Never, Never, Never Give Up

January 29, 2014 — 2 Comments

GS Cards 023These ten Girl Scouts are amazing.

When they had to think of a project to “take action” after they worked through a series about friendships, bullying and self-esteem, they all agreed: they wanted to do something to help kids who might be bullied at their school. I think that’s awesome.

Their solution? Give each student in their school some uplifting words. They picked out quotes they wanted to share, we printed them on card stock and then the troop personalized each one. All eight hundred of them had the words, “From your friendly Girl Scout Troop.” (It took them twenty minutes to agree on that phrase.)

So, they picked quotes, wrote their message, attached a small magnet to each one, had a meeting with the principal and brought notes to school so they could stay after yesterday.

Here’s something: there are about 700 students in the school.

Here’s another thing: there are about 1,100 lockers in the same school.

This created some adversity we had to overcome. We divided into four groups and, of course, ran out of cards in all of the sections very quickly. We had enough cards for all of the students, but not for all of the lockers. In some cases, it was easy to tell if a locker was unoccupied. In other cases, we had no idea. Pretty soon we discovered that the seventh grade hall only uses the top lockers, so we fixed that by taking back all of the bottom locker cards. Then we tried to cover sixth and seventh grade and figured we’d make it up to the eighth graders later.

GS Cards 012But that didn’t seem right to some of the girls. We said we were going to do the whole school. Why would we quit until we figured out a way to do it?

So they figured out a way. I know I was ready to just throw up my hands and call it a day, but I learned a good lesson instead. There’s usually a way and there are usually people who are willing to help if you tell them what you need.

We are thankful for the ladies who were working in the library with a group of students this afternoon. They helped us copy some of our cards so we could finish our project. It wasn’t the same–the copied cards were white and had no magnets. They were kind of crookedly copied and crookedly cut (I’ll take credit for that), but every student in the school has a card hanging 1/4 of the way out of his or her locker this morning and that was the dream.

Feeling beaten down todayt? Here are a few of Troop 1884’s quotes!

“It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends.” J.K. Rowling via her character Albus Dumbledore

“You’re Worth More Than Gold!”

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney

“The greatest thing that you will ever accomplish has not happened yet.” unknown

“When you get into a tight place and everything seems against you, and you think you cannot hold on any longer, don’t give up then. That is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” Harriet Beecher Stowe

A quote we could have included:

“Never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill

cscl2 070I’ve been doing youth ministry full time for almost fourteen years. Here are 10 resources that have stood the test of time around here.

1. The “Play It” books written by Wayne Rice and Mike Yaconelli.

2. “Power Play” powerpoint games from Simply Youth Ministry (I know–dated medium, but the games are always good!)

3. Every Picture Tells A Story available now from The Youth Cartel. (I have the original version, the Cartel has the updated version)

4. (Right now, I’m on the lookout for their great Super Bowl Prediction Quiz that I adapt for our group every year, but they’re my go-to for games and last minute ideas.)

5. “Affirming Faith,” a Confirmation Curriculum from the United Church of Christ.

6. Electronic Catchphrase (not a resource, really,but we use it a lot!)

7. Several of “The Ideas Library” books from Youth Specialties (Games Series, Drama Series, Fundraising)

8. “The Way” Bible available from The Youth Cartel.

9. “Would You Rather” from Youth Specialties–a great discussion starting book that you can use in the youth room or on the road.

10. “More Than Dodgeball” site from Simply Youth Ministry

Are you in Youth MInistry? What resources do you use over and over?

Beating Wheat

January 27, 2014 — 1 Comment

Jan 19-27 036It’s Monday morning, January 27. I’m on day 8 of a no-wheat diet.

To clarify, I use the word “diet” the way it’s truly intended, as in the foods one eats, rather than as a plan designed for weight-loss.

I’ve tried a week of gluten-free (essentially, no wheat) eating before and it was hard. I knew at the end of that week that there was no way this was going to become a lifestyle change. Life is too short, you know?

But then last year, I gave up sugar. I ate less sugar over the course of the entire year last year than I have most weeks of my lifetime. It was hard at first, but then it was easy. People asked me all year long: “How do you do that? I could never do that.” Truth is, I never thought I could do it either. But then I did. And I discovered that sugar-free was much better for me. I gave up sugar because I want to avoid diabetes, because I linked it to mood swings, because I felt like it was poisoning me and keeping me from losing weight.

I’m giving up wheat for basically the same reasons. Plus, it’s linked to joint pain and body aches and I’ve had plenty of those lately.

