Thursday, November 1, 2012

Is Life Just Hard?

Ok. So here's the deal. Last week I was at a ladies conference and it was excellent. As part of the weekend we listened to a panel of ladies who have overcome much. Loss. Divorce. Death. Mental illness, and all the nice things like anxiety and shame that go along like a side dish to the already full plate of struggle for these poor women. They were inspiring as they told their powerful stories of how they fought through it with God's help. I went away with one question.
Is life just hard?
I work with at-risk kids and their families so I understand that my view of the world may be effected by that perspective. I'm surrounded by hurting people all day and then go home and put on the news and hear stories that make me scared to be at home alone. So I have begun to wonder if this is all life is. Inevitable suffering.
Don't get me wrong.
I know that life has awesome things to offer. I have lots of amazing things and my life is filled with so much joy every day. I'm not sad here...I'm just wondering if one day I will have to suffer. Like it's inevitable. I'm followed by this terrible feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. This joy can't last. I'm willing to admit that I may be wrong. I hope for it actually. Hence this little blog post. I'm taking an in-formal survey. If you are over 30 years old and have not suffered much, let me know. I want to hear about it. Does everyone who lives on this planet have to under go some great trial? Or are there a lucky few who escape and lead trauma-free lives? If this describes you. Let me know. I will write a follow up to this post based on the responses I get. Until then!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Grown to Last Fail

"Grown to last Guarantee my foot!" ya...I can kill anything. These 4 inch roses that claimed to be able to last for a minimum of 4 weeks died a slow painful death in my office in 3. I didn't ignore them either. I watered them faithfully. Can you over-water plants? huh, shows how much I know. The good news is I feel no compassion for these plants. I don't give a rip about them or their feelings. The reason for me being upset is only because they lied to me. Stupid lying roses. It's harder to take when people do this. Wither away in front of you. As a youth worker I spend my time caring for people. I buy them coffee, listen to them, comfort them, encourage them. Lots of times this has a good result in happier healthier people. Sometimes it doesn't. So how does a youth worker deal with failure like that?
It's all about success.
How you define it, I mean. 1john 4:19 says "We love because He (meaning God) first loved us." Note that this passage doesn't say "We love so that people get better." Or "We love so that the world changes." No. No. No. There is no "so that". There is only a "because of". If you change your idea of what success is to being "Did I love because Christ first loved me today?" instead of "Did that person change?" you will be over all more encouraged and successful. This will allow yourself to grow and thrive! If you work with people and feel yourself withering away right along side those that you care for, remember why you care. Remember your purpose. And then get right back out there in the spirit of Because Of.

Monday, July 23, 2012

An Explanation of The Cross of Jesus, The One Called Christ
I read of a God of justice. A God who looks at this broken world full of pain and hurt and wrong doing, and He grieves. He weeps and the Holy Spirit intercedes with deep groaning for us. Then this grieving God takes action and punishes the wicked and cruel. He repairs the brokenness of the world with fire. He is like a potter putting unfinished clay vessels into the furnace, or like a metalsmith refining gold with fire. There is suffering, there is justice. Recompense for evil actions taken by evil people. Whole countries getting what they deserve. A God of justice bringing justice.
I read of a God of love. A God who made people in His image and loves them with a depth that none can imagine. A God who looks at this world and smiles at what he sees. He rejoices and delights in the people He has made. Then this joy filled God takes action and provides adventure and fun and beauty for his people to enjoy. He is like a Father playing in the back yard with His children, or like a big brother who teaches his siblings the joys of bike riding and catching butterflies. There is joy, there is love. Love that knows no bounds pours out over the entire world in sunshine and song and dance. A loved people being lavished on by a God of love. A God of love being loving.
I read that this God of justice and this God of love are one in the same. A heart ripped in two by a need to see justice done, and love for those whom justice would punish. How are these two attributes of God reconciled? At the cross. The place where Jesus willingly died for the sake of the people who he loved. Where the justice of God came down, but came down on the one head that didn’t deserve it. Jesus, the one called Christ, took on his body and soul the punishment for a world filled with injustice. In doing this He freed the beloved people from their deserved punishment so that they might enjoy the beauty that they were created to live in for eternity.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that none should parish, but all could have eternal life.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Why am I still surprised?

