Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas in Holly Springs

Matt and I had a great time this Christmas with Matt's family. They are so fun to hang out with... everything from worshiping God to cooking good food to counting baseball cards to playing board games...

We need to see each other more often!
Merry Christmas :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Not to be a downer, but reality just kicked me in the head...

I was clicking through the pictures on my computer of my trip and trying to think about the next thing to post about the adventures we had in Cambodia. I started looking into the faces and eyes of the women in the pictures. The ones in the previous posts... they all have stories...

Their innocence and smiles mask deep pain and exploitation. These women have been raped, beaten, forced to do things that I can't even imagine. Its real... slavery, sexual abuse, depravity of mankind...

Thanks be to God that these individuals are in a safe place and getting the care, love, and healing.

If you have some extra moments, please say some prayers for their hearts, minds and bodies. Look at the pictures... let their eyes speak to you.

Please pray for the women and girls who have yet to find their way to safety and caught in the midst of darkness.

I believe that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. But we need prayer warriors to help and people to wake up to the need to change the way we view our own sexuality and that of others.

There are women and girls in Cambodia in pain.

There are women and girls in Raleigh in pain.

We all need healing.

Will you be a part of helping?

The River Community

Just around the corner for the market in Kampong Chhnang there is a river. We learned that there is an entire community of people who live on the river in floating houses.

Most of these folks are very poor Vietnamese families who couldn't afford land... so they build houses on the water. Very resourceful.

The problem is that there is a lot of pollution now. We watched folks in their boats coming back and forth from the town and walking around carrying goods on large hats on top of their heads. I wonder how you learn to do that and have such wonderful balance???

The stench here left a few things to be desired, but its a bustling place with lots of people around.

More from the New Development Center

We stayed in Kampong Chhnang overnight so that we could spend some additional time with the ladies in the morning.

Emily is amazing with children and hung out with Baby Sam while we were waiting for dinner. Randa has taken in Sam because his parents were too poor to care for him and thought the best option would be throw him in the river... Randa's compassion is contagious! She took him in and has been working with the other ladies at the center to nurse him to health. He was precious.

One thing interesting... They don't use diapers there during the day... basically the babies just hang out on blankets and then when they do their business its in the open or on plastic or over the grass?? Anyways, Emily fed Sam, and as she was handing him back to the other woman to take care of him, he decided to poop everywhere... I'm so glad that I wasn't there to see it!

The next morning we spent time hanging out with the women and attempting to communicate with them. It was a bit challenging because none of them spoke a lick of English. However, the spoke fashion and hair... I got to participate in a fashion show because I was the only one in the group who is the same size as the Khmer people... I tried on the shirts they were making and did a little cat walk for them. They loved it.

Then we went down stairs and my I got my hair straightened and a bit of make up to go with it. After my make over was complete we had to say goodbye and hop in the car to drive to Battambang for our next adventure :)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Isaiah 9:2-7

Its a mystery still in many ways, but hope comes in the midst of pain and Jesus' birth brings us a promise of a new way of life through a savior, a vulnerable baby... who calls to us to follow him...

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness --
on them light has shined.
[3] You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
[4] For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
[5] For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
[6] For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
[7] His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Spiritual Gangster

On Saturday Jenn gave me a cool little trinket that says "She wants to be a spiritual gangster". I think that I am going to use this is my new mantra!

This is a semi break from the Cambodia blog for prayer request and update on the life of spiritual gangster here in Raleigh.

We just found out today that Nit (photo here) needs prayer. She traveled with us from Kampong Chhnang all the way to Anlong Veng to the orphanage. Her mom had offered to sell her to Ronda and although Ronda refused to pay, she gave her custody. We'll today her mom decided that she wanted her back. Nit is in danger of being trafficked into sex slavery. Please pray for her safety and for her mom to decide to take her back where she will be loved and cared for.

I put the picture of these beautiful flowers because they are the hope in the midst of the storm.

As you may know, part of our work here with Jubilee is also to reach out to the Foxy Lady here in Raleigh. We took a step of faith and went in on Saturday to hang out for a few hours. This extremely awkward encounter paid off in a few new relationships. Its hard to enter people's pain and I don't want to broadcast others' issues on the internet, but I would ask for your prayer and also praise God that the process and consistency is worth it.

If you know me very well, I have contemplated stopping our outreach several times over the past year because I didn't think we were getting any where... patience, consistency, time, trust... okay, I think am starting to get it.

So much fun being a Spiritual Gangster!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kampong Chhnang

We finally made it to my favorite destination of the entire trip. The New Development Center... This the home for women who have been in prostitution and/or sex slavery in Cambodia. The Center has capacity to help 90 women for one year stints. It is a beautiful compound full of areas for relaxing, learning, living, praising God, and also a guard stand decked with an AKA 47.

