Bite the Mango

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As promised a brand new blog post about the dweller retreat. We left on March 4th at 9 pm and returned to L.A. on March 9th at 10:30 pm. In almost exactly 5 days we went to Copperopolis, San Francisco, San Anselmo, San Francisco again, back to Copperopolis, Yosemite National Park, back to Copperopolis, Sequoia National Park, and back to Los Angeles. If that sounds like a lot, know that it was. We had one day of our “retreat” that we set aside to spend at the house in Copperopolis to relax – but more about that later. Here is a brief synopsis of each day:

As I said, we left L.A. at 9 pm and arrived in Copperopolis right around 3 am. We wasted no time picking a bed and going right to sleep. The next morning we left for San Francisco at 10 am – we wasted no time on this trip. We parked in a parking garage and explored Chinatown. This was also where we had our first real meal as a group on the trip. We planned to then go to see where the trolley’s turn around. After leaving the garage and driving for 15 minutes, we ended up parking in the same garage where we came from. This quickly became one of the first of many jokes from the retreat. Following the trolleys, we had coffee and bought 1.5 lbs loaf of sourdough from Boudins Bakery. We took the the bread to Alamo Square Park, where you could see much of the city, a beautiful sunset, and the Painted Ladies, which are the houses where the exterior of Full House is filmed. We also spent some time climbing trees for an impromptu photo shoot. We ended our evening in the Mission District with dinner at an excellent burrito restaurant, some window shopping, and a delicious mango. This mango was purchased from a small bodega, and Heather and I took turns taking bites. This inspired the next big joke of the trip, our band name – Bite the Mango. Instruments that will be featured include the cowbell, washboard, Tibetan prayer bowls, sitar, steel drums, bagpipes, oboe, and many more to come. We only do covers and 5 second original pieces. We then drove across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Anselmo, where we stayed at San Francisco Theological Seminary, which will be my home come August.

The next morning, we woke up and toured my future campus. I got to ask all my questions, see the beautiful scenery and castle like buildings, and I got to share it with my housemates. We then ate lunch in Marin Country at a Puerto Rican restaurant. We then drove up to a lookout of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Like I said, we tried to fit it all in, in the few hours we had left, so we drove through Golden Gate Park to see the Bison Patty, saw the mosaic stairs on Moraga St., got free chocolate from Ghirardelli Square, I poked my toes in the SF bay, and we drank the original Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Cafe. We ended our afternoon at the Fisherman’s wharf to see the Sea Lions on pier 39 and to eat Clam Chowder out of Sourdough bread bowls. The group made one more stop before we left San Francisco at the Wave Organ. The Wave Organ was constructed so that when the water hit parts of the statue, it would create music through pipes. Unfortunately it was low tide and no music was playing, but we saw a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Fran, and the Bay Bridge. We drove back to Copperopolis and went to bed.

The next day was our “rest” day in Copperopolis. We were so grateful for our friend Kristy and her family who generously allowed us to stay in their vacation home for the trip. Copperopolis is not a well known town, even by native Californians. It’s small, 12 miles from the closest grocery store, and on a gorgeous lake surrounded by rolling hills. It is here where we spent roughly 3 hours as a house looking at the our community over the last 6 months and what we wanted it to look like for the next 6 months. It was long, we talked about some tough stuff, and we laughed so much! I have been so fortunate to be place in Hollywood with the amazing community of my housemates. It’s been almost 1 year (minus 15 or so days) that I was called to L.A.. I was scared and curious about who I would serve with. I stalked Facebook and twitter to learn more about my housemates. We clicked from day one. We don’t agree on everything, and we get frustrated, but there is nothing that a bowl of queso or a huge loaf of bread that can’t bring us back together. We have never stopped laughing with and at each other, and this retreat cemented that even further. We came back with stories, jokes, and so many quotes that will be eternalized on our quote wall (which is a piece of poster paper in our dinning area). After long discussions we ended our evening with steak and salmon on the grill, which I did for the first time ever, and National Treasure.

