Sunday, April 17, 2011

Warmer, safer, dryer

For a little over a year now I have had the incredible opportunity to lead a work team from church with Good Works.  Good Works is a local ministry similar to Habitat for Humanity.  The mission of Good Works is to make existing homes warmer, safer and dryer.  Good Works is a relation-based organization.  Work teams have one dedicated Saturday a month as a work day; ours is the 3rd Saturday of the month.

For a long time Providence had been wanted to get a team together.  But the leaders weren't there.  We would need a tech staff of at least one, an ambassador to focus on family relations and a work crew leader.  Eventually, after some prayer, I took on the role of work crew leader.  Now, if you know me (especially if you know me from camp!!) you may know that I don't really have a lot of experience in home repair.  Seriously, this was more evidenced in yesterday's work day when the hole I needed to cut for an electrical outlet ended up being about a foot wide.  Still though, I said that I would take on the role.  And let me tell you just how awesome God orchestrated this whole thing!  Three men from Providence stepped up as tech staff!  Brent Balla, Seth Windle and Patrick Crawford.  Brent and Seth each own a contracting business and Pat is a plumber.  Brent often was able to bring a friend with him who is an electrician.  So, we pretty well covered all the bases in terms of experience.  As for an ambassador, Ryan Enns took on that role.  And late last winter we signed on as a 3rd Saturday work day crew.

We were given our first home to work on in West Chester.  We started with a walkthrough of the home and assessed what we could do.  Everything from minor electric work to leaking pipes to a new roof were on our punch list.  We started off a little slow with some indoor work.  We cleaned and organized a basement.  We managed to scrap a bunch of metal for a few hundred dollars and build shelving units with that money.  We rebuilt the stairs to the outside of the basement as well as built a new door and fixed up the exterior door.

When Spring came around we tackled the roof.  Man, was it hot!  In May we got up on the roof and started ripping off shingles.  We quickly realized that we would need to replace a lot of the plywood under the shingles.  It took two work days, but we got a new roof on.  We did some bathroom remodeling.  Pat is awesome!  He restored the toilet to looking and working brand new.  We put in a new shower and replaced the sink with a beautiful pedestal sink to increase the space.

And there were a lot of smaller projects as well.  But now, we are winding down.  We spent the past two work days in the kitchen remodeling and replacing.  We knocked out a wall to allow extra space, built an addition for the fridge to also add more space.  Seth was amazing at getting this thing built!  We put the new fridge into it and it fits exactly right.  We have some flooring to replace and some painting and we'll be done.

But what is more than the home being warmer, safer and dryer is how much we have grown to love this family.  And how encouraged we have been by them.  And how blessed we've been by them.  They have been working alongside of us.  When we did the roof, the father of the family was working at his regular job.  He came home and like a beast starting lugging packs of shingles up to the roof for us.  I mean it - like a beast!  This dude is a former boxer.  He slapped a pack on each shoulder and started up the ladder.  Me, yeah, I'm afraid of heights so there was no way I was lugging a 70 pound pack of shingles up that ladder.  It took a lot to get me alone up there!

This picture below sums up a lot in my mind of the entire project.  It is from a few months ago.  This is the pedestal sink that we put in right after we connected the water.  It was far from easy.  I've learned that while these sinks look nice, they are a pain in the butt to actually put in!  After a long day of plumbing, making new pipes, getting the sink set right, and mounted we were finally ready to connect the water.  When that water started flowing suddenly all of the frustration and anger was replaced with joy.  I was immediately reminded of John 4: 13-14.  It says, "Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life'".

We have been able to do so much in this home.  But when I think of some of the most memorable times, I think of sitting up on the roof with the homeowner talking about life.  I think about building new relationships with men and women from Providence.  The works are temporary.  In 25-30 years, that roof will probably need to be replaced again.  The paint will eventually need repainting.  The new fridge and stove will eventually start to break down as years pass.  But the conversations - those are lasting!