The women there are so precious and fun!

First we went into the "city" because several people wanted to by sim cards for their phones. Unfortunately, if you don't have an iPhone its hard to connect across the world so those attempts were slightly unsuccessful.

Ronda met up with a few of the women to go shopping for our dinner meal in the market and we headed out to the river area. (This will be a separate post).

We got a tour of the center and met some of the instructors. We learned that they currently do not have an English teacher. This is one of their biggest needs... someone to go and stay for an extended period of time and teach ESL... any takers??

The program includes a sowing school and a cosmetology school. They make school uniforms, traditional dresses, shirts and do awesome hair and make up. Although we couldn't speak to each other because of the language barrier we were able to speak "beauty". Several of the girls got a hold of me and straightened my hair. It was such a treat. You may also notice in some of the photos that my eye brows are a bit darker than normal... I got a bit of heavy make up on the eye are completed as well :) It lasted for a few days...

A few things to note about the center: The women learn about Jesus and have help with healing through their trauma through God's power, but currently they do not have any counseling to help with overcoming the abuse. I'm amazed at their resiliency and willingness to learn a trade and desire to interact with strange Americans. They can sure put on a happy face. But, what I have learned is that in the Khmer culture people don't really talk about their problems. Ronda may be the only one who gets their story... they need safe spaces to experience grace and healing.

One of the things I am working on is getting them the Hands that Heal Training. Its an international curriculum for survivors of sex trafficking. I am hopeful for more depth of healing to occur for years to come. Please pray for those doors to open and those dots to connect.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Truck Stops on the Cambodian High Way??

Our van was loaded with a variety of soft drinks and waters for us to enjoy as we made our trek around the Tonle Sap. One of them was called "Green Mate"... I decided to try it, YUCK! It tasted like a mix of cotton candy, sugar and melon juice... needless to say I had to pour it out when we arrived at our first potty break.

Before leaving we were warned that places to stop to use the restroom were few and far between. So, I didn't have my hopes up very high. The first place we stopped was something similar to a bus stop. There was an open air shop for food and beverage and then a row of urinals... outside... no doors... just against a wall... Oh, the joys of being a man!

Thankfully the women's rooms had doors on them, but they were what one might describe as a "squatty potty". I think I coined that term while were on the trip. It is basically a toilet in the ground. It is still white and clean, but you stand on either side and squat down. Then you dip a scooper from a pot of water and pour that over your excrement and it washes down the hole... squatty potties... I don't miss those.

Then, back in the van and on to visit where Transform Asia is in process of constructing a University. This University is going to be for humanities training, a school for doctors and nurses and medical clinic. The humanities department will serve to train up pastors and leaders for the Khmer people and the clinic and doctors will be a huge blessing to many in the immediate area and also throughout the country once they complete their schooling.

The site right now only consists of a small farm of sweet potatoes and a cleared off field, to make sure there are no land mines around. We walked the grounds and heard about the vision. Todd was most stoked about being involved with helping them to construct this complex and is working with them to form a committee for planning and development. We each found our niche. Its pretty cool to see the sparks flying uniquely amongst us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Eating Adventures

*First, I have to make a disclaimer that I don't have all the photos that I want to share because my photography skills leave much to be desired. I can't wait until I receive the pictures from my traveling companions considering that the St. Johns snapped 900 + and I ended up with a meager 114. I'll add them as the come in...

So, after the church gathering we headed out to lunch. As a group we decided that Ronda would order for us at our lunches and dinners and we would all share the delicious cuisine laid before us. From the conversations I had with the St. Johns prior to leaving I thought we were going to have a subsistence diet of rice and beans for every meal, but this was far from the case, we ate very well and I am even now inspired to cook more asian food because it is so awesome.

The first thing I discovered is fish sauce. I'm not exactly sure what goes into it, but wikipedia says, "Fish sauce is a condiment that is derived from fish that have been allowed to ferment."... not appetizing?? Well, its served at every restaurant with chilies and garlic. You can use it as a dipping sauce or to pour over your rice. I decided to try it and loved it. It has a flavor similar to soy sauce but is lighter in color and a little bit less runny. If you ever see it on a menu don't let it scare you. I have definitely shied away from fish sauce descriptions before, but now I am a new woman, bring on the fish sauce :)

Steamed White rice is the staple of the Khmer diet for sure. We had it at least 2x a day and could have as much as we wanted. The waiters would come with a steaming bowl and keep scooping it onto your plate whenever you took a break from eating. At this point I was still a little sketched out my the meat selection, but am trying to go with everything. Just focus on the conversation and don't worry about the sanitation... okay, okay, okay... it worked for the most part!

