Supporting Equal Job Opportunities 

Someday, I want to plan a road trip around the nation and up into Canada, where the focus is stopping at businesses that were specifically created to give those with disabilities equal opportunities for work. 

I’ve been collecting names of these places as they come to my attention. Some are businesses created by parents wanting to make sure their growing child had a job opportunity. Others are places that are specifically made to encourage young people with disabilities to become independent hard workers. 

I’ve been looking online to see if someone else had a database list of these amazing restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, as well as gift shops and other businesses. As of yet, it doesn’t seem like anyone else has made a list, so I thought I’d share what I’ve gathered so far.

 Perhaps you might want to grab a cookie and a cup of coffee to support these hard working adults?

Or, perhaps, you know of another buisness I should add to my list?

Bitty & Beau Coffee Shop –Wilmington, North Carolina
 www.bittyandbeauscoffee.com

Blake’s Snowshack–Denton, Texas
 http://www.blakessnowshack.com

Firefly Café & Bakery–Winchester, Virginia
 http://www.fireflycafebakery.com

Puzzles Bakery & Café –Schenectady, New York
 http://www.puzzlesbakerycafe.com

Sunflower Bakery–Gaithersburg, Maryland
 http://www.sunflowerbakery.org

Sugar Plum–Virginia Beach, Virginia
 http://www.sugarplumbakery.org

Special Kneads & Treats– Lawrenceville, Georgia
 http://specialkneadsandtreats.com

Greenhouse Inn Restaurant
Hearts & Flour Bakery
Heartstrings Gift Shop
Twice Blest Thrift Shop  –Chicago, Illinois
 http://www.misericordia.com/shops/default.aspx

Steamers Coffeeshop/Jack’s Bar & Grill — Denver, Colorado (A combined shop)
 http://steamerscoffeeshop.com

Cause Café — Fort Salonga, New York
 http://www.causecafe.net

Samples World Bistro– Long Mont, Colorado
 http://www.samplesworldbistro.com

Harvest Café — Staten Island, New York
 http://www.harvestcafe-si.org

Hugs Café — Mckinney, Texas
 http://www.hugscafe.org

Mozzeria– San Francisco, California
 http://www.mozzeria.com

Collette’s Cookies — Boston, Massachusetts
 http://www.colletteys.com

Rising Tides Car Wash– Parkland, Florida
 http://risingtidecarwash.com

International 

Bread of Life Bakery– Beijing 

Christina’s Tortinia Shop– Brampton, Ontario, Canada
 http://www.cristinastortinashop.com

Signs Restaurant — Toronto, Canada
 signsrestaurant.ca

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Do not grieve (JAF Camp 2016)

Featured

I just recently finished serving a week at Joni and Friends Southern Oregon Twin Rocks Family Retreat. This is my fourth year serving at this camp that caters to family with disabilities. These are families who fight for their loved ones so they can get proper medical treatment, education, and spiritual care.

These families travel across the nation to participate in four days of camp on the Oregon Coast, because there isn’t something like it where they live. While more Joni and Friends retreats are being set up, the need is so great that the demand overtaxes the supply. There are families who plan their whole year around these four days, that is how important it is to them.

This camp is a place where the campers can be kids, and families can focus on just loving each other rather than being on the defense against other people’s curiosity and advice. Here they are eagerly anticipated and accepted. They are not considered ‘other’ or ‘different,’ they are simply seen as someone to love.

Short-Term Missionaries (STMS) are volunteers who come and serve these families. They are all age ranges, from 10-80 at least, who are so eager to love on these campers that they save up all year to attend. This is not a camp where volunteers put in a few hours of work in the kitchen to have a free fun time. No, this is a place where STMS are paired with a single camper and their duty is to be their friend for the week. It’s a place where they are truly missionaries whose mission is to show these campers that they are deeply loved, exactly for who they are. We have STMS who do bake sales, garage sales, mow lawns, build birdhouses, and numerous other things, to raise money, because this retreat is that important to them. $450 is a lot of money for a 13 year old to raise, but they do! And now many of them are raising about that much money again, so they can serve in the next week of camp as well. The STMs love it just as much as the families do.

