The Grand Canyon

Long overdue video posts from the road!

Well we made it through the Grand Canyon! It was Jackson and I’s first time to see this big crack in America and it did not disappoint! Between seeing the sights, learning how to communicate and finding ways to bear the heat, we’re learning a lot about America… and ourselves 😁 On the road again, but had to pay homage to the raddest canyon I’ve ever seen!

BraveheART!

Happy March, friends! Here’s a video update from February with some more art news, words of encouragement and a glimpse into my little beach community… it’s one with a whole lot of heART!

May we all have a little more braveheART to share! Being brave isn’t easy, but it’s worth the freedom that comes with it!

reggie june

A few days ago I sat on the opposite side of the street and watched my van rebel against its parking spot, as if to yell “FREEDOM!” and roll backwards onto Pacific Coast Highway. My van has a name, which we’ll get to, but my van’s name is not William Wallace, and so while I can appreciate Wallace’s fight for freedom, freedom is not something I’d like my van to take part in, especially from its parking spot, and even more especially from its parking spot when I’m not inside of it.

I had taken a couple of high schools girls to Encinitas, my favorite beachside town, to get smoothies and talk about whatever might come our way. It’s a longer than necessary drive to get smoothies, but the drive is a sight unlike any other along the California coastline, and I look for any excuse to take a road trip; an affection for the road is something I’d like to pass on to my high school girls.

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We parked on an incline and I noticed my emergency break giving a little, but I assumed once we removed our extra weight from the van it would be fine. That is to say, I noticed a problem… my van was moving when it shouldn’t have been… and I ignored it.

The girls and I sat outside of a cafe across the street, and in between snacking and laughing I looked up and noticed a van that looked just like mine, pulling out of the same parking lot I parked in. It took me the length of time it takes to read “God Bless Johnny Cash” on the back of the similar looking green and tan Volkswagen Vanagon before I felt my heart drop into my stomach, realizing that it was my van pulling out of the parking lot… and I was not in it. I barely had enough time to ask myself who was driving my van when it dawned on me… no one was driving my van. My van had gone rogue.

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I jumped up as if a fire had been lit underneath me and screamed, “OH MY GOD, that’s MY CAR, I’M NOT IN IT, IT’S ROLLING! MY VAN IS ROLLING!” Thank the Lord above my van rolled onto the highway at a time when there were no cars present, and those that approached shortly after her right lane arrival had time to get over and drive around her (yes, my van is a girl). She stopped with her back end sitting in the far right lane of the highway… which is to say, my bedroom was sitting on the far right lane of Pacific Coast Highway in Encinitas, California.

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“My house! Oh God, my house! Please don’t hit my house!” I said to myself, as well as passing cars, as well as Jesus, “Dear God, please,” I prayed and panicked, realizing I might have sounded crazy to anyone walking past or watching as I yelled about my house being hit by traffic. There was a florist outside with a bouquet in her hands and I could hear her yelling, “there’s no one in that car! Who’s driving that thing?” I made it across to the other side of the highway and as fast as I could, unlocked my house, jumped inside and cranked it up. I pulled back into the parking lot, on a very flat surface, put her in park and turned to look at the cafe where the girls sat on the other side of the street, laughing in disbelief, along with anyone else who was sitting outside, including the cook standing in the doorway of the restaurant next door.

The girls ran across the highway to join me and we all laughed as they climbed in, but my heart was racing, almost pounding out of my chest. “I need a second, I need a second to catch my breath and thank Jesus that my house did not get run over.” I took a deep breath and grabbed the steering wheel, “Oh thank you, Jesus,” I said, “thank you, thank you, thank you… that could have been so bad… not just for me, but for other people. Oh, my, God, thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Jesus nodded, as Jesus always does, as if to say, “you’re welcome, kiddo”…

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After catching my breath and saying my prayers, the finger-pointing began… “Reggie June!” I scolded my van quietly, “you could have killed somebody!” Yes, my van is appropriately named Reggie June. She’s named after one of my favorite football players of all time, Reggie White, and one of my favorite ladies of all time, June Carter Cash. Reggie June is a tomboy with a sweet and sassy personality who isn’t afraid to get down in the trenches… and apparently play in traffic. And even though she’s painted green and named after a former Green Bay Packer, she’s a straight up Chicago Bears fan…

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I scolded Reggie quietly because even though it was she who rolled out onto the right lane of Pacific Coast Highway, I knew that it was mostly (if not all) my fault.

It was mostly (if not all) my fault because I noticed a potential problem and I ignored it. I even commented “that makes me a little nervous” when I first set the emergency brake and it started to give way. But instead of addressing what made me nervous, I walked away from it, as if it was going to fix itself. I said “oh well,” instead of taking a little bit longer to park somewhere else a little more stable, a little more flat. To save time, I settled for the possibly of disaster instead of taking longer to find a safe place and a little more stability.

I still can’t shake the sight of sitting on the other side of the street, watching Reggie roll out of her designated parking spot; and if she wasn’t yelling “FREEDOM!,” she was definitely yelling, “I TOLD YOU, I TOLD YOU!!!” I was horrified, as I’m sure Reggie was, having her rear-end exposed to oncoming traffic. Reggie was in a vulnerable spot, and yet I got mad at her for backing out of the parking spot I tried to force her to park in, even though she gave me a fair warning that she wasn’t safe there.

