Monday, July 25, 2011

Norn Iron 2011


Patrick and I spent last week serving in Northern Ireland. Our team consisted of 31 high school students, 10 adult volunteers, and 4 youth staff (including Patrick). Our team was split between two different churches and we were able to eat our lunches and dinners together. It is hard to put the whole experience into words, but I am going to try.  


Our mornings were dedicated to running a kids summer scheme (their VBS). For two hours each day we led children ages 3-12 in worship, teaching, craft projects, and games. Many of these children do not attend church on a regular basis. The most the church had ever had attend during one of these programs was 60 and that was apparently a one-time thing last summer. Well, our first day we had 85 "wee ones". We ran out of craft projects and had to reorganize that evening to make sure that we were working as efficiently as possible. We realized that we needed our students to each take on several kids as an individual. This meant two of our team members couldn't hang out with one kid. We needed them to  instead try and focus on several kids at one time. I was so impressed by how they rose to the occasion.

Following lunch each day we were spit into even smaller groups to serve on various work sites. I had a team of 5-7 students each day and we spent time fixing up a home belonging to a single mother with a history of abuse from her former partner. Obviously this was the type of work that I felt most at home doing. I have a little experience with painting:). I think many of us were surprised to find how these work projects opened up opportunities to share the Gospel. I don't think a day went by that I wasn't asked, "Why are you painting my friends house?". The idea that someone would pay money to fly thousands of miles to paint a home was difficult for people to wrap their minds around. They thought we were, as one girl put it, "mad". She meant it in a crazy sort of way. To an unbeliever, the work we were doing did look pretty crazy I guess.

Lizzy and I stripping wallpaper in Zoe's room.
After a quick cleanup and dinner, we were bussed back to our church for our evening teen meetings. This was probably the part of our trip that we were least prepared for and yet the part where we saw God do the most incredible work. I think we saw about 60 students throughout the week and probably averaged around 50 each night. I would say that 15-20 of these kids were what we would call street kids. The N. Ireland teens had many different names for them. We heard one girl refer to them as chaffs. That comment hit me hard because I felt that it reflects a belief that those kids had been given up on. They were looked at as unreachable as though they had already been separated from the wheat and now ready for judgment. 

Our first meeting was extremely difficult. The N. Ireland teens that wanted to worship wouldn't because they were being made fun of by the street kids. I even struggled to worship and maintain focus. I knew that if I was struggling that much that our students must be too. One of the staff from the church had to eventually kick the disruptive kids out of our meeting due to their loud laughing and carrying on. I was shocked by their complete disrespect for authority. I had to also fight my sin which wanted to turn around and give them a piece of my mind.

When the meeting concluded I went to the church kitchen to wash some dishes. While standing at the sink I could see the teens that had been kicked out standing around rolling cigarettes. One of the boys noticed me and ran up to the window to make crude gestures at me. I felt the anger building up inside me. Who did these kids think they were? Thankfully, God gave me the grace to walk out of the kitchen and ignore the boy. Then my heart began to ache. I stood there looking around the room. The meeting had just finished and so all of our students were still standing inside talking to the "good" kids. I was reminded of the following passage in Mark.

When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
- Mark 2:16-17

It was then that I realized that God wanted me outside with those rough street kids. I made my way to the front of the church as I prayed that God would give me strength. As I did so I remember feeling a peace wash over me as I recognized that God was all that I needed and his heart towards me was all that mattered. Those kids could spit in my face and flick me off all they wanted, but it didn't really matter. My worth comes from a God so much bigger and more powerful than they can imagine. Then I remember feeling a presence to my right. As I looked over my shoulder, I saw three of our students taking stride next to me. I don't even know if they realize the encouragement that I felt in that moment or if they even meant to follow me. As I sit here writing this, I still gets tears in my eyes thinking about it. God used them to encourage my heart right when I needed it.

Tami and Danielle
As the week went on I was continually encouraged to see our students extend grace to those rough kids- even when two of my discipleship group girls were called 'fat bitches' by one of the N. Ireland girls. I witnessed them return to spend time with that girl the following night. I pray that their love impacted her and will soften her heart. I pray that everyone who heard the Gospel this week will come to a saving, life-changing belief in Christ. 

