Tuesday, July 19, 2016

So...Here We Are...More than a Year Later

Well...what I wanted from this blog and what actually happened are two different things.

I wanted to blog about my missions opportunities...the process...the struggles...the victories...the actual trips...how I was changed.

But it never happened! I looked back and the last entry on this blog was about NYC - BEFORE I went.

And now, I've been to NYC twice on mission, once to Armenia on mission, and am preparing for trip #2 to Armenia.

I have only one excuse - life. Life has remained busy. This summer is crazy. So much to do...and I'm feeling the time crunch. We are half way through July. In less than 2 weeks, Dylan & I will be heading out of the country...and 2 weeks after we return, he will be headed back to school. For his 3rd year of college.

I swear I just blinked...and it all happened.

So...here we are.

My trip to NYC last May was amazing. I fell in love with the city. In love with the ministry of Graffiti. As much as I am not a city person, the energy in NYC is something I've never found anywhere else. I can't even explain it. We went to NYC again this past May...and it was still the same. Full of energy, full of people, full of busy-ness. And I loved it all. This time, we took a couple of guys with us...one of them Dylan. He had been to the city before but was not able to spend as much time as we did on this trip. He loved it too.

And Armenia in September of 2015? Equally amazing! I'm not a fan of international travel...the travel itself, that is. 12 hours on a plane is hard - especially coming West. The jet lag when I returned...a BEAR. Two months I spent trying to get back in a regular sleep pattern. But at the end of the day, when someone asked when I was going again...the answer was always "as soon as possible".

So...here we are.

T-minus 11 days. It just doesn't even seem real. Dylan & I are going with a different team than I traveled with before. We will be doing different things and in different areas. We will be doing Vacation Bible School in different areas throughout Armenia. I'm looking forward to seeing some parts of this beautiful country that I didn't see before. I'm excited to see familiar faces that I left behind almost a year ago. I'm anticipating meals lovingly prepared for our team. In other words, I cannot wait to be back in Armenia.

Three different times on Sunday alone I was asked about how the events transpiring in the Middle East were affecting our trip. Each time I had to explain that I have to compartmentalize...almost ignore these events. Because, yes, they are scary...and there is a call to safety. But, I know that God has called us to go...and go we must. There is great peace in knowing that the One who physically holds this world in place is holding me...and cares for me...and is protecting me...and will use me in whatever way HE chooses.

Surrender is hard...but so worth it. And almost always, it's easier to submit than to fight. That's what I've learned over the past couple of years. The struggle is not worth it; laying it all down before Him is.


So...here we go...into the Land of Noah. To serve. To love. To surrender. To Go.






Friday, May 8, 2015

But first...NYC Mission!

While I'm already looking ahead toward Armenia, making plans, etc., I don't want to neglect my first mission trip of 2015 which is happening TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY! It seems like just yesterday I was signing up to go...never even knowing what was really ahead of me. I, along with my best friend and two others who have become dear friends in a very short amount of time, will be traveling to New York City.

Our NYC Mission Team

While we are there we will be working with Graffitt 3 Ministries, an inner city church located in Brooklyn. I'm not 100% sure what we will be doing right now, but I know it's going to be great!

The process between signing up and our going has been quite interesting. Just a small glimpse of our lives from March to now:

 - Ashley had a stress fracture in her foot.
 - My dad was hospitalized for chest pains, was told he'd had a heart attack, they did a heart cath, and placed a stint. Found out later the artery that was clogged is called "The Widow Maker".
 - Lisa found out that she was most likely going to lose her job in the coming months.
 - Renae turned her life upside down and decided to purge & move.

If I truly tried to list out all of the things that we've faced over the last few months, it would appear to be a laundry list of complaints or negative things...however, I believe that each thing we've faced has just increased our faith! This trip has already been an amazing journey and we haven't even left.

The more amazing part? Our trip has been OVER funded! Less than a month after we formed our team, we were fully funded...and other contributions have continued to come in.

I KNOW that God wants us to go...and I KNOW that he's going to do some amazing stuff.

