Walking Without Sight...

When Cor and I got home from work on Tuesday, we decided to take Mariska for a walk.  Cory walks her fairly often down to a road that's about a mile away and then back.  Me - the lazy and out of shape one - usually chooses to "be busy" when this occurs.  I decided to go with them on Tuesday - one of the coldest and windiest days of the year so far.  After about 10 layers and some plastic grocery bags between my shoes & socks...  I was ready.  Unfortunately, about 2 steps in to our walk, my glasses were all foggy.  It was frustrating and miserable, but Cory made me persevere.  Finally, I took my glasses off and stuck them in my pocket.  My sight didn't improve, but it was slightly less miserable.  So, in my pocket they stayed.  

After I pushed through the initial period of leg cramps and overwhelming anxiety from my half-blind state, it was actually enjoyable.  At first, I insisted Cory hold my hand and walk beside me.  Then, I realized vague blobs (mailboxes, bushes, rocks, deer-crossing signs) were discernible right before I smashed into them!  I got a little braver and probably saved both of our hands from 3rd-degree frost-bite when I exchanged his hand for my pocket.  

But, then - it was just weird.  It was quiet and cold and getting dark.  I began thinking about before glasses / contacts were readily available...  people walked around all the time like this.  There are so many things I couldn't do without glasses.  Go walking alone... take pictures...  read books / music... see spiders in the shower...  Then, I thought about Mozambique.  I didn't see any Mozambican with glasses.  How many of them need glasses?  If they do eat, it isn't very nutritional.  I'm sure there are even MORE people in Moz. that need glasses than here...  

Aside from the physical need for better sight - how many of us (American or Mozambican) need our spiritual / relational / emotional vision adjusted?  We see things through a grid of our experience and personality and knowledge...  When I was in college, one of the ladies prayed for "Jesus-eyes".  I've never forgotten that.  I see people through my eyes and what I see isn't always pretty.  How many times is that because of my faulty eyes?


doggy boot camp

since getting mariska and adding her to the family, we've been trying to train her and make her civil on our own. on command she sits, lays down, and will stay (however only when she wants to). she's housebroken as well...but beyond that she does her own thing, and it's really starting to make life with her not so fun. this past weekend we were celebrating the holidays in syracuse with my parents and brother, and it was a very frustrating trip with her...most notably when given a bone for christmas. she became very possessive of it, and when i would even come near her with it, she tensed up and growled. that wasn't cool. i slowly approached her as she growled and bore her teeth, and as she tried to bite she quickly was ushered into her crate and i took the bone. she's yet to get it back.

this is a little extreme for her, but it's habit she can't continue...definitely not with the kids in the home. we love having people over to the house, and we want to be able to bring her with us as often as we can. but that kinda thing doesn't fly.

so after putting it off for a few months now, mariska is scheduled to go to doggy boot camp! a friend at the church has been giving rave reviews of a trainer in the area who does a phenomenal job. we take her to him and leave her with him for 2 weeks. he does 3-4 training sessions a day during that time, and boards the dog. we also get as many follow up visits as we want within 6 months. we're definitely getting excited to see her come back knowing her place and functioning better in our home. maybe she'll even come back doing push ups.


tape measure master

with the new building at the church nearing completion, i saw this short video and thought it was funny... especially the one with the guy in the port-a-potty.


Jam-Packed Weekends

This weekend has been really busy...  Friday we had a staff party at our senior pastor's house.  It was nice to talk with others on staff and just catch up on their lives.  Saturday morning we had our ISM leaders' community group.  We're reading through Mark and discussing and applying...  Right after that, I headed to the mall to meet my middle school girls' c-group for the big prize.  :)  They memorized the books of the Bible and as their prize, my co-leader and I took the girls to get their nails done and do a little shopping.  It was so much fun and we had some crazy colored nails for Sunday.  Saturday night we baby-sat our friends' almost 1 yo.  Yesterday - we had church in the AM, then our Mozambique team came here - made lunch and played hot seat - and finally our big ISM Christmas party.  Cory and I didn't really organize much of anything for the party.  One of the teens took initiative and got other students and adults on board and away it went.  Monday dawned bright and early and we set out for our second of four home study appointments, then some shopping, and then home for naps and book reading..  Now off to mop our floors and maybe some dinner.  

My Sister...


More Photos from Thanksgiving

These are my cousins...  i love these girls like crazy.  i wish i had a "beam-me-up-scotty" machine...


