Saturday, November 7, 2009

From now on just call me "Abe"

Here is my attempt to stay true to my word and continue writing on this blog. :)

If I had to pick a word to describe my life lately I would say, "Abraham." God has certainly been throwing me for a loop. After an incredible summer in West Virginia, I am still recognizing the life changes God made in my heart. It is easy to say that with time you forget what happens and you return back to your old self, and in some ways this has been true. But at the same time, I know that God is active in my life right now.

Over the summer I learned to seek Him and search for Him in everything. And you know what the cool thing is? I have been able to see Him. For example: I know coincidences happen, but can you explain going to multiple churches, several chapel services, and even in class having the same topic addressed? At home, in South Bend, here in Marion at church and chapel, and in my classes, almost everywhere I go, we talk about one man: Abraham. So for the duration of this semester, I have been slowly given direction by God. I want to go to almost every service I can because each time another piece of the puzzle is put into place. What then does it all mean? Good question. At this point I think the lesson has been pretty simple, "Have faith."

When I first came to school, in regards to my major I knew 3 things: I liked art, people, and Spanish. Combining those seemed to be an awkward combination, but I chose Art Education with an additional major in Spanish. The Spanish major was because I fell in love with the language and people in Mexico when I went on my first missions trip. I chose to pursue it despite the fact that it was basically a triple major.

Fast forward two years, and I am now a Junior. Art classes have been amazing. They have pushed my skills but I have come to recognize just how much it is a passion for me. Spanish on the other hand is difficult. I have not felt like I have made much progress, scheduling is difficult, and I recognize that in order to complete everything it will take another year of school. For the majority of the beginning of the semester I continued to sway back and forth about what to do. Should I just drop the Spanish and graduate on time, or do I jump whole-heartedly into this new direction and pursue graduating with degrees in Art Education AND Spanish Education? Here is where Abraham comes into play.

Basically, He is my role model right now. I do not know what God has in store for me with Spanish. I am not that great at it, but I know it is the direction I am supposed to take. When I was at home, our Pastor talked about faith. Go figure. He said that as you continue in your relationship with God, you will feel prompted to do things. But how do you know if something is from God? It will require faith to be completed. I do not know how to pay for an extra year of school. I do not know why God wants me to do Spanish when I am not particularly gifted at it. But I do know that God is going to be a part of this dream. He is going to make it happen. All I am doing is taking the first step. Espanol it is!

Today is Kayla's (my roomie) first game. I am pumped. We made shirts and are prepared to be the BEST fan club ever! This is showing her GREAT love because lately she has had this knack for hanging out with me and my friends, ditching me and making my friends all HER best friends. It has been pretty hilarious to see how basically I am just her way of networking. :) There is nothing like going up to your friends and having them ask about your roomie before they ask about you. (I'm just being dramatic. She's cool.) Despite this "tension" I am standing strong and still accept her as a roomie. :) It is time for me to pull those last loose ends together and get ready to get my cheer on because game time is coming!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Update: Week 4 is about to Proceed.

Tomorrow I am starting the fourth week of classes here at IWU. WOW! Some big things that have happened since being here are:

1.... I bought a bike! This was super exciting because, although I live in the lodges.... they are a little more remote on campus. Therefore the appeal of having a bike on campus sky rocketed. I have not named the bike yet, but I am open to suggestions. It is a silver blue color.

2.... Softball- We have been having a "Fall Ball" season for softball which is nice because we have been able to enjoy our time outside before the field is covered in snow. We played 3 games all back to back to back and we were supposed to do the same this weekend, but we were rained out. This was nice in some ways because it allowed me to catch up on some homework, sleep, and just be rejuvenated for this up coming week. Although the break was nice, I must admit it has been fun to be back with the team again. In the outfield we have been working hard as well as getting an ab workout from laughing. Coach Stroup always leads our drills and boy do we pick on her. It is fun to laugh out there though, and we are all pushing each other to be better and better. I'm really glad to be a part of it. Like Christi would say... "GET SERIOUS."

3.... Classes- This semester I have 2 night classes, and a completely different schedule from what I am used to. I usually had early classes, started at 7:50 and then tried to be done early. Now, I do not have class until 12 on Thursdays, and 1:30 on Monday and Wednesday. It is quite a change. The neat thing about my schedule is that it has enabled me to wake up, do homework and spend a little extra time with God. In about a week though, I will receive my placement for my practicum. For teaching I am supposed to go out into the schools and observe, help, and even teach a little. This is great so that by the time I am ready to student teach, I am not just thrown into the wolves. PTL. A challenge this semester has been my Spanish class. On the first day the prof. I was supposed to have was not there because he was having emergency surgery. That was a curve ball I was not expecting. But God has been good through all of it. Our interim prof. has been great. She is difficult and speaks fast Spanish 100% of the time but she really has an amazing heart for God. I shared that I was struggling with the class, and she has just been great at helping equip me for the class. We had our first test on Thursday and when I walked in, I knew exactly as much as I needed.

4.... My roommate (roomie) is Kayla. We have had a TON of fun. She plays basketball here at IWU, and so she's been getting up @ 5:30 everyday for conditioning but its her last day! She made it. The coolest thing is that she bought this basketball hoop that we put up in our room so now we can have sweet competitions. She beat me in our first game of PIG but I am not worried. It was only our first game. :)

5.... God has just been really great here @ IWU and especially in my life. We had "summit" which is basically our spiritual emphasis week, and I was just blown away by how God is working in me step by step. The entire summer I felt SO in tune with Him. Every action and step I took I tried to see Him. Why should that change just because I come back to school? That does not mean I have to be some super spiritual fanatic. It just means that the person who I was the first two years at school has a new sense of peace. God is in charge, and I am determined to not let stress get the best of me.

