Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage . . . They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
~Psalm 84:5

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

It's 1:30 in the morning here, but just wanted leave a quick post saying Merry Christmas to y'all!

I had a busy, but GREAT day. I'm thankful for good times with friends and fun times at the Nightshelter hanging out with the residents. I'm blessed to have spent my holidays here.

I'm also thankful for the volunteers we had that helped up get the house together so quickly this morning! Some are coming back tomorrow as well. YAY!

And I'm thankful for all the donations we received for not only our guys but for the rough sleepers who weren't able to get a bed.

I'm thankful for the gifts and cards I received from friends here. And especially for the small gestures some of the residents were able to make.

Perhaps I'll write more later. But now I'm off to bed! I'm doing my THIRD night shift tomorrow and need to be there for 8. Yikes!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!



For unto us a child is born , unto us a son is given : and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor , The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9:6

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

At least I've always thought so.

I love Christmas.  Bundling up and enjoying the cold weather.  The smell of a real Christmas tree.  Twinkling lights illuminating dark streets.  Choosing the perfect presents to give.  Hearing jolly music in every store.  Cinnamon-spiced candles scenting the room.  Enjoying chilling out with family.

I'm away from home this Christmas.  For the first time ever.  In another country where the same language is spoken and the same holiday is celebrated in much the same way as back home, but it's just so different.  

And I miss home.  I miss driving my car through my neighborhood and admiring the Christmas lights.  I miss choosing the perfect presents for each family member and close friend.  I miss holiday coffee creamers for my coffee.  I miss chilling out with family.

However, it was my choice.  I chose to leave home and all that was safe and comfortable.  I chose to move to another country and live by God's grace.  I chose to say goodbye to my family and friends.  So as hard as it is, I know I'm here by choice.  I know if I wanted I could board a plane in a matter of hours and be welcomed home with open arms.

There are guys here who hate Christmas.  It's the most HORRIBLE time of the year for them.  They are away from their families and friends.  For some it's been years.  For others it's their first Christmas on their own.  On the streets.  Some chose to leave, some didn't.  But they all yearn to return.  They all are broken.  They all long for home.  For love.  For acceptance.  The young and the old.  They want their parents' acceptance or their children's forgiveness.  They want to somehow repair that which was broken.  But hearts aren't so easily mended.  

Please pray that they will find the acceptance and healing that only One can give.  Please pray for freedom from the addiction and oppression that has knocked them to the ground.  Please pray for hope to be restored.  Please pray.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Similarities

Working in The Nightshelter is a lot like teaching Kindergarten:

~ Sometimes you have to clean up poo or pee, but the guilty party never reveals himself! GRRR!!!

~ If the others catch you doing something wrong (like the above states) then they're quick to accuse and rat you out.

~ When someone comes to the door everyone has to come and see who it is.

~ They're nosey little gits and want to know everything that's happening and what's being said in private conversations.

~ They get cranky if they get off schedule (like if dinner is 5 minutes late -- oh, the horror!)

~ They get gitty when it's dessert time and come running for their share.

~ They throw temper tantrums if they miss out on dessert. Never mind they were upstairs sleeping off the drink or drugs (the NS peeps, not the kindergarteners...).

~ They're quick to fill you in on all the latest gossip. And they usually know more than you!

~ Sometimes they take what doesn't belong to them.

~ They think food, drink, and everything else they may expect us to have magically falls from the sky and don't like it when they don't get what they want or think they're owed.

~ They have time-out when they break a rule . . . so severe time-out for the homeless guy is having to leave their bed and go out into the cold rather than sitting in a chair in the corner . . . but it's the same concept . . .

~ They sometimes forget your name.

~ They like to test the boundaries.

~ Sometimes you have to remind them to wash their hands . . . or have a bath.

The most Thankful Thursday of the year!

I'm a week late, I know . . . sorry . . . so I guess this is just a regular Thankful Thursday post, rather than a Thanksgiving Day Thankful Thursday post.

1.) I had two lovely Thanksgiving celebrations: one I cooked myself! for a couple of friends here at home, the other was at my friend Sarah's who I have been wanting to spend Thanksgiving with for over 5 years now! She's married to a Brit and has a big feast the Saturday after Thanksgiving which includes a taped copy of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade her mom express mails to her (although these days we can now watch online). Both dinners were fun!

2.) No one was poisoned by my Thanksgiving Day cooking! Even the turkey I cooked turned out nice. Although my friend Rob, a professionally-trained chef, did help with the bird . . . but I'm still the one who basted it and took it out of the oven!

3.) The British recipe I tried for pecan pie actually came out tasting like the real thing!

4.) Gmail's new video chat feature is awesome! And Thanksgiving night I got to video chat w/ my whole family during their get-together. It was so nice being able to see everyone!

5.) I'm off work until Monday! Took a couple days of holiday and plan to do nothing but eat, sleep and read. Yay!

6.) I worked an emergency cover NIGHT shift two weeks ago on a day off. Why's that something to be thankful for? Because I earned £130 in Tesco shopping vouchers! That's only £50 short of what I get paid a month, and easily my grocery money for the month and beyond! Not only that, Tesco is like Wal-mart, so I can even buy people's Christmas pressies there!

7.) I'm working another emergency cover night shift 23rd Dec! So that's grocery money for January as well!

8.) I've discovered Surf the Channel, where I can watch most of the shows I've miss from back home!

9.) I love listening to KSBJ online. They started playing Christmas music 24/7 the day after Thanksgiving and it'll last through Christmas Day. Plus, it reminds me of home. Funnily enough, I still instinctually reach to turn the volume up when traffic reports come up so I can hear if there's any problems on any of the roads leading home. It's understandable after 3 years of commuting, right?

10.) James, one of the guys I first met when I arrived at the Nightshelter, is getting baptized on Sunday! I remember two months ago hearing him say he couldn't even open a bible, now he's getting baptized! He's actually saw my leg before and after it grew, so let me and my friend Elaine pray for pain he had been having in his shoulder. And he was healed!!! So that helped strengthen his faith in God and now, three weeks later, he's getting baptized!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thankful Thursday

According to the computer it's still Thursday on the continent I'm on. And since I haven't done one of these in months, I figured there's no Thursday like this Thursday! So without further ado:

1.) My leg grew, if you hadn't heard! And two weeks later, it's still nearly as long as the other!

2.) Thanksgiving is next week! I'm cooking a Thanksgiving feast for friends . . . just haven't told all the friends about it yet . . . AND I'm going to my friend Sarah's for another Thanksgiving feast the Saturday after Turkey Day. Yippee!

3.) I went up to Sheffield last weekend to hang out with some kiddos during the Antioch Sheffield's church-wide retreat. Besides having a headache basically all weekend, I had a good time catching up with people and meeting new folks. And I was blessed with some serious cash by the guys up there -- paying for my trip AND extra for the work I did over the weekend.

4.) I don't have kids. Ha.lle.lu.JAH! Don't get me wrong: Kids are great and a blessing but I realized last weekend how hard it can be sometimes. From seeing the mom stuggling whose little one didn't want to sleep at the retreat center 'cause it was just a huge jungle gym, to being in with all the kids for 3+hrs, knowing that right next door people were praying and worshiping and meeting with God and I couldn't leave and join them. I'm sure my day will come and I'll be thankful for the blessing, but for the moment I'm thankful for my singleness without little ones.

5.) I survived my round of night shifts that started just a few hours after stepping off the train from Sheffield. And they passed quickly. Yay!

6.) I'm doing a Night Shift cover tomorrow night. Crazy, I know, but it too will yield some serious cash since it's happening in the middle of some days off. Serious cash. Like only £50 LESS than I get a month. Seriously.

7.) My scarves. They're so pretty. And I doubled my collection a few weeks ago when I was down in Camden Town in London. There are some amazing scarves in the market for only £3-5! My fav is my red pashmina. It was worth every penny! And it's so warm and beautiful!

8.) Christmas is FIVE WEEKS AWAY!!! Scary and exciting!

9.) Costa coffee shop. Last night (well, afternoon; it was 4 pm but was already dark!) was the first time I went in and it was so warm and inviting! And they had holiday drinks!!! I went back again this morning to meet my friend Sarah and it was so nice! For two and a half hours I forgot I was in England -- Sarah's also American and the coffee shop has an American feel to it.

