I’m going to Poland!

This spring on one of my work trips, I was able to stop by and see one of my old college roommates, Cindy.  Cindy is a pastor’s wife in Lenexa and I always love hearing about the ways she and her family are involved in ministry in their church and in the lives of so many people.   On this particular trip, Cindy was telling me about an upcoming mission trip she would be leading over the summer to Poland.  Over the years I’ve heard many stories about PROeM, the ministry in Poland that her church supports, and that her family has visited many times.  As I listened to her talk about the trip, I wished I were going with her.  She even tried to talk me into going, explaining that she could really use some help since she would be leading this trip.

I briefly thought about going, but didn’t really think it was feasible because I had already missed a lot of work this year due to sickness, and I just moved into a new house and felt like I needed to keep my life as stress free as possible for awhile until I was back to normal.  Plus, when I checked my calendar, I realized we have a big work event scheduled during the time of the trip that I really didn’t feel like I should miss.

Fast forward a month or so and I learned that the work event was being canceled.  Plus, my illness finally had a diagnosis (TMJ??? – that’s another post for another time) that seemed much more manageable than some of the options I was fearing.  So I contacted Cindy to find out of it was too late, which it wasn’t, so I took a couple of days to pray about it and make my usual pros and cons list.  And, well, now I’m going to Poland!

This opportunity is special to me for several reasons.  An obvious one is the chance to travel with Cindy, who is one of my life long friends.  Her sweet, gentle spirit always encourages me and I can’t imagine a better leader to work with than her!  Another reason is that Poland is a very dear place to me.  It is the country I traveled to on my very first mission trip, way back in 1991.  Almost 25 years ago – wow!  It was back when neighboring Russia was still the U.S.S.R., Poland was just coming out of communism, and resources were scarce.  I can’t wait to see how things have changed since I was there last!  I’ll be traveling to different part of the country this time, and working with a different ministry, but I’m sure I will love the country just as much.  I loved my first trip there and have always hoped for the opportunity to return.   I’m also looking forward to the opportunity to meet new people, love on the kids in Poland, and be challenged to grow.

I will be traveling July 17 – 26 with a group from Cedar Ridge Christian Church in Lenexa.  The week we will be there will be spent helping with fine arts type workshops for the teenage campers in Zako Chiele, Poland, as a part of the outreach ministry of PROeM (proemministries.org).  Workshops will include things like arts, drama, music, dance, photography, etc.  One of our main objectives will be interacting with, encouraging, and sharing the gospel with the campers.  This camp opportunity is a big draw for area teens in Poland because it is known as an international camp and they know americans will be there.

I’m very excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to go!  I will be asking for some friends to pray for our team as we go, so please let me know if you would be interested in doing that.  I’m fortunate enough to have savings that will pay for much of my trip costs, but if you are interested in donating a little bit to help offset the cost, that is always appreciated.  The total cost of the trip will be $1950, and I need to have all of it paid for by June 18.  Tax deductible gifts can be made through the church website at:  https://crcc.cloverdonations.com/poland-mission-trip/

And here’s a couple of photos from my 1991 Poland trip.  Just for fun.

SCAN0026My team of five singing in a church in Poland.

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With a Polish family that we met and worked with while we were in Bielsk Podlaski.

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My team on a picnic with one of the Polish church groups we met.

The perfect cure for worry is trust in God

I’m in the process of buying a new home, selling my existing home, and planning an upcoming move. And in typical Kelly fashion, I’ve been finding time to worry about every little aspect of the process that I can. At first I was just being cautious, researching all my options, trying to make the best decision. But somewhere along the way I think I moved into the obsessing unnecessarily about all my options phase. I wake up in the middle night thinking about it, I spend hours on the internet researching. Recently I spent hours one evening reading articles from my google search on “buyers remorse for home buyers.” I haven’t bought a home yet, but I’m already anticipating that it is possible that I might have buyers remorse after I do. Ridiculous, right? As I listen to myself share all of my concerns with my friends (those foolish people who ask how everything is going with my house hunt, then quickly regret asking the question as I launch into a very lengthy answer), I can hear how ridiculous I am being, but I can’t seem to stop. I’m pretty sure my therapist friends could diagnose me with some kind of anxiety something, but I’m not going there. This is not a problem to be solved by anti-anxiety medication.

