Browsing "travel"
Oct 21, 2015 - Devotional, travel    2 Comments

Ordeals and Adventures

Airports.

I have a love hate relationship with them. I enjoy the excited bustle and people watching. And I dislike the delays and feeling of being out of control. Which is where I am now. Delayed. Waiting on a mechanic. Surrounded by griping fellow flyers. Unable to board the plane.

first class air plane

I have missed my fair share of connections and this makes me an anxious traveler. My strategy is to plan extra time into every flight. Lengthy layovers and “spill over time” on the tail end of every trip. This is my strategy to deal with stress and anxiety because of the unexpected. But even more than my built-in wiggle room, I try to change my outlook whenever I’m traveling.

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately:

“Attitude is what separates an adventure from an ordeal.”

We’re familiar with ordeals. Cancelled flights. Traffic. People in the express line with way more than ten items. I’ve experienced enough ordeals in my life. I need more adventures!

I tend to think of adventures as being planned. Vacations. Parties. Sporting events. But can I have some taste of adventure every day? Can my attitude change my everyday experiences from ordeals to adventures. What if traffic on my typical route home encourages me to take a new road home? Can this be an adventure? What if instead of rolling my eyes at the express lane wannabes, I used my energy to imagine the back story of these people trying to squeeze twenty items into ten? What if instead of huffing at the Delta agent who is kindly informing me of the delay, I saw my delayed flight as the perfect window to snag some writing time.

My attitude is powerful, it can change an ordeal into an adventure. And you’re reading my “unexpected time” writing ordeal adventure. It’s a good thing I had some unexpected time to think about this, huh?

Do you long for more ordeals or more adventures in your life?

Jun 20, 2015 - travel    No Comments

Quiet Hour

My life needs a quiet hour. I am continually prodded for more productivity, accomplishments, efficiency. Much of this prodding comes from within my own head and heart. There are very few voices in my life telling me to stop. Rest. Just be.

I need more of those voices.

I need a quiet hour. Every day. A time to remind myself that I’m not in charge. That I’m not in control. That I’m not responsible for everything.

I need to live at a sustainable pace.

I need to move to Italy.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-45

Quiet hour is a social construct in Italy. It’s expected. Most people in Salerno close their shops, head home for lunch, and then have a quiet hour. They can nap, read, rest, or just have a time of stillness. It was socially enforced to the point that we had to turn off music and couldn’t vacuum during the quiet hour out of respect for our neighbors while we were working there. After an hour of two, Italians head back to their jobs to finish their day, rejuvenated and refreshed.

It was a powerful reminder to me as a mini, daily Sabbath.

I’ve been studying Sabbath for years now. I understand the importance of it more intellectually, but I still find it difficult to practice. Italy is helping me with that. I long to change the pace at which I run in life and have some quietness and stillness to remind my heart that it’s okay. It’s okay if I don’t have all the answers. It’s okay if I don’t get everything checked off my to-do list. It’s okay if I need a rest.

No, it’s more than okay. It’s commanded.

Exodus 20:8-11

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

How to you encourage restfulness in your heart and life?

Indiana Jones and the Mamertine Prison

No, this is not an anticipated fifth Indiana Jones movie. It’s just what I thought about when I was in Rome.

(I promise the analogy will make sense in the end!)

I traveled to Salerno on a mission trip and we worked hard for a week helping a church plant get set up in their new worship center.

And then we celebrated! Celebrated our work and what God had done over the week. We walked fifteen miles in Rome and saw so many notable sites: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi fountain, the Roman aqueducts, the Spanish Steps, the Forum, Senate and Colosseum. These were lavish, sites bursting with historic significance, glamour, and intrigue.

But the plainest, most understated sight was my favorite.

The Mamertine Prison, a single, drafty, underground room near the forum, was the site that most changed my life. The room was small, dim, and understated, but it is the room where Paul dictated (likely through a grating in the ceiling) many epistles which have altered the course of history. This could have been the room where Paul wrote Philippians, four small chapters that changed my life. But whether in this room or under house arrest, the language of guarding jumped off the page in new ways to me. I was near tears as I thought about Paul talked about the joy he had in Christ while imprisoned.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-424 mamertine prison

And then I thought about Indiana Jones.

