Mission Trip PICTURES!

Here are pictures from the mission trip I took with students March 7-12. We collaborated with a school from Plano, Texas to reach out to children in the rural areas outside the city. These pictures cannot possibly communicate the way God worked that week, but it will give you a little dose of the JOY we got to experience just being close to God's heart.This was a carnival we put on for children at a rural public school. These kids seem to be listening to some directions and enjoying some of the tasty CANDY that all the gringos brought!
Daniel Aleman (on the right) is greeting Youn Hee Choi, one of the students from Texas ... who is actually only lived in the states for 2 years and before in Korea. We all ADORED her smile and personality... and culture!
We did outreach/evangelism/prayer for people in the streets of nearby towns of Valle de Angeles and Santa Lucia. This was very "mission-trip-like" and typical for the students from PCA, but for my students it was kind of crazy. These are our neighbors.
Pablo. What a joy to know and love this student! He takes every opportunity to use his skills to bring delight to God and others! This is at the orphanage one afternoon.
This is another picture from the carnival at the public schools. This was a racing game and the kids LOVED IT!
O HAPPY DAY! This captures the joy the kids at the orphanage felt at our visits!
Here is a big group of students/kids from the orphanage just hanging out. We did a lot of that ... just unplanned hang-out time. I think that was most valuable for the kids at the orphanage - to see that we were just making ourselves available to love them.
We PAINTED! Were we the most effective or experienced painters Honduras could find? Nope :) But we sure had fun and learned a few good lessons! :)
This may have been my favorite part of the trip - the Lifehouse drama, but in Spanish. These are my students and they did a MAGNIFICENT job. This performance was in the public school.

I have more pictures, hopefully I can find out how to post them to picasa and give you the link! Please post any questions you have about the trip. I would LOVE to answer them!
go ahead, be a little silly on this Thursday and
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

honest about my wishes

Sometimes I have these romantic phases in my mind (okay, often) ... and in those times I desperately wish everything would make sense together. Today, as I am going about the most random list of things "to do" I am taking mental lists of some of those wishes. Indulge!

  1. I wish, when I read a good book, I could be COMPLETELY in the book and not preoccupied with the desire to finish it, to know its contents, or to have a conversation about it later.
  2. I wish Simon and Garfunkel more regularly appeared on my "recently played" list.
  3. I wish my ambitions to be a neat and tidy person were more natural and less guilt-driven.
  4. I wish my distracted approach to projects yielded masterpieces like Picasso that everyone strangely admires, rather than disaster like the "derelict" fashion line in Zoolander that everyone pities.
  5. I wish my passion for people and causes could have a least common denominator... something I could refer to at the beginning of every day and then have an obvious, mathematical approach to deciphering the day's greatest needs.
  6. I wish I could be in several places at once (typical super-human power, right?)... and actually FULLY be there in mind and heart.
  7. I wish steady, standard routine was not something I only wished and planned for... but something that HAPPENED consistently in my life.
  8. I wish I was less likely to order Diet Coke and more likely to order water.
  9. I wish I knew how NOT to be wasteful, but creatively thrifty to the max!
  10. I wish I wasn't so good at making resolutions (though I always deny making them) and better at DOING.
  11. I wish I wasn't so overwhelmed by all the good things going on the world, thinking I have to in some way be a part of all of them... and just be GLAD good things are happening (especially in the name of Jesus!)
  12. I wish overflowing love out my mouth was effortless.
Well, there are some wishes of mine, folks. Will some life-wish fairy grant me these? Nope. But, sometimes you just need to call a spade a spade in your life and face up to the wishes you are secretly wishing.
I hope you are all doing well, my friends, this fine Wednesday.
don't forget to
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

spring cleaning and bullet points

I've decided to succumb to the temptation to title a post like millions of others will this spring. Partly because the idea is very fitting for all the clutter I've gathered in my life and partly because I am very literally spring cleaning. The laundry is going out back, the trash is beckoning from all corners of my seemingly small abode, and my room is desperate for some attention.