Overall, School is great. Classes are tough, but it is refreshing to see my friends and approach everything that comes my way with a peaceful joy. Oh, and life is always better when you have a bike. :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

I'm a Junior?

I just wanted to send a quick update. Yesterday I moved in to the Lodges here at IWU. The campus seems to have a different feel to it this semester. I am now in upper classman housing. WOW. People now think I am old so it seems. :D

I'm rooming with Kayla and we have just had a great time so far. We've laughed a TON and both decided that we "Hate each other." :) It is weird to be here and not have classes. The schedule is SO free. Its like all of us don't know what to do. Fortunately classes start tomorrow. That harsh reality hit me when I spent over $300.00 on books and still didn't buy some for one class. My goodness.

My computer is still on the fritz so I am using one of my friends to update this. Hopefully my mac will return to me. Of course its a holiday weekend. Funny stuff. I am excited to see all that this year has in store for me. Hopefully God blows it out of the water. :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"It's Going Off Again"

Recently I walked downstairs to my mother begrudgingly stating.... "I have been up since 5:30." It was in that moment that I realized... "What am I going to do? When I leave for school I am leaving behind most of my comedic material."

Really though, I am sure you are wondering. WHAT HAPPENED. Well, every Wednesday Dad meets with 3 other men and they discuss all the world's problems over breakfast. That is at least what it seems like they do. You know... they talk about things crazy things that happened to them through out the week. Usually Dad comes back sharing some story about raccoons or just random guy things. I love hearing the stories. For those who know my Dad, you know that he is the MASTER of telling stories. He can put me to shame, it is no task for him to keep an entire room captivated one moment and laughing the next. Maybe that is why he's been such a success as a teacher. :) (This is his 32nd year. Wow. Most would say that is a HUGE accomplishment, but he just plays it off and says the accomplishment is in the fact that he can now refer to himself as the old fat bald guy at the end of the hall) Gotta love Daddy-o.

Back to the story. (Tangents are my thing) ANYWAYS... Dad always goes to breakfast BEFORE school on Wednesdays so it ends up being pretty early. He drags himself out of bed and grants himself an extra cup of coffee. This would seem quite normal right. Except for the fact that this lovely day, Dad accidentally forgot to turn the alarm off. Therefore... Mom could not sleep. This was the big no no.

Now most of us have probably experienced a situation similar to this. There is nothing more annoying than someone else's alarm waking you up. But even worse than this, Mom couldn't figure out how to shut it off. Aggravated, she called Dad's cell phone to try and stop the problem. He didn't answer. Mom left a voicemail and was all upset. After a while, it went off again, and Mom called Dad a second time. This time her message was short: "It's going off again!"

Here's where the story really starts to take on some humor. Mom can't sleep and decides she's just going to get up and go downstairs. Plopped right there on the kitchen table was the best possible welcome present. Dad's phone. So as a means of getting her point across, Mom hid his phone in the living room and stashed away the chocolate. :) You can tell its getting serious when the chocolate gets put away.

For me, the humor came in the fact that all day Mom cooled off about the whole situation, Dad came home and was super sorry. He listened to the messages while we were at the kitchen table, and we all smiled as he saved the last message. "It's going off again."

So when my parents read this on my blog I know they will say: "I can't believe you put that on there." There is however, a point to all of this. At first the story can seem like a funny glimpse into our lives, but the phrase is what has been stealing the show in my life.

I have been home for 16 days now. A fantastic break. I have been busy doing quite a bit of shopping with Mom... I've had reunions/good bye get togethers with friends here at home, and of course, I've spent a little time at the lake. This time has also given me a chance to get ready for school. In my last post, I talked about how this summer I learned a lot about relying on God for EVERYTHING. What does it mean to talk with Him all throughout the day and see life through His eyes. Time and time again I find myself saying this phrase: "I hate change." It is the truth. I am a girl who loves getting into the routine. I love adventures, but still, I like to know what is happening.

The count down is now one week until I head off to school. I am going to be a Junior which sounds CRAZY coming out of my mouth. Now I love school and shoot this is my third year so I know what to expect. So you can imagine... I was quite surprised when one day this week I found myself getting nervous about school. I can understand the nerves when you are going to be a Freshman but I didn't expect that now. I am established at school. But it was through the whole alarm going off story, and that simple phrase that it finally clicked for me. I have just experienced a summer of life change. I feel close with God, and His peace has helped me be more chill and slow down a little.

Why then a sense of worry about returning to school? You would think I would be EXCITED to return and share stories from this summer. Don't get me wrong... I am excited to see everyone. :) I think it is because last time I was at school, I was a different person. Last year I often felt like I was in a race, trying to keep everything organized and under control. I had to give 100% at softball and I had to get A's in each of my classes. HAD TO. But in the midst of all of this I seemed more like a chicken running around with its head cut off. I left the year tired and not satisfied with my accomplishments. This summer was a summer of breaking me down and everyday letting God show me how I could be in the midst of a jam-packed schedule, constantly have questions flying at me, work a 17 hour day with teenagers, and still be calm. WOW.

This time.... I want to go to school and let God lead. That doesn't mean I am going to forget about grades and no longer push myself. It simply means, I am going to take a little of my own medicine and remind myself of my favorite phrase:

"God's God It."

