Friday, October 30, 2015

What I learned in October

The year is quickly slipping by, and each time I sit down to write my "what I learned this month" post, I feel like each month has gone quicker. Is that a sign of getting old?!?  
 October is almost gone, but this month has been full ! Who am I kidding when I say life will slow down?!? Not a chance. At least, maybe not for me. I guess I am learning I don't slow down too well....
 Here's what I learned in October.

1. Detroit, Michigan is not as bad of a place as what I have always heard.
    - I traveled to Detroit for work this month, and while I may not have been in the worst parts of the city, I found it to be beautiful. We managed to find time to walk the riverwalk area (Who knew that existed there??), walk through the GM building, take the people mover around the area, and eat in Greek Town. I personally thought the city was pretty. I can't say I would want to live there, but it was fun to see. PLUS... I have lived in OH nearly my whole life and never have been to Michigan, so it was a good new experience. 
Just a cool looking arch sculpture, which my coworker referred to as Star Gate? Must be something Star Trek I didn't fully understand but i just went with it. 

Above : The river walk, with Canada behind me
Left: A beautiful mural on the wall in the people mover area.... this picture does not do the mural justice.

Greek Town at Night. 

2. Detroit, Michigan happened to be a huge city for freedom of slaves.
  - While I knew much about the underground railroad, I never realized (or thought about) that Detroit was so close to Canada, which was a country that experienced emancipation of slaves far before America, and thus, served as a large hub for freedom of slaves/undergroud railroad. I took in some history while being in that city for 2 days. 
This wall/statue had a whole lot of history on it, where I learned much about Detroit's role in freeing slaves.

3. I still love to play in the leaves. 
   - While my kids have grown out of this (for now) I still love to rake, scoop and throw leaves around. Something about it is refreshing and freeing. Thank goodness Alexis enjoyed this activity with me as well. It feels so good to laugh.... over the simply joys of being outdoors. One is never too old to do fall activities. 
I don't even care how cheesy this photo is. I was having fun! 

4. I am sometimes afraid to write. 
  - This month, I did a lot of personal journaling. And while that isn't a bad thing to do, I realize that some of what I want to write is scary to put out there. Scary because it's exposing. Scary because as I write the thoughts I realize the reality of the process inside me. Scary because I do worry what others will say. Scary because once I put it out there, I have a new sense of obligation not only to embrace what I am sharing, but to live it out on a daily basis. And some of what I have been learning in my own life lately, while beautiful and transforming, is frightening. But... you may begin to see some of these thoughts formulating more over posts in the near future.

5. God always provides.
  - It's a mystery to me why I ever doubt Him. He provided what I needed to raise for my mission trip up to this point. I still have about a thousand to go, but I am confident He is going to continue to show Himself in new ways and provide for me to experience this awesome adventure. 

6. Blackberry Pie is delicious
   - Upon the request of my friend, I made blackberry pie this month. It came out wonderful! I'd never made it before, so I was uncertain about it, but I was more than satisfied. I really am enjoying being challenged in new areas of baking, and expressing that creative side of me. 

7. Let Go is my new mantra.... 
   I will wait to further elaborate on this in upcoming blogs. But October taught me about letting go, in just about every area of my life. 

   As October is whisked away, the year is rapidly coming to a close.... But the lessons keep on coming :) One day at a time! 

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Journey to Colombia

I tend to write about the big events going on in my life,  or what God is teaching me, and often times those 2 things coincide.
 The journey I am traveling which will lead me to my trip to Colombia in February is  large piece of my story right now. I can't promise that I will have a post about it each week, but this trip is far more than just one week in the month of February. And I want to share with you why.
 I have been asked many times "Why Colombia?"
So I want to share with you how this began.

 A few years ago one of my closest friends, Kristen Prince, decided to attend this mission trip to Colombia. For her, she was stepping way out of her comfort zone. I was ecstatic to watch her take that step forward. Kristen mentioned it to me that they could always use Spanish speaking team members, but at that time in my life, I wasn't ready. Not because I didn't have a heart to do such trips, but more so because I was buried deep in a hole of grief after losing my mom to cancer and trying to pick up some pieces that had quietly and privately fallen apart. So I declined.

 Kristen's experience was so amazing on her trip to Colombia, she proceeded to go again. Her husband joined her. I was asked again, but still not in the right place.

 The third year Kristen went, my heart was drawn more towards what she was doing, but it didn't work well with my career at that time. So I once again declined.