I can't help but laugh everytime I see this picture.  It makes my heart happy.  I love that my family has an awesome sense of humor.  (I told them to make funny faces and then my aunt started to say something like, "You'd better delete this picture!  It better not show up anywhere!"  ha ha.  I just can't help myself.  :)

Annual Turkey Bowl

my brother...  he was actually blue in the picture seeing as how it is November and freezing rain was falling from the sky.  (good thing for b&w photos!)  despite his irrationality - he has the most amazing hair!  its true.  i'm a little jealous.
My other brother...  I think this might be one of my favorite pictures of him ever.  Its just kinda him...  a little countrified with his john deer hat...  I broke his collarbone when he was just a teeny-tiny baby.  he's never let me live that one down!
"Okay, little buddy...  "   aww, man.  I miss my grandpa something awful.  He would have been so proud this Thanksgiving.  That's my uncle there on the left.  I remember dancing on his shoes before he left for his tour in Germany when I was little girl.  And my cousin - he's a little whippersnapper and anyone that comes within a ten foot radius is immediately sucked in by his charm. 



dodgeball tournament

getting VERY excited about the church's first big event in the new building - a dodgeball tournament! i originally was just thinking this as a fun outreach for our students...but then decided to extend it and open it up to the adults. check out this site we created for the event!


thanksgiving fun

i love how fun and easy jibjab.com is. just created the video below to start off our services this Sunday.

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quick & random

the day before thanksgiving...and still no snow :) so nice.
a few quick and random updates from us...

- shan & i will be hitting the road late this afternoon and joining the hundreds of other people in similar pursuit as we head to meet up with family in pittsburgh. we're super excited to get away and see everyone.

- getting really excited for christmas and our christmas series in ISM. yesterday God was really working on my heart with it and i feel pretty confident on a little tweak to it and minor change in direction. should be exciting, and praying that God really uses it to impact not just our students but others around the world.

- last sunday was our first sunday of ISM services for all students 6th-12th grade. between the two services our numbers were double what we normally had on a good thursday night. it was so exciting to start getting to know so many that are always here every week "hidden" in the crowd.

- just picked up this book at ollies last night in hopes that it'll help prep me for flower city work camp this year. the theme is quite exciting, and one of the goals of the week is to help the students see that their life is incredibly significant...incredibly small in light of the much grander story of God...but incredibly significant when we can find our place in that larger story. so far it's been a super interesting read and just plain fun!

- there's a little debate in our home right now as to what kind of christmas tree to get next week (fake and boring vs. real & fragrant). one thing i know for sure: we won't be cutting it down ourselves!


National Adoption Day

Today is National Adoption Day.

I have a lot more to say about adoption and our adoption specifically, but for some reason I haven't been able to blog about it. I'm not sure why, but the words won't come when I sit down to type. Perhaps too many emotions... and the sobbing, hiccuping, booger running emotion just isn't too pleasant, but a little too familiar lately.

So, I'll leave you with 2 things:

I'm working on several fund-raising options to help us along in our adoption. The first one is a 2010 calendar with some of my photographs from the past year. The second is a longaberger basket giveaway. Stay tuned! Info coming soon! :)

And lastly - Look into adoption yourself as Nia Valdaros shares. There are almost 130 thousand children that need a forever family. Could you be that family?


youth pastor retreat

just returned from the 2 critical days that i look forward to every year now... the youth pastor LEAD retreat from our church's district. a generous family opens up their summer home on Lake Chautauqua to us for a time to retreat from life and ministry and reconnect with others with the same calling and passion. last year's was so beneficial and refreshing, and this year's was absolutely the same (even better without the snow!). there's something special about getting together in an amazing setting like this, sharing what's happening (good, bad, and ugly) and finding common encouragement from all.

this year i was challenged with how out of balance life has been lately. part of me wants to say it's been unavoidable due to the opening of the new building and the season of transition our ministry is in... part of me says it's inexcuseable... but after a retreat like this another part of me realizes that at this point it really doesn't matter. just get back on balance.

i can hear messages on balance (and i have), and i can read books on it (and i have), but there's something about seeing others WITH balance and living it out that speaks into my life more than a message or a book, and it's powerful. i watched other guys just as busy as me manage their big families and their ministries with balance and passion...refusing to please people and be held hostage by that monster. it was so refreshing.

thanks to tom for the pics.


new building progress

been overwhelmingly busy in life and ministry lately, but an exciting time nonetheless. below are some pictures of the progress on the new building. these were taken a few weeks ago, so it's actually further along right now than it may appear. we are so blessed to have this building taking shape...can't wait to move in!

this is the view from the existing building as you walk towards the hallway to the youth rooms and multipurpose room / gym.

this is the multipurpose room / gym... SOOOOO excited to throw a dodgeball in here and shoot some hoops with the students.

this is the space that will be our new youth room. ping pong tables, pool table, foosball, cafe bar, tables, and stools, couches, video games... can you see it all?


New Photo Shoot...

