Faithinflipflops

Living simply, loving deeply!

Living Sensibly

I was going through my old journals this week. I started journaling when I was in middle school (though in middle school it was called writing in a diary). I have my very first one…Garfield the cat is on the cover and it had a lock and a key and everything. I was SO cool in middle school that I rated my days like Siskel and Ebert rated movies. Four star days were super-duper days. Those were the days I won money betting on the Cleveland Browns (if you could ever imagine winning on the Browns) and/or a cute boy noticed me. Three stars were great days, two stars were average, one star days were terrible, horrible, no good days. Days that you wanted to stay out-of-the-way of this raging, hormonal teen-ager. It’s kind of fun (and frightening) to see how middle school Heidi thought. (Sidenote…if I charged middle school Heidi a quarter for every time she swore, middle-aged Heidi would be financially set).Needless to say, I am so thankful Jesus got a hold of me in high school.

Middle School Diary. No words.

Middle School Diary. No words.

The reason I have been going through my journals is for research for a book I am writing. I have had a dream since I was a kid to write a book. I have mentioned in another blog how I wrote a 10 chapter book when I was 10 and had my mom type it for me. We sent it to a publisher. It was rejected.

In order for a dream to become a reality, it must be worked on and walked out. Dreams coming true just don’t happen over night. They usually come to pass with a lot of sweat and tears. The fulfillment of a dream requires a lot of hard work. Bruce says it so well in his song “Working On Dream”. (I can weave a Bruce Springsteen song into anything… ;) )

Anyway…while I was going through some of my journals, I came across an entry from June 30th, 2003. It was my thoughts and reflections from reading the book of Titus in the Bible. I thought it was something I should put on my blog. So here it is.

Titus says in the second chapter that the grace of God has appeared to all men, bringing salvation. And that the grace of God instructs us (disciplines us) to 1. deny ungodliness and worldly desires and 2. live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age.

I do not live sensibly in this present age. I do not spend my money sensibly, I do not use my time sensibly (2015 Heidi has made some headway in these areas).

What does it mean to live sensibly? I have always thought the word “sensible” means boring. Someone saying “She’s so sensible” is like saying “She’s so boring.” You always know what to expect. Routine. Predictable. Is that what it really means to live sensibly? What does it mean to live sensibly?

This is what I came up with.

Sensible living:

  1.  Do not live beyond your means.
  2.  Do not commit yourself to things you don’t have time to do.
  3. Do not make promises you cannot or may not be able to keep.
  4. “You can do anything, but not everything”. (I just added this tonight. I saw it on Facebook and it so resonated with me.

Is being sensible the opposite of risk taking? (I have always considered myself to be somewhat of a risk taker). Is taking a risk a bad thing? Is living safe living sensibly?

One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes is from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Following God is not safe. It is full of risks and adventures.

So the conclusion I come to is that living sensibly according to God is not the same as living sensibly to the world. I live sensibly according to God’s ways so that I am set up to take the risks He puts in front of me when they come.

  • I can do to the mission field because I do not have debt holding me back.
  • I can say “yes” to the right risks because I am not suffering from physical ailments induced by stress because I am trying to do everything and over committing myself.
  • I can be trusted to do things that are risky because I follow through on whatever (no matter how small or mundane) is put before me because I am someone who keeps my word.

The point of this blog? Living sensibly sets us up to be risk takers.  Living sensibly isn’t so boring after all!

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to My Dad

Dear dad,

I cannot believe it has been six years since you passed away and went to be with Jesus. There is so much that has happened since you left us. Harrison graduated from high school, has a good job and is in a union. He is such a hard worker and a good man. You would really be proud of him. He reminds me a lot of you.

Penny’s girls are growing up to be such beautiful young women. They are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Penny and John have done a great job raising them! I try to have family night often with them. We play cards and eat and yell. A true Strickler tradition minus the 66 and alcohol ;) . (I sure do miss playing cribbage with you.)

I am cooking a lot more. I actually like it and I think you would love some of the stuff I’m making. I really regret not having you teach me how to can and do some other things around the house. I plan on putting a small garden in this year. I know what I’m doing there. Hard to forget you making me line the rows up with rope in the pouring down rain because the plants had to be in by a certain time and in a certain way.

