Saturday, December 19, 2009
The job description might include: This person works behind the scenes to allow for the greatest blessing impact, best use of resources, and most of all the attention to people as priority. The person in this position must know blessings well - where they originate and from Whom. This person must also possess a desire to see people filled with thanksgiving and also a desire to celebrate gift-giving. This person must have a unique understanding of the giver-receiver relationship, as the giver is often blessed as much if not more than the receiver. One of the most difficult aspects of this job is bearing the burden of watching so many blessings. If you like to stand under a waterfall and feel the rush and weight and life of the refreshing water bubble down, you may just be right for this job.
I like to facilitate blessings. Here are some pictures from today. :)
As I have started to say, "Ya." As in, done, finished, enough. I am ready to see my family tomorrow. :)
Friday, December 18, 2009
Well, here on earth it is less romantic. If we get knocked off our feet, we land on a dirty, dusty earthen floor. But, let me tell you, God's splendor is no less magnificent because we live in a sinful world. Not at all. God's splendor will always be the same: perfect. So, no matter what kind of earth we are standing on today, we can reflect the image of God by blessing others.
Here is what happens when you do:)
ALP teachers and staff (Honduran and North American) came together this Christmas to bless Amor y Fe y Esperanza, a school started about 4 years ago next to the garbage dump outside the city of Tegucigalpa. Classes used to be given under nearby trees, but now are conducted in classrooms in the four buildings constructed for that purpose. The ministry seeks to provide education and resources to children who only have a future searching through the garbage dump piles for food, money, and livelihood.
We took the idea of Operation Christmas Child and made it local - for our own city and our own neighbors. We posted names, ages, and grades and staff then picked from the list and created boxes (or bags) to send to the school. We collected and delivered them and ... it was beautiful. Here are some pictures of the journey:
More stories will follow...
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tonight: I discovered when I can't sort through all the random tasks my mind is asking me to do, I begin speaking a form of gibberish my own mind doesn't even understand. Somehow, I ended up out buying supplies tonight for crafts and celebrations for the kids at the orphanage this weekend. When a friend called me to return several missed calls, I am sure she hung up saying, "That girl needs to chill - she's not making ANY sense."
She wouldn't be lying. I wasn't. I just kept talking and skipping subjects and blurting out how I felt about this or that. But I knew even as I was saying it that it could not make any sense. I apologized because I couldn't remember where I left off or what ground needed to be re-covered.
Well, some things on the list just won't get done. And other things - the most important (people) - will take priority and in the end I hope I will be singing (as I so loudly and obnoxiously was in my car):
Recibe TODA la gloria
Recibe toda la honra
precioso Hijo de Dios
I could sing this line forever and feel it every time.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
For me, the "Christmas spirit" in recent years is less fluttery and less emotion-driven. Especially these last two in Honduras with it being so warm and just very, very different. I am attaching new sentiments to this time of year. I am finding incredible joy in giving and reaching out and loving. I'm sad for the years I thought Jesus' birth was about me, so now I feel in a frenzy to flip everything around.
I was thinking about all the memories and traditions I hold close to my heart... and thinking that I would someday want to create a home much like my parents did for me. Even if it took me years to understand the beauty in this season, I so cherish the moments I can look back and see how every Christmas pointed in the direction of heaven.
Sure, it may SEEM like more fun to have your head glued to a TV screen or stuck in endless shopping lines, but I prefer really living and cherishing these moments with the people I love.So, here are some of our family Christmas traditions I would like to share with you:
- Christmas caroling to neighbors and friends... this is one of my most loved. We stuff ourselves into the van with gifts for each house and then every one - from dad to brothers to sisters to mom - lift our voices for sweet choruses of joy! (sometimes they don't sound so sweet but we have fun and we hope those listening do too!
- Cookie decorating contest. This is serious business. Every year the "rules" are brought into question because it's so competitive and everyone is trying to find their edge or angle to seize the championship title. William and Christina have by far the best workmanship. Samuel and Bethany always somehow are a judge favorite. James is the best sport about the whole thing and always comes out my best friend:) Me... well, let's just say my cookies are pronounced "abstract."
- Mom (in our younger days and now all of us) baking in the kitchen while others wander in and out and end up plopping down on the linoleum floor for some of the best conversations ever.
- Christmas Eve dinner: potato soup for the "kids" and oyster soup for the parents, anadama bread, cheese and crackers, egg nog (recently switched over to light), sparkling grape juice:) and tapioca pudding... So simple and so good!!
- Candelight service at church - my favorite part is when we all file out of the auditorium into the fellowship hall singing "Silent Night" the groups in the two separate rooms inevitably find different tempos, but we all get back on track in time to fill that cozy space with joyful song.
- Opening gifts with my parents and siblings... one at a time because every gift has a story
- Watching the little red tin on the dining room table grow every year with our tithes and offerings that will go toward a worthy cause.
- It may not be the same every year, but you can bet it is a tradition to invent some crazy outdoor activity. One year I wanted to learn to snowboard, so I had my brother hook up a rope behind the four-wheeler and I rode behind it in the yard! Another year, my brothers and a few friends went sledding... on a picnic table... down an ice hill... without shirts on. When we were younger, it was always piling into the pick-up truck and finding a good soft sledding hill where we could use our saucer sled and plastic pieces. I do remember a few bruised bums when we tried a gravel road :)
- Christmas with Gram and Gramps (Sponsler) on Christmas day is a favorite. We get there early for a brunch and then munch all day and lay around nursing our stomach aches :) The presents have become less important and the time spent together PRIME.
