Faithinflipflops

Living simply, loving deeply!

Keep Dreaming

“I dream a lot and I hope one day some of them come true.” Journal entry from June 11, 1986 by 16-year-old Heidi.

This weekend I am speaking at a youth winter camp. I am excited and nervous. The theme of the camp is “Encounter”. I will be speaking from Ephesians 2. The first evening I will be sharing my story of when I first encountered Jesus. As I was preparing,  I dug out my old journals. I spent an afternoon revisiting my 14, 15, and 16-year-old self. It was very enlightening, sad, encouraging, and funny all at the same time.

I read of my first concert to see Bruce Springsteen at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. I read of heartbreak from unrequited love and drama with my friends (there is NOTHING new under the sun). I read of the turmoil in my home life. I read of my coming to Jesus and how He completely changed my life. I also read it was not as easy as I remember to follow Him. I watched my life as a follower of Jesus unfold. I teared up at the pain of some of the friendships and things I lost. I swelled with pride as I watched a completely unchurched girl persevere and make tough decisions to follow hard after Jesus. It definitely was not pretty or graceful or perfect but it was real and honest and raw and full of love for Jesus.

And on June 11th, 1996 in the midst of teenage angst,I penned these words: “I dream a lot and I hope one day some of them come true.” With the following Scripture “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” written after it.

Before this entry was an entry of concern for my dad’s health, below this entry was venting about my geometry and biology exam.

I wish I knew why 16-year-old Heidi wrote those words. What was she thinking in the midst of family stuff and high school exams?

There is a song by Rich Mullins called Home. It is one of my favorites. And I want it played at my funeral (many, many years from now ;) . In it, he sings;

What I’d have settled for
You’ve blown so far away
What You brought me to
I thought I could not reach
And I came so close to giving up
But You never did give up on me

God has blown the dreams of a 16-year-old girl away. He has allowed me to do far above and beyond what I thought was possible.

I wish I could explain how important it is to dream. To take risks. To dare to believe life could be more than we think it could. To believe we can make a difference.

I wish people knew the dream giver…Jesus. And how He wants to help us reach for things so much bigger than us. And how life is meant to be lived fully.

Dreaming is important to me. I am currently looking for songs which speak of dreaming. I am printing out the lyrics as I come across them and am keeping them in the folder of a class I teach on helping others discover their purpose and dreams. There is in all of us a desire to do great things. It is God given.

I still dream. A lot. I still hope one day some of them will come true. I hope 56, 66, 76, and 86 year Heidi is still saying the same thing.

 

Nigerien Dreamin’

As many of you know, especially those who follow me on Facebook, I recently got back from a trip to Niger, Africa. This missions trip was twenty years in the making. It has taken me awhile to write about it because life has been crazy since I have been back. I also wanted to read what I wrote at church before I put it on my blog. And a very cool side note is our local newspaper did a feature on my trip. 

The article in our local paper! <3

The article in our local paper! <3

Niger is in Western Africa. It is consistently ranked 176 out of 177 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index. Life expectancy at birth is 46 years. There is a 15% literacy rate and has the highest birth rate in the world. To say Niger is poor is an understatement. It is also 96% Muslim. Niger is a hard country. Nothing glamorous about it.

map-niger

Nigeriens do not display much emotion. To cry is a sign of weakness. But they are an incredibly kind and generous people. And beautiful.

With the children at the church in Niamey.

With the children at the church in Niamey.

He was a twin. <3

He was a twin. <3

Beautiful faces of Niger.

Beautiful faces of Niger.

Patient at Cure.

Patient at Cure.

Beautiful faces of Niger.

Beautiful faces of Niger.

Beautiful faces of Niger.

Beautiful faces of Niger.

Eddie and Pastor Ali

Eddie and Pastor Ali

This little girl walked for the first time. She's 3...

This little girl walked for the first time. She’s 3…

Beautiful faces of Niger

Beautiful faces of Niger

Beautiful faces of Niger

Beautiful faces of Niger

The whole time I was in Niger, I think I cried only once or twice. I honestly believe it was the grace of God. Those who know me, know I tear up. A lot. I say all of this to preface my journal entry from the trip home. This is what I wrote on the plane ride home:

We are in the middle of our 32 hour trip home. The flight from Niamey to Istanbul was great. I had no one in my row once we left Mali and I was able to get some sleep. It pays to be short on an airplane :) I am sitting on our 12 hour flight from Istanbul to Dulles. As soon as I sat down in my seat, I started bawling. I have not cried the whole time in Niger – I have no idea why I am crying…are they happy tears? Sad tears? A release? I have no idea but it is so overwhelming , I can barely keep it together. 