I got another useless dog. She doesn’t hunt or do anything like that but she scares salesmen away. I get a reminder every month to keep my dog inside so the electric company can read the meter. I don’t understand why….the back yard is fenced in…the meter is on the outside and Woodstock is too fat to jump the fence. You would definitely make fun of Woodstock along with the rest of the family…she is kind of fat.

The Browns still suck. Nancy and Scott miss you being in their football pools. And you still can’t say Pittsburg around Karen without a violent reaction or a penalty flag being thrown. Lebron dumped us on national television but all was forgiven when he came back a few years later. The Indians are still the same.

I am still pastoring at the church. And I love it! God has been so faithful!  I quit Papa Joes a few years back. I’m not on city council anymore but stay involved by being on Planning Commission. I miss talking  city politics with you and having lunch at the Amvets. Election day isn’t the same without you. I dream one day of writing more to supplement my income.

I have been to Jamaica twice and Israel since you’ve been gone. All trips of a lifetime.

Kate, Uncle Jake, and Wayne are no longer with us.

I think often of your stay in the hospital and the day when you told the four of us girls that “we always have family” before you tried to punch the nurse. I take that to heart. You would be so happy because your girls are planning on spending Christmas together down in Florida with Bill. We are renting a beach house and spending the week. I really wish you and Jerry could be there with us. And mom and Kate. I think we have avoided family things because it reminds us of our losses. But we know we can’t do that forever. There are nieces and nephews that need to experience all things Strickler.

I miss our car rides through the Ogontz and hearing the stories of your childhood. I miss the sound of the pressure cooker rocking. I miss how you could never pronounce anyone’s name correctly. I sometimes even miss how you would yell my name when you weren’t happy.

I still don’t miss going to the grocery store with you, though. We went enough for both our lifetimes combined plus eternity. You sure could grocery shop. I really hope there isn’t any grocery shopping in heaven.

I wonder whatever happened to the whistle you would use when telemarketers would call.

The Jehovah Witnesses finally stopped coming to the door. I think she had a crush on you.

Ollie and Pongo are both gone. I think Scott still wonders how he ended up with your crazy dog! You sure could pick ‘em.

I have taken up the mantle of warning everyone as they back out of the driveway “to watch out for the fire hydrant and the flag pole.” (Remember the time you were warning me and as you said “fire hydrant”, I hit it? You didn’t let me live that one down).

I’m glad you are no longer in pain and that you are enjoying the presence of Jesus with Jerry. And that both of you are whole and healed and happy. And I know where you are sure is better than here but there are days I wish you and mom and Jerry were here with me.

I write all of this to simply say “I miss you, dad. And I love you and bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”

See you soon,

Heidi

Me and my dad.

Me and my dad.

My dad.

My dad.

One of my favorite pictures of him...on a fishing trip to Canada.

One of my favorite pictures of him…on a fishing trip to Canada.

My brother, Jerry and dad at a family Browns party.

My brother, Jerry and dad at a family Browns party.

My brother, Jerry and my dad.

My brother, Jerry and my dad.

The Arts as Worship: God is a Creative God

A couple of nights ago, I finally had an evening to paint. Life has been crazy (good crazy) and the next four weeks will be pretty much the same. So I try to work in at least one night a week of painting. It has become my happy place. My extended time with God.

I painted two pictures that night. The first one was for someone I know who is battling cancer. For several weeks I felt the Lord leading me to paint a picture for this person and while I painted, I was to use the time to pray for healing. It was a very special time. Scriptures that came to mind as I prayed and painted, I jotted down on a note card. When I was finished with it, I turned it over and wrote the Scripture references on the back of the canvas. I took it with me to the women’s Bible study I lead on Fridays and had the ladies pray over it. I know that sounds strange  but I really know that God is in this. I mailed the painting to my friend on Friday afternoon.

After I was done with that, I just painted a picture. I had no plans, no ideas, no thoughts. I just put music on and painted.

It ended up being a very bright TV. As it took form, I thought about the things that I would want people to see about me if they were watching my life, the things that are important to who I am as a person.

The Cross of Christ was central. I want people to see Jesus in me. I want to please Jesus in everything that I do.