Please keep our team in your prayers over these next two weeks. I know that anxiety is going to increase, life will seemingly "get in the way", and we will encounter other obstacles. But I also know that God is going to richly bless us through this trip as well!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Go! (aka Get out of the boat)

Initial disclaimer: I created this blog it appears about 5 years ago. Sometimes I blogged a lot...sometimes not very much at all. I don't plan to go back and delete posts...some of them are silly...some are personal reflections...some are deeply personal things that I put out here with no thought of "real life" people finding. Just know that what is here is all me...some parts that maybe I didn't want to show everyone...but I'm ok with it now. That being said...feel free to poke around...see what you can see. From this point forward, this blog will become an online journal of sorts. Because you see...there are some big things on the horizon for me. :)

I am not generally one to put a vague Facebook post out there...in fact, if you know me at all, you know that this is truly one of my pet peeves. However, yesterday...I committed the Facebook cardinal sin and posted a vague status -
"When God says "go"...its best to just go...stay tuned...big things ahead!"
I know that some people were VERY curious...because they commented! And it's not that I didn't want to share the BIG things ahead, but I needed to do so with much more explanation. Because the where I'm going is important, but to me the how I got to where I am now is even more important. So, I figured the best way to truly let everyone in on what's going on was to post part of an e-mail that I sent to Ashley (my BFF) on Friday (slightly edited...because I have a tendency to ramble).

So…a little over a year ago (which I know thanks to the glory of TimeHop) I really began to feel like God was calling me to "something". I know that sounds vague, but I really wasn't sure at the time what He had in mind…just felt a calling, if you will. I know that it was about a year ago because it was when we started learning Oceans…the words…oh my word. If you really think through and really MEAN the words of that song…well, you know. J

Fast forward almost a year to our last Youth Leaders meeting. Now…this leaders meeting has nothing to do with anything other than a marker of time…just so you know. When I left & went home, I just felt heavy/burdened/what have you. I was still doing my quiet time in the evenings…and we were right in the middle of our Bible Study. I *think* the lesson that night was on God's plan for your life. And I lost it. I cried…I SOBBED and just really cried out to God…please let me know what you want with my life. Sometimes, I feel like my life is stagnant. I know in reality it's not…but it feels that way sometimes. Like I'm always waiting for something to actually happen. I began praying that God would reveal His plan. That I would want to do what He wanted. I confessed that this scared me but in that good way of I can't even imagine what God wants to do…and fully surrendering…sometimes it's a little scary. I mean, you know that He's got you…but you know if you really surrender, God will take you where you never thought you'd go.

Literally a week after this…NYC happens. I don't have to tell you about all of that…you've seen it unfold before your very eyes.

On Wednesday night, Renae comes up to me and says there's another opportunity to go to NYC that I'm praying about…it's in August. A whole week. The trip starts the weekend that Dylan moves back to Wake…so I don't think I can do it. BUT…here's where things get interesting. ;)

The August trip is being offered by the NC WMU (our other trip is through the national WMU).  I've been bouncing since NYC on the NC Baptist website to see other opportunities. As Bill mentioned the other night, the NC Baptists have their own women's ministry since WMU broke away from SBC as their own entity (I mean really…can't we all just be friends???) called Embrace and they have a trip in the fall like the one we are doing to NYC but it's to Boston. So…yesterday I decide to look & see what the NC WMU has…and get this…they have a trip to Armenia. What?!?!?!? That little country that Andrew's grandparents are from…from which his great-grandparents immigrated.

So, I emailed the lady. The do a "retreat" at the seminary for women - they have 2 groups that come. They teach them how to minister to the other women & children. It's all basic because most of the women haven't grown up in church. This will be their 3rd trip. They have 3 people committed to go and need 3-4 more. They will be teaching, doing worship, and doing crafts with the ladies.

I'm seriously thinking about it.

And I'm scared, for sure. I mean…it's on the other side of Turkey. Right under Georgia. The country.

But, woah…what in the world?

