Saturday, June 27, 2009

God on the Greenway: Getting Burned

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Have you ever heard that saying? It’s one that I should have remembered when I decided to go for a short run before getting ready for church last Wednesday. I heard that it was an “ozone action day” and that no one should really be out. Though, I figured, what’s the harm in running as long as I don’t run too long and I have water with me? So, I decided I would briefly run around my neighborhood (instead of my beloved Greenway) this time.

Things didn’t go well. I exercised for 35 minutes; half of it was running and the other half was walking. It wasn’t because I was overheated or tired (I actually felt pretty good). It was because I had chosen to wear a pair of shorts that just don’t seem to jive with me. You would think that because it’s Nike, and made for fitness, they would be great. Not so! They are awful! They ride up easily and make it uncomfortable when my fat thighs start rubbing me raw. I KNEW this before I left the house but sometimes, we lie to ourselves. For me, I just wanted a quick run and figured I could tolerate them (or that they really weren’t THAT bad). Unfortunately, they were; and I was forced to walk because of them! Argh!

Aside from that was the fact that I didn’t put sun-block on yesterday when I took the kids to the pool. I had put it on THEM (and a little on my face) but that was pretty much it. My shoulders were red, and they HURT! It’s hard to tolerate anything (even clothing) when you’re sunburned. It’s even worse for us ladies because we have those wonderful bras that we have to wear - oh yes, so comfortable!! Am I right girls?! Again…….ARGH!

The other thing I couldn’t stand was that I was running around town and didn’t have the time to spend on the Greenway. It’s a pain running in the neighborhood because that means uneven and crappy sidewalks (plus traffic). Triple ARGH!

However, all these “arghs” reminded me of something very important. All of these “arghs” are my own fault. If I had managed my time better, hadn’t rushed to find something to wear, and had taken precautions by wearing sun-block, today would have been a better running day. If I had heeded the kind of instructions and guidelines that would have made things more pleasant for me, I wouldn’t have had to go through ANY of that! For starters, I should have remembered that I have MYSELF to care of in ADDITION to taking care of my kids. If I hadn’t neglected my own well-being, I wouldn’t have sunburned shoulders. Putting others before yourself is great, but that doesn’t mean you should totally neglect yourself. After all, you can’t give what you don’t have. If you don’t take care of “you”, how much of “you” will you have to offer to anyone?

The other thing I didn’t listen to was my own self and the fact that I knew better than to wear shorts that aren’t even remotely comfortable. Yet, so often, we lie to ourselves about things. We reason, justify, and rationalize things and think we can get by (but we can’t!). We could save ourselves so much trouble and pain if we just quit lying to ourselves about stuff.

Lastly, the “ozone action day”. When I hear about stuff like that, I think “oh really? Are you going to MAKE ME stay inside?!” Do you feel that way? Do you think, “I’ll be darned if anyone is going to tell me I can’t be outside or do this/that”? I thought about that, and how wrong and prideful that is. Things like “ozone action day” aren’t meant to hinder, but to help you. There are reasons why boundaries, rules, and safety regulations are made. It’s just like how God is with us. People sneer at the Ten Commandments or other things that God says to discipline and protect us. But, when we cross those boundaries, we suddenly realize WHY they are there and that they are for OUR good (and the common good).

I may not have been on the Greenway that day, but I sure did learn a lot. In addition to never wearing those stupid shorts again, I will remember that there are a lot of good reasons to heed rules and warnings (to which my shoulders can testify). I will also remember that I need to take care of myself, and that I do that best when I’m honest with myself. In the midst of it all, I’m so glad that God helps me sort it all out and that He is kind and merciful enough to show me these things that I need to learn!!

Grace and peace to all of you!! Take care of yourself; whether it’s hot or not!! Remember, obedience goes a long way! It’ll save you from getting burned!! God bless you all!!

God on the Greenway: Power and Authority!

Last Sunday, I spent the majority of the day at my Dad’s house for Father’s Day. It was a fun day, and it ended on a high note with a nice long run in the evening once I got home. Lately, I had been driving to the Greenway and running just the four miles. Though, I tend to push harder and run longer when I just run straight from my house for some reason. So, I decided to do that.

It’s 1-2 miles from my house to the Greenway. Then, the Greenway itself is two miles one way and then you have to run the two miles back. So, I ran a full 5-6 miles in 81 minutes without stopping (well, aside from the two seconds I lost when I had to pick up my dropped iPod). It was unbelievable! I think the longest I had run before that was 75 minutes. Needless to say, I was so tired!! My knees, feet, and hips were feeling it the worst. However, I felt incredibly accomplished as I sat on the bench that muggy evening; drenched from head to toe in sweat. Then, I walked from the Greenway back home; eager to get a shower!

I’m always amazed by the strength God gives me to persevere and finish; especially when there are obstacles in the way. Most of the time, I’m my own obstacle (that is, my aching body). Other times, it’s things like geese. That run happened to be the face-off between me and those obstinate little boogers!

It happened when I was almost at 60 minutes. I was really starting to struggle to keep going, but I wanted to at LEAST run 60. I was two minutes away when I saw those stubborn geese up ahead! I knew that the time to stand my ground had come. I thought of 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” I wasn’t going to fear these geese anymore, and I was not going to be intimidated by the assumption that their hisses might turn to bites and that I would be chased by them all over creation. I also thought of Matthew 17:20 in which Jesus says: “….for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

So, would I have mustard seed faith and pray the geese out of my way? At first, I wondered. In a way, praying for geese to move just seemed so silly. I thought, “can I do that?“ Sure I could! That verse doesn’t only apply to mountains, but to ANYTHING! Big or small, yeah, you sure can ask that mountain (or goose) to MOVE!! Gosh, I even remember praying for someone’s hangnail to quit hurting once. We all thought a little silly for praying for something so seemingly “insignificant”, but realized that God wants us to bring every big or small request to Him. He’s not going to be like, “Are you kidding me? A hangnail? Geese? Don’t waste my time!“ No, God isn’t like that. He wants to show us that He’s God in every situation. So, I decided to pray those geese out of the way!

I was probably 100 feet away from them when I stretched out my hand in front of me and said, “in the name of Jesus, MOVE!” They started walking, but they weren’t off the path completely. I kept saying that over and over again as I started coming closer. It felt repetitive, but prayer has to be persistent. Keep pushing and praying, and you will get results! I saw the evidence of that right before my eyes!!