I painted an open book. I want to be authentic. With God and with others. Being real and setting an  atmosphere  for people to be honest with themselves  and God is important to me. This was so fresh to me because at my Tuesday night Bible study that week, we had an incredible time of study and prayer and it was because the ladies were so open and honest about where they were.  True growth and freedom comes from authenticity. If we would stop lying to ourselves about stuff, God could really move and transform our lives.

I had painted a smiley face because I want joy always to characterize my life (as well as righteousness and peace….after all those are the characteristics of the Kingdom of God).

I also painted a heart. I want to strive to be kind to people. Kindness is such a rare trait. I want to be remembered as a person who was kind. Kindness stands out like a shining light in a society where rudeness and disrespect is applauded and encouraged. (Turn on any news channel)

The last picture was a cloud with the title of Bruce Springsteen’s song, Dream Baby DreamI don’t care how old I get, I never want to stop dreaming big things for God. I always want to be reaching to accomplish something bigger than myself…something that I could never do by myself – that the fulfillment of the dream could only come t0 pass with God’s help. I want His dreams for my life to be my dreams. I want my dreams to always bring glory to God. And I never want to get stuck in the dreaming phase…I always want to act on those dreams that I have so I can see them come to pass so that God can give me even bigger dreams. In my spirit, I hear the Lord says always “Dream, Baby Dream”. (God uses Bruce’s music a lot to speak to me). :) And God will still be saying it to me when I’m 90!!!

I love how God uses painting to bring things out of me. I am so  grateful that He is a creative God. I am thankful for the arts and how they point us to Him. There is nothing like listening to the music and lyrics of a song that evoke in us powerful feelings or a wonderfully written book that leaves me in wonder that words could create such a vivid picture in our imagination or a movie that inspires us to be better people and consider another point of view or a dance in which the person and the music become one and tell a story without any words or a painting that speaks to each person differently.

So grateful for the many ways God created for us to worship Him and communicate with another.

The Tale of Two Worlds: American Christianity vs. Coptic Christianity

I am a very opinionated person. As I have grown in my walk with the Jesus, I have learned to keep most of the opinions to myself especially in regards to politics. I remember a few years back the Lord asking me “What do you want to be known for? What is really worth fighting for?” This process I went through would be a subject for another blog. I came to conclusion I wanted to be for Jesus, for loving people,  and for helping people follow Jesus no matter where they were in life. I needed to live a life that invited people to follow Jesus. I needed to live a life that whet people’s appetite to know this Jesus I am so captured by.

I do not want to be known for what I am against. I had a friend during the last presidential election ask me who I was voting for. She was working for the Obama campaign and said she could tell who everyone else was voting for except me. I was pleased that she could not tell. I would say about 60% or my church are Republicans and 40% Democrats (very rough guess). I NEVER want who I vote for to keep someone from coming to know this amazing Jesus I follow. I know a lot of Christians would disagree with this philosophy. They would accuse me of being wishy-washy and not taking a stand. They would be wrong. I simply choose my battles. I served 8 years on City Council. Our city is non-partisan which means you do not declare a party. I think that is wonderful. We did not start with a dividing wall.

With all of that being said something occurred this weekend that I feel compelled to write about. Actually, two things occurred. The first is that 21 Coptic Egyptian Christians were brutally killed by ISIS. Men dressed in complete black ending the lives of 21 followers of Christ simply because they follow Christ or as ISIS puts it “belong to the nation of the Cross.” I know the reward for those martyred is great in Heaven. Those who have lost their lives because of their profession of faith in Christ have a special place. I pray for the family left behind and the other Coptic Christians who live under the threat of martyrdom.

I proudly belong to the nation of the Cross.

The second thing that happened was the release of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey”. And the debates among Christians on the internet arguing on whether or not Christians should see the movie. The irony of it. My feelings vacillated between anger and incredible sadness.

The contrast of these two events demonstrates so clearly why the Church in America has become so ineffective.

21 Coptic Christians dying in Egypt for their faith. Christians in America arguing about whether or not we should watch a movie that has no redeeming value. A movie that tells you women are nothing but sexual objects. A movie that is soft porn. And people who don’t think porn is a problem in our nation should read this GQ article.