Tonight, I have moved my computer combo (what I now lovingly call my laptop/computer monitor combination) to the dining room table and now I have the grandest ambitions to do some spring cleaning (or planting, maybe?) in the area of writing.
My operation looks something like this, if you put them both together on the kitchen table:
This week is Semana Santa (Holy Week) and most all of my friends and students are off to a coast or a country or a lake to enjoy the week off from school. Meanwhile, I am reading feverishly and awkwardly adjusting to this strange, SLOW pace of life. Yesterday, as I sat outside reading and sunning, I told my mom, "This week is going to be fantastic and so needed. I really just need the rest."
This morning I woke up and felt the usual antsy-ness creeping into my system. "A whole WEEK of this!?!" I asked to all the stuffed up, hot air in my house.
I know I have A LOT of catching up to do here on the blog, and my default method when I have lots to say is to use bullets, so I hope this will give you a picture of what has been happening.
Bullet points are kind of my way of spring cleaning my mind. I have a tendency to make all my physical spaces reflect the mayhem and madness in my mind...
translation: my desk, room, craft space, work space, car space, all space looks distracted and dysfunctional.
solution: bullet points. it may not make the mess go away, but at least I can look at it with some kind of order.
First of all, I don't know where to start with this one... I'll give you the best I got (in slimmed down, bullet-version of course) of the mission trip where I took 9 students to team up with 29 coming from Texas for a week working at an orphanage, planning carnivals for rural schools, and doing various work projects.
  • I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the ministries being "served" on short-term mission trips. Whew! It's definitely NOT about the work that the high school kids can accomplish in one week (it can be done faster, cheaper, and better by locals). It IS about the heart. period.
  • The opposite happened than my mission trip norm (personal devotions become a last priority) I practically LIVED for that hour in the morning to keep my head on straight.
  • I love watching students learn and love and feel the love of God come out their fingertips. It makes my heart downright giddy.
  • I have a hard time fitting in to the "adult" table and "adult" meetings and "adult" discipline of a mission trip... will have to work on that in the future
  • I am a WORLD CLASS WORRIER! If I had a quarter for every time my students said, "Miss, chill. Seriously, just chill." I would have been able to pay for all the mission trip expenses! I admit, I got a little out of control with the worries. There is no excuse, but I think having a co-leader could be a good idea. It was just too much for me to think/plan/coordinate... and frankly (no matter how many times they say, "chill") someone has to worry about the details or guess what? nothing happens. I've tried "chilling" to the max and basically it is un-productive.
  • Every day since the mission trip ended, I have felt a huge burden to continue encouraging the students.
  • pursuing any cause, mission, goal, or idea as an end in itself (or for my own accomplishment as an end) is to pursue death
  • I want more Bible. I want more Jesus. I want more God. That's the best way I can explain my deepening desire to KNOW my Lord more. Whenever God calls me from Honduras, I know I will be going to pursue more Bible instruction. I am considering this option, a ministry of Mars Hill Church in Seattle: Re:Train I want to learn under the best teachers and be forced to question every assumption based on the WORD as Authority. I want to be fully equipped for mission with a great dexterity in wielding the sword of the Spirit.
