unpacking catalyst, part three.

At its heart, for me, Catalyst is very much about returning to the basics. The ideas and resources and team strategies are wonderful, and invaluable in themselves, but more than anything else, I always walk away from the conference with a renewed commitment to my personal relationship with Christ. Then, personal ministry flows out of that.

Here's one of the ideas that is sticking with me, from Matt Chandler's talk to Friday afternoon:

The Gospel does not say that you get Jesus and he makes your life better; it is that you get him and he is enough.


My thoughts on politics - I just wish the ads would stop.

christmas decorating.

I make no secret of that fact that I love Christmas. I was pretty proud of the way I decorated last year - but I like to do things a bit different each time, so I've started dreaming up ideas and plans.

One thing I love to do is coordinate wrapped gifts. I used to display them under the tree, but I'm just not sure I trust the dogs with them when I'm not home. So, this year, I'm going to place them of the large bookcase in my living room.

I've been looking for a sleigh for all the smaller gifts for at least the last year, with no luck, until I finally found the perfect thing at Garden Ridge. I forgot to take a before picture, but it originally was bright gold, with cheap plastic red and green beads threaded onto the sides.

I removed the beads and spray painted it red, and now I love it. I can't wait to see it all filled with little gifts.

blog award.

Idyllic Dreams tagged me and gave me this blog award - how fun!

According to the rules, I need to answer the following questions, all with one-word answers (except I'm going to ignore that one-word part), then tag 7 other bloggers.

1. Where is your cell phone? Beside me.
2. Where is your significant other? Beats me.
3. Your hair color? Blond, I guess?
4. Your mother? Strong, caring, giving, selfless.
5. Your father? Affectionate, funny, crazy about his family.
6. Your favorite thing? The afghan my Mom made me.
7. Your dream last night? Um, no, way too personal, because last night's dream was weird.
8. Your dream/goal? Married with a bunch of kids.
9. The room you’re in? My living room.
10. Your hobby? Making jewelry.
11. Your fear? Touching fish.
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? See #8.
13. Where were you last night? Home.
14. What you’re not? Free-spirited.
15. One of your wish list items? Big, high-quality wood cutting board.
16. Where you grew up? Frederick.
17. The last thing you did? Chalkboard spray paint.
18. What are you wearing? Jeans.
19. Your tv? Friends reruns.
20. Your pet? Dakota and Harvey.
21. Your computer? Work laptop.
22. Your mood? Content.
23. Missing someone? Jake. Always.
24. Your car? 2000 Chevy Malibu LS. It gets me from point A to point B.
25. Something you’re not wearing? Shoes.
26. Favorite store? Depends on my mood - Michaels, thrift stores, Old Navy, Target, Container Store.
27. Your summer? Wonderful.
28. Love someone? Lots of someones.
29. Your favorite color?
30. When was the last time you laughed? A few hours ago, at Christy's description of her Columbia trip.
31. Last time you cried? Friday night. It was a rough night.

The problem with tagging 7 other bloggers is that while I read a lot of blogs, there aren't that many who I actually know, or who would do this. So I'll keep the list short and sweet.

Iris at Мы живем в Россий...
Lori at little pitter patter
Steph at I Surrender All

be the church.

Today was Be The Church Sunday at the Bridge. Nick preached what I've heard was a really great sermon (I missed it because I was dealing with hyper kids and bloody noses in the nursery), then we divided into three groups to get a glimpse of what it looks like to be the hands and feet of Christ in our community. One group cleaned up a park, one bought supplies for care packages for college students, and one bought thank-you gifts for young military families.

I was part of the latter group. We bought candy, cookbooks, small devotional books, and board games or outdoor games, then delivered them to the neighborhood where one young military couple from our church lives. We had fun, and what we did was actually pretty simple - the hardest part was ringing doorbells and talking to people. Even that was easier than I expected, which I think actually represents a way that God has grown me over the last few years, because two years ago, I'm not sure there's any way that I would be ringing one of those doorbells.

I'm interested to hear about the experiences of the other groups, and to see what God does with the time we just spent - not only in our community, but in us.

melissa's bridal shower.

Finally, the promised pictures from Melissa's shower.

In general, I think the easiest and most cost effective way to decorate for a bridal or baby shower is to actually use the gifts as decoration. For Karen's baby shower, I decorated with diapers, bottles, toys, pacifiers, and baby clothes, then gave her all of these as her gift. Unfortunately, I didn't plan the decorations for the shower until well after I purchased the gift.

The colors for Jon and Melissa's wedding were black and white paisley, so I tried to use that where possible. And, please don't judge the pictures too harshly - I just snapped them quickly, right before the guests arrived.

To start with, I covered the dresser just inside my door with a table cloth (the ends are wrapped around the back and taped so the table cloth looks more fitted). There are thank-you notes, for guests to write their addresses, a journal for everyone to write wishes or advice, and favor boxes filled with small candy hearts.

A few days before the shower (oh, yes, this was very well-thought out in advance), I asked Melissa to email me a few pictures of her and Jon together. I transferred those into black and white, and put them in frames I already owned (this would have been a great place to use gifts from her registry). The letters are inexpensive paper mache letters that I painted black - I wanted to include the and symbol (&), but couldn't find it.

The centerpiece is pretty simple, too - I already owned the candles and basket, so I just tied them with inexpensive black & white printed ribbon and grouped them together. But my favorite part is actually under the centerpiece - the runner.

I don't use much black in my dining room, and couldn't see buying a runner just for this shower. Instead, I bought an inexpensive black flat sheet from Walmart, and ripped it in half. I used one half as a covering for the sideboard (not pictured), and the other half as this runner. To finish off the jagged, cut side, I just folded the end over and taed it down with packing tape.

I'm trying to think of ways to adapt this idea for Christmas decorations - maybe another sheet painted with white snowflakes? Though I think using iron-on hem tape would probably be a little smoother (and less ghetto).

concert highlights.

Highlights from the Relient K concert tonight:
  • Playing celebrity look-a-like with the band members and road crew in between sets
  • Our response to people pushing to get closer to the front: "We're older, wiser, and have more insurance." (name that movie)
  • We're either cool enough to hang with a bunch of underage kids, or old enough not to care


My friend Kelly called me today and invited me to join her tomorrow night at a Relient K concert, so I've been listing to their music online all day. You know, so I won't be the only one there who doesn't know their music. This is one of the few songs I do know - I had forgotten about it, but I used to play it almost constantly.

I've been in a kind of funk for the last couple days, feeling like I have tons of stuff that I could do and should do and not getting any of it done. Between being out of town so much recently and being sick this weekend, my house just needed to be cleaned, so today I finally decided to get up off my butt and get to it. Its amazing what a difference it makes - vacuuming takes what, maybe 30 minutes for the whole house? But now I'm getting stuff done, hitting my stride, making plans - there are lots of cool things going on over here.

So, future projects to come - painting Christmas decorations, tweaking light fixtures, and creating wall art for kids' rooms. And hopefully soon I'll get around to posting pictures of my friend Melissa's bridal shower.


I've been out of town a lot over the past few months, with many more trip to come in November and December. And the one thing I've found that passes the time better than anything else is listening to podcasts. Here's a list of the ones I'm currently downloading:

Nick at the Bridge - I like to stay updated on what I miss the Sundays I'm out of town or in the nursery, especially now, because I think God is doing some neat things in Nick and in our church. His level of excitement for this stuff is contagious.

Steven Furtick at Elevation Church - I loved what he had to say at Catalyst, and have been following his blog since. He just finished a series on Song of Solomon, so I skipped that, but I'm looking forward to the next series.

Matt Chandler at the Village Church - Another speaker at Catalyst - I'm loving his series on Luke.

Andy Stanley at Northpoint Community Church - Just really great, practical stuff.

Dave Ramsey - Because the guy is just funny and practical.

unpacking catalyst, part two.

The speaker (and the message) that is sticking with me the most is Steven Furtick, lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte. His bio reads as pretty impressive - with just a handful of other people, he started a church two years ago that now has thousands of people attending every week. This could make for an easy comparison, because the Bridge Church is about the same age, though we're not nearly in the same place as far as attendance. But this story didn't start two years ago - it started over 10 years ago when God made Steven a promise that he would one day be a pastor of a megachurch.

This is what Steven talked about at Catalyst, that in between God's promise and the deliverance of that promise is a process - a sometimes long and difficult process when it may not seem as though the promise will ever come to pass.

As I've been thinking about his talk, I've been thinking about my vision for our church and for our children's ministry. The first thing I'm wondering is, does my vision line up with God's vision? Is this just something that I've come up with in my head, or is this where God is moving? So I've started praying that God will give me a really clear picture of what our children's ministry should look like, that he'll fade out the stuff that doesn't really matter and clarify the things that do.

Thinking about these things is also serving as a great encouragement for me, because we are very much still in the process. In my perfect world, our infant and toddler nurseries would be fully staffed with people who love kids and feel specifically called to care for and minister to them. And, because I think its important to give back by serving where your family is getting fed, I think parents should also help out in the nursery (and ideally, they would be so sold on the ministry to their kids that they would fall into that first category).

But that's not where we're at, frankly. Unless there are several people sitting in church on Sunday morning feeling called to children's ministry and just refusing to do anything about it, we need more people than we have. Which means that I either resort to filling the open positions myself, meaning I'm in nursery two or three times a month, or I beg people to help out who don't really want to. And that's not where I want to be. I don't want to see anyone serve in a place they really don't want to - it's draining for them and me, and it keeps us from doing children's ministry with excellence and creativity and enthusiasm.

But, this is a common theme. We had a few short months where both our infant and toddler nurseries were fully staffed, and that was wonderful, but I feel like I'm always looking for more volunteers. And maybe this is all just because we're still in the process.

unpacking catalyst, part one.

I've spent a lot of time over the past few days trying to figure out how to describe Catalyst using more words than just "incredible" and "amazing." I keep coming up short, probably because I'm still trying to process the whole thing. I want to keep trying, though, because I want this blog to be a true reflection of who I am and the things that I think about.

The thing about Catalyst, is that its geared toward next-generation Christian leaders, and there are over 12,000 people that show up. So you end up with two days filled with amazing worship, spiritual encouragement and challenge and conviction, and practical advice on how to lead and market and work together as a team. And if all of that weren't enough, all of these things create an environment that is just ripe for ideas - so in the midst of talks, I'm flipping to a blank page and trying to capture all the specific ideas I have for the Bridge Church and its children's ministry. Then, I spent 11 hours driving home in car with two people who are just as fired up and full of just as many ideas, and of course, talking to them breeds more ideas...you can see where I'm going with this.

If I were to write out all these ideas here, this post would be way too long. As a matter of fact, my first draft of this was. So I'm going to break it up in pieces over the next few days.


I got back Saturday night from Catalyst, and I'm still catching up on sleep, TV shows, and cuddling with my dogs. I've got lots to share - photos from a bridal shower I hosted last weekend, and lots of thoughts on the conference to come over the next few weeks.


Lately I've been listening to a lot of praise music while I'm doing stuff around the house, getting ready for Catalyst. The problem is, I don't have a ton of praise music CDs, and I was really in the mood for something that I could sing along with.

So, I started listening to my Christmas CDs.

Buying and making Christmas presents already (okay, so I've actually been buying them since August) makes me sound either really organized or just a little quirky, depending on your own personality. Listening to Christmas music at the beginning of October makes me sound a little nuts, so I was just going to keep this to myself.

Until someone else confessed, and then I felt I had to.