Monday, January 28, 2008

Acts 2:44

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the planet. But from my absence here in this place, I understand how one might think so. Never fear! I am alive and well, and am now here...

...to try to write something, I suppose.

I feel like I've got alot on my mind so I don't really know where to start. So I'll just apologize in advance if this seems a little disjointed. It's hard to believe January is almost over. Seems like just yesterday the holiday season was just beginning. I understand people feel differently about that season of the year. For me, it's usually my favorite! I just love the atmosphere, one where people focus on the birth of my Savior, peace on earth, and goodwill toward men. It's an opportunity for me to give to those I love and for me to give to those less fortunate. I don't normally feel any holiday stress. This past year has been the exception. So I suppose my absence here on this blog could best be explained by the fact that I've just spent January trying to recover from December.

But as I look back over the events of the past several weeks...the things that have happened, the places I've gone, the people I've spent time with, all the craziness of the season...when the dust settles, I only come up with one conclusion. I worship with some of the greatest people in the world. Really. I do.

And it makes me wonder...how well do you know the people you worship with???

It's important, you know. I've been trying, for the past several months, to make more of an effort to participate in more activities with my church, and more specifically, with my singles group at church. Honestly, I've had some amazing experiences over the past several weeks, so I just wanted to take some time to reflect on them. I'm not really sure where to start, or how to organize this into something that makes sense, so I'll just go in chronological order and try to share some of those experiences...

The weekend before Thanksgiving, about 10 or so of us girls got together for a night out. We went to Johnny Carino's for dinner, where we ended up discussing the idea of having too much stuff. After dinner, we all went back to a friend's apartment for cheesecake and cocoa or coffee, and we ended up writing a group blog on our singles website about having too much stuff...which ones of us did and which ones of us didn't. It was an excellent time to spend with my sisters, and we drew names for a Christmas gift exchange to do within the next few weeks.

I didn't actually get to go home on Thanksgiving Day, because I had to work both Wednesday and Friday, so I waited till the weekend to go celebrate with my family. That's okay, though, because I was able to spend Thanksgiving Day with my family up here. I didn't do much during the day, but that evening, we met at the Our House homeless shelter to serve dinner. There were a couple of our elders and their wives that joined us in this, as we were able to minister to the people there together.

The first weekend in December, Brent, a member of our class, was seriously injured in a dirt bike accident. His family flew in from Florida, and ever since then, we, as a group, have had the opportunity to support and minister to him and his family. The Tuesday after the accident, a couple of girls that I meet with in a prayer group (usually on Tuesday nights) decided that in lieu of our prayer meeting, we would take dinner to the family and go sit with them while he was in surgery. It was that evening his parents received the news that his spinal cord was severed and he most likely would be paralyzed, with little to no chance of recovery. That evening we were able to go pray with his family and friends, literally cry out to God, and just weep with those who weep.

The very next weekend, our church hosted a blood drive for this young man. That was an incredible experience for me, because I had never given blood before. I was absolutely terrified, to say the least. But I knew it was just something I HAD to do...and I was surrounded by people from my class that sat and talked with me, gave me something to drink, and made sure that I was okay. With the help of my friends, I was able to be just a little bit more like my Savior.

That evening, Kim, the girl from my singles group that had coordinated the blood drive, was in such a great mood because of the extreme success of the blood drive, and she said she was so proud of everyone that had donated, or had helped out even if they were uneligible to donate, that she was going to buy dinner for that evening. You see, we 10 or so girls that met on that night before Thanksgiving, had planned this day, after church on Sunday night, to get together for a pizza party and our gift exchange. So Kim purchased the pizzas and we met at my friend Sara's house. We gathered in Sara's living room, and Kim was the last one to walk back in from the kitchen with her pizza and drink. As she walked across the room and took a seat there on the floor next to the coffee table, she said, "I have kind of an odd request...can we say a prayer? My grandmother is back in the hospital and is not doing very well." I love that Kim requested that we pray together...I didn't think it was an odd request at all. Sara led us in prayer, as we went before God together that evening, lifting up to Him Kim's grandmother, and our friend and brother Brent, and we were able to thank Him for the success of the day and for our lives and for each other. It was just a wonderful way to end that day together, with my sisters, before our Father's throne.