During lunch we chatted about life with Ronda and she has some pretty freaking awesome stories. I asked her how she came to know Jesus. She met him in the Refugee camp while trying to learn English....

You see, when Ronda was 16 she had to flee Cambodia because of the Khmer Rouge genocide. Her father and much of her family were murdered and spent weeks in the jungle dodging mines on her way to Thailand to find safety. While in the Refugee camp she desperately wanted to learn English, but all of the places they were teaching it kicked her out, all of them except for the Christians... so, she learned english through the use of the holy scriptures. These spoke to her heart and she came to start following Christ. The way she told the story was a beautiful picture of God grabbing her heart when she wasn't even looking for it, but in a way that was clear and sweet... Ronda's passion for Jesus still oozes from her every pore.

After lunch we packed into the big blue van and were off to Kampong Chhnang... no, not the same blue van as we have, but VERY similar!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Sunday Morning Worship Gathering

I was way pumped about attending Transform Asia's church service because somehow I thought I was going to be able to mystically connect via the Holy Spirit with their inner thoughts and prayers. Well, it didn't quite happen as I had imagined...

Don't get me wrong I enjoyed and am excited to see so many young people praising Jesus, but I just didn't get the miraculous warm fuzzies I was expecting.

The coolest thing to me was how many young people are leading this church community. It doesn't come as a big surprise considering that the majority of the Khmer population is under 30, but to see them leading worship and teaching the sermon in a room of mixed ages was inspiring.

One of the convictions I walked away with from this trip is that really, in order for Cambodia to change, this generation and then next one to come are going to have to work hard and with God's power to shift the direction of an entire culture. I got a glimpse of that happening through this church that we had the privilege to be a part of for a short time.

The gathering was quite familiar to me... rock band, drummer, electric guitar, base, tambourines, a worship leader with a tight leather jacket and all of them had super trendy hair cuts. I wonder if they read Rob Bell and Donald Miller too?

Anyways, then an older guy got up and start talking. I realized he was reading a passage of scripture. He read the entire chapter of 1 Kings 18. This was their text for the day. It seemed like it took him 20 minutes to read it, how could people be paying attention, I thought? Oh yeah, they understand what he was saying... it actually probably only lasted 5 minutes.

After the younger pastor got up to teach, I read the scriptures in English. These words reminded me of my trip to Israel, I actually got to visit Mount Carmel and we reenacted the scene with the prophets of Baal. That is something I will never forget!

So, I got to thinking... there are so many visible idols and false gods in Cambodia (almost every hotel and restaurant has an alter to Buddha or another god). What was the pastor saying? Is this story more applicable to them? What are the people here thinking when they hear this? Are there people in this room that used to worship false gods actively? What type of conviction do they experience?

Then, I thought... do they have it better than we do in the West? Their false gods are actually other named religions, we have false gods the are masked as beauty or riches and accepted by our culture and not outright worshiped, but worshiped... Do we even know how much we need this story?

These are just a few of the questions that are rolling around as I encounter a seemingly extremely different yet eerily familiar culture on the other half of the world.

Just the beginning

Welcome to my Cambodia trip musings. I am going to share a series of stories and pictures from my recent trip to Kampuchea (the "real" name for Cambodia). The french named the country Cambodia when the colonized it, but the Khmer people still call the country Kampuchea.

Jacky, Todd, Emily & myself arrived at the airport around 4AM on Fri, Dec. 4th to prepare for our journey across the international dateline. After about 30 hours we arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital city. When we rolled in Saturday night I made the comment to our Khmer friend Ronda that the city seemed quiet, she laughed... I later found out why...

We pulled up to our hotel and checked into our rooms for the night. Emily and I were still wide awake and decided to break cardinal rule #1 (via Matt Rowe)... lets just walk down the street near our hotel and check to see if there is a bar or something? We made it about 10 feet outside of the hotel lobby and quickly turned around. Phnom Penh is one of the creepiest, darkest cities I have ever been to. Safely back in the hotel Emily decided to take a shower and all I could hear was, "This is so stupid"??? What?

I was confused, but their bathrooms are set up WAY different from ours. There is no separation between the shower and the rest of the room, it all kind of flows together, no shower curtain, no lip to stop the water, just water water everywhere...

After finally catching some sleep we woke up and headed for breakfast. There was a nice buffet in our hotel, stacked with soup, noodles, rice, stewed veggies??? oh good, some eggs and toast too :)

We also were introduced to dragon fruit. kind of like a kiwi, but not as tart.

Then, fully caffeinated, we walked around the block with our full group in completely day light, so no fear or danger... I realized why Ronda laughed when I said the city seemed quiet. There are about 4 million people who live in Phnom Penh and they all drive little moto's about 10-20 deep on narrow two lane roads. An occasional car or bus will honk and whip around them.

