Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Winter's Hope

Just like all of creation, Winter, too, is a picture of the gospel.  It's cold, dark, and gloomy.  All around us, withered plants and leafless trees remind us of the certainty of death.  On some days, the suffering feels almost unbearable-- my face is stinging, my hands are stiff; there's actual pain associated with the depths of winter.  And if this was all we had to look forward to, many of us would surely give up and run away-- settling for an easier path.  But instead we endure.  We fight.  We press on.  Because we know that the suffering will only last for a little while, and soon Spring will make his triumphant return.  We know this to be true; there is no doubt in our mind-- and because we are so confident in this truth, it gives us the strength we need to persist.  We know that soon, and very soon, we will be surrounded by vibrant signs of life-- fresh green grass breaking free from the weight of snow and ice, fragrant wild floweres in full bloom, and most notably, the extended presence of the sun.  We will bask in its warmth, and delight in the beauty that it reveals around us.  The sun is the hero-- ultimately our only hope for Spring and rebirth lies in the return of the glorious sun!

Likewise, the Son is our hero-- our savior.  He will rescue us from our pain and suffering, our meaningless toil, our endless chasing, our relentless longing; he will usher us into the promised joys of new life.  Until then... we endure; we fight; we press on because we can be confident of His triumphant return... soon and very soon.  

Revelation 21:1-5a
Then I saw a new heavean and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Starting Bloc NYC

Hi Friends!  So it's been a little over 2 months since I finished the Starting Bloc NYC Institute, and so much has happened.  I'm volunteering with a start-up company right now, and we're about to launch our Kickstarter campaign, but here's a rewind of what I gained from the Starting Bloc experience.  

1. Fish Camp for Adults-- From the moment I received the acceptance letter to StartingBloc, which included a GIF of a man doing his “Happy Dance,” I knew that I was on the right track.  We had a Google Hangout with our Breakout Team 1 week before we all got to NYC.  My group decided to wear matching colors on the first day for the WIN!  Our very first assignment was to walk through the streets of New York actively seeking opportunities to fail-- you probably saw pics on Instagram.  All of the sessions were interactive and collaborative and creative-- everything I love. 

2. The Sessions-  We attended about 5 sessions a-day, each covering various aspects of being a change-maker.   Scott Sherman was our keynote speaker-- his doctorate was on studying social change movements throughout history that have been successful and identifying trends and key levers in these movements.  His session taught us about the three principles of transformative action.  All of the other guest speakers were equally as knowledgeable in their respective fields:  we learned about how to build strong organizational culture, how to use storytelling to invest people in your cause, how to raise capital for start-ups, how to prototype your business idea, and so much more!

3. The Scrimmage (life-changing)-- On one of the days we got into our 10 Breakout Teams, and we got to be consultants for a real non-profit going through the woes of being a small start-up.  We learned about a strategy called Rapid-Prototyping for Human-Centered Design which I quickly became obsessed with.  Basically, the founder of the organization, Library for All, shared a little bit about their company and the current problem they were having.  We then as a team had to come up with solutions and build a prototype… within 20 minutes!  From there, “Users" walked around the room and interacted with our prototype, and we used insight from their interactions and their feedback to make 'rapid’ changes to the prototype and then gather new User feedback.  Rinse and repeat for as many iterations as we could possible fit into the 2-hour scrimmage.  It was so exhilarating-- especially since it was a REAL situation for a REAL company-- look them up and share their video! 
(Side note: All my YES Prep leaders-- we NEED to talk about this!  This concept of this process was taken from the manufacturing world, but in Human-Centered Design, you don't have to prototype products, you can actually prototype ideas!  I was thinking about all the times we've rolled out new discipline or incentive systems for students, or overhauled the community service program, or tried to roll out a big campus strategic goal, etc. without TESTING them!  We spend hours in a conference room thinking about what we think should be, how we THINK people will react, and then ultimately making these elaborate plans, only to watch them flop, but then still have to endure them at least through the rest of the semester, if not the year (I can't tell you how many times I did that as a GLC or even just a classroom teacher).  However, with those same hours (actually much fewer), we could be running a Rapid Prototyping session and gaining a year’s worth of ‘user' insight before locking in big plans!  I'd love to talk to one of y’all about this, and help you try it out with one of your teams, or maybe even see about getting the ReWork experts to come lead a session like they did for us.  It was BRILLIANT!) 