As I watched bobble-head Jesus have a dance party on my dashboard for saving the day, as well as the lives of many (in more than ways than one), I couldn’t help but think about how often I have played that scenario out in other areas of life. How many times have I noticed a problem, or even just a potential problem, and instead of expending the time and energy it takes to fix it, or the very least address it, I’ve either said “oh well,” and ignored it as if I didn’t care, or said “ahhhh, it’ll be fine,” in complete denial that a problem even exists. How many times have I seen a problem, walked the other way and then blamed the problem for becoming a bigger problem?

What’s worse, how many times have I done that with people?

How many times have I either avoided conflict or given up trying to resolve the conflict because it took up too much time or energy? How many times have I ignored someone’s cry for help because it was inconvenient? How many times have I seen the warning signs of potential disaster, especially with men (in my case), and avoided them (the warning signs, not the men)? I don’t want to bore you with statistics so I’ll just sum it up and and round up… A-WHOLE-FREAKING-LOT!

As I scolded Reggie June under my breath, I knew I was scolding her quietly because she didn’t actually deserve to be scolded at all. As long as I could scold her, I didn’t have to own my stupidity in the situation. Scolding her was a form of blame shifting, and since I felt stupid for ignoring the problem, blaming anything other than myself made me feel a little bit better about not being smarter. But let’s face it, feeling better about myself for a moment wasn’t going to fix the problem in the long run. And in the same way ignorance and denial will never solve a problem, conflict will never get resolved if you are attempting to save face by not owning your stuff (in my case, stupidity… or carelessness, if we’re avoiding the S-word) in the situation.

You cannot seek to feel better about yourself as an end result of conflict and expect to find resolve, especially if you care about the person you are in conflict with and you want them to feel cared for.

Feeling less stupid isn’t going to prevent what happened with Reggie from happening again. Not even blaming Reggie for having a defective emergency brake is going to prevent a potential bumper to bedroom disaster from happening again. Addressing the defective emergency brake is what is going to prevent it from happening again, that is to say, addressing the problem. And if I’m honest, nothing within me wants to address the problem. I just want it to work… without the effort. So much time and energy and prayer and money has already gone into Reggie that I don’t want there to be any more work to be done. And even though I wrote about the importance of maintenance in previous posts, I want to erase them all and ignore the problem, because it’s easier, and cheaper… now. But not later.

While it might be frustrating to have to keep working at keeping Reggie in good health, it’s a lot less frustrating than Reggie’s health giving out completely as she spirals backwards into oncoming traffic and my mode of transportation/house/office space is no more. I’d rather it be frustrating now than devastating later… I’d rather buy a new emergency brake than buy a new Reggie.

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And so it is with people, with relationships, with communication, with conflict. It’s so much easier to not work at it, to not try harder, to not fight (if need be), to say “never mind,” “oh well,” “it’ll be fine.” But avoiding conflict is not resolving conflict, and not fighting for the sake of not fighting is still fighting, just with less words, which is what you’re going to need if you want to find resolve, not just the state of not fighting.

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I don’t want to pick or start fights with people I care about, but I do want to be able to fight well with them when a fight is called for. Avoiding a fight isn’t just avoiding a fight, it’s avoiding the person involved in the fight. And so while I don’t want to fight, I also don’t want to be afraid to fight… especially when that person, place, thing or relationship is worth fighting for.

I’m learning a lot about life from Reggie, and a lot about myself in my efforts to take care of Reggie. I’m being exposed to parts of my character I didn’t know were there, and parts of my character I knew were there, but tried to avoid simply because I didn’t like them. Reggie is showing me that the parts of my character I don’t like will never change if I keep ignoring them, or pretend like they aren’t an issue… in fact, they’ll probably get worse.

I think that might be why I am where I am right now… not just in San Diego, but in life. I think I have a few defects of character that the Lord has tried to work on before, but I’ve avoided the work that needed to be done because it seemed too hard, too messy, too time consuming; but avoiding all the work has only gotten me further away from being who the Lord has called me to be, and gotten me further away from being comfortable with who the Lord has called me to be.

It’s funny, I now live in a mode of transportation, and yet I’ve never been more aware of my need to slow down, my need to be still, my need to stop running. It’s in my moving house that I’ve even begun to realize that I not only have a need to be still, but a desire to be still.

Reggie’s a big girl, and she’s thirty years old, which is young in human years but pretty up there in car years, so she’s pretty slow. Perhaps this is another reason God has paired Reggie June and I up, He’s gifted me with the opportunity to do all the moving I want, while slowing down enough to realize that I need, I want, to be still.

That might sound like a contradiction seeing as how I also just stated that I wanted to be able to fight… and I do, well, I don’t really want to fight, but sort of I do. I want to not be afraid of fighting so that I won’t run out on the people I’m avoiding a fight with. For as much as I want relationships to be easy, I want to be even more to be willing to work at them.

Relationships require work. People require work. Cars require work.

And love, love definitely requires work… and that’s okay.

May we all know when it’s time to get down in the trenches and work hard…reggiewhite

and when it’s time to sing and dance and play harder…

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I think life is a good mix of both… kind of like Reggie June…

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the simple life

In less than twenty-fours, after finally getting my van back, I have been… cheered for by street corners full of people (it was as if they knew how long I had been waiting to drive my own home), asked if I sell pot on more than one occasion, extended a marriage proposal, offered a a car-swap, rear-ended at the DMV, nearly T-boned by an old man who blew a stop sign, stalled out on a hill, watched “Cool Runnings” in the street, and fallen asleep to the sound of rain… all while managing to avoid the cops… until last night.

