you feel like my favorite song

FridayFive-Button It’s #FridayFive time!  This week’s prompt is Smiles.  I like this one, it leaves a lot open to interpretation.  But over on her site, my friend Kelly describes it as a chance to take stock and be thankful throughout the week.  We don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to be thankful for the people and things in our lives that make us smile.  So here’s my interpretation of #FridayFive – Smiles

#FridayFive – Smiles 

Excuse me Pastor Alicia
This past Sunday was a busy morning for me.  A lot of Sundays are busy but this one was especially busy because our Worship Director was out of town which mean that the upfront things we usually divide between three people were divided between two.  I had a lot of up front pieces and I was teaching in our Kids Club classroom as well.  My mind was racing for most of the morning.  There was this particular moment though that made me smile … I was standing in the hallway, talking to a member of our congregation when I suddenly felt this presence beside me.  It was one of our elementary kids standing about two feet to my left staring up at me and patiently waiting for me to be done talking.  I looked down at him and said hi and this huge grin spread across his face.  He just wanted to tell me there were lemons on the Hospitality table and that he had eaten 7 already … before service had even started.
There are SO many aspects of my job that I love but this one, the moments where my kids come up to me with an agenda – a moment from their week, a story about their teacher, a question about life – these moments are my favorite.  I love their little smiles and wide eyes as they watch for my reaction, wait for me to respond.  I love it so much.
Uncontrollable Laughter in Youth Group
We had middle school youth group this week.  One thing I love about these kids is that they are at that age where they get together and there is no controlling them.  I’m not saying our kids are disrespectful – they really aren’t. But there are these moments when I’m trying to talk about something with them and they get on a train of thought and just can’t get off.  Then someone says something funny and it just derails.  The laughter that comes after these moments is one of my favorite sounds.  They just can’t help it.  It’s contagious too because I look around at my leaders and they are all laughing too.  Seriously, if you need a good laugh, come sit in on youth group – you won’t regret it.
I try to touch base with my nieces every week, at least one moment where they hear my voice telling them that I love them.  Even if it’s quick, even if it’s just on speaker phone as they are going to school.  On a good week I get a whole conversation with each of them, telling me about their lives.  On a not so great week I get my middle niece saying “Are you ready to be done talking to me now?”  But I can’t hold it against her, she’s five and her attention span is not great.
But I’ve been noticing this trend with my youngest niece.  She’s been conditioned on what to say when she’s talking to me.  It’s probably because for a while she was learning to talk so my mom would say “Say I love you Tia” and she would repeat.  Now she will literally get on the phone and say “Hi Tia – I love you Tia – Bye Tia” and be done.  It’s hilarious and I love it.  Other times she kidnaps the phone and just babbles for five minutes.  There is no in between – what a joy 2 years old life is!
Long reunion hugs
I have a great group of friends. I’ve said it before.  But Monday morning found me having coffee and work time with a friend who is also a youth pastor.  I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks so when I got to her house, our hug was so long – like we hadn’t seen each other in weeks.  It was so good to be with her, talking about ministry, about life, about relationships – she’s a dear confidante and I can’t believe I am lucky enough to call her my friend and colleague in ministry.
Similarly, the previous Friday I hung out with our other two friends and the same thing happened.  I opened the door and was immediately embraced – and interrogated on the weeks we’ve been apart.  I wouldn’t trade these three women for the world.
A good ole fashion knowing smile
Ever have one of those moments where you’re in a group of people and something happens and you meet the eye of someone in the group and you share that smile – the one that says a whole lot without any words behind it.  I love those – I love the relationships behind them.  I had several of those this week and I loved each and every one of them.
What are your Five Smiles from this week?  What things made you smile and be appreciative of the world around you?

