Thursday, May 19, 2011

Something Deeper

After months of prayers, texts, meetings, preparation, and facebook messages, the second annual Deeper Retreat finally got underway last Friday night. Twenty-four women (that's 10 more than last year!), ages 18-30ish from Sydney, Newcastle, Gosford, and Oklahoma gathered in Casuarina Lodge of Point Wolstoncroft Sport and Recreation Centre because they were thirsty and hungry. They were thirsty for a deeper relationship with God, hungry for a deeper understanding of who they were are and who God is. Though they were different ages, from different cities or countries, went to different churches, they still had these desires in common. Friday night was about getting to know each other. Anne organized a great game where everyone got a piece of a puzzle with a different symbol on the back. We started the game by finding someone with something in common with us (same shoe size, eye color, birth year, etc.), and then we'd ask them the question that corresponded with our symbol. It was so fun to find out new things about each other. After the game, we had supper and Tiffany Buck (one of the HIM workers from Campbelltown) did an awesome devo about the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, and how that is such a blessing. After the devo, we got into groups based on the symbol on the back of the puzzle piece. These groups, we discovered, were our prayer groups, which we spent time in that evening sharing and praying. We finished off the rest of the night playing Nertz and writing notes for each other's blessing boxes.

Saturday morning started bright and early with brekky and a devo. Jamie Canham (a former Sydney HIM worker who is here visiting on a holiday! Such a blessing to share this time with her!) talked about having emergency phone numbers in the Bible. She was referring to those Scriptures we can always turn to when we feel dry or empty that can rejuvenate us. The rest of the morning and early afternoon we spent listening to our guest speaker, Ronya Johnson. Ronya is an American married to an Aussie from Brisbane, Queensland. She and her husband have been working there for 10 years with a church in various ministries. I met Ronya at a few camps last year and knew she would be a perfect fit to speak at Deeper. Ronya talked about using our S.H.A.P.E. (Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences) to determine God's purpose for our lives. We focused on the fact that God didn't make us unique so we could all do the same job, but that he made us all different for different purposes. We spent time in Judges 6 looking at Gideon as he tried to come to terms with God's purpose for his life. Ronya used lots of interactive activities, personal stories, and Scripture to help us discover our S.H.A.P.E. Even now, after being away from camp for a few days, I am still mulling over the things she stirred up in my heart, and I'll be processing them for awhile!

Saturday afternoon, after Ronya's final session, we had a prayer walk out to the Point of Lake Macquarie, which surrounds our camp site. We were randomly paired up and given a third person to pray for on the way to the Point and a person to pray for on the way back. My prayer partner was Marcelle. We had a wonderful time of prayer for our two girls, as well as got to spend time chatting and catching up as we walked the 3 kms there and 3 kms back. Everyone enjoyed the prayer walk so much that it was dark by the time we all made it back for dinner. After dinner, we had another devo by Amanda (from Gosford). She talked about the Israelites crossing the Jordan River before going into Jericho. We spent the rest of the evening having supper, playing cards, praying in our prayer groups, writing cards, and laughing until the early morning hours.

I woke up nervous on Sunday morning. Amber and I were responsible for leading worship, and I wasn't exactly sure how to get across all the things I wanted to say. We set up the room with chairs in groups of four. The girls were asked to come into worship quietly to prepare their minds and to sit in their prayer groups. Worship was in the form of a prayer concert, similar to what we did last year. We looked at the acronym D.E.E.P., focusing on the words Discipleship, Equip, Energy, and Perseverance. We read Scriptures and sang songs (led by one of the STAMP students, Sarah) about each of those words. After the songs and readings about each word, we asked the girls to pray either silently or as a group about the particular word. One of my favorite things about doing worship in this interactive way is hearing all the groups praying out loud at the same time and knowing that God can hear all of those prayers. I was responsible for the words equip and energy, and as usual it didn't matter what I had prepared to say about them. God took over as soon as I opened my mouth and gave me the words He wanted me to say. At the end of the prayer concert, I transitioned D.E.E.P. into the Lord's Supper. After the prayer for the bread was said, each group was given unleavened bread (homemade and so yummy!). We asked for each girl to share what the bread meant to her with the rest of the group. Then, each girl was supposed to tear off a piece of the bread for the girl beside her to eat, until everyone in the group had spoken and been given the bread. We repeated this process with the cup. Because Amber and I were leading worship and not sitting with our prayer groups, we did the Communion process by ourselves, which was so special! I love hearing how other people connect with God during this time each week and also getting their slightly different perspective on it. Communion was definitely the highlight of the weekend for me!