I remember a night from before I was adopted.  My sister, mother and I were laying down to sleep outside.  A couple took us in that night and fed us and gave us a place to sleep.  I have no idea what the food was or really anything about this couple.  But I've never forgotten their act of kindness.  I think that in time this family of 6 at Good Works will have a similar memory.  Our faces will be long gone from their minds, but those 4 children will always have it with them how they were loved on by strangers.  And that is a beautiful image!



Friday, April 15, 2011

A timt for change: Part II

In January I began to explain what this next season of change is going to look like.  You can read that blog by clicking here.  For a few reasons, I wasn't able to fully write out the entire change that is happening.  But I feel like now is a good a time as any to do so.

When I first came to West Chester University I became friends with Chris Mullen who was an RA on the floor above me.  We got to know each other first through RHA (residence Hall Association) and then through the Friars' Society.  One night during an RHA meeting he asked me if I liked camping.  Yeah, I like camping.  It's fun.  I enjoy it.  So, he convinced me to take a job at this camp he was involved in called Haycock Camping Ministries.  I checked the place out when a few of us from the Friars' went to volunteer for a work day.  I thought it was pretty cool so I applied.  Finals ended and I found myself back at home.  Anyone who has been through freshman year of college can probably relate when I say that that first extended break back home (usually Christmas) can really be tough.  I was no exception.  I really didn't want to stay at home all summer.  I craved more of that freedom I was experiencing at college.  But, I hadn't heard from camp.  So I did the next natural thing.  I answered some junk mail and took a job working for Cutco selling kitchen cutlery!  I made it through the training and managed one sale.  To my mom.  And by that I mean that I bought her a set.  It's safe to say that this was not the job for me.  Thankfully, around that time the current director Greg Rudder and program director Chris Hendrickson called me and set up an interview.  Good thing too, because selling knives was not going to work out for me.  A few months ago Chris had shared with me that he and Greg didn't think that I would last at camp more than 1 summer.  But, I did.  And a few summers later I was running the summer program during a transition time as Greg was leaving.  That summer Chris also decided to move on from camp.  Chris' job was split between myself and another guy, Will.  I took that fall semester off of school and took classes while working there weekends in the spring.  By May, I had realized that it was also my time to move on.  Now, to be fair, a lot of things had happened.  But the number one thing was that I was pretty full of myself.  I was about as prideful as can be.  And I was sure to let people know my accomplishments as fast as I was to let them know of others' shortcomings.  I had allowed an atmosphere of gossip and disrespect at camp.  Still, at the time I couldn't see any of that.  So when I left camp I thought that I would never step foot back there again and I came back to WC and began working full time at my current job.

A few months later, Chris had returned and was now the camp director.  I was sitting in Blacksburg, VA at VTech doing a buyback when Chris called me out of the blue one winter to get together.  I figured, okay, why not.  We were pretty good friends.  Little by little I was finding myself back at camp.  Then I was helping with weekend rentals.  While I took the Elijah House course I started to see a lot more clearly what had led to me leaving camp that year.  And I took the necessary steps to med relationships.  And I really believe that that has been honored.  By last summer I had the chance to lead some staff devotional times and I got to know a few of the new summer staff.  And I was so blessed to be around them!

All of that back story to share this.  When I got back from Kenya in October, I met Chris for dinner.  I shared how I really want to go back for much longer.  And that to do so I would probably need to quit my job.  Chris looked at me and asked if I could leave work in May, run the camp program and go to Kenya in the fall.  I thought he was kidding.  He apparently was not.  On June 1st, I will be moving back to camp as the summer program director!  I am really looking forward to this in a brand new way.  It is such an awesome opportunity that I never thought I would get again.  I feel so much more prepared now to lead in a more mature manner.  I look forward to having the chance to mentor and disciple the staff this summer.  I feel like this is a 2nd chance for me and I am not taking that lightly.  Sometimes it doesn't feel real, but it is.  And I am beyond excited.

