Beyond My Walls, An Open Letter to My Readers

Buenos Días!

As you hopefully read in my blog post from Tuesday, I returned just 11 days ago from my first ever mission trip to San Salvador, El Salvador. To say that my life was forever changed is truly and understatement. I prayed for months about whether or not God wanted me there and once I realized He did, I was eager to discover His plan and purpose for my Central American adventure. It took a few days and even a few tears, but by Thursday of our weeklong trip, I knew why God wanted me there.

I was blessed to be able to visit a local private school in San Salvador, Colegio Ceren, to talk with a group of high schoolers (most of them were around the 15-18 age range). I figured that this wasn’t God’s purpose for me, since it’s what I do for a job and I was sure there was something bigger for me in San Salvador. Once again, I was wrong. I spent two and a half days at the school talking with the teenagers about my faith and theirs, comparing high school experiences and laughing. One of the boys I met, Josué, pulled at my heartstrings from Day 1. It was something beyond the fact that he was at least 5’10″ (unusually tall for a Latino!), had skin as pale as mine, bright blue eyes and naturally red hair. It took me a few days and numerous people to piece together his backstory, but in a nutshell, his dad left when he was little, his mom passed away from breast cancer, his brother is in jail, and Josué is living alone in a tiny apartment with just enough money from a family friend in the states to cover tuition and a little food.

Friday afternoon at Ceren with Josué!

Friday afternoon at Ceren with Josué!

After 3 days with Josué and his peers, I knew why God had sent me to San Salvador. After discussing the idea with Pastor Victor (the head pastor at the San Salvador church we partner with, Iglesia Gran Comision), we decided that I would become Josué’s sponsor. My financial support will go through the Great Commission Latin America (GCLA), the same organization Rock City Church uses to sponsor the little kids. From there, my money will be specifically designated for Josué and will go to Pastor Victor and he will use it as he best sees fit for Josué’s needs at that time. In 2 years, when he graduates from high school, I can continue donating money to go towards Josué’s college fund. Then, once he is stable and on his own, he will no longer need my financial support. Through all of this, Josué and I will be able to email one another and build a friendship that spans many years and thousands of miles. I have a dream of seeing Josué graduate high school 2 years from now!

Working with the high schoolers didn’t feel “special” at first, it just felt like another day at work (I’m an 11th & 12th grade English teacher in Columbus). But maybe that is how God shows us our spiritual gifts and purpose. The things that we love to do and can do without hesitation are the things He wants us to do for His glory. Yes, he will challenge us and push us to “flex, flex, flex” (this was our motto for the week to remind us to be flexible!) out of our comfort zone, but it’s only to make us stronger in His purpose for us. 

I have only been home a little while, and I already know that my time in San Salvador is far from over. It was definitely hard for me to leave. Part of my heart was ready to be home, share my experience with my friends and family, and cuddle with Dewey, but the other part ached for the new friends I had made.

This past Sunday, an opportunity to return to San Salvador presented itself. I was sitting next to Annie, a woman I became friends with on the trip, at church on Sunday, and in the middle of the service, she leaned over and whispered that she was joining up with the August mission trip. My heart immediately longed to return, so I spent some serious time in prayer begging God for a sign of whether I was to go back in August or not. I realized that really the only thing keeping me from going was raising the money. As a teacher, I’m on summer break, so the timing is perfect.

Yesterday in the mail, I got a check for $425 as an AEP Electric refund. “HEY ASHLEY!!! HERE’S YOUR SIGN!!!” -Love, God

I am hoping and seriously praying that God will come through, not just for me, but for the Salvadorians as well, and help me to raise the extra $1325.

Our trip is August 2-10 and our role will be to serve the community through working with the children, assisting in the health clinic and possibly some construction work. We will share the love and message of Jesus Christ and build relationships with people that are eager to share their life stories and hear why we have the hope we have. I realize that it might not fit into the schedule to visit Colegio Ceren, but I trusted God once to stretch me and grow me, and I know He will do it again. Obviously, I hope and pray that we do, but if not, I am eager to see what God has in store for me this time.

I am asking for your support in two ways. First and foremost, I need some diligent, persistent prayer partners! If you remember to do nothing else on our behalf, please remember to pray! This is so imperative as I begin making VERY QUICK preparations for my trip and then as I actually arrive on site to minister to the poor and hurting of San Salvador. 

Please add us to your daily prayer list!

Secondly, I am asking for support financially in this outreach endeavor. The total cost is $1750 per person for the 9 days we will be in San Salvador. I believe that God has put this trip on my heart (again!) for a reason and I am very confident that He will put this request on the hearts of the people he would have support this mission opportunity. All that I ask of you to do is to pray about it and then follow what God wants you to do for His Kingdom. If you decide to donate, directions are below.