After worship, we headed back to the lodge for lunch and to pack up to go home. Everyone was gone by 3:30 pm when I pulled away. Watching Lake Macquarie slowly disappear in my rear view mirror was very bittersweet. Organizing this whole retreat and facilitating worship times for other women of God is such an adrenaline rush; it's like my drug. When I am doing a Communion talk or praying out loud with other girls, I just feel like I am doing exactly what I am good at, exactly what God made me to do. Thinking about not being here for Deeper 2012 and knowing that I won't be in full-time ministry position when I get home is pretty heart-wrenching. Yet, I have faith. I have faith that Deeper will continue without me, because it was never about me or one person. It was about young adult women from churches all over New South Wales being recharged and stretched in their relationship with God. Every girl is an active part of this retreat and they all love this weekend of renewal this year. They need this weekend of renewal each year, so I have faith it will keep going. God used this weekend to teach all of us about Himself and about ourselves; I have faith that He is not done with Deeper yet.

Typical picture of Amber and I.

Tiffany's devo on Friday night.

Our Lodge

Prayer Concert at Worship on Sunday.

The whole group (minus Margaret our fabulous cook) on the prayer walk in front of Lake Macquarie.

Amber and I leading worship/prayer concert on Sunday morning.

Marcelle and I on our prayer walk to the Point.

Jamie and Jenny: reunited

Some of the Deeper Girls

Saturday, April 30, 2011


"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and his divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

-Romans 1:20-

I have never really had trouble accepting that God existed or that He created the world. After driving along the Great Ocean Road, it is undeniable and irrefutable that God exists. Seeing rock formations molded by rain and wind, hearing the waves crash against them, and feeling the gentle breeze with a hint of rain--how could you not believe?

I was blessed to take a little 2 days excursion to the Great Ocean Road as part of my Easter (working) holidays. The Great Ocean Road is a coastal drive along the bottom of the state of Victoria, along Bass Strait. Amber, Anne, and I decided to drive the stretch of road between Port Fairy to Torquay. We made the 12ish hour drive to Melbourne on Monday. After a great Drew family dinner, we headed out on our adventure on Tuesday. We decided to go inland to Port Fairy, and then drive the along the coast on the way back to Melbourne. Here is just a brief look at our journey. Check out good ole FB for more photos.

Driving: Driving inland in Victoria looks surprising like driving through Oklahoma! We drove through pastures full of cattle and sheep on semi-paved roads with no lines. It's the flattest part of Australia I have seen yet. We spent most of the first day on roads like this, but I didn't mind because it felt a little like home.

Stop #1: Port Fairy

We finally made it to Port Fairy late Tuesday night. It's a lovely little village with a great main street of boutique shops. We took a walk around the port and saw a great lighthouse. That night we drove about 20 more minutes along the road to stay in a caravan park (like a camp ground) in Warnambol.

Stop #2: London Bridge Rock Formation in Port Campbell National Park

We checked out of our cabin at 8:30 am in the morning, drove an hour and a half to Port Campbell National Park. Our first stop of the day was London Bridge rock formation. Because we got there early-ish and no other tourists were there yet, we were able to enjoy this amazing site in the peace and quiet.

Stop #3: Loch Ard Gorge in Port Campbell National Park

The second stop in Port Campbell National Park was the Loch Ard Gorge. There were lots of walks around the gorge to see different rock formations, including one called the Razorback! (because I am learning to be an Arkansas fan, I had to take a picture of it and try to appreciate it). We were also able to go down stairs to stand on the beach, which made me realize how huge it really is.

Amber and I in front of Loch Ard Gorge.

Stop #4: Twelve Apostles in Port Campbell National Park

The most famous site on the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles, even though there aren't really twelve any more. There are only about 8 that are still visible, because the others have erroded away or fallen into the sea. This is probably the most commercialized site and with tons of people, but that couldn't diminish how gorgeous it was.

Stop #5: Lorne

The town of Lorne was our final stop on the Great Ocean Road. It's a pretty big town with lots of great little bakeries, which is where we had a late lunch. From Lorne back to Torquay, you can see the ocean right along the road. It's very curvy and turny drive, but the sights are literally breathtaking. This sign signifies the end of the Great Ocean Road.

On our drive back to the big city of Melbourne, I couldn't stop thinking of that Romans verse. The views I saw on this 2-day drive did not happen by accident or a big bang. God, our Creator, spoke them into being. Whenever I get a little bit complacement about God's power and divine nature, all I have to do is think back to the Great Ocean Road to remember his irrefutable Presence.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Just a little bit behind...

It's been over a month since I last blogged. I promise I have some good excuses....
Excuse #1: My bestie came to visit! You can't waste time blogging when there is junk food to be eaten, wedding magazines to be poured over, movies to be watched, stories to be laughed at and conversations to be caught up on.

Excuse #2: I had to go to Canberra. Three days after Alex left, Deb Brown (left to right) took Anne, Elisha (her daughter, me, and Lindsey for a 48 hour whirlwind tour of Australia's capital city.

