Tag Archives: change

Flora Vista

Yesterday we moved out of our Flora Vista House. I said good-bye to walks to mesa lane, late night roommate talks, and game nights in the living room. I might even miss our infestation of spiders, the subtle skunk smell that lingers in the living room, and the memories of finding a dead rat in the laundry room.

We’ve shared countless glasses of wine, hours of conversation, and two-and-half years of memories. Here’s to microwave beeps, the chore chart and the on-going saga of the internet. I’m going to miss you Flora Vista.

P.S. For the next three weeks I am lucky enough to reside in the Mumm household, where poor Jeff has had been inundated with a host of rapid-fire girl questions and conversation topics that generally center around finding jeans that fit, fashion trends and nail techniques (and not the hammer and nail kind). Read more about it here



Filed under Neither Here, Nor There

dance. sing. floss. travel.

I would say I do 3 out of the 4 quite well. My dancing, flossing, and traveling skills are adequate. My singing on the other hand– is lets just say, not one of my finer qualities. (Imagine Cameron Diaz at the karaoke bar in My Best Friends Wedding– and that’s me on a good day.)

I went to a FREE yoga class at Lululemon on Sunday morning. Sitting on my purple mat, with my legs folded and arms gently resting on my knees, I tried to appear relaxed as I waited for class to start. After some long, droning, always slightly uncomfortable breathing, the instructor started the class with a question, what is your intention for your practice? (which in non-yogi language simply means, what are you focused on right now?)

But I like the word intention. It implies something about purpose, focus and well, intent.

I started asking myself, what is my intention right now?

My intention has been letting go.
Preparing to leave.
Getting excited for a new opportunity.
And feeling scared to death of the unknown.

Letting Go

I’m going to Guatemala-again! But this time I’m actually taking a year off of teaching. My school district approved a one-year leave of absence. So, I am letting go of a job that I love, friends that I cherish and a community that feels like home because I believe in taking risks, being bold and listening to that still, small voice inside that says “go” even when you don’t know where you’re going.

It’s been a year or so of processing, thinking and praying. I’ve justified and allowed myself to make every excuse in the book about why this move doesn’t make sense. This was by no means in my 5-year plan. But I am learning that life isn’t necessarily about 5-year plans. A life of convenience, comfort and control is not a life that I want to live.


I have been to Guatemala four times and every time I want to stay longer. Something in my heart longs to be a part of the culture and the language and the people. And I am finally listening to that. I leave June 21st. I’ll be serving with an organization, Mission Impact, that I have worked with before. And I’ll also get to study more Spanish. You can find out more about what I’ll be doing here.

Until then, this next month is dedicated to three of my most time consuming enemies: packing, organizing, and moving.

Maybe my intention this next month shouldn’t be to dance. sing. floss. travel…but rather, to change. balance. enjoy. trust. Maybe Lululemon will put my motto on their next reusable bag, hmm? Maybe.


Filed under Travel & Perspective

Why the Church Needs to Throw More Parties

I have been curled up in a coffee shop for most of the morning. I have a list of things to do: thank you letters to write, papers to grade and emails to respond to. Each task warrants my attention, but the truth is I am distracted. My heart and mind feel mixed up and overwhelmed, like a dryer that keeps spinning around the same wet mess of clothes all jumbled up and intertwined. I have all of these ideas cycling through my head, but I can’t make sense of them yet.

Conferences have a way of doing this to me. They suck you in with thousands of great ideas and inspirational thoughts and then spit you out to sort through them all. blah.

Sorting Through

So now I am doing the sorting through, processing and thinking about. I spent two full days last week at Catalyst, a conference geared for church leaders, pastors and directors of non-profits— none of which entirely define me, but all which deeply affect me.

Perhaps the best part of the conference was that these people- these pastors, authors, media analysts, creative visionaries, artists and non-profit directors believe that there is hope for this next generation. They believe that the church has to change. And that excites me.

Hope for Change

I have been in the church for most of my life, but I have probably struggled more in the past year to fit in at a church. I sometimes wonder where is there room for a left-leaning, creative, passionate follower of Christ who wants to engage in dialogue not doctrine, and whole-heartily believes that we should spend more time loving people for who they are than lecturing them about right from wrong.