Moral of the story.... BOTH Christi and I have heard before that we should write a book about our family. On days like these, I realize a book would be a great dream, but I am just not so sure it could capture it all. Instead, I'm thinking a reality TV show. Who doesn't want to get the inside scoop w. the Church's. :D Maybe we could call it:
"It's Going Off Again."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Fish Tank

It has taken me quite some time to figure out what to write as my final post about the summer.

I am now sitting here in my living room in Angola, IN thinking "Wow.... what just happened?" West Virginia almost feels like a dream because I came home and things were pretty much exactly like I left them. I feel like I have just endured a summer of stretching and life changing and I come back wondering "Now what?"

Fortunately, my family has been here and I have been able to just love time to catch up with them. It is great to know that home is always home, no matter what. In the time that I have been home, I realize that SO MUCH has gone on. After living in a routine, following Youth Works schedule to a T... I'm sometimes surprised at the variety that has been going on. :) Dinner doesn't ALWAYS start at 5:30.

Overall, my time home has been wonderful. I have needed the time to start processing all that God did over the summer. Now I know I'm not going to really ever see ALL that He did but at least I have had a little break before running right into my Junior year at Indiana Wesleyan University. This 3 week break is perfect.

Some of the things I am starting to take away from the summer have to deal with worry. This summer God basically obliterated my comfort zone. I was stretched and pushed beyond belief but I think that is the main reason why I can now say that I LOVED everything that happened. God was in charge, and I was forced to trust Him.

I was up in front of 70 people every week talking about God, and yeah... I was a little nervous. I felt unqualified. But I got to witness God transforming youth and pushing and stretching them. WOW! Not only that, but I was able to invest in a community and have a town I had never heard of be my "home" all summer long. The people there were incredible. Raw, and just open about who they were. I loved it.

Now that I am settled at home and once again driving "The White Pony" (For those of you that don't know... that's what we call our big white Astro van.) I have now become aware of how thankful I am that we can pray. My time in Lincoln County, WV is over for now. But the awesome thing is that I can still keep the whole area in my heart and pray that God's work wasn't just happening because Youth Works was there. He can still send people there and He can equip others in the community to just continue spreading His love. PTL.

There have been some funny things that have happened now that I have been home. :)

Mom recently had surgery on her knee and so now that I am home I have become QUITE the chauffeur. On Monday we had to go to Fort Wayne for her follow up appt. so of course... we did a little shopping before. :) Well as we got settled into the packed waiting room, it was obvious that they were a little behind. Mom said that she was the last appointment of the day so I knew we were in for the long hall.

Overall, the weather had been quite temperamental that day.... It'd be raining and then BOOM completely sunny. As we were sitting there, Mom looks down this long hallway outside and says to me, "Look out there! It just looks like it is POURING! Doesn't it look like that?"
So I looked and said, "Yeah, I guess it is."
Mom reiterates, "It is just POURING!"
Then I look again and say... "Mom. We're looking through a fish tank."

So in this crowded waiting room, my Mom and I just start laughing to the point of crying. Finally Mom gains enough composure to say, "Well maybe that's why it looks so wet."

As you can see, I seem to be adjusting well. Mom needs me. :)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Last Day

It is official... Tomorrow is our last day in Lincoln County. Lately we have been busy saying good bye, and I know that tomorrow will be tough. This place I have called home seems so hard to leave. I am stoked to get back and see everyone in A-town but its hard knowing that I have grown so close with these people and it is now time to move on. God has been great this summer though. I am trusting that this is not goodbye, only see ya later. Tonight we had a cookout with the fire fighters and it was just great. We laughed and they had a hoot watching us all play corn hole. We just found out they had it stored in the Fire Hall. It's a good thing we just now realized it because we are almost certain NOTHING would have been accomplished all summer. :)

I just wanted to update this quickly so that you could be praying. Tomorrow we will drive up and stay the night in Charleston. Then on Sunday morning we'll be driving up to Philly for our closing session. Tuesday morning will be the day that I make the drive home to Indiana. Be praying that saying goodbye is not too difficult. Especially with my site. I've seen them EVERYDAY this summer except one.... meaning I'm pretty used to living with them by my side. It's definitely going to be weird when we split and go back "home." Thanks again for all your support. Don't worry... when I have time I will add some more stories on here. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

He'll still be here when we leave.

First let me say, I know I know.... I was doing SO well at updating this thing every week, and then I skipped a week. I am sorry. In this circumstance I am going to revert back to my middle school/ high school years and remember the days when my parents said "Just blame us." :D My family is in fact the reason I did not update the blog, because they were here. I say that's a valid excuse.

Last Friday Christi, Dad & Mom all made the trip down here to WV. It was super fun to see and hang out with them. We met up in the front part of Walmart where people are all exiting and trying to grab carts. Oh you KNOW we stood right there in the center and had a little meet and greet time. They met Mark, and Kelly and then after about 20 min. they accompanied us on our shopping endeavor. It was pretty funny for them to get a taste of what we do every week. After we loaded up the vehicles with food, Dad followed me "home" to Lincoln County. He did a great job driving the curves and hills. Here, the roads say speed limit of 55 mph but really, its just from curve to curve the WHOLE way. We came inside to unload, and Dad needed a nap. :)

We spent the weekend relaxing and driving around to see all the "sites." In Charleston we stopped to see the Capital Building and there was this protest gathering going on. Mom was scared to death.... didn't want to get out of the car. I thought it was hilarious. But we got out took our tourist pictures and overheard some of the most cliche' speeches ever. :D While we were in Charleston we walked around down town and saw some beautiful streets. Then we saw the coolest thing! I looked up at the street sign to see that we were at the corner of "Hale" and "Lee." It was legit.
On Sunday before it was time for the family to leave, we shopped at Walmart where I accomplished another summer goal and bought a West Virginia T-shirt. Only $5.00!

Now for the students the past 2 weeks. We'll call them "Week 4" and "Week 5." Week 4 came and I was excited all week because I knew my parents and Christi were coming. The group was amazing. The students were not the oldest bunch, but many were right on in their relationship with Christ. It was SO encouraging to see that they "get it" and some of them are just going to be sophomores. WOW! Week 1 was also great because an adult leader brought her 2 kids. Sarah Grace, and Adaleigh. This was a huge highlight. I LOVE just hanging out with little kids and this summer I have been so refreshed every time I am around a family. Their mom Kamber was an adult leader, and the entire week, she was an incredible encouragement to me. We just clicked right away, and I was just SO thankful that she was willing to let God work through her all week long.

So after an amazing week, my parents came and it was like icing on the cake. Then it was time for "Week 5" For this week there were only 3 church groups. One was from Minnesota and brought 7 students, 2 who were older than me, and 1 who was my age. So it was a little different than our typical group. The other two groups were larger but I connected with many of the girls right away. On a fun standpoint, this group was great. We could laugh and talk about tons of stuff. But CLUB was torture. They didn't really know any of the songs, and trying to get them to let God in was a challenge. Teens were focused on each other's opinions more than God's and it was tough to experience. On top of this frustration, I started getting sick in the middle of the week. I still have it and basically, I'd say my throat feels like the size of a pea, my ears just feel funny, and there's just a lot of gunk in my throat. John thinks this building is killing me. :)

Anyways... back to the week. I kept trying to change things up, but it just didn't seem to fit the group. I had so much fun with them, but it seemed like we weren't moving from the fun to the spiritual side of things. By the end of the week, we had our foot washing service, and I was still discouraged. Usually, things come full circle by Thursday. But this week it didn't when it came to foot washing. This week took longer for me to process. It's neat because the one thing that helped me was a conversation my site had earlier in the summer. John talked about how sometimes I wouldn't see all of the work that happened in these kids hearts. But my job was to still ask questions when I thought questions needed to be asked. It was about following through with what God asked of me, and not allowing the visible "results" to get me down. What seemed ironic to me was that on our evaluations, several teens put that they did not like CLUB, however this group blessed me with the best notes of encouragement at the end of the week. I had notes from several teens thanking me for showing them that you can serve Christ AND have fun.

Moral of the story is: God has taught me a lot in the past two weeks. He blessed me with a wonderful group that was encouraging and on fire for Christ. But He also brought teens who were excited about life and still needed to find the other piece... What it means to let God rule in their lives. The work is not done yet, but I'm continuing on, trusting that God will make it happen in HIS time.

I am now preparing to start the last week of programming in Lincoln County. I cannot believe it. The summer is winding down quickly and I'm desperately trying to say my goodbyes. A few weeks ago we found out that YouthWorks! is closing the site here in Lin. Co. and moving to start another site in WV. This has been tough for me to process. I mean it makes sense to leave for a while. The work projects are just too far away. We are traveling 45 min. to get to a site to do a little painting and small repair. And housing has been difficult to find/maintain here. Even with these reasons, it is hard that we are being asked to gently close the door in Lincoln County when I hate to see the change.

This year there are about 50 kids on the kids club list with about 35 showing up everyday. Through disciplining, chasing them off the playground to sit back down, and playing INCREDIBLY competitive games of kickball, the little punks have stolen my heart. I'm sure I've carried 1/2 those kids around on my back, done obstacle courses and crafts up to wazoo and yet now that its almost over, I'm getting sentimental. So be praying.

This week will be tough. We are saying goodbye to Kids Club in Lincoln County, but I'm praying that this can be a time where we celebrate the summer and realize that God really has blessed Lincoln County. I am holding on tight to this: "God was here in Lincoln County before YouthWorks! came, and He will still be here when we leave."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Boys Boys Boys

I have been trying to think of how I can top the last blog I wrote with the adventure of getting stuck. I'm pretty sure I will not be able to make something more exciting, but I will try.

This past week was QUITE A WEEK. We had 48 high school guys, and 22 high school girls... We were a PACKED house. I burnt the tops of my fingers pretty bad steaming broccoli on Tuesday so I had blisters the rest of the week, and Well we started off Sunday and we completely ran out of Jumbalia. UH OH! I was worried that we would NEVER make it through the week food wise but then... we made a sad/glorious discovery... We forgot to make 1/2 of the boxes. So although it was sad that we were short on food, we knew that we would recover. :)

Sunday through Wednesday were a lot rougher than I expected. I was excited to have so many guys, and I was pumped because I knew we would be able to feed off of their energy much better than before. BUT.... along with their energy came chatter mouths. CLUB was difficult to get them quiet, and they weren't used to taking part in worship or anything. One big group was a private Catholic high school and the boys were getting credit. That presented an up hill battle, but at the same time I was motivated to have the boys REALLY walk away with something.

At one point during the week, I heard the boys talking and saying... I just wish this could be our schedule: Wake up, Breakfast, Ministry, Showers, Dinner, and Bed. I listened to that and thought, "WOW! He just took out every part of my job." So I knew that some of them didn't like all of the spiritual stuff, but I kept going. Most importantly, I kept praying. This was super neat because although it was the biggest struggle to quiet them down, once I "got 'em" I had 'em. They were great listeners, and despite some of the discouragement, I felt like my talks were some of my best! For me though... I thought my talks were going well but I didn't know or receive any feedback from the teens. This was different because the other weeks I would get notes and stuff as encouragement. It was harder for me to gauge and see what God was doing. However, Thursday night it became worth it.

On Thursdays we hold CLUB at Trinity United Methodist down the street because BINGO is going on in the Fire Hall. I almost like this because it is a different environment AND we try to have a more reflective mood. The message is about serving and how Christ washes His disciples feet. I explain how revolutionary this is when He does it, and all that it REALLY means. I read the Scripture, and explain it, and then always scrap the notes to talk to the group individually for the week. This is really my favorite time because God shows up. I just speak from my heart and in being BOLD in Him, I witness people change and begin to comprehend all they can do when they pursue bringing glory to God. WOW!

Well back to this specific week. Even though it was supposed to be more chill and quiet, this group still managed to bring out their loud side. The whole time up front, singing leading worship I was just praying that God would make this trip something these students would remember. A time when they REALLY encountered God. I got up in front and stressed to the students that they can make a difference and God can do AMAZING things through them if they let him. I pushed them saying that the kids they meet here, and the people they serve all have a special place in their heart. They make this HUGE impact and yet they have known them for 4 days. And I asked them.... What happens when we serve the people we live with and see everyday. I could tell God was at work because every eye was locked in listening to me. (But we all know it wasn't me.) Some started crying a little and then I explained that we want to empower them to serve at home. To show people the love of Christ and allow yourself to be loved by Him. In order to do this, we wanted to wash their leaders feet who would then wash the teens feet.

Prior to this summer I had never been a part of a foot washing service. I don't really like feet or anything, but I think my favorite part is getting a chance to pray with the adult after. It's hard to get to know the teens for a few days be a part of their spiritual walk and then never being able to follow it up. But the adult leaders DO have the opportunity to continue pushing the teens in the right direction. Taking the chance to pray for them is also helping out the teens, so I love it.

After the foot washing, the church groups have some additional debrief/talk time. So on Thursday, three of our groups were down and ready to go, while the High School group was still upstairs. Well, I walked the big group back to the Fire Hall while John waited for the boys. Later that night one of the adult leaders from the school group said, you had an entire group of 19 Senior boys crying tonight. God really did a lot.

I heard that and was in complete awe. All week long I had to trudge through CLUB. Trying and trying to speak the words of Christ, I just didn't know if it was even making an impact. But this week God showed me the reason for perseverance. I could have felt defeated by those boys but instead Christ continued to help me look at them in love. WOW!

So I now get ready to start the cycle over again. This week is hard because I wonder, what is going to be next God? I can feel that I am getting worn down with all of this and I am just praying once again, that He can be my energy and my strength. I made a goal to treat every week like it is the only one of the summer. That's not meaning I'm going to stay up late and never rest. I'm just trying to remember that although I am here day in and day out, for weeks and months, these teens are excited and this is going to be a great week for them to encounter God.

Thank you for your prayers and support. I needed them this past week and it was SO amazing to see how God provided. I received a package from Kels, a letter from Al, and a package from Mom. All prevented me from getting discouraged, and they helped remind me that I have an incredible support system pushing me to keep going here in WV. So thank you again for your prayers, and keep 'em coming. :D

It seems crazy that today is July 12th. Wow time is flying. The kids should be arriving in 1/2 hour, this week we have 41 boys, 32 girls, a 1-year old and a 5-year old. It's common that the girls outnumber the boys but that does not seem to be the case in Lincoln County. I'm sure it will be another adventure.... boys boys boys. :)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"A Country *Gal* Will Survive!"

It's time for me to update this thing again and WOW... I am now noticing how hard it is to keep track of everything. SO much has happened within the last week. Let's start with the actual missions week.

This past week we had "Family Week." Instead of the normal 60 - 70 teens coming to the Fire Hall, we had 19 people ranging from 5 to 68 years old. On paper, you would think this would make for an easier week. However, this was not the case. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED the people. I was just exhausted this week. With such a small crew, the staff had to make up for quite a bit. At Kids Club, Lindsay is doing a GREAT job. She doubts it a lot but really, things are going well. Last year they had at max 14 kids come. This year we are right around 30. That's an AWESOME improvement. But.... this past week, we had only 11 helpers. WOW! With some of our participants being the same age as the kids, we had our hands full. Fortunately, God has given me an excitement and a willingness to tackle a challenge. There was no doubt that Lindsay needed all the help she could get. 

SO, I went to Kids Club everyday of the week. I made up games on the playground like an obstacle course, and just tried to run with the kids to wear them out. One thing is for sure... I didn't have any trouble getting a work out in. Of course, kids would race each other, but the ultimate thrill came in facing me. Well I'm a sucker for a competition so I think I did that race 12 times. :D My week was also filled with hour long games of kick ball and soccer. It was great. On the last day of Kids Club, I even made up a scavenger hunt game. I took the verse of the week and wrote it on 10 different cards and then hid them in super hard spots on the playground. I didn't know if the kids would be into it, but once I told them the rules.... they were off. I felt so accomplished that I took a group of kids who seemed to only yell derogatory comments, and got them working together searching through the Bible. I'd say that's a glimpse of success. :)

At night, our "CLUB's" were a little shorter, and the best part was that lights out came at 10:30. Praise the Lord. Even though this schedule was supposed to be easier, all of us were dragging. With family weeks, the groups take off a day earlier so we were able to have an extra day off. This was a true gift because I was so tired I couldn't even think straight. Let alone function as a leader. 

Friday morning came around and we woke up early to get to Charleston by 7:00. We had our shopping done, unloaded everything, took a nap and still made it to M&R by 1:00. That was good use of our time. Friday was also filled with many other accomplishments. Our site decided we wanted to make a music video. 3 hours later, it was finished. Edited and burned onto a DVD. That is super fast and of course, the video is superb. Only the best from Lincoln County. Plus, while Mark was finishing up the DVD, Lindsay, John and I all tie-dyed shirts! This is my first time EVER tie-dying so I thought it was "so totally wicked." 

My fourth of July was a little different than what I am used to. Usually I wake up and we head down 2 blocks to find our "spot" for the parade in good ole A-town. Then we caravan out to the lake and spend the day eating, soaking up the sun and laughing. We finish the day with my favorite.... fireworks. :) Well, some of that remained the same for me this year. I woke up hearing the sounds of parade floats outside. The Fire Hall is right in the center of town so this time I just had to wake up and walk outside. We sat in the back of the pick up and watched the entire parade. It was priceless.

 After that, the Fire Dept. had a potluck dinner and so we got to fill up on some good West Virginia cooking. BINGO always happens in the Fire Hall, and finally we all decided it was time to play. It was super fun to sit and just chat it up with everyone and of course laughing was present. Finally at 4:00 we headed to Charleston and met up with the rest of the 3 2 Crew. (That's what we call all the West Virginia sites together) We had an amazing dinner and even though it was raining, we got to see fireworks on the river. I loved it. So I wasn't home for the 4th of July... one of my favorite holidays. But, I was able to experience it in a totally new place. I loved spending Independence Day in WV. Seeing how no matter where you are, people are celebrating the same thing. Freedom. But most of all, it really helped me recognize that nothing can replace being at home. 

Now for the story of all stories.... Getting stuck. 

Last Saturday Mark and I decided to go on a picture taking adventure. We started down Trace Creek Road because I knew we could find some SWEET pictures. Right after the first turn, we saw "Jenga Barn" where it looked like if you took away one board, the WHOLE BARN would collapse. So we kept going and finally it became a dirt road. YES! This meant our trip had officially become legit. I was driving so that Mark could take pictures, and well the road started to get pretty intense. A lot of areas had been washed out and at one point my water bottle went from the cup holder on my right, to beside me on my left. That was also the time when Mark and I were positive... two wheels had just gone air-born. After that, Mark kindly suggested "How about I drive?" I was fine with this. Mark literally drove probably 30 feet and he decided to turn around. I watched this process and just as I got ready to say "Ahh" it was too late, our front right tire had already gone down toward the creek below. Mark put it in reverse but there was no hope... we were stuck. 

So of course, I look to my cell phone and "cheerfully" see.... we have no service. Great. We look in the back of the truck and we have NOTHING. Surprisingly, both Mark and I were pretty chill about all of it. But I was definitely thinking of the quote in the movie the Incredibles... "Now nobody panic... *We're Dead... WE'RE DEAD.*" :) The only thing Mark had was his little pocket knife John just got him. So he used that to dig a rock out of the road which we tried to place under our back left tire. If we could get traction under it, we would be home free. Our attempts failed. We salvaged some gravel from the back of the truck and tried to pack that along with twigs back there but nothing was working. 

Mark decided that if we could get some weight in the back of the truck, I could drive and He could push and maybe that would get us out. SO.... we both started digging at the road to get rocks for the back. We probably looked pathetic. During our digging time, we suddenly heard 2 motors coming our way. Soon two dirt bikers came around the corner. They were great in trying to help us. Cussing up a storm and trying to figure out WHAT in the world we were going to do. They decided to ride on down the road to find help. About a 1/2 hour later they came back saying. "You should have just kept going... the end of the road is just a 1/4 mile that way." Great. :( They had asked a lady to be looking for a truck to send our way, and then they took off saying they would meet up with their buddies and make sure to stop by later. Mark and I had great hopes so we just chilled there with the truck. I took a nap, he took a walk, and still no signs of help. Mark goes "Well I wish we had some cards." Of course.... I check my purse and there they are... I have cards. So at this point we are stuck in the middle of no where and we end up playing war because that was the only 2 person game we could think of. After I beat Mark he says, "Let's go... we're taking a walk." It was time to find freedom. 

So we start down the road on our "1/4 mile" hike with me wearing flip flops and Mark wearing Toms shoes. We were completely unprepared for this. After 1 1/2 miles later, we reached the road. The quarter mile hike had really been through the creek, up and down, and jumping from rock to rock. We loved our lives. Finally we reached civilization or so we thought. Really they were just houses with no one around except cows grazing on the side of the mountain. We reached the road and walked a 1/2 mile while a car and a truck passed us by without stopping. Outside a house, we saw a lady working in her garden. After yelling over a crazy sheep dog's bark, the lady came to the fence. We asked to use her phone, but she refused. It was weird. 

Right at this time, a truck was driving by. I basically threw myself in front of it so that he would stop. Inside was the tiniest old man I have EVER seen. Earl Atkins was his name. We explained our situation and he just said, "Well hop on in." He drove us back the 1/2 mile we had just walked and then an additional 1/2 mile to his house. Inside we called John to find out that they had already left for Charleston to meet the 3 2 Crew. Mark decided to call GL, a community contact to get some help. Inside Earl's house, we waited for GL while talking a little. Fifteen minutes later, we saw GL's truck shoot on by the house. Mark and I jumped up, and headed out the door. We tried to chase down GL and ran back the 1/2 mile to our road but it was too late. GL was gone. :( 

At this point, Mark said, "Well, I think we should split up." I'm thinking "WHAT!?!?" but I just go... "Ok." So, Mark decides to wait by the road to see if GL comes back, and I head back the mile and 1/2 to the truck. Jumping the creek, from rock to rock in my flip flops, and using all the survival skills I had ever acquired from my Dad, I braved the hike alone. At this point it was getting dark especially in the woods. Then on my left I heard a big sound and got scared. There can be BEARS out here so... I took off running. I jumped back in the truck shut the door as quick as possible and tried to "act cool." 

After about 10 minutes of sitting there, I heard a motor coming my way. Soon 2 old men came around the corner in a four-wheeler/golf cart. I hopped on out of the car, explained the situation and then waited to see if they could help. Their main focus seemed to be the fact that they could not get around us, but I was thanking the Lord that our truck had blocked the whole way so that they had to help us. He decided to hook up a winch on the front right side and he started pulling. It wasn't doing anything but I jumped on in the truck, fired her up, threw it in reversed and punched the gas. It was like a miracle when all the sudden, I felt myself move that glorious first few inches. WE WERE FREE!!! 

I loved hearing Mark's perspective because he said that as he was walking back, he was praying and he said that he had for the first time given up hope. He thought we were going to be sleeping in the truck that night. And less than a minute later, he heard the truck engine and came around to see me actually moving. WOW!

Moral of the story. Mark and I left the Fire Hall at 2:15, and by 2:30 we were stuck. We returned to the Fire Hall at 8:30 and immediately left to go to Charleston. It was quite an adventure. We may have missed a dinner with our friends, but it was a true West Virginia experience. The best part was that as we drove by our two good samaritans, the oldest one hollered out to us: "A Country Boy Will Survive." :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chicken & Gumbo

Friday marked the completion of my first week of YouthWorks! programming in Lincoln County. WOW! It was amazing. On Sunday right before they came I was SUPER nervous but right away I connected. Some girls liked High School Musical so I KNEW I was in. :)

Sunday night went really well with Orientation and CLUB. The best part was when Lindsay and I wore beards and came out to introduce ourselves and Lincoln County. Mark has a HUGE beard so it was just funny to see us acting like him. I said to everyone, “Welcome to Lincoln County!” and then Linds goes, “Home of Abraham Lincoln!” I stopped and just went…. “No its NOT!” It was HILARIOUS, and I knew…. It was going to be a great week.

All the rest of the nights, the CLUB’s just seemed to get better and better. I was truly amazed to see God work through me. It’s hard to put it into words. My experiences and my willingness to share myself TOTALLY paid off. Through out the week I had more and more teens approach me and talk about what God was doing. There were times when I didn’t know what to say, but I tried, and I felt like that was all God was asking me to do. Take myself out of the picture and let Him work.

On Thursday, we had our final CLUB, and being up front facing the teens, I had to fight off tears. God had allowed me to get to know so many of them, and I knew that they were going to leave changed. WOW! We then did a foot washing service all to empower them to return home and serve others in their communities. I just could not thank God enough for the ways that He showed up and gave me the courage to be bold in my statements.

The teens left of Friday morning and all I was thinking was…. How can I do this week after week? This group was so great… How can we repeat? I guess that will be the challenge… we have another group coming in today. This time they are families so the programming will look a little different. I am excited to see how although the format is going to be new, God is still going to show up.

After the teens left, we all went to my new favorite place… M&R Restaurant. This is where the story began. 

Our first time in there, Lindsay asked about the special…. “What exactly is in Chicken & Gumbo?” 

Mark piped in, “Chicken….. and Gumbo.” The waitress thought this was a hoot! Her laugh filled the entire tiny restaurant. 

So, she thought about the question and said, “Well… Chicken…. And Gumbo.” Again her laugh exploded. :) Then she says, “Hold on, let me ask.” 

NO JOKE… she turns right where she is standing, and yells into the kitchen. “What’s in the Chicken and Gumbo?” The cook in the back hollers out, “Chicken and Gumbo.” 

At this point we were dying. Finally, the cook just brings some out to us to taste saying, “Just try it cause that’s WAY easier than explaining.” The experience was something else and for all these reasons, M&R Restaurant has a spot in my heart. 

Now this phrase has a whole new meaning. “Chicken & Gumbo.” :)

 The pictures are of this past weeks group, and of course, M&R Restaurant. 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

WV is stealing my heart.

Well.... It is official. The teens are coming in today. Actually in about a 1/2 hour. AHH!!! All the work and prep is about to become worth it. Or so I hope. :D 

This will definitely be a short post BUT, I'll try to update later. 

This past week we had a "prep week" so it was full of cleaning, decorating, sign making, organizing, and praying for the groups about to come. I think we are actually ready for this. I will be giving my first talk tonight and each night up until Thursday. I'm just praying that it won't be me up there but instead, God speaking through me. 