I was parked on top of Rocky Butte when a cop tapped on my window with a flashlight. “You guys smoking pot in here?” He asked. A hippie in a Volkswagen van, I get it, I must be smoking pot. I couldn’t help but laugh as I told him he was more than welcome to search the van. I now have a more accurate understanding of what it is like to be profiled.

I love the simple life… and the not-so simple things that come with it, like the stereotypes and the opinions of other people. It’s not that I love the stereotypes, I don’t, I don’t love that some people think I’m down-grading in life because I’m going to go “live in a van down by the river.” I love that I am learning to be so comfortable in my skin that even if someone makes a judgement call on me, it doesn’t have to wreck me, sending me into a wave of fear that has me driving back to my comfort zone… my comfort zone of being well-liked by everyone.

As I look back and think about some of the loneliest times of my life, they were the times that I was well-liked by everyone. They were lonely times because when everybody likes you, it means no one really knows you, and if no one really knows you, then no one can really love you for who you are… only who you show yourself to be. And when you don’t feel loved for who you really are, you end up feeling really, really alone… even in the largest of crowds of people who love you… or least the you they see.

At thirty-one, not everyone likes me, and not everyone loves what I am doing with my life… but finally, after years of pleasing people more so than God… I am uncomfortably okay with that. And I am okay with being uncomfortable about people not liking me, because it means while I care about people and what they have to say, I can’t let or make their opinions be my God.

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I know living in a van is going to have it’s challenges, it already has and I’ve barely just begun, but it’s in those challenges that I am becoming more aware of my character and the importance of maintenance for the long haul. It’s not enough for me to put all the money I’ve received into the van and expect it to be good from here on out. I have to maintain it’s health… oil changes, tire rotations, check-ups to keep it running. I have to take care of this community-given gift by continuing to take care of it. And I have to do the same for myself. A one-time visit to treatment is helpful to the sick, I know, I’ve been there, but you… I… have to keep taking care of ourselves after walking out of those treatment doors, or that therapist’s office, or memorizing that Scripture. We have to go live out what we talked or read about it, and we have to do it more than once… we have to do it on the daily.

Even though I am incredibly excited about van life, I know this is just the beginning, and the excitement won’t last forever. The van won’t make it to California on one tank of gas, I have to keep filling it, and so it goes with me. I can’t expect the initial excitement of this journey to be enough fuel to keep me going for the rest of the journey. I have to keep getting filled by my Power Source and take care of the mind and body He’s given me, and take care of the me He’s given to the world. We’re all gifts to the world, most of us just don’t know it yet because it takes a lot of work to realize it, and even more so to live it out.

This van is helping me understand the importance of maintenance… the tiring but rewarding work it takes to maintain the abundance of that which you’ve been given… life.

It is also helping me understand the importance of curtains.

I love the simple life, but it can get complicated if you don’t have curtains… blogging is enough exposure for me.

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cabin fever

Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. SO LET IT GROW, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and READY FOR ANYTHING. (James 1:2)

Right on, James, right on. Easier said than done, but right on.

I can’t believe it’s past the middle of September and I’m still in Portland. Good grief, what am I doing!? I’m still waiting on the van to fixed, praying it gets done soon, but at the same time, I’m so tired of waiting that I almost don’t care. That’s not totally true, but it’s hard not to get apathetic in the waiting process. When it comes to trials, I used to think you had to choose to not give up when when things got hard, and I guess since I always gave up when things got hard, I never got to the next phase of having to choose not to give up… the apathetic phase. Having persevered through the tough stuff, I’m now realizing you have to choose not to give up when you don’t feel like waiting anymore, when you feel like you almost don’t care anymore. I feel like that’s what I’m battling… not caring. That and feeling like a burden to a lot of people, and because I don’t want to feel like a burden, I just want to go hide.

But… I’m not going to hide. I may feel like hiding, but I won’t. I won’t pull a Jonah who ran off to hide when the Lord called him to something hard, I’m trying to pull a Noah who kept on building a massive ark to survive a flood, claiming the rains would come even when there was nothing in sight to imply they would. People laughed and mockingly asked when the rains would come, and not even knowing the answer to the question, Noah wavered not in his claim. I feel like Noah in a sense, everyone has the “when will the van be ready?” question and I got nothing except, “I don’t know, but it will be.” The longer it takes, the harder it is to stand firm in that claim, but I stand firm not in that claim but in my Lord.

And I may not know when the van will be ready, but I know the Lord will follow through on His word. Even though the mechanic told me my van would be ready by yesterday, the Lord seems to have had something else to say about it.

My former pessimistic, apathetic self would have been tempted to say “never mind” to whole thing, but my new self knows that I will never learn to endure if each time I am given the chance to say “never mind,” I take it. The beauty of other people having stepped into this story is that it holds me accountable to not give up. I would like to think I would have persevered all on my own effort, but knowing myself, I don’t think I would have. While I am a firm believer in embracing the tough stuff by way of feeling your feelings, I need people in my life who are not only not afraid to let me be sad or disappointed, but who also aren’t afraid to challenge my sadness and disappointment and point me to a God who has got me, even when I feel like He doesn’t.

