Sunday, March 30, 2008

Take My Yoke Upon You...

I decided a few days ago to re-read my favorite book, the Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Although I have read it twice before, re-reading it after living here in the inner-city has definitely shone new light to his words and pushed and challenged me further and further to really seek to be the disciple of Jesus he has called us to be.

And, as I was reading the book, I got to a part of the book that reminded me of an earlier (a few days ago) post I had written called a heavy heart. So, I've decided to share with you Mr. Claiborne's words (because they speak so strongly to my heart):

"No one ever promised us that community or Christian discipleship would be easy. There's a commonly mistranslated verse where Jesus tells the disciples, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me...for my yoke is good and my burden is light." People take that to mean that if we come to Jesus, everything will be easy. Ha, my life was pretty easy before I met Jesus. In one sense, the load is lighter because we carry the burdens of the world together. But he is still telling us to pick up the yoke. Yoke had a lot of different meanings. It was a tool used for harnessing animals for farming, it was the word used for taking on a rabbi's teaching (as Jesus seems to use it here). Yoke was also the word used for the brutal weight of slavery and oppression that the prophets call us to break. One of the things I think Jesus is doing is setting us free from the heavy yoke of an oppressive way of life. I know plenty of people, both rich and poor, who are suffocating from the weight of the American dream, who find themselves heavily burdened by the lifeless toil and consumption we put upon ourselves. This is the yoke we are being set free from. The new yoke is still not easy (it's a cross for heaven's sake), but we carry it together, and it is good and leads us to rest, especially for the weariest traveler. In fact, if our lives are easy, we must be doing something wrong. Mother Teresa used to say, following Jesus is simple, but not easy. Love until it hurts, and then love some more. This love is not sentimental, but heart wrenching, the most difficult and the most beautiful thing in the world."

And I love the last three sentences because it seems to sum up my life here in Chicago. This love I feel is not sentimental but heart wrenching. It is the most difficult and the most beautiful thing in the world. See, working with these kids has been the most difficult and heart wrenching thing i've ever done...yet it has shown me who Jesus really is and how beautiful God's love is. Living in this impoverished community has shown me what Jesus meant when he said, "whatever you do for the least of do for me." Taking words from Arloa Sutter, founder and executive director of Breakthrough, "I may have felt happier in (Arkansas), but here, I am growing in my capacity to care, to suffer, and to feel."

I have changed and learned so much since moving to Chicago, and for that I can only be thankful. Although I felt much pain, I have also felt much joy. I praise Jesus for calling/sending me here and I praise Him that this journey has only just begun.

I pray that all people will begin "moving beyond charity and towards justice and solidarity with the poor and oppressed, as Jesus did." (more words from Claiborne)

God bless you all.

Friday, March 28, 2008


passionate. this is a word that some people have described me as.

i think i like that. of all words, i hope people find me passionate. for jesus. for justice. for whatever it may be. i desire to be called passionate over anything else.

oh the flip side. i think the worst "adjective" i could be described as is normal. i don't really know what normalcy really is in the first place, i just know i don't want to be it.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

god bless u all.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

a heavy heart

the enemy is so great. this world, this world is so appealing to youth. i sometimes feel so defeated. like everything i do is just not enough. it's never enough. i still have kids having sex. i still have kids joining gangs. i still have kids who don't eat cuz they moms dont have any money. everyday, every moment i am reminded of the pain, evilness, and sin that surrounds this neighborhood and my kids. everyday i am faced with the fact it feels like i'm fighting a losing battle. today i found out one of my girls had sex for the first time. she is 13. and it breaks my heart. innocence is gone now. she'll never be able to get that back. and of course, its not like her and the boy are even going out anymore. it was just a moment of not thinking. just a moment of stupidity. she regrets it but she can't take it back. and i sit here and i tell her that it was a mistake and what will make a person is how they respond and grow from their mistakes, not the mistake in itself. and i tell her i make mistakes all the time and that jesus loves her regardless. but my head is saying. there goes another one. this's just taking so many of our kids. the media makes sex, money and drugs seem so appealing and so fun. it makes everything seem so easy and better than the alternative. and whos to say that sometimes sex and drugs and money isn't fun? yet it's not the life god calls us to live. and its not best for us...god knows how much pain is caused from sex. god knows how much pain is caused from having money as an idol. yet everyday, every moment my kids are faced with the prospect of sex, with drugs, with gangs, with fighting, with poverty, with violence, with bad education. everything that could possibly be against them is against them. and it'll be a miracle if my boys make it through high school and into college. it'll be a miracle if my girls make it through high school without getting pregnant. it'll be a miracle if they make it out of their neighborhoods. it'll be a miracle. and i sit here sometimes and i think, what have i gotten myself into? my heart breaks nearly everyday as i see the pain they go through. my heart broke today as i hear the words, i messed up coming from my bright and beautiful 13 year old girl. and my heart breaks as i walk down the street as i go to church on sundays as i see my teenagers struggle to read as i listen to my kids just talk to each other as i watch my 7th grader and her 9th sister walk down the street cuz they dropped out of school...these things, they break my heart. i dont share any of this most of the time because i want to share the good things that happen. because there are so many small improvements i see everyday. but more often than not, i see pain and i see self-destruction. ugh

then i read. my wonderful friend laura read me a passage the other day, "let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." gal 6:9

and i know jesus looked at his disciples and told them, "u shall do even greater things than these."

