Tuesday, December 7, 2010

people-ed out

I spent the last week on Toronto at the Canadian Youth Workers Convention. You know that awkward moment when someone approaches you with a big smile and says "Hey, long time no see!" and you have no idea who they are, what there name is, or where you know them from? Ya, that happened to me about 20 times that week. No joke.
I love being around people, and its the conversations with people who are passionate about youth that I value the most about these sorts of conventions. I spent a significant amount of time in such conversations. I was not alone from wednesday at 9am, until saturday at 2pm. I was constantly surrounded by people, in conversation for days! I was even rooming with my mentor from Abbotsford and a youth worker friend of mine from Alberta. I was never alone. Don't get me wrong, I'm a people person. I love people! I'm an extrovert who loves socializing!
I got home and wanted nothing more then to spend a day alone. There was a death in the family so I was pulled out of my cave of self inflicted solitude and spent the day with my husband's family. Then I woke up today. I was done with being around people. So very done. I'm a people person! This has never happened to me before! It was strange and bad feeling.
My monthly expenses were due so I had to fill out some forms, drive to my boss's house, get his signature and go to the head office. When I got there my boss pointed out that I had done it wrong. I went back home, redid the forms, and on my way back out I backed into a pole with my car. It was not my best day.
I got home after being at the office and sat down to write thank you cards to some new supporters. I was not in a good mood. That's when I learned the best remedy for a bad mood. I'll share it with you... Thankfulness. It's incredible stuff! Thanking my supporters for their support reminded me of what I do and why. By the end I was refilled with passion and itching to get out the door and catch up with the teens I love so much! So much for being people-ed out!
So thank you to all my supporters! You don't just enable me to do this work financially, but also emotionally.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I am a Starbucks slogan

During the holidays Starbucks uses fancy Christmas cups that have neat little sayings on them. Comforting, Christmassy things to say like "Today I talked with a stranger over coffee for an hour, they aren't a stranger anymore." And "I lost a friend a while ago, today I found her again over coffee." Those sorts of things. Last week I was there drinking my tea with some of my friends. They started reading off the sayings on their cups. At the end one of them looked at me and said "Funny, I think I've heard Carmen say all of these sentences at one point or another." We all laughed.
The thing is, today I was in Starbucks talking with a friend and a stranger came and sat beside us and entered our conversation. We talked for two hours. It was fascinating. So yes, I did talk to a stranger over coffee for an hour, we aren't strangers anymore.

you may be a youth worker if...

You may be a youth worker if you go home after work and google "paroxetine".

You may be a youth worker if you know all the names of the barista's at your local coffee shop.

You may be a youth worker if you know all the words to a Justin Beiber song.

You may be a youth worker if the sound of your cell ringing gives you a nervous twitch.

You may be a youth worker if you get hand cramps from too much texting.

You may be a youth worker if you spot self injury scars from 20 paces.

You may be a youth worker if you depend on your support team to keep you encouraged.

You may be a youth worker if the words "how does that make you feel" come out of your mouth at least three times a day.

You may be a youth worker if you know 3 different names for Marijuana.

You may be a youth worker if you get into conversations about parenting regularly with strangers in line at the store.

You may be a youth worker if crying in public no longer makes you uncomfortable.

You may be a youth worker if a question you asked made someone cry in public today.

You may be a youth worker if vacation just means you talk to teens in Hawaii for a week.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I see you

It's struck me this week that my life is having more impact on people then I realize. And that's saying something, because it's my JOB to impact people's lives in a positive way! A someone shared something with me the other day that really opened my eyes to this. They told me that me noticing them when nobody else did is the reason they are here today.
Today I got to sit on a couch and listen to one of my teens play a song on the piano that she wrote herself. (She also taught herself how to play the piano in the first place!) After she finished playing I told her that I saw a story in her song. A story that's filled with imperfection. I told her that I think it's her story told in a song and that I thought it was beautiful but that it sounded unfinished. Or like that was just the soundtrack to the first act, and that there would be more to come. She really is incredible and I can't wait to hear the rest of her song once it gets written. We got on the subject of seeing people. Really seeing them. "Remember in the movie Avatar? How the indigenous people there had the expression 'I see you' but it meant something really deep? Like they truly see and understand that person. In your song today I see you. It's powerful to see people. We live in a world where we are constantly anonymous." We had a great conversation about the power of "seeing" people.
Talking about it reminded me of that conversation I had earlier. The reason why that girl was so impacted was because I saw her. I noticed her. And that's why she is here today.
I challenge everyone who reads this to take the time today to truly see someone.