  • physical "things" are so fluid... well, they are mostly flowing out of me right now. I think I am a financial planner's worst nightmare. No, that can't be right..... a financial planner wouldn't know the first thing to think about me (probably that someday I'll end up living in my parents' basement). Funny, cause this 'money flowing out' thing can only work as long as it's flowing in... and I still want a blackberry and a new Mac laptop. Guess I can't shake all the materialism off, can I? :)
  • Loving the inspiration coming from musicians like this: Robbie Seay Band, The Civil Wars, JJ Heller, Rhema Soul, The Arrows, Luke Brindley, Trevor Davis
  • Loving the preaching/teaching of these good folks: Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Chris Tomlinson, Vessels of Mercy, Jared Wilson, The Gospel Coalition, WORLD magazine
  • relationships, relationships, relationships. I thought this year would be simply a building year, after spending last year reaching out and in the ambiguous and easily excusable stage of 'getting to know' students. My assumption that I could reap so quickly has led to many humbling experiences. Regardless of response or excitement or fruit, I am called to do the same thing for the students here: LOVE fiercely and SHARE the Truth of the gospel unashamedly.
  • God, in His grace, has given me beautiful glimmers of the blessing of His refining process and His timing. I have been able to REJOICE with students who are seeing Him clearly for the first time. Actually, I think they are seeing just the edge of His garment and are surprised at the joy they find. WHAT a BLESSING to watch them discover!!
  • I am trying and testing my heart to know how I can best love these students in discipleship relationship. I want them to HUNGER and THIRST for the Lord. ... and then I remember being in high school and how strange that sounded. But, regardless, I feel an URGENCY to insist they pursue the BEST and not just okay.
  • Angel of Mercy by Baker
    This book blew me away - crazy what the passion of one person can do. She blazed the trail for the indigent insane to receive care in the United States and some countries in Europe.
  • The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
    For doubters, skeptics, and YOU. That's right. I think EVERYONE should read this book because it will sharpen your skills to understand and examine WHY you believe in God.
  • Twenty Years at Hull-House by Jane Addams
    Read a bit about her in college, but returning to read about the amazing work Jane Addams did in Chicago with the poor and needy. She's said by some to be the mother of modern day social work.
  • Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church by DA Carson
    I'm revisiting this knucklepunch. It's pretty heavy (over my head, if you will), but I want to learn.
  • Lord, Is it Warfare? Teach me to Stand by Kay Arthur
    Oh, boy. I picked this up off my shelf because I feel like I desperately need it.
  • Basic Christianity by John Stott
    I bought this awhile back and need to dive in.
  • The World is Flat by Friedman
    I'm feeling an urgency to know how small our world is getting, because I think it has crazy implications for the Gospel!
Okay, friends. I could go on and on and on, but I know you would never make it to the end of the post and then I would be too tired to continue to write this week. So, I will leave it here. To come: mission trip pics, funny driving stories (YES THE CAR IS UP AND RUNNING!), 17 again anecdotes (I have way too many!), and aspirations to make an herb garden, sew some t-shirts, and accomplish 3 loads of ironing. :)
and please, please, please...
let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

