Tuesday, August 13, 2013

There's Work To Be Done

Nearly two months after the storm, much of the debris has been cleared, condemned houses have been abandoned or demolished, and much of the big work is done. Our assignments are smaller projects – fixing fences, painting, patching holes, and removing debris from less traveled areas like gullies. However, there have been a few days where we have really been scrounging for projects. It seems that Moore is getting to a point where there is more help than there is work to be done, excluding work of professional contractors of course. What a great sign! 

We spent a day and a half painting this house that had hail damage. We were just about done on the first day when it started to rain! At first we thought we could just paint through the drizzles, but then it started to pour. It poured so hard that I could rinse the paintbrushes in the water pouring from the gutters of their small shed. A smaller group of guys, including Ryan, returned the next day to find some of the paint rinsed off but not as much as we expected. It was so terribly hot the day before that the paint actually dried quite quickly before the rain came.
The owner of the home was so pleased, she called Serve Moore the following day to let them know that our group did such a nice job, she wondered if we could come back and paint a few rooms inside! How sweet. She wasn’t the only one that appreciated our work. The men who finished painting the second day went to a nearby diner for lunch, where a kind, anonymous fellow paid their bill. He just saw the fluorescent volunteer vests and was moved to show his appreciation for our presence and our work in the community.

That day, the rest of us worked at the house we’ve been living in. The church will be putting it on the market shortly after we leave, so we thought we could boost the curb appeal a bit as a token of our gratitude for having a comfortable place to stay. Judy is our in-house horticulturist and came up with great plans to spruce up the entire yard.
We added a few simple beds of mulch around the existing plants and trees in the back and on the sides of the house. We removed sagging bricks around the patio and moved them to a more useful place by the fence door. We trimmed and pruned the overgrown bushes. We painted the entryway. We did all sorts of things! It looked so nice when we were done.
Several smaller projects fill our days as well. We’ve fixed several fences, cleaned lots of debris, and even built a patio.
After every project we finish, we give the homeowner a handmade quilt made by the women of Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS). They have been so well received. Even more than the volunteer work we do, these quilts have brought a few recipients to the verge of tears with thankfulness. Of course, handmade gifts of this type are especially dear to my heart. I hope the homeowners we’ve been working with understand how much more thankful we are to have the opportunity to share God’s love with them. It is a priceless experience. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Matters Most

According to the volunteers and residents of Moore and Oklahoma City, this is what matters most.

What matters most is Jesus Christ, who is shown and glorified in all of these good things.

What matters most is SERVICE
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
-Galatians 5:13
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
-John 12:26

What matters most is LOVE
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
-1 John 4:7-9
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
-1 John 3:18

What matters most is FAMILY
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
-Galatians 6:10

What matters most is FRIENDS
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ  
-Romans 15: 5-6

What matters most is HOMES
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.
-Isaiah 32:18
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
-John 14:23

What matters most is SAFETY
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
-Psalm 27:5
The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
-Proverbs 18:9-11

Friday, July 19, 2013

First Day on the Job

At 7am we start our day eating breakfast and packing lunches. We meet at the church at 8am for morning devotion and then we pack into vans and trucks and head to Serve Moore.
Serve Moore is an incredible Christian organization and ministry that serves as the volunteer headquarters for Moore, Oklahoma City, and the surrounding area. Now that the Red Cross has left the area and volunteers continue to pour in to support the relief and rebuilding efforts, a few local churches  decided to create this ministry. The things that God has done through these people are absolutely wonderful! The Christian community has such an impressive presence in this region.
The Serve Moore building is filled with supplies – everything from sunscreen and bug spray to chainsaws and wheelbarrows. Every day volunteers are divided into three groups. Some scout for new work orders, a few make phone calls and pair volunteers with projects, and the majority do the physical labor. I would love to just sit for a few minutes to watch the logistics.
We began our first day clearing some brush. Our group is very special in that we have a lot of experience and expertise. Chainsaw projects are no issue for us.
After that project, we took some time to look at the surrounding area to get a better understanding of the devastation. A total of 1,025 houses in Moore alone were completely destroyed with close to 500 more in Oklahoma City.  The Moore Monthly newspaper quoted a local meteorologist who said, “This is the worst tornado, damage-wise, in the history of the world.” We only looked at one community. Too much of this at once would be terribly overwhelming, even for an outsider coming nearly two months after the damage was done. 
Our group split up after lunch. We were given a project with a request for women only to help a “recovering hoarder” clear out her house. This was far from what I had in mind as relief work, but this required even more compassion and dedication than the physical labor I did expect. Two of the women from our group were at the house making dinner, which left four of us to take on the project.

We were not the first group to help this woman. Serve Moore volunteers have been coming every few days for the past five weeks, and they have changed her life. The first group showed her more compassion than she has felt in many years. They ended their workday by joining hands in prayer and asking her to lead. She had been away from the church for quite a while, but she embraced the opportunity and with a powerfully peaceful and joyful feeling from deep within, she received the Holy Spirit! That pure joy that can only come from the everlasting, saving love of God Almighty was pouring out of this woman! We were so blessed by the opportunity to spend time with her and help her rebuild her life.
One of the men we are working with said today that he almost felt selfish by coming here to volunteer because he enjoys it so much. God is blessing us in a major way, and it is no surprise. God blesses his workers, wherever we are and whatever we do for His glory. He is great. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Blessings From Disasters

Not much more than a month ago, our pastor sent an email to the congregation to let us know that our church body was sending volunteers to Moore and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on relief missions. Our hearts broke when we heard about the horrible tornadoes that devastated the area, so Ryan and I jumped at the opportunity to take a summer vacation of service to our Lord. We put in our applications right away. A few days later, we received a call and were asked if we could commit to ten days. My wonderful boss approved my time off and we anxiously awaited the start of our new adventure! Right after church on Sunday, we packed Sassy with lunch, a suitcase, and lots of books and we hit the road.

