October 14, 2012

Patience

"Patience is love for the long haul; it is bearing up under difficult circumstances, without giving up or giving in to bitterness. Patience means working when gratification is delayed. It means taking what life offers - even if it means suffering - without lashing out. And when you're in a situation that you're troubled over or when there's a delay or pressure on you or something's not happening that you want to happen, there's always a temptation to come to the end of your patience. You may well have lost your patience before you're aware of it."

"Right now, is God delaying something in your life? Are you ready to give up? Are you impatient with him? There may be a crucial factor that you just don't have access to. The answer . . . is to trust Jesus."

- Tim Keller

September 22, 2012

randomness

Completely random . . .

I was just thinking about how I have certain co-workers who have taken me under their wing . . . who have much more experience than I do - and when I face an unfamiliar situation, I feel safer, knowing that they are there.

Then I thought about life in general - how we all have people in our lives who have taken us in, who make us feel safe when we are in their presence.

And if another human can make us feel this way, imagine how secure and firm our standing is when we have our Heavenly Father cradling our very lives in His hands.

The Creator of the universe, the one who has always been . . . an infinite and personal God who desires to care for us, fulfill us and give us life. We are safe beneath His wings - more than I can wrap my mind around.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
-Psalm 91:4

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
-Psalm 56:3

September 14, 2012

Just a Shadow

"Earthly pleasures, C.S. Lewis famously said, were supposed to function like rays of the sun that direct us back to their source. As the ray warms our face, we look up along the ray to its source . . . as Jonathan Edwards said, 'pleasure is the ray, God's love is the sun. Pleasure is the shadow, God's love is the substance. Pleasure is the stream, God's love is the ocean.'"
- from Gospel by J.D. Greear
Admiring a sunrise this week, I found myself thinking - this is the glory of God. Wait, no . . . this is but a mere shadow of what's to come, when God's glory is fully revealed. God is glorified in this moment, in beauty, in creation, but it's just a miniscule taste. And Jesus is so much more beautiful and more captivating than all the sunrises that ever existed - and in that, my heart rejoices.
 “No eye has seen,
   no ear has heard,
   no mind has conceived
  what God has prepared for those who love him”

1 Corinthians 2:9

August 20, 2012

more rest

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
- Colossians 2:13-15
Whenever I return my gaze to the Gospel, my heart comes alive. 

I tend to derive my self-worth from busyness, productiveness, trying to hold it together, etc. It's so easy to think that I have to keep going, keep adding more to my schedule, keep pouring out, keep working. 

But in that, I lose my focus. I lose perspective. I gravitate inward and try to be self-sufficient and do life on my own. I quickly run out of steam, but keep going . . . thinking that I have to do more for God, do more in order to gain approval - whether that's approval from myself or approval from God.

It seems counter-intuitive to just sit, to soak up the Gospel. To rest in Him. But once I am completely filled with Him, I overflow - and it's a natural process. It's effortless, even.

And in returning to the Gospel . . . you are reminded of so much. If God saved me and made me alive when I was dead . . . if I know that I did nothing to obtain His love and salvation, then why do I think I have to work to keep that love? 

Oh, to rest in truth. To set your gaze upward. To quit listening to yourself, but preach truth to yourself. To ask your Creator who He says you are, not who you (or other people) say you are.

He must increase . . .

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
   he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.
-Psalm 23:1-3

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
- Colossians 1:16-17 

These two passages stuck out to me over the past few days.

The fact that God has created us, guides us, and holds all things together . . . for His name's sake, His purposes. Our God has ways and thoughts that are far higher than our own . . . so much better and beyond imagination or anything we could ask.

I can rest there. 

I am not holding myself together, He is. 
I am not holding my small group, my family, my friends, my job, or my future together - He is.

And He is doing it for a greater purpose - it's for His name's sake.

That's a promise that I can hold fast to.

His purposes will never fail. He will never grow tired or weary. Nothing is beyond His control.

That is exceedingly greater than any purposes of my own design. Far greater than doing anything for my name's sake, for humanity's sake, for anyone else's sake.

When you know that the One who never fails and never grows weary is holding things together and working in your life . . . for His glory, you can let go. It's an absolutely stunning realization.

You can finally rest there.

August 13, 2012

it's ugly

I . . . am feeling frazzled.

Sometimes it helps to write out what's bothering you, then you can start to sort out your thoughts and see how silly your stressors are.

Well, I don't want to be human - I think that's my underlying problem.

I want to . . . (all today)

  • wake up early in a good mood
  • get all of my grocery shopping done
  • cook for the week
  • bake
  • clean my house, or at least do all of my laundry
  • get a good workout in
  • be prepared for small group
  • keep my budget under control
  • read 2 or 3 books - or at least a chapter in each, right?
  • spend a good amount of time with God
  • did I mention working out? I also am analyzing everything I've eaten in the past 24 hours and that makes me feel a liiiiiitle more antsy about getting to the gym
  • know that I'm honoring God with my life
  • fix the pasta salad that may be irreparable 
  • hmmm - I really should start working on that rosetta stone I see in the corner
  • Where is my life going? What if I turn into the cat lady?
  • I need to pursue holiness. What does that mean? Am I doing that?
  • I'm worried about things outside of my control . . . I should work on that.
  • I mean, I just want to be perfect . . . is that too much to ask?
I am rolling my eyes at myself. I want to just let go and relax, but for some reason I can't. Maybe if I realize that I'm not a robot that would help.

We weren't made to be perfect . . . God wants me to be human, to rest in Him, to abide in Him and quit trying to do it all on my own. Am I doing that? Some days I'm better than others. Today just happens to be an off day.

August 9, 2012

Everyone should read this book, that my friend so graciously has let me borrow (for almost a year, I have a problem with picking up things and not finishing them, hah)

Anyway, several things in it have really struck me today.

If Jesus needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray? (just think about it)

The longer you experience life, the longer you realize how you're not in control . . . and the more you realize your own dependence and desperation for God, it's actually freeing.

I live with this false sense of control and self-sufficiency . . . but once I am aware of how God is really in loving control, how nothing happens outside of His knowledge or sovereignty, it changes everything.

When you pray over a problem or surrender it to God, you are releasing that burden. That problem is no longer holding you captive, you are no longer bound by fear - you choose instead to trust Him. And who is more capable of handling your problems and your life? You or God?

Living in constant communication, constant dependence on God . . . that is what I long for. To know that He is in loving control - no problem is outside of His care, to trust that while I don't know the future or even have a hold on this present day, He does . . . and He promises to never leave or forsake us through it all.

"When you know that you (like Jesus) can't do life on your own, then prayer makes complete sense."

