Friday, August 29, 2014

Glitter

This city is crazy, people.

I don't know who designed the Spaghetti Bowl, but they were crazy, too. It's the intersection of I-15, Route 95, and I-515, multiplexed with US 93, and exits to Martin Luther King Blvd. and all of the Downtown Las Vegas exits.

I drive 95 multiple days during the week, usually during rush hour. Sometimes I breeze on through with no problem. Often, I'll have a few weeks with no backups, things going quickly, not even too many dumb drivers out there! And then something happens, usually on I-15, and it backs up everything on 95 because of the multi-lane connector ramps. That's when I park on the freeway, thankful that this isn't an earthquake area (why do I always worry about earthquakes when I'm on bridges or raised freeways!?), and I look at the creepiest billboard with a dead black widow spider on it (don't worry, it's fake).

My favorite part of the Spaghetti Bowl, however, is the fact that it rolls right on over Downtown Las Vegas. And my favorite time to see it is right at dusk.

You see... this city lights up. I know you've seen it all, either in pictures or a visit or maybe you even live here. The neon. The twinkle. The glitz. Some people think it's gaudy, that it's too much, that it's hiding something.

I think... I think it's beautiful.

I always have. I've been to Vegas a few times before moving here and have always felt a swelling excitement looking out the plane window at the lights twinkling below. No, I'm not a drinker or a gambler, but there's always something to do here, and I loved the difference between that and the quietness of my home.

Now that I live here, I love it even more... especially downtown, which has captured my heart.

If you come to Las Vegas, be sure to say hi to me. If you live here, I hope we're already connected. Either way, I hope you give our Downtown, our DTLV, a chance. Hop on the 95 at dusk and catch a glimpse of the magic I get to see. Spend a few minutes at the entrance of Container Park waking up the Praying Mantis. Head down to Fremont East and stand beneath the slipper, reminiscent of a time gone by. Catch City Hall's nightly light show, or the glowing paintbrushes that make up the "corners" of 18b, the Arts District. Catch the fever for the beauty of this place, and then realize that that glow is in the people here, too. And be thankful that you get to be a part of the magic that is happening right now.

This place is crazy. But I love it so.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Silence

Silence is a funny concept.  Really, it just means that things are quiet.  But in our life, it can represent so much more.

For example, I've had the TV on all morning while I was cleaning up, working around the house, doing my budget.  There's an Andy Griffeth marathon on this weekend, and it's great background TV.  I just turned it off, though, to come here, and in the silence I hear the sounds of home and summer.  The refrigerator, the cats' water fountain, cicadas outside (that's a new one for me, the Washington girl).

I've been silent on my blog for a few months, too.  My last post was from February.  There's a reason I haven't posted since then:  March.  In a very short period I injured my knee, got bronchitis (for weeks!), had my identity stolen, 2 family members very close to me had heart attacks, one of those soon after broke his kneecap, my apartment was broken into and items stolen, and more. 

It was overwhelming.
It was exhausting.
I was living in a mixture of fear and faith and confusion.

And while I was silent here, I couldn't be silent in real life.

The moment silence settled, fear or anxiety overwhelmed me.  In a group of friends, at work, at home alone.  My heart would race, tears would fall, I would envision the night I came home to my door busted open.

The problem is that a lot of prayer involves silence.  When you can't pause, when you can't take a quiet breath, it's almost impossible to hear from God.  When you have to drown out YOUR voice with music or TV or talking, you also drown out the only One who can truly give you comfort.

During this time I found a new tool to add to my arsenal.  It's called Praying in Color, and it allows me to draw, write, and color my prayers.  The first time I did it, I wrote out a verse that had impacted me and doodled around it... as I was doodling, I chose colors and shapes that represented what I wanted to pray.  I thought through the words that God had been trying to speak with me.  An hour later--a SILENT hour later, I ended up, not with a masterpiece, but with evidence that though I was still struggling, God was continuing to love me.

There are people in my life right now who are experiencing things far worse than my horrible month.  Things I wish I could take away, but I can't.  Even so, what I felt was real.  What you are feeling, whatever you're experiencing, is real. 

For me it was the silence that felt like it was strangling.  But God showed me a way out of the suffocating, anxiety-causing, fear that wrapped around me in the silence.  He will for you, too. 

If you're stuck in fear, stuck and feeling like you're sinking, take a deep breath.  It might happen right away, it might take a long time. 

But He is yearning for you. 
He is seeking you. 
You need to reach. 
Breathe. 

He has a way out, even if it's hard.  Maybe it's something as simple as praying in color.  Maybe it's filling your silence with quiet music until you can be in peace.   Just keep trying.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Available 1.32 Acres

Sundays with Sought Church usually involve a combination of a prayer walk around the Downtown Las Vegas area, a team meeting, discussion of what new developments we've had in the startup process, and anything else that a new church needs to discuss.  This Sunday was no different. 

