Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lives Matter

I have a confession to make.  I don't know everything.

I realize that's a shock, but it's true.  As a sign language interpreter I feel like I get surface knowledge of almost everything under the sun, but sometimes the things I learn just barely scratch the surface of deep issues.

I wanted to make sure you all knew that before I dove in here today.  I don't know everything.  This post isn't about how much I know.  It isn't about who is right or wrong in situations.  It's not a news source.  It is, however, a way for me to process my thoughts and some of the thoughts of those I interact with.  Thoughts about what?

Black Lives Matter.

Ever since the decision not to indite the officer in the death of Michael Brown, I've seen the hashtag #blacklivesmatter all over my Facebook and Twitter feed.  In doing some research, I found that the hashtag actually started in 2012 after the controversy over Trayvon Martin's death.

When I first saw it, I felt unsettled.  Not because I don't believe Black lives matter.  Simply because I feel like ALL life matters.  I struggled with the fact that people were emphasizing that the lives of Black people were important, when it felt like it could be fueling the flame of anger both from the Black community and against it.  Every time I saw #blacklivesmatter, I thought #alllivesmatter.

My problem here is that once I thought #alllivesmatter, I moved on to another story.  Yes, the violence that has happened affects me, but it affects me in the way that Hurricane Sandy affected me.  I was very sad for everyone involved, I sent some money in to help rebuild, I said a few prayers for people, and then I went to my job.  I had no real change in my life as a result of it.  That's how I've responded when seeing #blacklivesmatter.  My heart hurts for those affected.  I'm irritated by protesters laying down on freeways because they're putting lives at risk.  I pray for our country to work together to solve this issue.  And then I watch the next episode of Once Upon a Time.

Nothing changes.

Nothing changes except that I'm still bothered by the hashtag, because all lives matter.

And then I read through a conversation today about this very topic and something someone said struck me.  He seemed to come from the same view that I had been having, and asked if we were going to call out every sect of life... #asianlivesmatter, #womenslivesmatter, etc.

It stopped me in my tracks.

Because I fight for women's equality in every aspect of life.  Home, church, internationally, etc.  I get angry when people (who aren't directly affected by this) say it's not that big of a deal when I see my sisters hurting.  When I saw #womenslivesmatter, I suddenly felt a kinship with the phrase #blacklivesmatter.

It's not the same.  Not at ALL.  I would never assume it is.  We're talking about momma's losing their babies, about people growing up in poverty and not knowing how to get out.  We're talking life and death here.

I finally understood, however, that #blacklivesmatter is not saying Black lives matter MORE.  It is saying that Black lives matter WITH everyone else's life.  And it doesn't matter if I agree with court decisions or not, if I'm Black, White, Middle-Eastern, or a Time Lord.  It matters that I can stand and say, "I understand you are hurting.  I will pray for your community.  I will be a peace-maker where I can.  I love and respect you as a fellow human being."

These are things that would come out of the mouth of Jesus if He were living in the middle of the United States today.  These are things that the Bible talks about: "Blessed are the peacemakers."  Jesus came for the broken.  He walked away from the self-righteous who said they didn't need healing, and cried with those who were broken and hurting.  He loved people.  He was revolutionary, because He connected with people where they were, and then allowed them to grow with Him.

And so that is my new prayer for our country.  That Jesus would be able to connect with those who are broken and hurting and angry.  That His voice would be voice they hear, both deep in their hearts and spoken loudly on the streets, in the churches, and yes, all over Facebook.  And then I pray that He would lead each hurting heart on a journey toward healing and freedom in Him.  Allowing people to work together to create healthy change, in personal lives and across our country.  I pray that #blacklivesmatter would become a resounding shout of the goodness of what God can do in people who are willing to listen.

I will pick up the banner of my friends and colleagues.  I will not pretend to understand what it feels like, but I will say that I care and will stand with them.  I will tell people that their lives matter.  And I will pray for Jesus to heal open wounds.  Why?

Because lives DO matter.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Consistency

Recently, a friend of mine asked if any of a larger group of us ever felt like we couldn't hear from God, or if we ever just didn't FEEL His presence.  As if our faith just wasn't good enough.