"You don't create intimacy; you make room for it. This is true whether you are talking about your spouse, your friend, or God. You need space to be together. Efficiency, multitasking, and busyness all kill intimacy. In short, you can't get to know God on the fly. If Jesus has to pull away from people and noise in order to pray, then it makes sense that we need to as well."

"You don't need self-discipline to pray continuously; you just need to be poor in spirit."
-Paul Miller

O God, you are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
    my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
    where there is no water.

 I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory. 
 Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands. 
 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
 On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night. 
 Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
-Psalm 63:1-8

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
-Luke 12:6-7 

August 8, 2012

one real thing

Speak - and my heart starts aching,
Reach - and the numbness dims
Beat - still my mind's uncertain,
Breathe - it begins again

You are the One Real Thing
You are the One True Thing that I know
You are the One Real Thing
No matter what the future brings
You're the One Real Thing

Stay locked within Your presence,
Truth renew in my mind again
Rest 'cause I know You're faithful and I
Trust 'cause I know Your name

I get down on my knees and I feel Your love wash over me
"One Real Thing" - Skillet


August 7, 2012

white knuckles

I write this as a reminder to myself, and to you.

Keep holding on.

When the storms are raging and you can't see past your face. When the ground is dissolving around you and you can't find your footing.

Keep clinging to truth.

White knuckled.

I, we, are searching for stability in an ever-changing world. Our hearts yearn for rest and satisfaction. Let your weariness draw you to your Savior.

He is the only one who . . .
  • will never leave or forsake you
  • cannot be stripped away
  • will never change
  • pursues us and pours out His love when we are unfaithful
  • is greater than anything we can gain in this life (or think that we need)
  • is completely constant, a firm foundation, a refuge and strength to all who seek His face
  • is working in the details of your life for your own good, to draw you closer to Him 
  • will never leave you disappointed or empty
  • Will carry you through adversity (because we are not always delivered from it)
And this is only the beginning of a list of His attributes. He is closer to you and I than we know. Seek Him.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith 
-Hebrews12:2
 
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
   "For your sake we face death all day long;
      we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-Romans 8:35-39


 Because your love is better than life,
       my lips will glorify you.
-Psalm 63:3

"The pursuit of independence always leaves me addicted to a list of things that I’ve looked to for hope, life, strength and rest. In a vain attempt to distract myself from the evidence that I’m not, in fact, independent, I get hooked on things that have the ability to distract me but can never give my heart rest."
-Paul David Tripp 

August 6, 2012

Every now and then . . .


. . . funny things happen when you talk yourself into going for a jog . . . outside, in the middle of an August day in North Carolina.

I mean - no biggie, right? Suuure the forecast says it's 92, but I'm sure there will be plenty of shade and breeze along the route. I got this.

You start to do things like draw parallels between your running route and walk with God.

You contemplate crossing hillsborough street to get some Chinese food. You start to weigh the dangers of poison ivy and ticks against the probability of losing bladder control from all that water you drank earlier.

When the route starts to get less than easy, you have to speak truth to yourself . . . whether that's thinking yes, my car will still be there at the end of these 5 miles and I will make it . . . or preaching to yourself that Christ is better than anything in this world, and that facing adversity with Him is better than an easy road without Him.

Sometimes you wonder if you're just going to lose it, and someone's going to find you spread-eagle on the side of the path.

When you face adversity, you know that the road isn't going to be easy. You see that steep hill in the hot summer air, with the sun beating down on you. Yet, you choose to say, OK God - let's go. It's never promised to be without struggle. In fact, those trials are guaranteed.

But it is worth it. So keep holding on.





August 5, 2012

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
-Hebrews 12:1

JD preached a very powerful sermon this weekend on Hebrews 12 . . . and there were some things that really stuck out to me that I wanted to share.

Notice how the writer of Hebrews in this verse is distinguishing between sins and weights (everything that hinders). When we become joy-driven in our walk, we realize that it's not just about getting rid of sin. There are also things that are weighing us down, holding us back from knowing Jesus more and being more involved in the mission of God.


What are those things? We all have distractions and things in our lives that are hindering us in some way, keeping us from delighting in Jesus more fully.

It becomes less of "what am I allowed to keep" and more of, "how can I give this away?"

These things that are weights could be distractions, hobbies, possessions, etc - that are not sins in and of themselves, but hold us back from that deeper relationship.

This exercise has to be done carefully and under guidance of the Holy Spirit, because I know how easy it is to fall into legalism, checklists, religion, etc . . . it's all about a heart change and understanding the Gospel more fully.

 Good food for thought . . .

August 2, 2012

beating heart baby

 I was reading something interesting last night . . . I'm trying to finish J.D.'s book, Gospel, and there is a section that discusses spiritual disciplines. Basically, he was saying that the more you encounter God, the more you're heart is changed to be like His. The more you practice those disciplines - studying His word, communicating with Him in prayer, etc. etc. the more He changes you so that you start to desire those things. And the more you start to have a distaste for things that are not good.

Over time, I have seen God make dramatic changes in my heart and in the things that I desire.

Years ago, I would drown my sorrows in music. I would listen to AFI, The Used, Senses Fail or anything with a lot of screaming when I was feeling upset (or emo) . . . which, in turn, would only feed my anger/depression. I would allow myself to wallow and feel justified in my emotions. However, at my lowest points I could sense something holding me up - protecting me from slipping into the deepest pit of despair.

I realize that it was the Holy Spirit protecting me from those lows. Even when I wasn't adamantly seeking after God, He was guarding my spirit.

Anyway, fast forward to present day. Only by God's faithfulness and grace has He brought me this far, and changed my heart.

I realize that I've lost a taste for former coping mechanisms.

I tried to watch Nicki Minaj's new music video today when I started to acknowledge this. The video just oozes of sex, drinking, and self-glorification. I couldn't get through it, I had to close it out. I used to listen to only hip hop when I was in high school and would watch 106 and park, MTV, etc . . . and granted, music videos were a lot tamer back then . . . but I just can't do it anymore.

Anyone who has met me knows I love some Nicki, but I see it for what it is . . . and I usually can only handle it at the gym . . . that kind of music makes me go cray on the spin bike :)

I clearly am not perfect . . . but those places that I ran for comfort in the past, or for entertainment just don't cut it. I am no longer amused. I love some Linkin Park when I'm upset, but I can feel God convicting me of even that - because it's so easy to get sucked into a little emo black hole of despair.

That's not where God wants us to run when we're facing difficulties . . . He wants to heal our hearts and direct our gaze to Him . . . to set our feet firm on something real.

I want to run, I want to go crazy with music, I want to numb myself to whatever life is throwing at me . . . but I realize we are called to something different.

Again, the question remains - am I teachable? Do I realize that there is One whose ways are higher than my own? Do I realize that my preferences and desires can be very errant?