We wonder why the church in America is sick and anemic and is not affecting the culture they are living in.

We wonder why the Church is not taken seriously in our own nation.

We wonder why people are leaving the Church by the thousands every year.

I came to the conclusion that I came to a couple of years ago…I want to be a part of the solution. I want to be a life that stands out. A life whose light shines in a world of darkness. A life that loves people. A life that prays for people. I want to be a person who is just not called a follower of Jesus but is found to be one (St. Ignatius). I really want to live a life of righteousness, peace and joy. After all, those are the characteristics (or supposed to be) of those who are a part of the Kingdom of God.

Let there be another Great Awakening in our nation and let it start with me.

Coptic Christians in Egypt brutally killed by ISIS.

Coptic Christians in Egypt brutally killed by ISIS.

Seriously?

Seriously?

Dreams, Painting, and Prayer

I have taken up painting. And I cannot believe how much I love it! Last fall I went to one of those classes in which friends get together and paint a picture. I had a lot of fun doing it and it was so relaxing. So this year as I was goal setting, I decided I would try painting on my own. I have this driving desire to keep my brain fresh. (And I’m reading a fascinating book on the brain and how you can create new grooves and stimulate different parts of it. I have said it before and will state it again…I am a nerd). I believe you keep your brain fresh by trying and learning new things. So this year it is painting.

My painting from class

My painting from class

Painting last fall in a class.

Painting last fall in a class.

 

I was a little nervous about making any kind of investment because I was not very good in art class in school. I was one of those who thought they could not draw a straight line. I even singed my hair once with the kiln in middle school art class. I definitely do not have the fondest of memories of art class (except 8th grade art…Mrs. Coton rocked!) It is funny how many of the conclusions we draw about ourselves we make as kids and teenagers and never go back to examine if we really came to the right conclusion or not.

I had drawn the conclusion that I was not very creative. I have come to realize that was a faulty conclusion. How I decorate my house, my love for writing and reading are signs of my creativity. I remember having a conversation with some friends and I made the statement, “I’m not very good at decorating. I don’t have that creative gene.” My good friend, Lesli said, “Yes, you are. You have a theme and it is very unique.” I was comparing myself to Better Homes and Gardens and other home magazines.

On my birthday this year, I went to spend the afternoon with my mentor and some other ministry friends. My plan was once I left there I was going to go to the craft store and purchase the supplies I needed to get started. As I told them about my plans, they were so encouraging. Have you ever had someone in your life that makes you feel like you can do anything? Harriet is that person to me. I am so grateful for her. As the four of them prayed over me a blessing for my birthday, I just knew that God was doing something. It was a holy moment.

This was taken on my birthday at Bill and Harriet's house. A wonderful afternoon!

This was taken on my birthday at Bill and Harriet’s house. A wonderful afternoon!

My first painting I attempted was a picture/vision I had during worship a few years back. I had the vision several times and so one day, I drew it out in my office. I hung the piece of paper on my wall to remind me of what my walk with Jesus should look like. I thought “one day I am going to get someone to paint this for me.” Who knew that person would be me!

My first solo picture!

My first solo picture!

When I started my first painting, I put on worship music and began to paint. I was so nervous that I was going to mess up. As I kept painting, I began to feel free. I realized that I could not mess up. It was my painting, my creation…it could be anything I wanted it to be and any color I wanted it to be. There was no wrong way. One of my favorite Bible verses is Ephesians 2:10 – it says, “We are (I am) God’s workmanship (His poem, His work of art) created in Christ Jesus to do good works so that we would walk in them.” That verse explains my first painting exactly. As God paints the story of my life, I am to walk in the good works He has prepared for me to do, always with the Cross before me. It was such a moving experience for me.

AS I have started a blank canvas and seen it come to life, the pleasure I feel is indescribable. I feel like I have caught a glimpse of the heart of God and how He feels as He is painting the story of my life. As He sees His purposes and plans come to fruition in me, that pleases Him.

My second painting was for niece, Madison. She saw my first one and said she wanted me to do one for her. She loves frogs so I thought I would surprise her and do one. Again, I put on worship music and painted. I spent two hours praying for her. Praying that she would know that she is God’s workmanship, that He has purposes and plans for her, that she would know how much God loves her. When it was done, I signed it and put two Scriptures on it that came to mind as I painted.

