Monday, July 26, 2010
10 hours in a mini-van + 5 teenage girls + Mr. Mike and Ms. Susie + way too many twizzlers = lots of laughs. I think I got a good 15 minutes of sleep. It was a pretty noisy trip down, but I really can’t complain because I’m pretty sure I was making most of the noise. We found 40 states on the way down and made lots of good jokes (i.e. bacon and……..POTATOES!!) I think we all lost a bit of our sanity that day. I joined Team Domination during dinner, a very smart move on my part. Oh, and I woke up to Kayla petting me in the middle of the night.
We went to the Washington Christian Center for church in the morning. We got introduced by the pastor right before the “meet and greet” time. I don’t think I’ve gotten so many hugs from strangers before. Their incredible enthusiasm and love was unlike any thing I’ve seen. It was a good reminder that we need to welcome visitors at our own church with that kind of love. We also learned to “pray not panic” and to lean on God rather than our friends. This proved to be a valuable lesson for Monday….. We went on a walk to nowhere along the water. This was our first taste of the crazy heat that never let up throughout the week. We had a two hour lunch at McDonalds.
In the morning, a group of us went to Hillcrest Baptist Church and helped them go door-to-door handing out Bibles and VBS flyers. I did something similar three years ago and was absolutely terrified. God has definitely grown me throughout the past years in being brave for him. Also, the other people seemed less then excited about it so someone needed to just go for it. My partner and I got rejected a few times but mostly just stood in front of empty homes. God willing, those Bibles we hung on the outside of people’s homes will find their way inside someone’s heart. Oh, and the people at the Baptist church gave us amazing food. We went back to Washington Christian Center where Shelby and I put on these incredible potato sacks that said “VBS is Fun!” and danced by the driveway in typical Little Ceasers guy style. We only had 3 or 4 kids and so another group of us went to the spray park, another neighborhood, the grocery store, the library, and the dollar store. After VBS, we went out again to hand out Bibles. We got a few more responses, a few creepy people peering at us through their blinds, and a lot of sweat dripping down our faces (if I lived there, I wouldn’t have opened the door either, you could smell us a mile down the street). Showers never felt so good that night. After our worship and debrief, we were hanging in the hallway (this would become a nightly ritual). While playing kung-fu, Ken accidentally hit Emily in the nose giving her a nosebleed and a great story. All of a sudden, Emily starts shouting about Alaina hurting her knee. I run into the room and see Alaina at the ground moaning. I rushed over to the door connecting that room to the room our leaders were in and got them to come in. After we all herded into the lobby, Kevin suggested a prayer circle. The immediate application of “pray don’t panic” was amazing and it was great to see our youth group come together like that. After things had calmed down somewhat and Alaina was on her way to the Emergency Room the girls had a crying fest in the bathroom. Thankfully, kept my mouth shut so I could be a less active member in the “Let’s get our emotions and hormones in a huge tangle club”. We finally went to bed around midnight.
In the morning, after a less-than-fulfilling breakfast of a mini-bagel, Team C went to the housing authority. Some of us painted a fence in amazing jumpsuits while myself and others weeded a huge lot and then proceeded to spread mulch all over it. Emily and I became kidnapping buddies and worked out a safety plan. We also averted an attack by a Killer African Bee. One person stopped to say how they had never seen anyone helping in this neighborhood before. It was nice assurance that we were meeting a need. All the while, I was struggling with the fact that we weren’t teaching the gospel at VBS. I attempted to rewrite the script for my pre-teach that day but ended up chickening out. It turns out God had a different plan for me (see Thursday). VBS went fairly well, we had a lot more kids. However, I was trying very hard not to measure our success in numbers. After the team time, we went outside to play. I gave two girls numerous rocket rides on the swing and train rides on my back. It was so much fun to play off their imaginations and get to exercise mine, even if I had difficulty breathing during the piggy back rides. We had an incredible dinner of pasta (my favorite). The evenings were a lot of fun with the bathroom/rollercoaster game, card games, illegally exploring the church, and other shenanigans. This night also ended in a crying party in the bathroom. Although the crying wasn’t good, it provided an open door to get to talk to some of the younger girls. I was able to share some limited but hopefully valuable wisdom from my own experiences and walk with God. God was with me all the way, and devotions were a great time of connection. Worship was great too, even though I didn’t know most of the songs I was still able to worship my God. Debriefs were encouraging, many people had a lot to say. The youth group really connected and it was a deeper connection than what I had seen before. We had another good “girl talk” that night.