and i read where paul says "greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world."

and i believe all of this. i know all of this to be true. and i kno that without my jesus, i could never make it in this place. i know without him, i will never be able to do any of what i'm doing every single day. heart is heavy tonight. and i kno its the devil trying to think that he's winning. he isn't, he's already been defeated. yet it's still hard to continually be reminded of the pressures they face every single day. of the enviornment they live in. bad schools, drugs are on every street corner, gangs putting fear into their lives, parents who can't provide...its a never-ending cycle.

please join with me in prayer for my kids. i beg of you to pray for them and for me as we continue in this journey...pray for opprotunites for my kids. pray for strength for them and for me. pray that god would protect them. pray that the government would realize their need for better education, pray that jesus would become real and living to them, and pray that i would be able to give this all to jesus and not hold in on my heart as i so frequently do.

god bless u all.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

lots of different things...all in one post! :)

i have all these things circulating in my mind and i want to put them down on paper, but alas they probably won't come out as eloquently or flowing as i would hope for. i[m not even sure what i want this post to be about, i just knew i wanted to write.

i think mainly i want to write about life. my life in particular. see, its changed so much since i moved to chicago. i'm not sure anyone would notice, so maybe i'm not as changed as i think. i don't know though because i feel it. i feel so strongly about things i never thought twice about before. i feel so passionately about things that were only a fleeting thought in the past. i hurt by some words and actions that i used to would have said/done myself.

anyways. enough about that. i think i'd rather turn to sports...always a safe topic for me!

today i was approached by a co-worker about a position that is open at my work. i haven't applied but he is encouraging me (for the 3rd time in the past month!) that i would be a perfect canidate for the position. the position is community fitness and health coordinator. basically what the person would do is coordinate all the sports leagues and health stuff at our work. considering my bachelor's is in kinesiology, i have previously worked as athletic director with urban youth, a performance trainer with athletes, and interned as a trainer, fitness lab assistant, and fitness class instructor...i have a lot of experience in this area. i also have relationships with our students and am very familiar already with our sports leagues. so, yeah. i guess on paper i am a perfect canidate. anyways, all that to say...i still haven't officially applied. there are a couple of reasons why i haven't yet, which will not be discussed in this post. :)

2-4th grade basketball has officially ended. yesterday was our last and worst game of the season. it was pretty embarrassing for me and for the kids. we lost by over 30 points. they just were tired, scared, and nervous...and they plyaed like it. so we and the other breakthrough team had a pizza party today. me and the coach of the other team went around and talked about each player individually. i had something to say about all of my kids. for example tyree who was our "team captain" and i put alot of weight on his shoulders but he was up to the task every game. or devin, who was probably our worst player in the beginning but by the end of our season became the most improved and i could say...he's a basketball player now. or yakira, whom i enjoyed watching her turn into a scaredy cat into someone who wanted the ball everytime the court...who was more dedicated to the game than anyone else on our team. i realized that the ones i was most proud of on my team today was not the athletes. it wasn't the stars of our was the ones that came to every practice...who tried so hard to learn and to get better...who always came out with a smile on their faces and never complained. i would take a whole team of devins (even though we'd lose everygame...oh wait we did!) over a team of stars because the devins are the ones that play with heart...the devins are the ones that i love to coach.

i went to our team selection for 7th-8th grade today. our team should be pretty strong. we have kyree, who is top 3 in the league and then shamesha...who may be a girl, but can play better than most of the boys out there. i'm excited to see how it turns out. we have our first game this saturday...oh and soccer starts next weekend too, so i'm gonna be pretty busy the rest of the school year!!!!

finally, in other kind of related, not so related news...NCAA Tourney has started! I made a million different brackets but the two i'm focused on are my one with my family and then my one with breakthrough. YES, I am first in our breakthrough pool. Of 25 people...i am first as of right now. i did have one of my final four teams knocked out though. I picked Drake of all teams to go to the final four...not sure what i was thinking! but, yeah...they are gone already. oh and of course, in my family bracket i have marquette in the final four. they also got knocked out. i'm not too worried about that one though cuz my dad had duke *YUCK* in the finals and they got knocked out as well :) yay!

so, i hope to come out the victor in both brackets...i'll prolly be last in all of them when it's all said and done...but secretly i love it when a female comes out winning against a bunch of males cuz they all think girls don't know how to pick! :)

god bless you all!

oh and i know most of you reading this are probably not a fan of obama, but i am. i listened to his speech in response to his former pastor's comments on race and i was blown away. living here, in this community...his words just really struck a cord with me. i encourage you...friend or foe of obama to listen to his speech. you may be surprised at what he has to say!

