Joy, NY Adventures, Random, Uncategorized

Summer Bucket List

I’ve stumbled upon the habit of having a “summer bucket list” the past few years and a few weeks ago I started putting together my list for 2016.  It’s not a traditional bucket list in the sense that I actually expect to check off every single thing, but rather one that reminds me of all the fun things to do around Buffalo in the summer (when you can comfortably be outside) and to give ideas of how to enjoy moments to relax and be refreshed and celebrate life in the midst of a busy work season!  Some won’t happen at all, some will be adapted, others will be added and still others will be repeated over and over! Since “blog at least once a week” is on the list, here we are.  Let me know if you want to join in on the fun! 

Here’s to abundant living this summer! 

In no particular order:

  • Walk or run at least 50 miles total (17 down since beginning of June)
  • Make a pie 
  • Go for a hike
  • Sing around a campfire (6/2)
  • Lick drippy ice cream (6/3)
  • Buy myself flowers (6/8)
  • Take someone else flowers
  • Play a game of something out on the grass
  • Go cloud watching
  • Watch as many sunrises or sunsets as possible 
  • Go to a festival
  • Get food from a food truck
  • Pancake date (or other adventure) with the Christ kids
  • Find a new park (6/2)
  • Go kayaking or waterbiking
  • Read 5 books (The Long Awakening,)
  • Go to a baseball game 
  • Spend a morning or afternoon intentionally getting lost 
  • Blog once a week 
  • Go berry picking (6/12)
  • Go visit friends in Rochester 
  • Finish China scrapbook
  • Do the self-tour of all the Underground Railroad sites around WNY
  • Get dressed up and go somewhere nice (6/11-BPC banquet at the Lafayette)
  • Write a letter to your future self
  • Take a fast from all technology for a day
  • Run a 5K
  • Spend an afternoon or morning reading outside
  • Visit a new coffee shop (6/8 – TeaLeafs on Main) 
  • Take dinner to someone 
  • Invite someone over for dinner
  • Walk to work one day
  • Visit Canalside (Maybe for Tuesday Night Flix)
  • Write a note to a friend 
  • Shakespeare in Delaware Park  
  • Buy NOTHING for a whole week
  • Don’t get out of PJs for a whole day

Bekah's Heart, First Trinity, Haiti, Internship Highlights, Joy, Mission Work, NY Adventures, Random

I love my life! (And I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.)

At 11:45 this morning I passed this sign on my way back from helping run the ropes course for Operation Purple Camp at Pioneer Camp and Retreat Center: 

The crazy thing about this is that I drove past that same sign for the very first time exactly two years ago today at the end of a 1,200 miles journey to move here from Kansas.

When I passed the sign today, I found myself instantly breathless and in awe, recalling all that’s happened in the last two years.

I recalled the nervous excitement of pulling into this parking lot for the first time greeted by car-washing youth and my amazing teammates and I think about the one that will take place this coming Saturday in that very spot.

I think about the hard times, the good times, and the in-between times that have filled the last 730 days.

I’ve been stretched, comforted, challenged, pranked, loved, encouraged, invited, broken, healed, sick, healthy, prompted, cared for, listened to, led, followed, supported, …. changed.

And most importantly, I remember the countless amazing people I’ve gotten to experience each day of the last two years with.

Earlier today, a friend commented that I lead a very interesting and fascinating life. As I thought about her comment a little more, I decided it was really true…. I do have an awesome life.  Even in the midst of any struggles or hard times, I have a family who loves me, an awesome job with the best teammates, opportunities outside of work to explore and serve, a wonderful home, a healthy body, the freedom to worship my Savior, friends all over the country and world to share life with, and most of all, a God who created me, saved me, and sustains me each and everyday.

I love my life!  (And I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.)

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full!” (John 10:10)

Africa, Bekah's Heart, Internship Highlights, NY Adventures

But What If I end Up Some Place Like New York?!?!?

I didn’t want to clutter the other post from today with this story, but it is, as my staffmates would say “hi-larious” and just one of those things that confirms in my mind that God truly does have a sense of humor:


So during my last semester at Concordia I was trying to make the decision of whether or not to go to Uganda.  There were many things that were trying to get in the way… health issues, concerns about finances both for Uganda and then also for needed to get a car and move/get settled in a new apartment, etc.  I also had to choose whether or not to go to Uganda before knowing where I was going for internship nor WHEN I was going to need to show up there. 


During this time of prayer… conversation back and forth between God and I, I distinctly remember listing off some “what-ifs”, partly just so God could debunk them with some truth.  One thing I remember praying was, “But God, what if I go to Uganda and live this simple, slower, non-hurried life for a month and then have to jump into life in some fast-paced place?  How could I handle the culture shock.  Are you sure this isn’t too much God. I mean, what if I end up having to move to like NEW YORK a week after I get back or something???  