Carts full of fruit and other items are spilling out onto the street everywhere. Once we made it back to the hotel our driver picked us up and took us to Transform Asia's church service. I didn't know that my experience with Phnom Penh was much less than complete, but those stories will wait for our final 2 days when we returned from the country side.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Trafficking is REAL

A couple of friends and myself are going to Cambodia in Dec. to work with an organization that is helping to combat human trafficking. I am looking forward to this experience and know I will be changed and shaped by it. However, we don't have to go across the world to find this heinous crime.

What will you do to make a difference?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We Build People

When I taught at NCSU one of my students was heavily invested at the YMCA and did her call to action speech on "We Build People". She is one of the only students that I continue to have a relationship with outside of the classroom. Now she and her husband are on staff with the Navigators.

Anyways, when I heard about the summer camps, after school programs, mentorship, etc. that the YMCA provides I was intrigued... but hadn't thought about it much until we joined the Y and now have close friends who work there. This year Matt and I get to be a part of the We Build People Campaign.


Us getting involved with this effort coincided with a reminder to us of why this program and the opportunities that the financial support from this campaign provides is so important. We are friends with a family who could greatly benefit from having a consistent positive place to go in their lives. Just knowing that some of the children in this family were a part of this program would give me a bit of peace.

If you have read my blog much over the past year, you know that I have a deep love for the community aspect at the Alexander Family Branch. The We Build People Campaign is another aspect that will help impact our community in Raleigh.

I urge you to consider giving to this campaign! All you have to do is click here. By doing this you will make a difference in someone's life.

I challenge you to give today!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fun Theory

Something fun that my dad just sent me... it made me smile :) I needed this today.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

EDA Group News

As you know a few of us started a branch of Eating Disorders Anonymous about 8 months ago. We have been meeting every other week discussing recovery, our issues, and helping one another take steps towards holistic- free living. I'm glad to be a part of this group and am excited about our next several month focus.

Starting on Monday, Nov. 9th at 7PM we are going to begin "Finding Balance With Food" which is linked to the group Finding Balance. This 12 week curriculum will help us walk together to live life "outside the thin cage" in more ways than one. There are mid week projects, discussion questions, reflection times, videos etc.

If you have been contemplating coming to this group or know of someone who might benefit from working through some of these issues, please encourage them to come... if you don't know if this study is appropriate for you please consider the following questions:

Y / N Is food something that you enjoy, without feeling guilty later?

Y / N Do you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full?

Y / N Are you able to recognize feelings of hunger and fullness?

Y / N Do you eat three regular-size or six smaller-size meals each day?

Y / N Do you select foods based upon how they’ll benefit your body?

Y / N Do you like to get out and be active, not because you should, but because you want to?

Y / N (If married) Are you able to be intimate with your spouse without worrying about how your body


Y / N Can you take a compliment without thinking there must be some hidden meaning behind it?

Y / N Do you feel like you’re taking good care of the body God gave you?

Y / N Do you have time and energy to pursue a deeper relationship with God?

Y / N Are you able to engage freely in relationships with others on a frequent basis?

Y / N Can you go more than two hours without thinking about food?

Y / N Can you get ready in the morning without beating yourself up about how tight your pants feel, or

worrying that everyone is going to notice how big your stomach, thighs or butt looks?

Y / N Can you look at another person without comparing the size of their body to your own?

Y / N Do you believe that your value is NOT dependent on your appearance or achievements?

If you’ve answered ‘no’ to three or more of these questions, it’s time to admit the truth: you are out of

balance when it comes to eating, weight and body image.

I definitely need to be a part of this group and welcome you to do the same, all you have to do is show up. We meet at Visio Dei Church.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My current prayer

This is beautiful... I am praying this for myself today...

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others.

A prayer of Mother Teresa

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where is my hope?

Praise the Lord!

Let all that I am praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord as long as I live.
I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath.

Don't put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.
When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them.

But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is the Lord their God.
He made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them.
He keeps every promise forever.
He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry.
The Lord frees the prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down.
The Lord loves the godly.

The Lord protects the foreigners among us.
He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.

The Lord will reign forever.
He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations.

Praise the Lord.

Why do we (at least me) so often put our hope in powerful people or think that we can do things on our own??

Jesus is worth trusting. I will follow him today.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Anything but Ordinary

This is the song that I have been listening to for the past 2 weeks, I think it speaks to the best and worst of me...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Press Release-- Please Pass Along


Breakfast for Dinner and a Movie Fundraiser

Raleigh, NC—Jubilee, a local volunteer abolitionist group, will host "Breakfast for Dinner and a Movie”, a fundraiser to be held on Mon. Sept. 21st, 2009 from 6-8pm, at Visio Dei Church in Raleigh (524 E. Whitaker Mill Road, near the Five Points area).