They were right at the edge of the path in the grass when I started to come by them. I didn’t stop running, but I did go a little slower. They started hissing at me, and I stared right at them with my hand outstretched and said sternly, “NO! I rebuke you!” Ha ha, can you imagine that?! A part of me still felt a little silly, but at the same time, I felt empowered and strengthened. You would have thought I had just rebuked Satan himself and put him in his place through the power and authority of Jesus Christ. In a way, I did. To me, those geese ARE Satan lol. They hiss and threaten you, put obstacles of crap in your path, and act as though YOUR territory is theirs. That’s exactly what Satan does too. Though, like those geese, he has to move out of the way when we assert the power and authority of Jesus Christ! Satan and his demons don’t have authority over us (unless we let them). All it takes to strip them of their defenses and schemes is the mere mention of the name of Jesus. Isn’t that amazing?! Just the NAME of Jesus makes them cower! What POWER! Praise God!! He’s amazing!!!

When I passed them, I thought I heard one of them honk. I turned to make sure none of them were chasing me in vengeance. They weren’t. I gave them a stern stare just in case. Though, it was like that honk was an impudent and stubborn attempt to have the last word; like a “you haven’t seen the last of me” threat lol. Indeed, I probably haven’t seen the last of them. They’ll be lurking around just like Satan does. It’s war, and Satan is going to keep fighting. But praise GOD that we have the victory and that he’s already defeated!! All we got to do is BELIEVE it and CLING to it! It’s truly tragic when victorious soldiers in God’s army forget that fact and that we can (and should) be waving that banner in the face of the enemy! So often, we act as though WE are on the losing side and we let the enemy trample all over us! Don’t we know who we are?! We aren’t his prisoners!!

The one other thing that was impressed upon me as I had my showdown with the geese was the fact that not only had the adult geese hissed at me, but their ducklings had too. Yeah, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander (and their little ones too). Their attitude was undoubtedly passed down to their babies. It reminded me of how legacies of bondage are passed down from generation to generation. Yet, all it takes to break free from the cycle is the power and authority of Christ. He can, and will, deliver you!! Do you want it?

That run was all about having Christ’s power and authority cemented into my heart. He’s powerful in the big stuff AND the small stuff! Nothing can take me prisoner! I won’t be captive to anyone or anything except Christ! I will hold fast to that fact and remember it always! I will continue relishing the fact that I am a child of God and that through the strength of Christ, I can do anything!! Amen!!!

Grace and peace to all of you; my fellow victorious warriors in Christ!! God has given you His power and authority. You are no prisoner! Remember that! God bless you all!

God on the Greenway: The Bridge

In the time since I’ve been running, I’ve been thinking about running my first 5k. Last week, on the Greenway, I ran just three miles. I would have run more, but it was kind of late on that particular day when I got my start (and I didn’t want to chance running in the dark again!). It took me just under 40 minutes to do. Not bad! Though, hopefully, I can do even better than that!

I was also greatly encouraged by a woman who I often see on the Greenway. I know her by her bright red fanny pack she always has (Yes, a FANNY PACK!!! Oh the horror! LOL). I was fighting a headache and was in one of those “I don’t know how I’m going to get through it” moods when she said, “keep up the good work.”

That’s always a nice boost! It’s nice when someone encourages you like that; and they don’t even really know you! I smiled and thanked her. And, on the way back, I thanked her again and said that her encouragement meant a lot to me. She smiled and said “good.” That’s the thing about encouragement; it benefits the giver AND the receiver. She probably didn’t even know just how much of a positive push she gave me until I expressed how much it meant to me. It was just one of those times where I was not feeling very well, but was trying to run a little anyways, and those five words of affirmation gave me the kind of nudge that I needed to get through it. I had prayed for strength and that I could make three miles straight. God always makes sure to give me some kind of blessing that keeps me pressing on!! He is so good!!

In addition to that, there was one other thing on the Greenway that struck me. It was the little old bridge that was closed off. It was like that the last time too. I don’t know when they’ll repair it, but for now, you have to go around it a few feet to where you are closer to the actual road. While I was doing that, I was listening to a Kutless song “Take Me In”. It’s a great worship song! “Take me into the holy of holies. Take me in by the blood of the lamb. Take me into the holy of holies. Take the coal, touch my lips, here I am.” It was so fitting that I happened to be listening to that particular song as I was going around that bridge. I was thinking, “what if there was no cross, no Jesus, no bridge to God?” If Jesus hadn’t made the way for us, we would still be waiting for the chance to be in the “holy of holies.” Thankfully, however, Jesus’ sacrifice tore that curtain in two! We all have access; relationship with the Father! Praise God!!

I may have been able to go around that bridge and come out the other side, but in real life, there are no short cuts. Jesus is the bridge. We can’t get around Him. As Chad once said, “Jesus is the only way because He’s the only one” (John 14:6). We can’t make our own “way” or expect any other “way” to get us to God. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). Without Christ and His perfect blood, we would be hopeless!! His blood restores and saves us!! Thank God for grace!

I thought of how I sometimes hear the bitter sneers of people that remark that because of Adam and Eve’s screw up, we all have to pay. I hear how unfair it is that because of them, we have to suffer too and that God is somehow unfair as well. Well, it’s like a Pandora’s box, people! With choices come consequences (whether positive or negative). It’s impossible for ANYONE to make a choice and have it not affect others somehow. It’s a ripple effect. Adam and Eve initiated the ripples and it spread. Yes, it’s unfair, but that’s the result of cause and effect. Is there anyone out there complaining about you in the same way? Is there any choices that you have made that have caused others to suffer; even though they didn’t deserve it or ask for it? Undoubtedly, we have all made choices that affect the lives of those around us. It’s inevitable. Our only hope for good is Christ and the fact that He can make the broken beautiful. He can restore! The ripples stop with Him! That’s why He did what He did; to bring us back into fellowship with Him. We have the opportunity to be in the “holy of holies” once again. The relationship that Adam and Eve damaged because of their willful sin is now possible again through Jesus Christ!! That bridge is not closed off to us!! It’s open!! Hallelujah!!

Grace and peace to all of you!! Let us not cease to encourage one another and build each other up; especially in times like these (1Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 10:25). We need each other and the fellowship we have to offer! Moreover, we need the fellowship of Christ; and intimacy with Him in the “holy of holies”. We can have that relationship; the veil is torn and He made it possible!! Blessed be our way-maker and Savior!! God bless you all!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Galilean Home "Top Ten List" and Blog Links

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed my blogs about The Galilean Children’s Home. I wanted to compose one final blog here so that I could present all the links (in case you missed reading any of them). So, here are the links….  