We met in a parking lot near the Arts District and walked down the street, praying and discussing vacant lots, empty buildings, and potential.  I snapped this picture on one of the vacant lots.  (And yes, my apologies to those of you blanketed in feet of snow... it WAS as gorgeous as that picture implies!)  One of the things I just don't get about Southern Nevada is that when a building is no longer in use, they tear it down.  They clear the lot, and leave a gaping hole with a For Sale sign.  The rest of the country (at least where I've lived) tries to sell the property WITH the building on it, but, in general, not here. 

This is one of those properties.  It's bare. Gravel and dirt, with flecks of worn glass, crumbling walls, and bits of trash.  It's hopeless; at least that's how it feels.  What was there is long gone, and all that's left is a scar on the landscape.  A blight.  Something ugly and abandoned.

But...

But the sign on this particular lot doesn't say "For Sale."  It says "Available."  1.32 acres available for something to happen.  Ready to be purchased and developed.  It could be a park.  It could be a grocery store.  It could be a restaurant, a copy shop, a bar, a pet store, a hotel.  The possibilities are endless.  Someone is going to see that "Available" and move on it.  They're going to redeem their hard-earned cash for 1.32 worn out acres and are going to build something on it that will be their passion and their hope and their way of impacting the city of Las Vegas.

It makes me think... Aren't we, so often, like that bare land?  We are razed down, crumbled, completely destroyed.  All that's left are a few tears and the thought that maybe something will change in the future.  Maybe we've given up all hope.  But maybe we've put out our "Available" sign.  We don't know WHAT we're available for yet, but we're ready.  We're ready for hopes and dreams and for a future.

That's where God enters.  Jesus sees the sign that says, "Available, one broken human soul" and He redeems us, not with cash, but with His own life.  He sees us and says "THAT life, the one that has nothing left?  The one that feels like giving up??  THAT life is the one I love, the one I want.  The one I dare to love recklessly." 

Friends, I don't care how beat up and broken and discouraged we feel.  I don't care if we're feeling high on life.  However we're feeling, whatever we're doing, Jesus is looking for that "Available" sign in our lives.  For us to simply think, "Maybe there's more than what I see here."  It's why He came.  It's why He sent Sought Church to Downtown Las Vegas.  It's because He wants us, more than anything in the world.

You are sought by Him.  You are wanted.  Are you available?

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Traveling Cross Country With Cats

Before I moved from Washington State to Las Vegas, Nevada, I scoured the internet to try to find resources for how people have traveled with their felines when they drove multiple day trips.  Blog posts, FAQs, etc., were virtually unfindable.  As a result, I'm posting MY experience for the internet.

THE SITUATION
Moving me, my STUFF, my two LARGE Maine Coon cats, and my car on a two-day trip from Washington to Vegas.  I was towing my small car behind a 17-foot Uhaul that my friend was driving with me.

Here are my cats.  Cosmo and Lockwood.  Cosmo is a svelte 12 pounds.  Lockwood, a full-figured 24 pounds.  This makes things trickier than normal!

You can see that when I put all 36 pounds of them in their carrier, they take up every inch of space.

 MY OPTIONS
-Let my friend drive the Uhaul and I drive my car with the cats in it.
     The point of her coming with me was to be able to do it TOGETHER.  It would have been increased gas, additional wear and tear, plus I'm not sure I could have driven 12+ hours a day for 2 days alone.
-Put the cats in a carrier in the front of the Uhaul with us.
     My friend is slightly allergic to cats.  She would have had a migraine.  Things would have been TIGHT if we'd done this.  It would have been possible... but difficult.
-Fly my cats.
     Expensive and a logistical nightmare.  Who do you ask to bring your CATS to the airport for you???
-Cats in the back of the Uhaul.
     BAD idea.  Things adjust back there, especially considering all of the mountain passes we went over.  Don't do this.
-Cats in the towed car.

I stuck the cats in the back seat of my small car.  It was NOT perfect.  It was a pain in the rear.  But... they made it.  Here's the whole process.

 THE SETUP
 It was tight.  Their carrier is really a dog carrier.  Lockwood is BIG.  Bigger than most small dogs.  They STARTED in there.

I went to Target before I moved and got a soft-sided kennel for $30.  I loved it and it was HUGE.  The sides were made from mesh, so the boys could see out if I left it open.  There was enough room in it for a small litter box and my monstrous beasts.

The first night I dumped the boys in the red kennel and that's where they stayed.  At night I had an old blanket that I threw away afterward that covered the kennel.  They were cold, but it kept them insulated, as did Lockwood's tubby body, and their 4-5 inches of fur.  It surprisingly worked REALLY well.