 But you see, God was working on me each and every year. The more stories I heard about what Kristen's team was doing there, the more my interest was growing. The more pictures I saw, the more my heart was getting drawn towards the country of Colombia. Kristen moved away, but we have stayed quite close. After she went on the trip last February, I couldn't get the idea out of my head.

 I have always had a heart to do work overseas. I once thought it was my calling in life. But as God redirected, that seed of desire to make a difference and use my Spanish speaking skills to make a difference for His kingdom has always held a quiet backseat. And over the course of the last 3 years, as Kristen endeavored into some unknown adventures, God was working on me, preparing me to take that same trip. When she returned from her trip in 2015, I began praying. It would begin with my family being on board.
 The next step would be taking the time off from work.
   The next step would be my church's help/involvement, since I am attending with a group new to them.
    And then the next, and one of the largest steps, would be raising enough money to go. But I knew that if God paved the way and cleared all the previous paths, that the money would come. He would see my way into this trip.
 And here I am.
 Ironically enough, Kristen is not attending this year, but her support is tremendous.

And that is why I chose Colombia. Or maybe Colombia has chosen me. God has been preparing me for this for many years, only that just recently dawned on me. Hence I share that this journey to Colombia is so much more than just one week in February. Little did I know this began years ago.
 And if this began that long ago, I cannot wait to see what will unfold in the weeks to come.
Already, I have watched God provide in amazing ways funding needed by the end of October. And as I continue to pray through and grow in my faith for what still needs to come in, He is doing a work in me that constantly catches me off guard and amazes me. And those of you praying with and for me, or those of you who have graciously given or even those of you who are simply a part of listening to me talk about this endlessly right now.. you are just as much part of the journey with me.

 And you never know what might be transpiring in your life now that seems meaningless but will one day become a story like mine.

 I cannot wait to see what will continue to unfold. One day at a time in my journey to Colombia.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Little Moments

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."  Melody Beattie

This week had some amazing highs and the reality of a few life "lows" as well. But I am striving to every day focus on the positive!  When I am grateful, the little moments are highlighted in my day, not the negative ones.
 I had forgotten how much I enjoyed recalling these each week, to help refocus my heart and soul onto the beautiful occurrences each week.

  1. Brilliant fall colors at the height of the season, along with a few rarer warm days this week.
2. I have reached my half-way amount of money needed raised for my Colombia trip!!! Only God could have done this and it has been amazing to watch it unfold. I can't wait to see what more He will do!
   3. My passport came in this week :) One more step closer to my trip as well!
4. Kohls cash and coupons! Between those 2 things, I got a new purse I needed (because the old one was falling apart, and yes, ladies, believe it or not, I only own one purse at a time!).  I saved 80% and was able to get a purse I actually like for incredibly cheap!
    5. Blackberry Pie. I baked a new kind of dessert this week. I really enjoy trying my hand at new desserts....and at the request of one person, I made this pie and it came out delicious! I love when that happens!
        6. After a night of only 2 hours of sleep and total exhaustion, I set out on a 4 mile run (kind of because I had to for training) But this run ended up being the most liberating run I've had in a while and I kicked an awesome pace. I ended feeling amazing.
  7.  A friendly letter in the mail :) Not many write physical letters anymore, so when I get one in the mail,  I read it over and over and it makes my week!
       8. Shutterfly. I know it's been around forever, but I am new to it, and I really like it!
9. Watching cheesy movies with my kids. I'll never tire of that.
     10. Getting invited to and attending a charity luncheon in the community.  I really enjoy meeting new people and learning about great causes. Community involvement is important to me, even if I don't have an abundance of time to offer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Fall Training Journey

When it comes to my training and my running these days, I have been more on the quiet side. In part, I think people can tire of my talking about running. But in part, the training journey I have been traveling the last few months has been so personal, it's one that has needed some privacy in order to unfold.
 But as I approach race day in just a few weeks, the lessons I have been gaining through these few months are so powerful, they are pushing through me to be shared. Thus, in the next few weeks, as I lead up to my fall race, I want to try to share a bit of the lessons I have been learning through this particular leg of training.

  When I set out back in July towards this fall race, I had no idea what the road ahead would look like for me. Now, glancing behind me, I believe this upcoming race and the training journey the last few months have been one of my strongest ones yet. In reality, while race day is always a fun, exciting and wonderful experience, and what I wait months for to come around, the piece that matters is actually all the months leading up to that day. A finish wouldn't be possible without all the exhausting days between. A victory is much sweeter when pain has been part of the battle.

