Monday, December 17, 2012

What is Success?

So, I missed my 4 mile training run last weekend...and both 30 minute runs last week.  I started beating myself up about it, calling myself a failure and the usual likes.

Tonight, I found myself thinking, searching, asking...asking about life, activities and so on.  Successes and failures.  I searched my heart and asked that God expose the successes to me.

Minutes later, I again thought about the missed run.  While my training plan did not get met last week, it is not the end of the world.  I spent time with my daughter just me and her - success.  I got to spend time with a friend at the mall - success.  I attended the high school ministry that I volunteer with and told a bit of my story while encouraging them to seek a relationship with God - success.  I got to bake cookies and make a mess with a few of those young ladies and get to know them a bit more - success.  I got to be the goofy mom I have missed dearly these past few years while baking with my daughter -success.  I got to serve kindergartners so another friend could attend church service - success.

Success really is relative, isn't it?  It depends on what your end goal is and what you are focused on.  This week it is back to training while juggling some of the above, but I find myself sitting here truly thinking that the break was worth it and for better things in the long run.

What does success look like for you?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Controlled Chaos

I am a person that struggles with OCD to some extent. I like things in their place, a certain way. I'm not the kind that will check the lights 5 times to be sure they are turned off, but definitely the type to be sure all the shampoo/conditioner bottles are turned label out and the bath towels are hung with the tag in...Yeah, structured...err, insanely so. On top of that, I struggle with ADD issues. That probably explains why I am happiest when organizing things, but the reason they never get done. If you ask me (and, anyone who knows me can attest), I'll tell you that I have at least a dozen projects started. That's right, started...not finished.

Anyway, enough background for the reason for the post: Middle school students and volunteering to serve them-be a part of their lives.

About three years ago, I made the move from serving each weekend with children ages 2 to 4 years old to serving with 6th grade students. There was something about the environment (called 56 at my church which stands for 5th and 6th grade). There was an energy that I couldn't explain that I felt in the first 10 minutes of being in the room. I wanted a piece of that. It inspired me.

To be a life group leader, you end up with a group of students (girls in my case), generally about 10 to 12 or so, that you work with each week to discuss the lesson and challenge them to dig deeper in their spiritual walk and apply the lesson to their lives. You also keep tabs on them here and there...check in on them, you know. It sounded daunting when they first explained it, but I so loved that energy that I wanted to give it a shot.

You know my biggest worries?
1.) I wouldn't have the answer if asked a question of the Bible.
2.) I wouldn't be able to dress cool enough to fit in.

Sad on both counts. I wasn't raised in a Christian home and really was nervous that one of the students would site a scripture I had no clue of...GASP! I know, both seem kind of silly, but were valid anxieties that I was feeling. Many of my friends expressed doubt that I was planning to serve in this environment...They kept saying things like: "Oh, know that it is crazy in there, right?...Amy, are you crazy? Why would you want to serve with those MIDDLE SCHOOLERS?" (They acted like they had the plague or something or would eat me?...)

Fast forward to today...I've been serving in middle school ministry, have moved up with them each year and now walk alongside them as 8th graders in JCrew. I've gotten the honor of attending weekly gatherings structured just for these students, all night events, community service events, 3 winter retreats and 3 summer week-long retreats, as well as life group events at my home or the nearest mall. These events are action packed, sleep-deprived events that require immense patience, a good supply of coffee and often tend to use up a number of vacation days.

You know what? I would not trade any one of them for something else. I would not trade one of them for a beach trip or a cabin trip. I would not trade one afternoon spent texting a student afraid of a failed test. I would not trade one week away with 200 students. I would not trade 24 hours of serving and cleaning and praying in inner city Philadelphia. Every single trip, every one, caused me to walk away with a greater appreciation for God and what He does in their lives...and in mine. Every trip gave me a greater appreciation for what God is doing in the hearts of these students. Every trip left me wanting more involvement.

You know what else? I've discovered that middle school ministry is far from chaotic and unstructured. To the observer (or some of my friends), it many seem that way...but, I've seen what goes into an event, seen what goes into a weekend gathering. There is an immense amount of planning to be sure that the environment is just right, that just the right song is played, that this pause be taken or that joke be made to make sure that the students have that opportunity to have it "click." I've also gotten to see the clicking know, when a student finally "gets" it...realizes the power of the salvation offerred them and accepts it right where they are.

A few weeks ago, I got to be in the water for the baptism of one of these students. She wasn't a student from my life group, but one that I have had the pleasure to have at a few retreats. I had not had the opportunity to read her story prior to her baptism, so I wasn't sure what would be read from her letter. As I stood there encouraging her, I heard it: "I've always grown up learning about God, but it wasn't until my first retreat at UE that I really got to know Jesus and connect with him." Tears welled in my eyes...she had been with me for my very first week long summer retreat. In some small way, the lessons we learned and I helped teach (that we are all the family of God) made an impact. I was flooded with emotion that God had used me, even if I didn't realize it at the time. Seeds planted, sort of thing right there.

I'm often reminded that I wish I would have had a place to go like this when I was in junior high...someone to guide me, a "good" group of kids that do life together through thick and thin. But, I guess I get to be that in the smallest of ways for someone else and appreciate that they need it. Will I ever have all the answers?...I doubt it. But...