oh how I need you

God speaks to me through music.  It’s not the only way he speaks to me, but it’s definitely a one of the main ways.  And even as I type this, it seems weird.  It’s always been hard to share what I mean, to put into words this feeling deep in my heart.  But here’s to taking a shot at it.
There are moments, when I’m driving, walking, hanging out – when a song seems to reach out and grab my heart and squeeze.  It’s a literally feeling in my chest that screams Listen to me.  It’s usually when I’m deep in my own thoughts, thinking about this thing, that situation or those decisions that happen in my life.  Staring off as music plays in the background, then suddenly it’s no longer in the background – it’s jumping up and down in front of my eyes telling me to pay attention.
It happened as I was driving home from Boulder one day towards the end of college.  I had been given a choice, move to MI with no guarantee of more than a summer job or start over and find something new.  The song was “Bold Son” by Aaron Espe.  It was a clear message from God – telling me to leap and that He would catch me.  So I leapt and what came after was an internship where I was given the space and the time to heal from my past and step into leadership in a safe place.  An invaluable experience that led to another invaluable experience.
It happened as I was driving to church before my call process, worried about making the right choice.  Praying to God that he would make it abundantly clear, like flashing sign pointing at a map clear.  The song was “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons.  The message was to wait, to stay faithful in that time but to wait.  The position that I was dreaming of, the church that would be a right fit for me – it was out there, but I needed to wait.  That one took a full two and a half years to come into focus.  But it did eventually, and it was beautiful.  (And no, there was no flashing sign)
It happened last week.  As I was driving in a car with my friends through the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  This one is still not in focus.  All I can tell is that the music was Andrew Belle but I’ve been looking for the song and it’s not there.  The lyric I thought I heard is not on that album – which can only mean it was actually just Jesus telling me what to do. (Which is insanely humbling)  But I don’t know what it means.  I don’t know where it’s going to lead, but it gave me extreme comfort that he sees the situation, and he’s got it.
And it happened just now.  As I was staring off in space, attempting to write a sermon for Sunday.  The song was “Called Me Higher” by All Sons & Daughters.  Reminding me that while yes, I could just sit in the glory of knowing him – but that he has called me higher, he has called me to be a truth teller, a fighter, a communicator, a storyteller and a story listener.  He’s called me higher than I can imagine.  Not towards status in the world’s sense but towards grace in the Kingdom’s sense.
God can use the most unexpected moments, the most unexpected vessels to talk to us.  We see his goodness all around us in nature, in the bible, in others, but when we are seeking answers, seeking encouragement, seeking his direction sometimes we just need to listen to that tug.  To be attentive to the ways he is communicating with us when we least expect it.
So in what ways do you hear from God?  What are the vehicles he uses with you?

#FridayFive – the perks of being 30

I’m only ONE day late this time!  I’m going to get the hang of this by the end of the month.   #FridayFive was started by my fellow FTL Launch Team member who writes a blog called Mrs. Disciple.  Each Friday she posts a topic for us all to write on and a place for all of us to link up.  Today, as I wandered over to her site and I scrolled through her post I realized that she and I actually met in Austin.  We chatted for a few minutes after dinner at this great BBQ place and I didn’t realize she was the same woman that writes this blog – which I’ve grown to love.  So sorry, Kelly, for being so slow on the uptake!  (That’s the phrase right?) That just goes to show you how crazy that weekend in Austin really was for all of us.
Anyways, without further ado… This week’s #FridayFive is:

The Perks of Being 30 (and single)

I’m throwing my own little flair into this one – adding the “and single” part for me.  So many times in my life I get asked why I’m still single at my age, whether overtly or more subtly.  And no – not by anyone who actually has a relationship with me, but it comes up.  So I’m taking this chance to be a little thankful for the life that I lead.
Confidence in myself – It wasn’t like a magical switch on the day I turned 30, although that would be nice.  But it’s a been a slow feeling growing within myself over the last few years.  I’ve suddenly began to find that self-confidence people are always telling me about.  The one that comes from actually listening and believing the encouragements people give me and owning those things I’ve been gifted.
Getting to be the fun Aunt – not just to my three little loves but to all my friends’ kids.  This is an extremely rare opportunity that I get to have where I get to invest in the lives of my friends and their littles.  Being so far away from my own family, it means that much more to me to be able to be Auntie Alicia to my friends’ kids.  I realize that this stage won’t last forever, but for now, I’m loving the opportunity.
Stability – It took me a while to get to this place.  I’ve moved around a lot since college – I always had an expiration date on my position, on my living situation, on my time in any given city.  But now, this place I’m in, it’s more permanent.  It feels stable but not stale.  It definitely feels like I could be here for a while.  I have a great job, a great apartment, great friends – all in all, it’s a great life.
Friends – Oh these friends of mine.  Being 30 means that I have adult friends – real adult friends.  There’s something about being a little bit older and making friends – it’s at the same time extremely hard and extremely rewarding.  It takes work because you aren’t just naturally surrounded by like minded people the way you were in college, in grad school – but it’s also extremely rewarding because we’ve grown out of our insecurities and mean spiritedness.  We’re kinder, we’re more accepting and we’re more vulnerable.  My friends are amazing, they love me well through all the ups and downs of life.  It took me a while to find them, but now I have them and I want to hold onto them forever.
Free Time – Even though my job keeps me really busy, I also have a fair amount of free time.  Time to read, write letters, color in coloring books (yes I’m serious), hang out with friends, etc.  It’s a perk of being single and again, I realize it won’t last forever.  But for now, I’m really enjoying the independence and flexibility of spending my time exactly as I would like to.

That was fun!  Looking around at this stage of life and taking stock of what I’m thankful for in this time.  I know these things will change, will only get better as I move through the stages of life.  But for now, I’m really enjoying this time of life.  I didn’t freak out about turning 30 like I feared I would a few years ago.  I ran full throttle into my thirties.  Thirty, flirty and thriving – ain’t that right?

Can I have your attention?

