step in moving past my control freak nature. it is all God. there is no way i could deal with any of this.

constant, consistent, crying out prayer has been the only way. some days, it feels like He is distant. then 3:30 hits and i look at everything that got accomplished and i KNOW He was present because i had no energy and had to be in 5 places at once. He is here.

i’m learning alot about myself, being a team, being in a new community, and being away from home.  i miss my friends, i miss my family, i miss my fiance. it’s super hard being away from them, especially while trying to plan a wedding. i do not miss humidity or city smog or busy-ness, but i miss the people. God has sustained me and trust me, there have been rough days, but He is there and I’m seeing that more and more every day as my (and their) lives get busier and communication becomes less and less. being away from everyone i’m close to and doing something as straining as this job has been by far more difficult than I imagined, but God has sustained me through it and will continue to carry me onward. at our training, one of the chiefs of the whole youthworks shabang said the following:

“the God who brought you here to this training is the same God who was with you before and will be with you all summer”

that statement has been more encouraging and necessary than i could have ever imagined. when it feels like no one close to me is here or available to text or talk, God is here. maybe this sounds cliche, but this is life. this is how it is. all the things people say about “God is there when no one else is” have rung true in ways this summer.  He will sustain me. I NEED Him before breath. before my day. before 6:45am breakfast crew with zombie high schoolers who i will momentarily send off to paint random houses. He is there.

another thing I’ve focused on and will talk more in detail later is getting to really KNOW the people who i’m doing projects for this summer. this week i got to meet an amazing gentleman who’s house i will be painting next week. he’s unemployed, lives alone, and has a beautiful house but he cannot afford nor does he have the manpower alone to repaint his home. we talked about life, cass lake, paint, weather, and an array of other topics, but at the end of it, it was decided that through God granting me the opportunity to meet his brother who gave me his name, I get to be a part of changing his life. i get to send high school kids who have no idea what they’re getting themselves into out to paint this mans house, hear his story, and be potentially changed forever. we talked and talked. he just needed someone to talk to. i’m not sure if his wife died or what that situation was, but he simply has a need and told me that if others need it more, i should put off his project. one of the most humble men i’ve met this summer.

then i got to finish another project. easily the most complicated all summer. a 2 floor house with random nooks and crannies, lead paint, too tall ladders, and chipping paint. he does all his own home repairs because he takes pride in his home, but he is on a random income from catching the minnows for the town bait shop, so the projects don’t always get done to the quality he’d like or in the time he’d like. so we met at the gas station, he said “you should come paint my house” i said sure and set it up. it has been a beautiful journey full of ups and downs because his wife isn’t as excited about us being there as he is and makes that clear, but at the end of this week, he told me he was so greatful, that he could see a change in her, and it had been something he’d been trying to get done for years but by himself he couldn’t do. 18 high school kids. 15 gallons of paint. a life transformed. all he could do was stare and with glazed over eyes say thank you.

i love my job.

being away from home is hard. missing tom is hard. missing out on the typical summer-ness especially in my last real summer is hard.

but it’s all worth it in the end.

pray that i continue to remember that. pray for our team to be unified again. pray for overly caffeinated coffee. pray for great weather. pray that our hearts would remember why we are here and we would communicate that to the kids. pray for humbleness. pray for passion. pray for doors to be opened, lives to be changed, and radical things to take place. (more details soon). pray for the kids that will get here tomorrow, that they’re hearts would be opened and their eyes would see the hurt in this community.

and continue to pray for my grandfather. the news of his cancer was released this week on sites like the tennessean and as i google, apparently every other news website. he undergoes surgery july 22 and appears very optimistic. i pray it goes well. i pray for quick recovery. i pray for strength in my family and for the hearts of those who do not know Christ‘s love closest to this situation to be opened to His love and to see it through this situation. please pray for these things with me.

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20100708/COLUMNIST0501/7080314/Charlie-Louvin-marks-83rd-birthday-on-heels-of-cancer-diagnosis

asking for prayer

i don’t know all the specifics yet, but my grandfather is sick. please pray for him.

he has been diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer and is going to have a very intense 6+ hour surgery on July 22 to hopefully remove the cancerous parts. there will be a 90 day recovery period after he is allowed to go home from the hospital. the surgery is intense, hopefully it will work.

his birthday is this week, July 7, and he has been invited to be in Asheville, NC at Warren Wilson College at something called the Swannanoa gathering to help teach a seminar on bluegrass music, which is really exciting. I’m so honored to have such an amazing grandfather who gets to do such awesome things.

He’s one of the hardest working most resilient people i’ve ever met and it hurts so deeply to hear that he is hurting and having to deal with this.  he should be retired currently from music, but his motto has always been “as long as the good Lord lets me and people still want to hear me, i’m gonna keep on singing and traveling” which is amazing to me. he’s 83 years old and randomly travels the country in a tour bus to sing at random places for random people. amazing. while he is aging, he denies it and keeps on going with his life.

i ask you to pray that this will not consume him, i ask you to pray that he will remain strong, that he will be healed, pray for a miracle. i ask that he will still be able to sing and do what he loves as long as possible. he will likely have to be out of work for 90 days after the surgery and i know that pains him because he wants to be out singing. it’s also hard for me being up here in Minnesota away from my family, away from him, unable to go see him, or them.  pray for strength for them, for him, for my grandmother.

