Dec 5, 2014

The day they took my counter tops

Why was I suprised? I had created, fed, watered and encouraged the monster.  Each year, with a heart primed with ocd combined with a major sweet tooth as a solid backer, I had made each one their pie of choice for Thanksgiving - that's a minimum of 6 pies.  (I say minimum because if there was a tie for first place in the heart of any of my loved ones, I would make them their top two  . . . because really, it's a hard choice - pecan . . . no chocolate pecan . . . no . . . pecan.  Who can really make that call definitively?  Call me crazy, I'll agree.

BUT this year I had decided that I would scale back and maybe only make one pie since we were being prepared an amazing Thanksgiving meal by an awesome short term mission group for Makarios that had given up time with their own families to come serve alongside Makarios! (HELLO - they brought cool whip in a cooler as one of their suitcases - Thank you Hill Country Christian School!!!!) By golly, this year I would take a pie making hiatus and eat the pies somebody else put together.  And then, they rioted (my children).

"BUT you ALWAYS make lots and lots of pies for Thanksgiving!!!!! It won't be right if  we can't eat pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner for several days! It just won't feel like Thanksgiving if you don't make a gizzilion pies!!!!"

Wednesday afternoon, the eve of Thanksgiving, secretly excited that my children required their mom's pie baking frenzy as part of the holiday and secretly dreading the work I had ahead, I snatched up the last bottle of Karo syrup at the supermarket  (the other Gringos in the area were way ahead of me!) Shortly after I arrived home, our landlord showed up . . . with new granite counter tops and the men to install them. Unannounced.

Oh . . . okay.

I mean . . . "YAY!!!! New countertops!!!!! Seriously, yay!!!"

 But . . . .  . . . NOW???????? 

An iphone snapshot in the midst of my tizzy.  The water was disconnected from the sink and the other countertop removed.  Once the new ones were installed there was a fine dust on EVERYTHING - it ALL had to be washed.  Not pictured: all of my pie making stuff on the table to the left :)

(Both relieved and frantic, wild eyed and calm, a flood of conflicting emotions created a tornado-ed frenzy on my insides.) Hey, wait . . . I KNOW THIS . . . . This is what it feels like when the Lord uses circumstances in my life related to being on the mission field, a guest in this culture called by God to share His love here,  to remind me of what I already know but sometimes forget:

I, Rachel Sawyer, am NOT in control. Nope.  BUT, I know who is, AND I trust Him.  The only thing I truly have a say in is how I will respond (and in this moment, well . . . . it wasn't pretty.)

AND, I could hear the question NOT being asked . . . that silent space where truth sits in waiting . . . . Rachel, what are you focused on? On a thankful heart, a contrite spirit, an attitude of gratitude, on the Giver of every perfect gift from above? 

But YALL, I had PIES TO BAKE!!! For Thanksgiving!

"Isn't it enough to be far from home, far from family, far from the familiar things of the holiday, GOD????  Isn't our sacrifice enough, God???? Can't I just carry on as if everything is normal?"

And as if I could hear Him respond:

"No, it's NOT enough, Rachel. I want your obedience and your whole heart. Sacrifice is not a guarantee that you will receive everything you think you want, and it doesn't earn you deservedness.   I want you to throw yourself into me like you're rolling out pie crust - with love and sweat and floury hands - I want you ALL IN like a mama crazed to delight her family.  My way is better than anything you could try to create."

Yall, being on the mission field challenges what you REALLY think.  Not what you tell people you think or even what you think you think, but it creates this awesome/not awesome space that is less about talk and more about action, less about the outward and more about the heart, less about bells and whistles and more about the simple truth, less about human tradition and more about honoring God.  And at that moment, God was exposing something about me that I really didn't want to face.  I had allowed human tradition and my fondness of it to trump God and what He desires from me.

Honestly, I have been very convicted lately about this, and how that trickles or rushes like a raging river down to my children - either way it reaches them.  I want to be careful what I teach them, and sometimes I am not intentional about digesting how my actions or lack thereof says something to them about who I truly believe God is (i.e. If I truly trust God, why do I show them what worrying looks like?)

The day they took my countertops, the eve of Thanksgiving and the whole day of Thanksgiving with workmen in my house, the day I still managed to bake 3 pies from my kitchen table ("We're GONNA eat PIE - by golly!" she shouted clinging to her sweet holiday idol), is a day I won't soon forget because I remembered:

Thanksgiving is NOT about pie (or turkey, sweet potatoes, etc - man I miss me some American sweet potatoes!) It never was and it never will be.  Thanksgiving is not just a day, but it is an attitude of gratefulness to God for every circumstance.  That is the smell I want wafting through my home, the sweet fragrance of praise to God offered with a sincere heart!  That is the kind of thing I want to teach my children . . . . I can now appreciate that God interupted my plans to bring me back to Him and expose where I had sold out to something less.

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. " Psalm 100:4

And the new countertops are nice.

