Ok...so I'm THIS excited about going to Africa in a few days:

Isn't that hilarious! I am really looking forward to getting back to Africa. I remember the first time I went (to Uganda and Sudan) I had a hard time at first because I'd spent so much time in Asia where everything went at such a fast pace. In Africa, they ran on their own time frame, they liked to sit and share stories and their lives with one another. Once I got used to it, I very much enjoyed that time.

As I'm writing this, I'm thinking about my friend Samantha who is going on a mission trip for the first time. She's so excited she can't hardly stand it. She's been that way for about a month now. I remember my first trip and I remember that feeling. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE being around people who get to go for the first time. I enjoy sitting back on the trip observing them and watching how their lives are being changed without them even knowing it. I love watching them experience something they've always wanted to experience and had no idea what it would really be like. I'm so passionate about helping the people go who always wanted to, but never thought they could. Then I like to watch their experience. It's an amazing thing!

As I'm writing I'm thinking about how I watched so many special friends of mine who are probably reading this, on your trips. My mom (who is the ultimate girly girl and I never thought would go somewhere where there was no air conditioning), Sheila, LaShay, Lauren, Cody, Martin, Emalee, Laura, Misty, Mama Marianne, David, Anival...and so many more. It's been so exciting to experience these trips together and the way God changed us forever by them.

I'm thinking of a trip to Guatemala where we were trying to dig a water well in the highlands and our drill bit wouldn't go through the volcanic rock...how disappointed we were that we weren't able to provide clean water to this village of people. How we prayed for God to show us all the other reasons he had us there, other than what we thought...which was to drill a water well. I remember the last night how Jennifer, David and Ken and I stayed up the entire last night and all we did was make silly videos. And we made up our "You might be on a mission trip if..." list (I have them on tape...they will surface at some point!) Then I remember the next year going back to Guatemala and drilling a sucessful well....and how God used that as a really special time with me and another friend that changed the both of our lives and our friendship forever.

I'm thinking of a trip to India where we worked with a ministry that rescues baby girls from death in India. (check out their website to learn more about that!) I think I will always, always, always be connected to this ministry for the rest of my life.

I'm thinking of the time when I was absolutely crazy enough to take 24 youth kids to Belize...almost all first time mission tripper's. It was hilariously funny and I learned alot!

There are so many more, each trip I've been on or organized or led have had a profound impact on my life....each in different ways. Most often my life was changed by the people I was serving or learning from, but at the same time my life was changed and touched by the people I went with. There's so much to learn about yourself and others while serving in this way. It's really something you can't describe unless you've experienced it.

So those of you who might be reading and you've never been....sign up next time! You won't regret it!


Pipe Cleaners

It's amazing how Pipe Cleaners are more frequently used for anything other than cleaning a pipe. I wonder if the person who invented it bent it to any kind of shape, just playing with it while coming up with the idea of it.

My nephew, Jonah, loves to play and bend pipe cleaners into all sorts of shapes. He even has instruction books....he can make a daisy, roses, tigger...basically anything you ask him too. You can make that kid happy by going to Hobby Lobby and buying $3 worth of pipe cleaners. He's always making his Nana something. Last Christmas when I was home, he made me a daisy. I have stored it in my pen bucket on my desk and when I see it, it often makes me think of him.

So, the other day at one of our Africa meetings they were talking about how we are asked to share Christ with the children we are working with. The organization we are going with uses the evangecube. I'd rather not. I'd rather share it in my own way. They said this was fine, but that the children like a visual. So I stored that in the backburner of my mind to think about when I had time. "Find a creative way to share Jesus with little African kids." It was on the backburner for awhile.

But last week I was sitting at my desk and I saw my pipecleaner daisy that my nephew made that is in my pen bucket. I picked it up and began to think about it. Do you remember the olden days when people used to share Christ with kids using different color beads on a bracelet? I've always hated using those those things in certain countries because you use the black bead to symbolize bad and the white bead to symbolize good. And you're the white person talking to the dark colored person (most often)....that's just not good to me. So I avoid those bracelets. BUT I did come up with a pretty cool way to share Jesus with kids using pipe cleaners. I wont explain it now...maybe I'll get it on video while in Africa and you can see it then.

But tonight my sister in law called and I told her to let Jonah know that his pipe cleaner flowers were being used to share who Jesus is to kids in Africa. I'm excited about that...I hope he is too!


The Blame Game

Ok...I'm about to give a big shout out to a fabulous book. It's a daily devotional book called, "Daily With The King," by W. Glyn Evans. Our Executive Pastor at our church, (some of us call him Papa Shook - because he's the father of our Senior Pastor), he stands in a circle of men who are the wisest men I've known. One day in staff meeting he mentioned that this was the best devotional book he'd ever read, and of course as soon as he said it, you could see 10 or 15 people writing the name down. He's sort of like EF Hutton, if he says something...everyone listens. (who is EF Hutton, I've always wondered, so I looked it up....if you wanna know...read here...but only after you've finished reading my blog...lol!)

ANYWAY...so I'm reading the May 29th devotional and it's about blaming God. I began to reflect on the times that things haven't gone my way...and because of it I'd had some "sessions" with God with me questioning him. Now I know God is big enough to handle my times when I don't understand Him. But there's a big difference in trusting Him when you don't understand and blaming Him when things don't go your way.

In this devotional he says, "The world blames God daily. There is not a trouble or a catastrophe that God is not blamed for. It is characteristic of the natural man to shift the blame to someone else; it is uncharacteristic of the disciple to do so." Hold up...rewind...think that through. (I did, for a few minutes....) Here's some insight from the book:

First, blaming God is the result of confused expectations. Sometimes we expect certain things to happen, but God allows different things to happen. If we do this, then we've programmed God too tightly, too rigidly...and then, when what we want to happen, doesn't...then we become bitter.

Second, it is the result of becoming too personally involved in the results. The book says this is dedication out of control. Results are always in God's hands, and we must not feel personally responsible for them.

So because tomorrow is our pre-production meeting at church. (I'm the program director for our services) I'm thinking of this in terms of what we do on the weekends. Do we have confused expectations? Is our dedication out of control?

Then we can't be personally involved in the results...those, we have to place in His hands. Our hearts must be open in all the planning and production points to what GOD wants and not what we want. Then what takes place is what God wants to happen and not what we think should happen.

I'm also thinking of this in terms of my trip to Africa that I'm taking in a week. I don't want to have different expectations than what God wants out of this trip. I've got to continually open myself up to be used of God with no expectations of my own. Just willing and open to be used the way God wants to use me. I know if I do this, then this trip will be incredible!

Be praying....

Oh, and now you can go back up to the top and find out who EF Hutton was! And I'd say, get this book now if you're looking for a challenging devotional book.