Tuesday, December 27, 2005


The name for this blog originated with an Over the Rhine album titled Ohio, and in the title song, Karin sings, "Hello Ohio. The backroads. I know Ohio like the back of my hand. Alone Ohio where the river bends. It's so strange to see your story end."

2 years ago, when I was preparing for the move to Washington, the words seemed fitting, especially because Karin was talking about something I love more about Ohio than anything else--the backroads.

In all of it, I remember that feeling of the open midwestern backroad, and the counsel and contemplation that late-night drives from Indiana to Ohio bring...and I know that tomorrow I will be leaving Ohio again.

In honor of leaving, I have compiled a list of things I love about Ohio/Indiana and will miss as I head home to the Northwest. These are in no particular order:

1. The Backroads. Especially the routes I take to get to and from the homes of various relatives at unmentionable speeds.

2. Steak and Shake. 24-hour chain of greasy spoon dining. A staple during Taylor days.

3. Fazoli's. Real Italian. Real Fast. And beautiful unending breadsticks.

4. Trail Bologna. Amish people make fabulous hors d'oerves

5. Baker's IGA Vegetable Dip. There is nothing like this fine dip in the entire world, and the world is sadder for not knowing of it.

6. Sitting with High School Friends at a local restaurant and running into blasts from the past.

7. The Big Blue Arch on the Ohio/Indiana border.

8. The passion with which we embrace our local sports teams. (i.e. at Christmas, every person in my entire family received at least one piece of Ohio State memorabilia, even though my cousin Kris is the only one who has attended Ohio State).

9. My dad's digital recording studio! Barrista Boy is not yet finished, and I find the whole process of recording sound to be both exciting and tedious.

10. Little John Lennon and Little Ringo. These are the knit dolls I made dad for Christmas. I am horribly attached to them. I will miss them. Little John Lennon even has his own theme song, which I wrote for him.

11. Talking with my mom in the patio room dressed in PJ's.

12. Talking with dad about songwriting while plucking on his stash of fine axes.

13. Loudly composing impromptu songs with Sean while we're walking into the church on Christmas Eve. (Mom and Dad duck and hide in a shrub claiming that we are not their children. This makes us sing louder.)

14. Watching Grandma and Grandpa Casey hold hands and kick back in their matching recliners.

15. Driving Grandma and Grandpa Baker to holiday gatherings.

16. Being within enough driving distance to spend my weekend with Noah and Beth, Hannah and Jon, Adria, Suzanne and Barrett, and Danara.

17. Feeling like life has a context that is 25 years deep.


So, I will be sad to leave Ohio again. And yet, I am excited to return home to Washington. I am excited to see my rivers. I am excited to see my apartments, and my church, and my friends, and my kids. I am excited to finish my stash of smoked salmon. I am excited to see my mountains. I am excited to have espresso stands and consistent cell phone service, and I am excited to be in the place God has laid on my heart to be for this point in my life.

Before I return there, I pause for a 5-day visit to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and a weekend with 17 Taylor friends. Updates and photos will come, I'm sure.

"Alone Ohio. Where the river bends. It's so sad to see your story end."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the staff of Backroads-Midwest-Coast.

Also, "Happy Hanukkah," because if Jesus were around today, he'd probably celebrate it, being Jewish and all.

And Happy Kwanzaa too, because Africa is a pretty snazzy continent...and it taught me, among other things, that even the most realistic-looking ebony bookends can be mass-marketed to unknowing tourists using normal wood and a tin of shoe polish.

p.s. Dad and I are now music producers. You can hear a demo version of the song we sang this evening at church here. (Written by GBaker, Guitar by GBaker, Vocals by HBaker.)

p.p.s. Maybe I'll post "Barrista Boy" by the end of the week...my first original song...that will be my Merry Christmas present to you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In Context.

I've never really thought about myself as being 'weird' ... and yet, as I've gotten to know people in Washington, such terms tend to be thrown my direction. They hear me break out in song or quote from commercials that aired fifteen years ago, and they say, "how do you know these things?" I shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know."

I feel alone in these oddities, until I spend a bit of time with my family. Then, suddenly I feel normal.

Since Friday, the Baker family has had the privilege of enjoying the company of Sean's girlfriend (Rachael), and it's been interesting to ponder an outsider's perspective of us...because we've all been together pretty much non-stop for the last five days, and I assumed she would have an opinion...I mean, how could you not when you're in the presence of four storytellers who burst out with anecdotes, song lyrics, and movie quotes pretty much 24-7?

As we returned home from a smashing Cleveland Cavalier's victory over the Utah Jazz this evening, I asked her, "Does Sean make more sense now?" and she replied, "He makes a lot more sense in context."

I thought that was a great term to describe families...as a context...and maybe family is this grand thing because it not only reminds you that you are weird, it helps you understand why. I'm okay with that. I like that we're all weird together.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


I have been in Ohio for 56 hours, and on average, that would equal seeing/ conversing with 227 people per hour. For you statisticians out there (yay Ruthie!), this means that since arriving home, I have officially bumped into/talked to the entire city of Coshocton, and half of Newcomerstown.

There have been many, many, many, many people in my life throughout the last two days (to all of you who are currently reading about yourselves in the third person! Hello! It has been good to see you!)

Today, when 75 people showed up at the Baker home to visit (that is a concrete figure. No exaggeration necessary.) I felt like I continually stumbled all over myself saying, "Gah! Hello! {hug}. How are you? . [insert funny comment by me.] [insert mutual laughter.] [insert foot-in-mouth comment.] [insert awkward pause.] [insert self-inflicted pain for stupidity of previous comment.] Well, it's good to see you! {hug again}. Thanks for coming!"

Overwhelming and disorienting while simulataneously centering and assuring....this is what home feels like.

The highlight thus far, I suppose, (after seeing hundreds of people whom I love and after spending a lazy evening with Chevy Chase, mom, dad, Sean, Sean's girlfriend Rachel, and Chinese Take-Out), is the amount of music that has filled our home during the last 55 hours.

No joke.

Dad wrote a bunch of songs. I wrote some songs...and last night, we're sitting in our living room with ten people singing worship songs/original songs, and jamming like there's no tomorrow (above, you see me playing dad's fine taylor hybrid koa electric...and dad holding strong on his Sunburst Nancy Griffith Taylor.)

And dad wrote this amazing song about Christmas, and I had the privilege of singing it with the worship team during 9am service. The song is just amazing, and I get chills when I sing it, and people were bursting out of their seats when we were finished because it was that good....It's all about this shepherd boy whose father takes him towards the star to see Jesus...and ooooh.....if you can arrange to be in Coshocton, Ohio on Christmas eve, then get your booties to Grace UMC at 7pm, because, well, it's going to be amazing. (We're going to lay it down on dad's mixer this week, and when we do that, I have grand intentions to open a myspace music page so everyone can listen. AND so you can listen to the original songs Erin and Esther wrote me as a birthday present.)

That's all I have to say. I promised mom to finish the dishes, and it's nearly midnight, so I will get a move on that.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Tick-tock, tick-tock. The Ohio-Bound clock is getting so very much closer.

Still yet to do today is lots of errands, a meeting in Anacortes (to discuss programming for Bob's Island Getaway 2006), a Christmas Party for YD staff, and then turning around and driving to Heidi's in preparation for our 4:30am airport run! Woo woo!

I will see you on the East Side.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Seattle Public Library Inspires Heather With Life Vision.

Okay, so I'm getting a bit self-conscious that lately these entries have been much more about me than they have been about students. I don't remember where I was reading it...somewhere...where somebody said something... eugh... danggit, I don't remember...anyways, they said, "The first ten years you are in ministry are more about what God does to you than about what God does through you." I was like, "Euk! How discouraging..." It feels self-centered so much of the time. But if the purpose of this page is to share the inner mindset of a "youth worker," (which is my blog's ambiguous statement of purpose,) well, then, so-be-it what it is. *End of rationalization.*

Today, I did something that I've been wanting to do ever since I stepped foot in the grand city of Seattle, which was to sit in the Seattle Public Library. This was my month to plan Stuart, Bronco and I's "Day-Out" of the office for team meeting and fellowship...so we headed down I-5 to exit 165A towards the Seattle Public Library. It's an amazing 11-Story glass building, which opened in Spring 2004, and after gawking at the 10-Story atrium, the 4 floors of spiraling Dewey Decimals, and the 200-computer "Mixing Center," I found a quiet spot in a remote corner of the 10th floor, which had me at birdseye-level with skyscrapers and a clear view of Elliott Bay (which is a fancier name for the part of the Puget Sound that reaches into Seattle.)