Sep 24, 2014

In spite of worldly turmoil

I sit here resistant.  My hands type but my mind locks up . . . what will my hands tell you as they stretch out among this keyboard?  That I've been frought with worry?  That I l sometimes lay awake at night trembling and fearful, my ears atune to the smallest of sounds, and my body paralyzed in a cold sweat?  Will they tell you that I'm broken, even though you already know?

I've not suffered as others have.  I've not lost as others have.  I've not been left wanting or hungry nor has my health been lost. I've not been mistreated. Yet, my heart aches with a deep aching - what is this pain?

The mote that divides with it's alligator infested waters? The reality that there is no tangible safe place - no wall so high, no security system so tight, no 24 hour guard so scary, no big dog fierce enough, no earthly army capable of squelching all evil?  And even if there were such things, the reality is that life is meant to be lived and shared letting people in, not keeping them out, regardless of the joy and agony that earthly relationships may bring.  The truth that my faith is being perfected, and being perfected means that the muck must rise to the top and be skimmed away, ouch - it hurts, and it's messy. The test of remaining joyful in spite of worldly turmoil, which involves a death to my fleshly ideals and creature comforts - has me fighting tooth and nail for God's word to prevail.

The truth of Psalm 91:3 springs forth like a bridge over the mote,

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

In the midst of worldly turmoil, I must not only trust in, cling to, praise God from whom all blessings flow, but I must put one foot in front of the other and walk across that bridge, and then I must DWELL in the shelter!  Not visit the shelter, pass by the shelter, marvel at the shelter, but dwell in it with the ONE who provides it.  

The pain that paralyzes must disolve into the pain that propels me closer to the only ONE who can be my safe place, the only ONE whose approval I seek, the only ONE that has the power to transform a life.  In spite of worldly turmoil, today I will give thanks to God for this day and all of it's freshy, fresh opportunities to know Him more, trust Him more and share Him more.

Resistance gives way to surrender, and surrender I must. Daily.  Apart from Christ, I am hopeless, powerless and useless, but under the umbrella of Him I am hopeful, powered by the Spirit, and effective.  In spite of worldly turmoil, of which I truly no little of but am promised to be inflicted by, I will remain joyfully undaunted because I am daughter to the Most High, sheltered by Him and welcomed to dwell and rest.  He is my safe place.

Aug 24, 2014

Hope has feet:Ronal & Kikina's wedding ceremony

His bite of rice was met with a question, and his answer far from ordinary.  A group of us sat on a conglomeration of raton furniture and folding chairs chit chatting over the day's events and Lucia's amazing cooking in the MAK house.  A group was in town to serve with Makarios, and Ronal, the ring maker from Chichigua, was there with us.  Ronal makes these amazing rings out of coins, and chances are, if you've ever served with Makarios, you probably own one.  They are fabulous, right?

Someone had casually poised the question to Ronal, "How did you end up here in the D.R in Chichigua?"

Ronal's bright white smile, between bites, answered, "I walked."


"When I was 12, I walked from Haiti to Chichigua," it rolled off his pearly whites as if it was nothing.  It's not nothing, right?  He was 12. He walked. Alone. A very long distance.

Hope has feet.  Yes, it does.  And in Ronal's case, his feet brought him to a new place, and that place brought him to this day :)  The day that he and Kikina vowed before God and a community of family, friends, and children from various cultures to love each other until death do they part. I honestly know very little about Ronal and Kikina at this point,  but I can tell you that their wedding was a spectacular event.

Anytime that I get to be a part - observe or take part -  of our host culture's special moments, it takes my breath away in the most marvelous of ways.  It is thrilling, really.  And some of our Makarios staff had special parts in the ceremony - I can think of NO GREATER COMPLIMENT than to be asked to step into these special roles - not as foreigners or aliens, but as friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.  Seriously, a beautiful thing.  I long for the day that my newness wears off and my friendships here are blossoming, and I trust that those moments are building one interaction at a time.

The bride was escorted into Chichigua, her chauffer the matron of Honor, Margaret Beck, the hostess with the mostess for Makarios. They were greeted by four legged and utterful admirers, while her groom waited out of sight.

The church in Chichigua, adorned with palm frans and greenery,  a room full of various skin tones, ages, and cultures, was spilling out with beautiful characters.

There were MANY things that I adored about this wedding, but one of the things that I loved the most about this ceremony is that the bride and the best man sat in front of the matron of honor and the groom in the front of the church.  Until a certain part of the ceremony, they remained apart, the only glimpse of his bride was the back of her head until that time.

Before the Pastor started in with the ceremony, he offered multiple escape routes to the bride and groom and congregation concerning the union that was about to occur.  He asked no less than 3 times if there was any reason that the two should not be joined.  I wondered if the Pastor was prepared in the event that someone came forward . . . . but no one did . . . and the ceremony continued.

Pastor Maris delivered a superb message in slow, deliberate Spanish (I say slow because I could understand everything!  His first language is Creole:)  The congregation filled the air with Creole praises.  And at one point, a group of Chichiguan ladies sang a song - it was beautifully rhythmic and tropical sounding. Loved it.

