Sharpening One Another

I often joke that I’m a day late or a dollar short for life.  The way my mind works, learning some of life’s most important, seemingly simple lessons often takes longer and involves more challenges than I like.  Time is such a big driver for me to the point where if something comes too easily, I’m immediately cautious and skeptical.  Relationships of all kinds are another driver and constant source for developing perspective and learning grace.

To family and friends who hold me accountable, push me to grow, and challenge me to seek God’s standards, I am humbled and truly thankful.  However painful at the time, for those who pick me up when I’ve stumbled, tripped, or fallen flat on my face with a chipped tooth (worst nightmare), I don’t know where I’d be without you.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

-Proverbs 27:17

We need sharpening and accountability checks.  Relationships are hard.  Really hard.  And sometimes they have to get messy in order to be real.  They need time, sacrifice, forgiveness, and nurturing to work.

Capture

A few months ago, one pushed me into a very uncomfortable conversation.  Looking back, I realize she was my check-engine light, asking me to look at life from a big picture perspective instead of being easily distracted by details and expectations from others and myself.  She was sharpening me by challenging me to see something I hadn’t yet come to realize – I had learned to be content, to love my life, no matter the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).  I love the people I see every day, and the ones I don’t.  I love the things I get to do.  I love learning how to better encourage, be of service, soak in deep conversation, explore the outdoors, seek random adventures, and grow in relationships.

Growing in wisdom helps us position our lives so that God receives the maximum glory due His name.  “Be very careful then how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15)  Learning to put deeper meaning to everything – all of life – gives purpose to every breath, every smile, every conversation, every task.  When others see this, perhaps a soul is drawn a little closer to God Himself.

Naturally, I leave you with a challenge –

How would your relationships, finances, and work be different if you just followed God?  What if you were faithful to Him?  Would you have regrets?

29 and Surprised!

You’ve been RAOKed!

I have gone back and forth on whether or not to post about my birthday.  For my 29th birthday (the last one I plan on having #forever29), I celebrated by doing 29 Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK). The world could use an extra dose of kindness right now, and I wanted a day to intentionally celebrate unsuspecting people, so I took off work and did just that.

Serving others is part of who I am – whether it’s my day job in the service industry, praying for babies in the NICU, teaching Sunday School, baseball with Kermit, loving on my church family, or investing deeply in family and friends – I love discovering new opportunities while meeting existing commitments.  I come alive when I’m lost in the needs of others.

There is a level of demeaning risk associated with sharing some of these experiences, but it’s worth it.  Generally, people want to see goodness in the world, but unfortunately, news headlines aren’t overly optimistic.  I can’t say I would have had these ideas had someone not shared them with me, so I share knowing my heart, sincerity, and motives, in hopes that you might reach out to someone unsuspecting in your own special way.

Being Available

Sometimes the best plans are no plans, but simply showing up.  Most people know I’m a typical Type A person – simple, efficient, effective – but I work off of a game plan.  Straight out of the gate, I knew I had to be flexible. Unexpected encounters and conversations quickly humbled me and reminded me that God was in charge today.  He is God.  I am not.

Rev Up!

Having seen a midnight movie the night before with friends, I needed my energy for the day ahead!  I left cash with the barista at a local coffee shop, and asked him to use his judgement to pay for the drinks of unsuspecting patrons.  A half hour later I was sitting nearby reading, and noticed two firefighters waiting on their orders, chatting and scanning the coffee house, trying to figure out who may have purchased their caffeine.  I also left a friendly reminder before embarking on my next leg.

IMG_0638

IMG_0642

Thank You Letter to a Soldier

I remember doing something similar to honor our armed forces as a child in grade school, but the letter writing experience as an adult is so much different.  No longer a naive young girl, I’m much more cognizant of what’s going on globally, the dangers our troops face, and the uncertainty where families must learn to rest.  We are living in a different world.

FullSizeRender

WARM Donation

While researching places to bring donations, I learned about WARM (Westerville Area Resource Ministry).  This local organization equips participants through job counseling, food pantry, and financial resource allocation services.  The food pantry set up really intrigues me.  Instead of handing individuals a box of food, which they may or may not like, they “shop” through aisles of food with an assistant according to their preferences.  For example, choosing between black beans and green beans may seem quite simple, but it’s actually quite empowering if you think about it.

Care Kit for a Homeless Woman

A friend brought this idea to my attention.  Basically, take a purse that’s no longer used and pack it like you would a care package — hat, scarf, gloves, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, jewelry, etc. — and give it to a homeless woman.  An undercover operation performed a few years ago discovered the average income of area panhandlers is $100-$300k/annually, so the challenge was finding the right woman to receive the care kit.  I asked for recommendations all morning, and only by the grace of God did I stumble into the perfect situation.

