Sunday, August 31, 2008


Today was a SUPER LONG day…I can’t believe how much we did. It all started at 4:45 this morning when the alarm clocks went off and the first thing I remember hearing after the alarm was Haley singing “Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory…”. Wow…at 4:45. It was impressive. So we all got ready and headed toward the beach to conquer 13.1!

There are so many reasons why I love marathons. One of them is because of the awesome adrenaline rush that you get at the beginning. I mean, you're standing in the middle of thousands of runners, news cameras all over the place like you're a big deal, pump-up music playing, a guy with a microphone getting everyone riled's pretty chaotic. And so exciting! Today did not disappoint. 

And what made it even more fun was running with four of my favorite people in the world - all who were running their first marathon!

My training for this marathon had been pretty weak. I didn't feel too confident going into the race, and was particularly worried that my legs would likely give out on me at some point. But thankfully my body wasn't in as bad of shape as I was afraid of. Haley and I actually ended up staying together about 80% of the race. We kept taking turns passing each other and finally decided we might as well run together! 

There were definitely many "interesting" things to see (and smell) along the course of the race. I am just in love with people who come out and cheer on marathon runners. I know it's cheesy, but it's never meant so much to hear "You're doing great! Keep going!" I just want to go by and give them all personal hugs when the race is over. And my new favorites this time around were the people who came out in their front yards with water hoses and were hosing us down as we passed. The last mile of the race was on the boardwalk of the beach and it was BRUTAL. Haley and I decided to run the full last mile but I had to stop about halfway through and walk...I was choking on my spit. :) Anyway, Haley and I ended up being the first of our group to cross the finish line at at time of 2:27:00. I was pretty pumped because it was only 2 minutes slower than my last time. My sister came in next a little under 3 hours (which was AMAZING because she had hardly trained much at all...I was very proud). Then Ross and Erica came in a little later (Ross's knees had been giving him a lot of trouble, so they had to slow down the pace considerably). Anyway, we all relished in our accomplishment of living through the race for a while then headed back to the hotel to get CLEAN!

Ross took Erica to the airport (she had to head home to get to classes on Monday) while the rest of us got all cleaned and packed up. Then the 4 cousins all loaded up in "The White Schrute" and headed to D.C.!! Of course, by this time we were starving from, well...running 13 miles...and for whatever reason, we all wanted Fuddrucker's as soon as we saw the sign, so we went and commenced to pig out on burgers and fries - the perfect post-marathon meal. 

Then it was off to D.C...our plan was to go straight to the hotel and then head out to dinner. But as soon as we saw the road sign for Arlington National Cemetary, we couldn't help ourselves. We decided to go ahead and get one thing crossed of the list and this was definitely one at the top. I had always pictured what it would be like, but it was nothing like what I had imagined. I never DREAMED that it was so huge. I took about 70 pictures but I'll just grace you with a select few here.

I had a weird mix of emotions there - a gratefulness for those who died to give me the freedoms I have today, but a renewed hatred for war mixed with a sadness for the fact that every grave I saw represented a son/daughter, husband/wife, father/mother lost to war. I still feel like I'm kind of processing it all. We also got to see John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy's gravesites AND the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was very cool. 

We stayed until the cemetary closed and then headed into the city! We checked in at our hotel and got our luggage settled. We got this super sweet deal on our hotel (it was just one of those random Travelzoo weekly specials....if you aren't a subscriber to the Travelzoo e-mails, DO IT!). Anyway, we got the hook-ups to a sweeeet hotel right on Capitol Hill called the Liason Capitol Hill. The lobby was a little intimidating...a little TOO chic for us, but whatever. The rooms are awesome, there's a pool on the roof, and the beds are to DIE dream beds...and down pillows. This picture doesn't adequately express their amazing-ness, but maybe you can get an idea...

After we got settled in our rooms, we headed to Chinatown for dinner! 

We found this little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant where we again commenced to pig out on some fried goodness. 

Once our stomachs were full, the exhaustion hit us like a freight train. We took Haley by her cute little apartment to get her stuff because she just couldn't deny the goodness of our hotel beds. And now we're back in the hotel resting up for another full day tomorrow!! 