By the way, it is totally acceptable here to get up and walk around and take photos - there were lots of family members with phones doing this, but I still can't bare to be noticed with my camera (I stick out enough already) but a day will come when I will just get over that. Soon. Very soon.  But alas, I was able to capture a lot over the heads and shoulders of the people in front of me :)

See what I mean.  This was one of the pastors/singers performing the wedding. The audience DID look pretty good too!! But I digress . . .

During this time, the smell of rain falling filled the church, and when the wedding party emerged from the chapel, everyone was met with the most dramatic of skies.  It was as if heaven was participating in this celebration and the skies were filled with divine decorations.

Under the sherbert dusk, all of Chichigua and friends gathered, ate, celebrated.

Two of our Makarios staff, Darren Young a.k.a. El Doctor, and Margaret Beck, hostess extradorinaire, had the special honor of being in the Bridal party as Best Man and Matron of Honor. How COOL is that?????

Ronal the Ring Maker never looked more joyful! Will you join me in praying for a long and joyous marriage for him and Kikina???

Hope has feet.  And wings.  Hope does NOT disappoint.  Hope's beginnings are in tribulations' stretchings.  Hope is the drippings of God's Spirit. 

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5: 1 - 5

Jul 2, 2014

I stood motionless in the corner of my room, my dishoveled bed evidence of my defeat.  I can count on my hand the number of times in my life that I didn't make my bed first thing in the morning.  I don't know why I am like that . . . . I don't remember my mom forcing me to do that growing up, but I can assure you that if my bed is not made, something is wrong with me.  Like today, for example.

Signs of a battle: blue bottle of peppermint spray, broom, messed up frame and unmade bed

My barely opened squinty eyes taking in their first glimpse of light, only to spy that out of focused 6 -8 legged black blob on the ceiling above my bed.  Focus, Rachel, focus.  It was then that I flew out of bed (not normal for me) in search of my peppermint spray, my little blue bottle of sweet swelling, natural, spider repelling, peppermint oil spray. I had just doused my room (windows, door frames, etc.) with the strongly refreshing spray of peppermint oil the night before AND I had reported to the friend who sent me this wonderful oil that I had not seen a spider in over 2 weeks - at last, my 8 legged nemesis had gotten the message:
You are not welcome here! AND if you dare show up I will not hesitate to bathe your spidery big body in peppermint oil!!!!!

But . . . . . . .

In my nightgown and barely awake, I was keenly alive with the desire to usher my unwanted guest out of my room.  With my blue bottle of peppermint oil and the broom by my side, I watched and waited.  You see, this arachnid was camped out over my bed, and my 5 year old was asleep on my floor.  I fired a few warning shots of peppermint spray and my nemesis retreated to that place where the ceiling meets the wall, and then he descended.

"AHAAAAAAA!" my war cry pierced the tranquil morning air and I launched into an AK47 fire spray of peppermint oil, and my victim fell to my husbands night stand.

"I've GOT you NOW SUCKER!" I shouted  . . . . in my head or was it out loud?  Who can say for sure with the adrenalin of war pulsing through my body which had catapulted out of bed just moments before.

Cornered behind a picture frame, I was assured certain victory, and with wild abandon I liquified Jon's bedside table.  BUT THEN, the unthinkable . . . was this super spider immune to my weapon?  In all of his 8 legged glory, like a stunt man emerging from a blazing fire, he crawled onto my bed and walked first across Jon's pillow "OH NO YOU DON'T"  I shouted!!!!  But OH YES HE DID. . . .

He disappeared beneath my pillow, me staring in belief with my mouth wide open and the pepperminty smell of defeat filling the air.

My 8 year old, hearing my cries from the other room, inquired had I won the battle? Did I GET HIM?   Head hung in repulsive shame, I muttered, "No, sister, he won that round."

"I have bad news and good news, " I told Jon.  "The good news is that your pillow smells like fresh peppermint.  The bad news is the spider got away, and we both know what that means (initiate ocd seek and destroy sequence here.)"

So here I sit with my unmade bed as a reminder of my defeat.  It hurts.
And of course, I am plagued by the what ifs . . .
What if he is inside my pillow?
What if he is just in that tiny safe place between the wall and the mattress?
What if he has a host of babies under my bed and at night they come out for revenge?
What? WHAt?WHAT? IF? IF? IF?

Have YOU ever been plagued by what ifs????  Have you ever stared defeated at an aspect of your life that you thought for sure you had conquered?  There is an enemy (father of lies, author of deception and doubt) out there who likes to take advantage of these moments - if we leave the door open for that.  But doubts, lies and deception can't come in without our permission.  So the absolute best remedy for this - far superior to peppermint oil - is the truth, found in the word of God.  Here are 5 life giving truths from scripture that have helped me revolutionize the way I live - especially when I am reminded of my brokeness, have stumbled or wallowed in defeat briefly, or have felt rejected or abandoned.

1.  Know your God.
God has chosen you.  When, not if, bad things happen, He is with you.  He tells us not to be afraid because He has provided a new life in Christ through redemption!
Isaiah 43:1 - 2
But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, 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 will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.