I realize that you may have never met me, maybe this is your first time stopping by adorable lil blog ;), or maybe you’ve never donated to something like this before. Please understand that when you donate, your money IS NOT going into my pocket! First of all, when you donate, you go through Rock City Church. You simply designate your donation for Mission Trips, and then include my name so it goes towards my fundraising. This process will not only assure you that you are not sending money to some quirky girl with pink hair (oh yeah, I dyed my hair pink last week!) to do who knows what with, but it also makes your donation tax deductible! YAY!

I hope that you will also be assured that your hard earned money is going towards a cause bigger than me, bigger than you, greater than the sum of us combined. Your money will be used to show the poor and disadvantaged people of San Salvador God’s love. You will be helping me to connect with Josué, the 16 year old boy I am supporting financially, spiritually and emotionally. And a little bit selfishly on my end, you will be supporting me in finally feeling like I am fulfilling God’s purpose for me.

Your prayer and financial partnership will help our team to influence many for Christ as we serve them in different ways while we are in their country. For those of you that are serious planners like myself, this might be a bit last minute, but remember, “FLEX, FLEX, FLEX!” I must have ALL of this financial support by July 6th. I look forward to hearing from you! Together, we can make an impact on the lives of these precious Salvadorians!

With love, Ashley

If you feel led to donate to my Salvadorian Adventure or have ANY questions whatsoever about donating, please let me know by using this form to contact me!

To read more in depth about my first of many San Salvadorian adventures and see the beautiful faces of the people God has blessed, please check out my blog post:

EndingUpHere.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/san-sal  

† † † † †

How to Give

Online Donations

  • Rock City Church can accept donations online through our website www.rockcitychurch.tv
  • In the upper right corner, click the little black box with 3 lines. Scroll to the bottom and click “Give Online.”
  • On the next page, click the large box that says “One-Time Gift.”
  • On the next page, in the first drop down menu, select “Mission Trips”

This next part is important!!

  • Currently the merchant services that Rock City Church uses does not offer an option to leave a memo with my name, designating your donation to me. Along with your online donation, please send an email to missions@rockcitychurch.tv with the subject being “Missions Donation For Ashley Arend.”

Turning support funds in to Rock City Church via an “actual” check:

  • Double check that all checks are made out to “Rock City Church.”
  • Double check that the memo section states “Rock City Missions: A. Arend”
  • Once you have verified that all the checks are completed correctly you may:
    • Drop them in the offering OR
    • Mail them to: Rock City Church / Attn: Mission Trips / PO Box 474 / Hilliard, Ohio / 43026

Example Check:

***IMPORTANT: DISCLAIMER!***

To insure the tax deductibility of your support gift, IRS regulations stipulate that support contributions may NOT specify that an individual be the beneficiary of or direct recipient of the contribution. However, you may indicate a preference below and the Church will endeavor to honor that preference. Make all checks payable to “Rock City Church.”

Thank you for considering giving to this cause. Any amount you would like to give will be greatly appreciated.

Advertisements

Beyond My Walls, San Salvador Mission Trip: Love Is My Purpose

{please click HERE to see ALL my photos from San Salvador!} Well, I think it is quite obvious that I was unable to complete a daily blog while in San Salvador. I got to the point where I was so … Continue reading

Life, According to my iPhone: 100 Happy Days :: Vol. 4 & 5

 

If you are not familiar with the 100 Happy Days challenge, read my post explaining it HERE!

Okay, okay, I know I’m late!!! JEEEZ! But it’s been SUUUUUPER busy up in hurr lately (more on that LATER!). BUT! I still haven’t missed a happy day!!  Yesterday was Day 52 and I’m still going strong! I will admit that there have been a few days that haven’t been anything special, so they have resulted in some sort of Dewey portrait. But I almost appreciate those days more because it forces me to really look at my day and appreciate the little things. In fact, I’m working through binge watching How I Met Your Mother (I just started season 8 of 9!!!). An episode I watched last night ficused on Barney trying to convince Ted that they should do something”LEGENDARY” every night. The first few nights are pretty awesome (they start a Mariachi band, eat everything on the menu of their favorite bar and bring a horse into the bar!), but by night 4, Ted is getting tired and  implores Barney to understand that,

“Every night can’t be legendary. If all nights are legendary, no nights are legendary.”

WOOOOAHHHHH!!!!!! Mind. Blown.

 

Okay, in the episode, that was NOT Barney’s reaction. He vehemently argued against Ted…but MY mind was blown! If something awesome happens everyday, it becomes normal and the awesome things just seem regular. Does that make sense?

So because everyday isn’t “legendary,”, I get to value the little, insignificant days more.

*****

Here are my photos from the past 20 days!

OH! And check it out! I’ve gone long enough that I’ve had ONE FULL MONTH of Happy Days!!

I'm using the Photo 365 app to organize all my Happy Days!

I’m using the Photo 365 app to organize all my Happy Days!