Now, for all of you that may not be from around here, I guarantee you that life in WNY is not the stereotypical fast-paced, hurried, crazy life we see in the movies from NYC.  So, thankfully that was not an issue coming back from Uganda, and as I said in my previous post, really this was the perfect place/congregation to come back to who understood some of those culture shock elements and mission work and just made that transition so easy.


BUT you do have to admit that it’s quite hilarious!!!! 


It’s a cool reminder to me that when God tells us not to fear (which he says more than any other command in the Bible), he’s not guaranteeing that our worst fear might not come true… He’s just saying that if it does, He will take care of us every step of the way!

Blessing, Crossroads, First Trinity, Joy, NY Adventures

JB… Two months of Joy and Blessing!

Well, as of yesterday, I’ve officially been in New York for 2 months.  In some ways it’s hard to comprehend it’s been that long and in other ways it feels much longer.  In any case, I truly am loving life here.  As Jason pointed out though, it’s crazy to think that 1/6 of my internship is over.  What’s even crazier is that it seems like everything is just now getting ready to begin!


Fall programming starts tomorrow (well kind of today with Youth Band) and I’m excited to see what God has in store for this year.  (Another post is coming about this). 



In the mean time, check out some more exciting adventures and blessings that happened recently:


On labor day, the Whited family invited me to go hiking/geocaching with them and I had a wonderful time!  Here’s a picture that Wisken took of me by The Eternal Flame (I think that’s what it was called) at Chestnut Ridge Park. DSCF6624 Natural gas comes up in the rocks behind a waterfall and someone lit it at one point. 




It was a beautiful day hiking, geocaching, picnicing and just enjoying life together out in God’s beautiful creation.  Here is one of my favorite pictures from the day:



Now fast forward from Monday to earlier today (Saturday).  Some amazing youth that came to help around church today.  Our main task was cleaning/rearranging the youth space, but the youth are so awesome that they agreed to help out for a few minutes on the renovations taking place in the preschool. 


Here are some pictures of the youth (and the amazing Mike Zekas) in action:

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Awesome job team!



I truly cannot thank God enough for the COUNTLESS blessings that I’ve found here in New York and specifically at First Trinity in the last two months.  Thanks to everyone who’s made it so wonderful!  I’m excited to see what adventures the next 10 months bring as well!

NY Adventures

Adventures of the New York Variety #3 and #4

Yay for more New York Adventures!  This past week provided two more opportunities to explore the area and have some fun.


Past New York Adventures (In case you missed these posts)

Going to the Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival with the Mongielo Family

Trip to Niagara Falls with my sister and her fiance (I guess I never wrote about that…. hmm.)

Shakespeare in the Park with Darcy and Touring Niagara County with my friend, Mark


Adventure #3  – Elmwood Arts Festival

I’m pretty sure Buffalo, NY has more festivals than any other place I’ve been.  My personal philosophy is that we’re snowed in all winter that we have to take every excuse they can get in the summer to be outside.  Seriously, I think there’s been SOME kind of festival every weekend I’ve been here (though I’ve only gone to two) and many weekends there are multiple festivals going on at the same time.


Anyway, on Sunday, my friend Tracy invited me to the Elmwood Arts Festival.  It was a beautiful day and fun to walk around and see all the art, hear the music, watch the parade, etc. before heading back to her friend’s house nearby for dinner. Here are some pictures:


Vendors with all of their homemade art and crafts



Music and Dance taking place on a stage at one end of the festival.



All wrapped up with a giant parade with the kids waving and wearing the crafts they made!


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Adventure #4 ~ Waterbiking on the Erie Canal

I’m constantly amazed at how our God provides.  Just as I was maybe starting to get a little lonely here in New York, God has provided opportunities to get out and hang out with other people.  One of those moments was when the Canfield family randomly called up Monday afternoon and asked if I wanted to come over for dinner that night. It was a delicious meal and was nice to share with such a wonderful family.


The fun continued after dinner when we went down to the Erie canal to ride waterbikes.  When they told me about them, I was thinking more like a paddleboat, but think more: stationary bike meets pontoon boat.  Well I guess you can just see for yourself:

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Kristina joined up with us too (though sadly couldn’t do the paddleboats because of her knee).  BUT we had a wonderful time wrapping up the night down by the river (I believe it was the Niagara River) eating ice cream and sharing my pictures/stories from Uganda.


