Tuesday, October 31, 2006


There are so many great songs about California to commence my departure to Anaheim...

...but I always end up humming Tiny Dancer...blue jean baby...LA lady...seamstress for the band...

Now I go to Anaheim for Youth Specialties' Convention 2 of 4. I'm leading a crew of ten staff...and I pray that God will protect us as we travel and bless this step of faith.

I'm excited...because already I'm headed home from the office five hours earlier than I was before YS in Austin.

It will be a good trip! I am excited...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pumpkins and Gargoyles: Why I Love Fall

For the first time ever, I've found something about fall in Washington that can stir me up with seasonal love almost as much as the fall colors back home: the pumpkin fields on my drive to work...

I can't even guesstimate how many acres of pumpkins there are by my house, but it results in thousands of pumpkins turning at least ten fields bright orange.

Yesterday as I was driving towards town in the morning, the fog was rolling off the hills to reveal the snow line is dropping...and fall became this eerie blend of orange and fog and snow...I was aghast at how beautiful it was...and it was the first time in recorded history that I discovered something about fall in Washington that I love as much as fall in Ohio! That felt odd...like I'm betraying my love for Fall in Ohio by loving something so distinct about Fall in Washington.

But it wasn't as odd of a feeling as you get when you're driving down I-5 towards Seattle with Pam and Heidi and pass a truck with a gargoyle in the bed. You don't see that everyday. If you're in the market for a hand-crafted bronze statue that looks like Satan, there's this guy in Tacoma you can call...for a tiny moment I was convinced that Hogwarts must be within driving distance of Mount Vernon and that they were receiving a handcrafted delivery. Then I realized, no, it's probably just a special order for your neighborhood Seattle sorceror...

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Saturdays are Fun Work Days!

I don't exactly understand this...but my most productive times for getting work done are Friday Nights and Saturday afternoons. I am incapable of accomplishing anything on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, but on Fridays and Saturdays, I'm totally motivated.

So this afternoon I've cleaned out my office, and I'm taking care of details for YS in Anaheim.

I wanted to redo the display board before I leave, so I'm working on Graphics. But--I was pulling my hair out because I have no idea what the dimensions of the board are, and it's already in Anaheim.

The Accounting Director just stopped in to say g'bye, and I explained the scenario to her:

Me: "I cannot for the life of me figure out how big the display board is. It's driving me crazy."
Her: "Don't you have the other half of the display board here?"
Me: "Sweet Jesus! You are a GENIUS! I LOVE YOU!"

Thirty seconds later, I've pulled out the matching half of the display board that didn't go to the conventions and discovered there are five folding panels 23" x 46".

Suddenly, my Saturday work productivity has just increased ten-fold.

And having an outside voice of reason was ridiculously helpful. Seriously, I would have sat here for an hour trying to figure out how big that stupid board was, and she solved my dilemma in thirty seconds.

I think this is why the Lord said, "It is not good for man to be alone."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

An Ode to Junior High Girls

Junior High girls are crazy! Seriously! Every Wednesday night at youth group, my co-leader Bethany and I spend several hours with about 20 of them. This is my third year with them..and I still think they're crazy.

They say really funny things. Here are some examples from last night:

Prayer Requests:

Jessica and Jamie: "Pray for my grades to go up."
Bethany and Heather: "Why don't we pray for you to study more and turn in your homework?"

Jackie: "Pray for my dirt bike tire to get fixed."
Heather: (to self) "This is ridiculous."
Bethany: "No way! You still haven't fixed that?!"
Heather: (to self) "Wow. Bethany is better at this than me."

Jody: "Pray for my everything."
Heather and Bethany: "Anything more specific?"
Jody: "Yeah, everything."

