The View from the Back Seat

In recent weeks, I’ve gone on two quick trips with a couple of my seeJesus Bethesda teammates. One to eastern Ohio and one to Norfolk, Virginia. On both we spent as much time in the car as we did at the events. Preparing for the trips we talked about who would drive. It turns out that all three of us like to drive and were more than willing to do so. Trusting the others, I felt completely free to say that I would be fine to not drive, and in fact to sit in the back seat. While the others offered to trade seats with me at any point in the trips, I was quite content back there.

Not driving, for the first time in what feels like ages, reinforced the fact that I was not in control. I did not have to focus on directions, road conditions, traffic, or timing. I also had the whole back seat as my little kingdom (perhaps using that word “kingdom” means I still needed a bit of control – ha!). I had my thermal bag with my drinks, a book, my phone and charger, a blanket, sweater and other assorted sundries.

As I enjoyed the journeys, I found that these trips are a good analogy for this last year of my life. Most of my years of work and ministry had focused on creating, developing and

night
Sometimes over the last year I felt like I was traveling in the dark to a destination I did not know.

leading various aspects of ministry and teams. I enjoyed that work and found it was a good fit for my gifts, passions, and stage of life. When that work came to an abrupt stop, life seemed to turn upside down.

Several months later when I joined the seeJesus Bethesda team I found myself in a position of being a learner. I knew some about the ministry, but not enough yet to represent it well. While I wasn’t sitting back doing nothing, I was now the one asking questions, seeking clarification and learning to skillfully use the tools in our ministry tool box.

In my other part-time job at a financial planner’s office I have a support role. I copy, scan, index, confirm appointments and transactions, and assemble mailings. And it is good. Most of the people I work with are significantly younger than me. Many are on track for future promotions and career growth. Not me. I am content to do what I can to let them shine.

When my mind whirs with details of to do lists, projects to be completed, etc. I can recall that I am not the bottom line. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I never try to step into the position of leader or controller (long ingrained habits change slowly). This new outlook has even carried over to my marriage.

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Sitting in the backseat lets me take in the beauty around me.

Perhaps it is my age or my current place in this journey of life, but I am enjoying the view from the back seat and not anxious to change that any time soon. If a year ago you would have told me that I would find joy and fulfillment in “the back seat” both figuratively and literally I would have scoffed and disregarded your statements. Now after nearly a year as a supporting player on the teams God has placed me in, I find it refreshing.

arrow-1538686_1920What about you?  At this stage in your life do you prefer the driver’s seat, the co-pilot or the back seat?  What have you learned from your view?

Silly GPS

“Why on earth is this silly GPS telling me to get off at every exit and take a different route?”

That was my question while driving on I-95 last weekend after leaving a hotel in Virginia for our final leg home to Pennsylvania.  After about 5 miles of ignoring the GPS and repeating my question, I had a thought.

Sure enough – I was heading south on I-95 instead of north.  gps

Heeding the advice of my GPS I got off the highway on Chicken Foot Road (truly – I am not making that up!), crossed the highway overpass and joined the party that is known as I-95 north.  As soon as I did that, the GPS was happy and told me to stay on that road now for a couple hundred miles.

Jerry and I both wondered how that happened.  The location of our hotel  had a lot of construction, causing both of us to pay extra attention to the signs for I-95 north.  Even as I turned onto the ramp it felt wrong to me.  I questioned myself if I was headed north or south, but thought, “I followed the signs.”

What a great picture of life at times.  I think I read the signs correctly, and I follow where I believe they are leading.  But it’s not always the right path.  Signs may be a good indicator, but can be changed.

My GPS was the ultimate authority that day, pinpointing where I was, what was ahead and what was behind.  This inanimate object had more wisdom about my movements than I had.

How much more does the living, breathing Word of God need to be my ultimate authority?   I need to subject the signs I read on my journey to the truth in the Bible.  If they align with the Bible I am moving in the right direction.  If they don’t it is time to stop, listen, and read more to avoid backtracking.

 

And Tonight’s Guest Is . . .

Less than 3 weeks ago we took hospitality and hosting to a new level when we started to share our guest room on Airbnb.  Our listing went live late on a Wednesday evening.  Living in a small borough we thought it would be weeks before we’d get a hit.  We were wrong.  Thursday afternoon we received our first reservation for four nights.  From that point on we have had steady traffic.  We have now hosted four guests over 12 nights and have two more guests booked this week.

