You can’t wash off the Tenderloin

Last weekend was the annual City Impact Conference in the Tenderloin. According to the SF City Impact website, the Tenderloin district is the poorest district in San Francisco. It is one square mile with over 35,000 people and 4-6,000 additional homeless. One of the most striking facts was that the Tenderloin averages 3 MAJOR crimes EACH hour. I went to the conference knowing the statistics, and expecting to feel uncomfortable and unsafe at times. This was my first time at an Outreach where I was more than a behind-the-scenes helper. My exposure to homeless people is passing them on the street or wondering when I see one with a cardboard sign, if I should give them some change?

When you enter the tenderloin, practical reasons require you to look where you are walking. The smell is mostly stale urine mixed with fresh marijuana. The aroma permeates the streets so deeply, at first I wondered if I would get a “contact high”. There are residents on every street, and as we walked toward the conference center, I wondered about the story each person had. God has made us so uniquely individual, and although there can be many similarities in a situation that brings a person to their knees on the streets of San Francisco, I was surprised that I felt an immediate interest in knowing each one of these people and finding out what their personal story was. Sometimes we walk through life, regardless of our social status and feel like we are “unseen”. I wanted to grab their hand and whisper to each person I passed, “I see you.”

Once we were seated in the Warfield Theater, we got an introduction to the services City Impact provides. This ministry that has grown out of one man’s desire to help, now serves the Tenderloin by providing resources like: A Rescue Mission, a Thrift Shop, Medical Clinic, Christian School, Breakfast Café, and also adopts different buildings to minister to the residents through food delivery and Bible study, etc. After the intro, we heard from a wonderful speaker who essentially told us that righteousness does not come from the acts you do, so when we were released to serve, that we should carry an attitude of righteousness or the work we do is meaningless to God. The conference leader was prepping us for our locations and it suddenly struck me like a lightening bolt, I might have to talk to people! (Just for a bit of perspective- I was held back in Kindergarten because I was so shy.) Shyness has been a life-long charachteristic of mine and I couldn’t believe I got all the way down into the middle of the Tenderloin without thinking once, that I was going to talk to people today! It reminded me a bit of child birth. Once you are half way through labor, there is no turning back… I felt virtually helpless, so I put on a happy face and we grabbed our lunch bags and hit the streets.

If they gave an award for most awkward volunteer, I am sure I would win by a landslide. I had no idea what I was doing, no idea how to answer questions, and I stayed largely in the middle of the tent watching what others were doing. I tried to step in and help if someone needed a highlighter or a particular page and finally I got an assignment to write on post it notes. Although I have to admit I was more of an observer than a helper, I was still able to connect with the residents of the Tenderloin and learned a lot about them. The tent I was working in was called “social and legal services” and was essentially a referral tent. The individuals came for an array of needs, mainly housing. The inquires also included information on probation, domestic violence, employment, dental care and social security info. Many people not only asked for information, but wanted to talk to someone. Some residents clearly had mental illness, physical ailments or addictions. A few people walked up to our tent and said, “what do you have to give me?”. There was a range of people who were sincerely seeking help and a population that seemed incapable of accepting help unless it was a hand out. It was clear to me that God did not call City Impact to discriminate among who deserved help, but to serve the community broadly and make changes through building relationships with the community as a whole.

If you stop and truly take a moment to see a person on the street, you see a life. Instead of judging or wondering how they got to such a disgusting place and why they don’t want to get themselves out of it, look a little deeper. Don’t just wonder if you really should dig in your purse when traffic stops uncomfortably close to the panhandler. Look at them, see them and realize that they are people. Some have big, unfulfilled dreams; some have wicked senses of humor; some are incredibly charming; some barely surviving; some are parents.

Earlier that morning when I woke up, I had considered not going. I was nervous about a new environment, afraid I wouldn’t be able to really help. I had no idea I would leave my heart (with the people of Tenderloin) in San Francisco. I didn’t have a lot of expectations, but I was entirely unprepared for the result. The residents of the Tenderloin are people in need. The faces I saw, left imprints on my heart, and I didn’t want to leave when it was time to go home. I felt dirty and tired, but I still didn’t want to go home, it felt so hollow to just go back to my comfy life while others live daily in pain and need. After a day spent in the inner city, I really wanted a shower, but I was afraid if I washed off the grime and sweat of my day, that I would forget the experience and the people and life would go back to being business as usual. Lucky for me, you can’t wash off the Tenderloin.

Book Review: “Chasing God” by Roger Huang


I have been very frustrated in my plan to read this summer. There always seems to be a pull on my attention, mainly kiddos. My top priority this summer is to connect with my children, but I also crave the type of reading I can only do in summer. The heart encouraging, soul-lifting, laughter giving books that seem to stack up during the other 9 months of the year.


I had this great plan and well, reality interrupted it. So, as we enter the second month of summer I am going to choose to ignore the stack of books that remain unread and focus on the two I have read all the way through.


“Chasing God” by Roger Huang.

Roger is an immigrant who developed a heart for the broken people of the tenderloin district in San Francisco. After God shifted his heart, he began walking around the tenderloin with his family, passing out sandwiches and prayers to whomever he could. His endeavours blossomed into a full time ministry after much struggle and stepping out in faith to where God had called him. The ministry is called SF City Impact and I have the opportunity to attend their conference this month and get a first hand taste of how this important ministry spreads the love of Christ!


On a regular basis, I struggle with feeling confident in God’s plan for me. Knowing God’s plan for me involves getting to know God. I have to spend enough time with Him that I can learn to clearly recognize the ways He speaks to me. In the book, Roger states, “ I have prayed long enough to recognize thought that are from the Holy Spirit.” (p.233). Sometimes, I start to think hearing God can be complicated, but this quote reminded me that the most important factor in communicating with God is making communication regular enough that I can learn when He is speaking, versus; your own thoughts or other influences. It was a good reminder that hearing God speak is not just for the spiritually “elite”, it’s for everyone that seeks Him.


The most influencing parts of the book were the parts where Roger talked about his struggles. The road from bologna sandwiches to a non-profit that hosts thousands of volunteers, supports a church and school, etc. did not come easily. Struggling with God’s timing, various relationships, resources, and personal issues were all issues Roger faced. His childhood was one of abuse and neglect. He experienced many failures in ministry and faced many challenges when following God into the tenderloin. {Not to ruin it for you… the story does have a happy ending!} However, the most impactful portions of it, were the times when Roger questioned himself, doubted his competence and abilities. I don’t believe that very many people following God have a smooth path free of self-doubt. Whether it is a parenting issue; an outreach opportunity; a book launch; or a disabling addiction, we all benefit from the reminder that life can be difficult even for the people who seem to be doing such large and important things for God. This book makes the point that following God is the only option.


I would highly recommend this book to anyone. It has universal appeal.  It is a shot of inspiration to follow in the tracks God has planned for you. It is a reassurance that God is always present, God is always faithful. It is a reminder to be close to God above all else, and a call on your life to find the passion God has planted inside you. You will laugh, you will cry and you will be more empowered to follow the “impossible” dream God has planted in you.



Answered Prayer and Subsequent Panic

Ok, so God answers prayer. Sometimes He does it in a way that knocks your socks off and then you have to live with the answer.


We have been in a period of calm for about a year. Our lives are busy, but comfortable and I think we manage our time well. We are coming out of a turbulent time and finding that God gave us a rest period we are so grateful for. There have been no deaths, court hearings, health crisis or moves for the last few months and I just traded in my 10 year old flannel sheets for a bargain priced superior thread count sheet set to go under my down comforter. My life is pretty great.


Within my relationships in real life and my contacts online, I know I am not alone in being frustrated at what I perceive to be the lack of spiritual motivation my husband has had. The last few years I have been learning that a wife’s role is called “helper” not “boss”. We have struggled in our marriage on this issue as I try to find ways to “encourage” my husband. Let’s be real, sometimes it’s been ugly. When I think about al those books I bought and “suggested”, the seminars I signed us up for, and the pouting and self-righteous indignation I have held onto, I feel foolish. I know deep in my heart that my husband’s relationship with God is between them, God works in His time, and the best thing I can do is to pray, pray, pray…while I continue to work out the speck in my own eye.


We have been in our new church for almost 9 months now, and on Sunday we had a guest speaker, a missionary. I knew we would see pictures of people in another country, likely starving and destitute and that familiar frustration with my husband reared it’s head. When I hear about these things I start to have a lot of feelings, and wonder what I can do to help the situation. My husband doesn’t respond in the same way, and when we try to discuss it, it goes nowhere. I began to discipline myself to pray when this happens, as sort of a release valve so that my frustration stays between me and God. I asked God to break my husband’s heart for the things that break God’s heart. I was praying out of obedience, without any expectation it would actually change anything. I was sincere but, I prayed that prayer as an effort to obey God in respecting my husband as the man God created him to be, I was not expecting an immediate answer.


