My friend aloe vera and a SUPER weekend

Well, my legs are stinging with the tomato-redness of Michigan summer. A couple hours today at the beach did me in, after my refusal to be sensible and wear sunscreen. I have a couple extremely noticeable lines above my knees, so it’s a good thing I’m covered up most of the time for my jobs! The air is warm and thick. I can step outside and seconds later feel beads of sweat forming on my face and neck… It is quite comical how I wish for the opposite in every season :). I do enjoy the sunlight, street activities, beach crowd, bursts of color in flowers and all the smells and sights that come with the summer season up here, though.

This past weekend was absolutely incredible. I went to Beloit, Wisconsin with virtually no expectations and sat for 12 hours of intense, structured, challenging, and beautiful training. I had my training for my upcoming Poland mission trip in August at a little church called Rock Valley Chapel. I left for the 4 hour trip a bit early, and by God’s grace was only a few minutes late after navigating hours of Chicago traffic and construction. I met the couple who direct the organization and immediately fell in love with their tender, passionate hearts for the Lord. Darwin was a dairy farmer and some of the stories he told took me back to my days on the farm (that makes me sound at least 30, doesn’t it?). He was a no non-sense teacher, but had the most refreshing and dry sense of humor. I met a couple from Illinois who are on my trip and we instantly connected. Val is a high school English teacher, who reminds me of my favorite teacher from high school (she even uses a purple pen!). Her husband, Phil, was a high school vocal music teacher until recently – which is right up my alley. We talked about the joys of show choir and the differences between our experiences.

I experienced a few wake up calls as Darwin taught about the challenges ahead of us. One of the things that pulled at me deepest was his caution about our reaction when we get back home. We started to talk about church foyers and how you’d be more likely to hear about Jimmy’s scholarship, pray for Aunt Emma’s kidneys, and check calendars for a social function than carry on a conversation about the risen Jesus. That caught me – struck me in a funny place I hadn’t examined in, well ever. How often do I speak the name of Jesus? Sure, I have my prayer times, devotions, deep theological conversations, but how often do I speak His name in normal conversation? Sharing the gospel, I realized, has become something separate – at least in my life. It doesn’t flow out like the quality of a Captain Sundae’s delight or my ability to carry four plates and balance ketchup with my pinky finger. Why is that? I won’t go too far, because I know this I more something I need to contemplate before I can think about asking someone else.

I read an article about a man who, actually, read an article about salons. You know, those meetings where people would just get together and engage in stimulating conversation just for the sake of community? Well, there was an ad where the man responded to be part of a salon. The eclectic group started meeting and this man, a Christian, began to respect the others in his group, and they returned the respect even though none shared his Christian beliefs.

The dreamer in me set sail after reading the man’s article. I was forming an ad in my mind and then writing an article I could submit to a local paper or magazine. It worked for 18th century France – could the lost art of conversation be revived by giving salons a try? Well, we’ll see how far dreamer gets, but I do hope I can train my mind and conversations to be about meaningful things with all people.

Oh, I could write pages on this dear woman, whose friends call her Deed! She might actually read this, but I have to tell her story because it will bless you! She was my hostess for the weekend I stayed in Wisconsin. Without even really knowing why we were there, she volunteered to host two of us in her house, where she’s lived for 50 years. I smiled every time she spoke – her joy spilled over onto the table as we drank in her hospitality. She told stories – oh did she tell stories! About her children, grandchildren, volunteer work with hospice, children she mentors, missionaries she supports, friends, and the topic of last week’s luncheon. The laughter just bubbled out of me and smiles creased my face as we talked about living, loving, and our place in the world. There was so much wisdom inside this 78-year-old woman, who served with the zeal of three 20-year-olds. Boy, she sure did love chocolate. A self-proclaimed chocoholic, she said, “Well, they tell you to put it in the freezer, but that doesn’t work because I know it’s there!” I sure laughed! She also told us a story about how she found these Toll House ice cream cookies, covered in chocolate at Walgreen’s. Well, then her grandson came over and made a comment about them, so she decided she needed to get more. So, she called Walgreen’s, who said they were all out – discontinued. Well, that didn’t stop her – she called every place in town … twiceJ to track some of the yummy frozen calorie cookie, but found nothing. So, finally she called a town ½ hour away and ended up buying four boxes so her grandson could have some on Easter. What a joy! What a blessing to spend time with someone who God has blessed and she’s chosen to be a blessing to others.