And so, while I still have no van in my possession, I fully believe the Lord is still busy at work, asking me to trust Him as I wait.

The story continues, it’s just a plot twist. In fact, every time my plans get switched up, instead of yelling “why, God, why!?” I just yell “PLOT TWIST!” For as crazy as it sounds, it’s kind of cool to be in the middle of what feels like a test of faith and not pull the plug. I think most Christians love to talk about those opportunities for our faith to grow, but no one wants to talk about them while smack dab in the middle of them. Perhaps because while we are still in the middle of faith-growing opportunities, there is still the chance we might jump ship. Most of us want to wait until we have safely reached the shore to share a victory story instead of being out at sea sharing a “I can’t see past the storm, we might be stuck, but I think God is good” story.

My storm has calmed, but I’m still on the sea with no sight of land. I think it’s safe for me to say I believe God is good, He’s gotten me through many storms in life, so it’s not the storms that tempt me to doubt God’s goodness… it’s the damn cabin fever, feeling stuck with no way out.

Even with cabin fever, I believe my God is good and I believe there is a reason why I am still here… even if I can’t see it, I believe it, and so I’m not giving up. I’ve been praying for the people who have asked for prayer during my time of waiting. Praying for others helps me to not stay so focused on me and mine, so thank you to those who have asked for prayer… your requests have not been spammed, but brought right before the Lord. Your requests will be carried with me into my van and on my journey WHEN I get my van back.

Until it’s time to “GO VAN GO,” it’s time to…

GROW, ENDURANCE, GROW!

like a boss

Well, today is supposed to be the day I get my Vanagon out of the shop. Perhaps I am writing about it a bit prematurely because I’d like to say “I got my van out of the shop,” as opposed to “I’m supposed to get it out of the shop,” but I’m trying this whole naming and claiming thing. I’m speaking out in faith that even if I don’t get what I hope for in my time frame, my God isn’t neglecting me, but in fact being so, so good to me in His better timing of things.

I tend to be afraid to speak out what I hope for, in fear that if it doesn’t happen, I won’t know how to handle my disappointment, or even how to approach God with disappointment. Maybe I fear God can’t handle my disappointment, and I don’t want Him to be disappointed in me for being disappointed in Him, and so I avoid the whole disappointment fiasco by not expressing any sort of desire, just incase said desire can’t or won’t be met.

I’m tired of living as if God can’t handle my emotions and I’m tired of playing it safe. I’m tired of being fearful to speak out a hope because of what other people might think if it doesn’t happen.

God doesn’t need me or my van getting fixed to prove that He is God and that He is listening to His people and that He is in fact in charge. My plan is to get my van back and head out of Portland tomorrow. I’m learning to hold my plans loosely because He may change them, and to not think He’s brushing me aside if He does.

I’m also learning to speak out in faith without all the answers or the facts, knowing that God can handle my disappointment and plan an adventure and write a story better than I could ever hope to.

This whole process has become one of having to trust the Lord, not just with the van, but with my life. I NEVER would have thought that buying a VW van would so challenge my view of God and reveal so much of my character that needs to be worked on.

For starters, I’m pretty selfish. I want what I want when I want it. God is continuously good to me and many times over He has given me a glimpse of a something or a someone He wants to bless me with, and often times He has said something along the lines of “hold on, don’t reach for it yet, let me make it better.” God wants to not only give me something, but wants to make it better before He gives it to me and I say, “no, I want it now.” I settle for a watered-down version of what God wants for me simply because I want the world and I want it now.

Which leads to my next character defect, I am incredibly impatient. I want the finger-snap answer to prayer as opposed to the long process. Who doesn’t want the finger-snap? It’s much easier and feels much better than a long, tiring and gruesome process of becoming a better version of ourselves. I want to be patient, I want to be selfless, I want to be kind, but I want God to zap me with those things so that it will be easy to be those things. I don’t want to be put in a place of having to practice patience, having to share when I don’t want to, and having to extend kindness when it’s hard. Being kind to someone who is kind to me doesn’t mean I possess kindness and have that to offer people, it just means I am capable of responding to kindness.

And perhaps that is another character defect, I am good at responding to people, but I don’t know how good I am at being good to people. I respond to a hand that asks for help, but I rarely offer my hand first. I respond to someone who shows or tells me they love me, but I rarely offer my love first. I would make a great paramedic, responding to calls all over the place, but I would make a horrible search and rescue, in part because I don’t seek, I just hope to find.

Man, ugly spades are flying all over the place.

I am not very good at seeking the Lord, and yet by some bizarre twist of my makeup, I am just as bad, if not worse, at waiting on the Lord. I find myself in a constant state of Limbo, neither seeking nor waiting, just keeping busy to pass the time and hoping the Lord shows up.

I don’t want to be busy for the sake of not being still, I want to be busy because I’m working hard, which is yet another character defect, I don’t work very hard. I work hard enough to say I worked, but not hard enough to endure when things get hard. I give up easily. When something comes up, I give up and I say I tried. Starting something is not trying, starting something is just that… starting. Trying is continuing what you started, even if you don’t feel as amped about it as you did when you started.