In addition to running a summer camp program, this summer will be a time of preparation as well.  It will be a slower, less stressed way of life as I prepare my heart for what awaits me in Kenya.  There will be times of great fellowship as well as times of needed solitude.  The next few months are going to be very busy as I leave my WC on May 31st and start camp on June 1.  I end camp at the end of August and get right on a plane to Kenya.  Yet I feel like this busyness will be accompanied by times of rest and peace.  And I can't wait!

So, if anyone is looking to hang out over the summer, you can find me in Bucks County at Haycock Camping Ministries!  I will not have my cell phone, but you will be able to reach me via email at raydsmith84@gmail.com.


As of today, I have 6 weeks left until this adventure begins!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rest: we all need it
















This past weekend was awesome!  I needed a break.  I really did.  Friday night I spent at camp hanging out.  I spent a little time with the camp director talking about summer things and then just bummed around camp.  On Saturday my family was having a memorial service for my step mom, Nancy.  It was really good to be around so many others who knew her and share memories.  But Saturday night was the real rest!  A solo camping trip at the upper end of the camp airstrip (don't worry, planes haven't used the airstrip in years).  It started off with getting my 4WD car stuck in a mud pit.  You can see the pictures of this on facebook!  I tried pushing myself out, but have you ever tried putting an SUV in neutral and pushing it out of about 4-6 inches of mud?  Yeah, I don't recommend it!  It didn't budge.  So, away I went to find my friend Jay on camp with the tractor.  We finally pulled my car out on the tractor and I was finally ready!  Jay kindly drove me to the campsite on the tractor as I left my car in the parking lot.  He left and there I was.  Finally alone.  Finally some quiet.  I had already on Friday turned my phone off and in fact left it in my car.  The only noises around were the sound of nature.  The horses in the field next to me, some birds and other creatures in the woods.  There was the occasional sound of a car on a distant road that the sound traveled and I could hear.  And there was of course, my laptop for a little while as I played music setting up camp.  I got my tent up, started a fire and just relaxed.  If you have ever read the story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis - that was me.  But above all, I was at peace.  I turned my laptop off after camp was set up and packed it away in my bag.  I left my watch in the car.  I finally decided to just go to bed when I felt like it and wake up when I felt like it.  Eventually I grew sleepy and put the last of my wood on the fire for some extra warmth and went to bed.  I woke up Sunday morning - freezing cold!  The fire burned out over night.  But I woke up refreshed and ready to take on the new day.  I felt great!  

So why as Americans do we have such a difficult time with this?  Do you remember when the average work week was 40 hours?  I've read that it's now closer to 50+ hours!  I've heard a study that the average American father spends a mere 37 seconds a day with their child.  Yes, I said SECONDS!  37 of them!  All for what?  Because we are chasing after the next big promotion so we can work even longer hours?  Are we chasing the next coolest gadget that will allow us to work even more?  Maybe it's the next biggest house so we can spend more time cleaning it later?  I'm not saying these things are necessarily bad.  I'm just wondering when does it end?  When is enough ever enough for us?  Why do we sacrifice so much just to gain material things?  Why is the concept of resting so foreign to so many of us.  

Last year I took my first real vacation in years.  I flew out to Redding, CA to visit one of my closest friends Liz for a week.  As I was leaving work before the trip I was asked if I was taking my laptop with me so I could work while I was there.  Honestly, I felt slightly offended by this.  Why should I be expected to work during my vacation?  Isn't that the point of vacation?  To not have to work.  To take a break?  My response was pretty simple: no.  That trip I took only a carry on bag; no checked luggage.  So there was no room for a laptop. But even if there was, I had no intention of working while there.  It was time to spend with my friend, not work.  