10.) We had some amazing times at the night shelter a couple of weeks ago. Guys were asking for prayer and really being touched by God. Some even offered to pray for members of staff and for each other. How amazing is that?!
Granted, the past week or so has been hard and the ones who had been praying have been dabbling with drugs again, but such is warfare. We still have faith for their lives. So should you. So go pray for them! NOW!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Away for the weekend

Lord willing, tomorrow I'll be boarding a train headed to Sheffield. And hopefully I'll figure out how the trams work, get on the right one, and head to meet the McGinnis family who I've known for 10 years now (Unbelievable!). Daniel and Jeannie McG were my college pastors who moved to Sheffield about 3 years ago to plant a church: Antioch Community Church, Sheffield. It's the annual church-wide retreat and I was recruited to help out watching the kiddos. It should be fun, though busy. I'm excited to see my friends, esp in the beautiful Peaks District, and I'm blessed that the church will be paying for my transportation, food and lodging! However, I'm coming back on Sunday evening, about 4 hours before I start a night shift. Oh joy. But I know it'll be worth it.

My leg's still longer than it was! It's still ever so slightly shorter than the other, but there's a vast improvement. People can see it just in the way I walk! The pain continued for another day or so, but went away after some more prayer. Crazy, huh?

Things have been busy at work. Taking on more responsibility and such. Tonight I led my first evening shift and it was VERY busy, but not overly stressful. Only slightly stressful. I'm hoping the guys I annoyed by changing the bed plan stop being grumpy and remember they love me by the time I see them again. I wasn't all that bothered, honestly. One guy threatened to walk out multiple times 'cause he didn't get his way, so after the 5th time I opened the front door and told him he could go if he wanted. Probably not the most gracious of responses, but at the time I was busy with the paramedics and concerned for another ressie who was still suffering from the effects of a stroke he had the week before. So the life-threatening condition took precedence, in my opinion.

Ok, it's nearly 1 a.m. and I must wake up early. So CIAO for now!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fare me well

Well, it's time for me (Tirzah) to branch off now. :) Debbie has been kind enough (and a good sport) to let me share this blog with her, but it's time for Decidedly Wandering to officially be Debbie's blog only. Readers will be able to read here about Debbie's traveling adventures. But if you'd like to keep up with me (the rambling, aspiring writer who only dreams about traveling), please visit my blog on http://www.myspace.com/tirzahwrites

You haven't seen the last of me yet, though. Lord willing, I'll be back frequently to read and comment.

Thanks for reading! :) --Tirzah.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow . . .

So, my whole life my left leg has been a good inch shorter than my right leg (hmm...can you see where this post is headed?). I actually don't remember when I realized this fact. It was well into my teenage years, AT LEAST. Heck, my own mom didn't even know until I pointed it out to her two months ago as she was hemming some trousers for me. Within the past 4 or 5 years I've heard people tell tales of having one leg shorter than the other and them praying and it growing. I would always think, "Oh, that's great for them!" But I never thought about praying it for myself.

Let's fast forward to Sunday night. They asked for people to stand up who needed an impossible healing -- healing for something doctors have said there's not hope of healing. The thought crossed my mind - should I stand up? - but I thought better of it since I still wasn't experiencing any pain or discomfort from my oddity.

Now let's fast forward to Monday night/Tuesday morning. I was finishing my third and final night shift and I noticed a slight ache in my left leg - the shorter leg. Strange, I thought. I have a method of popping my femur - weird, I know, but it does make it feel better if there's some pressure on it. So I tried it, but the pain didn't go away. I suffered through the night and then stumbled home at 9:15 a.m. to sleep for a few hours before attempting to readjust to regular working hours. The pain was constant, but not unbearable, for the rest of the day. Wed morning I was as good as new . . . so I thought.

Every Wednesday a.m. we have Team Training. One week it's with just the Nightshelter team at the house, the next week at the offices in town with both the NS and hostel teams all together. I love Team Training. We had a guest speaker who gave a wonderful talk about Abraham's faith and how to remain faithful and believe in God's promises, even when you mess up like Abe did; but that's irrelevant to this post. At the end the speaker spent some time praying and prophesying over us. When he prayed over me he said I needed to know it was ok to pray for myself; I shouldn't discount myself. He said it's wonderful that I love to pray for and minister to others, but I needed to also take time out to pray into my own life. It was a good word, but I quickly ran off to do a cover shift at the hostel and it went out of my mind.

My friend Zoe prayed for me when we were covering at the hostel. A simple prayer for healing. She also prayed for my leg to grow. It didn't. By that evening my leg was killing me. I couldn't move or walk around much. I had friends over for dinner so it was nice just chillin' with them; it took my mind off the pain. I got some more prayer for the pain to go. It didn't. And for my leg to grow. It didn't.

But Thursday morning I woke up and felt back to normal! Praise God, the pain was gone . . . until I went into work that afternoon and had to make a trip to the shop. After the 15 min walk I was nearly in tears and limping like an old man. But I sucked it up, completed my shopping and walked back to the shelter where I continued to get the house ready for the evening (it didn't help that I was the only one officially on shift until 5:30). By 6:15 two other team members plus two volunteers were with me praying for the evening and the guys coming in at 7. I told them about the pain in my leg, so they prayed for healing. It didn't happen. They prayed for it to grow. My leg didn't so much as tingle. So I suffered through the rest of the night (but it was an awesome night 'cause I got to chat and pray with two of the residents!). I had hoped one of the residents would be bold enough to ask to pray for me and see something miraculous happen! Yeah, that didn't happen either.

So let's fast forward to tonight - Friday night. Around 9 Justyna and I were sitting outside enjoying a cuppa and chit-chatting. She had laughed at me earlier when she saw me limping around. So sitting out there I mentioned how I thought God was going to make me ask for prayer for my leg on Sunday, esp since the sermon will be about extraordinary healings. She asked if I didn't want to, and I said something along the lines of, Yeah, I guess I do. Full of faith, I am! Then she asked about the pain and if it hurt for real. Um, YEAH! Then she asked if I had prayed for myself. I just started laughing. 'Cause right when she asked that, I remembered the word that was spoken over me on Wednesday morning. Of course I hadn't prayed for myself! The thought hadn't even crossed my mind! So I told her why I was laughing and that made her laugh.

The thing about Justyna is we always have a great laugh when we're together. And it's rare we ever stop laughing long enough to have serious conversations (well, that's a bit of an exaggeration). So when she asked if we should "try out what the bible says" and pray for healing for my leg, I wasn't too sure she was serious. Esp since she was laughing as she said it. But abt 10 min later we stopped laughing long enough for me to show her the difference in lengths of my femurs. Even outside, in the dark, by the firelight, it was quite noticable. So she prayed a simple prayer for healing and for my leg to grow. Then I prayed a simple prayer for healing and for my leg to grow. We were fighting laughter the whole time, just 'cause that's the way we roll. But obviously God took us serious because when we opened our eyes and inspected my legs THEY WERE THE SAME LENGTH! Seriously! MY FLIPPIN' LEG GREW!

I kept walking and jumping around to see if the pain had gone, but it hadn't. But that didn't matter: MY LEG GREW!!!! I almost couldn't believe it -- it's still boggling my mind as I write this post! So I called a friend to come over, even though it was 10 p.m., so he could have a look 'cause he's one that had seen it before and had prayed for it. He definitely noticed the change. WHAT THE HECK?!

So the moral(s) of the story: God is a God of miracles! And when He tells you to pray for yourself, PRAY FOR YOURSELF!

Oh, and fyi, my leg still hurts. But I don't mind the pain now. It's just growing pains!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Since I have to be at work in 8 hours . . .

. . . I'm heading to bed.

But I'll leave you with a few thoughts:

*I'm cold

*My fingers get confused by constantly switching back and forth between British and American keyboards

*I've started adding u's to words that don't need a u -- like colour, flavour, behaviour, mouldy -- what's up with that?!

*I love the fall colours (there I go again!) but I hate that it's starting to get dark at 4:00 p.m.

*I'm excited for team training tomorrow. Apparently God was moving and touching lots of the residents at the Nightshelter tonight.

