I've spent most of my years planning out exactly how I think my life should be. Some people would say that I am OCD about it. I wouldn't disagree with that statement. The first step in the process is admitting you have a problem, right?

With 2013 having officially kicked off, I took some time out to focus on what I want this year to look like. A lot of what I wrote out wasn't much out of the ordinary.

Love more

Read more
Write more
Eat healthier
Spend more time with family

The list goes on.

As I was writing this out I sat on the beach watching the waves crash on the shore. The thing I noticed is that no two waves were exactly alike. Some small, some big, some not even noticeable. Like the waves, I don't want 2013 to be like the year before. I want it to be its own. I've vowed to leave 2012 in 2012.

The reason I didn't write out more of what I wanted was because I felt like I didn't want to limit God on what He was going to do. When I try to map out every detail He shows me something new. I am expectant that He will surpass whatever I think this year will be.

I don't say this to excuse planning, but what I realized is that I need to leave ROOM for Him to do what He does. I'm seeking Him for the next step.

Isaiah 43:19
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

God is doing a NEW thing! It's feeling more and more like this will be the year of new. It's already started to take that route, new job, new home, new friends, and new adventures. So much happened in 2012 that kicked off the beginning of all of these new and exciting blessings. Now I believe it's time to start unwrapping these gifts that He has given me. 

Above all, I am marking this the year that I go deeper. Deeper in my faith, deeper in my understanding of who God is. Deeper in my knowledge of His love for me. I want to get deeper into the heart of my creator. 


Leading By Example

The word transparent keeps hovering over me lately like a helicopter.
Webster’s Dictionary defines transparency as fine or sheer enough to be seen throughfree from pretense or deceit, readily understood.
I quickly put the word to leadership principles. My ultimate goal will always be to lead by example. Because lets face it, when it’s “do as I say, not as I do” we are not as effective as we could be.
Jesus was and is the perfect example of leading by example. He will never ask us to do something that He himself has not done. In the same way, I will never ask my students or leaders to do something that I myself have not done or am not willing to do.
I recently read John Maxwell’s “The Five Levels Of Leadership”. In the book he talks about leading by example and the effect that we can have on others. He shared this quote that will forever be in my mind and heart.
“Be the change you wish to see in this world”. –Mahatma Gandhi
It followed up with this story about a young boy and his obsession with sugar.
During 1930′s, a young boy had become obsessed with eating sugar. His mother was very upset with this. But no matter how much she scolded him and tried to break his habit, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see his idol – Mahatma Gandhi; perhaps her son would listen to him.
She walked miles, for hours under scorching sun to finally reach Gandhi’s ashram. There, she shared with Gandhi her predicament. -“Bapu, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”
Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, thought for a while and replied,“Please come back after two weeks. I will talk to your son.”
The woman looked perplexed and wondered why had he not asked the boy to stop eating sugar right away. She took the boy by the hand and went home.
Two weeks later they revisited Gandhi. Gandhi looked directly at the boy and said,“Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.”
The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer. The boy’s mother was puzzled. She turned to Gandhi and asked,“Bapu, Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”
Gandhi smiled,“Mother, two weeks ago I was eating a lot of sugar myself.”
We won’t always get it right; in fact we will inevitably mess up along the way. Ever find yourself telling students to do things that you yourself fall short on?
You should read your bible everyday  
You should spend daily time with God
You should serve and be involved
Seems so easy to tell our students to do all of the right things, but to be completely honest I find myself falling short of these things at times. This is where being transparent comes in handy. I always remind my students that I am not perfect, and that I, like everyone else will fall short of the mark.
Does that give them permission to stop trying? No. But it shows them that even their leader struggles. The struggle is what ultimately will make us stronger and better people. Our character is constantly being tested and put through the fire.
We need to be reminders to them that they are not alone.
My pastor has always said to me that we should be the same person on stage as we are off stage. I will continue striving to be the leader that is consistent in all she does and all she is.
To lead by example in EVERYTHING I do. That means being conscious of what gets posted on social media, who I spend my time with, what I spend my time doing, most of all that my words and my actions would consistently match up.
I leave you with this; “If your actions inspire others to dream more, earn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”-John Quincy Adams
Be the leader that pushes others to be the best they can be. 


