People at the Park (1)

Some college friends and I go to a park each Saturday and hang out with any kids who are there. We come and start games of tag, hide and seek or kickball if there’s enough kids. And even if there’s not we make it work. The kids have a ton of fun, we have a ton of fun. We don’t know the kids, or who is going to be at the park each Saturday. But that’s what makes it exciting. (Technically speaking, it’s a ministry I started through the BSM at my school. I was tired of going to the park and seeing kids play on the playground while their  older sibling or parent sat on the bench and texted. Or even just sat in the car and waited for them.)

Anyways, this morning, we pulled up to the park and at the exact same time a white van pulled up next to us. Out comes four preteen boys. God’s funny because, look, I love kids but  preteen boys are definitely my least favorite age group. I sat in my car and had a little inner dialogue with God:

“Them, Marlie.”  God whispered. I instantly shook my head.

“Um. Nope. we play with kids. Those aren’t kids. They’ll just play by themselves and be alright. We’ll find other kids to play with.”

“Marlie. No one else is at the park.”

I looked. No one else was there. I swear I could hear God chuckling. My two friends and I got out of the car and we met up with two other college students. They had left over cupcakes and we were all standing around at the playground. Picture it; five 20-something year olds and four pre-teens all kind of standing around not recognizing each other. My friend walked up to them and offered them cupcakes. Light conversation started about the cost and we assured them it was free. The boys weren’t really standing in the same place but once the words “cupcakes” and “free”  were heard each of them came by and grabbed one. I noticed one was holding a football. Then I spoke up “Hey, guys, I bet we can beat yall in game of football.” 

“Yeah right!” one yelled.

They huddled together and planned our impending demise via two-touch football game.
“They have 3 girls! we’re totally gonna win! yeah! game on let’s do this” they all said. We found an empty space and set up some boundaries. One of the college kids, *Shannon had stayed back to talk to the adult who had driven them here. Once she came back we started playing and about 1/4th of the way through that game Shannon came up to me and whispered:

“These kids are orphans. That guy told me. He works at the ranch that they live at. It’s for kids who don’t have families and are struggling.”

It broke my heart. I’ve been sitting here trying to find another way to say it, but just there is no other way. I got to hang out with some kids who are much much much braver than I am and so very strong. I can’t begin to know what their stories are, but it was such an honor to be apart of their lives even if it was only for an hour on a Saturday morning. They made us laugh with their silly banter.  they gave a few of us nicknames, they got red icing all over their faces from the cupcakes. They out ran us and out jumped us.  They flocked to the male college students,like they were all a band of brothers and asked them questions about college.

They had to leave to go get lunch and when they did the park was empty, on a Saturday afternoon when the weather was perfect. It was obvious, but I said it anyways.

“That’s why we were here. For those guys”  We stood silence for a little bit and decided to head back to campus.

 We walked to the car and I looked at the van before it drove away and saw four hands waving goodbye.

——

This will probably be a series.  I’ll continue writing about my experiences in this ministry and share them and all that God is doing  here.

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Soar

With a heavy backpack and a heavier heart, I was walking to the library to do some homework. I had been on a couple of drives that week, just wanting nothing more than to have a moment of peace. When it wasn’t school, it was family, when it wasn’t family, it was friends, when it wasn’t friends it was my own personal junk. And last semester in particular it was all four at once. In case you were wondering, it’s hard to drive away from your problems; they are there with you in the car. And, then you just have to go back in the first place. That evening in the parking lot en route to the library, I looked up at the sky and saw a flock of birds. Four or five. Flying in that v-formation, it seemed like a flawless dance routine in the sky. They required no practice, music, or communication. They just flew in sync with each other. I continued to watch them and strangely, a wave of peace came over me. I told myself that day that I’d look up at the birds whenever I needed encouragement. Such a weird thing to say but it worked for me. Tonight, I was reading Psalms and happened upon a verse that made me sob. David said “Oh that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert. I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.” (Ps: 55:6-8) I cried because it reminded me of that I day gazed up at the birds. I cried because this guy David felt overwhelmed with fear and anguish, like I did, and looked up at the sky and found hope in watching the birds fly too. I laughed because I could stop calling myself the crazy bird lady. If a guy in the bible can find symbolic hope in the birds, then so can I, gosh darn it. When God calls me home, I’ll gain some killer wings of my own and fly home . Until then, like David said “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Ps 57:1b) Until then, I know that even though I struggle to find the words to pray, the Holy Spirit is translating every tear,  and every thought. I take comfort knowing that God knows more about me, the situation, and why this is happening than I ever will. Though He seems distant, and unmoved I know that is so far from the truth. Until then, I grip to the promise of Jesus’ words on the mount:

 Blessed are those who mourn; for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

—–

Do you hear me?