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All of our camp volunteers (STMS) Nearly a 100 kind spirited people giving of their time and money to serve

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Our whole family camp! Campers and STMS together

This year our camp verse could be found in Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” But, the verse is right in the middle of a sentence. What the actual sentence says is, “Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” 

Nehemiah is an amazing book full of God’s mercies and work. It’s about the Israelites getting to go back to the Promised Land, after being put into the chains of slavery due to their sinfulness. It’s about a pagan king who listened to the voice of God and allowed his cup-bearer to leave and build the walls of Jerusalem once again. It’s about the eagerness of the God’s people hearing the words of the Lord once more. It’s about the joy of finding God after years of silence (on the side of the people).

In this section of Scripture, we find the people hearing the Word of the Lord for the first time in years. They were weeping because they hadn’t heard it for so long. But, this was a time to celebrate. The Word was available once more. It was being read from early morning till midday. And the people stood to hear it.

Do not be grieved. Don’t be grieved that before you didn’t understand the Word. Do not be grieved over the past deeds, because now you have the way to make your slate clean. Do not be grieved.

It is a time to rejoice! To revel in what the Lord has done! He has done the unimaginable and it must be savored. He has brought the Israelite nation out of slavery and out of their sin and has brought them back to their forefathers’ Promised Land. The pagan king funded the rebuilding of Jerusalem! How amazing would it have been to be there, to walk back into that land that was your father’s and know that you could come home.

Nehemiah is telling these people who were weeping over the loss of time and of the Word, to not grieve, to rejoice, because that joy of the Lord is your strength. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Rejoicing and reveling in the Lord gives you strength.

These families with disabilities know what it is like to grieve. Some days, it may feel like they can never find anything to rejoice, but then the joy of the Lord strengthens them. And this camp gives them that strength.

But, at the same time, these families know how to rejoice over the little things. Things that might seem inconsequential to us, but are major milestones for their loved one. And this camp helps them rejoice over them.

Joni and Friends Family Retreat is an experience like no other. It is hard to use words to describe it adequately, because there isn’t one thing similar to pull from to compare. It is often compared to Disney, as being the happiest place on Earth, because at camp, the campers can just be kids. No expectations to fit into any mold that one may insist on being the perfect one. No trying to remember the arbitrary rules of society so that one can be accepted. No acting a certain way so that you won’t be laughed at. No explaining why you do things differently than others, why you walk the way you do, or why you can’t speak.

These people at camp, they understand. They look at you, and see simply, you. You. The one God declares Beloved. You, who God created with great love. You, whose beauty can be seen as God intended, rather than as a mark against the plastic perfection of society. You, whose talents are marveled at, whether you can sing or draw, or throw a ball, or take your first walks on screen. You, you are celebrated for being you.

Here your ticks are accepted. Here sounds that are voiced are cheered. Here you can run because its just so much, and we will run with you, rather than force you to stop. Here your mask can be left at home, and the real you can be let out to enjoy the world as it was meant to be. Here people rush to meet you. Here hesitation and fear have no place as you are loved. Here people will share their food and their space. Here the need for quiet is understood, but so is noise, and what a joyful noise to the Lord we make together! Here miracles happen on a regular basis, voices are found, friendships are made, love is given. Here, angels tread and God blesses those he calls his.

God’s love for you is your strength. He knew you when he placed you in that womb. He knew your life would be difficult, but he knew he wanted you. You were not a mistake. He rejoices in you, every minute of every day. He knows you and loves you just as you are. He gave you spiritual gifts to bless this world, don’t let anyone get between you and worshiping your Father. Share your gifts!