There is so much more to know about God than these couple of things, but this is a great place to start.  I highly recommended diving into your bible and mining all of the truth about who He is.  You won't be disappointed, and you need this information for the rest of the steps!
  2.  Know the enemy.
The image of the devil, ugly and thorny and firey, is not a true picture of how he captures us or operates.  Back at the begining of time he was beautiful, more beautiful than any other, and it was his pride that made him want to be superior to God.  His tactics have not changed.  When he tries to entice us, it is usually with a thread of beautiful appeal, a promise to good to be true, and a sliver of doubt disguised as an honest question. Described in Genesis 3 as "more crafty than any other," he is excellent at planting seeds of doubt and offering false promises.  If I don't take time to study his tactics, I will likely not notice his counterfeits.  They are not red with horns, they are beautiful with charms. (I highly recommend the Kay Arthur study book/dvd series Lord, is it Warfare to help study about this. )

Satan was thrown down to earth with his angels.  He has dominion over the earth - no wonder things are so wonky down here!?

Revelation 12:9
"The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."  

The first time the name Satan is used in the bible is in Job 1: 1-22.
Satan had to have God's permission to mess with Job, and he could only operate within the bounds that God set for him.  Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself!

Satan is a master at mishandling scripture, so if you don't know it well yourself, it's likely to sound right. Satan is a master at disinformation, and according to Kay Arthur "effective disinformation is in the target audience's strong predisposition to believe something."  Interesting. Think about that.

3.  Armor up. Stand FIRM.
I have a dear friend who has memorized putting on the armor of God from head to toe, but I like to think about how I get dressed and follow the order of the scripture:
underwear = gird loins w/ truth
bra = breatplate of righteousness,
shoes = shod your feet w/ gospel of peace
accessories = shield of faith and  helmet of salvation
Wallah.  All armored up for the day.  Without this armor, we are ill equipped and will likely fall captive to the crafty schemes of our enemy. Standing firm means maintaining my position, which is hard to do when  I am afraid or doubtful, unless I refer back to #1.  Notice in verse 12 who our struggle is against! (And yes, I'm totally thinking of that old Saturday Night Live skit!)

Ephesians 6:10 -17
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in )the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and havingput on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the (shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and thesword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

4.  Take thoughts captive.
This has always been a struggle of mine, capturing the thoughts that don't belong.  The biggest part of this battle is knowing the truth, so that when a thought walks in that is not true, I can recognize it and call it out.  So, I highly recommend picking a few scriptures at a time and memorizing them so that the truth is digested into your system - this will help when an unwelcomed thought waltzes into the mind.

2 Corinthians 10:5 
"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,"
This means that if a thought enters my mind that is contrary to the truth of who God is, that I capture it and usher it out of my mind, making it obedient to Christ.  

5.  Claim the victory that has already been won in Christ Jesus!
Revelation 17:14
"These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.”


So, right now, I am going to walk into my room and claim victory!  I will make my bed and not spend a second more contemplating the what if's.  Silly spider, victory is mine!
Oh the irony that I would have a question mark pillow on my bed!

Jun 28, 2014

The bread crumb trail to life as a missionary

This is the story of how we ended up in the Dominican Republic from my perspective:

If the Lord had shown me earlier in my life that I was going to end up serving Him in a third world country, I would have RUN as fast as I could the other way.  Not because I didn't LOVE or TRUST the Lord, but because earlier in my walk with Him, I allowed my feelings and fear to rule me.  However, my ending up in the Dominican Republic is a story of God's peace that passes understanding, His leading, and ultimately His love for me. The complete unfolding of how we (my husband Jon, my children and I) came here is chronicled in my husband's telling of the story, but what I would like to share is the Lord's sweetness in how He deals with His children, specifically me in this story. But I think that there may be something in here that applies for you as well. 

In His grace, the Lord offered me baby bite size pieces of His plan for us, allowing me to chew and digest each piece, spit some out, breathe and take another bite.  Before I moved here, I would not have considered myself an adventuresome person.  In fact, those that have known me best I think would agree that I have always been "safe," (excluding hair color, style and paint colors).  But in a series of events, the Lord called me from what I deemed as safe, and told me to walk with Him in a foreign place where I did not know or speak the language, where I would arrive 7 months pregnant with baby #3 and give birth, and where I was terrified to go.  

At first, I thought I'd try my hand at being logical: 1) I was pregnant.  2) We wouldn't make enough $ to survive on.  3) We would have to raise support and we didn't know how to do that. 4) Jon had been unemployed and we had no way to make a move like this.  CLEARLY, God could NOT be calling us to do this thing which made NO SENSE!  We (meaning mostly me) tabled the possibility for a while, but the return of that sparkle in my husband's eye, which had been absent for a time of "comfortable misery" in his life, at the mere mention of the possibility caused me to begin to pray earnestly for the Lord's will to be done in our lives. 