I was hanging out with a teen the other day and we had some time to kill before going to my house for Girls Monday. I've been keeping some books in my car for her and so we took this opportunity to read some. I was quickly trying to read the five chapters of my bible study book that I was supposed to have finished by that night, and she picked up the book "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Millar. We sat in Starbucks reading while sipping some hot holiday drinks. Every once in a while she would giggle and read to me something that she found amusing or profound. At one of these times she read to me a passage that talked about how we edit bible stories to make them G rated. We teach the story of Noah's arc in sunday school classes to kindergarteners because it's a story with animals. We have murals on the walls of our nurseries of a boat with giraffe's heads sticking out the top. What if we painted the rest of the story? The bloated floating bodies of all the people who died in the flood? That's an R rated story if I've ever heard one! This teen and I talked about how we edit bible stories so they don't mean what God intended for them to mean. Then we get an image of what God is like that isn't true.
The truth is that we try to change what God looks like to make Him seem more appealing, but we shouldn't. Because that fake God we make up isn't as appealing as we think he is. People who are honest don't want a soft gooey god, they want a strong disciplining challenging God they can trust. Let me rephrase that. I don't want a giant soft bunny with Santa Clause traits for a god. I want a God that I can follow into battle with full confidence.
This teen told the story of Noah's arc this way "It's like God sat down at his galactic computer, selected the world and hit Delete. Then a little box popped up that said "Are you sure you want to Delete this file?" and he hit "Yes".

Friday, November 5, 2010

selling hope

I just came home from a meeting in Starbucks with a potential supporter to whom I made a presentation about what I do. The meeting went very well. I always enjoy talking with people who are passionate about youth, it gets me pumped up all over again! Anyways, we stood up and were saying our "nice talking to you's" and "goodbyes" when the lady who had been sitting at the table next to us interrupted. "You are a wonderful person" she told me. I smiled and asked her name. She apologized for eaves dropping and asked about my ministry. We chatted for a bit and it turns out she is a sales rep from toronto who sells disposable rubber gloves to major companies like Starbucks. She told me "I'm in sales, and you my dear, could sell a refrigerator to an eskimo." I laughed at that.
On my drive home I thought about what she had said. Could I sell a fridge to an eskimo? Maybe if I truly believed they needed one! But what I do is so much easier then that. Why? Because of the product I sell. I sell hope. And I don't sell it, I just offer to lead people to it. They don't have to pay a thing. But there are some people who pay for that to happen. My wonderful supporters who believe in spreading hope to teens so much that they are willing and excited to support me financially so that I can give hope to those who need it.
I love my job. I sell hope.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You would think

When you think about persecution for being a christian, you would probably immediately think of some communist countries. Or of the first century church. But persecution is alive and well in our country, in our cities, in our neighbourhoods.
This goes beyond the politically correct mentality and actions keeping the bias of religions out of our schools. I'm talking about persecution. Direct and forceful.
Please pray. I am trying to act righteously and need wisdom to know what that looks like. The good news of the gospel is invaluable and that story must be told. How do I do that in our changing culture is a question I'm always asking.

Survival kits of hope

My floor was littered with colourful paper, candies, glue sticks, boxes, scissors, and teenagers. We were making survival kits. Many of the teens that I work with self-injure. This comes in many different forms. Cutting themselves, not eating, burning themselves, or more subtle things, like purposefully getting into relationships with dangerous people, or having sex without protection. The list goes on for a while. Why do they do these things? It's not because they are twisted, or weird. It's because they have so much emotion bottled up inside of them, it needs to come out somehow.
So I've been trying to teach them how to release their emotions in a more positive way. But self-injury is an addiction just as powerful as any other. It takes lots of work to over come it. Smokers replace cigarets with nicotine patches or gum. Just like that, we are trying to provide a replacement for self injury.
So we made survival kits. Boxes wrapped in colourful paper, with favourite quotes written on them. Inside the boxes are encouraging notes from friends, lists of things they like about themselves, positive music, candy, lists of things to do,... among other things. The hope is that the next time one of those teens has the urge to do something destructive, they will find encouragement and hope in that little box.
Hope saves lives. You can live 4 weeks without food, 4 days without water, but only 4 minutes without hope.

