My heart is heavy today.

I know some of the specific reasons, things like finding out my cousin recently decided to terminate her pregnancy, after going back and forth for awhile.  I guess there are still a couple of days in which she could change her mind, but the appointment is set and I’m pretty sure she’ll go through with it.  There are a lot of reasons one may choose to have an abortion, and I’m not here to argue for or against them.  It’s just that in my cousin’s case, it doesn’t need to happen if she and/or her ex could let down their pride and accept help.  It has mind swarming with frantic options, like, could I convince her to have her baby and give it to me?  Nevermind I’m not in any position to have a baby right now, but people worse off than me have kids everyday and anything to let the baby live, right?  But it’s not going to happen.

And it’s funny thinking of that right now anyway, especially I’ve felt that good ol’ clock starting to tick lately.  I’ve taken care of my friend’s sweet three-year-old girl a few times lately and each time I’ve thought about how nice it was, how natural it felt.  And being at an age (almost 29, eek!) that not only could I have a 3 year-old-child, but no one would look at me like an irresponsible teen mother, it was sweet to hear people tell me how beautiful my “daughter” was.

I’m feeling a bit homesick too.  I’ve loved being here in Buffalo for the past month and a half or so and it’s actually felt surprisingly home-like.  It probably shouldn’t surprise me, I have spent a significant part of my life here, as far as time as a lifelong nomad works.  I became myself as an adult here, spending the better part of my twenties here.  But as I get comfortable here, there’s always the nagging voice in the back of my mind reminding me, “This is not your home.  Orlando is your home, and you need to work harder/longer/better to get back there.”  Raising funds for my ministry has been long/hard/rough and as I’m no natural optimist, I’m prone to discouragement.  Life has gone on in Orlando without me there, and I’m aching to return before all the babies I left behind start school and all these new ones are born (ohh my heart, babies!).

But I think in that is the root of my heavy heart.  As much as my head reminds me that Orlando is my home, my heart knows that even that isn’t true.  Even as I long for yet another city, yet another place, deep down I know that this world is not my home.  I think that my ultimate longing is for God, for my eternal home.  This feeling creeps up on me every once in awhile and reminds me that even in my utter brokenness, in my longing for stability, for adventure, for a family of my own, for a community, for a lasting connection with Jesus… that this world is not my home, that someday all the brokenness and death and loneliness and shame will be wiped away, and that someday I will not only feel complete and whole and loved, but I will be.

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

(Lyrics: “After the Storm” by Mumford & Sons, post title: “Kick Drum Heart” by The Avett Brothers)

If you know me well, you know that I love Donald Miller.  I first got hooked on his writings with his first book, Blue Like Jazz, when we gave them away to freshmen at my alma mater.  I wasn’t actually a freshmen at the time but even the name of the book so intrigued me that I snuck one out of the pile and devoured it back in my dorm room (sorry, John Man).

Since then, I’ve made sure to buy each book Don has released and they’ve touched me in profound ways.  There’s something about reading about someone else’s spiritual journey, their struggles and fears, their overcoming of obstacles, that makes you want to do the same.  I love Don’s raw honesty about who he is and where he’s come from and how he unabashedly talks about his dreams, it feels so much like the person I want to be.

His latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, talks about writing your own story.  Not so much pen-to-paper writing, but living your life as a grand story rather than having your life just happen to you.  It was one of the few books that I knew I needed to re-read with a pen in hand as soon as I finished it.  Check out this short video of Donald Miller talking about it.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/20593341″>What story are you telling?</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/rhetorikcreative”>Rhetorik Creative</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

“Conflict provides meaning into our story… when what we want is meaningful and sacrificial, the conflict becomes easier to bear.”  Check it out, friends.  You won’t regret it.  You can pick up a copy of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years here at Amazon.

Want to know my favorite Donald Miller memory?  He spoke at our National Staff Conference a few summers back and while I wasn’t part of the Campus Ministry he was speaking to, I couldn’t miss an opportunity to hear him speak and snuck in.  Don began to tell a story of meeting up with a group of friends and a pub and said, “We all order pints of… uh… coffee?  Can I say beer here?  Oh whatever, sometimes sin is regional.  So we sat with our pints of COFFEE…”  Let me tell you, my friends and I were dying laughing because sometimes with a ministry as large as our organization, sin is surely regional.

While I’ve lacked proper motivation to blog lately (or do much of anything I really need to be doing), I keep thinking of things I could write about (you know, if I could get my adult ADD under control long enough to do it).  I’m in Buffalo right now, and inspiration is everywhere as my favorite things abound.  Let’s see how many I can get through before I wander off somewhere or something super (not)urgent on facebook steals my sliver of attention.

