Sunday, January 24, 2010

It’s a L.I.F.E. Celebration

January 23, 2010

When I see an email from my friend, Derrick Engoy, awaiting my attention, I know it’s going to bring my life to a whole new level of selflessness. Derrick is one of those people you need to have in your corner, especially when your heart burns to help the voiceless and oppressed. We have participated in a few Freeze Projects together and I continually support Derrick and his wife, Marissa, in their endeavors. I’ve dubbed them “the Dynamic Duo” and they work together to create awareness of social justice issues in the local area and abroad.
As I read the email Derrick sent, my flesh broke out in goosebumps. I wasn’t disappointed when I read about an idea Derrick pitched about a L.I.F.E. Celebration event and knew I had to be part of it someway, somehow.
L.I.F.E. (Loving In Full Embrace) Celebration event served two purposes:
  1. To create an opportunity for friends, family, and the church family to serve our surrounding community; encouraging a lifestyle of giving and reaching out to those in need.
  2. To create an opportunity to bless the local community.
I had a chance to ask Derrick how the L.I.F.E. Celebration idea manifested, how he gathered performers and vendors to participate, and how he invited the community to join. These were his words:
It began last year (Jan 2009) when I partnered with International Justice Mission, through Facebook, and challenged my friends to donate the dollar amount of the age I turned that year. We were able to raise nearly $2,000 towards IJM's campaign against human trafficking. Later that summer, on a silent drive back from Riverside, God gave me a vision of taking the FB/IJM idea and bringing it to a local level. From there, the L.I.F.E. Celebration Event was birthed. In short, it was God's way of allowing us to bridge communities in a particular neighborhood together.
I pitched the idea to a couple of performers and they were on board. Word spread and the other handful of performers came to me. I reached out to my current networks and, again, they were on board. Similar to the performers, other orgs came to me. From there, we all worked together to invite people in our networks and neighborhoods.
I was truly blessed to be able to photograph the event and see everyone’s hard work materialize in sweet success. From the performers, to the vendors, to the volunteers, and participants, the night shone with a supernatural light of generosity, grace, community, and love. Local neighbors and families in need were provided food, goodies, free flu shots, entertainment, and grocery store gift cards.
Later, I asked Derrick if he thought the outcome was favorable. With humility and excitement he answered:
The event actually turned out better than I thought. I was blessed and humbled to see my friends and family take ownership of the event as much as they did. We collected more gift cards than I had anticipated, but more importantly, the amount of gift cards we collected was more than enough for all the families who came out. I'm just happy to know our neighbors were blessed and enjoyed themselves.

Snapshots of L.I.F.E. Celebration

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Each day I receive a devotional from the Henri Nouwen Society that sets the tone for my day. I mull over the words and let them become familiar so that I have an underlying sense of tranquility as my day unfolds. What I didn’t expect was how today’s words set the tone for the New Year.

Life is precious. Not because it is unchangeable, like a diamond, but because it is vulnerable, like a little bird. To love life means to love its vulnerability, asking for care, attention, guidance, and support. Life and death are connected by vulnerability. The newborn child and the dying elder both remind us of the preciousness of our lives. Let's not forget the preciousness and vulnerability of life during the times we are powerful, successful, and popular.

I am notorious for creating a list of goals for the New Year that would bring me to unbelievable heights. Every year I challenge myself, physically and mentally, to accomplish something I’ve never done before. Where people my age spend most of their time looking back at what once was, I remain grateful in the present, and continue to grow…forward. It’s my secret to avoiding a mid-life crisis.

In 2004, I vowed I would learn to play a guitar so I did. I discovered I hated it. The year before that I enrolled in kickboxing and social dance classes. I loved kickboxing but lamented the lack of good dance partners in my dance class.

The first day of 2008 brought my beautiful granddaughter, Rylee Sage, and I quickly adapted to my grandma status at 39-years-old. Later that year, I experienced the death of many loved ones and I challenged myself to face the grim reaper head-on. I became aware of the fragility of life.

2009 was the most challenging as I was able to accomplish more than I thought possible. My dream of traveling to the Philippines with My Refuge House to help girls rescued from the sex trade came true. That trip, My Refuge House, and New Heart Church enhanced my life by bringing the most amazing people in it. They have become my family. I ran two half-marathons and a 10K. I declared that I would change jobs, sacrificing a pay increase for peace of mind, and I did. I vowed to be a better mother and despite the adversity my kids and I faced, our relationship does not lack cohesion. I took my passion for photography and made it burn. I allowed myself to love and receive it in return.

As 2009 skidded to an end I began patting myself on the back for successfully completing almost all my resolutions. My hubris was premature as October had the audacity to deliver the year’s most difficult challenges. Life becomes irritating when it propels forward beyond MY control. I used to take pride in expecting the unexpected and maneuvering through the obstacles but I was highly unprepared for the onslaught of uncertainties. My inherent controlling nature usually has me completing my New Year’s goals by the end of November. For the first time, I was too drained to pick up a pen and think about my future.

So I find myself on January 3, 2010 sans goals and list of resolutions. I feel completely disoriented and vulnerable, like I was dropped onto another planet without a map or compass to guide me. It's okay; for I know that adventures are born through uncertainties and adversity. Relinquishing my control to the unknown has me shaking with fear but through my vulnerability I will continue to value life in its fragility and focus on the One who saved me.