 Much like the beautiful fall leaves that are quickly beginning to grace the ground these days,  I could compare these months to a fall season. Fall doesn't sweep in and take our breaths away with its beauty in one day. Fall is a season which is somewhat gradual. The leaves begin changing little by little, and each tree in its own time, not every tree at once. As the leaves begin to change their color into a beautiful shining brilliance,  they begin to shed off the trees day by day.

 As I have been getting up in the early hours and lacing up my shoes and heading out the door, my runs have become a bit more purposeful. When I started training back in July, I had no goal. I just ran because I wanted to, because I enjoyed it. Little did I know, God had this leg of my journey planned as a very personal journey of personal growth.
 The more I ran, the more the goal transformed. The more the goal transformed, the more He began transforming me in the process. The goals placed in my heart and mind during this leg of training did not just show up one day. Much like the fall season, it's become a gradual idea transforming into its own process. And much like the fall season, as the time of the weeks of training have unfolded, my layers, like the leaves on the trees, have begun to shed little by little.
 If I were to spread my arms out and "pretend" to be a tree,  you could say that through these weeks of training, the layers of.... fear... anxiety...hurts....insecurity...the need to please....comparisons to others... have begun to fall off me.
  That does not mean I have conquered these negativities by any means. But the process has begun of shedding these ugly habits. With each step I have run, the goal has grown stronger, the purpose in my heart has become greater.
  This leg of training has become more about God teaching me to let go than it is about the run itself.
 And some days I struggle to get up at 4 to go out for my run, but as I purposefully make the choice to do so, I find new victory in each run.
   In the fall season, just as you can't see what's happening inside the tree to transform its glorious beauty, I can't always understand what God is doing inside me. But running helps me understand Him better.  I am learning to trust Him stronger. To let go a little more each day. To run better, to be a better me.
  As I approach race day, the time goal I have in my mind and heart is one which is a challenge for me. But  nonetheless, the one I can't escape. So, I am pushing towards it. I am not certain I can achieve it, but regardless, the process it has brought on in me is far more accomplishing than what any clock could ever read at the end of a race. I likely won't share about the time goal until after the race because this journey is so close to my heart, it's not ready to be spilled out all the way just yet.

 But as fall proceeds and the brilliance of colors are bursting on every tree, so I believe He is doing a brilliant work in me as well. And just as those brilliant leaves shed (in order to eventually grow and become a new growth), so I believe my layers are shedding so I can grow stronger and better as well.

 One run at a time. One day at a time.

   It's not about the race. It's about the journey along the way. And you can't finish a race until you have adequately walked the journey.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Little Moments

It's time to get back to the attitude of gratitude.
 I used to be very good at keeping up with notating all my "little moments" that added up to meaningful memories or highlights for me, but then life takes off and I lose sight of them.
 So, I'm striving (starting today) to get back to tracking all of those a little better.
  An attitude of gratitude makes the world of difference. Here are a few little moments this week... ways I saw God's love show up, or moments that made me smile, or times that would seem meaningless to one person but add up to much for me.

 1. A text from a friend who just seems to always know when I need to be asked if I'm OK and remind me of my confidence on days I struggle with it.
2. My friend Sharon asking if she can share my Colombia fundraising support letter with some others she knows. To me, it doesn't matter if those unknown to me donate to my cause or not. What matters to me is the prayer support, and the support that Sharon showed in reaching out to share my adventure with others.
   3. New friendships that come from meeting in some pretty crazy but cool ways - you guys know who you are! I am thankful for these new friends in my life. And the experiences we are sharing, even if miles apart.
     4. Traveling to a new city.
 5.  Lunch times and silly stories only best friends can tell.
   6. Hugs.
 7. Coffee. These crisp fall days are ones which I am grateful for a warm cup of coffee! And often times the camaraderie that comes with it.
   8. Do you believe in angels on earth? Like a person who just shows up out of nowhere that can offer the help needed?  I do. I experienced that this week. If the man in the construction hat had not come along when he did (seemingly out of nowhere, mind you) my heart may have leapt out of my chest ! But God sent this man along to so kindly help me out of a bind. I prayed. God sent. That's the only explanation to it. It did take a few minutes for the heart to settle down after that!
   9. The smell of fall. Crisp leaves, pumpkin, apple cider... all of that.
10. Hiking! I had Columbus Day off and spent a good portion of my day alone on the trails. So peaceful and relaxing.
   11... Remembering to be grateful. When a person tells you all about the bad things happening to them and they can smile about it all and be OK, it puts life back into perspective for me. An attitude of gratitude makes a difference.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Trust Fall