My lovely niece with her picture.

My lovely niece with her picture.

My third painting I did was for one of my sisters. One of my favorite things I have is a rock she painted for me when I was 5 or 6. https://livinglovedlivingfree.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-things/ I thought for her birthday I would paint the picture that is on the rock. The time I spent painting it I used to pray for her. I spent the time thanking God for her, praying that He would bless her and that she would continue to grow in the knowledge of how much He loves her. And I signed it and put Scriptures on it. And now I know that I will be painting intercessory prayer paintings for people in my life that I am praying for. All I want to do is paint. I have my 4th one sketched out but I can’t show it on here because the person receiving reads my blogs faithfully. And I want it to be a surprise.

the sketch

the sketch

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I love seeing a picture come to life!

 

The rock from my sister!

The rock from my sister!

 

The finished picture

The finished picture

I was thinking today what if I would have listened to my childhood/teen-ager self that said I was not artistic or that I couldn’t draw a straight line? What if I had been afraid to try? I would be missing out on something that brings me much joy. I also thought that most of the time we are our own worst dream busters. I would encourage you to try something new and do not let fear keep you from trying!

Let Your Light Shine

Last year I wrote a blog entitled,  The Tale of a Recovering Scrooge. In it I explain why Christmas has not been my favorite holiday since my mom passed away when I was 17.

I hesitate sharing another reason that this holiday is not my favorite. I hesitate because the last thing I want is for people to feel sorry for me and/or to give a false view of my life. I am incredibly grateful for where I am in life. I love what I do and whom I do it with. I am incredibly blessed. With all of that being said, Christmas is not the friendliest of holidays for singles. There is no one to open presents with on Christmas morning, no one to buy you Christmas presents (I cringe as I type this because it sounds terrible and incredibly selfish). I have chosen not to get married up to this point. And I have definitely chosen not to have children. There are positives and negatives to each choice we make in life. In the blessing that my life is, this is one negative. It doesn’t make me sad, it just reminds me of the seriousness of following Jesus in my life. People who say you can have it all, are not being honest.

Last year after a grieving through the holiday workshop at our church, I realized that I had to stop skipping Christmas. That it was time to re-engage in the celebration of the birth of Christ. I made some steps last year. This year I decided that I would hang some Christmas lights. Not a lot…. just a few.

In the past, during the summer I would hang flip-flop lights on the outside of my house. My house is pretty much decorated like a summer beach cottage and so in the summer I would hang lights.

A few weeks ago while working in my yard and cleaning out gutters, I started hanging a few Christmas lights. While I was doing this, my neighbor came over to talk to me. Six years ago, he lost his daughter to cancer and three years ago, he lost his wife to cancer. I had officiated both services.

As we stood in my front yard, with tears streaming down his face he told me how in his wife’s last days, she would have him hold her up so she could look out their back door to see my flip-flop lights. She thought they were so beautiful. And it brought her joy in her final days. He then proceeded to tell me that his 18-year-old grandson had just tragically died the week before. I had no idea. He was broken. As I hugged my neighbor in my front yard, mourning with him over his loss, I determined that I was going to go all out with Christmas lights this year. There is also a nursing home directly across the street from my house.

I had been so selfish for years, thinking how Christmas affected me and not noticing others around me. And I thought of Jesus, the whole reason for the season, who gave up Heaven, to be born as a baby so that He could show me the way to the Father. He gave up everything to die a brutal death on a Cross for me. So that I could serve God without fear and have this abundant life that I am currently living! So that I could love people more fully.

And all out I have gone! I now understand Clark Griswold’s motivation in National Lampoon’s Vacation. And it has been a financial sacrifice. I had to start from scratch with lights. And I have no idea how much my light bill will be but it is worth it. A friend of mine from church who works at the nursing home texted me last week and told me that one of the residents commented on how beautiful my lights were.

As I stood back and look at my lit house when I was finished, I remember the words of Jesus when He said to “let your light so shine before others so, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). I am taking it literally this year.

They are bright.

They are bright.

<3

<3

Love my pink flamingo

Love my pink flamingo

Nothing is Wasted

I have been getting coached for the past 6 months. I have had to look again at what my dreams are, what I value, what is important to me, dream busters, etc. Yesterday was our last conference call. We wrote our life’s mission statement. It has been a fun and challenging process.

At the same time, I have been leading Beth Moore’s Bible study, Believing God, with two different groups of women from my church. It has been one of the best Bible studies I have ever done. It has really challenged me in my walk with Jesus. I believe it has changed me. As part of the study, she makes you look back at your life and see how God has been at work in your life from the time you were born. We are now in the midst of creating timelines of our lives and recognizing how God has been with us, even in the not so good times. We have been doing this as we have studied the life of Joshua.

All of this reminded me of a seminar that I did back in 2000 called Focused Living. At the time I was living in Virginia and serving as the interim Senior Pastor. The District asked me if I was interested in permanently leading the church. The Pastor (my boss) had just stepped down. I honestly did not know if I wanted to senior pastor at that point in my life. So they sent me to this seminar. It was an intense two-day process of looking back at your life and the lessons you learned along the way. During this process I had to write a Personal Life Mission Statement. God used this process to show me that I was not called to senior pastor in that season. The process, though painful (I had to look at a lot of hard stuff I went through growing up), really did focus me.

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I came home a couple of weeks ago and pulled out the big poster of my life that I had to do during the Focused Living Seminar. It fit so well with what God was showing me through coaching and the Bible Study. On this poster, I had it broken up into segments. I was 30 when I did this and it fell into 3, 10 year segments. The first 10 years was entitled “Turmoil”, the second 10 years was entitled “Preparation” and the third 10 years was entitled “Gaining Experience”. And I had life events under each of them. Good and bad. I also had life lessons that I had learned through my experiences of my first 30 years of life. As I read them, I realized that I still live by the lessons I had learned to articulate in the Focused Living process.  The purpose of this blog is to share my life lessons of my first 30 years of life. I am 44 now. I feel strongly that God, through the coaching and the Bible study, is having me go through the same process that I went through with Focused Living 14 years ago. So I have been looking back at the past 14 years and identifying what has happened,  what God has been doing and what season of life I am in now, where He is leading me and the lessons have I learned. I shared some of this with my pastor and he asked me “What would I entitle the past 14 plus years since I last did this?” I was surprised that an answer quickly rolled off my tongue in response. I will share that in another blog.

Here are the 15 lessons I learned from my first 30 years of life:

life-lessons

  1. God will never leave me.
  2. God can take the ugliest things and situations and make something beautiful come out of it.
  3. Nothing is wasted if you allow God to bring healing.
  4. I learned to be faithful in ALL things (as a lay person, as a manager, and with my family).
  5. You can never ask someone to do something that you are not willing to do yourself (leadership).
  6. People need to be treated with kindness and respect.
  7. I learned that false humility will keep me from reaching my full potential.
  8. When I say I can’t do something, I am limiting the power of God.
  9. I learned perseverance. When God calls you to do something – hold on and obey. It will come to pass.
  10. I learned to walk in forgiveness and let hurts and wrongs go quickly.
  11. Cracked pot vision – God shines through the broken areas of our lives.
  12. Anyone can fall. And people will let us down. It could happen to me so err on side of showing grace and compassion when people fall. Treat people how I would want to be treated if I fell.
  13. Jesus came to bring life. I should be enjoying the life He has given me and what He has called me to do.
  14. No matter if your heart is breaking, you serve God. Keep your eyes on Jesus.
  15. My health. I have one body to accomplish the good works God has prepared for me so I need to take of my soul, body, spirit and mind.

 

Veteran’s Day: WWII in Pictures

One of the greatest treasures my dad left behind were his pictures he had from World War II. He served in the army during World War II. I wrote about him in a previous blog  Lessons from the Greatest Generation. I came across them again a few months back. I thought I would share some of them in honor of my dad and Veteran’s Day. He wrote on the back of many of his pictures. I wish he would have written on more of them! I hope you enjoy these pictures as much I do. It captures a piece of my dad’s life and many soldiers from WWII.

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My dad is the middle guy in the top row.

My dad is the middle guy in the top row.

