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Processing Through Pictures

I don’t know if you’ve seen, or have been a part of the black and white photo challenge on Facebook.  I don’t usually get into things like that, but my Mom tagged me and challenged me to post one photo a day, black and white, no people, no explanation.  I really like taking pictures so I thought, sure, this is something I can do.

And it sparked another idea.  I see a lot of things on my way to work every day, and processing through all I see has not been easy.  I have had trouble finding the right words or spaces to talk through it.  I see a lot of things that are sad, unfair and out of control.  But there are also very beautiful things among the hard stuff.

The idea is to post a photo of what I see and write a few thoughts about it.  Process outloud in my blog a bit.  Some photos might be beautiful, some might be sad – others might just be observations.

Here is my first photo and thoughts to go with it.

TizTake Pic1 Woman, Cart


This was take on my walk to work last week.  Everyday,  I walk by many people sitting, sleeping, standing on the streets, obviously having a tough time at life..  Most likely they are homeless.  They have some amount of belongings with them, in a cart or plastic bags.

Each person is different though.  Their situation, circumstances, how they got there and where they are going.  I want to help them all, or one, or do something that could make something better.  But I don’t know what to do.

This was a young woman sitting on the ground near a parking garage.  A cart full of things, important to someone sits in the road.  I don’t know if it belongs to her.  I want to say hello, ask if I can help, listen to her story, even if for just a moment.  She is alone and today I think I will have the courage.  Everyday I want to talk, help, listen, connect, anything to make someone’s day a little brighter.  Most days I am too nervous.  Mental illness, anger, or frustration often show in people’s actions and reactions on the streets.  This time I think I can do it.  And then I see that this time she is holding a knife.  So again, I walk faster, nervously unsettled now for my walk that moments ago felt mostly safe.

How do you walk by people on the streets?  What do you say or do?  How do you make it feel ok to you?  It doesn’t feel ok to me.  Two years and counting I have lived in a place where homelessness, poverty, drug addiction and mental illness walk the streets.  How do I go home to my safe, clean, warm home filled with food and all the comforts I need in the world, knowing so many people right in my own community are not.

How did we get here?  How do so many people live like this.  I know you see them.  We all see them in our communities.

I can’t make it stop.  I can’t even talk with one person.  What do we do?

It’s not a new question.  Other people must be talking about this, doing something, right?  If I volunteer more, will that make it easier to walk by?  If I give money to everyone I see (even though I know that’s not helpful) will it be ok?

But it’s not about me.  I am not entitled to feel comfortable all the time.

I am uncomfortable.  I am asking Jesus to meet me in this discomfort.

Where are you uncomfortable?





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The Struggle is Real

I laugh a lot. Jokes, my own misfortune, my husband’s consistent silliness, my roommates’ jokes, my co-workers’ laments. I am blessed with laughter. But within that laughter lies a new type of anxiety. The world around me is filled with concrete, homeless people, and the mentally ill who roam the streets without help. Trash litters the streets and entitled people behind the wheel of every car swerve around me. Here in the Oakland, gentrification takes over, block by block. And many of the people around me are just as concerned about how their pants fit as they are angry about the political climate.

And I. Can’t. Breathe.

I can’t find the freedom I once so easily enjoyed. Are times changing? Is it my current city and surroundings? Is it the constant protesters outside the windows of my office? Or am I struggling to look for and find my God who has been so easily spotted in the past?

I have been spoiled. Spoiled by community, safe places to live, a family who loves and adores me. I have been spoiled by good friends always ready to listen, to pray or just to be with me.

Where is my God?

Am I too weak to find Him here? Do I not have the strength and the faith to be a leader amongst the heaviness that keeps me up at night? Do I just need my mommy, literally and figuratively?

I thought I was strong enough. I thought my faith was deep enough. But faith was never meant to be practiced alone.

Where is my God?

I was taught to see You in the homeless man. In the road-rage-filled hipster trying to get to his organic leaves. I was taught to see you in the beauty of the sky, in the sound of the waves and in the depth of my heart.

Where is my God?

And why can’t I find you in those things? The heaviness of the world around me crashes in and I am not strong enough. I do not have enough faith. My God is by my side, I know this, for without this deep understanding I would have given up, gone home, crawled in a safe place. But I can’t see my God. I can feel Him close, but one gust of the wind and I live in fear.

Where is my God?

Fear my car will get broken into, again. Fear my husband won’t make it home from work because of an accident or crime. Fear that the big earthquake will finally take us all. Fear that I will be hurt or my family will suffer.

Where is my God?

How can I find You again? How do I experience you in THIS place? Where I am now, where I live and breathe and with who I am surrounded.

I can’t breathe.

But I can. Everyday I get up and face the day. I walk in and out of responsibilities with the strength I have left. I contemplate going home to the ones I miss so wholeheartedly that it hurts constantly. I ask my God for help – for reassurance, for whatever it takes to make it through the day.

I am surviving.

But I want to live freely. Here, where I live, while I am here.