- Nichols Christmas. Whew! How do I explain it? Can you picture homemade doughnuts (which begin before 5 am with Aunt Jane's preparation)? Can you picture the reunion of aunts, uncles, cousins (I'm sure we're over 60 people in all now) who haven't seen each other in awhile but still feel like we never left? Can you picture a day full of laughter and storytelling and the annual "aunt walk" and random road trips to the dollar store? No, you cannot picture it, but it is amazing!
Well, because people live there. Every day, all year round. The garbage dump is their reality and there's a beautiful light called Amor y Fe y Esperanza (Love and Faith and Hope) that seeks to love and care for and be Jesus to these people. There is a school with 138 children and we are delivering 138 gifts with the name of each child.
God is so good. I can't wait to see His face in these children!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Hmmm. I just decided right I don't want to re-hash my day... to describe each event in a battle to find the right words. I'm content with the pictures without words in my mind. But, I will share these thoughts (I'm really into the bullets and numbers lately!):
- LOVE spending time with students... I mean I really love it (like not in a it's-my-job kind of way)
- these are things that have crazy effects on my hyper-active levels: coffee, sugar, and balloons (I know what you are thinking - is this girl 5 years old??)
- had one of those "I live here" moments today... sometimes I just repeat to myself, "This is home," to remind my mind how deep my heart is getting in
- startled myself with the question, "when does your mom not become the first person you want to comfort you?" ... and what of those without moms? oooh. que cosa!
- this week is getting shorter and now I am wondering if it is as much trying to get everything done as it is that I actually really just like being here...
- you know what confuses me: family traditions. am i the ONLY one that is still holding tightly to those beautiful, expected "typical" family things we do every single year (or whenever possible)? I don't know how many times I've told our Christmas traditions stories (like the time we packed the sugar cookies and frosting and decorating supplies last year when we went to Colorado so the decorating contest could stay alive!) to people with blank faces that respond with, "Well, we open gifts on Christmas Eve." I'm like, "What?" I have to hold myself back from inviting them right there to Nichols Christmas because I love it so much. Makes me want to pack it all in a miracle shoebox and carry it with me wherever life is leading. I just can't part with it!
Monday, December 14, 2009
After two batches of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, one batch peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and one loaf of pumpkin bread, I am feeling a toast welling up in my soul. I raise my weary glass of lukewarm water and toast to life.
Yesterday, I shared some lost and found items. By the way, have any of you found my composure or exercise? Those are two things I'd really be glad to get back!
Today, God reminded me that He is good. He is good and unchanging. I cannot begin to see the stretches of His goodness. I cannot begin to put them in boxes built by words or strokes painted by hand. I just cannot. His goodness never ends. My goodness can only begin with Christ and He never ends... what hope I have for my goodness (or God's goodness in me, rather)!!
Today after school, I rushed home and worked a few details of the week out like a veteran navy soldier untying knots. Capital job, I thought! Then, I headed downtown to go to the street kids Christmas party at my church. This was a totally new experience! I have worked tons with Micah Project, but with those boys there is the luxury of using the past-tense (they were living on the street). These boys that came to the Christmas party at the church were definitely present-tense. Well, I don't know if you can call their glue-dependent existence living, but they showed up and smiled a lot, anyway.
They checked their glue at the door and Hector wrote their names on each bottle so they could pick them up on their way out (2 hours isn't going to de-tox anyone). And we sang songs, served lasagna, laughed, and (the WORST part) popped balloons. I was so embarrassed for my reactions I had to leave the room several times. They, of course, thought it was hilarious that I jumped like I'd heard a shotgun ... so they played it up to the fullest.
Praise God for every new day.
This may not be your cup 'o tea, but tonight I am feeling the whoa-oh-oh's and the cadence my feet are stompin'
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Over the past week, I have ridden waves of emotions. Today, as I walked to church and home again... as I cleaned my room and quickly dirtied it... as I cooked green beans in the middle of the afternoon and then met up with friends to celebrate a birthday...
Today, I thought about the things I've lost and found. I thought, it would only be reasonable to sort these things in my mind in pairs.
1 Lost = 1 Found
So, here's another list:
Lost: my composure and my determination to "keep it together"
Found: a much needed convo with my mom... well, rather, I talked and she listened and then asked the hardest, best, and only thing I needed to answer, "How is your time with the Lord, sweetie?"
Lost: time for exercise
Found: oh, about 10 pounds :)
Lost: (actually I never had) great entertaining/hostess skills
Found: a sincere comfort when the ties of my apron are wrapped around my waist
Lost: the shallow, meaningless talk
Found: (kind of always there) a stronger desire to do/talk about things that really matter
Lost: appetite for gooood, fresh cooking
Found: my lovely green beans take so little time and are SO good
Lost: Dave Ramsey budget
Found: an idea to write to Dave Ramsey so he could write a book entitled, "Financial Peace for unstable missionaries who have unreliable income and mission everywhere."
Lost: my desire to cover up failures
Found: my desire to be genuine
Lost: desire to clean my room
Found: a strange comfort in my living space reflecting the mess on the inside
Lost: my ability to wear contacts (for now)
Found: possibly allergies or sensitivity to city pollution? AND many complements on my glasses (5 yr. old pair and $12 pair)
Lost: determination to wake up super early on the weekend
Found: dreamy smile at 8 am when I rouse thinking it is 11 am
Lost: quiet times with my Savior
Found: a void only those times can again fill
Please pray this week (if you want) for these things:
- Giullana Gonzalez and her family
- Giving all the gifts that need to be given... that God would give me just a beautifully light heart that He can use to shine His light and where He can work out His will
- Micah Project and my church are hosting a Christmas party on Monday for the street kids - those who are not in the discipleship program and still struggle to survive on the city streets
- Mission Trip Christmas party on Wednesday... just pray for details and that it would be a time where we can grow together and build stronger community
- The coordination and distribution on Thursday of 138 Christmas gifts to children in the Amor y Fe y Esperanza school at the garbage dump (the devil is tempting me with stress over this... Tuesday we will check which names have not been covered and fill gifts for them)
- Friday, I'm picking up a Dallas HS student at the airport who raised $4,000 to buy gifts for kids at the orphanage we will be working with on the mission trip in March. We need lots of prayer to cover her, her mom, the gifts, the transportation, the weekend. We will be delivering the gifts on Saturday and I'm hoping I can get the mission team together.