2 chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked says, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” A prayer made in humility is a prayer quickly answered by God. For “He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34) This is the lesson I learned yet again this week. I woke up on Sunday morning, in my Grandparents house, anxious. I was staying there because that day I was going to Saltspring Island to speak at my home church there. Waking up at 5am because of nervousness I rolled over and fell back asleep. That’s when the dreams started. I dreamt that the support for my ministry with Youth Unlimited dried up. Everyone stopped giving. I was left doing this work alone. So I was forced to return to work as a waitress. (Shudder.) I thought that I was done with that purgatory in my life. I woke up again when my alarm went off and this time I was anxious about two things. About speaking that morning, and about my financial situation. See the thing is that my dream wasn’t unfounded. I have had a growing concern about my fundraising account for the past 6 months or so as my expenses have increased and the inflow of giving hasn’t. With all of this bouncing around my head I cried out to Jesus saying “God, I have a job to do today. I have a message to deliver that I believe you have given me for this church today. I can’t have this anxiety distracting me from what I came here to do. So please take it from me. And ps- please bring in more money. Amen.” I went to the Island, delivered my message and it was very well received. I had only been back at my grandparents house for a few hours that afternoon when my Uncle handed me a check increasing their support of our ministry. WOW. Talk about immediate answer to prayer! And get this... my Uncle said to me. “Ya, I’ve been planning on sending this in for a while now, I just haven’t gotten around to it. So I figured I could just give it to you and you can take it in to head office yourself.” WOW again. Dear Uncle I know exactly why you “never got around” to it earlier. Because you were intended by an all-knowing God to hand it to me that day, to glorify Him. To show that He is powerful. To show that He knows all of our concerns and is willing and able to help. Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Wolves Inside

Most of the time as a youth worker I feel that my teenagers never listen to a word I say. So I was pleasantly surprised last week when, in the middle of our conversation, one of my teens explained to me how she made a decision recently; "Well I was just thinking about what you said that one time..about the wolves inside us..." Huh, no kidding. That's awesome! She was remembering a story that I had told her a while back when we were talking about giving our lives to Jesus one day at a time, one piece of our hearts at a time. It's a great little story, so I thought I would share it here as well.
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith." The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

12 Long Stemmed Roses, A Ring, and 10 Million Dollars

I heard this story today... There was a girl named Jen who was working at a YWAM base in Hawaii. At church one Sunday a visiting preacher was talking about blind Bart. A story about Jesus healing a blind man. In the story blind Bart calls out to Jesus, and Jesus turns and yells back "What do you want?" Bart says "I want to see." And Jesus heals him. Pretty awesome story. This preacher guy asked the church congregation on that Sunday morning, "What do you want?" This YWAM girl prayed in her head "Jesus, I want a dozen peach long stemmed roses, and a ring to put on my finger so I can look at it and remember that you love me." I can't remember if it was a few days or a few hours later, but nonetheless a flower shop van pulled up the the YWAM base. They man in the van went to the lady at the counter and said "Hey, we accidentally ordered way too many flowers. Could you use them here?" The lady at the counter was very excited to get 12 bunches of 12 dozen peach long stemmed roses. She had a key to Jen's room. The desk lady thought it would be nice to leave a bunch of the roses in Jen's room. So she put them on her dresser, and thought it would be funny to leave a note. So she left a note saying "To Jen. I love you. Signed, Jesus Christ." A few days later this same girl was out to dinner with a few of her supporters. They presented her with a little box. What was inside? A diamond ring that had been in their family for years and they had felt led to give to her.
So here this girl was, with a diamond ring and 12 peach colored long-stemmed roses with a note from GOD. So what did Carmen learn from this story? I looked towards heaven, and with all sincerity I prayed "Jesus, I want a dozen peach long stemmed roses, a diamond ring, and 10 million dollars for my ministry. Amen." As I kept talking to God I realized that my prayer was a bit irresponsible. If I continue to do this work with Youth Unlimited for the next 45 years I will not have used up 10 million dollars. So I thought about how long I knew I will be here for. I only see life one step at a time, and I can only be sure that I will be here for another year. So what money could I use in my ministry in the next year? 10 thousand. That would do. So I changed my prayer to wanting 10 thousand dollars to be donated. I am writing this out so that you can journey with me as this story continues to unfold! Stay tuned to hear something like "I just got an anonymous check for..." or "wow can you believe I found a lottery ticket on the ground and..." or "I was caught in a flash mob and ten thousand people just walked up to me and gave me a dollar!" I don't know how God is going to do it. But I'm confident and silly enough to believe that the God who gives a girl in Hawaii flowers and a ring with a note will give me enough money to make all my dreams for this ministry come true in the next year. Alonzy Alonzo!

