A few weeks ago now, one of my only cousins got married.  My sister and I traveled to South Carolina for the weekend to be a part of all of the festivities.  This wedding was interesting, because for the first time in a long time this group of disconnected and broken family members was together in the same place, celebrating the marriage of two people who love Jesus.

I have a couple of goals for this summer, and not that they are only for this summer, but that during this summer I really want to focus my energy on cultivating  a couple of things.  One of those things is stronger relationships with my family.  I have often not been a very good mediator in my family; that has been my sister.  Where she tended to press in and be the glue holding people and relationships together, I tended to be gone, doing my own thing and occasionally checking-in.  I love my family, but I have not been very good at actively loving and holding together the broken places, actively valuing family members for who they are instead of what I wish they were. This wedding was an opportunity to celebrate my family in ways that I haven't done ever.  It was a time to enjoy each other and it was really (for the most part ;-) fun. Here are some pictures and a small amount of commentary...

First, my sister.  She is fabulous.  I am sure she is even greater than she realizes that she is.  She deserves to be celebrated.  She loves people well.  She connects with people who are on the fringes of society, and in many ways are seen as having "nothing" to offer back to her.  She is highly accomplished and has done a lot of amazing things, and yet, she has had to overcome some massive obstacles.  Though because she is so gracious she would never say it, but I have not always been a place of refuge for her.  I am so blessed to have her, and I want to live in a way that makes that plain to her and everyone around her.

This is my Nana-my mom's mom.  She is in her 80's.  She has lived alone my entire life.  Her and my grandfather did not have a very good marriage and she has since then lived mostly in isolation.  She is however, a beautiful woman.  She told me and Lauren stories of her childhood and of her as a young adult that I had never heard.  I realized that there are so many things about my heritage from my dad's side that I do not know and will now, never know, so I soaked up these moments to hear about her past. 

This is my grandfather and his wife Suzanne.  He is my mom's dad. They have been married almost as long as I have been alive.  They use to live in Atlanta, but now they have lived in Florida since I was a young kid.  They are huge supporters of the Boys and Girls Club so he is sad that I am no longer with the organization.  I will see them next week, as he has run the Atlanta Peachtree Road Race for the last almost 40 years.  She is one of the sweetest women I know and she loves him well.  

This is my cousin Becca and her now husband, Adam.  She is one of only 3 cousins that I have and her and her husband love and follow Jesus with everything they have. 

This is my mother and her husband Vance.  Vance can fix anything.  He is a hardworking, servant-hearted man and he would do anything in the world for my mother and for us if we needed it.  I am thankful for the way he treats her and the way he has made her feel special over the years, which is something that sadly she has not experienced very much in her life.  
My mother has dedicated her whole life to supporting her children and ensuring that they have the things that they need.  She has overcome and enormous amount of struggle and sadness in her life, and she has perceived in ways that I cannot even imagine.  In all of that, she is a loving mother, who was able to raise 3 children who seem to be doing really well for themselves.  

Sadly, there is only one surviving member from my dad's side of the family- a cousin, who I haven't seen in years.  The opportunity to know them and love them well is over, but I can look back and appreciate the things that I remember about them.  



I went with some fabulous friends to the Fox Theatre on Friday night to see the movie 42.  If you live in Atlanta, and you have a chance, you should go to see a movie at the Fox this summer; it was super fun to watch a movie in that environment on a gigantic screen.  The movie 42, the true story of Jackie Robinson, was fantastic.  I love true stories, especially ones as raw and powerful as his.  The move contained a great deal of comic relief, but also told the sad and raw story of racism in the United States and the resolve of a few people to risk themselves as agents of change and inspire upcoming generations.  You see the best and the worst of humanity in a story like this.  

When I watch movies like this, there is this tendency to think, “how in the world could they think and act the way they did?”  How ignorant!  How horrific!  And then, I wonder...if I had been  born then, what would I have been like?  How would I, as a white middle-class person, have viewed African Americans?  I grew up in a profoundly segregated and racist town.  There was the private school, where all the white kids went, and the public school, where all the black kids went.  I remember my sister telling me, who was still in high school) when I was in my first year of college, that a black student enrolled at my old high school.  It was this crazy scandalous thing. And later my mother befriended this young black kid who had begun coming to my old youth group and people treated her horribly for it.  When the boy began coming to “big church” and decided he wanted it to be “his church” people went crazy. People would stop my mother in our neighborhood when she was walking and make the most ignorant, racist statements about the boy not belonging.  