Excuse #3: I had to help through Mini Mow and his/her mum, Mel, a baby shower with these lovely fellow hostesses (from left): Tammy, Me, Elisha, Mel (Mum to be), Caitlyn, and Kylie.

Excuse #4: I had to go to my first footy match, Australian Rules Football that is. Amber's hometown team, the Essendon Bombers were playing the Sydney Swans so I had to go and show my support. Excuse #5: I had to work on Holiday Bible School (like VBS), which is slightly dominating my life. I am responsible for the craft center and this only about half of the supplies I need to gather before Monday when it starts.

See? I really had a lot of hard work and, okay, some fun things too, to keep me busy. Am I off the hook yet? I promise (as I have numerous times) to try my hardest to go back to being a (semi?) regular blogger. My sincerest and deepest apologies, dear readers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Small Town Kid

My whole life I have wanted to live in a small town. I blame it on the fact that I grew up visiting my grandparents in their sleepy little town of 1,500 people. A place filled more cows than humans and getting to the nearest mall takes half an hour. Visits to Apache, OK coupled with my early indoctrination of country music and my love of trucks, living where there were wide open spaces and less people seemed ideal to me.
But, I did not grow up in a small town. Not even close. As of last year, the population of my hometown of Arlington, Texas was 380,000 people. I grew up in a place where shopping centers pop up overnight, and you sit in traffic from 3-7 pm everyday. High schools have 4,000 kids, and there is a Sonic on every corner.
Oddly, it took me moving to Australia to get my taste of small town living. Though the population of Gosford is 160,000 people, it still feels like a little community. The sidewalks practically roll up around 6 pm every day, and nothing is open later than that besides McDonald's and the grocery store. I can't go to the shopping center by our Ministry Centre without running into at least one member of our church or someone I know from the community.
And I love it! I love that I ran into a lady I volunteer with at the soup kitchen a few weeks ago and she already knew that I was engaged before I could tell her. I love that the Wednesday night Macca's crew knows Gosford church is coming after mid-week study. I love that everyone has bumper stickers boasting the new Central Coast footy team (rugby) on their cars. I love that I can see trees, mountains, and a bay on my drive to work. I love that the guy at subway knows my regular order. Though there are times when I would kill for a 24 hour Wal-mart or only a 20 minute drive to the airport (opposed to the hour and half it takes me), I wouldn't give up my two year stint as a small town kid for anything.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Melbourne Mish

I never know how to explain or tell you about some of the things I get to experience in Australia. My words seem insufficient to capture the moments of pure joy, the moments when frustration almost leads you to knocking someone out, the moments when the work of the Spirit is tangible. I will attempt to share with you about the amazing week our teens spent in Melbourne, working with the Belmore Road congregation...through some photos and a top 10 list, of course.

10 Best Moments of Melbourne Mish
1. Open Mic Night: We do Open Mic nights in Gosford and have a lot of success with them being outreach activites. We did one on the last night in Melbourne, and it was awesmoe. So many people volunteered to perform. We even had 2 guys from the community, that some our teens met in a train station, come and perform. My favorite acts were Amber playing acoustic guitar karokee and Laura and Evan singing 4 chord songs.

2. Growth: one of the highlights of my week was watching our Gosford teens step up and serve. There was little to no complaining about the work we were asked to do. Through leading prayers and devos, I was so blown away by the maturity of these 13-17 year olds. I'm so proud of them.

3. Kids Korner: we did a play group for any kids in the congregation the last day we were in Melbourne. The kids were awesome and really cute. Our teens planned the whole activity and interacted with the kids so well. Plus, I got my teaching fix for a few more days. 4. Tuesday Night: We. along with all the Belmore Rd youth, were invited to the Carpenter's house on Tuesday night for a pancake supper! We had American lemonade and delicious chocolate chip pancakes with strawberries! Unbelievable. After dinner and a couple of rounds of Apples to Apples, the whole gang headed down to Brighton Beach. We spent a few hours playing ultimate frisbee on the beach with downtown Melbourne in the background. Before we left, we sat on the beach and praised God in song, with waves crashing in the background and the sky painted red.

5. Sharing a room with the Crazies: The housing situation worked out for Amber, Anne, and I to all share a room at the Drews house for the week. We had such a good time, and definitely did not get enough sleep. Without these two, I would not have made it!6. Hanging Out: With the busyness of the holidays, it seems like forever since I got to hang out and catch up with a few members of our youth group. This trip was a great way to rekindle and strenghen relationships inside our group, and with friends who live in Melbourne.

7. Church Picnic: On Sunday following worship, we had a church picnic at a local park. We had a great time sharing a meal and spending time with the congregation. The best part was the youngies (under 18s) vs. oldies (over 18s) tug of war competition. Sadly, the youngies had youth on their side and beat us 2-1.