*I got so caught up with life here I never got to print and mail off my ballot. So I'm really bummed I didn't get to vote. But I'm praying for God's will to be done.

*Speaking of praying, let's remember God's word:

"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and HEAL THEIR LAND."
~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Get off your butt and vote!

Disclaimer: Although I'm part of what a newspaper-reporter acquaintance of mine would call the "*indistinct muttering* religious right," I just want to encourage EVERY U.S. citizen to JUST VOTE! No matter who or what party you vote for, if you're registered to vote, JUST VOTE!

If you're anything like how I was a few years ago, you're barely even aware that there's an election at all. In 2000, I was in my early 20s and VERY full of myself and absorbed in my own little world. 8 years later, President Bush is about to finish his second term. I finally got my act together by 2004 and voted for Bush myself, but in retrospect, it would have been nice to have been a part of the 2000 election, as crazy as it was, to at least tell my grandchildren about it, right? :) Anyway, that is my personal history. In 2002 when there was a gubernatorial race, I wouldn't have known where or when to vote if all the political ads hadn't been airing nonstop on network TV. (I didn't have cable then, and Tony Sanchez was running for Texas governor against Rick Perry, and I got SO SICK of Sanchez' nonstop commercials that I voted for Perry out of spite!) I even remember there being some kind of special election in the middle of the year and getting mad hearing about it on the news after the fact because I didn't even know there was an election. What the heck? How come the election officials don't just send out a mass email to everyone and remind everybody when to vote and where the polling locations are??

Of course, as the years go by and technology keeps blossoming, it's harder to live under a rock, so you probably already know there's an election. :) As for me, I'm a citizen of this country, I'm registered to vote, I already decided months ago who to vote for, and I've got gas in my car. There's no reason why I shouldn't exercise my right to vote.

I think as you get older, you learn more to appreciate this right. When I worked at a local candidate's campaign in 2004, we didn't have 18-year-olds calling us asking us for a ride to the polls; we had elderly voters calling us. My family tried to raise me to appreciate basic American freedoms such as voting, and it's finally starting to sink in for me. (My mother immigrated to the U.S., legally, when she was 3 years old, but that's another story. :))

Recently, I've had conversations with people who have really strange reasons for not voting. One guy I talked to said he was a Democrat and belonged to a labor union, but he won't vote because he said all elections are rigged, so he just doesn't bother. Huh?? I couldn't respect his political opinion, because he wouldn't back it up at the polls. (And, not to mention, the rest of his ideas were just really irrational and out of whack.) And, quite frankly, a blanket accusation saying that all elections are rigged is an insult to campaign volunteers who work tirelessly and sacrificially, often as a labor of love, if their candidate ends up losing.

On the other end of the spectrum, a friend from church told me she won't vote because she doesn't want to elect the antichrist, and that her mama told her she didn't have to vote because she was a citizen of heaven. Huh?? I know she's talking about a verse in the Bible, Philippians 3:20, that says that Christians have their "citizenship...in heaven." But in its context, it basically says that we Christians should behave ourselves in a way that's consistent with our eternal destination. I should have explained to my friend that she doesn't have to pay taxes to heaven, and that heaven didn't issue her driver's license. (Plus, we women haven't always had the right to vote in this country! It's something we shouldn't take for granted!)

Whatever your reasons for voting, JUST VOTE! Educate yourself as much as you need to on the issues, or do whatever you need to do to make a decision, as long as you JUST VOTE! (You still have a little bit of time if you're still undecided, anyway. :) (JUST VOTE!)) Where I live, early voting starts tomorrow and continues through Halloween. The main day for voting nationwide is November 4. If you live in Dallas County, you can get more information at http://www.dalcoelections.org/

I like to avoid crowds, so I'm gonna do my darnedest to get off my butt and JUST VOTE! early, sometime this week. :)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

This one's for you, a.

It's called Desert Song from Hillsong.  

This is the story behind the making of the video:


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm LOVIN' it!

For nearly two weeks my friend Elaine has been walking around the Nightshelter singing a song: "I will bring praise! I will bring praise! No weapon formed against me shall remain! I will rejoice! I will declare! God is my victory and He is here . . . " I've FINALLY found out the name of the song and immediately came home and googled it:



Isn't is amazing?

Things have been going well. Ups and downs, actually, but God is good. The Father's Heart Conf was really good. I have about 6 hours to make up of work, though, since I went to morning and afternoon sessions for two days when I should have been working afternoons. I'm still working through some of the charasmatic stuff that transpired. I dunno. Not ready to really get into it on the blogosphere . . .

The highs of the conference definitely brought on some lows in the shelter. Friday night was massively difficult. (Does that phrase even make sense?) Tensions were high as some came in drunk and others wounded from fights out in the streets. So I shouldn't have been too surprised to have to step between two different guys during two different fights. Thankfully the peace of God was upon me -- I wasn't scared at all. My only concern was that I was going to watch a group of residents kill a guy and I couldn't stop it. My coworker, Chris, was leading and about ready to crap his pants! During the most intense fight one guy threatened to kill another because he had disrespected me. His girlfriend was trying to push him out of the room and once I heard, "Don't you EVER talk to Debbie like that again! I'll kill you! I'll kick your a$$ for talking to her like that!" then I immediately stood in front of him trying to get his attention to let him know I was ok and he didn't have to do what he was doing. We eventually got him out of the room and calmed down. And it struck me how loyal these guys are. He really would have beaten this guy up for me. Later in the night I was grateful the residents didn't hear what a new guy said. Esp since he was new, they wouldn't have thought twice about it.

Tonight was better. But my poor friend Bryan was on gate when 5 people came up for the ONE remaining bed. Before he had gone out there they asked me if it was ok that I was doing kitchen again and I said absolutely. I HATE having to turn people away. He had been in the same position as the residents just four years ago, so it was really hard on him. One guy didn't take it too well so got rather verbally abusive and threw things around outside and kicked the door. He left before the police came 'round.

Ok, so it may sound really intense and my mom is probably freakin' out while reading this (and I haven't even disclosed everything!), but it's all good! Seriously! And I'm lovin' it! It's amazing how much God protects us, too. No one's been hurt during the fighting; they don't even come to blows! Even though some have tried to come into the house when refused entry, they don't make it in. We all arrive and get back home safely. The support is AWESOME, as well. If an incident occurs we can immediately call the manager on call and talk the situation through with them and they are faithful to immediately pray for us.

Working at the Nightshelter may be a far cry from teaching Kindergarten, but I know I'm here for a reason and there's been so much grace. I still haven't experienced any major culture shock or homesickness. Sure I'd love a plate of tamales, pan dulce, and some Chick-fil-a (prob not all at the same time . . . ), but it's all good! Sure, I'd love to hang out with the fam and see some friends, but it's all good! Sure, I'd love to be HOME for the holidays, but it's all good! God is faithful and has brought me here for NOW and for a purpose. And being here, I feel like I've been here forever. Yet at the same time I can't believe it's passing so quickly! It'll be 4 weeks Thurs that I arrived. Unbelievable. And the managers at the Shelter have so much faith in me. It's a bit scary! I'm seconding loads the next few weeks. I'm actually leading one of the night shifts this week and leading a late shift next month. Scary! I'll be the one making the ultimate decisions if something kicks off. Yikes! But God is good! And He's equipped me to do this, right?

Anywho, as you can read, your prayers are much needed!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

No Hobbits Here

Since arriving in Bedford exactly three weeks ago, I've been hearing about the upcoming conference "Touching the Father's Heart" by Peter Jackson. No not the LOTR Peter Jackson; the Canadian pastor Peter Jackson who teaches about the Father Heart of God. Yeah, I hadn't heard of him either.

Well, at the last minute, as usual, I decided to buy a ticket. I'm working Fri and Sat evenings, so at first I didn't think I could go. But seeing as how it started on a Thurs I could go to that and seeing as how there are morning and afternoon sessions could go to those as well and just work the hours I miss later in the week.

Anywho, tonight was the first day of the conference and it was very powerful. Reminiscent of World Mandate worship time, just on a way smaller scale. And of course no James Mark. I had to get used to the more intimate setting, the three member band, and the fully lit room. But once I stopped worrying about man, I was able to focus on God and truly engage with him.