again...god bless you all!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Today we had our last regular season game. Our kids played hard, but they came up short. We lost 25-12 but can I just say, they did so good. Yakira (pic to the right) had 4 points and about 6 steals. She played better than I have ever seen her play. I think she may have a future in basketball. I realized today that the biggest factor with our team is that I have a total of 2 kids that have actually played on a team before...the rest have never played basketball in their lives. The other teams have players who have been playing for 2 years. That makes a big difference at this age. Anyways, next week is the tournament and ya know...most likely we'll lost but...miracles can happen! :)

In other news, my friend Lauren was here this past week. It was such a nice change of pace to have her here to hang out and to help with the kids. We got to go downtown a couple of times (her 3 times) and it was just a wonderful time to see an old friend and share my life with her. Here is a pic of us at the "bean" in Millenium park and us just getting done eating "Chicago-style" pizza.

Finally, TODAY IS THE START OF MY VACATION! I'm so excited. I need a break so badly. As much as I love my kids...I really need a break just to relax for a couple of days and to see my family. I get to see my beautiful niece!!!! Emma Grace McConnell was born on March 10th and I CAN NOT WAIT to see her! YAY!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Poet in the making...

On Wednesdays, we have "blogging" for the 6th-8th. Today, we had the kids do poems. One of our girls (in the pic) went WAY above and beyond and wrote an amazing it is:

No one will ever get me completely
I know they won't because I have a puzzle and I hid the pieces
Falling to the ground
But not making a sound
Looking for the door out
Only finding the floor and trying to shout
To someone that will listen to me
Someone that would see
The other side instead of the one I hide beneath
I want to fly to far and get lost maybe
Things get harder and harder lately
I want to fly to the moon
Get there quick and soon
Go to a place where there is only one room
So I can think
And hear myself to
So I can blink
And its not you
Always taunting me until I yell stop
Then my emotions spill and I have to mop
Or ill leave the spill there and mope silently
Have a very hard time breathing
I wash myself till I feel brand new
Only to be dirtied up by you
The end
Or the begin..

Saturday, March 8, 2008



the number of Chicago public school students that have died this school year as a result of homicides.


the number of Chicago public high school freshmen graduate from a four-year college by their mid-20s (YES, that is 8 percent)


number of kids who are sexually active in Chicago


the number of teen mothers who complete high school or get a GED

9 seconds.

the amount of time in America a student becomes a dropout.


the graduation rate in Chicago.


the number of times more likely that an african american will be the victim of homicide than any other racial group.


the number of black males who grow up with out a father in their home.


The number of students injured/killed just in the past weekend.

38.6% .

percent of teen pregnancies in chicago

the number of Chicago Public Schools students that are suspended each school day


the percent of Beidler students (school where most of my kids go) who passed the ISAT test last year.


ESTIMATED number of gang members in US.


the age of the killer in the most recent school shooting (shot an 18 year old boy as he was walking out of school a few days ago)

These numbers are REAL, people. This is the reason I get up and go to work everyday. This is the reason I live in this neighborhood. Children are killing children. Youth are dropping out of school. Young boys are joining gangs, young girls are getting pregnant.

This is real stuff...a child shouldn't have to say - "IF i grow up"...Being able to play in a park or walk down the street should not be the goal of a child. These are not goals. Going to college, getting a job – those are the goals our children should have.

Do we really live in a society that thinks...out of sight, out of mind?

Do we really live in a society that values the right to bear arms over the lives of our children?

Do we really live in a society that advocates "protection and prevention" over abstinence?

Do we really live in a society where there are more black 18 year old men in jail than there are graduating high school?

Do we really live in a society that allows the public school system that teaches testing...not knowledge?




New Pics

AmeriCorps wanted me to take pics this week! Here are some of my favorites!

Britt, Maia, and Yakira...4th grade girls

Crazy Melissa! I LOVE THIS KID!

Stetson and Jarell...Stetson is a co-worker!

Damien...such a sweet kid!

Miss Cheyenne...oh she is a mess

Chess game Keenan won!


Bre and Mikayla

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Life is is is real.

Since moving to Chicago and working full-time in urban ministry...I have discovered more about who I am and who God wants me tobe. And, there is a big gap between the two. Full-time ministry has a way of showing you your deficiencies and where you really need to grow as a child of God.

Everyday, I am shown and taught things...I am learning from everyone, whether it be the 8th grade girl who hates me, the 3rd grade boy who shows me what true joy looks like, the homeless woman who still sees life as a blessing, the 7th grade boy who doesn't even know what true friendship looks like, or our executive director and founder of Breakthrough who has every reason to be a bigot, yet still chooses to be the most humble-hearted person i've ever met...these are the people I work with, live with, and learn through every single day.

Life is a joy. Life is a roller-coaster.

I have a see my failures, my weaknesses, my deficiences and think...I am stupid, I am not worthy, and why am I even here? Or I can choose to learn from them, grow from them, and become the woman God wants me to be. It is a choice...a hard one, actually. For the path that should be chosen is full of stretching, tiredness, pain, and hard decisions...yet, it is a better path in the long run.