There were other options on the table: safe, small town options within the same state. I liked those options. But earnest prayer led me to say a very scary thing, "Lord, I am not strong enough to choose what scares me.  If you want us to go to the Dominican Republic, please show me in a very clear way.  I surrender to you and will go where you want me to go."  Safe doors closed, within 48 hours of said prayer.  And a few months later, with a miraculous amount of support, prayer and financial, away we went . . . 

Here is the really cool part about the Lord's sweetness:  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows what we need.  He knows how to grow us in our faith, how to teach us to not be ruled by our emotions and the inclinations of our hearts, He knows the little seeds that He has planted in our being that we may not even be aware of.  

You see, I knew that my husband was called to the Dominican Republic.  His giftings and years of experience in residential child care would be clearly used.  His talents would be called into motion for the glory of God.  It was obvious to me that this was a move that would bless, stretch, challenge and fulfill my husband—and as his wife, that meant that I was called too.  But for what?  I know that there are some obvious answers to that question: to glorify the Lord, to support my husband, to also be stretched, challenged and fulfilled, to teach my children about following the Lord, trusting and obeying and worshipping Him with our lives.  But there's more.

Back to that little seed planted that we may be unaware of . . . before we came, we took a series of "tests" to show our strengths and weaknesses, personality traits, etc.  The person who scored those tests reported to me that my husband's score for missions was thru the roof high, but that mine was so low that normally someone with such a low missions score would not do well in a Dominican type setting. But by virtue of Jon's outstanding missions score, I would be allowed to continue on in pursuit of making the move to the D.R. 

Now I'll be the first to confess that I was not very missions-minded prior to moving here.  When we moved, I shipped Christmas trees, decorations, mattresses, picture frames, etc.  (Nobody at that time really did that!)  I was going to build a NEST, by golly.  The Lord called me and I showed up with 2,000 pounds of stuff, baggage to make me comfortable.  But the thing is, there was a hidden seed in my heart for missions that I had no idea was there.  The Lord began to water it, fertilize it, grow it—and today it is a seed that has grown into a bountiful vine and has flourished in my life.  The Lord knew it.  I didn't.  I shutter to think now: if I had run, if I had logically convinced my husband to dismiss His calling, if I had allowed my life to be ruled by fear, if I had not listened to the Lord.  I would have missed out on an incredible adventure as well as a process of having my faith increased and enriched.

If perhaps you are reading this and are yourself at a crossroads in your life, I encourage you to say an earnest prayer, to not run the other direction even if you are afraid, and to trust the Lord with those seeds, even if you don't know what they are! In His grace, He will meet you where you are and give you the strength to do that which He is calling you to do. He did that for me and I believe that He offers that to all of His children.

Jun 24, 2014

Trusting God's Plan (from the heart of Jon)

This is the story of how we ended up in the Dominican Republic from Jon's viewpoint:

When God first called me to the Dominican Republic, I was working in Dallas at a job I did not like. But as my wife has said, I was “comfortable in my misery.”  I found out in December that, starting the following month, I would no longer have a job.  Shortly after the realization that I was going to lose my job, we found out that my wife was pregnant and due in the fall. Prior to my job in Dallas, I had worked for 10 years with a ministry that helped struggling teens and their families.  Looking back, I can now see that these circumstances were clearly God pushing me out the door and back into ministry.  

I began to fill out job applications and take interviews anywhere that was hiring.  The interesting thing was that only ministries responded.  The main issue that seemed to be preventing me from getting any job was the fact that I had a family of four with one more on the way!  I spent the next six months unemployed and taking on any day jobs that would come my way. Meanwhile, my pregnant wife worked the early shift at the Container Store unloading trucks. 

As summer rolled around, I had two job opportunities: one in the United States and one in the Dominican Republic. Both my wife and I were leaning towards remaining in the United States.  We could not imagine moving out of the country, raising support and having a baby in a developing country.  God had other plans! Soon after our discussion, circumstances caused the job opportunity in the United States to no longer be an option. At that time, we were assured through prayer and tears (mostly my wife’s tears) that God was clearly calling us to move to the Dominican Republic.  Following God’s call, that August we moved our family and the majority of our unsold belongings across the ocean!

We have now been serving in the Dominican Republic for 9 years, and are continually blessed, stretched and molded by being here. We have seen God work in amazing ways during our time here, and are confident that this was His plan all along.  

From my experience, I can understand the difficulty in taking that first blind step of faith, and then the next one.  However, I would encourage others to trust God's plan and to let the  Holy Spirit guide them in endeavors marked by the thumb print of God - even if they're afraid. Trusting God's plan always leads to deeper relationship and great surprises, and I’m glad that we trusted Him!  

Jun 21, 2014

Walk with me if you will . . .