#FridayFive on Wednesday

Well, I’m a few days late on this #FridayFive but mostly because I was on vacation last week and forgot that in order for a post to go up on Friday, I have to be able to write it.  I’m still getting used to it! So here’s my #FridayFive on a Wednesday:

Five Favorite Quotes

(In no particular order)

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and of unspeakable love. -Washington Irving

I first heard this quote on Criminal Minds and I instantly fell in love.  I have no idea what his context was when he said it, but in our world today it is really hard to remember that tears are okay and at times a necessity.

Darkness cannot drive our darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

There is a version of this quote hanging on my living room wall. It’s a personal reminder to me as well as a vocational reminder – I cannot fight darkness with darkness, I need the Light of Christ to shine through.

Don’t fastforward to a future you haven’t yet earned. – Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

I wrote on this quote a few weeks back.  It rings true in my ears so much these days.

I pray for your kindness more than your success because the latter without the former is a tragedy. – Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

Of course I had to include one from Jen.  Duh.  I love this quote and I pray it for all my kids and youth, that we are sowing kindness in a world of cruelty.

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace. -Frederick Buechner

This is a new find for me.  My friend posted it on Facebook yesterday and I loved it.  It touched my heart and pulled on it, asking me to keep it in mind.

it's the most wonderful time of the year

In an (yet another) attempt to write more, to be inspired to write more, I joined a writing group on Facebook.  It’s a group of writers that all were on the For the Love Launch Team with me.  It’s become a great space for ideas, for sharing and for the opportunity to guest post.
There’s a blogger in our group started a #FridayFive link up.  Each month she gives us the five topics and we can write a post and then link it up on her page.  So here’s my first #FridayFive:

Five Fall Traditions

There is no question in my mind – Fall is my favorite season.  I have been head over heels with this week’s weather here.  It’s crisp, it’s chilly and I get to wear my boots and scarves.  insert heart eyes emoji.
So here are my 5 Fall Traditions that help me maximize the :
IMG_21911.  Coffee
Or more specifically – coffee dates.  Obviously coffee is a year round tradition because I’m more Lorelei Gilmore than Mary Camden.  But in the Fall is when I take my coffee obsession up a notch.  I try to create coffee dates within my week, whether that be with friends, students, family or just myself.  In the fall, a piping hot cup of coffee being drank while wearing a warm cozy sweater is more about slowing down and igniting your senses than it is about caffeination. Although that’s important too.
IMG_5851 2. Football
Oh Football.  The fall is when I welcome you back into my life.  I welcome back lazy Sundays watching the Broncos play on my TV (or on my laptop if the Bears are playing too).  I love (almost) everything about football.  The camaraderie, the teamwork, the human interest stories, the family ties… I love it.  Football has always had a big piece of my heart because of my dad.  My dad loved the Broncos more than anyone I know.  I learned the game sitting in his lap watching taped games from the 80s.  I knew the players strengths and weaknesses and I idolized the players alongside my dad.  And even now, even as I live on my own in another state, every weekend finds me watching my beloved team.
IMG_01803. Fall Retreats
This is a newer tradition for me – I might only be three years in.   But every fall there is a retreat for pastors and their families put on at one of our beautiful camps and planned by the pastors in our conference.  This year I think is my third year going, and I love it.  I only get away for the day but it’s great to get out of the routine of life and into community with God and others who get you.  I head up next week and I am pretty excited for a day to hear from a great speaker and to spend much needed time with my friends and colleagues in ministry.  It’s good for my soul, for my friendships and for my ministry.
IMG_5634 4. Fall Colors
I love fall colors.  And I love the tradition of taking pictures of these vibrant colors against blue skies.  I walk a little slower, drive the long way to work and simply enjoy these colors.  I’m sorry in advance if you dislike the amount of pictures I’ll post on Instagram.  But these colors are the perfect backdrop for fall activities – apple picking, farmers markets, coffee with friends, walks, soccer games… the colors are coming for you!
IMG_0107 5. Thanksgiving in Denver with Family 
No matter where I live, I always go to Denver for Thanksgiving.  I missed one year and it was the hardest day I’ve had in a long time.  Thanksgiving is maybe my favorite holiday because it’s just about family – there’s no presents, there’s no outside traditions, it’s just about time spent with the people I love the most in this world.  Another reason I’ve come to love Thanksgiving is that my nieces don’t have school the whole week – we just get to play, have fun and enjoy the fall together.  This picture is actually taken two years ago at my middle niece’s Pumpkin Pie Social at her day care.  We only have one more niece at day care so I’m really looking forward to our last few Pumpkin Pie Socials – the one special event that I’m ever in town for.  I will sit in those tiny plastic chairs and eat Pumpkin Pie (which I don’t really like, to be honest) for one moment with my niece that I get to experience in person.  Another Thanksgiving tradition is baking with my nieces for Thanksgiving Dinner, we make a dessert together from scratch and they love to help.  All day is about cooking, the Macy’s parade and football.  All night is about eating and laughing around the table.  It’s the best day of the year, if you ask me.

So there you have it – my first #FridayFive – what are your favorite Fall Traditions?