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Written on the back of the picture "Ray and myself. These hats we have on are our oversees caps.

Written on the back of the picture “Ray and myself. These hats we have on are our oversees caps.

My dad...I think in Italy

My dad…I think in Italy

This is my favorite picture. A soldier reading a letter from home.

This is my favorite picture. A soldier reading a letter from home.

On the back my dad wrote "Close up. Taken in Venice."

On the back my dad wrote “Close up. Taken in Venice.”

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"Two drunks. Jack & myself" is what my dad wrote on the back of this picture.

“Two drunks. Jack & myself” is what my dad wrote on the back of this picture.

My dad

September 10,1944 written on the back

my dad is on the left and his best friend, Ollie on the right. They talked every week on the phone until Ollie passed away 5 years before my dad.

my dad is on the left and his best friend, Ollie on the right. They talked every week on the phone until Ollie passed away 5 years before my dad.

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My dad in Rome or Venice. And note the kids photobombing. :) Photobombing has always been a thing

"Note - myself milking the cow. We very seldom get fresh milk but when we run into a milk cow we help ourselves." What my dad had written on the back. You can see him milking the cow.

“Note – myself milking the cow. We very seldom get fresh milk but when we run into a milk cow we help ourselves.” What my dad had written on the back. You can see him milking the cow.

September 1944. And of course my dad had a dog.

September 1944. And of course my dad had a dog.

Gun Crew was written on the back along with every person's first and last name and where they  were from.

Gun Crew was written on the back along with every person’s first and last name and where they were from.

"German prisoners. I am sitting in the front." Written on the back.

“German prisoners. I am sitting in the front.” Written on the back.

"German Prisoners"

“German Prisoners”

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My dad

My dad

I think this was in Northern Africa

I think this was in Northern Africa

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My dad and Stan

The only colored picture my dad had. Probably the Alps. On the back was his dad's address...

The only colored picture my dad had. Probably the Alps. On the back was his dad’s address…

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Another favorite. On the back it says "This is one of the dinkiest they have over here. They say when this train looks as big as one in the States it's time to go home."

Another favorite. On the back it says “This is one of the dinkiest they have over here. They say when this train looks as big as one in the States it’s time to go home.”

Dated September 10, 1944 "myself laying in the haystack."

Dated September 10, 1944 “myself laying in the haystack.”

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Another northern Africa pic.

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My dad. Never saw him smoke a pipe in my life!

My dad. Handsome. Never saw him smoke a pipe in my life! Cigarettes on the other hand ;)

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

kitchen

kitchen

Cold. Alps again I believe

Cold. Alps again I believe

Personal Reflections on 9/11

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 of my soul.

The Tuesday morning of 9/11, the air was crisp and cool. The sky was pure blue, not a cloud to be seen. It was the perfect fall day. How something so evil could happen on such a beautiful day still amazes me.

I met one of my friends from the church at one of the overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway for morning prayer and coffee before work. We were sitting over looking the valley when a man came out of the camper that was parked at the overlook (which was kind of strange). He was all excited and flustered. He told us  that a plane had flown into one of the towers in New York – that something big was happening.

My friend worked at a local radio station and knew she had to get to work right away. I rushed home and turned on the TV just as flight 175 crashed into the second tower. I sat on the couch and watched in disbelief at the drama unfolding before me.

remembering-9-11-attacks

The horror of seeing people jumping from the buildings, trying to escape the fire stays with me to this day.

I remember calling my dad in Ohio and one of my sisters at work and other family members and friends. I needed to make sure everyone was ok.

I didn’t go to the office that day. As I sat on the couch that Tuesday morning and afternoon, I knew life had changed — that the world had shifted and that something had shifted inside me. I felt like this chapter in my life was coming to an end. Within a week, I resigned from the church that I dearly loved. I resigned having no idea what was next for me. I knew that I would finish up at the end of October and go home for a couple of months to re-group. After that, I had no idea.

What I didn’t realize is that I needed time to heal from the wounds of the past year. I needed time to rest after a season of incredible stress and strain. Just because you win a battle does not mean there aren’t wounds.

After being gone for 9 years, I came home. 

To the house my family had lived in since I was 4.

To my roots.