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:12

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  
Philippians 4:8

"Gospel-centeredness is about saturating your heart in the good news of Jesus - letting it so remake your mind that you see everything about yourself and your life through its lens . . . Make the gospel the center of your life. Turn to it when you are in pain. Let it be the foundation of your identity. Ground your confidence in it. Run to it when your soul feels restless. Take solace there in times of confusion and comfort there in times of regret. Dwell on it until righteous passions for God spring up within you."
-JD Greear, from Gospel

July 30, 2012



random thought for the morning . . .

If I want God to use me, work through me and pour me out . . . I cannot do that if I am not first being filled with Him myself, to the point of spilling over.

July 28, 2012

like whoa

"We cannot judge effectiveness from immediate results."
-Beth Moore

". . . the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things  and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
- John 14:26 


Thanks, Beth Moore. I needed that.

like a child

 Dear God, surround me as I speak,
the bridges that I walk across are weak
Frustrations fill the void that I can't solely bear
Dear God, don't let me fall apart,
you've held me close to you
I have turned away and searched for answers I can't understand

They say that I can move the mountains

And send them crashing into the sea
They say that I can walk on water
If I would follow and believe
with faith like a child

Sometimes, when I feel miles away

and my eyes can't see your face
I wonder if I've grown to lose the recklessness
I walked in light of you


They say that love can heal the broken

They say that hope can make you see
They say that faith can find a Savior
If you would follow and believe
with faith like a child 


"Like A Child," Jars of Clay


But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
-Luke 18:16-17  

July 25, 2012

On a lighter note . . . (maybe)

I really do love this city, this state, this country.

For the first week of being back, I could not stop saying, "God bless America!!" "I love America!!"

I really missed American pop music, so what is one of the first things I did?

Oh yeah - listened to Justin Bieber pretty much nonstop for the first 48 hours. haters gonna hate.
Do you know what else I absolutely love? Frozen yogurt. ohmygoshIloveitsomuch. I think I got frozen yogurt at least 4 times that week.

I missed my friends, my family, my life here. I mean - you would've thought that I was gone for a year or something, and it was only a week.

I just don't want to take everything for granted.
the God bless America mani!!
I also missed crazyamazinghuge salads. I promptly went to Whole Foods (AKA Whole Paycheck) shortly after getting back :) I love you, tofu!

Oh and you know what else is really good? Fluffy biscuits. From Flying Biscuit Cafe. mmmmmmm . . . 

I'm telling you . . . this country is crazy awesome and I really appreciate it more than ever right now.

I also decided that I want to be lady liberty for Halloween this year.

I mean, if anyone wanted to make me a dress out of an American flag, I sure wouldn't turn you down!!

Before the trip, I was asking God to give me clear direction and wisdom . . . whether He wanted me to move somewhere (whether it be another city, state or country), or do something different with my life. I didn't sense any clear direction - I only saw opportunities magnified in front of me here. Then, I feel like this trip was confirmation that I am not cut out to be a long-term missionary. I would definitely go on another short-term trip, but my passion - at least right now - is more for things over here. I pray that God would continue to lead me and make it blatantly obvious if He wants me to change. All I can do is continue to look to Him and make Him the priority of my life.

let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
-Hebrews 12:1-2 

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.
-Psalm 32:8

July 24, 2012

re-adjusting . . . more

My first day back to work was really difficult.

I was on the verge of tears before entering my unit, simply at the fact that the hospital was just so clean.

One of my friends, Julie, was there and she asked me how my trip was - I immediately got choked up, almost lost it in the breakroom (all before the beginning of the shift) and told her that it had been really hard to process everything.

We were so busy during that week, that we didn't have time to process. And there was so much that we were taking in. Human trafficking, sexual slavery, child abuse, prostitution, poverty - those are not things that you can take lightly.

I think the first week back, I was just trying to get my bearings and was beginning to process things.

Another one of my co-workers was there, praise God, who has been on missions to third world countries as well. She and Julie were so great to talk to - I don't know what I would have done without them that day.

My co-worker reminded me of many, many things that I needed to hear . . .

- That God is alive and working in third world countries
- We don't go on missions to change the world, we go to come alongside what God is already doing in other parts of the world
- We, as a culture, walk around as if we do not need God
- Suffering enables people to have a much deeper relationship with and dependence on God
- We do live in a very broken, fallen, cursed world
- The "health and wealth" gospel is absolutely false and not Biblical by any means

She also recommended this book, which is great so far . . .

I still find myself overwhelmed at how much we have here . . . the excess, the luxuries, the freedoms, protection, opportunities, blessings, comforts . . . how clean everything is (don't think I'm getting over that anytime soon), and how much we truly don't need anything but God.

Sometimes the darkness feels so overwhelming. In Nicaragua, the darkness was pretty obvious . . . but in America, it's more subtle - which can be scarier in a sense.

As soon as we were back in the country, I felt bombarded by media, materialism, consumerism, distractions, technology and self-centeredness of our culture.

There are false gods everywhere, competing for our affection, our time, our lives, our passion, our worship. 

Just look at any form of media or especially social media.

We live in a culture that is largely unaware of it's need for God, and is hotly pursuing the wrong things. Distraction pulls me in a thousand different directions every day . . . and society tells me that I need things like a hot body, perfect relationship, approval of others, success in my career, perfect family, booming bank account, etc. in order to be fulfilled and happy.

The darkness over here just takes a different form than the darkness in third world countries. But there is clearly hope - God is insanely faithful, He is sovereign and His love is deeper and greater than anything my mind can grasp.

re-adjusting

Coming back to life in NC, even after only being gone a week, was hard.

I was in disbelief of everything I have here - especially all of the material blessings and excess that we have, simply for being in the US.

I remember driving to church in tears, simply because I was on a paved road, there was no litter or graffiti, it smelled wonderful, I had nice clothes to wear, my own car, a cell phone, an ipod . . . (I could go on and on) . . . I have so much, and I don't need any of it. It was overwhelming.

We have so much . . . God has blessed me so richly, and it's incredibly easy to take these things for granted. Too easy to focus on what you don't have, or on the negative. But something engrained in me since Nicaragua is this - while before the trip I knew that God is all I truly need, I could actually see that in a new way.

The people that we met have nothing. No education, lucrative career, nuclear family, fancy houses, cars, clean clothes, technology, kitchen full of food - none of that. And yet, they were a lot more joyful than most of the people you encounter here.

We don't need those things that we think we need to be happy.

And while our lives might seem trying or hard . . . we do not know poverty or suffering the way they do in third world countries. It puts everything into persepctive.

I know I've said it before, but by simply being born in this country we have so many freedoms, opportunities and blessings that Nicaraguans will never have. We are so much wealthier and fortunate than we can realize.

It. is. overwhelming. I felt like I had been hit square in the chest with a ton of bricks.
(which raises the age-old question, which is heavier? A ton of bricks or a ton of feathers?)

