Archive for June, 2013

Life Lessons From Crazy Town

Friends, it has been a week.

Greg had Impact all week; I taught literacy classes; Luke had his 7th birthday party; two friends had babies; Greg baptized three teens; I had foolishly signed up to make lunch for 80 people at Y.E.S.; my mom came in town; we went out to dinner with new friends; we saw lots of old friends and teens at Impact; we had play dates.  It was nuts.

Oh, and you may have heard that there was a scholarship competition going on during this time.  During the competition, Greg and I joked that this was actually his first grad school course:  Mass Communication.  Even though we hardly got to see each other, we would have impromptu planning sessions by phone:  What about a picture?  It would have to have a link attached…What about a Facebook page?  Maybe Y.E.S. could send out an email.  Maybe so-and-so could tweet about it.  Have you reached out to him?  Have you done your afternoon update?  We’re up a percent.  No, half a percent.  Now, we’re down a percent.  Could we put a link on that church’s Facebook page?  Have you sent your daily email reminder?

Crazy Town.

It felt like we were losing more than we were winning, and that pushed us to keep thinking and brainstorming new ways to reach out, to spread the word.

And yet, that’s not why we won.

My biggest lesson in this whole scholarship brouhaha was that mass communication tools alone can’t take you where you need to go.  We didn’t win because of a picture or a particularly potent post.  We won because we have amazing people in our lives.

We won because my mom and dad beat the bushes just as much as we did.  Also, because of the way they have lived their lives, their friends voted with them, no questions asked.  Even on one of Greg’s posts on the Facebook page he made, a woman we didn’t know commented, “You go Dave Sparrow!”  I’m not sure she ever fully realized that she wasn’t voting for my dad.

We won because Greg’s family supported him 100% and shared with everyone they knew.  Greg’s mom, in particular, talked his cause up to anyone she met.  A high school friend from Murphy messaged him and told him that while she was in the bank, she heard people behind her talking about the contest.  She turned around, and it was Greg’s mom!  At Impact, Glenda took a bunch of fliers and went around passing them out to youth ministers to get them and their teens to vote.

We won because Mr. Rob, the preacher at my parents’ church in Macon, showed Greg’s video in Sunday morning worship and said very sweet things about us, urging the congregation to vote daily.  It appears that they did!

We won because, Jim Yates, the preacher at Radnor, in whose building our church meets, told his congregation about the contest as well.

We won because people like Daphie Sellers and Maria Bunyi took the time not only to share our link, but to write heartfelt pleas begging people to vote.

We won because women from Brentwood Hills Church of Christ, like Leslie Fisher and Jenni Whitefield, and Amy Bowman, voluntarily took up our cause and rounded up votes for us.

We won because our Woodbine teens and our Summerville teens spent their free time at Impact getting votes.  (See also:  the counselor for our Jr. High kids, and several different teens from Greg’s past Workcamp crews.)

We won because Pat Ford…oh, Pat Ford.  We won because he not only shared relentlessly, but helped on the technical side with voting troubleshooting, page maintenance, and basically whatever else we needed.

We won because Bryant Bumpus kept the tweets coming for us.  And so did Jeff Walling, David Skidmore, David Rubio, Zac Smith, and Dave Clayton.

And because family members like Sharon Pogue (and family) and Alan Kirby and Rhonda Gray shared and/or emailed daily reminders to vote.

Because people like Kevin Harris and Rebecca Claypool helped solicit votes daily.

Because Daniel and Jiff Burnell took up our cause wholeheartedly, even though they had a baby during the contest!!

Because Caroline Aly recruited her whole family as active campaigners and at one point got us hundreds of votes by going to Pancake Pantry with an iPad and soliciting votes from people in line.

Because DeRon Rogers is the best cheerleader a team could have.  “THE POWER OF ONE!”

Because Amy Games asked for a daily reminder so that she could share about the vote every single day.

Because Matt Suber shared with his 2,700 friends even though he doesn’t even know Greg.

And Jaima Schutt shared with her 20,000 followers on her blog’s Facebook page.

And Kelsey Eaton voted and solicited votes from the hospital while experiencing a significant health crisis.  Seriously.  There are no words.  Plus, her mom, Nancy, and sister, Lindsey, got in on the action, as well!

Because Viviana Elizalde, Michael and Heidi Peters and Alison Winstead begged multiple times a day for votes and got their families voting.

Because the entire Salley/Brown family got involved:  Larry, Ann, Erica, Tommy, and David shared the link, and Jacob actively campaigned for Greg at Impact!

And also, the Kendall/Steed family:  Penny Kendall, Adrian and Courtney Steed, Joel and Amber Caillouet, and Kayli Kendall all shared Greg’s link.

Because old family friends, like Connie Bedwell and Vickie Rector and Tammy Behel and Whitney Behel Skellie, took the time to post regular reminders.

