Sunday, April 10, 2011


       This is a long one... but here goes. I love what I am doing. I love serving my sponsor. I love getting my hands dirty and ending each day so exhausted that I fall asleep on the 20 minute van ride home. I love my team and I even love the mandatory pt I wake up for three days a week at 5am. I say at least once a week, "How did I ever get here? Living my dream job".
      But just like to every person, there is a whole other world beneath the surface, I would be lying to you to say that this is easy. So, I figured it was about time for some sincerity and to share what is going on under the surface. This is one of the most challenging experiences I have ever had. Everyday is a challenge physically, mentally and emotionally. But you have heard me say all of that before. The main area of challenge for me is spiritually. There is no one on my team I can talk to about God without them feeling like I am condemning them. So I suffer silently, reaching out to God and knowing that "His grace is sufficient for me".I came from a season in life where I was so immersed in Christian fellowship, that living out here feels like waking to constant darkness each day. I have not had cell phone service in three weeks (waa I know I am such a diva) and no access to local churches. But this fact really made me realized how blessed I am to have certain people in my life and how much just being in a relationship with them naturally encourages me. Without the constant love and encouragement of my family and friends I can feel myself growing weak and falling into old habits. I know that God is good and does all things for a good purpose, so through this I know it has made me rely on Him more, but also taught me how much Christian fellowships acts as the wind in my sails.
        There is a member of my team that for some reason strongly dislikes me, although to my face I would never know. He often tries to turn people against me saying that I am fake. Although I am far from perfect, I have always tried my best to love and encourage him. When I first heard about all of the things he was saying about me I was hurt and my pride was seriously offended. But after about a day of brooding, it hit me that Jesus warned me about this. "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." Matt. 5:11 The most recent thing I heard him say was, "No one can be that happy all the time. She's so fake". To that I literally laugh! Because it is confirmation that I have light living in me that no one or no situation can take away.
      The pastor talked this morning (yay for church now that I am back on campus!) about the teaching where Jesus says, "I am the light of the world." He later goes on to say, "You are the light of the world, live as children of the Light." Sometimes, I forget who I am or I lose track of why I am here. I am called to be salt and light. Walking with Jesus promises peace and joy that is beyond this world, but it also promises persecution. Yet, why do I always find myself surprised to find that it is happing and whining to God like, "Whyyyyyy is this happening to me?!?! I thought you loved me!" Haha, when God brings you to a desert it is an honor. He is testing you not so that you can be ashamed at how your strength fails every time, but to show you how His strength in you is always enough.
      A friend recently shared this verse with me and it definitely stuck with what my life looks like right now. May I walk you through it and my thoughts?
Romans 12:9-12
Love must be sincere. Sincere being the opposite of fake lol. For me this means that when I reach out to someone hurting and I say that I care, I have to really care. People can tell. My team can tell. I know that my love is broken and selfish but God's love is the strongest power ever to exist.
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. This is a hard one for me. I want to fit in. I want to laugh with my team and dance to the beats that come out of our radio. But I catch myself laughing at things that are definitely not good or singing lyrics and saying, "eww I cannot believe that just came out of my mouth." It takes courage to stand up for what you believe, knowing that you will most likely be standing alone. 
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. I stumbled upon a verse this week that went with this. Proverbs 17:17 "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." What struck me was the last part. That brothers are born out of trails. We have a joke here that the main thing that strengthens a team is "forced community hardship". To have brotherly love does not mean that I am smiling and huggin on people. It means that when I see my friend suffering, that there is something within me that rises up and is born in helping him. I am changed from a friend to a brother (sister).
Honor one another above yourselves. Jesus is the ultimate example of this and I found a verse a couple months ago that has served to smack me in the face and force me to check myself. "This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live him must walk as Jesus did." 1John 2:6.
Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Seeking God is a choice. I have to align my feet on the right path to get to the destination I desire. I heard it said once, "You wouldn't get on I-75 North to get the the Florida Keys would you?"
     In closing I share the last verse, verse 12. This is my daily prayer for my life and also yours:
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
                                                          And pray for windy weather....

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taggin, trappin and takin in the view...