Down an unfamiliar road we go. It is bumpy but beautiful, full of raw creation pointing to it's maker with child like faith.  It winds into  strips of straightness and curves to reveal the complicated simplicity of poverty, and together we walk - wondering how we can help in our own skinky brokeness. Having pared down our lives to what we thought was bare bones, we realize that we are walking under the heaviness of creature comforts we thought we would need - only to discover that those that have nothing, materially speaking,  have come out of their homes to help us carry our boxes of Christmas decorations, containers of shoes, paintings and crafts, etc. etc. etc. - the list of boxes countless, glitter and lights and bedding and linens and throw pillows and baking sheets and magazines and books and clothes - oh the clothes - and stuffed animals and dvds and and and and.  And they happily help me carry my load and place it in my home, and me full of embarassing conviction and them full of friendship and smiles, I find myself more broken than I thought.  Who is rich and who is poor?  Is it the one who has material abundance but trusts not OR the one who has little and without hesitation extends a hand?  Maybe its not an either/or but a both/and . . .  Of course it is entirely possible to have material abundance AND trust OR to have little and trust not.  It's simply complicated and complicated not.

What would it do to your soul to have the contents of your home moved carried by hand down the road by someone who lived with significantly less than you?  Will you walk with me?  Will you share  what the Lord is speaking to you? With fear of offending and vulnerable conviction I confess that I wrestle with this experience  and pray that the Lord works in my heart in a mighty way that I may be a vessel for Him.

Jun 19, 2014

The gift of GRACE

I've been pondering in my heart so many things lately, feeling a little lost at times, trying to find my way.  This transitioning- to - something - new - thing is somewhat tricky, and for all of its smoothness and surrounding of helpful and Godly people, I still feel a little turned upside down.  There's been no shortage of excitement: internet connectivity issues, baby tarantula epidemics, lice outbreaks, three incoming teams that blessed our socks off that we have personal connections with, time connecting with our new Makarios team mates on the ground here, a small oven explosion and most recently a bacterial sickness for Jon and me.

I've struggled with answering the reoccuring question when introduced to new people, "So, what do you do for Makarios?" since I don't officially have a position on the ground here other than "Mom."  I rather like my life position right now, but I still feel a little small when I don't have an official ministry related title.  I've tried out options in my head, "I'm support staff for the Director."  True story.  "I am ready to do whatever is asked of me to support the legit staff." Also true.  "I teach my son whom I am homeschooling to bake so that when staff come over we can feed them sweet stuff." Again, true.  This feeling of smallness I think does not come from the attitude of the people posing the question, but from my subconcious thought that my position dictates my significance.  As if "just a mom" glorifying God while she sweats hanging  the laundry on the line, is not adequate.  Not true. I know this lesson. I've learned it before.  My significance is in Christ alone. True.

I have wrestled with things I can't reconcile, and have had to lay them at the feet of Jesus. Again.  

In the midst of these wrestlings, we have had some well timed groups that have drenched us in love - among them our home church, Grace Bible Church, Dallas, TX.  A highlight for me was watching this group of teenagers love on the kids from Pancho Mateo, one of the villages Makarios International serves.  It is a cool thing to witness small children choose a member of a group to be their horse for the afternoon - horse back rides on the backs of visitors are expected, by the way.  So, if you come this way, prepare to be a child's chosen horse for the afternoon. Witnessing this interaction reminds me of some things . . .

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us in advance to do." Ephesians 2:10

"God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his son, Christ Jesus our Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:9

"And He said, 'Truly I tell you, unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'" Matthew 18:3

"But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are MINE!" Isaiah 43:1

"I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart." Psalm 119:32

"How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings!" Psalm 36:7

The gift of grace has been two fold, the gift of Grace, our church, visiting us here and serving alongside us, and God's sufficient grace in the midst of life's wrestlings.  I am grateful for both.

May 14, 2014

I love you more than I hate spiders

My spirit was crawling like the little spiders that I discovered all over my house just that morning.  It, like them, was reaching for a safe, dry place away from the sogginess of the overly saturated ground. At first I just saw one, but as my glance turned outward, I felt like the background of my life had turned to a million crawling things scaling the walls.  I immediately and with fearful urgency, set out with my broom to kill all that was scaling upward.

My spirit too was struggling to climb towards heaven, and the minimal but dramatic- in- my- own- eyes- circumstances of life was the broom smashing in on me. There had been several incidences that shook me since we moved into our house in Los Ciruelos, Dominican Republic, a small and super sweet off-the-grid neighborhood where we had landed, and my nerves were exposed and raw.    My silent screaming was desperately longing to ring out toward my Maker
"Haven't I sacrificed enough? Can't I just get A LITTLE comfort here?"
knowing that my outward comfort wasn't the plan or even my true heart's cry, knowing that my brothers and sisters that I work alongside struggle in ways I will never understand, with circumstances MUCH more difficult than these, but bending to the pressure building within me.  I had sweated out many prayers - quite literally- in the weeks preceding, and had also lingered in silent protest - an old pattern that surfaces if I don't let the Holy Spirit keep it in check.

I'd known for a few weeks that the Lord had caused me to press my lips in silence, to sit thankful and not all grumbly like, to take Him in and just breathe Him out.  But I'll admit, despite all of the beautiful things from Him in my midst, despite all the daily gifts, I was struggling with the daily uncomfortableness that was chipping away at my outward smile.

