Thanks to my job, I think I’m one of the few adults I know who can say they go to summer camp each year. On Monday morning, we will load up from the church and take off for a week away at Camp Berachah in Auburn, WA. Summer camp is a great opportunity for each kid that gets to go. There is something special about getting out of routine and way from the everyday influences that surround students. Not only does camp have a lot of fun activities to offer students, but the greatest thing it can offer the students is a chance to connect with God on a deeper level. Through worship experiences and gifted camp speakers, students are given the chance to hear God above the noise of televisions, MP3 players, and video games. Each camp is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m always excited to see kids worshiping the Lord without reservation. You can see how tender their hearts are. My favorite moments at camp happen around the alters praying for students and getting to hear what God is doing in their lives. I also love the chance to just hang out with the kids as we go through activities and at meals. Getting to know each student better is one of the highlights of summer camp. If you think of us next week, say a little prayer for the kids at summer camp. I know we’ll be having a fun filled week. I’m positive that God is laying the ground work right now for some awesome things to happen in the lives of our students and I’m so excited to watch and see what unfolds this week!
Healthy Living July 27, 2011
Like most people, I set goals and resolutions at the end of 2010 in hopes that I would see changes in 2011. I’m sure the most common New Year’s resolution would revolve around weight loss and healthy living. I was one of the many people that set a goal about achieving a healthier lifestyle in 2011. While I’m not the picture of health (I had Oreos with my lunch today), I have made some changes that have paid off and I have discovered some fun tools that helped me along the way.
My last day of eating whatever I wanted was January 14th. Since that is my birthday, it seemed appropriate to go out with a bang on that special day before I started to become the disciplined eater that I had once been. Instead of setting my calorie goal as low as possible from the beginning, I decided to take my calorie intake to 1,500. I knew that I was eating quite a bit above that number. Scaling back was all I needed to do at first.
I’m the type of person who needs to be disciplined in my calorie counting. I know that this form of dieting is dreaded by most people. Logging your food and counting up the calories really can be a chore. My sister introduced me to an app on my phone called My Fitness Pal and it has made the calorie counting process so much easier. The app has a database full of foods. If you can’t find exactly what you are looking for you can add it to the database or chose an equivalent food. You just tell it what you ate and it knows the calories and totals them for you. This app also helps you to track weight loss and set proper calorie intake goals. Another great feature of My Fitness Pal is you can add in your daily exercise to keep track of how many calories you are burning. The ones I use most often are related to walking and cleaning. Because I can add cleaning as an exercise, it has made house cleaning part of my weekly exercise routine. Spending the day shopping can be very rewarding when you see the calories you’ve burnt just by walking around for a couple of hours.
My Wii Fit has also come in handy turning this process of getting healthier. I love the features of being able to track your weight and set new goals for yourself. Throughout this process I’ve weighed myself about every 2-3 weeks. I know most people in hard core diet mode, like to weigh in every day, but I have decided not to make that the point. I want to see that over time I am getting better. I don’t want to get hung up on how many ounces different I am today verses yesterday. As long as I was losing weight in the time between my weigh-ins, that is all that mattered. The Wii Fit also offers many fun exercises. My personal favorite is the step aerobics and yoga. I randomly like to throw some hula hooping into the mix or boxing.
Now those of you who know me, you know that I love sugar and all things junk food related. The hardest thing for me is cutting these elements down in my life. Notice I didn’t say out… I do believe that food can be comforting and rewarding. If I decided to eat like a rabbit, I would probably enjoy my life a lot less because food makes me happy and I would miss my goodies. Portion control and allowing myself just one goodie has been a great decision. I also have tried to use the moderation rule when it comes to soda. In fact, soda has been one of the hardest things for me to limit. I’m hopelessly addicted to Diet Pepsi. I do believe it is psychological because Diet Pepsi really doesn’t have a lot of caffeine in it, but for some reason, I feel like I need to have a soda to get my caffeine jolt. On a bad day, I’ll have three to four sodas. Not only is that not good for me health wise, but it’s also a lot of money. My goal has been to cut myself down to two sodas a day – one with lunch and one with dinner. At any other time, I drink water, which is always a healthier option.
