Girls of Promise

One of the emphases Farmer to Farmer is education and the Girls of Promise program was developed to provide scholarships for girls to go to school. Through $50 annual sponsorships, these girls receive uniforms, supplies and encouragement to go to school and stay in school.

Today Cathy, Elizabeth, Ruth and I went to the Harrisburg Public School to meet with the girls there who are in Girls of Promise. At the public school, there are 17 girls in the program (14 were present today), and there are 14 additional girls in the program who go to St John’s UMC school and the Lutheran School. We will meet with these girls next week, and on Friday, January 25 we will meet with all of the girls for the first of their monthly gatherings.

Today all of us shared stories together and made a web with yarn to show how we are all connected. We talked about the importance of education and having dreams for the future. We prayed together (yes, in the public school!) and we sang. There was such a beautiful spirit in the room and God was surely present!

Below are a few pictures and a video of the girls singing The Connection Song. Please hold these girls and the Girls of Promise program in your prayers.

Until next time, peace …

Posted in Liberia | Tagged , | 1 Comment

We’re Here!

This post will be short, but wanted folks to know that after three flights and a 2+ hour bumpy trek from Roberts airport in Monrovia, we arrived in Harrisburg last night around 12:30 a.m. local time (7:30 p.m. Eastern time). We’ve now slept, thanks be to God, had our devotions, and are awaiting all that the day holds.

Our team: Elizabeth, me, Mike and Ruth

Our team with Otterlee Diggs (left) and Pryde Bass, whose hometown is Harrisburg. They both currently live in the Cleveland area and came to see us off. Pryde started the Farmer to Farmer program and Otterlee has served as hostess and coordinator for previous teams.

Our team at dinner at a restaurant by the airport last night. We were greeted by Rev Cathy Ake, who along with her husband Rev Ray Ake, are our hosts during this trip, and are serving as missionaries here in Harrisburg with Farmer to Farmer for a year.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Liberia Bound!

After six months of prayer, planning, organizing and anticipation, in just about 12 hours I will head to the airport on the trip of a lifetime. I cannot express how excited I am about the opportunities that await in Liberia.

For those who may not know, Liberia sits on the west coast of Africa, bordered by Sierra Leone on the West, Guinea on the North, the Ivory Coast on the East, and the Atlantic Ocean on the South. Its capitol is Monrovia, it covers 43,000 square miles (about the size of Tennessee) and has a population of 4.7 million. Though there are nearly 20 indigenous languages, the official language is English.

Liberia began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society to settle freed American slaves. It became the Free and Independent Republic of Liberia in 1847. Since its founding as a nation, Liberia has maintained a close relationship with the United States. In the 1970s there were political tensions which resulted in a military coup in 1980. Over the course of 25 years, the country experienced two civil wars that resulted in the deaths of at least a quarter of a million people and the displacement of many more, as well as the obliteration of their economy. Peace was finally achieved through the efforts the women of the country. In 2011, Leymah Gbowee received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in leading the women’s peace movement. She shared the prize with fellow Liberian Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who served as President of Liberia from 2006 – 2018. Sirleaf was the first elected female head of state in Africa.

For additional information about Liberia, check out this blog post of Rev. John Partridge who served on the last Farmer to Farmer mission team in Harrisburg just two months ago.

The United Methodist Church, and especially the East Ohio Conference, has an ongoing relationship with the people of Liberia. One such relationship is through Farmer to Farmer who partners with St John’s UMC in Harrisburg, part of the St Paul’s River District of Liberia. Farmer to Farmer introduces modern farming techniques, has developed a sewing school, and works intensively with the classrooms of the local schools to provide scholarships, supplies, renovation, curriculum, relationships, and love. Over the last several years, mission teams have visited to build relationships within the community and work to understand and advance the interests of the needs of the community. In November 2018, retired East Ohio pastors Ray and Cathy Ake began serving as General Board of Global Ministries Volunteer Missionaries in Harrisburg to so that Farmer to Farmer could have an ongoing presence there and to also oversee the building of an Agricultural-Technical High School.

During my time in Harrisburg, I will be doing some teacher training, leading some children’s activities, preaching at St John’s UMC on January 20, among other things, some of which I surely cannot yet imagine!

In preparation for our trip, our team collected a variety of supplies and personal items to be given to the people in Harrisburg. On New Year’s Day, my friend Elizabeth and I sorted the items we had collected and attempted to evenly distribute them in our suitcases. For international flights, we can take two 50-pound suitcases and we are at our limit! And beyond, actually! The other team members also collected items including a sewing machine and a water pump!

The one picture below shows me weighing one of the suitcases. As I stood there, I had the realization that I used to carry around the weight of 3 of those suitcases! Wow!

Anyway, we are excited about the opportunities and adventures ahead of us. Please hold our team (Elizabeth, Ruth, Mike, and me, as well as Ray and Cathy) in your prayers. I will post pictures here as time and wi-fi access permit during the trip.

I am grateful for all of the support and look forward to sharing the love of Christ with the people in Harrisburg and as we travel.