And here are Days 11-20!

And Days 21-30!

(click to enlarge!)

Days 31-40

 Days 41-50

Day 31: Brunch with these cats!! I LOVE Sundays with Shelly (& Vikki)!!!

Day 32: 6am workout followed by coffee, tea and breakfast with the amazing Christine! We got to share incredible stories, challenges and I even got a few writing tips! All before 9am on my first day of spring break!

Day 33: Project Barbie Dream House Facelift continues!!! Where do you suppose this “Fabulous Grape” is going???

Day 34: I had a blast today hanging out with my sister and my favorite nephew (don’t tell him he’s my only nephew!)! Rarely do I get such quality time with the bugger!

Day 35: I knocked an item off my Spring Break To-Do list by exploring downtown and taking a little photo adventure!

Day 36: Good Friday: “IT IS FINISHED!” “It wasn’t a cry of defeat. It was a shout of victory. The great work of rescuing us was finished! There is now nothing you can do to make God love you more — nothing you can do to make him love you less. It is finished!”

Day 37: Got to spend the day being a model with this gorgeous girl for Drauma!

Day 38: Hosana! Hosana! Hosana in the highest! “Many will be counted righteous for He will bear their sin!” Isaiah 53:11 This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.

Day 39: “HOW DID I GET UNDER THIS DRESS?!” “WHEN DID I HAVE A DRAG BABY?!” Monday’s a Drag kicked off our Alternative Fashion Week (AFW) 2014!

Day 40: I Screen, You Screen Screen Printing Workshop! Another successful screen printing night! Check out my Mobster Red tank I printed with Kelli! 

Day 41: Stew’s first ever yoga class! I may have left out that Alexander is evil…but he survived anyways!! {Don’t get excited…we dated for a smidgeon, but he’s no longer in the picture! Pun??}

Day 42: So I joined a girl band after our Reconstruction Night for AFW 2014.

Day 43: Secret’s out. It’s Wig Night!!! I love having a friend that I can be silly and awesome and beautiful with!

Day 44: Wow wow wow. What a night!!! Amazing! Nerve-racking! So many words. Must sleep to process. Thank you too all who came out. Your love and support truly means everything. {Post AFW Grand Finale Runway Show!!!}

Day 45: Somethings will never change! I got to round out my amazing weekend with Yenny, visiting home from the Left Coast! 

Day 46: I spent the day paying bills, cleaning and reorganizing the Barbie Dream House. I found this love note stashed away in a corner! It’s easy to be a good friend when you have wonderful, kind and loving people in your life. 

Day 47: My life may not always be glamorous, but at least I get to cuddle up with the Dewster every night.

Day 48: Ahhhh…I heart Wednesday nights! Yoga, hit shower, dinner and Law & Order: SVU. 

Day 49: Just a typical Thursday morning sweating my ass off before work! 

Day 50: Oh y’know, just spending the day flexing & drinking champagne with my best model and workout buddy! Amanda and I spent the day prepping for the Cap City Marathon! Unfortunately, I couldn’t run due to a strained IT band, but I’ll be back next year!!!

Life, According to my iPhone: 100 Happy Days :: Vol. 3

32 days in and still haven’t missed!! If you are not familiar with the 100 Happy Days challenge, read my post explaining it HERE!

I have to admit that it has been pretty easy to be happy these past 10 days. As crazy as my schedule is, I have lots of blessings in my life and I’ve actually remembered to document them! And a few friends have joined the challenge!!

Here are my photos from the past 10 days!

And here are Days 11-20!

(click to enlarge!)

Days-21-30

 

Day 21: Sweating before 7am?? NAILED IT!! I’ve started working out at Seven Studios at 6am on Mondays and Tuesdays since my evenings are so busy!! This is my awesome friend Justin and one of our trainers, Christine!

Day 22: Besties/Sisters/Mobsters Amee & I steppin’ out at Circa Fashion Show, supporting the AMAZING Ashley Wills! She is a blogger and occasionally blogs for the Alternative Fashion Mob!!

Day 23: Hittin’s the streets of the Short North in downtown Columbus to get the word out about Alternative Fashion Week! Believe me…I was hard to miss and even harder to avoid!

Day 24: Celebrating the 3rd birthday of my new church, Rock City Church! The music and sermon was SOOO good, I stayed for 2 services!

Day 25: Jeff & Kelli gave a behind the scenes look into planning Alternative Fashion Week at Motive Monday. Apparently it’s not as easy as it seems!

Day 26: After residing at Barbie Dream House for Wayward Girls for 7 years, it was time for an update. New (to me) couch!! Step 1 of a few little tweaks!!

Day 27: First nap on the new couch was a snoring success!!

Day 28: Paw my gosh! That happy face!! What you can’t see is that I’m making the same face behind the camera! The weather is finally perking up!