Saturday, August 30, 2008

FAMILY FUNNNN - Days 1 and 2

Back in May, my sister Melissa, my cousins Ross and Haley, and I all got the crazy idea to do a marathon together. I had just finished running the Country Music Marathon and had told them about how much fun I'd had so that got us all excited to do one together! So we get online to find out when the next nearest one would be and we found that there was going to be one over Labor Day weekend in Virginia Beach, which actually worked out PERFECT because it's drive-able from Nashville AND my cousin Haley would be moving to D.C. just one week before the marathon! D.C. is only like 3 hours from VA Beach. Haley's going to be an intern for a congressman this cool is that?! Anyway, we all signed up for the marathon so here we are...almost 4 months Virginia Beach, awaiting our fate on the marathon course. What makes it even MORE fun is that our good friend, Erica Osborn, decided to join us on our little adventure!
So Ross, Melissa, Erica, and I all loaded up in "The White Schrute" (Ross's car...) and left Nashville at about 9 AM yesterday morning. Of course the car ride was an adventure with the four of us...especially considering it's a stinkin' 11-hour car ride to VA Beach! But Ross was quite a trooper and drove the entire 11 hours. We only made 3 super short stops for gas/potty breaks, so we really made good time!
We got to the La Quinta in VA Beach at about 9:30 where we checked in and got settled in our rooms and soon HIT THE SACK!

Day 2:
Melissa and I decided it would be a good idea to get our legs moving this morning and "test the air" in Virginia, so we got up at a decent hour and went for a quick jog/walk...HELLLLLO Humidity!
We all got ready and drove down to the beach where we got to put our feet in the Atlantic and chill (in our jeans...on the beach?) for a while in the hot sand. 
Then we went to the bus stop and picked up Haley who had just gotten in from D.C. To get to VA Beach, she walked to a subway that took her to a train that took her to a bus and brought her to our car. Yeah, she's having to use all kinds of crazy transportation now.
We went to the convention center, checked in, got our numbers...
bought some fanny packs for the race...
HA! and partook in free samples of random foods and energy bars.
Then we decided it would be wise to get off our feet so we hung for a while in Starbucks until it was time for dinner. We ate at an italian food place right on the beach so we could do some carbo-loading! 
And then, we consumed the hands-down best thing you could consume the night before a marathon...
that's cream. man I hope that doesn't come back to hurt us tomorrow...
We then all headed on back to the hotel (yes, we had 5 people in one hotel room...), got our iPod playlists together for the marathon, and TRIED to turn it in early because we have an EARRRRLY start tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


This past weekend was the Grand Opening of HCC's new campus. It's so amazing that we now have a place to call "home"! Friday was the Ribbon Cutting ceremony where all the Fancy Pants of Franklin came out and presented us with various things and said important things - some of which I didn't even understand...haha. 
But it was a special moment and exciting to stand behind Bobby as he cut the ribbon in front of our Community Center. 
On Saturday, we had a big Family Fest complete with tons of food, ice cream, snow cones, infatables, games, a dunking booth, face painting, adorable little kids everywhere...
...and of COURSE, a special appearance by Bob and Larry from Veggie Tales. One of the highlights of the day was watching John Mark's sheer joy and excitement at dunking his dad...

