Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Typical Friday Night

There is so much to write about right now...two more Pierce County Deputies were shot in the line of duty last night, three days from now I leave for a week-long vacation to visit my brother, sister-in-law and nephew for Christmas in Chicago, my glowing review at the zoo, my slow but steady fund-raising efforts....but all that is on my mind is a scene from my night last Friday night.

As most of you know, I have been volunteering at an inner-city kid's ministry on Friday nights called Kids Sozo.  The heartbreak that these kids live through is absolutely unreal.  I got to witness this first-hand last week.

There is a kid who comes to Kids Sozo regularly, I'll call "Trent."  Trent is probably one of our "harder" cases.  I am not certain what his family life is fully like outside of Kids Sozo, but I do know this....he acts up and mis-behaves with the best (or is that worst?) of them.  Capturing this kid's interest and cooperation is a hard task on a good week.

Last Friday was the friday kicking off winter break from school in Tacoma.  My co-volunteer Erika says that kids who come from harder backgrounds tend to act up around break times because for them school is actually a respite and somewhere they like to go to to get away from home.  Knowing that they are going to spend so much time at home can bring out the worst in kids.  This is so heartbreaking for me, having such the opposite experience when I was growing up. 

On Friday during our craft and snack time, Trent was being particularly ornery.  Not destructive, but he was certainly not earning the brownie we had in store for him for snack.  When told he would have to wait to get his brownie and why, he got very upset and stormed out of the room. When Erika tried to chat with him about what had happened, he grabbed his coat and ran away from the building.  Erika went on a search for him outside, caught up to him to talk to him for a bit, but then he ran away again, which prompted a call home from us to let his guardians (I'm not even sure that Trent lives with his parents) know he had run away.  His male guardian managed to track Trent down and showed up at the door to Kids Sozo a while later asking for Erika.

Trent was obviously IN. TROUBLE. with this man.  He had his hood pulled up over his face, looking forlornly down at the floor not talking or making eye contact with anyone.  Erika came out to talk to Trent and hear his apology. 

While I was out front managing the front desk and we were waiting for Erika to show up up front, I had an opportunity to hear what this man was saying to Trent.  The kinds of things coming out of this man mouth would have made a grown man cry, much less a ten-year-old boy.  He didn't cuss or swear, but the verbal abuse and put downs directed at Trent were shocking to me.  He began at the top of Trent's head  and continued down to the bottom of his shoes criticizing and making fun.  He next started in on Trent's character and behavior.  It wasn't a physical beating, but the scars and wounds that this child suffered through in just the ten minutes he was out there in front with me would have been a lifetime of injustices for anyone.

I can't imagine that this is that unusual for Trent to hear.  The venom and hate spewing from this man, who was supposed to be taking care of and loving Trent flowed too easily from his mouth for them not to be a regularly occurring thing.

This is the kind of thing that we are up against.  We are battling for the heart of kids like Trent.  We are battling so that these kids, who know nothing but anger, know that they are loved.  We are battling so that they know the life they are used to is not the life they have to have. I just pray that our few hours with kids like Trent each week are enough to combat what they face during the other hours of their week.

This is part of what I am fund-raising for....to be able to reach kids like Trent and the dozens of other kids just like him that I encounter each week at Kids Sozo, before it is too late for this generation of kids.


Thursday, December 17, 2009


Wanderlust is like Senioritis for missionaries....and I have it BAD right now.  Anyone want to pay for a ticket to anywhere but here right now?


Thursday, December 10, 2009

I "Heart" My Job!

Did you know that walrus breath really smells like fish?  I suspected as much, but got to find out first-hand today.

As most of you know, I am currently working at the zoo in my town.  I get to spend lots of time in various areas at the zoo doing programming with kids and teens.  I have never gotten to spend a whole day in just one area of the zoo.  Back when I worked at Northwest Trek, I got to shadow the free-roaming area keeper several times, but have never done that here at our zoo. 

Today, I got to spend the whole day in our Rocky Shores area.  This is maybe the most fun I have had at the zoo since I started working there....hard work, but fun.

Here are the feeding/training highlights:

1.  Sea Otters.  If, as you're feeding them, you say the name of the otter you are feeding and then stamp your feet, they will rhythmically pat their own front paws on their chest while floating in the water.  I also got to do what's called a scatter feed where at the end of the day, to give them something to do at night, we scatter a bunch of clams and whole crab into their water so they have to forage.

