My very best friend in the whole world got engaged last week! YAY APRIL!!!
And I’m the maid of honor!!! OMG!!!!!
We’ve been friends since she was days away from turning 13 and I was 15.
We met when one day, when this girl Shari and I decided to go knock on April’s door to ask if she wanted to walk to Dominick’s with us to buy ice cream. April had just moved in to the neighborhood and even back then I was uncomfortably friendly, and so, I did random things like show up unannounced at random doors, and ask the people who lived there if they’d like to go to the store with me and my friend Shari.
Lucky for us all, April said, “Umm, sure.” You know, as opposed to “Who the F*ck are you? Where’s my gun?!!”
If you added up all the hours we all spent together that summer, you’d get infinity. That’s how summers feel when you’re old enough to leave the house alone, but not old enough to need a job. Infinite. I do not even understand how we all fantastically wasted away as much time together as we did, but I suspect Monopoly, the card game Speed and discussions about boys helped immensely.
It’s been about exactly 13 years since then now.
In that time, April and I have both graduated college, lived in our own apartments, lived together in one apartment, dated hundreds of boys and spent years on the phone together. We’ve both gotten excited about alcohol and then over it, dived into the skinny jean trend and stuck with it, and grown deeper into our faith.
Deep down though, neither of us will ever fully shake the teenage girl inside us. Or at least I hope we won’t. Because those girls are SO EXCITED!!! right now about April’s wedding. They are smiling, and laughing, and speaking our secret language, and crying about the joy of it all.
And they are praying as hard as they can that peace and joy and blessings will follow us for many years to come.
So congratulations April!! You have found your one true love and I’m so happy for you that I could jump up and down and fart right now with pure glee!
Here’s to the best wedding ever!
1. Start each day with a prayer. To someone. Somewhere. I personally prefer God. It will help you realize the world is bigger than you.
2. Be thankful for at least three things each day. Most likely you have a warm place to sleep, enough food to get you through the day and at least one good hour of prime time television you can watch in color each night. Start with those if you can’t think of anything.
3. When Ce Lo Green’s “F*CK You!” comes on the radio, turn it up really loud and sing along like nobody’s watching. Yes, the original version includes a pretty harsh swear word. But it’s all right, because sometimes break-ups are pretty harsh on your heart.
4. See how you look with liquid black eyeliner at least once.
5. If you’re going to straighten your hair, use a Chi. All the other straighteners suck. If you’re broke, buy it at Marshall’s, where they usually have them half off suggested retail price.
6. When possible, only take carry-on bags when you fly. And, don’t forget that you’ll have to take off your shoes when you go through airport security, so you probably don’t want to wear those tie-up boots that end at your knee.
7. Invest in people. Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus both tell us we can all be great because we can all serve. It’s true. When you give part of yourself unselfishly to someone else’s needs, you will be shocked at the rewards that come your way. Shocked.
8. Have a fun ring-back tone on your cell phone. It will put people in good mood when they call, and there’s no telling when that will come in handy.
9. Wear a perfume instead of body spray. It smells more sincere.
10. Save your work. If you’re on a computer, create a back-up file. If it’s paper you prefer, keep it somewhere safe.
11. Buy a car charger for your cell phone.
12. If need to text someone, check an email or take a nap, then don’t drive at the same time.
13. Leave lots of room between you and the car in front of you when you’re in traffic.
14. When the toilet paper runs out, replace it.
15. Don’t take is personally — it’s usually not personal. People will hate you, gossip about you and demean you. Those people are broken. But remember, so are you. So, instead of getting offended, love them.
16. If you get a manicure, pay for the gel manicure. It will last about four times as long.
17. If you’re ever at O’Hare international airport, and you need to take a cab to the suburbs, make sure you get a suburban cab. City cabs will charge you $100 to go to Aurora.
18. Spend at least one week of your life lying on a beach somewhere.
19. Spend at least one week of your life working harder then you’ve ever worked in your life in service to someone else.
20. Ask for help.
21. Go to college. It’s expensive, and you might end up with massive amounts of student debt, but you will learn to understand the world in a different way, and that’s more valuable than you know.
22. Read. A lot. Read the magazines at the dentist, read the Bible in the hotel nightstand, read your friends’ twitter feeds, read the fliers in the bathroom, read everything by David Sedaris, read “The road not taken”, read your favorite book twice, and read you dad’s favorite book at least once.
23. Don’t date someone who’s already married. It will not work out.
24. Remember, “a lot” is two words. And “you’re” = you are, while “your” means it’s yours.
25. Remember the phrase, “Never Eat Soggy Waffles.” It will help you find your way. North. East. South. West.
26. Don’t do drugs. People, good people, really do die from them.
27. On Valentine’s Day, send everyone you love — from your pastor to your dad to your boyfriend — a text that says, “Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope your day is filled with lots of love and chocolates.” And then, on Facebook, tell people you will tell them things you love about them if they ‘like’ your status, and then do it in a sincere way.