haha...I love JP's face in that picture. There were a TON of people who came out on Saturday - lots of new faces - and everyone had a fantastic time. 
Saturday night was the Grand Opening of our Youth Center. We brought in 3 (awesome) artists and had Shane's Rib Shack cater...delicious. I'm a horrible estimate on numbers of people but I would think there were probably about 150 students there - probably the majority of them visitors - so that was exciting. 
Plus the kids were really getting into the music, which always makes a CONCERT more fun! :)
I love Harpeth Community Church. I love that I have people that I can truly call family there. I love that there are families and parents that have taken me in as their own. I love how the youth group has become just a big group of little brothers and sisters to me. I love what HCC stands for. I love that I can fully trust the leadership. I love the way I have been challenged and have grown there. I love that they were willing to take a chance on someone they barely knew to be their youth ministry assistant. I've said many times that if it weren't for Harpeth, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be in Tennessee anymore. This church - this family - means the world to me. I'm excited to see what God has done, and I'm even more excited to see what He's going to do there. He's can feel it.
One of the things I love the most is that HCC rejects consumer Christianity and corporate church. They want to build up missional Christians - people who want to be fully part of God's mission as opposed to just wanting to have a cool church experience. People who ask "What does Jesus want me to do for the church?" as opposed to "What can the church do for me?" People that see other's needs over their preferences. People that are more concerned about serving than being served.
It's sad that so many today view the Church as a product or a service - a place that provides good religious feelings, self-help programs, kids' activities and sports leagues. Sounds like a country club to me. I love that Harpeth puts a major emphasis on being missional and less of an emphasis on being attractional. 
This is something we can struggle with a lot in the youth ministry. Because youth are often drawn to the cool and exciting - the place with the best "show". But who ever said that following Jesus was cool? What a sad thing for a church to be concerned about. But it's hard to not fall prey to that temptation - to not be worried about how many people we have coming through the door, to want to be the "cool" place where everyone wants to be. As Shane Claiborne says in Irresistible Revolution, "That's the very temptation Jesus faced in the desert, the temptation to do spectacular things like fling himself from the temple or turn stones into bread, to shock the masses with his miracles or awe them with his power. And yet he resists. The church has always faced the same temptation."
The temptation is to woo people with an awesome show and then try to please them and comfort them with a watered-down version of the Gospel. So then you may have a church of 2,000 - but it's 2,000 lukewarm Christians who aren't really being challenged or growing in their faith. What a travesty that would be. 
My prayer is that our goal would be NOT to see how many people we can get in the door - but that we would preach the TRUTH, that we would offer real relationships and encourage people to live missionally. And sadly, that may not attract a lot of people. But it's the Jesus Way. And I'm thankful to be a part of a church family that seeks the Jesus Way above any other.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


There are times when I’m sad about the state of the world. There are times when I feel hopeful for change. Excited to see light penetrating the darkness. And there are times when I feel guilty for all of the blessings I’ve been given when there are plenty of people who have nothing. And then there are times when I’m just outright frustrated…and angry. Like, let’s say…now.

I’ve been on this journey over the past few months. It started with God opening my eyes to the “system” in which I’m living. And it was hard and it made me feel a little like a moron for having missed it for 25 years. Which, yes, made me feel guilty for a while. But guilt is a horrible motivator, so I had to move past that. And now I’ve had a few months of exposure to things outside of my comfort zone…and I’m at the height of frustration with the “system” of our society and our world.

I’m now sitting in downtown Starbucks and just finished having a conversation with a girl who I met through Against the Grain ministries who is a high school senior at Franklin HS. We just spent a good deal of time brainstorming what we were going to do to get her a ride to school every day this year. We are in a fairly major dilemma because as it stands, there are no options for her and she has no money to buy a car...or even to take the trolley every day. It’s crazy – how many people go through all of their school years and never have to think twice about how they are actually going to get transportation to school. My biggest dilemma in high school was that my car didn’t have a keyless entry…I actually had to put the key in the door to open it (heaven forbid).

I guess what’s frustrating about it right now is that there are so many people (Christians…who have been given the charge to be Christ’s hands and feet in this world) in this area who could help this girl solve her problem at the drop of a hat. And it’s not that I don’t believe that there aren’t plenty of people who would LOVE to help her out…it’s just that they don’t know about the problem that exists! It’s reminding me so much of Shane Claiborne’s quote: “It’s not that Christians don’t care about the poor; it’s that they don’t know the poor”.

I’m frustrated by the power of the “system” – how it’s so easy to fall into the “this-is-just-how-it-is” mentality. How easy it is for us – no matter WHERE we fall in the social spectrum – to get caught in the rut of how life is and never dream of anything different. It applies for those in the projects just as much, if not more, than for those in the country clubs. To see children simply falling in line with what their parents have exhibited with their lives…and never imagining that there might be something more – something better – for them.

Maybe I’m talking in circles…I don’t know. But I feel like that’s where my mind is right now. There’s a very small part of me that’s overwhelmingly thankful for the parents and the blessings/opportunities that I had growing up. But there’s a bigger part of me right now that’s just so frustrated that I got those blessings while many others didn’t.

God, break the hearts of Your people. Change us. Wake us up. 

“Living wide awake is about realizing that the world needs you to live up to your potential. There are others whose lives and future depend on you stepping up and living big. The better world you keep waiting for needs you to accept your life’s calling and responsibility, and then to create it. The future needs you to dream God-sized dreams; these are the only kind God gets involved in. And if the future needs anything, it is God working through people.” – Erwin McManus 

Monday, August 11, 2008

why I work with the greatest youth group in the world...