4. Ideas Marketplace (game-changer)-- So this is where everything crazy kinda started.  They basically gave us an overview of how to give a 1-minute pitch about a project that you're working on in order to gain support.  Then 20 minutes later, we were thrown to the wolves and had to present our own 1-minute pitches to the whole room.  At that point, I still wasn't sure what I was focusing on, but they encouraged us to just nail down something so that we could gain the experience or presenting and storytelling.   It was probably split half and half-- some people, like me, just had a very baby seedling idea, and other people had fascinating, well-developed ideas-- a lot of them, actual companies that they had already started.
*Give a Day Global- partner tourists up with one day of volunteer work during their international vacations to help raise awareness for different issues/communities
*Thought Collective Design- Founder, (a 22 year old girl) lives in Zimbabwe and employs women to make clothes for a clothing line she sells in Austin, TX.  Allows those women to care for their children rather than leaving them at the orphanage. 
*I don't know the name of the company, but they sell cookies and chips made from cricket powder as a more affordable source of protein for and in response to non-sustainable factory-farming
*Report It Girl- a website for collecting stories and providing nurturing community for women who have been sexually abused.
*Spare Change- wanted to start collecting the stories of homeless people (similar to Humans of New York) to bring awareness and help people gain a better understanding of people in need
(You can look most of these companies up online and like their pages!)

Sooo I talked about what I knew… inner-city students in Houston, and gave my pitch on wanting to create an organization that taught character skills like empathy, courage, grit, leadership, etc., especially in low-income communities-- think workshops, retreats, summer camps a la Andria Groover and I, circa 2011.  I wasn't expecting much since I wasn't a legit company like other people, but after the Ideas Marketplace, several people came up to me share that they really loved what I talked about and how important it was, some others wanted to join forces with the similar ideas and experience that they had, and still others just wanted to connect me with people in their networks who were working on something similar.  Which led me to Happy Heart Kid…

Happy Heart Kid is a start-up that I found out about through one of my SB Fellows.  The founder has created a series of activity kits for children ages 3-8 which use games and craft projects to teach specific character skills like Empathy, Grit, Self-Control, etc.  It's not the direction that I was thinking, as the institute I had in mind was going to be a service for pre-teens and teens rather than a product for kids, but it was still a great starting point to learn.  I'm not ready to start my own company, as I’m still focusing on studying performing arts while I'm still young :), but one of the commitments I made on the last day of SB was to volunteer with different start-ups 1) because it makes me happy to be a part of such interesting projects, but 2) to gain valuable experience in the social start-up sector.  So I've been slowly taking on the social media marketing for Happy Heart Kid, and helping with product testing and revisions. We're about to launch our Kickstarter campaign on November 12th!  We've been gaining more and more followers and even have been mentioned on some big mommy-blogs, so it's exciting to watch it grow.  I'm nervous because we are shooting for a big goal with our campaign-- and with Kickstarter, we don't get any of the capital if we do not reach our whole goal, but no matter what happens, we're going to learn so much from this process.  So if you haven't already, like our FB page, follow us on Instagram (Happy Heart Kid), and sign up for our email updates on our website so you can see the journey unfold!  I do most of the quotes and pictures on our page each morning, so you'll know the face behind the posts! :)  

It's Your Turn! Lastly know that Starting Bloc just posted their dates and locations for 2015, so if any of this sounded interesting to you, look up their website to learn more and reach out to me so we can chat about it!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Wrestling with Hopelessness

Tossed and turned all night from thoughts and images after seeing '12 Years a Slave'. A wave of sadness and depression washed over me-- not in response to the typical narrative of black vs white, but instead at the realization of the depths of wickedness and depravity that lie within all of our hearts. It's only by the grace of God that he does not turn us all over to the true nature of our flesh. My mind keeps scrolling through the centuries and centuries of slavery, oppression, and genocide-- starting from the Israelites in Egypt and wondering under what present-day injustices are others still suffering. 

I keep thinking, "It could have been me..."

I'm trying to understand how people found the strength to endure a life of such despair, and I find myself clinging desperately to our promised savior-- it's the only thing that could offer any form of hope in the reality of such cruelty and utter darkness.

In the New Testament Paul says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

Oh, how I pray that this is true.

"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:18-28

It's our only hope...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Birthday Blogs- Kate

June 5th
Kate Cottrell

She's brave and independent...

She's introspective and reflective...

She's passionate and compassionate...

All things I love about her... HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATE!!!!!!!!!!

I am so proud of you and the journey you've been on for the past 2 years. 

And I'm so thankful that Mark asked us plan SDR together... that was 6 years ago!  Who knew that I'd get a best friend out of it?! 

Thank you for teaching me the value of long-lasting friendship, and not running away when things get tough.

I feel like every conversation I have with you is meaningul and life-changing.  I have learned so much from you, and your life is an inspiration to me every day-- even when you're thousands of miles away.

 Love you.  Miss you. And I can't wait to hug you!  Happy Birthday!!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Birthday Blogs- Andria

I don't know what happened in September about 26 years ago, but almost all of my besties have birthdays in May or June.. and this year, unfortunately, I'm on the other side of the world.  :(  So here's my official kick-off to the Birthday Blog in honor of the beautiful people in my life who I love dearly and wish I could be with this month!

June 2nd
Andria Groover

Thank you for listening to all my junk and constantly reminding me that, 'Christ is all'...

Thank you for being so comfortable in your own skin. You're my inspiration...

Thank you for teaching me how to dream big...

I feel like I'm losing my other half... I don't know what I'm going to do without you...

But you definitely left YES (and me) better than you found it...