Specifically, I thought about the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where he is forced to choose the holy grail. Initially his nemesis chooses the golden, bejeweled chalice as the cup of the King of Kings. Afterwards, Indy chooses the understated, scratched, clay pot saying, “This is the cup of a carpenter.” This is a powerful scene that in a way highlights both the transcendence and imminence of Christ. Yes, He could have chosen to drink from the golden cup, to exert authority and power, and would have been within His rights to do that. What is amazing is that he condescended himself, took on flesh, experienced temptation and pain, and drank from the plain clay pot. I had seen extraordinary and beautiful things in Rome that day and the unexpected “clay pot” was my favorite.

God has a way of making ordinary things extraordinary. A stable. Bread and wine. Even a prison cell in Rome. I was struck as I thought about the beauty of this often overlooked, understated, holy room.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-423

What ordinary thing has God made extraordinary in your experience?

Jun 12, 2015 - travel    1 Comment

Salerno Team 2015

I made six great friends.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-409

Being knee-deep in black mold has a way of bonding people!

We are the Salerno Team!

Italy-Salerno

Salerno 2015 - Mike-13

We traveled to help the Valiquettes and the Davidsons in Salerno, Italy. We painted, we cleaned, we constructed a stage, we disinfected, we ran cables, we swept, we sealed, we organized, we vacuumed and mopped, we declared war on mold!

war on mold

Those are the tasks we were assigned. But here’s what we really did. We encouraged those who serve on the front lines. We made a house a home. We encouraged restfulness. We built relationships among a scattered network. We showed people, and were shown the Gospel in a new way. We created a space for worship. We fell in love with a people and a culture.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-24

We worked hard. We played hard. We prayed hard.

It was awesome.

I am thankful that blessing goes both ways. We went to serve and to be a blessing and ended up immensely blessed. I appreciated the Italians who befriended us and asked real questions. I appreciated the pace of life and frequent rest times in Italy that made me relax. I appreciated the welcoming table and never-ending food supply we experienced. I appreciated my team who got sillier as the week went by instead of irritated. I am thankful that it was va bene. Good. Good because God was in it all.

Thank you to everyone who gave financially, prayed, asked me questions, wanted to see pictures, and was excited as I went on this trip. It was delightful. Thanks for being a part of it!

Here’s some more beautiful pictures of our time!

Salerno 2015 - Mike-224

Salerno 2015 - Mike-394

Salerno 2015 - Mike-8

Salerno 2015 - Mike-45

Salerno 2015 - Mike-460Ciao!

Jun 2, 2015 - travel    No Comments

A Very Present Photograph

I just returned from Italy, the land of good food, large gatherings, and plentiful hand gestures for communication.

I had a delightful time. Va bene.

I traversed hundreds of miles via planes, trains and automobiles. I hoofed dozens of miles with my own two feet. I witnessed literally centuries of history: People, places, vistas, monuments. And in all of this travel, I took only one photograph.

Would you like to see it? Would you like to see how I summarized the entire experience of a lifetime in a single picture?

photo

Could have done better, eh? This sign in the airport bathroom made me giggle so I snapped a picture of it before I turned off my phone. We had strict packing guidelines for this trip and my digital SLR just didn’t make the cut. I also chose not to upgrade to an international phone plan so my cellular phone spent ten days off to allow me to be off the grid.

Both of these decisions were made purposefully to allow me to be fully present. I took one photograph not because nothing else was worthy, but because everything was worthy! I wanted to be immersed and fully present where I was for the short time we had in Italy. I wanted to see the sights with my own eyes and trust my teammates (who had better camera equipment than me anyway!) to capture the beauty. One day, I sat on the boat returning from Amalfi, perhaps the most beautiful coastline in the world. I was drowsy and tempted to nod off through the steady rocking of the boat. And yet I thought to myself, “These sights will not be before these eyes forever. Enjoy them today. Soak it in.”

Be present. Enjoy. Take mental pictures. I long to capture moments by turning off my phone and camera and enjoying the setting in my being instead of through my technology.

So I only took one photo. And I’m totally okay with that. Va bene.

 

What will not be in front of your eyes forever? Children, views, art, projects, cities, concerts, ceremonies. What makes you want to be fully engaged now and how can you be better at being present? 

May 30, 2015 - travel    2 Comments

Va Bene

Officially my favorite Italian phrase, va bene means, “It’s going good” and could be substituted for “sounds good” in a typical English sentence.

It is decidedly how I describe our trip to Italy.

Va bene.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-24

It was good. It was life changing. It showed me a people and a culture in a way I never imagined. We worked hard and we played hard. We scrubbed mold and killed bugs, and constructed stages, and served those on the front lines of the gospel. And we played hard. We visited one of the most beautiful places in the world, saw 15 miles worth of sites in Rome, and played bilingual Pictionary.

Va bene.

We became a team. We made lifelong memories. We served. We were blessed. Immensely.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-13

 

 

Va bene. 

What defines goodness? Was it how much we got accomplished or how many Italians we interacted with or the sights that we saw? No. That was amazing, but the presence of the Lord was what made this trip va bene. The Lord was present in our team, in the church, and in my heart. I got to thinking that every time I give my time, heart, and life, to the Lord it “is going good.”

Thank you to everyone who made this trip a reality. I am excited to share more as I continue to process nine days of amazing people, work, sights, and lessons learned. Thank you for being a part of this goodness.

Va bene.

 

Apr 3, 2015 - travel    No Comments

Support Group for Support Raising

Shortly your mailbox will be filled with letters from willing and eager missionaries radically going somewhere for the cause of Christ. Summer projects, week-long adventures, state side and international endeavors all seem to coalesce in the summer time, and that can only mean one thing – Support Raising!
This blog post is meant to give those raising support hints on how to effectively invite people into what God is doing in their lives and in the place where they are headed. Support raising is difficult, uncomfortable, awkward, and faith-stretching work. How can one possibly take all that God is doing in his or her life at a moment in time and put it on paper? I’ve written some helpful hints from some experience with past mission trips to help anyone who will be shortly be starting the adventure called support raising!

orlando grace church IMG 3968 300x225 Support Group for Support Raising

Support Group for Support Raising Hints:
 
1.Share your heart, not just details about the trip. Consider answering some of the following questions in your letter: Why do you feel called to go to this place? What has God been doing in your heart lately? How did you decide to go on this trip? What are you excited to learn about yourself, about God, and about the people you will be ministering to? People do support organizations, but even more than that they support people who they know, trust, and can relate to — so make yourself relatable! Include pictures, itineraries, prayer requests or other personalized touches.
2.Plan ahead! Know your deadlines, and don’t start raising support at the last-minute. Gather a file with potential supporter’s names, addresses, etc. Save this file for sending thank you letters and an update after you return sharing what you learned on this trip and thanking them for their help to get you there!
3.Use this as an opportunity to share your heart and the Gospel even with non-believers. Don’t be surprised when crazy Uncle Harry (who is hostile to Christianity) actually sends you a generous check to help you have “a cultural experience.” He may not call it a mission trip, but he is helping you get there anyway! (By the way, this is a true story!) Even if you don’t get any money from these people, you’ve had the chance to share part of your story and planted a seed of the Gospel. These can be powerful tools as people see the sacrifices you are making and the lengths you are going through to bring the good news to a lost people. Share your heart freely and don’t limit the work of the Spirit!
4.Be clear about logistics! Amount of and date that money is needed, dates of travel, where to send support, who to make checks out to, etc.  Put all this information together so it’s there for easy reference later. Make things easy on your supporters. Consider including a self-addressed stamped envelope. You may want to check the current IRS standards for tax-deductible gifts to make sure you are staying within the parameters of the law.
5.Have someone proofread your letter. Nothing is so distracting from the point of your letter as misspelled wrods (my point exactly!)
6.Lastly, and most importantly: Remember you are asking for supporters, partners, encouragers, prayer warriors, and radical senders…YOU ARE NOT JUST ASKING FOR CASH! God is sovereign. If He wants you to go on this trip, He will raise the money for you. Your job is not to convince people of the financial worthiness of your endeavor, but to ask for supporters because you can’t do this alone! I have had many people who have never had the means to send me a single dollar, but these saints have encouraged me, prayed for me, and been behind me 100% over multiple mission trips. I am so thankful for them.  You are not just asking for financial support, you are inviting others into your life and creating community through this letter. [Note: One option is to create two versions of your support letter: one with the details about financial support and the other sharing the details of the trip, but not specifically asking for financial support. I’ve sent the latter version of my letter to some people who I know do not have the financial means to support me, but still want to know an update on my life!]
For years I’ve said that I think the mission trip does not start the day you get on a plane to fly to some distant land, but with the moment you decide to go on the trip in the first place. Support raising is an integral part of preparing for the mission trip. It is both a bonding experience for the team members and a faith-building activity for you. God does amazing works, but almost never in exactly the same ways. Some trips I’ve raised my entire required amount in a week’s time – and I’ve praised God for His quick, overflowing provision! Other times I’ve had a generous, anonymous donation come just three days before I’m scheduled to leave – and I praise God for his faithfulness and His timing. Both stories are faith-building. So, open your laptops and begin pouring our your heart through the keys! Support raise for the logistics of plane tickets and food, and for the glory of God!
orlando grace church IMG 3618 300x225 Support Group for Support Raising
“I do now know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow.”
Mar 29, 2015 - travel    No Comments

My Latest Adventure

disney osbourne lights

Want to know why I’m this excited? My latest adventure will take me to Italy this summer!

Why does Italy need missionaries? Didn’t the church start there?”

That question has been posed repeatedly as I’ve told people that I am planning on going to Italy this summer. Italy has a long history with Christianity, but most Italians live in a post-Christian world. They are in many ways over-familiar with the old stories, but under-gospeled. There are reminders of miracles, church councils, and Christ throughout the scenery, our hope is for new life to be breathed into this beautiful country.

I will, Lord willing, be traveling on a nine day service-oriented mission trip this May. My church has a partnership with a church plant in Salerno, Italy called Nuova Vita (New Life). We will be a nimble seven person team who will participate in physically labor intensive service for the church plant. The purpose of the trip will be to increase the visibility, perception, and influence of our church partner by transforming and beautifying a neighborhood in the city. 

Italy-Salerno

I am excited about this trip for many reasons. First, the team! Those committed to the trip are delightful, flexible, team players and I anticipate good things coming from this group of people working together. Second, the work! I love seeing physical, tangible movement and progress. I want to encourage those who are in Salerno long-term who will see the fruit of what we start on this trip. I am looking forward to having both physical and spiritual goals for this trip so that progress can be seen (and anticipated in faith for what cannot be seen!) And third, the church planters! Justin and Abbey Valiquette (and their four children) are our missionaries and church planters in Salerno, Italy. I have known them and worked in ministry with them for a dozen years. They were on my Summer Project through Cru in 2003. We labored together, sharing the gospel and our lives for an entire summer and I am delighted to see them again and understand more fully the work of the church they have undertaken in Italy.

How can you help? Great question! Thanks for asking! First, please pray! I am a firm believer that mission trips don’t start the moment we get on the plane, just as they don’t end when we return home. The prayer, team building, support raising, and preparation are all part of the trip experience. Pray for our team and Nuova Vita that we would be a blessing to each other and the city. Second, support me financially. I am raising tax-deductible contributions through Orlando Grace church. The cost for the trip including air fare, lodging transportation, and food is $3000 which I must raise by April 15th. The faith building portion of the trip begins now for me as I humbly ask for partners. I believe that missions requires go-ers, welcomers, and senders and that we can each participate in different roles at different times. It is my turn to be a go-er! 

If you would like to join my team of senders and support me financially, I will gladly send you the details! Just leave a comment below!

Mar 7, 2015 - Health, Running, speaking, travel    No Comments

Internal Daylight Savings

No, I’m not dead.

No, I haven’t decided to live off the grid.

No, I haven’t eloped.

February was just a blur. 

IMG_3398sick, ill, snot, kleenexenchanted 10K

Traveling, speaking, multiple illnesses, and a twenty-mile race can make a month very tight and very exhausting. I feel like I am just now able to process all that happened in February. Like my mind is living a month behind my body. It’s a new kind of internal daylight savings!

But I’m hoping to spring forward in more ways than one tonight. I want to align my clocks, watches, and internal system to live in the present. Yes, I need to think about my blur of a month, but I also need to live where I am. I don’t want to live life solely through my rear view mirror. I think back and muse, “Wow, I led a women’s retreat. I spoke for four hours about the Sabbath one month ago this weekend. Was that real?” I ponder such questions because the distance between my thoughts and my presence can keep me from enjoying what’s going on right in front of me. Maybe you feel the same. Nostalgic for what was and never fully enjoying what is. I am seeking to enjoy life past, present, and future. Remember good times, enjoy today, plan for the future. That’s my new daylight savings plan – enjoy the sunshine wherever it shines!

How do you train yourself to enjoy today and not worry about tomorrow or long for yesterday?

Sep 9, 2014 - My Story, travel    2 Comments

Canoes and Kayaks

During one particularly lonely and tear-filled night, my comfort came from an unexpected phrase which kept popping up in my mind.

“Everybody suffers.”

You might be wondering how that is at all comforting. But, to me, it means that life is full of suffering and struggle this side of Heaven. Everyone suffers. Single or married. Parent of ten or childless. Employed or homemaker. Slender or hefty. Beautiful or plain. Rich or poor. That is, there is no marital or parental status, job, beauty, monetary value, or external factor that can make someone happy. We do ourselves a gross injustice when we elevate any of the above categories to instant happiness level. Yes, everyone suffers, but as my dad has always said, every stage of life has drawbacks as well as benefits. So the comforting side of that statement for me became, “Yes, I’m single. I’m a woman. I’ve at times felt overlooked and under appreciated, but not marriage, nor children, nor a job can make me ultimately happy. My job is to accentuate the greenness of my own pasture instead of pining after the unattainable greenness in another’s field.”

Or to put it another way…

orlando grace church IMG 0432 Thoughts on Canoes and Kayaks

Most people live in canoes. They have a co-rower, a committed fellow boater, a spouse. They can rely on each other to steer and power the canoe. Both need to row to keep the boat straight, but they have double the manpower to direct their vessel. Canoes falter when only one person paddles. The boat begins to go in circles, never arriving where it’s headed.

But I don’t live in a canoe.
I am a kayak.

I hold a double-sided oar; I direct the vessel of my life. I am swift, sleek, mobile, and able to maneuver in tight spots that a canoe just can’t. I can change direction quickly without consulting with another person. But I always have to row. No one else is in the kayak with me – it is a one-seater – so if I stop rowing the current soon has it’s way with my vessel.

The analogy breaks down of course, as all do, because I do not live life completely alone. I have loads of fellow kayakers and canoers who are traveling at different speeds down the river of life watching out for me, helping me make decisions, gently directing my kayak away from rocks, waterfalls, and sandbars and pushing me in the right direction.

Not to mention Jesus! I don’t know if He would be the current, or the goal, or the whole river in this analogy, but safe to say He’s there and He’s instrumental in the direction of my kayak, other kayaks, and canoes too!

Kayaks are not better than canoes, they are just different. They’re built for different purposes. Canoes promote cooperation, commitment, stability, and a joint plan. Kayaks are built for independence, quickness, and spontaneity. I’ve decided to embrace my kayak life for now. I will not mope that I have not been given a canoe. I will take advantage of my kayak – it is the only seaworthy vessel I have. I will enjoy the freedom of my kayak and take advantage of it. I will face the rapids with an adventurous spirit. I will show others the beauty of my kayak.  I will cheer my fellow kayakers to do the same. For someday I may very much miss my kayak when I’m in a canoe and the pace alters or when I am rowing in circles because my canoe partner needed a break. I will not pine for a canoe, but I will enjoy the beauty of my canoe with it’s camaraderie and companionship when and if it does arrive.

I will not let others’ opinions affect how I view my kayak. God gave me this kayak and I am meant to care for it, enjoy it, and row with all my might. I will love my kayak.

I am kayak. Hear me roar!

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