As did Drea Braddock, Allyson Gaither, Erik Spell, Page McCurry, Kristie Oliver, Nick and Leah Wilson, Jerry and Beverly Bryan, Kari Brooks, Marchelle Cox, Linda Kunkle, Allison Roberts, Doug Wallen, Chris and Lena Lovingood, Audrey Miller, Ron Jones, David Matthews, Jeff Wright, Jeff Carter, Shawn and Holly Duncan, Jonathan Bradley, Kevin and Molly Griggs, Justin Moore, Cortney Seaton, Shana Edinger, Stephanie Strunk, Zack Robinson, Whitney Young, Kari Waltz, Kevin Appleby, Cyndi Albach, and Candi Miller.

As well as former youth groupers like Stephanie Beaudry, Lauren Young, Melissa Price, Vanessa Helbig, Brittni Shannon, Olivia Todd, Olivia Cook, Taylor Dement, C.C. Garland.

C.C. shared from Afghanistan, Penny Kendall and Jesse Mook shared from the Philippines, Dave and Sharon Dement shared from Germany, David and Caryn Henniger shared from Nicaragua, and Keith O’Neal shared from Switzerland.

And there are more.  Oh, so many more.  I keep scrolling through my news feed to try to look to see who all shared, but there are so many posts that I can’t see past a couple days before Facebook gives up and starts showing me highlights from 2013.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’ve left out some wonderful people who were huge helps.  If I didn’t mention you, please let me know because I do want to thank you!  

And I know that you didn’t help us so that I would mention you on a random blog post, but I wanted to write the names down.  I wanted to see them and to think about them.  This list of names includes people from my childhood; dear friends from college; family members from Macon, Murphy, Memphis, Kentucky; our church family at Woodbine; brothers and sisters from Summerville; friends from around the world; and people whom I don’t even know.   I write them because your names represent the lessons I learned during this contest.

I learned about the power of relationships and how we are so connected to each other.  Throughout the contest, we had people voting for us whom we had never met, but who had heard about the contest from several different sources from several different states!

I learned that our friends are a really generous, thoughtful group of people who will spend time and emotional energy on causes from which they will not personally benefit.

But most of all, I learned that the most valuable asset in life is community.  Technology didn’t win this contest.  Desire didn’t win it.  Perseverance didn’t win it.  Our friends and family won it.  Our church won it.

Thank you for showing me how powerful community can be.  And thank you for giving this opportunity to Greg, to our family, and ultimately to our church.  My memory fails me, and words fail me, but please know how deeply grateful I am to all of you.

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“If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You, They’re Not Big Enough”

I’m not going to lie; I like to be comfortable.  I think most people do…but I also don’t think that most people are as terrified by  newness and change as I am.  See, change makes me very uncomfortable.  I like predictability, routine, security.  That’s part of why our drastic move a year and a half ago was so traumatic to me.  I was excited, of course, to begin the ministry that God seemed to really want us to do, but I also mourned the comfortable and beautiful existence that I had worked so hard for eight years to create.  In fact, this blog started as a kind of catharsis for me to work through all my Big Feelings about our new life.

Now, however, a year and a half later, I’m comfortable again.  I love the community we have here through our church, and I love the mission that we all share.  I especially love how that community has woven itself so comfortably into our daily lives.

I love, for example, that the kids and I could come home from a ten day trip and pick up right where we left off at a church community night:

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I loved that as I walked up to the cookout, I knew that I had friends–good friends–waiting there for me.  It was a nice, comfortable feeling.

And yesterday morning, I was so excited to get my first opportunity to teach the literacy class at Y.E.S. that I wrote about here.  My friend and a Y.E.S. intern taught while I was out of town, but now it was my turn:

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Being that it was a new class, I guess I should have been uncomfortable, but since I knew most these kids already and taught them in the same room in which I have so often taught Sunday school, it felt more like coming home than embarking on a new journey.  (It also helps that I’m a language arts nerd and absolutely love discussing phonograms with young kids).

Class went really well, and the kids and I left straight from there to go swimming with Greg and a bunch of middle-schoolers from Y.E.S.  We went to a pool that my kids had never been to, but I had been there several years before on a mission trip to Y.E.S. with our then-youth group.  Going to the pool brought back so many memories, as I looked at the picnic spot where we had had an afternoon devo so many years ago, and remembered how I had been learning to like Hot Cheetos at the time.  Back in the present, I bummed some Hot Cheetos off one of the teens at lunch, and she told me, “Mrs. Kim, I’ve never seen an adult eat these.”

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I watched my kids playing with their Daddy and one of our interns, Antwan.  I watched how comfortable they were with Twan, using him as a human jungle gym, and I remembered all the teens from our past that they’ve had that same kind of relationship with.  Now, they have it again.  We are comfortable.

Maybe my favorite part of the day, though, came in the evening, when I got to take my friend, Viviana, out to celebrate her getting her driver’s permit:

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Regarding the permit itself, all I have to say is that, having been born in the U.S., I had no idea how much work this can take for people.  But even more than that, as Viv and I laughed over dinner, I realized how easy it was to talk with her.  Back in the day, Viv was a teen at Y.E.S. while I volunteered there during college.  Now, she is my friend, and I genuinely enjoy her company.