So…this is where I'm at…and I need some serious prayer help. I'm praying really hard that God will let me know what I should do. This is HUGE. BIG. I can't even believe how BIG this is. 
Yesterday...I committed to this trip. I will be heading to Armenia in September. You cannot even imagine all of the different emotions I've been rolling through since I saw this opportunity...excitement, anxiety, fear...you name it. I'm feeling it. I've never been outside of the country...and I'll be going half way around the world.

But, I'm so sure that this what God wants from me and for me.

I shared with someone yesterday that this is truly a "get out of the boat" trip. Committing to the NYC Mission trip I'm going on in May...that was a no-brainer. I knew as soon as I got the e-mail that I would be doing that trip.

But this is HUGE. I have to get my passport - ASAP - so I can officially join the "team". I have to raise funds. I am joining a team that I don't even know if I will know one other person.

And I'm scared. Armenia itself seems to be a fairly stable country...but it's right in the middle of a whole bunch of countries that aren't stable.

So, I'm going. Because God said "go".

I would appreciate your prayers as I prepare for this trip, as well as the NYC Mission trip in May. I know that God is going to do great things with both of these trips. I look forward to seeing how God is going to provide, grow me, and stretch me with this Armenia trip.

Stay tuned...more to come...

:)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

One Year Gone...Another Beginning

Here we are on the eve of a new year...and, as many others are certainly doing, I've been reflecting on 2014.

It was a BIG year...a crazy BIG year.

Probably the biggest year for me since 1996.

In January, I wrote a post on a word that God had given me for 2014 - TRUST. And let me say, this has been an interesting journey.

At the beginning of 2014, I had plans. Plans for the year. Things already in the books. Dylan's graduation, follow up trip, leaving for college, etc.

But I could not have even FATHOMED what 2014 was actually going to bring.

Nor how much I would be leaning on that word TRUST.

When my heart was breaking because I just knew that Dylan would move far, far away from me for school...I whispered "trust".

When I looked at my bank account and wasn't quite sure how we were going to make it to the next week..."trust".

When I was lying in bed mulling over every little thing in my life at 3am..."trust".

And just like that...God came through every time.

The school thing, I admit, was the hardest for me. How in the world could I imagine the person I had wrapped my entire life around for 18 years living 9 hours from me? I remember grieving over this thought before the decision had even been made.

And finally, one day, I just had to give it up. I had to trust. I had to say "God if you want him in Florida, then I have to know that You are going to make this OK for me."

Although, I have to say...I'm extremely thankful that God & I were on the same page about keeping him in North Carolina. ;)

Ultimately on the school thing...I just prayed that God would make it crystal clear where He wanted Dylan.

Boy, did He.

I don't think I'll ever forget the day that the envelope came from Wake Forest...I didn't even open it...I gave it to Dylan to open it. He just looked at it...didn't say a word...and handed it to me.

Oh, by the way, he had already committed to High Point University. We'd paid the deposit.

I looked...and couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Basically after it was all said & done, his college would be paid for. With very little loan money. All grants.  All scholarships.  I basically couldn't afford to NOT send him to Wake.

It took a little more time for everything to process for Dylan. For me, the final decision was made. For Dylan, he wanted to consider. But a day later, he said "get the deposit back from HPU" and...here we are.

Dylan has completed his first semester at Wake. He has made friends. He has adjusted somewhat (I think there's more of that to come). He did well in his first semester. And in about 13 days from now, he'll start with his second semester.

Sometimes trust is easy...but often times it's hard. It's hard to trust that everything is going to turn out OK when we can't see the end. This year, I've definitely learned a lot. And my God has never been proven un-trustworthy. Which I kind of knew...but needed to be reminded.

I don't know what my word for 2015 is going to be yet. I have a few rolling around in my head, but I'm waiting to see what word God gives me.

But I do know that I can't wait to see what it is...and what He has in store for me this year.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Safe Friend

I was reading a blog the other day and the blogger mentioned having a safe friend. A safe friend, per her definition, is one that you can whine, complain, moan, cry to...basically someone that you can dump your stress on and they will hear you out. I would concur that this is extremely important...not only to your own mental, emotional, and physical health...but also for the health & well being of those around you.

