Friday, September 7, 2012

And then there was a hurricane...


First, thank you to everyone that expressed concern for me, and New Orleans in general, when Isaac blew through last week. It was a crazy week that was full of firsts.

I experienced my first hurricane evacuation. When we thought that the storm was going to hit Alabama or Mississippi, most people in the city had decided to stay. Then, it turned toward New Orleans and we all had to make decisions about what to do. Something that a lot of people that have never lived in the area don't know is that there is something about moving to New Orleans that makes a person think "I will not be moved" when they know that a hurricane is coming. I have that spirit in me, but I have a stronger love of electricity. So, while I admire those who were brave enough to stay in New Orleans and deal with power outages and dangerous weather, I know my limits. My roommates and I got out of town and away from the storm. (Really, I can't go long with A/C before I'm too crabby to be around.) We left Monday night after we all got off work and didn't return until Friday afternoon when we were fairly certain that our apartment had reliable power.

I experienced my first truly frightening voicemail. While our apartment did well within the protection of the storm wall, one of my friends did not fair as well. They had a house in one of the towns that you probably saw covered in water on the TV. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I had a voicemail from my friend that they left at 3:30 in the morning telling me that water was coming in their house and that they were driving to higher ground. They asked that I let others know so that they could pray. Nothing describes the feeling of not knowing if someone that you care about is safe or not. Through a series of calls and text messages, I learned that my friend was safe and, later that day, that they were rescued by the National Guard. The house ended up getting 13 feet of water, but I still thank God that material possessions were all that were lost.

I am experiencing my first cleanup. It's an experience living in a city after a major natural disaster. Even though our apartment had power, most of the city did not have it until this week. I have dealt with downed branches in the road and broken traffic lights. (You haven't experienced a four-way stop until you've done it at a major intersection in New Orleans.) I'm trying to do my part to return things back to normal by cleaning up and going back to work at one of the only restaurants that opened the day after the storm. I'll continue to do my best to be a source of support for those who are physically and emotionally exhausted from seeing their lives turned upside down in a few short hours.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Update on a Busy Life

So, July was...umm...let's just say busy. At the end of June, I left my job at the school and found a full-time job at Panera Bread. It's a brand new store that opened on July 17th, so on July 1, I figured out I had a little free time on my hands until training started on July 9th. So, like all homesick people who have time to kill, I made a trip to see my family and friends. It was relaxing, refreshing, and fun. Plus, I got to see a view like this, which I can't really get in New Orleans.

I also saw my mom's side of the family on the 4th of July. That just made it all the better. I haven't been home for the 4th in years, and was glad to get to be a part of it this year.

As I mentioned earlier, Panera Bread opened on July 17th. We had training the entire week before the store opened, but I don't think that anyone was prepared for the amount of people that were going to show up. Apparently, opening the first store of a popular chain in a state makes people go crazy. We had record-breaking sales the first few days we were opened, which means that we made A LOT of food. I worked on opening day, and I was exhausted by the time my shift was over. Thankfully, I had a dinner date with an awesome couple I know from school. They got me these Happy Opening Day earrings to cheer me up. All I can say is that God knew that I needed friends like them to help get me through my remaining time in New Orleans.

On the church planting front, things have been a little more slow going. I'm starting to understand what that church planter in Toronto meant when he said that church planting is really just managed bi-polar. There are really high highs and really low lows. I don't dare to even think I've peaked on either end of that spectrum, but there are good days and there are bad days.

The good things that have happened: (1) my church in Tennessee set up a fund more me so I can know start asking people to give financially to church planting in Seattle, (2) I found a really good resource that is helping me figure out the other things that need to be done in order to make Seattle a reality, (3) I have already had people seek me out to find out how they can help support me.

The bad things: (1) I haven't received the desired response from some of the avenues I have pursued for funding, (2) Work leaves me tired and without the energy to get much accomplished on days I work. Thankfully, I have two days off a week, which I use to my advantage to get things done.