Yesterday before we left, we stopped at a market to get gifts. I hate bartering. I’m not good at it. 

We stopped at Zachary’s house on the way back to Cure. Zachary is a young man who converted from Islam to Christianity. Pastor Ali has been discipling him and he was with us for our whole trip, driving and watching over us.  His whole family disowned him due to this decision. Last time Scott came, he stopped over Zachary’s Gran Family’s house and helped start the process of reconciliation. This time they brought the whole family together and asked Scott to preach the Gospel to them. They have seen the transformation in Zachary’s life. Each man of the family sat in a chair and received prayer. It was so incredibly powerful. It amazes me that our presence brings influence. Simply showing up changes lives. The same thing happened at David’s house during our first few days here in Niger.

Praying over the men at Zachary's house.

Praying over the men at Zachary’s house.

At Zachary's house.

At Zachary’s house.

We went back to Cure and thanked our Nigerien part of the team. We then went and rode camels on a sand dune in the sub Sahara. I still don’t know where Pastor Ali and Scott found 18 camels. There is nothing touristy about Niger. It was a neat experience though I had never even ridden a horse before. The Camel scared me and the fact I could not communicate with my helper did not help matters. But I survived.

No words.

No words.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Look at him looking at me. This will get framed.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Look at him looking at me. This will get framed.

Some of our team at the tops of the dunes. Love this pic

Some of our team at the tops of the dunes. Love this pic

When we got back to Cure to shower and get ready to head to the airport, our Nigerien brothers presented us with personalized necklaces of Niger with our names on them. It so touched me, knowing the hardship and poverty they face and they presented us with a gift. And I am headed back to a life of leisure.

Even as I write this I am bawling.

This is a necklace of Niger...our Nigerien brothers had our names engraved on them. I have it hanging in my car so when I drive, I always pray for Niger.

This is a necklace of Niger…our Nigerien brothers had our names engraved on them. I have it hanging in my car so when I drive, I always pray for Niger.

Crying over all I have seen and how inadequate and ineffective I feel and selfish. I want to see many come to Christ and see lives transformed but haven’t been holding up my end of the bargain with prayer. 

I want to spend my life for you, Jesus. I just don’t know what that looks like for me. I know I am doing some good things for the Kingdom of God but I want to do more. I need you to speak to me, Lord. 

I am crying again. We ate dinner just a little bit ago on the plane and I went to sleep afterwards with worship music playing in my ear. When I woke up, the Lord showed me a picture of me sitting at His feet, my head on His lap. And He asked me, “Heidi, tell me what you saw in Niger.”

 (This is what I read Sunday in Church.)

I saw extreme poverty. I saw an oppression so strong you could physically feel it. I saw a hard way of life. I saw a people living in filth. I saw children malnourished. I saw a nation not able to read or write. I saw a nation of women who have no value. I saw a nation with very few older men and women. I saw a land so hard, the people reflect it. I saw very little emotion. I saw how Islam is crushing people, giving them very little choice on how to live. I saw demonic oppression. I saw the reality of Heaven and Hell. 

But I also saw hope. And Jesus moving in real and powerful ways. I saw a people who are incredibly kind. I saw a neighborhood opened to the Gospel simply because of our presence.

I saw a Muslim family ask for the Gospel to be preached. I saw God open the door for Scott to preach the Gospel on national television in Niger. I saw a generosity in a multitude of people giving out of nothing.

I saw hope and glimpses of joy. I saw passion and drive. I saw every person’s name being taken for follow-up. I saw demons cast out. I saw the Gospel on the move.

I saw a people willing to die for a cause bigger than themselves.

I saw a group of 18 people who would have never met in America — from all generations, genders and walks of life come together for the cause of Christ. I saw them putting themselves in hardship and others before themselves — all for the Gospel. I saw people taking smaller portions to ensure everyone had enough to eat. I saw a well fixed and a neighborhood blessed and children ecstatic for clean drinking water. 

