Fat Tuesday

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday and I took advantage of every moment. I had Chickfila for breakfast with my roommate using our calendar coupons, a cherry turnover that the Sweet Creation kids at work made, and an astounding amount of Texas Sheet Cake Melanie and I made just for the occasion.

I have never participated in Fat Tuesday before, but that is probably because I have never participated in Lent before, until this year of course. So, what am I giving up? Well that was a tough question. I would say that the biggest area of my life I lack discipline in is food. I am not a myspacer or that big of a facebooker. I like to eat, but not just anything. I like to eat sweets. There is not a food item outside of sweets that I couldn't live without for 45 days. So this year for Lent, I am giving up baked goods. This is no easy task! I have a bible study on Monday nights that baked goods are a pillar of. At work we have a baking class twice a week, where I am frequently a taste tester. Not to mention the fact that my roommate loves to bake and makes excellent sweets! Lent might be the only way that I could successfully defeat my love of sweets. Other times, in moments of weakness I just have to weigh whether or not the sweet is worth it, and normally I cave. During Lent, however, I have to weigh whether or not the sweet is worth more than Jesus...Now how am I going to cave on that?

On top of the giving up baked goods for 45 days over Lent, I have also signed up for the Biggest Loser Pound for Pound Challenge. For every pound you lose they donate a pound of food to feed the hungry. I think this is a modern day version of God's "The fast I choose" from Isaiah. We give up, not so we can boast, but so that someone else can have. This helps me put my eating into perspective. If I cut back on my excess, someone else will not go hungry.

It is day 1 of 45 and it's going well. I just have to keep reminding myself: "sweets or Jesus" and "feed myself or feed the hungry."


Something that really irriates me.

I went to Target today with my roommate to get some groceries. We load my car up afterward and there wasn't a cart return close on our aisle so Melanie walked across the next aisle to return our cart. I started the car and as I was waiting I noticed about 6 carts within about 10 yards of me that had either been left in a space or pushed up onto the curb. I hate that kind of thing. How hard is it to return your shopping cart to the proper place. It probably took Melanie 15 seconds total to walk over and back. I know that I have plenty of my own moments of selfishness and laziness, so my righteous indignation is probably not warranted. However, hundreds of people shop at Target and Walmart and places like that and because some people do not think they can spare 15 extra seconds somebody who gets paid minimum wage is going to spend several extra hours rounding up stray carts all over the parking lot. But that's the problem with us...all we think about is us. Forget the man whose job it is to gather the carts (they do not gather themselves), I cannot possibly spare 15 seconds.


Sunsets do not wait

The most beautiful things in life happen in the moment. For instance, sunsets and sunrises do not wait on anyone to stop what they are doing and take them in. They simply are and then they are gone. It only takes moments for something like this to pass us by; while we are saying, "Hold on I have to finish this or that" or "in a minute, I am busy." Those moments we spend putting off the sunset cost us an amazing amount of beauty. The sun will still be setting, but the majesty may already be gone. This was the sky that greeted me as I left work one evening last week. As I stood in the school yard and snapped this photo it hit me how quickly these moments change and how easy it is to miss them if you are not paying attention. Living in the moment all day long is like a thousand of these views over and over again.


Blossoms of the present

Life has brought me to this place again where the fears of "tomorrow" are stacking up like newspapers at an abandoned house. I have finished Seminary and I am nearing the end of my journey here in Fort Worth; running out of excuses not to take the next step. Where do I go? What type of job do I get? I couldn't be more uncertain if someone set me down in an airport and told me to pick a destination. I do not really have a place to go "back to." I could go to South Carolina, Georgia, stay in Texas....anywhere really. And then when I get there what job do I look for? A church? A school? _____?

To complicate all of this, too often we believe that once we finally do get to this next place, or take this next step, then our life will really begin. We are always waiting, always looking to the future, or getting lost in the past. What will happen? Where will I be? Will I get married? Why did that happen or this not happen? I wish I could get back to there. I wish I hadn't have made that decision. And on and on we go and all the while Life, real life, is passing us by.

