Monday, August 29, 2011

End of Project Thank You Letter!

Most of you probably got this in the mail, but here is my letter wrapping up my Project experience!




love,
p.b.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Adios, Santa Monica

I've officially been home from Santa Monica Summer Project 2011 for six days now, and it sort of feels like I just woke up from a two month long dream. I've been putting off blogging about the end of project (the entire second half actually) just because I was so spiritually, physically, and mentally exhausted. So, here's my best crack at the last four weeks of Project!

After staff left, the students continually grew closer every day. One of my biggest fears about the people on  project, or just people I meet in general, is that they may be friendly but may not desire a genuine friendship with me. For this reason, I kept myself guarded, distant, and surface level with most of the other students. Relentlessly, God kept shoving in my face how much the people on project cared about me and loved me.  I never knew that saying goodbye to 65 people would be so sad, or that I could count all of them as some of my best friends in life. I know that I may not ever experience again the feeling of waking up and having 65 people literally right outside my door, waiting to spend time with me all day and get to know me on deeper levels. The second half of project just seemed a million times more genuine to me, and it got so much better after I finally let myself be vulnerable. After this point, I spent the rest of Project learning so much, from how to approach strangers to how to show love to others to how to accept love to how to speak truth into others' lives to how to drive in LA traffic!

"..to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." Ephesians 4:12-16

The longer that Project went on, the more I started to dread my job at Tocaloma Day Camp.  I started feeling like I was in Santa Monica to work at Tocaloma, and not to be on Summer Project. I felt like the long, daily hours and the exhaustion that ensued was preventing me from getting to know all of my Project mates better, or even causing me to not care about any of the activities that we did. However, even though I felt so much stress about my job, God kept popping up in different areas and reminding me that I was supposed to be there. Whether it was a bonus on my paycheck when I was expecting not enough to get by, a great evaluation when I was expecting a terrible one, my 6 year old girls unconditinally loving me when I expected them to be annoyed or bored by me, or even great camraderie and friendships when I was expecting to not fit in, God kept blessing me when I least deserved it, and when I least expected it.

"I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound." Philippians 4:12

My weariness began infecting every aspect of my project experience, including evangelism.  Everytime we would start walking towards the promenade, I felt reluctant and lost.  I never knew how to start out a conversation, no matter how many times we had been told.  However, I had some of the craziest talks with people all summer. I hardly ever had a "mediocre" or short conversation; I always ended up talking to people for hours, and listening to them reveal their deepest struggles with brutal honesty.  I talked to an elderly woman who was depressed and angry at God because her husband had passed away two years ago. I talked with a young German couple who grew up in the Catholic Church but now began discovering that they wanted to know God personally, and were exploring what that meant and if it was possible. I talked to an ex-CEO who was going through a divorce, depression, and a layoff, who admitted that "God was the only thing missing in his life." I ate McDonald's with a homeless man, who told me stories about the girl he used to love, the people who have hated him, and how he was living his life dealing with AIDS. . I talked to a wealthy Indian man who came to America to study for the Bar exam, and told me all about how much he loves his arranged marriage. I talked to a homosexual man who worked in a cosmetics store, who had experienced unconditional love and accpetance from his mother, and hate from his mother's church. All of these people's stories throughout the summer filled me with so much sadness and heartache, and although I could talk to them for hours, it was hard to get any of them to budge on their spiritual views of belief in God. I had to be reminded that I was not there to be these peoples' savior, and that I had only been sent to plant seeds. The changing of their hearts had to be and could only take place through God.

"'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed that Savior of the world.' " John 4:42

Once, I went out with my friend Karly, and we saw people sitting in life for the midnight premiere of Harry Potter, so we decided to sit down and start shring with them. The girl we sat next to and started talking to turned out to be a new Christian. We only talked to her for about three minutes, and although we sensed the church she went to might be doctrinally different in some ways, she was on fire about evangelizing and talking to strangers.  A man came and sat next to us, and she immediately dove right in, asking him how often he went to church. Although we were a little taken aback by her approach, it flung wide open a door to this man that we might have been to scared to knock on ourselves.  Her friends started coming throughout the night, so she eventually left the conversation and our group, but Karly and I were glued to this man, Ali, for a solid four hours. He was from India, and was a Cambridge graduate in physics,mathematics and philosophy, now conducting research at UCLA. He hardly ever had a break or free time, so he absolutely loved talking to us. He even told us that we were so wise, and he had never had such a theological conversation with his highly educated peers.  He went silent and his jaw dropped for a whole minute when he found out that we were only 19, and he was absolutely hysterical when we told him 3 hours later that we weren't even in line for Harry Potter; we just wanted to talk to him. We got to talk deeply about God and His nature, and Ali was so amazed by the loving and accepting God we talked about.  He was in disbelief when we gave him the Knowing God Personally booklet, and although he said he didn't believe in some parts of it, he asked us deep questions at rapidfire pace on everything from dating to abortion to homosexuality to peace and hope. God gave us the words to say, and the peace to speak with a man with so much more prestige than us.