I struggled the first week we were back in the country. I didn't feel like myself . . . didn't want to cook, didn't want to go to the gym, didn't want to do anything. I did like telling the story of what happened during that week, but it was emotionally draining to re-live and re-tell everything.

There have been two things that are the most difficult to process (and there's a TON that I've been trying to process):
- I have done nothing to deserve all of the freedoms, opportunities and wealth here. I have SO much (too much, really), it's overwhelming. Why have I had such and easy life, when there are innocent children suffering in Nicaragua?
- Now what? Now that I have seen the injustices and poverty in Nicaragua, I can no longer turn a blind eye to what's going on in the rest of the World. But what do I do?

I am still wrestling with these things. I don't think that I will ever understand injustice . . . other than it confirms we live in a very broken, fallen, messed up world. But it's just not fair that I've been so fortunate when there are people suffering.

And what do I do now? Am I doing enough with my life? Am I glorifying God? Sure I lead a small group, volunteer at a health clinic, try to pour truth into people, love my friends, volunteer occasionally at church, but what am I doing to bless the less fortunate? Or will this turn into a legalistic game of lists and checkboxes?

I don't feel like sitting here, being grateful for all the blessings is enough. I still feel like a spoiled American princess. I don't think I feel guilty for what God has given me, but I feel that I should do something. If God has blessed me so that I may be a blessing - am I doing that? Or do I need some serious change?

I will tell you that there are a few, small things that I think God has brought to the front of my mind.
- I want to simplify my life
- I want to learn spanish
- I am actually trying to free up my financial resources and sticking to a budget for the first time ever
- I love sharing stories from the trip
- I have a new perspective

So . . . while these things are not answers to the hard questions, I am thankful to see how the trip has impacted me (and even people around me).

I just don't want to forget what we saw and learned and experienced in Nicaragua. I know that the excitement, emotion and passion will fade, but I pray that my perspective would not go back to me just being in my own little bubble. There is so much going on in the world, so much that God is doing and it's amazing.

Homeward Bound

I don't know how many hours I had been awake at this point . . . but it was hard to sit still on the plane, out of anxiety and anticipation.

At one point I glanced out the window and I remember seeing a thunderstorm . . . such a cool sight as lightning surged through a cloud that you're looking down on . . . I just hoped that we weren't going to fly through it.

Our plane touched down in Miami and I sang "God Bless America." Man, I could have kissed the ground.

It was pretty somber in the airport seeing as it was after 2am at this point. Our flight wasn't going to leave MIA until 10:15am. As soon as I had the chance, I called home. It was about 3am. My mom answered the phone the way she always does: "Hey sweetie . . ." and tears welled up in my eyes once again. I cannot convey what a relief it was to be back in the states, and to finally hear her voice. Choked up, I told her how wonderful it was to hear her voice . . . and then updated her on our situation, promising to call her at a more decent hour later.

We processed through the airport and then camped out near American Airlines . . . a box of donuts, a few hours and a whole hot mess later, we were on the way to our gate. I tried to sleep, again, in vain . . . and started to feel worse than I do after working a week of night shifts at the hospital.
Once boarding began, I was in disbelief that we were actually, finally going home. I was so excited, but exhausted in every way possible!

Our plane landed in RDU at 12:30 on Saturday. I had not slept at all. We had traveled for almost 24 hours straight.

I thought my parents were just going to circle around outside and pick me up at the curb . . . but walking towards baggage claim, I looked up and saw the concerned face of my mom . . . and my dad staring off somewhere. I got so excited and practically ran to her! Emotion took hold of me again but I didn't want to cry anymore. I knew she was extremely relieved to have her daughter back safely, and I was relieved just to be back, period. And to get a hug from my mom :)

I told my parents that I have never, ever been happier to be back in North Carolina. I wanted to eat American food, I loved the way this country looked and smelled. Everything was so clean. Everything was so big. We have an economy. We have paved roads. I have a house - what?

I opened the door to my house and just stared in awe . . . I swear you would've thought I was on some kind of substance (maybe it was all of the sleep deprivation). I just stopped in the doorway and stared . . . my house, I have a house, it smells so nice in here, it's so clean and big . . . ohmygosh I have my own bathroom . . . it's just so CLEAN . . . I ran my hands along the wall as I climbed the stairs to my ginormous room. I could not believe I was back. It was just so clean here! Are you sure I really live here? really? No, seriously . . .

I could have kissed the ground again. Oh, the relief that flooded my soul. And then the exhaustion set in from lengthy travel and being out of the country for 8 days. I felt physically sick from it all.

There were times during the trip where it seemed like we had been there for 2 weeks, or even a month - but at the same time, that week flew by. We just experienced soo much during that time. There were times during the trip that I knew I wanted to come back on another short-term trip, but right then all I could think about was how much I loved North Carolina, America, my life here, the way it smells and looks and feels and just is. I never wanted to leave again.

I tried to sleep 4 hours, but that didn't work out so well. My mom came over, we made dinner, had some of my favorite wine and then one of my absolute favorite pastimes - got frozen yogurt. I love America. God bless America and frozen yogurt and North Carolina. Praise Jesus. God bless America.

I started to tell stories from the trip, in lengthy detail. If I told the whole story, it took about 2 or 2 1/2 hours. Complete with an emotional breakdown during the description of House of Hope, which is totally appropriate.

I crashed that night, shortly after 9pm. I could finally sleep . . . but I felt like royalty. Coming back from a third world country, this was a little bit of a re-adjustment. I was clearly in awe of how clean and big everything is here. I felt like an American princess that night as my body collapsed under the weight of a week in Nicaragua, seeing God's power on display, having my eyes opened to extreme poverty, injustice, and starting to gain a new perspective.

Worlds Apart . . . part 8

Day 8 of the trip - Friday. This was our last planned day in Nicaragua.

Here was the projected itinerary for that day:
  • 9:00 have bags packed and ready, then go to the Huembes market
  • 10:45 be back in the bus
  • 12ish be at the airport
  • 2:30 fly out of Managua
  • go straight through security and customs in Miami
  • 11pm arrive to RDU
The Huembers market was . . . interesting.

Honestly, I had spent virtually all of my money (I only had $9 cash to either buy food or caffeine at the airport if we had time), I was really ready to come home at this point, I was tired, and the cultural differences were starting to take a toll on me.

I was ready to have my own bathroom. I was ready to sleep in a room with closed windows, where you wouldn't hear the constant noise of traffic (we were near a highway and it seriously sounded like 18-wheelers were barreling down the middle of our bunk at times). I missed airplane noise (that's what I get for growing up near RDU :) ), I missed my friends, I wanted to hear my mom's voice on the phone. I can't believe I'm still saying this, but I missed my job. I missed the way America looks. The sight of trash, dirt and graffiti was wearing on me. I love the smell of bonfires and grills, but the fire in Nicaragua has a different . . . flavor (for lack of a better word) to it. I guess I missed the way our country smells, looks, and feels. Also, I was completely emptied out of pepto.

