Saturday, May 30, 2009

Can a brownie change your life?

Absolutely. If you are reading this, and you are close to a grocery store, I implore you. RUN, don't walk there. Or drive your car if you live far away from it. Once you are there, go to the baking aisle and find this box:

Follow the directions on the box, but ONLY if you want your life to be radically and drastically changed. I picked these up at Meijer last week for our Bible Study dessert, and had NO idea that they would ruin me for all other brownies from here to eternity. There are 7 of us in the group, and the entire pan was nearly demolished in no time flat. We immediately declared them "Life-Changing-Brownies," and the name has stuck. I think it goes without saying that we had them for dessert again this week at Bible Study and had a group picture taken with them.

Don't be surprised if you see another group picture in weeks to come because, unfortunately, 3 people were missing.
So, do yourself a favor. Buy a box. Make them. And let me know how your life has been changed. And, yes. We've already made a plan on how to get them to me while in Africa. I have amazing friends, I do.

Panama City...A Picture Tour

As promised, I am now bringing you (the 15 who actually read this) a picture tour of my time in Panama City. Mostly pictures, some tiny anecdotes, and randomness (as always). Enjoy!

Brady Man. His parents are good friends of mine from church/work in Panama City. They helped move me out of my apartment when I moved to Indy. AND stored the stuff that wouldn't fit into my car for almost a year. THANKS GUYS!

Baby Addison-One of Brady's little twin sisters. Baby Kennedy was sleeping. I was having interesting hair issues that day and this is the best of the pictures.

If you can believe it, this was the one and only time I made it to the beach in the 2 and a half weeks I was there. OH how I had missed these sandy white beaches.

THIS was hilarious. This guy was buried in the sand, and his so-called "friends" were throwing Doritos on top of him to get the seagulls to bombard him. Obviously, he was unable to do anything about it. Those of you who know my strong dislike for flying creatures...take note. NEVER do this to me. There WILL be consequences.

"Smartie Party with Annika"
Annika wanted to share some of her Easter candy with me. (She calls me Fred). When her mom asked what we were doing, she replied, "I'm having a Smartie Party with Fred and Cool Chick." (Cool Chick is the duck in the lower left corner...he had my sunglasses on his face. It was way too cute.

I dropped Annika's sunglasses in the bay. This is Annika, Heath, and Brenda trying to come up with a plan on how to get them out. They decided to go back and get daddy's fishing net.

YAY! Heath got them out!

"Hey Mom! Look what I caught!"

As the previous picture was being taken, little Heath was playing with the net in the water. And he dropped it. It was a good 4 feet down to the top of the handle from where we were.

Annika and Heath "surveying the damage"

"Here Dad. Hold my ankles and lower me down so I can reach it!"

"Hey Mom! Look what I caught!!"

Well, you know how they say things come in threes? First it was the sunglasses. THEN, it was the net. What could possibly happen next? How about dad uses his MASSIVE truck to roll over Heath's helmet, rendering it completely useless. Good thing it was only his helmet. He almost demolished the bike, but stopped just in time.

All of this happened in a matter of an hour and a half. After this picture was taken, my friend Brenda said, "Okay, Fred, can you go home now?" :)

Will Neeley, "Moo-Cow" Rounder Upper Extraordinaire

Tank Pond...what a beautiful place to call "home away from home"

My time in Panama City was an amazing time to catch up with friends I had not seen in so long. I think the better word would be extended family. The people I worked with, went to church with, and spent time with day in and day out truly became my family away from family. So many people who love me for me, and quickly became some of my biggest fans and cheerleaders. And when I finally took the step of obedience to move home to pursue God's call to Africa, they were quick to say how sad they were, but in the same breath that they believed in what I was headed for. Thank you to all of my church family and Patronis family for your amazing friendship and support. My cup runneth over...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Body of answer to prayer

In April, I headed to Panama City to visit friends and to meet with churches and individuals along the way about joining what God is doing in Uganda. It was an amazing time to catch up with old friends and to make new connections as well.

I was able to meet with the Missions Committee at Woodlawn United Methodist Church, which was an amazing blessing. It was quite the "full-circle" moment for me, as this very missions committee supported me on my last trip to Uganda. As I sat and told of the plans that God is unfolding, I couldn't help but notice how faithful God had been to maintain the bond between me and that body of believers. Praise Jesus they have come alongside me and have chosen to support me and the call God has placed on my life. Even as I type these words, I am truly humbled by their willingness to join me on this journey.