I’m happy to say that I was able to reach my weight goals before June. Even though the process spanned months of time, doing it slowly was okay with me and actually better for my body. Now I’m learning how to maintain my goal weight. I’m finding that it is easier to lose weight than maintain it. While I’m still learning the tricks of maintenance, I can see that healthy living is always going to be a choice. It’s not going to just happen on its own. I wish I could reach my desired goals and just stay there with no more effort, but that is not the case. Effort is always going to be necessary or I will once again be resetting my health goals at the beginning of another new year. My hope is to avoid this now that I have fallen into a good routine. I’m obviously not a professional, but I have learned a lot over the last six months and it has helped me to make wiser choices. I just wanted to share with you what has worked for me and inspire you to come up with a plan and routine that works well for you!
Waterfalls July 25, 2011
This last weekend, my husband and I got a chance to steal away to the mountains. It was a spur of the moment camping trip. Those that know me well, know that I am not a spontaneous person. Normally my trips are well planned out in advance and in great detail. Jeremy suggested that we go camping on our drive into church on Wednesday night. Of course, there were things to discuss, but once all the details were sorted, in less than 24 hours we were on the road for a mini-vacation adventure.
Before I got married I wasn’t much of a camper. My dad joked that my sister and I’s idea of camping was staying at a Super 8. Since my family wasn’t really into camping, all I had to go off of was an experience I had in 4th grade when I went camping for one night as a Girl Scout. The highlights from that trip long ago were making pizza pockets and drinking Apple Cider from the mix which I had discovered for the first time that night. With such a limited camping history, I didn’t realize that I would become the person that goes on a camping trip every summer. This summer I even get to go on two camping adventures!
By far one of the biggest advantages to camping is the fact that I get to unplug from the real world for a bit. It’s great to travel to a location where there is no cell reception and no electricity. Laptops and television have no place while enjoying the great outdoors. There is something relaxing about sitting at the campfire with a good book while being shaded by tall, old trees. The chance to step away from the busyness of life and the constant connection of technology allows you to hear and see in different ways.
Where we have camped the last two years is called the Lower Fall Recreation Area in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The title of the campground might be lacking when it comes to describing this beautiful area. The Lower Falls are located on the Lewis River and are literally right next to the campground. Our campsite was on the loop closest to the falls and you could hear them day and night as they flowed ever constant.
Psalms 42:7 says, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” This verse came to mind as I visited the falls. There is so much power in a waterfall. You can feel the spray even at a distance. You can hear the water even before you can see the falls. The amount of water that pours over a waterfall is powerful. It’s presence can not be denied! Just like this waterfall, there is a strong parallel to God’s presence. Waterfalls can be very pretty, but their strength can also be intense. When you compare God to a waterfall, you can see how He pours over you. This presence roars – it is not silent! I would imagine that having the waves and breakers sweeping over you might be overwhelming and definitely overpowering! Unlike the truly deadly effects of the Lower Falls, I know that when God sweeps over me, it will not be to harm to me. Oh, it might not feel good, but even in the roar of life, I can see how He uses each situation to speak to me and show me His presence. I am in awe of the God who created this mighty waterfall. His love has an intensity that I can see through the example of nature. I couldn’t ignore the sound of the falls from my campsite, I can not ignore the sound of God in my life. Washed over by His waves and breakers, I can see my dependence on Him.
Changing Seasons July 20, 2011
I’m guessing our unusual summer weather has something to do with this, but I’m desperately craving the fall season. It is my favorite of all seasons. I love scents of fall and the colors of fall. I enjoy the colder nights and the warmer clothing. Fall is hinting its way through these July days. Since I’ve been thinking a lot about the seasons of weather, I’ve also been thinking a lot about the seasons of life. So often nature beautifully reflects what we can see in our spiritual life and relationship with the Lord.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Life has a way of ebbing and flowing just like the seasons on our calendar. There is a time and a place for everything. Not every season is the same. In my Bible reading plan, I’m going through the book of Psalms. In the context of seasons, I can see how each psalm is written in a different season of the author’s life. Some of the psalms are joyous and full of praise. Some of the psalms are pleas for salvation and deliverance from the current struggle.
I find the psalms reliving to my soul. I sometimes feel guilty about the ups and downs I feel in my day to day life. Some days are glorious and I feel like I am on top of the world. During these up days, it’s easier for me to focus on God’s goodness and the blessing He has poured into my life. As a woman in ministry, I feel a strange pressure to always live in these up days. I wish I knew where in my leadership development, I grasped onto this belief that the world must always be sunshine and roses if you are truly serving the Lord. Now let me say, that there are times when I do feel life is full of sunshine and roses. It is easy to be grateful for these warm and wonderful seasons. However, in order for there to be seasons, there must be distinctive changes in the weather of our lives.