Part 1: A Mission of Laughter and Tears  

Part 2: Overcoming the Adjustment Period  

Part 3: New Highs and Lows 

Part 4: Lost and Found  

Part 5: What I Learned in Prison ;) 

Part 6: The Last Day  

Part 7: From One Home to Another 

 I also wanted to have a little bit of fun - “Top Ten” style. ;) So, if you want a few laughs, here’s my “Top Ten Things I Learned On The Mission Trip To The Galilean Home” (some of these will only be funny if you were on the trip or have read the blogs). 

#10 - One crying baby can start a domino-like chain reaction.  

 #9 - Anyone can sing spontaneously as if they were in a musical; and it doesn’t matter if you’re tone deaf! 

 #8 - It can be very difficult to truly make a Mennonite laugh.
 #7 - The hilly roads encourage some lead-footed drivers to go even faster.  
 #6 - If I ever want to be a magician, I have the perfect trick suitcase for it! 
120468504_c68075f6d7.jpg Caution: Magician Ahead image by bighoun 
 #5 - The Bread of Life Café serves more than just bread.
#4 - George is always getting some kind of “awar”. 
#3 - Maggie laughs like an oinking goose (even if she looks like a chicken)! 
#2 - Phil does NOT like being called Richard Simmons (don‘t ask him why, or he‘ll say a naughty word like he did in The Angel House)! 
#1 - The cell phone coverage is so bad that even the “can you hear me now?” guy would be put to shame!! 
Thanks for reading everyone!! If anything you have read has made you smile, laugh, cry, or has blessed your heart in any way, please consider blessing The Galilean Home with a donation!! Grace and peace to all of you, and God bless you all!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Part 7: From One Home to Another

Saturday morning came and we packed up our stuff in the vans. L.A. let Maggie and I go to the Angel House one more time so we could say good-bye to the babies. Na’Sean was up, but Lyric was still asleep. I was almost grateful for that fact because I knew it would probably be harder to say goodbye to him. Na’Sean gave me lots of love and smiles, and Maggie said goodbye to Abigail. We made it through our goodbyes to the babies and volunteers without any heavy tears (I guess we really did get it out of systems the night before lol). I think the only heavy things were our hearts (which are still there at the Galilean Home). It's amazing how at home you can feel in a week's time! You feel like in going home, you're somehow leaving home as well. I briefly sang the words, “I left my heart… the Galilean Home…” as we got back into the van.

We all went to The Bread of Life Café for breakfast. I ate some, but didn’t have much of an appetite. I was feeling rather emotional, but I was able to keep it together. I just couldn’t believe it was all over!

Before we left, we got to browse the gift shop a little. I got a mug for Mitch that had the Galilean Home on it. I got both of the kids a stuffed animal, and for me, I got a bluebird figurine. It reminded me of the blog I had composed about seeing one on the Greenway. It also reminded me of the fact that the bluebird didn’t just exist at the Galilean Home. The “bird” would be coming home with me. The whole experience would be going with me; even though I had to say goodbye to the place, and the people.

The ride home seemed to go by even faster than our trip down there. And, on the way back, we got to see an area that was going to be a children’s home very soon (right here in Indiana!). It’s sad that reasons exist as to why we need to have places like that, but the good news is that the kids that will be coming to the home will have a great “home” to live in. The plans for the children’s home looked great! I am touched by the vision and passion that people have to start things like that!

We arrived home and Mitch and the kids came to get me at the church. It was almost strange to see them, because they suddenly seemed so huge compared to the little babies that I had been with all week lol. They were glad to see me, though, and there were lots of kisses to go around!! Edith (one of the volunteers that came back with us so she could visit her family in Shipshewana) even got to meet my family. She and Kyla were probably the volunteers that I became so especially fond of (though I love them all!). I will miss those two the most!!

As we all went our separate ways, L.A. told us that we had all made a difference in various ways. Though, for me, I felt like the Galilean Home had made more of a difference in me than I ever could for them!!

So, that concludes my blog series about my trip to the Galilean Home! I learned so much! As much as I’ve shared, there is plenty more that I haven’t. It’s impossible to be able to adequately share and articulate the many blessings I experienced while I was there! That is why (whenever we go back - and yes, I’m ABSOLUTELY going back!) I will be taking many of you with me so you can know for yourself! Yes, you heard right!! There were a lot of people I had in mind while I was down there; thinking, “next time I come, I will have to bring them with me!” Mitch and the kids will definitely have to come, as well as lots of other family members that I have in mind. Jama and Jody (and hopefully their husbands and kids) will come too!! I’m also hoping that Shane, Amy, and Holly will want to go! Yeah, those are but a few of the ones that I would want to come (and I hope they would want to too!).

How about you? Would you like to come? Would you like to make a difference (and have a difference made in you)? If so, I encourage you to think about it! Of course, you can volunteer or offer aid with or without a “team” of us going down there!! If anything I’ve talked about has touched your heart, please consider blessing the Galilean Home with your time, money, and donated goods. Visit their website and find the “give now” page to donate through Paypal (or mail them something to their address on the contact page). Your generous donations will allow The Angle House babies like Lyric, Na’Sean, and Abigail to be clothed, fed, and cared for as they wait to be reunited with their Mamas (and if you would, please keep them and their Mamas in your prayers!). Your donations will also keep smiles on the faces of The Blessing House residents like Lance and Amy. They can’t talk, but they certainly speak volumes to your heart!!

Grace and peace to all of you!! It has been my great joy to share my experiences with you in these blogs. Next time, I hope to share my experiences with many of you in person; when we go back to the Galilean Home together!! God bless you all!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Part 6: The Last Day

I woke up Friday knowing that it would be the last day that I would get to enjoy being with everyone at the Galilean Home. Normally, after breakfast, I go straight to The Angel House to be with the babies. However, it was that time of month and I felt absolutely awful. I felt like I should rest up a little before going there, so I went back to the Mary & Martha house for a nap. I felt kind of bad for doing so, but sometimes you need to rest when you should. Too often, we are so busy that we forget to take care of ourselves, and then we burnout. You can’t give what you don’t have; and I certainly couldn’t offer my heart and my strength to anyone until I had time to rest and be restored. Besides, I hardly left those babies all week except for when I was eating or sleeping. So, I took a two hour nap.