While at WARM donating coats and food, I spoke with Laurie, a coordinator who had the perfect client in mind for the care kit!  A single mother of two young boys from Ghana, and she absolutely loves the Lord!  Hallelujah!  I enclosed a handwritten note praying the items blessed her in such a way that she felt a hint of the love God has for her.

IMG_0664

SMILES

Take one!  They’re free, and so is yours!  Attempting to inspire smiles with easy little pull tabs and positive affirmations on the back.  Everyone needs reminded sometimes, right?  I also sent a series of funny selfies to my family to make them laugh throughout the day.

FullSizeRender(1)


Tips:

1. Looking for ideas?  Make a list of what you’re most thankful for.  How can you honor them?

2. Post-Its!  This was the easiest way to rearrange, organize, identify supply needs, etc.

3. Prepare.  Since I wanted these to hit on the same day, I did some legwork up front.  Any items needing purchased or shipped in the mail were completed ahead of time so I could be more present in the day.

4. Map it.  Pinpointing my route for the day helped organize logistics for the day.

5. Mix it up!  Choose things that take varying lengths of time.  For example, because I could do a few things early (i.e. mailing items to arrive on my birthday), I could also do a few things that took a more substantial length of time on the day of (i.e. holding babies and cleaning horse stalls).


Oh yeah, this crew totally surprised me with a night of laughter, burgers, and beer.  Totally blessed by family and friends who reach out and keep growing me.  They get better and better!  The best is yet to come.

12243060_10101020037833307_6099108264977160320_n

Living with the End in Mind

A few weeks ago, I helped my friend, Ashley, sell the majority of her belongings – including a hot pink, 8′ tall Christmas tree!  She is well on her way to becoming a full-time missionary in San Salvador.  Ashley’s selflessness and sold-out trust in God’s plans for her life lit a spark in my own.  After years of (unknown at the time) preparation, Ashley is jumping on a plane to begin fulfilling God’s call on her life by investing in the lives of Salvadoran youth.  Sometimes you just have to decide that there’s nothing scarier than missing the plan God has created for you.  To be real.  Be you!

How do you know who that is?  In Ecclesiastes 7:2, King Solomon teaches that it’s better to attend a funeral than a party.  Why?  Parties are great for having fun, meeting new people, and building relationships.  But if you’re searching for meaning and fulfillment in life, a funeral is the place to be.  This is where we learn how to live with the end in mind.

While paying respects, thoughts flood my mind about the life of the deceased – was it lost?  Or was it fully lived, regardless of age?  Did they love?  How did they use the gifts they were given?  Did they do what they could, with what they had, where they were?  How did their life make a difference?

Did they live with the end in mind?

Competition and comparison are two of today’s cultural traps that keep us from living with eternity in mind.  Am I smarter, richer, or thought of more highly than you?  Then there’s the other extreme – Do I serve, give, or pray more than you?  Both are dangerous.

Knowing your personal end goals is half the battle to reaching them.  I love to write – it’s how I process life! – so I absolutely love this little exercise I came across in a book (link here):20151010_192155628_iOS

Go ahead and fill it in!  Do you want to be a mentor? Do you want to help children?  Do you want to enjoy 20,000 mundane Wednesdays with your spouse?  Do you want to leave inspiration, that others might seek Jesus because of how he affected your life?  Be intentional and take action.

My goals will be tweaked as I grow, but knowing what’s important at any stage is valuable.  I’m keeping a copy in my wallet and one in my Bible to make sure my life is pointed at the things that God has placed on my heart.  I don’t always make the best decisions, and can spout out a list of things I’ll never do again, but my story is one of redemption.  There is no waste in this life if we choose to learn through it.


Ashley is a talented and entertaining writer documenting her journey here –> http://ashleyarend.co/

Please pray:

  • That she would have no trouble emptying the Barbie Dream House of the last few items taking up residency
  • That her cultural training in Colorado equips her for a smooth transition
  • That God will continue to open the hearts and minds of each person she is blessed to share her story with
  • That her faith would be made even stronger each day, and God would receive all the glory!

Ashley covets your prayers!  If you would like to support her financially, please go to reliant.org/ashley.arend
Ashley Arend

Tale of Two Brothers

My roommate, Renee (name on point, right?!🙂 ), has a heart of gold and cares for a pretty dynamic and uncommon duo.  Though the two have never met face-to-face, they share a very familiar relationship.

Meet Rico:

Rico is a Conure, which is a type of parrot, with green, blue, and yellow feathers and blushing red cheeks.  He likes most fruits (especially blueberries!) and will fight for almond butter if given the chance.  Socialization, attention-seeking, and flying into exhaustion are some of his favorite pass-times when he’s not hanging upside down sleeping like a bat.  Rico packs a lot of punch into his 2.4 ounce body (yes, we weighed him).

I am Rico.