Wednesday: Team A and B switched from Daybreak to VBS today and Teams B and C went back to the neighborhood to hand out more Bibles. Adam and I got to pray with one lady and got a good response from some as well as some rejections. It’s in God’s hands. We got pizza for lunch (yum!) VBS had an even better turnout that included several older girls. Music went really well, it was so much fun to see the kids getting into it. The puppet skits went well too. We had a water balloon toss and bubbles outside. For dinner, the church had a meal that we went to. A few of us went to the communion service upstairs, the church is HUGE!!! Worship was amazing, and I began to get a taste of what it felt like to fall in love with God. However, I had a horrible migraine and had to run to the bathroom during prayer. Katy followed me and we had a really good conversation in the (you guessed it!) bathroom. We played concentration for a while that night, and none of us were very good at it. The power also went out for a while which was exciting. Emily and I were rubber ducky buddies (we always took showers together).
Thursday was ATL day. I was very excited to get going. I felt led to go to a children’s hospital, something that has been on my heart for a while now. However, we couldn’t go visit anyone (which I expected) but we did get to pray for a while and pray with someone at the chapel. I also felt that I wanted to share the gospel at least once. The fact that we hadn’t at VBS was bothering me, so I thought I would tell the King story with some girls there. Kevin was wanting to do the same thing and so we worked together and were able to have a script and then share the gospel afterwards. It was amazing the way it all worked together. What an amazing God we have! VBS went really well that day and I was able to connect with Carmin and see a little bit of how the VBS impacted at least one person. That night we all went a little crazy with trips to Narnia (the children’s ministry area), a two hour long debrief, and lots of craziness in the girls room before and after lights out. We had a guest speaker that night who was incredibly inspiring and helped shed a new light on our trip. It wasn’t us who were helping others, it was God getting to know us better and us to get to know Him better. He doesn’t need our help. Oh, and my God can outimagine me!! Which is incredible since I have so many ideas and thoughts and plans but now I know that God has better ones and more of them! YES!!
After a slow start in the morning, we finally got going to go tour Washington D.C. It was super hot out but the train ride there was exciting for us small-town folk. First, we got lunch and talked to some Boy Scouts who were having their Jubilee in Washington D.C. They were everywhere!! Then, we went to the Washington Monument and laid down with our feet on it. Next stop, the Lincoln Memorial. Some of us decided to be really smart and attempt to run up all the steps. We did and then felt like we were going to die. I had to rescue Rachel from dehydration a few times. We also found the (now fixed) typo in Lincoln’s 2nd Ignaural Address. From there, we moseyed on to the Vietnam Memorial and then to the White House. It takes an extraordinary long to move 32 people with a power scooter for Alaina. I believe it was getting close to 100 degrees out and I have never seen a group of sweatier people. Lovely. Our last stop was the Smithsonian Museum, which had an incredible combination of history and air conditioning. I joined the “bopping” group and we started at the Science wing, then moved to entertainment which was disappointingly small, and then the American wars. It was all very interesting but we only had about 45 minutes. We employed the “walk as fast as you can, take pictures, and look at the pictures later” technique. It was worth it. We then headed back to the train station and caught a train back to our hotel. Once we got to the hotel, we went swimming. It felt amazing. There is nothing like a body of water filled with chemicals and twenty other sweaty people to refresh and revive you. I combed my hair out that night, giving shock and enjoyment to all who witnessed my afro. I “accidently” kicked Kayla off of the bed too. oops.
Today was the long travel day. If we contained a last bit of sanity in the store holds of our brains, it was promptly discarded about two hours into the drive. We dressed up like ganstas and hippies and rocked out to Toby Mac while Mr. Mike’s bald head bobbed up and down and served as a shiny disco ball. Some sleep was had but not much especially after Olivia’s and my delicious and nutritious lunch of pretzels and ice cream. For dinner, we went to the golden corral, which was less than appetizing but we were so hungry pretty much anything would do. Ken, Emily, Olivia, and I played cards and Katy and I watched Hitch and Man on Fire with Kayla. I still don’t know how that movie ends.
We only had about an hour and a half to get to North Oaks on Sunday. I was glad to be going home but really sad that it is all over too. Right now, I’m sitting alone like I have been doing all day. Its just weird not to have so many people around you. Nunna and Pappa came to church which was nice and the service went really well. This is not where the story ends.