Day 29: My lovely friend Brenton just made a penny floor in his bathroom! It was begging for a selfie!! This was also his birthday dinner!

Day 30: This is our type of weather! 45 minutes soaking up the sun resulted in a little sunburn! I ain’t mad!! We are ALL smiles!

 

Life, According to my iPhone: 100 Happy Days :: Vol. 2

I can’t believe it! I’ve made it 21 DAYS into this challenge and I haven’t missed a day once! Knock on wood!! If you are not familiar with the 100 Happy Days challenge, read my post explaining it HERE!

I don’t know if this challenge has made me more happy, but it has helped me to take joy in the little moments in life. But honestly, the thing I have loved most is sharing in my friends’ (and even some strangers!) happy moments! It has been helpful to have my friends do this with me. If it gets late in the day and I haven’t posted yet, I’m likely to get a “Have you been happy today??” text! I have found it to be true with every challenge in my life that the most important thing you need to be successful is a dedicated support group of friends!

Just a couple of Joyments!

Just a couple of Joyments!

Here are my photos from the past 10 days!

(click to enlarge!)

Day 11: Ahhhh….nothing like a brand new (and stinky!) yoga mat! The good people at Natural Fitness have a Zero Impact Program, in which they plant a tree for every product they sell! I hope it’s a cool tree! Maybe I’ll go visit it someday!

Day 12: Gah. I finally gave in. After my 2 day cleanse, I was starving and had a bagel with cream cheese. I don’t even care.

Day 13: Don’t leave me alone in a room full of buttons & knobs! Happy to get a clean bill of health at the eye doc!

Day 14: Happy to be surrounded by other Rock City Church folks at our weekly Life Group! We’re trucking through “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson.

Day 15: My best friend. Forever. Sometimes it just works.

Day 16: Feeding my hangover! Turns out Bareburger’s burgers are neither made out of bears or served by big, burly gay men.

Day 17: I became a Seven Studios Warrior today! I got to be a part of Julie Wilkes’ 7 Life Miracles Workshop!

Day 18: My city is better than yours. After a 6am Bootcamp workout at Seven Studios with Christina, I made time to snap a few sunrise pics. Gosh, Columbus is beautiful. 

Day 19: Finally, a day nice enough to go on a run, sit outside with Dewey, and chew on sticks.

Day 20: Oooohhhh!!! Happy happy joy joy!!! Presents (that I bought for myself) from Shoedazzle & Roozt were delivered today!!! (and maybe I had a little fun with a new photo editing app, Picfx 🙂 )

 

Life, According to my iPhone: 100 Happy Days

I love challenges. There’s just something so fulfilling about completing a difficult task that I set my mind to complete.

I also love photos. If my house were to catch on fire, I’d grab Dewey and then all my photo albums, my phone and my laptop (I’m a Millennial – most of my photos are digital!).

So, it should be obvious that I love a photo challenge!! Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim has monthly photo challenges that encourage participants to take 1 photo-a-day that aligns with that day’s topic. You can see March’s challenge HERE (and then keep watch for April’s!). I have done these challenges quite a few times and even posted my results here on my blog! You can check ’em out HERE!

My current photo challenge comes from 100happydays.com.I found this posted on a friend’s Facebook and had to check it out. The premise is simple: Can you be happy for 100 days in a row??

“We live in times when super-busy schedules have become something to boast about. While the speed of life increases, there is less and less time to enjoy the moment that you are in. The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, is the base for the bridge towards long term happiness of any human being.”

All you have to do is take a photo of ANYTHING that makes you happy each day. It can be anything from coffee with a friend to something that captures the feeling of relaxing at home after a long day to your pet’s nose snuggled into your side – whatever it is that makes you happy just for a moment.

I gathered my girlfriends and we all agreed to start on the same day. Doing this challenge with a friend (or 7!) is helpful because you can help keep one another accountable. “Hey girl…sooo…I was avoiding work and checking my happy hashtag and I didn’t see you on there yet today…GET HAPPY!!!” The directions are easy:

  • Share your picture via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with a public hashtag #100happydays!
  • Come up with your own hashtag to share your pictures with your people!

Wanna follow the gang and I on our happiness photo journey? Hop onto Instagram and check out our hashtag, #happyin614 (614 is the Columbus area code)! Don’t be shy! Follow my crazy, busy, awesome, badass, exciting life on Instagram!

Wanna start the challenge yourself?!? AWESOME!!! Please share your personal hashtag here so I can encourage you and share in your daily joyments (joyful moments)! I’m so excited to see what makes you smile!

So far, I am 11 days in and totally enjoying the challenge! Here are my first 10 shots. Be sure to check back here to see my Joyments!

(click to enlarge!)

Days 1-10

Day 1: The A-Squad reunited!! Some of my best girlfriends Allie, Amanda, & Amee

Day 2: Saturday was been a perfectly beautiful day to spend outside with my favorite four-legged friend!