I think it’s a spiritual problem. I’m allowing myself to spend too much time in my own head, focusing on the things that swirl around up there (like mortgage terms, the cost of lawn mowers, how to learn carpentry on youtube so I can build a wall of bookshelves, the possibility of being murdered by someone selling used furniture on craigslist, etc.). I needed something to pull me out of the craziness that I have allowed myself to consume my thoughts with. I think this is why God fills our lives with other people. If we lived solitary lives, we would drive ourselves crazy. At least I would. Without other people in my life, I’m afraid I would miss out on nearly all of the things God wants to teach me. Because the lessons always seem to come in the context of relationships. And I’m grateful for that.

So tonight I had two conversations that were blessings to me, because they snapped me out of crazy-house-buying-land where I was living, and back into reality. The first was a phone call from a friend who wanted to share a prayer request with me. I’m always grateful when people ask me to pray for something specific because it forces me to put my focus back where it needs to be. And I realized tonight that I haven’t been praying much lately, and I hadn’t updated my prayer journal in months. I had really let this moving thing consume me way too much. This was the perfect opportunity for me to pull out my prayer journal, update my list, and spend some time in prayer. The second opportunity was through facebook, as I was reading updates and saw a post from an old friend who was struggling. She had been on my mind lately because of her current struggle and I was thinking after I move (which is still six weeks away), I should really reach out to her. But tonight I realized that I can’t put my life on hold and let it rotate around this stupid move, so I sent her a quick message, which turned into a facebook chat, and another opportunity for me to pray for a friend. And again I was a grateful for the opportunity, and grateful for friends who are brave enough to share their burdens, because it helps me gain perspective, cease my worrying and trust in God.

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Montana Part 1

I think that Glacier National Park might be the most beautiful place I have ever seen.  I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to experience it.

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Several of my friends asked “Why Montana?” when I informed them of my summer vacation plans.  There are a couple of reasons.  One is that almost twenty years ago a friend of mine went to graduate school at the University of Montana and told me how amazing Glacier National Park was and ever since then I have wanted to visit.  Then there is my ongoing goal of visiting all fifty states.  I was down to five left to visit – Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Montana.  Montana has always been at the top of my list of states I most wanted to visit (with Alaska a very close second), but I never seemed to find a reason to come.  I had no work trips that took me anywhere near Montana, no friends wanting to plan a girls trip to Montana.  So this spring when things got really busy and stressful at work, I decided I was going to plan to a trip to Montana so I had something to look forward to, an escape from the stress in my near future.  So I bought a plane ticket and started planning.

I know it seems strange to some people for me to travel alone, but I have really come to enjoy my solo adventures.  I started years ago by tacking on days at the end of work trips when I traveled to someplace interesting and found that exploring new places by myself was actually a lot of fun and gave me more freedom than traveling with others.  This trip, so far, has been no exception.  And an added bonus was that I actually know some people in Montana, so I’ve been able to visit a few friends along the way!

I flew into Missoula last week and as soon as I arrived I headed over to visit my friend Chelle, who was in town visiting her son Rick and his family.  Chelle and her husband were youth leaders at the church I worked at in Naperville IL many years ago, back when their kids were teenagers.  We spent lots of time together attending CIYs, taking the youth on canoe trips, ski trips, concerts, etc.  I spent lots of time in her home as she and her husband hosted weekly bible studies, as well as welcoming me over for many dinners and holidays when I was in town.  If I wasn’t able to travel home to Kansas for a holiday, I usually spent it with the Marcums.  They became very dear friends to me.  After I moved back to Kansas, they moved to Pennsylvania, where I’ve only been able to visit them once.  When I was planning my trip to Montana, I contacted Chelle to see if she might be planning a trip there as well, knowing that her son Rick and his family lived here.  Fortunately we were able to coordinate dates so that we were both here at the same time!  So Thursday afternoon was spent catching up with Chelle while hanging out with two of her precious grandchildren.  Unfortunately Rick and his wife Mindy were at work, but I’m planning to catch up with them when I am back in Missoula in a few days.