Breakfast foods will be served buffet style from 6-8PM with a showing of “The Playground” documentary beginning at 7:30pm. This 85 min documentary compellingly details the state of sex trafficking in the US. We hope to raise awareness about local sex trafficking as well as funds to combat the demand side of sexual exploitation. The meal is free with a suggested donation of $7.

The funds raised will support Stop Child Trafficking Now, an organization working to stop child sex trafficking in the US. They seek to end demand by supporting special operative teams who will work to secure convictions for those trafficking and buying sex from children.

In the past, Jubilee has also hosted David Batstone of the Not For Sale Campaign, Dana Vaughn-Mgunda of the Carolina Women's Center and Kimberly Smith of Make Way Partners. Jubilee members believe that the faith community has an important call to promote justice and extend compassion, including in the realm of human trafficking. Jubilee does operate from a Christian faith-based perspective; however, people of all faiths/no faith are most welcome to attend this fundraiser and documentary


Traci Rowe

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Selfish Ambition

Recently, I've had the privilege to contemplate prayer, what its about and how to listen to God.
I am also noticing and enjoying deeper relationships with people inside and outside of our community of faith.
And personally attempting to maintain my practice of reflecting on the lectionary scriptures for the week.

Here are a couple of excerpts from what many faith communities will be reading this weekend:

Ps 19: 12-14
How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from my hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don't let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

James 3: 13-18 (actually this is after the scheduled verses, but what I accidently read)
If you are wise and understand God's ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don't cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and evil of every kind.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows not favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

Mark 8:32-35 (about the disciples and Jesus)
They didn't understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, "What were you discussing out on the road?" But they didn't answer, because they had ben arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and sad, "Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else."

Last night I was praying for a multitude of things and pride kept coming to mind, my own pride for one and comparison, etc. But also how we are riddled with this temptation to puff ourselves up and to me pride and insecurity are so tied together. I see this coming out in the scriptures this week and was confirmed (I believe the Holy Spirit is speaking to me, weird I know), but this is something that we should be aware of, not afraid to deal with and longing to break.

Consider where our health care system could be if many let of selfish ambition... (on both sides)
Consider where our churches could be if we lead and followed with humility...
Consider where our friendships could be if we weren't afraid or insecure...
Consider where our families could be if we worked through peace making and served one another in love...
Consider where our mental and spiritual health could be if we asked God to search us and keep us from unknown and known sinful patterns...

I say all of these things because I play a part in contributing to cycles of pride and insecurity, but know that God wants to break into that and it is possible.

Lets pray for a breaking of selfish ambition in our world, starting with ourselves, moving to those we are closest with and then out from there...

Oh, the possibilities :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lets Celebrate our Hard Work!

We clean up pretty nice after getting our digestive tracts back in order and our fluids replenished! We went out the board walk for a night of fun and relaxation.

I forgot to mention that Matt crossed the finish line as well. Its impressive that he ran in all those clothes isn't it?!?

We had a little bit of romantic beach time and lots of fond memories of fun cheer moves.... Then onto the RAVEN a local favorite for sea food. The crab legs were totally the favorite of the meal, in more ways that one. At the RAVEN we met Ricki & Bobbi (twins who worked in the gift shop). They were really nice and even let Nicole borrow a sweatshirt to wear while we ate because our table was directly under an air vent.

Unfortunately, they were running out food and we didn't get our onion rings, but JD (our server) would randomly run by and drop yummy goodness on our table, everything from oyster crackers, to bread, to fries, water, and a few shot glasses. Then out came the main course. It was delish!

Onto the concert with more backflip reenactments and laughter were shared. My favorite quote of the weekend was "I love how they have all of these animal statues everywhere. They are great for photo ops!" (Guess who? TRR)

First Half Marathon

We just got back tonight from the Rock n Roll Half Marathon at VA Beach. Thanks Nicole for inviting me to do this with you! I had a blast. This post, is just about the race, more to come about the experience surrounding it...

A big THANK YOU goes out to Matt for driving us around, getting up at 5AM to drop us off and cheering us on while we were on our last legs (literally).

We walked several blocks to the start line where we searched out bananas and port o potties and then lined up in corral 12 to wait. You know how much I love to wait, but we were glad that we weren't that far back in line because I thought I had changed my corral number the day before. Little did I know that I needed the little green sticker with the number on it... we got pushed back to corral #22... more waiting :) This actually turned out to be a good thing, but I was a little put off by having to move.