Day 3: I always leave Rock City Church feeling joyful and motivated! Each Sunday, I am able to take the message and apply it to my life. This week, where can I turn “Not a chance!” into “Okay God…I’ll take a chance.” ?? I’ve got some ideas!!

Day 4: Happy to catch up with an old friend over a home cooked dinner!

Day 5: Amee is now SIX YEARS CANCER FREE!!! And obviously it makes me so superduper happy to have my bestie/big sis/lesbian lover around year after year.

Day 6: I love my CBus!

Day 7: We got to welcome in spring with 108 sun salutations!

Day 8: YAY!!! I bought the Divergent trilogy and they finally came in the mail Friday! Guess what I’ll be nerding out to this weekend!!! (I have this silly rule about having to read a book BEFORE I see its movie.)

Day 9: I probably shouldn’t tell what I had to play during Cards Against Humanity to make Joe laugh to the point of tears…point of the story, Saturday was a wonderful night full of laughs with great friends.

Day 10: Happy to be stronger than I’ve ever been – in every way possible.

 

Ending Up Helping :: Birthday Girl’s Choice

So I didn’t exactly write a blog a day…and for that I am honestly only mildly disappointed. I learned a lot about many local and national charities and I was able to pass this on to my students! As I mentioned earlier, I had my juniors do a project in which they were required to research one charity and interview someone involved with the organization. Some of my students took this assignment and ran with it! They chose things that meant something to them (Anxiety & Depression Association of America, Huckleberry House, Wounded Warrior, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Stonewall Columbus…I could go on!) and learned how to support these causes and why they are important. Other students…well…they just weren’t inspired. “I chose the Ronald McDonald House because I like McDonald’s.” I guess that’s a start! Oi veh…

One part of this idea that I did take VERY seriously was choosing one philanthropy to donate my own time and/or money to. And I’ve decided…

San Salvador Missions Trip with Rock City Church

Recently I have been searching for a church home. I grew up going to one Lutheran church until 9th grade, when I switched to a different Lutheran church where many of my high school peers attended. When I hit college, I pretty much stopped going to church altogether, other than when I was home on break. I tried different churches on my campus, but none of them were as good as my home church. I felt like my spirit wasn’t being fed, so I just quit trying (I don’t recommend this method, by the way). After college, I went back to that home church. A few years later, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (one branch of the Lutheran churches) voted that if a person was in a committed, monogamous homosexual relationship, they COULD be a pastor! HOLY YAY!!!!! (Literally!). Well, my home church did not feel the YAY as much as I did. They decided to put to a vote whether or not the church would stay part of the ELCA or leave (thus stating that they were against gays being able to be pastors in our church). Guess who could vote? People of a certain age that had tithed a certain number of times. Guess who couldn’t vote? Me. And most of my peers. One of my favorite memories of this time (okay, I wasn’t there for it, but I can imagine what it was like) was when my mom went to a forum to express why voting to leave the ELCA was ludicrous. As she stood up to speak, two elderly women behind her were heard whispering to each other, “Oh, that’s the woman that is friends with those gays.”

BAHAHAHA! Hell yeah she was! God, I miss her.

I digress…needless to say, it was time for me to leave my home church and find a new home. After much searching and wrestling with what’s important to me in a church, I landed in a seat at Rock City Church.  

Rock City Church is a newish church in Columbus, almost 3 years old. They don’t actually have their own building. They use movie theaters (specifically the Lennox and Regal theaters) as their worship halls. I know this sounds kinda weird, but in all actuality, it rocks. They have a full rock band that performs in front of the giant screen while the lyrics are projected behind them. The band is so loud and so rocking that the church offers earplugs for more sensitive listeners. To expand their audience, Rock City live streams the pastor’s message from the main theater in Lennox to another theater down the hall and another theater across the city at the Regal Cinema! The Regal Cinema has their own band, but they get to hear the same message from across the city. How 21st century is that??

The set is a little more elaborate now, this is from their opening day, but you get the idea!

The set is a little more elaborate now, this is from their opening day, but you get the idea!

My favorite part of church is the music. When I can close my eyes, sing along and rock out my worship to Jesus, that’s when I’m most connected. I recently learned that ONE SONG at Rock City can last as long as 15 minutes!! I had NO clue!! It certainly doesn’t feel that long! Every time I leave Rock City, I feel good! The message sticks with me through the week and actually affects my daily living.

You might have seen our pastor Chad in last month’s 614 Magazine!

I realized Rock City was worth a hard look as a possible home church when one week, I “accidentally” planted myself next to this fabulously sweet gay man (who happens to be a teacher as well!) and the next week I saw one of my college sorority sisters sitting alone before the service! Josie and I reconnected and she seemed just as interested as I was. Just like any activity that requires commitment, having a buddy definitely helps. Josie encouraged me to join her for the Rock City Connect classes, where you get to learn more about the church.