I pulled out my journal and ending up sketching a web diagram called "Fusion of Outdoor and Creative Arts Ministry," which I suppose is becoming my idea of what I would love to do more than anything else in the world...I would love to run a creative arts program for students in some beautiful, inspiring mountaintop locale...and while I've been milling it over in my brain for months, no, take that back, years...today was one of the few times I've put thoughts down on paper. I even started make a list of "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure," Grad School coursework related to the subject areas...

I don't know what that means for my future at all really, because I don't necessarily think it's a project I should launch out and start tomorrow...(It's feels a bit like a sketch that Maude Flanders made of "Praise-Land," her idea for a Christian-themed amusement park which she designed with the wistful thought, "Someday"...See Simpsons Episode "I'm Goin' to Praiseland, Original Airdate 6 May 01.)

I do know, without a doubt, that I have absolutely no idea where I'm going in 2006. So. As New Year's Resolutions and things like that begin to come about very soon, my basic agenda for 2006 is to try to be very quiet and listen to the still-small voice which may be trying to give me foresight and direction. That may mean another year in Arlington with YD; that may mean Grad School in any number of places; and it may mean a number of other things.

I am looking forward to 2 1/2 weeks of talking with friends and family and traveling, and I'm looking forward to reading and journaling in my mother's glassed-in reading room surrounded by freshly fallen snow...because I am in desperate need of discernment and direction.

Monday, December 12, 2005


On Sunday morning, I was still wide awake at 4:30 after a late-night, staring at my ceiling. The man upstairs (n.b. this is not a metaphorical reference to 'the man upstairs;' it is an actual reference to the man who lives in apartment eight) was pounding on the ceiling and talking loudly on the phone, where I assume he was conversing with relatives in India.

I rolled out of bed and started fumbling through my kitchen in the dark looking for my journal. Seeing it nowhere, I realized it must have been at the office...so I found my back-up journal and began scouring every corner of the living room for a Pilot V-Ball pen (I have about 20 of them, and they are always in various places like my purse, coat pockets, and under the microwave.) I was afraid Heidi was going to emerge from the guest room, convinced that I was showing signs of schizophrenia as I pulled off the couch cushions and dug through the closet, quietly chanting, "Where is a pen...where is a pen..."

I crawled back under the covers and let loose with everything that was rolling around in my head--most of which was neither pretty or self-affirming. I was pretty hard on myself, fuming about my behavior and my own desparation.

And what triggered it?

Lately, I have been the queen of high expectations...not the good kind of high expectations where I set big goals for myself and achieve great things...the bad kind of high expectations where I expect people and situations to live up to the fulfillment and joy I desire. Then, when this 'thing,' whatever it is, is over, I'm filled with rampant disappointment that my life didn't head off in a glorious new direction just as a result of this event that I have pre-determined will be 'meaningful.'

Mostly, I do this with social situations, like, 'I have pre-determined that this meeting with a student will be a turning point in our relationship,' or, 'When I meet Derek Webb, we will have a deep conversation about Politics and Faith, and he will ask me to co-write songs with him,' or, 'When I go with my friends to this Christmas party, I will waltz around the room as a glittering social butterfly and have an amazing time and make thirty new friends.' When the situations don't pan out as I daydreamed they would, I become horribly insecure that I've missed an amazing opportunity.

And I realized that the only reason to be insecure is if I'm presenting myself...Heather is something that I should be insecure about presenting the world...but Christ? There is no insecurity in Him...and were I presenting Him instead of myself in these social spheres that I find to be overwhelming and disappointing, I might not be so consistently disappointed.

At "The Upper Room," we're working through the book of John, and as I was leading the group in worship last night, I reaffirmed Nathan's message for the evening, where he shared the verse that should be the mantra of our lives out of John 3:30: "He must become greater; I must become less." That verse brought me to my knees, as I shook my head at these insecurities that have been plaguing me...and I come back to something Derek Webb says, "I'm so thankful that I'm incapable of doing any good on my own." I don't think I've reached the point of being 'thankful,' but I'm at least understanding the incapability...

(If I had a brain in my head, I would probably spend more time on the river, because it's one of the few things in my life in which I am always reminded of my own inadequacy. This is a photo of our trip on the Stilly River on Thanksgiving weekend).

Friday, December 09, 2005

Tower of Pisa...

I'm driving down the road on my way back to the office after eating lunch with students at school, and Rufus Wainwright is singing to me on an old mix cd. He says, "I'm just a little bit Eros, a little bit Irish, a little bit Tower of Pisa whenever I see you so please be kind if I'm a mess."

Suddenly, I'm like, "Rufus. You are a genius!" (He can't hear me, of course, because he lives in some fancy apartment in L.A. or Paris or somewhere where he drinks chocolate milk and smokes cigarettes all day long. But for the moment, I pretend like I don't know that.) I say, "Rufus! We are a little bit Tower of Pisa."

I'm thinking about how no one would really care about the entire town of Pisa if there wasn't this crazy, poorly-built structure in the middle of it. It would just be another European town with another monastery, some nice artwork, and some fancy, old architecture. But....there is this leaning, messed-up building, and people go all the way across the globe just to see someone's screw-up.

There are lots of great products of screw-up's out there....Post-It's, Silly Putty, The Cleveland Browns 1999 expansion team...

...and then there's me. I was uniquely created, therefore I'm not a screw-up...but I still feel like I'm a little bent tower that isn't quite what I was intended to be. I think for moment about my potential, and how great it is, and how it's every so slightly skewed. (If we are desiring to make this the most obvious Christian parallel, we could say that this is a parallel for depravity, but I want to be a bit more specific than that.)

Yesterday, I met with the Leadership Development team all day, which is a chance for me to sit down with 6 of my brightest co-workers and brainstorm about our careers under the facilitation of YD President, Mark Evans. It's always a challenging and rejuvinating day, and by the end of yesterday's meeting, I could feel myself maturing as a leader and beginning to understand how young I still am. I told the group that if you put my worklife to a juicer, there could be a lot of excess squeezed out...so they asked me at what percentage of my current capabilities do I feel I am working, and I told them 50%. So. Having now voiced that, the challenge for me is to grow into the leader that I know I'm capable of being, especially now that I have told my co-workers how much more I am capable of doing.

I had this misconception that it was about being empowered and developed by those above you, but I'm beginning to get the impression that leading and doing is about choosing to do it yourself, not having it asked of you. This is difficult for me, because I thrive off of the brainstorming and accountability that comes in being an individual member of a dynamic team...

So, my need for personal management of time and priorities is increased since I spend most of my week in an office by myself.

In regards to the Tower of Pisa, it is a structure made famous by its blatant weakness. People flock to it because there is something wrong with it, yet it's somehow still beautiful? I don't quite get it, and I don't really want to dwell on it, other than to say I can choose to hide my weaknesses and keep scraping by...or I can choose to be a Tower of Pisa...which might mean following through on something and exposing weaknesses in the process. I assume that others might find something beautiful in that.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


The Ohio-bound counter is ticking down to the wire, which is exciting.

Also exciting--The Seahawks are 10-2, after a snoozer second-half of a blow-out game last night...(with half of the 4th quarter left, there were only about 25 Eagles fans left in the stadium, and I'm convinced they only stayed so they could be on t.v.) Matt Hasselbeck is amazing. Shaun Alexander is amazing. I heart the Seahawks. They play the Colts on Christmas eve. If you are in Coshocton and care about the Colts or the Seahawks or the fate of the Super Bowl, you should come watch it with me. I will be a nervous wreck.

Thursday is Leadership Development Day, which is also exciting. It means I get to sit in a room with eight of my co-workers and brainstorm and visioneer our lives. I love it, and the last time we met, I felt like I was renewed with life vision/passion/direction. Here's to hoping this day is half as good as that one.

That's all I have to say about that. Heidi, Sarah and I are ready to party like there's no tomorrow at the YD Adventures Resource Staff Christmas Party on Saturday! Woooo! And in my next twelve days, I can count on my hands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Christmas parties. Geez Louise.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Re: Questions to ponder over the weekend.

re: question #3--My gloves were in my denim purse; question #6--I'm going to watch the Seahawks on Monday Night Football at the Spencers. (these are the only questions that have been decently answered so far....Over the weekend, pondering my life wasn't really on the agenda, because I somehow scheduled it out with meetings, events, Christmas shopping, etc.)

But, what was discovered over the weekend is that Heather has a penchant for karaoke! One of my students (who is also singing at all times) and I grabbed a mic to do outstanding covers of American Woman and December 1963 during our weekend Christmas Party, dubbed "That Christmas Thing..." Believe it or not, I had never before actually stood before a crowd to perform in this manner, and while I thought I was just being interesting, apparently the crowd has now deemed me 'crazy.' I don't know what they're talking about, really. Yesterday, one of my friends used the word 'flamboyant,' to describe my personality...which I don't really understand either. Maybe I'm normal and everyone else is weird.

