Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two weeks?!

I shouldn't be blogging.

I should be packing.

But there's so much I want to write about!!!
I learned a lotta new things in the last two weeks. And am undergoing some drastic lifestyle changes. I learned that my contract as an associate of Chronicle Project will expire and not be renewed; I learned that having a degree actually works against you in this economy (ref. Matt); I learned that I don't have my flippin' degree (more on that later); and I learned that it's pretty much impossible to plan for the future - not to say that we shouldn't...

Those weren't the best series of mystery boxes, but I'm sure you're curious as to what has happened to bring about the learning of these lessons.

I didn't lose my job - but I won't be continuing as a contracted part with Chronicle Project. My contract came to close and it was evident that my position wasn't needed with Deidox up and running (check out the new site, by the way!)

I'm just going to skip to the drama -
it's been 6 months since Matt has been able to find any kind of work. He's done ok getting odd jobs here and there, but his pursuit of part-time or full-time work in grocery has lead to dozens of applications yielding very little results (and obviously not being hired). Of course I wonder sometimes if he's giving the interviewing supervisor the bird, thus keeping him from landing any positions... but have you met my husband? He's just about the easiest guy to get along with, if a little shy (must be cuz he's an artist). In any event, 7 yrs experience and college degree have, it seems to me, put Matt in the unique category of applicants that pose an integrity issue for the stores at which he has been applying. He's not inexperienced enough to be hired at starting wage, and many companies have a policy or ethic that believes an educated individual should be honored with a higher wage... or put into management (i.e. full-time and years committed to a store). But no one wants to pay for experience when they can pay less to train someone else. Matt's efforts should not be underestimated! He has spent any less that 25 or so hours a week since September applying, interviewing, searching for and driving to job opportunities; and yet, he still has no job.

This has compounded the problem of debt. When we moved to Pasadena, I'd done the math. Matt had a job and I was working with CP. This should have been enough to sustain us, but, for all intents and purposes, downsized right after he was hired. And being the first time we'd ever lived in anything larger than a dorm room, I'd not budgeted for a move or the living expenses of a house very well. Long story short, we've been getting deeper and deeper into debt since we moved.

Now, with Matt Jobless, me jobless, and a living situation we can't afford, we found ourselves in a bind last week. And inside of a few days, we realized the only option we had was to move back in with one set of parents and try to get jobs in one of our hometowns. This was a major bummer.

We'd been praying out work and debt since the third month of Matt's joblessness, and we'd always seemed to make it, even if we had to use the credit card. But this was the end of the line and it was downright depressing to find ourselves forced to leave our home because of something as seemingly simple as finding a pair of jobs. But that was the reality last Thursday.

We started telling our friends that we were going to be leaving the area very soon. Most of them offered consolation and help with the move; many said that would keep their ears open for any kind of work, but it was really too late. Even if we both found jobs, it wouldn't have been in time to pay the rent and bills. A pair of my dearest friends (who happened to be roommates) even offered to pay our rent for one more month if it would help. And a funny thing happened, I couldn't say "no." I didn't say "yes" either, but it didn't seem right to say "no." It occurred to me that moving also meant leaving our community, our church, our friends, even our beloved stomping grounds. The offer extended by my friends to us was, for whatever reason, a very profound act of community - and it struck me as foolish and probably stubborn and prideful, too, to turn them away.

And with that offer, we decided to wait. We couldn't say "yes" but we couldn't say "no." Perhaps it was divinely orchestrated, but the events of crisis we were sharing also created opportunities to go intimately connect in with time and conversation and wine that we hadn't had since our stress had set on. We ate lunch with the Chinese church and went shopping with friends and had dinner in homes - activities we had replaced with wallowing and dead-end job searches. For a few days we stopped and just lived in what we thought would be the last few evenings for a long while with our friends. And they urged us to pray with them and pray with our church - to be with them and be with Church. I was being asked with every interaction if I had prayer requests and what had my church said about our situation.

I finally wrote our pastor a somber email - I wasn't upset and I wasn't worried. I only told him our situation so that he could disseminate the information to the body and we might be blessed with intercession and company. He wrote back within the hour affirming us as family and reminding us that we are prayed for... oh yea, and an offer to cut a check for whatever we needed to get through the next month.

I couldn't believe it. I didn't even tell Matt for an hour. We didn't even write back for a day. Do communities do that? Do CHURCHES do that? I sent a few messages to the friends who had urged us to bring our situation before our church family, telling them of the good news! The response I mostly got was, "duh. that's what we're here for!" which was a precursor to "Praise God!" Matt and I talked about what we would ask for - putting aside any lingering effects of a uselessly bruised ego and thinking of only what we might need to get through to the next month. But before we finished the email, we got another message from a good friends' brother-in-law. The message from him said something along the lines of, "Hey, it's hard times, but we live in 3-bedroom condo and are only paying $1000 a month. We heard about your job situation and I also lost my job. How about we be housemates and split the (already incredibly low) rent?"