Hanging Out

Heather to Bethany: "Your brother sure got tan in Hawaii!"
Jill to Bethany: "Who's your brother."
Heather to Jill: "He's 22. He's too old for you to have a crush on."
Jill to Heather: "Hey! That was mean."
Heather to Jill: "Aren't you the one who said you've had 46 boyfriends?"
Jill to Heather: "No, I mean...just because he's 22 doesn't mean I can't have a crush on him."

Later in the evening

Jill: "Someone stole my binder from the bushes outside."
Heather: "Why was it in the bushes?"
Jill: "Because I don't like bringing it inside. It's safe out there."
Heather: "Jill, it's silly to leave your binder behind the shrubs in the church yard. And it's raining. Next time we can lock it up in the leaders' room."
Heather: "Does it have drugs in it?"
Jill: (rolling eyes.) "No! It's safe in the bushes."
Heather: "Obviously not because it was stolen."

A few minutes later...as I'm walking to my car...I see another leader walking with Jill through the wet bushes looking for the binder. Oh...I thought...that's what your supposed to do with junior high girls. When they say, "Someone stole my binder from the bushes!" you're supposed to say, "No way! That's crazy! Who would do such a thing?! Let's go find it!"

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Favorite Local Band...and football.

My favorite local band is breaking up! Nooo! It's true. Late Tuesday. They inspire me to write songs, and now they're breaking up.

But--they are playing a concert at, of all places, IKEA. On November 25. Pam was totally stoked to go and take Bookcase Billy back to his homeland for the Christmas concert. Alas, I will be in Ohio, still reeling from an amazing game the Saturday before, when #1 Ohio State slaughters #2 Michigan in a knock-down drag-out last-minute amazing victory.

It's easy to be excited about Ohio State. It's easy to freak out about the Seahawks, since we're now officially without Hasselback, Alexander, and Engram. I think it's because I haven't been giving them enough blog shout outs this season.

Football has nothing to do with my favorite local band breaking up, really. But--on Thursday Heidi and I finally get cable, when I can renew my weekly loyalties to my favorite teams. Hey and the Browns have won one game this year... so that's you know, better than zero...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

If you have yet to read this article...

Do it!

My Spiritual Journey by Barack Obama.

I'd love to hear your comments and feedback...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Time for Nothing.

The past two weekends I have desired a whole lot of nothing. And guess what--after two weekends of nothing, I'm painfully addicted to it.

I think it has something to do with having a lot of busyness in the work week. And this morning, as I was reading The Revolutionary Communicator: Seven Principles Jesus Lived to Impact, Connect and Lead (which I've been reading for at least four months. It is not a long book...I'm just that slow...) they talked about the principle of solitude as a necessary component of communication.

I thought to myself, "Oh...I'm spending all week communicating...and maybe I need to spend my weekends not communicating...just soaking in new things and being refreshed." (Like, you know, actually making Sabbath a Sabbath?)

Yesterday after church I came home and spent eight hours listening to music, lying on my bed reading books, and playing guitar. I read my daily Bible reading, a chapter of Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis, a chapter of Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Eternal Husband, a few pages of Kahlil Gabrin's The Prophet, a few chapters of Chuck Colson's Loving God (my Bible study's new book), and a few chapters of Gregory Maguire's Wicked... and my outlook on this week is rejuvinated. I was blown away that I had the energy to lay there and read for so long...but I was so excited to be awake with nothing to do but read. I was so excited to have nothing to do but nothing...

But it's actually not nothing...reading and playing guitar is something. It's just a something that gets edged out when I don't leave time for it. It's something that this Monday morning feels like life blood.

My new bedroom is now officially organized and books are on their proper shelves. I'm very excited for a lot more nothing tonight.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Why Is It That...

...why is it that on Thursday afternoons, when I should want to do work, I have no motivation. But on Friday afternoons, when it's time to go home, I'm on a roll and compelled to keep going?

That makes no sense!

"I don't want to know 'cause life is better off a mystery." ~Derek Webb.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Officially Booked!

