Jun 20, 2012

Can't take it with you . . .

I've been soooooo convicted lately about all my stuff.  Even as a missionary I live in such excess.  It's embarrassing really.  A couple of months ago, I was sitting on my bed staring at the storage containers above my closet.  Fat clothes. Skinny clothes (that I've yet to fit into!). Cold weather clothes.  Nice but not worn clothes.  The containers stared back at me and my heart felt heavy like led weights were attached to it.  I thought about how I've been blessed by so many different people at different times with different gifts - something tangible or something uplifting like an encouraging word.  I cried out to the Lord how I REALLY want to be a blessing like that for others.  He said, "Start unpacking, girl."

You see, I'm a recovering pack rat, and being here in the D.R. does funny things to you sometimes.  You can't just run out and get something that you need, necessarily, so I have found myself holding onto items for that reason.  And, in general, it is easy for me to encourage other people because that's how He knit me together. But the "let go of" bit, that's a little more challenging and that's what He asked of me. And in this case, we're only just talking about replaceable items, and if it's that hard for me with a pair of shoes, how much harder is it to let go of a wrong done, or a deep hurt, or an old pattern?

Anyways, in the last few months,  I have made multiple trips dropping stuff off for other people, and do you know what the funny part is:  I have been the one that has been totally blessed and the whole point (from my angle) when God and I had our convo was that He would show me opportunities to bless others in whatever way I could.  However, it's not about me, it's about Him, AND He's right.  It is better to give than to receive.

The photo above strikes me as a reminder that I can't take anything with me when I go to my ultimate home, so why do I feel the need to hang onto stuff here? My heart feels lighter now and there is much freedom in obedience.

Jun 19, 2012

Ode to the Grays

Have you ever made insta-friends?  You know the ones . . . . from the get go you connect and jump right into friendship.  Not surface-y "Hi. How are you? Good? Good" friendship, but trust your vulnerable heart in their hands friendship.  This is the kind that is rare and precious.  Twice (so far) while in the Dominican I have been blessed with these kinds of friends who have come and gone.  So thankful.

This is what Dave and Jon look like when they are making fun of someone else.

As I sit sniffling at my computer writing this post, there is a family across town loading up their 7 kids, 2 dogs, and DR loot and memories to get on a plane to head back to life in the U.S. after doing L.I.F.E. in the D.R. for the last 18 months.  They have touched more hearts and built more bridges in the last 18 months that many could hope to touch in a life time.  They are not super - heroes, or perfect people, but the Jesus in each of them is so evident, welcoming and beautiful that everyone just wants to be near them.  My heart is full, but achy-like at the thought of not having them here, and I am not alone in this.

Some, but not all, of the Gray kids, Sawyer kids and Taylor kids eating cupcakes.

Their home in the D.R. was like a stomped on ant hill of Dominican kids of all ages mixing it up with Gray kids.  They were as hospitable and as gracious as their host culture, and they embraced all of it!

The girls dropping cheese puffs from their balcony into the open mouths of Jon (43) and Isaiah (14).   What you can't see in this photo are Dominicans setting off homemade firecrackers in the yard below.  Good times.

And the really cool part of it all, is that they, us (all of their friends), the kids who were daily at their home practically living with them, have all been changed.  The Grays, I am sure of it by their very nature, were super AWESOME before they came to live life in the Dominican, but NOW they are going back to OHIO and taking a big HUNK of the DR with them.  They have a different lens that they can see life through now, and while there won't necessarily be the same type of adventures in Ohio as there are in the D.R., I am certain that these guys are gonna find new kinds of states adventures that they are gonna DRINK UP!  AND, those of us who have known them here, also look at things through a broader lens as well!

So  Dave, Kate, Isaiah, Miriam, Anabel, Ruthie, Gabi, Zachary and Simon,


We can't wait until the Lord crosses our paths again!  You are LOVED by many!

Jun 18, 2012

Receiving God's Endless Love.