Monday, October 18, 2010

power of prayer

It was a rough week. I had simply heard too many sad stories in too short of a time. Tuesday, back from the holiday weekend, I had three appointments with three teens. And the day pretty much went like this: BAM! BAM! BAM! Sucker punched. Three times. Ya, then it got worse. The rest of the week consisted of holding teens as they cried. Really, that was the rest of my week. It was too much for me to handle. Usually in these circumstances I take time to journal and rest and read my bible so I can have the strength to keep going. So I still have something to give. But I found myself without the space to rest, with no more to give, and with more being asked of me. It was 8am on Thursday morning and my favourite barista at Starbucks asked me "How are you?" I just looked at him and said. "Yaaa..... How are you?" So I sat down with my tea (cheapest thing on the menu) and prayed. Then I sent out a text message to my closest prayer supporters asking them to pray. I asked God "Can I cash in all those prayers that people have prayed for me over the years now?" After about 15 minutes I received a flood of messages from people saying they were praying. About 10 minutes after that I breathed in and experienced something strange. I noticed immediately that my emotional capacity had expanded. My fuel tank had somehow been filled up to a quarter tank, when before it was beyond running on fumes. The change was so drastic and noticeable that it felt almost physical. I had enough to make it through the rest of the day. And I did. And I doubt it was the tea. God did a lot of good things that day threw me. Amazing things. It was one of those days that may go down in my career as a youth worker as one of the most painful and beautiful days ever.I can't write about what happened here, but I just want to say thank you to those who have prayed for me in the past. I swear those prayers are the reason I'm not sick right now.
May our Lord bless you and keep you, I am honoured to have such wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ. I know that I wouldn't be able to do this without all of you.
ps- If you want to stay in closer contact and become apart of my prayer team email me at carmen@youthunlimited.com

Monday, September 20, 2010

So about the jelly salad...

It's become an inside joke, and some have been giving me questioning looks when it is mentioned, so here is the story...
It was two winters ago and we were doing an activity with the youth. We were writing letters to ourselves that were to be sent a month later. I didn't know what to write, so I just did a listening prayer exercise. In it I imagined God giving me a phone call. In the call he invited me to a Christmas party. I was so excited, and didn't really know what to do when invited to a party hosted by the King of Kings, so I asked "Should I bring anything?" His answer was "Bring your faith."
Cut scene.
I'm standing at God's door step having just rung the door bell waiting to be let in to the Christmas party. I look down to see that in my hands is a gross green with pineapple chunks and marshmallows jelly salad. I grimaced. Then my face turned red because I was so embarrassed! The door opened before I could throw the salad into the bushes. God answered the door. He was beaming at me gave me a huge hug and exclaimed "Oh Good! You brought your faith!" He took the wobbly green thing out of my hands absolutely delighted. I smiled awkwardly. He turned and I saw behind him a long table with a red table cloth. The table was covered with jelly salads. I guess everyone brought one. He put mine next to all the rest with a big smile.

He warned me to bring my faith. Even though I think it is a small and insufficient thing, he loves it.
So that's the story.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hypocrisy can be Hysterical

I was walked over to my co-workers feeling down and trying not to show it because I didn't want it to be a big deal. That morning I had looked at my fundraising account. The account that my salary comes out of as well as what pays for all the coffees I have with teens. Dire would be an appropriate word at this point.
We were there for a prayer meeting. We ended up talking and praying about fundraising. This would be a good time to mention that I am a huge cry baby. So yes. I cried. It was a bad day ok? Give me a break.
To understand the rest of this story you need to know that next month my supervisor is teaching all of the YFC staff in the Greater Vancouver chapter about how to fundraise. He asked for help with this huge task and I said I would help teach on a subject he chose.
So here we are. I'm crying. They are doing fairly well at talking to me considering the awkwardness of standing there with a crying female. We pray about it and one of my coworkers asks me "What subject are you teaching about next month at the fundraising meeting?" With tears wet on my cheeks, with my nose all plugged up the way it does when you try to hold back tears, I look up with wide eyes and blubber out "Attitude." Ha! Attitude, he he he. Funny stuff. I still can't help but giggle when I think about it.
Finding Hypocrisy in myself is often times very, very funny.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