"Do not say 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord." Jeremiah 1:7-8

"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." 2 Timothy 1:7

God also knew exaclty when to put a stranger in my life to encourage me, instead of the other way around.   I talked to a movie producer who encouraged my roommates and I to represent young, Christian females in the entertainment industry, specifically in front of the camera, which spoke to my roommate, Alexa.  We also were approached on the same night by a young man studying business, so he could become a "tent-maker" in third world countries- entering the country with a degree as a businessman, but really be doing missionary work. I met a boy my age in the Navy who came to church with me one night, and spent the hour drive back to his ship hearing about his life and walk with the Lord and stories about meeting other strangers. On my last Wednesday night Date Night With Jesus, I told my friend that I didn't want to have any chance meetings with strangers while doing my devotional, that I was just too tired and didn't feel like talking to anyone, so I went to the 3rd floor of Barnes and Noble and sat on the floor of the furthest corner I could find. Within minutes, a woman walked past, did a double take, and gasped, "Are you reading the Bible?!" We proceeded to talk for an hour, as she quoted scripture for me to look up and encouraged me to read it daily, to prepare for persecution as a Christian.

On our final Sunday, we had our second major outreach- this time, without staff.  The Evangelism team did an amazing job of planning such a bold endeavor, and getting us all pumped to participate. We each had white t-shirts, and wrote "I found.." and then a word representing what we found in our relationships with Christ. All 65 of us walked to the promenade, and then simultaneously frozze for two minutes, to attract attention. After this, we broke up into groups, with some people using Perspective Cards, posters advertising prayer, or posters with questions for people to answer, like my friends Muriel and I. I remember having the time of my life that day, yelling "Do you wanna write on our board?" at every single person that walked by, getting swallowed up by groups of people, and hearing everyone's answers.  We kept freezing every hour, for five minutes, and each time attracted more attention. At this point, all of the passersby would swarm Muriel and I with the posters and ask us so many questions.  The last freeze was the coolest, and it was amazing seeing how unified and fearless our group of 65 students looked. Nearly every single person walking by stopped, took pictures, pointed, looked at our posters, or asked us questions. It was at this point that I had an overwhelming feeling of "we are making an impact on this city... this city will be different because we have been here this summer." All of the time we had invested suddenly seemed to be visibly fruitful, and it was one of my favorite days of Project.

"Pray...also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth fearlessly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it fearlessly, as I ought to speak." Ephesians 6:19-20









Another thing I experienced the second half of Project was a deeper bond with all of the UofA students. Seven of us went, and we all spent the majority or Project making our own friends and experiencing different things.  Our first few campus meetings were rocky to say the least, and an air of hostility involving so many different connections of people always hung over us.  It was getting pretty discouraging, especially for me and some of my friendships.  However, at our final campus time, after evangelizing one night, we all sat down at Coffee Bean (aka 2nd home) talking, laughing, and actually genuinely bonding.  I was able to talk to all of these people one-on-one as well, which helped me out sooo much regarding my attitude towards next year and heading back to campus.  Driving home with emily and Charyse was soo great as well, and we spent most of the 6 hours talking about our school. Being on project and surrounded by people from Cru movements with 400+ people, who go sharing every week and do all kinds of cool things really opened our eyes to areas in which we can grow on our campus. We talked and prayed and screamed and planned for next year, and overall we are so encouraged to put some of our ideas into practice.





Looking back on this summer, and even just this post, I am amazed in the ways that God chose to use me.  The people I talked to that were his divine appointments, the roommates I lived with that changed me forever in separate ways, the ambassador that I am now called to be at my school and to my Cru movement, and even the ways I am called to share my stories with my friends and family at home. Thank you allll for your continued prayer throughout the summer, and please continue praying for my campus, and all of the campuses represented on Project, and our hearts and attitudes as we make the difficult adjustment back to normal life! I'm headed back to Tucson in just three days for my sophomore year!






 "But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face." 1 Thessalonians 2:17






ps.... on the last week, the ASU students tied maroon & gold balloons to all of the Wildcat's doors. Here is our revenge prank ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6MZAUoM0L8&feature=player_embedded

Monday, July 11, 2011

Halfway!

Woo! Halfway into project! Sorry it has been so long, but we have been super busy like usual! Here are some highlights from the past two-ish weeks!

The annual staff vs. students softball game! All week long, the staff gave us challenges with the theme of "unity." For example, one morning, we were only allowed to set one alarm, and then rely on each other to wake everyone else up on time.  Another night, each student got their own clue to the rules of the softball game, and we had to have a big meeting to figure everything out.  We also had to make our own banner with everyone's name on it. (Props to me and my girl Hannah C, for going dumpster diving and carrying that sucker four blocks!) We also took it upon ourselves to make all matching shirts, which just made everything feel so much more official.  Of course, staff had been practicing all along, so even though we had some great talent, they pretty much killed us. But it was such a great experience! We all only got to bat once, and the game ended up being waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay longer than anyone had cared for. But it was just soooooooo cool to see how 65 people could come together, and plus it was way fun. (Also, it brang back memories of playing softball for my whole life up until high school, and i realized how much I miss it!)

