Screaming Chaos

Sometimes you want the world to just shut up and hear you scream.

– Olasubomi Bashorun

I met a phenomenal artist this summer through an immersion experience with my students. His name is Olasubomi or “Ola” for short. We toured his art space, met other creatives, and even got to contribute our own artwork which was turned into buttons and sold at a gala to raise money for a house for runaway teens. He and I talked quite a while about art, creativity, and the world. Then he said the words above. I resonated with these words deeply and pocketed them for another day.

15 days ago I left the life I had built for three years to begin my life again, for the fifteenth time. This time I came back to the city. Everything is chaos. My car landed in the shop this week due to the engine misfiring. My house is still in boxes because I haven’t had time to completely unpack. The movers misplaced 15 pieces of wall art, things that make my home and office feel “normal”. I also have things that are broken seemingly from a lack of attention to the word “fragile” in big red letters on the box.

While I can navigate from my home to work and back, I am still having to Waze my way to most places. I’ve discovered Louisiana drivers are crazy impatient and so my lack of knowing direction does nothing but piss drivers off which they inform me of in no uncertain hand gestures and honking. While I am not exactly moved into my office, I am already moving offices to be closer to my other colleagues instead of in my own zip code on our campus. Also, it rains every.single.day. OMG, nobody warned me. It makes needing to laquer new furniture decidedly problematic.

Basically, there is no normal. 15 days in and there is no routine. Mass chaos. And lets be real, I am a creature of habit. Order is my love language.

Today, I had to pick up a few things. I walked into each place noticing its enormity. For instance, our Wal-Mart neighborhood market (so only the grocery store) is the same size if not larger than the entire Wal-Mart in my previous town. I toured places for my dog to go to doggy daycare, which isn’t really a thing in my previous town. And lets be real, I felt like I was trying to pick a kindergarten for my kid to get ahead in life.

While I was driving today Ola’s quote came to mind. That is how I have felt all week. I’ve wanted to scream. Everyone is walking around in the comfort of their normal and I can’t seem to grab my footing. I just want the world to shut up and hear me scream.

 

-T

*If you’re interested in Ola’s art, you can check out his work here.

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When life cannot be travelled backwards

This week marked a major change in my life. I completed the first half of my 15th move. If I counted every house I’d be somewhere in the 20’s but who’s counting right? I did something ridiculously ridiculous and I signed a lease on a townhouse near the stadium of a school I can only pretend to be faintly interested in (Hook ‘Em), sight unseen. To make a long story short, I had come down for 36 hours with only the faintest of luck in my home search and this townhouse popped up after I was gone. So, I signed a lease while on a Jr. High mission trip, in the wee hours of the morning because a roof over my head seemed important. If you were with me for any part of this then you know I was so sure I’d be living in my car with my dog. Thankfully, God saw fit for me to live in a townhouse that has air conditioning, a small yard for the dog, a place for my piano, and a guest bedroom! I’ve found the occasional random small spider but it is in otherwise good condition.

Naturally, I set off to get all the things taken care of. So, lets begin with Walmart. Ya’ll, Walmart has been a terrible letdown. I happen to live near the one that the college students frequent so lets keep that in mind.

Trip 1: Im not from around here

I go to walmart very late. This walmart is massive. The hula hoops are not with the ammo. It is at least quadruple the size of the one in the town I just came from. Can we, just for a second, discuss the salad dressing selection? HOLY MOLY. I was able to find everything in my preferred flavor and was promptly overwhelmed with the sheer amount of my choices. I ask my cashier how her day is. She looks perplexed that I talked to her and tells me she has a headache and is ready to get off. I nod in understanding and say that I am ready for sleep as well since I just moved. She asks where and I explain I lived in KY/TN. To which she says she has lived here all her life. Then, she asks me very seriously, “Why would you ever move? Like, everything you would ever want is where you grew up.” I smile and tell her I like adventure and cringe internally at the question of moving. As I’m leaving the parking lot, a hundred or so college students are congregated just haging out by their cars in the walmart parking lot. Many have their dogs with them. This strikes me as odd in the city.