I'd say tonight was a rather charasmatic experience. Not necessarily nothing I've not experienced before, but definitely different. But there was just a powerful moment of lying on the ground before the altar, as a symbol of surrender to God. People responded in different ways -- some laughing, some shouting, some weeping, some just being still before the Lord. Only God knows everyone's heart, so who am I to say whether something that's different from what I've experienced is wrong? I personally left a nice puddle of snot and tears in my wake . . .

All in all, it was a good evening and definitely refreshing. I'm going to the morning and afternoon sessions tomorrow and the morning session Saturday. I'm excited about receiving a deeper revelation of how much my Daddy loves me, because then I'll have the confidence to do anything and to love without reservations.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Questions

It's amazing the favor I've had with the guys at the Nightshelter. From the time I arrived they were very accepting and responsive. And over the past two weeks I've not had a cross word with any of them.
Now I just need to work out the next step. I've come all this way to be a practical representation of Jesus; to be the hands and feet of Jesus, if you will. And they've accepted me and opened up to me. But how do I respond to the girl telling me about the hatred she has for her father because he abused her from the time she was a toddler? And how do I respond to the 17 year-old who came in hallucinating from drugs he almost overdosed on? And how do I respond to the middle-aged drunk man who was sexually assaulted and now has death threats against him because he went to the police?
It's one thing to have to turn someone away on a cold and wet night because there are no beds available. It's another to have the words to say to the broken ones who do make it through the door. How does the girl from Texas whose never touched a drug, been mistreated, and who has never doubted that her daddy loves her respond to such brokeness?
I just don't know sometimes . . .

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Seriously

I should be asleep.  It's 2 a.m.  And I was sleepy 3 hours ago.  But then I came up to the sleepover room here at the Nightshelter and pulled out my computer.  Which is dangerous, considering I don't have wireless internet at the house I'm staying in.  I started reading blogs.  Then perusing Facebook.  And chatting with my Mom.  And now I can't seem to find sleep.  Or I'm not allowing myself to sleep.

Just to clear my head, here are Facebook statuses I would write if I obsessively updated Facebook statuses every other minute:

*Debbie can't believe her family got to swim back in Texas this weekend when she's suffering in temperatures below 40 degrees!  And it's not even winter yet, people!
*Debbie is sleepy, but too addicted to the internet to sleep!
*Debbie is loving church at King's Arms.
*Debbie misses her mom after instant messaging her.
*Debbie can't believe she's missing all new episodes of her shows AND that 24 is starting up again in November!
*Debbie hates that all the pirated episodes of her shows keep getting taken off the internet before she can watch!
*Debbie needs to stop going to the American shop in Milton Keynes and purchasing things for 3x their value!
*Debbie is excited about making the American brownies she paid two arms and two legs for.  (It was THAT expensive!)
*Debbie can't decide if she wants to work a split shift in the morning, which would involve her waking up and working from 8:30 to 9:30 and then coming back in the afternoon at 3:30 instead of 2:30.
*Debbie has less than a 5 min walk from home to the shelter, but has STILL managed to be late three times already!  Oi!
*Debbie needs $800 for a return plane ticket in March.
*Debbie needs to trust God to provide for all her needs.
*Debbie would like a new computer battery, but it's not a great need.
*Debbie can't believe she's STILL discovering neat Mac tricks nearly two years after buying her computer.
*Debbie figured out how to connect her Mac and new mobile over bluetooth and transfer pics and music.  Problem is now she needs a memory card for her phone so it can hold all the transfered files . . . 
*Debbie had a fun weekend hanging out with girls.
*Debbie thinks the honeymoon is over and will soon discover life without weekends off.
*Debbie has only experienced culture shock one time in the past two weeks, when she was reminded that it's so not a big deal for guys and girls to house share here.  That would NEVER happen in the States!  (At least not w/in Christian circles.)
*Debbie is surprised that she's not really homesick.
*Debbie bought canvases and paint brushes, but now has no money left to buy paint.  She doesn't even know what she would paint if she had it, though.  She just wants to paint.
*Debbie is surprised by how much she's changed in only 4 years.
*Debbie is surprised by how much she hasn't changed in 4 years.
*Debbie wishes she could play with her nephews and niece.
*Debbie hates that everything she's cooked so far hasn't tasted like it should.  The flavors in this country are not flavorful enough for her!
*Debbie is already running low on proper chili powder.  After only two weeks!
*Debbie has eaten a heck of a lot of potatoes since being here.
*Debbie wishes she could have found proper Italian sausage for her pasta dish tonight.
*Debbie is happy there's another American on staff at the Nightshelter.  It's nice hearing her accent.  Perhaps she's a bit more homesick than she thought . . . 
*Debbie needs to be use the potty but can't be bothered to get up, put on her shoes, and get the keys & mobile all so she can go one door over to the bathroom.
*Debbie met someone she can tag along with to work -- a teacher in a school outside of town who teaches the exact age group as Debbie!
*Debbie is sleepy.
*Debbie is going to bed.
*Debbie says, "Goodnight!"

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

One down, two to go

Night shifts, that is.
I'm very sleepy and should prob be alseep by now. I try to stay up as late as I can so, therefore, I'll sleep a bit late ('til 6 or 7, I hope). But it's nearly 11 and I need to be tucked away in bed.
I was very happy to meet my fellow American colleague who was on holiday last week. Maybe it was the raw emotions of having worked all night, but I had the sudden urge to throw my arms around her and give her a huge hug once I heard her accent. We only talked briefly since I was leaving as she was coming, but we've already started making big plans for Thanksgiving and baking all things pumpkin. Yay!
Ok, I must be off to bed now. Esp if I want to wake up with enough time to cook up some good eats for tonight! I brought stuff for nachos last night - YUM! I'm thinking I want to make carne guisada today, but that depends if I wake up with a spare hour and a half to cook. Guess we'll have to wait and see! Night!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hello, world! I have PMS!

Honestly, I'm not sure why it's considered inappropriate for a woman to admit to people that her temporary insanity is largely due to hormones. This weeklong distortion and amplification of emotions is a fact of life, and the sooner a woman (and the world around her) learns to live with it, the better.

As a Christian, I'm learning that God allows women to go through PMS to learn how to manage their emotions. Not every emotion that comes along is wrong to feel (i.e., anger). It's what you do with it that matters. For me, I know that for about a week or so, I'm going to be more irritable, arrogant, anxious, and overall unstable than usual. It's a time when God seems to be farther away, so I need to be aware that it's probably because of the hormonal fog in my brain. I'm going to have a bigger appetite (so fried chicken or a burger will probably be OK), and yes, chocolate becomes a drug that mysteriously helps me feel better! I'll feel more fatigued and just overall bla, so I shouldn't necessarily feel guilty about feeling tired or sluggish. If anything around me seems more annoying than usual, it's probably the hormones. And since my judgment is clouded, I try not to make any major decisions during PMS! The night before it ends, I'm probably going to have a mini-meltdown, cry a lot, and reevaluate my life.

Of course, if I mess up -- act like a total witch around everybody or make really stupid decisions or pig out unnecessarily -- I'll need to be responsible for my actions. (If I offend anyone, I'll need to apologize... and people will need to call me on that. :">) But it's good to be aware that this mini-war will rage inside me temporarily, and everything will be OK in the end.

I think I'm so into mastering emotional awareness because in recent years, keeping my emotions in check has been a MAJOR challenge that I've had to learn (and am still learning). In the past, I've taken out my crap on people and allowed my brain to fry in the heat of some uncontrolled emotions (i.e., anger, rage, anxiety, jealousy, you name it!). I, uh, learned a lot in my visit to a psychiatric hospital and follow-up therapy several years ago. :"> The antidepressant they put me on was SO nice because it numbed me back to normalcy. After I tapered off the drug, I started feeling my emotions WAAAY strongly! (I wasn't just happy, I was REALLY HAPPY!!! I wasn't just scared, I was REALLY SCARED!!!) Learning how to control them without medicine has been an adventure (understatement!) and a rewarding journey.