On Sunday, we had our biggest outreach of the summer! Instead of going around looking for people to talk to, and share our tools, we set up tables on the beach and the promenade and attracted people to us. It was awesome, and super fruitful! My roommate and I actually walked around, and accidentally got into a spiritual conversation with an old man at Coffee Bean. I love starting conversations now! I barely said hi, and told him I was from Arizona, and for the next hour he talked literally without us saying one word. He had been sentenced to jail for 25-life, and then after he got out, he started going to AA and became sort of the grandfather there, taking care of everyone. He had so many more touching stories to share, and he said that just by listening, we had blessed his day so much. It was so interesting to see his new take on life since he had been released.It was a super encouraging conversation, and it just reminds me of how open people really are to being talked to.

On Monday night, we had an International Dinner, but we had to take an oath saying we wouldn't tell people about it, in case the people we told ended up going on a Summer Project and had the surprise ruined. If you ask me in person I can probably just tell you, but shhh :) Basically though, it was a very moving representation of the state of the world, and the "hunger" of different people groups in many senses of the word. It was

On Thursday night, we had our goodbye banquet for staff! On stateside Projects, the 20ish staff leave halfway through, and pass down their jobs to all of the students.  It was sad seeing them all leave, and it still feels a little weird, but everyone says project only gets better from here! After the banquet, we had such a powerful ceremony, which involved the staff lighting the candles of the students who would take their positions. I'm on the community team, which basically plans all the socials and fun stuff we do, and makes sure everyone on proj is still friends! I'm excited! Then, staff left for good and the new student leaders led us in a footwashing ceremony. It was so powerful to see some of the wisest and oldest and most loving students on project on the floor serving all of us. We spent a lot of time in prayer with each other over our new jobs and the future of our project. Since then, things have been going  pretty smoothly, and I am super excited to see us come together even closer and run this project ourselves! We all seem to have a lot of enthusiasm, and I think everything will work out great!

Today, we had our first meetings with our new leadership groups. We did alright without our staff! Afterwards, we went out sharing again, and my partner and I got into a conversation with a couple using the Perspective Cards.  The girl was from Bangladesh and raised in Islam, and the boy was raised Mormon.  I have known for basically my whole life that the Mormon faith is something heavy on my heart, since I have been raised surrounded by it, and many of my best friends are Mormon. So, talking to him today was just kind of reaffirming an area of my life that I feel God wants to work in. Anyways, they both were well traveled and very accepting of others' beliefs, but not open to identifying with any. We talked for about an hour before they had to leave, and we didn't get into the gospel or anything.  Walking away, we were just glad that we had gotten to talk to someone,  but I still felt in a way that we had failed, or not done anything of significance. But during the whole 20 minute walk back, we talked over everything, and God showed me that sometimes instead of using conversations just to benefit other people, he points out areas that I totally need to grow in. Also, I've been experiencing lately how the Holy Spirit uses my own words to speak truth into my own life.  I"ll start giving advice to somebody, not having any idea what I am going to say, and it ends up being this huge insightful profound thought that I needed to hear myself. So, during the whole conversation with these people, I had been thinking about how, when debating with other people, even if they disagree with me, the one thing they cannot combat is my personal testimony. I know how God has wokred in my life, how He has brought me to Him, and how walking with Him has brought me fulfilment in my life.  But I got to wondering, how are my experiences more valid than other peoples'? Or who am I to tell them that their testimonies or experiences, even with other religions, are false? So while sharing my doubts about all this to my partner, I said that maybe this is the point of the conversation in which the Holy Spirit takes over.  Although all along he gives us the words to say and the people to talk to, at this point there is literally nothing more we can do, and everything depends on the Holy Spirit changing that person's heart.  Because we were talking about the armor of the spirit, I started explaining how this was an instance in which our armor would be the shield of faith.  When I came home tonight, I looked up the verse and was totally convicted.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted in the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." Ephesians 6:10-18

So much good stuff that I totally needed to hear! And it started off with thoughts coming out of my own mouth. Weird. Thanks, God!

Also tonight, I went with a group to Reality LA, a hip young church that some of my friends from southern california go to.  The sermon, about bitterness, fit perfectly with what I had been experiencing literally as I walked in the doors.  Also, we sang the song "Here I am to Worship," a song I have sat through and sang thousands of times.  But tonight, I sat there and forgot about everything else around me and just simply worshipped the Lord.  To me tonight, singing the words "Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you're my God" was my way of reaffirming why I am here in Santa Monica. I am here to worship God, and do whatever work he sends me.  Sometimes I get involved in all of the activities, or I feel sad when I don't have enough time to hang out with all of my 65 new friends, or I have a hard day at my day job. It was so good just step back and think about how I am here, right now, to worship.