I want to breathe.

And I do. One step at a time. One prayer at a time. One exhale at a time. I breathe, with my God offering me each next breathe.

But the heaviness looms and my energy is sucked up by staying above water. How do I go on?

I stop. I wait. I ask. I seek.

I breathe, and hope, and take my next breath.

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Connecting to Holy Week

It hit me like a ton of bricks this year. Some times, some ways, some things just connect differently at different times. It’s what I love about faith. It’s alive and exciting. It touches my soul, connects to who I am and meets me right where I’m at.

Lately I’ve been thinking about making a pretty big life decision. A career move if you will and it’s met with all sorts of advice and thoughtful comments from people who I know love and care about me and have been close to me in certain seasons of my life. I value every word they say, and also know that I have to make my own decision.  And no matter which way I go, I will be met with good and sometimes challenging circumstances.

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, as predicted by prophets of old. And in that moment he was celebrated. He was held in high-esteem, he was praised and made known. He was celebrated for who he was, the son of God.

I wonder if this could have been on of those moments for Jesus when he could see heaven on earth. Those moments of peace when every thing collides to connect with your true self. That moment when you feel known, understood and have purpose. But at the same time, Jesus knew that some of the people with him, closest to him, would betray him. And the same people celebrating him would put him to death. The downturn of this comes quickly, forcefully and with out any compassion. 4-days later Jesus in betrayed, and then beaten and killed.

And still he lived in that moment. He experienced Palm Sunday (or travel tuesday, whatever they called it 2000 years ago). He let them celebrate God. He received it.

I think about my life. The changes that are to come. I think about my life transitions. The beginning often filled with celebration and excitement, but then the downturn comes. Life gets hard, the honeymoon period of relationships end, expectations are left unmet and dreams fade into reality.

But Jesus shows me how. How to live regardless of what’s to come.  Regardless of the unknown that lies ahead. How to celebrate again and again. How to love regardless of what the future holds. And no matter which path I take, it will have a beginning filled with celebration, and a middle filled with ups and downs and a Jesus to show me how to love and be loved through it all.

Over the next several days we will remember, reflect on and celebrate Jesus’ final journey here on earth as a man. It starts with a meal with friends, and then quickly turns to betrayal, torture and death. But it doesn’t end there – there is the resurrection. Because no matter how bad it gets, the end is just the beginning with Jesus. He offers more. He offers redemption. And a future that one day won’t be tarnished by pain and suffering.

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Finding New Wisdom, After Another Year Goes By

Each year it’s different. But each year it’s the same.

This year felt different when I had to tell my roommate what today is. And I cried. Last year I remember being at work and having to tell people. And I cried. Telling people is hard. On a normal day, telling people my brother died isn’t so hard. This day,  the anniversary of his passing, it’s hard.

Maybe it’s the trauma of the day it happened. Maybe it’s knowing my parents are hurting especially hard this day. Maybe it’s thinking about my sister in law and knowing it hurts her and I can’t fix that. Maybe it’s thinking about my nephew never getting to meet his Dad. And maybe it’s just because I miss him.

I miss his smile. I miss his hugs. I miss his words of wisdom. Yup, I said it, my little brother had some good words of wisdom. Mostly along the lines of protecting me from boys who broke my heart or not being afraid to live life to the fullest. Because that’s what he did. He lived.

Devin was a daredevil, a bit of a risk-taker. I’d like to think I get some of my risk-taking guts from his example. I often think of him when I’m making life decisions and think, WWDD? (What would Devin do?) Dev just went for things all out. He lived life “out-loud” with his whole heart.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been waking up with this idea to live my life “out-loud.” And for the most part I think I do. But I want more. I’m not quite sure what all of it means just yet, but I think Devin was a good example of living life “out-loud” and I want to keep learning from that.

He might be gone, but his passion for life lives on. I’m so thankful he was my little brother.

This is the first year in a while that I don’t live at home. It’s hard to not hug my Mom and Dad today and not be there to spend time with them. I know it’s hard for them.

And so as I ask every year, please pray for them. I know they hurt, I know their lives will never be the same, and I know they will always miss my brother in ways I can’t understand.



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Life Lessons on My Bike

I live in Madison, WISCONSIN

I don’t say it right. That’s what most people say when I say, “Wisconsin.” Apparently I have a bit of a Boston accent. Not much, but enough for folks to know I’m not local.

Which is true. Just about a month ago, I packed all my stuff and moved half way across the country. And I’m settling in quite nice. And I think I owe a lot of that to my bike.

When I’m on my bike, it’s like I’m a kid again. There’s a freedom and innocence to riding a bike, I think. Ok, let me get a little cheesy (I am in Wisconsin) for a moment. I’m riding down one of the many awesome bike paths, with the wind blowing my hair and cooling my face. The orange and yellow leaves creep in on either side of the path and rain down when the wind blows. The sun shines bright through the branches and each opening leads to bright blue skies that have no end. The warmth comes from within. It comes from that feeling of being alive and being free to be me. In that moment, everything is right. Nothing is holding me back.