Turtle on a Fence Post

If you've ever seen a turtle on a fence post you know that it didn't get there on it's own.
I am that turtle.
Figuratively, duh. In the past year I have done many big, scary, fancy things that are way too big, too scary, and too fancy for little old me. Or I should say "little young me". I did not go looking for these things, I did not crawl there myself. I was invited. There have been many people in my life who have opened doors for me, taken risks on me, given me freedom, vouched for me, and taken me under their wings. That's not even to mention the rest of you who have supported me both in faithful and passionate prayers, and those who have given, even given sacrificially, so that I can keep on keep'n on. This is for you.
Thank You.
I have a special place in my heart for you all. I do not take your giving, risking, and effort for granted. I strive to be a good steward of what I have been given. It's actually apart of my prayers that I pray every night with Corey. "God, help us to be good stewards of what you have given us. Help us choose the best paths with wisdom." I thank God for all of you today. I would not be here if it weren't for you. Bless you.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Donkey in a Ditch

This is a story that I've found myself telling more then one teenager this week; The morning after a big storm a farmer walked about his property surveying the damage from the night before. He found his prized donkey stuck in a hole. He tried to coax the donkey out, but didn't have any success. The hole was as deep as the donkey was tall so the animal simply couldn't get out, struggle as he may. The farmer gathered his neighbours and sons who tied ropes under the poor animal and all together they pulled. The donkey didn't budge. They even tried to get a ramp down to the donkey but had even less success then their two previous attempts. The donkey was well and truly stuck. There was no getting it out. At a loss of what else to do, with no hope of ever getting his animal back, the farmer resolved to bury the donkey alive. He shovelled a few scoops of dirt, throwing it on the donkey's back. This went on for a while until the donkey became annoyed at the extra weight. The donkey shook it's self, all the dirt fell into the whole and on to the donkey's hooves. This annoyed the donkey even more, so he stomped his feet. This became a ritual. The farmer shovelled the earth, the donkey shook it off, then stomped it down so he could stand on top of it. This ritual went on all day. Shake it off, step up, Shake it off, step up. You can see where this is going. Eventually the donkey began to rise up. Before the edge of the hole was at his nose, pretty soon it was at his shoulders. The work continued, and up and up the donkey rose until he was high enough to step out of his imprisonment. What's the moral of the story? Sometimes in life when we find ourselves in deep wholes, of our own making or not, the only way we can get out of them is to simply shake it off, and step up.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Self-Injury Resources

This post is a follow up for those who attended my breakout session at History Maker yesterday on the subject of self-harm and requested more resources. Workshop The Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute puts on an excellent 2 day workshop on this subject. I highly recommend this for any leader who is working with young people. This workshops covers a lot of material, everything from what is self harm, to how to identify, to how to react to it, to how to counsel a youth through it, how to talk to the youth's parents about it, bah blah blah. I found this extremely helpful. Here is the link to their website. Their workshops travel across most major canadian cities, and come to vancouver every few months. Books Here are some books that I have heard good things about... Healing the hurt within; Understand self-injury and heal the emotional wounds; Sutton,J. Hope and Healing for Kids who Cut; Penner, M. Stopping the pain; A workbook for teens who cut and self-injure; Shapiro, L.E Websites to check out You will remember my t-shirt? I've found that youth can easily identify with the story behind this movement, and being that they use words like "movement" it's exciting for the youth to jump on board. S.A.F.E (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) has a website; I love their philosophy, you can read about it in the "about us" page. Also their resource page is loaded with good recommendations. Phone 1-800-DONTCUT End Note Warning Against Forums: I don't recommend kids going onto online forums and talking about self-harm in forums. In my experience it only triggers them with the urge to self harm themselves and teaches them to do it better and how to keep it secret longer. That's why I like TWLOHA because they can feel the support of not being alone, while not hearing stories that will give them the desire to self-harm. Having said that there are many forums online for kids to get plugged into. If a kid is going to do this anyway it's important that they plug into a positive forum focused on health and help. is an ok one. It's self policing. There is also, which I think is a better website for the positive feel to it. I hope this helps as you walk with youth through this journey of self-harm recovery. Blessings!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Basic Truth Packs a Punch