Here is a video of the first half or project so you can get a glimpse of my life here!
http://freakphotography.com/downloads/SMSP-Part-1/part1.swf

Also, this verse popped out at me as I was looking up the armor of God, and it fits my life so perfectly right now:

"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Ephesians 6:19-20

Sorry this is forever long! Miss you all! Also be praying for some craaaaazy things God might be planning for my future. Love y'all

love,
p.b.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Project Week 2

Hey everyone, sorry my posts are so few and far between.  Literally everything we do here has a story worth sharing with everyone, but finding time is so difficult. It is super hard to understand the intensity and energy wrapped up into every event we do, but we are learning to rely on Christ to revive our strength, and find rest in him.
Here is a quick example of our schedule!
My job at Tocaloma Day Camp in Beverly Hills runs Monday- Friday from 8am-4pm.  I am a counselor for a group of 6 year old girls, and I bring them aroung to all of their many activites throughout the day.  This past week, all of my girls were still in school, so I doubled as a sports specialist, seeing all different groups of kids and running around playing with them. So tiring!
On Monday nights, we have weekly meetings at our church, which are just like Cru weekly meetings at home.  Tuesdays are Action Group nights, where we meet up with our action group after dinner, have a Bible study, and then go sharing. Wednesdays are Date Night With Jesus, where we pick up our dinner in a paper bag, get a packet to go through, and find somewhere in Santa Monica to spend 3 hours of time alone in the word. Thursday is called Teach and Go, because we eat dinner, learn about a new method for evangelism, and then go out sharing.  Fridays are free! yaaay! Saturdays are also free until dinner, and then we have a social after, like a scavenger hunt throughout santa monica (my team won because I ruthlessly forced them all to run, against their wills!) or dodgeball and donuts.  On Sundays we go to church, have lunch and a meeting, and then go sharing.  It's super packed, and every event is really intense, so it is all very draining. But I am so blessed to be here, and I am enjoying the community more and more everyday!

This week was packed with memorable conversations with people.  First, on Sunday, I went out with two girls. We ended up finding a middle-aged man relaxing by the beach and began getting to know him.  He was slow to open up, but within half an hour, he was telling me about his divorce in process, looking for jobs while currently unemployed, and finally accepting his disease of depression.  At one point, he even said he knows that all that is missing from his life is God.  This moment was so surreal for me, and he never came to salvation that day, but he looked over cards we had entitled "the skeptics prayer" and "the believer's prayer," which basically are prayers of salvation, and he said he agreed with most of both of them.  He said he may come to church with us this Sunday, so please be praying for that! While all of this was going on, one of the girls got to talking with a homeless man who actually approached us.  We ended up taking him out to lunch and talking with him for a while, and he also poured out his whole heart.  It is still sooo crazy to me how open people are!
On Tuesday night, we were all beyond exhausted, and were dreading going sharing. We even wanted to skip it and just have our Bible study, so we went to a Starbucks on the promenade. Surprise, God had other plans! While I was sitting waiting for everyone, a man just plopped himself down in the chair next to me and started telling me all about his life. Literally. I never asked a single question! He got up and left just as abruptly, but it was enough to change my attitude for the evening.  About halfway through our study that night on sanctification, another lady came over and helped herself to the empty chair next to me.  She was reading something, so we just continued talking. We didn't speak to her until I was saying goodbye to her, during which she began talking to us.  We ended up staying for almost another hour, and she was telling us how excited she was that young women were meeting and having fellowship and spending time in God's word.  She ended up telling us she was a producer, and my roommate Alexa, who is studying communications in the entertainment industry, asked her what it is like being a Christian in the industry.  It ended up being a special night for Alexa, as the random woman was affirming all of the things Alexa has been so scared of.  She said she could tell that Alexa has a special "aura" and a talent for leadership and standing strong in her faith, and that she thinks the entertainment industry needs a young woman like that.  She also told us about some of the top secret projects she has in the works.  They exchanged contact information, and promised to meet up and continue talking.  Also while all this was going on, a young man approached us and noticed that we were having a Bible study.  He ended up being a strong Christian looking for a church in Santa Monica, so we invited him to our sunday and monday night services, and he promised to come.  By the end of the night, we were all so energized and refreshed and happy and in awe of God's plan.  I have basically given up on trying to guess what He has in store!
Soooo much more has happened, and we have already had four salvations this summer! Apparently this is a huge number for Santa Monica Summer Project, because last year saw two salvations all summer.  We are not focused on the numbers, but it sure is encouraging! Please keep us all in your prayers, as it gets a little overwhelming realizing we still have six more weeks of this! Love y'all!
love,
pb

Monday, June 13, 2011

Start of Santa Monica!

Hello friends! I finally arrived here in Santa Monica on Thursday!


We have been super busy all day everyday, but it has been great!
The first day, a group of friends and I walked down to the beach (typical) and explored, then had a meal with everyone.  We all stood up and talked about what we were most excited about (besides sharing our faith, etc) and of course I said running on the beach! We spent the night getting to know our action groups (the people in our rooms and the people we have bible studies with ) and getting situated.  The next day, I woke up  super early and got to go running with about 4 other girls on project.  None of them were runners, and we went suuuuuper slow.  I was looking forward to that feeling of going as fast as you can go, coming home completely winded, and feeling proud of yourself. Didn't quite happen.   I decided to run the mile and a half (completely uphill) back to our motel with the slowest girl in the group who didn't think she would ever be able to make it back.  I loved being able to just talk her through it, and hold her accountable for not walking, and seeing how utterly amazed and proud of herself she was upon completing three miles on her FIRST time running. ahhh! I have been doing this for the past four days now, and honestly love it.  Every night, the girls run up to me and say "what time are we going tomorrow?! I invited a friend too!" It's something a tonnnn of people have come to look forward to, and it is beginning to be a big part of my project. Check us out on the third day, our group has already grown so much!