Honestly, there are a lot of studies lately about the nutritional uselessness of wheat, and studies about how it affects blood sugar, and studies about how it’s packing weight on our mid-sections and inflaming our insides. I’ve been studying that for awhile, but still felt there was no way I could stop eating bread and pasta and breaded things (remember, I already gave up cakes and cookies and pies, so that didn’t figure into my decision).

On Monday morning of last week, I woke up very early, as I did this Monday morning. I wasn’t ready to get out of the warm bed just yet, so I flipped through my Stitcher podcast list and remembered that Monday mornings mean a new “A Decided Difference” podcast. Honestly, right now, I can’t remember the exact words LouAnn said that specifically caused me to get out of bed with a resolve to kick my wheat habit, but you can listen to the excellent episode here.

I got out of bed and, aside from the mid-week headaches, I have not had any trouble avoiding wheat. The process is really similar to avoiding sugar, actually.

The first step to wheat avoidance is label reading. Well, I’ve been a label reader since middle school, when my best friend Maggie taught me how to do that. Wheat is listed as an allergen now, so it’s even easier to spot.

The second step is planning ahead. My lunch for today was packed last night and includes snack foods. It’s full of fruit and veggies and a bowl of the potato soup I made in the crock pot yesterday.

The third step was telling people that I’m doing it. I kept my mouth shut until Thursday when the headache was really bad. I realized at that point that I could forget about this insanity and go get a foot-long veggie delite at Subway and the only person who would know I quit was Jason. And seriously, if Jason ever starts judging me for the food choices I make…(have you seen that guy eat?) So I posted on Facebook. I can’t quit now–everyone knows I’m giving up wheat and if I quit, they’ll all know I couldn’t hack it in the no-wheat world.

Other things I’m doing aren’t really steps, but are important to the process for me: reading about other people giving up wheat (blogs and websites), exercise, lots of water, prayer and self-pep talks.

I’ve made it to Day 8. The only physical change I’ve noticed so far is that my legs hurt a lot less and I am able to move more “lightly.” That may only make sense to me. I’ll try again: It feels less like my feet are glued to the floor when I’m doing Zumba or walking–less resistance, I guess.

I do appreciate your support! Let me know if you’re embarking on any new endeavors so I can support you as well!



Title: “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How To Tell Your Story In A Noisy Social World

Author: Gary Vaynerchuk

Started: January 23, 2014        Finished: January 25, 2014

Total # of Pages: 229   Total for 2014: 2,022

What It’s About: Early in the book, Vaynerchuk states, “The social media revolution wrenched the keys to the cultural kingdom away from pundits and gatekeepers, giving ordinary people a voice. But the sound of so many people talking at the same time…is overwhelming.” Vaynerchuk reviews the several social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr (and touches briefly on a few others). He reviews what native content in each platform might include, instructions to creating good posts for each particular platform and then gives many examples of the good, bad and ugly of social media advertising. This book is very useful if you own a company of any sort, but it’s also rather enlightening for people who want to stand out in their online posting or who just want to better understand the various platforms.

Why I read it: I saw it at the library when I was there last week and remembered people talking about it. I was mildly interested in the topic as a social media user, but especially as the main “information sharer” of Presbyterian Church and Durham Window Cleaning Service. I’d like to do better at the former and step it up for the latter.

This is an easy book to read. If you have anything to do with social media for any business, non-profit, company or organization, it’s a good, fast, interesting read.

david and goliathTitle: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Started: January 13, 2014   Finished January 20, 2014

Total # of Pages: 332    Total for 2014: 1,793

What it’s About: Gladwell takes the story of David and Goliath, and all of the ways that tend to think about and apply that story and completely turns it on its ear. What if underdogs aren’t actually underdogs? What if what seems like a disadvantage is actually an advantage? What if the setbacks and obstacles we face in life actually are the things that give us the greatest advantages?

This book is fantastic. I’m a Malcolm Gladwell fan and this may be my favorite book yet. He starts with a great intro about David and Goliath and then shares the life stories of inspiring person after inspiring person and the ways their obstacles–dyslexia, losing a parent, surviving an attack, civil rights battles (there’s a fantastic chapter on Dr. Martin Luther King, JR and the Birmingham Civil Rights movement), crime–served as advantages and the sources of greatness in each life.

