First Glance

“Just you wait!”

We ALL have full access to ALL of God’s love, power & wisdom! Sometimes as Christians we forget this is true.

I grew up in a church tradition that didn’t talk about the Holy Spirit much, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to pursue what it meant to engage the Holy Spirit. And not only for conviction, but for hearing God, for spiritual gifts and so much more. I’ll admit the story in this video was the largest risk I’ve taken when hearing the Holy Spirit, because it was, the fact that I heard him correctly was more exciting than the money! Take a few minutes to hear this crazy story!

Please, know that God, the creator of the universe, wants to speak to you in little and large ways too… we ALL have the same Holy Spirit in us!

The real reason FG turned 18!

This past Friday First Glance turned 18!  Honestly, my life wouldn’t be the same without First Glance!  Although I typically talk about what I’ve learned or crazy memories from the years, this year I want to talk about one of the main reasons First Glance is where it is today.  A lot of people give me credit since I’m the director, but the real reason I am the Director is because of this one individual, Karen Freeman.

I met Karen when I was all of 19 years old, before First Glance was even a thought in my mind.  She was old enough to be my mom, but we don’t really talk about that, mainly because she  never treated me like I was a kid.  She was the first person to back me when I said I wanted to host a program outside the walls of the church.  Together we had a desire to do this because people who don’t go to church, don’t go to church.

It was Karen that suggested we host First Glance in Kenmore.  After a few meetings with each other and a couple visits to the local community center, we were a team. Little did we know what all we would experience together over the years.  On September 14th, 2000 Karen and I opened the community center doors with 4 leaders, 2 sheet pizzas and some inflatable couches.  Little did we know, that night we had just founded First Glance.

From the moment we decided to start First Glance until now, I have been shocked and amazed how much Karen would teach, lead, support, and encourage me.  Karen was the first volunteer who’s number I had memorized because I called her most every day.  Seriously, every day.  I ran most ideas, problems, and questions by her.  Over time she encouraged me in my leadership skills and ownership of First Glance, while she eventually started the Teen Moms program.  Although in separate roles she remained my largest support and often coached me along the way.

People often give me credit for what happened 18 years ago, but the person behind me was Karen the whole time!  And so this years list of 18 goes to Karen, although there is no way to encompass all that we have experienced together over these years.

Lessons I learned from her along the way:

  1. To dream big.  Lunches together usually ended in new, big ideas.
  2. To speak and communicate the vision.  Karen did this well, clearly articulating how an individual fit into this major master plan of God’s.
  3. How to navigate upset volunteers, community members, or parents.
  4. How to ask bold questions to the students.
  5. Sadly, how to host a funeral dinner.  We did more than we would like to admit.
  6. That bribing is a great tool to use.
  7. To find the joy where you can and laugh as much as possible.
  8. To pray when it’s hard. Because sometimes it’s the only thing we can do.
  9. How to keep a straight face when the task or conversation before you makes your jaw want to drop open.
  10. That God will give us joy and help us through the sorrow, as she battled cancer and I lost Enoch.

The fun we had:

  1. Post FG hot tub nights for the first two years of FG.
  2. A crazy night at FG that we just labeled “thong night.”
  3. Road trips staying up way too late with students.
  4. And random road trips where Karen loses the toll ticket.
  5. Breaking up fights, which isn’t typically fun, but there were some funny stories.
  6. Creating giant leaf and popcorn pits, never quite learning our lesson on how much work it was to clean up.
  7. Getting the bat out of Teen Moms.
  8. Putting our offices directly across from each other on purpose.

Through it all, so much joy, encouragement and a lifelong freindship was created.

Last year Karen stepped down as the director of Teen Moms at First Glance.  The minute she told me, tears streamed down my face, and I wouldn’t let the FG staff even mention it for a solid four weeks.  It’s been almost a year since God moved Karen to a different ministry (who we partner with and still is in Kenmore).  It’s taken me this long to finally be able to write this post.  There really are no words for all that Karen has done for me and ultimately for First Glance!  So when you want to give me credit for all that has happened, know that Karen Freeman was really the catalyst of it all.  And she, of course, would say that it was ALL God.

We really have had and continue to have a front row seat at what God does.  I’m glad that Karen was sitting right beside me the whole time!

 

Tragedy strikes & people are jerks

I love my students. The students at First Glance are never “clients,” pitty cases, projects or anything of the sort. These students are “my kids.” I love them! I love them all! I love them sincerely and passionately, and if anyone has heard me talk, you know that it’s true. My friends tease me that most of the time. I function emotionally as a five, pretty much all the time. BUT, the exception ALWAYS comes out when it involves First Glance, when it comes to my students. I SEE their potential. I see it all the time! I see it when nobody else can. I see it when they can’t. Each of them are amazing in their own right, and I see it and love them.

The truth is, I don’t know every students as well and as personally as I would like. When 1000 teenagers in a year come through our doors, there’s no way to. This is why we have the amazing volunteer base that we have! They are spectacular, and each one get’s to know different students. Regardless of how well I know them or how long it’s been since I’ve seen them, my heart breaks when tragedy strikes. Sometimes I wonder if they know how much it impacts me or the other FG volunteers.

That happened last weekend. Saturday morning I woke up to the news that one of our students, Xavier, passed away. Here is the news article. Despite having not seen Xavier for a little over a year, he was a big part of FG several years ago.  So his sudden death wrecked me. Part of the situation that has been astounding and infuriating is that there have been people who have indicated that in some way he deserved it. Because he had robbed someone prior to dying, it was ok that he died. In fact one person wrote on our wall for his vigil, “One less thug on the street.” Ugh, the infuriation! No matter what decisions he made prior to, he was 17. He was kind and funny and every single volunteer I told of this tragedy mentioned how much they loved him, and then immediately laughed at some story they thought of about him. He was still just a kid. A kid who was loved and cared about by our community and is now gone. I had written this a few weeks ago, and it applies well.  Being in proximity allows us to see the PERSON.

I continue to be grateful for the grace God has shown me time and time again in my own brokenness and sin. I sincerely wish people would extend grace to each other and especially to my students! They are amazing teenagers, whether they know it or not!

Why not me? Why not you?

I have walked a lot of days on this earth thinking about all the things I am not and all of the things I can not do.  It is amazing to me how many times my mind has thought “I could never_________.”  I could never be; I could never do; etc.  I have thought this in a lot of areas of my life, spiritually being one of the most.

Years ago I started to understand the value of prayer.  I have openly admitted for a long time prior that I felt like prayer was a waste of time.  It didn’t seem to do much in this type A person’s mind.  I wanted to accomplish, and prayer did not feel accomplishing.  I certainly didn’t understand the little old ladies who were considered prayer warriors.  If I’m honest, not only did  I not understand them,  I never thought I would be one.

Years later I started to see the value of prayer.  First I recognized it is God who changes hearts and live, not me.  So I created a prayer room at First Glance understanding that praying for this community has more impact than simply sitting at my desk doing all my “important work.”  As I continued to value it and pray more, I really started to be amazed by it.  God, the creator of the universe allows us to communicate with him!  Yep, that’s amazing.  Not ONLY does he give us an opportunity communicate, he then responds.  The creator of the universe INTERACTS in our lives!  I mean it doesn’t get much more amazing that that!!!

A few months ago I had a handful of different people comment on my prayer life.  They  mentioned how they feel like I’m a powerful pray-er.  They trust where God is moving me in life and ministry because of my prayer life.  Suddenly I realized that people consider me a prayer warrior!  I don’t say these things because I want you to be impressed.  I say them because two things shifted in me since my initial thought of “I will never be a prayer warrior.”

The first thing that shifted was my view of prayer.  I really do understand how amazing it is that God, the creator of the universe, who spoke things into being, hears us and interacts in our lives!  Prayer legitimately changes things! Over the years it really has become a huge part of my life.

The second, cue the after school special music, is that I realized I really can be anything I want.  God uses people to be prayer warriors.  Why not me?  Why not you?  We can attain spiritual growth and maturity in certain areas if we ask God for them.  God graciously gives!  The “I will never” phrases can be deleted from our minds!

On a side note, I would much prefer to be called a prayer ninja as ninjas wear all black and seem cooler.  I keep telling my church to call our prayer team that, and I think it’s catching on 🙂

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God’s desperate love…

So many of us have heard it: God loves us.  We know it because it is said often, there are lots of posters, bumper stickers & more all claiming this truth,  and then we have John 3:16 at every sporting event. But in so many ways it has become cliché.  I have been challenged in my own life how this reality is so very watered down and not well demonstrated.

Tim and I had dinner at our house a few weeks ago, and a women, who we adore, came.  We haven’t seen her in a while and were so excited for her to join us on that particular Sunday afternoon.  As we sat there, she proceeded to tell the whole table how nice Tim and I were and how she had been hiding a bit from us but we always welcome her back.  She told the table pretty honestly how she comes near to our friendship and then withdrawals but that we are always there no matter what.  Others at the table smiled a couple nodded their heads as they too had experienced the same things.  For a brief moment I was encouraged.  I was glad that was her experience, but within a couple hours as I thought about the conversation, I became angry and frustrated.  This woman was shocked and in awe of Tim and I’s love, and I wondered why she would be.  Shouldn’t that be the expectation of all Christians, that we will love people no matter what?  Shouldn’t people expect that we will demonstrate God’s love and forgiveness because God first loved and forgave us?

The next day I grabbed one of my favorite books, “What’s So Amazing About Grace the visual edition.”  I remember that it transformed my view of grace at 23 years old.  I read the whole thing in one sitting.   Here are a few of my favorite pages.

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I love this book because it describes what grace really is.  It’s God’s unconditional and undeserved love, over and over again.  As I read the book I also was tearing through the bible, reading about the way Jesus engaged people.  I continued to be struck by how much people were drawn to Jesus, even sinners.  Unfortunately the world is not drawn to the church.  They aren’t drawn to Christians.  Instead they feel judged.

Unfortunately, we as the church, have said God loves you no matter what, but first change.   As I have worked with First Glance, I can’t tell you how often I have heard stories of the church asking someone to change a behavior before they even profess to be a Christ follower.  First Glance’s stance has always been to love everyone exactly as they are.  And when they follow Christ, allow the Holy Spirit to convict them of life changes.  Now don’t get me wrong, if we are close friends and you engage in sin, you better believe I’m going to call you out.  BUT that’s because of our relationship and your maturity in Christ.

Anyhow, I’ve been wrestling because I see so much love and grace from God, and unfortunately, I don’t think the church has done well at demonstrating it (myself included).

I have also been listening to this song over and over.  The idea that God fights and pursues us is amazing!

      There’s no shadow You won’t light up
      Mountain You won’t climb up
      Coming after me
     There’s no wall You won’t kick down
     No lie You won’t tear down
     Coming after me

      There’s no shadow You won’t light up
      Mountain You won’t climb up
      Coming after me
     There’s no wall You won’t kick down
     No lie You won’t tear down
     Coming after me

God loves us, that is real and powerful!!  The question is how to express it in a way that is not watered down and how to demonstrate it to the point where people take notice?

 

** And if anyone wants this book, What’s so Amazing About Grace the visual edition, send me a text with your name and address and I’ll buy it for you 330.328.4900

One of the greatest days ever.

I recently experienced one of the best days at First Glance, actually of my life. We had posted our new video about Fist Glance.  Video’s are always scary as for me as we try and sum up everything that we do at First Glance and more importantly why we do it, all in five minutes.  In this one we talk about our students being family, it’s true, I sincerely see our students and First Glance as a form of family… but to post that idea, to broadcast it to the world feels vulnerable. Someone might disagree.  Maybe I disillusioned in thinking we create a family environment.  These are the thoughts and concerns that roll around in my mind after making such a strong statement.

Then, on Wednesday, December 16th I woke up to this message on my Facebook Page.

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What an encouragement!!  Maybe what we think we are doing, we are actually doing.  Little did I know many similar messages would come through over the next week.

Then to add to an already amazing day.  I had the privilege and opportunity to baptize Dee!!  I mentioned her a few months ago, in this post, when she came to Christ.  I absolutely love baptism!!!  I was so stoked to attend!!!  And then to be able to to baptize her, there are no words!

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Oh man, what an amazing day!!!  I really am so very grateful for the front row seat at what God does!!!