I confess: I know that I am young and I have a lot to learn, but I am seeking to understand and live like this man named Jesus. I am trying to make sense of this radical, subversive man who honored and acknowledged women in a culture where they lived as second-class citizens, who sough out and actually chose to spend time with the tax collectors, the sick and the marginalized. Jesus’ harshest judgments and warnings were for us; for me, the Pharisees, the church goers. What does that mean for me? For you? For the church?

Called to Love

I believe somewhere we have inadvertently taken authority to be the judge of people and society. I can’t remember where I read or heard this (so forgive me for not giving credit where credit is due) but it went something like this: God’s job is to judge, the Holy Spirit convicts and we are called to love. That’s it.

Andy Stanley, one of the speakers at the conference, challenged a room full of 3,000 leaders of this next generation, What if we lived this out? What if we embraced and preached and acted upon Jesus’ command to “Love one another.” In John 13 he says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” I have heard this passage numerous times, but I have never let it resonate and ring so clearly. Imagine if people knew Christians because of our love? I mean really imagine it–Imagine what our world would be like if people thought…hmm, I want to be a part of that church because they are so loving. Or imagine if people thought…wow, that person doesn’t agree with me, but they really love and care about me. This is radical. And it was radical back then in Jesus’ day and it still is 2,000 years later.

Reggie Joiner, the founder and CEO is of reThink Group, a organization that helps churches connect with this next generation, reminded us that the church is called to be like the father in the prodigal son story. Our job is welcome people, embrace them and shower them with love and forgiveness. This is where people meet Christ and this is how people change. People don’t change by shame and guilt, they change through relationships and love. He left us with this question: Where will people go when they have wandered away from the church? He added, “It’s not if, but when. Because the truth is we all know people who will or already have wandered away from church. It’s part of this generation’s process. But he challenged us “You want to be sure that they can wander back to your church to be welcomed and embraced.”

Just like the father in Luke 15 who when he saw his son far off he was “filled with compassion [so] he ran to him [and] threw his arms around him.

And then…

the story says that the Father threw his son a party. Yep, a party.

My hope is that church can throw a lot more parties in the years to come.


Filed under Faith & Culture

I bought a brush

Something you may not know about me is that I don’t own a brush. Really.

See people with curly hair don’t really brush their hair. In high school I used to watch girls stand in front of the mirror and brush their long, smooth locks with envy. I wanted to brush my hair, too. If I was lucky I could run my fingers through my curly hair and then re-scrunch it, but that was it because usually when you brush curly hair it just ends up resembling the mane of a lion. Think huge frizzy, poofy fro! Not so pretty.

But this past weekend, I bought a brush.
And I actually got it use it to brush my hair, my straight hair!

A few months ago one of my students kept pestering me to straighten my hair. In order to silence her requests I agreed, only if she passed all of her classes. And even though she is one of my favorite students, she failed two classes last term so I felt fairly confident about my end of the bargain. By the way they don’t teach you these classroom management techniques in school. I mean betting with students is probably frowned upon, but for some reason it motivated her. Our term ended last Friday and low and behold- she passed ALL of her classes!

Hence Ms. Acker with straight hair:

Hair really shouldn’t be that big of deal, right? I mean most people change their hairstyle or hair color and life goes on after a few initial comments and reactions. But my hair has been curly for most of my life and I rarely; I mean rarely change anything about it. I think I used the same silver barrette for 4 years of high school: half-up, half down, every day. For years my far cooler and fashionable younger sister has hinted that I should “change it up” every now and then, but I don’t. I’m a creature of habit and I don’t do change that well. Not with my hair, not with moving, not with anything. Change is hard for me.

But sometimes I think its needed and even necessary. And maybe that’s why it takes a silly thing like making a bet with a student to usher in something new and different. I don’t think I’ll keep my hair straight forever, but it’s a nice little brush with change (yes, pun intended.)

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Filed under Neither Here, Nor There

letting go and hanging on

Last night I celebrated the end of 2009 with my two, wonderful sisters, all dressed up and out for a night on the town. So it seems quite appropriate that I welcomed the beginning of 2010 with a lazy morning in my uggs, all curled up on the couch with absolutely no plans for the afternoon.

I am convinced that one of the reasons this time of year with all of its’ fancy festivities and holiday traditions is so hard for many people is because it comes with a lot of expectations.