Not all the psalms are happy and joyful. I feel a strong connection to the psalms that are gut-wrenchingly honest about the low times. Life isn’t peachy all the time. Hard times come and the only way to get through them is to call out to God. The great thing about these psalms is that they highlight the need for God to intervene in our lives. Salvation comes only from the Lord! When I’m feeling down, I am reminded that I am not the only one to face struggles in this life. God’s anointed servants also had times of great pain, doubt and worry. This shows me that being a committed Christ-follower doesn’t mean I am always magically happy or I no longer encounter struggle. It is real to admit that some seasons of life are harder than others. The harder seasons are what open our eyes to our dependence on God. When things are going good, it’s easy to forget we need God. When all our comforts are stripped, we can see that all we need is God.
As I look outside at this moment, the sky is full of gray clouds with a few small patches of blue. The truth is not all seasons are extreme. There are season of extreme good and extreme bad, but most of the time each season has its mix of ups and downs. Even now, I feel like I’m entering a new season and leaving the old one behind. Each season only last for a time and then it passes on. I’m looking for God and good in all seasons. I know I have mentioned it before – Romans 8:28 has become my mantra as of late – God will work all things for good. This might not seem too shocking of a statement, but I don’t see the big picture like God does. Things that I don’t see as good, I know He will use them from my good and for my growth and development. In each season I will repeat that God has good in store for me and will use all my experiences for His glory. He can use the up times and the down times. He can use the seasons of sun and the seasons of rain.
Lessons Learned from VBA! July 17, 2011
Jeremy and I just finished our week of VBA! For those that wonder about about the “A”, we have a Vacation Bible Adventure, because kids are in school for most of the year and it’s summer time! Not time for more school, but time for some adventure! It was hard not to love this year’s theme from Group Publishing (our one stop VBA shop) – PandaMania! I happen to be very fond of pandas and the Chinese theme was a lot of fun to work with! We turned our long hallway at the church into a bamboo forest!
Now every VBA is different. Of course, the theme changes every year, but so does the vibe of the students and the leaders. We’ve had VBA where the attendance close to 70 and then we have years, like this one, were we top over 120 (122 kids to be exact). We have a lot of BIG events in our Bethel Children’s Ministry, but VBA would fall under probably the biggest because it is the longest. We’re not talking about a 2 hour in and out event! We have 4 days of a fun and then a parent’s night to showcase what the kid’s have learned over the week.
There is a lot of planning that goes into each VBA and there is a lot of evaluating once VBA has taken place. As a leader, I’m constantly growing through each opportunity the Lord gives me. This week has been no exception! Here are some things that I’m trying to master as a growing leader!
- Expect the unexpected! It seems that even when I think that I have every detailed planned out, there is always something that is out of my control. This year, we had supplies for 120 kids. We order 110 supplies thinking we would have extra (since last year we had 86 kids at VBA), but when our registration deadline came in with 103 kids, I knew we needed more supplies. Even with ordering 10 extra supplies, we still had 2 surprises that put us over the limit. Situations like this cause me to stress! I want everything to be fair, I want everyone to be happy, but we were low on supplies! We were able to get creative and somehow it all worked out! We have great kids at our church who were super flexible and shared their crafts willingly with others (major shout out to Caleb Angat).
- It’s all about people! With such a detail driven event, it’s easy for me to forget the true meaning of VBA! It’s all about connecting kids with God. Greeting parents and helping leaders all goes into this overall success of the week. I was blessed by the conversations I had with parents about how they were impressed with that their student had learned that day. I was honored to work beside wonderful volunteers who gave 110% and made the week so exciting for the kids. The greatest gift of all was the conversations I had with the kids and the looks on their faces! It was a joy to watch them bust a move and sing loud and proud about how God was wild about them!
- Take an afternoon nap! Jeremy and I came down with a cold bug that seemed to be going around a lot of our leaders. This made resting and taking advantage of down time a necessary part of VBA week. I’m learning that I have a limited energy supply (I’m totally shocked by this). I took part in many an afternoon nap during VBA. A lot of things can demand my time during such a busy week, but the only way to get through an event like VBA is to recharge the batteries in some way each day so you can be ready to go for the next day! Also, with such an active event, I’ve learned that good walking shoes are a must as well! Happy feet are very important!