That's what happened. We thought we had needs that couldn't be met. And then we were offered a means to meet the needs. And then the needs were completely changed!
So that's where to next! Housemates in a giant house with another couple who mutually benefits. And that's the BEST part! It's not just only a blessing for us, it's a blessing for them, too! And the church who can use those funds to bless someone else! And to our community who so clearly expressed how blessed they were to have us with them!

That's it. Oh yea, and to top it off, I got a job yesterday.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Vroman's Valentine's Day Video Venture!

Okay... I was really trying with that alliteration, but it's really not much of a stretch considering the project that Vroman's put forth today! Why not call it a "video venture"?

In any event, Vroman's sent out a Valentine's Day videogram to the world and then thought, why not share the love? Let's all read our favorite romantic, sappy, mushy, steamy, sentimental passages to each other! Go leave yours on the Vroman's Blog!

Here's mine:

Vroman's V-Day Reading from Danica Northend on Vimeo.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Church Marketing Sucks talks about Deidox!

Oh man... not only do I LOVE this site, so do a lot of other people! And it's fantastic that they wrote about Deidox! Visit the site and article here.

Deidox and The Power of Story

Recently, wrote to us to let us know about their film project. They make incredibly moving short clips telling the stories of everyday people God is using, and then churches can buy and use the clips. It's a fascinating idea that's brilliantly executed, and it speaks to something much larger.

Several conversations in my life lately have been revolving around this idea: Stories matter. I don't simply mean that they interest people or that they can be funny. I mean stories change the world. When people hear a story, it connects with their imagination, and they can place themselves in that story. When they hear someone in your church is serving the poor and making a difference, they imagine what their life would be like if they were playing the lead in that movie. When they hear that people are helping orphans rise from a hopeless life, they feel the dirt of an African village crackling beneath their own feet.

In our world, stories aren't just orally transmitted like in the days of old. They aren't just Jesus telling his disciples about a metaphorical farmer. It's not a bad idea, and sometimes this is a great option. But in our world, stories can take you so close to a different life that you can feel it.

Maybe one great storyteller can relay the story of how they made a difference. Or perhaps you can use realistic audio, stirring photography and moving videos to tell a story.

However you tell it, it's important that you prioritize these stories so people can understand and believe that as humans, we're capable of so much. Perhaps you need to use a story from Deidox or the ever-popular Nooma. Or it could be that you need the pastor to interview a member of your congregation about their time at the soup kitchen.

Whatever it is, find a way to let the people of the church share their stories to show that God is alive, real and working in the world.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Whelp. They did it!, the number one Christian social networking site, is now!

I had a great conversation with Lauren Brock of the newly named Tangle about the vision and direction GodTube has taken. She said something to effect of,
"We don't want to be just a second-rate 'Christian version' of something that already exists ... We don't want to drive people away from YouTube or Facebook or anything like that, those things are great!"

But the goal of Tangle is to... well... tangle people up! - like the branches that spring from the vine (John 15) - to provide a place where people, groups, and churches sharing in the pursuit of a common faith can connect.

And boy! If I ever heard words after my own heart: "We don't want to be just a second-rate, Christian-version of something already exists." I could go on and on about the unfortunately realization of the "Christian dollar" and "Christian market." It's terribly sad that the history of the Protestant church includes iconoclasm and such a forceful divorce from our Catholic sisters that we find it common to hold service in an empty room devoid of much beyond a pulpit and wall-fixed cross.

But while Tangle takes its first steps out into the virtual world, still dealing with some kinks and beta-bugs, I must say that ought to be stepping out with some measure of confidence! Not only has the interface increased a hundred-fold in quality and user-friendliness, the design and layout are simply fantastic! I was even impressed by the use of the aesthetic little leaf in Lauren's own email signature - a common graphic seen throughout the website. As odd of a praise (regarding the birth of a social network) might be to bring before God, I am grateful and impressed by the work GodTube has done in this transformation.

My conversation with Lauren included some talk of how this new network and Deidox might be mutually benefited by a relationship. We hope that our own efforts in film reflect a similar mantra: a dedication to our art and calling that resists the temptation of poor standards because we talk about an active God, an appealing subject to the Christian market. I cannot express enough how exciting it is to be aligned with a group of brothers and sisters who feel this way, too! I hope the future brings this particular "tangle" to fruition!
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