I was sitting in my in-laws kitchen working away on my upcoming workshops when I stumbled upon this quote;
"Someone once asked me, 'Why do you always insist on taking the hard road?' I replied, 'Why do you assume I see two roads?'"
This simple question and answer packs a powerful punch of reality. I often can become impatient with my teens when they make the same mistake over and over again. I wonder why they would choose to do that dumb thing again. Then I sit with them and tell them something really simple. Something so simple that I feel stupid saying it. It's such basic knowledge that I feel like I'm insulting their intelligence by voicing it.
"There is another way."
That's all. That's it. So simple, and so basic, but that little bit of truth has changed lives in front of my eyes week in and week out. I remember my driving instructor telling me something once; "A fish is the last one to discover water." Basically saying that when you are completely surrounded by something it's hard to see it. I guess that's what mentors are for. It's also what prayer is for. For opening our eyes to see things that are often right in front of us. So what is today's lesson? Be patient and speak truth kindly.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Row away from the Rocks

Call on God, but row away from the rocks. ~Indian Proverb This made me laugh right out loud. There are so many conversations that I look back on now and wish I had had these words of wisdom to share. You see, I have found that we people love to be in control, unless it means we have to do anything. In that case we are all to eager about God having the control and blaming him when bad things happen due to our own actions. Of course it's only in looking back that we can see our hypocrisy. In the moment we are upset and confused and angry. We cry out to God to fix something that is in our arms reach to fix ourselves. "Dear God, make me stop doing drugs and sleeping around. Amen." "Dear child, stop doing drugs and sleeping around. Love God." You know what I mean here? Now don't get me wrong. Prayer is incredibly powerful. And beautiful. I love prayer. I don't know how I would live without those times of communing with God. And yet, I must take responsibility for my own actions. So let's not do one or the other. I've always been a fan of choosing option C, all of the above. When problems arise and you find yourself heading for a path of bad things, come to God and ask for his help, and then change your path.

Monday, March 26, 2012


“FREEDOM!!!” WIlliam Wallace shouts out at the top of his lungs with his last breath in the climax scene in Braveheart. I sit on the couch, clutching my blanket, tears in my eyes, and my heart is moved.
There are some words that just have to be shouted.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Surfing. By Accident. Yay Me?

But by the grace of God go I

I had been out on that stupid surfboard for what seemed like hours. I was prune-y and frustrated. I hate being frustrated. I hadn’t caught a single wave. Not one stupid wave. All the people around me had caught them and then paddled back out with what I imagined were smug little smiles of satisfaction at being able to do what I could not. I was done. I started paddling back to shore with a sour frown on my face. Corey caught me half way there. “What are you doing?” he asked. “I’m going in! I hate this stupid board! I can’t do it, I’m done. I give up. It’s a waste of money me being here! I’m going to go and give this to someone who can actually use it and have fun! Blaargaaahhh!”
(Blaargaaahhh may not be the actually spelling, insert general noise of frustration here.)
In wisdom brought on by nearly three years of marriage Corey let me go without trying to encourage me to keep going. I continued my grumpy paddle towards the shore, with strength brought on by impatience. A wave came up from no where (directly behind me) and picked me and my board up and carried us along. “Huh. I caught a wave. I guess I should stand up.” So I stood up and voila! I was surfing. By accident. Yay me. I laughed my head off as I surfed along, which eventually tossed me off my board. I had a huge smile on my face as I humbly pulled up onto the shore, very aware of my short comings and God’s sense of humor.
This experience has served me as a reminder that it is but for the grace of God that I can do anything. I have come home from my holiday ready to jump back into my work with a humble attitude of “but for the grace of God go I.” I could try and try and try, and without God I have nothing. With Him I have Everything.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Am Everyone Else

