Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hand Picked & Placed On My Road

Okay.   I'm visual.

If I visualize my life as a road, I see it as a dirt road out in the country.   Just like the one above.

Life is a journey, right?

Some of you may see your life as:
- a busy six lane interstate highway.
- or a winding steep road that requires guard rails in each bend.
- or a narrow hiking trail through the woods.

Me?  I'm a dirt road in the country.

I've been thinking about this concept a lot in recent years.

More and more, I see evidence that Jesus hand picks and specifically places people in my life -- to impact or influence me at just the right time - along my road.

Have you ever thought about it that way?

It's happened to me, time and time again.    

Like the pastor on staff at my church who was responsible for organizing the first mission trip I took to Africa.  Without his obedience and involvement, I might never have had the opportunity to go to Kenya in the first place.  Africa's had a huge influence in my life.  One man's efforts - and a few more years down my road, I'm going on fourth mission trip to Kenya.

Like the doctor that paid close attention to some very broad symptoms as my cancer was being
discovered.  Without her persistence and intuition, it might have gone undiscovered for several more
years down my road.  The outcome for me could have been much different.

Or like the woman who saw something in me and gave me a job at a non-profit when I was fresh out of college. I went on to spend the bulk of my career there.

Jesus doesn't just work in the BIG encounters along my road.   He also places people in my life in smaller, more intimate ways:

He paired me with a roommate on a mission trip had struggled with the same issues my own family was facing.  Through our conversations on the trip, she gave me very personal insights and encouragement that only someone with her background could have provided.   She was placed on along my road.

Or the time a real "kindred spirit" friendship developed in my life with someone I probably would have never met without Jesus placing her directly on my road.

Or the many times He speaks directly to a situation I'm facing when I spend time in His word.  He
always uses His word to influence my life - on my road if I'm paying attention.

Conversations.    Influences.    People.

One of the most undeniable ways that He's impacted me has been relationally.    We all have "relational  voids" in our life -  caused by family or friends or just people that weren't there for us -- by choice or by circumstance.

Don't miss this.   I've even seen Him bring people into my life to stand in the gap of my relational voids -- and speak or say things over me that I badly needed to hear.   I call it relational surrogates - just a sweet gift of people that I believe were hand picked and specifically placed in my life - along my road.

That is just so cool.     A God that cares enough for me to arrange those kind of influences.  Conversations.   Encounters.     Encouragements.  People.

You can't convince me it's only a coincidence or fate.

Here's what has challenged me.  

How available or how willing am I -- to be used by God in someone else's life - along someone else's road?

Am I only concerned about who will be provided for me?

Or am I
listening and alert
to how Jesus would lead or prompt me  -- so that I might offer a conversation, an encouragement or an influence in someone else's life?

someone that might be on their six lane interstate
or their winding steep road with the guard rails in the curves
or their narrow hiking path in the woods?

How available am I?    

Friday, September 21, 2012

Straight from "Miss P"

The crew that worked in our kitchen under the watchful eye of Mercedes (Merci) Pannone - affectionately called her "Miss P."     She & her husband, Bernie, were very important people in my life - for many reasons.

Merci walked by my office one day when my kids were very young.  She was a striking woman.  Tall - and elegant - and very wise.   Not sure what prompted it, but  for some reason, she stopped in my doorway and looked me in the eye. "..You're going to look back on these years as the best years of your life."  

I could have honestly turned around in my chair to see if she was actually talking to someone else.   Me?   At that moment, I must have smiled back at her - and nodded my head in agreement.   In my mind, I was definitely thinking -  "WHAT???   easy for you to say!"

Actually....it was easy for her to say.   She knew exactly what she was talking about.   Merci and Bernie - at that point in their lives - had raised five children together.   She was right in the middle of a season of life I'm just beginning.

When I looked in the mirror that day, I saw a full time working mom of two young girls -- trying to keep -what  felt like an overwhelming amount of responsibility -- balanced.   My husband.   My girls.    My home.   My job.  Myself.  It was tough trying to give everybody and everything - the time, care and attention they all deserved and needed from me.    In those years, I was doing the best I could - but it was really difficult.    

But, my "best years?" -- surely not!   Those days had to be ahead of me.   When the kids were older.  When the demands were easier.   When my life was more together.

The day "Miss P" poured out those words of wisdom on me, I hadn't experienced a full night's sleep in eight years!   My year old, Taylor, was probably fighting another ear infection.   My eight year old, Kate, may have called out in the night because she needed help "turning her pillow over."  A date night with my husband was a foreign concept.  My laundry was likely piled up in the mud room, the dishwasher really needed to be emptied,  bills probably needed to be paid -- and beyond a doubt -- I badly needed to put in an hour on the treadmill.