Today was the fourth day a lot of the girls have gone, and they all excitedly came up to me, telling me how easy it is for them, and how quickly they improved on their running, and how stoked they were to keep improving.  In a way, this is sort of a synopsis of what Summer Project should be! First, comes the awkward coaxing of people to come running with me in the morning.  There are people who say no right off the bat, and that they hate running and will never ever change their minds.  Then, there are people who are slightly open to the idea, and who might come if you explain to them that we will be going slow, and relieve their anxieties.  Finally, there will always be people who have been dying to go running, but they just don't want to go alone, and they have been waiting their whole lives for someone to ask.   After all this, I am teaching people to fall in love with something that has completely changed my life, and that I have overflowing passion for.  If I am excited about going running, it is contagious and infects other people like wildfire.  Tomorrow we have about four different scheduled groups going running, because everyone is bringing their friends, and nobody wants to miss a day! Even though right now, we may be at a pace slower than what I am used to, I am fully confident that this ministry is blessing me.  I am now already so close to these girls, and as a bonus, we get to see the beautiful beach and say good morning to about 20 people on the streets, even before anyone else on Project has even woken up. So nice!

Okay, so other than running, we have been suuupes busy.  We went out sharing on just the second day! I was the only one in my action group who had never been before, so I went with my leader and one girl from my room. It was super nerve racking at the beginning, when you have no idea what to expect, or you expect the worse.  But God is so much greater than your expectations! We had so many great conversations, just on the first day.  Our assignment was to "decode" Santa Monica, to get a feeling for the mindsets and attitudes that we will be faced with this summer.  We simply had to approach people, build a repertoire and begin asking them four questions: What do you think is our purpose? What is wrong with the world? What is the solution? How can you and I contribute to the solution? It sounds difficult and scary, but I really would encourage you to ask your family, co-workers, or even complete strangers these same questions.  Most people will be slightly taken aback, but if you approach them in the right way and make them comfortable, most people will start off slow, then before they know it wil be talking to you for ten minutes just about the first question.  So awesome! Many people have never thought about these before, and most people are just surprised and glad that someone is willing to listen to their answers and love on them no matter what.  Some specific people you can be praying for:
Benjamin- a man we met on our first day.  He said he was definitely spiritual and had hope for the future, and then later in the conversation he revealed he was a practicing Satanist.
Sam- A man we met on our second day! I went out with only one of my roommates, and was nervous to be without a leader.  He was the firs tguy we appraoched, and was at first hesitant to speak with us.  He was close to our age, and we ended up having such a solid conversation.  He had a great opinion on the questions we asked, and considered himself to be a spiritual person, but was wary of religions.  He was on his break, and wanted us to come back that night when he was done. But we exchanged emails, and we felt so encouraged by his conversation.  We really would love to keep a relationship going with him throughout the summer, and answer more of his questions, or get him connected with some of the awesome men in our group.
Ezekiel- I was out with the same roommate on our third day of sharing.  By this time, we had been going for three days straight and were mentally and physically sooo exhausted.   We got rejected by eight people right off the bat, and were walking back to our church to be done for the day.  I was just so completely discouraged, and we had tried praying sooo much already.  But we spotted Ezekiel, who was a street performer, taking a break.  He was definitely open to talk to us, and we continued for about half an hour.  He definitely said right off the bat that he agrees in a creator, based off of the perfect universe around him, and the perfect cells inside his body. He had no problem continuing on, and when we asked if he thoguht this being was someone he could know personally, he said no, and that he didn't think the creator would want to know him either. After a while, my friend Julialynn ended up sharing the gospel with him! He said he definitely agreed with and disagreed with things that we said, but he loved talking to us.  We left our brochure, Knowing God Personally, with him, and he said he would love to read it.  We had to leave,but still were excited about this convo.
 Our view from the third day sharing!


Other than this, we had our first day of training at Tocaloma Day Camp.  There is fourteen of us from Summer Project working there, and Tocaloma had about 96 staff, so we definitely make such an impact.  After spending time with our co-workers, we could see that they were open and friendly and accepting, but definitely not walking with the Lord.  We know this is such a ripe missions field for us and are totally stoked to start working! Also, I found out I will be a counselor for 6 year olds! Soooooo excited.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support! I am having soooo much fun, but I also have never been so exhausted in my life! I never thought I would hit a wall on the thrid day, but it just shows you how intensive everything is here.  I have loved getting to know all of the other students, and it is such an encouraging environment.  Everyone wants to be your friend, and help you out in any ways possible.  I have never really been part of a group that is allll so on fire for the Lord. It's eye-opening. The best part is that we all still have so many flaws and stumble in our walks.  We had a time called "soul to soul" with our action groups, where we kind of shared our life stories and testimonies.  All of us had huge periods of our life when we had fallen from seeking God.  But he never stopped waiting for us, and he faithfully brought us closer to him through everything.  One of my favorite parts of project is hanging out at the Promised Land.  It's just an area of couches in our motel, and you can just go sit there when all of the activities for the day are done, and tons of people will come join you right away.  Within minutes, people just start opening up about their lives.  It is such an awesome environment, that many people will never experience. 

Keep us all in your prayers! Feel free to contact me whenever!
Love,
p.b.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Support/Packing!

Woo! Tonight I officially received 100% of my support! (Thanks Logan) This $2800 covers our housing and some of our meals for the two months in Santa Monica! Thank you soooo much to all of you who made this happen, I am praying that I can be a good steward of your time and money, and I know God will use it to the fullest!

When everyone has been asking me if I am excited yet, I keep on saying it doesn't feel like I am going. Some of my friends are dying to get out of their houses, and I guess I have just been enjoying my month here at home.  I am completely stoked, yes, and I can't believe that I have this amazing opportunity.  I think this just reflects another aspect of what great support I have here at home.  Some of my teammates' parents are unsupportive of their trips, and some othershave been spending the past month with almost no friends. I'm trying to plan out my last two days here, and there is so many names of friends that I want to make sure I see before I leave! This just makes me realizehow much I love everyone here, and my year away at school just made us closer.  Sometimes I feel guilty for always leaving my friends, but I know God has greater things planned for me.

Ahh, packing! My next obstacle! Packing and cleaning are both kind of therapeutic for me, so I'm not dreading it at all. I just always get a weird feeling whenever I pack for a long time.  Packing up and leaving has become my new favorite thing over the past year.  Packing up and going to college seemed soooooooooooooooo dramatic and sad and life-changing to me just ten months ago. Throughout that time, I learned how to pack a tiny tiny bag for visits home, pack for a vacation in -24 weather, got addicted to reading a blog about these two girls I met called Packing Light that describes their 50 state road trip, aaaand I finally packed everything in my room up (in three hours!) and brought it all home.  All the frequent moving back and forth this year has put me in a completely different mindset than this time last year.  I feel so much more detached to my material things than I ever have before.  Out of my fam, I've pretty much grown to be the neatfreak, and I can throw away stuff much easier than anyone else (case in point: my little brother just paid me $100 to clean his room! :) )/ But I feel like this year has jsut helped me out so much more! I was talking to my friend about how I am going to be calling three different cities "home" this year. Weird! Exciting! The truth is, none of those places are going to contain allll of the things I own. Which is great! Every time I pack, I feel like I get rid of way more stuff. Seriously, try it sometime.  Anyways, I'm going to have to make each place homey, with less and less of my personal belongings in each location.  And the truth is, after lugging your stuff back and forth and throughout different states, you start to realize what is absolutely necessary, and what is just taking up space. It's weird, this is a lesson I've been learning in so many areas of my life.  Ask God to help you figure out what is cluttering your life, in your possessions, your friendships, and your time, especially. 

So, anyways, this is just a completely disjointed post, summing up some of my final thoughts before my trip! I am sooo excited to be doing what I am doing. I mean, I am 19. I want to be packing up and leaving as much as I possibly can! God has instilled a deep longing for adventure in me throughtout the past year, and I pray that I can pursue not only my desires for fun and freedom and enjoying my youth, but that His work would always be my main focus throughout everything!

So, gracias to everyone who has contributed prayerfully and financially! If you still wanted to, we of course are going to need things like gas for transportation, and many of my teammates still have sizeable amounts of support to raise. So contact me! I hope everyone has a  life-changing summer, no matter where you are!
See you in Santa Monica!
Love,
p.b.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Freshman Fifteen!

This probably isn't about what  you were guessing from the title...  ugh, I could talk about that (cry) for hours. Anyways! Wow, my freshman year of college has been over for nearly a month! I honestly cannot believe it. What sealed the deal for me was watching my best friend graduate high school the other night. I remember that exact feeling I had, a mix of nausea and euphoria, based off of uncertainty, excitement, nostalgia, and fear. Sitting in the bleachers, I could not believe that a year has passed since I was saying goodbye to what I thought would be the most fun and influential years of my life.
    I was strangely surprised with how well I handled it this year; I think the past semester has taught me so many huge lessons about my identity (probs a post later) in Christ and in life and everything that I have to look forward to in my life ahead.
    Buttttt, basically, I just want to emphasize how much has changed in me this year! I originally going to make a list of a bunch of lessons I had learned (lists help me handle life), and share my new, educated, elderly wisdom! But I kinda realized I'm not a guru, or Oprah, and maybe my list would be faulty, or not apply to you. So here's one that will. Fifteen verses that impacted me, stood out to me, and helped get me through this year.  Throughout the year, these are the ones that jumped off the page at me during Bible studies, that sum up my feelings and struggles throughout this year, that others pointed me towards, or that I happened to share with others.  So. I figured God's word might be more beneficial than my own! (hey! one of my lessons from this year!)

1. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

2. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. (Philippians 4:12)

3. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

4. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have... but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

5. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phillipians 4:6-7)

6. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

7.Fear not, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great (Genesis 15:1)

8. Exactly as I planned, it will happen. Following my blueprints, it will take shape. (Isaiah 14:24)

9. Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades but the woman to be admired and praised is the woman who fears the Lord. (Proverbs 31:30)

10. Love is patient.. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

11. Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race set before us... Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1,3)

12. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

13. If you don't take your stand in  faith, you won't have a leg to stand on . (Isaiah 7:9)

14. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

15. Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom a senf you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord... Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. (Jeremiah 1:7-9)


love, p.b.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Be Fearless!

