Thursday, June 30, 2011

Love all around the World

If you are someone how keeps up with my blog, you know about my sister-in-law, Genae, and her current adventures around the World and how she quickly fell into the footsteps of my dear friend Halley who spent much of last year on the same journey called The World Race. And, if you have kept up with my blog, you have heard how they both inspire me and often leave me longing to join on that grand adventure with them.  I have found myself wrapped DEEP in that longing the last few days. Since being able to Skype with Genae (after more than a month with no communication), I have found my mind wandering to thoughts about how she was simply glowing with joy because of the work she is doing.  I could explode with my desire to hug her and share in that joy!

Genae is over half way done with The World Race and she still talks about how much she loves serving those who need Christ (often amongst the disadvantages of no plumbing and no electricity).  So far she has served in Thailand, Australia, India, Cambodia, Nepal and Malaysia.  This week she heads to South Africa and then will hit 4 other countries before heading home for Christmas.  Even after having friends and family take on that year long journey of service, I can't imagine the roller coaster of emotions and surprising realizations of grace that comes from that capacity of service.

This week Genae isn't the only one leaving me with day dreams of hugging people in far away lands.  My sister, Julie, and my grandmother are both in Ecuador this week on a yearly trip in service to a place that holds a special place in their hearts.  In Ecuador they are laying foundations of love for children and families as well as physical foundations for needed buildings in poverty stricken areas.  It never fails that Julie can't shut her mouth about the Ecuadorian people for months after she returns home (and by the time she stops talking about it, she is packing for the next trip).

In addition, I have another dear friend, Nicole, that will travel this weekend to serve children in Haiti.  You can see her heart for the country and it's children written all over her face.  I have only known her for 2 short months but all it took was me asking her about a previous trip to Haiti for her face to light up and for her passion to start flowing freely.  What a difference she will continue to make there!

And there is yet another great family that I have had the pleasure of getting to know lately that left just this morning in pursuit of China to pick up their newest addition to their family.  A little boy named Caleb will join them in a few short days and will round out their family along side their sweet blond headed littler girl who is anxiously awaiting their return home.

I am blown away by the amount of people whom I love that are touching lives ALL AROUND THE WORLD.  AWESOME!  I often wonder if there are foreign places where I will serve someday or if God has only called those close to me for that type of service.  But, in God's usual fashion, He tends to interrupt my day dreams of "what if" and directs them to the "what are's."  These "what are's" were brought my my attention this time through the book my nose has been stuck in the last few days.

"Same Kind of Different as Me," by Denver Moore and Ron Hall, was a great memory jogger for the things I know God has placed in my heart but needed to be brought back to the surface this week.   This story of Denver Moore, a dangerous homeless man from the cotton fields of Louisiana and Ron Hall, an incredibly wealthy international art dealer, has left me babbling all day about differences that can be made in the World directly around you.  Denver Moore's life has been forever changed by a hometown family who chose not to see a hard man on the streets but a life in need of the love of Christ instead.

I am in awe of the people in the pages of my books and in the real pages of my life who truly care selflessly for others and choose to find kindred spirits both down the street and around the World.  Thanks to Genae, Nicole, Julie, The Fanning Family and Mema, I've had a big dose of the reality towards the reminder of where He has called me to serve in this moment.  This season of life doesn't call me to serve and love those over seas, it calls me to those in Panama City Beach.  He has called me to love those in my new community and support those leaving their community to serve beyond this country's walls.  I am called to show the people of Woodlawn UMC the same type of unconditional love that my friends give to those they meet as they travel deep and wide for the cause of Christ.

So many people think you have to leave the country to make a difference and in many cases that is true. But it doesn't always take a trip around the World to make a difference.  In the case of Ron Hall, his wife Debbie and their friend Denver, they concentrated on what was right in front of them and continue to make a difference today because of it.  God calls those who travel to love as they enter new countries as well as when they are in their home land and God is calling me now to love those in my home and not to get lost in the dreams of other Worlds.

What a HUGE and wonderful God we serve that allows us to be His spokespersons to all the nations.  I am blown away by the work he is doing and the compassion he puts in our hearts to give on His behalf.  Praise be to God for those who make an impact in my life and I pray daily I can be that impact in the lives of others.  Please keep in your prayers all those who are traveling and for them to plant seeds and change lives in BIG WAYS. And as well, for all those who are receiving the love of Jesus to embrace the peace and grace that only He can give.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beach Life

After living in the town so lovingly called "PCB" for 7 weeks now, I have learned a lot about beach life: 
In beach life, it is apparently OK to walk around mostly naked anywhere you want to. 
In beach life, your town goes from being one of those in which you know everyone at Wal-Mart Monday through Thursday to a place where you don't even think about gracing Wal-Mart Friday through Sunday.
In beach life, you get to visit with a lot of old friends during the summer.
In beach life, you make sure you have new friends secured by winter!
In beach life, it's normal to wait 8 weeks on your kitchen to be demolished and redone from a water leak but the handy-men work with a smile!
In beach life, there are wonderful people waiting to make you feel like family.
In beach life, there are a lot of hurting people looking for Jesus and they don't even know it. 
In beach life, there are incredible ways to reach out to those who are hurting. 
In beach life, you have to be me missing ALL 5 of your senses to miss God's beauty!

All of these realizations have given us many new stories and several come with plenty of laughs.  Come visit us and we will tell them all!

Evan and I continue to be blown away by how much we feel at home in our new surroundings and how many missional opportunities we have at Woodlawn to reach individual lives.  We can officially say that we have made it through Vacation Bible School and are attempting to master the Sunday morning circus.  We have said goodbye to one senior pastor and are saying hello to another this week.  The beach life is a world of constant change that keeps us on our toes and just far enough out of our comfort zones to keep us continually looking for Christ and telling Satan to get out of the way!

Here are some photos of a few of the beloved friends and family that have come to see us so far and a few awesome experiences we have taken part in since April 29th:

A sunset Catamaran Cruise could possibly be the most relaxing and breathtaking experience on Earth.

Halley and Justin were here within days of our move.  There are always fun adventures when they are involved!

We had a great long weekend with Mom and Dad.  I could spend my hours with my toes in the water like this.

The pups are officially spoiled and expect beach time too.

What is better than a day in the sun?  A day in the sun followed by a random visit from a sweet friend named Rachel!

If you recall, in my last blog I mentioned the Baptisms on the Beach. It was every bit as incredible as I had anticipated. A few dolphins even joined the party and added to the majesty of it all. These pictures are just a glimpse of heaven as those go into the water for Baptism and has the church stands behind them in their journey.

Peace and love people.  Keep those prayers going for those in recovery from tornadoes, missionaries in the field and those in Panama City that are so close to finding peace in Jesus!