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After my visit with Chelle, I drove up to Whitefish, MT where I had rented a condo for the week.  I need to take some photos to post of the condo before I leave.  It was pretty cool, aside from the 56 steps I had to climb each time I entered it.   I counted.

Friday I headed over to Glacier National Park, which was about 45 minutes from my condo.  I was curious to see how far I could get into the park, since the snow storm a few days prior had delayed the opening of the Going To The Sun Road.  GTTS Road is the road that goes through the middle of the park, starting at West Glacier and going to St. Mary.  It’s the highlight of the park and the major destination for travelers.  It didn’t occur to me to check the road status before I planned my trip because I assumed that late June would be prime time for visiting the park.  I found out after I bought my tickets that June 20 was the scheduled opening for GTTS road, subject to change based on weather.  Which it did.  So Friday when I went to the park, the road was open to the end of Lake McDonald on the west side, and from St. Mary to Rising Sun on the east side.  I was a little disappointed not be able to go all the way through, but not too much, because there is so much to see already, and everything is beautiful!

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I drove as far as the road would take me and stopped to do a couple of hikes, Trail of the Cedars, and Avalanche Lake.  Trail of the Cedars was short, easy and full of beautiful trees.  Avalanche is a moderate hike, which for me means a super hard hike because I’m super out of shape.  It was not quite five miles round trip and the length wasn’t bad, but the incline about did me in.  About 45 minutes into the hike, when I could no longer see any hikers in front of me or behind me and I was deep in the middle of the woods, it occurred to me that hiking alone was probably not a good idea with all the be aware of bears signs everywhere.  But by that time I was too tired to care, so I just kept on hiking and hoped no bears would eat me.  Avalanche lake was beautiful, and the hike back down was much easier!

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Saturday I met up with a friend from high school, Susi Schultz, and she took me around the south side of the park to the entrance at Two Medicine.  This was a really beautiful area and one that I probably would not have been to had the GTTS road not been closed.  On the map it shows highway 2 that goes around south of the park, which is the route we took.  We stopped at Goat Lick and saw a couple of goats way off in the distance on our way there.  Inside the park, we went on a boat ride on Two Medicine Lake, then hiked to Twin Falls before taking the boat ride back.

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It was a great day, and on the way home we stopped at Izaak Walton Inn and had huckleberry cobbler with huckleberry ice cream.  I wish I had thought to take a picture!  Huckleberrys are native to this area, so all the gift shops are full of huckleberry everything.  The cobbler was great and it was fun to see the historic Inn where the restaurant was.  They have taken old railroad cars and created unique lodging opportunities, so you can rent either a room in the inn, or a caboose.  It would be an interesting place to stay.

I’ll save Sunday’s activities for my next post.  Tomorrow I am off again with Susi to St. Mary’s.  We are driving around south again, but this time we’ll go further north up the east side to get to the St. Mary’s entrance to the park.  Just today they announced that tomorrow they would open the GTTS road a little further tomorrow on the east side, to Jackson Glacier Overlook, so I want to go check it out on my last day in the park.

 

 

Blessed and Grateful

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Last night in church we were asked to share any experiences we had in the past week where we saw God at work in the world, or something similar to that.  I can’t remember the exact question, I just remember that I didn’t have an answer.  I thought of instances in the past week where I was stressed out about work, where I worried about my family, when I felt lonely or discouraged, but instances of God at work were not coming to mind.  But today I’ve given it more thought and have a few things to add to the discussion.

1.  The generosity of my church.  I am frequently amazed by the generosity of people in my church.  As the treasurer I get to witness first hand many instances of financial generosity, but more often I see from afar the ways that people are generous to one another with their time, resources, support, and love.  The instances are too numerous to list.  But this weekend there was one in particular, an anonymous gift that by the luck of the draw, I got to be the person to deliver.  I wasn’t the giver or the receiver, but I was blessed by the act of generosity from one person to another, blessed to see God at work, moving the soul of one person to provide for the needs of another.