I know a camp where we are eagerly awaiting to celebrate them…

I highly recommend Joni Eareckson Tada’s biography if you have never heard about this ministry. Joni- An Unforgettable Story

http://www.joniandfriends.org/store/product/joni-unforgettable-story-discount/

You can also follow her radio/video series, many of which can be found here:

http://www.joniandfriends.org/jonis-corner/

For more information about Family Retreat, please see:  http://www.joniandfriends.org/family-retreats/

For more information about volunteering at a Family retreat, please see:

http://www.joniandfriends.org/family-retreats/for-volunteers/

The Art of Losing (Memories)

I finally got the opportunity to watch the recently released film “Still Alice.” I highly recommend this film, as it may give you the ability to understand some of the sheer terror that people face when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

As a caregiver, I have worked with clients in various stages of this horrid disease. It was remarkably well displayed in “Still Alice.” The film follows a renowned linguistics professor as she discovers that she has Early Onset Familial Alzheimer’s Disease at just the age of 50. Alice is a very intelligent, hardworking woman whose very life is defined by words, but she slowly starts to lose the ability to speak her beloved words. It follows Alice and her family for a year, and you can see the quick progression of the disease to the point where she can barely talk.

What I love about this film is not only the amazing portrayal that Julianne Moore does, but how they show the range of emotions that the family members have regarding the ‘loss’ of their mother and wife. You have the denial in the husband as well as distancing, the fixer in the son, one daughter wants to remember for her, while the other daughter accepts it and learns to live in it. There is so much emotion displayed in this film; the fear, the acceptance, the fight for a life that is familiar.

At the beginning, when the diagnoses is given, Alice says something to the effect that she wished she had cancer. Cancer is acceptable, people will put on ribbons, run in marathons, and do fundraisers for you. You become a vision of inspiration. But, Alzheimer’s? It’s shameful, something to be hidden. No one wants to discuss it and friends start to fade away.

We fear mortality. We fear the loss of self. And in our fear, we distance ourselves from those who are in the midst of something we dread. Think about it. You know someone with a loved one who is becoming forgetful, they are worried about the outcome of tests and meetings with caretakers. In their stress, they stop contacting you, or whenever you do talk to them, it’s all about the struggles they are going through. You start dreading the phone call. You don’t want to hear about it.

Your grandma starts forgetting the stories she has told you, just 30 minutes ago. You start to ‘correct’ her, but it makes her worried. She stops talking. Because you always say, “You’ve already told me that.”

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are diseases that erase self. They make you forget who you were, who you are now, and who you could have been in the future. It makes you forget the ones you love, and the very ability to make your body work. Some people call it the “Second Childhood.” You become dependent on others for the very things that you once took care of for your children.

Your children take care of your intimate needs as your mind forgets the ability to do certain movements. Your spouse who looked forward to an exciting retirement with you instead has to keep track of your wanderings and pills. You become the dreaded burden you always feared.

Alzheimer’s is a demeaning disease. It’s full of angst and fear. As well as intimate demands.

But.

Alzheimer’s can also be an awakening for your family. Personalities can be changed because of this disease. One of my clients whom numerous people attested to be a very hard woman, became extremely sweet in the midst of the disease. Family members were able to connect to her in a way that they were never able to before. Forgiveness was found as untold stories came to the light.

There can be a beauty in the midst of losing.

“Still Alice” uses a quote from the poet Elizabeth Bishop who said: “The Art of Losing isn’t hard to master: so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost, that their loss is no disaster.” I encourage you to live in the losing with your loved one. Do not put upon them the fear of remembering, by correcting them thirty times a day about the things they forget. Many of them already know they are forgetting. Reminding them does no good. 

Follow the meandering stories the best you can. It won’t be easy, but remember, what you are going through is nothing compared to the labyrinth in their minds.

Don’t hide them away as if they are a shameful secret. There will be times that too much stimulation will be hard for them, but hold their hand, read them stories. Engage them in life. Life may look differently for them, but they are still a part of it. Don’t remove them from the time they have among your family.

See things anew through their eyes. Sometimes the simplistic beauty of a flower becomes enrapturing. Looking at each individual petal can take all day, enter into that discovery with them. Maybe this is the time God has given you both to smell the roses they were too busy to see before.