I'm not writing tonight.

I thought I would accomplish so very much today. Instead of my "accomplished" agenda, I waited. I went to church, read my BRP, listened to more sermons, read articles, talked to my parents, and waited. I had set up a time to hang out with a student... for lunch.

Well, after an afternoon of wondering when "lunch" starts, she arrived at 4:45 pm (good thing I decided to have lunch anyway!). In HER words, not mine, "typical Honduran." :) She just left and now I want to choose to read instead of write tonight. This has been a truly restful Sabbath (which was what the message was about this morning in church!)... but strangely enough, if I had followed any of my own plans it wouldn't have turned out the same.
I am reading "Reasons for God" by Timothy Keller. I have always really respected this man and I am excited to read this book as a skeptic might. He wrote it for all those people who have valid questions that need answers. But, and I think this is interesting, he proposes that those who do not believe in God essentially have alternate beliefs about spiritual reality. He goes on to say that in order for these skeptics to have integrity, they must test their beliefs in the same way.
(See this video as an introduction).
Anyway, so I said I wasn't going to write tonight. I'm off to some reading!
.let love fly like crazy.

where once guilt crept

Today has been strange. Last night I had a mission trip meeting that started after school and ended... this morning when the last student left at 6:00 am. What? Yes, that's right. Just how it goes, I guess. Today, I thought I would get a ride home after school and I ended up in the back of a pick-up truck riding around the city with students making up raps on the fly, taking funny pictures, eating pizza at their house, and having an ice cube sucking contest. Just how it goes, I guess. :)
Today was the second day of Lent and I'm still processing everything. There is so much welling up in me to write and at the same time tomorrow looms so large.
I wanted to at least share a few things with you tonight, as I reflect on this Lenten journey (or at least try my best effort at reflection). I have been emotional lately. We are such a failed people. The waterworks are threatening now even as I try to punch this out before I crawl into bed and read more BRP before bed. I've been listening quite a bit to Brooks Ritter and he has a song called, "Samaritan's Love" that rips my heart open a little more every time. This is currently my favorite line,
cause the debt that was mine
yeah you paid every dime
where once guilt crept
now peace in me dwells
where once guilt crept
now peace in me dwells
These words keep running circles around whatever pressing matter vies for my brain's attention. The thought that the peace of Christ could actually replace guilt... it's heavy.
I started a Lenten devotional through www.Christianbook.com (you can find it here) and I read about how we usually try to 'give up something' for Lent to regain focus or purpose or whatever it is that we are lacking. We usually exchange what we've given up for an only somewhat lesser distraction (sugar for splenda, coke for tea, TV for books).
The devotional challenged me to think about what I am adding during these 40 days. Jesus went into the wilderness to be completely emptied. There was nothing earthly that was keeping Him alive after those 40 days. When He was completely emptied, we see something beautiful unfold. Satan came at His emptiest point to tempt Him - to offer the deception that earthly things would satisfy. Jesus responded that he was eating the bread of life, that He was depending on it for His very life. He intentionally walked out into the wilderness to be emptied of everything human so that He could be filled with everything holy.
Am I ready to be that willing, that intentional, and that ... empty?
If I want to be holy, my answer must be yes.
.let love fly like crazy.

olympi - what?

I'm sitting here in my room looking at my newly contrived laptop/monitor set-up (my laptop screen decided to stop lighting up), eating delicious watermelon and grapes with seeds (and trying to figure out how to type/eat/spit seeds).
It's a good night. I've got cookies just out of the oven for the Hands and Feet meeting on Wednesday. The kitchen floor is drying from a hands and feet scrubbing. Clothes are in the washer... (oops, hold on) ahem.. I mean dryer. And, yes, the room is still a mess.
Current battles:
  • how to exterminate little, bitty ants that are taking over our house
  • how to prepare food for a 6 o'clock meeting I planned for parents this Wednesday (refreshments or dinner? less work preferably)
  • how to market the student retreat (signup deadline on Wednesday) without looking desperate
  • how to love on my neighbors without being suspicious of ulterior motives (I'm talking about one very old man neighbor in particular who has said/done a few questionables) **more on this in a later post titled "my dad would be proud"
  • how to be as thoughtful as I wish I was
  • how to prioritize the randomness that is my day in a very logical non-random way
If you happened to have written how-to articles on any of these topics, please share! I am frazzled, but I suppose I am contentedly so. I know these next weeks will be absolutely insane, but I'm kind of okay with it. Bring it on, I say.
And that brings me to this so very strange question I asked myself recently, "Olympi-what?"
I had honestly no idea all the hype that is OLYMPICS 2010 was going on all over the television until I read this article about the "dirty little secret" that follows the Olympics and other international sporting events around the globe: sex-trafficking. It was more than alarming. I got a little sick to my stomach actually, when I thought of all the lights and the reporters and the athletes and then all THIS happening behind and under the fanfare.

an email from mom

First, let me say that my mom wrote a pretty awesome blog post about throwing a Valentine's party for Victor and Dennis, her African sons. Their reaction, needless to say, is hilarious and as I wandered around today handing out heart-shaped cakes and cookies I wondered if people were thinking similar strange thoughts about this gringa.