 It's so crazy to think about it . . . I remember riding in the bus, thinking about how bad we smelled, how bad the bus smelled, how bad outside smelled. Everyone was tired and ready to go.

The vegetation around us was always so beautiful and lush. We even drove by a valley, a volcano, Lake Nicaragua and those things were gorgeous . . . but almost juxtaposed, intermingling with the tattered roads, weary buildings, graffiti, trash, dirt and strange scents.

Speaking of strange scents, a group of us were together at the market and I was near the back as we were traveling through all of the aisles. Huembes had everything - from random stuff you might expect at Wal-Mart, staples, produce, groceries, etc. to the touristy little trinkets and T-shirts we had seen at one of the other markets. At one point, we started passing produce (which already smelled interesting) and then started going deeper and deeper into the heart (or the bowels) of the market. I don't know what was back there - some sort of meat, that I'm glad I never had to meet - but the smell kept growing in intensity and foulness. Thank goodness one of the girls hightailed it out of there (due to a vendor who started acting sketchy) because I was about to find out how strong my gag reflex was.

So yeah, we were all pretty ready to go . . . as we loaded up the bus for the last time, made a quick stop to the church to collect our passports . . . and were on our way to the airport.

We arrived later than originally planned, so tension was already running a little high. Once we started checking in, I saw the little papers for customs floating around . . . and thought, man - didn't we already fill those out? You mean we have to do it again? Or do we? (you can tell I travel outside of the country a lot, huh :) )

Then I started hearing a funny little rumor bubbling around our group, traveling back towards where I was standing in line. It sounded like they were saying that we were going to spend the night in Miami. Well that's funny. Resume random thoughts about America and pop music . . .

Oh no, it was not a rumor. It was reality. My brain couldn't take it. All I could think was - I have to get back. I am out of money, among other things like patience and sanity. They don't understand!

Hooooooold it together, Sarah. Well there was futile thought. Just as I tried to compose myself, I crumbled into a little pile of emotion and the dam opened again. Sweet Cheryl (who I call our trip's mom) wrapped her arm around me, told me things were going to work out and prayed over me. I don't think I will forget that moment, as it really meant a lot to me in the midst of chaos.

That afternoon, I was so thankful for the 17 people on our team. There were moments during the trip that I wondered if our team was completely random, or if we could even survive with 17 different personalities. But during that whole hot mess - things seemed to click. Cheryl, Jacque and Julie became our fearless leaders and made sure everyone was taken care of with the ever-changing game plan. Hillary's hyperness balanced out my depleted state, the guys brought comic relief, and everyone else eased the tension and nonsense.
we are SO HAPPY
 Thank God we were able to pick up wi-fi at the airport . . . and started sending out emails, updating our family members on the delays. I felt particularly stranded as I did not bring a cell phone or any credit cards, but Hillary was gracious enough to let me send an email from her phone. I told my mom that I would call her once we were back in the states, even though it would be super late (or early, depending on how you look at it).
so close, yet so far!!!!!
 Well, we had about 9 hours to burn and food vouchers for 12 US dollars. With the world's smallest airport, there was just so much to do. Cheryl treated us to beverages and thankfully someone had brought uno, so we ended up playing for about 2 hours. I'm telling you - best trip mom ever.

I don't even know what else we did to fill the time, except find ways to use the vouchers. 12 bucks goes a long way in Nicaragua - Nicole and I shared a voucher and got a frappuccino, hot chocolate, 2 pieces of tres leches cake, 1 piece of chocolate cake and 2 empanadas with change to spare. This was my first encounter with tres leches cake and it changed my world. I ate the entire piece while standing at the counter, waiting on my coffee drink.

Around 6pm, we got back in line to check in with our new flight. Janna ended up being next to me and suggested - Hey Sarah, sing for these two girls in line behind us!
I asked them if they knew who Nicki Minaj was, and they said yes - so I sang Super Bass for them and then got some fan photos afterwards :)

I'm back in line, unsuspecting, when Janna suggests - Sarah, look at aaalllll these people in line. Everyone is tired and in a bad mood. I bet you could make them feel a lot better if you sang for them.

That's funny.

Before I know it, she steps out to the crowd and announces, ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ESCUCHEN! OYE! OYE! My friend wants to sing a song for you all!!

What.


Well, no turning back now. Especially since my team was egging me on and a few of them were chanting, do it, do it, everyone will like you!

Back to facing my fears - and there you have it. I rapped Super Bass for the Managua International Airport. I still can't believe I actually did that. Especially since I normally get nervous just rapping in front of 2 or 3 people!

Actually, it was kind of fun. Especially since I don't think I would do that in any other setting. Christine managed to get a video of it on her tablet . . . and people in the crowd were videotaping, taking pictures, and downright staring, according to Janna (I couldn't look at them because I was too nervous). If I can figure out how to post the video on this blog, I will share it :)

We finally boarded the plane . . . I'm guessing, around 9:45 that night. I had a huge surge of energy from all of the sugar, caffeine and recent famedom.

I wanted so desperately to sleep on the plane, but my heart ached for home and I was feeling anxious as well. I was so ready to be back, and I knew we still had a long ways. My attempts to sleep were in vain and I got emotional just anticipating hearing my mom's voice on the phone.

We were on our way homebound . . .

Worlds Apart . . . part 7

On day 7, we took at 2 hour bus ride out to Leon for our last day doing VBS.

Side note: Christine amazed me with her ability to fall asleep anywhere, and I'm a little jealous :)

During the trip, we got to hear Jeremy (founder of One by One) talk about his passion and vision for Nicaragua. It was so refreshing to see how his face lit up as he talked about the future and the next generation of Nicaragua. I could tell that he was here for the right reasons and that he has such a heart for the country.

I think it's so cool how God gives us different talents, spiritual gifts, abilities, etc. and places us in different circumstances in order to glorify Him. It's my frequent prayer that God would work through me - and that He would direct me to be exactly where He desires. I want to be in His will, and sometimes (or a lot of the time) I worry about it way too much instead of trusting in His divine guidance and orchestration.

We arrived to Leon, got settled and ate lunch. The church was built by a Methodist congregation from the states, and now One by One uses it as one of their locations. It was beautiful.
 Jeremy told us that the kids would start to arrive after 1:00, and that we could play soccer with them while we waited for everyone. Right in front of the church was a huge dirt field. Hillary suggested playing, and I thought - why not? I've already been out of my comfort zone so much on this trip, might as well continue. Plus, I don't think these kids will care that I have absolutely no skill when it comes to sports.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew there was a reason I don't play sports . . . but all I could remember was I don't like things flying at me . . . and I don't like sweaty people touching me. Sweaty people flying at me - yeah. That must be the reason.

