"dream great dreams and find the courage to live them"

-erwin mcmanus

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

summer lovin'

It's finally here!

It means afternoons at the park on blankets in the sun.
It means nights in the pool.
It means better moods all-around as seasonal depression says goodbye.
It means the richness of flowers and trees and animals that hid away for the winter.

Beauty.  Warmth.  Fun.
And lots of sweat.

Welcome to summer!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Friday night I curled up on the couch with a great friend and watched an old favorite.  A movie that addresses the power of memory, the hold it has on your thoughts, the strength it takes to work through it.  This movie brings up issues that pervade the minds of many, but are largely unaddressed.

What does it mean to remember well?  To remember rightly?
How do we process negative memory and allow it to positively affect our mindset/lives?
What does it look like to work through a memory in a way that does it justice, without minimizing its importance, also not allowing it to consume you?

Now the real question is... which movie inspired such profound thought?
Raise Your Voice.
Yes, starring Hilary Duff.

It seems a little silly to still have a favorite movie starring a teeny-bopper, yet this movie has always struck me, and I could never pinpoint why.  This weekend I connected the main character's struggle with my own - the desire to remember well yet still not let memory overwhelm you.

I have begun reading The End of Memory by Miroslav Volf, which will hopefully shed some light on answers to these questions.  For now.. they will remain questions.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Sometimes I wonder why I work here.
Then I think about leaving and can't quite bear the thought of it.
Quite the paradox.

But here's the thing.  I can see my time here as awful, as hard, as masochism at its best.  Or as a time to love unconditionally, to be stretched, and to experience redemption.  I can choose to see it as one of these or the other, but it is my choice and I cannot choose both.

On one hand, I get cussed out regularly, I watch girls go into the bathroom after meals to throw up and am nearly powerless to stop them, I hear conversations about how much they hate the place whose primary purpose is to help them, I hear the girls talk about partying and doing drugs together after they leave here, I receive frequent demands that display profound selfishness, and a complete disregard for other.  It's as if I put myself in a position to be trampled on, to be hurt, to be broken.  Masochism?  Perhaps.

On the other hand, there is so much beauty in what happens here.  These teens come here in shambles, hearts torn apart, confused, and misdirected.  When they arrive, we are able to come alongside them, show them Jesus, help reconcile them to their families and to themselves, work through their issues and bring them to wholeness again.  When I hear girls encouraging another not to make the same mistakes that they did, it shows me that there is hope.  When I hear girls say that they've decided to follow God, I see the beauty of redemption so much more clearly.  When girls are preparing to graduate the program and they talk about how hard their transition out of here will be, I see their long-term dedication to change and it brings me joy.

Daily, I see God at work in big ways and small, and I must choose, each day, to dwell on those things rather than on the hard.  Moment by moment.

The key to all of this is in our perception.  We could see crisis as a dangerous deterrent from progress, or we can see it as opportunity for growth.  We can see a meal we don't like as a personal attack from the cook, or we can see it as a way to learn to like something new or be creative with the food that's available.  We can see road construction as a deterrent, an inconvenience, or we can see it as a means of learning patience.  Following someone to a place where I am unsure how to get there could be a reason to be frustrated and impatient, or it can build trust, giving the other person the benefit of the doubt.

The same is true of the food we eat.  There are people who absolutely love sushi, and then there's me who couldn't swallow the seaweed wrap for the life of me.  Some people put mayonnaise on every kind of food they eat, while others cannot stand even the sight of it.  We are all created differently, all have different past experiences that shape who we are, and we all perceive differently.  It's beautiful, really, but those who consistently perceive things in a negative light will lead a miserable life in a dreary, self-centered world that will bring others down with it.

Be aware of how you perceive things.  Find the positive in every circumstance.  Keep an open mind to learning, always asking yourself what you could be gleaning from the situation, instead of finding things wrong with it and dwelling there.

Life is what you make it.  Each circumstance is as positive or negative as you make it.

Though sometimes I think back to this childishly profound Leave it to Beaver quote:
"Sometimes things are just so messed up there's just nothing left to do but cry."

Oi.  I think I just contradicted some of what I just wrote.  But you get the point..

Monday, May 16, 2011


I've heard it said that the average person waits in line for a combined total of 6 months of their lives.  And that's just the time in line.  What about time stuck in traffic jams?  Time waiting for friends to meet up with you?  Waiting for your roommate to get out of the shower?  Waiting for water to boil?

Our lives are consumed, even characterized, by waiting.

Not only has this been the resounding theme of my life, but specifically the last few weeks God has been pounding into me the importance of waiting, of patience, of living NOW, without wishing that it was tomorrow or next month or next year.

This morning in class, Brad taught about the Life of Paul (as he has for several weeks now, and he does an awesome job at it!).  He got to the part of Acts where Paul isn't mentioned at all (chapters 10-13, I think?), and we found that he was back up in Tarsus, his home area, for that entire time.  So for years and years while Peter was having a flourishing ministry, while the church was growing down in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, Paul was stationed completely out of the picture.  It must have been so hard for him to see so much growth and not be a part of it!

But here's the thing - He was exactly where God wanted him, being prepared for exactly what God had for him.
Had he not been away, he wouldn't have carried the depth of humility in the rest of his ministry.

So who am I to ask God why He is making me wait for the things I want in life?  Who am I to ask God why He's not giving me any real direction?

Let us wait upon the Lord.  Wait in anticipation, but live each and every moment as it comes.  God has given us life in abundance now.  Let us live it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

itty bitty reminder.

