Tuesday

HIStory, Day 2

Yeah, yeah... I was gonna finish all of these before I left for vacation, but I didn't quite get to it.

So.

Day 2, we blessedly slept in a little since we had such a late night the night before. I even got up little before our 9 a.m. wake-up call and went for a little walk, still stretching my achy legs and back, and had some quiet time before the armageddon-like volume of the teens crowded into my day. Breakfast was about all the groceries we fully had. I still had much more grocery shopping to be done -- and DON'T forget the mosquito repellent, for heaven's sake. I have seen many moths smaller than these mosquitoes. (outer bands of Hurricane Alex had come through the week prior to our arriving -- HUGE mosquitoes).

It was decided that the guys would work at their site, but the two girl's teams would only have time to view their site since it was about 35 minutes away from the dorm. While all of that was taking place, one of the adult sponsors and I went to Wal-Mart (yeah, if you know me... you know. I have come to call it "Wal-Martin' for Jesus"). Spent a LOT of time and money there, but got the groceries for the rest of the week.

Lunch was sandwiches at the dorm, then we were off to Las Milpas -- the church where we would conduct our VBS for the week. Today would be a set-up and prep day. Of course, on the ride over, I fell asleep, which came to be common for anytime that I sat for longer than 5 minutes (and wasn't driving) which wasn't too terribly often, but I did learn the value of the power nap. GAH -- I have become 112 years old!

We set up for VBS, some folks' stations took longer than others (read: I found time for another nap), then the best part was walking the neighborhood. Some of the local church members came to walk the neighborhood with us -- we went out in teams, each team having about 2 Las Milpas members to our 4-5 people. We walked the neighborhood, inviting people to VBS, telling them when it was, what ages, and that we would love for them and/ or their children to be there. Before we left, we gathered as one multi-cultural team and prayed over our efforts to touch the neighborhood around us.

Not only was that a great way for all of us to see the neighborhood and the families that we would be serving in VBS, it was a wonderful way to get to know the members that walked with us. Language was a barrier for some of the people in the neighborhood, but the people that walked with us were bilingual and able to bless us by helping us communicate with the people in the neighborhood.

One gentleman offered the folks who stopped at his door some cold water -- blessing those who had come to bless him. Other people told stories of how much the church at Las Milpas meant to them, so they knew of it and would be thrilled to send their children to VBS there. The preacher at Las Milpas and his family have spent many years establishing trust with the neighborhood surrounding the church -- and the neighborhood has noticed. I get the sense that Romero and his family are very highly thought of in that area.

We left on this little project at about 5:30 p.m. The temperature wasn't as horrific as it could have been -- probably about 95*? -- but the humidity was about a million. We were all pretty sticky and drippy by the time we returned.

After we were rounded up again, we headed toward DINNER! Mexican food at a yummy place. Muy delicioso! There was an excellent mariachi band, and one funny little guy picked out the most perfect of our young ladies to dance with him. Kindle was a great sport, happy to dance along. Then, as we were leaving, the funniest little guy -- was he the Maitre' d'?-- just ADORED our uber-tall sponsor Tate, and had to hug on Tate, dance with Tate, laugh about how tall Tate was. Again, Tate -- also a good sport.

Back to the ranch (dorm)/ devo... and a fairly early-ish bed time if I remember right.

So... where did God's story fit into all of this. I have to say, this was the toughest day to find that in for me, perhaps for all of the kids. You'll notice I shopped (Wal-martin' for Jesus), lunched, napped off and on (okay, I really VBS prepped amidst my naps), and passed out a few fliers, and had a wonderful Mexican meal.

I simply cannot know, like any other day. I can't know how God would use any of that, though I know God was in all of it. God can use our least sacrifice of a walk down a road, talking to neighbors, to His amazing glory. God may use the silliness of some waiters and waitresses to have an eternal impact on them -- or the teens that they served. I would be blessed beyond measure if the Lord used one of my trips to Wal-Mart to bless one of the people I encountered at Wal-Mart, or one of the recipients of the products I purchased. None of us will know.

That Tuesday was simply a sacrifice of praise, as things finally seemed to fall into place with very few problems for one glorious day.

Wednesday

Favorite Memories

So... you will have to humor me just a LITTLE more about the mission trip business.

Some of the kids are writing their 'top 10' memories of McAllen this year. I have SO many more than 10 (of course) so I will post them here.

* The Nana bag that had everything we could possibly need. Never asked for a fax machine, but it probably had one. Also, Nana taking charge of the work site -- and bringing popsicles for break time. And Nana's aversion to Great Value products. She didn't appreciate my respect of the Youth Ministry budget.