And while maybe I have taken note of these things before, all of these character defects have come to the surface and exposed their ugly roots in my life as a result of going through this whole van process. Yes, I wish it was as simple as being gifted a VW van in perfect condition for crazy cheap and hitting the road as soon as I was ready, but the process has exposed more work that needs to be done, not just in and on the van, but in and on me, that if not worked on could lead to more damage further down the road.

An un-restored me is just as dangerous to the lives of others on the road as an un-restored VW van. We were both born in the eighties, my van and I, we’ve both been through a lot, hold a lot of stories and have a lot of wear and tear as a result of. We both need work. And just as getting the work done on my van couldn’t be done without the helping hands of community, neither could I get through some of life’s obstacles without the helping hands of community.

As much as I hated the list of things the mechanics told me they were working on, I was glad the problems were found. Only in exposing the problems can we get to working on them and function at our best. While the waiting process is long and the work is tough, I know it is for the best. I know that just as those mechanics are getting that van in great shape for me to start a long journey, so the Lord is getting me in great shape to continue on in life’s journey, only making me better with each defect He picks apart and works on.

Lord willing, I get my van back today.

In fact, I’m claiming it now… I get my van back today! I’m writing about it on the unsafe side of the phone call, the side without the answers or the guarantees.

One thing I know for sure, God has been working on my attitude. For someone like me who is easily discouraged, I have found so much hope and joy in the simplest of things, as I have realized that worry really doesn’t add a single hour to my day or a single day to my life.

I have taken hard things, like moving out of my “perfect” home, and instead of avoiding the process or complaining about it, I have learned to enjoy it…

I have let go of hands I didn’t want to let go of with a grateful heart that I ever got to hold those hands in the first place, instead of whining that I couldn’t keep holding on… okay, maybe I whined a little, but I let go with the faith that it was for my good.

Leaps and bounds, my friends, leaps and bounds from where I was.

The road ahead is a long one, I don’t doubt that, but I know I am equipped to take it… it’s just going to be a matter of remembering that I am equipped to take it even when I don’t feel like I am, even when the road gets tougher and possibly longer.

While He may change things up on me from time to time, I know that God Himself does not change, and so I am removing my hope in the external circumstances and placing it in Him who is constantly and consistently Him.

I know He is for me, restoring the damage that has been done and refusing to give on me in the process.

My God handles the restoration business like a boss! In fact, I think I can hear Him now…

“GO VAN GO!”

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waiting it out

The waiting period. The in-between. The unknown.

I am in a state of limbo in what feels like every area of my life. I am currently in the process of moving out of my beloved little cottage in Portland, Oregon, and though it is the cutest of places to be, it’s not home any more, and so I’m there, but I’m not really there. With half of my stuff inside its walls and half of it hauled off to Goodwill, for as cute as my little cottage is, I find myself not wanting to be there. Remaining in a place that is no longer home feels tortuous the longer I stay there. I almost feel like the house is taunting me, “see how cute I am, remember how comfortable I am, everyone else wants to live here, see those ducks, you’ll never find anything as good as me!” While I may be a bit on the weird side, I know I’m not being taunted by my house, but instead of enjoying the last few days there, I find myself wanting to just rip the bandaid off and get out.

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Existing in a state of one foot in and one foot out sucks. And so it goes with my little cottage on the duck pond in Portland… one foot in, one foot out, and I’m not quite sure how well I am handling the tension. Since I know my time there is ending, I want to “just be out,” but I can’t “just be out” if I don’t go through the process of moving out. I think this is true to life in many other instances… we always want to “just be” somewhere with someone having something, but we often don’t want to go through the process it takes to get there. We don’t want to do the work.

Allow me to correct myself, I don’t want to do the work.

Time and time again I have told stories of getting close, but not close enough; of trying hard, but not hard enough. I have too many stories of “almost,” of that one time I almost did this or almost did that.

If you’ve followed any of my blog up to this point, you know that I recently flew back to Portland to pack up my belongings, after which I will head back to San Diego to continue working as an intern at a church for the rest of the school year. And if you’ve followed any of my blog up to this point, you also know that I recently bought a VW van to not only drive back to San Diego, but to live in while I am there, attempting to live what I preach, which is not “live in a van,” but “follow Jesus.”

And fret not if you think following Jesus means living in a van, He’s too creative to tell everyone to do that.

Now that I think about it, perhaps I should take a step back and start even simpler than “follow Jesus,” perhaps I should start with get to know Jesus. Find out who He is before you decide to follow Him, because as you follow Him, you are going to find life to be more beautiful than you ever expected AND more difficult. People leave out the difficult part when telling other people about Jesus. It is often implied that if you follow Jesus, He is going to solve all of your problems and you won’t struggle anymore. I am here to say that since following Jesus, all of my problems have not been solved. I have been helped through many of them and set free in most cases, but not instantly, and not without a struggle. It is in the struggle that I find most people give up. They hit their first roadblock on the Jesus highway that they expected to coast through life on and they say “never mind, I thought it was going to be easier than this.”

I was one of those coasters, more than once, on more than one occasion, essentially saying to Jesus time and time again, “never mind, this is too hard, I’m gonna take a nap or another route and maybe catch up with you later.” Honestly, I think I was one of those coasters up until last week. Sort of. I’ve been clinging to Jesus for a good ten years now, but my patterns seem to repeat themselves. Instead of having ten years of experience following Jesus, I think I have one or two years of experience ten times. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the exaggeration is needed to make the point, that time and time again something gets too hard and I pull out. I pull out, and feel good in the moment that it’s not hard any more, but it’s only a matter of time before regret sets in for not following through, especially once I realize I have to start over, which is much harder than just pushing through the tough stuff.