Interestingly, my husband was moved by the presentation. The missionary work is centered around a medical clinic and my husband is a registered nurse. My husband made contacts with the people in charge to sign up on the interested list for the missions journey….to Africa. This whole situation was way out of my husband’s comfort zone and I was stunned. My husband told me later that day, something about this presentation was different than the other presentations he had seen. He told me God had moved in his heart to have a passion for those people and that he didn’t want to go for the sake of traveling to another country, or improving his image, but that it was on his heart to HELP those PEOPLE. Insert my pleased reaction at how God reached out and touched my husband, could our lives be going any more perfectly?!


I was so in awe of this man stepping out of his comfort zone in response to God and then he said, “but they asked me if I was interested in long term or short term missions”. Um, excuse me? This is about the time my stomach started to turn and my heart started to panic. He told me short term was two weeks and long term was months.   Um, ok, what the heck just happened? My husband assured me he was only thinking short term for now, and that the two week trip was likely to occur early this fall.


It would be wonderful to say that I felt thankful, joyful and supportive, and on the outside I think I looked that way, but my insides were going crazy. Reality began to set in. This country is in the midst of Civil War, the northern portion just imprisoned a pregnant woman and sentenced her to death for being a Christian. My thoughts started to panic me a little when I followed the logical train of thought to what if my husband never returns? What if God wants me to give up my sheets and move to Africa? What about my children? Why did the suggested reading book for volunteers “happen” to be in my book order that arrived on Saturday?


The missionaries stayed at our church and we had the opportunity to hear them speak two more times. The mother said something that spoke to me; there was a chance something could happen to harm her family or her children, but that “there was no safer place to be, but in the center of God’s will”. This family follows God’s will in the manner God chooses. This reminds me that I have a lot to learn, I have so much room for growth and I am thankful that God patience with me when He answers my prayers and I get freaked out.


My husband’s work has a ban on vacations during the time period of this trip. It will take a miracle for him to get the time off and for everything to fall into place for him to go. I am excited to see how God works in my husband, and mostly in me, in the remainder of this year. I am still panicky, I am still uncomfortable about the whole thing, but I am also excited and committed to trusting God and falling into his plan in every way. I have been spiritually restless, and I thought I was prepared for whatever God called us to do. I also thought I knew what that may be. Surprise! God’s plans are better, bigger and stranger than you could ever imagine. I don’t have to be involved in the planning, I have enough work just being obedient. Whether or not my husband goes to Africa this year, my eyes and heart have been opened to face the question – how far are you willing to go to obey?

Humanity in Scripture ~ God’s reminder to me

Today my study time focused on John 12:12-19.  It is a passage where Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey and the people praise Him.  Later in the passage we discover the disciples were unaware of the gravity of that moment [v. 16]. 


Sometimes when we are familiar with a bible story we can gloss over the humanity in it.  I stopped in my tracks this morning when I realized how the disciples must have felt following along this joyful procession. What did they think was happening in this moment?  Was their confidence in the event or in their Master?  I ask myself that same question many times.


It was feasting time, a large crowd was shouting praise and calling Christ the King of Israel.  If I was a disciple, I would have felt hopeful and proud that the Christ that I knew was living up to my vision of the coming King.  I would have been glad to be a part of his procession and wonderfully encouraged that things were finally going to work out for the good.  People seemed to be coming to their senses and the disciples had an inside track!  Isn’t this exactly how things should play out?  Christ, born a man, embraced by the people and crowned King?  I would have thought “this is it!”  the hard work is going to pay off, this is where Christ will be exalted, life will get easier and everyone will see the truth in Christ!


Sometimes I get caught up in thinking I have God’s purpose figured out.  I catch myself thinking that because a certain thing has happened, it must mean I am on the right track, that I am serving God and fulfilling His purpose for me.  Every Christian wants to be living in the will of God.  The problem is: that circumstances alone don’t tell us God’s will for us or His purpose in our lives.  That can only be understood by piecing together circumstances, biblical truth and listening to the Spirit’s direction. 