- Please just pray that I will be a willing heart this week - for whatever it is that God needs done. Pray I will draw so near to Him to hear His heartbeat for this life and these people and this day.
What I'm Reading: The Singer by Calvin Miller
What I'm Listening to: A Little Bit of Love by Joy Williams, Disappear by Stephen Speaks
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Today I am thankful God asks us to bring brokenness before Him... I am thankful that complete, pulled-together-perfection is not His expectation as we meet Him at the throne.
As David writes in Psalm 51,
A broken and contrite heart, Oh Lord, you will not despise.
Thank you, Lord, for inviting such messes into Your presence. Thank You for hearing our angry questions and fears. Thank you for knowing the robust rebellion of our hearts and still whispering words of peace.
Thank you for not changing. Oh, thank you Lord for not ever changing!
Lord, I am trusting You to be faithful. I am trusting You to care for the broken-hearted better than any earthly touch. I am trusting You to be in the gaps where we can't possibly understand. I am trusting You to be the strength and love and peace where there seems to be none. I am trusting You, Oh Lord, to be You today.
Monday, December 07, 2009
- I got hit by a car - no worries I'm fine, just minor bruises and scratches (I was walking)... and confusion over pedestrian confidence/driver conscience
- I shared this silly analogy with my grandparents and I feel it's fitting: I feel as if I'm running around in circles... and then I realize I actually am and I better sit down before people around me think I'm crazier than I already am for playing an imaginary game of duck-duck-goose.
- It does not feel like December... at all.
- I'm getting a little discouraged. A lot bit, to be exact.
- I don't think I can do all this ... and do it well. My mom always told me - if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well. What if there are LOTS of things worth doing, mom? What do I do then?
- I'm SUPER excited about several Christmas service projects that have me KNEE deep right now: gifts for the kids at the trash dump school Amor y Fe y Esperanza, Christmas party for the 11th grade girls, Christmas concerts (where I will be singing and playing in the band), helping to sell baskets and jewelry to raise money for the feeding center, and welcoming a student from Texas who raised $4,000 to share Christmas with an orphanage in Valle. WOW.
- Above is evidence that God is good. All the time.
- Answering the invitation to meet with a Savior who came oh-so-humbly... and being blown away.
- I'm reading a wonderful, borrowed book called "The Singer" by Calvin Miller.
- Listening with great fervor to new and old Christmas music. Please check out one of my new favorites: Wake up the World by JJ Heller (below).
Sunday, December 06, 2009
I've (strange, yes) asked this cyber-journal for forgiveness and begged understanding. Well, I'm done with that. So, now I want to try to capture the past two weeks of blog-writing delinquency in this lengthy list. Don't expect order in this mess, I'll be lucky if I remember half of the crazy things that transpired. Enjoy:)
November 18 - December 5
- Rode in an ambulance with a 7th grader
- Was told by a student that I seem "19 years old"
- Went through an identity complex after I heard the above comment
- Quickly assured myself of same-age friends by hosting my new church friends Johanna and Gaby for vegetarian lasagna
- Cooked my first turkey ... ever. It was 11 pounds. I defrosted it in my kitchen sink. Massaged out the ice (because I didn't plan for an all day de-icing event), named him Terry.
- Took suggestions from students (who apparently take their know-how from a guy named Anthony Bordaine?) about how to season the turkey (I think there was oil, thyme, italian seasoning, rosemary involved?!?!)
- Led the kids at the feeding center in singing and prayed for one of my favorite little ones and her father, who is blind.
- Had our first two mission trip meetings (I'm leading a group of high schoolers on a mission trip here in Honduras in March)
- Cherished every Sunday night I can spend with Micah Project, worshipping
- Found my new favorite Christmas song: Winter Snow by Audrey Assad (also on Chris Tomlin's Christmas CD)
- Re-discovered my love for walking the city (the car has been in the shop for several weeks)
- Hosted 11th grade girls for Thanksgiving .... lasagna - their choice! :) and made my first ENORMOUS cookie
- Watched 2012 at the mall... then walked 30 minutes home from the mall thinking the whole time if walking home from the mall was what I wanted to be doing at the end of the world.
- Wondered why all the world leaders (minus the US) in the movie 2012 were white... hmm?
- Crafted and conspired (although less than I would like) for Christmas... I am truly making every gift (or supporting causes here) and it gets a bit tricky with the brothas!
- Met a Jehovah's Witness on the street (they have a headquarters a few blocks from my house) and then later met to talk over coffee... for 2 1/2 hours. I'm hoping there will be a friendship. Her name is Larissa.
- Spent the night at a student's house... again.
- Watched as one of my dearest girls was baptized.
- Lamented over my horrible upkeep of my newsletter. It's depressing, so I don't like to think of it. I WILL have one written before I leave. It'll be some crazy November/December combination:)
- Decided to be on the worship team at church... starting in January.
- I have savored many moments quiet.
- I have asked many times forgiveness in these last couple weeks.
- Tried to make very solid things abstract because it's easier for my mind to think in colors and shapes and strange, vine-like things that wrap around all the stubborn, tangible realities.
- Painted a watercolor.
- Missed my sister pretty intensely.