I am an expert at asking God for forgiveness, not just because I am a sinner in need of a savior, but because I am so well practiced in the act of giving up. Giving up means passing on what God has to offer you and when you pass on what God has to offer you, you find yourself saying “my bad” with more sincerity than Eve with a piece of forbidden fruit in her hand.

A week ago, hours after landing in Portland, I found myself shaking the hand of a man who was selling me a VW van, dropping it form $2500 to $1800 simply because of my reasoning for wanting it. I did not ask him to drop the price, I told him what I believed Jesus had called me to and I think (whether he knew it or not) Jesus told him to drop the price. And while I didn’t even know how to drive stick-shift, nor did I actually have $1800, “something in me” told me to shake the man’s hand and tell him I’d have the money by the following night. Actually, my friend Liz told him we’d have the money by the following night and so I sensed she was trusting the Lord to follow through just as much as I was. Sure enough, hours before going to pick up the van, we had the money in full, some of it loaned, some of it given, much of it drained from everything my bank account had to offer.

I know it sounds like a crazy move, sometimes I still check my phone to see if certain people have called yet to tell me I’m being dumb, but I can’t shake the fact that Jesus asks us to do crazy things all the time, and more often than not we ignore them simply because they are crazy. Or at least I do. I’m not saying go out and buy a car you can’t afford, please hear me say I am saying nothing close to that, I am only saying don’t ignore the crazy just because it’s crazy… at the very least, take it up with the Lord.

The van has been in the shop for the last few days and the waiting period has been tortuous. It’s in the silence of not moving forward that the voices creep in, “give up, this is crazy, you can’t do it, you’ll disappoint people, you’re a let down.” Sitting here writing those voices out, I realize that the voice of God sounds nothing like that. There’s no way I could follow God if I listen to the voices that sound nothing like His.

People have come out of the woodworks to support me and the van and the road God has me on. Honestly, the obstacles have been worth seeing God show up in the most unexpected ways by the most unexpected people. And if that stands true, that the obstacles are worth seeing God show up, then I can’t back out when more obstacles surface, I can’t give up because it gets too hard or I hear a snarky remark from someone who thinks I’m crazy… even irresponsible. People thought Noah was crazy. I think he was too… you’d have to be a certain degree of crazy to say the voice of God told you to build an ark for a flood that was going to wipe out the earth in the middle of a drought.

Why do we seem to think Bible characters are just that… characters… ? They were people just like you and me, struggling to decide whether or not they heard right when the Lord told them to set slaves free, close the mouths of Lions, kill off giants, take on armies ten times their size, knock down walls with the sound of their voices. And just because we live in a day and age or culture that doesn’t look the same as it did back then, it doesn’t mean God doesn’t still show up in the craziest of ways, asking us to do the craziest of things… things that not only seem crazy, but flat out stupid. Perhaps I struggle more with feeling like this whole thing is stupid more so than crazy. Stupid because with everything else that is going on in the world, how could any of this possibly matter?

But… if I believe in a Jesus who cares just as much about the one lost sheep as He does the rest of the flock, then I have to believe it matters simply because He cares about me. I matter to Jesus. He cares about the condition of my heart… and the same goes for you. If I could drive any point home it would be that all of this matters to Jesus because it involves how I view Him, and how I view Him is going to dictate how I live my life, and how I live my life is going to reflect the condition of my heart and it is my heart He is after.

I knew going into this whole process that the van wasn’t the point, and I thought maybe that meant letting go of the whole idea. But I think it is the opposite, I think simply because the van is not the point, I can’t let go of the whole idea. The whole idea is that I’m trusting Jesus on a crazy path… a path that will offer outs along the way and I have to decide whether or not I will press in or bail. I can’t say I’m trusting Jesus on a crazy path and then as soon as it gets hard say “never mind.” I mean, I could, and believe me, my muscle memory tells me to do just that, but I need to exercise a new set of muscles, ones that don’t give up just because something gets hard.

I can’t say thank you enough to the people who have stepped in to help, I couldn’t have made it this far without you, even just in my spirits. I talked with the Volkswagen people this morning who gave me a list of things that need to be worked on, along with a finish date of next Wednesday, and while the price tag on it made my jaw drop, I already have 90% of it covered. The mere fact that other people are responding to my requests for help tells me that I am not the only one God is prompting on the matter, telling me to move forward. I have to listen to those voices that come with each deposit of money that say “get it, guuuurl,” “go do God’s work,” “Jesus shows up every time it looks hopeless.”

Those sound more like the voice of my God than “give up, pull out, this is crazy, this is dumb.”

Get behind me, satan.

I’m writing down every name that has reached out as I thank God for them in prayer and ask that He blesses them and responds to their faith.

I sincerely mean this when I say you can help in more ways than money. Yes, I am still a few hundred dollars away from covering the costs, but you don’t have to give money to help. Honestly, pray, pray, pray… first and foremost that I make it safely back to San Diego. Share the videos I’ve posted, the links, put the word out there so that other people might follow the story the Lord is writing. Share with other people what it looks like to trust God, to see what happens when He shows up, not just in my story, but in yours.