Remember, if you meet one person with Alzheimer’s, you have only met one person with Alzheimer’s. The disease reacts differently to every brain it inhabits. Learn what is best for each person differently. Remember, that they are not the disease, they are people who still dream and hope, acknowledge that desire in them.

I have worked in private homes, adult foster homes, as well as retirement centers. No matter where I go, I see a person who deserves my respect and their dignity. It’s easy to get caught in the ‘doing’ stage and think they are moving too slow, that you have things to do. So you start shoving them into clothes, quickly scrubbing them in the shower, making them eat quicker, etc… When there is a lot to do, it’s easy to see a person as an object and move them where they need to be, rather than see them for a scared nervous man or woman who is uncertain of the next step.

I always think, how would I want to be taken care of? Like no matter what is wrong with me, I’m still someone of worth. I am still me. My self-hood is not contingent on my ability to remember your name or how to put on my pants. If I breathe and my heart still beats, I am still me. Treat me as human and worthy of your respect.

 On my good days, I can, you know, almost pass for a normal person. But on my bad days, I feel like I can’t find myself.-Dr. Alice Howland

There will be bad days. But, there will be sweet moments as well. As the disease runs it’s course, and the memories it eats run dry, there will be come a time, a week or a few days before their eyes close for good, that clarity is found. For a few hours, you will have your loved one back. The one you remember from years past. Cherish that time. It is the final goodbye.

Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s is a hard job. It’s even harder when that person is someone you know and love. It will make you weep and make you scream. But, if you allow love to guide you through it, it can be very rewarding as well. Find support groups, make your family get involved, and take moments in the day to remember who you are. Take a walk outside, or read a book. Take a breather. You will love them better when you take care of yourself.

I highly recommend the movie “Still Alice.” I just got the book, but I’m sure I will be recommending it as well.

Hope Overflowth- Reflections on Joni & Friends Family Retreat

Joni & Friends Twin Rocks Family Retreat, 2014

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How do you describe one week out of your year that manages to change your perceptions, your attitude, your spiritual health, as well as teach you compassion, joy, and hope, all while giving you a peace that you so very rarely are able to get in the ‘outside world?’

I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure that out.

I had the wonderful pleasure of serving at Joni & Friends’ Twin Rocks Family Retreat (Oregon) again this year. I was already planning on what supplies I needed to gather for next year, before that camp was even done. I do believe that I officially have gotten the bug for this amazing ministry. Serving at this camp has a way digging it’s way into the heart, and promptly enlarging it, much like the Grinch’s did when he found out the meaning of Christmas.

I have always had a passion for awareness towards disability. But, this camp, it continually shows me that my passion is so small in comparison to the deep passionate love God has for his children. He also uses it to force me to learn and grow with every exposure to people who are considered very different from me. Well, at least different to me by the world’s consideration. He uses it to teach me, that in my brokenness, I am still loved.

I wish I could show the emotional peace that came over these parents and campers of special needs as they stepped onto the campus. Campers who are caught within their disability and seem to have little awareness of their surroundings, relaxed and smiled. The frantic energy that comes with some levels of autism seemed to lessen it’s ferocious grip on young minds, loosening the tongue so they were able to communicate more than they usually do at home. Parents who are exhausted from any small amount of travel due to their need to be extremely diligent of their loved ones, are revived. Parents who have become cautious around strangers due their protective attitude regarding their child, feel free to laugh and shed tears with other parents who understand.

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Hope seemed to infuse these precious people as soon as they came through the loud welcoming crowd at the entrance to the camp. Here, hope was given out as if it was candy. There was no need to hold on to it as if we were misers, wanting to build up our pile of gold. Instead, we shared it, we showed it, we gave it away. It was because God was filling us with that joy and peace that only were given to us by him. We were, as our motto was this year, ‘overflowing’ with hope. Because we were overflowing, we felt no need to keep it to ourselves.