I realize that my last post was scattered.  A quote that didn't directly relate to the content, and a closer that had nothing to do with anything else either.  It was demonstrative of my state of mind as I wrote it, I suppose.

Today, however, my mind is more clear.
Last weekend was tough, but I was repeatedly reminded of how much I need Jesus.  How dependent I am on Him.  How much I don't have control.  How much more I should trust Him.

This weekend has been hilarious and interesting and all-around a good time off.  A friend got his belly button pierced while waiting for me to talk to a tattoo artist.  Yes, a man got his belly button pierced.  The logic behind it?  "I think it's ridiculous and stupid when girls get theirs pierced, so this is my way of getting back at them!"  Um... what?!

Then.  I got turned down by a tattoo artist who didn't want to do the tattoo that I wanted.  Why?  Well, he said that when I walk around, the cross will be upside-down which is a satanic symbol.  Regardless the fact that when I look at it, it's right-side up, and it's my own reminder of who I am in Christ, he said he wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing that he had put that tattoo on someone's arm and others could perceive it as satanic.

So we went to a different place where the girl was more than willing to do it.  But that guy's persistence, his ferocity in sticking to his convictions.. it was admirable.  He refused to do something that he perceived as wrong.

All this to say... I got a tattoo!  Here it is:
This little cross will be my always and forever reminder of where my identity lies.  He is written on my heart and directs my steps.  He guides my hands and penetrates my thoughts.  He has changed me.  He has redeemed me.  He is an always and forever part of who I am.

So this is my itty bitty visual representation of that.
I'm so glad this finally happened.

I also watched part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tonight - a 90s-era staple, coupled with some fabulous burgers (why oh why do I forget how awful my stomach feels after eating red meat??  I'm dying slowly from the stomach out..)

And then we celebrated a few birthdays.

All in all, a successful day off.

Mission for my "free time" this week:
Figure out a way to renew my Illinois license plate while living out of state without changing the address on my registration to the proper one (out of state) to which all the paperwork needs to be sent, because they won't send it to an out of state address.  I can't change my plates to Missouri without paying a personal property tax on the car (way too expensive).  I can't change them to Wisconsin without buying new plates either, which costs more than I can spend on a little sticker that says I can drive my vehicle for another year.

Superficial update over.

Monday, May 9, 2011


C.S. Lewis once wrote:

"To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."

Has God created me a mourner?  One whose heart is easily torn, who sees brokenness more vividly?  Or am I just more surrounded by it than I ever have been before?

What I do know is that I often hold in sadness and let it all out at one time.  Last week I had a breakdown.  I cried harder than I have in a long time, because of little things that all piled up and then was topped off by my car not starting.  When a brand new car that you bought only a year ago just doesn't start, when it's the biggest financial investment you've ever made and it just... stops working, well that was just too much to handle on top of everything else.

And then something actually big came up and I lost it.  I ended up driving to Green Bay to spend a little time with my family - to heal, to process, to detox.

So put on the full armor of God, for we have an already-defeated foe.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

something new.

I have asthma.
I have a bad knee.
I have legit excuses.

But those excuses have kept me from doing what I've always wanted to do: run.
Goodbye excuses.

This week I am both using my inhaler and strengthening the muscles that I do have in my knee by running.  The road that makes a circle on property is about a quarter mile.  We call it the loop.  So last night I put on my running shoes, take my inhaler, grab my headphones and I'm out the door.  After running one full loop (yay!), I decide to walk a half lap to give my legs and my lungs a break.  Then I walked, then I ran, then I walked, and then I walked.  A grand total of... ONE MILE!
Maybe someday I will have legs like these.
Ones with real muscles in them.
I'm a weakling.

One small step for man, one giant leap for Erin.

After I accomplished my goal for day number one of Project: Runner, I laid in the grass and looked at stars.  Stars that I couldn't see in Chicago.  That I've missed seeing for so long.  Such beauty.

But when I stood up - well, my lungs decided not to work anymore.  So I coughed.  and coughed. and coughed.  Until morning.  I took a look at my inhaler and saw that it had expired last fall.  That means I haven't done any aerobic exercise since fall otherwise I would have used it and noticed that it was expired.  Sad.  Thankfully, I had a new one, which cured the coughing and gave me hope for my Wednesday and Friday runs - they ARE possible!

I've always, always, wanted to do this.  My excuses were always convenient, but I won't let them be anymore.

So tonight I'm on night coverage in one of the wings.  Checking the rooms every 10-15 minutes to make sure girls are in bed, leaves me with plenty of time in between.  Usually I journal or read or do the weekly paperwork.

Tonight, however, I did something that will leave the person who checks cameras laughing.  This girl has a fun job, watching all the footage to make sure nothing sketch happened, and giving consequences if it did happen.  Me, though?  Well, I decided to do pilates in the hallway.  I know that it looks a little funny no matter who does it, but if, like me, you're pretty uncoordinated and pretty unbalanced... well, it makes for quite the show.  Enjoy it, Kamilah :)

Praise report:
One of the Littles became a Christian!!  A seemingly unlikely conversion, it was all the more wonderful as a result.  I nearly tackled her when I found out.  And then we cried together and prayed.  It was beautiful.

God is so faithful.  He works in the little things, even if we don't see it.  God knows what's going on and uses our prayers, our little words of encouragement, our time, our dedication, and our love towards others to bring them to Himself.  All is for the glory of God, right?  Sure is!  Boy oh boy, it has been a God-filled week so far.  I love it and can't wait to see other ways in which God is moving behind the scenes.

(Thanks to the recommendation of a friend...)
Isaiah 43:19 says,
"I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."