KC Convoy of Hope – 2013 (long post with pics!)

It is often the things we shy away from doing that impact us the most. 

Like most people, I like comfort.
I like normalcy.
I like what I know more than what is new and unknown, but I also love to help people – to be a part of positive change in someone’s life and make a difference in this world.

The issue often arises from the fact that to make a difference in the world requires courage. Courage to live your life differently, so someone else can live theirs differently. Courage to step outside of myself. Courage to not be so selfish with my time and resources. Courage to put myself in difficult, awkward, or challenging situations with people I don’t know and can’t predict.

“A single act of courage is often the tipping point to extraordinary change.” – Andy Stanley

This past Saturday, June 8th at the 4th annual KC Convoy of Hope outreach in Swope Park  gave me a chance to go to one of the most impoverished areas of Kansas City to be a beacon of light in a darkened place. Swope Park is adjacent to a particular zip code in Kansas City that has been coined “The Murder Factory”  because the number of people from this zip code on death row in the prison system is exceptionally high. The Convoy of Hope outreach has spent the past 4 years trying to change this statistic.

The Convoy of Hope offers one on one prayer, help with finding employment, free groceries, free clothing, free family portraits, free haircuts, free shoes after a volunteer washes their feet and prays for them, free medical and dental checkups, free information on breast cancer prevention, free lunch, free toiletries, free kid zone with games/pony rides/cotton candy/prizes/etc, and more and more free services.

The idea is to reach out and give these people something that you and I take for granted every single day.
Basic necessities.
A kind smile.
No strings attached.
Feeling like someone cares.
Hope in the midst of having nothing.

So despite feelings of wanting to back out because I didn’t want to use up so much gas, get up so early on Saturday, or a million other excuses – I sucked it up and I did what I know I am called to do on a much more consistent basis: I became the hands and feet of my Savior.

And I am so incredibly glad I did.

Here is how the whole event was for me and why it impacted me so greatly:

Friday night I attended the volunteer rally for my free t-shirt.
That is literally the only reason I went because I primarily just wanted to go home and relax after a long day at work (selfish, I know).

What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming feeling of unity. Hundreds of volunteers from multiple churches across the metro all with the same passionate goal: to reach Kansas City for Christ. We worshiped together and prayed together and joined together with the vision of serving the neediest people with love and sacrifice. To treat the people that most shy away from with dignity, respect, and compassion. It gave me goosebumps.

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The next morning I got up at 5am (yikes!), so I could be at Swope Park by 7am.
A sea of volunteers in blue shirts gathered to hear the logistics of how the event would go.

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Cool panoramic view of volunteers gathering:
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We spent 3 hours setting up:

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Little Sebastian came to join the party!

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Hair cuts tent:

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People lined up for hours before the event opened:

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Even Casey the Wolf was there!

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Community Services tent from organizations such as Pathway Charter school, KC Office of Emergency Disaster Management, help with growing organic urban gardens, and more!

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I chose to volunteer in the station offering free family portraits.
These were the photographers I was assisting – they were so fun!
Matt and Terri attend a Catholic church in Shawnee Mission and this was their 3rd year taking photos for KC Convoy.
I loved that people from multiple denominations could all serve together. 🙂

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The following are some random photos I snagged from my time in Family Portraits.
(Obviously the actual family portraits taken with real cameras came out much better – haha)
These families or people in particular were so grateful for the chance to have their portrait taken – some of them either had no family portrait at all before this event or relied on coming to Convoy of Hope each year to get a family portrait taken. I impacted me a lot because I am so used to snapping multiple photos a day with my phone or camera that I forget that something as basic as a photo is out of reach for so many families!

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This new Mama wanted to finally have a picture with her baby – she kept thanking us over and over!

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They had an area where kids could dress up for “glamour shots”

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I love the girl in the background of this one! She had so much attitude and was “too cool for this” until she saw her family photo and she couldn’t stop smiling! 🙂

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Our favorite hippie. 🙂

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These were the guys who volunteered their time, laptops, and expertise to print “on demand” close to 1,000 5×7 photos for 6 hours, so families could take them home with them before the end of the day!

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The rest of these pictures are better quality ones from the event that I borrowed from one of our Vineyard Pastors: Roger Sodsod. It definitely makes me want to walk around the event a little more next time to capture moments like these that just melt my heart:

Volunteers washing feet before handing out brand new pairs of shoes through  Samaritan’s Feet.

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Love the look on her face! 🙂

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Getting a haircut!

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More feet washing…

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Bringing boxes of Crisis Care Kits, which included: shampoo, tooth paste, band aids, new hand towels, soap, a comb, a small toy/stuffed animal, chap stick, etc.

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Enjoying the free treats!

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Look at that sweet little face!

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“You are the light of the world – a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.”
– Matthew 5:14

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It Is Finished

As you may have heard, I have finally completed my Bachelor of Arts degree.
I  majored in English with a Writing concentration.
I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 gpa.

It is so surreal.

I expected I would breathe a huge sigh of relief and maybe celebrate nonstop for an entire year. Instead I just feel like I am blinking rapidly. This is it. It is finished. Not that I am not excited. I am over the moon excited that I was finally able to accomplish something I set out to do 10 years ago.

It is just that when you’ve been reaching for a goal for that long and when you’ve endured and had to overcome countless obstacles, challenges, relocations, and difficulties – it is hard to even feel the reality of being done. I’ve been able to go home from work and do whatever I want to do. A few times this week Chad and I would finish dinner and he would look at me and say, “Don’t you have to work on some homework now?” with a big grin on his face. He knew my reaction every time would be to get excited and declare, “No, I don’t!” as I once again realize that 10 years of assignments, tests, reading, research, projects, and papers has come to a close.