2.  Walruses.  We have three, ET, Joan and Basilla.  It is currently breeding season for the walruses and are a little ummmm 'spacey' and distracted right now.  Today was also blood draw day.  So, the Walruses, who normally get fed on-exhibit got fed at least once today off-exhibit. I got to distract ET for a bit while we shifted the girls into position for the vet to come later in the day by feeding him a little.  Then, that afternoon, after the vet came to attempt a blood draw, I got to feed Joan.  She's the most 'silly' and active of them all.  She's long been my favorite walrus (shh....don't tell Basilla or ET).  So, I got to feed her and ask her to do some of the behaviors that she has on cue like "vocal" or "flipper."  Too fun.  (By the way, none of the blood draws were successful, but it is still amazing to me that these walruses let the vets stick a 5-7 inch needle into them voluntarily.)

3.  Arctic Foxes.  Because of how cold the weather has been lately, the foxes, whose regular exhibit is under renovation, have been let out onto exhibit into our Asian Forest Sanctuary exhibit so that there are some animals that are out on the cold days. (Our A.F.S. animals can't be out, except the tigers, if the temps are below 40 F).  What was so fun about this is after our second feed, we got to "play" with the foxes by chasing them. Apparently they love this!  Who knew!?

4.  Harbor Seals.  There are 5 seals,...this can be hard because the Rocky Shores area is actually kind of short-staffed right now.  So, since I was there, they could feed them all easier.  I got to feed Qilak, one of our newest and youngest seals.  She was very sweet and gently ate the food I gave her.  She also has a few things on cue like "spin" and "up." 

It was a VERY cold day, but it was a very fun day.  In another time and place, I could have seen me doing something like this for a living.  Anyone who has ever seen me with my own (OK, really ANY) animals will attest to my genuine love for animals.  I just wish I'd taken some pictures!


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

To Boycott or Not to Boycott, That is the Question

I am divided over boycotts.  On the one hand, they work: companies only exist if they are making money, and if I chose not to spend my money in a place of business, that place potentially goes out of business.  Also, as a Christian, I think it's important to be involved in things that I consider right and stay away from things I consider wrong.  On the other hand, if I avoided everything I thought was wrong, I'd be naked, hungry, and never leave my home.  Additionally, I should not be surprised when sinful worldly companies behave in sinful worldly ways.  Jesus himself spent lots of time with people considered the "worst of the worst" in His day.  If I boycott a business because of their business practices, I lose an opportunity to be Jesus in that place.  We as Christians are not meant to be so separate from the world that we isolate ourselves.

So, it's always an internal debate within myself when I learn of something particularly heinous about a company.  Do I spend my money elsewhere so as not to have it going towards evil things?  How do I navigate the tricky waters of deliberately frequenting a business that I know does those things yet still maintain my integrity?  I actually don't have the answer to that. 

This whole internal struggle came to light this week for me when I heard that Starbucks, and several other companies I frequent, sends money in support of Planned Parenthood.  I came across a post by my friend Suzanna on Facebook about this fact.  She had a link to several websites that confirmed this fact.

What to do?  I am still not sure, but certainly something I am going to be thinking and praying about.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Crucible:Heatproof Container for Melting the Hardest of Metal

I was reading the Psalms the other day and I was struck by the sheer amount of lamenting that David does in the Psalms that he writes.  Really, a lot of stuff that he writes is pretty morose and depressing.  Granted, David spent years of his life annointed as king, while running for his life from the king he is in line to succeed.  Then, when he becomes king, he does some pretty stupid things (like killing one of his loyal followers to hide his affair with this man's wife) and suffers some pretty deep consequences for this (the death of the son from that affair).  Later on in his reign he is on the run again from his own son who wants to kill him and take over the kingdom from him. 

To say that David knew pain and suffering would be an understatement.  The Psalms that he writes reflect a lot of this pain.  Anyone who has ever read Psalm 23 will testify to this: David knew death knocking at his door.

I just got done reading one of Bob Sorge's many books and in it, he writes about how many of us want to have a heart like David's.  Yet, to get that heart, we will have to go through the same kinds of trials David did to get that heart.

