Monthly Archives: July 2010

Mission Trip

In June I had the pleasure of going on the youth mission trip to Dallas, Texas to work with C2K Ministries. There were 52 youth and 9 adults on the trip, including my older two children. On July 11, those who went on the trip led the worship service at St. Paul’s. Here is what I shared that morning.

This was my first mission trip – ever. Our church didn’t take youth on mission trips and I haven’t felt like I could participate in one at St. Paul’s for a variety of reasons. I have always been envious of the experience other parents have had on the trip. And frankly, amazed at how much they enjoyed the experience. When I had the opportunity this year I quickly signed up…and spent the next 8 months wondering if I that was a good move or not. I had a few concerns

  1. I was a little scared of teenage girls- I live in a house full of guys with my husband and three boys Mason 16, Carter 14, and Gage 12. I know about boys; the smells, the sense of humor, the temperament, the beating each other up to settle an arguments. And I think God knew what he was doing when he gave me boys. I don’t know girls; but I’ve heard a lot of scary things about them.
  2. Before I signed up, I asked my boys if they would mind if I went with them. They said, “Yes, as long as you aren’t that Mom.” I didn’t really get a definition of “that Mom” but there were a few times before the trip where I got the look and realized that was what they were talking about.  I would have to be on my best behavior.
  3. I like to be in control. Most everyone who knows me is aware of that; it tends to show. I knew I wouldn’t have much control over anything that week and wasn’t sure I would be ok with that. I think my husband, Dan, was a little concerned about this too. His last words to me as I jumped in the van were, “Just let it go!”

Ultimately, I didn’t change my mind about going and I’m glad! I learned a lot in that short week.

I learned teenage girls are really different from boys. The pitch and volume of a room full of girls is definitely different. The conversations I heard in that room with 24 girls were not like any that take place at my house. But I learned a lot from listening. You Moms of girls have done a wonderful job of raising compassionate, thinking, driven women. They care about each other. They care deeply about the people we were in Dallas to serve. And they care about their faith and their relationship with God. I was impressed. And not so scared anymore.

I learned that being “that Mom” is just one of those things we all do at some point. I decided my best course of action was to do a lot of listening. I saw such leadership in the men and women I worked with. I was in the green group with the juniors. They watched out for each other and for me. They were insightful, introspective when they needed to be and lots of fun to be around. I only pulled out my Mom voice a couple times – primer really is permanent.

The control piece was a little more challenging. When we arrived at the work site the first day, after being certified in lead paint removal, we didn’t have the tools we needed, we didn’t have a plan for bathrooms and our leader wasn’t sure what exactly needed to be done on the site. I’m a checklist person. I envisioned checklists for equipment, a to-do list for the site and a detailed plan for the day. It took me a while to realize not everyone thinks like I do. We got through that first day with two ladders and no paint rags. We were resourceful – we used buckets and chairs as ladders and my nail file for a screwdriver.  We got a lot done and vowed to double check our supplies the next day. The routine changed the next day, we took four ladders, but only about a gallon of primer. Tomorrow, we’ll get it right and get this house finished before we leave. I was very focused on completing the tasks.

By day three, I hit a breaking point.  I had lost my voice, thrown up while brushing my teeth over a sink full of hair, and hit my head on the bus doors for the second time, I sat down alone, in tears (I hit my head really hard) and thought, “What am I doing here? Maybe this was a mistake; this isn’t working like it was supposed to.” As I was lamenting the fact that it’s a little late now to back out, I wondered what I was missing. What was God hoping I would figure out. I think it was to follow my husband’s advice and Let it go! Ultimately, it’s not about me-or any checklist. It really doesn’t matter if I’m afraid of teenage girls, or if I’m “that Mom” or whether everything is done just so. Not everything we did was efficient and highly productive in the way I am used to judging things. But people connected with each other and those we were there to serve. People accepted each other and welcomed each other. It really was about being in the moment with myself, with God and with others. About giving teens the opportunity to express their love of God through helping others. About allowing them to have a place where they are loved and accepted just as they are. If we got the house painted, great; if not, that’s ok too. And that was a big step for me. It really was about being present in the experience.

I learned so many things on this trip. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to be stretched. These kids are awesome and I’m so glad I got the chance to step in to their world for a week. During one of the evening sharing times Heather talked to the teens about how youth group is a safe place where they can be who they are without worries. Where they are loved and accepted for who they are. “I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” I think we should all belong to youth group. The place where God loves us and there’s nothing we can do to change that.

 Thank you for this experience. Thank you to the youth. Thank you to the other adults that went – it was a great group! And thanks to the members of this congregation for supporting our youth and for giving them this opportunity– it truly is life changing – and not just for the kids!

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Living in the Frat House

It’s got all the marks of a frat house; people coming and going at all hours, sleeping everywhere, sinks full of dirty dishes, underwear in the living room, half eaten bags of chips on the floor and random things piled everywhere.  And guys everywhere you turn who are always hungry. This is my life. And my house. No it’s not a frat house, its our home. It just occurred to me that this is what it resembles. And now I ask myself two questions; why did it take so long for this to dawn on me and should I try to tame the giant that is my household?