The next day was spent in Yosemite National Park. This park is huge, and gorgeous, and has some of the most challenging hiking and rock climbing trails in the U.S. which include El Capitan and Half Dome. We took much easier trails that consisted of a .4 mile hike to Bridalveil Falls, a 1 mile loop through a meadow and to Yosemite Lower Falls, and 2 mile round trip trail to Mirror Lake. Jordan became a Junior Ranger, as is her tradition at all national parks, and I got to squish a penny, as is my tradition at anyplace they are available. We spent the majority of the day on the valley floor, as most of the trails above that were closed due to snow. The whole trip, I anticipated much colder weather, as we were in northern California, and every day my dreams of cold were foiled by Sun and 60°, even in Yosemite. As we left the park, David Lamotte’s song, Butler Street, played with the following lyrics:

These mountains speak to my spirit
I guess it kind of blows my mind
To think someone could look at that vista
And think God needs a neon sign.

Our last day, we packed and cleaned up the house at Copperopolis. We took a slight 4 hour detour on our way home to Los Angeles, so we could stop at Sequoia National Park. Another wonderful aspect of our Dweller community is our need and love of nature. We love to eat and we love to be outside while we eat. The best parts of our retreat, and of our year so far, are the times we are hiking, having picnics, going to the beach, and driving through National Parks with Oreos and Cheddar Cheese and Sour Cream chips, which is how we explored Sequoia. We went for the big trees we knew were there, and we got so much more. We climbed on top of tunnel rock, took pictures of the snow capped mountains, and threw snow balls. We don’t get a ton of snow in LA (and by a ton I mean none), so actually getting to touch and play with the snow was awesome, even if I did continue to wear my Chacos.  Finally after the hour it took to drive to the trail, and the then the 1/2 mile hike, we saw the worlds largest tree, General Sherman. It’s a big tree. It’s fenced off so you can’t touch it, but if I could hug it, I might be able to touch 1/32 of the way around at one time. The tree is the biggest by volume, which means there are taller trees, and wider trees, but none as tall and as wide. Jordan, who was working to become a Junior Ranger there as well, informed us all that as we look up at the tree, we experience the same towering experience that a mouse has as it looks up at a person 6 feet tall. We had our final retreat dinner at a Brewhouse in Visalia. We didn’t rest a ton on the trip, so I’m not sure if “retreat” is the best way to describe the experience we had, but it was amazing to spend 5 days, exploring California, laughing at ourselves, and eating way too much food. As the great Julia Child said “People who love to eat, are the best people.”

In thinking about the next 6 months, and my impending reentry into the academic world, I have created a new challenge in which I would like to use this blog as a space to keep me accountable. As I toured my future school and asked a million questions, I was told two pieces of advice to get me ready for what is coming next. First learn the Hebrew Alphabet – which I plan to do, but may not bore you with the details. Second, to read, a lot and often, so that I am prepared for when I am asked to do so by several professors. I have added a new tab entitled Summer Reading. Obviously it is not currently summer, nor will I wait for summer, but I live in L.A. and it is suppose to be 90° on Friday, so I get to enjoy summer a lot longer. Also, I was never good with Summer reading, I might have read 2 of the dozens of books assigned in high school. Reading, while highly enjoyable, is not my favorite, or first choice, but I will work towards finishing as many books as possible during the next 6 months.

As always, thank you for so much support! Check out the Thank You’s and Photo Gallery for new info and stay posted for a new recipe coming soon!

 

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8 Weeks and Counting

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On January 4th, The Hollywood Church Collaborative entered into the 4th annual Winter Refuge. First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood opened its doors and joined together with Ecclesia, Reality LA, and Broken Hearts Ministry to run an 8 week, relational, winter shelter. Los Angeles County runs several winter shelters in the city, adding about 1500 beds to their existing 14,000 shelter beds. Most of them exist outside of the Metro LA area, which includes Hollywood. Our friends experiencing homelessness in our area can find it daunting to get to a winter shelter an hour or so away only to be turned away because it was first come first serve. Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) doesn’t fund our shelter, however, the churches do, which means we get to create our own model of ministry based shelter. Our shelter features 25 beds, which are promised to each guests for the full 8 weeks, or however long they choose within those 8 weeks. Our guest are referred by case managers or chosen based on their vunerability on the streets. Our goal in this shelter was to provide a safe space, and inviting and warm space, for each of the guests to get what they need physically and emotionally. Many people who live homelessly experience mental illness, which may stem from prolonged drug use, family history, or just simply not having a safe space to get a good night of sleep for months on end.