So what is it that we are hoping to gain by working so much?  Since when did Saturday and Sunday become 2 more days of the work week?  What ever happened to having the weekend to recharge a bit?  I love how as you read through scripture it so often says that Jesus withdrew Himself to a quiet place.  Or some variation of that.  He slept during the storm that tossed the boat around!  Seriously, if the Son of God needed to rest, who am I to say that I don't?!  If the Son of God needed to get away from everything and everyone and quiet Himself before the Father, how much MORE do I need to do this?  I'm, sometimes slowly, learning that I need my quiet time.  I need to get away once in a while.  This past weekend was a perfect example.  I was so stressed out about finances for this next trip to Kenya that I couldn't take it anymore.  But I rested.  I took time out and rested.  Sure, I could have spent that time on support raising.  But I rested first.  And amazing things came out of that rest!  My mind was cleared and by Sunday afternoon as I did some more planning, I realized that what I was stressing about was so insignificant.  Through a clear head, I was able to plan out finances and I realized that all of a sudden this trip was nearly 75% paid for already with support that was already offered in specific dollar amounts!  I also started to see just how many others had already offered support without giving a dollar amount!  But, that's all a different topic.  This is REST!

So I ask, when is the last time that you rested?  When is the last time that you sat by a lake and watched the ripples?  When is the last time you sat in a field and gazed up at the stars?  Stared off into a campfire?  Slept in a little bit?  Spent time doing something you enjoy?  When is the last time that you put down work and walked away from it for a little while?  Are you one of the average Americans who spends 37 seconds a day with your child?  Or are you one who sees the importance of family time?  How about at work...do you ever just take a couple of minutes and rest there?  I used to love going for an afternoon walk before my friend Renae went on maternity leave.  It started out where around 2PM we would do a lap around the office complex.  In time, others started to join us.  Sometimes we would just go and stand outside and enjoy the sunshine for a few minutes.  And here is the way I see it:  If someone can take a smoke break and stand outside smoking for 5 minutes, then I can stand outside tanning for 5 minutes.  At work, do you sit at your desk and eat while working or can you find 10-15 minutes to sit back and enjoy your lunch?  

I guess it comes down to this:  Are the fancy gadgets, bigger house, fast cars, etc worth what you're sacrificing?  Are materials what's driving you?  If you're really driven by materials and they are really all that matters, then go ahead.  Work until you drop.  But if you recognize the truth that there is more, then I implore you to rest.  Enjoy the simple things.  Take some time out of your busy schedule and get a cup of coffee with a friend.  Take a walk.  Get away from the work for a little.    



Sunday, April 10, 2011

I want your presence

No, that's not a typo.  I don't mean presents.  I want presence.

This weekend I decided that I needed a break.  So, on Friday at 4:30 I turned my phone off.  I left it off until this morning.  I had no internet, no texts, no emails, no facebook, no calls.  It was awesome.  I have realized that I have become pretty addicted to my phone.  It makes a noise and I instinctively reach for it.  In fact, the other week while I was sitting out a layover in Newark, someone near me had the same notification sound that my phone has for a text.  This person was somewhere on the other side of the room, but still, every time his phone went off I reached for mine.  I almost wonder what Ian Pavlov would say about that...Seriously, you might as well just put a collar on me and call me Sparky.

So, geting away from my leash of a phone was great.  I camped out Saturday night at camp.  I pitched my tent on the upper end of the airstrip, built a fire and spent some much needed time alone with the Lord.  A few times I wanted to reach to my pocket for my phone to check the time (though I left it in my car at another section of camp).  Eventually, I just decided that I would go to bed when I felt like it and get up when I felt like it, no matter the time.

But there's more.  I said I want presence.  First, I want this from myself too.  I am by no means directing this at anyone or writing out of malicious thought - especially because I am just as guilty, if not more guilty.  But have you ever been with someone and been happy to spend time with them.  And they spend most of the time on their phone, or texting someone else?  I think that the worst can be in the car.  The other person's phone rings and they take a lengthy phone call.  The radio gets turned off or really low so that they can hear the phone and an awkward silence follows as you try not to listen to half of the conversation.  Of course, I understand that sometimes important things do come up.  But, how does it make you feel?  It's like the other isn't even there.  About a month ago I was meeting with an area pastor.  we had only met briefly a couple of times but I knew of some work that he is doing and wanted his input on a few things.  We agreed to meet at a local diner.  I felt so very honored as at one point his phone rang - it was his wife.  He silenced his phone and continued his conversation with me.  I know, some of you may think that this is wrong.  A man should answer his wife's phone call.  But I think that this couple has an understanding about this.  She called again a little while later and we did wrap up our conversation.  I think that this was part of the understanding.  It's like they didn't even need words for him to know that he needed to start heading back home.

But how many times do we do the exact opposite?  How many times do we sit with each other and barely exchange words because we are so focused on talking to the next person?  There is a phenomenon that happens at camp and in Kenya that I have actually grown to appreciate:  power outages.  Crazy, huh?  They can definitely be an inconvenience, but they can be so awesome!  At both places, the power goes out and people light candles and carry on.  I remember a trip to Kenya where we were in the living room one night and the power went out while we were worshipping and praying.  We just kept going.  I love when the power goes out, the computers are down with the internet.  Decks of cards come out.  Candlelit board games begin.  At camp, there are often times of eating cold canned goods together.  And we talk.  We communicate.

Funny how in the age of communication so many of us don't know how to actually communicate.  It's sad how facebook has so often become a popularity contest to see how many friends you can have.  I wonder though, out of your 600 facebook friends, how many can you call on in the middle of the night when you just need to talk?  How many of them do you really know?  How many could you carry an actual conversation with?  I love what happens on facebook as new friends are added.  It happens more with old friends (maybe even just "acquaintances" from high school).  Not sure what I'm referring to?  Here, does this conversation look somewhat familiar?

Person A:  Oh my gosh!  It's been so long!  How are you!
Person B:  I know!  It's been forever!  I'm doing good.  How about you?
Person A:  I'm great.  Hey, we should get together soon.  Maybe get <insert names> together for a reunion
Person B:  yeah!  That would be awesome.  Let's do it soon!
And that's it.  Goes no where.  Of course, this isn't always the case, but so often I think it is.  I love social media.  I really do.  It's great for keeping up with people.  facebook is a great tool for staying in touch with friends across the country and the world.  But do we abuse it sometimes?  Do we use it as an excuse to stop communicating all together?  I can begin to see signs of this already.  I know of people in my own life who are so immersed in the social media that they don't even leave their homes.  The majority of their friends are people that they have never even met face-to-face.  I have seen so many who don't even know how to make a professional phone call.  Others who don't know how to be around people.  And I'm not talking about not being comfortable sharing your feelings kind of people.  I'm talking about people who are terrified of being in community.  A recent study shows that nearly 3.7% (about 5.3 million) Americans suffer from social anxiety disorder!  By no means do I wish to belittle this disorder in any way.  But I do wonder how much of it can be solved by getting out there, suffering through it and meeting people.

What else is alarming is that based on a Duke University research study between 1985 and 2004 the amount of Americans that "had no one around to discuss important matters" has tripled up to 25%.  Sounds pretty lonely to me.  Other studies have shown that the largest number facing this loneliness is not the elderly.  And the gap is closing in with my generation facing this loneliness.  In a sea of people on facebook and twitter and whatever the next new thing will be, we're lonely.  Is it any wonder why there are so many TV commercials in the middle of the night for phone sex operators?  I'm not trying to be funny here.  I used to stay up late when I was younger and I have quite honestly seen a great increase in these commercials.  Has our nation become so desperate for companionship that need to call strangers that will pretend to love us?

I guess what I'm getting at here, is I desire to be with people when I'm with them.  And I desire the same in return.  Some time ago someone told me of how he and his wife spent the evening together.  I will add that he was upset as he shared this with me.  He said that they put the kids to sleep.  Then they each got out their laptops, turned the TV on and sat on the couch on their own computers.  Not even talking to each other.  I'm not married.  Not even close.  But I would like to think that when I am married, I won't be spending my evenings with my wife on separate laptops.  I want to believe that we will be able to talk to each other every day.  I want to believe that we'll be present with one another.  I'm not suggesting that we all get rid of facebook accounts or stop texting people or anything.  But I am suggesting that when we're with a friend, let's learn to put the phone down.  Let's learn that phone's have a voicemail feature - and to use it sometimes.  Let's learn to be present with people.

 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Does time heal all wounds?

This past Wednesday, April 6th, was the 6 year mark of the loss of Mike Maybroda.  I still remember that day very well.  I was taking an art for the elementary teacher class.  April 6th I was meeting with my final project partner.  After class we headed over to Sykes Student Union to work.  I'll never forget as fellow Friar Steve Vescovich met me in a stairwell.  He stopped me and said, "dude this sucks!".  I was confused. He went on "...we lost Mike".  At this time I was Vice President of the Friars' and with my position on the exec board my mind thought that he had dropped out of the Friars' Society.  Still, Steve continued.  "...Mike died in a car accident this morning".  Wow.  I felt like I was hit in the chest with a cannon ball and thrown back into a wall.  I was definitely in shock.  I left Steve and told my project partner that we should get back to work.  She was amazing.  She grabbed me, looked me in the eye and said "No!  Your friend just died.  We're not working on our project right now".  She left as more Friars gathered around the Sykes.  A few moments later I was on the 2nd floor when I saw Dr. Herb Lee, our faculty advisor.  Also at this time, our president was out-of-state for a few weeks on a National Guard drill leaving me as acting president.  Herb stopped me and said in only a way Herb Lee could (if you knew him, you probably know what I mean) "Mr. President, by now you know what happened.  You have to tell everyone".  WHAT!?

Mike and I were part of the same candidate class in the Spring of 2003.  That means we joined the Society together.  We went an entire semester forming a close bond as brothers.  It's no secret that Mike and I had our differences by the end.  It's also no secret that many of those differences were my own fault, though I didn't see it that way at the time (I was far too wrapped up in my own pride to see it).  So, I now had to tell our entire active brotherhood that one of our own brothers was gone.  Not only that, I now had to send an email to hundreds of alumni brothers to pass on the news.  I sat in my office just staring at the computer trying to figure out how and what to say.  I so desperately wanted someone else to do it for me.  I was soon joined by another Friar, Rob Essaf.  We sat there weeping over the loss.  The office next to ours was for the Catholic Neuman Center.  This happened to be one of the times that Father Sam was in the office.  He heard us and gently knocked on our door - not knowing either of us - and sat down and prayed with us (I get a bit defensive when people say that no Catholics are "real Christians" because Father Sam clearly had a heart of Christ [topic for another day]).

As the day went on, West Chester University was good to us.  Many of us sat in Dr. Bricketto's office and were finally welcomed to have the theatre as a meeting place.  Administrators were constantly offering us hugs, encouragement and shoulders to cry on.  So many of them kept telling us that "time will heal all wounds".  We've probably all heard that before too.  This was not my first encounter with death and would not be my last.  In the 6 years since then, I have lost 5 close family and friends.  Some were expected, others were not.  And I've so often been left asking does time really heal all wounds?

Six years later and I still miss Mike.  There were first some intense feelings of guilt.  I remember though, the night that Rob Essaf pulled me aside and told me something that Mike had told him.  He said, about me, that despite our differences, I love that guy like a brother.  And I know he did.  Mike helped me through some tough times.  We had some real hear-to-hearts with one another.  He used to often tell me "smile man, it's not the end".  I stopped by Mike's grave on Wednesday.  I still miss him like it happened yesterday.  Did six years heal the wound?  I don't know.  I am not crippled by my grief.  I moved through the various stages of grief.  I have a long time ago accepted that he is gone and not coming back.  So, maybe the wound has been healed in time.  But time itself?  I don't think so

There is no magic number of years or months or whatever that all of a sudden you're just better.  Grief takes time.  It hurts.  It's hard.  And that's okay.  But it does get easier.  Maybe we just have a bad perception of what it means to heal the wound.  I think that I will always miss Mike.  I will probably always think of him on April 6th.  But I don't think that that means there is still an open wound.  But as time has gone by, I can honestly say that I'm okay.  A healed wound does not mean that the loss is forgotten.  Maybe this looks different for different people.  Maybe as I grow older it will look different to me too.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Will dad come and play ball with me?

Okay, first, i want to say I love my dad - Luther Smith.  He is one of the greatest and most remarkable men that I know.  When I was 8 years old, he adopted me and made me a part of his family.  While we have certainly had our fair share of arguments and disagreements over the years, he has never failed to tell me  - and show me - how much he truly loves me and cares for me.  He has always been a source of great support to me.  And he has constantly reminded me of how proud of me he is.  Even if he didn't agree with a decision I made, he has always been proud of me for being able to think for myself and carefully make my own decisions.  Luther is my Dad and always will be.  However, for this blog, I will refer to another man as "dad".  I use it as a title of reference.  The man I refer to is Raymond Keisser, my biological father.

While at work, we tend to have many random conversations.  Today, the topic of birthdays came up ways to celebrate.  I mentioned that I am not really a birthday celebrator.  It's just not a big deal to me.  Really, it's just another day.  No big deal really.  As a child, the reason was different though.  Far different.  Not only did I not care about a birthday, but I dreaded it.  I wished that the day didn't exist and I was so thankful that mine is in the summer so I wouldn't ever have to be at school for it.  I'll explain in a moment.  I want to be clear though:  What I'm about to share is not meant to induce sad feelings or pity or anything.  My reasons for sharing will become very evident shortly.  I also want to point out that great things have happened with what I'm going to write.  I've really learned to move on.  I can (and have) celebrate my birthday.  Still though, it's not a huge deal for me.  It's just not.  But I have definitely learned to appreciate the day and that others have strived to make it special for me.  And I have loved my past few!  One year my great friend Liz took me kayaking and we BBQ'd.  Another year was a small poker game at my house while we sipped on champagne.  Last year I bought my very own kayak and spent the day out on Marsh Creek just soaking in the gorgeous day.

So here it is.  This is probable one of the most vulnerable things about my own heart I have written yet.

As a young child I remember having 2 things I really wanted.  The first was to live with my dad.  The second was for him to play ball with me.  That was a huge dream of mine.  To go out in the backyard and toss a ball around.  I don't remember how old I was turning this one year.  But I do remember my dad promising me that we'd finally play ball this one day - my birthday.  He went to work in the morning and I was sure to be on my best behavior all day.  I remember spending most of the day sitting on the dining room chair just waiting.  Waiting out of excitement.  Sitting there because I was so afraid of doing something bad that day and him not playing.  Finally, he came home.  Man, I can still see myself squirming in that chair thinking "this is it!  We're going to play ball!".  Dad apparently had other plans.  He walked in the sliding glass door in the back, looked at me and threw a card on the table at me as he walked by.  All he said was "this came from your grandmother".  Those words haunted me for years and years.  Not even a "happy birthday son".  Most definitely not a game of catch outside.  The young adult me says that I should have know better.  This wasn't the first time he let me down and it was far from the last time.  But there I sat.  Waiting.  Excited.  Expecting.  Hoping.  Let down again.  Spirit crushed.  Left all alone again.  Again, I was let down by the one who promised another empty promise.

So why share this?  Because right now, I feel a little like that young boy sitting on the chair waiting.  It's now April 4th.  In 7 weeks and 6 days, I am quitting my job and moving on.  There is no turning back after that.  I'm now looking at things like support raising, potentially monthly support raising.  How much will I need to live off of.  And today I got a bit more clearer of an idea.  And it was a bit higher than I had in my head.  Not by much.  Really, only by about $200 more than I was thinking.

I know without a doubt in my heart that this is the right time.  It is time to move on from my job.  It is time to move on from West Chester.  It's time and I know that.  I also know that The Father (God) is going to provide.  I know that.  I really do.  But do I?  I mean, really?  Do I?  I look at the support I need and think "I can't do that!".  Yet, God is definitely looking at it saying, "no, but I can!".  He's looking at the dollar amount saying "that's all?  You don't need more??  I'll get you more...".

I spent some time outside this evening just sitting under the stars.  And to be very honest, tears flowed as I really starting thinking about it.  More of the "what ifs" came flooding my heart.  What if I don't raise enough.  What if funds just aren't there.  What if dad doesn't come play ball with me?  I was taken back to the birthday I just shared.  And there I was.  Part of me still there asking God "will you come play ball with me?".  I know that I know that I know that He will provide.  I know that from the bottom of my heart.  Yet, there is this little boy in me that has so often questioned every single person who has vowed to be there for me.  There is this child in me that was taught from a very young age to be independent and to rely on one person - yourself.  This young boy that grew up knowing how to take care of himself but not knowing how to let others take care of him.

So there we were.  It was like me and God just staring at each other across the expanse of the stars.  The question just burning in me:  will God show up or let me down?  Finally, I just had to cry out the question:  Are you sure that this is from you?  Of course, the answer to both is "YES!".  Still, I cried, won't it be easier to stay here?  My family is here.  My friends are in West Chester.  I thought about the amazing new ministries being launched at Providence Church and how I could be a part of them instead of going to Kenya.  Couldn't I stay and be comfortable?  Then the answer was engraved upon my heart by way of another question:  Am I willing to have my faith grown?  Am I willing to learn a new faith in my Father (God)?  I kind of felt like saying no.  No, I don't want to learn a new faith.  Because I know that that means difficult lessons.  That requires stretching.

On Saturday night I sat in a church leadership meeting as we discussed some of the new things being launched.  As Pastor Phil was speaking to us he mentioned a fear he had on some things recently.  He said something remarkable to me.  It was encouraging then and even more so now a few nights later.  He said "it's not a matter of having fears.  It's a matter of what you do with those fears".  I'm thinking that the fears I am having are probably pretty normal.  I'm sure I'm not the first to have them.  But I'm making a choice to not let those fears hold me back from chasing my dream and my vision.  I know that "dad will come and play ball" in this.  I know that I won't be let down.  I may still be working through this right now, and I may be working through it all the up until I get on that airplane in late August.  Maybe even longer.  I don't know.  But I do know that I'm not going to give up just because it seems hard.  I'm not giving up just because I don't have the finances and I'm not good at asking for help.  I'm not giving up because he future is so uncertain right now.  What I am going to do is get up off of that dining room chair though.  I'm going to start to suck up my pride a bit and learn how to raise support as I allow others the joy of giving and sowing into me.  It's not an easy thing for me.  But my good friend Joe put this was a few months ago.  He looked me in the eye and said "you need to understand that if you do this, it's your job.  And you need an income.  This job just requires you to raise your own income."

I'm going to allow my faith to be stretched during this time as it grows into a faith I never dreamed possible.  I'm going to learn a whole new dependency on God.  Heidi Baker wrote in her book Compelled by Love that "we need to learn to be fully dependent on the One who is fully dependable".  And that's what I will learn.  Like I said, I'm still working through it.  But I'm committed to the fight.  I refuse to quit because I know that the stakes are too high.  I know that there is an amazing journey waiting for me in Kenya.  I know that there is something far greater than I my mind can dream up that is waiting for me.

Wow, this went long...But as a follow up, I really want to reiterate that I love my dad (Luther).  That game of ball I always wanted - he did that for me along with so many other experiences of playing in the park, flying kites, teaching me to swim, ride a bike, play tennis, and so many others.  I'm proud to call this amazing man my dad.  And I always will be.