- Fought a bit with what I affectionately call "devil-eye" - where my eyes get mean and red and hate contacts altogether. These are the days when laser eye surgery should be cheaper. Or pollution less? I think that's part of my problem living in the city.
- Decided to pray for one of my brother's football players and already feeling connected to the mighty work of the Lord in Michigan.
- Felt the ebb and flow of frustration in consistency. Well - there is no flow. There is no consistency with my girls. It's painful, really.
- Went to a church conference with a student... interesting experience
- Worship night with the kids... pretty awesome.
- Thought and dreamed a lot about what my life will be like and how I can serve... but then realized that I am here in a dream and living service...
- caught myself being foolish A LOT!
- Caught up (a little teeny bit) with friends in Michigan, Chicago, and Indy.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Advent Conspiracy is what got me started on all this, thanks to a rare but beautiful conversation with my sister. Just seeing the numbers in blaring bold on the promo video (I think I posted it recently) made me question my spending habits. But, the idea really is not to boycott Christmas. The idea is to spend time with others creating meaningful gifts and then making an intentional choice to buy at least one less gift this year (with the money going toward a worthy cause).
I admit, it's easy to get carried away and ship Christmas gift-giving off in one of those extremely expensive mailer boxes with all the unnecessary wrapping paper and frivolous bows. But, that's not really the idea, either.
The idea is to bring the true meaning back into this beautiful, history-altering holiday. I don't know, maybe for you the meaning never left. For me, I have found such delight in the community-gathering, gift-making, cause-inspiring journey to really worship during this Christmas season.
I wanted to recommend some of my favorite places to go for gift ideas:
CraftBits (super creative, easy to use, and lots of different funky ideas)
Etsy (this is a store, but also an idea paradise for creative types)
rethinking Christmas (people are posting new DIY gift ideas here all the time)
Not Martha (these ideas are great, practical, and not mainstream Martha Stewart:)
Gift Weblog (can get pricey when you buy, but not when you make:)
If you think something like this sock monkey is worth much more handmade... go check out how you can make it happen!
Well, I'm turning into some strange version of a young spinster - reading cooking magazines, crafting all over my floor, and saving the strangest scraps that could possibly be used in a future gift. Ah, the blessedly simple life of a scrounger:)
Sunday, November 15, 2009
The explanation is too much for 10:30 pm to handle, but I will give the short version. Friday night we had an outreach event for 7-9 grades. The theme was video games (I have no idea why) and we were supposed to come dressed as characters. I (having no knowledge whatsoever and am still truly thankful) decided to dress as Mario and I recruited some 9th graders to join me in my shenanigans (below).The night was beautiful. Crazy fun times playing games, lots of laughter, almost 70 kids showed up (a surprise from the mere 20 that actually signed up). A valiant 9th grader gave the message about what it means to understand how great our Father's love is for us... and how we should move on from merely speaking our salvation to experiencing the abundant life God is waiting to give us. Everything - even the bus ride down the mountain - was beautiful.
And then I walked the short distance from the street to my house and realized I didn't have my house keys.
My roommate was gone and wouldn't be back until very late.
Oh, yes, I'm still in my Mario outfit.
So, I leave my two bags at my neighbor's house (with whom I've exchanged merely neighborly conversation) and set out to waste a bit of time at the grocery store. Until it closed at 9:00 pm.
I sat out on the stoop for awhile. Thinking, dozing, and wondering if I looked like a homeless person.
Then at 10:20 I finally realized it would make much more sense to wait inside than out, so I rang my neighbor's bell. I knew they were awake because I'd been hearing the television the whole time I was on the stoop. They are a bit older and like to listen to their TV slightly above a 'reasonable volume.' So, in I went to watch Spanish dubbed movies and drink peach sweetened tea until 12 midnight when we kind of looked at each other and said, "well, what should we do?"
Long story short, I slept in their spare bedroom (which hadn't been used in years). During the whole ordeal, I was thinking "how awkward is this!" But, you know what? I was also thinking, "Man, I live here. I really live here and I really awkwardly spent the night at my neighbor's house." I kinda dig it.
Oh, I must add a little note: Yesterday, I met up with three students to make sushi and then conspire over Christmas gifts (www.adventconspiracy.org). We started at 12:30. I got back this morning at 8:30 am. Whew!
Tonight I will sleep in my bed!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Alright, folks. I'm losing steam. Something has GOT to be wrong when I sit down at 7 pm and all I want to do is crawl under my covers with a warm mug of tea and drift off where it is safer. Where dream squashers can't find me.
Do you know what I mean when I say dream squashers?
These creepy, powerful things sneak up without warning and the antidote is extremely illusive. These dream squashers are not necessarily people or institutions or conversations. But, then again, they can be found in all these things.
Dream squashers make their way into your mind and then let loose on your dreams with a mallet like that childhood game of Whac-A-Mole. Every time a dream pops up through the tedious surface of everyday, a dream squasher is there with a heavy mallet to end whatever hope of life the dream ever had.
Do you know of these dream squashers? They are evil little things. Sometimes they've got the dream squashed before I can ever really get my hands on what it is exactly. Other times the dream has mysteriously crept past the menacing mallet so I can see it in full view... only to watch the dreadful sight as it is destroyed entirely.
Of my dream squashers, I am aware of several: doubt, busy-ness, hopelessness, resources, inadequacy, the little voice that says, "you shoot too darn high," peers, the status quo, adulthood, students, maturity, procrastination, laziness, tiredness, facebook, envy, pride, fear, FEAR is a big one
Let me bring it around... all the way around so I can look my dream squashers right in their mallet clinching faces. If I'm honest, then sometimes all my dreams conspire together in my mind to squash everything just for some peace and quiet.