I know for me, the longing of my heart since I was a little girl to *know* God.  I remember when I was in elementary school I went through a period of time where night after night for several months I would cry out to God to know Him more.  I would weep and cry over this.  I have vivid memories of lying in bed praying and weeping for God to make Himself known to me.  To this day when I think about this period of time in my life, there is no longical explanation for what prompted this within me.  My experience with the Lord up until that point had been limited to Sundays at a very theologically conservative church.  Certainly no one in my church or home was teaching me to long for the Lord in this way.  The only thing I can think of is that this must have been a pure prompting of the Holy Spirit.  It does not seem fathomable that I could have worked that longing in my heart on my own.

I fully believe that there was a deposit from the Lord placed within me from that young age.  Even in my times of walking away from the Lord, the ache within me to truly know the Lord has never gone away. Additionally, it is this deep longing  that has stuck with me through crisis moments like I have had the last two years.

In *no way* do I equate my last two years with the despair of David or Job.  Nor do I claim that my heart for God is even close David. However, I have had my own personal devastations:

1.  Health: I have in the last two years had a thyroid condition that has been diagnosed.  This has not been life-threatening, but has affected my health negatively.  I tore my rotator cuff this past fall, which has not healed and most recently have had some additional health problems that might affect my ability to ever have children.

2.  Finances:  I quit my job a year and a half ago to travel to Europe on a missions trip for three months.  Upon my return I did not find a job for three more months.  Then, after getting job at the zoo, my position was cut after just four months due to the recession.  My next job, with a non-profit, was also cut after four months.  I have almost lost my house and am currently one paycheck away from possibly losing it again though I gained a different position at the zoo.

3.  Friendships:  Due to some decisions I have made and several other friends moving away, I have lost almost everyone closest to me.  I have written about this a lot and probably don't need to expound on this any more than necessary.

4.  Family: My immediate family, praise the Lord, has been great.  My mom and dad are in good health, as are my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew.  However, the longing to have my own family has not faded.  The Lord's timing on this is still "not now."  As time passes, the pangs of the absence of this do not fade.

5.  Ministry:  When I left for Europe a year and a half ago, I also quit all of the ministries I was involved with at the time because I was leaving for so long.  I had had a staff position on my church's staff up until that point.  Upon returning, for the last year and half, I have been serving and have had occaisional moments of ministry, but the calling on my life I have always sensed has seemed further away than ever.  Even the three months I spent in Europe in ministry brought more lessons learned through difficulties than amazing joyful stories.

I write that list, not as a means to gain sympathy from anyone.  The list is simply an acknowledgement that life has been particularly hard for me these last two years.  I *certainly* realize life could be way, way worse.  I am not ignorant of the fact that many people on this planet, even in my own city have it far worse than I.  This does not mean that the last few years have not been particularly hard for me.  The Lord always handles each of us uniquely and this has been His unique crucible for me.  This crucible designed to prepare me and qualify me for what He wants to give me.

In the last few months in the midst of this crucible, something has been happening within my heart.  I have been getting back to that little elementary school girl crying out in the middle of the night: "Lord, I just want to know You.  I need a miracle.  I need rescuing.  I can't do this any more.  Save me. Help me."

There has been a simplicity and vulnerability with the Lord that I have not had in a long time.  I have known in my head that the Lord recues, that He saves, that He helps.  But, it isn't until I have *needed* Him to be manifest in my life in that way that I have experienced Him in that way.  I have been here before several times, but I feel like these circumstances have been put here divinely to get me to a deeper understanding and place of this again.  It is also quite likely circumstances will be allowed in the future to take me deeper still.  It seems God will do everything in His power to strip us of all we hold onto, of all we place our value in, of all that brings us comfort, of all we rely on, of all we need, and of all that holds us back in the place of Him.

He wants to be number one on our lives, and if we are lucky enough for Him to discipline us in this way, we can praise the Lord that we are counted as one of His true sons or daughters. 

God is answering my prayers as a little girl to know Him, but this has not happened the way I ever thought it would or any way I would chose it.  To know Him deeper, I have to go through this process that I am in, the same process David, Job, and all the men and women of faith went through.  I have to go through this crucible.  I can either endure this and come out the other end with a greater intimacy and love; or I can fight this process and stay right where I am with the Lord unless He decides to attempt this process again until I get it.  The worst would be that I would fight the Lord so much that my heart would become hardened or He quits trying with me.  I pray that never, never, never happens with me; and should you desire greater level of intimacy with Him, may He chose to put you through the crucible too.