grieving divorce, embracing freedom

"Ya, totally." She said with her eyes straining to hold back tears. Her parents are divorced now and I had just told her that I believe she and her brother are both grieving the loss of their family. Not going to school, being depressed, and being very very angry. These are all symptoms of grief. And this is sadly, very common. Grief isn't restrained to death, it is about loss. And these kids are loosing something. They are loosing Christmas, parents, an example of how an adult should act, security, attention, provision, family holidays,.. the list goes on and on. There is great loss to all involved.
So to those of you who have experienced divorce in your family, take the time to grieve. Let it out, wrestle with it, and then move on without resentment. That's the hardest part. To grieve for the loss of something so huge, and then to forgive the person who caused you so much grief.
This is hard. But it is needed. To forgive someone is to let them out of a cage, and then to realize that the one in the cage was you. To experience freedom from bitterness (which rots you from the inside out) you must give in to forgiveness. Forgive them, let them go, and you will find a freedom you didn't have before.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

loss and moving on

Loss is everywhere. Loss of relationships. Loss of jobs. Loss of security. Loss of anything that we feel is important throws us into grief. Grief isn't just for death. We can grieve for the loss of our virginity. We can grief for that raise we didn't get. We can grieve for that friend who is no longer talking to us.
Grief is an inevitable part of life.
There are different degrees of grief obviously. I would be thrown deep into the sorrow of grief if something were to happen to my husband. I would grieve much less for the plant that I watered every day and it died anyways. However it is all still grief.
How you deal with these lesser instances of grief will both prepare you and warn you about how you will handle larger grief.
Grief is a series of stages such as shock, expressing emotion, feeling alone and depressed, guilt... there are 10 of them. The point is that they are gates to walk through. When you get stuck and refuse to move forward you can get into lots of trouble.
I had a room mate once who called me in a panic crying one day when I was in a meeting. I left the meeting and rushed home. I found her on her bathroom floor sobbing. Why? She had spilled her leg wax wax on the floor.
That would be an example of unhealthy grief. Getting stuck in the depression and expressing emotion stage and not moving on to anger and then eventually hope and entering the flow and routine of life again.

So please. Grieve. Express your emotions, understand anger, go to God with your guilt, and move on. That last one is key. If you are grieving, or if you know someone who is grieving, Do not baby them. Let them continue with the routine of life. The longer you stay away from work, the longer you have other people make your meals and do your laundry, the longer you will stay in the depression stage of grief.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I will huff, I will puff, I will blow your plans away!

We've been here before.

with the bus.

It was scary, because we didn't know what we were going to do then. Now we are thankful that bus was taken away from us because our ministry has become even more fruitful because of where God took us post-bus.

Now something is being taken away again...potentially... and this time we aren't scared. We are excited.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

that's why

and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I do what I do.
After a morning of heaviness in prayer... after a morning of tough decisions and tougher realities... after a morning of stress... I did what I love most. I got to sit across from a teen and tell them about Jesus washing his disciples feet and sharing with them the good news of being born again. "Do you believe in new beginnings?" I asked her. I got to share about Jesus's invitation to a new life. An invitation to hope.
And it's only one o'clock :)

I guess you know what you are doing

God I know that you have called me to do this work. I believe heart and soul in it. To love the person in front of me, then to go and stand around the high school. We have seen teens get to know you, and be baptized. We've seen miracles. You are hope. And these teens need hope. After seeing all that you can do I hate that I'm stressed about fundraising. God I know that you have called me into this work, and I know that you have set up people to support it. So please, reveal to me who to ask. Who do I tap on the shoulder and say, I think God has called you to join this work? God I need about 10 more people to join my support team. Please prompt their hearts, please bring me to their minds. This work can't be done without their support. God I chose to trust you. I chose to obey you. Show me what to do.
You are Big. You are Good. I jump into your arms. I trust you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Board Game Anyone?