Second, today my mom sent me an email and it's inspired me to write this Sunday night by the numbers.
1. love the Bible Reading Plan (need to stay on the plan)
2. pretty excited that my car has an appointment on Wednesday
3. thinking these weeks are going to be absolutely LOCO (spiritual emphasis week, HS retreat, mission trip, family fun day...)
4. so confused why I can't get around to finishing cleaning my room
5. love the Micah boys... seriously feel like I'm hanging out with Honduran versions of my brothers
6. wouldn't mind seeing the winter wonderland of the Midwest
7. remembering the many years of hand-written poems and love-filled dinners for Valentine's Day growing up
8. discovering new music by the psalters, a group out of philly (where my friend, Nicole, just moved and so now I'm obsessed with finding cool things/music for her there:)
9. a bit tired, but already looking forward to tomorrow's coffee
10. with love, caroline
Thanks mom, for the bit of inspiration it took to come up with 10 things worth updating about. Love - keep letting it fly.

festivals of love and interruptions.

After a brilliant morning started with a 7:30 gentle arrival into this Saturday, I made a date with my Bible, journal, a plate of fruit and some cappuccino. I was really diggin' the Word and gettin' my study on. I love when I can connect the dots and know that the Word is not returning void.

Then I came back home and prepared for feeding center and festival of love number 2. The first, last night proved to be the exact ridiculous amount of fun and laughter I needed. We cooked up some hearty, healthy, heart-shaped pancakes (regular, banana, choc. chip) with tons of toppings to choose from: peanut butter, granola, syrup, yogurt, honey. YUM! Add a little orange juice/sprite mix to drink and some turkey bacon and you've got a festival of love: breakfast at dinner style. We played games (create your "dream man" out of objects that represent his characteristics) and gave prizes (journals, stuffed animals, and frogs that turn into princes) and told long, dramatic, fairytale stories. We laughed. a lot.
So, anyway, most of the day I could still fly on that high while I was baking vanilla cherry chip cake in the heart-shaped pans for festival of love number 2. I managed to pick up and clean a bit (common areas, my room is a disaster area right now) before heading off to the feeding center, where I was overjoyed to see Kenya sporting MY SWOOPS! (For those of you who don't know, I refer to the bangs that hang emo-like to the side of my face and have to be swept back with a jerk of the head as my swoops). She looked up at me real sweetly with her hair swooped over and jerked her head like I'm sure I do. I just wrapped her in a hug (and tried not to think how strange I look jerking my head like that). Then, another precious little one brought her mom back to the feeding center after we were all done and her mom proceeded to explain to me how I was her daughter's godmother! I was like, I do not deserve this praise... all I do is give her a hug every week and chat for a bit. I'm nothing like a godmother, but it made me smile all the same.
So, I made it back home and we had a wonderful dinner with good friends: baked potato bar, salad, fresh fruit, and dessert (which we were too full to consume). We told stories and laughed and got tired at the old-person hour of 9:30 pm.
So, there were two things that interrupted this otherwise perfect day.
1. I think I am lactose intolerant and need to stop denying (my stomach is hating me!)
2. Google decided this is not my blog and will no longer let me sign in
Interruption number 1, well, it's almost too painful to talk about. I love milk. I grew up on a dairy farm and it's more than a part of a balanced diet. It's my history! And ice cream... I can't even think of it!
Interruption number 2 really had me fuming for a few hours earlier today, but I set up another "author" so I can still write, but I'm still a little angry. On Friday, I was singing google's praises with Chrome and Buzz and iGoogle and everything. Today I feel like they stole my journal. Boo.
Well, anyway. Tomorrow I will celebrate love again, with plans to make cookies to pass out and maybe bring a girly, pink cake to Micah Project to celebrate the friendships there.
let love FLY, friends

don't skimp on love.

Sometimes I can't believe that time is not dependent on anything. It goes and goes and goes and then a year later happens, whether I think it is slow or fast or just right. It goes.