I don’t know for sure how the disciples felt.  We have the liberty of seeing their shortcomings when he was crucified, their doubts before the resurrection and the glory in their testimonies in the later years.  Instead of glossing over well known events in today’s passage, I am praying to remember the absolute wisdom in God’s plans.  The wisdom that will come from following him in joyful processions or even to the foot of a cross.  His plans are good, His plans are perfect and my hope will be secure when it rests in Him, not in my understandings of what is happening around me. Thanks for the reminder God!

Praise and Dream Night, September 13, 2013

As a mother of 5, personal worship time often takes the form of singing along with the radio while driving kids somewhere or rocking out with Pandora while attacking a mountain load of dishes in the sink.  I do the best I can to find quiet moments to focus on God, but it is a daily challenge.  That is one reason I am so excited that it’s the time of year for Mt. Gilead’s “Praise and Dream” Night!  I have heard that this year, it is open to men as well as women- Can you say date night!?


Earlier this year, I attended a conference for “God sized Dreams”.  I learned God sized dreams take many forms.  It was also a chance to focus on how God has made us as unique individuals, perfectly suited for His purposes.  A big part of living your unique purpose in Christ is listening to how He directs us.  In the hustle-bustle of daily life, it can be a struggle to hear God clearly among the giant “to-do” lists and daily demands. 


I love that Praise and Dream night is an opportunity to slow down, sit in His presence, be surrounded by other believers, and focus on worshiping God without the distractions of every day life.  Everyone can use time to dream, to reflect, to be encouraged.  My experience with Praise and Dream night has helped me better understand that I am not alone, that God loves me, and that His ways are beautiful.  And bonus, at the end there is cookies!


Life is a messy, amazing journey. Bring on the Praise, Bring on the God given Dreams!  I hope to see you there! 


P.S.- If you don’t have anyone to meet up with when you go, message me, I would love to be your seat buddy!


Menu Plan Monday, June 10th


Summer has officially started! One more kiddo graduated, the other three are out of school and headed for swim lessons this week (when the thunder and lightning stop). I am going to try my first link up to Menu Plan Monday here!


Monday- Vegetarian Chili with Cheese Nachos

Tuesday- Shrimp Rice Noodles with Pineapple Rice (Thai night! found in this library book)

Wednesday- Crock Pot Coconut Chicken Curry from here  (with leftover rice)

Thursday- Grilled Sausages and Veggie Kebobs with Green Smoothies

Friday- Balsamic BBQ Drumsticks, Quinoa and Green Salad

Saturday- Split Pea Soup with Ham

Sunday- BBQ Bacon Cheeseburgers, Green Salad, and Frozen Onion and Cheese Puffs

with Key Lime Gelato Bars for Dessert. [Father’s Day]


The goal is to avoid ANY fast food snacking or otherwise this week. Sorry, no Taco Bell Happy Hour for us.

(What is it about a one dollar item that is so hard to resist?)

I have a half bag of whole grain chicken nuggets in the freezer and a few canned veggies in the pantry as a “back-up” plan.



Imagine #FMF


{My first 5 minute Friday!} A writing challenge from Lisa Jo Baker.


Imagine all the possibilities if I wasn’t here, at this place, in this time, at this moment, with these people, in this relationship with my maker…..

I generally make a habit of not living in the past, but when I think of “imagine” it draws my senses into the sights, sounds and smells of the past.

Today, Imagine is a former place. One filled with wonder, independence, self-gratification. Open ended roads leading down different paths. The sweet crispy smell of funnel cakes topped with powdered sugar, strong sweet floral perfume, the black and heavy dust settling over every inch of the warehouse, wet grass tips on an endless day.

Imagine what would have been if that relationship hadn’t ended? What would I be doing if I had finished that school? Where would I be if I had spent less time at the party and more time in the study? How would my life be different if I had invested in Google? ☺

Imagining the possibilities makes me even more grateful for the path God has brought me down. It is easy to look at the wasted years, missed opportunities, and regret what I think I have lost, or what I think I could have accomplished.

But IMAGINE the alternative…..viewing the past as a gift of God. A gift of perspective. There are many possibilities of all the different roads my life could have taken, but this one…this one is the best. Some days are hard, some days nearly unbearable. Some days awesome, some days average.

Taking the opportunity to look into the past confirms that I have an amazing creator in charge of my life. His love covers the regret, drowns out the failures, and holds me tightly as we walk forward. I never could have imagined this!