It was snowing outside. With keys in my hand I leaned over the receptionist's desk and told Shari, “You know how when it’s snowing people say “I’m comfortable with my driving, it’s everyone else on the road that scares me.” Well...” She laughs and completes my sentence with “You are the everyone else, eh?” I laugh along, but let out a nervous twitch as I watch those little white flakes of doom continue to fall from the sky. “It’s true. I’m the everyone else. I suck at driving in the snow, and so as a favor to the rest of humanity, I’m going home before this snow starts to stick.”
I am everyone else. That’s the phrase that stuck with me as I drove home, gripping the steering wheel with an iron grip, suspicious that it was about to develop a mind of its own and crash us into the nearest available solid object. I am everyone else. Hmmm...
It’s anti-bullying day today. Bullying is awful. It’s existed forever, this is no new problem, but it has transformed a bit. It’s expanded and developed to be a tech-savvy creature. The most recent incident I encountered with bullying was when one of my teens showed me a text messaging conversation she had had over the weekend. The content was unbelievable. Then she showed me the advertisement that bully had put up on craigslist. It had her picture, her name and phone number. This girl had to change her phone number because she was getting phone calls from “Johns” looking to buy sex. This is bullying.
There are three roles in the bullying scenario. The first is the victim. The second is the bully. The third, and most important role, is everyone else. If everyone who witnessed bullying in it’s different forms stood up and stopped it, bullies would have a much more difficult time. As you walk by the park and see three little boys being mean to a fourth kid, do you walk on and mind your own business? Yes you do. Of course you do. We all do. We are the everyone else. That’s our role.
This is a call out to Everyone Else. Let’s take our role more seriously. Get Involved. Be a nosey neighbor. (If everyone had nosey neighbors domestic abuse would be much less common, but that’s another rant for another snow day.) Refuse to stay silent and watch. At the mall, in Tim Hortons, on the side of the road where your car is stuck in a snow bank, wherever you are, Get Involved. Speak Up. I dare you.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

you aren't as important as you think you are. The End.

This is a devotional I wrote for my church's 40 days of lent. I decided to share it with all of you too.

Mark 4:26-29

He also said, “this is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain-first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

News Flash: You aren’t as important as you think you are. The end.

Just kidding.

Seriously now, we all think we are so darn important. I was taught that since kindergarten. The message we hear over and over goes something like this, “You are special! Just like everyone else.” A survey I read recently said that teenagers have a huge sense of importance, and directly related to that, they have a huge sense of failure. The expectation that “you are special” puts tons of pressure on our shoulders to be important. That can be overwhelming!
Here in Mark 4 I hear Jesus telling me to relax. Because whether I’m up and about, or laying sick in bed, HE is out doing HIS work. It’s His kingdom to build, and He is. With me, or without me. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an excuse to stay in bed and avoid going out there and getting your hands dirty. It’s an invitation to do exactly that! Jesus invites us to partake, to play a role in his Kingdom, but to remember that it’s just a role, and it’s His show.
The Holy Spirit is out there right now bringing the kingdom of God to earth in the hearts and minds of people to join Him?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Apprentice of 'Splode-sation

I wear a jacket around the community with the words "Youth Worker" on the back. This way when I'm seen in public hanging out with teenagers the adults know that I'm a positive influence and not a drug dealer. It describes what I do and is a great conversation starter in the grocery store line up or while waiting for the elevator. I like my jacket even though it is four hundred sizes too big for me.

Sitting at home thinking about Jesus I wondered what he would have written on the back of his jacket if he had one. Would it say "Hope"? How about "Life"? Maybe be even "Disturber of the peace". Other words come to mind as I think about who Jesus has been to me in my life. Words like "Healer" and "Friend" and some word I can think of but has something to do with that feeling you get when you cant stop laughing. I want to say "Joy" but that word seems so....flat. I'm talking about that sensation of sides hurting, tears streaming, can't breath, can't see, choking on laughter explosion feeling. Maybe I'll make up a word...umm.. 'splode-sation.
It's my 'splode-sation to follow Jesus and so maybe I should change my jacket to something more like his? "Follower of Hope" or "Fan of Healer" or "Stalker of Life" .
There is more to it then that though. I want to be like him. So I could be "imitator of the disturber of the peace" or "apprentice of 'splode-sation".
Those are getting to be a bit long. I'll stick with "Youth Worker". If you have an idea I would love to hear your comments!