Well, one thing led to another, and I had decided that Rock City was the church for me. I don’t think I can ever be 100% sure about a church. The church changes and I change, so who knows how long this will be my home, but for now, it’s the perfect fit.

Getting Involved

Since I had finally found a new church home, I wanted to be involved and stay connected. Here’s where the charity part FINALLY comes into play! It has been 9 long years since I have left the country (Canada doesn’t count). I have been wanting to see more of the world for years, but haven’t made saving money a priority. Well, now I’m going to pay it forward AND see the world all in one swoop.

In just a few short months,  June 7th – June 15th 2014, I will be joining a short-term missions trip to San Salvador, El Salvador with people from Rock City Church and our partner church, the Great Commission Latin America. Because of generous donations, Rock City Church was able to fund and finish construction on a Child Development Center in 2013. At the center, 120 children are provided with healthy meals, medical and dental care, education, Jesus, and hope.

San Sal Promo

Our role during this trip will be to serve the community through working with the children, assisting in the health clinic and possibly some construction work. We will share the love and message of Jesus Christ and build relationships with people that are eager to share their life stories and hear why we have the hope we have.

In order for me to go on this trip, I will need some serious prayer warriors. I am learning to “Pray BIG!” God can handle my big prayers. So I am asking people to pray that I allow God to use me for His will, not my own, on this trip. I’m not sure in what way God will use me on this trip, but I hope not only to be a blessing to those I encounter, but also to be blessed by this new experience.

I must admit that I am a little nervous. I feel like this is a quick decision, even though I’ve been thinking and praying about it for almost 2 months now. I trust that this is something God wants me to do and that he will use me to His benefit. I’ve also never been to a Spanish speaking country before! So, I’m learning Spanish! I took French in high school, and I’m finding that background knowledge does help a little! I will be going on this adventure with a brand new group of people. Sure, I’m pretty good at making friends, but it’s still a little nerve racking, even for me!

So as I prepare for this trip over the next 4 months, please pray, send good karma, whatever it is you do! I am so excited for this experience and I can’t wait to tell you all about it, from planning and preparation to the actual trip!

As Jesus once said, “¡Ve!”

(I’m told that means to command someone to “GO!”)

Confession: I had to look up where El Salvador is...

Confession: I had to look up where El Salvador is…

 

Please watch the video below to see where I will be and to meet Nelson, one of the Salvadorian children benefitting from Rock City’s efforts:

Ending Up Helping :: January 8th :: Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio

No matter how old I get or how many years pass after my mom’s death, the moment I start feeling sick, my mind immediately calls for my mom. I had many stomach illnesses growing up, all of which went undiagnosed. Most of my 5th grade year was spent feeling nauseous, sometimes puking, sometimes not. But guess who was there to hold my hair and wipe my tears EVERY time??

Mom.

I remember one night, I must’ve been about 7 or 8, walking into my parent’s room in the middle of the night because my stomach hurt. Immediately jumping to the call of duty, Mom took my hand and led me to her bathroom. She poured the familiar looking pink medicine and told me to drink it.

“Mom, this smells funny…I don’t want it.”

“It’s medicine! It’s supposed to smell funny! Just drink it!”

So I did. IT was right at that moment that my dear, sweet mother’s eyes adjusted to the light and she realized she had poured me Calamine lotion and NOT Pepto Bismol.

AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Mom immediately called Poison Control. They instructed her to make me drink lots and lots of water and that the wrong medicine would come right back up. They were right! Mom sat up with me all night, making sure I was really okay.

Even with a few bumps in the road, I can’t imagine being sick as a child without my mom there to tell me everything would be okay and hold me until I fell asleep.

See?? It would be an easy mistake to make in the middle of the night!

See?? It would be an easy mistake to make in the middle of the night! Right??

Thanks to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, kids all across the city, state, and even neighboring states don’t have to be sick without their moms, dads and family nearby.

Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio

RMDH

The Ronald McDonald House (RMHC) started in Philadelphia about 38 years ago when a local man’s daughter was going through cancer treatments. He and the little girl’s mom spent day after day, night after night on benches in the hospital. This man was Fred Hill, a player for the Philadelphia Eagles. Fred turned to his manager and expressed that no one should have to have a long-term hospital experience like they did. They were close friends with Ray Kroc, McDonald’s founder, and he was able to turn Fred’s idea into a place of comfort and support in a family’s greatest time of need.

“The first Ronald McDonald House in Columbus opened on 18th Street in March 1982 when an old apartment building was purchased and renovated. The new facility was met with a great deal of excitement from the local community, and especially the new partner Nationwide Children’s Hospital.”

The RMHC of Central Ohio provides a place close to the hospital where families can stay over night, eat a hot, home-cooked meal, and receive support from other families experiencing the same trials. Families are asked to donate $20 per night, but no one is every turned away because they cannot afford the donation.