For the past couple days, I've felt a bit this way. Last night, I came home from parent-teacher conferences with a solid list of 5 things to do. FIVE things in the course of several hours did not seem too much to ask. But, there I collapsed on my bed with the champion dream squasher cheering itself in the quiet of my mind where no more dreams of world changing could erupt. Maybe that's why I've been so tired... maybe coming up with dreams and then watching them get squashed is very draining on one's spirit. I'm not sure, I just know I don't like dream squashers one bit.
As a direct challenge to all those sneaky devils, I'm posting this video in favor of a brilliant movement called Advent Conspiracy. It's made me dream about how I can make this Christmas less about consumption and more about compassion.
Will you help me defy the dream squashers??
Monday, November 09, 2009
-Days when you're in a business conversation with someone and they can't keep their eyes off your chest. Even though you're very modestly dressed. And your guy coworkers notice this exchange. Awkward and disgusting.
-Days when I can't walk as fast as my (guy) coworkers because I like to wear heels and not tennis shoes every.single.day.
-Days when I have to worry about why the sophomore boys want to hug me.
-Days when I have to hear about pooping more than I'd like (aka any.)
-Days when we are going swimming and I have to spend lots of time finding a modest-enough swimsuit to be around high school boys. AKA usually a tank top and shorts. While my co-workers run around shirtless.
-Days when I start making lists in my head because the topic of conversation turns to MMA. Again. :)
There are also MANY days I absolutely love being a girl (youth worker.) But today is not necessarily one of those days.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
3. sewing projects
8. making correct change
9. understanding mumbling taxi drivers
10. being 100% honest with myself and others
11. thoughts free of judgment
12. using circumstances to get ahead
13. letting someone look bad so I look good
14. never procrastinating
15. talking about doing good less than actually doing good
this is simultaneously liberating and gross... my point is summed up in this quote from a John Piper sermon,
“...mercy comes from a heart that has first felt its spiritual bankruptcy, and has come to grief over its sin, and has learned to wait meekly for the timing of the Lord...”Tonight I'm taking stock of my accounts - really looking things over and tallying and adding and crunching numbers like my college level statistics course taught me well. No matter how I crunch it, I come up with the same spiritual sum: bankrupt.
I am so thankful God can take an admission of spiritual bankruptcy and use it to show us how merciful He is... in turn allowing us to be truly merciful to others.
Tomorrow is a new day, folks.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
This is a work in progress...
minutes brimming empty
where wandering thoughts
arrest a scattered spirit
and deposit a soul ill at ease
the overflow speaks, sputters
out from crumpled hearts
to fall misshapen on top
the ground, mud-covered
a lone wilted, weary traveler
dumps heavy burdens of cold stone
alongside hearts mistaken
for quiet love and mercy tender
an inclined ear to pity's plea
awake and tend the battle
a wise one must in wartime make
a firm stand for what most matters
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Where does God fit in to this little weekly baking session? Well, it all goes back to last week at Bible study. Though the number of girls who attend varies, we are always sure about two things: we will eat something delicious and we will study/question/read/wonder about the book of Malachi. I picked up the study, called Blemished, in a Lifeway bookstore on my way out of Indianapolis (I can thank God for that ridiculously confusing 420 loop). It initially caught my eye because Malachi is the last words God spoke before going silent for 400 years. That's a long time. As I leafed through the pages, I felt like it would be a good balance of studying Scripture (only 4 chapters in the whole book) and discussion. And what could be more relevant than prophecy about the failings of the church? So many students here are jaded toward the idea of church as an institution because it is either heaped in tradition or it is a parade of hypocrites.
So, fast forward to last week. It was only our third week meeting officially because of all the chaos down here, so we're making slow progress. But last week, we talked about what it means to be rebuked (we have had some AMAZING discussion!). This is, of course, what God commanded Malachi to do to the Israelite people, specifically the priests. They had become quite cavalier with their sacrifices and God sent Malachi to let them know so.
So, our discussion moved into the idea of sacrifices... what is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord? Why wasn't the Lord satisfied with what the priests were bringing? How could they even know what He wanted in the first place?
All of these questions led us around in circles. An analogy sprang to mind and it came in two parts - both about gifts... here it is:
1. You make a wonderful batch of cookies, using the best recipe. They are all coming out of the oven deliciously, except that your oven cooks unevenly... so there are a few "reject" cookies that you set aside. You don't want your friends to have to eat those - they taste like char! But, being the good person you are (and having all the starving children of the world on your mind), you don't want to waste them either. So, on your way to the party you spot a dreadfully hungry-looking homeless man. You deposit the charred chocolate chip cookies in his hand and kindly bless him in God's name.
2. Your friend (best friend in the whole whole wide world) is about to have a birthday. You can't even describe your love for this friend. This person has been a constant - through breakups and prom dates and divorces and graduations and first interviews. This person is pretty much the best thing you've got, so you want to make his/her birthday the MOST SPECIAL-EST ever (he/she is even great enough to warrant bad grammar!). So, you think and think and think about what would be the best gift .. and then you finally reason that he/she would probably want a dozen batches of your favorite homemade cookies, because that's what you would want for your birthday. You go about and make the plans and you work day and night until his/her birthday finally arrives. The day comes and the birthday happens. Your friend is happy... but not really in the way you thought he/she would be.
In the course of our discussion (which for the purpose of the analogy was all about cookies), I felt a little light bulb illuminate my tiny brain, "WHAT IF GOD DOESN'T LIKE COOKIES?"
We had been talking about sacrifices and gifts and what is pleasing to the Lord. The priests earned a stern rebuke for bringing blemished, crippled lambs to the altar - their castoffs and charred chocolate chip cookies. God saw the hearts behind the sacrifice and was grieved. If the priests really, really, really loved God and wanted to please Him, then they would have to KNOW HIM. I don't know how many times I passed by homeless people in Chicago and gave them leftovers before I finally realized that giving leftovers was no sacrifice at all. It's giving my best - the real $15 meal of the homeless person's choice - now that would be something.