2.  I had dinner with a dear friend last week and we discussed the challenges of life, in particular some things that had been going on in her life over the past few years – sickness, unemployment, etc.  Some really hard stuff had been thrown her way, but through it all she just keeps trusting God and seeing the ways that God is using the the challenges in her life for good.   God uses the challenges to draw us to him, to teach us, to reveal his love for us in new ways.   Hearing her story, her willingness to share the hard stuff, and her determination to keep trusting in God, those things are another way I see God at work in the world.

3.  And today I had the opportunity to attend a local episcopal church where another friend had invited me to attend her son’s confirmation.  It’s so interesting to see the traditions of other denominations and to be reminded that though we may be different in some of our outward practices, we are alike in so much and we love the same God.  I loved seeing the work of God reflected in the service this morning, and being witness to the confirmation of a young person.  Those moments are precious.  The service ended with this blessing from the bishop, which I really loved:

Go in safety, for you cannot go where God is not.

Go in love, for love alone endures.

God in peace, for that is God’s gift to those whose hearts and minds are in God’s son Jesus.

And the blessing of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, rest upon you this day, and remain with you always. Amen.

Easter and new life

Today at our Easter celebration I brought out the crown of thorns that the kids at church had worked on during lent.  I forgot to take a before picture, but here’s a photo from our first week working on it, which I wrote about in an earlier post.  The kids added toothpicks to the crown to represent their sins during several of the lessons during Lent.

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This morning all the kids pulled the toothpicks out and then we replaced them with flowers and talked about how Easter is the day we celebrate Christ’s resurrection and how his death on the cross saved us from our sins.  We talked about how the flowers represented new life, just like we have new life in Christ.  It was especially meaningful today because three of the kids were baptized during our service.   It was neat to share in that as a church.  Here’s a photo of the kids working on the new crown, and our final product.

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Having a “new life in Christ” is kind of a challenging concept for me to understand, much less to explain to kids.  And I always wonder how much the kids understand from my lessons, especially when I don’t feel like I explain things very well.  But as someone reminded me this morning, activities like this plant a memory, a visual, and even if kids don’t understand it today, they will remember it for awhile and as they grow and learn, they might start to understand it more.

Another sweet moment I had this weekend was taking one of my nieces to see the movie Heaven Is Real.  I had read the book several years ago and was really touched by the story.  Hearing the reflections of this young boy on his experience of heaven was for me, a reminder that God is real, God is present in our lives, and God hears our prayers.  Sometimes I forget those things, so it’s good to be reminded.  It was especially sweet to see the story with my niece because for many years I have prayed for her, often feeling like those prayers weren’t being heard and weren’t making a difference.  But today she is doing really well and I’d like to think that all of those years of praying made some difference.

  1. Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
    God of glory, Lord of love;
    Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
    Op’ning to the sun above.
    Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
    Drive the dark of doubt away;
    Giver of immortal gladness,
    Fill us with the light of day!
  2. All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
    Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,
    Stars and angels sing around Thee,
    Center of unbroken praise.
    Field and forest, vale and mountain,
    Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
    Singing bird and flowing fountain
    Call us to rejoice in Thee.
  3. Thou art giving and forgiving,
    Ever blessing, ever blest,
    Wellspring of the joy of living,
    Ocean depth of happy rest!
    Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
    All who live in love are Thine;
    Teach us how to love each other,
    Lift us to the joy divine.
  4. Mortals, join the happy chorus,
    Which the morning stars began;
    Father love is reigning o’er us,
    Brother love binds man to man.
    Ever singing, march we onward,
    Victors in the midst of strife,
    Joyful music leads us Sunward
    In the triumph song of life

Why I work in child abuse prevention

Today is the beginning of April, which means we are right in the middle of one of our craziest times at work.  April is child abuse prevention month and my co-workers are busy sending out materials, doing trainings, attending proclamation signings, leading tours, tweeting, and of course all of the regular duties like grant reports, meetings and special events.  It’s a busy month, to say the least.

At a recent meeting, we were asked to share why we work in the field of child abuse prevention.  What brought us here and why do we stay?  It was touching to hear stories from some of my co-workers about what drives them to work in this field, and really made me think about what has kept me here for 15 years.

My background is in christian ministry and I had been working at a church in Illinois prior to my move into this field.  I loved working in the church, but I also longed to do some community based work.  I wanted to be able to work with all people, not just those inside the church.  I was ready to move back to Kansas to be closer to family, which provided me a good opportunity to switch to a different field of work.  During my time in Illinois I had the opportunity to be a part of a ecumenical community task force on poverty.  While the experience was a little comical considering the community was Naperville, which had one of the lowest poverty rates of any of the Chicago suburbs, it was still a really fun experience.  I started attending meetings at one of the local catholic churches and the leaders were thrilled to let me get more involved since I was the lone protestant attendee at most of the meetings.  The catholic church taught me a lot about social justice and the value of community based work, and gave me a taste of how much I enjoyed working with diverse populations.

When I moved back to Kansas I was eager to move into the field of social services and found a job working in child abuse prevention.  When I first started, almost fifteen years ago, I would have told you that I didn’t have any personal experience with child abuse and did not know anyone who had ever experienced abuse.  I would have been wrong.  Over the years as I have shared with people about the work that I do, I have heard so many stories from friends and acquaintances who suffered abuse as a child.  Friends from every period of my life, including those I grew up with who gave every indication that their childhood was happy and safe.  I have learned that child abuse is often hidden, not spoken about, surrounded in shame and fear.  And I have learned that child abuse is everywhere.  It’s in homes, in schools, on the bus, at the neighbors, in the church.  It can happen anywhere.  I’ve heard stories from friends who were abused in the church, abused by a youth pastor, by a nursery volunteer, by an older child, by a friend of the family, by someone they trusted and loved.  I’ve learned about sexual abuse, about neglect, about physical abuse and emotional abuse.  I know more about child abuse than I ever wanted to know.  I can rattle off statistics about how 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, including 1 in 7 girls, and 1 in 25 boys.    Or how over 40,000 reports are made each year to report suspected child abuse and neglect in Kansas.

The statistics are overwhelming and the stories are powerful.  Those stories are a big part of the reason that I stay in this field.  I like my job on most days.  I have great co-workers, the work is challenging, there is tons of variety in what I do day to day, and I get the opportunity to use my strengths (The Gallup organization would be proud of this list, as it matches with their research on employee engagement).  But I also love that I get to do work for an organization that actually prevents child abuse from occurring in the first place.  That’s pretty amazing.  I think about the people I know who have suffered abuse and hope that the work I do will somehow help families so that other children do not have to experience that kind of abuse.  We make sure that families are supported, that parents get the mental health services they need to be the best parents they can be, that new moms have someone to talk to when life feels overwhelming, that families know how to protect their children.

So I guess that’s why I work in child abuse prevention.  Even though the job I’m in now doesn’t give me many opportunities to work directly with the children and families anymore, I know that every time I do a training, or write a grant, or give a presentation, or attend a collaboration meeting, the end goal is still the same.  It’s all about protecting kids and supporting families.

Kindness

I want to be more kind.  I know sometimes I am a nice person, but there are other times when I’m not so nice.  Times when I could choose to be kind, but instead I am critical.  I want to choose kindness more often.

I had a conversation recently with someone who had been coming out of a very rough time of life.  She’s feels like she is in a good place now and wanted me to see that she is doing well and is happy.  I was hesitant to be too hopeful for her because that I know that addiction is not that easy to walk away from and I’ve heard the lies before.  So I asked a lot of my usual critical questions – “what are you going to do when this happens” and “how are you going to handle that” and “why do you want to do that” and “what makes this time different”.  It wasn’t a bad conversation, but reflecting back on it, I wish I would have chosen kindness instead.

I was thinking about how someone would feel after a conversation like that.  When you spend an hour with someone who is critical and questions your motives, it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, it usually leaves you feeling discouraged instead.  But what if I would have spent that time encouraging her, pointing out the things she is doing well and telling her how proud I was of her?  Wouldn’t those words be more motivating and pleasant?  I could have chosen words that would help her to see herself the way God sees her, fully loved and accepted.   Why didn’t I do that?  Why would I ever choose to anything else, when I could be kind?

Proverbs 12:25 says “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”

I want to be more kind.

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