Monday, June 30, 2008

NOLA Day 2

Today was our first full day with VBS in the morning and house gutting in the afternoon. After pouring so much time, effort and worry into our VBS preparations, they paid off! Everything went GREAT! The kids were very rambunctious, but still willing and excited to learn and be involved with us. It was difficult to manage some of the kids tempers and energy, but after talking with the Camp Director, it's easy to understand why the kids struggle with aggression. The psychologists they work with have said time and time again that aggressive outbursts are a normal result of what these kids have experienced as a result of Katrina.

It breaks my heart to think about what the kids have been through. Not only with the hurricane itself, but the resulting turmoil in the lives of their families...the divorces, the arguments, the losses, etc. It's easy to have patience with them when you think about how hard life can be these days in the Big Easy.

After VBS, we got to hang out a little bit while the kids ate lunch before changing and heading over to our house-gutting assignment. The house we are gutting is just around the corner from the BBC office and belongs to a woman named Frane. She stopped by while we were working today and was very excited to meet we were her. Our work today was pretty easy. All we had to do was knock out dry wall and tear down door frames. Jeny and Jessie got to go up in the attic and kick down the ceiling (how fun is that? If only I were a foot shorter). Heather used her height to her advantage and knocked out the higher bits of dry wall. I ripped apart a closet (that, by the way, was covered with furry yellow moldy growth) and bathroom and some of the aforementioned door frames.

After all that, we headed home for some showers and red beans (a traditional New Orleans Monday dinner) with the Petersons and Kati Sheperdson. Kati was able to tell the girls about the volunteer work she does with the homeless people in the city as well as her "Katrina story". And then we headed out to the French Quarter so the girls could see a few sites. We saw Bourbon Street (only a couple blocks), Royal Street, Jackson Square, St Louis Cathedral and a few other things before debriefing the day at Cafe Du Monde and praying over the city from the Riverfront. There were also a few choice encounters with street performers and restaurant husslers (that's what I call the people who stand outside with menus trying to get people to come in).

Now we are safe and sound back at the Petersons getting ready for bed. Pray for us as we wake up tomorrow for another full day with the kids and the house. Pray we have opportunities to talk more with our home owner as well as the few neighbors that are around. Pray that we can impact these kids lives in any small or large ways God would have for us. Pray that tomorrow evening is another enjoyable time for us to talk, get to know each other more and encourage one another and the people who will be with us.

More tomorrow...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

NOLA Day 1

Today was our team's first full day in New Orleans, and boy was it a FULL day! We started the morning with some devotions and then headed off to Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. For those of you who are not familiar with FABC, it is a staple of New Orleans. There are thousands of people who attended this church before the storm...most from the parts of the city hit the hardest by Katrina. When Katrina hit, many parishors went to Houston. So many so that Franklin Avenue was meeting in Houston and now has basically planted a church in the Houston area. The Lead Pastor was actually in Houston this morning. We heard "The Bishop". And for those of you who've been to a black Southern Baptist church, you KNOW-ah we went to CHURCH-a THIS-ahh MORNIN'!

It was good. You can check out their website and see a videocast of the service every week. I think Heather might actually leave Revolution to watch the FABC broadcast. :o) Not really.

After coming back to the house to change, we headed out to lunch. We had some amazing Po' Boys. The girls even liked the alligator sausage. mmmmmmm

And then it was time for "the tour". It's hard for me to imagine what this is like for someone who's never been here before. I've been doing the same tour since October 2005, and even though it's almost 3 years later, it's amazing that the sights can still create deafening silence, awe and sadness in those seeing for the first time. New Orleans is coming back. But she's coming back slowly.

When the tour was over, a few of us stayed at the house to relax for a little while while 2 of us headed out with Janet to Sam's club and to pick up our rental van (which is like a Mazda Miata compared to the Giant White BBC Beast we've been driving since last night) and then a final stop at Wal-Mart for some VBS supplies. Once we got back home, Jessie (with some help from our hosts) cooked up some wonderful Spaghetti and salad, we ate and then did some planning for tomorrow.

We are so tired and the week hasn't really even begun yet! Tomorrow is the first day of our 4-day VBS as well as our first taste of gutting a house. We are all excited, but praying we are energetic enough to give it our all. Karina had a fever of 102 earlier, but it looks like God is answering our prayers and it's down to 99 as of an hour ago! Praise God!

As for me, I'm just along for the ride. I don't know what God has in store for this week. I certainly didn't expect my own emotions to be all out of whack just by being here, so I have to really let God have control of everything or I'll just fall apart like I usually do when I get overwhelmed.

So when you think about us, pray for us. Pray for the kids we'll meet tomorrow. Pray for the people whose house we are working on. Pray for us to have soft hearts and humble, teachable spirits. Pray that we grow to love one another and enjoy one another as teammates. Pray that we stay healthy and well-rested. Pray that God gives us joy abundantly. And pray that God is glorified through our short stay here in New Orleans.