To stand there holding the game Clue looking expectantly at your parents and having their response to your request for some rare family time be “Can’t you see we are watching TV?” is devastating.
Here I was listening to this teen’s story of thirsting for attention and love and being disappointed when my phone went off again. This would be the worst time ever to pick it up.
But I had to.
I was in the middle of guiding a volunteer through their first Critical Occurrence and had to pick up the phone.
Worst. Timing. Ever.
This girl is emotionally devastated because of her parent’s lack of presence in her life, so she calls up her Youth Worker for coffee, her Youth Worker had to leave her there alone for 15 minutes while she went out to answer an “important but I can’t tell you why” phone call.
Once again I am reminded of the power of being present. I see the brokeness that comes from the lack of it all the time. And in my own life I see the power of a positive and consistent parental presence. When I was a kid my parents would tuck me in every night. About 10 minutes after they put me to bed I would get up and ask for a glass of water. After I got my water and another kiss goodnight I would lay in bed FOREVER. (actual time 10 minutes) Then I would get up out of bed again, open my door very slowly and peek around the corner into the living room. And every time I peeked, I saw my parents sitting there, in their chairs, bibles open, lamps on, music playing in the background. It was comforting to know they were there.
When I got older and would occasionally be home alone at night for whatever reason I would leave the living room lights on and turn on the radio so I could fall asleep.
The power of presence. To have it is amazing, the lack of it leaves you feeling alone. Very alone.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Sometimes, I ask for a rain check. Sometimes, I drive to the High School just to turn around in the parking lot and go home. Sometimes, I’m not ready to hear another heart wrenching story. Sometimes, I need to tell my story first.
I’ve been a Youth Worker for two years now, and one lesson my mentor and supervisor has taught me is that before going into any contact with teens, you have to first be ok with God, and be ok with your spouse, and ok with the world. Only from a place of peace in all those areas will you be a good listener, have wise words to say, and be able love like how God loves.
So yes sometimes I ask for a rain check, sometimes I drive home. But always when talking with a teen, I talk from a place of love. This is not a selfish act, it is because I love them enough to try to be there for them in the long haul. To be here for many many years to come. To be here for their younger siblings when they come up thru the high school, to be a loving presence in their lives. To be stable. To be consistent. So that they know that every time they hang out with Carmen, that they will get a good loving listener.
So sometimes I stay home and do that paperwork that’s been piling up.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Initiation into womanhood. In a tribe in the Amazon they tattoo girl’s faces when they hit puberty. If the girl cries out or makes any noise at all during the 3 day process she is shamed and disowned from the tribe. There have been many different initiations for both boys and girls in history in different places. Here in our culture, in our time we do not traditionally have any initiation rite of passage for our young people to go through to join the world of adults. This may be the reason to blame for adolescence extending into people’s 20’s. Yes, the age of a teenager today is 10 years old up until 24 years old. We start young and don’t know how to get out of this strange phase of life.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This is a set up?

Everyone was dealt a hand of cards when they were born. These determine family, health, wealth, safety, education opportunities, , childhood... all the parts of life that attribute to shaping you in your early years while you are innocent. You can not control these cards, they are just the ones you have.
I was dealt an amazing hand. I have fantastic parents who love me and love each other. I was taught at a young age how to trust God. The first time I had to deal with death in my life didn’t happen until I was 15, and by that time I knew how to deal with it and had a support group of friends and family there for me. I was always healthy except for one month long stint in the hospital when I was 10 for a broken leg. I grew up in Canada so I never had to wonder if a drought would come and kill us all for lack of food or water. I had free education. An amazing hand.
Many of the teens I work with were not so lucky in their cards. Many were dealt cards of sickness, poverty, alcoholic or abusive parents, stalkers, rape, suicide of close ones, violence, depression, mental illness, FAS, trauma, and a general lack of safety and innocence at a young age. Not so lucky.
So is that what it comes down to? To luck? Either you are born into a good life or you are not? I hope not. Actually I can do better then that, I know better then that. I happen to know that life is bigger then that, that there is actually more to life then that.
I met someone there other day, (yes yes, I was talking to strangers again) and she ended up telling me her life story. She grew up in a hostile environment and by age 13 was in a physically, emotionally and sexually abusive relationship with a man. She had three family members commit suicide in one year. (“The domino effect” is what we call that, and it is quite common and a nightmare for all youth workers) Today she is in her 40’s she is happy, has a wonderful husband and three beautiful children. She is passionate about youth work and is setting me up with people she thinks will be interested in supporting my work because a youth worker is why she is where she is today.
I have seen those who were dealt bad cards become inspirational fulfilled happy people. I don’t wish trauma on anyone, but I do have hope for those who have had their fill of it. This is an area of life that I have been personally struggling with over the past six months, and I do not yet have any conclusive ideas about luck and justice and God’s predestination, but I am working it over in my mind and heart a lot. Maybe life is bigger then the cards you have been dealt, but maybe it is actually that simple at the same time? In the words of Forest Gump “S!*t happens.” ??
Have any thoughts on the subject? Feel free to comment and share your heart on the matter, I would love to hear it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Most people who have been around christianity in the past 10 years knows what WWJD stands for. What Would Jesus Do? I think that the spiritual views of most of the teenagers I work with could be summed up by a slight variation of this. WTFWJD?! I found this variation on one of my teen's facebook profiles and I laughed really hard. If you don't know what WTF stands for, just skip this post and read something more interesting.
I love this about the teens I work with. They are highly confused, frustrated, demanding, and wonderfully sincere in their pursuit of God. It keeps me on my toes because I never can tell what question may come up next, but I do know that a cheesy answer will get me no where. These teens will not be satisfied by religion either, they are searching for a mystical, powerful, universal, huge, personal answer to the questions their hearts ask.
Their response to the Jesus fish, an unexplained cliche?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Phone Drama, Part 2

Ring, Ring. RIng, Ring.