Of course we'd all felt that way at one time or another, some of us experiencing it currently.  I described times in my past where I've felt the giant nothingness in faith, but looked out to an even more desolate wasteland without Jesus and recognized that even if I was nothing and my faith was almost non-existant WITH Him, it was still better than the wasteland without Him.

Then I went about my business.

I keep thinking about that, though.

Because I'm not in that place right now.  I'm excited about what God is doing, especially here in Las Vegas and in our church, and I'm grateful for the opportunities that I'm being given to learn and to grow.

But I was reading through some of my old blogs tonight and I grew nostalgic.  My belief in Jesus has never been stronger.  All the crap that has happened this year has only proven that God is consistent and faithful.  And I thrive in that.

But I feel something missing.  I do miss that little spark that ignites a close passion for Jesus.  It's there in many of those old blogs.

Do you want to know what I've realized, though?  I do want that spark in my life, in a consistent form, and it will flame back with a vengance, but...  I'm so very grateful for the simple steadfastness of Jesus in my life.  I don't have to experience the ups and downs that I did early in my faith.  I don't have to rely on a sign or a proof that He is real. 

I just trust. 
I just know.

And if I never have that crazy spark again, I'm OK with it because my Savior is always here, always teaching me, always guiding.  If you ask me what He's working on in me, I could pretty much tell you at any given time.

So my friends... if you don't feel the spark: that's OK.  If you feel like you're standing at the abyss and there's nothing around you: that's OK.  If you're fired up and ready to share about what Jesus is doing this second in your life: that's OK.  He just wants you to remain as consistent with Him as He is with you.  It just may feel different in every season of life.

In case you missed it: My guest blog

In case you missed it, I had the awesome opportunity to guest blog over at The Preacher Girls this week.  You should swing by and read what I wrote, and then check out the rest of their site!  Some amazing resources provided by amazing women.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Extroverts Unite!

Extroverts funny life quoteAll the extroverts in the house say, “HOLLA!”
I learned something this week about myself.  There are a ton of things out there in internet-world about self care for introverts, or how to interact with an introvert, or why introverts are queens of the world.  But really… Extroverts need to figure out how to care for ourselves, too.
That means… you get a story.

Wednesday night was the night before Thanksgiving.  I ended up at my friend’s house for an early turkey dinner.  Yum.  Seriously.  Delish.  We spent time talking about what’s going on in our lives, laughing a bit, eating a lot, and just having a nice dinner. When I left I was exhausted (thank you full day of work plus tryptophan!), had a very full belly, and was ready to take a nap!

I decided to try something different, however.

I didn’t sit down.  I just put the turkey I’d been given in the fridge, grabbed the couple of bags of trash I’d had sitting by the door, and walked to the dumpster.  It was good, moving after such a full dinner.  Being outside and breathing the cold air.  I went back inside and turned on some Christmas music… and unloaded the dishwasher.  Reloaded it.  Started cleaning off counters and floors.

I was puzzled.  I was STUFFED, almost as much as Fred the Turkey.  Where did all this energy come from?

Suddenly it dawned on me.  I was full.  Not just my stomach (though that certainly was!), but I’d just spent a few hours talking about me and about people that I care about.  My extrovert tank was full.  Because of that, I had an excessive amount of energy to spend cleaning my home!

I started thinking over the last week of my life.  My day job entails me talking about the lives of people that I have ZERO investment in.  Chances are, I’ll never see them again.  I’m paid not to care, I’m paid to be neutral and just share information from one person to another.

On Saturday, I was surrounded by 9,000 other people at a Convoy of Hope event.  I worked in the prayer tent all day, which meant that there was a never ending line of people that I was talking with.  All day, I heard story after story, and prayed for provision and healing and for people to seek Jesus.  When I left, I was exhausted.  Wiped out.  Glad I’d served, happy to get to know a few friends a little more, but beat.  When I got home, I didn’t have much energy to do anything.

The difference between Saturday and Wednesday?  It was about me.  Not selfishly, but I had the opportunity to share MY story on Wednesday.  To hear stories about those people in whom I’m personally invested.  

So here’s the lesson for all of my extrovert friends, especially those of us who find ourselves in situations where we don’t have long histories of friendships or families surrounding us.  

Make relationships.
Invest in those relationships.
And when we don’t feel like cleaning the house… maybe it’s time to go hang out with some friends for an hour or two.

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!