And I think there is some cool life lesson type stuff in here. Like living life in the moment. Letting go of what I can’t control or make happen on my own. So much of this transition time, from the time I decided to move and even now, I just keep asking God to keep me present. Help me live in the moment. Help me see, feel and live right now. I don’t want to worry about the future, or try to figure it out.

And despite circumstances that aren’t “just right” or going “my way,” I’m really happy. It’s been such a gift. Just like my bike. I’m so thankful for it and even more thankful for the friends who gave it to me.

And my bike is so cool. It’s perfect. It’s old and a little rusty, it’s yellow, it has mustache duck-tape on the handle-bars and mini-flashlights as lights. Often when I lock it up, I forget to wrap the lock around the actually bike and just lock my lock to the railing…and NO ONE has taken it. It’s perfect.

Kind of like life. It’s messy, and doesn’t always look “put together” but it fits me just right.



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Bittersweet “See You Soons.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

I’ve been trying to write this blog for a while, knowing I have so much to share but finding it hard to slow down and put it all into words.

My life is changing. A lot. And I’m just trying to keep up and savor every moment.

I can not put into words how loved I feel. I am thankful beyond words. My life here in Worcester is amazing. I have my family. I have my friends. And I have this amazing community I get to live with. Every day is a huge blessing and every moment is so full and vibrant.

And yet, I’m about to embark on a new adventure.

In just over a week, I will pack all my stuff (or as much as I can fit) into a Uhaul trailer and move to Madison, WI.

And I’m really excited.

It seems crazy that I’m so excited to pick up and leave this amazing life I have, to move to a colder (read: I hate being cold) climate to do an internship and apprenticeship at a church. The church out there is really connected to The Woo here so when I went out to Madison in May for a conference things just started happening.

I never thought I would move to Madison, WI. I had an idea that I might move away from Worcester someday, but the mid-west!!! Wow. This must be a God thing.

And I think it is. I really feel His leading and guidance in this. It’s never felt like an “I want to do this, how do I make it happen?”, it’s felt like an “ooh, God I want to follow you, wherever you take me.”

And right now it seems He is taking me to Madison. An adventure that’s already been so fruitful and so fun! So many things have fallen into place so well and I already feel connected to some folks in Madison.

I will miss you though. I will miss so much here.

I don’t know exactly what living in Madison will look like. But I can’t wait to find out! And in that, I’m relying totally on God to not get ahead of myself! It’s a precious time right now. This time of transition. A time of excitement and anticipation. A time of bittersweet goodbyes.

But the truth is I can’t say goodbye to you, it’d be too much. I can only say “see you soon.” And the best part is, that’s what I get to do. Because one huge blessing in this is that Worcester is where I’m from, and Worcester is where I can always come back to.


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My Heart is Safe Only With You*

My life is about to change drastically.

And I have so much to say yet I’m rendered speechless so often these days. (I know that’s hard to believe but it happens) I’m in awe of my life. This life I get to live. The experiences I get to have. The people I get to love and who love me back so well. And the God who loves me so much I can’t comprehend it.

I’m in the land of the unknown. Big changes are coming and while I’m engulfed in the rush of emotions in letting go and taking in the new things, I also have no idea what my life will look like in a month. And God is doing this new thing with my heart through this. It’s not so new that He hasn’t done it before, it’s just new in that He’s going deeper. And it’s something, from what I can tell from talking to people older and wiser than me, that He does over and over again. And it feels amazing. And hard.

You see in this transition into the unknown there are things I want to happen in a certain way. Things I want to control and put into place. And, that’s not going to happen. Actually the best way for things to happen is for me to let go and not control anything. And the thing is, I know (from experience) that it’s way better this way. But it’s not always easy.

This time I don’t have to work so hard to let go. God is doing the heavy lifting. So often I’ve been told to just let go and let God. But sometimes it seems so impossible. I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I don’t know what makes this different, but it is.

God is doing the hard work, I just have to look at Him. All I did was ask. I asked God to tell my heart the things my head knew but I was struggling to live out. And He did. He did something amazing. It feels safe. It feels free. It hurts. And it’s a continual process. Because I have my moments where I want to figure it out. I want to plan, I want to know. And again I have to let go.

The process is overwhelming and so sweet.

Today I say goodbye to my job. My first official goodbye in this process. It’s bittersweet. I have enjoyed so many moments at this place. Connecting with co-workers and the community. Serving up coffee, mostly with a smile, and getting to know all those around me. It’s been challenging and I’ve grown a lot through the process.

I will miss every person I worked with. Every customer who comes in. Every person who I pass on my way to and from work. I will miss the community.

Today I will soak in every sweet moment while wholeheartedly looking forward to what’s in store in this new adventure I’m on.

*thank you Lydia Lowe Ferreira for this beautiful line from your beautiful song – it’s brought my heart to new places — God has given you an amazing gift!!! 🙂

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