Don't you hate it when you are completely mad at yourself? You do something that would cause you to call out your friend, if they did the same thing, and you realize you are not practicing what you preach. My friend wrote me the sweetest note at the beginning of the week, about how she loved how I always tell people to "be fearless." Mostly, it's because I totally adore Taylor Swift, but I also absolutely love the title she chose for her second album. It means so much to me.  When I think of being fearless, I think of having so much confidence, not caring what other people think, and doing what you want with no regrets.  Basically, this summarizes how I want to live out my life each day. 
 In some aspects, I'll admit, I'm completely fearless.  I'll go on a roller coaster, travel to Africa, talk to strangers, run half marathons, kill bugs (ahem, taylor schmidt), do things people never expect I can do, and dream of nearly impossible things.  Things like that just don't scare me.  But after reading my friend's note, I've realized how often I am completely paralyzed with fear, and how lame it is for me to try so hard to push others outside of their comfort zones.  The things that scare me might seem little, but I realized this week just how much I hate being un-fearless when they come around. 
Additionally, God knows my fears and he knows how to comfort me in my struggles.  Yesterday He showed me the most perfect quote for my week, on a friend's blog:

"Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.
Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.

On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clich├ęs, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.
Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing."
-David Foster Wallace
And for everyone who loves Glee, I literally have been playing this song non-stop for the past week, and it goes along with my little theme:

Aaaaand finally, to wrap things up, here's what David, Paul, King Lemuel (thanks Google), and Taylor Swift have to say on the topic:

Psalm 56:3-4
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Proverbs 31:30
Charm can mislead and beauty still fades, but the woman to be admired is a woman who fears the Lord.

"To me, fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. " -Taylor Swift


(and yes, I draw this on my wrist almsot everyday, it's whatever. I'm not weird!)

love,
p.b.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Cross

What a week. So happy and so sad in so many ways. And so moving!
Another terrible event in a different loved one's life happened this week, and it devastated me more than I expected it would.  I was so creeped out and heartbroken that I didn't even want to come home for the night because I knew that I would just sit awake in bed trying  unsuccessfully to keep myself from thinking so deeply about it.

This week I've learned how easy it is to turn from God in the hard times, and how important it is to run faster towards him.  Today, however, I was convicted on another level.

Today I was reflecting on how thankful I am that my mentality is slowly seeming to get better, regarding the new tragedy with a friend.  I was glad the nightmares had stopped and I was putting my faith in God to piece the brokenness back together.  I also realized that tomorrow is Good Friday, the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified.  Suddenly I saw what God had been trying to teach me all week, and his timing is no mistake.  Maybe he had to do it in such an attention-grabbing way, because in my previous 19 years I never seemed to care.  I can explain Christ's crucifixion to someone in a clear sentence without even blinking, but when telling my friends to pray about what had been happening in my personal life, I would get choked up and have to search for the words.  While it was so easy for me to tear up in chem lecture or flinch when certain words came up in conversation this week, I have never felt truly heartbroken about Jesus dying on the cross. So maybe I did need as dramatic of a lesson as I received this week.

However, the best part of both stories is the miraculous life at the end.  Neither situations should have yielded life, but God provided miracles in each case.  Jesus rose from the dead three days later, and this year I am going to reflect on that and rejoice in that as much as I did with my personal story. I now again am amazed in the way God works, and his perfect way of planning out every day of my life. I am so much more at peace than I have been all week! Happy Easter, friends, and may the crucificion and resurrection also bear heavy on your heart this year!

love,
p.b.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Excuse My Nostalgia.

One of my favorite procrastination tools involves looking through all the old pictures on my computer and taking myself back to my senior year, one of the most pivotal times of my life. The second half of that year, I found friends that became my family (cliche and mushy, this post is full of it. Sorry. Not sorry.) I had known some of them throughout high school, but during this year, we all kind of came from our different groups and began hanging out every day until we realized how weird and fun and similar we all were. The boys became my brothers, and I loved having boys to go to for anything, literally. We called them just to go grocery shopping with us, we'd help them pick out clothes at the mall, we went to waffle house at 2 am, we laughed until we cried, we went running every night, and we had deep talks. This year, I have realized how lucky I am to have had this group of friends and the most perfect summer I could have asked for.  While I've always been jealous of people who have kept friends from their childhood, I have had so many people tell me how jealous they are of our tight-knit, psycho group. And I couldn't be happier.

One of the few things holding me back from deciding to go on my 8-week Summer Project  to Santa Monica this summer was this group.  I know that we would all go out again every single night and do all of our favorite, weird things, and after being the only one away at school this whole year, I didn't want to be the awkward one missing out on everything again while everyone else just grew closer.  But God has shown that he has different plans.  Erik is actually spending May in Uganda on a mission trip, so keep him in your prayers! Gookin is preparing to join me at UA next year :) :) :) :) Caleb is coming home from his job training in Virginia for the Marines, Jaclyn is graduating, Kira is payin' the bills, and Lucas... who knows ;) I am looking forward to treasuring the month I have with them before I do actually leave, and the short time after, before we all start our separate lives again.