Now, I can even recognize emotional PMS changes in other women, and being sensitive to that is helpful in getting along with them. (Of course, anytime a woman fails to control her temper doesn't automatically mean that she's got PMS. :">)

One of my favorite episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond is the one where Ray tries to get Debra to see how crappily she treats him when she has PMS. He says, "This isn't Debra! This is the woman who shows up once a month to rip into me like a monkey on a cupcake!"

Mmm... cupcake. Yes, world, as I write this, I do have PMS. If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go raid my kitchen for some chocolate. :o)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Transforming Lives

One of the coolest things about coming back to work at The Nightshelter after four years is seeing what God has done in people's lives in that time.

I've already mentioned Bryan, one of the guys currently working at the Shelter that was a resident when I first came over 4 years ago. He used to smoke (cigarettes and cannibas) multiple times a day. He went to church, but didn't do much beyond that. He had been homeless since he was 15 (I knew him at 19), so inevitably dropped out of school. In these four years he has matured tremendously. He's become a man of God and it's amazing to see him working with the guys. Even walking around town, he knows most every street guy and they all seem to respect him. He boldly speaks the truth of God's Word into their lives. Just the other night a guy agreed with another resident that he was ugly. Bryan quickly said (even though he was starting his 3rd waking night shift and very tired), "But what about when it says in the Bible that you are fearfully and wonderfully made? How can you call yourself ugly when you're God's creation?" I was blown away that he thought to say that!

Another guy who I've seen around church but haven't been able to speak to is Marty. He arrived at the Nightshelter with a friend of his from Ireland. Marty had stayed at the Shelter a couple years before and when he and his friend decided to leave Ireland they made their way to Bedford and the Shelter. When I knew him, he couldn't bring himself to come to church. He would set out to church every Sunday morning, but was never able to actually walk through the front door. Eventually he did, and shortly after that his friend died of an overdose. Rather than turning from God out of pain he was able to turn to God with his pain. And after some healing he even met and married a lovely girl, whose name escapes me at the moment. Now, he's one of the volunteers who helps set up before and after services, so is always one of the first to arrive and last to leave.

This evening I talked to another guy named Dave. In the time I was on Project he lived in both the Shelter and Barton House (the transitional house for the homeless King's Arms runs). I saw him at church tonight, somewhere I never would have seen him four years ago since he was quite bitter towards God. He now has his own flat and just recently celebrated the first sober birthday he's had in 15 years!

Seeing these guys all these years later gives me a renewed hope for the guys I'm serving now. It IS possible for lives to be transformed, and I'm fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take part in that transformation!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I must've missed the memo...

that it was Show up at the Shelter Drunk Day!

We had 3 guys come up that were highly intoxicated. Two were allowed in and sent to their bed. The third couldn't even stand up straight and wasn't allowed inside. I think he had been barred, anyway, and must've forgotten when he decided to come try for a bed. I ended up calling the police because he wasn't leaving and we didn't want the neighbors complaining. Then one of the guys who was sent to his bed up and left and his girlfriend ran out after him. Once they leave after coming into the shelter for the night they're given 1/2 a warning (after 2 warnings you're barred) and they're not allowed back in until the next night. I feel bad for the girl who ran after her boyfriend because she left so impulsively she didn't even grab a coat, and she was wearing a short skirt and t-shirt! I hope she manages to stay warm tonight...

After the first crazy hour, things calmed down. I went out back to talk to B, the second guy that got sent to bed, when he was allowed out for a cigarette. He was very upset with my fellow staff members, so I chatted with him a bit and got him to calm down a little. It was sad talking to him. He had just found his parent' gravesites and had been spending a lot of time up there. They died when he was 15 (he's now in his 50's), and after they died he basically had to raise himself. He got quite emotional about it all. He also told me about his kids, who are around my age, that he hasn't seen in ages since he's allowed alcohol to consume his life. He truly is a broken man and he needs a revelation from God. He relies soley on his support worker, who happens to be my friend Justyna. It's hard for her because he's basically placed all his hopes in her -- that's she'll reunite him with his children, that she'll find him an appropriate place to live, that she'll always go to doc appointments with him, etc. Let's pray that B will have a revelation that GOD is what he needs and the only One who can sort him out.

I want to share more, but it's nearly 1 a.m. and I should be off to bed. Ciao!

I'm cold

And it's only September. It's gonna be a long winter.

I slept nearly 10 hours last night. Maybe a bit more. Don't know if it was exhaustion or delayed jet lag. I did a sleep over @ the Nightshelter on Tues night and I didn't sleep at all. I didn't go up until 1 because I was talking to Bryan, one of the staff members who was actually a resident when I was working there 4 years ago (at which time he was 19 and had already been homeless for 4 years). We had a lot to catch up on! Then as soon as I laid my head upon the pillow, ready for sweet dreams, I heard the water boiler. And what sounded like running water as if someone was showering. Oi! That lasted long enough to wake me up. So I slept on and off, fully aware of having to keep an ear out for the emergency phone and not wanting to oversleep since I had to go down at 8:30. Therefore, I was wide awake at 6.

After a quick washing up of breakfast dishes and kicking the guys out at 9, I had to rush into town to the offices because we had a training entitled "The Art of Defusing." Conflict, that is. It lasted all freakin' day. But it was helpful. A lot of the core elements are exactly the same as the ones you learn as a teacher. Only these guys aren't little ones. And they're usually drunk or on drugs when they're involved with conflict. Other than that, just the same.

I had a nice evening off. Jez made us Shepherd's pie and then rushed off to a Healing Prayer team meeting. Justyna told me I should go to have a look at the eligible guys, but I thought better of it. Lol! We ended up hanging out at home, drinking coffee and tea out in the garden...in the freezing cold. We didn't stay out there too long.

I still can't get over how quiet the shelter is these days. The guys are all chill. Well, there was one incident on gate Tues night. We refused to let someone in because he was drunk and had just punched another resident when they were down the street. He came back and was banging on the door, but he left before we thought it necessary to call the police. I was back in the kitchen serving up dinner, so I missed most of the action.

The residents are still very happy to get to know me. They're very kind and ask me questions about myself. In fact, I think they were trying to be matchmakers between me and another staff member, but I don't think that will happen. He's a great guy and all, just well into his 40's! But they mean well. It's just a sign that they want to take care of me, in a weird way.

Ok, I'm off until next time!

New pet peeves

As I get older, I learn how important it is for me to know myself. :) Especially when getting along with other people and drawing healthy boundaries, it's important to know which buttons shouldn't be pressed, right? During one stage of my life, I unearthed a whole batch of pet peeves (dated 8/22/06, which you're welcome to read on this blog that I share here with Debbie). Now some new ones have surfaced.

1. Terms of address. In Texas, it's common to refer to a stranger as "Sir" or Ma'am," traditionally out of respect for elders, but really I think it's more out just of respect for other people, especially strangers. I normally call cashiers at the grocery store "Sir" or "Ma'am," even though they're about half my age. (Shucks, even my own mother sometimes calls me "Ma'am.") On the other side of the coin, if you've barely met me, PLEASE DON'T CALL ME "SWEETIE!!" Just because I probably look younger than you, and you haven't figured out how to pronounce my name yet, that does NOT give you the right to call me a term of endearment! (One man who was handing out bulletins at church even called me "Darlin'" once. AAAGH!!!) "Ma'am" or "Miss" would do just fine. Besides -- how do you know how sweet I am or ain't until you get to know me? :">

2. Marital status discrimination. Yes, according to one discrimination training I attended at a previous job, this one does exist! No wonder it felt wrong for older people at another job to give me crappy hours just because I was young and didn't have a family to hurry home to. (Mainly it bothers me outside the workplace, though.) Can you please not take me for granted just because I haven't found Mr. Right yet? My time is just as important as anyone else's; I'm just not responsible for managing it with a husband and family yet.