*Ryan -- comes across as 'surfer dude' with his rockin' hair, which makes his awesome work ethic surprising. And the grizzly noise, though it incited a ridonkulous amount of laughter from giggly girls.

*Tyler's prayers: none more beautiful.

*Tate's made up verses to "Down By the River" -- I will write him a grad school referral for creativity for that one. Lasted the length of Conway Ave. Amazing.

*Mark body surfing in the ocean. I honestly had no idea G-daddy had it in him.

*Derek -- whistling while he helped clean up the kitchen. He helped me adjust my attitude about it!

*Ragan -- loved the way she led/ worked with her group at VBS, loved her laugh. Most I've heard her talk in the 5 years I've known her.

*Brittany -- the laugh. The never-ending laugh.

*Carla -- her Memaw rain bonnet, her encouragement of everyone, she was so easy to be around -- and her prayers absolutely touched my soul.

* Carli -- "I THINK THEY'RE SCARED OF ME!!!"

*Ashlee -- loved seeing how much maturity she has gained in a year, loved watching her with her little guys; "I am NOT going to cry!"

*Rob -- making up bumper stickers with him for "the big bus" when we seemed to be driving in circles after swimming, "We know the way to Jesus; it just may take us a while"; "Follow Us to Heaven -- Eventually"

*Jason -- my super snack helper; funny and willing with Tyler, as well. Always awesome.

*Jacy -- "Peter Piper Pizza!!"

*Braden -- leader of his peers, always hard worker, great attitude and happy to help. Just love that guy.

*Jim -- standing up for the guys with Boss-man (way to go!); pouring that choc. milk over bran so he could choke it down, never rattled about anything.

*James -- drama-dude extraordinaire

*Kindle -- dancing with the Poncho's guy (also a favorite memory of Tate -- another story...)

*Dara -- precious laugh, easy spirit, beyond organized, voice of reason and calm -- I want to be her

*Emily -- somehow had a knack for spraying sunscreen/ bug repellent in her eye. Repeatedly. Awesome with her group.

*Leslie -- Wal-Martin' 4 Jesus with Leslie

*Hannah -- working so hard until she was simply too sick. Up on the roof by the wasp's nest -- when the silly girl is allergic to wasps! (That isn't what made her sick!)

*Erin -- precious. Beautiful smile. Unflappable. Loved one, loved all. Sacrificed her toothpaste -- or the rest of the team would have had to smell my dragon breath all week, so let's be thankful, shall we?

*Summer -- love her 'ma'am's to me, so sweet, and SUCH a hard worker. Never willing to take a break until she is absolutely made to.

*Mikayla -- steady, persistent, always happy. I would really want Mikayla as my friend if I were in 8th grade.

*Ricky -- misspelling Jesus once. Or twice. Taking the hits with the van, et. al, as they come. Being the rockstar of VBS.

*Ashley -- (my Ashley) "Thank you for letting me come on your trip." "You would have anyway." Well, yeah... So thrilled to watch the young lady and leader she is among her peers. Proud of the way she refuses to let anyone be left out. I wish I could be like her.

Memories that include all of us:

*The "YAH" or "Dude" game that I FINALLY understood, still can't play...

*Neomi's Mexican food... Ummmmmm (everyone's eyes just rolled back in their heads -- YUM!)

*Worshipping in two languages, one I barely understand, knowing that God understood it all, and being bound to my brothers and sisters in Christ by our love of the same Lord.

*Our little dog in the backyard at our worksite that Ashley named Pancho.

*The children that LOVED coming to VBS. (Umberto!) The little guy who proclaimed "I LOVE snacks!!" :-)

*Playing in the ocean with the teens. Even with a raging headache, I loved to watch them.

*Saturday night devo. I see God in each of you...

HIStory, Day 1

We left Abilene on Monday, July 5.

A few minor points of background info.
a) For last year's trip, we got about 20 miles down the road and had a flat on the bus. Because of the size tires it requires, it was a bit of an ordeal to get it changed in the small town the bus limped into. We made it another 90 miles -- and had another flat. In another small town. So, by 3 p.m. we were about 2 hours into a 10 hour trip. Of course, this year there were MANY jokes about checking the tires, what-not.

b) Personal background: I finished teaching swim lessons on Thursday, went shopping for the trip food and VBS supplies on Friday, then completed my half- marathon on Saturday -- that I pulled a calf muscle about 1.5 miles into. Not only was I exhausted, I could barely walk by the time it was time to leave Monday morning. THEN, reaching for one of the cereal boxes to load on the trailer, my back went completely OUT. My body was DONE with the abuse -- and I was about to go sit on a bus for minimum of 10 hours.