And then it was as if a plague of spiders had been loosed in my life.  In fact, literally, they had.  And the silent spirit broke the sound barrier and cried out in anguish, "REALLY GOD? ? ?"  I know that I know that I know that my actual circumstances are a tiny little drop in the bucket compared to the true suffering and difficulties of others, and also to the love that has been lavished upon those who stand with Jesus, who endured far more than any of us could imagine.   And yet, in this moment, these spiders were like capsules of fear that blitzed the core of my being.  They were vehicles of disgust, disappointment and discontentment crawling all over my heart.

Pre baby tarántulas crawling over house, there had been the internal fist pump towards the sky and the after them was like a release valve to set free underlying problems with my theology. When I thought that I could rise to the calling of "sacrifice more, rely on Him, and go deeper with God," I thought that it would coexist with living on the resort grid with constant power, water and electricity . . . ministry and comfort walking hand in hand . . . perhaps a pool in the backyard maybe?  Mingling with the materially poor but returning to my gated community with paved roads and constant power.  But a gated community on the resort grid is not what the Lord had in mind for us, instead a bumpy, rocky road and a muddy backyard.  And I was angry, and with that came spiders crawling all over my life.  (Incidentally, there are tarantulas living on the resort grid, too - and the missionaries that live there have made just as many sacrifices, struggle just the same with same and different things, and serve their hearts out in the communities and places where they give their lives.) It's not "the grid" that's the problem, it's my heart that was living with the presuposition that because of certain sacrifices there were certain comforts that I required, deserved.

This is really ugly for me to confess, ya'll.  I'm actually really embarassed with this heart problem and it's desire to keep things properly sanitized and compartmentalized when the Lord brought us - me - here to share Him.  That I could be so easily distracted and robbed by external issues is disgusting to me because I know that Jesus is SO MUCH bigger, and yet, I've been taking swings at God as the slightest breeze of the fan blows over my head on my pillow in my comfy bed because I'm mad and upset that a spider might be crawling on me! ("I need sleep to serve you, God, after all," I would mumble exhaustedly sitting up in my bed to do a spider check.)  So, I pray with all my heart that you aren't repelled by the ugly stuff that is being exposed, but compelled by how the Lord is so gracious to meet each person - to meet me - a struggling missionary - right where I am.

I am a visual person and the Lord often speaks to me with visuals, analogies, stories - these are the things that bring the gospel to life for me, and often the things that bring light to a dimly lit corner of my life.  The Lord can use any situation for His glory, and in my case, hundreds of little spiders crawling all over my house was not lost on me because they brought to the surface problems with my theology -even after 8.5 years of serving the Lord on this island!   Unearthed ugliness exposed, a gift.

But God did not stop there.  He used the unexpected . . . facebook, to send a messenger  to remind me of His love.   I had been Facebook wining  about the baby tarantula infestation in my house, and the response of an old friend snapped me into place like the string of an instrument plucked by a master musician.   I knew that the Lord was speaking to me through a comment.

"I hate spiders!  But I love you more than I hate spiders!"

The words from my friend sank into my searching soul.  What this person was saying was that a herd of tarántulas, despised and sometimes feared, would not keep them from moving towards me.  It would NOT detour our relationship, it would not repel them from me (and who could blame anyone for NOT wanting to come and stay at our house now that the tarantula issue has been revealed!  I wouldn't want to stay here either! !)

But that's what made this statement jump out to me so much . . . . God loves us so much.  He hates sin.  He loved us more than He hated sin, so He sent His son to die for us so that we could have life.  Our sins, though expectedly ugly, creepy crawly and sometimes clinging, did not keep Him from doing the most sacrifial, loving act He could do, making His son become the hated and despised so that we could be the loved and pure.

Jesus had a tendency to move towards the dangerous and despised, the lepers and the tax collectors and the prostitutes, with love and truth and compassion.  Maybe you don't consider yourself despised or dangerous, but I assure that a herd of spiders - or whatever it is in your life that makes you want to shout "WHY?WHY?WHY?" and fist pump at God, will not keep Him from you.  AND, if you have Jesus in your life, make sure you aren't withholding him from someone that needs you to move towards them despite whatever ugliness may be crawling over their lives.  I'm going to do the same.

Thank you, Jesus, for the place I live - with all of it's beauty and bumps - and for the things that you are exposing in my life and the ways that you are speaking to me, growing me, and making me a better instrument to love others as they are.  Thank you for those here on the ground that have been gracious, loving, helpful, prayerful - and for those in the states who have been fully compassionate, empathetic and encouraging.  Thank you that you love me enough to not leave me as I am, and that you pursue me even when I'm . . . . .

Mar 1, 2014

On wanting a short cut

I want a shortcut.  I want to run so far so fast away from the me that I've created out of laziness, lack of self discipline and spiritual disobedience.  Honestly, I want a magic pill - something too good to be true, instantaneousness.  NOW.

