Sunday, October 07, 2012

Lessons from God

October 7, 2012

God’s Lessons
This past week was a challenging one on many fronts and yet there were also lots of joys. I found out on Monday that two of my Honduran friends were in Annapolis Maryland and I wondered how I would ever be able to see them in the next two busy weeks. Because I had to change my schedule at work, I was able to get Thursday afternoon and Friday morning off which made enough time to run over to Annapolis, pick them up, and bring them back to Lancaster. What fun it was to share with them a bit of my hometown and the sights here as well as catch up on their lives!

My challenges varied from day to day but the overarching theme was the hurt and pain in people’s lives and their reactions to that. So many situations came up during the week that I wanted to fix and solve. By Friday as I was driving to work after leaving my Honduran friends at a restaurant, I was pouring my heart of frustration out to God. I could not fix the troubles before or around me. And so I was reminded that I must let go of trying to fix things and instead entrust the people and situations to God. Sometimes God will call me to action and sometimes He will call me to prayer (actually always to prayer even with action) and to waiting patiently.

Why the Stagnant Waters?

October 7, 2012
Am I back to blogging for good? Not necessarily but I had some thoughts and some time to record them so here goes a long overdue blog entry.

This morning I ran to West Virginia by accident. Of course I was in Maryland and closer to the border than I realized so it was not so great a feat as it would have been if I was still in Central Pennsylvania. I came with Eric on a bus trip with senior citizens from a local trip. He had been asked to fill in for his friend who was unable to drive.

I decided to go for a run this morning along one of the bike paths that criss-cross through Cumberland and though my intention was to keep the run short, I could not help but keep going long enough to reach a wooden bridge that I saw in the distance. On the right side of the trail was the canal and to my left I saw green stagnant waters. Much to my surprise there were a number of ducks floating in those stagnant waters. My immediate thought was, “why on earth are they swimming in the nasty water when they is a nice canal just across the trail?” I cannot imagine that the fishing was any better where they were at and I can envision all of the algae dripping off of them every time they would exit the stagnant pools.

And of course with these thoughts came the analogies. Why do we as Christians often settle in the stagnant pools when there is fresh, life giving water just across the way? Why am I content with less than what God has planned for me? Why do I not throw off everything that so easily entangles (be it algae or temptations) and run (swim) with perseverance the race marked off for me? I see swimming in that green pool to be a lot like hanging out in the things (attitudes, thoughts, and actions) that do not please God. I get dirty and stinky, all because I do not feel like taking the effort o fly over to the next body of water. Attitudes of pride, self-righteousness, and impatience instead of having the attitude of Christ. Selfish thoughts and worry instead of thinking about what is pure and lovely and praiseworthy. Seeing those ducks this morning, I was reminded that I want to be in God’s waters – His plans and His presence.

The rest of the run was peaceful until I was startled by three deer down in the brush. When I reached the bridge and crossed over it, I discovered that the path led through a narrow tunnel, clearly a train tunnel in years gone by. Though I wanted to run through and find out what lay on the other side, I refrained. There was a tent down in the woods and not knowing who was around, I decided to stay on the side of the river that I knew. I paused on the bridge long enough to relish God’s creativity with His creation and to sing some of the songs on my heart.

Later in the day we all took a train ride up the mountain to Frostburg. The views were lovely as we climbed above the towns and could see the fall colors on the other mountain ridges. Even the windmills in Sommerset County, Pennsylvania were clearly visible from our location. It has been a very good day.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The End of the Year

December 18, 2011

I do not even want to know when the last time was that I blogged because I know that way too much time has passed. I had hoped to keep my blog more up-to-date as I returned to the United States, but that has not happened.

Life has been busy but good. I am one day away from completing an Early Childhood Education class at an area community college that ended up being required for work. I look forward to being done with that and with the assignments that went with it.