When I woke up, I felt considerably better. And, oddly enough, I had been missed lol. Linda asked me right away where I had been all morning and claimed that the dead had awakened lol. One thing’s for sure, the “dead” felt more alive after the peaceful rest! I felt like I could be fully present after having recharged a little.

Other than the break for lunch, I was there all day until it was time for the big cookout at Jeff and Dawn’s place that evening. They had a farm with lots of animals; including a cow named Ginger (yeah, I know, the same name as the nickname Mitch calls me lol). We all had a great time, and we celebrated James’ birthday. I took a lot of pictures with everyone so I could always remember them. It just didn’t seem possible that the trip was nearly over and that this would probably be the last time I would get to see them for a long while.

Maggie and I walked the hilly roads back to the Galilean Home so we could see the babies before they went to bed. I didn’t think the tears would start coming yet, but they did. I had to try hard to keep from bawling as I spent some final precious moments with them - especially Na’Sean and Lyric. I got to play with Na’Sean a little bit and I put him to bed. I gave him lots of kisses and told him how much I was going to miss him. All he could do was smile at me, and bring his face close to mine. He rested his forehead on mine, smiled, laughed, and was just so super cute!! I could barely make myself put him to bed. I gave him more love and kisses as I put him down, and he just smiled more and more.

The tears came the most as I sat in the rocking chair with Lyric; feeding him his bottle. The flood gates nearly burst open. I kept telling Maggie, “Do something stupid so I can laugh at you.” I was just hoping that laughter would be an antidote for the tears. I managed to hold it together, but just barely.

We finally left The Angel House and went back to the Mary & Martha house. Some of the volunteers were there, and we entertained them (and ourselves) with our silliness. Maggie has the funniest laugh, and I did whatever I could to keep her going!! ;) However, it didn’t last the whole night. I went to say goodnight to her after I got out of the shower, and she was a mess. It reminded me of how the volunteers had said that the first hour at the prison, the Mamas are so happy. Then, the second hour starts getting quiet and somber as they realize that their time is almost done and they'll have to say goodbye to their babies. That's how I felt. We had laughed it up a lot and tried to have some fun, but now it was our "last hour". We both cried together a little while and hoped that it was out of our system. The week had gone by so fast! In the morning, we would be going home already..….(to be continued).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Part 5: What I Learned In Prison ;)

Thursday was a new day and a new experience. Maggie and I got to go with two of the Galilean Home volunteers (and the driver) to take five of the babies to the prison to see their Mamas. In case I didn’t explain the ministry of The Angel House very well before, they take care of babies whose Mamas are in prison. Then, when the Moms get out, they get their babies back.

It was a 3 hour drive (both coming and going!). It makes for a long day. We left at 8:00 or after, got there for visiting hours (11:30-1:30) and got back at 4:00 or so. The prison policy was that we had to wear dresses and bring our IDs. Other than that, there didn’t seem to be a bunch of red tape (at least for Galilean Home visitors). The Galilean Home brings the babies EVERY Thursday to see their Mamas (the ones that are in that particular prison anyways).

Each of us carried a baby. I had been riding next to Mya, so I carried her in. Maggie had her buddy for the week, Abigail, and the other three had the twins (Nicolas and Maddlyn) and Lyric. We were escorted through the main building and came outside where we walked down a path to the chapel they had on the grounds. Lots of the inmates were outside watching us.

We got to the chapel and the Moms were waiting. We handed them their babies, and they went to the nursery area to feed and spend time with them. Maggie, the volunteers, and I, sat down at a table and I wondered what we were supposed to do for two hours. They had a little library, so some of us got some books to read. After browsing a bit, I picked up “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis. It looked like a short read, and I had always wanted to read some of his other works besides Narnia. I read two chapters of it before it was time to go (and I am looking forward to getting it and reading it all the way soon!). That book is amazing!!

Sometimes, the Moms talk to the volunteers. Though, it was my understanding that you had to be careful about how much information you share, and you weren’t allowed to ask them about “what they were in for” or things like that. They could share it voluntarily if THEY wanted to, though.

None of them talked to us much, aside from Lyric’s Mom. I told her how much I loved his name and that in the years to come, when I heard that name, I would know that that had to be her boy. I said that he was destined for greatness; both her and the baby smiled!! I told her I would be praying for her and him and that things would go well for her when she got out. She struck me as being very sincere, and that whatever she had done to get into prison was behind her. She was a pretty lady, and looked tender-hearted. She didn’t have as much pain and hardness in her eyes like some of the other women did. I have assurance that she will be fine once she gets released.

I’m not so sure about some of the other Moms, though. I think some of them had been in prison before. Some of them even had other children; older ones. Abigail didn’t even want to go to her Mom; she clung to Maggie. And the Mom of the twins seemed so unsure of how to care for them. She would rock them for a while, and they would be content. Then, she would get up and put them down, and then pick them up again when they started screaming their heads off. It just breaks your heart to think that some of these babies might not be so well off when their parents get out. Mya’s Mom was talking about how she was getting out soon and didn’t feel ready to be on her own. Whoa! Though, isn't that how it is some times? Whether literally or figuratively, sometimes we prefer the comfort of our own prison; even if we really hate it and want to be free.

That was one of the many things going through my mind. Whether or not we are literally in prison, all of us have something that we are/were enslaved to. What’s your prison? What holds you captive? I’m sure something comes to your mind the same as it does to mind. However, the good news is that Jesus came to set us free so that we wouldn’t be burdened by yokes of slavery (Galatians 5:1). Jesus bailed us out!! He paid the consequences of our sin so we wouldn’t have to! Through His blood, we are FREE! Praise God for that!

As we took the babies and said good-bye, I could only imagine how I would have felt if it were me. Maybe some of them learned how to be tough, but I don’t think I would ever have an easy time saying good-bye to my babies. At least they get to see them every week, but that’s hardly enough (especially when they are that young!). My heart breaks for them, and I pray that they will be free from both their literal and spiritual prisons soon! The feelings of being trapped, judged, and condemned are just as real outside of the real prison walls as they are within. Though, what is that compared with the prisons we make ourselves; and live in every day as supposed “free” men and women? It made me all the more grateful for Jesus; His forgiveness, healing, redemption, and restoration. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, He offers it to you. No one is exempt!