So I've been playing in this basketball rec league over the summer...a team I played with a couple of years ago - that is, until this happened in Jan '07...
most people have to look at it for a second before they figure out what's happening...and then this is what it looked like a week later...HA...
I just felt like I needed to share obviously took some time to physically recover from that one. But the mental recovery took even longer. It was the first time in my life that I was scared about getting on the basketball court! But, at long last, I put the b-ball shoes back on this summer - along with some super tight ankle braces!! It's been really fun playing again. I'll probably keep playing this game until my knees finally say they're finished...I may still have a couple of good years left in them. :)
So tonight my team is playing in the league championship game. Now mind you, we typically have a "crowd" of like 4 - 5 people each night (all usually spouses...), so you can imagine the change of atmosphere when 11 of my friends/youth group kids (including sweet John Mark and Riley holding little signs that said "Go Hoops"...ah I love them) show up. And I was somewhat expecting it because I had heard "rumblings" about it...I did NOT, however, know that as soon as I made my first shot, I was going to turn to the sidelines to watch four guys take their shirts off to display this...
hahaha...I mean, the mustaches really took it to a whole other level. So of course, I am a tad shocked but laughing hysterically...
But I mean, seriously...what kids would go to their youth minister's totally unimportant rec league game and go all out like this? Not very many...but I get to know them! They're just awesome...that's all. I get to work with the greatest students - FRIENDS - in the entire world. I'm more convinced of it every day. I love these people.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Simple Life

"Live simply so that others may simply live."

I want to be back in Mexico. Yeah, it was hot and dirty. We stunk and there were flies everywhere. The plumbing was bad and we slept on a cement floor. It just felt right. And not the pat-yourself-on-the-back kind of "right" the this-is-why-we-exist kind of "right". Like we were exactly where we were supposed to be. You could see it in everyone's eyes. I was working alongside my Jesus family - some of my favorite people on the planet - building houses for people who were living in cardboard shacks. And I could just do that for the rest of my time on earth and be just great. 

I've been wondering why I felt that way and a couple of people helped me understand why last night. First of all, because we were experiencing a foretaste of heaven. There was an unbelievable amount of just pure love and service that was infiltrating within our group, out of our group, AND into our group through the people we met there. It was just all around us. You could taste it and smell it. (And the smell of love overpowers the smell of dirt and sweat any day!)

But the other reason is because life was/is so very simple there. For 6 days, all we had to really worry about was eating, sleeping, serving, loving, worshipping, and hanging out...shoot we didn't even have to worry about hygiene! It was such a beautiful escape from our lives here that are just so full of activity and work and debt and business and hair dryers and make-up and "stuff". Sometimes people come back from 3rd world countries and say that they are now so much more appreciative for what they have. Not so much for me. I come back with a frustration and annoyance with all that I have. Frustrated because it's just not right - that the vast majority of the world can live in poverty so a small minority can live in comfort and ease. And then annoyance because my possessions are a major part of my complicated life. I want a more simple life. But how in the world do you do that in a culture like ours? It definitely would take a counter-cultural mindset. But I want to seek that out. When I look at my life, I can so clearly see areas where I have complicated things to the max. I want to start breaking that. And I'm not even sure how to do that, so I welcome your advice if you're reading this! :)

In other news, my flip flop broke at work today. And I wasn't really concerned about it when it happened, but then I realized: I don't have a shoe. So I was basically stranded at my desk, while various co-workers came by and offered their advice on how to repair my flip-flop and my boss gave me a speech on how I should always be checking my apparel before I leave the house so as to ensure that there are no defective items of clothing on me. Nothing was I finally just gave in and stinkin' taped the shoe to my foot. 
So I have to go to Old Navy during my break to buy a new pair of navy flip flops. But do they have navy in a size 10? Of course not! In fact, they don't have ANY normal colors in a size 10, and I'm sorry...I just refuse to buy neon green flip flops. You can only have like one outfit that could possibly match neon green flip flops. So I'm annoyed but I refuse to leave Old Navy without a pair of shoes. So I end up having to buy a pair of $10 sandals that are cute...and I'll wear...but I didn't need. So now I spent $10 on some sandals that I don't need. And I still don't have any navy flip flops.
Living simply...