Until next time, peace …

farmer to farmer january 2019img_1957img_1958

Posted in Liberia | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’ve Lost (the Weight of) My Mother and Other Ramblings

I sit here in the wee hours of the morning at my parents’ home after a lovely Christmas visit with them and one word comes to mind: grateful. I am grateful for so many things: my family and friends who have become family, ministry with the congregations I have served, my health and the health of those I love, and so much more.

The last few months have been a whirlwind of ministry activity, preparations for my upcoming trip to Liberia and time spent with family. In early October my mother had surgery on her cervical spine. This surgery was certainly not an easy one, but she has done quite well in her recovery. Our family is grateful for the prayers, support and helping hands from our friends and faith communities.

As to my own health, as anticipated, my weight loss has slowed down considerably. I’ve shed about 10 pounds in the last three months, but this is normal and expected. My current total is 153 pounds shed! I’ve lost nearly 50 inches since I started doing monthly measurements in April. I wish I had done measurements before my February 1 surgery as I know that number would be much greater! I continue to make healthy eating choices (minus a few cookies over the holidays, lol) and exercise regularly. In addition to water aerobics and exercise, in October, I added boxing to my regime twice a week. Boxing burns many calories, is great for one’s mental health, and is a lot of fun!

During the month of December, I had the opportunity to attend a variety of gatherings where I saw friends and colleagues I had not seen since last year. This brought some odd and unexpected emotions, in some cases, as people did not recognize me and I had to introduce myself to them. Most reactions left me feeling affirmed and loved, but admittedly, I’m still processing some of the interactions. I know people mean well and don’t always know what to say, but some comments devalue a person and their worth.  I may look different and sometimes even act differently (with more energy and more confidence), but at the core of my being, I am still the same person – one created in the image of God with all of the inherent worth and value that goes with that; a beloved child of God with the same God-given gifts and intelligence. None of that changed. I was, I am, and I will always be fearfully and wonderfully made. And for that, I am grateful.

Below are some pictures from the last few months. Blessings to one and all in the New Year.

Until next time, peace …

Mom & RobinPunching Preacher46846564_10156799229106081_2125812269521567744_o

Posted in Rambling, Spirituality, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Living It Up

In my last post I promised some pictures of me celebrating my birthday week and my new sense of vitality. On Sunday after church my friend Elizabeth and I traveled to Pennsylvania to visit my sister and brother-in-law in the Pocono Mountains. Yesterday morning I went to my sister’s boxing class. What fun! And a great workout. In the afternoon we went to Camelback Mountain Adventures where Elizabeth and I went zip lining and rode the mountain coaster. The coaster was fun, but the zip line was absolutely amazing and breathtaking! Here are several pictures of the experiences yesterday.

Until next time, peace …

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Celebrating Another Trip Around the Sun

Today I am celebrating another trip around the sun! I feel especially alive this year as I am 138 pounds lighter than I was on my last birthday! Has the journey been easy? Heck no! But has the journey been worth it? Absolutely! I am grateful for the love and support of my family and friends during this time and I am especially grateful to God that I am able to experience all that life holds in a way that I could not do 138 pounds ago. Look for some posts later this week with pictures of me celebrating my new vitality!

I know it has been quite some time since my last post. I haven’t done so well with the weekly Psalm memorization I had intended, but each week I have at least reflected on the Psalm that corresponds with the number of pounds shed. That should count for something, right? 😊 And the good news is that once I lose another 12 pounds, the guilt of the Psalm memorization will go away! (There are only 150 Psalms).

Below are some pictures that have been taken since my last post.

I am also including another shameless plug (aka link) for my Liberia mission trip in January. Thanks to all who have supported this venture through your prayers and gifts.

Until next time, peace …

professional headshots taken for Leadership Medina County

My 7-month before/after pictures on September 1

Posted in Wellness | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

I’ve Lost a Super Model and Then Some!

During my weight loss journey, I have often searched for comparisons to the amount of weight I’ve shed. For example, 20 pounds equals an automobile tire; 90 pounds equals a newborn calf; 118 pounds equals an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica. Wow! Does that bring back memories? Who has a set of encyclopedias anymore?!?

One thing struck me, however, as I reviewed the chart: 117 pounds equals the average supermodel (and she’s 5’ 11”!). I’ve lost a whole person – albeit a very thin person – but I have lost a whole person and then some! The last two weeks I have shed just one pound each week and this week I’ve shed two, bringing my total to 125. Yes, I have shed 125 pounds! It seems rather hard to fathom.

This week also marked the 6-month anniversary of my surgery. I didn’t take measurements before starting the process, but on my 2-month anniversary (April 1) I began measuring my waist, hips, bust, thigh, calf and upper arms. In the last four months, I have lost 40 inches! I can’t even begin to imagine the total number of inches I’ve lost since I entered the bariatric program last July.

Last week I finally started going through my closets to get rid of my “fat” (or “fatter”) clothes. Starting with blazers, jackets and outerwear, I purposely tried on each item and stood in front of the mirror so I could get a visual. It was quite emotional as I literally wrapped some of the jackets around me. I’m still processing and unpacking some of that emotion – perhaps that will be the subject of a future blog post – but those visuals certainly keep me motivated.