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:Living as children of the light means we can and should find out what the Lord desires of us, not what we want to give to Him. Just because I want to give him an hour in the morning, does that mean it is best or pleases Him? Is it the best hour I have in the day? Or is it my charred cookie remains?
"Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."
Sometimes I feel like I tell God, "Well, this is my best for the day.. kind of .. or at least it's what is available... or it's what I would want if I were God. Here, just take these cookies... they are really good, even if they do give you a tummy ache. It may not be my best but it's pretty good. ... I hope you like it, because that's what I'm giving you today. You're getting sleepy hours between 4:30-6am and you're getting sentence prayers throughout the day. I hope that's what you like, God. It's pretty good, right?"
I know - I should be embarrassed to share that and I am a little bit. All week that question has been running through my head... what if God doesn't like cookies?
What if all this time I thought he wanted what I wanted to give?
I am starting to think what He wants is splendidly different.
I'm scared to say I'm going to find out, because the rebuking road is not easy.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Tonight is a night for lists, so check this out:
-in honor of reformation day, check out these links:
Reformation Day Meditation
-to try at home:
homemade chai in several variation (I could NOT find cardamoms here and it turned out okay)
baked butternut squash or winter soup with butternut squash
city on our knees by tobymac (see previous post)
anything vince guaraldi
hank by ben rector
i'm going to try patchwork postcards
it's been a good couple days, folks. a good couple days.
i am missing, a bit, the fam around this time of year. i sure do love 'em.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
I'm praising the Lord. This post is one of thanksgiving - for all the people God puts in my life to save the day. These are heroes - real, live ones who will probably never be duly thanked for the way they (in one way or other) line right up next to Timothy, in taking a genuine interest in the welfare of others. That really sets a person apart, you know?
Here's my all-star list:
Douglas drives bus number 8 and wears aviator glasses. Last year, whenever I ended up on his bus, I always thought he didn't really like his job (especially when it involved carting a bunch of gringos around) because of he kept quiet and often listened to headphones.
But, this year he sure did surprise me! He was the one who picked me up at the airport and then helped me get the car ready to drive and then... quickly turned into my dependable and trustworthy mechanic. I seriously can't explain the kindness and honesty ... and the patience about all the questions, scattered Spanish, and constant pleas for "cheaper." He is seriously a blessing (so whoever was out there praying for me to find a good mechanic consider it answered!).
Hm. I don't quite know how to start this one. I had a friend come visit from the states. I took full advantage of the convenience in my car... driving around the countryside, the mountains, to my student's house, and back again to the city... then I took one wrong turn and ended up in a neighborhood called 21 de Octubre... at night... in the rain. And at that moment (not any other moment, like for instance on a curvy mountain road or in a isolated location) my right wheel decided to stop responding to the steering wheel.
Long story short(er), God provided moment by moment and led me to the doorstep of Jose Miguel, not a 2 minute walk away. He was so kind and helpful and promised to work as quickly as he could. Then his nephew drove by and Jose Miguel volunteered him to take us home (in his little teeny pinto with cardboard covering the windshield). So we arrived home and we could not stop exclaiming about God's providence and timing... and then 2 hours later as we were trying to figure out the schedule for picking up the car the next morning, JM called to say he finished and he would drive it to my house. WOW.
Stacy, Laura, Steph, Cara
You may or may not be aware that in the past few weeks I've had countless opportunities to use my animated, excitable nature to... fReAk oUt. With the 24/7 prayer room and the Sleep Out and various other activities (oh, yes, and don't forget randomly not having school after winning against El Salvador), I felt the stress to the max. These girls jumped right in, constantly asking if and what I needed. My sanity is probably still in place because of the thoughtfulness and compassion of these girls. May their reward be great!!
We don't have to say much, Jess and I. We kind of just know that we are always in need of support and she does a darn good job of giving it! She is such an encourager... and I think we are like-minded in wanting to be fully in our ministry here. We have this kind of respect between us - where we may make plans, but time with students always trumps. All I know is, in the past week, Jess has constantly spurred me on and I'm so thankful!
I won't lie - it's been difficult. Last year, Heather and I did pretty much and completely everything together. We led Bible study, went to the feeding center, got groceries, explored, worshipped. We were a team and a pretty good one. Well, it seems that we were almost too good. God wanted us to split up so we'd both depend on Him more and each other less. I haven't enjoyed going solo, but I have seen the Lord show me things I need to change in order to rightly represent Him. Heather? She's in Canada, which may sound far, but from the notes, emails, and (yes, even!) packages, it sometimes feels like she's still close. The only thing I hate is that condensing my thoughts is so time-consuming that I don't feel like we really ever adequately 'catch-up.'
So, I'm taking Spanish lessons from this angel of a woman named Lourdes. Every other Tuesday I get to sit under her tutelage and her wisdom. God is using her in my life to bring strength and courage and affirmation. I cannot express how blessed I am to share time and space with a woman so devoted to God's purposes.
Gerardo drives bus 12 and always wears a baseball cap. I know Gerardo pretty well because he's my bus driver. I'm not sure if it's the Caedmon's Call song (bus driver) or the fact that my grandpa is a bus driver, but I just have a pretty grand appreciation for the profession. In any case, Gerardo takes great care with his job. Every turn and stop is precise. Some of the kids on the bus share a special handshake and others always make sure to share some conversation before leaving. He's softspoken, but so tender-hearted. When he drives the late bus he always drives right to our gate instead of dropping us at the end of the dark street. His kindness is really impressive.