My best days?   I could only see demanding days.

I always disliked the phrase "empty nest" -  it seems ridiculous to compare women of my age -to a bird!   It's "life after the kids are gone" for me.    No need for the bird comparison.

Scott and I are wrapping up our very first week long camping trip with no kids.   It's been entirely different.    But also pretty wonderful.   We've read six books between us this week.  (I HIGHLY recommend "The Hunger Games" p.s.)  We've sat quietly by a fire several nights.  Gone to bed when we were ready.   Picked the restaurants where we would eat.   Went on walks when we wanted.  Watched some amazing sunsets together. You get the picture.  We've had a wonderful week.   Different....yes.      But, still pretty wonderful.

But, I do understand now what Merci meant.    Those early family days fly by with incredible speed.    Yes, it's hard.  The demands are high and your energy is often depleted, but it's irreplaceable time when your kids are young.   When they still have a passie and enjoy a bedtime story.   But, it's also irreplaceable when they're a little older - and it becomes proms and softball games.    And  even now....when it's become weddings and Christmas breaks.

Yep.   I know what "Miss P" meant, but maybe she wasn't entirely right.

As a matter of encouragement to myself and friends of a similar age, I certainly hope that my "life after the kids are gone" can also be wonderful, valuable and useful years.   Whatever season of life I find myself -I  want to continue to find the present season to be the best years of my life.  

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished..."   Philippians 1:6.

I think God still has a few things planned for me yet.
Oh....and our solo week long camping trip?  The kids started arriving on Day 5 - and we're finishing up the maiden voyage of camping "with no kids" -  with a few more kids than we started with....and that's fine too -- just different.  (Smile)

Monday, September 17, 2012


We have this incredible benefit at work.   Sabbaticals.

I'm taking one right now.  Three weeks off.

Pretty sweet, huh?   I've just started week two- and it's flying by with a high rate of speed.  It's been wonderful so far.


- spent quiet time on my porch in the hammock.
- slept in a whole hour later than I do most mornings.
- gone barefoot more than usual.
- met my youngest at her favorite coffee shop to catch up on her life.
- spent the night with my newlyweds & loved on their unruly dog.
- talked  & confided over a three hour lunch date with an old friend.
- enjoyed multiple chai tea lattes.
- hung out with my mama for most of a day.
- finished a mosaic.
- watched with wonder how fast my red haired grandgodson is growing!
- committed to - and have started reading all three "Hunger Games."
- gone camping at one of my favorite spots with my sweet man.
- jumped in the ocean & enjoyed the sand in my toes!

Yep.  I could get used to this.   Can you hear that??  The sound of me relaxing....ahhhhh.  And I've still got another week & a half to go...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I've Heard Plenty of Reasons

I'm in the throws of fund raising for my upcoming return trip to Kenya with Newspring Church - part of their ministry to the people of a remote, rural area of Kenya called Segera.     I'm SO HAPPY that this time, Scott has decided to submit to God's urging (smile) and come with me.  Okay.  I confess.  I've been campaigning for him to come since I signed back up.    We'll be leaving in just two short months - over the Thanksgiving holidays.

These trips have been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.  I can't...for the life of me, understand why everybody wouldn't want to go.

But, I've heard plenty of reasons.

I don't have the money.
I hate flying.
It's not safe.
I'm afraid.
I'll get homesick.
What would my family do without me?
What about germs?
Why would I go to Africa?

Oh, people.

Here's what you're missing.

A group of strangers will become your family within a few short days.

You'll fly 18 hours.  Big Deal.  Good movies & companionship pass the time! (Ambien doesn't hurt either.)

Once on the ground, you'll travel in style!

You'll do a little dancing.

Hang out with some new friends.

Have kids fight for your attention and hand.

Paint some fingernails.

Chop some veggies for lunch.

Serve up some hot food for kids that may only get that one meal all day.

You'll have lots of opportunities to show LOVE.

To Serve.

To see someone accept Christ and pass from "death to life."

To wash a few dishes.

To worship in an unforgettable church service.

Lend a hand to someone that could use it.

To see incredible landscapes.

To see a mother's life change.

To provide a copy of the Word to people that might have never been given one.

To see disabled kids once shunned by a village, bask in the care & attention of the Americans.

To see the value of clean, accessible WATER.

To sip on a cup of Chai tea before dawn at a watering hole.

Experience life on the wild side.

Share a Thanksgiving Meal far from home with people that feel like family.

Head back home, forever changed.

Yeah.   Pretty good reasons to reconsider.     For more information, go to http://newspring.cc/kenya/
or http://www.410bridge.org/.   And P.S.  to everyone that's supported our trip -- THANK YOU!
This is a great investment.  Don't you agree?