Sweet Tooth

Recently while in prayer I had this picture of a child asking for an ice cream sundae before bed. Not just any sundae, but a sundae with all the fixings. Chocolate, strawberry, vanilla ice cream with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and a cherry on top!

The parent in this scenario told her son he couldn't have the sundae before bed. The child threw a tantrum as any child would when they don't get what they want. The parent knew best that sweets before bed was a bad idea.

To me the sweets represented things that we ask for in our lives. Whether we ask for certain jobs, relationships, or even material things. Like the ice cream sundae, none of those things are bad. But they can be harmful to us if they are given when we are not ready for them. 

As good as that sundae is in that moment, that poor kid is going to have a rough night of being wide awake with a tummy ache. Something that can be so good can hurt us when consumed at the wrong time.

I see myself as that child at times. Wondering why I haven't received what I've so faithfully asked for. I fully believe that when God says its the right time that He will provide. Because without His timing, even the best of things can be the worst of things.

The right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing.

When you find yourself throwing a fit because you feel God is playing keep away. Remind yourself that He knows the why behind the what. Trust that He's saying "not right now, just wait" for your own good.


Learning to Say No

Recently I had a conversation with my pastor (Moses Camacho), where he said to me “you have to learn to say no”.
Anyone who has been in ministry long enough knows that regardless of whether you are a volunteer, part time, or full time staff that you spend more hours on your work than your time card says. 
Why? Because you love what you do. When you love what you do it doesn’t feel like work. 
The problem comes when you have a full plate and yet you still find yourself saying yes to any request that comes your way. Most of us say yes because we genuinely love to serve and help others. 
One of the biggest struggles I’ve seen with people in ministry is their inability to say NO. Unfortunately in most cases this leads to burn out. 
Last year I ended up in the emergency room multiple times for ongoing pain. Every time I went to the emergency room I was hooked up to an IV with some painkillers that would put me out for the rest of the day. One of the times that I went in I said to the nurse “would you mind not giving me so much of the pain killers, I have a lot of meetings to be at and I don’t want to be knocked out”.
The nurse’s jaw dropped. As did my heart when I heard the words I was saying. She leaned over to me and said “sweetie I don’t know what it is that you do, but I do know that if you don’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of anybody else”. Those words will forever be embedded in my mind.
A lot of times we get too caught up in the work of God and we put our relationship with Him on the back burner. We trick ourselves into thinking that if we are working for Him then it’s just the same as spending time with Him. It’s not. 
He wants you. Just you. Not your power point presentation. Not the curriculum you wrote for the new series. Not even the awesome sermon you wrote for Sunday. He just wants you. 
As people in ministry and as Christians we are called to be there for others. However, we aren’t called to lose sleep, get stressed out, or get sick from not resting. 
Saying no isn’t a bad thing. Saying no to something that isn’t right for you now, opens you up to say yes to something in the future. 
Saying no opens up the opportunity for someone else to rise to the occasion an serve. We have to remind ourselves that we are part of a body that needs each part to work. We cannot fill every role 100%. We weren’t built that way. We were built to need each other. Don’t rob someone the blessing of serving. You saying no could be an answered prayer to someone waiting for an opportunity to help out. 
Be encouraged that you’re not alone. I’m the biggest offender when it comes to wanting to say yes. But contrary to popular belief, I am not Wonder woman, and I can’t do it all. 


Goodbyes and Brownies

This is it... my last night in B205.

As I was going through my mental check list of everything that needs to be packed and ready by 730am. I got a text from my neighbor that lives below me. His name is Jay and he asked if I was home and awake. I of course said yes and within minutes I heard a knock at the door. He and his sister brought me a good bye card and a box of brownies.