I saw a civility and genuine kindness during a car accident. I saw an incredibly unselfish culture. 

I saw a man in a tree church healed of a scorpion bite. I saw a blind man receive his sight.

I saw a little girl who never walked before, walk.

I saw that Jesus is working all around the world.

I saw Jesus is still calling people from every tongue and tribe and nation to go into all the world. And we are still our brother’s keepers.

I saw Jesus is not confined to American borders. And that fear has no place in answering the call to follow Jesus. 

Love Really Does Win!

What do I do with all of this? How do I respond, Jesus? 

Tell people what you saw, what I am doing and I want to do it in their lives as well. Tell others. Don’t be ashamed or afraid about what I can do. 

I know I am not done in Niger. The country and people are such a part of my heart. There is a lot of work to be done. Practical ways in which to show the love of Christ. Ways in which we can partner with them to bring a Gospel that is good news to the body, soul, and spirit. A dear friend and mentor of mine says ” you cannot say something is life changing until after 6 months have passed.” And she is correct. We say a lot of things in the heat of the moment. But hopefully on May 15th, 2016 my actions will show my life has been forever changed by my time in Niger. I really want to be a part of God’s dream for Niger.

Our team on the way home.

Our team on the way home.

Our whole team at the market.

Our whole team at the market.

Feet in the Sub Sahara

Feet in the Sub Sahara

Speaking at a Tree Church

Speaking at a Tree Church

Walking to a Tree church out in the Bush

Walking to a Tree church out in the Bush

Riding camels.

Riding camels.

Beautiful African sunset.

Beautiful African sunset.

The man in the hat received his sight. Amazing.

The man in the hat received his sight. Amazing.

1600 Miles of Lessons

A couple of weeks ago I drove over 1600 miles in 8 days…from the shores of Lake Erie, Ohio to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I meandered through the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains and throughout the state of Virginia. I spent some time on the Blue Ridge Parkway and drove under the bridge in Chesapeake. The mountains were in peak season. The vibrant reds and yellows were absolutely breath-taking.The sunrises and sunsets I witnessed in Duck, NC were equally awe-inspiring.

I am a nature girl. I feel closest to God in nature. Listening to the wind blow in the tops of trees or sitting on the beach, listening to waves crash fills me with such wonder. Give me a blanket on a beach staring up at the stars over any other type of entertainment and I’m a happy girl.

The Bible teaches in the book of Romans: 

Ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

You can say creation was God’s first missionary.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12)

Sunrise in Duck, North Carolina. So incredibly beautiful!

Sunrise in Duck, North Carolina. So incredibly beautiful!

Sunrise at the Outer Banks, Duck, North Carolina

Sunrise at the Outer Banks, Duck, North Carolina

This is the deer noticing me at the beach in the Outer Banks...He was not timid

This is the deer noticing me at the beach in the Outer Banks…He was not timid

This is him peering at me...the next picture was him coming towards me to check me out. Freaked me out so I took off.

This is him peering at me…the next picture was him coming towards me to check me out. Freaked me out so I took off.

Sunset in the Sound. We serve such an amazing, creative God!

Sunset in the Sound. We serve such an amazing, creative God!

Sunset in the Sound at the Outer Banks.

Sunset in the Sound at the Outer Banks.

Somewhere in VA at an overlook. Notice the river running through it. Beautiful

Somewhere in VA at an overlook. Notice the river running through it. Beautiful

Blue Ridge Parkway. Taken at Raven's Roost.

Blue Ridge Parkway. Taken at Raven’s Roost.

The leaves changing colors.

The leaves changing colors.

One of my most favorite spots.

One of my most favorite spots.

But as amazing as the beach and the mountains were during the trip, there was another aspect of His creation I enjoyed even more…His people.

These past nine months, I have helped lead a WIML Cohort. (WIML = Women in Ministry Leadership). There were 12 ladies in the cohort from all around the nation. We would have monthly 2 hour conference calls centered around enhancing our personal growth  and leadership skills. We read several books together. The ladies were also professionally coached during these nine months. The cohort culminated in a Summit at a beach house in Duck, North Carolina.

All together, there were 21 ladies staying at the beach house. The theme was “Worth it”. Some of the sessions were risk is worth, leadership is worth it, healthy rhythms of life are worth it, Holy Spirit empowered ministry is worth it, and going for it is worth it.