Until later...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

AIDS Walkin'

This morning is the annual AIDS walk in Long Beach. I've been so busy with preparations for New Orleans as well as raising funds for my own trip to Kenya that I haven't had anytime to think about fundraising for this event. So here's a challenge to each of you reading this. Go to and donate just $10. Or $5 if that's all you have. For some of you, that might mean missing out on a frappuccino or latte, but you can feel good knowing that you've given to help AIDS research and relief here in California! If everyone who reads this gives $10, that's at least $100 (I don't claim to have a huge readership, but I have known friends and lurkers alike that equal at the very least 10)!

Thanks to those who take the challenge!

And by the way, I apologize for the inconvenience of cutting and pasting the website. For some reason, I can't get my blog to insert links.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Airfare Nazi

I'm leading a trip to New Orleans that is happening in approximately 1 week and 2 days. God JUST provided the rest of the money to get us all the plane tickets we need TODAY. Which is awesome. Amazing. I love it. God is teaching me (and at least one other) that He truly is faithful and does not want to disappoint.

Okay, so now I can actualize all the online searching I've been doing. Off I go to Priceline. Bid. Waiting. Negotiating. Waiting. Negotiating. ACCEPTED! FInally! Click "Buy my tickets". Waiting. Waiting. Confirmation Email.

I'm sorry, your bank account doesn't have enough money in it to process this on your debit card.


Apparently Priceline can magically know how much money I have in my bank account. It's unfortunate that they can't see HOW MUCH MONEY I DEPOSITED TODAY.

Oh well, I'm trusting that either I'm not supposed to get them because we're going to get something cheaper or because maybe it wasn't a good idea to fly from the airports that were chosen. I actually do believe that God's in control of it. It would just be nice to have the actual itinerary. Ya know?

I can totally see this one

What Your Pizza Reveals

Your appetite is pretty average. You don't go overboard - but you don't deprive yourself either.

You consider pizza to be bread... very good bread. You fit in best in the Midwest part of the US.

You like food that's traditional and well crafted. You aren't impressed with "gourmet" foods.

You are dependable, loyal, and conservative with your choices.

You are cultured and intellectual. You should consider traveling to Vienna.

The stereotype that best fits you is hippie. You knew it was coming.


You Belong in Los Angeles

Whether you'll admit it or not, a huge part of you likes being in the spotlight.

And you may just have enough star quality to make it big in LA!

Even if you don't become famous, you still belong in a place where you can get a year round tan.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I want to take a nap...and it's only 10am

My house...
a mess.

My head...
full of thoughts.

My child...

My plans...

My future...
Only God knows.

That's my creativity for the day. It's all I can muster between rearranging furniture, doing dishes, cleaning, putting laundry away, planning for one last class, avoiding the journaling I need to do, and searching for my lost phone charger.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I just stepped out of an Herbal Essence commercial

At least that's what it feels like being back from my week away on Coronado.

For those of you who don't already know, this wasn't just a week away, this was a week spent one-on-one with a counselor/spiritual advisor. The Beckers have been in this type of ministry for over 10 years. They host individuals and couples who are in ministry at their cottage for one week at a time and offer 5 days of rest and relaxation at the cottage mingled with approximately 20 hours of intensive personal (or couples) counseling. I think it may prove to be the most life-changing "retreat" experience of my life.

I arrived Sunday evening not knowing what the week held. Fran met me at the entrance to the cottage to show me around. It was nice and crisp and airy inside the cottage; and outside, in the little "courtyard" was a hot tub and some lounge chairs. All for me. And there was also a beach cruiser for me to use. I informed Fran that although I might try my hand (or feet) at it, I'd be traveling by foot most of the week.

(If you read my earlier post about wanting a bike, you'll be happy to know that I did get on this bike and definitely made some good progress from where my learning left off last summer. I was proud of myself. Now if I could just convince Christopher to get us some bikes.)

Fran left and I settled into my new home for the week. I picked a book off of one of the shelves and read for a while before going to bed.

Monday morning started with a walk, a Psalm and a prayer, much like every other morning at the cottage, and then a visit with Fran. Our visits lasted anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours. I would have the afternoon free to go wherever I wanted, but I had to make sure to do my homework (I did have Thursday afternoon and evening completely was nice) before coming back at 4:30 to meet for another 1-2 hours. I went into the week not having a clue what "issues" we might talk about because things in my life have been on the up-and-up as of late. Little did I know...

Suffice it to say that God wanted to lay hold of my "innermost" parts. And He did. There won't be a lot of people who get to hear everything I learned about myself, my life, my heart and what that all means to me now. It was a really tough week, but I will say that it was all more worth it than I even know now. I have homework for the next year (maybe my whole lifetime...we'll see how it goes) and I will have to work a lot harder than I ever have. But thank God He prepared me for this trip on so many different levels, he gave Walt and Fran the desire to invite me, He gave Fran the discernment to know where to take the week and he gave me the willingness to follow her (and Him) through the week.

I will disclose that I experience what Fran has termed "free floating anxiety". I didn't realize it, but I no longer knew how to be still and not think about all the stuff I "have" to do. Christopher always told me I needed to relax. I guess he was right.

Thank you to all of you who helped Christopher and Bella through the week. I know they couldn't have done it without you! And I certainly couldn't have had this experience without you, so thank you so very much! To those of you who are in ministry and this sounds like something that might appeal to you and/or your spouse, go to The Beckers would be happy to hear from you!