Ricco4Meet Kiddo:

Kiddo is a Quarter Horse, and his stature is closer to a Thoroughbred – tall, lean, and his 1,200 pound frame has hindquarters for days.  His bronze coat blends into the fall country landscape, but you can catch red undertones when he dances in the sun.  A bright white star on his forehead makes it easy to spot him from a distance.

Kiddo3

Kid is lame. Typically, the angles in a horse’s foot resemble those of a woman in high heels; however, Kid outwore his fancy feet after 20+ years of dancing, and his heels dropped to an extreme Case B.

Kiddo

People ask “why keep a horse if he can’t be ridden?”  …Well, we don’t get rid of people when they get old, right? There’s life to be lived, and wisdom to be shared!

He is living the retired life, spending days in the company of his mare friends.  He doesn’t ask for anything but patience.  Kiddo loves to share himself.


If I’m like Rico, then God is like Kiddo.

I’m the one bouncing around, impatiently yammering my requests, my needs, my desires, blah, blah, blah…

I imagine he’s thinking, yes, I see you there and I hear you, but that’s not my plan.  You’ll know, but now I need you to be patient and focus.  Focus on what you have and who you’re with, right where you are.  Slow down.  


The most gentle of creatures is majestic, powerful, and commands respect using nothing but a silent voice and still presence.  Every stride is intentional, grateful, and (for the most part) graceful.

Mark’s Life Message

Grandma says that she really wondered what we were going to do with child “like that” when she and Grandpa brought Mark home from the hospital as a baby. None of us had any idea of what was in store for our family.

Mark was here on a mission, on loan from God, seeking to share his ability – physically gifted with Down’s syndrome. He showed us all how to truly live. He always told us the truth about just what he needed or wanted which made taking care of him so much easier. He loved everybody unconditionally, all of the time – no strings attached.

Mark struggled with grace and dignity through the leg braces, the arthritis and then of all things the pancreatic cancer. All of the time, doing and giving whatever was asked and then doing so much more – reaching out to help the rest of us and lifting us up whenever we needed it. His courage, determination and optimistic spirit were incredible.

The things that brought Mark the most joy were simple and always meant to be shared – good country music, his passion for Cincinnati Reds baseball, the enjoyment of good food (even if it wasn’t always the healthiest choice) and the love of family and friends – so many more than he could ever count.

2012-12-16 15.20.36

Mark believed in doing things right and in making people happy. His gentle demeanor was a quiet reminder of how Jesus wants us to live. Mark was simply the best teacher, one of the most powerful Christian examples of loving and caring we have ever known. Our family was blessed to have him, to share him.

224818_10100691757075278_521028433_n

No, we weren’t sure what we were every going to do with “a child like that”, but Mark and God know that he was here for a reason and he was going to show us how to really, truly live. We pray that none of us ever forget . . .


Three years have passed since Mark went home , and he would have celebrated his 38th lap around the sun today. The message he lived is still as fresh as ever –

Love God. Love people. Live it without exception.

image_9

Malawi

As the saying goes, “you never really leave a place or person you love, part of them you take with you, leaving part of yourself behind,” and Malawi is certainly stamped on my heart.  Exactly 4 years ago today, I was saying goodbye to Malawi – time surely has flown!

*I uploaded my journal entries / church blog posts to look back on.  Sorry if you’ve read the church blog – there’s a lot of crossover since I was pretty involved.

God placed me in positions outside of my comfort zone, that have equipped me to continue stretching:

1. Sharing my Testimony – Nervous?  Yes.  In another country… while being translated into another language… in front of a congregation… on Sunday morning?  YES BUT – the beauty of the Gospel is its simplicity.  We love to over-complicate, but its so simple!  I’m a sinner by nature in need of a Savior, and that’s my Jesus.  He will be yours also if you ask him!

2. Prayer Warrior – Hannah, a three year old girl with Typhoid, and I locked eyes when we first saw each other in the pediatric ward, and I knew we would pray together.  I prayed for Hannah, her ill brother, and their mother.  They understood me with help from a translator, but I learned prayer is a language universally understood when our hearts cry out for mercy from God.

3. Pastors’ Conference Coordinator – Yes, you can bring PowerPoint to Africa! God used my talents and gave me the responsibility of executing logistics for the day.  We didn’t have power for an hour before the conference was scheduled to begin, but God showed himself mighty and restored it just in time.  I was blessed to observe and speak with more than 82 pastors and pastors’ wives as they left the conference with a deeper desire to know God and shepherd their flock according to His Word.

4. Optician – only in Malawi!  When Jesus was here on earth, He healed immediately, often restoring sight to the blind.  Not only did He heal the blind physically, but more importantly spiritually.  Stuart, a Passion Center staff member, was at the playing fields after receiving his aviator-style glasses and said, “I cannot believe what I can see!  Look at all the beautiful land!”  What a sight to behold!  Stuart lives in one of God’s most cherished countries and could not fully appreciate His magnificent beauty.  Only God knows when He wants us to see clearly!