So, there's July for you. I saw family, I started a new job, and I launched my support efforts for Seattle. I'll be starting a new blog in the future that is dedicated to things related to my church planting, but I still plan to keep RainRamblings around. I'll let you know when that happens...Probably on my next day off :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012


The message above is one that I've been hearing a lot lately. I guess I started paying attention to being the hero of my story when I read Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In the book, he wrote about the fact that no one in their right mind wants to read about a guy who works all the time to buy a car, and then gets it and starts working to get something else. People read books and watch movies to hear about a tale of struggle and victory, either physically or emotionally, or usually both. Miller encourages his readers to be the heroes of their stories by getting out there and doing something that is worth writing a book about.

I agree that people need to get out there and do things with their lives that are bigger than themselves. That's why I like to travel. Being in unfamiliar places makes me feel like I'm living the kind of adventure that I want to read about.

But what I've been realizing more and more lately is that I'm not the hero of my own life's story. I'm just not capable of filling that role. And I'm okay with that because I've got a God who constantly whispers in my ear, "Let me be the hero of your story." In my own power, I can't change even one person in New Orleans or Seattle. Heck, I can't even change myself (believe me I've tried), but thankfully God has been doing that for me since I invited him to one Sunday night in 1999.

Last Fall, I had to preach a sermon for a class on Joshua 5:13-15. The main conclusion that I came to is that you have to let God be the hero of your story. Joshua and the Israelites couldn't have knocked down the walls of Jericho on their own. They had God's army with them doing the real fighting. Samson, pre- or post-haircut, couldn't have brought down the house without God giving him the strength. David couldn't have been undefeated in battle. Solomon wouldn't have had his wisdom and riches. Jeremiah wouldn't have known that people were threatening to take his life. Not to mention New Testament examples like Peter, Paul and Silas, and John. The whole Bible is one big example of people who (usually) got out of their own way and let God be the hero of their story. (Try reading that Bible with that in mind. It'll give you a whole new perspective on those stories about mighty men and women doing mighty things.)

So, when I have doubts about my abilities to do something, especially in relation to church planting, I try to remember that it's not my talents or strengths that are going to win the day or change lives. I simply can't fill the role of hero, and quite frankly, that's a huge relief.

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Happy Friday

I've been concentrating on the future so much lately I feel like I have forgotten to celebrate the present (or in today's case, the recent past). So, in that spirit, here are some pictures from my recent vacation to Seattle and my hometown. 

It wouldn't be a trip to Seattle without going to the University District Farmers' Market. I used to walk there every Saturday to do some shopping and enjoy the atmosphere. 
I was excited that I chance to wear my cute cold-weather socks while I was in Seattle since I never get to wear them in New Orleans. I sent this picture to my wonderful friend who bought them for me.
While walking to lunch one day, I came across this little guy. He wasn't shy at all. He saw me and kept on drinking, giving me a chance to take several blurry photos.
Aww...Stumptown Coffee. I heart you too.
After Seattle, I went home for a few days. My parents took me to the lake one afternoon. Here's my mom looking beautiful as always.
We spent at least five minutes watching this squirrel near the lake. I'm still not totally convinced  it was a squirrel since it's face was so weird.
I snuck into the honors center at my alma mater and sat in the courtyard for a little while. I was happy to see that "The Little Scholar" is still holding down the fort.
The Monday after I got home, my office had a belated birthday party for me. I got to participate in the amazing New Orleans tradition of having dollar bills pinned on me to celebrate. I racked up enough money to eat out :)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Plan

Today, I was eating my lunch of leftover Angel Hair Pasta with Eggplant-Tomato Sauce outside and realized that I was sitting on the same bench that I sat on over three years ago when I came to visit campus for the first time, staring at roughly the same view I had then.