When we all got back to the Galilean Home, we had a little down time before dinner. Everyone was asking me, “so, how was prison?“ It just struck me so funny lol. “Yeah, I just got out!“ ;) Before I had left, a few people told ME to behave - imagine that! Did they think I wasn’t going to come back? C’mon!! Ha ha! Even funnier than that was that earlier in the week, I was asked by two different staffers at The Angel House if I was old enough to hold the babies (they have a rule that you have to be 18 or older). Ha ha! Well, that’s not the first time someone thought I looked like a young “kid”. At least I know I’m going to age gracefully, right? ;) Yeah, it doesn’t take long for some to start teasing and having fun with me (which is always a lot of fun!). As Linda, the supervisor, said: “You grew on me this week, Melissa”. I miss her! I miss everyone!

Well, when I wasn’t talking about the prison trip, I was talking to some of the other Galilean Home residents while waiting to go to The Bread of Life Café in town (which is also owned by the Galilean Home). I sat with Molly for a while; taking pictures as well as showing her some. George, Effie, James, Maggie, and a few others were there to chat with us here and there as well. I even asked George (who is always so much fun, and such a great team player) what the one thing was that he wanted me to tell the people back in Indiana about him. He said: “awar” lol. “Awar” is “award” without the “d”. ;) He had been talking about an award he was getting at school for something (I don’t think anyone ever even seen it, or knows what it’s for lol). Well, whatever it was, he was all pumped up about it!

We had a great time of fellowship as we dined at the Café that night. In fact, there were some funky hats and boas on one of the hat stands in the dining area. They were calling my name. I had to put them on! I had Maggie, Molly, and Kyla (one of the volunteers) try them on too. I was wanting to get a picture of Cindy in them too, but it didn’t happen (darn!). Even George wanted to try on the hat, but opted for his napkin over his head instead. LOL

Thursday was a great day! I even got the chance to finally explore that cute gazebo they had (and took a few pictures)! Everything about the Galilean Home is absolutely beautiful! I had become so comfortable there that I couldn’t believe that the week was nearly over; even though I had originally hoped and prayed that it would go fast (yeah, be careful what you pray for! Lol). Only one full day left; then, Saturday morning would come and we would be gone.

I tried to put off the thoughts of tearful good-byes as I went to sleep that night. I hoped and prayed that Friday would be a great day; and that it wouldn’t go by too fast. Though, I was missing my kids; especially after learning that Casey was sick with a fever. At least I could trust that he was being taken care of. And, I felt as though the Galilean Home had equipped me even more to take care of him (and Gianna) because I had learned so much! Mothering the babies reminded me of why I love being a Mom! I felt that the Melissa who was leaving was going to be a better Melissa than the one that arrived………….(to be continued).

Friday, June 19, 2009

The REAL Motivator of the Day!

I’m interrupting my regular scheduled blogging about the mission trip for a special announcement………

Today, I was greatly surprised and perplexed to see in my gmail inbox that I had 42 new spark page comments and several new friend requests (and the notifications keep on coming!). Plus, I had already answered some spark mail from some new people, and I hadn’t yet been clued into why there was such a surge in new friends and tons of comments (though I was more than happy for the new fellowship!). I thought that maybe a bunch of people had been reading the blogs about last week’s mission trip and was welcoming me home or something lol. I honestly didn’t have any idea what was going on!

Then, I started reading all the comments; the outpouring of love and congratulations from friends both familiar and new. Apparently, I am the “motivator of the day”. I couldn’t believe it! Wow!!

So, from the depths of my heart, I humbly thank all of you for all your kind words! I don’t think I’ve ever received such a profuse amount of encouragement all at once!! I’m touched, humbled, thankful, and absolutely overwhelmed! THANK YOU!! Though, I want to make it perfectly clear that God gets ALL the glory for this!! Without Him, I am NOTHING (John 15:5). If I have been able to ANYTHING, it’s because HIS STRENGTH has enabled me to do so (Philippians 4:13). He has made me what I am, and I pray that He is who everyone sees when they look at me!! My life is His!

My life is good! I am doing things I have never done and accomplishing things I never thought I could all because of Jesus! I always knew that if I were going to have any real lasting success (in anything, not just weight-loss) it had to come through Christ. Yet, I didn’t fully “get it” or tap into it until 2007. That’s when I started seeing real changes in my life. It hasn’t been easy (and it’s still a struggle sometimes) but I am succeeding through surrender! Doing it on my own has never worked. My strength is limited, but HIS is INFINITE!!! Who wouldn’t want to tap into that!!

So, as my English (Mr. Tatman) always said, “give credit where credit is due”. I give all credit to Jesus Christ!! All praises due are due to HIM! I may be in the “spotlight” today, but Jesus Christ is the STAR!! Praise be to God; for to Him I am eternally indebted to!! Thank you, Jesus!! You are my coach, my rock, my way-maker, and Savior (and then some!). My success is YOUR success!! Jesus, it’s all for you!! You’re the real “motivator of the day” (and every day!!). Amen!!!

Part 4: Lost and Found

I woke up Wednesday and looked for my camera once again before breakfast. I still couldn’t find it. Unbelievable!! I could hardly stand it! I just couldn’t imagine what had happened to it!! It HAD to be in that suitcase; and yet, it wasn’t!!

I walked down to the dining hall for breakfast. As I walked, I thought about the reality of the situation. In times of unknowns, I think of a story I read in the book “Calm My Anxious Heart” by Linda Dillow (though, when searching for the story, I found it through Max Lucado). You can read the short little story through the link provided (which I highly recommend! It‘s helped me a lot!), but what it basically says is you don’t know what you don’t know. Don’t assume anything and don’t worry. I kept thinking “remember the horse” every time I was tempted to let my imagination run wild with the possibilities of my camera’s fate.

I also thought about how the camera would eventually be replaced. If I never found it, it would be a loss for a while, but nothing compared to what everyone else at the Home was going through. June is when “Mom” died (she was Jerry’s wife, Sandy. She passed away two years ago. They are the ones that started the ministry; and adopted many of the special needs kids that live there). During the week, I heard little things about her here and there, and still saw remembrances of her all around the area (like a note made on a calendar about how she “went home“ on that day). I regret that I was never able to meet her. She was undoubtedly a remarkable woman!! I was wowed by some of the stories I heard; like how one of the kids (who doesn’t talk) pointed upwards toward heaven when he viewed her in her casket at the funeral. Or, the kids who visit her grave; listening to the ground and saying that she’s waking up. Greater still is the story L.A. told us about how Medina wondered why God only took Mom’s spirit and not her body. He had prayed for an answer, and felt like the best way to explain it was in relation to Butchie (who apparently likes to wander around a lot). He said that if no one could find Butchie, it would bother everyone if no one ever knew what happened to him. L.A. said that they knew what happened to Mom. If they hadn’t had her body there, everyone would wonder what had happened to her and would never have that closure if she had just mysteriously vanished. I thought that was a wonderful way to describe it!!