3. Not replying to my emails/messages. If you email or write me, and I reply back, I've done my part in the communication, right? And I understand that life gets busy. A friend of mine and I email back and forth, literally about every 3 or 4 months, but it's consistent; we've faithfully kept in touch since college. But if I send you an email or phone message, and then I wait a few months for you to reply, and then I run into you and you're like, "Hey! I haven't heard from you in a while!" and this is the trend in our friendship, I'll probably be like, "Uh, the ball's in your court, babe." I mean, how hard is it to hit the Reply button, type something briefly, and hit Send? Just sayin'. :)

4. Maturity: listening skills. Part of growing up means learning that life doesn't revolve around you. (Or that it shouldn't, anyway.) So, when you're carrying on a conversation with someone, it's important to listen, i.e., mentally compute and store, what they say. Remember it for later. Match it with one of your experiences. When I am sharing a dream or my heart with you, can you please at least make some kind of effort to remember it? Or at least part of it? I spilled my guts to people years ago about crushes I've had or dreams I've pursued, and months or years later, I'll have to repeat the whole thing. I know you've probably slept since then, and I've done the same thing, but after a while, it gets old. In a lighter example, one friend of mine keeps asking me where I work, and I've told her half a dozen times. And usually when I answer, I catch myself sighing frustratedly and making myself not explode. AAAGH!!!

5. Maturity: opinion vs. fact. This is America, where you're free to enjoy a variety of almost everything. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and not everyone is going to have the same taste. For example, if I listen to someone tell me how much they love New Kids on the Block, and if I politely hold my tongue because I think NKOTB is one of the most pointless bands of all time, and I have awkward childhood memories of not liking the same music that every other kid in America did back then, can you please not make gagging noises when I tell you how much I love The Carpenters or ABBA? They're an acquired taste, really (yes, like bacon mints...long story). But just because you think one band or form of entertainment is the greatest in the whole world, doesn't mean it is. It just is to YOU. And I can respect that. :) Thank you for the music.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Remembering His Promise

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favour
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion --
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
insead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of the spirit of despair.
They will be called OAKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of His splendour.

~ISAIAH 61:1-3

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

So far, so good

Day 1 went well. I refamiliarized myself with the shelter and met a couple of the new staff members who were in. The guys were very accepting as well (thanks for praying!). Most all of them had heard of a new American starting named Debbie who'd be living with Justyna & Jez. A couple even knew my age. Justyna was telling me that she had talked to some on Friday and they were asking about me saying, "There's a new girl starting, yeah? Her name's Debbie. She'll be living with you. She starts work Monday..." She was surprised they knew so much, esp since at the time I didn't know when I'd be starting!

I really didn't get to talk to many of them. Only in passing. I spent a lot of time talking to one guy, I'll call Vic. He's from Nigeria. And he basically started preaching to me -- way to turn the tables! It was good, though! He was saying as Christians Christ's resurrection is at the core of our being, and we have to have faith that He is able to resurrect that which we thought was lost (for example, that He'll provide in our need, that He'll heal our sickness, etc) He also told me how he didn't know why he's ended up where he is, poor and homeless. He's educated and just made some poor decisions and trusted the wrong people. And he said he knew he was there for a reason. Probably so he'd remember the poor, because back in his country he would just pass them by and not give them a second thought. Or he'd have negative thoughts towards them, thinking it was their own fault they were in such a place. I was blown away! And if I were in the same position, I don't think I'd be asking God what lessons He had for me to learn. I might be a bit too bitter or angry for that!

Please pray for Vic - that he finds a job and is able to afford his own place. And that the applications he's submitted for housing will yield something. Oh, and to show you his intelligence, the man studied bio-chemistry, for crying out loud!

I'm working tonight and am on sleepover. That means I'll sleep upstairs in the staff room so I'm around in case something happens and the night staff needs backup. Let's pray it's a peaceful evening like last night. And I have an early shift in the morning, but I'll be going to the offices for a training with most of the KAP staff. So I'll get to meet more of them.

Ok, I'm off to finish getting ready and to pack my bag for tonight. Ciao!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gotta Make It Quick

It's 1 a.m., I'm freezing, & I drank a bit too much water earlier, so this will be quick.

I'm adjusting to England so far. Has it hit me I'm here? I guess. On the day I left I told my friend Elaine I felt disconnected. So I suppose I'm a bit more connected, so to speak.

I enjoyed church at King's Arms tonight. It's nice to be there again and I felt at home. I start working at the Nightshelter tomorrow evening. Please pray it all goes well and that I adjust and the guys adjust to having me there.

I've managed to avoid most political talk while I've been here. Only two convos, both very short. My political views are definitely the minority here in Europe, even within the church, so I just pray I'm not forced into any heated debates. That will more than likely take place at the Shelter if anywhere. The guys aren't quite as gracious as the Christians I meet/know.

I've tried calling home a couple of times, but Mom & Dad never answer the phone. So for their sakes, I'll say I'm fine and adjusting well. So Mom knows, I bought some vitamins my very first day and have been faithfully taking them -- a multivitamin, co Q-10, cod liver oil, and vitamin c. I'm taking them as much for my health as for the sake of my nails, which have grown quite brittle and easily split/chipped. Very sad. I keep them cut short, hoping that will help.

I had fun in Cambridge with Bekki & Debs. I can't post any pics because Jez & Justyna don't have wireless, so I can't use my computer. Perhaps I'll upload pics to their computer.

I spent the weekend hanging out with Justyna. We did some shopping in town yesterday. I'm trying to be frugal, so I spent very little -- I bought a £2.25 coin purse and £3 slippers. It sounds cheap, but it's over $10! I've nearly spent all the cash I bought with me since I had to purchase some necessities as well as grocery shop. But I'm good to go.

Justyna's promised to set me up with babysitting jobs, since she's forcing me to go to a New Kid's on the Block concert with her in January. I've promised to go as long as I can earn the money. She's rather motivated since she purchased the ticket already and has to wait for me to pay her back. Ha!

And it's my goal to learn how to drive a standard transmition while I'm here. I'm legal to drive since I have a U.S. driver's license. Jez said he'll teach me. I have a bit of experience, and I'm thankful that even though I'll be sitting on the right side of the car, the pedals are still in the same order. So I shouldn't get too confused. Hopefully.

Like I said, I start work tomorrow. I'm working late shifts (2:30-10:30) Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri, and an early Wed (during which I'll be in a "conflict resolution" training). I have the weekend off, don't know about Monday, and start nights (10:30 pm - 9 am) next Tuesday. I'm not too concerned about nights. My body is used to being forced to stay awake at all hours. But let's see how I'm doing after two days in a row of it . . .

Ok, off to bed. I hope to wake up in time to go for a walk and then finish organizing my room before work. I'm having to be creative with that last one.

Let me know how you people are doing!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Quick Update

since it's already midnight here and I need to get to sleep.   Below is most of the email I sent out once I arrived.  I only omitted my contact info.  If you're interested in either receiving my email updates and/or want my contact info and you're not on my list, leave me a message.  

It's been a great day so far, catching up with Debs and meeting Elly.  Tomorrow Debs will take me to Cambridge to meet Bekki and after spending the afternoon there we'll finally head over to Bedford.  It still hasn't hit me I'm here.  But that could be because I'm sleep deprived.  Ok, off to bed!  


Hi all, just wanted to update you and let you know I arrived safe and sound.  The flight was very nice.  There was no one in the seat next to me so I got to stretch out a bit.  However, I only dozed for an hour and a half.  No real sleep.


When I arrived at the border check, I had to wait for about 25 minutes for the nice agent to check my documents.  He had to following up with the visa application I submitted three months ago, even though that particular visa was denied, and he also called King's Arms to make sure I really am working for them.  Despite the long wait and uncertainty, I felt rather peaceful about it . . . the first 5 minutes or so.  But I knew God wouldn't bring me this far just to shut the door.  And since he called King's Arms, they knew what was going on and promptly started praying.  The agent was really nice and actually stamped my passport with a 6 month visa stamp instead of the normal tourist stamp, since I would actually be doing voluntary work.  And it was an answer to prayer because he didn't even ask to see my return flight info, which I had misplaced along the way!

Many of you have asked about my contact information, either to send donations or to send care packages/letters.  My mom is handling my finances while I'm away, so you can contact her if you'd like to make financial contributions . . . 

. . . 

I don't start work until Monday, so I have plenty of time to settle in and adjust to the new time zone (we're 6 hours ahead of U.S. central time).  

Thanks again for your prayers and support, and I hope to hear from you!