PS - click on the pic to see the blog
Vote on the sidebar for a new name for my photography/design blog.


i've seen it all

i love this video and it gets me excited about the youth ministry convention we're going to in february! so much fun...


random stuff

no unifying theme to this post...just some random stuff happening in our world:

- in the previous post i mentioned the tv show glee...which like every other tv show out there pales in comparison to the level of quality experienced when you get an uninterrupted hour of 24. i'm counting down the days till january when season 8 starts, but interestingly enough, i was just recently told by a friend about a 24-like series of books. maybe they'll hold me over as i patiently try to wait.
- lots and lots of needs that many of our students & leaders are facing right now... i hate seeing people i love go through hurt and pain, especially when caused by others who just "didn't think". there have been many nights awake lately hoping and praying for God's restoring work to heal the broken.
- lakeshore continues to press forward toward the goal of opening the church's new facilities/addition within the next month. i feel like our student ministry has been so blessed from start to finish in all of this, and not many youth pastors get the privilege of designing their ideal youth room. i'm so pumped and excited for the space expansion, the gymnasium, and the impact it will have on our students and their friends who don't yet know Christ!
- with the additional space comes a distinct shift in how we will do student ministry. i'm so excited about this because it will significantly help us sync up with the church's overall paradigm, and better reach the students that are already in the building every week. we'll be transitioning our "crowd" program from thursday nights to sunday mornings...occuring at the same time as the adult worship services.
- mariska is asleep right now and snoring very loud as i type this.


i've been progressively amazed with the tv show glee and it's popularity and following among teen culture. mix the buzz around the high school musical movies + the realities of sexually-charged high school drama = a hit tv show. it wouldn't be a waste of time for youth workers and parents to stay in the loop on this one.


i thought this was pretty funny... ht to chuck bomar



radically uncomfortable

right now we're in the middle of a series called radical love with the teens, and it's been so cool to be able to challenge them with God's radical love for us, and how we are then to display that radical love to others. tonight the topic is "radically uncomfortable", specifically zeroing in on those who make us uncomfortable and loving them just the same. we'll be using the story of the good samaritan in luke 10, and i'm really looking forward to it. i found this video which i think i'm even more excited about. i love the message it communicates and it resonates with a chord deep within me.


random updates

been too busy to update as much as i'd like... but here are a few random updates for today:

in the personal realm
- you can see shanna's previous posts - but we've started the adoption journey and are so excited to see where God will take it. we've both always loved the picture of heaven and redeption that adoption brings into the real world. the statistics are staggering, and to be honest i'm having a hard time understanding why so many white families only look to adopt white babies. i know it's more than just a reality of the racially divided nation we still live in, that there are other reasons/factors... but i'm sure in large part that sadly has a lot to do with it. ...for us, we really want our family to look like what heaven will look like...and it aint gonna be just white people there!
- not as exciting, but i got a new phone off verizon's free upgrade thing - it's cool and new stuff is always fun.
- i *tried* to install a new door in our bedroom the other day... it looks great (maybe a little crooked) until you try to shut it. yeah doesn't quite fit in the doorway, even though it *should* by all my calculations. this is why i don't this kinda thing for a living.

in the dog realm
- to be honest it's a little disconcerting that mariska gets her own category in this post. she's doing well, getting bigger every day. she now sits and lays down on command *most* of the time. she's pretty much housebroken but sometimes we miss her hints to us that she needs to go outside. she's lots of fun nonetheless (especially when people come over and she greets them with a nice, husky bite).
- we had a guest over the other day and as mariska went to playfully bite her, she yelped like another dog would in a very high pitched voice. mariska stopped and walked away. maybe that's a new technique we should start using (apparently it works)...but i'm not sure it'll ever happen from me when people are around. lol

in the lakeshore realm
- currently we are in a series called just walk across the room based on the book by bill hybels. fantastic series, very eye-opening and challenging, and extremely timely as we finish the building project on the church's expansion.
- the new building is almost completely dried in, paint's going on the walls, and cielings and floors are being installed very soon. we are working hard to open on sunday, november 22nd so we can be in before thanksgiving.

in the youth ministry realm
it's been absolutely wonderful, rewarding, and fruitful... and yet exhausting and tiring at the same time. with the new building getting close to being open though, the excitement is far outweighing the exhaustion! :)
- it's been so cool to be able to take the students' design ideas and put them together into one huge youth room that will immediately shatter their friends' stereotype that church is boring! the architects and building teams really care about the teens in the church, and it's showing! black exposed cielings (with some partial drop "clouds" throughout the room), geometric designs on the floor, paint and whiteboard on the walls, a built-in bar area for food/snack service, couches, ping pong, pool table, foosball, etc. so exciting!
- our ministry is shifting gears in some major ways once the building opens.
- mozambique 2010: the church's support has been overwhelming and the applications from the students are all in. working this month to finalize the team.
- small groups have started - we have 7 groups, most of which meet in homes throughout the area. it's been so great to see the rosters and who's connecting at a deeper level with the youth group... and then to hear some of the stories that inevitably happen when we simply do life together.


Adoption Facts...

For each adoptable Caucasian infant
there are 63 waiting families.

For each adoptable Biracial infant
there are 3 waiting families.

For each adoptable African-American infant
there is less than 1 waiting family.


Its unofficially Official!

