Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Don't miss the train!

It's a blog train...with giveaways!

See? As Eli would say, "I todeja." (AKA: "I told you.")

You do NOT want to miss out on the goodness that will given away over the next 34 days! The fall Noonday Collection launch is tomorrow and 34 rock star Ambassadors are sharing their blogs, their hearts and their favorite Noonday pieces with YOU!

Bookmark this page and check back daily for the link to the day's featured blog. Not only will you love the freebies - you will love the hearts of the women who will be sharing! Follow their blogs (and enjoy the freebies) and be ready to be inspired by women who've said "YES!" to God and whose lives reflect obedience to Jesus' command to "love the least of these." From adoption stories to fair trade fashion insights to mission experiences, these women are the real deal (Not sure how I managed to squeeze my way in, honestly!)!

Here's your line-up for the month-long inspirational freebie-fest! ENJOY!

Aug 28 Krista Box : www.thegirlwhosaidyes.blogspot.com Aug 29 Alicia Hale : www.raisingalittlehale.blogspot.com Aug 30 Stephanie Nunes : www.nunespartyofthree.blogspot.com Aug 31 Natalie Perry : www.perrysplate.com Sept 1 Laura Walton : www.runningwithapurpose.blogspot.com Sept 2 Amy Armstrong : www.lovingandlivinghisway.blogspot.com Sept 3 Cara Coleman : www.thefrontporchramblings.net Sept 4 Lilly Neubauer : www.pancakesandbeetjuice.com Sept 5 Cynthia Coppinger : www.cynthiacoppinger.blogspot.com Sept 6 Kristine Shafer : www.kristineshafer.com Sept 7 Desiree Thompson : www.hannahjamesblog.com Sept 8 Carmen Jonas : www.primroseandolive.tumblr.com Sept 9 Amanda Cobb : www.thecobbfamilyflys.blogspot.com Sept 10 Liz Sanchez : www.lizsanchez-insidemyhead.blogspot.com Sept 11 Kristan Roland : www.confessionsofacookbookqueen.com Sept 12 Tesney Davis : www.oureyesopened.org Sept 13 Aimee Bell : www.raindropsonrosesblog.wordpress.com Sept 14 Annette Miller : http://mrsmiller2012.blogspot.com
Sept 15 Brandi Mendenhall : www.thefairtradefashionistas.wordpress.com Sept 16 Wynne Elder : theelderadventurers.com Sept 17 Jenna Beaugh : www.eatliverun.com Sept 18 McCall Aldridge : www.leemeandthegirls.blogspot.com Sept 19 Emily Hays : www.emilyhays.blogspot.com Sept 20 Lindsay Chambers : www.myvisionsofsugarplums.blogspot.com Sept 21 Elizabeth Bricknell : www.elizabethbricknell.blogspot.com Sept 22 Heather Keehn : www.teamkeehn.blogspot.com Sept 23 Katie Eller : www.cardiganway.com Sept 24 Candace McArthur : www.agirlwithredshoes.wordpress.com Sept 25 Jennifer Arnett : www.thestatewerein.com Sept 26 Emily Tilsen : www.lifeunfabled.blogspot.com Sept 27 Sara Mixon : www.mixonmania.blogspot.com Sept 28 Melonie Grover : www.veryeasilyinspired.com Sept 29 Carrie Glanzer : www.themotherspearls.com Sept 30 Debra Rice : www.turquoiseandlove.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 24, 2013

You'll Get What You Give

"Anything worth having is worth working for."

"You get out of life what you put into it."

I've heard these cliches - and others like them - all my life. I may have even used them a time or two urging my college students to place higher value on hard work. But, increasingly, I see the need to be reminded that these same "life" principles are even more important when applied to our spiritual life.

As a youth minister's and soon-to-be preacher's wife, I am sensitive (perhaps, overly sensitive) to comments like,"I just don't get anything out of church." or "I just don't feel like I'm growing spiritually here." It's hard not to get snarky and ask the obvious, "Well, what are you putting into your church or your spiritual growth?" (Yeah, being a preacher's wife is NOT going to be an easy role for me.)

(Side note: I know this post is not going to make me any friends. If you're already feeling uncomfortable, you should probably use the back button in the top left corner and just forget you ever stopped by this post.)