Seeing and hearing everyone’s great love for Sandy was so touching to me. Losing a replaceable camera is nothing compared to losing an irreplaceable human life (especially a life like hers! What a woman!!). Thinking about all of that helped me not to think about the camera, and to just enjoy the beauty of the ministry by thinking about Sandy and how her legacy lives on. Because of her and Jerry, we were able to come to the Galilean Home and spend time with so many wonderful people (including those adorable babies!). The camera was less and less at the forefront of my mind as I just enjoyed the blessings of those little ones at The Angel House that day!!

After being at The Angel House all day (as usual!) I went back to the Mary & Martha House to hunt for the camera before dinner. I took off the comforter and the sheet (to see if the camera was mixed up in there somehow) and I even lifted up the mattress and box spring to see if it had fallen inbetween them and the wall (or gotten under the bed). I looked all around, and then I decided to unpack my suitcase for probably the fifth time. This time, I thought I would unfold everything too (even if it was a t-shirt and was as flat as a pancake!). And wouldn’t you know it, in a pair of folded jeans, there it was!! It was in my suitcase that whole time (of course)! I was relieved, and I thanked the Lord over and over again!! I then vaguely remembered that I didn’t want the camera getting bumped or damaged by sitting in the suitcase, and sort of remembered putting it in the jeans so it would be “cushioned” and safe from damage. I also laughed when thinking about what Jim (aka “Mouse”) had said earlier that day about how he sometimes hid his own stuff so well that he forgot where he hid it. Yeah, I definitely did that!! I felt silly, but was glad that I didn’t have to feel sillier had I started to let my mind go wild with suspicion that someone had taken it. What a waste that would have been! I’ll admit, the thought did cross my mind here and there, but I rebuked it and kept thinking of the horse story. ;) I’m glad I did! (The following picture is the "I'm so happy I found my camera" face lol).

It was in that moment that I totally understood the story in Luke 15:8-10: “Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

Before that day, I don’t think I fully understood the depth of that story (even though I had read about it in “Captivating” recently). Granted, everyone gets excited (and relieved) when they find lost money, but I guess I couldn’t relate to a single “lost coin” like I could a lost camera. Though, I could finally relate to that woman now! I had found something precious to me that I thought was lost, and I went about telling everyone (with great excitement) that I had found it!! Even though I was glad to have found my camera, my heart was even gladder that that story had become so crystal clear to me and that the idea of that great joy sunk in! Finding my camera was a relief and a joy; but how much MORE SO is the relief and joy of God when a precious lost son or daughter is found!! As the Eldredges had pointed out in their book, that last verse says that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God”. Did you catch that? The ANGELS OF GOD are the ones WITNESSING the joy! WHO is it that has such joy in their presence? It’s GOD HIMSELF! Your Father in heaven REJOICES with great joy in the presence of His angels when you repent! Consider Zephaniah 3:17 which says: The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Amen!! That says it all!!!

Well, I had survived yet another attempt from Satan to steal my joy and shift my focus. Once again, God turned the whole thing into a blessing and a learning experience. The whole thing was my error to begin with, but God used my mistake as an opportunity for something good. He’s so awesome that way!!

I felt like Wednesday was indeed what they called a “hump day”. I had not only gotten over that hump in the week, but the hump in the trip. It was all downhill from there. Not only was I feeling content, well-adjusted, and at home there, I was looking forward to my next adventure even more; my trip to the prison to take some of the babies to see their Mamas……….(to be continued).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Part 3: New Highs and Lows

Tuesday morning, I woke up and prayed that God would infuse me with His strength. I was confident that the Lord would get me through the week and that I would truly start enjoying the trip even more now that I had had time to adjust.

Going to breakfast, I definitely felt more at ease. Every single person was becoming more and more like family and I was getting to know everyone better all the time. I finally felt more at home, and I was enjoying the presence of God, others, as well as the peace and tranquility all around me (yeah, including the silence!).

Once again, I went up to The Angel House after breakfast. Babies are so perfect! It‘s just heaven! Maggie was with me too, until she and some other gals went into town to supposedly pick up supplies. They were supposed to be back before lunch, but they were missing for a good chunk of the day. I hassled her good once she got back lol. They were on a shopping trip instead of a mission trip; one would have thought I would have been the one that ended up doing that! Ha ha!!

While Maggie was gone, Cindy came and told me that L.A. needed our help. He had a trailer hooked up to the Mule (a golf cart type of vehicle) and he was going to take some of the special needs kids on a ride on the hills around the area. Leaving the babies was the last thing I wanted to do. If Maggie had been there, she probably would have been the one to go, but no… I had to do it. ;)

Yeah, that’s how I felt at first. I didn’t want to ride on a trailer in the heat and supervise the kids in the wheelchairs. For one, I always have trouble with “special” kids. Not that I don’t like them, but I have just never known how to relate. I have always felt awkward. I’ve always been afraid that I would upset them somehow, or not know what to do if something went wrong for any reason. I had visions of me falling off the trailer or chasing a wheelchair down a hill. I just wasn’t thrilled with the idea.

Quickly, my outlook began to change as I really got to see and meet some of the people in The Blessing House. Weldon and James (and James’ “baby”, his doll, Adam) rode in the Mule with L.A. (I think George went too, but I can’t remember). Cindy, Edith, and I rode in the trailer behind Amy and Lance who were in their wheelchairs. They can’t say anything, but Amy smiled the whole time! She’s always smiling! Lance smiles sometimes. I think it might have been Edith who told me that he likes music and that he always smiles if you sing “Jesus Loves Me”. (In fact, a few days later, I thought I would try to get him to smile when he and the other kids were outside. I sang that song, and he did smile a little).

While we were riding all around and up and down the hills, I felt the wind on my face and saw all the beauty of nature around me. I saw Amy continuing to smile and I just stayed present in the moment. It was beautiful. I was glad that I had been one of the ones to help and that I didn’t miss it (but Maggie did!! Yeah, that’s what you get for leavin‘! Lol). The more I was around those kids, the easier it got because you do start to get to know more about them, and the “awkwardness” begins to fade. I think it’s even easier because of the fact that they (and everyone down there) just LOVE Jesus! You can feel Him and see Him everywhere!! The whole part of the Lord’s prayer, about “on earth as it is in heaven”; it’s right there at The Galilean Home. It really is a slice of heaven. Everyone loves each other, helps one another, and genuinely cares. I never seen any conflict or negativity; only unity, teamwork, and unconditional love. I don’t think I have ever seen so much of that in one place!! It’s beautiful!!