Thanks God for wonderful people, wonderful adventures, and for being a wonderful God! 🙂

NY Adventures

Joyfullyblessed… New York Adventures #2

The past couple weeks have contained a couple WNY adventures.  I’m truly enjoying the time I’ve gotten to explore this area that’s new to me.  This blog title includes the phrase “#2” in hopes that there will be many more adventures to blog about throughout my time here. (and I’m counting my trip to the Buffalo Italian Festival as #1 even though it’s not labeled that way) In any case, HERE WE GO (and yes… a lot of adventures means a lot of writing… if you haven’t figured it out by now, that’s just how I work):


DSCF6550Two weeks ago Darcy invited me to Shakespeare in Delaware Park.  Every summer one of the parks in Buffalo puts on presentations of Shakespeare’s works for free most nights of the week.  We caught a showing of Macbeth.  Quite the creepy story, but the actresses did a wonderful job.  Yes, I just mentioned ACTRESSES not actors as the entire cast was female.  It was an interesting twist on the fact that originally the play would have been a fully male cast, but it made for a fun opportunity for more females to be involved in the show (swordfights and all!).  Here are some pictures from that night:




So that was last Thursday night.  Then earlier this week (on Monday, my day off) a met up with a friend from school who’s lived in the area since he was in high school.  He had an entire tour of Niagara county planned out and I’m not sure how we packed it all in one day.  I was amazed at how much farmland and even CORNFIELDS there are out here.  Seriously, for a while I thought I might actually be back in Nebraska.  Here’s how the day unfolded:


Mark picked me up in time to grab lunch at The Silo in Lewiston. The Silo is just a typical burger/sandwich place but the restaurant happens to be in an old coal silo along the Niagara River. It has a beautiful view of the river (and appears to be a busy fishing spot).  It was a gorgeous day to sit out side and enjoy lunch.  



The day continued and we headed North.  We passed by Mark’s summer vicarage church and went on up to Wilson-Tuscarora State Park along Lake Ontario.  Here we went our separate ways and spent some time alone with the amazing God who created the beautiful sight we were seeing.  It was awesome to look out, unable to see anything but water and realize just how big God is.  It made me also think of that passage when Jesus calms the storm and the disciples exclaim, “Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him?!?”  (If you look closely at the first picture you can see a sailboat). 

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DSCF6584After a short drive through many more fields, farms, and vineyards we arrived at a similar sight further down on Lake Ontario.  This was at Golden Hill State Park which is exactly 30 miles from Niagara Falls marked by the Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse” which we toured.      It was awesome to stand at the top of the lighthouse, getting beaten around by the intense wind coming off the lake and once again look out at God’s creation and be at awe.  That’s not to mention that I think we DSCF6578made the day for elderly woman who got to give a tour of the lighthouse to some “young people.”

The day continued with many more adventures.  We crossed briefly over into Orleans county and visited an Amish Store called Yoder’s Country Cupboard where I got some fun homemade candy as well as fresh homemade peanut butter.

Okay, so this next part I have to explain a little more for those of you that aren’t familiar with Western New York (WNY).  What the rest of the country calls “Buffalo Wings” aren’t real wings at all.  CHICKEN wings are originally from Buffalo, NY (hence where were got the name in the rest of the country) and everyone has their favorite place which they claim has “the best wings (or DSCF6589fingers) in Western New York.”  Well, another claim was made and we ventured off to Mr. Ed’s in Middleport.  (I have not had enough experience trying wings or fingers to be able to judge any claims but Mr. Ed’s did have some good fingers).  We picked up the fingers and headed to a picnic table by the canal to eat them… yep… the Erie Canal that most midwesterners have only heard about in history books. As we were driving away from Middleport I even got to experience one of the bridges going up to allow a boat to go underneath.  (If you look on the left side you’ll notice that even when the bridge is up, there is still a “sidewalk” for people to walk across the canal.)

As our journey continued through Gasport and onto Lockport (yea, all the “ports” along the canal), I started to get a little worried.  Mark commented, “And now get ready to have a true Western New York experience.”  He pulled into a parking lot with a Reid’s hotdog stand, handed me some money and said, “Go order…. Good luck!”  Now, even more petrified than before I walked up to the DSCF6600 stand and was a little confused.  Sure, I could figured out what a Shake was or that “Hamburg” means “Hamburger” and “Cheeseburg” means “Cheeseburg”  I figured all the ones with “Hot” in them were hot dogs but what’s the difference between a “Red Hot”, a “White Hot”, or a “Hot Ham”? And did I want the special “Reid’s” sauce… I have no clue.  I ended up ordering a Red Hot with fries and a strawberry shake which the cashier called back to the cooks as a “Red Fry Straw”.  Mark got some extra onion rings with the special sauce so I could try it too.  It was pretty good and as he said… quite the experience… complete with pigeons and everything.