Because of this model, we do spend some time turning people away. I mentioned earlier the amount of beds for those living homelessly, and they barely house the 60,000-80,000 people in need of them. We only have 25 beds. Most of the people who came looking for shelter in our space were people that had stayed at the church before, or friends had told them about it. Some people understood that there simply were no beds, and other spent the next five minutes yelling at me. Working in a shelter, you get used to people yelling at you. Our guests, and many people experiencing homelessness, have been in and out of prison, experience mental illness, suffer from substance abuse, and are sleep deprived. And now, while our guests do have a place to sleep, they are sharing a room with 24 other people with different personalities and experiences dictating their actions. I have been yelled at a lot in the last 8 weeks, I’ve been called names, cussed at, told I was not a good Christian and that my boss “God” was very mad at me. I have also heard our guests yell at each other a lot, and have had to attempt to deescalate situations before they get physical. I’ve had to ask people to leave for the night and for good, I’ve worked with volunteers and staff with loud and difficult guests, and I’ve learned a lot about the comforting and peaceful power of prayer.

Before I start each shift, I share with our volunteers the goal and history of our ministry and I ask someone to pray for the space. Some mornings I would forget the crucial part of prayer and my mornings would run hectically. Sometimes my mornings and evenings would run hectically even when we did pray. But during those times, I felt more calm and prepared and I felt that the volunteers did as well. One evening in particular there was an extremely volatile with an ongoing screaming match between a few of the guests. And while I and the other staff worked with the guest, the volunteer group was able to continue on with the evening and work the the remaining guests.

Each of the four groups took two weeks to coordinate food, volunteers, and activities. Ecclesia took the first two weeks to serve as host at FPCH. I was grateful for the model they provided, as I then coordinated the next two weeks with members of First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. The last month were hosted by Reality LA and Broken Hearts Ministry. Each of the groups sent volunteer teams for both morning and evening and food for both breakfast and dinner. Evening groups also planned an activity to join our guests in fellowship. Some nights there were games, art projects, worship, bible study, or movies. Some nights, the guests were all asleep by 7:30 pm. I worked with amazing groups from all the churches and watched as they played, prayed, and talked with our guests.

But most importantly, we had amazing guests. Each came in with their own history and story. Each came in with their own needs and wants. They came it for a place to sleep and something to eat. But more than that, we wanted to provide a place to create community, to have real conversations, and to break bread with one another. Christine Pohl writes in her book Making Room “A shared meal is the activity most closely tied to the reality of God’s Kingdom, just as it is the most basic expression of hospitality.”

Now that the 8 weeks of the shelter are over, two of our guests moved into apartments, five moved into transitional housing, and many more continue to work with case managers. We continue to work with our guests at the shelter and our friends at the lunch program by continuing to create a space where everyone can come together and be in community with each other. I will be working with a program called Dinner with Friends, in which both guests and volunteers from the shelter will eat dinner together, play games, and create friendships. Pohl writes that “to welcome those who could not give anything in return is “our true and just work,” the work that relates to God … Generous hosts, though not seeking to gain , would find themselves blessed in the hospitality relationship.”

Sorry for not posting for two months, but as you can tell I was quite busy. Stay tuned in March, as I will be trying to make up for my lack of writing. The next post will be the exciting information from the dweller retreat in Northern California March 4-9th. As always, thank you so much for all the continued support!

New Year, New Post, New Recipe

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After an amazing 10 days at home, I returned to Los Angeles in time to bring in the New Year with my house mates. 2014 was a pretty great year. I got accepted to YAV Hollywood and San Francisco Theological Seminary, graduated from Virginia Tech, went to Guatemala, spent the most of the summer in Montreat or Massanetta, and moved to Los Angeles. In 2015 I will finish my YAV year and move to San Francisco, take a trip to Mexico, explore more of California, take a cross country road trip with my sister, and many more adventures I am sure. The new year is just another day and yet means so much to so many. It is our chance to change ourselves or our lives. New Year resolutions usually last all of 2 months before we lose the momentum driving the new year. So, instead of a resolution for the entirety of the whole year, here is what I would like to happen in the next 2 months. I will be running a winter shelter for all of January and February. I will be stressed, tired, and crazy. I want to take time in the next two months for myself, when I can. Learning my own limits, and how I can refuel. Self care is so important and stressed during YAV orientation and throughout the last 4 months.. I will need this more in the next 2 months than ever before. I will read books, renew my yoga practice, visit the beach, and cook new recipes.