So basically, this lil post is just to introduce you to some of the most important people in my life. Here's some vids I found on my computer a few days ago that never cease to make me lol.. a lot.







p.s... not sure why we take videos EVERYTIME we hang out, but I sure hope we don't stop. Wigs, you guys <3

love, p.b.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Welcome Home

At the beginning of this year, when I moved away to college, I made a promise to myself that I would never refer to my school as "my home." I don't even know why, it just never felt right.  I had lived in the same house for 18 years, wore down my neighborhood streets with my bicycle as a kid, and spent my summer nights as a teenager exploring new secret locations throughout the valley with my friends. Moving to college was a super dramatic thing in my life for some reason... I was only moving two hours away, but it felt like I was embarking on some hugely courageous undertaking.  From my core group of friends from my senior year, I was the only one leaving, while everyone else was still living at home or still in high school. For these reasons, I sort of subconsciously viewed college as a temporary break from my living at home: I'd return for all four summers to be with my friends, visit many weekends, and on holidays. 
 This viewpoint held true for my entire first semester.  I deliberately would say "I'm going back to my dorm" rather than refer to it as my home, even though I'd be living there for a good nine months.
About a month ago on the Cru Women's retreat, we went on a short hike and then read through a devotional individually.  The focus was on self esteem and our self concept in relation to God.  I was moved and God provided me with enormous insight on how I can improve in these areas.  However, as I was sitting right here,

surrounded by God's beauty, I realized just how much I love this city.  I'd been told time and time again that "there is nothing to do in Tucson" "it's ugly" and I would "be so bored." However, I started to pray and just rejoice in all that God has given me in this past year through my new city. During my first semester, I felt alone most of the time, and like Tucson was just somewhere I'd be passing through. I never pictured myself going on a retreat with all girls and actually enjoying myself, but here I was.  I had connections.  I had people who loved me here, who made me happy here, and who helped me grow here.
I'm not sure when it was, which I think makes it all the more natural and wonderful, but sometime near the beginning of second semester, I started calling Tucson "my home."  A few times I did it without noticing, a few times I caught myself and thought about reverting back to my promise to myself.  But no.  I am so proud to call this my home.  Perhaps it was the Tucson shootings in early January that broke my heart and felt so personal, perhaps it is the fact that my schedule allows more flexibility this semester, perhaps its the fact that I finally allowed God to soften my heart and let new people in. 
Last week while at church with a friend (see, told ya) the pastor talked about how we can bless our city.  This was just another piece of the puzzle for me... everything lately has been coming together to show me that this is where I am supposed to be, for now, so I better make the most of it. I have so many opportunities here, so many new freedoms, so many mistakes to make, and so many people to teach me new things. I learn every day how many opportunities I have here to not only reach other people, but to reach myself. Although I love being home with my parents and friends, there's always a part of me that is excited to come back.  Because, for now, Tucson is my home, and home is where the heart is.

love,
p.b.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Awk.

Well hey there, guys. I've wanted to start a blog for a while now, but it's been stressing me out. Not even joking. I have a few friends/people I've never met who have great blogs.  They're all relevant, inspiring, witty, and serve as great homework distractions.  I wish I was like that. I wish I thought in humorous jabs, or that I was able to see the deep side of everything currently consuming my whole life, or that I had some inpsiring or breathtaking life story that left all my admirers on the edge of their seats until my next post or that, let's be real, I had time to sit down everyday and put my day's events into a well-written post.  So lately, I've been trying so hard to think of what I'm going to do with "my blog." I mean come on, it has to somehow be different than everyone else's. Spolier: it won't be.  I'm not undertaking some grand road trip, or trying out a crazy hobby, or typing out the ups and downs to being a new mom, or teaching you anything that will be of much use to your existence. Glad we've got that all cleared up.

The thing is, I recently started thinking about how often things go wrong when we try hard.  Many things in life, sure, require intense dedication and persistance day after day.  For example, one of my passions in life is distance running, which y'all will end up hearing more about than you ever wanted. Sorry. So yeah, some things require you giving up every ounce of effort you have within you, and then some. But what about that other, all-too-important category of things that blow up in our face when we try too hard? Like songwriting, humor, flirting, or even a hairstyle ( am I right, girlfran?!). Some of these things are meant to just happen naturally.  You have them or you don't.  You learn them. You improve. But you can't practice doing them. You might have to give them a little nudge, and then watch them take off on their own.  That'll probably be how this lil guy ends up. Sorry if it gets to be boring or irrelevant. I'm just going to work on not trying too hard to make it perfect.

So, yeah... this is the super awk first blog post! What are you even supposed to say at the beginning?! I'm Paige. I'm almost done with my freshman year of college. I've had an average upbringing with some extraordinary episodes. I'm a follower of Christ. I run. I'm awkward.  I've learned a lot in 19 years. I've got a long way to go. And this is me telling you about it all <3

love, p.b.