Lavished, we were.  With gifts, chocolate, gifts, chocolate, messages inspired by the Holy Spirit just for us, more gifts, more chocolate (almost a month later, I am just now coming off of my dove chocolate high!)   Our feet were rubbed.  Our toes painted.  We were prayed for in person and from afar.  It was overwhelming.  A connectedness ran through and among us like a web of yarn that we each held a spot on.  The tug of one person impacted the rest.  Women from all over the island serving the Lord in various ministries together in one room.

Karen salivating all over her bible while she receives a foot rub from the UH-mazing hands of Lisa!
Meleah's turn and I'm next!  

A special ministry called Pure Joy International hosted a retreat for 50 missionary women in the Dominican, Haiti and one special gal from Costa Rica in a 5 star hotel near La Romana, Dominican Republic.  I have two words for you: AIR CONDITIONING!

The view from our room (my girl Karen was my awesome roomie . . . I went to bed giggling with a big, cuh-razy smile on my face every night!) was


And Vickie Arruda, founder of Pure Joy International, what a piece of work!  I think that God had a really good time when He created her!  She's a witty joy, sweet and tart like rhubarb pie, you know that little zing in the end that kind of kicks you in the pants?  That's her.   A Christian counselor in Arkansas whose "people group," those she was called to work with, is missionary women all over the world - how cool is that?  I am so thankful for her obedience to this call, for the way she speaks truth (that's the zing part), and how truly joyful and witty she is.  Thank you, Lord, for Vickie Arruda and for how you are using her and the women that partner with her at these retreats!

This is the D.R. team from Pure Joy International. Vickie is on the far left.  This team was DA BOMB! Thank you all! They had us laughing, crying, praising, surrendering, laughing some more . . . . 

Can I just tell you that every time we arrived at a destination (i.e. meeting room, dinner table, etc.) there was a special gift waiting for us: button necklaces, baked potato pouch for microwave, ear rings, water bottles, magnets, verses, etc. etc. and these are just to name a few! I think we counted that we received some sort of tangible gift 8 times a day x 4 days x 50 women!  That's 1600 gifts! Can you believe that?  And the really cool part was that people from various churches in the states provided the gifts and in addition had been praying for us specifically - each one! On the last day we received a stack of encouraging letters written to each of us from people at churches in the states - some people received letters from family members or their home church!  What a sweet touch that spoke volumes!  Furthermore, we received goodie bags put together by people in the states who loaded our bag up with items that we personally miss from the states and can't find here!  It was like Christmas morning in that room of women tearing open our customized bags and finding special treats inside!

The theme of the retreat was Endless Love, and the retreat team, women who had followed the leading of the Holy Spirit to be a part of this particular retreat, drenched us in messages that reminded us of God's immeasurable, unfathomable, grandiose LOVE.

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12

The messages were M.E.A.T.Y.  We talked about spiritual warfare, God being a God of order and how our lives need to be ordered 1. God 2. Husband 3. Children 4. Ministry and how we sometimes get things out of order, comparison being the killer of joy, the redemption of the cross, where we are living (past, present or the future? You can only be in one box/place at a time, and God dwells in the present!) and SO MUCH MORE.  I am still unpacking all that we talked about and learning to apply new tools to my daily life.

Honestly, I could go on and on and on and on (kind of like I've already done - but then some!)

The Jarabacoa ladies (minus Melina).  What fun!

So here's the deal . . . if you know a missionary or your church sends missionaries out, please let them know about Pure Joy International because they are always praying about and looking for contacts in other countries for future retreats for missionary women.  Is the Lord laying someone on your heart? Don't delay!  Send an email NOW!  Furthermore, it took a team of people from all over the U.S. working to make gifts, send cards, pray for all the participants - maybe the Lord wants your church to partner with Pure Joy for one of these retreats!  The body of Christ is an amazing blessing when distance and differences aren't hindrances but blessings!  Thank you, Pure Joy!