Shortly after Brent's accident, another member of our class needed a little help. Her mom had fallen and injured herself, so we, as a group, again, had the opportunity to help out. This person is not someone that I know well...just an acquaintance of mine, really. But I was able to take an active role in helping in that situation...and what a blessing! What a blessing to be able to be of service to someone who is not necessarily in my "comfort zone" of people that I hang out with on a regular basis.

Speaking of stepping outside of the "comfort zone," helping this friend required me to drop off some food at another of her friends' houses. This guy is someone that is a very interesting person, always has something to say. He intrigues me a little, because I'm guessing that we've got at least a little in common. But I just don't know him very well. He doesn't do small talk. Neither do I. So we don't ever really talk. But when I dropped off the food at his house, he offered me a tour. He showed me his music room. He showed me his "monster room" complete with a collection that takes up an entire bookshelf! He showed me his kitchen...and we spent a moment or two discussing how he might like to remodel it someday. He told me a little about his summer as a short-order egg cook right after high school (I would've been about 4 at the time). It was the longest conversation I'd had with this guy...I think I was there for about 20 minutes or so.

The very next evening, I spent over at Kim's house. She opened up her new home to us for a sort-of "pre-New Years/housewarming" party, where we ate together and watched the Patriots make history. This was an interesting experience as well...because Kim falls into the same category as described above...someone not necessarily in my circle of people that I hang out with on a regular basis. But all of that changed with the above-mentioned blood drive that she coordinated for Brent. That was the day she helped me be a little more giving of myself. Also, imagine my surprise to find out later that evening when we did our Christmas gift exchange that she had drawn my name! And her gift for me couldn't have been more perfect.

New Years Day was yet another opportunity for me to spend with someone that I don't know as well. A guy named Dean opened up his home to host a Cotton Bowl party. Shame it turned out the way it did. But despite Arkansas's loss, I had a great time getting to see Dean's vicious pit bull, Petey...who's afraid of balloons! That's the funniest thing I've seen in a long time! A dog that's afraid of balloons! That was another great day of fellowship that ended with a visit with Brent and his mom.

Things have slowed down a little in January. But we have returned to the Our House shelter to serve dinner. We've been able to pool our funds to raise some money for some of their needs. We've been able to pool some funds for a birthday gift for Brent. Some of us have met to plan the NEXT blood drive that we'll host soon. We've been able to meet on Friday evenings just for some nights of fun, playing games, watching TV, etc.

Over the past few weeks, I've been given opportunity after opportunity to spend time with these brothers and sisters of mine, not only just times to get to know them, but times to worship with them, and times to serve my God alongside them. Just a few hours ago, I met with several of them to plan a future direction for our group to take as we strive to reach out to our community and continue to grow spiritually. Our singles minister shared the following passage, sort of as the goal in mind, his dream for our group at PV:

"All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day the continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."--Acts 2: 44-47

I guess you could say my singles minister is in that above-mentioned group outside of the "comfort zone." He and I don't talk too much. But I do love knowing that his dream for our group at PV is the same as mine.

Sorry if I've bored you all with my reflection over the past several weeks...but each of these experiences has been especially meaningful to me. At least in my mind, they show that we are headed in the right direction already. Pleasant Valley is my Acts 2:44 family.

And I couldn't be more grateful.

I'm Gonna Be An Aunt Again!!!

Well...I guess I shouldn't say "again" because I've been an aunt all this time for the past 4-and-a-half years to the most wonderful little boy in the world!

But now I'll have ANOTHER little one to spoil come late this September or early October! I can't wait!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

8 (Anti)Resolutions for 2008

I've gone back and forth on whether or not to post some New Years' Resolutions here on my blog. I have, indeed, made some. But I tend to be a pretty private person and would much prefer to keep them to myself. However, it is often said that one is more likely to achieve goals when they are shared or expressed to someone else. Also, since I know you all so well, I figure I can trust you guys, right?! ;)

After doing some blog surfing of my own, I found that one of my favorites, Dr. Eyeguy himself, has returned w/his own list of resolutions, or, as he puts it, "anti-resolutions"...things that he is NOT going to do this year. That seems to me to be a little bit easier list to make; so here you have it...my list of 8 things that I am NOT going to do in 2008 (in no particular order):

1. I am not going to worry as much about the things of this world. Rather, I am going to focus on prayer. This is something that, if you take the time to read these ramblings, you might have noticed has been on my mind for quite some time. My prayer life is just not what it used to be; not what it should be; not as focused as it should be. Fortunately an acquaintance of mine (who is quickly becoming a good friend of mine!) drew my name for our single girls' Christmas gift exchange, and she gave me a new journal. She said she noticed that I'm always taking notes and writing stuff down and thought I might like a new one. So I plan to use this new journal from this new friend of mine as a type of prayer journal. Perhaps that will help.