SPoT Coffee is a local coffeeshop that has spawned 3 Buffalo area locations as well as ones in neighboring Toronto and Rochester.  There’s also one in the works in DelRay, Florida, which seems more like a game of “which one of these things is not like the other ones,” but good for them.  I’ve spent the most time at one of my two favorite locations on Elmwood Drive, as it’s in a college and artsy part of town and this location reflects that.  Mismatching tables and chairs and sofas abound, as well as artwork and murals by local artists.  SPoT is a mircoroaster as well, and their coffee is delish.  The Elmwood location is fairly newly renovated and the photo below doesn’t do it any justice… it’s twice as large and the furniture (including some old church pews!) and the large windows really give it character.

a slightly creeper photo booth shot of SPoT Coffee Elmwood

Spinning is also a new favorite.  My gym is one of those no frills places and does not offer classes, but when I got to Buffalo I found that this location was closed.  I was complaining to a friend about that (as Buffalo falls tend to very rapidly turn to Buffalo winters and I don’t do cold) and she got excited as her gym allows you to bring a friend and she wanted a spin class workout buddy.  I’d always wanted to try spinning (though I’m not sure why as my only exposure to it has been buddy moments in movies where groups of women end up yelling, “die spin bitch, die” as they pant (can you yell and pant?) and sweat and look miserable.  Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment?), and so I jumped on the chance.

It took me awhile to find a good photo. Most featured sweat-free women with big smiles. There is no sweat-free in spinning, and there are no smiles.

First class?  Oh.  My.  Lanta.  It killed me.  Or almost.  I couldn’t sit on a hard chair for the rest of the day because of those tiny rock hard bike seats.  The next day I was hobbling around like my grandmother after knee replacement surgery.  I was in pain, but it was that good pain that meant I had worked hard.  Two days later, I woke up still hurting and almost cancelled on class number two but I got my act together and went.

I was addicted (and yes, apparently I AM a glutton for punishment).

I’ve gone several times now and I’m actually extra sad at the thought of leaving and going back to my class-less gym because the eliptical and treadmill never looked so lame as they do now.

I think this is good for now, but don’t fret, there’s more favorites to come.  I was going to tell you about one of my favorite things I’m having for dinner tonight, but being Buffalo, food is going to need it’s own section.  Gosh, Buffalo’s got some good eats.  It’s a good thing spinning burns a crap ton of calories because Buffalo may just kill me.

***Edit: I re-read part of this post and I can see I got a bit punchy and rambly.  Please forgive today’s raging ADD.***

Yesterday was a good day.  Why, you may ask?  Well, because it was exhausting.

But that’s not usually a good thing, you may respond.  But for me, it was a great thing.

My days have been so mundane and empty lately, days where I spend an afternoon sitting in a coffeeshop just to feel like I’m doing something.  And while that may sound like a dream to some, an empty schedule is really only enjoyable in the midst of a full one.  Kind of like how they say that you have to experience the bad to truly appreciate the good, days full of nothing are only sweet in the midst of days full of something, especially when you need lots of days full of something in order to return back to the life and people you enjoy.

You may know that I work for a Christian missions organization and one part of that includes raising monthly financial support for my salary, health insurance, taxes, etc.  Over the past few years I’ve lost a lot of ministry partners because of a variety of reasons, including the economy, job loss and probably a dozen other reasons I don’t know.  Because of this I am on the road working on re-raising this lost support full time until it’s done.

And since the beginning of summer, things have been slow.  Like watching grass grow and paint dry slow.  Slow in a painful “my teammates are literally on a 10ish country European tour that I could’ve been on but am currently staying in a strangers basement” kind of way.

But yesterday was good because I got to not only have one appointment with ministry partners, but two.  I was on the road for probably 5 hours between 3 different towns, but it was exhilarating being able to talk to people about the future of the JESUS Film looks like, about what God is doing and how I get to be a part of it all.

I got to catch up with an old friend on the phone last week and was telling her about what I get to be a part of when she responded with enthusiasm that it was the most exciting thing she’d heard coming out of our international ministry in years.  It’s little comments like this that remind me that what I do makes a difference.  That there is a bigger picture than my currently slow, days of nothing life, that days will come again that are so full of something that I’ll be wishing for a few coffeeshop afternoons and sweet nothingness.

So here’s to more exhausting days of something so that I can miss the nothing and watching creativity change the world.

P.S. You can check out some of what I’m doing on my still-in-progress ministry website here or give a tax-refundable gift here.

My friend Jackie likes to say, “No pain… no pain.”  No gain?  Pssh.  Who needs gain when you can have no pain?

I’ve certainly stood by that mantra over the years.  But, somehow, I’ve gotten the notion in my head that I’d like to run.