I am officially an AmeriCorps NCCC member! No more training, time to go "get things done for America!" (one of our tag lines). So I have been in Maquoketa, Iowa, for almost two weeks now. Same brown corn fields, faded barns and thankfully, even though it is still chilly, same warm hospitality. Here are a few stories of what I have been up to working with Jackson County Conservation Board:
Tagging fish in the Mississippi
     I think this has been the most memorable experience of all. We worked with a team of guys from the Department of Natural Resources tagging fish on the Mississippi River. And if I ever wondered what it would be like to be one of the guys on manly fishing trips, I now have a first hand fly on the wall experience. Us ladies were out numbered  four to one, but I took up the torch. My daddy and Papa Lou raised me right ya hear. By the end of the day the men asked me to join up next year as a commercial fisher-woman with them. We brought in about 110 Northern Pike for tagging (to keep informed on the population changes). And some of these suckers were fat! One of my favorite fishermen, Royce, would see a fat female and call out, "That sow is mine!". He would then follow that up with his own rendition of "I like em big, I like em chunky..." from Madagascar 2. I hope you know what I am talking about, cause that song is hilarious. 
    By the end of the day, I had kissed about nine fish, only the really fat ones and cute tiny ones got the pleasure. I may have smelled like a fishy man, and looked like one in my puffy down suit to keep warm, but I know that I had proudly portrayed the boldness and stealth of my gender. 

Denny the Trapper
     In a battle for the most interesting person I have met in Iowa, Denny takes home the gold. He is in his sixties and has been working for the Department of Natural Resources for about thirty years. We drove out to Guttenburg for some fish tagging and all of my team mates were asleep for the hour drive there and back. So Denny had an abundance of time to tell me all about himself. Denny is one of the ten people in Iowa interested in Beaver trapping. He traps about 100 beavers every year (in addition to an abundance of deer, bear and otter). Denny is the kind of guy you could just sit next to on a public bus and have a pleasant conversation with and then it hits you, BAM! This guy is a genius. He knew more about anything and everything with fur, gills, or talons than Steve Irwin ever did. And family, you know my obsession and schoolgirl crush on Steve. 
      After a long day of netting fish he brought us to his house and opened his garage door to reveal nine beaver carcases (skinned pink with yellow teeth still grinnin, creepy I know). What happened next would remind me of  a scene from Silence of the Lambs if Denny weren't such a stand up guy. The room behind the garage was the most interesting... straight out of fear factor ladies and gentleman. Two walls are coated with beaver and otter hides that are being stretched for tanning. Above the door, like medieval torture devices hung about thirty toothless traps with rusty chains.There was the freezer full of "spare parts". Beaver and all his other trophies to sell and eat. And last but not least is the wall of beaver Caster glands. There is no getting around it, these looked like dried testicles.
"This is where I bring all of my daughters boyfriends when they come to the house for the first time," he told us. "I tell them these are all the past boyfriends." Beavers produce Caster to mark their territory but it is a very pricey material due to the fact that it is used to make high end perfumes even today. Bet you didn't know that. Denny makes an extra $8000-10,000 a year in trapping. Everything I just described may sound grizzly and barbaric but Denny has a huge respect for these animals. He even travels around Iowa giving educational seminars to schools on trapping and meets annually with members of PETA.

Other tid-bits
    We have filled the rest of the days here in various ways; volunteering at local elementary schools, clearing trails at the parks, preparing the area for the flooding of the Mississippi due to heavy snow melts from northern states, and completing two observation decks and docks for residents to enjoy all the natural beauty that Iowa has to offer. 
     After just two weeks, my knuckles are cracked like a Neanderthal's. I have developed a hopefully not permanent knob on my big toes from my steel toe boots. And I do not even want to mention the state of my hair, lets just say that I make dread locks look like a fancy prom up-do. But man, have I seen some beautiful views. Breathing fresh air all day and getting the satisfaction of creating something with nothing but shaped metal and your muscles. Nothing can compare. Well, I am out for now. Like always, early morning tomorrow. Love and miss you all more than you can possibly imagine. And if by chance you want to get your hands on some of that pricey beaver caster, let me know. I know a guy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tales of Courage (and the release of my first spike location!)