28. Send people birthday cards. Make sure you tell at least three reasons you love them.
29. Be OK with being single.
30. Take a deep breath every time you seen a sunset.
31. Learn to type.
32. Wear flats when you know you’re going to be standing up for more than three hours straight.
33. Stop eating when you’re full.
34. If you ever have a really sharp pain in your chest, go to the emergency room. If it’s not a heart attack, have them check your gall bladder with an ultra sound.
35. If you ever start hyperventilating, and your hands and feet go numb, breathe into your hand to readjust your oxygen level.
36. If you’re sick, stay home.
37. Sit on the front seat of a roller coaster at least once.
38. Pick up your dirty socks and put them in the hamper.
39. If you have braces and the orthodontist tells you to wear rubber bands, just do it.
40. Take Advil when you get menstrual cramps. Tylenol will not work.
41. Learn to french braid.
42. If your contact lens feels like it’s scratching your eye, take it out.
42b. Also, don’t sleep in your contacts.
43. Learn to make at least one thing you love to eat and then bring that one thing to pot lucks.
44. Give at least $1 to the homeless guy on the sidewalk,
even if especially if someone is pulling you away and telling you not to.
45. Drink water instead whenever possible.
46. When you love someone, love them completely.
47. Run a 5K at least once. I promise the training will suck, but I also promise that you’ll be able to do it and that crossing the finish line will be amazing.
48. Don’t dye your own hair blonde. Brown, red, black and purple are fine. But for blonde, go to a professional.
49. When someone offers you a salary for a new job, ask for more money once and then take whatever they offer next.
50. Return phone calls.
51. Watch Back the Future, The Princess Bride, Field of Dreams, and Indian Jones.
52. Always tip 20%. Serving others is hard work, so show those who do it appreciation.
55. Don’t be afraid to fail.
Dear Friends and Family,
As many of you know, I’m the youth director at Crossroads of Faith United Methodist Church in Bolingbrook. I’ve been there since Aug. 2010. Before that, I was the youth leader at First United Methodist Church in Woodstock.
I currently work with junior and senior high students.
The work is amazing.
On Sunday mornings we run through quick lessons on Jesus’ parables, agape love, and the book of Job. Then, on Sunday nights we dive into pizzas and deep discussions about temptations, living freely with Christ, and the differences between Religion, the Church and Jesus.
We also spend a good amount of time in fellowship. Getting to know each other while playing capture the flag, playing Wii on the church’s projector and eating the massive amounts of candy samples my day job allows me to bring to them.
While in my current role, I have seen youth become different people.
I have seen them turn into disciples of Christ, who are earnestly seeking out His ways and there’s nothing in the world more rewarding.
It is wonderful work.
A big part of that transformation for many of them was last year’s mission trip to Oklahoma. We took 12 youth and three adults. And to this day nearly every single one of them will give you the exact same testimony:
I really didn’t want to go. I was scared and I didn’t know what it was. But Crystal kept telling me to go over and over and over again, and so I decided to go and it was so amazing and I’m seriously so glad I went.
And if you ask nearly any of the parents involved in those youth’s lives, you will hear this testimony:
My child came back different and I thought it was only going to last a couple weeks, but it still hasn’t faded.
For our trips we go through an organization called YouthWorks and this year we are planning to go to the Denver, Colo site.
A typical day on one of these week-long trips is as follows:
6 a.m.: The breakfast crew wakes up. They grab their tennis shoes (only close-toed shoes are allowed in the kitchen) and they head to the eating area to start making breakfast and lunches for everyone on the trip.
6:30 a.m.: Leaders start waking up, so they can get first dips on the one toilet assigned to 50 women. They wipe the sweat from their neck, which accumulated while their were sleeping because their bedroom for the week is a wide open church space that lacks air conditioning. They try not to think about the fact that shower time isn’t until 3 p.m.
7 a.m.: The youth are woken up. Bone tired from the work they did the day before, they crawl out of bed excited about the chance to purely serve God that day. Then, they make their way to breakfast.
7:30 a.m.: Everyone sits down for breakfast and scoops cereal into their mouths as quickly as possible.
8:15 a.m.: Everyone makes their way to the sanctuary, and we all grab out devotional books, a Bible and a pen, and start the day off with God’s word.
9 a.m.-3p.m.: We make our way to our work sites for the day. Sometimes it’s a house that needs to be painted; sometimes it’s a kid’s club, where local kids are allowed to come for free and be fully lead by our youth; sometimes its a nursing home where the patients are looking for someone to sing with and talk to and play Bingo with; sometimes it’s a food pantry that needs young muscle to help sort massive amounts of donated food; sometimes it’s the Salvation Army retail store, where piles and piles and piles of clothes are waiting to be sorted; and sometimes it’s just the side of a highway littered with trash waiting to be picked up. Every single site is amazing, and every single site is scary and pushes you way beyond your comfort zone.