Many people leave a church - or just stop going to church at all - claiming they're not "getting anything" from it. I have a couple of things to say about that (Side note: I have to speak my peace now before I'm "officially" a preacher's wife and have to don the big hat and sit on the second pew "Amen!"-ing my dear husband while silently praying my boys don't do anything worthy of a call from the Pastor-Parrish Committee during the Sunday activities). 

Here goes...

First, worship is not about YOU - worship is about HIM. The point of worship is to acknowledge the Creator of all the universe and His goodness - not for you to come get a weekly "fix" or emotion-filled "high" because of some flashy production or praise music. If that happens, fantastic! Lift those hands and let the tears flow - He will rejoice in your praise and be glad you have entered into His presence if your worship is authentic. But your worship should also be daily, hourly, really, each minute as He reveals Himself to you in your surroundings - not just at 11 a.m. Sunday. 

Second, you will "get" from your church what you put into it. So if you're struggling, maybe it's time to really evaluate what you're putting into it. If you're just attending church on Sunday (at best), but not plugged into a Sunday School class, small group, prayer group, mission-focused efforts or other activities, what do you really expect? Growth can't happen in one hour one day a week. If you only tended a garden an hour a week, it would never yield a return. So, seriously. Why would you honestly expect the same of your relationship with The Lord?

If you're struggling with your church's style of worship, prayerfully consider approaching your church leadership with your concerns and inquire about how you help bring about change. If you can't find a Sunday School class that fits your "needs" - prayerfully consider starting one. There may be others looking for the same style of teaching you desire. If you can't find a small group/prayer group that meets your needs - prayerfully consider starting one. Everyone needs accountability and small groups are a perfect environment for that. If you want to be involved in more mission-related activities - prayerfully consider organizing them. There is no greater way to grow your own spiritual life than to feed that of others. If your kids aren't going regularly to their small group or activities - make them (or don't blame us when they act like hoodlums. Just sayin'.). 

"There are too many opportunities for growth on our calendar," said no preacher or church staff member EVER. But, please note the PRAYERFULLY CONSIDER before each action. If He is guiding your new opportunities, you can be confident He will bless them and they will flourish.

For those of you still reading and not vowing to never speak to me again, can we agree it's time to stop making excuses and blaming others for our lack of spiritual growth? After all, that's why it's a PERSONAL relationship with Christ (Can I get an "AMEN!).

I feel strongly about this for two reasons:

1. See paragraphs above about being a youth minister's and soon-to-be preacher's wife.

2. I've been there. I've been the "complainer" - the explorer looking for something more exciting and more emotional to get my fix. My spiritual growth began when I quit making worship and church about ME and what I wanted/needed/liked - and turned my heart to HIM and what He wants/needs/likes from me. When we fix our eyes on Him and His greatness - and for me, His amazing grace because I am such a wreck - nothing should overwhelm our hearts to the point of all-out worship and adoration.

Stepping down from my soap box and here's to hoping we can still be friends...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

25 Days...and Counting

Anse-a-Pitre, Haiti : May 2013
In 25 days, I'll be headed back to Haiti and the DR for about 10 days. When I look back at the last 18 months of my life, I stand amazed. What I believed to be a "bucket list" kind of adventure to Haiti has turned my world upside down.

My heart has been broken for a tiny island in the Caribbean that 3 1/2 years ago, I very likely could not have found on a map without some serious searching. I own a sewing machine that has only sewn school kit bags because there was a chance that those bags might end up in the hands of Haitian children. I have learned more about the creation of sustainable income streams and building clean water wells than I ever dreamed possible for this non-math, non-science minded girl. And I have changed my entire career path to answer a call to do something - however small it may feel - to make lives better and share the love of Jesus Christ in this little part of the world.

Wow. Who knew? 

God did.

I have, on several occasions lately, played the "what if" game. My faith is so weak, despite the overwhelming blessings God pours out on me, and I have a tendency to second-guess decisions...often. 
  • What if I hadn't gone to Haiti in June 2012? 
  • What if I hadn't gone back in February when Tim Dortch, HMM Founder and Director, said about a million times, "Communication is 90% of what we do!"? 
  • What if my sweet husband - at any point - had not been supportive? 
  • What if my family and friends hadn't generously supported my trips and our entire team in May to make these trips financially possible?
  • What if my fears had gotten the best of me?
Anse-a-Pitre, Haiti :
June 2012
There are so many pieces and parts that have been carefully orchestrated to bring me to being 25 days from my fourth trip to Haiti in 15 months (Note: I did not even have a passport until two years ago). It makes my head spin a little when I think about it...ok, a lot. 