Trust me...you need to be able to check a little anger before unleashing it on some poor, unsuspecting soul.

My safe friend would have to be my bestest, Ashley.


I have no idea when this picture was taken...I think it was after I graduated high school - either in the summer or during my Freshman year of college. I have known Ashley since she was 13 & I was 14. I know I actually have known her longer because there's a picture floating out there of a church event and she's in the background of my sister...but my first memories are from our teenage years.

Our teens at church think its crazy that we've been friends this long. I would have to say that this is probably a rare thing...

Anyway, Ashley is the one I call when I'm having a bad day...when I need to check a response that may not come across quite like it's intended...when I want to know why the skinny little boys with no shirts on are running around Walkertown...when I need someone to vent to, to cry to, to complain to. She understands when I say "my child is about to make me cuss...at him"...and she talks me down from actually harming him.

She's the one who (finally) gave me a Magic 8 ball to sit on my desk at work...because I wanted to use it to answer the ninety-eleven stupid questions that I get asked at work.

We've cried together, laughed together, done stupid crafts together, worshiped together, ministered together, and fought together.

At the end of the day...I know that if I need to unload 24 hours worth of crap on her, she's there.

And the road goes both ways.

Of course, sometimes she betrays me...and joins in with our youth to photobomb my phone...


I can't say I wouldn't do the same to her. ;)

At any rate, if you don't have a "safe friend"...you need one. You need one so that you don't unload on every unsuspecting person who has the decency to ask you "how you are doing". You need one to keep you sane.
Proverbs 12:25-26: "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad. The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray."
Of course, be careful who you choose as your "safe friend"...it must be someone trustworthy...one that won't just tell you what you need to hear. It must someone who can be a secret-keeper...or at least know when the secret should be told (for your safety or the safety of others).

Choose wisely my friend...choose wisely.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Why I Do Youth Ministry - Part Two

So, yesterday I gave you some of my "not reasons I do Youth Ministry"…and promised today I'd share WHY I do Youth ministry.

Let me tell you…Youth Ministry (and really any kind of ministry) is not for the faint of heart. If you think you can just show up, you are so totally wrong.

Because teens are difficult people. They are trying to balance being young with growing up, add in a HUMONGOUS dose of hormones making them slightly crazy…well, you just have a recipe for disaster.

But in spite of this, I love working in our Youth Ministry. Because…

#1 - I really enjoy being around teens. Some days are better than others…but I think that's true about all of us. Teens are fun loving people and I'm a fun loving person. Teens love teen-y shows, movies, and books…and my 38 year old tastes are not far off from the tastes of a typical teenager in that respect. There is nothing that can make you feel younger…and then older all at the same time…than hanging out with a bunch of teenagers.

#2 - This is the important one…I just feel this need to love on them. Our teenagers have so many negative things pouring over them that they need to go somewhere to feel some kind of positive love energy. Unfortunately, church is not always where they can find that. And I'll be the first to admit that some of our teens are harder to love than others. Some of that is a clash in our personalities. Some of that is my frustration in seeing our kids not living up to their full potential. Sometimes it's just that I'm not lovable for a moment…and that makes it hard for me to pour out what I'm not feeling. BUT, I think it's so important for teenagers to feel love from someone. They've got to have it…and unfortunately they aren't always getting that at home.

#3 - Many of our kids need people who will not only love them, but actually hear what they say. I can be honest - I don't always "hear" what my kid says. Because he is mine and my agenda in raising him is to raise him to be a responsible adult. And there are days that I don't want to hear his opinion, his reasoning, or just his general words. But someone, somewhere needs to hear those words. And I know that he has places to get those out. More than that, our kids need people who can give them wise counsel…and I don't know about you, but I never saw my parents as "wise" people (that has changed by the way…but at 16, 17, etc. they were not wise in my eyes). All kids are like that, though…they don't think their parents know jack-diddly-squat…but someone who is not "raising" them? Those people have all the knowledge. I want to give them a good Godly place to receive that wise counsel...because if they can't get it from me, they'll try to find it elsewhere. And there is no guarantee that what they will hear is truly Godly...or even good.

