Hello. Welcome.

I'm a very determined kind of individual. Sometimes my determination is misplaced and things get very ugly. But, sometimes my determination leads to laughter, deep thoughts, and words on paper.

I write everything. I'm not very good at filtering ... so you will see it all. Maybe there will be a little inspiration for someone else along the way. I hope so. My sister also likes to guest blog and I'm sure you will appreciate her wit and wisdom.

Monday, May 29, 2006

i know this is the third in one night...

my newest thoughts on servanthood

Because we are called and made for relationships, we are not meant to serve alone. I think for many years, I have labored under the goal of independent accomplishment only to find that it produces frustration and dissension in the body of Christ. I can think of so many examples, but one comes to mind from a few years ago. I used to work at a dear camp outside a small town in Iowa. I loved the camp and the people and one particular night we had arranged a counselor reunion, where all the staff could get together and spend the night – bonfire, guitars, reminiscing, and everything campJ. I wanted everything to be perfect, so I remember shopping for peach packet ingredients (peaches, marshmallows, brown sugar). Well, instead of accepting help in preparing this camp specialty, I decided to make them all myself. I remember distinctly opening the cans as everyone else sat by the fire laughing and telling stories. I know I thought I was serving at the time, but I had refused at least two people in their offers to help. I really do enjoy making things for people, but sometimes my insistence on independence leads to resentment and pride (you know the kind, probably – a watered down martyr who accepts no help and then resents your fun). I’m really ashamed that I act this way, and that I over-analyze everything. I know that my attitude has just as much to do with my reflecting the Lord as my actual service. Man, I wish I could take back some of my arrogance and independence. This weekend Darwin (who led the retreat – SUCH an encouragement!), talked about independence being “just plain not helpful” in the mission field. There is no room for it and no need for it, he said. God has formed teams, communities, and the fellowship of believers for a purpose – to accomplish work for His kingdom and give Him great glory, not as a single unit where they could receive the praise, but as a body functioning in God’s will. Praise the Lord and amen for His grace when I force myself outside His will and I “serve” on my own. I think this summer is a perfect time to examine my heart.

<>Ruby Tuesday’s
I’m realizing the above more and more at Ruby’s. I am now not afraid to ask for help, but I struggle with over-working so that I can be most useful. I know this sounds like a good plan, but not if I am over-working on my own strength. I can refill the ice buckets, wipe down counters and tables, and help other servers. Sure, I can do all that, but if I am relying myself, I am missing God’s purpose for me there. Somehow, some way my co-workers need to see the light of the Lord reflected in my work, instead of my own stubborn work ethic. It is not me who gives the gift of helping, because that keeps attention focused on what I am doing. Instead, it is the gift of God’s Son that enables me to do anything good with pure intent.

I’m almost spent… one last thought and then some authors I want to read.

There’s a map on my wall next to my bed. It’s been there for about a week now and my fingers have traced the outlines of countries and continents across it’s ironically flat surface. I can’t help but wonder about the days when maps were still forming as men walked from city to city and chiseled out routes on the water. What must it have been like to add new territory and discover new regions? Instead of traveling with the purpose of trade or employment, most of our travels (from America, anyway) are trips of leisure to vacation spots, job-related, or favorite get-aways.

I guess that’s all – just my reflection on how things have changed. I’m struggling with my future right now, so everything comes out layered with questions. At the core I know what I am looking for is purpose. Not something spelled out in a book or accomplished with a degree. John Piper wrote a book called “Don’t Waste Your Life.” He used a quote from a picture in his office that said, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” I suppose – no I know – that therein lies the answer. I believe it beneath all the layers, I do. I’m just wondering how He will use me.

last sidenote – I’ve been thinking randomly of some authors I’d like to read this summer:

<>Ralph Winter
Lisa Espinelli Chin
Let the Nations be Glad, John Piper
Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Frank Peretti
Blaise Pascal
and..possibly something on the Azusa Street Revival

misplaced sentiment?