Well, last year at this time, I was planning a sweet dinner for the 10th grade girls at my school with my roomie and co-conspirator Heather. It was maybe my all-time favorite memory of last year for a couple reasons, I was: 1. hanging out with a bunch of lovely ladies all in one place 2. laughing until my sides hurt and 3. being a small part of spreading some major love.
This year, I frankly wasn't "feelin' it." Whatever "it" is, the routine craziness and life's grand excuses had stolen the desire to make any big deal out of this love-soaked time of year. I said to myself, "Self. There are so many other battles to be fought and won: pep squad team, behavior contract plan, mission trip, etc... Come on, now. Narrow it down a bit."
Well, self, I have something to tell you:
When Jesus narrowed things down, He didn't skimp on love and I don't intend to either
This week, I can't seem to get over this: There is so much hurt. There is so much pain. There is so much. The 'so much' is making me nauseous this week. I hate seeing people hurt and I hate hearing about the people that hurt them. I hate it. I hate the "so much" that is choking out everything beautiful. And even as I see this "so much" getting bigger and growing stronger, I know and believe that right here in the present there is joy to be found.

Even still, I have been so encouraged in the past couple days (completely outside of my own doing). Every single day, I have to believe there is a beautiful treasure to be found, but it is hidden. And every day I can set out to uncover the mystery of joy that is waiting to show me that it can overwhelm the "so much" with something more pure and lovely.
I don't know, maybe this strange search is what led me to splurge and walk to two grocery stores, decidedly tie my apron firmly around my waist, allow decorations (sent with love from mom) to spill over onto a corner of our house, plan for a dinner of heart-shaped pancakes, and resign myself to a somewhat unkept house.
You may think it's funny that I have conversations with myself, or that I call myself "Self," or that I am bold enough to transcribe said conversation here for you to read. That's okay. I think it's funny too. Personally, these conversations have a great purpose.
I just want to leave you with a little something I learned way back in the day from my parents, who gave each other the same cheesy, red, GIANT, heart-shaped sucker every year: 
don't skimp on love this weekend.

You can skimp on a lot of things: decorations, chalky sweetheart candies, dinners out, roses, decoupage crafts... 
but whatever you do, let love fly like crazy and see how many people can be touched and to what great extent you can overwhelm the "so much" with your efforts!
Good night, friends.


I can't say much for the two days without posting...

only that my discouragement sent me into my little cave of questions. You know, if you set out to do anything, absolutely anything, and you have your own agenda about how it needs doing... you may (likely) be disappointed in the process. And this is me, disappointed.

So, what did my time in the cave teach me? Trust more that the Lord will complete the work, tarry on with God as means and end, serve and obey out of love for God and not for man, expect to see nothing/get nothing/show nothing for the work.

And what is waiting as I step into these lessons? Joy. Again, joy. The presence of the Lord awaits and (Ps. 16:11) there I will find fullness of joy. God promised his people through Jeremiah that "if you seek me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart" (29:12).

That right there is Truth I can hold onto... Truth I can cling to when I need to curl up into my cave in a mess of disappointments. I can hibernate on that and come out refreshed and revived. If I'm not shy about my heart for the Lord, He will not hold back in showing me His presence.

Now, for the doing...

Sunburnt face, scraped elbow, and Sunday music

I'm nursing a tomato-red face and a brave, battered elbow today. I wear these reminders proudly, because yesterday was a good day. I gave my best effort as shortstop for the Marlins and even slid into second base, in an all-out show of my commitment to team and sport. :) It was my friend Jenna's (Micah Project) birthday and she decided to host the closest thing to a baseball tournament. We met up at the ball diamond (which looked very Sandlot-esque), called Gigantes field, to play in the best organized kickball tournament I've ever seen. There were four teams: Marlins, Astros, Cardinals, and Dodgers (complete with homemade team shirts!!!) competing for the title of champion. The Micah boys showed up full-force along with tons of teachers from the International School. I loved it!