The ride finally ended, and it was time for Cindy and I to get dinner started. My back (and butt lol) was glad to be off the trailer, but my heart would have loved to have had more! I’m so glad that I got to go on that ride and see all the blessings that I seen! I will remember it (and the kids) always!

I helped Cindy for a little while, until I had the opportunity to help Medina make a rug. You would think I would be all for it, but it was yet another one of those instances where I was like, “eh, I don’t know.” But, I was shown how to do it and we started weavin’ it. I think in my mind, I was just concerned that I would screw it up and then upset her or something. Or, that I wouldn’t know how to talk to her. However, we were getting it done and talking it up in no time. She’s a sweetheart! And, she’s very smart! She doesn’t have much sight, but her hearing must be impeccable! I had been humming a song from “The Sound of Music” while I was working (though rather softly). Yet, she picked up on it and even recognized it! She said, “I love the Sound of Music.” I was so surprised lol! So, I started telling her about how I had it on my iPod (Maggie and I had listened to it on the way down and Lincoln turned up the radio when he heard us singing lol). I told her I could go up to the house and get it (and my camera too, because I wanted a picture with her). So, I left for a minute to go them while Maggie (who had FINALLY returned lol) continued to help weave the rug.

As I went through my suitcase, it was no where to be found. I rummaged around for several minutes and STILL couldn’t find it! I couldn’t imagine where else it could be! I KNEW that it had to be there because I dropped it in there after looking through the day’s pictures last night before I went to sleep. However, no camera. I looked in my purse, under the bed, and all around my bed area. Couldn’t find it. I was confused, panicked, and even a little suspicious.

Well, I gave up for the time being and tried to push it all out of my mind. I figured I would look for it later that night. Yet, even in the evening, it still wasn’t turning up and I was starting to get upset. I had thought to myself “I would rather lose my wallet than my camera!” Ya’ll know me! I’m a shutterbug! And, I have already had to replace that camera once (when it broke last year) and I couldn’t afford to replace it again! I was starting to get a little tearful, and Maggie helped me look and everyone else kept and eye out for it, but it was no where to be found.

That night, I tried to rest, but I was so unsettled. I tried to ignore Satan’s attempts to convince me that someone took it (I know that NO ONE there would do such a thing!). I even thought that maybe I was being “punk’d” by Phil or something (because he said he was going to “get me” during the week as payback for the pictures I took of him that he didn’t like lol). But, none of that was the case. I just hoped and prayed that I would find it soon. Otherwise, it would bug me like the dickens and be a distraction until I knew what happened to it. More than that, I thought about all the pictures that I had taken that would now be lost forever, and the fact that I wouldn’t have them to post when I got home. I would also miss out on taking more pictures (as well as when I got home to my regular life too). I know I sound overly dramatic (and I was), but that didn’t last long…….(to be continued).

Part 2: Overcoming the Adjustment Period

I am not a morning person. Though, every day, I had to get up early so that we could be at breakfast by 7 a.m. The food was worth it (though my scale doesn’t say so lol). It was just hard to get up that early. I never feel the greatest in the morning.

That first morning, I was feeling especially blah. I didn’t sleep well and I was still adjusting to everything. People I didn’t know (or know very well) were talking to me, hugging me, and in good moods. Apparently, Phil and Cindy knew I was having a rough time. Cindy later told me that she had told Phil that she wasn’t sure if I was going to make it (LOL). I wasn’t sure I would either!

L.A. got us all set for the day and everyone knew what they would be doing. Maggie and I would be helping with lunch later on, but would first be going up to The Angel House to see all the babies and help out. I felt good about it, because I knew that babies and food were both areas I could handle lol.

Maggie and I went to The Angel House. There was a big room and there were babies everywhere! The first baby I saw (and picked up) was a little guy named Corbin. He was fussin’ in a walker and I was excited about giving him some attention so he wouldn’t have to sit by himself and cry. Some people think babies can be spoiled, but that’s not true. Babies NEED physical touch and comfort. There’s no way you can spoil them! I’ve heard over and over again about babies in orphanages that either have stunted growth (or die) from lack of touch and attention. I’ve heard that orphanages are nearly silent because babies learn that no one is coming for them, so there is no point in crying. That’s really sad!!

With that in mind, I had it in my heart that I would do whatever I could to make sure that I never had to see/hear a baby crying by themselves. There were 10 babies in that house, and with having extra help, that would ensure that for at least a week, they would get tons of individual affection and attention. At least for that week, they would know that they would never have to try to entertain or comfort themselves for long. Someone would always be coming for them, rocking them, playing with them, for more than just the time it takes to feed them or tend to their immediate needs.

It’s also funny how babies sort of pick their favorites (just as the volunteers sometimes do). Abigail adopted Maggie. They were nearly inseparable! For me, Na’Sean and Lyric were my boys more than anything!! Lyric (I LOVE his name!) was a sweet, adorable, blond haired blue-eyed infant; a cuddler and a sweetheart! Na’Sean was funny, playful, ornery, adorable, and sweet!! I wish I could have taken him home with me!! (If you want to see pictures of the babies, just ask because I didn’t feel like I should post their pictures publicly online).

Maggie and I had to leave to help with lunch, but we couldn’t wait to spend more time with the babies! In fact, aside from helping in the kitchen here and there, I spent my entire week helping in The Angel House. If I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was THERE! LOL

Even though I had thought that everything I had done that day was pretty light, my back and neck didn’t think so. After dinner that night, I told Maggie I was going back to the Mary and Martha house to shower and go to bed (even though it wasn’t that late yet). My pain and fatigue was intense!! The day had been great, but I wondered how I was going to survive the rest of the week if I was going to feel like that at the end of every day. Once again, I wondered what I had gotten into!

I showered and went to bed, but it didn’t last long. I woke up from a bad dream when I heard myself moan out loud. I was crying and hyperventilating and I couldn’t get a hold of myself. My mind was so full. My dreams were crazy! They started out as just a mixture of everyone and everything and then ended with a wild dingo that I was trying to get away from (weird, I know!). What scared me was when the dingo got my son, and that’s what woke me up in a panic.