So... I have a little time to write about my reflection on my great gram's passing. They buried her remains on Saturday and I guess it was a beautiful service. When I got the message that she'd left us, I was just leaving work at Ruby's and the tears came. When you have a great grandparent, it's not as though you don't know that their time will come soon, but when it happens the reality of our short lives hits hard.

I cannot think of a greater blessing, though, than being able to share a part of my life with such a dear woman. She had her moments, as we all do, but she was a fighter - even if she was fighting to be taken home to be with the Lord. One of the things my mom remembered at the funeral was her witty remarks like, "I just don't get it. I keep asking the Lord to take me, but everyone around me is dying and I can't even get a cold!" I can just see her now rejoicing, arranging some tune resembling "Lay that pistol down, Ma" with new words about the glory of the Lord! Oh how she will please the Father with her desire to be with Him!

The Lord's ways are so much higher than our ways. I do praise Him for the short time I was able to spend with family. When I walked in to my grandparents I had the biggest smile on my face. I wondered at my misplaced sentiment, in being so joyful on a "sad" day. But, it was truly a blessing, from the car ride to being wrapped up in love-hugs from my grandparents, to spending time at the cabin with the whole fam, and even falling into our pond. Every bit of it was wonderful, needed, and blessed. Praise the Lord for life and his promise of life eternal!

This past weekend I heard an analogy I thought would be good to share:
What would you think if you were flying from New York to Amsterdam and the fellow sitting next to you started to put up framed pictures by the window? Then he started to put down carptet beneath your feet and sew a small curtain for to cover the view. Then he began unpacking decorations for your seats and added fragrance to the bathroom. If it were me, I would move before he got to the bathroom and say, "Sir, you know that this plane is landing in a couple hours." You'd surely want to remind him that it's not really worth it to go to all the trouble, because we'd be getting off soon.

Isn't this life? Merely hours in the whole scheme of things? Instead of making it look too cozy, shouldn't we be looking around for someone to talk to about the destination?

My friend aloe vera and a SUPER weekend

Well, my legs are stinging with the tomato-redness of Michigan summer. A couple hours today at the beach did me in, after my refusal to be sensible and wear sunscreen. I have a couple extremely noticeable lines above my knees, so it’s a good thing I’m covered up most of the time for my jobs! The air is warm and thick. I can step outside and seconds later feel beads of sweat forming on my face and neck… It is quite comical how I wish for the opposite in every season :). I do enjoy the sunlight, street activities, beach crowd, bursts of color in flowers and all the smells and sights that come with the summer season up here, though.

This past weekend was absolutely incredible. I went to Beloit, Wisconsin with virtually no expectations and sat for 12 hours of intense, structured, challenging, and beautiful training. I had my training for my upcoming Poland mission trip in August at a little church called Rock Valley Chapel. I left for the 4 hour trip a bit early, and by God’s grace was only a few minutes late after navigating hours of Chicago traffic and construction. I met the couple who direct the organization and immediately fell in love with their tender, passionate hearts for the Lord. Darwin was a dairy farmer and some of the stories he told took me back to my days on the farm (that makes me sound at least 30, doesn’t it?). He was a no non-sense teacher, but had the most refreshing and dry sense of humor. I met a couple from Illinois who are on my trip and we instantly connected. Val is a high school English teacher, who reminds me of my favorite teacher from high school (she even uses a purple pen!). Her husband, Phil, was a high school vocal music teacher until recently – which is right up my alley. We talked about the joys of show choir and the differences between our experiences.

I experienced a few wake up calls as Darwin taught about the challenges ahead of us. One of the things that pulled at me deepest was his caution about our reaction when we get back home. We started to talk about church foyers and how you’d be more likely to hear about Jimmy’s scholarship, pray for Aunt Emma’s kidneys, and check calendars for a social function than carry on a conversation about the risen Jesus. That caught me – struck me in a funny place I hadn’t examined in, well ever. How often do I speak the name of Jesus? Sure, I have my prayer times, devotions, deep theological conversations, but how often do I speak His name in normal conversation? Sharing the gospel, I realized, has become something separate – at least in my life. It doesn’t flow out like the quality of a Captain Sundae’s delight or my ability to carry four plates and balance ketchup with my pinky finger. Why is that? I won’t go too far, because I know this I more something I need to contemplate before I can think about asking someone else.