Seek first to understand.

I don’t really understand how the dirty underwear end up peeking out from under the chair in the living room. I’m just glad I noticed it before company arrived. I visit other people’s homes and I don’t see this. I walk down to our family room, a space rarely used by the adults, and I’m astounded. It’s really a miracle we don’t have small animals living there. It must be something about gravity that makes it a breeze for them to carry their plates and bowls full of food down the steps and nearly impossible to bring the empty dishes back up. When I point this out, they are quick to apologize and take care of the dishes right away. I’m just not sure why I have to point them out.

I don’t know that it’s really their fault. I don’t know of any teenager who has an eye for cleaning and organization and get a happy feeling from picking up after themselves. But there comes a point when it’s just plain ridiculous. That’s when I announce that I don’t want to come home from work anymore. Not because I don’t love them, but because I can’t stand to be in the house when it’s so messy. That usually results and an all-hands-on-deck-clean-sweep of the house. It’s amazing what can happen when all 5 of us dig in for 15 minutes.

Then to be understood.

I’m a pretty organized person. I’ve even been accused of being a little OCD because of my desire to have things done in very specific ways. {As a side note, my brothers would disagree-or possibly double over in laughter at this comment. Let me just say, I did not have these tendencies as a child when they last lived with me.} I want my kitchen tools sorted in the tool turnabout on the counter; spatulas with spatulas, whisks with whisks, bamboo spoons with bamboo spoons. I don’t think that’s being unfair. I want the things in the junk drawer put back in the compartment with the right picture. The box with the picture of the tape measure should hold the tape measure, not the scotch tape. When I open the drawer to grab the Phillips screwdriver, I want it to be in the drawer. That’s my dream.

I have created a myriad of “systems” to manage our house more effectively. We’ve had color coded checklists, index cards with cleaning jobs, hanging files for dealing with mail. Then there was the “you pick it up or I will and I’ll keep it” system. Turns out I did all the picking up and they didn’t miss their things. We also tried picking up before bed, but then life gets crazy and everyone is late getting to bed and cleaning up first seems silly. I’ve given allowance based on a minimum amount of chores and bonuses for additional jobs. It works until they’ve earned enough to get the latest coveted item and then the motivation is gone.

It’s not that my boys don’t know how to clean; quite the contrary! They do laundry, clean toilets, wash dishes, dust, vacuum and mop floors. They will make great husbands some day. I think they are just saving all their cleaning energy for their wives.

Lest I sound like the nagging mother, I must add ~there are good things about living in the frat house. The camaraderie and friendship between the boys is phenomenal! Our boys really are best friends. They get each other, they will call each other out when necessary and you better believe they’ve got each other’s backs! I like that part of this frat house I live in. It makes me proud as a parent.

So, do I choose to tame the giant that is my household? Some days.

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Where we live

Why live in a place with mosquitoes? Or tornados? It’s funny how we look differently at the drawbacks for a place when it isn’t our home. We spent part of a week in Minnesota camping this summer. During our stay I made some facebook entries chastising people for choosing to live in a place with so many pesky mosquitoes when there are other places without them. In reality, every place has it’s down side. People ask if we have lots of tornados in Kansas and comment on how scary that must be. I hear Texas has the biggest cockroaches {isn’t everything bigger in Texas?}. LA has the ridiculous housing costs and DC has the traffic. So, why don’t those things seem to bother the people who choose to live there. {I say choose, because in this century it really is a choice for most of us. We could move anywhere in the country if we really wanted to.}

But we don’t. We live with mosquitoes, traffic and $11 gallons of milk {OK so that’s Hawaii and who wouldn’t be willing to put up with expensive milk to live in Hawaii?!}. I think we are really creatures of habit. We crave the familiar. Not many of us would venture out to a new part of the country without a job relocation. We want the familiarity of having a basement in our house, being able to go to the grocery store we’ve always shopped at, and even calling our favorite drink a soda or a pop.

When I was young I thought I would move to the east coast after college. I couldn’t wait to go where the action was. I was going to head off to the city and not look back, except for visits to family of course. I was intrigued by the unknown; by the infinite possibilities. Alas, I didn’t go east. I went a little ways south eventually:). You see I met this guy in college…and the rest is history. My dreams changed a little. Eventually we moved to a city, not the biggest city, but much larger than the community I grew up in. I love living in Kansas City. One of my favorite things when I moved here was to watch the news on Saturday mornings and see what festivals or community events were going on. I would pack up the boys and go on an adventure. And every week there was something new. That’s the key for me; possibilities! There is always a restaurant I haven’t been to or a store I haven’t shopped at or someone I haven’t met. I love the endless opportunities.

But I also love the familiarity of people I know, having a basement in my house, mowing my lawn, shopping at Hy-Vee and the good old Midwest hospitality. Sure we have tornadoes and really high humidity, but it’s home. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

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