In the spirit of cooking, here is my latest recipe. I made lemon curd just before I left for my Christmas vacation. I IMG_0870was inspired by a Starbucks yogurt cup with granola, lemon and raspberries. As I can not afford to purchase a $3 yogurt cup every day, I decided to make my own (without raspberries). Lemon curd is amazing! It’s tart and sweet and I would eat it by the spoonful. We also have a lemon/lime tree in the front yard of the community house. Yay for local ingredients!

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Lemon curd is yummy and easy to make – here’s how: Start by juicing and zesting 4 lemons. Next, separate 6 eggs. You will only need the yolks, but the egg whites can be use in baking or cooked into an omelet!  IMG_0861

   IMG_0864 Next zest an orange. The next time I make this recipe I will also juice the orange, but this time I simply used the  zest. Now add the lemon juice, lemon and orange zest, and egg yolks into a double boiler along with 1/2 c. sugar and 6 tbsp. butter. Stir over medium heat until desired thickness (about 10 minutes). IMG_0860   Store in a jar or sealed container and refrigerate. Use on literally anything – yogurt, toast, waffles, spoons. Enjoy!

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Advent Week 3 -Christmas Day: Love and Christ

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Merry Christmas! Even though you are probably reading this after Christmas, I think we could celebrate the birth of Christ well after Christmas Day and Epiphany. This post is a few days late for week 3, but after 14 hours of flying and layovers, I decided that this weeks advent update would be best saved for Christmas Day! Now that the official season of advent is over, here are the remaining advent photos.

10848003_10153404973019196_3123920609903788800_nMonday, December 15th – Strong

This is a type of Labyrinth that was at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Monday was community day, as usual, and we spend part of the day touring the concert hall. While I didn’t get to complete the labyrinth before the automated tour guide told me to continue to the next part of the terrace, I was able to enjoy a section of it. I love labyrinths. I find strength and renewal in the path to the center. There were labyrinths at discernment and orientation for YAV that helped me prayerfully focus on my upcoming adventure. Luke 22:34 -Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.

Tuesday, December 16th – Justice

This picture was taken a few days before at Topanga beach. There was a small stream that flowed into the Pacific Ocean. One of my favorite worship songs that I learned at YAV camp had the following chorus: 10848012_10153407248729196_887260382400546690_n

Let the rains go, let the healing river flow
Let justice roll like water
Let the day begin when new life enters in
And let your Kingdom come.

Psalm 33:5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of steadfast love of the Lord.

Wednesday, December 17th – Awake

1509857_10153409527274196_5789816496235315584_nToday was our Christmas party at lunch during the Lord’s Lighthouse. After an awesome donation from a local school, we were able to give all of our guest a hygiene kit complete with soap, deodorant, razors, shampoo, conditioner, socks, a brush, and wet wipes. During the day, I also gave out several blankets. Many day, this is what our guest wake up with not much more than these item. These are also the item I am most often asked for. Psalm 17:15 – As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

Thursday, December 18th –

10014620_10153412579729196_5503206555209013524_n On Thursday, we made Christmas cookies with the kids in the neighborhood. If there was a more true belief in Christmas than children, I am not sure where to find it. While most children believe in Santa, it it through the Jolly many that Christmas can be found. It is not just the want for Christmas present that makes this time so magical for children. It was Jesus who said that all should have faith like a child.  John 3:16 – This is how much God loves the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

Friday, December 19th – Gather

1527048_10153414888009196_3516828783476263901_nI spent most of Friday by myself, as it is my day off. I did finish making more Christmas cookies, and as I made many angels I was reminded of the verse for today. Luke 2:13-14 At once the angel gathered with the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”  10858456_10153418727894196_4921802965094823050_n

Saturday, December 20th – Holy

I have seen many beautiful sunsets from Hollywood! Many from the beach, few from a hike, and quite a few from my own balcony. The most beautiful sunsets come after many days of rain.  And on Saturday night we saw a beautiful sunset from our own balcony once again. It is time like this that I have no doubt in one Holy creator. Luke 1:35 – And the Angel said to her, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will over shadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy.”

Sunday, December 21st – Love

The Lord’s Lighthouse was having another Christmas celebration with the church’s Chancellor Choir. The room was decorated with lights and I could not help but to see this beautiful image of the cross lit up with white lights. Christ, the pure messiah born during the advent season, to one day be sacrificed for all of us. Luke 1:46-48 – My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor, on the low lines of his servant.

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Monday, December 22nd – ComfortIMG_1010

After a 14 hour Red eye,  (2 layovers) I finally arrived home to my family. It is extremely fortunate (or planned) that the day I came home was the same day represented comfort. I love living in Los Angeles, but there is something very special being home, surrounded by family and tradition. Matthew 11:28 – Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will five you rest.

Tuesday, December 23rd – Mercy

IMG_1014Today is my mothers birthday! And as a recent tradition dictates, my sister and I spend the day shopping for the last few gifts for Christmas. While shopping in my favorite store in downtown Staunton, I found the most recent version of the PC(U.S.A)’s Book of Confession. The book offers different historical doctrines that outline many of the denominations beliefs. While many view confession as a time of admitting what we have all have done wrong, I see it as the time in which we are covered by God’s grace and mercy. IMG_1024

Wednesday, December 24th – Sparkle

It’s Christmas Eve. My family celebrated it as if it were Christmas Day however. My sister and her boyfriend had to leave that day to visit his family. We opened presents, had a big breakfast, and said goodbye! That evening my mom and I went to a Christmas eve service filled with carols, fellowship, and communion. There were many chances for a sparkling picture. The picture I chose, however, was post manicure with my mother. We spent the evening applying sparkling nail wraps and playing games. Luke 2:8 – And there were shepherd living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flock and night. An angel appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them.

Thursday, December 25th – Light

TIMG_1028he Christmas season is filled with lights. Christmas lights, candle lights, village lights, and Christ light. Christmas as a season is only celebrated once a year, as the birth of Christ. But the whole year should be celebrated as a continuance of the Christ’s birth. During Christmas, more people give of their money and time. People share their gifts, live a Christ like life. My goal with this Advent challenge was to be more intentional in my community. Now that advent is over, my goal is to not let this fade, but to try to live as Christ did and to be a light in the darkness. John 1:1, 4-5, 14 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In the Word was life, and the life was the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Advent Week 2 – Preperation

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Another week in December has passed. This week was filled with planning, prepping, fellowship and rain. As we inch closer and closer to Christmas, I find that the spirit of Christmas grows stronger and stronger. The past four years I celebrated the advent season stressed over finals. I remember saying, almost every year, that it didn’t ever feel like Christmas. I was caught up in papers and exams that even decorating, ugly Christmas sweater parties, and the occasional holiday movie could not make it feel like the advent season I was raised with. And even though it is sunny and 65º in Los Angeles (almost constantly minus the crazy rain storm), it still feels like I am able to actively and presently prepare for Christmas. Let me show you my week of Advent Preparation. 10857761_10153386968259196_6444800420388965067_n

Monday, December 8th – Star

On Monday we celebrated our housemate’s, Stephanie, last day with DOOR. We went out to lunch, went to Santa Monica and hoped to end the day with star gazing from Mulholland Dr. What I should have known is that there are not many stars viewable in the sky anywhere in Los Angeles. I knew this coming to L.A. but was still hopeful. There were a few stars, but the overlook of the city(where many stars most likely live, was a beautiful end to the night. While stars in the sky are rare, manufactured stars are everywhere. Everyday I walk on the Walk of Fame (Matthew McConaughey’s star was placed the same day that photo was taken), stars are hung for Christmas decorations, and celebrities can be seen on billboards, grocery stores, and movie premieres. These are different stars then I am use to, but no less beautiful then the stars I will see back home in Virginia. Matthew 2:2 -For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.

Tuesday, December 9th – Patient

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This is the beginning stages of the Dweller Christmas tree. When I first took this picture, I joked with my housemates that it would represent the patience I must have to live with all of them. We live in an extremely dry, sarcastic house. The word “no” is a common occurrence, especially when it’s not meant. However, shortly after I found a picture of an evergreen forest with this quote laid over it “Things take time, so just be patient.” I am not good with patience, I like instant gratification, I want things when I get them. Intentional community requires patience, it takes time to create relationships, and it takes time to decorate. The tree is set up, but it still has no light or ornaments almost a week later. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 – And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warm this who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

Wednesday, December 10th – Go 10406875_10153392022094196_2361873418644007292_n

When guests come to lunch on Wednesday and Sunday, they often bring their stuff with them. If they were to leave it where they lived, it would probably not be there when they got back. Some people have shopping carts, some have multiple bags, some have back packs. But most of the time, its everything they own all ready to go. When I first left for Hollywood, I complained to people that I had to pack everything I would need for a year in just two suitcases. I squished as much as I could and I still left stuff at home. John 8:8,10-11 -And once again He bent down and wrote on the ground. Jesus straightened up and said to her “Woman, where are they? Has no on condemned you?” She said “No one , sir.” and Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go on your way.”