After the Elite runners took off we slowly moved forward while doing the wave every once in a while. Then it was our turn... 7:36AM ... off we went.

Something happens to me at races where I get this adrenaline rush and just take off... I realized after the first mile that I was going faster than I expected to, but thought I would even out later on... no so much, the competitive side came out and I started thinking, I can keep this up... maybe? The bands, cheerleaders and race atmosphere kept me going, not to mention a little Silver on the iPod and a few worship songs as well.

We saw Matt around mile 11 and 12 (thus the photos). I ran over to him to try to give him a kiss and he wasn't quite sure what I was doing, thought I was trying to whisper something in his ear, and not to mention I was kind of disgusting, but I got my kiss at mile 11 and kept trucking to the end.

After I crossed the finish line I thought I was going to pass out, the adrenaline was gone and all I wanted was water and a bathroom, but I had to wait to find Matt and Nicole amongst the crowds of thousands... this was the hardest part of the entire day. Everyone else seemed to be only concerned about getting their free beer... some how I couldn't fathom drinking a beer... there were even people drinking in route... has anyone heard of alcohol being an athletic beverage before?

We eventually found each other at the "R" for Royal and Rowe and headed back to the car, relaxation, shower and naps... Later on in the evening we went back out to celebrate. Those pictures and stories are still to come.

Click here to see my results, not bad for my first time :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Pretending to be a Princess

Periodically my mom sends me devotional excerpts, today this is a portion of what she sent... I'm sitting in Third Place and laughed out-loud... maybe its because I identify so much with this little girl?

"Friend To Friend
My 6-year-old daughter Carolyn and I had a busy day planned. I was getting ready while she played. When it came time to do her hair, she appeared - dressed in jewelry, pink sunglasses and a pink purse.

Now this might seem like normal, cute behavior for most 6-year-old girls, but I can count on one hand the number of times my daughter has voluntarily dressed up in pink anything. She has never been interested in princesses and pretty dresses and would rather wield a light saber than a princess wand. After seeing her dressed up, I picked my jaw up off the floor and we had this conversation:

Me: You look beautiful. Are you a rock star?

Carolyn: No, I'm a princess!

Me: Are you going to a ball?

Carolyn: Actually, I'm just pretending to be a princess. I need to trick the castle guard, so I can break into the castle and kill the evil king and rescue the real princess."

Now, that wasn't the end, there was actually a lot more to it about adventure with God and not attempting to fit into any mold that we or society or the church creates for us, but in seeking out a life of freedom, risk and authenticity to who we are created to be.

Whether you feel created to be princesses, a dragon slayer or something in between.... seek the adventure! Its worth it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Cling to the ONE who gives strength

This passage comes from Psalm 62, written centuries ago, but speaking volumes into our need to cling to God, not just in difficulty, but for identity, purpose, power and meaning.

v. 5-8
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all time, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

I love the part about pouring our hearts out before him... God really cares about us, wants to strengthen us and offer us healing and restoration for the hurt places in our personal lives and in the hurting relationships we may have with others. Its worth it to pour out our hearts and receive the peaceful refuge for our souls.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I thought Matt was the one getting older today?

Today I had 2 experiences where I thought to myself, really?

1) Matt and I went to eat at Amedeos. Its an Italian restaurant near NCSU that we like a lot. I ordered a glass of Pino Grigio and was NOT carded. The boy serving me looked like he was probably a freshman to me...

2) I went to Harris Teeter at Cameron Village and bought some Bud Light to take the Tailgate on Thursday (GO PACK!)... once again I was not carded. Now, this one wouldn't have been as big of a deal, but the cashier has to by pass checking my ID on the computer.

So, my observation... I often am told that I look really young for my age (28), and often do get carded, but today something must have been oozing sophistication or getting older... what is that all about?

Also, I would have thought that being near a college campus they would be more careful about who they carded... maybe I look so past college age that isn't an issue? Not sure!

Oh well, I am embracing who I am. Young to some, Not worth Carding to others... Matt is still older than me anyways!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A potential experiment

Matt's birthday is coming up on Sunday so it is his "Birthday Week" this week. During this week I try to go out of my way to be a little more selfless and considerate of him and am excited that we get to celebrate with a Beer Tasting at the Melting Pot tonight. Fun Times.

Well, Last night we went to Pei Wei for supper (my parents have given us several gift cards upwards of $150 worth to this place) so whenever we don't want to spend money that is where we go. I always get the same thing, Matt tries new things each time. We only have $25 left on gift cards... so probably one more time there...

Anyways we had some great conversation about our marriage. We don't spend that much time analyzing each other on a regular basis because we are generally very happy and love being married. But, there were a couple things that had us talking... anyways, I told Matt that I feel cherished by him because of the way he treats me... like he looks at me like I'm the best and hottest thing in the world and often can't keep his hands off of me. Sometimes I act annoyed by this, but in reality, I feel so very special and loved by him.