#4 - I am constantly brokenhearted for our teens. When our teens mess up, this weighs heavily on me. I take responsibility. I want to make sure that whatever has happened doesn't happen again. I want them to see that I truly understand what it means to make stupid, teenage mistakes that have important, adult consequences. I want to grieve with them…I want to weep with them…I want to get angry with them…and I want to heal with them. I pray for them often…sometimes collectively…sometimes individually. I just want to see them be the best part of who they are. I want to do whatever I can to encourage them in this…to encourage them to use their talents…to see that they become the best version of their self.

#5 - Not only do I want to love on them, I want to pour the love of Jesus on them. I want them to understand and know what real-time grace & mercy feel like. I want them to understand that so well that they have no other choice than to pour that out on others around them. I want them to SHINE with the love of Jesus in this very dark world. There's no way I can effectively explain God's love…I don't think I really & truly understood exactly what God did for us until I had my own child. And I know that I could never do for anyone else what God did for me. The best way for me to try to make our teens understand this is by loving them with this amazing kind of love.

I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not trying to say that I am. I've made mistakes…I've messed up…and here's the truth - I'll probably do it again.

At the end of the day, though, if I'm not willing to love our students, then I might as well not even bother showing up.

And THAT, my friends, is why I DO youth ministry. It's not for me…it's only for God's glory…to bring honor to Him. And for this time, He has given me this awesome opportunity to do all of the above. I can't imagine a more important and more fun ministry to be a part of.

Other than children's ministry…and He lets me do that as well.

:)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why I Do Youth Ministry - Part One

Recently (and by recently I mean within the last 3 months) one of our students asked me "why I hang around with children all the time". At first, I thought she was referencing my work in the Clubhouse with what I actually consider as "children"; however, she was really referring to herself and her peers. I can't remember the answer I gave her at the time…and honestly I think she was really joking around with me…but the question has been on my mind ever since she asked it.

Because really & truly, if my motives are not true…then I shouldn't even bother.

AND THEY CAN TELL WHEN YOUR MOTIVES AREN'T TRUE!

And that's what I've been considering since she asked…WHY do I do youth ministry?

So…I'm going to attempt to tell you why I do youth ministry and why I think it's important.

BUT FIRST…I would be doing a disservice if I didn't consider some of the more popular reasons that other people think that I (and my fellow youth leaders) do youth ministry.

#1 - To go on lavish, all-expense paid trips.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! While part of that is somewhat true…I do go on trips and the cost for me to go on said trip is usually covered (after I have worked alongside our teenagers at every car wash, meal, fund raiser, etc.)…there is nothing lavish about spending any more than 20 minutes in a 15-passenger van with teenagers. The smells alone will keep one from even imagining for a moment that you are going to some tropical paradise.

And lavish?  I spent one youth trip sleeping on a very uncomfortable couch every night. The most lavish part of that trip was that we had a pool at the house we were staying in. A pool that I never got into. Now…when we take a youth trip to Hawaii or a cruise to the Bahamas?  Maybe we can give lavish a little credo.

Also…I don't consider a trip where I maybe get 10 hours of sleep over a 5 day period lavish. Nor do I consider a trip where I have to keep up with 20+ teenagers lavish. I have a hard enough time keeping up with one.

#2 - Because you are still young & fun.

Yeah…no. I have an 18 year old son that will tell you all the ways that I am neither young nor fun.  Just ask him.

#3 - Because you have nothing else to do.

Honestly, I love having nothing to do. My favorite thing is to discover that I have nowhere to be and nothing that must be done. And when I find myself with this rare treat, I don't call up 20 of my favorite teenagers and plan a trip.

I lay in bed, drink coffee, read a book, and/or watch TV.

THAT's what I do when I have nothing else to do.

So…why do I actually do youth ministry?  I'll tell you tomorrow.


:)