The times of worship were precious. It was amazing to see 21 women get to know one another. Hearing the laughter  around the dinner table and each lady sharing their story made my heart so incredibly happy. We were meant to live life together. We live in an age where we think deep, lasting relationships can be cultivated over social media. It is not enough. Social media can help but it does not replace the dynamic of being together, face to face; laughing together, crying together, encouraging one another. We must be living in community together. We need each other.

Ministry can be hard. Life can be hard. We need each other to celebrate the triumphs and to mourn the losses; to cheer each other on when we feel like giving up, to remind us that this crazy adventure God has us on is most definitely worth the sacrifice and the pain. And joy really does come in the morning.

There is nothing more beautiful than community. No mountain or sunrise or sunset and anything else in creation can compare to the beauty of God’s people.  The diversity and creativity displayed in each and every one of us is mind-boggling. And my time away at the beach house with 20 amazing ladies reminded me of this truth.

Some of the best youth in all of the land. On my way to NC, I had to take some of our youth to a college preview in VA. They are more beautiful than the mountains behind them.

Some of the best youth in all of the land. On my way to NC, I had to take some of our youth to a college preview in VA. They are more beautiful than the mountains behind them.

At the college preview, I got to spend time with the 3 of these amazing young adults. I have known them since they were kids and have watched them grow up. I am so proud of their walk with Jesus and where they are in ministry.

At the college preview, I got to spend time with the 3 of these amazing young adults. I have known them since they were kids and have watched them grow up. I am so proud of their walk with Jesus and where they are in ministry.

All 21 of us at the Summit. Amazing group of ladies. What an incredible time of laughter, worship and getting to know one another.

All 21 of us at the Summit. Amazing group of ladies. What an incredible time of laughter, worship and getting to know one another.

The 3 of us who lead the cohort. Love these ladies. We are so different but complement each other very well!

The 3 of us who lead the cohort. Love these ladies. We are so different but complement each other very well!

The ladies in the cohort. Amazing ladies in this group. World changers.

The ladies in the cohort. Amazing ladies in this group. World changers.

Got to spend time with my best friend in the whole wide world.

Got to spend time with my best friend in the whole wide world.

The 3 of us with our friend and mentor. She has so spoken into each of our lives.

The 3 of us with our friend and mentor. She has so spoken into each of our lives.

The ladies who cooked for us. Cheri says "food is the currency of relationships". The currency was amazing!

The ladies who cooked for us. Cheri says “food is the currency of relationships”. The currency was amazing!

Building community

Building community

Missions

During college I had class 8 -12 and worked 1-9, five days a week at a drug store. I had Tuesdays and Sundays off and those days were filled with student ministry and homework. Life was full. I would get up early to pray, eat lunch after class and take a 15 minute power nap. Power naps are how I survived college.

We had chapel two times a week during college. There are very few chapels I remember from my four years at school but one in particular impacted me greatly. It was a chapel on missions. Since I first heard what a missionary was in high school I was enthralled with missions. I read books on missionaries (Bruchko and Peace Child are two I highly recommend). I loved hearing the stories of people leaving everything familiar to go overseas and share the love and life of Jesus. And that morning John Amstutz spoke in chapel. He talked about the 10/40 window and all the people groups who have not heard or experienced the love and grace of Jesus. He introduced me to one of my favorite authors (John Piper) and how to use the Lord’s Prayer to pray. I lost the insert for my Bible many years ago. It makes me sad because I would love to use it when teaching on prayer. It revolutionized my prayer life and is still the model I use to pray.

I was so eager to get out of class and go pray for the nations. I skipped lunch and my power nap.

On my way to work, I sensed the Lord speaking to me (that may sound weird to some of you…heck, it sounds kind of weird to me). I felt Him telling me I could have anything I asked of Him. I thought of my work and school schedule and bills and other things but I knew all of that stuff didn’t matter.  I can still picture me driving down the highway. It was an audacious prayer of a Bible college student who believed she could change the world. I remember praying, “Lord, help the world see how good and loving You are…reach the people who need it the most and are the hardest to reach. And if at all possible, if it is not asking too much, use me.” And I prayed for a particular region of the world.