3-5 p.m.: They call these precious two hours free time, but because they’re also you’re only time to shower, it’s not like you end up lollygagging around or anything. Last year, we had off-site showers, which meant that the leaders spent nearly the whole two hours transporting the youth back and forth to the showers, which were at a local high school. The high school was actually under construction while we were there, so what would happen was, we we would walk through what looked like land mines of dirt, go inside, grab a 5 minute shower to rinse off all the sweat we’d accumulated by working all day, then we would walk back to our vans, and immediately get covered in dirt, and start dripping with new sweat from the 110-degree heat.
4:30 p.m.: The leaders also have a 4:30 p.m. meeting every day, and that’s when we met to process our experiences. Our highs, our lows and our exhaustion. 4:30 p.m. also is when the dinner crew heads to the kitchen to start making our meal for the night.
5 p.m.: Dinner. Just one scoop of each thing until we make sure there’s enough for everyone.
5:30 p.m.: The dinner clean-up crew heads in to do the dishes while the rest of get ready for our evening activity.
6-8 p.m.: We head to our evening activity. Sometimes it’s swimming, sometimes it’s a local mid-week church service, sometimes it’s painting pottery with disabled people, and sometimes it’s a community softball game.
8:30-9:30 p.m.: Club time. This is usually everyone’s favorite part of a the day. This when we meet with the entire site group (About 80 people) and we share our Yay Gods (Things God blesses us each with that day) and our Ya Buddies (Things we saw others do that showed God’s love). We also sing songs. At the beginning of the trip, the youth are always scared to jump or raise their hands or even to sing very much. By the end of the week, they’re always jumping up and down to Yes God! Yes God! Yes, Yes God!! And putting their arms over each other’s shoulders while they sing the slow powerful songs.
9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.: This is when we go off to be only with our church group. We have some time to intimately discuss the day and the experience and to solidify some of the awesome changes happening in our souls. During this time I have been privileged enough to witness epiphanies, and to talk with kids about deep matters of their hearts.
11 p.m.: Lights out. And everyone is asleep within about 15 seconds.
So there you have it. That’s a typical day on a mission trip. We work hard, but also do the hard work God calls us to do on our souls. There is no way it cannot be life changing for those involved.
People often ask me why we go away for these trips, when there’s plenty of mission work to be done in our home towns, and I will say it’s because I believe the journey there and back is just as important as anything we do at the site. If offers everyone a chance to bond in a blank environment; it helps the youth understand that the world is bigger than Chicago Suburbs, Illinois; and it helps the youth give themselves fully to the experience as they leave behind every single distraction.
And so, all that brings me to our goals for this summer.
Like I said, we’re planning a mission trip to Denver. God willing, we’d like to take 20 youth, and four adults, and be at the site July 15-20. The Youth Works cost for the trip $278 per child, and then we also plan to rent some vans and drive ourselves down there.
We charge each child $100 for the week, and depend on raising the rest of the money from fundraisers. While at Crossroads, we have done a variety of fundraisers, including selling bottles of water on the Fourth of July, hosting pancake breakfasts, chili cook offs and garage sales, wrapping gifts at Barnes and Nobel for donations, and selling flower pots on Mother’s Day.
However, all told we need about $10,000 total for the trip. And that’s a lot of money.
And so, although it’s only February and the trip is still five months away and we still have lots of fundraisers planned, I would like to extend this invitation to you right now to be a part of this experience by giving us a donation.
But before I go any further, I want to tell you that I genuinely hate asking for money for mission trips. I really, really hate it. My secret fantasy is to one day get to a point in my life where I can just fund youth mission trips completely out of my own pocket so as to avoid the whole messy business of fundraising all together.
But alas, I am not at that point in my life, and I probably never will be. Instead, God has charged me with leading an amazing group of youth, and humbly asking others for donations for the ministry.
I know some of you may not be in a position to donate financially right now, and all I would ask is that you keep us in your prayers. These trips always come together on prayer and it would incredibly valuable to us if you would commit to praying for our journey.
If, however, you do feel comfortable donating funds, it would be really helpful to us, especially right now because we have $2,600 payment due at the end of March.
I want to assure you that I do not ask you for a donation lightly, and that I truly do not want you to feel any pressure to give. However, I also know that you cannot receive if you do not ask, and so, I am asking. I can also promise you that 100% of your donation will go to support this trip.
If you feel called to support this cause financially please send a check made out to: Crossroads of Faith UMC, with “youth mission trip” in the memo line to the following address:
- Attention: Crystal Lindell, youth director
- 1570 Rodeo Drive
- Bolingbrook, Il
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter, and for being my friend. I pray you will be truly blessed this year.