The event itself was fun, and I enjoyed the time I spent with students both preparing for it and participating in it...our turnout was quite small for the kind of event it was and the investment we had made in it. So, what to do, really? There are 2500 kids ages 13-18 in Arlington Public Schools, and we obviously care a lot about seeing all of those 2500 kids have the opportunity to receive love and mentoring and hear about what Jesus Christ has done for them...but how do we get their attention?

No good answer today, but I feel much more like I'm ministering to hyped-up, busy Suburban kids than actually working with 'small-town kids with nothing to do.' I think we have to continue to work to be more creative and think more outside-the-box....oooh, I can feel the axons and dendrites stretching. This demographic is sooo hard!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Questions to ponder over the weekend:

1. In what direction is my life headed?
2. Is God trying to say anything to me right now. If not, why is he being so silent?
3. Where are my gloves?
4. Should I go to Grad School soon, and if so, where?
5. Why is Santa considered part of "Christmas" while Hanukkah is not, even though the Jewish people are more representative of a Christian heritage than elves and reindeer?
6. Where am I going to watch Monday Night football?
7. Why do schools in Washington get snow days for a 1/2 inch of snow?
8. Who will guard the door when I am sleeping?
9. Why does the man in the apartment upstairs clear his throat so much?
10. Why did both Johnny Cash and Ray Charles share common drug addictions and endure the early death of a brother?
11. Will I be prevented from becoming a legend because I am clean and my brother is healthy?
12. Where is my husband?
13. When will I ever finish reading The Brothers Karamazov and Brothers K?
14. Why do I find it impossible to write songs that mean something but find it very easy and inspiring to write songs about such things as the barrista at Starbuck's and things I have knit?
15. Why do so many kids have to die of hunger and AIDS?
16. Why do teenagers think it's cool to smoke?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Speaking of our bodies remembering...

In regards to the last entry and remembering pieces of yourself....Rev. Jan has asked me to prepare and play a piano duet with her for Christmas Eve Service at my home church in Ohio. She's faxing me the music tomorrow, and I am thrilled that I will not only get to perform a piece with my piano teacher of nine years, but that I will be able to share a piano piece during worship...which used to be something I did regularly. I haven't formally played piano in public since Spring 2000. So. It is exciting!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Of Dostoevsky and Lesser Things.

Last night, when I returned home from my 20/30-something Women's Bible Study, I sat down on the couch and wanted nothing more than to read The Brothers Karamazov. This is an odd feeling, because usually when I'm arriving home after an emotionally-draining day, I want some mind-numbing television and sleep. For whatever reason, last night was different.

I had woken up that morning frustrated and sad over a situation with a student, in which I felt partially to blame...and I mellowly filled in the rest of my day trying to figure out what to do. After a series of staff meetings, I picked up a few students for a meeting and was finally able to grin and laugh with them about french fries and tanning. We had a good talk, but as I dropped them off, I could feel exhaustion setting in...

I still had one more appointment and my evening Bible Study to get through...Heidi and I were talking about whether or not we should go to Bible Study when we're exhausted, and I recommended that we should not go if we're not going to be mentally present....

Later that evening, while physically present at Bible study, I was rather mentally disengaged (disengaged enough to have spilled an entire cup of hot chai down my denim skirt)...and yet, we began talking about this concept again, of whether or not we should stop going to things if we plan to be 'emotionally unavailable.' I was reminded of something in Lauren Winner's Mudhouse Sabbath, or maybe it's in Girl Meets God, where she talked about how in the Jewish culture, the practices of faith are important because they keep your body doing your faith, even when your soul and mind do not...that way, when you catch up, your body is already there to remember where you were.

It's a beautiful concept to know that your body can help you to remember things your mind and soul might forget...and for whatever reason, last night, my body remembered that it used to sit on couches late at night for hours at a time reading Russian literature. It directed my mind and soul that way. A few minutes later, I'm laughing outloud about a shaggy dog in The Brothers Karamazov, thankful that I have not entirely forgotten how to enjoy the process of reading, even though the book mark I was using had notes about Substitute Teaching on it, meaning it's been two years since I have been a faithful reader of Dostoevsky.

Somehow, over the last few months, the process of hoisting up bookshelves and laying out my Taylor guitar in my living room has reminded me of who I used to be--before Washington, before kayaking, and before Verizon...slowly, my evenings at home have become about reading, knitting, and songwriting. Suddenly, it feels like our homes always need to be places where we build around us the kind of person we want to be, so that when we forget, we can return home and our bodies remember.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Word Pictures.

I didn't have the digital camera this weekend, so you must rely entirely on the following word pictures to imagine the wonderful weekend I have had:

#1--Imagine four beautiful 20-something girls around a kitchen table in a little apartment in Arlington with a vast spread of roast turkey, sweet potato casserole, green beans, corn muffins, and pecan pie surrounding them as they laugh about life.

#2--Imagine Heather waking up on the day-after-Thanksgiving NOT to the dizzying crowd at a shopping mall, but to the ring of John Paasonen calling to say, "Would you like to have dinner?" Imagine Heather later that evening walking through Pioneer Square in Seattle, a Gryffindor-colored scarf wrapped around her neck, with a dear Taylor friend towards the most lovely sushi restaurant they had seen since Ra's in Phoenix.

#3--Imagine Heather and Heidi as Pocahontas-like adventure-women as they paddled down the mighty Stillaguamish River on a cold morning kayak trip with five intimidating kayaking men. (Particularly imagine Heather and Heidi taking all of the easiest channels in order to avoid the dreaded 'roll' which they have so recently achieved). Imagine Ryan, Bucky, Heidi, and Heather still in gear, freezing by the side of the road for 45 minutes, protecting the kayaks and waiting for the shuttle, which took forever!!

#4--Imagine Heather sitting down with Greg, Danica, and the extended Kazen family to a belated Thanksgiving dinner, with beautiful homemade-food and plenty of funny kids running around dressed as army men and ballerinas.

#5--Imagine Heather plopping in front of the TV on Sunday afternoon to watch her much-beloved Seahawks barely finish off the NY Giants in a 4 1/2 hour game, which resulted in the area favorite's advancement to 9-2!!!

#6--Imagine Heather's car, covered in frost, which she joyfully scrapes off with an Ohio-purchased mondo-sized snow scraper. Imagine many friendly Washington men offering to assist with their less-capable frost-removal-adapted credit cards.

#7--Imagine Heather in her newly converted 2nd bedroom "study/studio" wrapped in a blanket on the futon while reading Wendell Berry, Bob Dylan, and 1 Kings and journalling for the first time in a month. Imagine her taking time to reflect on life and discover that although it is full of many good things right now, more time for intentional reflection and solitude needs to take place.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

If God Can Love Turkeys.....

Happy Thanksgiving in advance! I hope you're celebrations are grand and exciting.

Mine will involve my apartment, a few friends, some smashingly good food and Christmas music.

And wait in anticipation for Monday, when I will surely cajole you with grand tales of kayaking on the mighty Stillaguamish River, which are to be had with Greg and Heidi and friends this weekend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sit 'n' Knit...

For a few months now, a few girls and I have gathered together at the home of an Arlington YD volunteer for a lovely knitting group. The product thus far? Lots of lovely (and not so lovely) knitted goods made, lots of brownies consumed, and lots of conversation to be had.

I absolutely love showing up on Monday nights with my knitting bag in hand to teach a new teen girl how to knit and purl, how to cast-on, and how to yell and throw the knitting across the room when it gets frustrating. My favorite moments are certainly when a student shows up, brand new skein in hand, to tackle a bigger and better project...and yet I also love the moments of panic, when a scream will ring out across the living room followed by, "I DROPPED A STITCH!" and several experienced knitters will swoop in to gain control on a hectic and mind-draining situation.

It was in my original plan that this would only be a six-week-long endeavor, but it's going so well, that I think we'll keep moving forward. Last night, we confronted the difficult issue of, "Do we open this group up to our guy friends who want to knit?" We are all about affirmative action in the knitting world, but we also recognize how co-ed knitting will change the tone of the group (as girls suddenly self-consciously wonder, "does he like my new 50/50 wool/acrylic blend?" or "does he think I'm a nerd because I have yet to master a good cable stitch?") We will see.

For now, there are solid relationships and great group dynamics to be had at Monday Night Knitting Group...and if you're around, stop by and we'll make you a nice scarf!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Turkeys Galoooore.

It's Turkey Week!

In honor of turkey week, yesterday at church we had a big, festive Thanksgiving dinner. Jenny and Michelle (who are amazing, by the way) with the help of many others cooked a big dinner for the whooole church! Yay for them!

And Nathan asked a student and I to do this skit we'd written for the 'entertainment.' It did involve she and I assuming different character roles to portray "Worship Team Auditions." We did a death metal cover of "This is the air I breathe..." and this lovely operatic version of "I am a C!"