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Eighteen days after opening our home, we have learned:

  • There is a greater demand for overnight accommodations in our little town than we would have ever guessed.
  • Travelers don’t make reservations too far in advance. Some requests come in for the very same day. None of our guests have reserved more than a week in advance.

Our first guests were a pleasant young couple from the Washington DC area.  They made a same day reservation.  While chatting after check in we learned the husband was from Bethlehem, “PA.”  Not Pennsylvania, but Palestine.  The irony was not lost on us that one of the first people we had room for was from a place where there was no room in the inn for Jesus.

Two gentlemen, while only booking short term rentals, were in need of transitional housing while they fulfill contracts with nearby businesses.  Both of these gentlemen were a pleasure to host and each asked if we would consider a long-term rental agreement with them (30 days or more).   They commented on how they visited other possible hosts and preferred our home.  We offer a private guest room with access to 1/3 of the closet. They share the bathroom with our long term tenant and friend, Scott.  Guests can make use of our kitchen and share the living room with us.  I am certain it is not the most spacious, or fanciest place they’ve stayed, yet they have stated they felt most comfortable here.

Jerry noted that some of our guests seem to have many more resources (financially) than we have, yet they are restless and searching.  We have less in the way of financial resources, but share joy and peace in our humble home. Our hope is that what guests are experiencing is the presence of the Spirit of God.

We started hosting for the income, it is an “easy” way to supplement our budget.  We have quickly learned that this type of hospitality is about so much more.  As we consider reservation requests, prepare the room, and engage with each person for who will occupy it, we pray for them.  Interacting with those who pass through our home is broadening our understanding of other cultures. We pray it has also planted a seed in their heart of the eternal home that can be theirs with Jesus.

Stay tuned and see how God continues to use this venture for His glory.

feedback.jpg                                                                                                                       Have you stayed in a host home or Airbnb while traveling?  If so we’ll love to hear your experiences.  Please comment below, or on Facebook, Twitter or wherever you are reading this.

Here, There and (not quite) Everywhere

That title sums up my experiences of the last several weeks.  It went a little like this:

I took some time off the grid.  It was my vacation before my vacation!  I have a feeling that this will become a part of my regular routine.  Refreshing is the best way I can describe that time.  I did not go off grid to get away from the negative talk on social media (though that was an added blessing).  I unplugged so I could be present, engaged . . .  in my life and with the lives of those I am with.  That focus helped me disengage from some negative thinking, allow the past to be the past and prepare myself to move forward.

It also set me up for the time it would be necessary to be off grid due to travel.  In God’s great mercy and grace He provided time for us to get away that was paid for prior to being out of work (and income).

We boarded the Grandeur of the Seas for a 9-night cruise to ports in Charleston SC, Port Canaveral FL (where we enjoyed reconnecting with three friends we haven’t seen in years),

Freeport Grand Bahamas Island, Nassau Bahamas and Coco Cay Bahamas.  Unlike many on the ship, we do not cruise for the excursions (trips one takes after getting of the ship at a given port).  Some look interesting but they typically are quite expensive and not very accessible.  We cruise because it is an amazing vacation for a couple who deals with disability in marriage.  Our hotel travels with us, we don’t have to schlepp luggage, the adaptive equipment is delivered to our room . . . what more could we ask for?  We get to simply relax, sleep in, read, listen to some good music, enjoy the pool and the ocean view.

open-ocean

Our first morning I opened our balcony doors and looked out and said, “this is what I love – to look for miles and see ‘nothing’.”

 

 

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Then I turned back to our room and said, “until I turn this way, then I see ‘everything’.”

 

Doing and seeing “nothing” but being with the one who means “everything” to me is a pretty awesome vacation if you ask me.

Not My Ebenezer or Is It?

This blog is named “Raising My Ebenezer” because it is a place I can memorialize in a way lessons I’ve learned,  stories, and people important in my life.  Ebenezer is often defined as “stones of remembrance.”

broken relationships.jpgThis weekend, while walking around Hollywood, I found something that I would not want to archive for the memories.  The Museum of Broken Relationships.   Really?  We didn’t go in so I can’t attest to what is in that building.  According to their website they take and display (anonymously) items from anyone who experienced brokenness with a person, a location or a life situation.  The donor is encouraged to share their story of the item.