Darn it.

I have to pick it up. Here I go. Oh thank you Jesus, it was just Rogers Video.

My Supervisor Danny is away for a month. My co-worker is going away for two weeks, leaving guess who responsible if there are any critical incidences such as explosions, suicides, angry parents, police, dancing flowers...yadda yadda. This would all be ok, except that it means that I have to answer my phone when it rings. Every time. For a month.
Worst August Ever.
If you read “Phone Drama, Part One” you will gain some understanding of my hatred/phobia of answering the phone. And that’s not my weirdest phobia. (Coming soon, Cotton Ball Drama, the trilogy)

Ring, Ring. Ring, Ring.

Pray for me people.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Meet the creepy guy across the street

This is what my co-worker Danny posted a week ago:
A young friend of mine sent me a text late on a Friday night. In it she asked me a question about how God could be good while all her friends are going through so much bad.

I was more curious as to why the question was being asked then the question itself. This young lady has never opened up a foot to faith before and I wondered what pushed her to this point.

She and I talked in person for a bit one night after dinner at my place while everyone else was playing video games. after hearing her explanations of things. I asked if she actually believed in God now but she wasn't sure. I asked if I could try to summarize things for her and asked her to correct anything that didn't describe her thoughts accurately.

I painted a picture of the house accross the street as God's house. Something about that house gave her the creeps and so she generally tried to ignore it and to go on her way. From time to time though she would inadvertently gaze toward the house only to see someone peering through the blinds at her. Now on this Friday night she had noticed God step out on his front porch and while she was still scared she noticed he wasn't as creepy as she thought.

She has watched as her friends have gone over and talked to this guy they call Jesus and she has noticed a change in them. So after a long debate in her mind she went over and said hello and when she went to leave again she found he had followed her home.

As I finished up this conversation i was greeted in laughter at the absurd description and a nodding of the head with the words "exactly".

Phone drama, Part 1

I hate picking up the phone. No, I loath picking up the phone. When I hear that ringing noise and see the caller ID flash an unknown number my whole being cringes. This could be something as stupid as Rogers Video saying I have not returned a DVD, or it could be a teen who is in trouble, or it could be someone wanting to know something that I don’t have the answer for. Someone wants to talk to me.

It’s the not knowing that gets me.

When the caller ID shows a number I recognize it’s almost worse. Why are they calling? It could be something as harmless as wanting to borrow my Star Wars DVD collection, or something could be wrong and they need my help, or they may have a question I don’t have the answer to. When their name flashes on my BlackBerry screen I instantly wonder if I did anything recently to make them angry. I wonder what they might want from me, and I wonder if whatever they are calling for will require me to stop what I’m doing now and do something else. I hope it’s not that bad news I’ve been expecting.

My defensive skills tell me to let it go to voicemail or to throw the phone across the room. My heart tells me that someone might be reaching out for help, and I need to reach back. I pick up the phone. It’s as recorded voice saying I need to return my copy of “Precious”. My heart rate goes back to normal.

Ring, Ring. Ring, Ring.... to be continued.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

a hug

It was thursday night and everyone was listening to annabelle who said “earlier tonight i asked carmen to pray for me. and i dont know how to describe it. it was like a warm blanket was on me. i felt a hug from god. carmen was praying for comfort and that god would let me know he was there.”
The rest of the night was spent praying for each other. We put a chair in the middle of a circle of teens, all in different places in their spiritual walk, and these teens surrounded each other, placed hands on each other, and prayed. It was a beautiful scene.