I have officially booked my ticket to be in Ohio twice in the next two months...during Thanksgiving AND Christmas.

I will also be in Chicago for New Year's for the annual TU New Year's Extravaganza.

This trip will mark my 22nd time to/through Sea-Tac Airport in the 2006 calendar year! Crazy!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Does anyone know how to use a comma?

Apparently, I've developed a chip on my shoulder to consider myself "writer-in-resident" at YD. I didn't know it until yesterday when a coworker proofread the corporate newsletter and said there were too many commas. This is how the conversation went:

Coworker: "There are too many commas."
Me: "No, there aren't."
Coworker: "Yes there are."
Me: "No, there aren't.
Coworker: "Yes there are."
Me: "I have a degree in this."
Coworker: "Me too."
Me: "Oh. Hmm."

Suddenly--I felt very young and stupid, because I was using my degree (not my skills) to establish my authority. Eww. When he said, "Me too," it became apparent that something in the comma world is awry. How can we both be defending completely oppositional comma rules? Apparently he and I learned completely different comma rules--me as a literary writer and he as a technical writer. While I had been taught that a comma always goes before a coordinating conjuction between two clauses, he had been taught to never put a comma before a conjunction. Oh...conundrum.

I returned home and Heidi had loads to say about the ambiguity in proper comma useage. During her hefty comma research, it's apparent that no one agrees.

So, I ate some humble pie and admitted that I have not mastered the comma because apparently that's equivalent to saying that you've mastered cat-herding...does anyone know the real ways to use a comma? (What I'm inferring is that even if you think you do, you might not.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Ballad of Bookcase Billy: An IKEA Survival Guide

We survived IKEA! We did it! Yay for us!

This weekend, Pam (as in the hit song "Pam Shaffer is eating a vanilla wafer") and I made a daring trek to the desolate land of cheap, household goods. IKEA incites terror within me, because it reminds me of what would happen if you combined all of the following anxiety-causing locales into one retail store: a rat maze, Guantanamo Bay, the Amsterdam airport, Wal-Mart and "the running of the bulls in Pamplona."

Because of IKEA's intensity, Pam and I felt it necessary to frontload the trip with the conscious choice to survive. This resulted in an amazingly entertaining three hours...so amazing that we didn't just survive IKEA...we became the IKEA champions!

Here's your official how-to guide for surviving and enjoying a day at IKEA:

  1. Take a camera. Because any day in a retail store is somehow funnier if you can capture moments like "Pam chilling on a living room suite that's been set up in the IKEA parking garage." "Hey honey! What do you want to watch tonight? The volvo or the BMW?"

  2. Read the signs outloud. Because all of the signs in IKEA have an english name and a Swedish name. The day's made much funnier if you can say, "Hey Pam, are you interested in a Fjallsta for your bathroom or an Ektorp Muren for the living room?" (Or in this case, a "billy.")

  3. Make new friends. Obviously naming and befriending inanimate objects is a necessary coping mechanism for survival in any high-risk situation. (Think "Wilson the Volleyball" in Castaway.) Pam and I chose a posable artistic figurine, and we named him "Billy" in honor of the aformentioned Swedish Bookcase.

    Billy became the day's hero. He helped to personify the emotions we were feeling through the experience, and as it turns out, he's very photogenic.

    We nearly lost him at the halfway point. When we returned to Billy after our Swedish lunch, it was apparent that he had a desire to end his life by throwing himself from the shopping cart. (Apparently IKEA is as stressful to the merchandise as it is to the customers.)

    And Billy defended us from the more aggressive merchandise. Here, he defends against an assailant who tried to take the last set of blue tealight holders.

  4. Eat some meatballs. IKEA has its own restaurant, and by 12:30, we were starving. I said, "Pam, I am hungry. We will eat meatballs." And it was an enjoyable lunch (if you could tune out the hordes of screaming toddlers in the cafeteria demanding more meatballs.)