Trip 2: The jelly saga

I forgot jelly the night before. Strawberry is my go-to but I go for blueberry this time. There is only one brand of blueberry on the shelf. I grab my other things and get to the register. As the woman swings the carousel of bags, she swings her carousel hard enough that it knocks my bag with my glass jar of jelly onto the floor and shatters it into many pieces. The manager (who is much younger than she is) comes over and begins to pick up the pieces, puts it into a bag, and tells her she has to go get me a new jar. She laughs and tells him shes on a register and he needs to go get it. They do this while shes ringing up my order. Did I mention this place is large and it will take a solid 2-5 minutes to find me a new jar anyways? They wasted it bantering over who would get my jar of jelly. The manager finally concedes and I tell him “its the Polaner All Fruit Blueberry. Its the only blueberry kind back there.” She finishes my transaction and asks me to pay. I say that I am waiting on the jelly. She says “well, I took it off because its the only one back there”. Confused I said it wasn’t to which she says “but you told me it was the only one.” And then informs me the manager probably got sidetracked and he probably wasnt bringing me jelly. Ya’ll, I just wanted my jelly. The saga continued with me paying for my stuff without jelly, here beginning to ring up the next folks in line and then voiding their order to ring up my jelly that the manager returned with a solid two seconds after I finished paying.

Trip 3: The shower caddy liar

In trip two I had purchased a shower caddy. Said shower caddy was $13, pewter, nothing fancy but functional. However, after the jelly saga, the shower caddy was nowhere to be found when I got back to my house. Tired and having a dinner party to go to, I opted to wait it out and go this morning to get my caddy. When I get to customer service, I wave at the jelly manager from yesterday. I explain that the caddy didn’t make it into my cart and that I need to get a replacement. She asks if I called. I look at her puzzled and say “no”. Then she asks if I came back for it. I politely say “no, thats why I’m here now”. She takes my receipt over to jelly manager and he sends her off somewhere. I’m assuming she goes to get a new caddy. She returns empty handed. She hands my receipt back to me and says “ummm, yeah, so we don’t tolerate liars here. I watched the footage and you took that caddy with you. I don’t know what you did with it but, umm, you don’t get another one.” My original ticket was over $100 and all I wanted was my $13 shower caddy. I was more insulted that she called me a liar as I thought to myself “how many people walk in here stealing shower caddies?”

 

In trip three, I caught myself reminiscing about Fulton. Remembering the bacon aisle, the country accent, and the sheer smallness of it all. Last evening I had dinner with gourmet ingredients (by Fulton standards) and passed by things and places that were clear indications of a booming economy. And for a few minutes I mourned the loss of Fulton. The loss of the simplicity. The loss of the my friends and the familiarity. In Fulton all the roads lead to 3-4 main roads. I had roads that I liked to drive because the houses were intriguing whether they had no windows, were abandoned, or beautiful. I found myself missing those pieces and stories.

While mourning is natural, there is no opportunity to travel backwards. My mom and dad have been stellar in the encouragement department of reminding me of my purpose and passions and how those are often married together in ways that I miss. And so, as I look for the ways in which these are married together when I start at my new church this week, I am reminded to breathe and take it one day at a time. May this always be true.

-T

Kyrie Eleison.

My life is busy. Ridiculously busy. Probaby unhealthily busy. If you know anything about youth ministry, then you know while someone might be part-time on paper, they are full-time in real life. So, I am a full-time youth pastor. I am a full-time grad student finishing my masters in youth ministry (praise God for a May graduation!). I am a full-time dog mom. I am a full-time daugher and sister. I am a full-time friend. And lets just take a look for a second at what I am passionate about. Race, poverty, diversity, photography, art, music, and food to name a few. <—-These also need some form of my attention.

This past Sunday, after a full eight days of travel, I was slated to lead worship. Our scripture text was

Matthew 5:38-48

38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I’ve heard this passage dozens of times always in the context of dealing with ones neighbor. However, I thought a lot about the word love. Love is a hallmark of the youth ministry in which I currently serve. When I dream of youth ministry, I dream of love, creativity, imagination, safety; a place where all of these adjectives can be used to describe actions that can ultimately be lived out in community. I believe less in facets only designed for one demographic and more in a holistic approach to ministry that values the individual as a person in the community with the hallmark of that approach being love. It is through a teenager’s engagement with love that they infect others around them with love.

How often does my busyness get in the way of my ability to love someone well. Am I just “too busy” to listen? We all have the same 24 hours in our day. Are we using them well? For the anthem on Sunday I sang the song “Lord Have Mercy” by Michael W. Smith which can be found here. They lyrics were poignant when I thought about the words Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy) and Christe Eleison (Christ have mercy). It talks of forgetting the words of Jesus, missing his promises, and a longing to return back to the life that Christ has called us to.