Question Ball Answers

The question ball has been a source of laughter and tears over the past 4 months. It's a beach ball covered with questions written with a black sharpie pen. These questions are both silly and deep. We pass the question ball around for hours most mondays. Here are some of the questions and answers I have heard over the past few months...

what cause would you go to war for?.... peace.
are you ready? ....for what?
how would you like to die?.... on the Eiffel tower riding a Giraffe listening to Hedly.
what keeps you up at night?... thinking too much.
what super power do you want?... flight.
fold or wadd?... fold
what book has really impacted your life?...the bible, even if I haven't read it, its impacted my life.
who has most impacted your life, for good or for bad?... my parents.
how are you similar to a carrot?... i dyed my hair green once.
what's wrong with the world today?... greed.
when does a boy become a man?... when he takes responsibility for his actions.
is smoking pot wrong?... depends what country you are in/ no
How many chances should you give someone before you give up on them?...Until it's no longer healthy for them to have you there
what do you regret most in life?... i don't regret anything because I wouldn't be who I am today without my mistakes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

i sang

Its hard to sing when you have tears streaming down your face. But what else is there to do when you glimpse the grace of God?
I walked in my door, put my purse down, locked the door and collapsed onto my knees. The emotions I had denied from the past few weeks rolling over me. They could come now, it was ok. Along with the hard hitting pain of injustice and heartache, there was a sweetness. A sweetness so great, so potent, so beautiful I could do nothing else but sing. “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.” So with tears running unhindered down my face onto the floor, I wept. I wept for the lost teens who long for pure love, but cant seem to find it. I wept for divorce, the ripping it causes in all hearts involved. I wept for the silence that often goes with abuse. I wept for all the heartache I see behind the eyes in the smiling faces. The awe of God washed over me and I sang. I sang for pure love touching the lives of those still unaware of its presence. I sang for grace, a thing more powerful then division. I sang for the knowledge that God is at alive and at work in the world that I walk today.
This choking, lurching song will never be sung on a stage or recorded in a studio. This is the song of my heart. Listen if you dare.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Does this look like prayer?

last night we had a great time, my co-worker Danny said it best in his blog proyouthworker.blogspot.com
Does this look like prayer?

Does this look like prayer?

It actually didn't feel much like a prayer night. There was mingling. Laughing. Interacting and fun.
Most of the time when we picture a prayer meeting it seems like something that may be stuff and boring. Although ultimately important - still a bit uncomfortable.

We started off the night with some music. Singing. But not your typical songs. We sang songs that were out of the culture that we could see God's hands in. Bands like Collective Soul and Snow Patrol. When it came to the song "Lean on me" the sound level in the room was deafening.

We moved into a time of confession. Taking the things we wanted to say to God and nailing it to a cross. We also had a whiteboard in the room that was God's facebook on which people could write anything they wanted. It turned into the most noisy prayer meeting ever. It was more like a party as people interacted about life and the cross was the center of the interaction. Every once and while your heard the nails being pounded in and that meant another amen. During this all we had DJ Chris Harrington mixing some great tunes.

The night took a different spin as we took some time to tell God about our passions. We passed around a globe and people could write their prayers out for the world on it. We also made a poster of the things that we are the most passionate about.

The night ended as we lit candles to represent our prayers to God. It started off dark with only a few candles burning but by the end of the night the room was glowing.
I loved seeing prayer. I loved being able to grasp it and conceive it. And to take a bunch of people who only a couple years ago wanted nothing to do with God to spending an entire evening in prayer with them really was a miracle.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

high lighter

Corey came home to me crying on the couch with a book in hand today. When he asked I told him that it wasn't the horrible story that brings the tears, its the blue high lighter. Danny gave the book to a young girl to read, she read it and loved it so much she asked me to read it so we could talk about it together. She told me how much she related to the girl in the story. The story is filled with rape and other abuses physical and emotional, the deaths of friends and how this girl deals with those things. The story would break your heart, the fact that this girl could relate to such a tragic story crushed mine. The book is called "this road I walk" by twyla rempel-saddul. Here are some high lighted parts: "she wondered if a person ever actually got over a tragedy." "God must be punishing me." "it was only a matter of wearing her down and exhausting her resolve." "shame." "she scrubbed with soap until her skin turned red and her flesh burned. She had to make the feeling go away. the filth stuck to her." "humiliation" "She couldn't allow herself hope."
This teenaged girl assured me that the book has a good ending, so I will keep reading, but right now I just want to close my eyes and ears and pretend these cruelties don't exist. I want to, but I wont. Too many people close their eyes and ears to these cries of hurt little girls, misunderstanding when they act out. So I refuse to stop, I will reach out, I will keep reading, and I will keep hoping for the happy ending.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Two youth leaders rose to gold standards tonight. They took on and lead our thursday dessert night. We made it an olympic themed night in honour of the chaos that is happening around us here in the lower mainland. I helped and guided them providing ideas and resources and thats about it. They took it and ran with it. I am so proud of them.
It was a night of games and fun, starting with running in with our Olympic torch (a butane lighter) and ending with an awards ceremony (yogurt lids glued to cardboard on a ribbon). Us leaders then took the opportunity to give out individual awards to all the teens in attendance (the bottom of a styrofoam cup with a sharpie written word on it a hole and a piece of string). It was a touching ceremony. One teen got a medal for endurance in his life, one for commitment, another teen was awarded a medal for her Spirit.
That "spirit" girl helped me carry some supplies out at the end of the night, I told her that I meant everything I said earlier about how I love her spirit and am so happy she has come and joined our little group as of late. She told me that it was a better influence on her and it was better then going out and getting drunk. She told me just a few facts about her life before she moved to Langley and I was surprised by how much she had endured already. I am excited to get to know her better and glad that our thursday night dinners are serving the purpose we intend for them.
Go Canada Go!

