Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Here we go!

Short blog here while I break from packing.  I've been really learning a lot from this packing process.  Mainly I've been learning to let go of things.  Maybe a full blog on that later...

Friday was my last day at work.  It was nice.  I really didn't have much to do.  Honestly, I didn't have a whole lot to do the last two weeks.  Friday I just cleared off my work laptop and reformatted the hard drive.  Around lunch time we had a little luncheon for me.  I really don't like being the center of attention, but it was really nice that everyone cared.  And the food was good.  So was the giant cake that they had made for me!  It was a very strange day though.  I really didn't think that it would be so difficult leaving.  I've worked for this company since I was a freshman in college in 2002.  I took summers off for camp, and one fall semester to work at camp too.  But it's been just shy of 10 years now.  That's a lot of time!  I found myself lingering a little by the end, part of me not wanting to say goodbye.  Another part of me wanted to find an opportunity to sneak away when no one was looking.  Friday night was another amazing time.  I've been spending many of my Friday nights with my dear friends the Atkins from church.  They host a dinner for people from church to come to and fellowship.  I've gotten to know many people from these dinners.  Friday night they also brought me a cake and sent me off in love and blessings.

Work was kind enough to allow me to keep my phone and car over the weekend.  I had to get to Dave Gyza's BBQ somehow!  :)  Today, I drove into work to drop off these two things.  Everyone was in a meeting (one that was going to go for at least 2 hours).  It was kind of a funny feeling to not be sitting in on that meeting.  One one hand it was awesome to see everyone carrying on work.  I'm not sure why that mattered to me.  I never expected the whole business to stop because I was gone.  But for some reason that I don't yet understand, it was oddly comforting to see everyone carrying on.  On my way to the office Jay from camp called.  He's the guy coming to pick me up (since I have no wheels now).  Somehow things got mixed up.  I thought he was coming tomorrow and he thought it was today.  We agreed that today would work and he will be here in the next few hours.  And by tonight I will be back up at camp looking at a start filled sky.  Maybe I'll camp out tonight.  Maybe I'll crash a lean-to site.  Maybe I'll just crash a spare bedroom there.  I don't know.  But I know that tomorrow I will be slowly taking over the conference room in the camp office as my new summer office (the chairs are more comfortable in there).  This weekend starts this job off with a father/son weekend group.

So many more things happened the past few days that have really blessed and encouraged me.  I have a lot of amazing friends and family in West Chester.  I have an amazing family in Reading and another in the Lehigh Valley.  I'm looking forward to seeing both this summer.  I'm looking forward to Skype calls while I'm in Kenya.  I'm looking forward to my friend being home from CA and visiting with her this summer too!  There are so many things I'm excited for.  I'm especially excited to begin this new journey.

So, here we go.  No turning back now.  My stuff is almost all packed and I'm about to be heading out.  So West Chester:  It's been a pretty sweet better part of a decade.  I've grown a lot here.  But for now, it's goodbye to West Chester.  I'll see you in about 7 months to a year.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

pinballs to roller coasters

I lied.  One more blog before camp.

I can't believe that tomorrow is the big day!  I used to call tomorrow the point of no return.  Tomorrow is my last day of work and I look at it as there's no turning back after that.  It's like a roller coaster, ya know?  Your experience is likely different, but I'm petrified of heights.  Waiting in line isn't too bad; you know you can walk away (unless your friends borderline kidnap you and throw you on the Rockin' Aerosmith coaster in Disney - JIM VOMERO).  Once you buckle into the seat you know if you fuss enough, you can still get off the ride.  But once that attendant comes by and verifies you're seatbelted in and that car starts up the hill, you're not going anywhere!  For me, that hill up is intense.  Me and God get extra close as I BEG that the car stays on the track and doesn't get stuck part way up.  They have those stairs on the side of the coaster as if that is supposed to be of some comfort.  If the coster gets stuck you can climb out and walk down the steps.  UH, I THINK NOT!  If that thing gets stuck you better get a helicopter rescue squad to come get me because my butt is staying put in that seat looking down at my feat with tears of fear pouring out of me. But once you get to the top of that hill and start to go over it, man is it awesome!  the feeling of free fall and whipping all around.  The loops are awesome.  Corkscrew barrel rolls are adrenaline pumping!  And eventually the ride comes to a stop and you get off.