It’s an interesting idea.  I’ve had broken relationships with people, and there are places I left with heartache.    It is painful.  Neither are something I want to spend time remembering.  Yes – they certainly have helped me learn and grow – but I see them more as stepping stones than stones of remembrance.

Actually, there is one relationship that had been broken and has now been restored that I do want to identify, remember and share.  It’s my relationship with Jesus.  God created me to have relationship with Him, but my sinful heart said my way was better.  So for a time I went my own way.

God in His faithfulness and love pursued me.  He continued to woo me back to Him.  He won!  Because He gave his only son Jesus to settle  and heal our broken relationship I can now call God my Father, even my Abba Daddy; and Jesus is my brother.  The Bible says I am a joint heir with Jesus (I am entitled to everything Jesus is entitled to as the only son of God).

The empty cross and tomb are the only symbols I need of a broken relationship now restored!

Romans 8:6-11 in the New Living Translation

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Blessings and Joy!

IMG_1914No, this is not a post “airing our dirty laundry”, but instead a story of how this pile of laundry (about 10 loads) became a symbol of blessing and joy to me.

Friday we came home from serving at our first two weeks of Family Retreat.  (For those of you not familiar with Family Retreat you can read this post in my archives).  We arrive home exhausted, ready to do nothing for a couple of days but rest and relax.  We also come home with a LARGE pile of laundry.

Typically I’ve looked at the pile of laundry and grumbled (to myself I think, but perhaps out loud as well!) that I have to do that laundry.  That starts the rock rolling downhill while gathering thoughts of, “the kitchen needs to be mopped, the beds need clean sheets, the gardens need weeding, the bills need paying. . . .” and very soon my attitude is shot.

Our Family Retreat theme this year was “Joy.”  We talked each day about finding joy in the range of emotions that come our way in daily life.  Coming home I immediately got a chance to apply that!  I realized that I could choose my attitude about the laundry, and other tasks ahead of me.  I could see them as burdens, exercise frustration, but still have to complete them.  Or I could choose joy and view this mountain of laundry, weeds, dishes, etc. as a blessing.

  • A blessing that we have enough clothes to change daily
  • A blessing that I am not at a river pounding clothes on a a rock to clean them, but put them in this magic machine and they come out clean
  • A blessing that we have a door on the laundry room I can shut when  I am not ready to  take on the task
  • A blessing that we have a home with a small bit of property that has places to grow weeds

And then a funny thing happened . . .  when I changed my attitude about the laundry, I found unpacking wasn’t such a chore either.   I was grateful we have jobs that allow us opportunities to travel and serve, thankful for the blessing of suitcases, cars to travel in, thankful for a house to come home to. . .  and most of all thankful for a Heavenly Father who doesn’t give up on me but continues to strengthen me with His joy!

 

Disability Privilege

As I grow in my understanding of urban ministry I have had to wrestle with the phrase “white privilege.”  As I’ve thought about that concept, I came to realize that Jerry and I live with “Disability Privilege.”

Friends, or those we meet, often comment on how much we are “on the go.”   The unspoken remainder of the sentence is “especially for someone with disability.”  Though some courageous commenters will ask “how do you do it?  Can you get an wheelchair on a train/plane or whatever means of conveyance we are awaiting?”

I don’t typically think about what we do as anything special or unusual, it’s just our life.  We travel several times a year for the ministry, both within our region and across the country.  We try to get away a couple of times a year for some vacation or rest time – we’ve spent that time driving around the US, relaxing at the beach, visiting family, hosting family, cruising to Alaska and some points in the Caribbean (different trips – ha!).  And we make sure we get to a number of baseball games each year and other local events.

We have a number of  friends who live life affected by disability and travel even more extensively, but honestly, we are part of a very small group.  The larger number of people affected by disability in this world struggle to get an appropriate wheelchair, support services, housing they can afford and maintain, reliable attendant care or transportation so they can secure a job.

Even on our worst days about 90% of people with disabilities around the world would love to have the “privilege” of working through our challenges.  It’s good for me to be reminded that we are blessed beyond measure.  Not because of anything about who we are, but because of the graciousness of our God.  It doesn’t even mean God loves us more than those who struggle – He doesn’t.  What it does mean is that we have the opportunity to use the blessings God has given us to bless others.  That is a fun and exciting challenge in which to participate.

To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required.  Luke 12:48