But I don't believe in coincidence...I believe God has gone before me every step of this journey. I believe He has made situations that seemed impossible - possible. 

The biggest "what if" I have struggled with lately has been, "What if I had said "No, not me. Not now."? Then, of course, my mind wanders to all the times when I have said that. 

I am ashamed and so sad...the times are too numerous to count. And there are probably so many times I don't even realize I have missed.

I think I'd rather just count the days until I leave...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back to School Time

In just a few days, classes will begin at MSU and the reality of not being in the classroom as either a student or a professor for the first time...well, since I was about 4 - is about to hit me smack upside the head (And for those of you doing the math, STOP. It's not THAT many years!).

I have no idea how I'm going to feel. I like to think I'll be relieved, and even a little grateful - no grading, no class prep, no grading, no faculty meetings, no grading, no advising, no grading...you get the point. 

In reality though, I am sure I'm going to be a little sad. I'm going to miss meeting new students. I'm going to miss trying to challenge them. I'm going to miss those "Ah-ha!" moments where it all comes together. I'm going to miss drop by visits from students who have since become friends. I'm going to miss being mistaken for a student...ok, that doesn't happen as often as it used to, but I'm still going to miss it.

Don't get me wrong! I'm excited about the HMM gig and the countdown is on until I leave for my next trip (one month, if you're curious), but as I've mentioned before, I crave routine and really like comfort. I haven't gotten into my routine with this new role...and very likely won't as everyday seems to hold a new set of challenges.

So for all you going back to school, quit your whining and for Pete's sake, ENJOY IT! Sniff those new pencils and savor the look of a spiral notebook with no stragglers hiding in the wires. Take those selfies in the mirror before you leave or endure your overzealous parents' attempts at capturing first day memories! Just hold the sign and smile for them, will ya?!

Cherish each minute - good or bad - because one day, you'll miss buying new pencils and notebooks and the excitement of picking out your first-day-of-school outfit. One day, the first day of school will be just another day...

And then there's school picture day...the sign is not so bad, right?

Would love to hear some of YOUR favorite parts of the back-to-school season!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I will not panic. I will not panic.

We are one week away from our fundraising deadline. After much prayer and number crunching, we set a goal of $25,000 to off set the salary I gave up when I resigned from the MSU Department of Communication and went on board with HMM in June. 

(I will not panic. I will not panic.) 

We are about $10,000 away from that goal and there are (ONLY!) about seven days left for churches, groups and individuals to respond.

(I will not panic. I will not panic.) 

As I think about the last few months, there have been many opportunities for me to panic and somehow, God has provided the calm just as I felt it would overwhelm me. Satan uses my over-planning, over-scheduling and must-have-control desires to make me doubt this decision...almost daily.

But, I think that's typical when we say "YES!" to something big for God that pulls us out of our routine and comfort zones. Satan knows we long for comfort and uses that desire to lull us to sleep, make us complacent. But God knows He can be gloriously revealed when we obediently follow Him out of our comfort zone and allow Him to stretch and refine us for HIS use. 

(I will not panic. I will not panic.) 

I am being stretched and refined each day. Some days, I admit, being stretched and refined is NOT what I'm interested in...I'd prefer the curled-up-on-the-couch-in-my-pjs-with-a-big-bowl-of-ice-cream kind of comfort. Just being real, people. 

But I'm being challenged to let go of my desire to control things and let Him be revealed in a big way through HMM and through my contributions to this ministry. I am being challenged by all the juggling of having multiple jobs and the exhaustion that accompanies late nights to get everything done. I'm being challenged by the conflict I feel because I want to DO more but know I am already stretched (too!) thin. 

So, whether we meet our goal or not, I'm confident He will provide. He's promised that...

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

Therefore, I will not panic. I really will not. Really. 

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." 
Philippians 4:6-7

And I will not understand the peace He will give when I give these last few days of fundraising to him...

What have you said "YES!" to that's stretched you and made you uncomfortable? 