We had a beautiful drive across Illinois and Missouri the first day.
Leaving Chicago
The beautiful Illinois countryside
St. Louis Arch
Missouri Ozarks
The beautiful sky felt like God giving us His blessing on our travels. 
Red sky at night: sailors delight
We rolled into Oklahoma City Monday afternoon and were greeted with a houseful of friendly, welcoming faces and lots of air mattresses. The local WELS church graciously allowed us all to pile into the house that they typically provide for their teachers, with the overflow of volunteers placed in the school/church gym. We had dinner, followed by two rowdy games of Oh Hell (how ironic?) and snuggled into our rows of beds in line with our newly made friends.

Ryan and I are surprised that we are the only volunteers of 17 in our twenties. The rest of the group is comprised two teenagers, a handful of middle-aged handy-men, and several retired couples. What a blessing! We have the opportunity to work alongside such an incredible group of wise, experienced, Christians. This will certainly be a wonderful, blessed ten days. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fruits of the Earth

Last time I wrote, spring was just appearing. Now summer is certainly here! There is just so much to love about summer. The world turns luscious green; people are out and having a great time; our neighborhood Farmers’ Market picks up again!

After a morning run today, Ryan joined me for my weekly visit to the Farmer’s Market. Throughout the winter, I still got to enjoy honey, baked goods, essential oil creations, and jams, and I have been blessed by friendship with these vendors. The hospital nearby welcomes them all indoors. Today was the first day that all the summer vendors joined the mix and they all stayed outside to enjoy the beautiful weather. Our market is very small, but it has a great variety of products. I’m especially glad that the “Rooftop Gardeners” have returned, with all of their organic and modestly priced herbs and lettuces.
Do you see the giant strawberry right in front? It was like three in one!
In addition to this lovely bunch of kale, lettuce, and strawberries, we also came home with some jalapeƱo jelly and my favorite bread in the world, “Farmer’s Wheat Bread” by Breadsmith.

My porch garden is starting to come up! Watching this grow has been so much fun. We have spinach, onions, three tomato plants, oregano, basil, and cilantro, all snuggled onto our little porches.
A few weeks ago, we got a new camera! I’ve wanted this camera for about three years now. I’m so thrilled we finally found one at a good price! We’ve had a lot of fun taking pictures and learning how to use this incredible machine. Here are some samples.
Husband out for a run
Rainy night 
Delicious dinner!
Admiring the view 

I hope all of our friends are having a great start to their summer!

With love and blessings,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring Peeper

One of my favorite things about living in the Midwest is how obvious all of the seasons are. Winters are cold and snowy; springs are made for rain boots and daffodils; summers are hot and sunny; falls are crisp and colorful. As far as seasons go, my favorite times of the year are the transitions from fall to winter and winter to spring.

What’s not to love about spring?! Flowers, pretty pastels, Easter, spring break, warmer weather… I love it all! Although there is a blizzard of giant fluffy snowflakes outside right now, spring is peeking out from under the warm earth.
Crocuses are always the first sign of spring 
My darling Husband just finished up his spring break. The end of his second year will be coming soon, but not before a little breather. He spent a long weekend with his buddies from high school doing lots of manly things like basketball games, brewery tours and poker. During the week he got some much needed rest. Then we finished up our break with a road trip back home. He had a very valuable experience spending time with the legal counsel at Mayo Clinic. While in Rochester, we got to chase around, I mean visit with, our little cousins. My, what busy lives they have for an 8-year-old and a 9-year-old! Somehow we fit basketball practices, piano lessons, basketball games, baseball practice, dancing, movie-watching, sleeping, and lots of eating into less than 24 hours! A dinner party, church, and Sunday brunch, all with family and friends from home brought an end to our weekend away.

I’ve lately had some wonderful opportunities to teach. My co-worker is part of a mother’s group that meets twice weekly to learn crafts and cook, and they invited me to come to teach them crochet! I am no crochet expert – I wouldn’t even call myself an intermediate crocheter - but I know enough to get them started. I had such a fun time teaching them!

Last Fall when my church held their annual chili cook-off and auction, I donated some knitting lessons and my dear friend bought them. We have been spending time together whenever possible and we are currently working on a beautiful but fairly complicated hat. She wants to learn knitting-in-the-round, lace, and chart-reading all at once. This girl is adventurous in everything she does!
Although I haven’t been doing much knitting of my own, I’ve been catching up with photographing my completed projects. 
This sparkly bangle was my Secret Santa gift for work
Meem's Christmas gift - arm warmers so she can stay cozy while she reads in bed
This was a Christmas gift for one of my besties from college
I knit this lovely sweater so long ago. I bet this has been folded up in my closet for almost four years! Way back then, the finished product turned out to be a little bit big for me. I felted it just a bit to shrink it but I wasn't happy with how short it turned out. I really ought to knit another one. It's such a great sweater. 
Mr. Kitty Cat has been staying cozy warm all winter in our Log Cabin Blanket too! 

Happy Spring dear friends! 

XO Natalie