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Fast forward it 20 years. I have the amazing opportunity in November to go to Africa to be a part of this prayer being answered. There are 18 of us from our district going to a work our district started over 5 years ago. We will be in the heart of the 10/40 window. I cannot tell you how excited (and nervous) I am about going. I have all my shots, my visa application is in, and now we are preparing through studying, fasting and praying. God is slowly but surely providing my way and I am trusting the rest of what I need will come in when I need it.

There was another time I felt God nudging me to ask Him for whatever I wanted. And I am currently seeing the answer unfold before my eyes, years and years later.

I say all of that to say this: Prayer works. God delights in answering our prayers that our born out of our heart for Him and for people. Don’t give up. Both these answers to prayers have been over 20 years in the making. And both are being answered in ways I could have never ever have imagined. Keep praying. And pray for us as we go to Africa. May God’s love and grace shine through us.

 

 

Bike & Baggage

A few weeks back I began chronicling the adventures I had this summer and the lessons learned. Once I began writing I realized one blog would not be enough. This is the fourth and last installment. I am ready to leave summer behind me and embrace all God has for me this fall. Ministering in Africa and North Carolina are just a few of the things to come!

At the beginning of the summer,  I went for a 17 mile bike ride on a trail not far from my house. The trail extends from rural Kipton, Ohio to the city of Elyria. It is a gorgeous ride. The trail winds through farmland, woods, a golf course, the city of Oberlin plus more. I usually pack a lunch, take my Bible and journal and ride to the city of Oberlin and eat lunch and read and write in a park in Oberlin. I decided to go further along the trail before turning around and heading back.

Scenes from the Kipton Trail

Scenes from the Kipton Trail

On the way back, I got tired so I stopped at CVS (a drug store) to get crackers and something to drink. I ended up buying two facial washes, a huge bottle of body lotion (they were on sale) plus two drinks. Mind you, I still had five miles to go and the grade is higher going back. These purchases added an extra 5 pounds.

It made no sense for me to buy facial wash and body lotion on a scenic, long bike ride.

Not one of my brightest moves.

As I was peddling my heart out with an added five pounds of baggage, I thought about my walk with Jesus and the Scripture I had just read in the letter to the Philippians. Chapter 2, verse 14 said “Do all things without grumbling or complaining.”

Early summer was the end of a tough season for me. I was tired. Spiritually and physically. And frustrated. And angry.  Did I mention how tired I was? Bone-weary tired.  When I’m tired I end up picking up stuff/baggage I don’t need.  I begin to think in my heart “this is too hard, this season is going to kill me, I have it harder than anyone else, God where are you?” I had picked up grumbling and complaining.

I had to stop my bike and pray. And confess and apologize to the Lord for my current frame of mind and how I had been acting.

It was amazing. Once I confessed, peace and joy flooded my soul. This act of confession and repentance set me up for one of the best summers of my life. God was able to move in and through me once I put the baggage down. The ride has been smoother and easier and way more fun and fruitful!

What have you picked up? What is weighing you down in your walk with the Lord? What is God asking you to lay down so you can freely live this life He has given you with joy and peace? Confession is really good for the soul.

Beach Adventures.

This is the third installment of a blog I began a couple of weeks ago. In the first blog, I wrote about my summer and all the things I learned. I realized one blog would not be enough. A couple of the stories would need their own space. Last week I continued with my experience getting a spray tan. I still cringe/laugh when I think about it.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love the beach, thunderstorms and water. My favorite experience of the whole summer happened in early August and included all three. It was a Sunday evening and I was sitting in my favorite chair after a long day. I looked at the weather forecast and noticed a huge storm was rolling in off of Lake Erie. The clouds on the radar were yellow and red. I had this strong desire to go down to the beach and watch it roll in. It was about 11 p.m. and I texted my nieces and asked them if they wanted to go with me to watch the storm come in off the lake. Their response was “When?”.  “Now” was my reply. They were in. A friend of ours also joined us once we got to the beach.

We went down and sat on the boardwalk and watched the incredible light show! No fireworks could ever compare to what the heavens displayed that evening. Of course, we tried to capture some of it with our phones!

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I love this. I am going to try to paint it!

I love this. I am going to try to paint it!

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This was taken about 1 in the morning.

This was taken about 1 in the morning.