And just because it's Turkey Week, we led the entire congregation in the popular responsorial hymn, "If God can love turkeys....God can love you." Fortunately or unfortunately, my entire congregation here has now been exposed to a wee bit of hmb craziness, which they have been sheltered from for the first 16 months that I've lived here.

I am so excited for Turkey Day! My friend Sonja and her sister will be up from California, and my friend Sarah from Taylor will be here. We will be cooking turkeys, decorating Christmas trees and maybe dropping a New Year's ball all at once!

Friday, November 18, 2005

It's November

and for some reason, more than anything, I want to crawl into a bay window with my journal and a fleece blanket to watch the first snow...with Norah Jones singing in the background.

Having neither a bay window nor snow, this plan will have to be postponed.

Instead, I will go cheer for AHS students as they perform in the musical production of "The Wiz." It's almost the same thing. It will still be good.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Things that should be celebrated:

* One of my students did a great job in sharing her testimony at youth group last night!

* Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire opens on Friday, and Erin, Esther, and I already have tickets!

* AHS football is still going strong--in their third week of playoffs. Go Eagles!

* Mom and Dad are apparently safe and having fun in Greece and Italy. (They return on Monday.)

* Joel found this cool website where you can create your own funny church signs.

* Sonja, Sarah, and Stephanie will be at my house next Thursday eating turkey with me!

* Johnny P. will be in the Seattle area next week!!

* I have completed the knitting work on two whole Christmas presents.

* I have at least one whole day this weekend where I have to be absolutely nowhere.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Place Your Pin!

Hey...there's this cool world map on my sidebar over there on the right...

If you have yet to put yourself there....please do it! Super fun!


Sunday, November 13, 2005


Mentor Training Day went extremely well yesterday! We had seven people total, and the outline for the day flowed very well...and at the end, Elly said, "You should be a teacher, or a trainer!" and I said, "That's what I'm doing right now!" Yay!

After a quick nap at home, Heidi and I joined another pool session with the Corsens, where we successfully completed many kayak rolls--in preparation for our grand river adventure on the Skykomish River in 2 weeks. I was doing well and enjoying it, but about ten minutes into a very rowdy game of Kayak Polo, I looked at her and said, "I'm done."

We still managed to squeeze in several hours of enjoying good talks and good times with good friends last evening, and I woke up in her house very glad to not have to be anywhere today. We sat in PJ's drinking coffee and talking about everything that's both important and meaningless in this world...and suddenly I was transported back to Saturday mornings in my parents' home and sleepy mornings in Gerig Hall at TU.

It is good to have friends...it is good to celebrate grand successes at work...and it is good to sleep in and drink coffee...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

T-Minus Three Days.

Every muscle in my body is tense, because three days from today, I'm leading a 5-hour Mentor Training Session, and it feels like 95% of it is unprepared.

Okay, that's not true--I have recruited at least six people to come and be trained as mentors, I have written a 40-page handbook, and I have been compiling multimedia-type things for the presentation, but I still feel like it's all in disarray!

Because--I'm not exactly sure what I will say and what will be said when, and if these six people will find the training session to be worth their time, or if they will be bored out of their minds!

So...please pray for me, and for the mentors...and for Saturday! I am excited, but I am also tres tense...

Monday, November 07, 2005

C'est Fini!

After 2 months of doing a series of church presentations and visiting churches all over Arlington, I have finished...hoorah! I did my final presentation yesterday at my home church (Arlington Free Methodist), and now I can just enjoy the last few weeks of church there before I head home to Ohio for Christmas.

It feels good to know that I don't have to 'work' on a Sunday morning for awhile...

The presentations were a great PR time for YD, to communicate to the community who YD is and what we are doing in Arlington...and a few people have even stepped forward with a willingness to get involved in the ministry, so that's certainly exciting.

And--on a completely unrelated note, on Friday night, I successfully rolled a kayak in a very fine swimming pool--and I have plans to tackle new rivers on Thanksgiving weekend...it is very nice to be back in the water after being landlocked since August.

Mom and Dad are heading off today for Greece and Italy for 2 1/2 weeks, so pray that they will travel safely...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Any Given Wednesday.

Yesterday, I found myself in all of these various roles around Arlington High School, and they all had me thinking about life and Christ and students...

***I started out in Mrs. Stone's class, helping students through a very slow step-by-step process of writing a research paper. I had been trying to help two students at once, and finally, one kid called out to the teacher, "I need help!" I said, "I'm helping you!" He replied, "You're doing a good job, but you can't help two people at once..." I suddenly felt this extreme parallel to what it's like for me to disciple 40 kids at once, and wondered how helpful I really am to most of them....

***At lunch time, I sat down with a group of students I know moderately well...a few girls were playing with a deck of cards, and it turned out they were doing tarot readings for each other. One girl told me she could look into my eyes and read my future.

She stared intensely at me for a few moments and said profoundly, "You have a good life."
I grinned and smiled, "Yes..." thinking, "Ahhhh, my future has been revealed!" But I kept playing along...
Then she said, "Are you married?"
I coyly replied, "You're the future-teller. You tell me."
Bronco laughed.
"I can't see everything...only glimpses."
I responded: "mmm.."
"Well," she replied, "If you're not married, then there's a guy."
I grinned and said, "There's always a guy." I felt like she had just looked into my eyes and told me they were blue, as if it were earth-shattering news. Finally I just looked at her and waved my hand in front of my face, "This right here, if you can't read it, is called skep-ti-cism."
She didn't get it and continued on about how her gift had revealed much.

***During 6th period, I returned to walk with a few PE students around the track...Mr. Smoots has a few students who won't participate during games but are willing to walk...so once a week, I show up to walk with them. For whatever reason, one of the boys and I began talking about music (he was educating me on Rockabilly), and it turned to a conversation about his aggression and his feelings towards the church. He calls himself a Christian, yet hates church because of the strict way it says he's supposed to behave...he said he didn't need a preacher to interpret the Word of God for him, because he can do that on his own.

So there I am--walking around the track at public high school, engaging in a conversation about Christ and the church with a student who doesn't even know that I'm there as a missionary...he only knows that I'm listening.
* * * * *

It made me think a lot about packaged faith and packaged gospel presentations, which I am growing more and more disillusioned to...When I'm loving students or sharing about Christ with them, I don't want them to see it as a slick sales presentation--I want them to see faith for what it is in my life--this ever-transition, ever-dialoguing relationship with this being that I love and serve yet still know little about except that He is good. I also want them to hear it when they're ready to listen.

It feels like being there and listening and helping them for a long period of time, has, in the case of my 6th period student, given me the opportunity to say boldly, "I don't think that's what the church is...it isn't about a wizened man up there telling you about God--it's about being surrounded by a group of people who can support you in the decision that you have made to serve God...it's a family of people who can help you live well."

I can't just walk in the doors of a public school with a sandwich board and say, "Repent! The End is Nigh!" But I can help students with research papers and in PE class and suddenly have this amazing opportunity to challenge students on the things in which they place their faith and the way in which they perceive the church. Praise God for incarnational ministry...for which He already gave us the ultimate model.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Warm (Not So Warm) Beach.
Rafting (Not So Rafting) Party.

My weekend was filled with Junior Highers, but not in a way that was draining. I was with five kids and two adults at Warm Beach Camp for a retreat....the three girls and I had a very cozy "Mt. Baker Cabin" (named after the mountain that my dad discovered in 1862), and I, for the first time in recorded youth ministry history, slept on my own full-sized bed. What is that all about?!

It was amazing--because I wasn't tired, and I wasn't frazzled, and I wasn't overwhelmed. I just enjoyed being with the girls. We played on the swings, we watched Robots, and we giggled about the apparently cute drummer. Two of the three girls have grown up in the church, so we talked a lot about what it means to be a leader...what it means to love people who are different than us...how we should really be living as Christians at school...

I was frazzled for a bit, because the retreat overlapped with the End-of-the-Year Rafting party, and I desperately wanted to see my rafting friends and fellowship with them. So I ducked away from Warm (not so warm) Beach for a few hours and celebrated a glorious 2005 rafting season with them.

It was very good to be there...to hear about what next season will look like...to get excited about finishing off my certification on the Wenatchee River...to get to tell the whole group how much Greg and Danica mean to me as we celebrated their twelve years of service...to pray for Paul and Faye as they prepare to move to Idaho (to start YD Adventures in Idaho)...and to get re-excited about Adventure Ministry after having a few months to dry off...(photo on the left is Heidi, Greg, and Danica, my best-good rafting friends...well, three of my best-good Washington friends).

By the time I made it back to Warm Beach, my kids were antsy, but I was so glad to be back with them. We broke bread together, and two of my girls affirmed how much I mean to them. One of them cited that, "She called me to remind me what time we were leaving for the retreat," as an important thing I did to show I cared. I was humbled by how small the significant things can be.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Plan for the Weekend.