Where do I begin with this girl? She is in 9th grade and she's earned the title of "my rock star" and I'm not kidding around. The Hands and Feet service club meets once/week on Wednesdays and Eloisa is always getting down to business. Her commitment and creativity has (many weeks) been the brightest spot in my day. This past weekend for the sleepout, she offered herself every spare minute and then followed me around after school running errands. We don't have many students who are that perceptive to the needs of others, but this one sure is. I'm so grateful!
I know there are many, many more who bless my life each day. But, today, these are the heroes. Praise God for them!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
The weeks (and months in the idea-in-my-head kind of way) leading up to Friday, October 23rd were packed with questions, preparations, and lots of battles against worry. In the course of these weeks, I felt constantly compelled to apologize with the words, "I'm a visionary."
Sometimes (okay, many times), I look ahead to the glorious, vague notion of "what could be" and then work haphazardly toward its realization. I used to think I was organized... you know, with color-coded plans B, C, and D in proper order. I used to think if I had enough discipline and spoke with enough authority, that inner, organized leader in me would prevail. Well, come to find out, the inner, organized leader I so hoped to uncover was quite hard to find.
Now, I don't lie to myself. Instead, I say, "I am a visionary, like my dad." I know it doesn't get me off the hook, but I hope that it does bring in all those around me to keep me accountable and ask the right questions.
All of that to say, being a visionary turns out to be a lot about being humble. Holding your plans loosely, holding schedules that are slippery like jello, and trusting that however it turns out is the way it was supposed to go (even if it looks nothing like what was in my head). Friday night was just exactly that - not at all what I pictured and absolutely a work of God.
Micah Project and the Transition Home (ministry of Orphanage Emmanuel) joined us in the afternoon and we spent several sweaty hours playing soccer on the field. Then we moved into the gym to several stations - prayer room, letter-writing, and learning stations. The kids (in small groups) walked into the prayer room and prayed for the Micah boys and the girls from the Transition Home by name. They wrote letters to our Congress here, explaining the purpose of the event and asking that they might concern themselves too with the needs of those living on the street. Then, they had fun with the challenges at the learning stations: creating a sculpture out of bottles and cartons, creating an outfit out of scraps of fabric, creating a game out of found objects.
We took every opportunity to teach our theme verses, from Matthew 22:37-40
"Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."We united together, as neighbors in Tegucigalpa and loved one another through playing games, making jokes, laughing, and sharing joy. Our dinner was simple: hot dog, chips, soda.
We listened to a band and then joined together in worship. The sound reverberating in the gym was pounding in my head with all my worries, but when I looked around, the unity I saw was beautiful. After the singing died down, with prayer we ushered in the presentations of the two organizations, who shared testimonies about their work with children who grew up on the streets or were saved from a childhood on the streets.
When Becca (from Micah Project) asked Wilmer and Marvincito what their dreams were for the future, their answers made a huge impact on all of us gathered. They said some version of this, "When I get older, I want to help the kids who were like me - poor and on the streets without hope."
We prayed for the organizations, laying hands on them and then they in turn prayed for us. This exchange remains imprinted on my heart - that we are called to both give AND take as part of the body of Christ. Just as we were ready to move out onto the soccer field for the campfire, the electricity died in the gym. At that moment, walking out onto the field illumined by the fire's glow, we were one. We were really ONE: one family, one community, one love. We crowded around the warmth of the flames and we sang. We prayed. We gave thanks. We were one.
And then we dispersed to our flimsy little cardboard beds (which quickly became a community event as well - for warmth!) for the night.
Though not all the students that came were born-again believers, I think we all got to see a little glimpse of what God might have in store for the future - worshipping, playing, loving, and enjoying life... together.
The morning came early enough and I was glad (especially for reasons of liability) that everyone made it through the night. We packed up and cleaned up and with almost every step I wanted to find a corner to collapse into. But, God be praised, I made it, too!
I will be praying for many more nights like these (and God's power to sustain us to do His work).
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
This week is meant to rock, shift, break, humble.
It is doing all that. Praise God for the way His plan, purpose, and peace settle into our souls and stretch out from our lives! I'm very tired, but very ready for another day of beautiful life in this place. May God be glorified with the sun's rise and setting - and in our joyful toiling about doing His purposes!
Monday, October 19, 2009
sitting here with a cup of tea
atop of a tired afternoon
distraught with all the crazy
that will pass before the moon
today was, of course, supposed to be
set apart and beauty-filled
but i think the way i spent it
more hell than heaven thrilled
i'm glad i can be honest
and share what's on my heart
i'm glad you can know sometimes
my mornings have rough starts
even though I may surprise you
with my messes and mistakes,
i hope you will be patient, still
and with questions never hesitate
i think i am starting to see
that blooming girl inside
i think i might have glimpsed
all those things you try to hide
i'm okay with taking it slow
and with learning bit by bit,
but I don't just throw my love around
so can you please take care of it?
And here is a video ...
I love it. We're doing 24/7 prayer this week and THIS is what it's all about - using Scripture to bring God the glory for who He is!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Just click on the link below to go to the newsletter page and download the newsletter. Click on Sept-Oct on the lefthand sidebar.
I also made a short video for my church in Atlantic, as they are having a missions fair this Saturday. I kind of went blank when I pushed "rec," so forgive the frequent pauses! :)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Dear Prayer Warriors,
Hello friends! This time more than ever, we are feeling the spiritual attack here in Tegucigalpa, in Honduras, and in our school on the mountain. Just as God promised His people, who are called by His name, to be humbled in prayer, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways... He promised to hear and forgive and heal the land (2 Chronicles 7:14. We want to respond to God's call to enter into communion with Him - to adore Him, to confess our failures, to pour our thanks out at the altar, and to petition with grateful hearts for God's will to be done. But we don't want to do this alone.
This next week, starting at 11:30 am on Monday, October 19, we will be having prayer in the 212 room in the high school (or in your home) 24 hours a day for 7 days. We want to form a seamless prayer chain, where we are coming before the Lord together, as a unified community.
To participate, sign up in the hallway by the 212 room (elementary staff are encouraged and welcomed!!) or send an email to Miss Nichols (email@example.com) or Mr. Cochran (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please pray especially during the night hours, as students are primarily signing up during the days. We are teaching students to use the “ACTS” acronym to pray.
A – adoration (giving God the praise He is worthy of)
C – confess (confessing our sins to Him)
T – thanksgiving (thanking God for His blessings)
S – supplication (asking for God’s will and our petitions)
We will be encouraging students to step away from the tendency to pray in general terms and instead praying deeply through Scripture. Each day will have a theme and we will pray through each letter of "ACTS" for each theme.
TRUTH VS. LIES
Spiritual Emphasis week for the high school will follow the 24/7 prayer and follow the same themes as 24/7 prayer. This is a huge opportunity to lead students into an understanding of our intimate relationship with our Sovereign God through the repetition of Truth.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
messages from friends
surprise breakfast on my desk in the morning
driving around with students
more messages from friends
picking up students for dinner
dinner with students and teachers
oh yes, and how could I forget? my birthday outift, courtesy mom and dad (or is it just dad?)
I received a package in the mail a couple weeks ago with these tops and I realized I also wore pants and shoes my dad found at thrift stores. :) love my dad.
AND. I cut my hair last night (students finished off the back today after school! I think it looks alright:)
what a happy happy day!
Monday, October 12, 2009
to dine fine and delight
to escape a workdays wrestle
under a clear, starlit night
we are supposed to want to get
fast and furiously away
from the stresses and the messes
of dull, dreary everydays
we are supposed to fight and finagle
every second of the five-day week
then rush away to Saturday, where
of things work-related, we do not speak
we are supposed to just “get through it,”
and endure our vocation
in hopes that one day we just might
end up with one long vacation
we are supposed to savor moments free
away from desk and planner
to find diversions completely apart
from lists on the task manager
we are supposed to fit in this box
where everyone relates-
we complain and groan and sit and moan
about our jobs that we hate
what if we supposed instead
that work could be enjoyed-
that through our daily toils await
unspeakable gifts from being employed
suppose we each were fashioned
for work and not a long vacation
how then would we feel at the close
of one five-day-long summation?
suppose we are wasting our energy
with a fight quite misdirected
running from all the daily joys
Monday, October 05, 2009
Sunday, October 04, 2009
This is one of many pictures I took for Macayla and Melvin on Saturday... and I have to say there are few things like being invited to share in the celebration of love. I really admire and respect both Macayla and Melvin - because I know that together their desire is to serve the Lord more passionately than they ever could have apart.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
I will write more tonight, hopefully, but I wanted to show you the size of the avocado I bought on the street the other day.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
And, even better, I am beginning to see more beauty unfolding every day! Alejandra has this mysterious joy about her and she is always ready to bring out smiles and laughter in others. I haven't figured it out yet, but I also know that there's a lot brewing on a deeper level. She is a thinker and a questioner and now a pursuer of Christ. I am so proud of her bravery and every bit of her unique spirit. I can see that her pursuit will delight the Lord in so many ways.
She reminds me (in such a beautiful way) that I need to keep fighting... that I need to be sharpened... that I need to be humbled... that I need to be honest... that most of all, I need to be so knee-deep in God's Word that I'm content not to get out. She reminds me of these things because I want to serve and lead as a sister in Christ in the best way. And I know I can only do that through the power of the Lord.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This is the recipe (from allrecipes.com, my newest online obsession because it stores and categorizes everything for you!) that I used tonight to make cookies for tomorrow. The title enticed me right away - Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie and I've gotta say, I wasn't disappointed!
I've been tickling my ears with some different sounds these days. I won't get into any philosophizing about it, but I'm a huge new fan of briterevolution - I mean what could be better than supporting a cause AND good music at the same time? Anyway, through the site, I found out about Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, who I would highly, highly suggest if you are searching for chill harmonies and simple melodies.
I'd like to recommend my mom. Yep, she is pretty wonderful (see previous post). She also has a blog where she is writing about her two African sons, staying with my parents for a year on an exchange program. The stories are funny, but I think I mostly love it because I know my mom is behind the keys!
Fold laundry. Yes, I guess you could say this is a non-link. It's something that relaxes me and slows me down. Sometimes, as I am folding I wonder how creative one can be or how precise or what kind of fold minimizes wrinkles. All of these thoughts are good and welcome because they mean I am not thinking other thoughts and I think that is healthy.
Send/receive packages (another non-link). Today, I got a package from my amazing mother. Inside were things I love: almonds, kashi granola bars, orange spice tea, Real Simple magazines, a few letters and announcements, and WORLD magazines. I am not ashamed to say I read the Real Simple family edition cover to cover... and enjoyed every page!
I've been pondering what community and the church and the Body of believers is kind of morphing into (by way of social networking online) and I think this article in Christianity Today is interesting.
And lastly, as I am in the midst of praying for many people who are hurting, struggling, journeying, and trying to figure out where God is... this passage from Lamentations is a beautiful reminder:
1 a]">[a] I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of his wrath.
2 He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.
4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
and has broken my bones.
5 He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.
6 He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.
7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.
8 Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.
10 Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,
11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me
and left me without help.
12 He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.
13 He pierced my heart
with arrows from his quiver.
14 I became the laughingstock of all my people;
they mock me in song all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
and sated me with gall.
16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
17 I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, "My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the LORD."
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.