I would pop in and check on them at EVERY stop.  As the day would go on and the car would warm up, I'd pull their blanket off of the kennel.  I actually cracked the windows open for fresh air at times. 


FOOD
I fed them canned food for the whole trip.  Less than they normally would eat, but we were on the road 3 nights and 3 days. I used canned because it gave them higher moisture content.  Plus, when we stopped, I'd put a little bit of bottled water in a bowl for them to drink.  I just paid attention to how much they ate and gave them just enough.

I also purchased some natural remedies to help the boys chill.  I went to Mud Bay Granary, an amazing local chain of stores in Washington.  I highly recommend going somewhere like this and asking their opinion.  First, I used a dropper of something that I can't remember the name of to add to their food.  It was Nature Something... I think!  Anyway, it helped them calm down a bit.  Plus, I used an area spray that I would spray in the car to calm them down a little as well.  I needed everything I could get that was on my side!!!

LITTER
I have big cats.  Big cats means...  Big... well... litter was an issue!  I used a small box that I already had and (tried) to keep a liner in it.  Every morning, I'd take out the liner and the used litter and throw it away, then reline and add a little more litter.  The boys would often readjust the liner... but it was OK for temporary use.  The litter box was the same size as the width of the kennel, so it fit perfectly.

THE HILARITY
OK, you can't travel for this long without stories.
TWICE I went to the car to check on the boys... and they were nowhere to be seen!  The first time was at a gas station where my driver-friend and I desperately needed to stop for us to use the human litter box!  We RAN to the bathroom and I almost didn't even check on the kitties since we'd just stopped not long before.  Good thing I did!  I walked up to the car, looked at the kennel and noticed 2 things...  1) it was crushed a bit in the back and looked really strange, and 2) there were no felines in sight.  Then suddenly--a flash of black moving in the front seat!  Needless to say, I had to carefully open the door, grab the carrier, and get BOTH cats into the carrier outside without losing them!  When my driver-friend came out of the gas station store and saw me wrestling my 24-pound Lockwood, I'm fairly sure she thought, "WHAT have I gotten myself into!!!"

THE RESULTS
They made it!  We had very few problems.  They were SO happy to get out of the car that they didn't have much trouble acclimating to their new home.

If you have questions about our trip, let me know.  I'm happy to share what I learned!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What the Doctor and Aslan Have in Common



Today's post is brought to you by my inner nerd.  The Whovians* will thank me.

First, I want to take you to Doctor Who.  The Doctor is a Time Lord.  He's old (life times old).  He travels in a blue police box called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) that's bigger on the inside and can go anywhere in space and time.  And when his body is dying, he can regenerate--he becomes a new Doctor... The same man and memories, but a different body, a different bent to life.



When the Doctor regenerates, regenerative energy releases from him... you can see the golden glow in these pictures of Doctors Ten and Eleven.  It's LIFE...  LIFE being breathed out of one man into the universe.  LIFE that truly brings salvation to the people of earth time and time again.

Take another trip with me.  This time let's go to Narnia.
Home of the White Witch, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, Mr. Tumnus the Fawn, and Aslan... the Lion who is Lord over the land.  Not to throw out spoilers, but Aslan gives his life for people.  But because he so willingly made that sacrifice, he, too, was able to bring salvation.  For me, one of the most meaningful scenes in the movie is when Aslan, brought back to life after his sacrifice, finds Mr. Tumnus, the fawn who cared about little Lucy Pevensie, and was, for his loyalty to the true Narnia, turned to stone.  Aslan approaches the stone fawn, who's face is contorted in fear and pain, and breathes on him.  He breathes life.  Health.  Salvation.  Mr. Tumnus LIVES because of the breath of Aslan.

Folks...  we don't have the power to breathe on someone and see them saved or immediately made hopeful or turned from stone to life.  However, we DO have an incredible gift that we can share.  We have the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God, pneuma, the breath of life.  Our every breath, our every word, should drip with the Spirit, offering the gift of hope and LIFE.

The Doctor's regenerative energy came out of him as a natural process of his regeneration.  He didn't force it.  He simply breathed.  Aslan knew that he had a gift of life and simply gave it.  He didn't hesitate and stand back in fear, wondering if Mr. Tumnus would opt to remain frozen in stone forever.  He simply... breathed.

We have fear, I get that.  I experience it, too.  Fear that our friends and family will look at us like we're crazy.  Fear of rejection.  But I have to wonder...  Would it be better for me to have a friend say, "No thanks, I'm not into that?" or for God to ask me, with tears in His eyes, "WHY, Daughter?  I put YOU in her life to show my Spirit and my love to her, and you left her... alone.  Hopeless. Without Me.  Simply because you thought she might say no?" 