8. Gardening: We did more gardening that week in Melbourne than I have done in the last 5 years. Even though mowing lawns and weeding flower beds isn't my idea of fun, it was still one of my highlights because everyone had such a great attitude while were doing it. Each person found a project or task and worked so hard that we finished so quickly. 9. The Bus: We crowded 14 people into our 14 passenger bus for the 12 hour drive to Melbourne. You better believe that we were riding three across in the front seat. Then we spent a week driving around the greater Melbourne area in it...lots and lots of bus time. Even though it's a little bit uncomfortable, it was also the sight of so many hilarious moments, like Tim singing Mika songs (yes, he can hit those high notes) and nerf gun attacks. 10. Sister Sara: On the Thursday of the mission trip, Sara (15 years old) called me outside and said she needed to talk about something. I was a little bit nervous because we had had a pretty emotional girls' devo the night before. When I went outside, she told Amber and me that she had decided to be baptized on Sunday when we got home!!! I have been studying with Sara for about a year, and it was so exciting to watch her die to her old life and be raised as a new creation on Sunday. God's timing is always perfect!
Looking back over this list, it is a poor representation of everything that happened that week. It's just a glimpse of an awesome experience where God worked on us and through us. Melbourne Mish is definitely one of the highlights of my time in Australia.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tell Me A Story...

Because international candlelightings are hard to plan on short notice and in an effort to fill everyone in on THE Story of the Century, I thought I'd blog about the details of January 4, 2011--the day I got my bling bling and a great fiance too!

Alex arrived in Australia on December 31st to spend 12 glorious days. Before he got here, I had myself convinced that there was no way he was going to propose. Since he had been here, he kept making comments about how we weren't getting married for 2 years and tried to pull me into every jewelry store in the mall to look at rings. He tricked me. He's in PR, so he's pretty good at "stretching" the truth.
Tuesday, January 4th was a normal great day. Alex and I had a double date with some of our great Aussie friends, Laura and Cristiaen Van Der Meulen, which ended in a giant nerf war (awesome double date activity, by the way). Laura and Cristiaen left my apartment about 10:30 pm and Alex said we should go sit out on my jetty (dock) and watch the boats in the dark. I didn't really want to go because it was chilly and I was tired from play nerf guns, but I agreed anyway. We were sitting on the dock talking about our New Year's Resolutions, individually and as a couple. Then, we started slow dancing, still talking about life, having a nice romantic moment. Before I know it, Alex has pulled away from me and is down on one knee!! He said a bunch of really sweet things, none of which I can remember, and all the while I am thinking, "I can't belive he is ruining this great moment with an engagement fake out." Though he claims otherwise, he has faked me out before. All I can say is "Are you serious?? Alex, is this real? That is really not funny!" (I always thought I wouldn't be one of "those" girls who says "are you serious?" but I definitley was! It's impossible not to say it.) After asking if he was serious about 7 more times and seeing him pull out this gorgeous ring, I knew it was for real. I did finally say, "Yes!" and he promised to be an amazing husband, a spiritual leader, and to love me until the day he dies. Sigh. It was like heaven, just the two of us sitting on the dock, starting our lives together--it was perfect. So there's my sweet little story about love! (that's a shout out for you Jill Nichols)

The Ring: Taking a good picture of a ring is really hard, which I'm sure some of you know. So there aren't any good close up ones yet, but you get the idea from these pics. The middle diamond and its setting are from Alex's Grandmother's wedding ring, so it's over 65 years old! He took her diamond and put it on my band. I feel so honored to have such a precious piece of our family's heritage.

The Plan: no dates have been set yet. I will be in Australia until mid-June like I already committed, then I'll be moving back to Edmond. The earliest we would get married would be in October, but nothing is concrete yet. Just letting everything sink in. I'll keep you posted!
THE spot where he got down on one knee
Just a little bit excited!!!!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Did you know the Griswold's lived in Australia??

I can't believe that Christmas is two and half weeks away! And despite the 85 degree weather and tank tops, I am trying to get in the spirit. Last Saturday night, I put on my favorite Christmas movie, White Christmas, and did my favorite Christmas activity, put up my tree. The beauty of being a HIM worker is that you get lots of hand-me-downs. Case in point, my leaning Christmas tree with random decorations, which I inherited from former HIM Workers Jamie and Sammie. It's a modge podge of old baubles and colored lights, but I love it anyway.

The leaning tree of Pisa.

My favorite Christmas decoration. It didn't make the top of the tree this year, but it wouldn't be Christmas without Alex's 7th grade face smiling at me.

Christmas lights are not as common as they are in the States, but they starting to take off in Australia, and especially on the Central Coast.A local radio station does a contest each year for the best decorated house. (A group of young adults from church will go check out the best ones on Christmas Eve.) Somehow, I don't think this one is going to win...
The Aussie Griswolds
I hope you are having a great holiday season!