So. We climb aboard the bus, and all goes so well. AND the a/c works AMAZING (read: I am FREEZING) -- another thing that went out last year. Stopped for our scheduled lunch. Carry on. Shortly before we stopped for gas at one point, there's a smell. Like burning rubber. Only we are not peeling out. All the guys get out and look under the hood. (We actually had someone with us who owns a car dealership and he called his service guy). I hear "Blah, blah, belt, blah, blah, tensioner, blah blah bad smell..."

All I know is that they are taking it down the road to some truck repair place. And we're off. And sitting. For about 2 hours. We rock on the front porch of the truck repair place, and the teens play some VERY loud game (first ninja, then "YAH!" or "Dude!" -- don't ask) but we really had a good time. Thankfully, we were in the shade, and above all, the people were VERY gracious to us. AND this gave me much time to stretch my back. Ashley was, of course, quite mortified, but I felt much better.

The most amazing part of this part of the story -- and how God's story comes in, other than keeping us safe when our vehicle was having trouble -- was the owner of the shop and one of his mechanics. I wasn't in on this, but these 2 guys stayed an hour past closing time to fix our bus, yet wouldn't take any money for it. The men with our group that were back there trying to give them money prayed a prayer of blessing over them and continued to thank them -- and we were off. Again. A little delayed, but still about 3 hours ahead of our previous year's schedule.

We continued to charge ahead, hoping to get to McAllen and grab some pizza while we unloaded later than planned. By this time, I had moved to the van, so I seemed to miss the excitement when we were in Alice (about 8 p.m.). But all we saw was the bus pull over into a little parking lot, all the guys checking under the hood again (becoming a common sight) then one of them pulling out a broken belt. Hmmmmm -- I don't know much about vehicles, but I am guessing that was important...

End result of that little escapade was that the bus was dead as a doornail and would need to be towed the remaining 65 miles to McAllen. We hauled the kids across the highway in shifts in the van and one car to get to a place to eat dinner. The guys with the bus began to be swarmed by mosquitoes, and a plan began to take place.

By about 12:30 a.m., we were all where we were supposed to be -- albeit a little beyond exhausted and loopy. Ricky's father-in-law (our elder contact for McAllen) and another man drove 2 vans to Alice to get the rest of our crew, while some of us had gone ahead in our one van to be getting settled in the dorm (which we didn't really, but that's another story).

So... where was God in all of this? How could any of this possibly have affected HIStory? Didn't we pray to have a great trip down? Well, first of all, God never promises us easy passage. But He did deliver us safely, and all of our stops were at safe places for our teens to get off the bus and get out of traffic and rest and relax comfortably. And, the teens later conceded, they really enjoyed the extra time to get to know each other without ipods and not being stuck only 2 to a seat.

And how will we ever radiate God's love to others if our passage is only smooth sailing? We were so blessed by the gentlemen that worked on our bus for free, and the men who left their homes late at night to come get us. But I personally was blessed by each of the adults I was traveling with who simply took the setbacks in stride -- they were what they were, and we could only problem solve and punt. It is truly a joy to serve with people like that.

I don't know how Day 1 changed history for any of us for sure. But seeds were planted. Maybe in teens watching how adults handled minor crises differently than they usually see. Maybe in a convenience store clerk wondering why the kids waiting there weren't tearing up her store like most do. I don't have to know how HIStory will be changed or played out to know that I am a part of it.

Monday

HIStory

If you keep up with me on Facebook/ Twitter, et. al, you know I just returned from a mission trip with my daughter. We went to McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley to do construction/ painting work and do a Vacation Bible School for a Hispanic church there.

This is the 2nd year in a row I have been blessed to be able to go on this trip, traveling with the middle schoolers last year, as well. This year, all the youth mission trips had the theme "HIStory" (our entire church is talking about 'God Stories' this year). Not only about 'His Story', but about how we, as His people, can change history by living out His will in our lives.

So... as a writer, I wanted to try to capture a little of each day. How, perhaps, history may have been changed by a little group of teens and adults turning their faces to God and asking, "What today, Lord?"

This is mostly for myself -- to capture HIStory -- and for the folks that went. You are welcome to listen in, and hear the testimony of how God continues to be faithful, in small things and big, allowing us to carry out what we went to do.

The following video is of a song that Ricky (youth minister) played for us and we learned/ sang every day while there.



And thus our prayer was:
I wanna be Your hands & feet.
I wanna be Your voice every time I speak.
I wanna run to the ones in need, in the name of Jesus.
I wanna give my life away, all for Your kingdom’s sake.
Shine a light in the darkest place, in the name of Jesus.

More to come in the days ahead...

Saturday

Gratitude

Hey, check me out! Two blog posts in two days! What will happen next? Not much... Don't get used to it...