Kyrie Eleison is derived from several New Testament passages. Check out Matthew 15:22, Mark 10:46, Matthew 20:30-31, or Luke 18:39 to name a few. The use of this cry to God deemed it appropriate to include in liturgical prayers within the church the years folllowing. It’s a prayer of petition and a prayer of thanksgiving. It acknowledges what God has done, is doing, and will do. 3 words.

So, for lent this year, I am working to unbusy myself. I am going to prioritize my twenty four hours in a way that allows for Kyrie Eleison and Christe Eleison. Will you join me?

 

-T

On Death and Dying

I haven’t posted in over a year. It has been a year full of emotion and change. What stopped my writing and has begun it again are deaths. Death is a quirky thing. I have absolutely no fear of dying but when people around me die, I tend to freak out. And by freak out I mean shut down. I hibernate. I really just don’t want anybody to know. It’s nobody elses business. Or maybe it is but its somebody’s business to ask for it to be their business.

Last summer my last living grandmother died. This is me, her, and my Uncle Joe.10153219_630247552175_7071927947157035260_n

You can’t tell from this picture but  I was in the process of teaching her about “selfies”. The other thing  you wouldn’t know about this picture is that she was mostly blind. She was beautiful even as she got older. She had hands that made cookies and sewed me dolls. She never chewed a piece of bubblegum. She loved to knit. She was a social butterfly. She died peacefully and went to go be with my grandfather which was exactly how she wanted it. This is the last photo I ever shared with her.

This past week a friend and colleague died. Paul. He was one of the best musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. He was quiet but always ready with a joke. His hands made his bass guitar sing. He mentored me as a musician. He was a quiet leader. And most of all, he was a friend. Paul wasn’t necessarily famous, but he was famous in my book.

Both incredibly lovely people. Both followers of Christ. Both made whole again in their death. For this I am thankful

 

A Lord of the Rings Summer

My first adventure begins this weekend with my middle schoolers. I cannot begin to express how excited I am for this. It will be our first outing with just middle school! And we get to hang out with some awesome people who are letting us work with them to help better their community. This is just the beginning. I also have big adventures #2-7 and little adventures along the way as well. I love big adventures. This is mostly due to the sheer awesomeness that happens when you’re with a group on an adventure. Think Lord of the Rings. This is how youth ministry adventures happen to me. We get to adventure together as friends. There is ALWAYS first and second breakfast. There are unexpected encounters and there is risk and a task at hand.

This past week I found myself dreading the upcoming adventures. I knew when I created the summer calendar it was going to be tight. There wasn’t much room for more than a week of rest in between big adventures. The list of things to do, phone calls to make, purchase of swag, and having all the ducks in a row can be daunting. I had a piece I was missing for our upcoming trip and walked through the office frustrated that we are so close to the big adventure and there was still an unknown. My boss happened to be in the main office and our conversation went something like this

Me: I utterly regret the decisions i’ve made about the calendar for this summer (as I write this i’m two days away from being gone for my 6th weekend in a row)

K: Umm….really? *puzzled look

Me: Yep. Really.

K: Yeah, right.

Me: *puzzled look

K: I seriously doubt that. Be honest, you’re so excited to get out of here and do something with these kids. You’re going to love every minute of it.

Me: Touche

He’s telling the truth. I am excited. Summer youth ministry is probably my favorite time of year. Some of my fondest memories are from summer trips in youth ministry. It is also re-charge time for me. I know that sounds strange. How does a youth pastor recharge on a trip. For me, it’s the art of making memories. There are memories to be had, inside jokes to be told for years, and goofy pictures that forever live in the halls of the church. If you don’t believe me about the jokes thing, ask my youth pastor about the time we were in Roswell, New Mexico, and I had to go to the bathroom. Really, it’s a time for us to be family together. Families eat, work, and draw closer to God together. This summers theme is love. We’re going to be answering questions about love and God. What would it look like for our love for one another to pour out into the places where we serve? In the midst of our youth ministry as a whole? Amongst the members of our church? These are the things I look forward to with my students. And so, I eagerly await 8am on Friday morning for new adventure #1, For the opportunity to experience Christ together, to make new memories, and to reminisce about it later.