It seems as if everything I have read in the last month has focused on living in the present moment; Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning, Cold Tangerines by Shauna Neiquest, Divine Guidance by Dallas Willard. Each of these reminds the believer that life is experienced in the present. Brennan Manning says:
The music of what is happening can be heard only in the present moment. To be fully present is an act of radical trust that God can be encountered at no other time an din no other place than the present moment. It is through immersion in the ordinary-the apparently empty, trivial, and meaningless experiences of a routine day-that life is encountered and lived. Real life is not about words, concepts, and abstractions but about experience of who or what is immediately before us.
When Jesus said, "Do not worry about tomorrow" He was calling us to live in the moment. How easy it is for me to retreat into the past or worry about the next thing on my to do list and miss all the goodness in my immediate line of sight.
I was sitting in my backyard today eating lunch and watching my puppies play, and of course, thinking about my future...What job do I want? blah blah blah. And then it happened. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed something amazing-Blossoms on my tree. This tree that dumped 10 trash bags worth of leaves in my backyard two months ago had suddenly sprouted new life. I see this tree everyday, but I never REALLY SEE it. While I was busy taking the dogs out, heading to work, taking out the trash, running down my daily list, I had missed the life sprouting right outside my door. In this small moment of attentiveness in my backyard, God reminded me of His goodness, of His presence, of His desire to continuously bring new life from death. That moment, is more powerful than all the thoughts I will have today of past and future.


Mosaic House

I started this blog a little over three years ago, in December of 2005. In January of 2006, after my college graduation, I took a trip to Europe with 3 guys I was friends with in college. The Lord had given them this vision to open a hostel as a ministry over there. At that point in their lives it was only a dream, one they had no idea would actually become a reality with such a strong presence of God's working upon it. I was really just along for the ride, I mean I had no job and who wouldn't want to go to Europe. While we there we randomly met two different people would become integral parts of this hostel process. One, a young guy working in a hostel with the same vision and a lot of European connections, and Two, one of the most successful hostel owners in Prague, Matthias. We ate lunch with Matthias one day and the guys asked him all types of questions. Three years ago, they had no idea he would be a primary investor in their endeavor. David, one of the guys, and his wife have been in Prague for a year now working for Matthias while the construction of the Mosiac House, their hostel is underway. Daniel, the second guy, has lived in Texas as long as I have doing various ministry jobs and is now the Pastoral assistant to Chris Seay at Ecclesia in Houston. I was in Houston this past weekend and I went to that church and as I sat back and listened to Daniel pray I thought back through the experiences we all shared over there. He is moving to Prague in 4 weeks and he and David will be the managers or their dream, the Mosaic House.

Though I will not be moving to Prague and though it was not my vision, I feel like I have shared in the hope of its realization this whole time. I am amazed at how the Lord has accomplished this vision through these guys. This vision was fun and cool and interesting, but very difficult to carry out. It is one thing to start something in your home country, but moving to another one to begin something like this is nearly impossible and yet, it has happened with amazing ease.

I wasn't a skeptic, but maybe I was. Maybe I doubted that the Lord would do it or that He could. And even now I think that just because He did it for these guys, doesn't mean He would do something like that for me. But more and more, I am believing in Him and in the power of believing in Him; that He can do all things and that if we follow Him, no matter what He asks, He will do anything. I would love a vision from the Lord about His path for me and the crazy youthful faith to believe, not only that He can, but that He will accomplish it.


The New Tyler Man

A large part of my job as Supervisor at Morningside Middle is what some would call, "bringing down the hammer." I am the disciplinarian, the principal if you will, the one who determines a kid's fate after he or she has disobeyed a rule. You would think this would make me the most hated person in the after school program-it doesn't. For some reason they love the person in my position. The last week of our program before Christmas break I suspended 5 kids in one day. One for something he did and 4 others for getting in two seperate fights in the same classroom. They all came in the last 5 minutes of our program and by then I was done, so I just gave them all the pink slip until the New year.
One kid is named Tyler. He is a 6th grader who had found a lot of trouble recently and whose brother, an 8th grader in our program, seems to be a model student. Tyler was mad that he was in trouble, though not at himself for his bad decision, at me for punishing him for it (this is a regular mindset with our students, no remorse or personal responsibility or fear of getting in trouble, just anger at the powers that be). Anyway, he told me he wasn't coming back even when he could. The next day I received this letter from him via another student. It is his exact words and puncuation:

My Mom is come to talk to you about me. Ms. AJ you was right I should follow and my brothers feetsteps but not all the time he be doing some things. Ms AJ you are a good woman And have thought about what you said I going to change not to the old tyler but the new tyler. And I did mean what I said to I just stay home being at 21st Century (our program) is a honer for me when I come back I going to show you a new me. I going to miss you a lot but when I come back its a new tyler men.
He also drew me a picture of Tinkerbell. This letter is a milestone in the life of my kids. It is funny in so many ways, the language, the wording, but it is the most sincere thinking I have ever gotten from a student. It showed me he really thought through what happened. I was so proud. It was one of those moments that reminded me why I love my job so much. If one kid can change his mindset, can learn how to succeed in the real world then his life can be different forever and that is what we care about.