This week was incredible though. We had some time to go out to some community members "Holler" and we had the BEST Chicken & Dumplings EVER! WOW! I felt like I ate a TON but nothing can replace a home cooked meal. And let me tell ya.... Lottie brought it. :D

Then I got to talk with Duane and we explored the WV hills a little. He is the one who carved me a SWEET looking walking stick and so I talked with him a lot about it. That day was probably the most beautiful day I have seen in WV and it was the most fun experience to sit out on the porch like a native West Virginian just enjoying God's creation while inside they all played the guitar and banjo. Before this trip I don't know how much that experience would have sounded appealing but here... it was a BLAST.  

In talking with Duane, he even said.... "Haley, you sure would make a fine country girl." 

Who would've thought. :D But it is official.... West Virginia is stealing my heart.

Oh yeah... and that picture.... I stuck arm and camera out the window while we were driving and that's the shot I got. Like I said... its beautiful down here. :D

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Accents, Saltines, Walking Sticks, & Midkiffs

Well, so far this summer with YouthWorks has started with a few bumps and bruises but through all of it, I have been blessed. On Monday May 25th, Mom and Dad dropped me off at my "RAMP" training in Philadelphia. At that point I had been feeling sick since Wednesday. So before we headed to the church, we stopped at Urgent Care. They told us to play the waiting game and that I would be better soon. Training was great, except for my eating habits. My stomach just couldn't handle anything so I lived off 8 saltines and deluted Gatorade/Powerade for 2 days. Like my mom always says.... "It was just a 'lose weight' opportunity."

Training was fun because I was met a lot of people and just got a chance to learn about the summer to come. One of my friends I made, Stockton, was SO sweet. She's from North Carolina so her accent was the cutest thing EVER! I was practicing all week and basically stopped everything to listen when she was talking. She's going to be in Niagara Falls this summer so I think it will be awesome for the teens when they come and hear her. It was just awesome because even though I wasn't feeling well, we were able to have fun, laugh a lot, and I was blessed by her amazing heart.

Finally on Friday, I was still sick. Saltines and applesauce weren't cutting it SO I headed to the ER. After 2 IV's, watching the Lakers make it into the NBA finals, and having a little alone time for the first time all week, they sent me back to play the waiting again. I had been dehydrated though so I was feeling a lot better to just get some fluid in me again. So Saturday morning at 1:00 I left the hospital and by 8:00 the next day my team and I were driving down to where I'm currently at. Hamlin, West Virginia.

Although I wasn't feeling too well let me tell you.... IT IS BEAUTIFUL DOWN HERE! I never knew I was such a country girl but I am just LOVING it! :D

Well on Saturday night we pulled in to our new home, the Hamlin Fire Hall. It is the old elementary school and we came in on BINGO night. Every Thursday and Saturday night they fill the cafeteria for BINGO so it was fun to see community members right from the start. We met Joe who is a fire fighter really taking care of us, and he showed us all around. When we arrived there was a Tornado Warning (I know Mom~ "low levels of rotation") and Joe mentioned that the roof needed a little repair. We headed into the "girls sleeping room" and saw that water was coming out of the light and all down one wall. WOW! At first I was really overwhelmed by our site but now that we have attacked it with bleach water and scrubbed like its nobody's business, things are looking better. We have been really working on drying it all out and killing the mold but thankfully we have the rest of this week to prep, and then an additional week right before the teens come.

Sunday started with us heading out to the Trinity United Methodist Church. There are 2 Methodist Churches here in the small town of Hamlin. Population is 1100 but down the road there's Central Methodist and Trinity United. The Pastor is the same for both and when we met her she said that she drives from her house to Central, then directly to Trinity and then home and her odometer doesn't even read 1/2 mile. :) I loved it. Down here everyone is familiar with YouthWorks so we are automatically accepted. It was so fun because it seemed like immediately I had gained a whole slew of Grandparents. It was May 31st that day, the last Sunday of the month which is apparently when they celebrate the May birthdays. So on the 1st Sunday being in West Virginia, I ended up getting sung Happy Birthday to in the front of the Church. SO... they know how to win me over I guess. :D

Monday was GREAT too! I was feeling a lot better and it was time to get rolling with our massive checklist. Well I called my first community contacts Duane and Michael Midkiff. They are AMAZING! I don't have time to talk all about it but Michael is a "Clogger" and he will be leading our Monday night activity with the youth. We headed to see one of his practices and he taught us a routine. Yeah... that's right. I am now an official WV Clogger. :)

After clogging practice we headed to the Midkiff Hollow and met Duane and the boys Mother. This woman truly has a heart of gold. We had pizza around the bon fire and got to hear about how Duane like carving walking sticks. Who knew it but pretty soon Duane came out of his house with handcarved walking sticks for each of us. I was blown away. They are BEAUTIFUL! I took a picture so I'll try to get it up soon. It is awesome! I told him my Dad would be jealous but I'd hold onto it really tight. :D

Well It's time to get back to the checklist. We have to work really hard right now and then we will be heading to Logan, WV for a practice week with teens. I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the summer. If I've been learning anything down here so far, it is to enjoy life's little blessings.

OHH!!! And John set up our address to receive mail. And if you know me, you KNOW how much I love snail mail. At school I'm pretty sure I check my mail 2-3 times a day... Just in case. :)

So here it is~ You can just put

Haley Church in care of YouthWorks
P.O. Box 612
Hamlin, WV 25523

In my devotions I read these verses and although they have been some of my favorite, I remembered just how much I love them:

Lamentations 3:24-25

"I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;"

God Bless