So this morning, if dawn had a furry little hiney crack that resembled a nasty plumber's crack you never wanna see -- yeah, that is when I got up to go do my half-marathon. (REMINDER: I HAD NO INTENTION OF RUNNING THE WHOLE THING) No, it wasn't even the hairy hiney crack of dawn, it truly was just the slap middle of the night.

Because of the nature of our half-marathon, (I hesitate to use the phrase "rag-tag" because we are a serious group of men and women training just as hard as the next group -- but our start time was voted on by our training group, so it wasn't your typical half- marathon) we started SUPER early. No one wants to start a half-marathon at sun-up in July in West Texas.

HOWEVER, the Lord was gracious to us and gave us amazingly cool temperatures for the weekend, and we even were dry for most of the race (I started at 4:30 a.m. wearing a sun visor to keep the mist out of my eyes).

About a mile and a half in, I think I pulled a muscle or something in my calf. I couldn't tell what was going on with it, so I tried to stretch it out, walk it out, stretch some more, etc. Whatever, I was in pain. Thought about quitting. Thought about crying. Did. Kept walking. Stretched again. Did something that resembled running inside my head, maybe shuffling if you were to drive by. Kept walking. Lots of walking. A little shuffling.

So I got to 13.1 miles in such a fashion. It was NOT pretty.

So... where does gratitude come in? I'll be honest... not there. Not for me. Yeah, yeah, I should be grateful I could do it. I should be grateful for all the training I have completed, and I should be grateful for all -- and there are SCADS -- the people who have encouraged me, either by their words, or by their actions of their workouts, etc. But I was annoyed. Today did not go how I wanted and I still hurt.

Gratitude came in the form of my scheduled massage. I'm sure that's a no-brainer, but go with me. First she worked on my calf and that made me want to cry more. But then she worked on my feet. Knowing that I had done the half-marathon, she spent a LOT of time on my feet -- time on each little individual toe. And with each little individual toe, I was more grateful for the healthy body that I do have. With each toe that she rubbed -- oh, yes, ma'am, she got to each little tiny toe, the bones underneath and all the pads, I'm tellin' ya..-- I thought of how many different parts of my body had to work right for me to ever train for this, much less take it on.

Earlier this week my back tightened up on me and I thought I would miss it -- you can't walk 13 miles if you can't walk across the room upright. I stretched and hot tubbed and stretched some more until my back was ready to go. (We shan't discuss right now whether or not I SHOULD have missed it... Oye...)

So, I am still hurting, yet grateful for the opportunity to hurt. Grateful the Lord gave me this healthy body. Grateful that God allows me to plan and scheme different ways to not listen to it. Grateful that He even has a plan for it to heal when I don't listen to it.

And, I continue to be grateful for the community of people that helped train and encourage and cheer and prod. That is truly how it all started and, more importantly, how it all got done.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27

Friday

Love Where You Are

Do you know how you can tell that it is mission trip season?

Yes, I am making appearances in Wal-Mart again. This morning, I woke up to rain on my skylights. So I drug myself out of bed and put on my rainboots and happy face and waited for Troy to get home from prayer group. Off we went to the land of (theoretical) lower prices.

We gathered band-aids and water balloons and icing and sugar cookies and Dixie Cups and all manner of various sundry items needed to feed teens and have a VBS for little ones when we travel.

At one point, I put on Facebook that I seemed to have lost my husband in the Wal-Marts on a rainy mornin'... I was the beginning of a bad country song.

We finally got ready to check out but had to wait for the guy with the money. Some story about helping people or maybe the soccer game was really exciting... I dunno, it took a while.

If nothing else, there is plenty-o-people watching to be done in a Wal-Mart, ya know? So we people watched and were entertained, but one guy really caught my attention. He was a Wal-Mart employee. He was cleaning the floors. He had a little cart full of tools -- broom, dust pan, mop, and the most clever contraption EVER!

He stopped to get a scuff mark up. He reached in his cart, gave it a squirt with a squirt bottle. Put the squirt bottle back. Reached in the cart again, drug out a broom handle that had a tennis ball stuck on it and used the tennis ball to scrub the scuff mark. It worked! Drug back out the squirt bottle, squirt! Then mopped heartily and happily.

I'm not kidding about the happily part. Imagine if your job were to clean the floors at Wal-Mart. How would you approach that? This guy was humming LOUDLY. He was so darn happy to have his floor cleaning job. What a great lesson in life. It was a rainy morning. All of us were going to be creating more work for him. Maybe he was extra happy to be using that tennis ball rig of his. Whatever the case, he was happy as he could be.

I'll try to remember that guy next week when I'm on my mission trip scraping paint, standing in mud, or better yet, standing in line at Wal-Mart again.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23, 24
 
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