Our Bible verse can be found Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I think it was the perfect verse for these weary travelers through this life. Our speaker did a wonderful job of showing that this hope is not a wish that we make. But rather this is a hope based off the knowledge that God is good, that he has only the best of plans for us, that he has proven himself trustworthy. Our hope is not on the outcome, but rather based on the very God we pray to.

To hear that from the lips of Brian, whose doctors had given up on, due to an accident that left him with 3rd degree burns on 97% of his body, carried more weight than it would from a pastor of ‘normal typical’ means. Here was a man who by all rights could have become very bitter by what life has supposedly given him. Rather, though I’m sure it took time and prayer, he became a man who spoke passionately about the God who loves him. To see this man, his wife, and his children, so vocal about God’s love and grace in the face of such a horrid accident, was eye opening to my own responses to the situations of my life.

The hope that God provides has the power to change lives. It is not about wishing vaguely on something that we thought would help us. Godly hope is about trusting God to keep us and not forsake us. He never will.

These parents and campers see that hope more clearly than most of us do. The typical person is stuck on what we think is important, while these souls are focused on just surviving the day sometimes. It’s not that they are closer to God than we might be, but there is that possibility that they might have some of the blinders that we have, removed.

Another wonderful thing to see at camp is the willingness that these strangers have to get involved in the joys and struggles of other families. I believe we had nearly half of our camp families new to the ministry this year. These families who had never been exposed to each other, welcomed one another with love.

That love was echoed throughout the volunteers who come and give of their time and money to serve these families. We have families who travel all the way from Pennsylvania, just for the joy of serving. We have 20-somethings who save all year to go to two or more of these retreats, just for the chance to make a difference. We have teens who by all rights should be goofing off at the beach, working hard to bring laughter to a child who is shut off from the world. We have 70+ year old who should be enjoying her retirement, chasing after a boy with a big smile on her face. We have leaders, who they themselves should be there for respite , due to family members with special needs, plan for this week all year long, and work themselves to exhaustion just to help.

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This camp is run off of love. If you have never experienced this short of love that is so sacrificial in nature, you are truly missing out. This is what God’s love looks like. This is what the church should look like, where everyone can come as the broken mess they are and find acceptance. Nobody comes to this camp with everything perfect, because that is not what this camp is about. This camp is about offering hope to weary people. It’s about showing them that they are not alone in their love for their children, nor in their willingness to fight for their right to enjoy life. It’s about a beautifully sang song having just as much excitement and clapping as does a boy who throws a ball. It’s were whatever talent you bring, is used and accepted, because God gave you that talent. No matter what it might be.

This camp is about rejoicing in exactly who you are right this moment. Not about trying to force you into some mold that will never fit. No one fits into those molds, we just pretend a little better that it doesn’t chaff or pinch. Never try to fit in. Every person is born to stand out and shout loudly of the Creator God. That’s what I love about this camp, it helps us learn how to rejoice in those differences.

So I urge you. Give hope to a weary family near you. Tell them about Joni and Friends’ Family retreats!!

Please look at Joni and Friends website for more information regarding the amazing ministries available through them (including the Wheels for the World, Family Retreats, Cause 4 Life, etc…) 

Joni and Friends is celebrating 35 years of disability ministry- listen to Joni Eareckson Tada’s radio program which can also be found on the website. 

You can read about my first experience serving at a Joni and Friends’ Family Retreat last year here and a revisited post here