    And I'm convinced that the midpoint "stop and eat" break is completely necessary to making the overall IKEA experience bearable. How can you not be refreshed when you get 5 meatballs, fries, and a Diet Coke for $2.18?

  5. Read the tutorials. Sometimes in IKEA, there's no way to understand what they're trying to sell you without reading the instructions. This proved to be true during Pam and I's attempt to buy the perfect down comforters. Apparently, there are a lot of variables. So--reading the instructions proved vital (as did throwing ourselves onto the mock beds in supreme melodramatic fashion to ensure the perfect down quilt was purchased.) We both settled on an "Extra Warm Down Quilt" named Mysa Sol.

  6. Enjoy a post-IKEA debriefing time. Pam and I couldn't just leave IKEA and drive home. There would have been too much culture shock. So upon loading up our cart full of cheap household goods, we enjoyed Seattle's best cup of coffee (at Cafe Ladro, if you're wondering) and then spent two hours in the Lynnwood Guitar Center, jamming on really expensive Martin's and Taylor's. (The highlight of this experience was a blues guitarist who did some fantastic lead solos with Pam's amazing rhythm guitar and my impromptu vocals. Rock on!)

So all in all, IKEA day turned out well. Pam and I even went beyond survival to a straight-up "suck the marrow out of life" type IKEA experience. We proudly avoided "IKEA Syndrome" a term coined by my token Scandanavian friend Sonja, which she defines as what happens "when people lose all sense of normal social cues and manners because of all the stuff, made worse by the maze likeness of the overall store layout."

I think if we consulted Billy on this matter, he'd simply say that "We are the champions!"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Mommy Struggle

It's a boy!

Congrat- ulations to Jade and Jed, proud parents of Caedmon Rider. I met Caedmon Rider for the first time this morning at his shower. (Shower's a funny word, isn't it? It wasn't raining babies.) Anyways--it was exciting to be introduced. He dressed up for the occasion, in baby cardigan and tie. Jade lovingly referred to it as his "nerd outfit." I preferred to call him Chandler.

Jade is one of my YD coworkers, who works in Anacortes, and she's been a great peer mentor whose illustrating what it looks like to blend desires for career and family. She's always been an inspiration to me in the ministry: she was the marketing director when I started at YD; she married at age 28, when everyone told her she was too old; and she waited until age 30 to have a baby. Now, she's attempting to work 3/4 time and raise Caedmon--she wants to do both. I'm so anxious to watch her work through this time of figuring out what it means to be a youth minister and a mom...

As fun as it was to carry a baby around for fifteen minutes, I have to say that he gets heavy, and I was glad to give him back. I can't really comprehend what it's like to have something that needs you all of the time and doesn't care if you're trying to take a nap or do work. Thinking about that kind of responsibility just makes me feel naïve and immature and selfish.

The other night in Austin, one of my coworkers asked me how I plan to balance ministry and family. I stared blankly, because I was thinking, "How on earth do I, Ms. Poster Child for the Naïve 'Don't Box Me Into Your Presuppositions' Mentalities" have any context to answer that question and sound intelligent. In fact, how can I even begin to predict a feeling I'll have years from now, after I give birth to this person I've never even met. I stumbled through an answer that basically said, "I don't know. Ask me 15 years from now, when I'm a mom trying to figure it out."

He went on to explain that he really believes that you can't become a whole person until you have kids. I stared blankly again, because I do not understand. And while I would normally say, "How dare you tell me I'm not a whole person," the more humble answer is, "Yeah, I really don't know." Because I don't.

It's really difficult to have someone look at you as you're doing your best to live life and serve the Lord and say that you're not a whole person...yet I watch Jade brought to tears saying, "I've never loved like this before" and I feel like I really am missing out on something.