The beauty of a mission trip is that we are taken away from the distractions of everyday life and are able to solely focus on the Lord’s purposes.  The challenge is to keep Him in the center of a world full of distractions.  If we have Christ in our hearts, we should view life as one big mission trip!  We do not need to be overseas to share God’s love or His Word.
252088_743546704500_3631430_n285358_743548560780_4424196_n

Day 13: Play Time, Team Photos, Celebration Lunch, and Goodbyes

Friday marked our final day with the Passion Center children and staff.  This morning we played with the children on the athletic fields.  After several high-pitched whistles, children flocked in to join from every direction.  We played parachute, jump rope, and ultimate frisbee.

A photograph of the entire Malawi team and Passion Center staff members was taken with the Passion Center and this beautiful country as a backdrop.  The Passion Center kids joined us and we all enjoyed refreshments before saying our final goodbyes.Malawi11-KendallOrians-GroupShots_0001

The full team!

The Passion Center staff joined our team for a late lunch at the infamous Tasty Bites roadside restaurant.  The President’s motorcade even passed by us within 20-30 yards!  We laughed, played games, and enjoyed a meal in each other’s company before giving our final goodbye hugs.

Malawi11-2011-07-22_passion-kids-group_02

Tomorrow, we leave bright and early (6am Malawi time!) for the return trip home.  We are scheduled to arrive in Columbus on Sunday evening, and are eager to provide our own stories from the mission trip!  Thank you for your continued support and prayers.  We ask you to lift us up in safe travels as we make our way home.  See you soon!Malawi11-jwenning_0252 (1)

Kara Tiffan and myself – Malawi sisters!

Linda’s Recovery Update

Several team members were blessed to visit Linda in the hospital today following her surgery on Monday.  Linda is healing beautifully!  She was playing and smiling when Jon, Jill, and Eric arrived.  Our team provided Linda with a “Get Well” care package including candy and a John 3:16 bracelet made during crafts this week.  The Advance Team made teddy bears that said “I love Jesus,” which Linda was able to hand out to the other children in the hospital.

Please continue to pray for Linda as her life story is continuing to be written. Her resilience is truly a blessing to others.

Malawi11-KendallOrians-People_0161 (1)

Day 12: Teen Studies, Ladies Ministry Celebration, Vision Clinic, and Work Projects

Many activities wrapped up today!

Teen Studies and Women’s Ministry Celebration

I wanted them to understand that they are expensive.  They matter the most to God.

–  Omega, Pilira’s wife and Discipler

Malawi11-2011-07-21_womens-study

Omega has a heart to build into the lives of these young women since she is an orphan herself.  The teen girls’ studies concluded and a celebratory luncheon was hosted for the women’s ministry team today.  Both celebrations emphasized, encouraged, and reinforced the women’s relationships with the Lord before sending them into their spheres of influence.  Our own women were overwhelmed by the example of love and camaraderie displayed by the Malawian women.  We committed to pray fervently for the names and faces we know in their walk with Christ, since most likely the guardians of the teen girls are not.

Vision Clinic

The final vision clinic of our trip was held today to serve children, staff, and guardians of children at the Passion Center.  God worked through us to improve the sight of over 300 people during our clinics!  The reactions of our patients have been extremely gracious and a blessing to us.  People have been saved as the result of Christ working through us!

Future plans are for the vision clinic to continue operations!  We have trained several Passion Center staff members to examine and fit patients for glasses, and supplies will be sent as needed.

Work Projects

Construction of the kitchen roof was completed today and the last of the shelving is ready to be installed in the new office building.  Work projects provided a new level of understanding for the planning and complexity involved in Malawi construction projects.  Things are a little more difficult when there is not a Home Depot around the corner!

Day 11: Wildlife in Malawi

Malawi11-2011-07-20_safari_01

If you were to talk to any member of our team, there would be one recurring theme you would hear from every person: we have seen God at work at literally every turn.  Today was no different.

Today was supposed to be a rather uneventful day.  You can’t go to Africa and not go on a safari, right?  So, this was our day to pull back from the hectic pace of ministry, and enjoy the wildlife in Africa.  It was absolutely incredible! Strangely enough, however, the “wildest” part of our day was after the safari was over!

Demonstrations were being held today in some of the key cities throughout Malawi.  The protests centered around the fuel shortage throughout the country, as well as many of the president’s policies.  As we made our way back to Zomba, there was quite a bit of activity on the outskirts of the city.  Once again, God stepped in and showed Himself mighty, just as He has on every day of our trip.  We will give you more of the details when we get back, but rest assured, everyone is fine, and excited to be thrust back into ministry tomorrow!

Malawi11-jwenning_0223