He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” – Frodo Baggins

Ideas are cheap, action is costly

“Ideas are cheap, action is costly.”

This statement was in a relevant magazine article I read the other day. I’m sure it was one of those “40 bajillion things I wish I knew in my 20’s” articles or something of that nature. This statement is oh so true. I’m sure in the article it referred to business but I would like to go ahead and apply this article to the church.

A few weeks ago, in youth, we talked about how we define ourselves, how others define us, and how God defines us. I allowed my kids to define me and this is what they said: respectful, loving, compassionate, blunt, truthful, caring. I’d like to think that I live up to all of these in some form or fashion. I grew up in a no fuss military family that didn’t have time for egos or B.S. The elephant in the room was addressed. We didn’t leave the elephant to be danced around. So, I’m that girl in the committee meeting. I’m the one who stands up, announces the elephant in all its grandeur, and watches as everyone gets squeamish in their awkwardness. Somebody had to do it, right? But it’s precisely the idea of acts being costly that cost so much. If you’ve ever served on a committee you know the guy I’m about to describe. He’s the dreamer. You appreciate his dreaminess. He dreams some really grand dreams. In every committee that I’ve sat on, this dreamer is rarely willing to act. To himself, the act of telling you his dreams is sacrifice enough. The problem is that he isn’t really doing anything that is of personal sacrifice to himself. Suggesting that we should start a new ministry is one thing. He’s the first to say no when it comes time to actually implement or head up the ministry.

This is all too real in youth ministry. Everybody has opinions about what the youth ministry should look like, act like, how many kids should be attending, etc. The same people who have strong opinions about these things are often the same who run for the hills when you ask them to volunteer. Church as a whole suffers because there are lots of people with lots of cheap ideas who are never willing to pay the price to act. I can tell you that my actions have been costly. I’ve missed weddings and birthday parties. I’ve had to say “no”. I have also never regretted acting. The cost may have been inconvenience, but it netted me memories. The cost may have been possessions, but it netted me a second family.

I’d like to challenge you to take your cheap ideas and take costly action on them. Our actions can speak louder than our words. Take action. Don’t just throw out empty words. They’re cheap.

My people

I have “people”. In sure you know the type. These are the people you claim. Dare I say, the people you would be willing to take a bullet for. My “people” come from all walks of life. Some are from the church world, and some are not. Some are from my school world and some are not. Some even hail from places other than Texas.

This weekend, I welcomed 6 new people into my “people”. They are the new 6th graders in our youth ministry. My kids, my “people” consistantly amaze me. They bring laughter and richness to my life. Like the times they come knock on my door to see if I want to “come out and play” in the snow. Or how about their sass. My “people” are full of sass. I like it that way. They love each other with a ferocity that only comes from spending copious amounts of time together. Like when we took our new “people” on a mystery trip this past weekend. We stopped at a rest stop because one of them “just had to go”. If you’ve never been on a youth trip then you should be forewarned that on pretty much every trip there’s always a funny story about a bathroom stop or lack thereof. Nonetheless, we stopped. I had given them 5 minutes. At the 5 minute mark I get back on the bus and I’m missing 3 of my “new people” and one of my “seasoned people”. My seasoned person is over halfway through high school. It was strange that he would be missing. So where do you go when you’re looking for boys at a rest stop? The vending machines, naturally. When I step into the room with the snacks, there they are loading their arms with all of the goodies they’ve purchased. Then comes the obligatory “you know you’re supposed to be on the bus right? What are you guys doing?” to which my 6th grade boys promplty grabbed their snacks and ran. My “seasoned” person simply looked at me and said, “I didn’t want to leave them alone. I wanted to make sure they were okay.”

In our youth group, we’ve talked a lot lately about how we spend out time. Are we advancing the kingdom of God or wasting our time watching TV and checking social media. We’ve talked about being a team. We’ve talked about how everybody brings gifts to the table, not just our friends. We’ve talked about belonging versus just being inclusive. And you know what? At that moment, with my “seasoned person”, he made sure the 6th graders were part of “his people”.

I am happy to say this isn’t necessarily a rare occurance. I love them with the ferocity that they love each other and me. I love them the best I know how. Sometimes that love is easy and sometimes it is hard, but it is there nonetheless. They are my “people” and I am part of their “people”. I’m glad we get to be each other’s “people” together.

-T