While I was re-grouping, Pastor Jim asked to meet with me. I remember sitting in the pre-school room, in chairs made for 2 year olds. It somehow seemed fitting. He asked me what I wanted to do, what my plans were. I had offers but I was tired. Bone-crushed, mind numbed, soul-drained tired. And I was enjoying spending time with Jesus because I wanted to, not because I had 3 sermons a week to prepare for.

“Sometimes God’s plan doesn’t come in writing in the sky or some emotional epiphany but it just seems right. In the book of Acts, the disciples sometimes made decisions simply because it “seemed” like the right decision. It seems right that you would come on staff here in Vermilion”

These words from Pastor Jim were water to my soul. I had had a lot of emotion over the past year. And I was tired of it. The church had a need for a Children’s Pastor and I could meet that need. I had a need for healing (though I didn’t know it at the time) and the church could meet that need. It seemed right. There was a large staff so I did not have a lot of responsibility to carry. I would have to work a job outside of the church which I desperately wanted to do. It seemed right.

9/11 brought me home.

     To be with my brother his last two years of life before he passed away from cancer.

To take care of my dad at the end of his life.

To have both of them come to know and trust in Jesus at the end of their lives.

To perform the funerals of 14 family members in an 9 year period.

To pastor my family.

To watch my nieces and nephew grow up.

To witness and be a part of an amazing work that God is doing in and through our church.

To re-awaken dreams I have had since I first trusted Jesus at the age of 15.

To be a leader in the community that I grew up in and that I love dearly and pray for daily.

To a season of personal fruitfulness.

To become friends with my sisters as adults.

To work my way out of debt (so very close).

 

One of my favorite books that I have read in the past year is John Piper’s Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life than to Waste It. In the book, he has a chapter on being more than a conqueror (from Romans 8). He says that a conqueror is someone who “strikes down his foe.” Someone who is more than a conqueror “makes his foe his slave.” (page 49) Being more than a conqueror is to use the very thing the enemy meant to defeat us with, destroy us with, and dishearten us with and turn it around to bring honor and glory to God – and hope and healing to people. 

On 9-11 our enemies tried to defeat, destroy and dishearten us. They did not succeed. Passengers stood up and took on hijackers – saving countless lives. First responders ran into the burning, collapsing building to save people. In the midst of unspeakable evil, glimpses of goodness stood in stark contrast to the evil.  Americans came together as one. We were more than conquerors. We used the very thing the enemy did to us to bring forth good.

There is an enemy of our soul that tries to defeat, destroy and dishearten us. I have a friend who just lost one of her new born twins. She could be bitter. And no one would blame her. But she has used this heartbreaking tragedy in life to bring honor and glory to God. And through it, she is bringing hope and healing to everyone she comes into contact with.

What I learned from 9/11, is that even the most awful things that happen in the world can work for good if we let it. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” The good and the bad can be woven together and work for good if we allow God to do it. 

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Help My Unbelief

 

In less than three weeks, I will be helping lead a team to Jamaica to do leadership training, some service projects, and outreach. In order to prepare, we have been having different team members and others write devotionals to encourage the team. This is the one I wrote today for the team. I thought it would be good to post on my blog. So here it is! :)

Matthew 28: 16 – 20 “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.”

I have been thinking/meditating on this Scripture quite a bit over the past week or so. I find it interesting that Matthew included the fact that “some doubted”. These “some” were the disciples. They had seen the miracles, they had seen the resurrected Christ. But some still doubted. Even though they doubted, they still obeyed and went to Galilee like that they had been instructed by Jesus. That truly is faith. Obeying even when you are doubting.

This past week I have wrestled with some doubts. As I have wrestled through them in prayer, I know that God is true and His Word is sure. And that I will obey, go to the Galilees He sends me to. I will be like the man in the Bible, “I believe, but help my unbelief..” I love the fact that Jesus truly gets me and understands how I am made. And that He works with me and is patient.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I come to You, trusting that You hear me and that You are working in and through me. I pray that You will use each of us in Jamaica mightily. When doubts come in like a flood, we will give them to You and continue to obey knowing that our doubts and struggles do not make You any less powerful or any less God. We love You! In Jesus name. Amen

 

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