We started to play and I was very quickly reminded why I don't play sports. Oh yes, I'm afraid of the ball. How did I forget that? hmm.

So, where is the most logical place for a person who is afraid of 1) projectile objects, 2) sweaty people, and 3) the ball?

oh yeah. goalie, baby.

Thank God the other gringos were merciful enough to switch out with me when there was a penalty kick. I was proud of myself because I actually intentionally kicked the ball. Twice. Boom.

Then there was a true miraculous moment when, while standing between the goalposts, contemplating the meaning of life, someone kicked the ball towards me . . . and instead of going for it, my leg just happened to be conveniently in the way. So, the ball hit my leg with such force that it ricocheted off and went rolling flying away.

The dirt that was embedded in the ball left a lovely outline of the soccer ball on my lower leg, and suddenly I felt a little more legit. By this point there were enough people with real skill on the field, so I graciously left . . . and then the kids saw my leg and asked if I was OK, haha :)
trying really hard to look busy
A little bit after this, Alecia, who is actually a very good soccer player (and pretty hard core), burned/scraped up her leg pretty badly in the Nicaraguan dirt. So, what did we do? Perform surgery of course.
I think we need to amputate, doctor.
Just kidding. It wasn't surgery. But we did need to get the dirt out of her leg . . . thankfully Hillary had a stash of wipes in her bag. A few of us did our best to clean up/scrub the dirt out of her leg, then bandaged it up a bit. The little kids poking at it later definitely made it feel better. Note to self: next time on a mission trip, bring medical supplies. Thankfully, there were a few first aid kits on the trip.

There were somewhere between 90-100 kids that were supposed to be at this VBS, but it seemed like more and more little ones kept filtering in as the afternoon progressed. At one point, Talia had 38 kids in her group. phew. Talk about a lot of paper boats. We had like a fleet going. (is that what you call an army of boats? It sounds good, right?)

Alecia is also the one who taught our team the "peer pressure song." Do you know this song? It's pretty catchy:
Do it,
Do it,
Everyone will like you!
(repeat x 1000)

So needless to say, I rapped Super Bass on the bus for everyone on the team, plus Ben, Jeremy and Paul. Paul told me I had too much free time because I could name 3 celebrity chefs in less than 5 seconds and memorized a Nicki Minaj song. Way to pump up my self esteem.

It's all Janna's fault. She kept requesting the song. I gotta give the people what they want!

But seriously, the peer pressure song was used on almost everyone on the team - to eat a stack of crackers in 30 seconds, cluck like a chicken, bark like a dog, etc. etc. . .

Then miraculously, on the bus ride back, Ben turned the radio on. Do you know what glorious song filled the air? "Sexy and I know it". Awww yeeeah. Then the real me started to come out. Music does things to me. I just got so excited and almost busted out my super fly dance moves - but I don't think everyone was quite ready for that yet. So I danced in my seat like the stereotypical white girl. Don't stop, get it, get it!

Do you know how happy I was to hear American music on that bus? Praise Jesus.

So, this trip was filled with facing fears . . . working with kids, attempting to speak spanish, rapping in front of that many people, projectile objects coming towards me, random food, being in a foreign environment, etc. etc . . . this trip definitely stretched me in many ways and I was so thankful.
Just for fun . . . yes I did, yes I did, somebody please tell 'em who the -- I is :)

Worlds Apart . . . part 6

Almost each day in Nicaragua, I had a few thoughts . . .
  • I want to go home
  • I want to come back next year, and bring some of the girls from my small group
  • I want to learn spanish
  • I am really looking forward to using a regular bathroom
The feeling of missing home only lasted a few minutes, as we were so busy and constantly in fellowship.

At the mission house, there was a wonderful housekeeper and cook who took excellent care of us. The coffee was ah-mazing. (I wish they had it like that here) She also cooked us breakfast every morning, and dinner almost every night. I love plantains, did I tell you that yet? Oh, and the pineapple and watermelon are so much better than what you get in the states.

We loaded up on our glamorous shuttle bus as per usual with our BFF Ben, and rode out to the church in Managua. Wednesday morning was spent doing various projects on the church. Alexis, Janna, Hillary and I were in charge of painting the ceiling of an office.

I love American pop music. I really do, and I can't hide that. I was ready for some music that day . . . after all, this was day 6! I made Hillary play Justin Bieber on her phone while we worked . . . and to my dismay, we also suffered jammed out to "Gag Call me Maybe."

I don't know much about painting, but somehow we made it work. Janna saved her mane by wearing a plastic bag, and it was hilarious glamorous.
making a fashion statement

Well, it was time for me to face yet another fear of mine - singing in front of people (OK, OK, I'm not always shy about this, I just get nervous when I rap). I'm not sure what triggered this, but I started rapping Nicki Minaj for these girls. Last summer I made it a personal goal to memorize "Super Bass" - so boom I can check that off of my bucket list! Just call me the next white rapper.

Now, I'm not kidding when I say I get nervous rapping this in front of just 2 or 3 other people. No matter how many times I've rapped this song, (a lot in the last year) I still get a little adrenaline rush. I am such a nerd. This is ruining my street cred. Man.

Here's the fundamental problem . . . Nervousness = rapid heart beat = short of breath/hyperventilating = messing up my flow.

Anyway, little did I know that Janna would request force me to sing the song multiple times for the duration of our trip.
I did not see the attack coming . . . until it was too late
After the projects . . . and bathing my arm in mineral spirits (which smelled so fragrant - in a not-so-wonderful way), we had a fabulous lunch that Ben's wife prepared for us. That was the first time I tried yucca, which is also very delicious.

Then it was VBS time for the kids that come to the afterschool program at the church. We were getting pretty good at the whole rotation thing :) And I think I can fold paper boats blindfolded with both arms tied behind my back . . . waaaaaaiiit.

I think this day was one of the days we got back to the mission house the earliest. Typically at night we would come back for dinner, then had devotion as a group and hung out until we were tired. The sun rises at 5:30 in Nicaragua, and I usually got up around 6:00 each morning, plus I'm old so I didn't stay up too late :)

I almost forgot . . . in the afternoons, we chanted "helado" in the bus and Ben was sweet enough to drive us to the store so that we could get our ice cream fix almost every day.

But for realz . . . I did miss life back in NC. I didn't think about it very much, which was another answer to prayer - but even after a few days I started to miss it here. I even started to miss my job, which is just plain insanity. I think it's a good sign, though.

Worlds Apart . . . part 5

OK . . . we are on day . . . 5. It was Tuesday, our second day at House of Hope.