We sent in our pre-application to Bethany Christian Services to begin our adoption journey. And so begins the hurry-up-and-wait phase! At this time, we're waiting for Bethany to call us for a phone interview. After that we'll receive our Formal Application. We're so excited!

Please spread the news to anyone and everyone. :) If you have any questions email or call us! We'd love to talk about it with you.


Grief is...

aching... a black gnawing pit hungry for what it cannot have
awakening... from a dream in the night that made wishes reality
sobbing... while the world blindly continues on
hiding... because pretending is too hard

And yet - my eyes see what was unseen before.
I don't wish the time back.
I don't wish my story any different.

Sometimes though - I forget.
I wrap myself in self-pity and settle in for a good, long stay.
in the muck and mire
that is familiar and...

But, when I remember - I see what was unseen before.
I see depth and compassion in myself
where I used to see judgment and self-righteousness.
I see hurt and pain in others
where I used to see anger and nastiness.

Though what lies ahead is unseen.
I know where I am.
I know which road I'm traveling.
I know where I'll end.
I don't know what waits between now and then



Cory and I have a deal... He gets up early (usually around 6:30AM) to take Mariska out. (He hears her stand up in the morning and it wakes him up. I, on the other hand, don't hear a thing!) Anyways - he gets up early 6 days a week and I get up early 1 day a week (our day off). I usually put her outside on her lead and then go back to bed. However, I can't sleep - I just lay there worrying she'll dig the tie-out up out of the ground or manage to get her collar off. On the mornings when Cory gets up and puts her out - I don't think about any of those things! Irregardless, I still think I got the better end of this deal. This week - I took Mariska outside and saw this:
So worth that early morning.


Crazy Basketball Guys...

Dude Perfect raising money for Compassion International.


am i my brother's keeper?

we were taught under the old ethic that man's business on this earth was to look out for himself. that was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'am i my brother's keeper?' that question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. yes, i am my brother's keeper. i am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality but by the higher duty i owe myself. what would you think of me if i were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death?

- eugene v. debs, usa union leader and social democrat


the opportunity of a lifetime

one of our students had the opportunity of a lifetime last friday night at the nys fair - he was at the switchfoot concert and was spontaneously invited to come up and play the drums for the band during one of their songs. from what i've heard he made some signs asking for the opportunity...and he got it! this is one of those moments they make movies about...and he totally seized it and tore it apart. the kid was rocking out! you so need to check it out!!!


the reality of death

right now i'm reading crazy love by francis chan - and it's been so challenging. actually our whole team of adult leaders is reading it together right now. i just picked it up and have been using it a few times during the week for my personal time with God. just got done reading chapter 2 on the reality of death and that we can die at any moment. as i put the book down, i read the passage from james 4 where he talks about the arrogance of planning for the future with no regard for the reality of death at any moment. and then i pulled out my journal and started writing all the future plans i have that i could jot down in a few minutes. plans for today...plans for this week...plans for this fall...plans for next summer...and what i'm planning on for the next 20 years.

and then i looked at the list.

the reality of the possibility of NONE of those things happening sank in, and it was so good and motivating for me. none of us know when we'll die...but pondering that changes the way we live.


Political Post

Okay... so this might get me into trouble, but I'm really fired up right now! I received a forwarded email today about this picture
and the following words:

"The name of the book Obama is reading is called The Post-American World, written by a fellow muslim. Post-America - The world After America ???

Please forward this picture to everyone you know, conservative or liberal to expose Obama's radical ideas and intent for this country!

photo verified by snopes"

I can't use powerful enough words to describe what a bunch of crud this email is! The Post-American World (or this source)- a book summary for anyone that truly wants to be informed. Why do we, as right-wing conservative Christians, give ourselves such a horrific testimony? The email writer saw the book cover and assumed the author meant he wanted America to fall! This person (or persons) simply saw a cover and then created a bunch of hokey sensationalism about Obama, whom they have decided is America's worst enemy or the anti-Christ or something. This propogandist is the kind of person that creates Red-Scares and concentration camps for innocent Americans. (Oh, I'm really steamed! I'm just working myself up more and more... better stop now. I won't start on the whole "fellow-muslim" part!)

I am a Christ-follower and I REFUSE to slander President Obama's name based upon a fear-filled agenda. Please - don't allow yourself to get worked up based upon lies and sensationalism. Search out the truth. Be wise and wary, but not fearful.


kingdom minded

God has been building into me in big ways over the last few years, and one of the neat "construction projects" has been this whole idea of being kingdom minded - that as Christ-followers and as churches if we land on something that works for us...but could also benefit others - to give it away. to not sell it, market it, or whatever...but give it away.

this weekend our ministry will be blessed by a community of believers committed to being kingdom minded. i recently visited paradise valley community church's website looking at something with the rest of the lcc staff and a video caught my attention that is right in line with this weekend's theme. i gave the church a call, asked if we could have the video files (i mentioned we'd be willing to help cover the cost of producing it)...and within a few hours she had it uploaded to our server ready for us to use! no cost...no expectation...no strings attached. the administrative assistant just said "if we can bless other churches...by all means take it!".