The day wrapped up with a few more stops at a vineyard, that was closed, the Lockport Cruise Night (basically a weekly car show…. a lot of the towns up here have them), before heading back to my home in Amherst pointing out the “cheapest gas station in Niagara county” (apart from “the Res”), the drive-in movie theater, and Niagara produce along the way.

What a wonderful, joyfulllyblessed day in Western New York.  Now all of you just need to come visit me so I can take you to these wonderful places as well!

Well, that’s all I have for now.  I’m super excited for this weekend …. I get a chance to share my stories about Africa at the VBS reunion and my aunt and uncle from IL are going to stop through on Sunday after an impromptu vacation to Niagara Falls.


Blessings from New York! 

First Trinity, NY Adventures

joyfullyblessed and made NEW!

There have been a lot of NEW things in my life lately.


The summer started by purchasing a NEW car (well actually it’s used, but new to me).

Then I headed off to many NEW experiences in a NEW country, Uganda, coming home with a completely NEW perspective on life. 

A week later I moved to a NEW city in NEW York into a NEW apartment in order to start a NEW job at a NEW church.

After about a week in this NEW place I headed off to NEW Orleans with the youth group for the National Youth Gathering building NEW relationships with the youth and adults (some of whom I hadn’t met before we even got to NEW Orleans). 

I’ve adapted to NEW schedules and NEW routines meeting more NEW people, daily it seems.  There are NEW grocery stores to get used to (or lost in) and while simple things like a NEW hair cut (which happened today) may not seem like a big deal, it’s still something NEW.


New isn’t necessarily good or bad… just new. And in the midst of the newness… it’s beautiful to see what has stayed the same.  Sure there are changes in relationships when moving across the country from my family and friends, but my new schedule has allowed me more time to keep in touch/reconnect with many of them.  The trip to New Orleans allowed me to see many family members and friends from all over the country, all over my past.  And most of all, God has remained the same!  Despite all the newness, the “old” doesn’t really go away… it seems just to be a part of an even bigger picture… a part of the process where God continues to make me new.  These “new” things combine with past things to make me who I am today.  


I can tell you all about the new experiences I’m having and post pictures of the new places I’ve been, but oh how I wish I could describe for you on here the way God is making ME new right now… from the inside, out. 


The whirlwind of all this newness has caused me to seek Jesus in beautiful NEW ways and it’s such a joy to be able to see him at work truly making my heart new… restoring me to Himself, again… and again…. and again.  I really do wish I could explain it to you, but it’s impossible.  Instead, I’ll just pray that you would experience the newness as well!  He proclaims in His World:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17) 

And check out his passage from Revelation 21

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

Our God is making everything new and one day he will restore all of heaven and earth to it’s beautiful fullness, like he originally desired… no pain, no crying, no death… only JOY and abundant BLESSING!  Oh how I long for that day!


Whether everything seems NEW in your life right now or you feel like everything’s so old you need to get out the dust rags, I pray that you would be able to experience a newness found only in a Christ… a newness that one day, will NEVER fade!

First Trinity, NY Adventures

Joyfullyblessed… In NEW YORK!

Last Thursday, July 8th, I set out with my mom and dad (and two full cars) on a journey halfway across the country. After many hours of driving, passing through 7 states, 2 nights in a hotel, horrible roads in Indiana, a LONG traffic jam in Ohio, and 5 tanks of gas (in each car), we arrived at First Trinity Lutheran Church in Tonawanda, NY on Saturday afternoon, July 10th.

Here are some pictures to document my first week in New York:



The Journey Begins!





The Church is BEAUTIFUL… and so are the people!  I love my First Trinity Family so much and am excited for this coming year!

My First Sunday at First Trinity.

Outside the Church


The Dining Room in my apartment.  (With my new fun dishes).  By the way, I think it’s kind of fun that the street I turn off of to get to my apartment complex is called “Sweet Home Rd”. 

On Monday Night the Youth Group had a “Welcome to Buffalo” Party for me hosted at the Whited’s House.


The night before they left, my dad surprised mom and I and took us to Shogun’s …. one of those restaurants where they cook your meal right in front of you.  It was a fun night followed by games and ice cream back at my apartment.  I am so joyfullyblessed by their love and support all my life and especially the past few months in the midst of all this transition.



Stephanie Mongielo and her parents took me to the Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival and then showed me around part of Buffalo.  I even won a stuff “Bills” bear and from what I hear, we were in one of the pictures of the festival in the Buffalo newspaper today. 


Well, that’s a short (not really short) summary of my first week in New York.  I’m off tomorrow morning with the youth group to New Orleans.  I am excited to get to know the kids a little better and am praying that we all see Jesus in each moment of each day while we are there.