I'm in, all in

Its why i do what I do, to hear those words. The guy sitting opposite me in Starbucks said "I dont want to just dip my toe in, I want to dive in all the way." We were talking about his relationship with God. We discussed how to "dwell in the presence of the Lord" and what that means. How to find our shelter in him, we used the analogy of chicks who find shelter from the storm under the wings of their mother hen. "Under the shadow of the Almighty you find refuge." It was a great talk and now we are going to meet every monday during his spare block to study the bible and learn how to pray and listen to the voice of God together. I'm really excited.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Happy Birthday

It was at our thursday night dinner last week that we ate ice cream cake and sang happy birthday to one of our core kids. I got all choked up looking around the room at all the faces singing away. This has become a family. We have hurt together, and laughed together, and now we were celebrating together. It was touching. The sister of the birthday girl made up a video tribute to her older sister. Pictures, music, and touching words all together made us laugh and cry. At the end of the video the words flashed onto the screen "and thank you to those of you who have helped us become this way... you know who you are." Then a picture of me and this girl flashed onto the screen. Then her with my two coworkers. I stopped trying to hide my tears.
This is mostly a thankless job, but when thanks does come, it is so sweet.

Monday, January 11, 2010

At the bottom and alone

Today as the staff of Langley Youth For Christ we brain stormed about what life is made up of. We put down words on a peice of paper like "purpose" and "community" and "friends" and "adventure", "family" "friends" "hope" "faith" "love" and "meaning". Then we took turns thinking about different teens we work with and crossed off the words that they dont have. It was down right depressing. Black ink crossing out family and friends and hope and purpose. There were very few words left when we were done. All of the assets to life that we thought were nessicary these kids dont have. Then we went through and thought about which of those words we can provide for these teens. Love, commiunity, friendship, adventure, those are some, but the rest of them we cant give, we can only point the way to faith and hope and learning and growth. It all seems so inadiquite when looking at that black smeared paper. The picture it left was one of hopelessnes and lonelyness. And all I have to offer is to point out the right direction. That would get depressing, if the voice of Jesus wasnt waiting to ambush me as soon as I got into my car after that meeting.

For christmas my husband got me the bible on cd so i can listen to it in my car when I drive. When I got into my car the words of Jesus were liturally shouting at me "Dont you remember how many baskets full of bread you picked up after I fed the 5000? Dont you get it? How long will you be not understanding?"
Because this has always been the situation. These kids have always been at the bottom alone with not much going for them, but we have incredable stories of God doing miriacles in their lives. Victory stories of hope living in hopeless situations, of faith blossoming in kids that had none, meaning and purpose coming to the lives of teens who were desolate.

Remember the baskets full of bread.

Friday, January 8, 2010

the new year

the new year is a great time for new beginnings. People are looking to the future, moving on from the past. its a time for letting go, and for reaching up. I spent today contacting some kids I haven't seen since Christmas break, touching base, hearing stories of Christmas.
i blogged before about how Christmas can be a tough time for kids, and it was. there was however good news too. three times today I had kids surprise me by saying "actually, Christmas was good."
So thanks to all of you who have been praying, it helped.
I dont know what surprises this new year holds, but I walk towards them with faith that God knows what He is doing and will give me the words I need to share. My prayer is that this would be a year of healing after 2009 being a year of change.