that's kingdom minded, and it's a mindset that will change the world.


social justice just a fad?

for a while now i've been observing the church's growing attention to social justice issues around the world. in the youth ministry realm it is getting more and more popular, and even in our church it seems to be getting more and more of our dollars and energy. and for a while now i've been wondering if it's just a fad that the church has jumped onto...a concept that looks trendy and in order to "be cool" you keep up. i know that there's a number of passages in the Bible that clearly call the church to feed the hungry, free the slaves, and clothe the naked, but i guess my question has been is it really as prominent on the heart of God as we make it? does it really deserve the amount of attention that we give it...or have we been slowly misguided from what matters more?

at the leadership summit a few weeks ago, i had an epiphany. probably a no-brainer for most...but it helped me work this all out in my head. hybels was talking about the fact that the church has lost respect in this world. and we all know that to be true: money scandals, sexual abuse (an inferiorating post for a differendy day), fake and plastic christianity, extreme commitment to tradition without commitment to Christ, rituals without meaning, etc. he went on "when we do something about the injustices around the world...it's the one time the church gains respect again". maybe it's not a trend at all...maybe it's the very heart of God expressed through his people in this world...and that people naturally take notice because it's so radically different from our natural wiring. maybe the church doesn't do enough. maybe it's about simply doing our part, simply because we love God and we love people...



coming alongside

one of the things i love about children's relief international is their passionate drive to make sure everything done in the project is led by mozambicans in the mozambican way. as americans we simply come alongside and join God in what He's already doing here. i saw a great picture of this the other day. dan was leading some guitar lessons to some of the teens in the church in dondo. for a couple of them they had never played guitar before, but after about 30 minutes teaching a few simple chords...they were off! they picked up the guitars and played "akuna" - one of the worship songs they sing here all by themselves. dan later in the song picked up his guitar and joined in with them...but THEY were doing the song. for the people here they are already singing a song and putting music to their lives... we as americans are just coming along to watch them, to learn from them, to join them, and to grow with them.

random and overloaded

there is so much in my heart and mind right now...this experience has been life changing and i can honestly say it is going to be game changing for each of our students who come back with us next summer. i am so excited for the impact it will have on them personally and how their life will never be the same. things here in mozambique are so different that i'm trying to stop comparing it with the united states. it's a different world. but when we can experience it we can begin to put the two very different worlds into a "third culture" which as best i can tell is a very beautiful picture of what heaven will be like. it's going to be a life changing trip and worth every single penny of investment. guaranteed.

i got to preach at the savane church plant this morning - a church plant of dondo baptist church. it is about a 30 minute drive on a bumpy dirt road...some would say it's in the "bush" although it's right close to the railroad tracks. beautiful beautiful people. oh my goodness. here's some of how they do church that i really admire:

1. passionate singing. hands raised, dancing, totally in love with jesus. when one song ends...someone from the audience just starts singing a new one and everyone joins. no instruments but an out of tune guitar faintly playing and a few hand drums. i couldn't understand any word except "jesu" but it was beautiful.

2. grateful hearts. we as americans would struggle to be grateful worshipping in a mud hut with holes in the walls and openings in the roof. but they couldn't stop giving thanks. the depth of spirituality in that place was incredible.

3. no spectators. and i do mean NO spectators - EVERYONE participated in the worship. before the preaching each group in the church (children, youth, adults, young adults, etc.) got up in front of the rest and presented 3-4 songs as their "offering of worship" to God. one group did a drama to emphasize a bible verse. but everyone participated and was a part of the worship.

4. hunger for truth. i cannot put into words the deep hunger for God's Word that is here in these churches. for many they cannot read, and so the message they heard today will be their spiritual food for the entire week. and they ate it up. they will be memorizing the scripture and quoting it all week. they are so hungry for God's Word, and it's something i don't think i could ever forget.



Today was one of the hardest and one of the best of the trip so far. This morning I visited with some ladies that make the porridge for Ray of Light preschool. I honestly enjoyed learning more about them, but I really struggled. I struggle with "visiting" and chatting, not exactly my forte. God challenges me continually about this facet of my personality. I hate being shy and quiet and reserved. It sucks. But, at the same time - He allowed this trait, this weakness, to be a part of my makeup. Accepting my shyness has always been a struggle, but this week I smashed into a wall... I sat there talking with V, J, and V desperately trying to think of questions or how to make my responses longer. Small talk is hard enough, but throw in a different language and culture, makes it practically impossible for me! I felt as if my translator was so frustrated with me that I kept letting the conversation die. It was so awkward and I just kept getting more and more discouraged and frustrated. Which in turns makes me more quiet and at a loss for words. Finally, V decided we could go to the preschool across the way. As I walked into the schoolyard the children mobbed me - which is both exhilarating and a little disconcerting as they fight to touch and hold onto me. The teachers just watch me not looking exactly friendly (remember this is through the lens of my self-induced pity party). the rest of the story is more of the same, so I'll skip the gory details. When i finally saw Val's face peek over the classroom wall I almost started crying in relief.