For as crazy as it sounds, I’m learning not to give up on myself in the process of not giving up on this van. Much like myself, the van needs a lot of work, and for as much as I want it to just be fixed (like how I want to just be fixed), I know it is going to be a process. I can’t give up just because the process got hard.

One of the ladies supporting me, whom I’ve never met, had this picture posted on her Facebook timeline and it so perfectly captured the process of this van, but more so the process of life… especially life with Jesus. If you do decide to follow Him, count the costs and brace yourself…

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I have more stick-shift lessons ahead of me, so I am at the very least thankful to have that time to practice, as well as say goodbye to friends instead of rushing in and rushing out.

The waiting period is just as much a part of the process as the highs and lows, and I’m learning how not to give up just because I have to wait. And I’m not sitting idly by while I wait, I’m hustling while I wait, keeping my mind right and my thoughts on Him who is busy at work, even when I can’t see or feel Him working.

And since I’m waiting, I’d like to take action in other ways, I’d like to pray for you. I have plenty of time and a mighty God, so if there is something you’d like prayer for, anything at all, I mean it with all sincerity when I say please email me (jenniejoybarrows@gmail.com) or comment below.

I would love to pray for you while I wait on the Lord, and He would love for you to know that you are not alone.

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get a job, hippie

“Get serious.”

“Get married.”

“Get a job.”

“Get a life.”

Get. Get. Get.

I’m currently trying to figure out how many times Jesus told us to “get” anything. Maybe it was lost in translation, “get this or get that, come follow me,” but what I read most are the words “give this or give that, come follow me.”

Give. Give. Give.

We live in a society that is obsessed with getting, and I’m not at all saying I don’t like getting, I don’t think I would be human if I didn’t, but I do find it awkward to live in a getting-obessed environment when you are trying to follow a giving-obessed man who is so giving that He gave up His own life so that we could be given more life… even if we chose to spend that life getting more and more stuff we can’t take with us. 

That said, the rumors are true… I am following a giving-obessed man down a road that is not only different from the rest of society, but makes that society uncomfortable. 

After an entire summer of working with high-school kids at a church in San Diego, which you can read about in previous posts, I was asked to stay on for the school year. Though I wanted to return to the comforts of my home in Portland, I felt led to stay in the more challenging environment of investing in the lives of other people. San Diego is beautiful, so I’m not complaining about the environment, but when life isn’t all about you, then it certainly gets uncomfortable and challenging, no matter where you are. 

In praying about what my living situation would look like if I stayed, I started the conversation with the Lord about a seemingly impossible seventh-grade dream of mine… living in a Volkswagen. I discovered Janis Joplin in the seventh-grade, along with with The Beatles, Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, and the Volkswagen. I dreamed about growing up to live as free as the hippies without all the drugs, assuming my dream was just a dream since the sixties were over and drugs scared me at that point. 

That dream faded around ninth-grade when I met a boy and my life became all about him. Years down the road when that relationship ended, my life became all about the next relationship, and when there wasn’t a relationship, my life became about whatever other people wanted me to make my life about. I’ve been though more phases in search of an identity than I can count on both hands and one foot, finding contentment in my new identity for a little while, only to feel unfulfilled and not at all like myself. 

Even still, I sometimes find myself asking “who is myself?” But I learned in more recent years that I have been asking the wrong question to the wrong person. Instead of asking myself who I was, I started asking Jesus who He was, slowly feeling more and more like myself as I became more and more aware of Him. 

As I talked to the Lord about a living situation in San Diego, coupled with the desire to do more for other people on a limited budget, the raggedy little brunette seventh-grader in me surfaced her opinion… what about a VW van?

I won’t lie, my heart leapt, but as a thirty-one year old who already quit her salaried job to be an intern at a church, the voices of my past crept in and told me to get serious and grow up. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but in all my conversations with Jesus, at some point it dawned on me that not only was I sick of stifling my personality for the sake of making other people comfortable, He was sick of me stifling who He created me to be for the sake of making other people comfortable. 

The desire to live more simply has been unfolding in the last few years of my life, and even more so since realizing I could actually do more for other people if I lived with less. I’m tired of “getting” for the sake of preserving… getting more to preserve what I have and how people see me is a fear I give much too much power to. So when I decided to cast out the opinions of other people, not the advice and insight, but the opinions, I could see clearly that not only was my dream an option, it was possible.

The longest of stories short, I’m not following a dream, I’m following Jesus, and following Him has resulted in a dream being followed. Yes, I am giving up a lot to follow Him, I am simplifying to the extreme… but I don’t feel like I am losing anything in the process, I mean I am, but I’m not… if anything I feel like I am becoming more and more of who I was created to be. It’s this weird concept of gaining, but not from efforts of getting.

I recently wrote to someone asking for help and the best way I could sum up me living in a van to do youth ministry was this:

I’m not saying this is the direction God asks everyone one to take. My message is not “get rid of your house and move in a van,” my message is “follow Jesus, knowing that following Him looks different for each of us, especially since we are created so differently. Don’t be afraid to ask Him what it looks like for YOU to follow Him just because you’re afraid it might look the same as it what it looks like for me.” I think people are afraid to ask what it looks like to follow Jesus simply because they are afraid of what it MIGHT look like. They forget He knows their hearts and the ways they are wired. Honestly, I’m wired the way in which Jesus is asking me to follow Him.