Wanna contribute to the The Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio??

“Each year, nearly 3,000 families stay at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, spending over 20,000 nights at our home-away-from-home.”

Because of this large number and a small operating staff, The Columbus RMCH could not function daily without volunteers. Volunteering opportunities include:

Special Events Volunteer
Volunteer at any of our special fundraising events throughout the year.

and

Housewarming Volunteers:
Work with our guests to provide a home-like environment – greet, assist with family needs, answer phones, give tours, assist with checkin/checkout, prepare guest rooms after checkout, clean facility, laundry, restock supplies and staff the front desk.”

Click HERE to apply!

One of the really neat volunteering opportunities involves preparing, making and serving dinner to the families stay at The House. I think it would be so fun and so rewarding to get a group of friends together and cook a meal at The RMCH and then be able to serve the families as well. If you’re interested in this, please click HERE!

Since staying at the RMHC of Central Ohio is like staying at home, the center needs all kinds of household items. Click HERE for their wishlist! Your donations here help keep the RMCH feeling like home.

Sometimes it’s just as easy and rewarding to know your money is going towards keeping a family together during a child’s serious illness. Please click HERE to donate monetarily.

Now that I no longer have my mom around to comfort me when I am sick, I can pay it forward by helping to support an organization that keeps families together when they need each other the most.

*******

EVERYONE LOVES A WINNER!!!

The RMHC of Central Ohio has a contest going on through March 16th! They are trying to win $100,000 for the 3rd year in a row by voting for Coach Matta at VoteCoachMatta.com. This contest will allow the RMCH to continue serving families of seriously-ill children!

VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

*******

All information was obtained from www.rmhc-centralohio.org

Find the RMHC of Central Ohio on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RMHCofCentralOhio

Check out the the RMHC of Central Ohio blog HERE!

*******

And please, DON’T FORGET!!! If there is a worthwhile cause on your radar, I would LOVE to hear about it! Perhaps it will make it onto this month’s Ending Up Helping series!

Ending Up Helping :: January 7th :: Kaleidoscope Youth Center

Anyone who knows me at all knows that at all times, I have an entourage of gay men around me, and if not, I can get ahold of one in a moment’s notice. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m not sure how or why this close friendship with the gay community intrigues me, but it has and my life is the better for it.

Here’s some of my entourage (with Granny!)

Because so many of my closest friends and family are gay, whenever someone tries to pick on them, say nasty things, or deny them their rights, it hurts me on a very personal level. I have many gay students and I want them to know that people are out there trying to make a brighter future for them.

But until then…

Kaleidoscope Youth Center

“Kaleidoscope Youth Center is the only organization in Ohio solely dedicated to supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their allies. Founded in 1994, Kaleidoscope is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.  The mission of Kaleidoscope Youth Center is to work in partnership with young people in Central Ohio to create safe and empowering environments for LGBTQ youth through advocacy, education and support.”

In world where being gay is not quite universally accepted, kids and teenagers need a place where they can go for support and friendship. Many times, they do not have friends or family they can turn to in times of struggle. Unfortunately, this can lead to the needless stories of suicide that are spread across the internet each year. This is why Kaleidoscope is so very important.

“Our vision is to promote and support self-confident, healthy, productive lives for LGBTQ youth as they transition from adolescence into adulthood…For the past three years, Kaleidoscope has been able to develop additional programs offering self-esteem, health and wellness programs and assistance with Gay Straight Alliances in Columbus City Schools, and Franklin County schools, along with those in contiguous counties. Kaleidoscope Youth Center utilizes proven “youth development” strategies in its after-school program.”

Kaleidoscope is a center where kids can go to hang out with their peers, find information on healthy living, and have a mentor to turn to in times of need. But not only does Kaleidoscope cater to the youth of the city, but they train adults as well. They provide education services to people with a desire to mentor and support gay youths in their lives. The center provides information to questions like:

  • Creating an Inclusive Classroom
  • How Can I Be Supportive of a Transgender Person?
  • Someone Came Out to Me. Now What Do I Do?
  • LGBTQ Books (Non-fiction and Fiction)
  • LGBTQ Films (Documentary and Feature)
  • Inclusive Classroom Activities

Wanna contribute to Kaleidoscope??

Just look for the BIG blue arrow!!

Contributing to the Kaleidoscope Youth Center is easy and absolutely appreciated!

“Our physical space is a safe haven for our youth and we want to make them as comfortable as possible.  We provide games, a free lending library, a fully-stocked kitchen, a cyber center and lots more to make this their “home”.  As anyone with teenagers knows, this can be quite an undertaking!”

Kaleidoscope provides an online “Wishlist” of items needed for the center. I actually prefer the idea of donating a specific item, because then I know exactly how my donation is being used. Click HERE for the Kaleidoscope Wishlist!