World Walking

Today, I met Erik. Erik and his dog, Nice are taking the world on a walk. So far they have walked over 5,000 miles. According to his website blog (www.worldguy.org), the duo has walked in at least 30 different states as well as in Washington, DC. Erik says that they average around 10 miles a day. This recent walking goal is to walk from Washington state to Oregon. He and Nice have been doing this for 5 years now.
So, you might wonder. Why in the world does some guy decide to walk with his dog all across the country?
Not only is he walking with his dog, but he is also walking the world. This huge rubber ball has a way of catching one’s eye. Painted like the world with the Worldguy’s website address on it, it rolls along beside Erik and Nice. It’s also the reason I stopped to talk to him, I just had to know what in the ‘world’ he was doing.
I caught up to him when he stopped at the town’s library to rest and I did something I very rarely do– started a conversation with a stranger. “I just have to ask…” I said.
Erik smiled and said that he was raising awareness for Diabetes and that he was trying to get people to get up and take a walk.
He allowed me to take a picture of him with his walking buddies as he told me where he’s walked and why he was doing it.
His mother, Gerta Bendl, a Kentucky legislator, died from complications with diabetes when she was 56. Erik (50 years old) decided to get the word out about diabetes and let people know about the disease.
So he walks the world and his dog, stopping to answer questions and posing for pictures. As I wished him safe and well on his travels, Erik said, “Take a walk with a loved one and live healthy.”
I encourage you all, if you see a world rolling on by with a dog and a man- stop and talk to him. Offer him a honk of the horn, a wave, or a handshake– for trying to keep you healthy and aware.

Do you have a passion or a desire that you would be so willing to walk across the country to raise awareness for?

Fleeting Summers & Life Lessons

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been out of school now for a month. “Living it up” on my summer vacation…heh. Yeah, I have never ‘lived it up’ on my vacation time. Due to the fact that my dad’s busy time with work always falls during the elusive dry months of summer in Washington, my family has never truly gone on a vacation. I’ve only flown once- to Texas to see my brother graduate with his Bachelor’s. It was a weekend jaunt, which meant I didn’t get to explore the fact that I was in Texas much less enjoy the fact that for the first time I wasn’t on the West Coast.
When I was 5 years old, we went to California to do the prerequisite trip to Disney. I got a double ear infection…don’t remember anything about Disneyland but throwing up. Only thing I vaguely remember is getting to eat with my fingers while knights on black and white horses tried to get each other off said horses with loud clashes of wood meeting armor. That was on the way home. Because Medieval Times still resounds with me, I’ve thought about going down there to see the jousting- the prices are nearly $60…and I think, yeah I’ll put that off. Though I highly recommend it (at least my inner 5 year old does) because it shows a snapshot of history where children can interact with it. Image

That was really the only true vacation that I’ve had. And really? At 5 years old, there really isn’t anything called ‘vacation’ in your vocabulary.
I’ve never truly traveled. I’m a homebody in more ways then one. I’m ok with that for the most part. I’ve been 20 miles over either border of the US (To the Peace Arch in Canada for a Girl Scout rally, and to El Testerazo, Baja, California for a 2 week Youth Group mission trip). I’ve barely touched Idaho and only fleetingly ran through California. Oregon? Lived in it for 6 years and haven’t went much past Portland.
When you are friends with people who randomly jump on the plane to go to Europe for a few weeks, or friends with natives from other countries, I look at what I’ve been able to ‘see.’
Unlike many of my age group that I’ve known, I’ve worked hard since I was 14. Even before that I was taking care of animals for friends (as they jet off to Mexico or for a long camping trip in a famous national park), while others played, I worked. I made money. I proved my reliability, and I’m proud of that fact.
For many adults, I (or my brother) was the one they thought about to watch their house while they were away, because my parents raised me right.
I was taught the power of a good reputation, the satisfaction of a job well done. I learned how to work hard and be willing to do it for no reason beyond the fact that it was the right thing to do. I learned how to work my brain but also my muscles. I learned how not to take anything that didn’t belong to me- simply because it was wrong. I didn’t earn it, I wasn’t entitled to it, and I didn’t need it simply because I wanted it. I learned that sometimes the best feeling in the world were bleeding blisters on your hands- because it meant that you worked hard. That sometimes the feel of a hungry belly after a hard day of work was more rewarding than the relaxed limbs of a body out in the sun all day. I learned life.
Sure, I had my pangs of envy when school would roll around and I heard friends bragging about what they did (always to be followed with “but that is ALL we did this summer (sigh)” ) and the knowledge that my friends soon stopped asking me what I did, simply because I would say I worked.
Sometimes, work was simply around the house, sometimes work was taking care of an elderly woman with dementia. Work was work.
But, those rare moments, when Dad didn’t have to work so hard during summer driving truck, when we were able to sneak away to the river are still beautiful little nuggets to me.  When Mom would pack a big lunch, we’d load up the dogs and hit the river for the day, those days are embossed in my memory.
Or the simple joy of an all out war with water in the house. The knowledge that my friends didn’t have parents who are willing to get things wet so they could be called champion for the day still makes me smile.
Or the simple days of getting in the car and just driving. To explore the area around us and get that special beef jerky at our favorite butcher shop a few hours away.
These were my summer vacations, simple one day wonders.
Right now, as with the last few years- I have itchy feet. I want to DO something. I’m in a rut and I’m tired. I have been putting one foot in front of another academically and work wise for so many years, I don’t know if I’d recognize adventure if it sat in my lap. My ultimate goal and dream is to go to Ireland. It has been my life’s goal since I was a little kid. It’s the reason why I keep focused on graduating (my parents promised me that they’d send me to Ireland for a graduation gift). While I’ll want to explore Dublin, my ultimate goal is the Cliffs of Mohr because of the resounding beauty of the area. Also, I’m the type of person who’d rather find a couple of talkative elders to tell me stories of their lives than shopping for knickknacks in all honesty.

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I think ultimately though- I wouldn’t know how to take a vacation if I wasn’t doing something that was helpful. Considering how uncomfortable I am at a friend’s house after dinner (not helping clean the kitchen up afterwards) I don’t know how I’d handle free time to do whatever I wanted. I don’t want to be one of the annoying American tourists that so many countries complain about. I don’t want to take- I ultimately want to give.
So I like the ideas of the Volunteer Vacations, getting to give back to a country that I’m visiting. Who knows? Maybe that will finally be a way for me to get out of my rut? But, I’d still need money to do that…so I’ll be spending this summer doing what I always do- work.

Contemplations on Proverbs 30:7-9

Two things I ask of you, LordDo not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches, But give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you And say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal And so dishonor  the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9)

As I had written previously in “The Beauty of God’s Scriptures,” I have been reading daily through Psalms and Proverbs. I have been driven to contemplations over various verses that I have read numerous times. By taking the time to focus on them, I have been repeatedly struck by the amazing truth to be found within the pages I read. I was especially struck this time by Proverbs 30:7-9. I know I’ve read it before, but as is the mystery of the Scriptures, verses bring new meaning to your life at various parts of your spiritual walk.

So, reading Proverbs 30:7-9 really struck me. In today’s American society where we are so focused on making money and so very materialistic, “I may have too much and disown you and say “Who is the Lord?” “ really hit home.  Even though I might not consider myself very materialistic, still I can get caught in that feather noose (usually its books for me). When the TV has numerous shows exhibiting what happens to people drowning in a materialistic world bookended in commercials advertising the newest greatest thing; there is a problem.  America, more than any other culture, is about things. Love doesn’t make the world go round in America, the newest thing does.

I am not a basher of America. I love America, but I know her faults too. I’ve lived here all my life and believe me, there are things I wish I could change. Materialism is one of them.

We, as a nation, have too much and we have turned our backs on God.

When I, as a person, am more than comfortable financially, I find myself loosing track of God in my life. It is the nature of human sin.

The flip side though is what happens when we don’t have enough? What happens if we are so poor that we have to steal to eat? We dishonor the name of our God. Not only is the simple act of stealing a sin (see the 10 Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:19), but it goes deeper than that, it’s about dishonoring God’s name. The thought of dishonoring the God who has given me so much, causes a bit of anxiety to well within my soul. I hope it does you as well.

I believe these three verses are going to become a prayer for me. A prayer that will move me to act, to give of any funds God sees fit to give me so that I might help a fellow man. To give of my riches even when I am attempting to make ends meet, for I am still richer than many. To give of myself no matter how much money is in my bank account. To give of anything that I can, so that another person may not feel ashamed of their own misfortune.

This section of Proverbs really hit home. What does it make you feel?