On this journey toward health and wholeness, I am recognizing that the transformation is both inward and outward and that I am in a process of living into all that God has created and called me to be. I want to lose another 45 pounds by January 2019 when I travel to Liberia on a mission trip. The program is called Farmer to Farmer and it is a mission of the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church. Farmer to Farmer partners with the United Methodist Church in Harrisburg, Liberia to teach sustainable farming, as well as support a sewing school and preschool. They are also working to build an Ag Tech school. Traveling to Africa has always been a dream of mine and this trip will allow me to share the gospel and use my teaching skills to make a difference in the lives of others. It will also aid in broadening my understanding of humanity and global situations through a theological lens.

I appreciate your prayers for me over the last several months and I ask for your continued prayers as our mission team is gathered and begins preparation for the trip.

Should you wish to support my trip beyond prayers, here is a link to One Mission, a marketplace website that allows one to purchase with a purpose or make a donation.

I am grateful for all the support I’ve received from so many people over the last six months. I cannot wait to see what the next six months hold.

Until next time, peace …

125 ribbon6 month post-op, 8-3-186 month post-op side, 8-3-18

Posted in Rambling, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

There is Success in Routine

John Maxwell once said, “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” I firmly believe there is success in routine. After a month of (good!) craziness that disrupted my daily exercise and eating, I’ve been back in my regular routine for almost two weeks and it’s been wonderful! I spent 7 hours and 45 minutes exercising in the pool this week which was glorious! And it has paid off. For the last four weeks I have shed two pounds each week – certainly nothing to balk at! – but this week I shed six pounds, bringing my total to 121. Yippee!celebrate

For those who have been following my Psalm memorization, yes, this means I bypassed Psalm 119. Another reason to rejoice! Not that it’s a bad psalm, but 176 verses are a tad much to memorize, don’t you think?!

This week’s weight loss also brings me to another milestone. I am at my lowest weight in 25 years – my college graduation weight. I went searching through pictures today and was only able to find one from my college graduation. It’s not the best picture of me (quite honestly, I look constipated!), but I created a side-by-side for comparison. I have about 20 pounds to go to get to my high school graduation weight.

As I continue the journey I recognize that “my help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121: 2).

          Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.

25 years, college graduation, then and now

Until next time, peace …

Posted in Spirituality, Wellness | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

No News is Good News

They (whoever “they” are) say that no news is good news and, for me and this journey, that is basically true. It’s been four weeks since I have posted updates about my weight loss. The month of June was CRAZY! There was Licensing School and its follow up at the beginning of the month. Then there was a week at Annual Conference. And last week I was on a mission trip in Indianapolis with 52 youth and adults from the Firelands District. To say that June was busy is an understatement! All of that “busy”ness and time away can cause challenges with eating and exercise. I missed my time in the pool, but all things considered, I fared pretty well. I continued to shed weight throughout the month bringing my new favorite number to 115 as of this morning’s weigh-in!

The biggest challenge in June, though, was trying to fulfill my commitment to memorize a Psalm each week. It started out well, but I didn’t make it the last three weeks. I take consolation in the fact that even though I didn’t memorize Psalms 107, 109, 111 and 113, I did spend time reading and reflecting on them, knowing that “the Lord is gracious and merciful” (Psalm 111:4a).

So this week I will “get back on the wagon” with this discipline and memorize Psalm 115: 1 – 9 (not all 18 verses).

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
    for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.
Why should the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”

Our God is in the heavens;
    he does whatever he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
    the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
    eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
    noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
    feet, but do not walk;
    they make no sound in their throats.
Those who make them are like them;
    so are all who trust in them.

O Israel, trust in the Lord!
    He is their help and their shield.

The pictures below, taken a few days ago, show my five-month post-op progress.

Until next time, peace …

5 month post-op, 7-3-185 month post-op side, 7-3-18

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Moving in the Right Direction

After last week’s brief stall, I am pleased to report that I shed 4 pounds this week, bringing my total to 107 (27 before surgery, 80 since surgery February 1).

Following my resolve to memorize Psalms based on my current “favorite number,” this week my focus will be Psalm 107. As I read through this and surrounding psalms, I began to wonder if this was the best decision. Quite honestly, I wish I had lost 5 pounds this week because Psalm 108 has only 13 verses. Psalm 107, however, has 43! Eek! I know that I cannot realistically memorize all those verses in the next several days, especially since I have Annual Conference this week. (For my non-United Methodist friends, Annual Conference is a time when clergy and lay leadership from local congregations in our region gather for several days of worship, celebrations of ministry, and to tend to the business of the church). So I am going to memorize the first stanza of Psalm 107 – nine verses. That’s certainly manageable.

I continue to give thanks to God for renewed health and energy, and for God’s grace, mercy and steadfast love in all things.

Until next time, peace …

Psalm 107: 1 – 9

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
    finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty,
    their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way,
    until they reached an inhabited town.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty,
    and the hungry he fills with good things.

Posted in Spirituality, Wellness | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment