Sep 152012
 

Yesterday was Independence Day in Nicaragua. The patio of our house is shared with a church building that is directly in front of the house, so when they are having a service they have the doors open leading to the patio. I am sure we would be able to hear them even if the building was closed up, but with the door open, it is like we are there attending. The service started at 7pm and was still going on when I went to bed at 9:30pm (I haven’t completely adjusted to the time difference so it feels like 11:30pm to me by then). I woke up at 12:15am to them singing “Open the Eyes to my Heart” in Spanish, followed by” How Great Thou Art”, a song I did not recognize, and then a sermon. I remained awake until about 1am, so at that point they had been worshipping for six hours. And I have no idea what time they actually ended the service. On a holiday. On an ordinary Sunday, I have never heard of a church in America worshipping for six hours, even shorter on a holiday because people have plans with their families. While I laid awake during the midnight hour, I thought about how we should want to worship at great lengths as well. Not to keep up, not to brag, but out of a heart for Christ. After all, that is really a picture of Heaven- we are going to be worshipping.

“After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”  At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.  And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind:  the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.  And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4

Are we worshipping first and all else is second? Or are we fitting worship into our already busy schedule? I am praying to have more of a heart of worship. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.

Facets of Trust

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Sep 112012
 

Everything here requires me to trust God. Trust that, although the walls of the house do not meet the roof, some animal is not going to come into the house or my room in the middle of the night. Trust that there is not going to be some natural disaster since they feel more common here than they do at home. Trust when we are out and about that, although we automatically call attention to ourselves, that we will remain safe. That I am not going to come down sick.

And yet I can see in many of these areas where God has grown me. Two years ago, I did not want to visit this country for a week long mission trip (instead was going out of obedience), and never would have believed that I would want to live here for an extended period such as this. A year and a half ago, although I fell in love with Nicaragua while here, I was on the lookout everywhere I went for anything I was afraid of (and boy was there a list).

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

I have learned that when the kids are playing in the faucets outside, it sounds like hissing in my room. I have learned the sound of a cat jumping on the tin roof in the middle of the night, or a bird walking across it for that matter. I am no longer startled when I see a gecko crawling up the wall. I wasn’t even very startled when I saw a cockroach in the bathroom (slightly grossed out….which is progress for me I assure you). I wasn’t thrilled with seeing a dead gecko laying on my mosquito net on my bed, but it didn’t send me screaming in the opposite direction (baby steps…). Even going to the zoo was really an example of growth for me, as this was not a zoo up to American standards. I was thankful that our driver warned me of the area where I would want to cover my eyes.

I have to trust Him, because the alternative is to drive myself crazy. But I also know that is partly why He has me here. It becomes easy to trust Him at home, among the familiar, but here every facet of life requires me to depend on Him. Some days it is exhausting, other days I love it. Some days the enemy has a field day using every sound or fear, other days are peaceful. In either scenario, I am holding tight to Him.

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

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

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

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 121

 

And then the Rains Came

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Sep 082012
 

Well, I found something I don’t like about Nicaragua. Actually, I guess technically this would be the second thing.  Rain storms. Ironic that my first day there was an earthquake, second day we ran out of water, third day there was a dead gecko on top of my mosquito net on my bed, fourth day approximately 3,000 people are evacuated due to a volcano “spewing gas and ash high into the atmosphere”, all of which didn’t faze me much (I admittedly was not the one that removed the dead gecko, but, if I absolutely had to, I probably could have). But then it rained. Rain as in the worst downpour I have ever seen, times ten. Multiplied by the tin roof, that made the rain so loud it was impossible to hear anyone else speak, and the wind that would almost be considered a hurricane back home.

“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” Psalm 46:1-3

“He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.” Psalm 135:7

As the rains slowed, I held a little girl as she sang along to the song Forever Reign. The very same song that she sang during the earthquake. I love when Christ provides sweet reminders that He reigns, He is sovereign, He is in control, and He is protecting me.

Sep 072012
 
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A child laughing. Sitting in a rocking chair, amongst tropical flowers, watching little girls jump rope and compete as to who can jump the greatest number of times. A little girl calling my name throughout the house to find me, then entering my room to show me pictures that have been taken in the last couple months. These are only some of the moments of the day that make me stop and just take it all in. The pace of life just feels so different here. Maybe that is one thing I love about coming here. At home everything feels so rushed, with hectic schedules and overall busy lifestyles. I know that I can easily get wrapped up in things I need to get done, appointments, meetings, and gatherings that I am just routinely going through the motions and pushing through getting through my list for the day. Just to get up the next day and do it all over again. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t things in my schedule that I enjoy doing- I enjoy gathering with friends and family, I enjoy serving, I enjoy my work. But, if I am just doing a routine, just crossing things off my to-do list, then my focus is off. I am focusing on me, on my small world. I have tunnel vision.  I am not seeing the beauty of each moment because I am operating in a mode of getting through the day. I am not seeing the beauty of God’s creation around me because I am putting blinders on in order to only focus on my day, my life. Even the previous times I have been here with an intense schedule, it is not the same as having an intense schedule at home. I think it is a frame of mind. I am acutely aware when I am here that I am here to be a light for Christ. So why am I not as acutely aware at home? Why do I allow myself to become wrapped up in my own busyness? Most of my day at home is filled with things that cannot be cut out in order to be less busy, but I can consciously do a better job, in His strength, to stay focused on Him. To see each moment how He desires me to see it. With His beauty, His glory and His heart.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:3-4,9

 

Rainbow of Promises

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Sep 052012
 

First blog post from the mission field. Yesterday was my travel day, which went better than I expected.  Goodbyes were emotional., along with the first leg of the trip. It was pretty symbolic that as we took off from my home airport, I could see a family member’s workplace and as we banked right it became directly behind us. I was at peace, but leaving family and familiar surroundings for six weeks is a lot to take in once it is officially time to go. Somehow once hitting the halfway mark most of that disappeared. Once reaching our altitude on the second leg of the trip, there was a beautiful rainbow. I wished I could have gotten a picture, but as I reached for my camera we banked right and it could no longer be seen. It was a personal reminder of God’s promises as I was stepping out of familiar territory into the unknown. A promise to be with me always. Promises of His goodness and His plan for both my earthly life and eternal one.

I wanted to ask every American around me why they were going to Nicaragua, but didn’t. I did, however, talk to one. It was a lady sitting next to me, who was not assigned to sitting next to me but I had a row to myself so she asked if she could sit with me. She is moving to Nicaragua for the third time, her son is interested in adopting and between those topics and why I was traveling to Nicaragua we had covered a lot of ground in our twenty minute decent.

We arrived and Karen and Fruto were waiting for me. Fruto waved at me through the window quite animatedly and I later found out that he was not pleased with my less than stellar, timid wave. We had a laugh over that.

The kids were still awake when we got home, which made me happy. But shortly thereafter it was time for bed. Robin and Karen had my room all set up, complete with a light pink mosquito net canopy. I remember always wanting a pink canopy bed as a little girl, which was a reminder that God is a personal God and takes care of me. If you had told me even five years ago, nevermind fifteen years ago, that I would have a canopy bed in Nicaragua I never would have believed it. But God knows better than I do, and knows what will make me happy better than I do.

Sleep was not easy, probably from the excitement of the day, but this morning it was sweet to get up and talk with Karen, cuddle with the kids a little, and make a couple phone calls.

The first couple days will be low key until I get the chance to talk to a couple ministry leaders that had opportunities for me to serve. One opportunity in particular I have not been able to get out of my head since hearing about it so I am really praying over and seeking God’s will in that.

 

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Jun 052012
 

One year. So much can change in one year. One year ago today I was three days away from leaving on my first mission trip. I feared the flight. I feared being in a third world country. I feared being out of my comfort zone. I could go on and on with my list of fears.

A year ago an eleven year old  boy, named Emanuel, could not independently walk. A year ago a preteen girl, named Bianca, was guarded and less confident, yet compassionate at the same time.

Today I was shown some of the things God has mightily accomplished over the course of the year. Emanuel can now walk independently, although he still loves to be carried and held. If I remember correctly, he is also smiling a lot more and showing more emotion. He also now cuddles with people and advocates for himself as shown by his persistence to go outside. Bianca, has come out of her shell, she has come into her own and appears more confident. I’m not sure if she remembered me, but my guess judging by the hug she gave me when she was asked if she did, would be yes. I have been praying for these children, along with others I met not quite a year ago since leaving, so to see how God has moved mightily in their lives is amazing and humbling.

I have also seen some of the ways God has grown me in the last year. The comparison of where I was emotionally and spiritually at this time last year to now is like night and day. I can’t say how many times I was asked if I was scared as this trip grew closer and closer, but my answer every time was ‘no, not at all’. If anything the trip could not come soon enough. I hadn’t wanted to leave when the last trip came to a close and it feels like it has been longer than a year since I have been here. I couldn’t wait to get back. There are numerous ways God has molded me in the last year, to the point of not even feeling like the same person and never wanting to return to the old one. And I know He is faithful and is still molding this broken clay pot. Just when I started to think this trip wasn’t going to have the same ‘shock and awe’ as the last, He sent a devotion that may as well have been personalized for me and my biggest struggle, followed by seeing the differences in the children later the same day.

“What You complete is completely done.”

Jesus te amo.

True Joy

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Jun 052012
 

I’ve done a lot of reflecting since returning home from a mission trip to a third world country. Reentering my reality was nothing like I expected. I expected relief to be home, happiness to be back to the lifestyle to which I am accustomed and a feeling of comfort and security in returning to my familiar environment. I’m not really sure why I expected to feel these emotions upon returning as months before I left God had shaken me out of my comfortable reality. Being catapulted to a place of no longer feeling secure in my own environment, which also led to being depressed and desperate. In fact, there was very little peace in my life when I left on mission.

The emotions I witnessed while being on mission were also very different from what I expected. In my identity of a middle class American I expected to see these people, who have so little in comparison, in a state of desperation and unhappiness. Instead they taught me the meaning of joy. We tend to connect joy with favorable circumstances and being comfortable, but the only true joy is joy in Christ. God given joy.

Psalm 68:3 says “But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!”

I saw people in what we would describe as desolate circumstances joyfully praising and worshiping God more passionately than I think I have ever seen here in my home country. The emotion in their voices, their closed eyes, their outstretched arms and up turned hands transcended the language barrier. You could feel their joy, praise and gratitude to Jesus in every song, every message and every prayer. And their joy was transferrable. It completely resonated with me and I was joyful, humbled and felt the very presence of God during the entire trip.

So upon returning home I felt void and miserable, nothing like my preconceived notion of how I would feel. It took time to process why I felt this way and didn’t want to be here, all while I longed to be there. In conversations with others it became very apparent that returning home to routine daily life just felt mundane in comparison. To feel God’s presence so strongly for that length of time and be amongst such joy now felt like a huge piece of me was missing. I was also shown that when we are too comfortable and in need for nothing then it is easy to nonchalantly thank God for our abundant blessings and praise Him, but when you have so little then you desperately seek God and His presence in every aspect of your life while truly thanking Him for everything He has given you.

Jesus told us in Matthew 19:24 “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Jesus illustrates to us how when we are in need for or want nothing physically that it is difficult to truly humble ourselves before Jesus and know that it is all worthless. To recognize that He is all we need. We become attached to material things and a certain lifestyle and don’t see our spiritual need for Him.

I haven’t sold all my possessions since getting back, but I do now see that all my life I had put too much emphasis on having things in an effort to be fulfilled. And that it is all worthless in comparison to Jesus and having a close, personal, intimate and dependant relationship with Him, as that is the only way to feel fulfilled. I also had to be shown that my being miserable while home was selfish as God had given me this incredible gift to have this experience and if I don’t come home and use everything He showed me while I was there then it is like not being appreciative of or redeeming His gift. That I need to live out the lessons that He taught me while I was there, wherever He has me at the present moment.

Flowers in Dormancy

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Jun 052012
 

While driving through a Central American country, one of the first things I noticed was the dried up vegetation and dustiness of the land. Although we were told that in merely a few weeks the vegetation would be green and lush, it currently looked brown and dormant. It was a scene of houses made of unpainted wood and sometimes metal, landscapes of just dirt or sometimes brown vegetation and fences of barbed wire or wood. It seemed everywhere I looked was bleak and saddening. Then all of a sudden I noticed these beautiful flowers of purple growing along the fence of a house and slowly began noticing them along the fences of almost every house. Among a background of brown these vibrant flowers were like a breath of fresh air.

I began thinking about these flowers that seemed to thrive while most vegetation looked like it was hanging on for dear life. I inquired about them and was told they were Bougainvilleas, that they only bloom during the dry season and while most vegetation is lush these plants are like flowerless vines. This made me recall the last few months where I felt like I was dormant and immobilized in my circumstances. Struggling to bridge the gap of what I know in my heart to be true and what was occurring psychologically. I was like the dusty, dried up ground vegetation hanging on for dear life. It was only in the few weeks approaching this trip that I felt as though I was breaking through these walls. And more than that, had felt God was revealing to me some of the reasons He had allowed certain events which forced me to depend on Him and trust in His plan for me. Knowing He is always in control even when I can’t see past the darkness surrounding me. In my life He was that element that was making these flowers bloom amongst these normally hostile conditions.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I had realized entering into this trip that without these difficult situations I had been placed in, I would have been coming from a very different place both spiritually and mentally. It had been easy for me to say I trust God all the while clutching on to some of the control. But these circumstances had brought me to my knees and showed me how powerless I truly am while He allowed me a glimpse of His power. So that while on this trip I truly could acknowledge that I was not in control at all but could rest in the peace of knowing that He was completely in control.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1b-2

Without Him my life would be like that colorless scene of dried up vegetation, but walking with Him is what allows those flowers in me to bloom and grow.