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 Thursday, December 11th – Sign

 10801814_10153394573614196_4287117193100446447_nThese are lemons from the front yard tree. Some times the tree grows limes, sometimes it grows lemon. I know it sounds weird and some might say that the limes are “unripened lemons.” But they’re not, it is a mixed citrus (ungrafted) tree. I have multiple former dwellers to vouch on this fact. The lemons just started to ripen and on Thursday I made lemon curd from them. I’m not sure ripening times here on the west coast, but most time, new produce is a sign of new seasons. December is bringing more rain and more cold weather (it was actually in the 40’s here so I’m not just being a wimp. Isaiah 7:14 -Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.

 Friday, December 12th – Hope                                                               10482315_10153396005859196_1987695736609928606_n

And the rain came. All my housemates were awoken at 3:30 am by terrifying wind, crazy rain, and possibly hail. A tornado touched down in south L.A. later that day. The day was not all rain and there was even some sun. While I don’t love the rain, our garden enjoyed it thoroughly and so did most of L.A. as it helped with a terrible drought. Audrey Hepburn once said that “to plant a garden is to believe in a tomorrow.” The hope of tomorrow is a beautiful embodiment of our budding pea pods (which Heather is gleeful over each time she sees them). Psalm 130:7 – O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.

 Saturday, December 13th – Peace988959_10153399371919196_2839367453065257692_n

Once again, I have used a picture of a beach for my word. This time the picture was taken on the same day as the word though. We went to Topanga beach (like in Boy Meets World). This beach is home to surfers, rivers that flow into the ocean, and vicious seagulls. In case it wasn’t clear before, I love the beach. It is my favorite place ever and I find great peace in the rhythmic roaring of the waves. There are few places that I am content with sitting in silence, and at the beach, I almost insist it. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 – Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.

Sunday, December 14th – Joy

What is more joyful than the happiest place on earth? While I did not step foot in Disneyland, we did spend several 10847840_10153402129109196_4782176518869325027_nhours in Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney is a shopping area with restaurants, shops and kiosks, Christmas decorations, and several live bands. We walked around, ate dinner, and watch the firework display. It was beautiful, and joyful, christmasy (it was even chilly and I got to wear my vest). Psalm 126:2 – Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

Next time I update you it will either be from a plane or from Virginia!!

Advent Week 1 – Hope

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This week I began the Advent photo challenge. I looked around my own worldHollywood Advent for images that embodied               pre-selected words of the day. I posted these picture on both Facebook and Instagram with a verse from the lectionary for that day(usually, sometimes I picked a verse that matched better with the picture or word.) Now I would like to share with you what I discovered in this first week of #HollywoodAdvent

Monday, December 1st — Give Thanks

On Monday we were planning a community Thanksgiving event. We wanted to invite the neighbors to join together at a potluck dinner to share the space of the community house and make sure that everyone knew that they were welcomed in this place. Even though it was December 1st, we still enveloped the feeling of Thanksgiving, asking everyone to write what they were thankful for. We had parents, kids, and many neighbors over for turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, tamales, watermelon, and gingerbread cookies. Psalm 145:10 — All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you.

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Tuesday, December 2nd – Rejoice

OnIMG_0771 Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, my housemates and I open up the community house to many of the children in the neighborhood for homework, games, and other fun activities. This Tuesday that included getting the house ready for Christmas. We hung lights, cut out snowflakes, and drew pictures to prepare us for the holiday. The children delighted and rejoiced in the holiday spirit.

Psalm 85:6-7 —Will you not  revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 3rd -Wise

First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood has started a Wednesday night advent worship series. The tiIMG_0779me for worship, preaching, singing, and meditation provided new insight on the hope and prophecy of the Christ. The sermon on Looking at the miracle about to happened reminds us all to be wise in our intentionality during this season and all other. Psalm 53:2 — God looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.                               