I try, I cry, but I want to fly

with You on wings

in the clouds, free from

the ruins and broken things

 

Where is the bread?

I’m thirsty, where are you?

was I misled?

 

This life, it takes

after Jekyl and Hyde

 this heart, a hot-air balloon

weighed down and tied

with bags of sand

the chapter closed and

the lines are cut

ascension begins, instant

longing for the security in 

familiarity-faces, places,

the ground.

 

“Look up.” He said.

“Come soar with me,

I see through your mask,

you are oh, so weary.

You can life free.

Sins, hurts, regrets

all vanish, for I paid the penalty.

my love for you is extravagant,

Come soar with me.”

 

 

Drowning in the Mud

I watched  my first scary movie in theaters. Woman in Black. This isn’t about that though…well kind of. It’s about one of the scenes in the movie. I really didn’t catch the plot of the movie, because I was so terrified of some freaky lady popping out at me at any moment, but for some reason harry potter was in this marsh/swamp. It was disgusting. It looked like chunky tar. Well, in the midst of the chunky tar swamp there’s a cross. Harry potter stumbles through the marsh, falling almost all the way in as he made his way to the cross.  Once he got to the cross, He submerged himself and began to look for something…i think hidden treasure? or proof that aliens exist? I don’t know. But he reappeared. completely covered in the gross chunky tar. And I almost gagged. He looked disgusting.

 God is disgusted with sin. Like harry potter in the swamp, we are stumbling around, covered in black tar. The only thing harry potter had to hold on to was the Cross. He would have drowned had the cross not been there….the marsh would have consumed him!  How true is that of us! We have no hope without the Cross! No hope without Jesus. God doesn’t want us to try and clean ourselves, or try and live perfectly before we come to Him. Harry was so covered in marshmud, any attempt of him trying to clean himself would have been futile…and he would have drowned.

 So what are you waiting for? Stop trying to live this life on your own…you will sink. Stop trying to clean yourself before you come before the throne…Jesus died on the cross so that when God sees you He sees perfection…not your sins. Cling to the cross. You will not be consumed.

 

 

 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,

   for his compassions never fail.

 They are new every morning;

   great is your faithfulness.

 

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

Pretzels in Portland

I walked off the plane on the verge of tears, five dollars in my hand and four or five snack-sized bags of pretzels in my pocket. The plane landed in the middle of nowhere (Albuquerque, New Mexico) and our team had an hour until we had to catch our next flight to Portland. Why was I so emotional, why did I have $5 and too many bags of pretzels? Glad you asked. 45 minutes earlier our missions team was boarding the plane to Portland and because it was Southwest Airlines and we were the last group to board the chances of us sitting together was slim to none.

 However, this got me really excited. Last Summer, I spent 10 weeks talking to strangers and some of the best conversations happened. Before my Summer mission trip in Orlando, I was awkward and shy around people I didn’t know. A summer of talking to strangers helped me adjust well to starting conversations that last longer than just small talk. So,sitting on a plane with a stranger? No problem. Also,  before Orlando, I had this idea that a mission trip started and ended at certain times and all the God moments that occurred were going to be in between those two points. Silly me. Sure, the trip might begin and end at a time but someone should never become close-minded to opportunities…divine appointments… that present them self before a trip “begins” or after a trip “ends.” I have quite a few stories of God working outside the human time-frame the Orlando trip had established.

 

With those things in mind,  anticipation was building. My brain was flooding with stereotypical missionary fantasies as we got closer to the plane.  

“What if I end up sitting next to someone, get to present the Gospel and right there on the plane this hardcore atheist accepts Christ?” “I can’t wait to minister to whoever sits next to me.” (translation: I’m going to be exactly what they need today. We’ll talk about this in a moment. But that was seriously where my heart was at)

Our team spread out on the plane. I sat in the middle seat next to a woman who looked to be in her 40s. I said hello and we made small (very small) talk about the seat belts as we struggled to buckle up. She had a big bulk of newspapers in her hand and she looked very intent on reading them. She stopped for a moment and offered me one. It was a strange offer and I was about to decline but figured it could be a tool to start a conversation so I accepted.

I flipped through it and realized it was incredibly boring and so I handed it back to her a few minutes later.

“not really your thing, huh?”

“Not really,” I laughed. A minute or so passed.

“Are you headed to New Mexico?” She asked.

“Portland actually, we have a stop in New Mexico.”

“Oh cool. You visiting family?” She asked.

“No, um, we’re going there for a mission trip.”

“Well, that’s neat. Are you going by yourself?”

“Oh no, I”m with my school.”

And from there we talked about Portland, Mt. Hood, my school, the trip in general. etc. It was about 15 minutes into the flight and I didn’t know if she was a Christian, but I did know she was incredibly sweet, an amazing listener. She asked me what my major was and I told her psychology and she asked me what I wanted to do with it. I love answering this question because its an amazing tie into my story. I tell people that I want to be a christian counselor because counseling has played such a big role in my life. I want to be the counselor that my counselor was for me when I was struggling. I told her this. And she started to ask questions about my life..what I had gone through… and I’d answer them and we’d talk and talk…then she would say “well you said (this), tell me more about that.” At one point, we were talking about why bad things happen to some and not others.

“I know some adults, who have never faced a big trial in their life. And I know people who can’t catch a break. My motto is ‘It’s only by the grace of God, I go’

As I talked to her and told her some of the things that happened in my life, she would say “You learned (this…) didn’t you? I wish I had known that at your age.What a blessing it is for you to understand that at your age.” She really did help me in a lot of ways sort through stuff, and find the ‘silver lining’ in a lot of things.

“My name’s Carol  by the way.” We both laughed because 30 minutes of the plane ride had passed and we hadn’t even introduced ourselves.

“Marlie, nice to meet you.” She was traveling for business. Travels all the time, she said. She has a job with Pharmaceutical sales.

Now, I wish I could remember what led to the next part of our conversation but I can’t. It would  make this a whole lot less weird. But just remember there’s some bit of related conversation that happens before this. We started talking about my dating life. She seemed utterly shocked that I was single and that I didn’t think any guys were interested in me.

“Let me tell you something Marlie. I have a few nephews in college right now. And they would love you. I just know it. They would absolutely love you.” I chuckled and she continued, with great intent.

“No really. Marlie, you’re funny..you’re smart…you’re cute..you got the most beautiful smile.” I felt myself starting to cry…tried to make light of it..but ended up crying anyways. I tried to explain to her why I was crying  but it was like she knew already. Like she had been right where I was before. Her words spoke to my soul. God was speaking right to me through her. I wish I could express how what she was saying was exactly what I needed to hear before Portland. It’s like that moment when you’re building a puzzle and after minutes of frustration and almost giving up, two pieces you weren’t even paying attention to fit together perfectly. That relief. And the fact that this all happened before we even arrived in Portland. Just goes to show how cool our God is.

 We as Christians barge into situations, mission trips especially, with capes around our necks and a big S for Super on our chest. We have it all together. And the people we are going to meet obviously don’t. So we’re going to be exactly what they need at exactly the right moment. Right? Wrong.

 Jesus was exactly what we needed at exactly the right time and he was born in a feeding troft and died a criminals death. Humility. “There is love that came for us. Humbled to a sinner’s cross.” Humility isn’t beating yourself up. Does Jesus ever get in front of a crowd and insult himself? No because the focus isn’t on himself. It’s on His father. That’s humility. “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”  Take off your cape, and your mask, put down all your achievements and Christian check-off lists, pick up the Cross and join in with what God is doing in your home…at your job…at the restaurant you eat at. Anywhere and Everywhere.  Listen and follow God. you might need to be a Carol for someone or you might need to listen to a Carol.

 The plane landed and Carol gave me all the airline bags of pretzels she had asked for.

“Carol. Thank you so much. This conversation has meant more to me than you’ll ever know or than I could express right now.” Carol repeated my words back to me and tears filled my eyes again. The plane had landed and those leaving had to get off.  She took my hand and squeezed it. I felt a crumple of paper. I looked and it was $5. She put her finger to her mouth and said “Shh. Don’t tell anyone. Go buy yourself a sandwich.” The $5 went towards a smoothie and the pretzels were devoured in the airport, but the words she said to me will last forever.

Driving me mad

Remember that popular song by Rascal Flatts called Life is Highway. It came out before I had spent anytime driving on highways. And now that I have spent a some solid time driving on highways, I too, would like to write a song about how Life is a highway. But because I can’t sing and I only know 6 chords on the ukulele, I’ll just blog about it instead.

—-

Road rage: I wouldn’t consider myself an angry person. Most people who know me would agree until they ride with me in the car for any amount of time. Confession time my friends, I have a serious case of road rage. And it’s embarrassing and awful to admit. But let me unpack this further.  My longest drive is to and from college. It takes about 3.5 hours and I need a nap afterwards not because I’m physically exhausted but emotionally exhausted because I spent so much energy being angry at the drivers around me. Now look, I’m not stupid. I don’t flick anyone off or aggressively drive. But, I waste three hours of time where It’s just me and God. I can pray, sing as loud as I want to music, or just talk to myself. I waste that time and energy getting angry at other drivers. While in the car today, I realized something about road rage. No matter what the situation is (a driver cuts us off, is driving too slow, driving too fast, not turning fast enough) the root of our anger comes from a lack of control. I can yell at the semi truck going 50 on a 70mph road all I want, but is that going to make him go faster? Nope. I can not control anyone else’s driving but my own. Next time a bozo is going too slow or switching lanes like it’s going out of style, I can tell myself “Now look, marlie, you can not control his driving. Sure it’d be nice if he would go at least 70. But I can’t make him do that. I can only control how I drive.” And even moreso, I can only control my reactions to situations. That applies in and out of the car.

The best advice my mom has given me and continues to give me is this: “You only have control over one person’s actions and feelings. You.”  Just like in the car,  in my daily life, I get so angry at people (in my head) for not acting the way I want them to, or feeling the way I think they should. And is that anger going to change how they act or feel? Nope, even if I talk to that person and confront them about something, I still literally have no control over how they act or feel. I’ve spent a lot of emotional energy trying to get people to think the way I do, or the feel the same way as I do. But that energy is wasted. And I’m drained by the end of the day, more so than I would have been If I had just focused on who I had control over in the situation.

Accidents: While we are on the topic of cars, let’s talk about accidents. Accidents happen on the road and in relationships all the time. Most car accidents happen because of carelessness or distraction.  I’m not a perfect driver; I get distracted and I can be careless sometimes. And the same goes for every person on the road.  I can’t prevent  the car in front of me from slamming on his brakes. I can only be aware and alert of the people all around me while I obey the traffic laws to the  best of my ability. Romans 12:18 says “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  I think the word drive can be entered where live is and be a good driving advice. “as long as it depends on you, drive at peace with everyone.” You stop at red lights, but that doesn’t mean other people will  You go the speed limit but that doesn’t mean people around you will. Accidents happen because we are human. People get hurt and cars get totaled.  You can obstain from sex until marriage, or not murder people, or forgive those who hurt you: but that doesn’t mean other people will.  You can drive perfectly your whole life and still get in a wreck. Because other people make mistakes. Can you stop people from being careless or distracted by other things? No. Another version says “If it can be done, as much as is possible on your part, live in peace with all men.” We can’t stop accidents from happening, we can’t stop people from hurting us, but we do have control over ourselves and how we respond to those who hurt us. This verse is in a passage that is talking about forgiveness. If someone hurts us, the ball us in our courts now we can hold a grudge; take revenge or let it go. Now living with peace with this person depends on YOU. You’re responsible now. They can’t make you forgive them if they apologize. As long as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

taking things too personal: The real interesting thing about driving is that you could spend 15 minutes behind a driver and not even see the driver in the car. You just see how they drive. There are some instances in the car when I think someone is driving a certain way just to make me angry because I passed them or something. It’s weird I know but, I’ve gotten so worked up sometimes because I think this person is angry with me and so I’m upset. “Oh they sped past me after I past them.” they must think (fill in the blank) about me. When really, I glance over at them and they are just on the phone. Not even paying attention. They weren’t sending non-verbal cues at me they were just driving their car. I get so silly in life too over-reading and over-analyzing people thinking each action someone does is somehow about me. I’ve gotten better (braver) about confronting people when something they do hurts me and 95% of the time I over-analyze it or made up some obscene story about how and why they did that because of something I did. I take things way too personal in life and on the road.

————

So here’s to us,  road and life ragers alike, messed up people in a messed up world; lost and found travelers on our way Home.

Take a deep breath and release the burden of trying to control people. turn the radio up and enjoy the ride of your life.

Much love and peace your way,

Marlie

So am I alone or can you relate? What is your experience with road rage or life rage? Let me know in the comments below.