       Hello hello from Iowa! The weather today is a beautiful, sunny 40 degrees and after a few weeks of foggy, haze I am soaking up every ray. One would never think this Florida girl would be walking around in short sleeves in weather below 50 thanking God for the warm weather! Ha! From my previous blogs, you may have noted how crammed with training the past three weeks were. There are underground tunnels that connect every building on campus for comfortable facilitation in the Winter. But last week I found myself saying, "Holy cow, I have not seen the light of day in four days!!" So the past four days have been much needed for the lack of vitamin D and hard labor! Here is what I have been up to:
      I have just come back from my first spike. What is a spike you may ask? No, I am not being trained in the art of vampire slaying, rather this is the term NCCC uses for our team trips. It comes from the idea of pitching a tent. Carrying everything you need for a project on the strength of your shoulders and pitching a tent; driving the spike into the ground and claiming the land! That is what we do in NCCC. Go in with minimal supplies (in girl standards) and maximal skill and enthusiasm.

      So for my training spike we were sent to Camp Courageous, a camp for individuals with disabilities of all ages in Monticello, IA. It was awesome. We were not promised much time with the campers because we were going to be focused on infrastructure improvement. The camp had recently come into 30 additional acres to expand upon and a chunk of my team was given the job of taking down the fence that surrounded the previous acres so the expansion could be made. Our supervisor called this the "farm boy" job. I don't know if raising goats and chickens would count for that category but I volunteered. I found out two things: 1. I am an expert wire wrangler (better even then the North Carolina cowboy on my team) 2. Clay stains clothes something fierce (especially pristine AmeriCorps NCCC uniforms). The Iowan snow has turned into Iowan mud mush. I have become quite fond of my steel-toed boots. In fact us Corps members have a fun game we like to play. We put on our boots, find the largest person we can, and have them stomp in the toes of our boots. The result is a excited yell, "I did not feel a thing!". It's pretty fun, and a way to stay entertained in Iowa.
      Back to camp stories... We did a few other jobs too during out three days there. Painted the interior of three dorm buildings and ten bathrooms. Sanitized the dorms for the most medically challenged campers (think hospital sanitation). But by far my most favorite was the Mardi Gras dance the camp held. Camp Courageous is entirely run on donations which is a miraculous feat because everything about this camp is top notch. They even have a climbing wall in the pool! The dance was one of the many fundraising opportunities the camp has to invite the community to invest in the camp and campers.
      So you guys know me and my amazing dancing skills (example to the left, I'm in the blue pants with my booty shakin!), cough cough. Well, the campers of Camp Courageous were the best dance partners I have ever had. One of my favorites was a man named Stephen with down syndrome who showed up in a greaser jacket with a fine tooth comb in hand. Even with all the Danny Zuko coolness running through him, he could not fight the urge to get crazy with some Baha Men, "Who Let the Dogs Out?!". He got down on all fours with a few other campers and began imitating a dog. Before the song was over I had been bitten once, nuzzled on, barked at, and even imaginary peed on. Needless to say, that broke any ice of appearance and embarrassment that us Corps members may have had and we went all in! Those kids could dance. I threw my best moves at them and still did not win the dance contest! Haha.
         My three days at Camp Courageous taught me a lot, but one word fittingly comes to mind; courage. I saw in these campers total boldness of character. They loved who they were and didn't care what others thought. That takes courage.
      In closing, this is the verse that God used in my life this week: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather in humility value others above yourselves." Phil. 2:3. I don't know about you, but sometimes I think that I am waaaaay more important than other people. Crazy right? I am sure that I am the only one out there that does that too. But Jesus was a pretty humble guy. And he said and showed the example of valuing others over myself. I'm gonna keep chewing on that one for now :)

And here is the big news!!! I got the location for my first real spike. It is a split round which means two locations in six weeks. The first I am heading to Jackson County IOWA! Haha, working with the Environmental Conservation Board (clearing trails, teaching environmental education and working on the siding of the cabins and whatever else they give us). I am excited about getting to get out in nature and using my muscles, not to mention a machete. Muahaha. The second three weeks we will moving to Waterloo IOWA to work with Habitat for Humanity! So likely building houses, yaya! I wanna get ripped! Ha. Love you all and I will talk at you soon! Pray for windy weather :) XOX