Many seeds were scattered and I pray that they have safely reached good soil. I feel like I talked to so many who were honest in saying that they aren't Christians, but feel that they could be one day. I pray that day comes now. I can't understand why one would wait to accept such love.

Me and the hubby
On our last full day in N. Ireland we got to do some sightseeing. We went to the rope bridge and Giant's Causeway. It was also the most beautiful day of the whole trip- sunshine and relatively warm weather compared to the rest of the week which was cold and dreary.

D-group girls who were on the trip.
Unfortunately I didn't get many pictures from during the week. We were so stinking busy that I didn't even really think about it. Plus they have some pretty intense rules about taking pictures with little kids. You are only allowed if their parents give consent when they register. I wasn't sure who had given their consent so I didn't bother taking pictures.

I wish I could go back and spend more time there. Everyone (well, excluding the difficult teens) was so nice. Loading up on the bus to go to the airport was a humbling experience for me. I kept thinking of how unworthy I am to have been able to serve on such a trip. I kept thinking of the people who gave money so that I could go. On each of the planes home I continued to reflect on the trip and was reminded of how beautiful the body of Christ is. I wish to extend a huge thank you to everyone who made the trip possible for me and my friends. I was even thinking of people at work who swapped shifts with me. Each of you took part in this trip whether you realize it or not. Thank you for allowing God to use you in such an awesome way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bittersweet update

I have some good news and some bad news. I'm a bad-news-first kind of person so that I can get it out of the way and end on a high note. So the bad news is...

I no longer have bell pepper in my garden... or multiple okra plants for that matter.

Thanks to our resident monster- Hurley, we have more of an herb garden than a vegetable garden. We're on speaking terms again, but I was really mad at the guy for a couple of days there. I thought he couldn't get to the garden because of his shock collar. Obviously, I was wrong. The disaster had his name written all over it. The plants were eaten in half, the stakes were underneath the porch (several yards away), and the most incriminating evidence is that the ground cover system was torn into shreds. I'm sure it provided him with a few hours of entertainment.

Okay... on to the good news...

We have our first jalpenos!


I was so excited. I can't wait to make some black bean and corn salsa with some of this in it:) It's gonna be good. My garden is feeling a little more empty, but at least I've already yielded a better crop than last year. I'm having to look on the bright side of the situation.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Apostles Creed

So you call yourself a Christian. Well Christian, what do you believe? This is a question that our staff has been directing at our Sr. high students all summer. This morning our youth pastor asked our students to take a 3x5 index card and answer that very question. I haven't read their answers but I thought it was an interesting exercise. How many high school students out there today can articulate their faith on such short notice and with such a small amount of space. What would you write?

As I sat there, watching the students write, all I could recite to myself was the Apostles Creed. Now before you get impressed that I know it by heart let me tell you that I have Grace Presbyterian Church in Dalton, GA to thank for this. One summer (I think I was about 14 or 15) the leadership or maybe just our pastor decided that we were going to read the Apostles Creed every Sunday. We might have even read it twice each service. All I really remember is that our pastor made a big deal about it. He made a comment that it[the creed] is something every Christian should commit to memory. Well, I must be honest, I never worked very hard at memorizing it but just because we read it so much that summer I know the creed by heart.

The various teachers who have come by the youthouse this summer have been using the Apostles Creed as a tool to help our students articulate their faith. While the Creed is not something found in Scripture it is based on the teachings found in Scripture. By breaking down each part of the Apostles Creed I hope that our students will strengthen their faith and think more deeply about the supernatural work of God. I am also glad that they are getting the opportunity to have the more puzzling phrases explained.

The creed is a good summation of what we, as Christians, believe. As I prepare to go to Northern Ireland this coming Saturday, I have found it to be an interesting review and reminder to myself of what I hold to be truth. I do believe in absolute truth and that is something that is quickly fading in our society today. People think truth is what you want it to be, that it cannot be pinned down, or that it is different for each individual. Sorry, but I say no- truth is absolute.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, 
the Creator of Heaven and Earth,
and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried:

He descended into hell.

The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into Heaven,
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. 

Amen.