Over the past few months I have gotten more accustomed to work at Mom’s House. I still have a lot to learn but I have passed through the season of inspections and turnover in moms and soon the Christmas season. Christmas is a busy time because many churches and organizations generously donate gifts to the families. On Tuesday we will have a Christmas party and give out those gifts on behalf of others. The families can then take them home and open them on Christmas Day which will help out the moms because they will not have to buy other gifts that they cannot really afford. Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to get to know the mothers on a deeper level and ask questions of them to help them think and consider the potential obstacles before embarking on an idea. I have gotten to share stories with them to also help them to think from a new angle. And then there have been the opportunities to pray with individual mothers during moments of stress and/or crisis. As new moms come in with this new year, I expect that I will get to establish some new relationships and hopefully to encourage the women in the Lord.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Backpacking At Last

I find myself in the midst of busy times. Though I kept a slower pace during my first few months back in the country, life has sped up. And somewhere along the way, I forgot about making time for blog posts. So many times I think about it, but I do not get there. It is not even that fun or exciting things or God stories are not happening, it is a matter of priorities. This past weekend I went backpacking in the Shenandoah National Park with four friends. We had a great time and started out with a pretty clear plan, but the circumstances of the day (Saturday in particular) led to changes -- Plan B & C. On Friday we hiked in to a beautiful campsite that boasted a nearby swimming hole and waterfall. It was too chilly to consider swimming but the view was great. We cooked our dinner near the water. In the park you are not allowed to build fires so we had to use a little camp stove. It meant early to bed since there was no light to really visit by. A small group had wandered into the camp after we did and ended up camping just up the hill from us. Thankfully it did not turn out to be as loud of a party as we had expected and I slept fine. My biggest disappointment in their presence was that the extra hole I had dug that evening for the next morning (when in the woods backpacking, you have to dig your own latrine which is often a time consuming process) was right by their camp which means my efforts to plan ahead were in vain because I was going to have to dig another hole in the morning. I found myself frustrated with this fact and the realization that my well-laid plans had been in vain. I was reminded of how in life I like to plan ahead and I do not like when unforeseen events mess up my plans. I can put way too much stock in my way of doing things. It was good to ponder this realization a bit and recognize that I need to grow in the area of flexibility. I must also recognize that God can at any point change my best laid plans because they may not be His plans. ("Your ways are not my ways says the Lord" -- Isaiah 55) Needless to say I was delighted when the group packed up early and moved out, making it possible for me to go and find the hole that I had dug. So all of my worrying was also in vain which is another good lesson. Because it was raining Saturday morning and we only had 3.5 miles to hike, we stayed in the tents until about noon. Then we decided to have lunch and move out. We soon discovered that the camp stove was not working and in looking at the skies we were not sure if the rain would continue all day or not. No stove meant no more hot food. More rain would mean wet feet for some of the group. We decided to change up the route and take a trail that would mean less hiking on Sunday and also put us near a campground in case we could not find water. The hike that day was nearly all up hill and we had to take one step at a time, sometimes focusing on using a rest step. By the time we were ready to set up camp, there was no site to be found. And so we walked into the campground to ask around. In the end the lure of bathrooms and the option of building a campfire captured us and we set up camp there for the night. Two of the group hiked out to bring the car over which was not far away. I never realized what a luxury campground camping is. We could store the food in the car so there was no need for setting up a bear bag. No digging holes. No packing out the trash. It was a good evening and delicious meal over the fire. On Sunday we sat around and played some games or journaled and read. I was disappointed that I did not get in more journaling throughout the trip but at least I had some down time for it. Around 11am we headed out to pick up the second car and then go our separate ways after a lunch that we did not have to cook. Overall it was a very good trip and though it was not physically relaxing (carrying 35-40lbs on your back rarely is) it was refreshing to be out in God's creation with friends. Life at work has been busy as I balance several challenges at work: finding temporary help to cover a vacant position, figuring out how many moms and children we can bring into the program, taking a college course to work towards director's credentialing, and trying to keep my hours close to just 32 per week. Overall though it is good and I am thankful to be working at Mom's House. This fall I have also picked up some hours at Cherry Crest Adventure Farm as a Maze guide. My first shift was interesting since I was still learning my way around and people would stop me and ask me for directions. Thankfully I had other guides to call upon when I felt like I would be the "blind leading the blind". All in all it should be a busy fall. Oh, and when I have another moment I will have to share some answers to prayer as far as housing and how things are going as I look to do foster care in the near future. For now though I need to take care of a few forgotten tasks.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Happenings

September 3, 2011

Life has been pretty busy for me of the past month. I had a week off in August but I ended up working at Black Rock for quite a few days and spent time driving around Maryland and Pennsylvania visiting some Honduran friends who were vacationing up here. I enjoyed showing my one friend around Lancaster, ending with a tour at Herr’s Potato Chip Factory. The season of working at Black Rock has pretty much ended up now I will be working quite a few Saturdays at Cherry Crest Farms in the Corn Maze. That should be a fun new adventure. Hopefully I will find time to move when that comes around.

Work at Mom’s House has been good though I am still just getting lots of things figured out. I am always thankful for the moments when I get to talk and pray with the moms and encourage them. Just this week I realized that the Life Coaching courses that I took were useful because as I talked with a mom and asked her some perspective altering questions she was able to see e of her current situation from a different angle. There are times though when I am at a loss as to what to say or do to best encourage the moms. Thankfully the Lord is strong in my weaknesses and can shine through.

I have continued to spend a lot of time with my adorable nephews. Taking my nephew Jack to Splits and Giggles (an ice cream shop in town) with my dad for his second birthday was a lot of fun. He apparently loves ice cream because he finished his kiddie cup and then wanted some of ours. Jack is talking more and more which is also fun.

All in all as I look back on the summer, I am thankful for being here in Lancaster and enjoying time around family.

From Clouds to Answers

September 3, 2011

At long last I settle in to play catch up with blog entries. Yesterday morning I was returning home around 7:45am and I happened to notice the clouds swirling overhead. It was a mesmerizing sight because the clouds seemed to be like waves in the ocean, rolling and merging into one. I felt like I could have stared at them and gotten lost in them forever, but that would have made driving hard so I did not. Yesterday’s view as well as various sunrises and sunsets have reminded me again and again of God’s awesome power and majesty. I am very glad to serve Him.

This week I have also experienced several answers to prayer from the work of His hand. At Mom’s House I have been wrestling with the issue of capacity based on the number of staff that we have. There is a demand for more spaces for children in many of our rooms but because of our staffing, we cannot take on any more moms and children. Earlier in the week I received a call from a college student who has volunteer hours to do for her Social Services major and she wondered about helping at Mom’s House. Yesterday I interviewed her and was delighted to see that she looks like a very good fit for us and us for her. The other answer to prayer is not a definite answer yet but regardless of the outcome it has reminded me of God’s power to make a way where I least expect it. I recently began the search for an apartment again because it is about time to move so that I can be available for foster care later this year. Monday and Tuesday I looked at 3 apartments, all of which had potential, but at least one or two drawbacks. I would like to live in the city so that I have the option of walking to work, especially on the snowy days, but at the same time I do not necessarily want to deal with the street parking. The one place I looked at was in Millersville which had the benefit of being just down the street from my sister and her family and my garden. As I shared with one friend about the pros and cons of the apartments she told me that she feels like the right place will come up without all of the issues. Later that same evening I received a call from my sister saying that one of their apartments was unexpectedly opening up if I would be interested. So on Thursday evening I went and looked at the apartment and it seems almost perfect. In the city, off-street parking, two good sized bedrooms, a nice layout, and good landlords. The couple living there is not positive that they are moving because it depends on whether their offer on a house is accepted, but it is very likely. If they do not, I will have to check to see if the other apartments are still available. But if they are not, I have complete confidence that God will open the right door.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thirty Second Entry

July 31, 2011

When I saw (or thought I saw) that I had not written any blog entries in July, I decided that I needed to do one this evening even though I would love to be asleep. So this will be a whirlwind summary of the month with the hopes that in the following days, I can do a better catch up of life here in Lancaster. July has been a month of family time as I have spent a lot of time over at my sister's house helping with the new nephew and my older one. They are both adorable, by the way! I have spent quite a few Saturdays at Black Rock Retreat working on the Ropes Course. This past Saturday was particularly fun as I was able to work with a group that is headed out on a mission trip next week. It was an honor to be able to help prepare and encourage them.