Watch this amazing story of "YES!" by one of my Noonday sisters and swoon over her precious babies from Ethiopia (Get your tissues!)!

Friday, August 2, 2013

It's all about the Timing

Last Thursday was rough. I finished cleaning out my office in McComas Hall (Read this post if you're not sure why!). While I am obviously excited about these next steps with HMM, I am a creature of habit and comfort (Read: I don't like change!).

As I was getting out of my truck to unload everything at my other office on campus, a friend was returning from lunch and offered to help. He graciously carried in an enormous box that I had way overpacked. I'm incredibly grateful that he arrived at just the right time to carry that stinkin' box (because it would likely still be in the back of my truck had he not), but it was what he said in those few minutes between my truck and the office that was even more perfect. 

He asked how things were going with my new situation and when I launched into my "Oh great, but I still 
have moments of panic when I think 'What have I done?'" spiel, he simply said,
"For whoever wants to to save his life will lose it, 
but whoever loses his life for me, will find it."
Matthew 16:25

Wow. Talk about a smack upside the head to stop the pity party I was headed toward simply because change makes me "uncomfortable." Waah.

It's amazing how God puts people, devotions, signs, social media posts, quotes and a million other signs in front of us to bring us comfort at just the perfect time! I pray daily that I don't get too busy to miss any of those signs - I am afraid I have missed so many throughout the years. Another prayer is that I won't be too busy to BE that sign to someone else.

I pray in all the busyness of DOING, I never miss the opportunity just to BE.

Have you ever been given a "sign" that you knew was meant just for YOU at the perfect time? Would love to hear about it (feel free to share below!)!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The First Two Months

Wow! I wrote today's date and realized today is my two-month anniversary to have joined the Hispaniola Mountain Ministries staff! It's gone by so quickly and I have enjoyed every minute of it (Well, almost every minute. There were those two hours on hold with Paypal that one day...). I spoke a few weeks ago to a Sunday School class and afterward, a sweet man came up with a twinkle in his eye and said, "It's a shame you're not more passionate about what you do!' LOVE IT!

Sharing with the Louisville Emmaus
Community at their July meeting. 
I have traveled to several different churches and organizations sharing the work of HMM and its ministries in Haiti and the
Dominican Republic. I am so encouraged by the compassion others show for these countries and by their willingness to partner - both financially and prayerfully - for the Haitian and Dominican people. There is much to be done and much needed to get it all done; I am grateful for the doors God has opened for more to join the effort.

Our family is quickly approaching our fundraising deadline (August 15) and we are nearly to the halfway mark. While my natural instinct is to panic and start double-guessing myself and this decision, I am certain God is going to show up BIG in these next few weeks. Many people have asked how they can come alongside our family in this journey, so here it is:

1. Pray. Pray daily for our family as we adjust to being a two-ministry family and learn how to juggle  those demands. Pray for the people of the Dominican and Haiti, that they might see God's love in an undeniable way through the work HMM is doing in these countries. Pray for HMM to continue to have the resources to provide relief and grow its ministries. Pray for me to have focus (and energy) as I develop the communication and fundraising aspects of this growing non-proft.

2. Give. You can establish a recurring gift or make a one-time donation to HMM online anytime. We'd love for you to consider partnering with our family by designating your gift for my salary support. We are trying to raise $25,000 by August 15 to help offset the 1/2 of my salary I gave up when I left my academic appointment. (Read this blog post if you're not sure what I'm talking about!). If you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation, click here to get started!

3. Schedule a Presentation. I am scheduling visits with churches, men's and women's organizations, civic clubs, sororities and fraternities...You get the picture - any audience willing to listen to the HMM story! Contact me to schedule a visit at laura (at) gohmm.org to set up a visit!

4. Volunteer. HMM has trips to work in the Dominican and Haiti year-round. If you'd like to experience the mission field for yourself, please let me know and we can work with your church or organization to schedule a trip or partner you with another team. We will also be hosting special events throughout the year and will need lots of state-side volunteers!

So, there you have it! This is how YOU can partner with us! And we are so incredibly grateful to all those who have already done one - or more - of these things!

PS: To all my girls - you can always host a Noonday Collection trunk show or purchase from my website to help, too! That is totally WIN-WIN-WIN! Help our artisans...Get great accessories...Help support my family! YAY!