Know that I love you deeply, and I always will. You I hope you have the happiest of birthdays today!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thy Sweet Mercy

I've felt inspired to write recently.  And although the idea of "starting my blog back up" and catching everyone up on my move back to Texas and the last year of my life seems overwhelming and crippling, I am driving out the feelings of anxiety that would normally paralyze me and keep me from even trying.  Instead I'm taking the "How Do You Eat an Elephant?" approach... "one bite at a time..." 

So here's a tiny morsel of some of the thought patterns filling my life right now:

This morning this hymn had me weeping uncontrobally, specifically this verse:

Without Thy sweet mercy, I could not live here,
Sin would reduce me to utter despair,
But through Thy free goodness, my spirit's revived,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.

Recently, I've been coming to terms with the innate wickedness of my heart:
-I am selfish...
-I live in jealousy...
-I keep score...
-I hold onto bitterness...
-I squander my time, my money, and my talents...
-I seek the approval of others
-I am ungrateful and discontent

The list goes on and on.  But recently I've learned about a God who doesn't ask me to clean myself up, but rather to come just as I am.  And the more I learn about this loving God, the more I despise myself for my sinful heart, wondering how someone could show mercy towards me, but all the more I love God for loving me inspite of my wretchedness.  

I think Paul would understand me...

Romans 7:15-25
"For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

And as the hymn says,
'But through Thy free goodness, my spirit's revived,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.'

Later Paul goes on to reassure us:
Philippians 1:6
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Before I Go

Ok, it's official; I just bought my ticket-- I have 2 more weeks left in NYC!!! Yikes!!! I know I'll be here again soon, but I still have a long list of things that I want to make sure I do before I leave.  I also took a walk down memory lane while I was compiling this list, and it reminded me of how blessed I've been this year.  What an incredible and life-changing experience!

If there's anything missing from my list, let me know!  But keep in mind I only have 14 days to do them!

Mary Poppins
Phantom of the Opera

Been there, done that:
Sister Act
Book of Mormon
West Side Story
Wicked (Broadway on Tour)
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

SNL- I hear you have to sign up for this once a year, but I'm still keeping it on my list :(
David Letterman
Apollo Theater- Amateur Night
Free Summer Concert Series
Nuyorican Poets Cafe- slam poetry open mic- waited in a line that wrapped the building, but couldn't get in.  I hear it's that good!

Been there, done that:
Broadway on Broadway- opening season show in Times Square- performances from each Bwy cast (and I was in the intermission performance!)
GLEE Live Tour- "audience member" for movie filming and then tickets to the concert afterwards

Kayak in the Hudson
Trapeze at Chelsea's rig
Explore High Line park
Eat a hot dog at Coney Island
Jersey Shore/ the Brownstone/ and Teresa and Joe's pizza parlor

Been there, done that: 
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge- done several times- INCREDIBLE at sunset
Attend a Yankees game
Museum of Modern Art- you need the entire day
Visit Ground Zero on Sept 11 
Ride bikes through Central Park- delightful during leave-changing season
Boat cruise around Lady Liberty
View NYC from the top of the Empire State Building
Rockafeller Center- breathtaking at Christmas time
Write on New Year's Eve confetti that falls in Times Square
Union Square farmer's market
Shopping in Williamsburg, Brooklyn- super hipster
Korean-town Private Karaoke Rooms- so much fun!

Papaya King
Bagelberry- it's the Pinkberry of bagels and cream cheese! So many options!

Been there, done that:
Amy Ruth's- chicken and waffles
Grimaldi's- voted no. 1 pizzeria in NYC
Shake Shack- okay burgers; incredible ice cream blizzards, including one with jelly donuts!
Vinyl- most hilarious waitstaff; crazy good brunch
Blockhead's- 17 different flavors of frozen margaritas! coconut's my go to 
Mother Burger- great junk food menu; fun environment; cheap drinks
Hot Bagels- strawberry cream cheese mixed with real strawberry slices
Hillstone- scariest management, best all-around food in NYC
Clinton St. Baking Co- biscuits and jam instead of bread basket
Five Napkin Burger- okay burgers; coffee toffee brownie sundae- to die for!
Southern Hospitality- amazing ribs, stuffing, and sweet potato fries; worst-case pecan pie
Food Trucks: hot dogs, hot sausages, falafel, waffles, pretzels, hot nuts, bagels, dumplings- wow this list amazes me! so many great things can come from a truck!

Serendipity- signed up for the 2 hour wait list, but didn't stay
Dean and Deluca

Been there, done that:  
Max Brenner's- creative dessert designs
Junior's- best cheesecake
Pinkberry- Swirl is better
Levain Bakery- their cookies are the size of muffins! and delicious!

Irish Rogue
Brooklyn Brewery
Frying Pan- bar on a boat in the Hudson

Been there, done that:  
Mercury Bar- party goes all night long; top 40 music pumping; friendly crowd 
O'Flaherty's- live music 7 nights a week
Reunion Surf Bar- ditsy waitresses, but fun tropical drink menu
Smith's Bar- live music, full dinner menu, decent time