I know I'm not ready, but I know that Jade is. I'm excited to see her work through these questions and glad to have her as a mentor in my life. The whole morning reminds me of a song Pam and I wrote on a Saturday afternoon in Oak Harbor:

The calendar says that we turned 25
And we don't really know what that means.
So far it seems that it's just a long list
Of what others expect us to be.

And we know we're not ready for
Houses or babies or
A life that is more complex
Than a Saturday walk
With our West Coast friends.

I was talking with friends last week saying, "Why was I more sure of what I wanted and more sure of my strong desire for kids when I was 20 than I am at 25." There's no good answer to that...other than life is strange, and God's always at work.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Austin: city of bats, live music, and long days...

I have survived!

This is my cry of joy on this Tuesday afternoon. Trust me--last Tuesday, survival didn't seem possible. I put in a 16-hour day of printing, packing, and preparing for the first of the four Youth Specialties' conventions I'll be attending this fall.

My expectations were all askew. I was consistently asking "How many applications do I take?" "What does the display board need to say?" "How am I going to transport a kayak, paddle, pump, display board, snowboard, skate board, ice axe, application packets, job descriptions, 3 computers, a projector, and rock gear in the luggage of 5 staff, two of which do not live within driving distance?" Last Tuesday was a long day.

But this Tuesday is a good day...and in reflection, this weekend was a good weekend...so here's why:

  1. Youth Specialties' Conventions are fun.
    No matter what. It's a bunch of youth ministry folks gathering together to cut loose, network, and get some R&R. There's plenty of interesting things to be stimulated by: a man on a 10-foot unicycle, comedy sketches, live music, fun new faces.

  2. YD Staff are fun.
    This weekend, I spent quality time with four of my staff, both in the booth, in the hotel, and eating out. It's fabulous for me to get to know the staff and their hearts for our ministry better! These conversations inspire me to be more passionate about the work we're doing.

  3. Austin is fun.
    Texas has never been high on my travel agenda, but Austin certainly boasts some unique characteristics. It has the world's largest bat-watching location (on the bridge by my hotel.) It's the home of Stevie Ray Vaughan. It has lots of amazing outdoor concert venues. And--it has a fantastic independent record store, bookstore, and whole foods store. (It's also the home of University of Texas, so I considered it wise to not run around in a Troy Smith jersey and Brutus Buckeye mask singing the OSU fight song.)

  4. Recruiting staff is fun.
    While it's not fun to talk to a hundred people in a row who have no interest in adventure ministry, the Northwest, or job opportunities, it's so refreshing to have a conversation with someone who loves the Northwest, loves relational ministry, and is a self-prescribed "REI Junkie." There weren't as many of these conversations as I would have hoped, but at the end of the weekend, we have seven serious leads for full-time staff and seven more moderate leads for full-time staff. This is nothing to scoff at, and I look forward to following up with these individuals this week. It's also encouraging to return home and tell our staff about these leads...

  5. Old friends are fun.
    On Wednesday night, I walked into my hotel only to be greeted by Ashley Clark, a good college friend whom I hadn't seen since she graduated in 2002. We screamed and hugged and shared several good conversations about ministry. It had been a good long many years since we'd prayed together in our small group in Gerig Hall and worshipped at Upland UMC. It was certainly rejuvinating to see a familiar face.

  6. New friends are fun too.
    On Friday night, I was at the peak of my exhaustion when I passed a message board where someone had posted an ad requesting fellow concert-goers to a woman with "Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin-like sound" at a sweet venue called Threadgills. My heart burst at the idea of seeing a great alt-country concert in the live music capital of the U.S. So, even though I was exhausted and hate meeting new people when I'm exhausted, I called. And I met Clay--a complete kindred spirit who pretty much loves everything that I love. A youth worker from Tucson who made a discouraging night of exhaustion one of my most fantastic evenings on recent record...maybe ever.
So, go to Austin, see live music, recruit new staff, and you'll come home exhausted, but encouraged. That's the story.

And now, no longer these 10 day spurts between blogs. I have missed you.