Saturday, July 9, 2011

Painting Paneling

July Project

This month's project was pretty random. I was sitting at work on Tuesday talking with some coworkers when it hit me. I was inspired by those young house love kiddos that recently transformed their kitchen by painting the paneling. After that my mind was made up. I decided to paint the paneling in our laundry room. And true to form, Patrick was out of town when this whole adventure went down. 

Let's start at the beginning shall we? On Wednesday morning our laundry room was looking pretty drab. It was also stuffed full of a few things that were pretty random. A medicine ball? Really?


I might also mention that this was probably my way of reclaiming the space after our little rodent friend made his appearance. It just felt dirty after that even though I knew that he was gone. It needed to be freshened up a bit.


So here was the course of attack. First I cleared out the entire space of everything that was easily movable. This unfortunately did not include the washer and dryer which I disconnected and pulled into the middle of the space. It was definitely a pain working around them, but remember, it was just little me here. 

After clearing the space I taped off the ceiling, floor, and window trim with painters tape. Don't underestimate this step. It is totally worth the effort. Okay... Next I was off to Lowes to purchase some paint. I bought a gallon of Kilz (I went with their latex kind for easy cleanup) and then I picked out a paint swatch that I thought looked pretty. It ended up being Valspars woodlawn silver brook in a satin finish. Then it was time to get painting.


This was after the first coat of primer went up on the walls. Now I will confess that I did not clean the surface of the wood with TSP nor did I lightly sand the walls to help with adhesion. I am totally trusting my Kilz. I did, however, decide to apply two coats of primer.


You may not even be able to tell the difference between the two photos but the one above was taken after the second coat of primer. You may also notice that I primed the window trim and then you might be wondering how late it is because it is dark outside. Well, I get in the zone and feel like I can work until the sun comes up. I didn't do that though. I forced myself to stop after this picture was taken and save the painting for Thursday. Well, it might have already been Thursday but you know what I mean.

I didn't waste any time on Thursday. The following picture was after one partially dry coat of paint. I ended up going with two coats. I was actually pretty pleased with the color and hoping that Patrick would approve too.


More painting took place...


Looking better... More painting... and rearranging...


Here's a few more angles.




I am glad that it turned out this well. I think our laundry room is much happier now. It's not finished yet, but it is a definite step in the right direction. My plan is to have Patrick's dad help me install a sink next to the washer and then I'd like to put two long shelves above that. My little white shelf from my childhood can then be moved out, or I might repaint it and put it on the wall opposite the washer and dryer. We'll see.

P.S. Patrick loved it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Garden update


My little jalapeno:) I have 2 on the plant that are about this size and I can see the beginnings of 3 more. I'm getting excited. My growbox seems to be doing pretty well too.


I lost one okra plant for some unknown reason and both of my zucchini plants developed a fungus and died. I am also sad to say that my tomatoes were most likely eaten by deer. Everything else is looking pretty good though. I can see what looks like the start of some bell pepper and my okra has lots of blooms. I think that's a good sign. Time will tell.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Unwelcomed houseguest

While switching over some laundry to the dryer Sunday morning a little movement caught my eye. I followed that brown, beady-eyed movement all the way into my pile of clothes on the floor. My naked feet flew through the air to the carpet and rushed for some coverage. I sure didn't want that thing on my bare feet. Well, I didn't want that thing in my house in the first place, but it made itself welcome and gave me no choice. It was war.

After donning the appropriate footwear, I returned to see where the little creature went. I carefully lifted every piece of clothing off of the floor one-by-one to see if it would scurry away. I held my breath and nothing ever happened. It was very anticlimactic. I'm not sure what I was planning to do when I startled it anyway. Home Team 0...Guest 1.

I then marched drove myself to find the proper equipment. Apparently you can buy a Tomcat or two for this kind of thing for a relatively cheap price. Not a real cat, but this kind.


I placed four of these things in strategic locations throughout the basement. I also went out on a recon mission to see if I could tell where we might have gone wrong in protecting ourselves against such an infiltration.

This is where our bear did not help us out. You know those vents on the side of the house for your dryer? Ours doesn't exist anymore. It's just a hole in the side of our house. Hurley must have discovered it recently and so did our little friend. Perfect.

I went to sleep Sunday night feeling a little grossed out and wondering why on earth these things must happen when my husband is out of town. God has a great sense of humor...

I was secretly hoping it would find its way out, but no such luck. I was met in the morning by victory. Tomcat doesn't mess around.


There it is... our little intruder. I know it is kind of disgusting but if I had to look at it then you can too. Perhaps you need a closer look.


Now here is the shock that I wasn't ready for... It was still alive when I took this picture. I thought that sticky stuff had some kind of poison in it that would kill it, but I was wrong. I don't feel it proper to throw away a living animal so what in the heck am I supposed to do with it? Ugh! Hurley and Tomcat have failed me.


Stinker...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Closet Cleanup

Why must I start a random project two hours after Patrick walks out the door for a trip? I had a clean bedroom when he left and then a few hours later it looked like this...


Oh that's just the beginning.


I counted 9 winter coats, over 50 pairs of shoes, 12 plastic drawers full of shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, long sleeve T's, PJ's, costumes (no, not that kind... we work with youth people). I also counted 2 suits, 15 pairs of dress pants, over 30 dresses, 7 sets of scrubs, and several bins full of random stuff. For someone who likes to think of herself as a minimalist, I was appalled at myself. It was way past time to downsize and donate. Let me just show you what this disaster looked like.


This is Patrick's side of the closet. He was nice enough to label his plastic drawers so that I would know where to put what type of shirt.


My side of the closet where shoes were beginning to pile up. Notice that they were even stuffed on top of that plastic drawer system. I counted 4 pairs shoved back in there.


Speaking of shoes, they were everywhere... Can you see the convenience of Patrick's shoe storage? Think shoe avalanche for your head. Well, I had experienced enough and so I began unloading everything into the room behind me. It might have even overflowed to the office floor. Then I developed a system. It was either keep, throw away, or donate. It was also about making sure everything had its space and that there was a space for everything.

Unfortunately we have very little closet space in this home. It is something that Patrick and I overlooked because the house was practically empty when we looked at it. There were a few random pieces of furniture left from the owners, but the house had not been lived in for a little over a year. We have three closets- one for each bedroom upstairs. The largest closet in the entire house actually belongs to the 4th bedroom in the basement which is a total bummer because we don't even count it as a bedroom because there is no bathroom down there yet.

I had no choice but to work my magic. Hope Patrick is pleased when he gets home.



Maybe having limited closet space isn't such a bad thing. It will definitely keep us from holding onto and cluttering our house with unimportant things. It also forces us to think carefully about what to bring into our home.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Homemade Pesto

The basil in our garden is ridiculously overgrown and we're loving it. We're having a hard time keeping up with the growth because we've been in and out of town so much. Patrick got home from a Jr. High trip on Wednesday afternoon and he's already left again for a mission trip to St. Louis. I knew that I wanted to try making some pesto so here's a little about my adventure.


Ingredients:

- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 3 tablespoons chopped garlic (about 9 cloves)
- 5 cups of fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups of good quality olive oil
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Directions:

- Place walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic in food processor and process for 30 seconds.
- Add the basil, salt, pepper and begin to process again.
- With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube
- Process until thoroughly pureed.
- Add the cheese and puree for a minute.
- Serve or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of oil on top.


It was delicious. Yes, we had to try it immediately. I think it is better if you let it sit in the refrigerator for a day but we were ready to try it out. So while I made hors d'oeuvres, Patrick set to work on utilizing another herb found in our garden.... Mint!


Mojitos made fresh from the garden. Here's that recipe...

- Muddle 12 fresh mint leaves and 1/2 a lime
- Cover with 2 tablespoons (1oz) of simple syrup
- Add 1 1/2 oz of any rum you choose (Patrick is strange and puts tequila in his so I suppose you could even go that route)
- Stir well and garnish with lime wedge
(Serving size is 1 glass)


Complete with Auburn tumbler! You can see my handiwork in the background and I'm not talking about the fruit. I used what we had- campari tomatoes, leftover parmesan from the pesto, and the fresh pesto that I had just completed. It was all quite tasty.

It was good to spend a couple of days hanging out with Patrick. We've learned to enjoy every minute of him being home during the summer months.


Patrick brought these home after spending time with one of his students yesterday. I used to get upset about flowers because I felt that it was a waste of money, but I've warmed up to the idea. It is such a simple way for him to show me that he loves me and thinks about me when he's gone. They look good on that refinished table don't they? :)