Ironically, I am just nerdy enough to already feel somewhat nostalgic. I loved being in school. I didn’t like not ever feeling like I had time for anything and I didn’t like the feeling that some deadline was always looming, but I certainly loved the academia, the learning, the Professors who inspired, and the general atmosphere of being on a college campus. I know I am going to go to Graduate School in the future – maybe not so distant of a future. But for now… I am going to enjoy my free time, catch up on the 50+ books I already own that I want to read for fun, work on some projects around the house, and thank God that He graciously got me through this season of my life. 🙂

“He has torn us to pieces, but He will heal us”

There are things that I know are common among a large percentage of the female population, but I always end up feeling so isolated and alone in these things.
No one talks about it, or at least no one likes to talk about it.
It’s not the happiest of topics and most people would rather have every interaction in their day be positive and happy.

I’d like to be bold and say that so much of what happens in this broken life we live is negative, painful, and difficult. Maybe even more than 50% depending on the life/person.
Being a kid is joyful, but so very hard.
Being a teenager can be exciting, but awkward and painful and emotional.
Being a friend has so many rewards, but it is risky and hard and comes with occasional heartache.
Being married of blissful, but challenging and sometimes so very painful – it changes who you thought you were.
Being a parent is fulfilling and wonderful, but also challenging, painful, difficult, and risky.

and so on.

Having kids? Or rather, TRYING to have kids and finding out that you can’t without some serious medical help when every single one of the friends in your life are either pregnant, just had a baby, or are working on their 2nd or 3rd baby?

Now that’s hard.

After an extensive, heartbreaking 67 day anovulatory cycle, I found out today that I am, once again, having an anovulatory cycle.
We can’t even try to have a baby because my body will not cooperate.

Honest Community and Real Relationships

It is nearly 2 am and I am wide awake. Hours ago I was drifting off to sleep on the couch, but somewhere between then and now I must have found a second wind or breathed in some kind of magical, caffeinated air or something.

Today was a hard day for me that eventually got better.

One of the benefits of living within community (not A community as in location, but community itself as a practice) is finding comfort in the support of those around you who clearly love you and pray for you and want the best for you.

Today was the day that I found out that my first cycle of fertility treatments did not result in the much desired pregnancy.
Starting over.
Again.
CD1.

I was terribly disappointed, for obvious reasons.
We’ve now been officially trying to get pregnant for one year.
I used to be the girl that was trying for 3 months, 9 months, 11 months…. Now, it has been 1 year.
I cried a lot this morning.
A LOT.
It was hard not to feel overwhelmingly depressed and struggling to find a glimpse of hope once again.

I sent a few texts to a few people letting them know the disappointing news and that I wasn’t doing so great.
I began to receive words of support, encouragement, prayer, and hope.
I spent some time praying and the tears began to abate and the lump in my throat began to go down.
I heard God whisper tenderly and softly to me, “Do you trust Me?” and that was enough.
Of course I do.
He has never disappointed me before.
Hear me… I am disappointed that I am not pregnant already, but God has never disappointed me.
Every month is a month to struggle with disappointment.
Some people just really don’t understand just how overwhelming and difficult a struggle with fertility can be unless they’ve been there themselves or know someone close who has.
But each month you make the choice to keep hoping and, in my case, keep trusting God and waiting on Him.

In the past, I’ve received a few messages here and there about my willingness to be so open and vulnerable and honest about what is going on in my life.
Whether it is my struggle with infertility, my struggle with losing weight, my rantings about certain types of people, or just the various lessons I have had to learn the hard way – I don’t really feel the need to paste on a plastic, digital-smile through my words.
This blog isn’t supposed to look like me preaching to you all the things I have learned or accomplished or felt like God revealed to me as if they happened to me spontaneously without trial and pain.

This blog was always intended to do two things:

1. To act as an outlet for self-expression for my writing, my feelings, etc.
2. To portray the real me – 100%, warts and all, what-you-see-is-what-you-get me.

I don’t do it this way so that people think I am “so awesome” for being so honest.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, to be honest about being honest – I don’t share everything with you.
There.
I said it.

But here is where I am coming from in regards to the purpose of my blog:

What is the point of community if you’re not going to be real?
Is it beneficial to anyone to walk around acting like you have all of your crap together all of the time so people feel a certain way about you and around you?
Where does iron begin to sharpen iron?
How can you support me, comfort me, and pray for me if you think I am completely put together all the time?
How can you even get to know the real me if I’m not real in my writings and the words I speak?
How can we come together as a community if we’re not honest?

Sure, we can throw a lot of BBQs.
We can celebrate all the holidays together, make each other laugh with funny stories, and even talk about God together all day long.
All of these things are good, but what is the point if we’re not moving forward together?
What is the point if I don’t KNOW you and you don’t KNOW me?
Not just what music I like to listen to and how I take my coffee, but the true me complete with hopes, dreams, fears, and failings.

Controversial question: Does it even align with Scripture to portray yourself as invincible? Full of all the answers to life’s questions/difficulties? In need of no one but yourself and maybe God?

Community reaches so much further than the 50 mile radius around where you live.

Thanks to technology…. community can reach all the way around the world.

Writing is an outreach.
This blog is me reaching out to you and giving myself to you openly and honestly and exactly as I am.
Comments and messages in response are you reaching back to me saying you are praying for me, laughing alongside me, crying with me, indignant for me, supporting me, and (for some of you, sometimes) understanding exactly what I am going through when I need to know that the most.
It is up to you to respond.
You could just read my blog and that is fine, but it doesn’t become community and relationship until you respond and unless your response is honest and 100% truly YOU.

Writing brings people together.
This is exactly why I named my blog “Words are Avenues”

because words have a way of bringing people together in community to connect us all in this broken, fragmented world where we could otherwise so easily feel absolutely alone.