But, my concern was, did he feel the same thing from me? Because I don't show my love for him in the same way. He said, no, he actually felt the same way because I do things for him like... laundry, make lunches for him to take to work, etc. These things speak the same sentiments to his soul...

So, then we were joking and said maybe for a week we will trade places... I will oogle over him physically and he will pack me lunch and make dinner and stuff like that. It was fun to think about, but then we decided we would just start with trying it for ONE day first and see how it goes.

Not sure when its gonna happen, but it could be a fun day.

What do you do to express love?
How do you like to receive love?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Disturbingly humorous

I recently added this blog to the "websites I look at" portion of my blog. This site is awesome for people who are interested in combatting human trafficking in big ways and in small ways. They include everything from humorous ways to consider the solutions to very serious news and stories of victims and survivors. They share government stats, opportunities to buy products to help survivors, etc. Please spend some time checking it our add it to your google reader. Its worth it!

A recent post caught my attention. I think you should read their commentary on it because it helps to explain why I would include this on my blog, but I thought it might be eye opening to some of you...

Warning, this video contains graphic language and you might get disturbed by it, but it also may make you laugh out loud.

One thing I admire about this, is the fact that it draws out our realistic stereotypes of folks who we think are pedophiles and traffickers. The reality is that you don't have to wear a pedophile beard or rapist glasses or a trench coat to be someone involved in sexually exploiting minors. Actually fathers, husbands, doctors, lawyers, pastors, school teachers, fire fighters, etc. are among those normal folks who participate in these crimes.

So, what can you do? You can join our team or donate to our team as folks from Jubilee are working to combat child sex trafficking in the US through raising funds for special operative teams who will be able to build cases to catch and convict pedophiles and traffickers and decrease the demand for trafficking victims.

Donate here
Find out more about SCTNow here

An refreshingly-odd picture of God

A few conversations recently have pushed me to question how much we (Christians in the US, Raleigh, who I know, etc.) desire to have God be a part of our lives, of changing us and weather or not we even think that is possible... is being close to God something that is saved for a few people?

I don't think so! I believe that God wants to spend time with each one of us and cherishes us more than we can understand...

So my refreshingly-odd picture of God comes from Song of Songs, chapter 2 v. 8...

Ah, I hear my lover coming! He is leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills...

So, this could be talking about someone completely different than Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Abba father, but some think that one layer in the complexity of this book we find an allegory of God's love for his children.

I was just thinking about God going out of his way to leap over mountains and bound over hills to spend time with me. Its playful, its inspiring. Do I believe that God loves me that much? Do you?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What a wonderful family!

Sometimes I get a little bogged down and cynical when it comes to my family. Basically, just a little bit feeling overwhelmed or uneasy with too much love... but, after spending the past few days at the beach with them I left feeling very thankful.

While playing in the waves on the beach my mom randomly asks me... "what is your favorite psalm?" like it is a typical conversation starter... it was a little odd at the time, and I kind of brushed it off like I didn't want to have that conversation, but the reality is that I hadn't really thought about it, so I didn't know how to respond.

After a bit more contemplation I would like to say:
1) Sorry Mom for brushing you off (I fee like I do that quite often with you guys and I'm asking for forgiveness)

2) How awesome is it that I can have conversations with my parents about everything from our health care system, legal practices, our favorite psalms, prayer requests and theological debates to our dream vacations to europe! I feel very blessed!

3) My favorite psalm... if forced to pick one would be Psalm 139, maybe because its one that I have memorized since my teenage years, or maybe because its something that I need to remind myself of on a daily basis.

4) One of the coolest things about the psalms from my perspective is that they encompass the vast array of emotional expression available to the human race. The Psalm writers were raw with emotion, questions, longings and reality. But, in the beginning and ending of all of the angst, somehow comes back to praise... I wonder if there is a lesson there?

Do you have a favorite psalm?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

World's Collide

Thank you to everyone who came out to Guest Host Night at Nofo last night. I think it will go down in my history books as one of my favorite experiences, at least in the top 15...

So what was so awesome? My world's colliding together... Almost all of the things I am passionate about were smashed into one experience.

1) NoFo: The cafe I work at and love, the people I work with and are becoming more than just co-workers, but friends, the business being willing to support something that is difficult to talk about, but important to me and Emily, Jubilee

2) All of the Visio Dei peeps that came out to represent! We had a great crowd and lots of positive energy. We were in a different setting and you all supported a great cause... our trip to Cambodia with Transform Asia. Thank you so much for everyone who came out.