Sometimes there are expectations that I call the “keep it the way it is” expectation. These are the desires to keep things the way they are simply because this is the way it’s always been. These are the people who hang on to the tradition and the routine just because. It’s seems a bit ironic, but expecting things to stay the same, the way they’ve always been, is still an expectation.

And then there are the other kind of expectations, the kinds that hope and imagine what it could be like it if only…(fill in the blank). I call these the “wouldn’t-it-be-great-if-it-could-be-like-this” kind of expectations. These are the people (ahem, yes me) who constantly are on the lookout for how to make things better or improved. These are the expectations that long for something new, something different.

But regardless of which camp you fall in, the reality is when there are expectations, there are also disappointments. Expectations lock you into a stand still and don’t leave much space for change or flexibility or…surprises.

I have been thinking a lot about expectations lately. I have always been one of those people that holds high expectations for myself, my job, my family and basically, for everything else in life. But often these expectations leave me just a tad bit disappointed and discouraged because nothing seems to quite measures up to my expectations, even myself. I honestly think sometimes it’s easier to go through life without having any expectations— and then anything that happens is better than you expected!

But I know it’s not quite that simple. At least not for me.

A friend of mine gave me this passage a few weeks ago. It’s an excerpt from Helen Cepero’s book Journaling as a Spiritual Practice. She describes the tension and limitations with expectations far better than I can:

“Understanding the difference between hope and expectation is critical if we are to allow our future to be shaped by God. Hope longs for good but is able to be flexible about how that good might appear. Expectation grasps at solutions and becomes easily attached to outcomes. When we are hopeful, our imagination and creativity flourish. But when we are locked into expectations, it is easy to turn our pictures of the possible future into an idol.”

“Expectations assume that everything will turn out as predicted…but sometimes our expectations must die in order for us to live in hope. When our expectations are dashed our prayer then needs to look toward the God who is not only with us but also is in front of us, forming a future that we cannot yet imagine happening out of our own effort”

I have started to ponder what expectations in my own life need to die in order for me to live in hope. It’s a humbling process, but one that I want to embark on during 2010.

This is my prayer for the year:

Lord, in my pride and insecurity I often take matters into my own hands. I try to create and build my future by my own effort, littered with my own expectations. I can become so attached to specific outcomes that I miss your mysterious presence walking with me in the process. I want my expectations to die, so I can live in hope.

May you too live in hope during the coming year.

Happy New Year!

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Filed under The F-Word

My five favorite words

I like gifts. I like getting them and probably equally, I like giving them. In fact I think five of my favorite words to hear are, “I got something for you.” My heart kind of skips a beat and I am almost instantly filled it this giddy, childish excitement. Now, I realize by admitting this I sound like a greedy, gift-obsessed excuse for a human being, but hear me out. It’s not about the gift as much as the thought behind it. Ask my roommates or closest friends–even the simplest of items, albeit a recycled plastic cup, a new pad of post-it notes or a bar of dark chocolate, all constitute a gift in my mind. We are talking small things, with maybe little or no monetary value. Just small, thoughtful gifts, heck even free things and garage-sale things. All are gifts in my mind.

Part of this probably has to do with how I grew up. My mom and dad were superb at bringing home little treasures and “gifts” from weddings they attended or conferences they were at. They’d walk in and say “Michelle, we got something for you.” And that was all it took. With eager eyes and anticipation, I would tear open the little bag to find a collection of hotel containers, filled with shampoo, conditioner and lotion…and even an occasional shower cap! Other times my parents would creatively sneak a few extra wedding favors left over on the tables in order to bring them home for us kids. I cannot tell you how excited I got for those little mesh bags filled with mints tied in purple ribbon. (Parents: don’t under estimate how exciting these little goodies can be for kids).

All this being said, we enter the Christmas season where we’re supposed to buy, buy, buy and then give, give, give. It’s all about gifts, so naturally you would think someone like me would love it, right?

But I don’t.

I mean I do like Christmas, but I don’t like all of the pressure and urgency to buy everyone and their mother gifts. Sometimes I feel like we miss the point of giving gifts when there is the underlining sense of obligation. And in recent years I’ve started to question why and when did Christmas become defined by the marketing and materialistic kings of corporations. Now, before I start to sound like the Scrooge who stole Christmas, know that there is obviously nothing wrong with gifts. I know for most kids, gifts are synonymous with Christmas. But because I don’t have kids yet, maybe I have a little more room to think through what Christmas and gift giving means to me.