I was at a point of decision then, much like I am today. Last time I left you, I was on my way to Seattle to find out what might await me there. Here's what happened: I walked around a lot, I went swing dancing with friends, I talked to a few wise people, and I found a position on a church planting team :)

Now, when I say "position," don't think of anything that pays money, because it doesn't. The way that my denomination now does church planting requires the church planter to come up with a majority, if not all, of their money on their own. "The Plan" as it stands right now is to stay in New Orleans until December and then move to Seattle in January after I have had time to raise some funds. Once I'm in Seattle, I'll find a job in a coffee shop or other place where I can plug myself in to community life. I will keep you updated on specifics as soon as I know specifics.

Since June 1, it's been a weird, winding journey. I didn't have a position, and then I found one in a way that was unexpected. I thought I had things financially worked out, and then I didn't. Every day brings something new and different, and "The Plan" gets tweaked a little with every new piece of information. There are days that I'm frustrated and just want to cry, and then there are days when optimism abounds. The church planters I met in Toronto weren't kidding when they warned us that church planting makes people feel bi-polar.

Yesterday, a friend reminded me of a song that they sing at preview weekends and special events at my school. I think that it expresses the attitude that I pray that I maintain no matter how many times "The Plan" changes.

Friday, June 1, 2012


So, I graduated a few weeks ago. You know, no big deal. It just took up every waking moment of the last three years of my life...Really, though, I'm really stinkin' excited that I finally have my Master of Divinity (in urban missions, if you want to get really specific). For those who couldn't be there for my big day, here's how it went:

I woke up, got ready, and went over to my parent's hotel room so that they could help me get in my graduation get-up. Those graduations hoods are deceptively simple-looking. We took pictures until I saw what time it was and rushed out the door.

I'm somewhere near the back of that big mass of people. They put all the missions people last.

The family after graduation. 

"Yep, they actually put it in there. Isn't it pretty?"

I took lots of pictures with professors and friends. These are two of the first friends I made when I moved to New Orleans. I knew that both before they started dating and I got to be in their wedding...They are part of many awesome stories I'll get to tell my kids one day.

While my family was ordering pizza at a local restaurant, I went to my friend C's house to pick up the cupcakes she made for my special day. In one word: Amazing!

At the end of the day, I gave my dad his very own diploma, which I had signed by the president, registrar (who was very impressed by how real it looked), and graduate dean. He deserved it since he proofread and formatted almost every paper I wrote in graduate school. 

I'm still getting used to the idea of being a graduate. Right now, it just feels like I'm on summer vacation. Everybody asks what's next. The answer, as of right now, is: I don't have any definite plans for the future. I know what I would like to do, and I need to find the right people who will let me do it.  In the meantime, this is where I'm going tonight. Maybe the lack of concrete future plans will change soon...


Friday, March 2, 2012

More Than a Bird

Credit: Mom

So, if you couldn't tell from my last post, I've been a little anxious lately. Well, actually, a lot anxious lately. It goes beyond not taking a Sabbath and being behind in school. I realized a couple days ago that I only have two more months in grad school. Can you believe it? Two months, and then I'm done. I'll have a Master of Divinity with all its responsibilities and privileges, or whatever they say when they confer degrees on you.

That means two months to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I know that I want to be a church planter. God has been gracious enough to give me that much information. I just don't know where or with whom. This week I've talked to several church planting strategists and planters from across the country. I still don't have a strong leaning in any direction, well, maybe one direction, but we'll talk about that later if it pans out. In two months, I'll be homeless and jobless, and I feel like I have to figure it all out today.

Then, I was reading my friend's blog this afternoon and she was talking about her own struggles with life after graduation. Her words made me think of these words:

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, not about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:24-35, ESV).

I hear that Jesus was a pretty smart guy. So, while I won't stop thinking about the future and what it might hold, I'm not going to be anxious. God knows that I need food and a place to live and a car that runs and money to pay for it all. He's got it worked out. I just need to continue focusing on the important things like growing in my relationship with God and helping others to do the same. I pray that this week you will also focus on what is most important, knowing that God provides for those who seek him.