3) Raising awareness for human trafficking victims locally and globally. Several tables came in and heard about sex trafficking for the first time. Most of them were willing to talk and even had some eye opening experiences.

I'm not sure what will come of it... will it start more conversations and action to combat slavery? will it get more folks interested in Jubilee? did it build a bigger client base for nofo? did my co-workers get good tips? will new conversations and deeper relationships happen?

What ever happens, I experienced a glimpse of the Kingdom of God last night and loved every minute of it.

Please Lord, use us despite ourselves. I have worry and doubt that I didn't talk to enough people or got too overwhelmed to really connect with folks, but I trust that you are in control. Grow opportunities to help individuals in Raleigh fall in love with you. Grow opportunities for safety and healing for victims of trafficking. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your movement to bring justice and freedom to the oppressed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bazaar--o-days at NOFO Cafe

Today was one of the most bazaar days I've had in a long time. One of those where you feel like you are in the twilight zone and are caught between thinking skeptically about humanity and also wishing for the best in people.

I work at Nofo Cafe in 5points, Raleigh, NC. It is a cute little restaurant with lots of neighborhood regulars and a unique mix of folks who dine for business, with their families and little children... well, today was one that will go down in the books...

A middle aged man with quiet and calm mannerisms came in and asked for a table for 6 people. It was about 5 after 1 and I wasn't sure if I wanted to stay any longer, but my section had the room... so, there he sat, alone, waiting on the 5 others.

He asked for a screwdriver and a bowl of soup. I made them... the others were surely on their way soon. "They were banking at Cameron Village"... okay, I thought, no big deal, I'll just give the table to Tasha and forgo my two bucks if I want to get out of here... then, he proceeded to ask me if there was anyway he could pay for the entire bill for the cafe.

At first I thought he meant for his table, lots of people come in and do that. Ya know, make sure that they are the one who gets the check before any of their guests have a chance to protest, but NO, he meant, EVERYONE eating in the cafe. hmm.... not sure what to do...

We weren't that busy and there were only a few tables, and I didn't want to turn down his generosity, so Tasha and I figured out how to combine the rest of the open tickets and send them his way. It was pretty fun watching the faces and responses from people when I told them that a gentleman had already taken care of their bill... people were shocked at the generosity... some people even refused to accept it from a total stranger...

It got a bit sketchy after it was 2:39PM, we close at 3PM and none of his friends had shown up yet. He said that Don and Preston from Wachovia would be over shortly... I wanted to believe him.

Then he ordered a burger and fries and a second screwdriver, we were out of orange juice, but I figured I could squeeze some more if he was buying for everyone there. When I dropped off the second drink he asked me to get him the names of all of the wait staff. There were 4 of us on the floor today and I did as he asked. When I came back to bring him the $153 bill left over from the rest of the open tickets he handed me 4 $3,000,000.00 checks to hand out.

I passed them out the rest of the wait staff. At this point we knew his friends were not coming and it felt a little odd. Of course, I wanted to believe that this was legit... there are a lot of things I could do with that much $$$...

I asked him why he did it, and he said "standard practice"... I said, "That is hardly standard!" and I think it took him back, he just smiled and shook my hand and proceeded to tell me that he is related to the Kennedy family and wanted to share.

Okay, we'll see...

There was no way this could be possible.
He said that he will be getting wired $20 million tonight and that the bank folks should know who he is and that cashing the checks should not be a problem.

Well, when I went to the bank afterwards, I talked with the tellers. Unfortunately, he has a mental problem of some sort and only has .64 cents in his account right now. They don't think the money is coming... I am still holding on to a smigin of hope... we'll see tomorrow :)

I didn't cash it, but came home and took pictures of it.
The day that I got a $3 million tip! It will go down in the history books.

The bank tellers also said that the most I could get out of the check is $3 because of the way he wrote the hand written portion. I think he meant to write million though... if its real, we will work out that little detail :)

So, here I am debating on what to think. Should generosity shock us as much as it did today? Why does it? Many of us automatically go to "insane" or "sketchy" in situations like this... it was the case this time, but do we have it in us to be this generous? I want to believe we do...

Regardless, I hope that Mr. Winters has a great rest of the week and in his heart he believes that his generosity was able to change lives. It means a lot that he would consider blessing those he doesn't even know. In a way, even if I never see a dime and end up paying to cover the $153 food cost I will be better for experiencing this reckless giving.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Our bounty

They keep growing and growing and growing! I had very low expectations for the plants that I planted, but we have had bookoos of tomatoes and enormous cucumbers.

I talked with my grandma about how to make pickles and I'm so sad because my cucumbers are too big :( I am going to have to pick the next ones sooner.

We have some green peppers that are on their way to being pickable as well. It is amazing to eat the food from our own garden.