It’s all very comfortable.

Here is what’s not comfortable right now.

If you are friends with Greg or me on Facebook at all, you know the craziness that has gone on alongside of all this comfort.  Greg was recently named a finalist in a video scholarship competition to win full tuition for his MBA from Lipscomb University in non-profit management.  For his entry, he had to make a video, explaining why he wants this degree.  If you haven’t had a chance to watch it, I highly recommend it:

Our church has lots of dreams and plans for our community, and an MBA would go a long way to equip Greg for those plans.  It goes without saying that without the scholarship, there’s no way we could afford an advanced degree from Lipscomb.

Honestly, grad school itself is a daunting prospect that threatens to bring change to our stable and comfortable lives.  It will make life more uncomfortable, absolutely.  However, it is that same kind of discomfort that came from plunging into ministry at Woodbine, and it is an opportunity that we long for, even though it will bring change.

What makes me even more uncomfortable right now is the means of making this dream of a scholarship become a reality.  See, the contest is decided by popular online vote.  You can vote every day between now and June 20, and you can use every email address you have, according to the official rules.  What that means for us is that we have been begging, badgering, pleading, and pestering everyone we know to please, please, PLEASE vote daily and share the link with all their friends.

To some people, maybe that’s not a huge deal, but I’ve really had to overcome my discomfort with…well, with a lot of things.  With begging, for example.  With putting myself out there.  With appearing–and in fact, being–desperate.  With throwing myself on the mercy and grace of my friends.  With feeling like I’m imposing.  With asking for favors.  I have had to swallow pride I didn’t know I had!  For their part, our friends have come through beautifully, doing much more to help than we had the right to expect.

Also, I am thankful for the past 24 hours, which have reminded me exactly why I’m beating the bushes for Greg to get this scholarship.  The truth is, we love our community, and we want to invest in them.  We can (and will) do that without the scholarship, of course, but it would provide a great opportunity to further our church’s goals.

So, in closing, let me put myself out there, and desperately beg, badger, plead, and pester you to please, PLEASE vote each day for my husband to win this scholarship–and, if possible, share the link with your own communities.  It’s uncomfortable for me to do so, but the most worthwhile things in life usually are.

Click here for the link to vote.

Thank you so much!

1 Corinthians 13, Craft Cabin Version

IMG_9627It’s that time of year for the church world:  time for camps and VBS’s across the land.  Being a youth minister, Greg’s schedule is packed with week-long events such as Workcamp, Impact, and mission trips.  In fact, he’s at Workcamp this week.  In the meantime, the kids and I are attending Camp Canaan, a day camp that my parents’ church has run for over twenty years now.  I have many fond memories of attending Camp Canaan as a camper, volunteering as a counselor, and writing curriculum for it as a college student.  And now, in one of those “I feel old” moments, both my children are attending for the first time.  While they are campers, I have been helping my mom in her legendary (yes, it is, mom) craft cabin.  It’s been so neat to see the amazing group of women that she has assembled over the years to help her with all the wonderful crafts she teaches the children.  It’s very important to her that all of her workers come in with a spiritual focus, so one of the jobs she has given me is to lead a little devo each morning before we all pray together.

For our devo on Tuesday, I had one of my cheesier moments where I re-wrote 1 Corinthians 13 to fit our tasks in the craft cabin.  I wrote it more as a reminder for myself than for the dedicated ladies there; it is always a struggle for me when planning and executing events to remember that the number 1 priority is to show God’s love to the children.  It is so easy for me to get caught up in the jobs themselves and in making sure that all goes smoothly that I miss the main reason I’m there in the first place.  See, it doesn’t matter how smoothly I execute my role if I’m not reflecting the love of God to the kids.  That’s the whole point of camp and VBS!  And as much as we might like to think that kids learn about the love of God from hearing a story or memorizing a verse, I believe wholeheartedly that we truly know God’s love when we experience it from others.  And that’s why I needed to look at 1 Corinthians 13, from the viewpoint of my role in my mom’s craft cabin:

If I give out the same set of instructions 37 times, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 

If I have the gift of painting* and can help children paint anything they want, and if I have the perseverance to wash out every single brush afterward, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I make sure that the kids get all the crafts done and even organize the shelves afterward, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude to the campers, it is not self-seeking, it keeps no record of obnoxiousness or disrespect.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects the campers, always trusts in God, always hopes for the best, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

But where there are painted  crafts, they will fade.  Where there are “God’s eyes,” they will be lost.  Where there are bird feeders, they will probably not last the winter…But what remains when those things are gone is faith, hope, and love.  And the greatest of these is love.

Camp and VBS present great opportunities to get to know kids and pour God’s love into them.  My challenge is to remember that showing love is more important than all my other camp jobs.

What would your 1 Corinthians 13 look like?

 

*I don’t have the gift of painting.  That was a hypothetical.  As I have no crafty gifts, there wasn’t anything to put in that blank.  I can wash out paint brushes, though!

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