Sunday, September 14, 2008

We are blessed

Our lights went out Friday night around 11.  We were blessed they lasted that long.

All night long we heard the wind banging against the windows and the rain pelting the house.  The wind was blowing so hard we feared the windows might give way.  A fear fed by the fact that rain water started seeping in through the front-facing windows.  We were blessed that our windows held.

My uncle brought over a little battery operated t.v., and throughout the hours without electricity we would switch it on and soak up the images of the world outside our house, as devastating as most of them were.  Today, we were blessed to be some of the fortunate few that are able to watch the newscasts, both positive and negative.

As dawn broke and the sky began to lighten, we could actually see the wind and rain pounding our house.  We were blessed that we only had to endure a few short hours of seeing the onslaught.

When the rain let up, we stepped outside to quickly survey the damage.  We were blessed that only parts of the fence went down and nothing slammed into our house.

Halfway through Saturday, I don't know when exactly because we were all passed out, miserable from the heat, our electricity came back.  We were blessed, considering that as of Sunday evening there are still over 2.5 million people without power.

We have electricity, water & gas in our home, as well as plenty of drinking water, food and emergency supplies.  I was able to take a shower this morning.  What a blessing!

Ike wrecked havoc on my city, and I'm saddened by the images flooding the television and internet.  On Wednesday I'm supposed to board a plane and fly far, far away from my home.  I'm gutted to be leaving when my city is in such devastation.  I'd much rather stay behind and help my friends and family recover.  But I know they, and Houston, are in good hands.  And I pray many more blessings will be showered upon them in the coming days, weeks, and years.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The good thing about Ike


A beautiful sunset.

Some Pre-Ike Footage

It's nothing spectacular; just wanted to give ya a glimpse of what things are like down here...


video


video
It's looking quite ominous outside.  The sunny skies have been chased away by the outer bands of Ike.  It hasn't started raining yet, but the wind is picking up a bit more.  It's still not anywhere near where it's going to be, though.

I literally just heard the weather man say that there are four factors in storm surge:  storm size, storm speed, storm fetch, and storm angle -- and we have ALL FOUR at the worst case.  Great.

There are areas near the coast that have already started to flood and not one drop of rain has fallen.  How crazy is that?!

Anywho, we're still gonna stay put and see what happens.  My grandma is here now.  She and my uncle boarded up her house and packed up much of her stuff.  She brought some yummy food, so we're having a bit of a hurricane party!

But keep us in your prayers.  Now they're projecting 10-15" of rain.  *sigh*

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

One more week, people

In exactly one week I will be heading out the door and making my way to Bush Intercontinental Airport so I can board a flight headed for London.

YIKES!!!!

And while I'm making the final plans and preparations for my departure, I'm watching Ike churning in the Gulf and they're saying he may cause major damage here, ruining plans for my going away party.

*sigh*

So here are some major things you can pray about:

1.  NO HURRICANE!  I would HATE to not have a final opportunity to say goodbye to my friends and family.  That would majorly suck!  Also, if a hurricane does happen to come this way, that we would have wisdom as to what to do (leave, stay, board up, ride it out, etc).

2.  I would use my remaining time here wisely -- that I would finish up everything NOW and not wait 'til LATER, so I can enjoy my final days/hours and not have to spend them running around going crazy!

3.  Peace of mind -- for getting everything finalized, for leaving my home and family and friends, for trusting God to provide all that I need.


Ok folks, with that said, I'm off to pack my big suitcase and figure out how those vacuum-sealed garment bags work.  Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Farewell, you served me well

Remember when I mentioned ordering a new charger for my computer?  Well, it finally arrived a few days ago and I was giddy as a schoolgirl as I went to plug it in.  My eyes lit up along with the little green light that indicated power was surging into my computer.  Strange that it's green and not the usual orange indicating the battery is charging, I thought.  Oh well.  

I gently opened the top and waited for the screen to magically light, trying to recall what I had been doing when the computer suddenly lost all power and went into sleep mode.  I broadly smiled as all the desktop icons appeared and I checked the upper-right-hand corner to see what the battery icon had to say for itself . . . What the HECK?!  I've never seen the battery icon with an X in it.  What does that mean . . . 

Well folks, it means that my battery is dead.  

*sigh*

Thankfully I can still use my computer without a living and actively charging battery.  I've been testing it out this week, to see how hindering it is to not have a battery.  'Cause after all, it's a luxury, not a necessity.  I can't say that I'm completely content, but right now $120 on a new computer battery isn't in the budget.  Why couldn't this happen while I was working and earning a nice, plump teacher salary, I don't know.  God's funny like that...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I'm shattered!

That's British for exhausted.  I need to start integrating the lingo again so I don't experience too much culture shock come September 18.

Crap.  That date's coming fast.

I had a garage sale today to help raise money for my trip.  ((Is it considered a "trip" when you'll be gone for 6 months or possibly a year?))  I had wonderful people donate some items (like Brandi and Dani -- THANK YOU!!!) and my friend Carla came over with her three kids to help me organize and price.  They were life savers!  Yet as hard as we all worked, my mom and I were still up pretty much all night finishing up.  It was a mess this morning, attempting to set up while people kept trying to sort through boxes that needed to be unpacked.  We were able to drive the earliest birds away (the 5:30-6:00 ones), but by 6:30 there was no holding the masses back.  The two microwaves and 1/3 of the furniture we set out was gone before 7:30!

My parents and grandma were HUGE blessings.  Definitely couldn't have done it all without them!  My grandma's nature is to serve; if she's not able to help you by doing something, then she doesn't feel the love flowing.  So I put her to work sewing up seams that needed stitching, reattaching heads to stuffed animals, and cleaning small appliances to make them presentable to sale.  One of the fancy dresses she mended I decided to keep after all.  Ya never know when you need a dressy dress!

It was a good experience over all.  A bit overwhelming at first and I pretty much agreed to whatever deals people wanted to cut.  But after an hour or so I got my bearings and was able to negotiate more.  And then I decided I really didn't want to have too much stuff left over and was more concerned with getting rid of things.  My parents donated an extra china cabinet and a damaged entertainment center and I was happy that they were both bought and taken off our hands!  Well, the entertainment center is still in the driveway and I really hope the lady who already paid for it comes back for it . . . and that someone who didn't pay for it doesn't take it . . .  We tried to move it back into the garage or at least into the backyard, but it was IMPOSSIBLE.  I don't want to be the one to move it again!

Overall, we made enough to pay for most of my plane ticket!  Or to live comfortably over there for almost 2 months; uncomfortably for 3 months.  And I've been blessed to have people donate money without me having to ask for anything.  It's encouraging to know that God really is providing as I step out in faith!  

The driving force behind me having a garage sale to begin with came from Luke 18, when Jesus tells the rich ruler that in order to inherit eternal life he must sell everything he owns and give to the poor.  It seriously came to mind every single day until I finally sucked it up and did it.  And because I felt God leading me to do it, there was such an abundance of grace to get me through the past few days.  Granted, it's a daily battle not to let my fears get the best of me, but I'm learning how to trust Him more and more each day.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I'm Back!

Kinda, sorta.

I'm back from my unintentional blog hiatus. Well, you see, what had happened was we went to the beach last weekend and I didn't bother taking my laptop since there's no internet connection. Then when we got back from the beach I went to charge my computer and noticed the little charger light kept going on and off. Upon closer inspection I discovered that the end of my charger was damaged. The end of the wire closest to the base that plugs into the wall was frayed -- the plastic coating was broken and the wires inside were coming apart. As I watched some thin wires came undone and even smoked and sparked a little. Needless to say I promptly removed the MagSafe end from my computer and then the plug from the outlet. So as much as it sucks that I have to order a whole new charger for $70+ I'm fortunate that it lasted over a year and a half. Reading online, I've discovered some people's chargers go after only 3 or 4 months. Another problem is their computer gets so hot the magnetic connector gets melted into their computer. So I should count my blessings! But my charger is ordered along with the world traveler adapter kit. I only needed the UK adapter but had to order the whole kit with all the different continents' adapters to get the one! *sigh* I did get a bit a break using the educator's discount and having free shipping. Anywho . . .