In the morning, we attended the service with over 400 women. Usually they work on the jewelery, cards, sewing, etc. afterwards but this week was pay day - so it was a little different.

I know I keep talking about Oscar, but I saw him during the service - he's not someone that I'd ever want to cross, for obvious reasons, plus his size. But he was there, laughing and joking with the women. So awesome.

After service it was more testimonies and lunch. There was another team there, working on construction. The House of Hope has been built completely by short-term mission trips . . . the men on this team were finishing a building that they had started last year.

Then the kids were back for another day of VBS with us, which went by rather quickly. At one point during the afternoon, Mary asked some of the girls how they liked House of Hope. One of the girls, who is 12, told us that she loves it there . . . she gets to go to school, she gets to hear the Word of God, meet Americans like us and hear about how important education is. That was pretty amazing to me . . . when I was 12, my priorities were a little different. I think all I cared about was Gap jeans, my body image, and boys. The girls here are amazing - to see their joy and hear their stories was so wonderful. It really is a reminder of what's truly important in this life.

After all of the VBS groups went through the rotations, we had one big gathering for worship . . . which was so much fun. I love singing and dancing around and looking like an idiot, so this was perfect.
After worship and a few group photos, one of my favorite things went down.

Before the trip, during planning meetings, someone suggested a "candy shirt" for the kids during games at VBS. I had never heard of this before . . . what the heck is a candy shirt?

Well, you see . . . you take a regular T-shirt, then you use super glue to strategically place as much candy as possible all over it. Then, you do what only is logical - run out into a crowd of children and pray that you make it out alive, or at least without any life-threatening injuries. I mean, at least a nurse was on the trip.
no mas, no mas!
It. was. hilarious. Hillary took video of this, and I can't wait until it's on facebook :) The guys were troopers - risking life and limb and all.

Monday and Tuesday were clearly the most intense, overwhelming and emotional. House of Hope has captured my heart. These days had the greatest impact on me. I hope that I never forget these experiences and all of the amazing, raw ways that God's power is on display there.

After these days, we were told that our team had one of the best VBS's there . . . they liked us, and we actually helped the staff/interns instead of adding stress or being a burden. This was such an answer to prayer.

It was so encouraging to hear that a short-term trip could be beneficial . . . I had been asking God to help our team be a blessing to the missionaries, women and children there. I knew we could not make a huge, lasting impact in only a week - but it was such a blessing to hear that they liked having us there.

For weeks and months leading up to the trip, I asked God to prepare the team and the people in Nicaragua for this week. It was so cool to see things come together . . . in the different ages, personalities, gifts and skills of the people on the team. At times, I thought we were such a random mix . . . but in the end I could see that God orchestrated this group of 17 - and I was so thankful.

Worlds Apart . . . part 4.5

Still on day one at House of Hope . . . (don't say I didn't warn you about my numerous posts, hah)

After lunch and hearing Angela's powerful testimony, we got ready for VBS with the kids - the girls who had been rescued, along with the kids of the women who live on campus.

I had never helped with a VBS before, but Talia had put together a fabulous structure for us. The kids rotated through different stations - I helped with crafts, AKA folding boats out of paper :)
I see you cheesin!
I think the spanish word for fold is "doblar." I said it. A lot.

We did VBS with the kids for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours each day in the afternoon (We did this at House of Hope Monday and Tuesday, then at the church in Managua Wednesday and the church in Leon on Thursday) . . . the stations (if I remember right) were crafts, snacks, games, worship and teaching.

I had a scary thought during all of this . . . doing VBS in Nicaragua made me want to volunteer with kids at Summit . . . and I never, ever predicted that thought could/would cross my mind. I'm at least waaaaayyyyyy more open to working with kids than ever before. Especially the preschool age kids - they are just so stinkin' cute and they just stare at you . . . and you don't even have to know much spanish, they like you anyway.

At one point in the afternoon, I happened to look over at the worship station. Christine was playing guitar, singing and jumping with the kids along with Nicole who was also dancing/choreographing. The kids LOVED it - you could see how excited they were and how they were totally into it. Then I noticed Oscar - there he was dancing, singing and laughing with these kids. Oh man. Tears welled up in my eyes as I reflected on this scene. This man who has been absolutely transformed . . . this man who used to be an addict, a hit man, a violent person . . . is now rescuing children, and he's actually dancing with them, filled with the joy of Christ.

I hope I never forget that image. Oh, it was such a precious sight. What a beautiful picture of the Gospel and worship and a glimpse of heaven.

Oscar

I will seriously tell anyone who will listen to me about this man that we met . . . (well sort of - we saw him on campus) who is now the onsite director of House of Hope.

April (founder of House of Hope) briefly told us his story. Oscar came from a very dark and violent past, at one point was a hitman under Fidel Castro . . . then was transformed radically when his life was interrupted by Christ. He now rescues young girls from brothels and brings them to House of Hope. There is a documentary in the making about his life called Hit Man to Hero - and here is more about him:

Hit Man To Hero is the true story of a 47 year old man named Oscar who was born and raised and continues to live in Nicaragua. Oscar experienced terror and hatred in his childhood and was recruited to be a soldier for the Sandinista Army in the 1970s as a young teenager. Filled with rage from abuse and violence in his life, including witnessing his brother being burned alive, Oscar sought revenge. Proud of his accomplishments with the army, Oscar was honored to be sent to Cuba to train for six years to become a General. Returning as a "hit man" for the Sandinistas, he continued to seek vengeance through violence and to search for his brother's murderers, eventually killing one of them. 

Oscar became a drug smuggler, an alcoholic and cocaine addict and experienced the deepest of human suffering. At the very peak of despair, Oscar searched to understand the meaning of God, and found personal strength to not only forgive himself and his enemies, but to self-rehabilitate and leave behind his life of alcohol and drugs. Oscar eventually met an American woman, April, who was on a self-awareness journey stemming from her own experience of abuse. Through this process, April was reaching out to women involved in prostitution in Nicaragua. Today, Oscar, married with three children, works with April to rescue women and children from sexual slavery. Oscar's journey teaches all of us that we have the power in our own souls to find freedom, love and beauty.
Source: http://www.hitmantohero.com/


This man's story is, without a doubt, the most powerful story of redemption I have ever encountered. I cannot get over it. To see God's power blatantly on display in Nicaragua through the stories of the women, Oscar, and the movement of these ministries is huge. Lives are being redeemed and transformed through the power of Christ and it is undeniable. The darkness feels overwhelming, but there is hope . . . God is working.

You can argue a lot of things, but you cannot argue a changed life. I firmly believe that with every fiber of my being.

I still just stand in awe . . . my jaw drops and I want to fall to my knees when I think about the stories and testimonies we witnessed.

When I think about him, I think about the movie Taken. Oscar actually has to communicate with spies who tell him where to go, then raids the brothels . . . wearing a ski mask and breaking down doors to rescue these girls.