Why I read it: Gladwell fandom aside, I read it because I heard his TED talk on the subject and was intrigued about the subject matter. I also heard that it was during the writing of this book that Gladwell returned to being a person of faith, which was interesting to think about. I received it as a Christmas gift from Stefanie (my sister-in-law) and moved it to the top of my list after a conversation about the book with my youth minister friends.

Keep Calm GS Cookies1. They sell cookies. Good cookies. My troop is selling them now. If you’re local, you should probably order some from us. If you’re not local, you should find a Girl Scout.

2. They grow into girls of courage, confidence and character.

3. They are wildly creative.

4. They aren’t afraid of hard work. Girl Scouts work to earn merit badges and awards.

5. They are community minded. Girl Scouts will do millions of hours of volunteering and community service this year.

6. In a world where it can be so easy to tear each other down, Girl Scouts are a team. They support each other and help each other achieve goals.

7. They are leaders in their troops and in their communities.

8. They leave no trace.

9. Girl Scouts do fun activities and can even get patches for their uniforms that represent these fun activities.

10. They can be found in almost every city and community and all over the world.

Interested in being a part of this great organization as a volunteer or as a parent of a girl? Visit to find your local council!


fannie flagg

I’ve joined/started a book club at church for the new year. I’m excited about this because I’ve belonged to book clubs before and really have missed being in one. I love having the opportunity to read and discuss books that other people pick out for me.

Um…remind me I said that come October when I’m chin deep in books my new professors are requiring me to read and discuss with my classmates.

Anyway, this is the first book we’re reading in the new book club.

Title: The All Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion

Author: Fannie Flagg

Started: January 4, 2014 Finished: January 10, 2014

Number of pages: 369   Total for 2014: 1461

What  it’s about: Sookie, a married mother of four adult children, discovers that she was adopted and has an identity crisis. In a parallel timeline, Sookie’s ancestors move from Poland and settle in Pulaski, WI and her mother and her aunts run a filling station during World War II and eventually become W.A.S.P.s (Women Airforce Service Pilots). While we “watch” Fritzi,Gertrude and Sophie courageously serve their country in the 1940s, during a time when their service was not valued because they were women, we “see” Sookie deal with the fact that who she thought she is, she actually is not.

Why I Read It: I chose this book for the book club. If you like fiction that features strong female characters, you can’t do much better than Fannie Flagg. She’s funny and charming and writes about complex relationships in a relateable way. It is book that is very funny and very good.


In order to have some accountability about wasting less time playing around online and more time reading books, I decided to track my books by participating in Jon Acuff’s Empty Shelf Challenge. Click that link and read about the challenge! I love to read and I used to read a whole lot more books than I’ve been reading in recent years and I think if I’m honest with myself, it has everything to do with the fact that I’ve replaced my book reading with online blog and article reading and social media reading. Although these things are fine, and in some cases good, to read in moderation, I’d like to get back to book reading.

I don’t have a physical empty shelf since most of my books, at least in this first half of the year, will be read digitally on my Kindle Fire.

I’m pinning the books on a Pinterest Board, but I’ll also just briefly summarize them here, using the same format Jon Acuff is using at his site. I’ll be reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction…and eventually, if everything goes right, I’ll be reading books for school as well.

Title: Under The Dome

Author: Stephen King

Started: November 2013  Finished: January 3, 2013

Total # of Pages: 1092   Total for 2014: 1092

What it’s about: A dome comes down around Chesters Mill, Maine, and anyone in the town limits on dome day is trapped and completely cut off from the outside world. Residents have to figure out how to live in this new society.

Why did I read it? Stephen King is a genius and the concept was intriguing.

If you’re thinking, “I can’t read Stephen King–he’s too scary,” it’s important to note that Stephen King has books that are really scary. But he also writes books that are about people. He’s a great character writer. This recent offering, along with 11/22/63, is full of strong characters and great storylines and just a hint of a sci-fi bend. (In both books, the science fiction is only important that it sets up the story and creates a backdrop. I would not describe either book as Science Fiction, really.) This book took forever to read, but it was worth the time.


Pictures and video from this year’s Polar Bear Plunge! Jason looks forward to this every year. He’s the only Durham to brave it this year.

Last night:

Me: Know what?

Jason: What?

Me: If I had a magazine, you’d be it’s Person Of The Year!

Him: (in that sarcastic voice he reserves for talking about my blog) Well, you have a blog…


So, I present to you, my blog’s person of the year:

jason 19


Amazing husband, wonderful father, adventurous backpacker, dedicated friend, fearless leader, kayaker, biker, writer, smartass extraordinaire.

Here’s a gallery of some of the year’s best moments: