here (and please do - their stories are phenomenal). And while they are doing some amazing things there to minister in the margins, it is nothing that any of us can't be doing where we are (at least on a smaller scale) if we'll just look around and be willing to get our hands dirty.
We are so blessed each time we go and it always sets the stage for really "getting" what it is we're celebrating this time of year. It resets my perspective back to where it should be (on the others that Jesus loves) and off of where it shouldn't be (stuff and the drama we create). It creates a thankfulness in me that I'm not sure we can get any other way, other than giving up ourselves for a few hours/days/weeks/years and "leaking Jesus" (as Bob Goff would say) onto others. I need the occasional "reset" and am always so encouraged and blessed while we're there.
I am, once again, encouraged to keep looking around me for where needs are - and they truly are everywhere, if we're willing to see them. God has opened a lot of doors for us around Pauls Valley to begin ministering and I pray that I will see with His eyes where He wants that to continue growing, new ways to reach out, to bring His light into the darkness. I pray that He continues to strip the selfishness from me and that I'll be willing to give up my stuff, my time, my pride, my feelings and get out there. I know we occasionally get hurt or taken advantage of when we do it, but Jesus said give a cup of cold water, feed, clothe, visit - and He didn't place parameters on that. He just said do it. That's hard for me to remember.
I loved working alongside the adults that went with us. I love getting to know people better - and you really get to know someone in the muck and grime of sorting through other people's cast off stuff. :) If you're one of the parents that entrusted your children to us for this week, you need to know that your kids are amazing. I know they can all be normal, hormonal, drive-you-crazy teenagers, but they can also step up and serve, love, work harder than you can imagine and be a team too (and they're really funny :) ). We saw that this week. I am always so proud of this group of kids when they show up to make a difference. They were/are awesome - really. And I don't use "awesome" lightly.
So - my encouragement to you - and to me - this Christmas season is to remember. Remember that God stepped out of Heaven, into this dark world so we could know Him. He has changed my life completely, and I know He's changed many of yours as well. So, how can we step out of our comfort zones and into the darkness so that others can know Him? What can we let go of or give up so that others can live? Because that's what Christmas is - really.