Sunday, March 6, 2011


      I got my AmeriCrew! This consists of nine of the most miraculously awesome individuals you have ever seen! We are all incredibly brilliant. Passionate advocates for the underprivileged. Leaders of leaders. And we all have  perfectly chizzled Greek god-like bodies. If you are looking for excellence folks, look no further than the Americorps NCCC crew, Cedar 2. When we are together in our 15-passenger van, Oobie, the metal paneling vibrates from the sheer power we exude.  
Hold up...... not all of that is true. 
Brilliant... not the best word to describe the time we had to give a presentation on the importance of PT and the proposed idea was doing ten minutes of lyrical dancing in front of our whole unit. And the bit about our chizzled god-like bodies... well I will let you know how that is going once I get past 10 push ups, girl style. But our van is named Oobie. So that bit is true. And we do want to help people. So, foundationally we have all we need. 
      On a more serious note, this week has been exhausting in every way. Physically (waking up at 4:50 am four days a week for PT), Mentally (getting trained in disaster relief, CPR/first aid, paper filing protocol, Support Ranger, and learning the female alto part in the Star Spangled Banner for the induction ceremony all in one week), Emotionally/Spiritually (watching the people around me wander in darkness without the Love that sustains me... not to mention a few suicide scares).We were talking today at church about how to know if we were spiritually maturing (growing from infants to adults) and my friend Alex said something I really liked: " In this world it seems that the older or mature we get the more independent we become. But in my walk with God it is the opposite. I have seen that the more mature I get the more dependent I am on Him." One of my favorite verses has always been John:15, "You are the branches and I am the vine. Remain in me and I will remain in you. Without me you can do nothing." Nothing. Every muscle in my body is sore from PT, my brain is stuck with an IV and crammed with training for 12 hours a day and I watch the people I have come to love fill themselves with things no more lasting than vapor. I know that without my relationship with Jesus I can do nothing. 
        But what do you do when you sit down with a friend lost in darkness and pout out your heart to them (the hope, joy and love you feel) and still all you see is emptiness and utter hopelessness? The Holy Spirit led me to this; "Why, my soul, are you so downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior, my God." (Psalm 42). Sometimes things are just way too big for me.And that is OK, because I am not God. And He is big enough to handle any question, pressing darkness or lost sheep. 

So I wait on Him.... knowing that, "suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not
disappoint." Romans 5:3-5. Hope. It is a tangible thing.

Love and miss you all. Call me and I will give you a blog shout out on my next post! Holla! Till then, pray for windy weather....

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rambles that I hope will make you giggle and think...

    Well hello from the corn fields of Vinton, Iowa!!! Today is the end of my third day here. And instead of recapping a play-by-play of every moment, let me give you some of my favorites and paint you a few mind pictures.....
     From the tiny 50 passenger plain Iowa looked like a patchwork of white and grey. The corn fields that I pictured in my mind were nothing more than muddy fields with deep scars from years of plowing (which is sooo duh Becky, WINTER!) But I am so excited for the hope of Spring. Walking through the rows of corn with my eyes closed, sun on my face after a pale and pasty winter. Feeling the leaves tickle my palms as I walk past. Hope it is better than my imagination can conjure! May be a little corny (ha!) I know, but hey I am pumped to trade in sandy shores for fertilizer rich corn fields!
     I have concluded that for the most part, I love uniforms! I may look like a man but I have added 15 minutes to my sleep schedule in wardrobe planning. And turns out I brought an embarrassing about of clothes. So instead of receiving care packages I will most likely be sending some home to my teenage sister. More big sister clothes, woo hooo! So, back to the uniform... theme word is masculine. Yay... The pants are to be worn at our "natural waist", which if I actually wore them that way would be just a few inches under my bra, so how about no. lol. Instead I wear them at my bellybutton and still have about 4 inches of saggy crotch space. With our shirts tucked in and black belt like a bow on top, every beautiful woman looks like a truck driver. So all I have to do is put on a little chap stick and mascara and deodorant and let me tell you, I looook gooooood. Fun fact.... if 100 people are wearing it, it is officially a trend. So, I got 200 backing me, and if you don't look like my clone (beige, baggy and belted) you just ain't cool.
        I am loving meeting the people at my campus and native Iowians (Iowains? Iowish? haha idk.). If every person that was recruited for this program was labeled with a certain color, I don't think even Crayola would be creative enough to name us all. It is really awesome and beautiful and it shows how diverse God is since we are all created in His image. I walk around with a big smile on my face, asking what everyone is up to. I have had many opportunities to play mommy already. You know me. Made a sandwich for a teammate today and even cut it down the middle for him.
       I've had a few really awesome God moments already. No surprises there since he's carries us in His palm. Most already know what I believe. I hope I can make it clear that it is not so much that I am a Christian and about what I believe, but rather WHO I believe in. One moment that sticks out to me is since the day I got here there has been this guy that I have noticed. On the tiny plane to Iowa, I had no place to put my carry on. He noticed and took his from above and stuffed it under his heels (leaving his knees piled on his chest) to give me a spot. So kind and rare. But whenever I had seen him after that he was always on his own, ear buds in, even sitting in the corner while a room of others chatted cheerfully. Hurt my heart. So one night he was sitting alone in the lobby listening to music and I walked past to get to my room and smiled. Roommate was gone so I decided it was time to hang out with God. But as I got quiet I kept hearing the tagline from this conference I just went to......, "Empathy is not enough. Be the Love." So, you know those moments where you know God is talking to you and you keep trying to convince yourself otherwise??? Well this was one of those.  Thankfully, as always, God got his way and a minute later I was praying for some "winds" (reference to previous blog, "The wind blows wherever it pleases, you hear it's sound but you cannot tell from where is comes or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit." John 3:8). I got to spend two hours talking with the guy, learning about his life (which has been really rough), and getting to encourage him. It was awesome. Please pray for my lonely friend, that we would feel surrounded my love. I could read my bible for hours and not feel any closer to Jesus then I did during that time when I listened to that still small voice and loved one of His sheep. I have daily found myself shocked at how and where God appears. Met an awesome Christian brother here too who wants to start a bible study, and now have a group of about five heading to church this Sunday! I have learned to keep my eyes peeled because people are not what they seem. Like our creator we are complex and full of surprises :) So friend, I challenge you; how closely are you paying attention? What is God telling you to do? And (moment of truth...) are you going to listen?