If we are willing to love people, to speak life, to serve and pray and speak and laugh and cry with others... then maybe Mr. Tumnus really can come back to life--or someone's stone-hard heart can soften and start beating again.


Side note:  If you're reading this and feel frozen like Mr. Tumnus... There IS hope.  There is a chance to thaw, to love, to rejoice, to LIVE again.  This life is found in Jesus.  Friend... Jesus loves you.  He cherishes you.  He has an adventure out there that's custom designed for you.  And He just wants you to believe.  

NOW is the time to believe...  to open up your heart and simply say, "Jesus... I need your help.  I want YOU to be involved in this crazy life I'm leading right now.  I want purpose.  I acknowledge that you are God, and I believe in You.  I want your change and hope and love in my life."  If you pray that, will you do me a favor?  Will you tell someone?  Tell me, tell your spouse, tell your BFF, tell a co-worker... just TELL someone.


*A Whovian is a fan of the TV Show "Doctor Who" - if you're not a fan, you should be!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dreams

My home church in Washington, Faith Assembly of Lacey, is halfway through a series on dreaming--about having God-sized vision for what can be.  Since I'm not there, I'm a week behind what my friends there are hearing, but I LOVE seeing all of the Facebook posts about people who are inspired to re-open their hearts to what God could be accomplishing in their lives.  My friend, the lead pastor there, is excited to see what God is going to accomplish in their community through hundreds of people dreaming once again--and it makes me smile to know that God can communicate even to those who don't know Him because of one simple message: Dream Again!

You know what I love about living in Las Vegas?  There are a lot of things, actually, which completely surprises me.  Let me list a few--and then I'll connect them all.
DTLV from the top of the Stratosphere

I love that LV is transient.  That people come here from somewhere else.  We're all travelers here.  We're all looking for hope and purpose.  We're all looking for something that is different from where we were before. It's scary and it's new and it's an adventure that we all hold together.  It's an instant understanding of most other people in the area.

I love that Downtown LV (DTLV) is bubbling with newness.  There are artists and entrepreneurs and risk-takers and dreamers.  People who have given everything to share who they are with the people who are connected to DTLV.

I love the sun.  I had no idea.  I am a pluviophile at heart and that will NEVER change.  However...  The sun is life-giving and it affects me and the people around me every day--causing reactions that are totally different than those encased by rain.

I love the people in LV, especially those in DTLV.  I have found, when I've told them that I moved from the green Northwest to the brown desert to help start a church, that they are excited.  Believers or not, they see the good that can come from people working with people to bring light and hope to a neighborhood.  They sense the risk we're taking, they see the potential for good, and they're excited.

Isn't it amazing?  I love the dreamers.  DTLV is, if you look for it, filled with dreamers and hopers, and people who aren't satisfied with sitting back and watching others live out their dreams--they want in on the adventure, too.  That's why I'm happy.  God has asked me to join the adventure... and to bring people with me.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Sense of Smell

I remember when I lived in Minnesota and used to walk to work.  There was a parking lot in the middle of Minneapolis that I managed to cross every single day, just because I could smell the new pavement and I knew it reminded me of something--something near to my heart, but something I couldn't put a finger on.  Day after day, through the hot sun, I would trudge across the lot, inhaling deeply, trying to drown out the smell of exhaust and city and focus solely on that one olfactory memory.  Months went by.  One day, in the middle of the parking lot, something changed.  I'm not sure if it was the clanging of a bus that sounded like another form of transportation, if it was the hot spring wind blowing on me reminding me of summer days, or if my memory simply decided to disclose this delicious secret, but I knew... I was smelling the tar from the pavement baking in the sun, reminding me of days as a toddler spent around the docks on our sailboat.  I was smelling the creosote on the wood of those docks and it was reassuring, familiar... HOME.

I hadn't been on a sailboat since I was little.  Obviously not recently enough to recognize the smell.  But the memory it evoked... THAT was still real, still present.

There are many smells out there that bring me HOME like that tar smell did...  The smell of rain.  Hay and llamas.  Blackberry blossoms at the first hint of summer.  When I catch the scent of these, I physically stop and inhale... I let my body absorb the emotion associated with them.

The last few weeks, as I walk out of my new workplace, I pause.  I don't smell the damp air like I did in
Washington.  I smell something different, something new.  It makes me stop and breathe deeply because in it not only do I smell the desert, the dry, sun-baked ground, the plants flourishing even in the middle of winter, but I also smell change and hope and new life.  This is a memory I want seared in my brain.  Something exciting to come.  I call it the smell of anticipation.