It could be that I'm overly emotional because of so many changes happening, but I was really touched by the gesture. When I first moved into this apartment complex I baked batches of brownies for every neighbor around me as a "Hi, I live here and I want to get to know you". After knocking on a couple doors the thought occurred to me that these people might think I'm crazy.

In the card he wrote how I was the only person he ever connected with out of our neighbors and that he was sad to see me go. We never had deep conversations, it was mostly a hi's and bye's, the occasional how are things going or a "Hey can you turn the music down?". Ya, I was THAT neighbor. I'm getting old people. I never really realized what an impact was being made by our interactions.

MARK 12:31
31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] No other commandment is greater than these.”

God has called us to love our neighbors as ourselves. In my case He meant literally love my neighbor as myself. But I confess that I didn't always want to, nor did I always do it. I felt an instant conviction upon receiving that gift because I felt like I could have done more to reach out and build a better relationship.

Relationships will always be the root of what brings someone to Christ. Regardless of where you are in your relationships with non believers, don't give up. Keep pursuing, and keep interceding on their behalf. Plant the seed, water the seed, and let God do what He does best.

My point to this is that you never knows who's life you could be effecting. What may seem small to you could mean the world to someone else.


Humble Beginnings

Recently I accepted the position of Saddleback Huntington Beach Student Ministries Director. I cannot begin to tell you how surreal that sentence is.
I come from a church in a small town where you are bound to run into at least ten people you know on a daily basis wherever you go. I had the honor of being the Jr. High Director for my home church for almost two years. I watched our ministry start with a handful of students and grow to 300+ in the course of a year. I’ve seen God do incredible things in our students lives on a daily basis.
Coming from a ministry where everyone “gets it” to a ministry where you have the challenge of starting from scratch really teaches you about humble beginnings. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” - Zechariah 4:10 NLT
I have the privilege of taking these handful of students back to the basics. I get to teach them why it’s important to read their bibles, why they should take notes, why they should serve, and why they should reach out to their friends.
Was it always an exciting feeling to start from scratch? To be honest… No. I knew it would be a challenge, but I also knew that God had called me to this and I also knew that He would be there every step of the way. I know ministry can be discouraging when you feel like students aren’t getting it, or when you feel like what you’re saying is going in one ear and out the other. I encourage you to celebrate the win.
What do I mean by that?
Every week I remind my students to bring their bibles and journals. For the first couple months I got nothing. The other day I had a student walk up to me and say “Hey Brenda! Look! I brought my bible and journal!” You better believe I celebrated that all morning! I even gave him a shout out during service for setting the example.
These things may not seem like a big deal, but to a ministry that is going back to the basics to build a solid foundation it is a huge step in the right direction. I celebrate that they stepped out and talked to someone. I celebrate that they invited a friend. I celebrate when they take notes. I celebrate the first time a student raises his or her hand in worship.
What gets rewarded gets repeated.
We may not be celebrating that we had 100′s of students show up on a Sunday morning (yet), but I am celebrating that they are making progress. If you aren’t moving forward then you’re standing still.
My advice to anyone in ministry: Celebrate the WIN. We so often as ministry workers tend to hear and fixate on the negative. I pray that we start recognizing that even if just one student gets something out of your weekly message then you’re doing something right and someone’s life is being changed.


Bare Walls

It's moving week for me here in apartment B205, which means my life has consisted of boxes, tape guns, and newspapers. 

You never realize how much stuff you accumulate until you start taking things out of your closet. How can one person have so much? My triple doored closet quickly turned into my nightmare when I realized how much clothes I had. Out of the 100% that I have, I probably wear about 10% of it. Everyone knows I'm an outfit repeater. No shame.

It all started to sink in yesterday. I sat in my living room looking at my bare walls that no longer contained the photos they once had. Now what lies in the midst of these walls are memories. 

This will forever be the place where I really grew up and grew into my own person. 

As much as I'll miss this place I call home, I am really looking forward to this new season. I've lived in Corona for 25 years. It's been my home town, my growing place, my familiar. But now I know it's time for a new familiar and a new season of discovering a new city.

I have a feeling God is going to blow my mind with what's to come.