During this trip, I finally fell in love with God. It felt amazing. The only thing I can begin to compare it to is that feeling before a dance competition or after you win or the guy you like likes you too. But its so much bigger than that. It’s the feeling that comes before knowing your life is going to change forever. It’s the feeling that you just won eternal life from God and you didn’t have to do anything. It’s the feeling that there is a God who not only likes you in return, He loves you even when you don’t deserve His love. It was amazing.
Things I learned:
I need compassion. I don’t have it all together.
I need to concentrate on what God thinks of me, not what others think of me.
I want to serve God to get to know Him better.
I need to pray more.
If God loves everyone the same, who am I to think that I am better judge and can differentiate my own love?
It is so much better to love others than to love yourself.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
I recently have become involved with a cycling team. Honestly, I did not know what I was getting myself into when I first joined. I had never been mountain biking before. While the first few rides were terrifying and thrilling at the same time, my most recent one allowed me some time for speculation. I seem to do my best thinking when my life is in obvious danger. Here are the parallels that I drew between mountain biking and life (be it mine, yours, or that cranky neighbor down the street)
- My coach always tells me to keep "looking ahead. never look down. you go where your eyes go." When I look to the ground, and see my bike skipping over rocks and roots, there is a high probability that the next thing I'm going to see is myself, flipping over my handlebars, and becoming very friendly with those rocks and roots. However, if I keep looking down the trail, my bike is going to keep going with me (hopefully) on top of it. In life, looking at the ground is focusing on your failures, your insecurities, the way you don't seem to measure up to the one person who has it all together. Sooner or later, you are going to make that reality. You are going to end up where your eyes are looking and if you are always looking down, your life will soon follow. There is another alternative; however, you could look straight ahead. Picture where you want to be, and you might very well end up there. I'm not talking about the law of attraction or other myths. I'm talking about setting goals and not letting them go. You aren't going to teleport to that place where you want to be in your life magically. Everything you want out of life isn't going to *poof* appear. But there is no way you are going to get where you are going if all you do is concentrate on what's on the ground.
- Up ahead are two trees. The trees are about 13 inches a part and my handle bars seem like a good 20 inches. They are coming towards me, faster and faster. My hand is frozen, incapable of squeezing the brake. All of a sudden, I look behind me and those trees of death are several feet back. And I'm still going. I'm still on my bike. All of me is on my bike. The close call has done some damage though. Not physically, but the adrenaline has left my nerves in a bundle. I can't concentrate on the trail ahead. But I have to. You see, like in life, if I keep dwelling on the past and the "close calls" I can never move past that. I'll keep reliving the times when things almost (or did) go horribly wrong. In the meantime, life hasn't stopped. If you don't regain your focus and concentrate on what is ahead, you'll never get there in one piece.
- 50% of the time, mountain biking requires no physical effort. You are speeding down hills and curves at 20 mph. All you have to do is avoid obstacles and stay on your bike. But for every downhill, is an uphill. The other half of the time is grueling. You have to pedal fast and hard, and oftentimes (if you are me) you still can't make it all the way up the hill. Rarely are there flat stretches of trail. In the same way, life isn't a smooth, flat path. Whether your trail is wide or narrow, you are going to be going up and down.
Coasting down the hills, sometimes a little too fast for comfort and then struggling to get up the next one.
- Whoever made these trails must have had a thought process like this one "So they are climbing up hills at a 90 degree angle and then rocketing down an equally steep hill at 50 mph while avoiding tree roots....Hey! I've got an idea! Let's put a pile of rocks at the bottom of the hill!" Thus, the rock garden was born. I don't know why they call it a garden, there is nothing beautiful, scenic, or peaceful about it. Approaching the rocks, you brain is shouting "SLOW DOWN!!!" However, going slow is the worst way to get through the "garden". The only way to do it is go as fast as you can, and pedal so fast your pedals look like a pinwheel. It is so counter intuitive to common sense that rock gardens are more mentally straining than physically. When we come across bumpy parts of life, the tendency is to slow down, take it easy, find the path of least resistance. With that kind of mentality, you aren't going to get past the first boulder. When things get tough, going faster, harder, stronger, is the only way you'll make it to the other side.
This is what I've learned from my limited experience in mountain biking. Oh, and going through puddles is fun but expect to find mud in your hair.