Love it

Love it

Amazing light show!

Amazing light show!

As the storm grew in intensity, the wind began to blow hard. I have no idea why but we ran down to the water’s edge! I think we were going to make sand angels in the sand. The wind was whipping the sand so fast and furious it felt like it was cutting our skin! At one point the wind emptied a nearby garbage can and we were being hit with garbage. Finally, rain drops began to fall. We got in the car and drove to another beach that has a cliff that overlooks the lake. Once we got out of the car we ran down the hill. It felt like we were part of the storm.  We literally danced in the rain. My nieces were running up and down the hill competing with the noise of the thunder. I know this sounds so crazy and weird but it was so in the moment and so freeing. And it made me feel so ALIVE. A couple of weeks later when we went back to the beach to watch the meteor showers and for a midnight pizza picnic the girls said the night we watched the storm roll in was one of the best moments of their whole lives. I would agree.

dance IMG_3034

I crawled into bed about 2:30 in the morning. As I laid in bed thinking about what we had just experienced, this thought came to mind “I had my nieces and a friend running around on top of a cliff in a lightning storm! They could have been struck by lightning.” :) (I guess I was living “Jesus first, others second, safety third” ;) )

A few weeks after the storm incident, the annual Perseid meteor shower was happening. I ordered pizza, took blankets and  headed back to the beach with my nieces.  My nephews and some friends joined us for a bit. We laid on the beach from 10p.m. until about 1:30 in the morning. The high school science teacher was at the beach as well and pointed out the International Space station as it passed over the horizon of the lake. Very cool.

As we laid on the blankets, watching the sky, we talked about life. The best moments of their lives (which both said was watching the storm come in), the worst moments, Jesus, school, family. We laughed a lot. We also finally made sand angels! And I added something to my bucket list. Before the summer was done, I wanted to sleep under the stars, on a beach and watch the sunrise. And we did that, too! Over Labor Day weekend, we took our blankets and a tiki torch and slept under the stars on a friend’s beach. We swam at midnight and watched schools of fish jump out of the water when we shined the flashlight on the water. And watched the sunrise in the morning before going to breakfast!

So fun...and sandy

So fun…and sandy

Making sand angels

Making sand angels

Making sand angels

Making sand angels

Nieces and nephew at our midnight pizza picnic.

Nieces and nephew at our midnight pizza picnic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What did I learn from all of this? I learned if you really want to make a difference in the lives of the people you love, you spend time with them. I learned if you really want to disciple people and help them become more like Jesus, you spend time with them. We spend our time looking for short cuts and programs to help people grow in their faith. We need to get back to the basics. How did Jesus do it? He spent time with them. We have to get back to the ministry of hanging out. The apostle Paul said to follow him as he followed Jesus. In order for people to follow us, we need to stay close.

Whose life are you impacting?

Beautiful sunrise.

Beautiful sunrise.

Laptops came with us.

Laptops came with us.

Our little camp on the beach in dawn's light.

Our little camp on the beach in dawn’s light.

The sunrise after sleeping on the beach.

The sunrise after sleeping on the beach.

 

 

Heart Shaped Rocks: A Tale of an Optimist

Mondays are my day off. I sleep in and unplug for most of the day. I try to go for a long walk or bike ride somewhere new. I stuff a blanket in my back pack along with my journal and Bible and just go.

Today I went to a place I just discovered a few weeks ago. Sheldon’s Marsh is in the next town over I never knew existed. You walk for about a mile and a half through a beautiful marsh and come out at a barrier beach on Lake Erie. The beach stretches for over a mile. Absolutely amazing. I spent most of my time today walking the beach.

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Flowers in the marsh

Flowers in the marsh

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Beautiful butterfly

Beautiful butterfly!

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Sheldon Marsh

Sheldon Marsh

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Find the heron

As I was walking I noticed a heart-shaped rock. I stopped and took a picture of it. As I continued to walk down the beach, I saw about 6 or 7 more rocks in the shape of a heart. It’s interesting after you first notice something, you begin to see it everywhere. Maybe it’s because you’re actually looking for it.

Heart-shaped rocks

Heart-shaped rocks

Heart

Heart

You find what you are looking for!

You find what you are looking for!