As always, there will be things to tweak and improve! Each VBA is a learning experience. God has blessed me with the opportunity to grow and serve in such a wonderful environment. I want to say thank you to all the leaders and parents that made this last week such a success for our students! Since I am so impressionable with music, I would like you all to know that the theme song for the week is still very much stuck in my head!
“He’s WILD, He’s WILD, God is WILD about us!”
Counting Your Blessings July 11, 2011
I have been inspired by a friend and her recent Facebook posts on the various gifts of her day. My personality doesn’t lend me to thinking of the positive very often. I wish it did, so I could be bubbly all the time. Sadly, this is not true. Over the last couple of months I have found myself in a hard place in life. Not necessarily major stuff, but it seems that a lot of small things really can add up.
As a result of these posts that I have seen on Facebook, I’m trying to remind myself of the good things I find in each day. There is always a blessing to be found and counted. I really should do this exercise daily, if not hourly! So I have decided to count my blessings of the day and share them with you!
- My breakfast – a McGriddle (something I don’t get all that often and is oh so yummy).
- Hugs from kids at VBA
- Getting the exact form I needed so I could mail a complete registration packet
- My hubby’s many smiles and silliness
- Ordering new bedding
- Getting into my pajamas early and watching movies
- Day dreaming
- Fresh strawberries from Jeremy’s garden
- Getting the check for my first published article
- A card and gift from loved ones
I could and should probably think of more, but this blog can not go on forever! I now have Bing Crosby singing “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” running through my head. Maybe this what I will do tonight before I go to sleep!
Growing Pains July 6, 2011
Kids are always growing. It seems you blink and they have sprouted up another inch or two. Working in children’s ministries, I have seen many kids go from being shorter than me to being taller than me (which isn’t too hard to since I’m only 5’3). There is an awkwardness that comes with these growth spurts. Things don’t fit quiet right – pant legs are now too short and shoes are a little too small. Kids need a lot of nutrition during this time as they form their grown-up frames. Along with this spurt of growth come the dreaded growing pains. It takes a lot of effort to grow and it can leave you feel achy in places that are being stretched.
I may have no hope of getting taller while on this planet. I’m sure my growth spurts have past and I’m stuck at the height I am now. However, I am in a constant state of growth in my relationship with the Lord. In terms of faith, I am a child of God (Galatians 3:26 – “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”). Notice the word child. I am not a grown up yet and probably won’t be on this side of heaven. I’ll be in a constant state of growth. This means – growing pains! The tension and the pulling of new life situations is shaping me more and more into the person that God wants me to be.
Recently, I have felt that I am in a growth spurt. This makes life a little awkward because things aren’t fitting as well as they used to. Just like a kid outgrowing a pair of shoes, once you’ve moved up shoe sizes the smaller shoes are no longer an option. The awkwardness isn’t as bad as the ache that comes from new growth. Growing is tiring and it hurts. These growth spurts determine how I am growing up in my faith. Each decision is a chance to grow closer to Christ and take on more of His image. Just like the nutrition children need, spiritual nutrition is so important to a growing Christ follower. I am more apt to respond appropriately to life when I have been meditating on the Word of God. The more of the Word I can feed myself, the stronger I will be in these challenging situations.
Growing might not be fun in the moment, but once the effort has been put forth, it is worth it. Kids are so proud of themselves when they are taller than when you last measured them. They can sense they are maturing and they know they are on their way to becoming who they are meant to be. Just like a child, I need to be excited about my growth and not view it as a negative thing. The pains and distractions of growing pains can take my eyes off the fact that God is doing this for my good. There is a reason for the situations I have walked through and they are preparing me and maturing me.
Life isn’t as simple as I once thought it would be. I believed that if you didn’t go looking for drama or hard situations then they would stay clear of you. When I evaluate all that is on my plate, I often tell God I didn’t ask for this stuff and I didn’t go looking for it. How did it find me? I’m starting to believe that what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger. Not all situations in life are grand and glorious. There are a lot of things I would like to edit out of my life. However, these are the situations that will strengthen my faith.
The pain and awkwardness of growth are worth the results. This child of God has had her melt down moments… more like temper tantrums! I want to throw myself down and say I’m done. Fortunately, I have a loving father who doesn’t let me stay where I am at and encourages me to grow beyond the familiar boundaries I know. Life is a continual growth process. Once I master one thing, it seems something else is waiting for me. I continue to trust the Lord has good in mind for me in all circumstances. Even when I cannot see how the growing pains are going to make me stronger, I know that God can see the end result. Daily I must make the choice to grow closer to His image.