Right now, I'm about to start that hill I think.  I'm still sitting in the safety zone where if I make enough noise I can get out.  But if I turn around that ride attendant is coming up on me fast.  And the cars are about to start up hill.

Tonight was good.  I met up with my friend Clint from church and we talked and prayed.  He asked me some tough questions about where my heart is at.  Overall, I'm happy.  I really am.  These last two weeks I have been laughing through most of my day.  I'm sure that people at work may have gotten almost tired of it sometimes.  But I've been in such a good mood and I hope I've been spreading it.  But tonight was really good.  Clint's questions allowed me to let my guard down a bit.  Truth is that there still is fear in me.  Not fear that is holding me back.  I'm still strapped in and ready for the ride.  But I'm still begging that this ride doesn't stop halfway uphill.  Tonight was a chance to admit that.  And I am so thankful for that opportunity.

So tomorrow that ride attendant arrives at my seat and it's the front car.  This coaster is about to take off.  Funny that in a roller coaster there is more than one hill.  There is a hill before the loops and rolls.  See, the parts I love most about the roller coaster seem to have a big hill in front of them.  I know that the next several months to a year won't be easy.  It won't all be the free fall experience for me.  There will be more than one hill to climb.  But at the top of the hill is a new excitement.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Single digits!

About 7 months ago I felt like this week would never get here.   And here I am.  I have three days left of work and this time next week I will be at camp starting to get ready for summer.  Seven months seems to have gone so fast! 

It’s so easy to be distracted by the things I will miss.  It seems like every day I’m reminded of at least one thing that I will miss while I’m away.  But it’s so much fun to think about the new adventure that is waiting for me!  I think about this summer and how amazing it is to be going back to work for camp again.  When I left there a few years ago I never thought that this would be happening.  To think about what lies ahead in Kenya just blows my mind!  I never imagined myself doing anything like this.  I mean it.  About 2 or 3 years ago I didn’t even want to fly over the ocean.  I had no interest in the “missions field”.  I was content staying right here in the States and living my life here.  Now, I can’t even imagine my future without Kenya or some other country being a large part of it.  

That’s all for now.  The next update will likely come from my new summer home.  

PS - if you are in the West Chester area on Sunday morning, come out to Providence Church at The Westside building.  Service starts at 10AM.  This is my home church and they will be sending me out.  I will have more information on what this Kenya trip is to me and how you can be praying for it.  For anyone interested, I will also have information if you are interested in financially supporting this trip.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

A shameless endorsement

Last February my company decided that it was time to buy a car for travel purposes and let me drive it.  We test drove a few different vehicles and settled on a 2007 Ford Escape; black with a grey/black interior from Fred Beans Ford in West Chester.  Beautiful car and all.  I love driving it.  And I've probably put somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 miles on it in the past 15 months.  That's a few oil changes and service appointments.

In this time a few things have had to be done on it other than routine oil changes and balance and rotating tires.  Fred Beans has a pretty nice loyalty program where they credit 15% of what you spend on service towards the downpayment of another car if you buy it through them.  That can add up to a little bit of cash after a few years of driving.  Maybe not a whole lot, but enough that I think it's worth coming back to the dealer.

But what I really love about this place is the staff.  I love how wether I have an appointment or not these guys know who I am, what company I work for and what car I have the second I walk in the door.  Not only that, but my service guy, Bob, remembers that I've been to Kenya and am going back.  And I love how he asks about it every time I come in.  I called to make an appointment for today and that was his first question, "how much longer until Kenya?".  These guys know service.

So as I sit in their waiting lounge eyeing up the coffee table while enjoying their free wifi, I highly recommend that if you are looking for a car, check these guys out!  I have had nothing but excellent service from the first test drive 'till now.