Onto one of the best times from this trip... this afternoon Sue and I taught some baking to a bunch of teens and a few adults that tagged along. We made banana bread. For me - the baking part didn't make any difference. But, I knew my role and my audience was an age-group I feel very comfortable around. And I knew a lot about the subject matter... and I got to teach. So, anyways - we made a bunch of banana bread muffins. I won't go into all the details, but it was an adventure. I had a blast and we only burned about half of the muffins.

This evening... well, that is a post for another day. Or maybe you will just have to come to Mozambique and experience it for yourself.



I went to the creche (or daycare) and the Hospital today. For the most part, I enjoyed the creche. The children called me Ta-Tia (probably spelled incorrectly...) and they loved to touch my skin and hair. One baby - maybe a year old - screamed every time he saw me. One of the ladies finally told me to go to the other room. lol.

the hospital was an entirely different story. The hospital here is for Aids patients that are very sick and probably near the end of their time here on earth. We went to serve soup, as the only food they receive is what their families bring. There were 2 ladies with us, called Activistas. They shared who we were and the organization we were with. They then shared the hope of Jesus with them. Then, she said, "and now the ladies will share some words" i suppose we didn't HAVE to speak or pray, but it would be encouraging for the patients. Thankfully, Sue spoke a few words (and Simone translated) and I would pray. then we would serve the soup. i could go on and on describing the hospital (and frankly, all the pain and poverty in this place) but right now, I don't have words or the emotional reserves to spend on sharing.

For lunch we went to the nationals who dreamed and started this whole project. hot Climate culture! we got to hear how they met and much about the project and how to prepare our kids for next year...

this afternoon, Cor and I were going to drive into Beira with Todd, Christa, and the kids... we didn't really make it that far as the car broke down. then started again long enough for us to get to a gas station where we played with various and sundry car parts and some bottles of water. the car made it to the driveway of Lusalite (the neighborhood where we're staying) and then sputtered around, cooled off a little and finally made it somewhere not in the middle of the road. (Christa and I walked to the park with the kids.)

now we're "chillaxin' ". soon we'll head down to Todd & Christa's to decompress and talk about what's rolling around in our heads so far.



one of the things we got to do today was a LOT of walking. walking through villages. walking by people's homes. walking by empty soccer fields. walking by lonely children. walking through school classrooms. walking through the market. walking by people in pain. walking through trash. lots and lots of walking...

but the most profound realization is not that this is some tourist's walk through a museum. this is walking through real life. it's intense and raw and real and is going to take a lot of processing because our world is so different in so many ways.


Today we went on a tour of the project. At this point, I am an observer... we walked and talked and said, "Buon Dia" a bajillion times. We were walking on a little dirt path woven around houses and gardens, ducking beneath branches and bushes that tugged at my hair and skirt, and I tried to mentally savor the moment - to stop time and capture the memory forever. The sun beat down and the language gently flowed around me. This experience is something very few will ever have - and yet, it feels normal to me, in my world. We have seen great poverty and this afternoon will start a transition for our team from simply being observers to jumping in and loving on the people around us.


in dondo

about 30 minutes ago we arrived here in dondo and are now settling in. flights went well and the setup was wonderful. we stayed in joburg last night with some very wonderful people and slept really well. everyone is healthy and feeling well...we are rested and ready to take it all in!


in atlanta

we have landed in atlanta and are now awaiting the big flight to joburg in just a few hours. the rest of the group is pretty much asleep...ok maybe just the oldest member...but the other 2 are pretty close.
we are so thankful for this opportunity...i've already filled a half a page of notes in my journal for how to make the experience the best for the teens next year.
now i find myself just hoping that...
1. there are no crying babies near us on the plane...or
2. that they cry with their mouth open long enough for me to throw a benadryl pill down their throat



Friday Night...

Cor is out mowing grass right now. Mariska is busy sniffing everything. I'm doing laundry... theoretically... (or blogging, but anyways!) Here are a few volunteer crew pictures from our day at the Summit...
Now Mariska is running around like a crazy-thing and Cory has decided to stop mowing grass because he couldn't see where he was mowing anymore. Our yard is always... interesting... a few weeks ago we had a big check mark mowed into our back yard for a few days.

Here's some pics of our building progress. They brought the steel in yesterday and it ALL went up today. It was CRAZY how fast the skeleton emerged!

Sweet! I'm off to take some malaria meds...

lots to process

this past week has been an absolute roller coaster as we get ready to leave for mozambique tomorrow. it's always busy before a trip like this, but i really tried to pack in some meetings that i knew if we didn't do now we wouldn't until september. it's been emotionally exhausting and draining...but good and needed. hurting families, lonely people...tough stuff. but yesterday started the 2 day leadership summit at lakeshore. great stuff and truly energizing and refreshing. it's given me so much to process and try to unpack, and the one session especially was so profound that i know it's going to be occupying my thoughts for the months to come. i'm really excited to sit and soak up all that God has on this final day...and try not to think about some of the details that still need to be done by tomorrow. i feel so thankful for a church that values solid leadership training for its leaders and for the incredible infusion the summit gives us every year!


We're leaving Soon!!!

We're leaving soon!
We're leaving soon!

We leave in LESS than a week for Mozambique. We had our official packing party last night! Everything, plus a few extras got squeezed in! (Chief Command"er" - Those weighing devices are AWESOME! Just don't jerk or it adds a few extra pounds.) We had to pack some stuff we'll need this week so we can weigh them as accurately as possible. So, Cory has been making a list of every item he removes from a bag and what needs to be replaced. I love my uber-organized husband. Before the packing party yesterday, I made him review everything I planned to pack to make usre I was thinking logically... he rolled his eyes a few times, but we made it through! :)

I always get a little nervous when we travel. Not that I'll die - but if everything is in order if I do die. Does everyone have the right paperwork? Is my toilet clean enough? Are my old journals from high school hidden so only my sister will find them? You know - the important stuff. :) This week is going to be really crazy... work, leadership summit, mariska, cleaning, last minute errands (library, bank, groceries, mariska stuff,...) Thankfully, the busyness will make the week fly by and we'll be on our way before we know it!

At one of our team meetings, we discussed what made us the most apprehensive about being in mozambique... I think my fears/worries/whatever-you-want-to-call-them have been like a revolving door. They just keep changing. At first it was the food and using a "bathroom" like Patti described to me... then, it became spiritual warfare... then seeing orphans and my selfish heart breaking... now... well, its kinda all there - swirling around in the back of my head. Not quite real yet - just vague little naggings where I've been practicing trust and letting them go. Its been pretty cool for me. We'll see how it goes when I'm "happily" eating a UFO (unidentified food object) OR staring into the eyes of a mother dying from aids, knowing she has children who need her...

Overall though - as I think about the trip - it doesn't feel extraordinary. We're going to see our friends - the Bushes and Val and others we've heard about, but have yet to meet. I'm so excited to visit with our friends and to play with the kids. At the same time, I KNOW we'll be experiencing some amazing stuff. (Hello! We're going to A*F*R*I*C*A!) That God will be changing me and tugging my heart more deeply in love with Him. I've been praying that God will break me - that my intimacy with him will reach depths I haven't known before. I don't know how it will happen, most likely, how I least expect it... And I'm so excited!


vision trip

we are just about one week away from stepping on the plane for mozambique and the 10 day vision trip to check out the project and try to get an idea of how to best maximize the experience for our teens next summer! i'm so excited for our team, which consists of shanna and i, along with 2 of our adult leaders, dan & sue. they are fantastic people who love jesus with everything inside them. i can't wait to spend the time with them and experience this culture! also, we cannot wait to see some old friends and step into their world.

it's going to be a busy week...here's some of what is still left to do (aside from all the stuff on my desk at the church to crank out):
- fill sandbags with sand and secure around the sump pump
- final details for the dog's vacation from us :)
- finish reading material in prep for the trip
- one more meeting tonight with the team
- mow the lawn 2 more times
- thank you notes all caught up
- balance the checkbook and make sure bills are all paid in advance
- pack and weigh the suitcases
- a few final purchases for the trip
- and some other things that i'm sure i'm forgetting...

we feel so blessed by family and friends who have made this trip possible for us. the support of the church has been wonderful and the buzz in the air has been so refreshing. words can't even begin to express how amazed and blown away we are that right now all airfare and in-country costs have been covered for all 4 of us! God is so good...and we are so thankful!



We need a middle name for Mariska, so we can register her... anyone have any good ideas?


every child in africa is YOURS

one of my favorite songs out there right now has to be steven curtis chapman's "yours". was listening to it the other day and it challenged me anew...thoughts rushing to our upcoming vision trip to mozambique...and now i'm wondering if this should be the theme song for the students going in 2010? it's in the running...



i still remember a comment from craig groeshel at willow's leadership summit last year. it was in a q&a slot after his main session - people all over the world texted in questions. the one was something along the lines of the following (i couldn't find the clip anywhere online): "how is it that i serve God my whole life and yet life is still so hard and i find that i'm just not happy?" it's a question i've asked many times myself, along with many others.

his response was so blunt...but so challenging:
"see i believe something different.
i believe that we serve God...[long pause]...and then we die."

sometimes we get caught up in feeling that we are somehow entitled and that we deserve good from God. the reality is quite far from this. what good we do experience is purely an act of grace on God's part. but regardless of how life turns out, we serve Him. we build into others. we invest in things bigger than ourselves. we love others unconditionally. we seek to make His name great in this world.

and then we die.


cause you're hot then you're cold

as i mentioned in the last post, i've been reading foreign to familiar, and i can't get past what a fascinating read it has been...just can't get the concepts out of my mind. it seems that in normal, everyday occurances they continually surface, and it's really been helpful on so many levels.
like last night at our adult leader's meeting, for instance. we meet every 4-6 weeks with the whole team, and it's really turned into something super special each time. we usually gather at one of our home's at 4:30 on a saturday...we do dinner together, lots of small talk and laughing, some sharing time centered around "life" right now (which always results in people being vulnerable, transparent, and crying), and then we try to sneak in some "business" related to the youth ministry. after that people usually hang around for another 45 minutes just chatting...and people are pretty much out of the house by 11:00pm. crazy.
where it came out last night was at the very end. i knew it was getting late, and like most of these gatherings, i'm trying to cram some super important logistical stuff at the end of the "business" part, inevitably not covering everything. there was a dialogue last night during the meeting that was quite interesting:
(leader #1): "should we maybe start the meeting earlier...or plan to end the meeting later...because we never get to fit it all in."
(leader #2) "OR we should just shorten some of the other elements and make time that way."
the one leader was coming from a hot-culture perspective...the other from a cold-culture persepective...neither necessarily bad - just a reality of any group of people living in community.
more and more i'm finding myself valuing the hot-culture perspective...less of an emphasis on time, more hospitality and indirect communication, more people oriented than task oriented...and i'm actually wondering if we were created by God to be like that?
i'm still wrestling with it all...
not sure we're gonna figure it all out, but this fall we're going to try something that i think might point us in the right direction...
we're gonna have shorter meetings every 4-6 weeks focused on the "business" part of it all, in addition to us all being part of the same adult community group which will meet every other week. should be fun!



no unifying theme to this post...just a bunch of random thoughts from life right now:
- later tonight we'll be traveling back to rochester from camp burton. it's been a really great week and God has really worked here. i've enjoyed speaking to all the students here...but i have to be honest - they're nothing like our teens back home.
- been blown away at the talents and abilities of the college students serving as counselors at the camp. they have so much energy and enthusiasm, and gifted by God to really connect with the teens. but the most refreshing thing has been to see their genuine hearts for God and how contagious that really is.
- almost finished reading foreign to familiar in preparation for the vision trip to mozambique in 3 weeks. what a great read - and so helpful for understanding not just other cultures of the world but also our own.
- shanna and i are sitting in a quintessential, nostalgic cafe here in burton right now. old 50's music...antiques for sale...small town america at its best.
- can't wait to get home (but a little scared of what we might find in the basement). we're keeping our fingers crossed.


camp burton

i'm speaking at camp burton this week - camp burton is our district's camp about 4 hours west of us near cleveland. fun times. this video i quickly shot off my phone - the quality is bad, but it was during a really sweet praise and worship time this morning. God's really been working. praying that kids turn their lives over to Christ tonight and tomorrow night and make commitments to follow Him with more passion and intimacy.


new building update

lakeshore's community center is becoming more and more a reality every day. it's always so exciting to walk into the office and see the progress. i snapped these pics the other day. the structure that's being built up currently is the multi-purpose room / gym within the center of the new build. it's so exciting to envision all that God will do in this place!


hard to believe

last night at ISM we were trying to emphasize one main point: "when we run from God, life gets messy". it was a fun night as it lended itself to some fun (and gross) elements. we played a game called 'sardine sliders' which has to be the most disgusting game i've ever done or seen. then we talked through the first half of the book of jonah, highlighting how messy his world got (and consequentially everyone else around him) while he was on the run from God.

as we described the story of jonah...i came to the realization of how hard it is to actually believe it literally occurred. i do believe it happened...i believe that all of the Bible is true and to be taken literally unless there's obvious clues that it's written in a figurative sense...but honestly if i was a skeptic, i'd have a hard time with...
  • the fact that jonah was asleep during this "perfect storm" (was he drugged???)
  • that some big fish just swallowed him whole as he floundered in the water
  • that he ended up in the fish's stomach...alive
  • that he just "hung out" inside there for 72 hours...and spent time praying in there too
  • that he didn't go through the rest of the fish's digestive system...or get eaten by something else that came down the fish's throat
  • that he got barfed up on the shore...and lived to tell about it all

seriously...if you're honest...it sounds like something that was made up by someone who was high. i'm sure there's scientific explanations for it...would really be curious to see them, etc. it's God's Word so i believe it...but wow - that one's a little tough. what other stories/passages are tough to believe?


summer retreat graphics

i'm so pumped for this year's summer retreat. shanna just modified and tweaked the graphics below that we'll use for promotion and for the retreat itself. the original came from creativemyk here. we're coming into a full year of change, and i'm excited about how the retreat theme will carry that concept to the level of change that Christ's presence creates in our lives!