i’ve only ever had one grandfather, and have always been super proud of him and want to see him honored in a miraculous way in his lifetime for what he has accomplished, what he has done, and his humble spirit.  he’s super important to me and is an amazing man who deserves to be able to enjoy his old age, so i pray that he will miraculously healed and i ask that you pray for him, for comfort for my family, for strength.

your will above all else, still my purpose remains

this could potentially become overly cheesy or sappy. just so you all are aware.

i CANNOT wait to be married to my wonderful fiance this fall 🙂

112 days

God has allowed so many people to touch my life and encourage me in so many ways about serving alongside Tom beginning this fall. this past week, a young couple were adult leaders (he 25, she 22) and it was an encouragement and excitement to just watch them and realize that I get to be a part of ministry this fall.  I’m excited.  God has ordained this summer as a preparation time for me not only for serving alongside him in ministry, but for marriage, and just for ‘real life’ after graduation.  this summer has and will continue to be faith strengthening and difficult.  day after day, i find myself encountering unexpected challenges, yet day after day, God takes care of them, if i simply step aside and allow Him to.  throughout life, there’s a million things that i’ve “learned” but this summer unlike any time before in my life i’ve seen all of them put into practice.  the word alive. i’m not sure if any of this makes any sense as i write it out, but this summer has just been amazingly encouraging and strengthening. it’s exactly what I needed.

on the note of cheesy romanticness, i have the world’s best fiance who takes care of all the random little things he can on his brief time off in the 98 degree weather. he’s great. he’s become best friends with I40 lately and done so much for us and i’m so blessed to get to be his wife in 112 days and i cannot wait to go on retreats with him and do ministry alongside him and go on random road trips and explore a new city in a new state with him. i see random wedding emails and hear about other young couples or get asked about the engagement story and just get excited all over again.

ok cheesiness commenced  🙂 for now.

it’s hard being away from friends, but it’ll be hard going home and leaving this place, this community, and the wonderful staff i’ve become a family with this summer.  i thank God for providing me this opportunity and for those of you praying.

this summer is by no means a piece of cake and there are stores of struggles, but no need to mention those here. He knows what He’s doing, He takes care of them, and in the end, His will above all else prevails if we simply die to self daily.

Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

There seems no end to where You begin and there I am now

rambly blog begin….now.

we are halfway through our summer and it has been amazing.  it has been nothing like i expected, but i went in with as little expectations as possible. i’m now a coffee drinker, no more soda/carbonation. i’m becoming a morning person and beginning to see the value in getting up before everyone else for a little quiet time. at the end of the summer, i’ll have a brand new appreciation for beds with springs and non-locker room showers.  i thought i’d get sick of paint, still loving it. i LOVE minnesota. in the summer, no way i could live up here in the winter. a “heat wave” here is 80 degrees. it’s hardly humid and the skies are bluer, trees are taller and greener, and the 10,000 lakes are actually blue. yesterday we got to go canoeing with a group near the headwaters of the Mississippi river and it was beautiful to say the least.

i love my job. plain and simple.

yes it’s hard to get up early every day and have 3 groups of 8-10 students each from different churches with adult leaders who may or may not communicate with each other dispersed around the city doing very different projects all needing different tools. all the while, i’m shuffling back and forth, hoping no one messes anything up, hoping no more purple paint is spilled in my van and the kids aren’t being attacked by res dogs or falling off ladders, but i wouldn’t trade this summer for the world.

it’s amazing to see what God does through these kids. this week, they painted the inside of one of the three local churches, installed insulation on the outside of it after digging 5 foot trenches, and scraped paint off of a local business owner who’s struggling’s home in order for us to paint it this week. part of me wishes i had tons of pictures to show everyone, but this summer has been, for me, much more about being present and living and embracing the moment rather than living through a camera lens or a spreadsheet.

this summer is exactly what God needed for me to have. every experience (good and bad) has been just what He needed me to have. each day, I cannot in any way function unless i die to myself and allow Him to simply use me as His puppet in his grand show of life. I can do nothing, it is all Him. This job has been the perfect job to continue the “get over your control-freakness” journey God started in me awhile back and put into overdrive in January.  kids are everywhere, doing a million different things, and no day is the same, much less each hour within that day.  I am constantly planning and replanning and changing plans and creating back up plans and all the while praying that God makes it work out because i’m running on 4 hours of sleep. to the me of a year ago, this would suck, but this is the best summer ever.  this is exactly where i need to be, at the end of myself at nearly every second of every day so that God can step in and do His thing.  it’s a beautiful collission (aaannnd david crowder is now stuck in my head).

God’s been doing great things this summer in me, this community, and the kids who come. it’s encouraging to see so many youth come with expectations of disliking the week or no expectations whatsoever and to leave changed forever because of God.  because of the work God allowed us to give them to experience. because of late night ‘church group time’ with an awesome worship leader.  because of children who misbehave constantly just crying out for attention. because of paint chips or dirt trenches.

i cannot express enough gratitude for those of you who have been praying for our team and me personally. continue to be in constant prayer for us and send mail. we’ve met so many amazing kids and adult leaders who have encouraged each of us in different but perfect ways.

cliffsnotes:

-everything is pepsi here….which makes it so hard not to drink soda

-there are so many things i do not miss about the south, i wish i could just move my favorite people here for the summer

-i can’t believe the summer is halfway over

-canoeing=new favorite thing

-4th of july pow wow soon

-i love my job 🙂