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As I continued walking, I began to think of all the Scripture I knew with the word heart or love in it. What a great exercise. It helped me center on God and His love. God’s love is evident all around us if we are looking for it.

And I thought about church. I love church. I get so frustrated with people who constantly criticize and make fun of the church. The Bible teaches that the church is not a building, it is the people who accepted Jesus and everything He claimed to be and have chosen to follow Him. Scriptures also teaches how much Christ loves the Church. She (the church) may be imperfect and not always live up to her potential but she is who Christ has chosen to represent Him.

As I discovered more heart-shaped rocks on my walk, it reminded me of people who say they do not like going to church or use the excuse of not going to church because the church is filled with nothing but “hypocrites”. My answer to that is whatever you are looking for you will find. If you are looking for a hypocrite in church you most definitely will find them. If you are looking for a man or woman who sincerely loves God, you will find them as well. And you know what? They are probably the same person.

I am an optimist by nature. I recently took a strengths finder test for some coaching I am doing. One of my top 5 strengths is positivity. I understand that a person can be a hypocrite and a person who loves Jesus at the very same time. I am such a person. The heart-shaped rocks I found today reminded me to keep looking for positive. Because you really do find what you are looking for. If you are looking for negative stuff, negative is what you will find. If you are looking for positive, positive is what you will find. What are you looking for?

 

 

Personal Reflections on 9/11

I wrote this a year ago in honor of 9-11. Hope you enjoy.

Faithinflipflops

9/11. This day impacts me every year. It impacts all of us. It has been 13 years since the planes were flown into the towers, the pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. It seems like yesterday that our security was ripped from us and we realized that we were not untouchable on our own soil. It seems like yesterday we lost over 3,000 of us in less than an hour. It brings me to tears every year. It is a day of reflection for me. It is the day that began the closing of one chapter of my life, preparing for the next.

I was living in Waynesboro, VA at the time on staff at a church. I had just come through a tough season. The battle had been challenging but I had overcome. But not without a cost. I was left with some war wounds…wounds that penetrated the deepest part…

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The One in Which I got a Spray Tan

In my last blog, I wrote about how amazing my summer was,  and some of the lessons that I learned. I realized while writing it one would not be enough. So I ended the blog “to be continued.” This blog is the continuation.

Lesson #3: Sin is a lot like a spray tan…it looks good and makes you feel good for a while but the aftermath is not pretty or worth it!

I had the honor of being a part of two dear friends wedding this summer. I have always liked how I look tan (vain I know ;) ) but had given up using a tanning bed a few years back. A friend suggested we go and get spray tans together a couple of days before the wedding. I was nervous because I had seen that episode of Friends….you know the one…the one where Ross goes into a tanning bed and gets confused and only gets sprayed on one side multiple times. I so could see myself doing the very same thing. The lady took me back and showed me the awkward poses I needed to do. The most confusing one was the “pose like an Egyptian”. There were two ways to do it to make sure all of your skin was sprayed. She pointed out a poster (that was to the side, outside the tube I would be in), reminded me to listen to the cues and left me on my own. It was way too complicated. I missed a couple of cues because I was looking at the poster to the side but made it out alive. As the evening went on, I began to get darker and darker and darker. In the morning I decided I liked it though it was a pretty drastic change. The day of the wedding came and I was feeling pretty good about it. I had a cute new dress. I was excited for my friends. It was a beautiful, warm August day.

The part I didn’t mention was that I was co-officiating the wedding with my boss. The place for the ceremony was beautiful. It was in a chapel on the shores of Lake Erie. It was also not air-conditioned.

When I get nervous, I sweat. A lot.

Not some dainty, lady-like perspiration but the someone-turned-on-a-faucet-inside-of-me-full-blast kind of sweat.

And I had to stand up there with the bride and groom the whole time. And the ceremony was so touching and the groom was crying and when I see men crying, I lose it. So there I stand…sweating and crying. I’m sure you know where this is headed. As the ceremony was coming to conclusion and they were announced Mr. and Mrs. I looked down and saw brown water trickling down my leg. I was mortified. And it made me more nervous which made me sweat more which made more brown water trickle down my leg. I had forgotten about the spray tan. So at this point I am in full-blown panic mode.  Now I know that probably no one noticed but I did. And it was disgusting. And it was all over my clothes. And it was coming off kleenex like foundation. The next morning I woke up and the spray tan was all over my sheets and comforter. It was a mess.

As I looked at the carnage in my bedroom, I realized sin is very similar to spray tan. It makes you look and feel good for a while but the aftermath and price you have to pay is way too high. With the spray tan there was a lot of cleaning up to do. I looked good with the tan for a while but I got to the point during the wedding with the one thought “I hope no one notices, I hope I don’t embarrass the bride and groom, I hope I’m really not peeing my pants…” A lot of us stuck in sin think the same thing “I hope no one notices, I hope I don’t get found out, I hope I don’t embarrass my family.”

The great thing about Jesus is He sent the Holy Spirit to convict us, to let us know when we are doing things that will harm ourselves or others and our relationship with Him. And even if we ignore it and end up with a colossal mess on our hands and consequences to be walked through, He is always there to forgive and get us up and on the right path again.

I will never get a spray tan again. At least I got a good story out of it.

The Summer of Finding My True North

Summer is coming to an end. Cool nights, bonfires, Friday night football games, and hoodies are just around the corner. I can hear the high school band play even as I type. The changing of summer to fall evokes in me such an overwhelming melancholy feeling…a feeling that can best be described as homesickness. September always seems more like a new year beginning than January does. I am even more sad to see this summer come to an end. It has been an incredible summer.

Back in the spring I was struggling a bit. I am 45 years old. I have been following Jesus for 29 years. I have been a follower of Jesus who has always tried to live a life of love, faith and risk.  I was feeling stuck. I felt stuck because of the decisions I had made early on in ministry (decisions that I know were God’s will for me but the risk involved with these decisions have become more evident as I have gotten older). The older we get, we can tend to fall into a pattern of playing it safe. I have never wanted to play it safe until the early part of this year.

Thirteen years ago God sent me back home to a small town on Lake Erie. To a town I love, a people I love, and a church I love. I have gotten to do amazing things and meet and love extraordinary people. But hitting “mid-life”, I realized that I had nothing for retirement, no house to call my own and I was allowing thoughts and circumstances to get my eyes off of all Jesus has called me to do.  God used a book to challenge me. Bob Goff’s Love Does was a “dead reckoning” for me, bringing me back to my true north. I am wired to take risks. I am someone who shrivels up simply maintaining. I thrive on trying new things and new adventures.  I am someone who has to have a degree of spontaneity in my life. Playing it safe will kill me. Maybe not physically but the core of who God created me to be.

This all led to some adjustments in my life this summer. I purposed to be more present. When I was somewhere, I was going to be completely there…not thinking about what I needed to do next or where I needed to go. Everyone I was around would get all of me. I purposed to spend more time with people. I have always loved being with people but I found that I had no time for people (or so I thought). I purposed to spend more time outside. I purposed to spend more time with God.  I purposed to be more spontaneous.  And the result?  It has made all the difference in the world. I have joy. I have peace. I hear from God more clearly (sometimes in the oddest of ways). People are no longer an irritant or distraction from what I perceived was “real” work. And I am really enjoying life again.

My circumstances have not changed. I still don’t have anything in retirement or own my own house. But I feel like I’m me again. The me Jesus always created me to be. There are still things that need to change in me, areas Jesus is still working on, but I am happy. More than happy, I am joyful. And excited for all the adventures ahead.

I have a lot of stories from this summer. Memories made. Lessons learned. Here are a couple of the lessons:

  1. If transporting your kayak by the inside of a car, make sure you wrap the tip of the kayak with a towel. This will save you $250 (the cost of getting a cracked windshield fixed). As I filled out my claim to my insurance company and came to the question “How did it happen?” I couldn’t help but laugh at my answer. “The tip of my kayak ran into the windshield and cracked it.”
    My kayak cracked my windshield.

    My kayak cracked my windshield.

     

  2. If you’re always worried about being cool, you will never have any fun. (My pep talk to the summer interns at our church before I sent them out to be dancing bananas, Santa Clauses, babies, and elves for our Amazing Race). *I think it can also be said that if you’re always worried about being cool, you will never take risks.

    Characters from our Amazing Race.

    Characters from our Amazing Race.

There are a few more stories from this summer I want to share but that would make this an incredibly long blog. And they each need their own space. So consider this a “to be continued”….

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