A few years ago some pastors from various churches started re-thinking how we celebrate Christmas. They found out that America spends an average of $450 billion a year every Christmas. Wow. They asked what if we chose to do Christmas differently? And out of this, a movement called Advent Conspiracy was born to encourage faith communities, to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All during this season. My church showed this film last night at our Saturday service (click here to watch it) and I felt simultaneously convicted and inspired. For as cliché as it sounds, the part that stuck out to me the most was the idea of giving the gift of presence, instead of presents. And then using the money we would have spent on that tangible present and in turn, giving it away.

In our fast paced, drive-through-Starbucks-kinda-culture, I am learning that the gift of presence is rare, but so desirable. I think more than anything else this Christmas season I want to be with people. I want to share a meal with friends and linger longer around the table. I want to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and laugh with my sisters. I want to give away money I would have spent on excess gifts and instead spend a leisurely evening walking downtown, sipping hot cocoa and looking at lights.

I want this Christmas to be different.

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Filed under Faith & Culture

thank you, portland

photo credit: curly girl design (one my favorite greeting cards companies)

It’s been a while since I have taken time to write. Usually, when my blog post stays the same for weeks on end it either means one of two things:
a) Life has been too busy or b) Pure avoidance.

In my case it’s been a little bit of both these past few weeks. I notice these patterns. When my schedule is too full, and I spend more time trying to save the world than take care of myself, all of my creative energy gets buried somewhere between stacks of paper, my ever growing inbox and the lack of adequate hours of sleep. But that’s only part of the equation. The truth is when there is something nudging at my heart and being tossed back and forth in my mind I actually (almost purposefully) try to avoid it. Sometimes I wonder if my refusing to commit words to a page is my way of pretending that this thing, this internal voice, doesn’t exist. I can try and keep it at bay, where it is out of sight, but eventually it washes back up to shore.

Usually I don’t even notice it, that is until I get away. And then it whispers loudly, clearly and purposefully, echoing in my heart and head; and my whole being:

I am longing for some change.

So, I spent the weekend away- away in Portland, visiting a wonderful city with some truly fascinating people. I mean what’s not to love about Portland…no sales tax, buffalo exchange, cozy coffee shops, scarves and boots worn out of necessity, instead of an attempt to make a fashion statement, neighborhood churches in bars, autumn leaves, Laurelhurst park, cool bridges, 3 dollar movies, and places to walk to from almost every point on a map.

I got to see some friends from Westmont and spend a few days with Whitney. We’ve come full circle- I met this lovely girl when I was a college freshman at Westmont and she was just a little, bundle of 5th grade joy. Fast-forward 9 years and now she is a college freshman and I am, well…just getting older, but you get the point. I got a chance to re-live college dorm life and remember why I don’t think I will ever miss sharing a bathroom with 16 other girls.

Sometimes it takes being away-literally away- for me to get a glimpse of what I am really longing and hoping for. It’s almost like some switch goes off as soon as I leave the comfort and conveniences of familiarity, the responsibilities of work and the ever-growing list of should-do’s and could-do’s.

I listen. And I slow down. And I settle into a different rhythm. And it’s only then that I realize I am craving something new, some kind of change.

I wish I knew exactly what kind of change, because if I knew then I would obviously follow a three-step process and voilà, change complete. done and done. check it off. But I think, I, and probably you too, know that change doesn’t happen like that. Change is a process. And the more and more I pray through and listen to this process I wonder how much of my desire for change is based on changing my external surroundings or rather changing my internal state of being. And maybe it’s a both/and, not an either/or. But I still find myself wanting to make sense of it all; trying to find the “right” words to justify and explain the longing. I am learning that it is hard to give words to some internal feeling that is not grounded in any ounce of clarity, nor does it come with the slightest bit of convenience.

What I do know is that something needs to change in my life. I am just not sure what.

The truth is I really don’t have any clarity. The dots have not been connected. But Portland did something good for me. It reminded me to listen and not avoid that gentle, whisper that longs for something more.

Thank you, Portland. I will be back one day.

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Filed under Travel & Perspective