Check out their selection here!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

pinball weeks

You ever play pinball?  I remember when my dad got a new computer years ago that had the pinball game.  I used to rock that game!  I still remember having a high score north of 3 million.  Please, if that really isn't that high and you know of scores doubling that, don't tell me.  I wasn't very athletic so let let me have this one :)

These last couple of weeks I have felt like a pinball bouncing from bumper to bumper; flipper to flipper.  My countdown is now down to 8 days left of work.  Two weeks from today is my last day in West Chester.  And I have been all over the place in terms of how I feel.  I have felt fear and stress over the unknown.  Truthfully, one year from today I have no idea where I will be or what I will be doing.  I've felt sad as I start to say some goodbyes to people and know that relationships will be changing.  I've felt the sadness over lots of things that are changing.  And I've felt excitement.  Great excitement!  Things ARE changing.  But that doesn't have to be a bad thing.  I'm excited to see where the change takes me.

While I have felt like that pinball bouncing all over the place, above all, I've felt a great peace.  I know that the relationships that are important to me will continue to exist.  I know that I am pursuing a passion that is so heavy on my heart.  While there is so much uncertainty to everything, I'm really okay with it.  I'm at peace and I know that things will work out.  I know that this time next year, I will be taken care of.

This is such an exciting time for me as I step out in faith in a way that I really never had the opportunity to do before.  It's exciting as I begin to see how many people are in support of me.  Someone rather recently told me that while he doesn't support the Christian missions, he supports me and what I do.  And this person is coming along side of me and sponsoring part of this trip.  So many times lately people have been asking me how they can support me and it just amazes me that so many others believe in my passions.  I am so humbled by this.  Seriously, the other day as I was driving I just laughed and prayed, really God?  You're really doing this, aren't you?

And the financial support isn't all that amazes me.  It seems that every day I am encouraged in a new way by someone.  Sometimes a friendly email, sometimes a kind word of encouragement.  I have been so blessed during this time as I prepare.  My heart feels like it's about to burst open with joy.

This time of preparation has taught me so much.  I am learning to accept this kind of encouragement as individuals partner with me in support.  I'm learning to allow others the gift of giving as they partner with me in finances.  I'm learning to be still and be at peace.  Wait, be still?  Really?  In this time of moving?  Yes.  I'm learning to still myself.  I'm learning that a journey of a thousand miles doesn't start with a single step.  It starts with a pause and a stillness that brings peace.  So I'm learning that this isn't a race.  I don't have to run a mile a minute.  This is an adventure that is about the journey not the finish line.

I think that as this journey goes on, I'm going to learn so much more too.  I'm going to learn more as these passions grow deeper and the vision becomes clearer.  I'm going to learn a little more of my place in this world.  I'm going to learn a whole new love for family and friends.  I'm going to learn how to love my family and friends in a deeper way.  I don't believe that this will drive a wedge in between.  I think it will build a stronger bridge.  And through it all, I am going to learn a whole new level of faith in my God.  A faith that looks at the seemingly impossible and says "yeah, that can happen".  A faith that I've always wanted in my life.

So, yes.  I feel like a pinball bouncing all over the place.  But I'm enjoying the ride!  This pinball hasn't fallen yet.  I'm bouncing around, but I'm still in the game going for the high score.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm not a real political man but...

I'm just a singer of simple songs

I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell 
you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love - Alan Jackson, Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning"
Yeah, I think that this song sums up a lot.

In case you missed it, last Sunday night President Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.

Like so many others, I remember where I was on 9/11/01.  I remember the Pepsi delivery guy telling me that a plane just hit the twin towers.  I remember a few moments later as my English class was interrupted by another teacher telling us to turn on the TV.  I remember the next period sitting in American Government class as the 2nd tower collapsed.  I remember being glued to the TV most of that day for as much news as was available.  I also remember the talk about the possibility of the draft going into effect.  I remember as two of my best friends, Jim and Chris, made a pact that if one of us was drafted the other two would join the military as well.

So on Sunday night when I saw the news that armed forces had, after nearly 10 years, located, assaulted and killed Bin Laden, I was proud.  But let me explain.

In the days that followed I was so interested by comments on the news and on Facebook.  I actually head one person on the news say that "we should have captured him alive and drug him through the streets of NY so people could kick him and spit on him".  Wow.  Really?  I understand that there is a deep wound that was left that September day.  But I like to think that we are better than that.  I was actually very proud of the USA for burying Bin Laden at sea in accordance with Muslim tradition.  The other night on 60 minutes President Obama made a good point that I agree with 100%. He said that though Bin Laden had no regard for the thousands of American lives and bodies that he desecrated, we were going to stand tall and honor this man's body.  I think that this sends a powerful statement to the rest of the world that we are not going to sink to the level of the terrorists.  We are going to be "the better man".

Now, I said that I was proud when I heard the news.  And I was.  I was also happy.  And here is where the debate begins I think.  I was happy because justice was served.  I was happy because a chapter on this book came to an end.  I was happy because I can only begin to imagine the closure that the thousands of mourning Americans were finally receiving.  I was not happy about death.  As a Christian, I do not think that we should take pleasure in death.  But we are to take pleasure when justice is served.  After all, we serve a JUST GOD.

Some would argue here that justice is to be left to God and not taken into our own hands when it comes to killing another.  However, I think of King David.  David was a warrior, and a pretty dang good one!  David slew the giant Goliath; he did not wait for God to strike him down with a bolt of lightning.  He picked up a weapon, went out to the battlefield and planted a stone between this guy's eyes.  After which, he took Goliath's sword out and beheaded him!  So, yeah, David was a warrior.

So, I do believe that justice was served when Seal team 6 breached the compound and shot Bin Laden.  The simple fact is that this man declared war on on when he planned the events of 9/11.  he has had 10 years to come forward and turn himself in to authorities.  Instead, he went into hiding.  None of us know exactly what happened during this mission, but based on the events after, I have faith in our armed forces that had Bin Laden surrendered they would have arrested him.  Instead, reports indicate that he fought back.

I understand that some view this as a bad move because al-Qaeda members are likely to retaliate.  Yes.  That is a very legitimate concern.  I was watching the movie The Kingdom recently.  In it the director of the FBI makes a powerful statement.  Basically, there is a bomb that goes off on an Americanized compound in Saudi Arabia and the US Attorney General tells the FBI that they no American teams will be permitted to investigate because of danger to Americans that this could cause.  The director fires back "Not to go after criminals because they might to harm you is really not a policy of the FBI".  And I think that the same is true in real life here.  Yes, there may be threats now.  But does that mean that we should have let Bin Laden go unpunished?  That, to me, would be letting him win.  I say this as a man that will be doing some international travel in the next few months.  As a man who has friends in other parts of the world.  Yes, there is reason to be vigilant.  It is simply the world in which we live.  There are dangers.  September 11th has shown us that we are not immune to these dangers.  But that doesn't meant that we let a mass murder off the hook!

So, these are a few of my thoughts.  You are welcome to agree or disagree.  In the end, I hope that we can stand a little taller and united as the USA right now.  I hope that we can take dance with joy over the justice.  I hope that we can have hearts of gratitude for those that spent months planning this operation and for those that risked their lives to complete it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

why do we worry?

So I'm sitting in a hotel room waiting for a new credit card my office overnighted to me.  Let me tell you about that...

Monday started off pretty good.  I woke up, went to the chiropractor, gassed up my car and drove off towards Ohio.  I stopped at the Blue Mountain service plaza for more gas and food.  Lunch was, well...it was service plaza lunch.  Roy Rogers burger and a bottle of water.  I drove over to the gas pumps and for some reason, I took my wallet out of the car (which I rarely ever do. Usually I just take the credit card out). I unscrewed my fuel cap and fumbled it.  Yep, dropped it on the ground, the inner pieces, that are apparently pressurized, popped out and the cap rolled under my car.  I put my wallet on the gas pump or on my car, I forget which.  I started the pump and crawled under the passenger side of my car to retrieve the cap.  I looked at the 4 pieces now in my hand and figured out how I thought they went back together.  After filling the tank and replacing the cap I jumped back in the car and drove off.  Yeah, that's right.  I never took my wallet back. I didn't realize it until about 4 or 5 hours later when I stopped for gas again about an hour outside of Columbus.  I tore the car apart looking for my wallet only to realize that it had to be back at the service plaza.  So there I was with no cash, no credit cards and no license or ID of any sort.  And only a quarter tank of gas left.  I kind of freaked out for a minute.  Fortunately, I was able to get my credit cards canceled before there were any charges to them.  My office was able to cancel my work credit card as well.  I got back on the highway and made it to Columbus where we had an employee doing a book buyback.  I just barely made it to a gas station to meet this guy who gave me some cash for gas and food.  Yeah, I was also pretty hungry by this time.  My office was able to book me a hotel room and fax in a credit card.  And they let me stay with no ID.  

Still, I was kind of worried about things.  Mostly that I was driving without a license.  I called Penndot and apparently there is no sort of temporary license that can be printed out for cases like this.  We have temporary registrations, camera cards for expired licenses, but nothing for a lost license.  Then it started to hit me.  Why was I worrying?  Was it really helping?  Was it going to do any good to worry about it?  

I love the passage in Luke 12:
...Then He said to His disciples, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.  Life is more than food and the body is more than clothing...And which of you by worrying can add one single hour to his life?  If then you are not able to do this little thing, why are you worrying about the rest?"
So I started to look on the bright side.  My cards were canceled and I was issued new ones within hours. My health insurance cards were in my wallet...they are void in four weeks when I leave my job.  I only had a single dollar in cash in my wallet...hopefully if indeed someone took it, that dollar really blessed them.  I hope that they needed it.  It was only a dollar, but I hope that it at least bought them a candy bar or a soda that they may not have bought otherwise.  I'm not being sarcastic here.  I really mean it.  My license was in there and I didn't know if I'd be able to get a new one without having anything to prove that I'm me.  I thought I might have to go back to West Chester and go to a DMV there.  I thought about it and how if I was pulled over for anything the cop could have my license suspended.  Okay.  That's fine.  In 4 weeks I give my car back to my company and don't have a car, so while it would be nice to have a license, I could do without.  Fortunately, I was able to find a DMV right across the OH/PA border the next morning and get a new license.  Luckily, PA keeps all of this stuff on file and after only a one hour wait (which for PA is really good!) I was walking out with a newly printed license.  And I was able to have a really nice chat with the DMV guy working while everything was being printed.  The last thing to take care of was the fuel cap.  Apparently those pieces that popped out are important because the gas cap light stayed on.  But when I called Ford they said it would be okay and an easy fix.  And it was. About $12 bought a new cap and after about 10-20 miles the light went off and all is well.  My office overnighted me a new credit card (with someone else's name to it) for the rest of this week and next that will be here in the next hour or so.  And as for my own company credit card that was canceled, oh well.  It also needed to be canceled in 4 weeks.

As my focus started to shift away from worrying, things began to be okay.  So what if I don't have a wallet right now.  I can get a new one.  Everything was replaceable - easily!  I think that it comes down to a choice.  We can worry about these things if we want to.  But what good will it do?  Was me worrying about driving without a license going to make things different had I been pulled over?  Was worrying that someone made purchases on my credit card going to stop them?  Of course not.  All it was going to do was ruin my day and put my in a bad mood.  But we have the choice to just be at peace.  What will be will be, you know?

Now, that said, I do want to make it clear that not worrying and being careless are NOT the same.  I was driving without a license.  While I was choosing to not worry about it, I was still being a little more careful about my speed and phone use.  I was not worrying about my credit cards, but I still needed to be responsible and cancel them.  By not worrying, I am not suggesting that we be irresponsible and reckless.  I'm just suggesting that we let things be.

I think a great example of this was in October when I flew to Kenya.  Daniel from TI met me at the Nairobi airport.  It took me a little over two hours to get through Customs.  I started to wonder if Daniel had left because I was taking too long.  Maybe he thought my plane was delayed and went back to the hotel.  Maybe he would be upset for having to stand outside the terminal waiting so long for me.  And I had no phone so I couldn't call him.  As I made it through Customs, Daniel was waiting to greet me as he picked up my bag for me.  He wasn't worried about it taking so long.  He knew that him worrying wasn't going to get me through Customs any faster.  I'm not saying that I'm there yet.

I still had a few hours of solid worrying in me.  But I'm working on it.  I'm better than I was last year, and next year I'll be better than this year.

Feel free to share your thoughts and/or stories.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

And then there were 4

About 6 months ago it seemed like May would never get here.  Now, time is flying by.  Maybe too fast at times.  May 31st is very rapidly approaching.  It looks like my last day of work will be May 27th (last Friday in May).  That gives me a couple of days to sit still before starting work at camp for the summer.

These past 6 months have been such a journey.  In 6 months I have started to learn so much more about myself.  I have seen my passions come alive.  I have seen my dreams slowly mesh into reality.  And I know that as Kenya draws closer, those passions and dreams will continue to grow.  I am starting to learn what it means to live on faith.  As I started to look at the price tag on this trip, I was first met with uncertainty and fear, and a part of me that wanted to give up.  But I have learned to have faith that my needs will be met.  My grandfather asked me a question on Easter: "and what are you going to do after you come back?  Where are you going to live and work?".  To be honest, I've asked myself those same questions time and time again.  And the truth is that I don't know.  I don't know where I'm going to be at this time next year.  But I am doing my best to not worry about it.  I say doing my best because there are still times that the fear takes hold.  Times where I need to remind myself of the faith I have been given.

These last 6 months have also been somewhat difficult on me in some ways.  While this is definitely a few month long trip, my heart really is in Kenya.  And I am very seriously considering what a long term commitment will look like.  As I do that, I look at what I will miss.  I may miss things like driving my car, paddling my kayak, or walking in the park.  But what I will really miss the most are people.  As I drove home from Easter dinner, all I could think about was how much I will miss my family.  I asked my uncle if we could Skype during Thanksgiving.  That's going to be a huge difference.  And I know it won't be easy.  The other weekend as I spent time with my dad and family at my stepmom's memorial, I was reminded of how much I value all of them as well.  And how much I will miss them so much.  Friends will also be missed.  The list goes on and on with who I will miss.

But like I said, in these last 6 months my passions have taken on a life of their own.  Yes, I will miss people.  I am not excited about missing holiday dinners.  But I am excited about chasing my dreams.  I know that I am going where I am supposed to be.  I know that there is a deep connection that I can have as I build relationships with street boys in Kenya.  And that is going to be powerful!  I am by no means saying that the boys in Kenya mean more to me than my family and friends.  I am not saying that at all.  I really don't even know how to explain it well.  I just know that this is the right thing to do.  And now is the right time.  I know that this decision has not been easy for some people in my family.  And it breaks me to know that this decision is hurting them.  But my prayer is that in time they will see the greater good.  My prayer is that as I share more stories they too will see that this is right.  My prayer is that no one will view me as running away, but running towards.  I'm running towards a dream.  I'm running towards a great movement.  

I feel like my emotions have been all over the place these last 6 months.  But looking at the final 4 weeks left, I am excited.  I am eager to see what is in store for me.  I'm ready to get started working at camp for the summer.  And I'm excited about getting on a plane to Kenya.  Sure, there are things I don't care for.  I'm not so excited about the idea of raising support.  it goes against so much of what I have been taught about being independent and relying on me and only me.  But I am excited about how the process of allowing others to partner with me will grow me even more.

John Eldredge said it best:
 “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go and do that, because what the world needs is more people who are alive.” 
I'm tired of living a life doing what the world expects me to do.  Because that's not life.  These last 6 months have been so many things.  But most of all, they have been about me coming alive.