At Mom's House I was busy with staff out sick and/or on vacation. I was able to interview a couple of new mom's whose children have started or will start with us in this coming week. Several of the moms during the initial interview expressed their desire to grow spiritually and so it is exciting to know that I will have more freedom to share with them. One of our moms has been going through a particularly difficult time as two of her five children have some serious health issues. The one underwent surgery this past week and is not recovering like they had hoped so she may have to return to the hospital. The mom is a Christian and has been grateful for our prayers and support. Thankfully she does have a church community to stand behind her too but she is juggling so many responsibilities and challenges right now that my heart goes out to her. Please pray for that family.

Other events of the month included mountain time, giving Spanish lessons, my first Barnstormers game (thankfully I did not have to watch much of it -- I supported the Black Rock stand by helping with the bearded dragon), and I cannot remember what else. So that is the longer than 30 second version but then again, I can never write only thirty seconds worth of information anywhere. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Celebration & Settling In

July 5, 2011

Today is a day to celebrate because my second nephew, Calvin James, has entered the world. I am waiting for his older brother to wake up so that we can go in and see the new baby. Jack has been lots of fun to hang out with over the last few months that I have been back in Lancaster. Whether it is pushing him in a stroller for 3 miles while I jogged up in the mountains, splashing each other with water, watering the garden, or just receiving hugs, I love being a part of his life. It is nice to be an aunt who is close by.

In other areas of life, I have been settling in to more of a routine here in Lancaster. I am enjoying life in the city and the 1.2 mile walk to and from work most days. This week I actually have off because Mom's House closes twice over the summer months so I guess I will have to look for some other exercise on the days when I do not play basketball (of course hanging out with Jack might suffice depending what we do). I have been at Mom's House for one month now and for the most part things have gone well. I have begun to do interviews with potential parents to help fill some of the open positions in the children's rooms. The other week I was able to do an interview in Spanish which was quite fun. I hope to use Spanish on a more regular basis at work. I still have lots of orientation videos to watch and files to go through but little by little I am finding my way through the various facets of my job. Next week I begin a Food Safety Course to give me more preparation for being in charge of the kitchen.

I have continued to meet the moms who are in the program and try to begin getting to know them. I have been impressed with the dedication of many and the desire they have to move forward. Sometimes I have a pre-conceived idea of who they are or where they have come from but justlast week the Lord reminded me that I cannot judge. I do not know the stories and even if and when I do, God is the judge and I am not. I am called to love the people who I come in contact with and point them to Jesus. More often than not, my pre-conceived ideas are wrong and the stories that I encounter hold pain and tears. Thankfully God is in the business of mending hearts and lives!

Another Reason to Be Thankful

June 18, 2011

While driving here in the mountains with my family, I was reminded of a sight from a week or two ago in Lancaster. I was sitting at a stop light by Lancaster Shopping Center and I noticed the two people in the car behind me communicating with each other through sign language. I pondered the situation because I realized that once they started driving again, it would be very hard to communicate. The driver would not have her hands free to sign nor could she always be looking over at her passenger’s signs. I suddenly realized how blessed I am to be able to both speak and hear, thereby making conversation possible while driving. I take it for granted but really should not.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I Stand Corrected

June 10, 2011

I thought that I should correct a statement I made in the previous blog. I said that there are no current volunteers at Mom's House and that is not true. I have not met many but there are apparently a few that come fairly regularly. Today I was surprised to learn that two volunteers were at Mom's House looking for a job to do. Since there were only 2 children in, there was not a big lunch to prepare but thankfully the volunteers were willing to clean. I quickly realized that I need to familiarize myself with all of the jobs around Mom's House so that when someone shows up unexpectedly, I know what to tell them to do and where the needed supplies are. This morning was a juggling act because I was also helping one of the moms figure out her new cleaning job and trying to get some things done in the office. I have fifteen hours of training videos to watch too so I probably should start on them soon.

This evening I attended an International Fundraising meal for a friend who will be heading to the Czech Republic later this year. The wide array of ethnic foods was great but also the fellowship. I realized how important networking is as I shared with some others what I am doing. One girl works as a Prison Chaplin and so she daily encounters women who may need help moving ahead and even getting back to school. We live in a small world but a world that can be made even smaller as we work together with others to share the love of Christ and proclaim His as Lord.