Jesus said: "I have set you an example, that you should do as I have done for you.... Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." John 13:15-16

Love you all and thank you for how you love me back. Like before... Pray for Windy Weather.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wait, I am moving to IOWA?! What?!?

     About a year ago I was caught in the crazy turmoil that every college senior goes through... "What's next?!". You might think that after 18 years of being in school and taking classes, especially in college when you really get into specifics, that I had discovered what I wanted to do. But as everyone else around me edged closer to graduation and starting making phone calls about internships and applying for positions, I just heard crickets. I didn't know where to go or what to do, but trusting in God I began to look at the passions He put in me. And everything that I loved to do had a resounding theme; serving others. This lead me to the program called AmeriCorps NCCC.
     For those of you who haven't heard of AmeriCorps NCCC, let me break it down for you. AmeriCorps is a program for the Corporation for National and Community Service. It was drawn from the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930's. We partner with non-profit organizations to address needs in our community and country related to natural disasters, environment stewardship and conservation, energy conservation, infrastructure improvement and urban/rural development. Some project examples may be working with the forestry department on controlled burnings, cleaning up and community building after flooding/hurricane damage, building homes with Habitat for Humanity. I am placed on a team of eight to twelve members between the ages of 18-24. For ten months we travel the U.S. serving, with a new project and location every six to eight weeks. So for a girl that loves serving others, getting my hands dirty, traveling and trying new things, this opportunity seemed unbelievable!
     So now here I am, twenty four hours away from stepping on an airplane and flying to the icy cornfields of Vinton, Iowa (the campus I was randomly chosen to serve at, woohoo!). I get butterflies just thinking about it. I will be trading in the sunshine and sweltering heat of Florida for sub zero weather and snow banks taller than myself. And corn, lots and lots of corn.
      Some of you may be asking, "What is the deal with her Blog name? "Riding the Wind? Pray for windy weather? Huh?". Well, I know that God has lead me to this opportunity in my life, just like he has done and will continue to do in my life and yours :) I love the idea that when we are serving God, we just go where he sends us. Knowing the he is good and provides a hope and future for his children. I know what I will be doing tomorrow, flying to Iowa, but after that I have no clue. I don't know who I will meet or where and what my projects will be, or if I will have enough clothes to keep me from being frostbitten! But I know that God has a plan, and that trusting in him is all I need.

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:8

     We are called to be like seeds, fearfully and wonderfully created with a purpose. Blown in the winds of our creator to the places he calls us. Like a dandelion. We are planted, grow and produce fruit and then are sent off again wherever the Wind pleases. So friends, join me. Listen for God and trust what he says. Wait for the breeze, and pray for windy weather.