2. I am not going to be afraid of needles. Rather, I am going to attempt to donate blood as often as I am eligible to this coming year. This is a new one for me; it was a mere three weeks ago, when my church hosted a blood drive for a young man in our singles group, that I donated blood for the first time...ever. And I was (sort of, still am) terrified of needles. Seriously. They. Freak. Me. Out. But that Sunday morning, as I listened to the sermon, my minister's words stuck with me, "We give because God gave." (He was speaking in generalites, not necessarily about giving blood, but still...) Then before we took communion, before I participated in the body and blood that was given for me, we sang, "I Am Mine No More." After such a reminder, it seemed that to not give of my blood for no reason (except my own fear), for me, would be hypocrisy at its worst. (And as a side note, it was the above-mentioned acquaintance in #1 that helped me make it through that first donating experience. You could almost say that sort-of jump-started our friendship. So, not only did I give to another, I was blessed by the experience as well!)

3. I am not going to cut my hair (save the occasional trim, that is!) until after summertime, probably sometime in September. I've been growing my hair for awhile, inadvertently at first. But now that I've started, I figured, why stop? I should grow it until it's long enough to donate, as well! I've never done that before, either, and was thinking about it, but before I ever mentioned it, a couple of the girls from church suggested it! So we'll see if my hair is long enough to donate by September. This one really shouldn't be that much of a challenge until mid-July and early-August, when it's 110 degrees and about 96% humidity. Then it'll get interesting.

4. I am not going to be afraid to really worship. This one, on the other hand, will be incredibly challenging for me. I LOVE to sing; but I HATE to do so in front of other people. I've been working on this one for awhile, and will continue to work on having the right frame of mind when I enter our worship times together, so that I just don't worry about it. Also, there are some songs we sing that mention lifting our hands (in fact, we sang two this past Sunday!) but again, I would be very self conscious about actually doing so with others. Sometimes it's just really difficult for me to enter the Father's presence without worrying what my surrounding siblings think. I've really gotta work on this one.

5. I am not going to eat for one whole day of each week this year. If you read this post, you know that I feel like fasting is very much a neglected discipline, at least in my own life. It's just something I've never studied or practiced until very recently. I would like to do so with even more focused intent (this goes hand-in-hand with #1 above) and I will try to work on these simultaneously.

6. I am not going to step on a scale, because I just hate the roller coaster as weight fluctuates up and down. That's right, while most people make New Year's Resolutions to "lose weight," I am going to try to focus, instead, on making healthy decisions to take better care of myself. I hope that I will shed some pounds in the process, but that is no longer my primary goal. Rather, I feel like it should be honoring God with this body by taking care of this temple for His Spirit.

7. I am not going to be a packrat, hoarding possessions that I don't need now and can't take with me. The fact that I am a packrat, with alot of stuff, came to my attention earlier this year after hearing a sermon on the rich young ruler. I gave it some thought at the time and made a half-hearted effort to get rid of some stuff. But then I tried to forget about it and ignore the fact that I still have too many things that I don't need. However, right before Thanksgiving, we single girls got together one evening for a dinner and just some time to spend together. We began talking about this subject, and we even all contributed to a group blog over on our singles website (which I reposted here!) It's still true...I have ALOT of STUFF. So this year, I am not going to be a pack rat. I will try even harder to thin out my belongings, and if I don't need it, I will find someone who does.

8. I am not going to forget how fragile and precious life is and the fact that I should not take a moment for granted. Everything can change in literally an instant. I've been reminded of this over and over again recently. I was reminded of this just over a year ago, with the death of one of my cousins. I was reminded of this just a month ago, with a dirt bike accident that has left a member of our singles group in ICU, in very bad health and paralyzed from the waist down. Even a few short days ago, I was reminded of this yet again, when my dad called to tell me about an accident my sister was in. Her car was completely destroyed, but she walked away essentially unharmed. All of those things happened in the blink of an eye. This past year, 2007, has definitely been a year of refocusing for me, and I pray that I can maintain that focus into the new year, not taking anything or anyone for granted.

I pray the same blessing of focus on your lives as well. Much love to you all.