Do you know me?  If so, you know I am no runner.  I’ve never desired to be a runner.  Whenever I hear that someone I know is going to run a marathon I usually laugh and shake my head thinking, “That’s insanity… who would want to run 26.2 miles?  Silly runner.  Have fun with that.”

But after hearing a few friends extol the wonders of running as stress relief combined with some boredom of the gym and perhaps some development in my own maturity, I’ve decided to give it a try.  Someone mentioned on facebook that there were several inexpensive “Couch to 5k” type apps for iPods so I found the cheapest one (which was fortunately highly rated) and decided that I’d give it a try.

Get Running is a great app.  It charts out 9 weeks (3 runs a week) of walking and running plans that make “becoming a runner” more manageable.  I just completed Week 1 which comprised of running for one minute eight times with one-and-a-half minute walks in between, with warm up/cool down walks on either end.  A very pleasant British woman sims my music and tells me when to walk and when to run and gives 30 second warnings.  I like it because I can keep my own pace (slow) and spurs me on to finish.

Maybe I will become a runner one day.  Maybe not.  But I’ll be living a better story as I seek to conquer this program and get healthier in the process.

How are you seeking to live a better story?  Check out Donald Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” for some of my inspiration.

Another day, another coffee shop.  I’m realizing that this is one of the 982 reasons I love the DC Metro area… it’s chockfull of coffeeshops of all sorts.  Starbucks and Caribou Coffee on the corporate end and probably more independents tucked away than I could ever find and I love a good independent coffee shop.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those “friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks” types.  Quite the opposite really; I love a bold cup of Starbucks drip coffee.  But there’s nothing like finding a local place full of regulars and an odd collection of furniture.

Today’s afternoon “office” is brought to you by Northside Social in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington.  It’s a big, old, red house converted into a coffee shop, wine bar and cafe.  It’s got two stories of seating spread among 3 rooms has the kind of charm that makes you want to move into the neighborhood just to be a regular here (who am I kidding?  I want to move to DC, period).  Old wooden tables big enough to share with a stranger (or new friend?), slightly beat up white painted chairs with funkily upholstered seats and an abundance of electrical outlets (a must for being a regular at a coffeeshop).

And even better, their drip coffee is delicious!  You’d think this is a given at indie coffeeshops, but I’ve been to enough places to know that this is not always the case.  And their pumpkin chocolate chip muffin?  To die for.  (I promise I’m not getting paid to advertise for this place, though that’d be nice.)

Just one more stop on my quest of finding little spots of joy during this season of support raising.

Those who know me well know that I have no great love for Orlando.  I live there because my job dictates that I do, and over the past few years I have found pockets of things and places I have grown to enjoy.  And since I have a pretty sizable community there (and now, a car with functioning air conditioning), Orlando and I have developed a cordial relationship.  Neither of us are big fans, but like my parents used to say about my siblings, “they’re what you’ve got, whether you like it or not.”

My heart aches for city life, though.  I’ve never gotten to live in a big city and my [possibly overly romantic and delusional] heart has yearned for years for the city streets of New York (always referred to as “The City” even now, courtesy of my Buffalo days) or Washington, D.C.  I want to ride the metro and walk places.  I want to be surrounded by history and architecture and to be a regular at the coffeeshop just around the corner that I frequent on a stroll with a book in hand.  I want to live somewhere surrounded by people, somewhere with things to do and see and experience.

Every once in awhile, I get to venture out and temporarily stay or live in a big city and my heart comes alive.  Interestingly enough, it’s usually the most hated part of my job that brings me to cities, which may be a little bit of God’s love for me.  Even as I type, I’m sitting at the window of one of my favorite Starbucks in Chinatown, Washington, D.C.  It’s kiddie-corner from a Metro station and overlooks a beautiful Chinese arch, and is a two story store in an old building with exposed brick, large windows and lots of wooden tables with character.

Chinatown Starbucks... picture me sitting in that upper lefthand window.

I’ve got work to do here, but I’ve found myself just watching the people go by, imagining what it’d be like to walk back to my own place (or even take the Metro to another part of town), a cute apartment with character and friends.  I know I’m romanticizing this some – I hear all about the loneliness of the city, not to mention the cost of living, but I also know of walking to the Eastern Market farmer’s market with a friend and returning with fresh veggies, flowers and an iced coffee.  About how great it was to explore my favorite Smithsonian for a couple hours, stop by the Sculpture Garden for some jazz, and make my way to the Metro and Leeann’s apartment in the pouring rain.

But for now, Orlando is where I am, and I need to make the best of it.  I’ve certainly come a long way from when I first moved there.  When I return, I’ve got to find my little corner of “city.”   I need my heart to stay alive in the city-of-suburbs-and-gated-communities.

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