When I was growing up, I went to this awesome church camp every summer. One of the fun activities we did there was called a Trust Fall. This was out on the woodsy obstacle course. Generally, we were out there as a cabin group (probably 12-14 girls my age) and a second cabin group. So, about 24 of us, roughly. You may be familiar with what a trust fall is, but in case not, let me explain.
  Each girl took turns climbing up onto this beam-like log, which was a bit of a hoist to get up onto. Once on it, you were asked to turn your back to the group, and as they assembled a line, you were expected to just fall backwards, and they would catch you.
 Sounds easy, right? Think again. These were girls we'd all just met, so it was hard to know, "Will they really catch me?"  The scenarios quickly play through the mind as to what could happen or not happen.
 Many girls got up on it, only to get down out of fear.
 It was scary, I admit. But when the girls' arms caught me, the feeling was exhilarating and (as odd as this sounds) friendships were built stronger.

 Trust. I had to trust they would catch me.
 Trust is a short word, full of more worth than any of us give it credit.
It takes time to build trust.
  It takes vulnerability to build trust.
    It takes letting go of fear and inhibition to give trust away.
If trust is broken, much time and effort go into repairing that damaged bridge.
  And if it is hard to trust people, whom we see every day and interact with all the time, how much harder is it at times to trust God, who we don't really see in a physical sense?

 If you would ask me, "Do you trust God?", I would readily answer you, "Yes, of course!"
But when opportunities are available for me to prove to others and to Him that I fully trust His words, His truth, His promises, I must step back and honestly answer that I struggle with trusting Him sometimes.
 I don't know why. He has proven time and again He is faithful.
  Growing up, I watched Him provide for my family time and again. As an adult, I have seen Him do the same, from a different perspective.
  Life is a faith journey all the time, but we sometimes have stronger opportunities to exercise our trust in God more than others. Right now, I am being challenged in this area.
  I have the exciting and rare opportunity to take a mission trip in February to the country of Colombia. I have been praying about this for about a year. I have always had a heart for ministering to others and a strong tie to the Latin world. While my Spanish may be a bit rusty, I truly enjoy speaking their language. Years ago, I traveled to El Salvador and Honduras for a 6 week time frame. While at that time, I decided that was not my life path, the desire to do such trips has remained in my heart. I am truly excited for this upcoming opportunity to once again travel to a Latin America Country. We will be doing construction and ministering to the adults and children in the small town of Brisas del Mar.

 I am not afraid of traveling overseas or even of going on a trip with no one I know prior to this trip. (well, really know, that is. I have had the chance to meet them at a team meeting.) Truthfully,  I am  worried about raising the money to go.
 I shouldn't be. I know this is a trip God has laid out before me and opened up for me to be a part of. So I know He will provide, yet my heart has the human obstacle of worrying about it the funding.

This  circles back around to trust.  I believe that this trip will be life changing in many aspects, as short term trips such as these often are. I have just begun the process of it, but I can share that already I am realizing that my faith is often times weak. And a piece of this journey is Him strengthening my weaknesses.
 I rely on my own strength or my own "know how".
   I play a lot of "what ifs" .
       I ask God to guide, but then I start trying to form my own path, when I don't think He is doing it quickly enough.
 We all do this to a certain extent, but for me, I am realizing just how often I do this. I say I trust God but then my actions show otherwise.

 I was challenged, along with the process, when my 13 year old daughter was sharing with me about not being able to "feel" God. She asked me "Mom, I know He's there, but I don't feel Him. So sometimes I forget and I get frustrated and I just want to see Him."
  I pondered this before answering... because as I answered, it challenged me. " Honey, we can't always feel Him. Sometimes He is seemingly quiet because He wants us to be quiet and wait on Him. To trust in Him. To ask Him and seek Him and then wait. That's what faith is all about. That's what it means to trust Him."
    Can you say.... convicted??  I was immediately caught in what I was saying to be challenged to live out those words.

 Right now, I am being challenged to trust God. As I have to raise about half of the dollar amount by the end of this month,  I am challenged to trust in God. He will provide. I know He will. But knowing and acting out the knowing are 2 different actions completely. So, I am aware of this on a daily basis.

 I have no doubt God will use this trip in my life in incredible ways. He already is. If you'd asked me a month ago if I trusted God with everything, I would have said, absolutely! But, as I have been challenged in this area, I am realizing how weak my trust is at times.

 However, He is asking me to climb up on that log, just as I did as a little girl, and to fall backwards. Into His arms. His promises. And His truths, that He will provide and that He is there and that He is guiding this path.
   One day at a time. I am excited to see where He will guide. And how He will provide.