I read an article about a man who, actually, read an article about salons. You know, those meetings where people would just get together and engage in stimulating conversation just for the sake of community? Well, there was an ad where the man responded to be part of a salon. The eclectic group started meeting and this man, a Christian, began to respect the others in his group, and they returned the respect even though none shared his Christian beliefs.

The dreamer in me set sail after reading the man’s article. I was forming an ad in my mind and then writing an article I could submit to a local paper or magazine. It worked for 18th century France – could the lost art of conversation be revived by giving salons a try? Well, we’ll see how far dreamer gets, but I do hope I can train my mind and conversations to be about meaningful things with all people.

Oh, I could write pages on this dear woman, whose friends call her Deed! She might actually read this, but I have to tell her story because it will bless you! She was my hostess for the weekend I stayed in Wisconsin. Without even really knowing why we were there, she volunteered to host two of us in her house, where she’s lived for 50 years. I smiled every time she spoke – her joy spilled over onto the table as we drank in her hospitality. She told stories – oh did she tell stories! About her children, grandchildren, volunteer work with hospice, children she mentors, missionaries she supports, friends, and the topic of last week’s luncheon. The laughter just bubbled out of me and smiles creased my face as we talked about living, loving, and our place in the world. There was so much wisdom inside this 78-year-old woman, who served with the zeal of three 20-year-olds. Boy, she sure did love chocolate. A self-proclaimed chocoholic, she said, “Well, they tell you to put it in the freezer, but that doesn’t work because I know it’s there!” I sure laughed! She also told us a story about how she found these Toll House ice cream cookies, covered in chocolate at Walgreen’s. Well, then her grandson came over and made a comment about them, so she decided she needed to get more. So, she called Walgreen’s, who said they were all out – discontinued. Well, that didn’t stop her – she called every place in town … twiceJ to track some of the yummy frozen calorie cookie, but found nothing. So, finally she called a town ½ hour away and ended up buying four boxes so her grandson could have some on Easter. What a joy! What a blessing to spend time with someone who God has blessed and she’s chosen to be a blessing to others.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

i'm back

So... I know no one was waiting on the edge of their seat for me to continue my blog, but it's been quite awhile since my last entry after the Global Night Commute.

Since then I have:
-whittled my employment down to two, working on Paint Crew for Hope by day and Ruby Tuesday's (an eatery comparable to Applebee's) by night.
-moved in with my brother and sister-in-law in Holland
-experienced a dramatic turnover weekend which included my moving out, checking out residents, my friend's beautiful wedding, and beginning work at Ruby's
-tried to spend a lot of time alone reading, thinking, and philosophizing
-made attmempts at being domestic (my recent conquest was a pillow cover)
-bought a Polish phrasebook, map, and made several Polish connections to learn about history, culture, and people
-thought a LOT about my life next year - studying in Chicago in the fall and graduating in the spring
-mourned the mounting loan figures I check up on sporadically
-decided to give restaurant servers my utmost respect and pity, after messing up (I like to call it rearranging) some orders and begging the cooks in back to pity me and my failed attempts at being restaurant savvy
-almost conquered the art of 'looking like I know exactly what a customer wants, even if I have no idea," which is sometimes good and sometimes bad (see previous)
-become fast friends with my paint crew
-taken a new outlook on work in general, thanks to John Piper and "Don't Waste Your Life"
-made a lengthy, but somewhat flexible reading list and summer to-dos
-made a quick trip with Samuel and Bethany back home for my great grandma's funeral ..much more later. it was a great experience - praise the Lord for His timing and blessings of family.

...Of course, much more has transpired, but I thought I would hit some highlights. There are many stories wrapped up within each, but I'm about to get kicked out of the library, so I'll have to wrap this up.

If you read this before tomorrow, it would be wonderful to know you could pray for me. I am going to training weekend for my mission trip to Poland. It's in Beloit, WI and I'll be able to meet people from my trip and learn more about what we'll be doing.

I'm excited to start keeping up with this and hopefully will do a better job.
Grace and peace