And I stick to that. Following Jesus looks like me becoming more of who I am, not less. I may have less, much less than what the world says I need, but I’ve never felt more alive. And I think I’m becoming more alive not because I am pursuing a better life now, but because I am pursuing Jesus… a Jesus who cares about that raggedy little brunette seventh-grader in her John Lennon sunglasses, posing in front of Volkswagens. 

I don’t know how long this season will last, I know my time with the high-schoolers is a commitment through the school year and the conversation will be revisited then. I’m making plans and holding them loosely, because I know God likes to shake things up.

To those who have always said I need to “get more”… get serious, get married, get a job (hippie), get a life…

I am serious. I don’t have to be married to be of value. I have a job (thank you), and I’ve never felt more alive than at thirty-one years old, twenty-three pounds heavier than her former anorexic self, a few figures less than her last job, and acting on a faith that forces her to step out and buy a van that she doesn’t know how to drive and can barely afford. I made a faith based choice that I would learn how to drive stick-shift and the rest of the money would turn up. Again, I wasn’t banking on people giving me money, I so fully believed that this was the direction God was asking me to take that even if I didn’t have the resources on my person, I knew He was going to provide. I had to act, not because I had all the pieces, but because I had a faith that said all the pieces would come together if I believed even when I couldn’t see. It is one thing to talk about that kind of faith, and it is a whole different thing to actually act on it. It’s scary.

If you don’t know Jesus and you think I’m crazy, read the Bible.

If you do know Jesus and you think I’m crazy, read the Bible.

That book is crazy. I can’t claim to believe it if I don’t take its crazy seriously.

All of this to say, it wouldn’t be an adventure without obstacles, which is where you can come into the story. After engine work and other car troubles that have surfaced, I almost gave up a couple of times, chalking it all up as too crazy and almost audibly hearing the voices that would be coming down on me. 

I called my boss/friend/brother-from-another-mother, Evan, and asked at what point I should pull out because I’m being irresponsible and at what point I should press in and not give up. He reminded me why I was heading back to San Diego in the first place… “you’re not coming to be become a professional surfer or a sun-bather, you’re coming to invest in the lives of these kids and simply because of that, the enemy is going to do anything he can to stop you. Press in and don’t give up.”

And so I’m not. I’m not giving up. Certainly not yet. The van needs help. It’s in the shop now and I’m still waiting for totals, but what doesn’t go towards covering the work done will go towards gas money to get back to San Diego and continue the work I started with the kids… along with writing the stories God has called me to live and write. 

Yes, I am asking for help, but that is not all. I’m asking you to ask God what it looks like for you to follow Him. It might look like giving time or money to someone or something else… do it, even if it seems crazy. Don’t ignore those little nudges or checks in your spirit, and don’t think following Jesus means you have to give up being who you are. Jesus doesn’t want to suppress your personality or your life, He wants to enhance it. He wants you to live and live well, feeling fully alive as you go, breathing because life is to be lived, not survived. If you are fortunate enough, as I am, to be in a place where survival isn’t your means for living, you are blessed beyond belief already.

If you are in a place where fighting for survival is a way of life, hold on. Please. I may not understand your situation, but I understand the need to hold on, and the lack of desire to keep doing so. 

You don’t have to look far into the archives of this blog to find posts that lack the tone of hope and life that this post has. There were times I wasn’t sure I’d ever have anything happy to write about, accepting my fate as the designated downer who other people looked at when they wanted to feel better about themselves. And while I may be experiencing an extreme amount of joy in this process, I know living in a Volkswagen van isn’t going to be all flowers and rainbows. I will face the hardships as they come while embracing joy in the process. 

So my challenge to you is this… go to paypal.com or clearxchange.com and send money to jenniejoybarrows@gmail.com (or track me down in Portland),

BUT…

Before you do, go get on your knees, or out in the ocean, or in a tree, or however you best connect to God, and before you ask Him what you should do or how you should help, ask Him who He is. Ask Him about Jesus and ask Jesus who He is (there’s this weird three-in-one thing going one that I still don’t get, so don’t worry if you don’t). Even if you already know or already think you know, I think it is always a valid question to be asked multiple times over the course of our lives…

“God, who are you?”

Or if you’re anything like me, “God, who the crap are you!?!?”

He’ll answer. Maybe in that moment, but maybe not. You might end up giving me money, you might not. But if you got to know Jesus a little more in the process, then it was worth asking you for money in the first place… a question that is hard for me to ask, which may be less about an answer for me and more about an answer for you. 

Don’t give up asking if you don’t hear Him right away… and don’t worry, God doesn’t call all of us to live in a van… air pollution would be awful and there would be no where to park. I do not think this is everyone’s call, or even “the call,” this is just what it looks like for me to follow Jesus. 

What does it look like for you

Go ask Him. 

I did… and some twenty-years later I’m going to be driving my VW down to Southern California, experiencing freedom in Christ and life in community. And when people holler at me, “get a job, hippie!” I shall wave my peace sign, smile and proudly holler back… “I got one!”

Thank you, Jesus, for being serious, for being the ultimate example of living what you preach, for giving me life, and a job with these kids in San Diego. 

Now please send money, and help me get there.