1. Take four Junior High girls to Warm Beach Camp for the weekend.

2. Snap out of Junior High mode for a few hours to join rafting friends at 'end of the year raft guide party.'

3. Recover from being surrounded by hundreds of Junior High students for an entire weekend and lead worship at The Upper Room.

4. Prepare for next Friday, when I will begin going to pool sessions with Greg, Heidi, and some kids to learn how to roll a kayak. (This morning, one of my girls sweetly said, "I already know how to roll a kayak," meaning, she knew how to roll up an inflatable kayak for storage. I said, "No, roooooll a kayak, like, roll a kayak." Her face lit up, "Oooohhhhhhh.")

5. Tell everyone in blog land to have a nice weekend.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Small Rejoicings.

For several weeks in September/October, I have donned snazzy Sunday morning duds, loaded up my Sunfire with marketing paraphernalia, and driven to various local churches around Arlington. I set up a big YD display board and stand beside it looking friendly and un-bored. I then spend hours talking to strangers about who we are and what we do. It makes me nostalgic for the days when I worked in Taylor's Admissions Office and would greet visiting families and talk to prospective students at college fairs. It's also scary, fun, and exhausting (having been to my home church about Sundays since June...part rafting, part YD trips, part church presentations).

The purpose in doing these presentations is two-fold: First (and primarily) to continue to communicate to the community who YD is and let them know how we are impacting the community....Second--to recruit mentors for our new mentoring program.

The mentoring program is a baby that I asked to have for my very own this summer, and besides reading books on mentoring, downloading resources on mentoring, and going to training seminars on mentoring, I am building and structuring an entire mentoring program from scratch! The intent is to pair up Christian adults with any of the 200+ kids that Arlington YD worked with last year...confident that one-on-one mentoring will make a bigger impact on kids than big, flashy programs.

So, I'm preparing for our first mentoring training day in November by following up with people who've expressed an interest in mentoring, planning the training day, writing the mentoring handbook, and planning out how we're going to pair up students and volunteers. It's big, and I'm excited about it...and it's so big, that it's hard to see how it's all going to come together.

This morning, I am rejoicing in a small way at my computer screen while I spent quality time with Microsoft Word, and I have just mastered the fine art of creating a Table of Contents (okay, not exactly a mastering...moreso a preliminary introduction).

Please be praying for this whole process of training/recruitment/pairing, expecially for wisdom for me as I put it all together...(I'm suddenly being reminded of this woman I know who creates programs from scratch, writes handbooks, leads training...who is that woman? Oh, right. My mother. I am becoming my mother.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Haiku for Dad

UPS Man Comes
To My Door Bearing CD's
From A. Nony Moose

I am so confused
These were on my Christmas list
Perhaps it's missent

I pick up the phone
Dad just acts oblivious
What is going on?

He says, "I love you."
"Enjoy these CD's just because."
Early Christmas gift!

Monday, October 24, 2005

"And the sound of my brother's laugh."

Last night, I'm on the phone with Sean, and it's about 2:30 in the a.m. for him, so I think he's getting a bit loopy.

At one point he actually uttered these words: "about 90% of the time, I have recurring dreams in which William Shatner and I fight crime together." He insists this is not a joke. I laughed very hard and then warned him that I would post it here for the whole world to read.

I did not make it to the Oak Harbor game this weekend, which is sad, because Arlington lost a very not-so-good game and thus lost the Division.

But the Seahawks eeked out a last-second victory against the Cowboys, and I was on the phone with Havaleh while the game was finishing up...all she could say is, "I can't believe you're this excited about football."

Last night, in my glee, I wore my Shawn Alexander jersey (thanks, dad!) to The Upper Room, and apparently, among 18-30-something's at my church, I am alone in my love for the Seahawks. This is very weird to me. Do they not know that I am from the land of the Big 10? Hello!

It is fall. I am missing OSU football terribly, and mostly I'm missing driving through Coshocton/Tuscarawas/Harrison county and oogling the beautiful fall colors. I am Ohio-bound in 59 days.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Arlington Football...

I am dying to go to the Arlington High School Football game tonight. It's an away game in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, home to Oak Harbor YD. Thus--I could get all school-spirited with my YD counterparts and stage a fiercely competitive duel. But...thus far, none of my students want to go to the game with me. What is their problem?! High school football--the division title--guts, glory, etc.

Then I'm faintly thinking back to my own high school days and remembering that the only time in my entire life that I have not loved high school football was when I was in high school. What is that all about?

Last week, when I showed up at a home game by myself and sat by some kids I knew in the band, a few boys felt really sorry for me--apparently--and called me a "loner" and sang me a chorus of You Are My Sunshine.

What they don't know is that I'm just assuaging the pain of being so far from my Buckeyes and Browns and Redskins by living vicariously through them.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Love and Risk.

It is harder to risk yourself on the things you love, yes?

Like, emailing an article into a magazine and saying, "I love this. You should read it. I wrote it."

I'm not feeling the pressure to 'be published' at all...moreso, I felt like it was high-time that I put myself onto a level of sharing my writing with the masses in order to challenge myself to be better.

So I have left the land of comfort, confidently and nervously, and put myself out there with my writing.

And the whole process of it was very eye-opening--like, I learned that when I write for the audience and not for myself, I lose my voice. Interessant. Fortunately Suz and Renee know my voice well enough to point me back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Walking the Commons.

This morning, Mrs. Stone was absent, so I oversaw the kids in 2nd period, helping out a very dissheveled looking sub. I was amazed that these kids (who are usually bouncing off the floors and ceiling) actually listened to me and actually did their work!

This afternoon, I ran into most of them again when I went up to the high school for 6th period. One of the gym teachers asked me if I would walk with some of his girls while everyone else plays group sports.

I laughed hard when, as we were walking up, down, and around the commons, several kids were wheezing after five minutes saying, "We need a remedial walk for the smokers."

It was a very humorous way to connect with students--chaperoning their laps of the cafeteria, but at the same time, they opened up for some great conversations...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Things I did this weekend:

1. Watched the AHS football team squeeze out a Homecoming victory over Marysville-Pilchuck HS, bringing them to 7-0 and #1 in the Division! Enjoyed time spent with lots of students in the band and cheering with them in the final moments, when Arlington eeked out a victory in the last 26 seconds, thanks to a Marysville penalty.

2. Talked with a student about the difference between death metal and black metal, specifically discussing how death metal is okay and black metal is bad. Student informed me about the difference in these musical styles while wearing a shirt with a photo of an exploding human corpse from the band "Cannibal Corpse."

3. Spent two hours with my favorite songwriter of all time--Derek Webb, and his wife--songwriter Sandra McCracken, before their concert in Marysville, WA on Saturday night. Went out to dinner with Derek, Sandra, their road manager David, and three staff from the church that was hosting the concert. Talked with Derek about politics, the Beatles, sarcasm, Viggo Mortensen, and MySpace. Pinched self repeatedly, and then enjoyed a very fine concert. (I will write more about this later. Not today.)

4. Attended three Sunday morning services at Smokey Point Community Church with my boss, Bronco, to talk to the congregation about Community Outreach opportunities at YD in Arlington...(they are currently doing Rick Warren's '40 Days of Community'). Recruited 10 potential mentors for students this fall, which is just amazing, and shared about the ministry of YD with over a thousand people.

5. Spent the afternoon with friend and mentor Dawn, who bought me a very fine Jamba Juice and assured me that next time I have a nervous breakdown, I should call her.

6. Led worship and prayed with fellow 18-30 year-olds at "The Upper Room," the young adults' service at my church. Was very excited to be strumming on my own beautiful Taylor guitar within 24 hours of watching Derek Webb strum on his.

7. Returned home to spend an hour on my own watching new Derek Webb DVD and reading Bob Dylan's autobiography.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Saturday is the day.

Tomorrow is the day that I get to sit down and have dinner with and talk with Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken.

I am feeling all of the following, and it's still 28 1/2 hours away:
1. Anxious
2. Nervous
3. Excited
4. Ready to vomit
5. Overwhelmed
6. Insecure
7. Annoyed that tonight is the AHS Homecoming Game and I can't go see them play in Seattle tonight to take away all of this anxiety.
8. Worried about what I'm going to wear and if I should have got a haircut this week.
9. Thrilled

This is an accurate summary of how I do feel, not how I know I should feel...because, well, it's very overwhelming to think that you can meet this aloof, far-away personality, who has intimately shared in some of the deepest, darkest parts of your life but doesn't even know that you are alive. What do you say, "Hello Derek, my name is Heather. It's nice to meet you. Did you know that on several occasions over the last six years, you have challenged, encouraged, and supported me through very dark and hard times, and I don't know where I would be without you."

That sounds like creepy stalker talk. Instead I'll just be like, "Um, so, who's your favorite Beatle?"