I was sitting there for a few minutes crying and trying to breathe when Maggie came in the room. She put her arms around me and I told her all about it. Then, she prayed for me. And, in her sweet Maggie style, she told Satan to “go away” lol. I love it when she does that! She is such a pure heart! Right to the point, “Satan, go away, in Jesus name.” God bless her!!

I thanked her and started to calm down. She went to her room, and I started to think a little bit. I was thinking, “that’s right! Go away!” It was starting to become clearer to me just how assaulted I had been, and I remembered how the Eldredges had talked about it in “Captivating”. It was then that I became mad and said, “oh no, I WON’T be havin’ this!” In Jesus name, I prayed and rebuked Satan firmly and declared that he would NOT ruin or taint my week at the Galilean Home!

Before I had prayed, I was a little nervous about trying to go back to sleep. But, after praying, I felt secure. I even said the little “now I lay me down to sleep” prayer and soaked in ever precious word - especially “guard me Jesus, through the night. Wake me with the morning light.” I felt safe, and protected.

I also remembered Phil’s words at breakfast. He was talking about relying on Christ for his strength, and he also mentioned Philippians 4:7 which says: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Peace. Protection. I knew it and felt it. I also reminded myself of Philippians 4:13. I always remember it when I am exercising, but His strength is for every aspect of my life. I resolved that tomorrow, I was going to start the day by asking Him to pour His strength into me, because I NEED it and can do nothing on my own (John 15:5).

I pondered on God’s Word as I rested and began to fall asleep again. I knew that when I woke up the next morning, it was going to be a better and brighter day……..(to be continued).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Part 1: A Mission of Laughter and Tears

Well, here I go!! I am finally blogging about my trip to the Galilean Children’s Home! I know there have been many of you who have been eager to hear all about it (just as I have been eager to talk about it!). Though, there’s just so much that I want to say that it’s impossible to share it all! I had wanted to take a notebook with me, so I could write down some stuff here and there, but I forgot to bring one. I took that as a hint from God to just be present and not to think too much (which is one of my frequent prayers anyways!). What He wants me to share will be brought to my mind. Some stuff is meant for sharing, and other things are just for me and God in my own journey. What speaks to me may not necessarily be meant for someone (or everyone) else. He speaks personally to everyone in different ways. I trust that I don’t have to share every single “lesson” I learn, because He will impart the same lessons to everyone in His own timing - in whatever form He chooses. Maybe now, it will start getting easier for me to blog without being too explanatory and extensive (though, don’t hold your breath!). This is one “lesson” that will probably still take time for me to learn. ;) And, there’s a “time for everything.” Short and sweet is nice, but sometimes, it’s good to say a little more; and maybe that’s just “me”… gifting and my style. Love it or hate it, “that’s how I roll”. Ha ha!

Anyways, there was a lot of things I experienced and hid in my heart this past week (and I do want to share the variety of different things that I experienced and learned). Therefore, I am breaking it down day by day in a blog series so that everything isn’t in one never-ending blog lol. I’ll start with Sunday, the day we left (and I‘ve included some pictures in the mix. To see more, just ask - or check them out on Facebook or Myspace):

This was my first mission trip. I was a little unsure about what to think or expect. In fact, the night before, I jokingly asked if Mitch wanted to go instead lol. But, I knew that deep down, I needed to go. Ever since I had known about this particular mission trip, I knew that it was something I could (and should) do. Some of it was the fact that I always wanted to be able to say that I have gone on at least one, but I knew that God’s purposes were far greater than something on my checklist. I had the sense that this would change me in ways that I desperately needed. I just didn’t know how. Change can be scary, but one has to trust God with all those “hows.”

I tried to remember just how good the trip would be as we packed up and got ready to leave. The past couple days had been a little rough. Satan always assaults you when he knows God is going to do something big! The whole thing was out of my comfort zone (all the more reason to leave!). It’s good to break out of those zones - even if it means leaving your kids for a whole week (for the first time!). That was the main reason I was crying in the parking lot. ;)

The upside is, God always knows how to usher in some comic relief and get things going in the right direction! It was then that Maggie found something in the parking lot. It was a nut that looked like a little monkey face. We decided that this orphaned little thing would be ours; and our official “mascot” of sorts. The only name that really came to my mind when we were naming him was “Norman.” So, that is what we called him lol!! Norman brought a smile to my face and helped escort me into “fun mode.” Maggie and I had lots of laughs on our trip down there (and some where at Phil’s expense as well - you’d have to know Phil to understand! LOL).

We arrived in Liberty in good time (with how fast Lincoln drives, how could we not? Lol). We ate at Lee’s Chicken where Maggie spotted the monkey machine. And, after much work, we finally got the thing to accept our quarters so we could get Norman a family. Oh, such fun in so little time!! Ha ha!! Could it get any better?!

I was hoping for a lot more fun and adventures throughout the week as we left the restaurant and made our way to our final destination. I remember thinking, “this place is really out in the boonies!” We really had to wind around a lot of hills to get there! And, when we arrived, it was bigger and grander than I expected!! I had no idea the place was so huge (and nearly secluded - like Heidi’s grandfather’s hut on a mountaintop lol).

Maggie and I stayed at the Mary & Martha house where many of the volunteers stay. I noticed right off the bat how calm and quiet things were (and that there was no TV in there). Not that I wasn’t thrilled, but it was just odd. I think most of us forget what peace and quiet is like. There is noise of every kind in our life; whether literal or metaphorical. No TV, or distractions of that sort, is nice. Though, even a good adjustment can be an awkward one! It definitely had that feeling for me. Not that I was planning on watching any TV, but I think the idea of not even seeing one made me feel cut off from civilization or something lol. As stupid as it sounds, it was almost like someone taking your security blanket away from you. You don’t need it, but you just like to know that it’s “there”. Is it just me, or am I the only one that has gotten so accustomed to seeing some kind of electronic bombardment everywhere I go? You expect it, so it’s kind of a shock when it’s absent!

As I attempted to get to sleep that night, I cried. Reality was setting in. I was away from home; and for a whole week! The cell-phone service is pretty non-existent, and this place would be all I had. Aside from my friends, I was with strange people (including Phil. Ha ha…just kidding!). So much newness and so much uncertainty! All of it was beyond my realm of “control.” I was being forced to adjust to new normals, new people, etc. That night, I prayed that the week would go quickly; and wondered what in the world I was really doing there. I was a mess that first night!! Thankfully, God had plans for me that were beyond my comprehension……….(to be continued). ;)