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. 


Climbing My Mountain

The Backstory:

A few days before my 27th birthday in 2011, I slipped and fell outside my apartment on the wet pavement. I didn’t think much of it until I started hurting really bad days later. After a painful three months I was finally diagnosed, the results were that I had two bulging discs pinching my sciatic nerve. I tried anything and everything you can imagine, none of it worked. After the most trying season of my life that lasted seven months, I finally had surgery on April 18th, 2012. Please feel free to roam about my previous posts for the nitty gritty.

The Update

It’s been four months today since I had my back surgery. Where did the time go? I find it hard to believe that four months ago I was in excruciating pain with very little hope left. This was my last chance at relief, and my last chance at getting my life back.

On April 18th I woke up at 5am and headed to Kaiser Fontana Medical Center with my mom and sister to check in for my surgery. I was scared, nervous, anxious, excited, but above all, I was hopeful. I was hopeful that God would use this to make me healthy again. But more so hopeful that He would use this as part of my story that would impact others.

Pain isn’t pleasant to say the least. It distracts you, consumes you, and at times it causes you to doubt God’s goodness. I confess that in my seven month process of x rays, MRI’s, steroids, bed rest, spinal injections, physical therapy, chiropractor visits, etc. I started to get frustrated with God. Questions like “If I’m such a faithful servant why won’t you heal me?” A lot of prayer, a lot of searching, a lot of counseling later, I realized this;

Romans 8:28
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

I know that without a doubt God used this pain for my good. He used it to open my eyes to a world I never knew. To be more compassionate, loving, and understanding. To have the ability to say “I know how you feel, and I’m sorry”. Through this whole process the thing that helped me the most was someone saying “me too”. To know that you aren’t alone is truly a gift.

Since the surgery I’ve been able to sleep again, exercise, rest, go on walks, hiking, racquetball, etc. I’ve been able to get my life back! I never thought I’d see the day where I was genuinely happy again. I thank God everyday for the miracle that has taken place. I feel like I got another chance at life. I don’t intend to waste any of it.

I encourage you to keep climbing your mountain regardless of how big or small it is. I never thought that physically I would make it to the top, but God is faithful. Live everyday in the best way you know how. You never know when you may not have the chance again. And to those who are suffering, whether physically or emotionally, trust that God is holding you tight sharing your pain. He’s saying “me too”. 



This week I have had a lot of time to reflect on all God is teaching me through this season. One of the biggest things I've learned is the topic of perspective. Any given situation can be changed by the way you look at it. Take my back for example, I worried for so long that I would have to have surgery and that I would be out of work for longer than I would like. The truth though is that I am blessed to have health insurance. I am thankful that what I have is curable. I am fortunate that I have family and friends that will take care of me once I'm out of surgery.

This morning was a perfect example of the things God has shown me through this process.

I stood outside in pain at the front of the church doors greeting our members. I watched a man drive up and park in a handicap spot. As I watched him, I noticed that he opened the door and proceeded to take out a wheelchair from his passenger seat. The wheelchair did not have the wheels attached. He then takes out the two wheels and assembles his chair all while sitting in the car.

Once he had assembled his wheelchair, he pulls himself out of the car and into the chair all by himself. I noticed that he only had one leg. I kept watching as he grabbed a bag out of his car and placed it in his mouth so he wouldn't drop it. He wheeled himself to the ramp and over my way where I greeted him with  a smile and a "Good morning!" to which he replied with a great big smile "Good morning! How are you!?" I replied, "Doing well, thank you!".

Here's what gets me about this simple encounter, he had joy in smile when he said hello to me. He didn't greet me with bitterness or anger in his voice. Of course I don't know what goes on behind the scenes, but I do know that that man didn't let his circumstance determine his attitude. Which of course got me thinking about how easily I can be put in a hostile mood when I don't feel well.

I think about the man in the chair and I think to myself "I have nothing to complain about".