Is a monetary donation more what you were thinking?? PERFECT!

“Growing up can be difficult – growing up lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender can be overwhelming. It is important that those of us who have been there, or know people who have been there, support this generation as we want them to grow into healthy adults with strong self-images. Your gifts help Kaleidoscope Youth Center create and manage empowering programs by and for LGBTQ youth and allies. Support from individual donors is critical. We count on donations from individuals for a substantial portion of our annual budget. “

Click HERE to donate!!

And of course, volunteering is always an option at Kaleidoscope! 

“Volunteers are the backbone of this organization. We could not be where we are today without our dedicated and committed volunteers. Kaleidoscope Youth Center requires over 100 hours of volunteer support each month just to keep our doors open to continue to provide our services to LGBTQ youth.”

Volunteer activities range from Youth Center Volunteers, Special Events Volunteers, Fundraising Volunteers, and Office/Administrative Volunteers!  Please click HERE to apply an get involved!

I sometimes feel as though I live in a beautiful, happy and gay little bubble here in Columbus. I forget that in other places, and heck, even in Columbus, there are still gay people feeling oppression and completely different from everyone around them. We need to show the gay youth that there is a place and a purpose for them in our world. Thanks to organizations like Kaleidoscope, it just keeps getting better.

*******

All information was obtained from www.kycohio.org

Find Kaleidoscope on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KYCOhio

*******

And please, DON’T FORGET!!! If there is a worthwhile cause on your radar, I would LOVE to hear about it! Perhaps it will make it onto this month’s Ending Up Helping series!

Ending Up Helping :: January 6th :: Happy Anniversary!

Hoooollllly crap. This blog turned a year old today!!! Where has time gone?!? I looked back on my first post on Ending Up Here and sure enough, I am still standing in stilettos. Okay, fine. I’m actually not wearing shoes, but it’s a snow day here in Columbus! Gimme a break!

A year ago today, I was recovering from a year of an on-again, off-again relationship. It felt like things just kept going wrong in my life. I had graduated college with a degree I never intended to use. I worked for 9 months in a job that sent me home crying every night. My mom was sick (again) with cancer. My mom died from cancer. My dad almost died from an infected colon. My best friends were either moving on, moving away, or both.

I just couldn’t understand why God kept throwing challenge after challenge my way. The first few had made me strong enough! I didn’t need anymore strength tests! What was He trying to prove?? I kept asking, why do I keep ending up here – crying, alone in my bed, with an empty box of Merlot?! Why can’t I end up like the happy people? Why can’t I have a strong, reliable man in my life, be smiling because of all of life’s fortunes and drinking celebratory champagne?

Well folks, that’s just not how life works. Perhaps that is one of the lessons God is trying to teach me. Sure, people look happy, and they might really BE happy, but no one’s life is perfect and I certainly shouldn’t expect mine to be either. This past year has been about taking the good with the bad, and not just focusing in on the bad. Yes, I have had some rough times. But I have had a job to pay my bills, a roof over my head, an amazing family that loves and supports me, and a group of badass friends that inspire me daily.

In the past year, I have:

run a half marathon,

Dad & I at the Finish Line!

Dad & I at the Finish Line!

become a calendar girl model,

Amanda & I worked our butts off to win this calendar girl competition!

Amanda & I worked our butts off to win this calendar girl competition!

received my masters in education,

About to click "Submit" for my final assignment!

About to click “Submit” for my final assignment!

experimented (and failed) with burlesque dancing,

{No image necessary!}

seen one of my bestest friends celebrate 5 years of being cancer free,

We've got Goose, Iceman (me!), Maverick, Charlie and...Evel Knievel! It was a Top Gun themed celebration!

We’ve got Goose, Iceman (me!), Maverick, Charlie and…Evel Knievel! It was a Top Gun themed celebration!

become a founding member of Columbus’ Alternative Fashion Mob,

AFM

watched my brother (whom I only met in 2009) marry one of my best friends,

David, Kelli and I

found out I get to be an auntie to yet another best friend’s baby this May,

rediscovered that I am an independent, self-sufficient woman,

photo 1 (1)

and had a kickass time doing it.

Just a FEW of the people that made this past year so memorable!

Had I stayed in bed with my snotty tissues and empty wine glasses, I would not have had the opportunity to experience all of these wonderful moments.

So instead of focusing on one specific charity today, I am focusing on continuing another year of positive thinking. Yes, donating time and money to a charity is an amazing and selfless thing to do, but why do we do it? Because we have hope for a brighter future in some way. Without hope, donating anything is meaningless. So today, I am focusing on contributing another year of hope to those around me. I want to be a reminder, through my words and my actions, that “ending up here” may be the best place to be.

*******

And please, DON’T FORGET!!! If there is a worthwhile cause on your radar, I would LOVE to hear about it! Perhaps it will make it onto this month’s Ending Up Helping series!