I also had the opportunity to meet the small groups pastor at Northstar Church, another amazing body of believers that meets in Panama City. I know the Worship Arts pastor pretty well, but beyond that, I figured I was just another face in the large crowd of people. How like God to prove me wrong? After talking with the small groups pastor, he mentioned how the staff had already met to discuss supporting me, and had agreed to join my monthly support team. I didn't even have to go through a formal "meeting" with the staff. At this point, I was completely blown away. I remembered praying so diligently at the beginning of this process, and being reminded that our ways are not like God's. And that His thoughts are far above ours. And that He can do far more than all we could ever ask or imagine. And I saw it happening right before my eyes. It was that day that I realized that I can have no other expectation but that Jesus would show up, and that He would be HUGE. What an answer to prayer the people of Woodlawn UMC and Northstar have been.

There is much more to update on about my time in Panama City and the amazing time spent with friends, but I fear that if I continue to write, people will not read this. So, I will save part two for later...with pictures included as well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dear Hallmark Customers:

As you may know, I work part time at a local Hallmark store. I love my job because it combines many of my favorite things: people watching, laughing at funny cards, Christmas ALMOST year-round, and great people. However, in recent days, I have felt the need to write a letter to the customers of Hallmark. You'll see why...

Dear Hallmark Customers:

Welcome to the happiest place on Earth. As you peruse the store, I would like to remind you of a few things:

1. Hallmark is the happiest place on Earth. Or at least one of them.
2. Just because you waited until 4 days after Mother's Day to buy a card, doesn't give you the right to be upset when we don't have the cards up anymore.
3. We were closed on Mother's Day, so NO, we were NOT able to put the Father's Day cards out for your viewing pleasure on Monday morning.
4. We do NOT do ear piercings. Try the Mall. Piercing Pagoda perhaps. Or Claire's. They may even have some sort of "Pierce one ear, get the other ear free" deal going on.
5. If your coupons expire, it's really not our fault. And please don't say "I wish you didn't even do coupons!" I'm sure you wouldn't have felt that way had we been able to take your coupon that expired 3 YEARS AGO!
6. When you are talking on your cell phone, try your best to make sure the whole store can't hear about what you're making for dinner and when your next manicure is scheduled.


The God Who Sees Me (and you)

I have always loved studying the names of God. I'm so fascinated by the fact that God chose to reveal Himself in so many different ways throughout scripture. From Genesis to Revelation. we see God sovereignly display His character to people at exactly their point of need, leaving them forever changed. Monday, I encountered in a new way El Roi-the God who sees me.

The original story is found in Genesis 16. To make a long introduction short, God promised Abram (later called Abraham) that he would become the father of many nations. Abram and his wife Sarai (later called Sarah) were "well along in years" and had no children. Sarai took matters into her own hands and gave Abram her servant Hagar as his wife so she could have children through her. Later, Hagar becomes pregnant and runs away from Sarai because she is being mistreated. Genesis 16:7 says Hagar was found by a spring of water in the wilderness "along the road to Shur." Interestingly, the word "Shur" means "wall." Hagar was, quite literally, on the road to nowhere. She was heading for a dead end...a wall. The Angel of the Lord speaking to her tells her she is pregnant and that she is to name the child Ishmael, meaning "God hears." After this, Hagar said, "You are the God who sees me...I have now seen the one who sees me." She was known. The God who saw her in the wilderness saw where she had been, and saw where she was headed as well.

Monday, I encountered afresh "the God who sees me." Not because I am on a road to nowhere. Not because my back is against the wall. Perhaps I just needed a reminder that the God who WAS, and IS, and IS TO COME is the God of my WAS, my IS, and my IS TO COME. As I have been on this Homeland Ministry in preparation for my time in Uganda, I have learned more about trusting Jesus with my "is." He truly knows my need. He knows where I lack faith. And He knows the exact moment to "show off." Monday was one such day. Just a few short months ago, I dreaded getting the weekly e-mail update on my ministry account. Recently, however, I have seen Him develop my team of prayer partners and financial supporters, and I have grown to rejoice in Mondays because it gives me the chance to praise him for His tangible faithfulness. As I opened my e-mail on Monday, my jaw dropped, my heart may have stopped, and I am still recovering. (I'll spare the details, but it is quite an amazing story if you wish to hear it.) I praise God and am truly humbled to say that I am officially over the 10% mark. Some may say, "You still have a long way to go." And I see that. But I have seen the God who sees me. He sees my need.

It's just one area of my current reality, but as I thought of it later, I realized it is applicable to so many other areas. The God who is vigilantly watching over my "is" has been working overtime to restore some things in my "was," and giving me promise and vision for my "is to come."

Ours is a God who sees. He doesn't see us because we're important or because we're really amazing to look at. He sees us because it's His nature to see. It's who He is. As I have studied the names of God in the past, I always ask the same question after understanding who He is: What does that make me as a result? If He is the God who sees, I am seen. Sought after. Paid attention to. Looked after. And so are you.