Perspective sets in when you realize life is so much bigger than you. That there are people all around me that are worse off. Everyone hurts at some point, but not all people let hurt rob them of their joy. Not all people let their circumstance dictate their attitudes.

It may seem small, but those minutes of watching him handle himself with such grace really put me in my place.

Every little thing will be alright, one way or another.


Seeing Faith

2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The past 5 months have been one of the darkest seasons I've ever been through. As most of you may know I have been battling chronic back pain due to a fall I took just days before my 27th birthday. Since then I've been through x-rays, steroids, MRI's, cortisone shots, back specialists, second opinions, epidural injections, the list goes on. In this fifth month I have found myself with two options left. Either God heals me completely, or option B I have surgery. I have no problem with either of those options. Here's why, I've realized that if I have surgery and I am healed it doesn't take away from the fact that God healed me.

Why do I bring up this story? I bring it up because it shows a group of men with great faith. Faith that I desire to have and faith that I continue to grow in. These men brought their paralytic friend to Jesus because they knew that if they could just get to Him their friend would be healed and walking again. When they saw that He was surrounded by so many they physically pulled the roof off where He was and lowered the man on his mat into the room. It says in Mark 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus SAW their FAITH and healed the man to walk again.

Seems simple enough, right? Just have faith and God will move? Why not? For the past few months I came to a place where I just expected God to do it just because. But what was I doing in order to come to a place where He would SEE my faith and heal me. What words was I speaking out? Negative, positive, indifferent? How much time was I spending with Him? Was I reading and meditating on His word? Or was I spending too much time feeling sorry for myself?

Don't get me wrong, I know people with big faith who still don't see what they want to see. But just because you didn't see the results you wanted does not mean that God hasn't moved. Me not being completely healed doesn't mean that God hasn't been working on my heart, and healing from the inside. I would almost argue that God has moved more in me through this suffering than in the times of brighter seasons. But why? It's not because He doesn't want to move, it's because like human nature we cling more to Him when the waters get rocky.

I love this story because it proves that faith can make miraculous things happen. But I also want to make very clear that God is in control and He decides the when, where, and how. Your job is to have the faith that He is ABLE. And to remember that if it doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to, it doesn't mean you are wrong for having big faith in our big God. I would caution you to not let bitterness creep into your heart. He loves you and long before you suffered, He suffered for you.


Flash Back Friday

Recently I spent time with a friend that I made back in high school. Ten years of off and on friendship that started my junior year of High School. Prior to fully devoting my life to Christ I wasn't the best role model out there. I had a mouth like a sailor, I didn't care about much of anyone but myself and my friends, my family was last, and all I cared about was the weekend, going out and having fun.

Whenever I run into someone from High School that I haven't seen in quite a while I tend to get this flustered feeling. Almost a feeling of inadequacy, I revert back to thinking I'm still the 17 year old girl who used to drive like a maniac with her system bumping way too loud. The girl who falsely pretended she didn't care what anyone thought of her. I sit here and I think about the feelings that come up when I see someone from back in the day. "They don't know that's not me anymore.." or "They probably think I'm still mean and self absorbed".

As those thoughts flood my mind I quickly remind myself that I am God's and He is mine and that through Him I've become new. I'm sure the 100's of people in my graduating class don't know that I'm different, but God knows. If it wasn't for Him there's no telling where I would be. So while the thoughts of my previous life of living for me and doing what I wanted regardless of the consequence come to mind, I hold those thoughts captive. I speak life over myself, the same life that so many incredible people have done along the way.

This post isn't so much about High School and the people I encounter from that time of my life. It's more about the fact that we at times care a little bit too much about what others think of us. Don't get this blog wrong, be respectful of authority and the Godly men and women who have been placed in your life. But when it comes to trying to impress others just so you look good, think again, it doesn't impress God.

I am new, I am not inadequate, and to Him, I am priceless.