Being away at the beach, I missed the closing ceremony of the Olympics. Therefore, there was no proper closure for me. And being without my computer, I haven't been able to look it up online. I seriously didn't know what to do with myself after I got home Tuesday night. But I'm better. I'm SO THERE in 2012 -- it'll be in LONDON! If I'm not living there at that time, I'll definitely still have friends in the area. And I promised my nephews if they saved their money I'll take them with me. I seriously will! Hopefully I'll be working full-time again by then and can supplement whatever they are able to save up. Brandi just told me a story about how Daniel found a penny today and said, "Oh look! A penny! I'll save it for my trip to London!" So they're not going to forget the promise anytime soon and how fun will that be! London for them and the Olympics for me!!!

I'm on presidential campaign overload. I admit I was one of the millions who watched Obama's speech. It was a historical moment. BUT, I must point out that it was inevitable that he would have higher ratings than the Olympics Opening Ceremony and the finale of American Idol -- it was broadcast on every freakin' station! DUH! Any idiot would know that it would be watched by more people than an event that is aired on one station like Idol or 3 or 4 stations like the Olympics. It doesn't take a mathematician to figure that one out! So can we please stop talking about it?

Since we're talking about politics, I must add that I try. I try to stay informed. I try to read up on the issues and the candidates' stances. I try to be interested. But sometimes it makes me just want to bang my head into the wall!

That being said, I've kept an open mind during this political season. However, I cannot go against my gut and my fundamental beliefs; my moral beliefs. As popular as it is amongst my peers and all of Hollywood, I just cannot vote liberal. It's the abortion issue. And I cringe when I hear about Obama's stance on abortion. Sure I care about the environment. Of course I'm concerned about the war in Iraq (I have dear friends over there!). And I'm one of the millions without health insurance! But none of that matters in the face of life; God's creation. So I stick with my gut and vote with the one who closely follows my morals. Then, pray like mad that God's will is done. And do what I can to make sure people with the same moral convictions are elected (on all levels, not just the presidental) so they can make positive changes in the environment, health care, war, and economical issues.

So instead of flinging mud at each other from across the political and virtual blog fences, can we just do what scripture says:

"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and HEAL THEIR LAND."
~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

How awesome is that?! God promises to heal our land! Not just the people, the land. From war. From sickness & disease. From waste & over-consumption. All's we gotta do is PRAY and SEEK HIM and, here's the hard one for us, TURN FROM OUR WICKED WAYS. Something tells me sin and healing don't go hand-in-hand. We've got to face our sin, people. Not just individual sin but our nation-wide sin, and then TURN FROM IT!

Mercy, Lord!




Now, to change subject again, I sure am happy that in a few weeks I'll be out of earshot of the constant political mumbo jumbo and attempted brain-washing. How's that? Because I'm moving to England, that's why! I'm going back to volunteer with King's Arms Project. FINALLY! Yes, I've been talking about it for years; so long I'm sure some doubted I'd ever go. Heck, I doubted I'd ever go! But I find myself 17 days away from a possible life-altering move. And I'm super excited and scared outta my mind, all at the same time! It's a huge step of faith, but God hasn't slammed the door in my face yet, so I'm gonna go through it! I'll update y'all more another time. Now, it's time for bed. I'm in Waco for the last time and I'm excited about going to Antioch tomorrow and worshiping in the church that still feels like home even after 4+ years of being away.










(((Hat tip to Bird for the link re Obama's stance)))

Friday, August 15, 2008

Yours

I thought this appropriate, considering where I'm moving next month and I've been wanting to take a trip to Africa for a while now.



I heard this for the first time on the radio this morning and I definitely had tears in my eyes. And it was neat 'cause KSBJ had a version that said, "Houston" instead of "Nashville." Also, I noticed he added in another verse at the end talking about how he's experienced the shadow of the valley of death that's caused him to question his faith. I would have cried even more had I known it was Stephen Curtis Chapman singing . . .



" . . . provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of BEAUTY instead of ashes, the oil of GLADNESS instead of mourning, and a garment of PRAISE instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called OAKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, a planting of the LORD for the display of his SPLENDOR."
Isaiah 61:3

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Summer Olympics Version

Forgive my obsession . . .

1. I love that my dad sat down and watched the entire beach volleyball game tonight, thinking it was for a medal. When it was over and he found out Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh beat the Belgium Amazon Women in one of many rounds, he got up and facetiously muttered, "What a waste of time!" LOL!

2. When Ryan Lochte won the gold medal tonight I saw his dad cheering for his son with tears in his eyes. And after the awards ceremony Lochte went over to hug his family and give his mom the flowers he was presented. I immediately thought of the reports we hear of how potential Chinese olympic athletes are taken from their parents at age 3 and only allowed to see them a couple of days a year. Watching Lochte with his family made me thankful that they're showing China that it's possible to be an olympic gold medalist without having to leave your family for rigorous training beginning at age 3. Of course the same can be said for Phelps & his family. And many other athletes, for that matter.

3. As I already made mention, I love how at the end of the medal ceremony many of the athletes climb onto the press seats so they can reach up to hug family and pass off their flowers.

4. When the athletes sing their national anthem while standing on the medal stand. It's even more touching when they're so emotional about their win they can't even get all the words out.

5. The predominately Chinese audience always cheers for the winner, no matter if they're Chinese or not.

6. Watching Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson win gold and silver, respectively, in the all-around women's gymnastics. My mom and I, along with the commentators, couldn't believe how low they were being scored at the beginning. Thankfully it all worked out in the end in for them!

7. Seeing the nations come together. Not just each nation competing on their own, but seeing fans intermixed in the audiences, waiving their flags, and cheering for each other.

Finally, this is more of a THINKful thing rather than a THANKful thing: I THINK, IMHO, that indoor volleyball games will go a lot faster if the guys stopped hugging and slapping each other's booties after scoring each and every point.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Tell me all your thoughts on..."

...the olympics!

I've watched more summer olympics this year than I have in my whole life. And I'm actually loving it!

I'm officially a Phelps phan!

And I'm in love with the mens gymnastics team, esp Jonathan Horton. I love the sportsmanship they showed and the fact that they graciously accepted scores well below what they earned in some events, and didn't complain when other countries (particularly China) scored higher than they should have (the same could be said for the womens' team as well). I loved how they rallied behind each other and how Horton constantly encouraged his teammates, took every opportunity to speak excitedly to the cameras, and thanked God for getting them on the medal stand. I loved how they didn't blame a teammate for making a mistake; they each knew they could of easily been the one in that position. Most of all, I loved how they joyously celebrated the fact that they won the bronze! Absolutely no disappointment for not medalling higher or for losing the lead they had early on!

Going back to Phelps: I love watching his mom and sisters as they watch him race. His mom is a nervous wreck every single time. And one sister in particular is balling her eyes out before he even finishes the race! And I don't get the feeling that he's arrogant about all his wins (a total of TEN career gold medals so far!!!); it's almost as though he's racing against himself, seeing how far he can push himself and not necessarily overly concerning himself with his other competitors. Granted, I'm positive he knows they're there! But his goal isn't to grind them to dust . . . or since he's a swimmer would that be "feed them to the fish?"

I love the Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh volleyball duo. Specifically the deep friendship and obvious love and concern for each other.

I think it's funny that every time she pulls her goggles down around her eyes before a race begins, Katie Hoff has deep circle lines around her forehead where her goggles had just been. And then she always rubs along the bottom of the goggles as a nervous habit. At least, I think it's Hoff; they all look completely different once those swim caps come off!

The absolute best moment was the mens 400 freestyle relay. Especially after the French were talking crap about demolishing the Americans! This video is British, but even the American commentator was going on and on and ON about how every way he worked it out there was absolutely NO WAY the Americans could win, the French were just too good. Every American (and non-American) needs to see this, even those of you reading who aren't into the Olympics at all (Bird). Seriously. And I'm posting the 4 minute version, not the 8 minute version you could only see on the [be warned] extremely shady site here. I love how in the 8 min version the French guy with the big mouth stays in the water, stunned, for a solid 5 minutes! And oh, how the Americans celebrate! Quick, go watch before You Tube bans the video: TOO LATE! But I replaced it with the longer version:



Eight one-hundreths of a SECOND, people.

Amazing!
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