Thursday, December 4th – Time

Inside the house, there is a white board on which my housemates write quotes of inspiration, whimsical pictures, and reminders to one another. On this particular day, I found this quote: “Don’t wait, the time will never be just right,” which I had written the day before, unaware of it’s opportune timing.Psalm 62:8 —Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

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Friday, December 5th – Water
To be honest, this picture was not taken on Friday. This picture was  taken in September at Manhattan Beach. It is one of my favorite  memories and pictures from this year so far. Not only was it a wonderful of community but the beach is one of my favorite places in the world. Any time I hear the repetitive nature of the water rising and falling, I feel refueled and restored. Isaiah 58:11 — The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.

Saturday, December 6th – Neighbors

On Saturday the La Casa de la Communidad partnered with the deacons at First Presbyterian Church of HollywoodIMG_0806 to run a Christmas store. All the toys were donated by church and community members and then sold to both community and church members for 75% off the original cost. This store was open to all who could be blessed by this opportunity. The neighbors of the Community house and many church members were busy shopping. Mark 12:31 — The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Sunday, December 7th – Ready

One of the truly great things about living in California (especially southern Cali) is the amazing access to fresh, local organic produce all year long. Many other places can get produce all year long, but it is much more limiting than what is readily available in the extremely temperate climate of Los Angeles. The house has tries to purchase, as often as possible, a CSA box. This Community Supported Agriculture box is filled with 10+lbs. of produce from Los Angeles. This box not only helps us get ready for the meals we plan, but also supports those in our own community. Isaiah 40:3 — A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

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Thank you for joining my Advent in Hollywood series, more to come!

Leaving Los Angeles

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Don’t Worry, I’m not actually leaving but more about that later. First, I want to share with you my advent devotional. This year I too will participating in a photo challenge. For those who don’t know, the Advent photo challenge became popular in the last year or so with popularity of social media like instagram. Each day I will be posting a picture that in someway represents the word assigned to that day of Advent. I have selected words based on other similar advent photo challenges and the PC(U.S.A.) daily lectionary passages. Not only will I use this devotional as a way to celebrate Advent, but also to answer the call the DOOR challenged all of it’s volunteers with when we began the year “To see the face of God in the city.” While I live in a city known for production, story telling, and fabrication, I want to spend the next 25 days intentionally looking for the true story of Christ among the city. Here is my Advent Photo-a-Day. To all who are up to this, I challenge you to find the story and meaning of Christ and Advent where every you find yourself this season. My photo’s will be posted on Facebook and Instagram and I will try to update my blog with them as well!Hollywood Advent

 

Now about leaving, I should say that I left L.A., for a day. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, my housemates and I were privileged to take a day trip to San Diego. The day was packed full of adventures, walking, and laughter. The day started around 5 a.m.(in attempts to beat traffic and have enough time in San Diego). We spent the day driving, parking and walking. We visited Old Town San Diego, Balboa Park, Ocean Beach, Sunset Cliffs, and Seaport Village. I also enjoyed my first California Burrito. As I had no clue what that was before I came to California, I am happy to tell you that it is a burrito with Carne Asada (which I did not eat), guacamole, cheese, pico de gallo, and french fries… yes… french fries. And surprisingly, that may be the best part of the burrito! If you are ever given the opportunity to enjoy a California Burrito, I suggest you take it! The best part of the day was the sunset from, you guessed it, sunset cliffs. While the cloud coverage blocked most of the sun, the view was still gorgeous and anytime I am near the ocean, I am a happy camper. Photo’s from this trip can be found on in the photo sections.

November was an exciting and busy month. I apologize for not posting more during the past month. I spent November exploring the city, hiking, and getting more involved in my community that I live with, serve with and work with. I will be posting pictures from the past month. They say pictures are worth a 1000 words, and while I sometimes struggle with the words for this blog, I feel my pictures will help tell the stories that I cannot.

I will also be leaving Los Angeles shortly to be with my family over Christmas. I will be back in Virginia the 21st-31st. Most of this time will be spent in Staunton, but I do plan to go to Blacksburg/New River Valley the weekend of the 27th. If you will be in town (Staunton or Blacksburg) let me know. I hope to see and tell many of you about my adventures these last 3 months.