It's amazing to see how God is using Oscar's past to save innocent children. Seriously - his past has equipped him for these raids, and for the dangers that he regularly faces in his job. It goes to show you that satan never has the last say . . . God can redeem any, and I mean any situation. The darkest of pasts have not only been redeemed, but are now being used to bring hope and freedom.

I still can't believe that his story is real. I don't think I'll ever get over it.

God has a way of knocking me off of my feet. Yup.

Source: http://houseofhopenicaragua.com
 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
- Romans 8:28

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
- 2 Corinthians 5:17

July 23, 2012

Worlds Apart . . . part 4.3

Back to our first day at House of Hope . . .

During the tour of the girls' dorm, all that I could think was, that's it . . . I'm already extremely overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. My brain can not take any more information, I cannot function any more . . . I cannot do this . . . it felt like I had been hit by an 18-wheeler, and it was still morning.

After our tour of the campus, we had another spa day - but this time it was for 12 women who live at House of Hope. Again - it was a beautiful presentation of the Gospel given by a few of the women on our team, amidst facials, manicures, foot washing and pedicures. As one might expect, communicating with kids in limited espanol is somewhat manageable . . . but attempting to have a conversation with these women past, "como se llama?" and "cuantos anos tienes?" was a whole different story. Needless to say, this gringo (or is it gringa?) did a lot of smiling, nodding and pointing.
chatting before we got started
During both spa days, women from our team gave their testimonies, which I really appreciated. It was so cool to see how God has been mightily at work in the people we were serving, and in the people we were serving with.

During lunch, one of the women from House of Hope shared her testimony. Once again, emotion flooded my already drained body, and I didn't know how I was going to make it through the day.

I found her amazing story on the ministry's website:

Angela’s past is filled with pain, fear, and desperation. Angela was abandoned by her parents at a very young age and raised by her grandmother. She and her 7 brothers and sisters were forced to work. Her son was born as a product of a gang rape during her teenage years. Although Angela is educated with a college degree, the pay ($40/month) from her job as a teacher was not enough to provide for herself or her family. After the man she was living with left her, Angela was forced to look for a way to make more money. At that time, Angela was 9 months pregnant. A friend brought her to a brothel where Angela was able to earn up to $20 that day. Angela gave birth that same day and returned to the brothel one month later. Angela remained in prostitution for more than 10 years. During this time she witnessed women working alongside their daughters and decided she did not want the life of prostitution for her daughters. Angela remembers her lowest point when she was on her knees, begging the owner of the brothel (who was drunk and high) to open the brothel up to customers so that she could make some money. Angela wanted out, but she did not know what to do. At one point, she volunteered to be filmed in a documentary about prostitution in Nicaragua. The producers promised her a way out of prostitution in return for her participation, but they did not follow through on their promise. In fact, they broke their promise that the documentary would not be shown in Nicaragua and soon Angela’s story was made known to everyone in the country by television. As a result, she felt that she could not go back to work as a teacher out of fear she would be recognized. After the film was aired on TV, the other kids would harass her young daughter about her mother being a prostitute. Angela was also realizing that her lack of time with her kids was having an impact on their lives as well. She attributed her son’s addiction to drugs and alcohol and his imprisonment to consequences of the sin in her own life.
Angela had made several attempts to leave prostitution. She could last 3 days, sometimes a month, but she’d always return to prostitution when she’d see her children without food to eat or shoes to wear. Fortunately, Angela had come to know Christ through House of Hope and had come to understand the hope and freedom that only Jesus could offer her. One day, Angela remembers kneeling down in a cubicle in the brothel she worked at and making a vow to the Lord that that that would be the last day she would return to that place. It has been 5 years since Angela’s vow and she has not once returned to the brothel. Through the ministry at House of Hope, Angela’s daughters have food and uniforms for school now and even a scholarship for college for her oldest daughter. Her life and the lives of her children have forever been changed. And, now Angela has taken on the responsibility to share the Christ’s love women who share her past so that they too might be freed and able to experience a life filled with His love, His joy, and His provision. This is the burden the Lord has place upon her heart and it brings her great joy to see women (ex-prostitutes) experience the love of Christ.
Angela and her oldest daughter Karina are table heads at the House of Hope on Tuesday mornings. In addition, she is assistant to the card production manager at House of Hope. Angela also teaches sewing to the residents at House of Hope and helps the children with their homework. Every morning, Angela wakes up at 4:30am to get her children ready for school. She takes 3 buses to get to work. She considers it a privilege to work and give back to House of Hope.
Source: http://houseofhopenicaragua.com/

It's monday . . .

. . . and I can't stop writing. This might be a problem. I'm just gonna roll with it though, because I keep on feeling compelled to write.

Right now our small group is going through a Beth Moore study, To Live is Christ. I am delightfully behind, and trying to catch up on the reading, but I'm just not sure if I'm going to be on track by tonight. Which totally rocks, considering I'm the leader. Usually I feel like I need to be perfect, have it all together, and that I'm failing if I'm not the best role model ever - like I'm failing as a small group leader. But, God has graciously shown me that those are lies, and people value vulnerability, honesty and openness waaaayyyy more than when you put on a front, slap on a plastic smile and act like you got your junk together. Plus it opens the door for God to work when you're actually real with people. We all struggle, no one is perfect and under that plastic exterior, everyone has problems. Am I honest with myself, and honest with other people?

mo' money, mo' problems. awwww yeeah.

Anyway, I came across a few things today in the reading that jumped out to me. It's totally random, so bear with me.

1) Are you teachable? Seriously. Pride has a way of taking over very unobtrusively, like a ninja. Before you know it, people are asking you heart questions or the Holy Spirit is convicting you, and the immediate response is to throw a brick wall up. Or maybe more like a castle wall, then a moat . . . complete with hungry alligators.  I know in those moments my first response is no, there's nothing wrong with the way I do/see things . . . but then I start to process and see there's something deeper going on. We all have "blind spots" and we need people in our lives who can call us out - but are you receptive to this? It's a two-fold process.

2) How easy is it for me to be close-minded and think that my favorite authors, preachers, speakers, and churches are the one and only way to grow deeper with God? No, no - God is so much bigger than that. My faith has grown exponentially since I started going to the Summit, but it doesn't mean that my church is the only road to a deeper relationship with Christ. Nicaragua was a great reminder of that . . . God is working so clearly and powerfully over there, and all around the world. He is using so many different people, churches, circumstances, avenues, crazy things, etc (and he doesn't even need to use those things - the Holy Spirit can just show up) . . . God is so much bigger and amazing than my brain will ever grasp. We can't lose sight of the main message and focus on the messenger, or the creation rather than the Creator.

That's all . . . for now. :)
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