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


On Monday afternoon, October 10th, at 2:30pm PST, Heather Michelle Baker commenced a full-out meltdown. This meltdown lasted for approximately 9 1/2 hours, stopping only to spend time with a few teenage girls at "Monday night knitting/crafty-type things" Group.

What happened? I'm not exactly sure. Suzanne speculated it was hormones. Lizzy called it a "Mental Health Day." All I know is that I was balled up on the couch crying for nothing and everything simultaneously.

I have felt on the verge of tears for months, since a few significant relationships ended, since finances got tighter, since I began returning home to an empty apartment every night, since I left the company of at least 30 people I love and cherish who live on the other side of the country, since Grandma and Grandpa came to visit and left.

So apparently, on Monday, my body submitted and said, "You will cry. It will be a long and exhausting time, and at the end of it, you still won't understand why it happened."

In the last six weeks, I've definitely been feeling like the novelty of being on a grand adventure has worn off, and I'm sitting here asking God why I am 2500 miles away from things familiar and centering. I've also realized that I've been away from Southeast Ohio longer than I have in my entire life, and I always miss it most in the fall, when I should be able to look outside and see rolling hills in bright red and gold.

I think that doing ministry away from a home base is difficult and risky, because although there are people who are here who care about me and who would do anything for me, when it's Monday night at 9pm, and you want to cry for no reason, it suddenly feels like home is very far away.

No worries, though...the telephone is a partially adequate substitute, and with a bit of long-distance late-night counseling, and a good night's sleep, morning brings a lot of clarity. Heidi even offered last night to sit on the phone with me while I'm watching TV, if I'm feeling horribly lonely.

It is in times like these that I cling to the Word--and this week it is Philippians 1:9-11, "And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God."

I want that--to be filled and overflowing with love that would bring knowledge and insight to help determine what is best.

There is no easy solution to the internal turmoil I am facing, other than, to rest in the knowledge that God does know, and He does care, however quiet He seems to be.

Monday, October 10, 2005

If I were to write a coherent blog...

My brain is too full, and I am too distracted. So...if I were going to write a coherent blog today, I would write it about one of the following five topics:

1. How great it was to spend the evening with one of my girls in Seattle on Friday. We checked out some thrift stores, dined at a Mongolian BBQ, and I was introduced to the "musical" stylings of Arch Enemy, a female-led death metal band (eugh..). I felt like I had finally settled in for the year to do my job and that I would no longer be expected to travel across the country away from my kids.

2. How great it was to have Sarah Helderman over for dinner last night. That's right--Sarah Helderman, formerly of 3G--Taylor University, circa 2000, was in my apartment. She is at SPU in an MA program, and I am thrilled to have a TU friend within 45 minutes of me.

3. How great it was to lead worship at The Upper Room last night...The Upper Room being the Young Adults' Service at my church I wrote about a few weeks back. It's been two years since I played guitar publicly...and I really just love worship-leading...

4. How horrible it is to be exposed to IKEA on a Saturday afternoon. My friend Sarah (Ristow. Not Helderman. Must find friends with names besides Erin, Sarah, Suzanne...it's too confusing.) and I braved this amazingly overwhelming too-horrible-to-be-called-a-store while searching for a loft for her new bed for her new apartment. I maxed out about 45 minutes in, and Sarah found me sprawled out on a twin-sized bed, my nervous feet pushing and pulling a shopping cart laden with inexpensive housewares while I called Janelle to say, "HELP! I'm in IKEA, and I can't find my way OUT!"

5. How it took me an hour last night to dig my mailbox key out of a couch crevice. The mailbox key slipped in last week, and I've been unable to check my mail, because my couch was apparently designed by Nazi Engineers or Chinese Finger Trap Designers. After trying an array of options like coat hangers, vacuum extenders, and bruised forearms, I had to do the old, "Put the couch up on one end so it's eight feet high, shake it a lot, make slashes with a knife in the bottom, and pull at a lot of stuffing" routine.

6. (Okay. I apparently have more than five thoughts). How overwhelming it is to know how I, as a little one-income missionary living in Washington, can begin to make an impact on the devastation in the rest of the world. I think that I've been trying not to think about the people in the Gulf or in Kashmir too much, because I ache for them so much, and I want to help, and I want to do more than pray, and I don't know what else to do.

7. How last night, after six of my friends left (having come over for dinner and church and dessert), I lit a bunch of tea lights and read Galatians only to discover that my dear brother Paul was plagued with a sin struggle with sarcasm, as I myself am. In Galatians 5:12, he's talking about circumcision, and if I'm reading it correctly, it sounds like he's suggesting that those who are fixated on upholding the law should get a little less careful with their knife and do a bit more damage. My eyes about bugged out of my head, and I said, "Paul! I can't believe you just said that! Dat be funnee."

If I were going to write to you today, maybe this is what I would write about.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Caramel Apple Cider.

It's dreary and dark lately, meaning that for the next 2 1/2 months, it will only get drearier and darker.

Since I was feeling dreary and dark enough to match the day, I combated it with a Caramel Apple Cider from Starbuck's. For whatever reason, today, I was a bit repulsed by the Caramel Apple Cider. They are soooo sweet! It's very sad when a dependable autumn upper does not taste good.

Tonight, I am taking two students down to Seattle for a bit of shopping in the University District and maybe a late-night Pink Floyd or Beatles laser Light Show. Pray for us...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

National Youth Workers' Convention 2005.

Picture the scene: An auditorium packed out with 3,500 youth workers from around the country, huge speakers blasting praise music from Chris Tomlin's and David Crowder's worship bands, watching skits so hilarious that we nearly pee ourselves, all for the sake of gathering together as people committed to Jesus Christ and sharing His story with teenagers.

This is what I have been up to the last six days. The 30-hour round-trip van ride would have been enough to make me crazy, had it not been for the wonderful company of the eight ministry folk who shared the van ride with me. Pastor Nathan and I zealously fought our way through Super Mario Brothers, Teresa and I took turns beeping in during Joel's time on his cell phone, and we all enjoyed sharing ministry stories of both hilarious and sad natures. It was like, a youth group road trip minus Corn Nuts and caffeine highs.

During my time in Sacramento, I experienced amazing worship music from several top-notch worship bands, jammed with my favorite 'christian-type' band--Kutless, and heard some amazingly challenging sermons and seminars from guys like Louie Giglio, Tony Campolo, Chap Clark and Mike King on topics such as "Worship," "Christians in Politics," "How to Last past Year Two" and "Presence-Centered Ministry."

My favorite evening, though, was probably spent in the company of no one in the Prayer Chapel, in which we were literally able to talk with God and listen to Him while sitting at the foot of the cross. The speakers and the entire tone of the weekend gave me so much to think about, that by the end of night four, I was skipping concerts and seminars just to give my brain time to rest.

The two biggest themes that stood out? The whole notion of calling...
who and what we're called to in ministry, and how that affects longevity.... and also the whole notion of being authentic and genuine in my interaction with kids. (photo on right is me, Joel, and Teresa pictured with Joel's affirmation he left on the wall for us. It read "Heather and Teresa are the coolest chicks I know (Besides my wife).")

I have no formed ideas to share really, other than it was a lot of food for thought and provoked a lot of good discussions with my eight PNW ministry friends on the way home.

And so, do I recommend Youth Specialties' National Youth Workers' Convention?! Um, if you've spent, like, five minutes with a teenager ever, then the Convention will be insightful. It's geared mostly for those working with teenagers in the context of a church, but it's not specifically designed for full-timers. In fact--it seemed like the majority of the seminars were geared towards volunteers in ministry.

And...with all the fun stuff and the free stuff, it's hard to think of it as a convention. It was like, camp for youth leaders. Nice.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Driving down the 101...

Tomorrow at six in the a.m., Bronco and I are road-tripping with eight other YD Staff and youth pastors for six magical days in The Golden State.

We're going to Youth Specialties' National Youth Worker's Convention in Sacramento get to spend four whole days in conferences and workshops and concerts. I get to do things that I'm certainly thrilled about--like going to Mass, seeing Kutless live, and learning more about how to train a team of mentors this fall.

I'm sure there will also be plenty of opportunity to get hip and relevant youth-ministry program-type knowledge, like, how to write 3-point sermon based on Shrek or 572 ways to use peanut butter to communicate the gospel...but I will probably skip those sessions in order to go see Tony Campolo get all red-faced while debating about the Arian heresy or something. Maybe I won't even do that because I'll be too busy name-dropping to build clout with guys like Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins. Wait, probably not that either...but six days with thousands of youth pastors? It's bound to be insane.

"California, here we come. Right back where we started from. Californiaaaaaaaaaaa."


Yesterday at an AHS lunch table, we were talking about people looking younger than they are. I asked a few girls if they thought I could pass for a high school student, and they said yes. To prove my point, I imitated a very high schoolish voice and said something irrelevant like, "I can't believe Jenny is going out with Tommy. Eugh. She sits next to me in Spanish, and she's always talking about him like it's some big deal." I then turned back to the girls and said, "How was that." They say, "Um...it's a bit too early 90's. You sound like you're starring in Clueless."

"But I was in high school when Clueless came out." They just smiled and nodded and said, "Yeah, we were in the third grade"...and suddenly I sensed a looming generation gap.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Upper Room

For all of the things that I do joke about and mock--one thing that I never ridicule is my personal need and personal longing for intimate worship. Since moving to Washington, I have found it in bits and spurts and so-and-so's church here and so-and-so's group there...but it's never been anything that I've found consistently fulfilling. This leaves me feeling isolated away from God a lot of the time, because it's so difficult to reach Him through the means I have available in Arlington.

About a month ago, I received a letter from one of the Associate Pastors at my church saying that the church was beginning a Young Adults' service on Sunday nights for 18-35 year olds. I was thrilled--because I have been craving this kind of service so badly that I was preparing myself to make weekly commutes to Seattle to find it. I've been wanting to be a part of a vibrant, young community, and I've also been wanting to be a part of a service that offers solid teaching and reflective worship, both of which I do not find at my church on Sunday mornings.

I thought that this service would be different. So I went in anticipation, climbing the stairs up to the newly painted and lit "Upper Room" and spent two hours talking, drinking coffee, listening, praying and worshipping with about twenty other 20-somethings from my church community.

And I was filled...and I began brimming...and suddenly I was overflowing...

At our Youth Pastors' Networking Meeting next week, I'm going to share with our group about the first Covenant Bond of "The National Network of Youth Ministries," which is Personal Holiness. The covenant bond says that I claim that in accountability to God and my co-laborers, by faith my life will be characterized by "Personal Holiness before God and others, which is established in Christ and expressed in daily life through prayer and commitment to the Word of God."

A week ago, I might have expressed to my fellow youth pastors despair over my own ability to live out Personal Holiness on a daily basis...I mean...I have such ebbs and flows in my spiritual life where there are weeks that go by and I'm seeking God out everyday...and there are weeks that go by where I don't do it at all--but today, things are different.

According to Gary Thomas's Sacred Pathways, I seek God best through sensory input--that I want to see/feel/smell/taste/touch the presence of God...and for some reason, ingesting traditional prayers while taking communion, smelling the flames of new candles, while sitting in a room so beautiful and intimate that I want to bring in my sleeping bag and curl up on the floor and never leave rejuvinates me spiritually in a way that it can feel like I wake up and see my world through clear eyes for the first time in months. Is this what personal holiness is characterized by? Seeing our lives through the eyes of God?

I do know that for all of my mentoring and discipling, I have at last found a spiritual home in a place where there is a pastor and a community who want to pour into me--challenge me, prod me, teach me. And I am thrilled. Last night, when Pastor Greg started talking about the Gnostic heresy that led to the church at Ephesus's request to John to write a gospel account, I thought the extra wrinkle in my brain was going to release a flood of endorphins to my body and overwhelm me with a joy I have not felt since days gone by when I'd take notes during the sermons of Richard Allen Farmer and Jay Kesler at TU Chapel.

In two weeks, when I return to the service, I will pull out my Taylor guitar and lead my group of fellow pilgrims in worship through song...and for the first time in months and maybe years, I will look at my life and say that it has balance.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I watched the proverbial sunset.

My week has been insane, and I'm not exactly sure why. Probably because school has hit its groove of routine and busy-ness. I'm up at AHS every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9-10a to help Mrs. Stone's students with writing...I'm up there again 2-3 times to eat lunch with the fifty kids I know and love...and meetings seem to be popping up all over the place to fill in the gaps--student meetings, youth pastor meetings, Arlington Ministerial Association meetings, staff meetings, volunteer meetings, donor meetings, etc, etc, etc.

Last night, Grandma and Grandpa came up after a week at a nice resort on the Hood Canal to visit my home in Arlington and see bits of Northwest Washingon. By the time they arrived yesterday afternoon, I was on my third meeting of the day and trying to finish up all the materials I need to have ready for a church presentation on Sunday. I was ready to crawl into a ball on my couch and sleep for 36 hours. But--I also wanted to brag about my state a bit more, so we hopped into the car and drove up Chuckanut Drive towards Bellingham at sunset.

It was beautiful--and I was able to catch my breath, be inspired, and relax...

It's why I love Washington sooo much...because I can go non-stop for four days, exhaust myself, and then drive up Chuckanut Drive at sunset and remember that the world is bigger and more beautiful than I've stopped to notice this week.

This week I've also seen 50 AHS students gather around the flagpole to pray, and while I was so encouraged at their confidence, I watched 1450 other students walk past them, wondering what was going on...and my heart broke that there are so many kids that I see everyday that are not living for Christ and are making horrible decisions to follow other paths. And yet, at sunset on Chuckanut, God tells me that He's always bigger than I imagine Him to be. Soo....yeah....

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's Wednesday.

Because I've been running around doing various types of work since 7am with no signs of stopping until 9pm tonight, I give you this link for a Wednesday afternoon. Flight of the Felix.

You are a cat, and you have a helicopter propeller coming out of your head. What else do you need to know?

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Case of the Mondays.

There are two truths that comprise any Monday:

1. I always love seeing my kids.

2. I never look forward to driving to work on a Monday morning.

This morning, I was up bright and early and signing-in at AHS because I am volunteering in Mrs. Stone's 2nd Period English class. The class is comprised of about ten boys and one girl, all of which have some level of learning disability and all of which are expected to successfully complete a "Scholarly Paper" before graduation. Today I sat down with a Junior student and mock-debated whether or not a Wal-Mart should open in Arlington in preparation for the persuasive argument he will build for his "Scholarly Paper."

I loved being there...but also I was thinking, "it's 9am, and I have had no coffee, and where I really want to be is curled up on a bench where I was yesterday--watching the tide roll in at sunset on the Hood Canal."

My grandparents are visiting from Ohio, and they have a nice time share out on the Hood Canal, which is about a three-hour drive from Arlington...I was with them this weekend and left them last night...it was beautiful...and it was restful...

...and now it's Monday morning, and I'm having problems grappling with the fact that I'm so self-centered that I would prefer to mentally drift away to a daydreamed mountain sunset with a cup of hot coffee instead of engaging the here and now of kids who need to pass high school.

This afternoon, one of my students dropped by to say hi, and I was so thrilled to see her that I spun around and welcomed her in. We sat and talked about lots of stuff for a half-hour or so...and I thought about how important it was that she know that the most important thing I had going was to talk to her...because as soon as she sensed that I was distracted by other things, she said, "well, I need to go..."

Learning how to be "here" mentally is the most important and the hardest part of my job. The kids always sense when I'm upset or distracted...and because I happen to enjoy being upset and distracted a lot of the time, it means I have to fight my very human nature just to do my job well. I'm assuming that everyone deals with this, but it's a hard thing to feel when I'm in 'ministry' and I have all these supporters who are committing financial support to me because they know that I am doing a good job. It means that when I feel distracted and disengaged on a Monday morning, there's all this pressure that I'm letting more people than myself down by my own self-centeredness.

I'm not sure what the solution is, other than to continue my daily ritual of praying the Sinner's prayer about 4800 times, "Oh Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

All over Seattle.

It's not normal for me to spend 95% of my day, in the middle of a work week, driving all over Seattle. But, yesterday was that day... It reaffirmed to me that although I love Seattle, I have no desire to live any nearer than I do now--if only because when one tries to cross the Mercer Island Bridge from I-405 to I-5 at sunset, all of Lake Washington is glaring in your face, and it's impossible to see the road and the surrounding vehicles.

In the morning, Bronco and I drove through Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls, for a little mini-outing with our new staff member--Stuart--who is currently raising support to come to Arlington as the Associate Director of Junior High Ministry (See Photo - L-R - Stuart, Me, Bronco). We're all trying to get to know each other a bit through some fellowship/meeting time each week. This week, it included to trip to Snoqualmie Falls and lunch at an Ethiopian Restaurant (yuuum! You can easily guess who planned the trip...)

In the middle of lunch, I received a text message from Corrie (see photo w/me) saying that her dad's office had a lot of extra tickets to the Angels/ Mariners game for their company party, and would I like to take some kids? I hurried back to the office and called lots of girls. I tracked down two of my Owyhee River Kayaking girls, who were thrilled to spend several hours in Seattle on a school night, and my friend Heidi, who was also thrilled to be out on the town on a school night. I wound up driving back South within in an hour of arriving home with Bronco and Stuart.