God has already spoken to my heart on this issue.  He told me outright that a pill, let's say, like a diet pill, would not work for me.  Because what is wrong is my heart condition, and a pill can't help that, only obedience can.  Repeated obedience.  Please don't hear me say that I am judging pill taking.  I am not.  I have people that I love who have gone down this road and that it has worked for them, and honestly, what I am saying is that I wish that would work for me too. But, God has already spoken.  He has told me what to do. And now, I must do it.  And the change is going to happen slowly.  Afterall, how many years has it taken me to get to + 80 lbs???  It didn't just happen overnight.

Not to mention that this thing God has called me to (to run, literally, in case you missed that piece) is not even really about my physical body - but about my intentional worship of God in my daily life in a way that is new for me, it's about the discipline of meeting with him, worshipping Him, and setting my eyes on the prize, which is full, complete, unconditional relationship with Him.  It's about Romans 12:1 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisares, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship."  That part about offering my body as a living sacrifice as my true and proper worship is what is helping me to put one foot in front of the other and repeat.

What triggered all of this is a long, hard look in a three way mirror in Super Target. The Dallas weather is manic enough, they've got the new springy stuff out.  I'm moving back to a tropical climate where my new accessory is going to be the glossy glow of sweat from head to toe. All the time.  Anyhoo, in a mid morning stop for hair conditioner, I popped into the dressing room with a few fun, inexpensive things.  And there I was. YUCK.  I immediately had to combat my self loathing - because that is a very self centered approach that I believe that Satan uses to keep us focused on ourselves and not on God's power.  I put all the stuff back, except for one XXL t-shirt.  Gulp.  I hate the sight of those X's.

I've been wunning (walking + running) for 2 weeks now.  Following through with God's command for me, but I somehow secretly expect that with two weeks of obedience I will instantly be rewarded.  (Like maybe I could move from 2 X's to 1?) No, it doesn't work that way. BUT I WANT IT TOO AND WHEN IT DOESN'T I WANT A SHORTCUT.  Can you hear the desperation in my words?????

Then, I was doing my bible study this morning, on Jonah (Priscilla Shirer) and these are some of the the things that popped out at me from week 4:

"After second chance celebrations, today's subject might be a startling brush with reality- no shortcuts with God.  Our second chance brings us full circle to the place where we have to choose full obedience.  While we may want to find the easiest road to complete obedience, our heart must be set on doing God's will - His way and in its entirety - even if it takes longer than we'd prefer or requires more effort. "

"The work God is trying to do in you requires your full participation.  You will find the rewards when you subscribe completely to what He asks and do the tasks how and where He asks."

"Jonah was back at Joppa and had to devote himself full to God's will. No shortcuts could navigate the 500 miles to Ninevah.  He had to put one foot in front of the other and trust God for the rest.  Now it was time to obey fully, completely, wholeheartedly."

BAM.  Coincidence?  I thank not.  Today, I surrender my desperation for a short cut and acknowledge that there is not a quick fix to my years of over-indulging my flesh and not heeding the Holy Spirit's voice within me to stop. Now, I must simply choose to indulge in a closer walk (er - wun) with Jesus.  Every Day.  Repeat.

Feb 28, 2014

Said the drummer to the guitar player

I was in the kitchen wiping crumbs off the counter as families were preparing to part ways after a day long celebration, when from the living room I overheard a most beautiful and profound truth being shared by a not quite 16 year old to his adoring 12 year old cousin.  Both of these young men have mad musical talent.  The discussion was about joining the worship team sometimes to play in "big church," but the guitar player was confiding in the drummer that he was a little nervous to play in front of the whole church. And then, the gold nugget of truth was poured out:

Tapping on his chest (because he's always drumming),

"Ya know, when you're up on stage in big church, the lights are so bright that you can't really make out the people in the audience," drummer casually offered to guitar player.  Satisfied with this theory, guitar player let a slow grin creep onto his face.

It was a short little conversation, but I was blown away by the wisdom in this statement.  Crumbs in hand, I was stopped in my tracks, considering how much I related to the guitar player, knowing my own fear-of-man tendencies and how when I walk in them they keep me tucked out of site, unexposed, safe.  BUT, Jesus is the bright light that I should be focused on, and when I am, I am not checking for approval in the face of human beings.  His face is the one that I should look for in a crowd, and when I'm locked into His expression, nothing else matters.  His heart should be what guides me.  His praise, and only His, should be that which I seek.  Sometimes I need a drummer to remind me of that . . . .

So . . . here I remain camped out - or running circles around - a verse that has been spurring me on and coming alive in big and small ways lately, Hebrews 12: 1-3:  

12 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(A) with perseverance(B) the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,(C) the pioneer(D) and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,(E) scorning its shame,(F)and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

And so I ask you, what is the difference between an audience and a cloud of witnesses?  An audience implies a performance is happening, but a cloud of witnesses implies that others can testify to the power of the Lord in the midst of great weakness.  In both cases, people are watching - and they always will be - but the real beauty of "the show" is when we truly open ourselves up in such a way that those watching point back to Jesus.  

What are you fixing your eyes on?