There are far more differences within categories of “race” than there are between races.  If we stop and ask ourselves where ideas of racism and one group of people being some much less human than another, I think we are at a loss. I know that ultimately these sentiments are from the kingdom or darkness, but where do they come from in us. Logically, why do we think these things? The truth is we don't know. Many of these things are popular notions that have been passed down and we have no idea why we hold to them. I pray that racist notions, of any kind, are not found within me and I hope that if I had lived then, that I would know the difference between justice and injustice and that I would have acted as an agent of the kingdom of light and not of the kingdom of darkness.


Transition, transition, transition

June 8th was my last day at the Boys and Girls Club. The Boys and Girls Club was a great place for me for the last year and a half. I loved, loved, loved working with my kids and it made me very sad to leave them, I loved working with my co-workers, and I truly believed in the impact that can be made in an after-school program world.  I really did love what I did there and so it is hard to walk away from it, even if I believe that the path I am walking in is the right one.  The schedule was such a tough one for me.  Working until 8pm everyday was wearing on my soul. It has been so difficult to plug-in to church or community, or even be involved in anything at all.  I will not miss that.  My soul already feels a great deal of freedom having my afternoons free, and not only that but my evenings.  I have actually had to retrain my brain to understand that I am free to do things most any night I want.  

 I started the Masters of Teaching program at Georgia State in January.  Through my amazing sister the Lord provided a Graduate Research Assistantship, which means my tuition for the summer is paid for and I get small (very small) monthly stipend.  There is the possibility that this will continue through the fall...possibly even the spring, which is unbelievable because that is $5000 a semester.  
In May I will graduate with a teaching certification to teach Middle Grades and even though I hope to teach and coach in 2014, I am open to whatever might happen.  I want the option to teach and I feel like I have been circling around this since college, and I finally feel like I have the opportunity to make it happen.  So we will see.  I am starting my second week of summer classes and so far so good.  I am enjoying classes--I have always enjoyed school (which is a good thing since I keep going back).  I am nervous and anxious about not having a full-time job, but I also have a peace about where I am headed.  More importantly, I think that for me, the Boys and Girls Club, in some way, represented the “aftermath” of losing my job at Grace.  It was a welcomed provision of a job, which I was very thankful, but I think it was just that.  I now feel like I am actively pursuing a future...my future, instead of just reacting to what has happened around me.  So we will see what happens next.
As I have taken steps in this direction, the Lord has provided for me and I believe he will continue to do so.

7 years

So many times recently, I have thought about how many years it has been since some event in my life occurred, and nearly every time I am in disbelief.  It has been 12 years since I graduated from high school, 8 years since I graduated from college, and 4 years since I graduated from Seminary.  The further away I get from these events the less real they feel, almost as if they didn't happen.  May 31st marked the 7th anniversary of my Dad's death, which is the hardest one for me to believe.  Yesterday, Fathers Day, marked the 7th Father's Day celebrated without him and even though in many ways it was the "easiest one" so far, it will never be easy. I want to be at a point where it doesn't hurt or make me sad. I want to be in a place, where all I do on that day is cultivate a deep heart of thankfulness for my heavenly father, but I am still, after 7 years, not there yet, though I would say I am getting there. I am learning.  I am growing, and most importantly, I am healing.

I miss him.  It is that part of us that is bound by a heart created for eternity that can never really comprehend not seeing someone again, or talking to them again.  I remember being on the plane from Nashville to Columbia the day my dad died.  I was numb and as I sat down on the plane I noticed a man and his daughter in the row next to me.  He was fairly young and she was maybe 7 or 8.  I watched them for a while and I had a strong desire to tell them to cherish it; cherish each other-he as a father and she as his daughter.  I still feel the same today when I see fathers and daughters.  As humans, that is one of the hardest things to deal with when someone is gone--wrestling with all of the things that you didn't do or how you may have taken a relationship for granted.  So, daughters and sons, CHERISH your dads.  Overlook their faults and focus on the fact that you know they love you.  They LOVE you and they are showing it the best they know how.  Fathers, lavish love on your daughters.  CHERISH them.  Never let them think otherwise and never let them think, by how you divide your time, that something else is more important than them.

For me, this is not longer a lesson I can practice with my dad, but it is a great relational lesson that I try to apply in other contexts.  Cherish people! Paul says, "For God is my witness, I yearn for you with all the affection of Christ Jesus!" Philippians 1:8  Now that is something to attain to: an affection for others that looks like the affection of Jesus.


New Article!

New article on opportunities for Neighborhood, Kingdom impact this summer at MyMissionFulfilled!  Check it out here!


Potato Box

Last year, around this time, I got into urban gardening.  Inspired by my sister, I built a square foot box for spring planting and had a blast learning about growing your own garden.  I didn't have the most prolific crop, but I did have a lot of fun doing it.  While doing some research I ran across the idea of a potato box.  I was attempting to grow potatoes in my square foot box and it was not working out.  I was not familiar with how potatoes grow, but apparently if you grow them vertically and continue to cover up the vines as they grow (leaving a few inches of uncovered vine up top of course) they will continue to root and put out potatoes.  I found this website that tells you how to build a "Potato Condo," which supposedly grows 100 lbs of potatoes in 4 sq feet.  My sister and I talked about this idea right after I found it and she was really interested in doing it, so I built her a box for Christmas.  It turned out pretty great.  Here is a picture of the final product...

The idea is that you start with your box set-up with 2-3 boards around the base. I decided to build 1 side that wouldn't be removed all the way up.   You fill the box with soil and plant your potatoes in the base of the box.  Once they grow up high enough, you add another layer of wood (which is already cut and pre-drilled) and then more dirt.  You continue doing this until you reach the top.  You will need to be familiar with planting and harvest times.  When the potatoes on the bottom have been maturing for long enough, you take off the second layer of boards from the bottom and harvest the mature potatoes.  You continue to work your way up the layers as the potatoes mature.  Supposedly by the end of this, you will have yourself 100 lbs. of potatoes.  I built myself one too, so I suppose we will see very soon if it works!  If it works, I am going to need a lot more recipes that use potatoes.  


If you like hummus...

I was a hummus hater.  Hummus was one of those things that I tried to like so many times and it just wasn't working.  I hated hummus. until I found some that I liked.  Two years ago I went to the Middle East; Jordan to be exact, and it was there that I first had hummus that I liked.  It was incredible.  Gradually, I found hummus in the states that I liked; a local greek restaurant owned by a man from Jordan and the Trader Joe's brand is also good.  I had hated the store brand Sabre hummus from the beginning, but I have recently grown to like it okay.
A few months ago, I decided to make my own black bean hummus.  I came across this recipe and it is so simple and so good.  If you like hummus, and especially if you like black beans, you should try this.  The Tahini can be a little hard to find.  Your best bet is an international grocer or a farmers market.  ENJOY!

Black Bean Hummus
  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans; drain and reserve liquid
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Mince garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Add black beans, 2 tablespoons reserved liquid, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, tahini, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper; process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Add additional seasoning and liquid to taste. Garnish with paprika and Greek olives.


Gifts of Hope

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. For me, it brings a great amount of joy, anticipation and hope, but for many people, Christmas holds very little hope at all.  For many, Christmas is often a painful reminder of what or who they don't have.  The people who have get more and the people who have not continue to dream about the time when things might be different for them.
I work with underprivileged kids.  I can't tell you the number of times kids told me they didn't think they were going to do Christmas this year because money was tight.  I would just sit there with nothing to say back to them, surprised that that was their reality because that is no where close to my reality.  I have never been in a place where money was too tight to have Christmas, but millions of people are.

I have plenty of things.  My roommate and I were talking about how we wanted this Christmas to be more about giving and less about receiving.  We each wanted to find families to give back to this Christmas.  We both work with people in great need and we live in one of the places in the United States with the highest refugee population, so it was not difficult to find families in need.  All together we shopped for 10 kids, 5 families and it was such an amazing experience.

There was no fanfare.  None of the kids will ever know who gave them the gifts and that is the beauty of it.  Hopefully when they think about this Christmas, and the things that they received, they will say that God provided a blessing for them...that He gave them hope during a dark time.  This is the reason for this season. It is much greater than trees and twinkle lights, egg nog and carols; it is about the sacrificial gift of God that changed the world forever.  And it is our calling, as followers of Jesus to do Christmas in a way that honors that sacrifice and shines light into the darkness.

Now, I am not writing this to bring any attention to what I have done.  I am writing this as an affirmation of what God has promised to us about giving to others. This was the most meaningful part of my Christmas.  This was the part that will endure long after all of my gifts have been opened and the tree has come down.  This act of obedience stirred something in my soul, that continues to rise even though the act is over; it stirred up a heart of generosity.  I want others to experience this; to know that giving (the type of giving where you stand to gain nothing) is much better than receiving. Find a way to give before this season ends.  Here is an article about practical ways to give this season and throughout the year; because this shouldn't be a seasonal thing, it should be a daily rhythm of life for us as believers.