Safeco Field was beautiful! and the game was amazing because not only did Dr. Spencer provide us with tickets-- we received vouchers for free hot dogs and sodas! Amazing. Heidi and I were also so brave as to experiment with the famous "Garlic Fries" (which are basically 52 fries covered with an entire jar of minced garlic. no kissing.) Astoundingly enough, the Mariner's squeezed out a victory in the bottom of the 9th inning, and although we were disappointed that our dance rendition of "The Sprinkler" didn't make it on the Jumbo-tron, we jumped up and down and yelled a lot for Ichiro and all the Latin American players (since it was Latin-American player appreciation night.)

The girls and I had several good conversations about the same things we always talk about (boys, school, parents, friends...in that order) and also about how they can grow in leadership this year... I'm glad that one night of MLB can inspire better friendships and opportunities to encourage a few of my students...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My life is SO COOL.

This afternoon, I got offerred complementary Mariner's Tickets by Dr. Spencer, and so courtesy of him--I get to take myself, two girls and friend Heidi to the Mariner's game tonight! Woohoo! Last minute and all, but I'm thrilled!

I will use this to assuage the pain that I feel over the losses endured by the Buckeyes and the Seahawks this weekend. *sigh*

Monday, September 12, 2005

In the absence of a variegated hillside, to celebrate autumn, I will be decorating with bouquets of sharpened pencils.

Okay, maybe it's not officially autumn for a few more weeks, but once you pull out the freshly sharpened #2 pencils, the Pumpkin Spice Latte's, and High School Football, for the sake of the definition, it is autumn. (I grimace a bit as I say that, because it will be Autumn #2 with the absence of all the changing colors in SE Ohio that I consider to mark the passing into winter. I will make do).

Last week was Back-To-School in Arlington, and as I write this blog at 7:58pm PST, the kiddos have only tackled four whole days. My first visit up to school last week was exciting. I was bumping into kids I knew all over the place, and I was certainly caught off guard to see my freshman strolling through the commons looking more like deer-in-the-headlights than savvy high school students. When I went in to visit the teacher I volunteered with last spring, I thought she was going to knock me over with glee that I'd be in her classroom again this fall.

The football game on Friday night gave me many more things to laugh about--cheering with my students in the student section (feeling horribly out of place because I had not decorated my jeans with blue and gold glitter)--watching the mascot shove her way through the crowds with a humongoid eagle head and feet--and reminiscing of days gone by as field commander in the marching band, when I'd cry out things like, "Band Ten-Hut" while wearing a red sequined headdress.

Lots of stimulation, lots of excitement, and most of all--a fresh start. Year #2 in ministry is going to be different and more exciting than year #1, because I'm a bit more comfortable in my skin, I'm settled in this place, and to start off my year, I can bump into 20-30 kids that I know well while walking through the stands of the High School Football Field.

I'm not exactly sure how this fits with "inviting and challenging them to a lifelong journey in relationship with Christ and His church..." but I know that singing "The Hey Song" and sharing a tray of nachos is a start.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Yes, That's Right. I'm special.

Who has a copy of the new Switchfoot cd in her hands a mere four days before it's released to the mass public? Oh, that's right. It's me.

Our Interlinc subscription just sent me a very fine brand-new copy of Switchfoot's "Nothing is Sound," so that I can fall madly in love with it years before all of the songs are overplayed on Youth Group Slideshow Soundtracks.

A small perk of having my job.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Are you relevant?

A lot of things are going on in my life artistically, and since I've given enough reading material for one week, I'll save it for another time.

Suffice to say.

I love Relevant Magazine, and I read it online nearly everyday. And, because I also love writing, I have wanted to write something for them. So I wrote a proposal for an article...

And--they like it. So, I will submit an article to Relevant Magazine circa mid-October. That doesn't mean they'll publish it, but it means I'm submitting it. And it means that I'm going to put myself out there as a writer--giving something that matters to me over to someone else for evaluation and inspection and editing. That's a scary thing for an artist to do.

But. Here I go.

Golf Marathon. Belated.

Drew rightly pointed out to me this afternoon that I have YET to post about Golf Marathon, which is horrible of me, because it was a GREAT DAY.

Golf Marathon was held a week ago Monday (August 29th) at the Avalon Golf Course in Burlington...what Golf Marathon required of me was waking up at 4:30am, throwing myself into the car, driving the 35 minutes to the course, and prepping for a day-full of caddying. My buddy for the day was Senior Pastor Verlin Elmore, who is a very funny man, and who was very excited about the hundred holes of golf he would get to play. He was intense. He was driven. He was focused. I, on the other hand, was nursing a chain of espressos and driving like a madwoman as our cart swerved down the fairway.

So since Golf is a very numbers-driven sport (Hole 7. 487 Yards. Par 5. 3 Wood.), here's my Top 5 list for things one should know in order to effectively caddy for a Golf Marathon:

1. When caddying one-hundred holes of golf, the caddy is expected to be awake at all times. I do recall Pastor Verlin asking me at least four times in a row for the yardage of our hole, and I incorrectly answered him all four times because I was too incoherent to properly read the score card.

2. Golfers do not appreciate it when you call attention to their bogey's. At Golf Marathon, we give out all kinds of awards, like, for "Lowest Score," "Highest Score," "Most Birdies," "Most Shots in the Woods," etc. Verlin had a lot of bogeys, and everytime he shot one, I'd get excited and sing "Bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, boo-gaaaay," to the tune of the "Money" song from "The Apprentice" in a falsetto...because I thought we were in the running for "Most Bogey's." I don't think it was an award he cared to win. I had to sing the song at least 52 times before he found it endearing. And we didn't win anyways. We had 52 bogeys and someone else had 63.

3. Golf courses have lots of unwritten rules that caddies get in trouble for breaking, even if they didn't know about them, like, "You may not drive the cart on the tees," and "You may not drive down the middle of Par 3's," and "You may not let your friend Heidi hitch a ride on your rear bumper." I also got yelled out by the court marshall for driving on the fairway, which is really weird because supposedly you're allowed to drive on the fairway. I got the last laugh though, because it said you were supposed to lose cart privileges after two violations, and I still had mine after FOUR.

4. Golfers have more fun when they play in groups. Verlin and I golfed alone for 85 holes, but for the last 20 or so, we golfed with Dr. Spencer and Dr. Cavanaugh. When men are golfing together, they like to ha-ha each other when they make better shots, or ooh and ahh each other's awesome shots. Plus, it's a confidence builder to see your buddies out in the woods more than you.

5. Golfers at the YD Golf Marathon work really hard at fundraising. For instance, for the day as a whole, $75,000 or so was raised in pledges. Just for Arlington area, over $21,000 was raised by our nine golfers. Dr. Spencer raised $4000 which will go towards my personal support, and Pastor Verlin raised $3700.

So...by the end of the day, I was ready to sleep for days, but it was an awesome way to raise $75,000. I already have plans for how I can be an even more awesome caddy next year. Heidi suggested we do a "Pimp my Golf Cart," and deck it out with a stereo, plasma screen, and lots of streamers. I don't know what the Course Marshals would have to say about that. Wait, yes I do...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Chicago. Again. Good Times.

So this past weekend I made my second trip to Chicago in as many weeks for as many weddings. This time around--the amazing wedding of Suzanne Marie Page to Barrett Christopher Thomas. Suzanne is one of my dearest, closest friends from years gone by at Taylor, but even moreso, she has been a kindred spirit, whom I usually talk to nearly every day.

The weekend was very full, very crazy, and very fun, and by Sunday afternoon, after a Bachelorette dinner cruise, hours of floral arranging and wedding prep, a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, hours of hair/makeup prep, hours of wedding photos, hours of standing and looking pretty and hours of dancing, I woke up exhausted to the very core of my being to realize my strep throat from a few weeks back had returned. Blaaah. (BTW, you can see lots more wedding photos by clicking here.)

The weekend was not only good because it was a celebration of the marriage of two good friends, and lots of time with twenty other good friends, but because on Sunday, I was able to spend the day with Beth, Pam and Renee, my college roommates from four years at Taylor. We were able to spend the evening together in South Bend (where Pam is getting her Doctorate at Notre Dame, and where Renee is working after having returned from Bolivia).

At the end of it all, it feels like over the last three weeks, I have seen so many people whom I love, and got to spend, on average, about five minutes with each of them. I don't know whether to be grateful or exhausted. I feel both.

Posted by Picasa

This morning Bronco and I sat down, and I blinked and realized that I have a meeting this afternoon with my youth pastor, and that school and youth group start tomorrow. I feel exhausted and behind the 8-Ball for this school year already. But. As soon as the exhaustion fades, and I can get into AHS on Thursday and see my kids, I know I will be thrilled that I get to start another school year! Football Friday Night starts this week, so already my senses are overwhelmed with bouquets of sharpened pencils, airhorns, and brand-new Trapper Keepers.