I now have come to realize that
1.) If I don't know, it is okay to say "I'm not sure, but let's find out together." and
2.) The students don't care what you wear or how you look as long as they know you love them and are there for them, accepting them right where they are in life and not judging them but challenging them.

So, it has been the perfect fit. I'm humbled, honored and proud to be a part of middle school ministry.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Into Every Cookie a Little Love Must Fall


I don't mean literally. I'm sure we all know that cookies are made with flour and sugar and generally lots of butter. [SIDENOTE: My husband never fails to gasp when he sees the quantity of butter that goes in the bowl. "Why do you need THAT much butter?" My response is always the same..."Because it makes them taste so yummy...they weren't meant to be healthy."]

The key ingredient to any cookie - any variety - is love. If you aren't' making them with love, something will go wrong almost every single time. You will be hasty. You might miss an ingredient or add too much. You might overcook. You name it.

For the past several years, I have taken on the task of making cookies to give away to the family at Christmas time. Chocolate chip, peanut butter chip, peanut butter, sugar, jam bars (yes, they are still cookies), mint chip, chocolate peanut butter chip, gingerbread, peppermint sandwich, peanut butter blossoms, Russian teacakes and anything else that shouts my name when I go through. I think the total usually comes in at about 700+ cookies until I'm done. Some are easy to make and others, well, they take time and care...and love.

BUT...the favorite cookie that we made last year would be the whoopie pies my daughter sold. It was an idea that she had gotten to pay for her retreat with our church. We chuckled when she came up with the idea. My husband and I kept reminding her to keep the $155 trip on her Christmas list, as she'd need all the help she could get. So, we made some posts and asked around. Soon enough, people started ordering 6 here and a dozen there. The orders just kept pouring in for these $1.00 whoopie pies that were double the size of any I've seen for sale. She, at 13, made enough in two days to pay for her entire trip. I was honestly blown away. When we talked about it, she was so excited, but then immediately asked if she could keep taking orders and help pay for someone else to go. I asked if she was sure and she continued, saying that people need to go on those retreats and that not everyone has the money or can go. She was adamant that she wanted to help. Who was I to stop her?


All in all, she made a total of $510 in whoopie pie sales. I was blown away at the provision, truly. She had a faithful heart and it paid off. She was very, very busy baking for several weeks. All in all, she was able to go on the retreat free and clear, AND was able to send two other students and pay for a portion of another student. So many people commented that they were better than the whoopie pies at the local farmer's market. I can't tell you how proud my momma heart was. is the key ingredient. You know, our daughter taught us something this Christmas. IF YOU HAVE FAITH LIKE A CHILD, BIG THINGS CAN HAPPEN.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sometimes You Have to Say "No" to Say "Yes" to the Right Things

Isn't it interesting to take a new year and dream about the possibilities that it holds? Isn't it fun to imagine a better you (either emotionally or physically)?
As part of the #letsblogoff series, I have chosen to look at the things I'm looking forward to in 2012.

I will preface this blog by saying that I'm not one to usually make resolutions, or if I do, I don't put them out there. You see, I'm a great starter by trade, but a horrible finisher. I hate defeat and hate admitting it even more. But, this is a new year and changes must be made to assure that 2012 isn't the same as 2011 or 2010.

This year, I vow to make myself slow down long enough to appreciate it. I don't want to be sitting around the fire in September wondering what happened to May and June. Did I truly show love to others? Can I even remember those times? I am planning to pick and choose my activities. My priority will be my family. There may be things that I might have to say "no" to, but those decisions will be run through the filter of "Is this best for my family?". Yes, I might just have to retire my Super Woman (or Splintergirl) cape and admit that I can't do everything.

I'm looking forward to continuing to work on my marriage and work on really listening to my husband and learning how to use the differences in the ways we approach things and communicate to make us stronger, to make our bond unbreakable. I'm looking forward to the work it will take to put us there.

I'm looking forward to seeing what will come of my husband's lay off. I'm hopeful that he will find a position that better suits his needs for a company that truly cares about him and his abilities. So, anyone in need of a very experienced AutoCAD draftsman with building designer and LEED experience that is working on his Architecture degree? :)

I'm looking forward to continuing to work with the middle schoolers at my church, especially my 8th grade girls' group. I love them to pieces. They honestly teach me so much about life without even realizing it and I only hope that the feeling is mutual. I aspire to inspire them, accpeting them as they are and challenging them to strive for more.

I'm looking forward to my work with Lancaster County Timber Frames, Inc. and really getting some much needed PR for the company. I love my job and my dream has always been to get a frame featured in a magazine. I'm not sure why that seems to be such a dream for me, but it is an accomplishment that I've been striving for. I'm also working towards making my position much more fluid and structured, so as to be as efficient and timely as possible.

On a personal side...the "for me" part...I am looking forward to continuing to run and really getting on a good schedule for that. I've always felt guilty going for a run when something else needed done. This year, I want to strive for a better balance of that and realize that the run is important for me for health reasons, but also emotional ones. I want to run my 2nd half marathon in under 2 hrs. 15 min. this October. I want to write more. It is something that love to do, but again, I don't make time for the things that I love. So, I'd love to blog weekly or at least write poetry. I've put this all out there. "All in" as I tell my daughter. Now, it will be up to me to see if I can actually fulfill this list or at least put myself in the right place to have a good start on it. Now, you know MY heart. What are some of the things that you are looking forward to?

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