Today, I am thankful for so many things. I have some new inspiration for my room - incorporating sewing space and a prayer corner - that I am pretty excited about. I am working on some ideas for the upcoming high school student retreat... the theme is amazing race, so you can imagine how my mind is flying. I spent the morning doing my BRP (my affectionate and creative acronym for Bible Reading Plan) and can say I am truly loving the Word right now.

I did some cleaning/reorganizing/laundry ... and this invariably ends in more mess (creative organization sometimes just means re-purposing junk and moving it from one place to another). And, in the course of my scattered, Sabbath schedule, I am listening to some GREAT new music.

See for yourself: brooks ritter [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/3376681 w=400&h=225]

Brooks Ritter- Child from jeff venable on Vimeo.


After I found brooks ritter, it was pretty easy to find sojourn, the worship band he plays in at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Not surprisingly, the music was a beautiful addition to this Sunday. Check them out: Sojourn

How did I happen upon Brooks Ritter in the first place? I happen to read a blog called Holiday at the Sea, written by Brent Thomas. He posts music weekly on his blog. Thanks Holiday at the Sea!

stopping at 8

I don't care what you say, you phantom, cyber late night guilt-tripper. You can call me lame or loser or whatever you want to call me... I'm stopping at 8. I'm going to be done with electronics and planning and cleaning and thinking about anything but:

journal. Bible. bed.

If this goal seems slightly out of character for me... well, it is. It just kind of rolled off my fingers in the blank that says, "Title:" above this post. But, after it came out I decided it would be a bold goal. I will use a few of these minutes to give just one thought.

It all starts with this quote I picked up from over at my friend Kaci's blog.

"Entering the day without a serious meeting with God, over his Word and in prayer, is like entering the battle without tending to your weapons. The human heart does not replenish itself with sleep. The body does, but not the heart. We replenish our hearts not with sleep, but with the Word of God and prayer.” - John Piper

I read this today in the morning and sighed super heavy. Everyday resolutions struggle to be free every morning of my life. I'm not talking HUGE yearly ideas like losing 20 pounds or drinking wheatgrass everyday or becoming a professional singer or seamstress. I'm talking about every single morning when my alarm beeps at 4:45 a.m. I have this crazy inner wrestling match (strangely void of any physical motion) about how important it is for my resolutions to start this very day. It's always a toss up who wins. Now that I am reading through the Bible in a year, there's a lot going on in my mornings, so I really have to get moving, resolutions or not!! This quote brought it all back to center.

And there is God.

This morning, as I gathered details and permission slips for the orphanage field trip, I found out Michelletti (the current President) was going to visit. Nevermind the fact that this would never happen in the States, we pretty much lost any hope of salvaging the morning once the students found out. I can't try to explain how everything went down, but it was pretty neat to watch.

About 40 minutes after Michelletti left, I loaded up 25 7-12 graders into a bus to go to the orphanage for an afternoon of crafts, games, and a drama. We acted out Daniel in the Lion's Den and then we made Lion masks out of paper plates.

Then, at about 5, I tried to say I would "collapse," but instead I said I would, "complatz." I can't even reason out that I was smooshing two words or flip-flopped letters... it's just messed up (where did the 'm' come from??).

And I think back to the morning. And I think about the world and how big it is.

I think about the earthquake strong enough to flatten a city. I think about people who have survival first and

computers and
buses and
teriyaki and
music the last thing on their minds.

So, what will be the first on my mind tomorrow morning? The very first?

taking the first step

I'm a little late, but I'm starting anyway. I'm going to read through the Bible in one year. Should I be ashamed that the reason this thought sunk in (finally after years of pondering) was a twitter post by ESVdaily? Well, I'm not. I am thankful for twitter and for ESV Study Bible (which, by the way, is an AMAZING online resource!) and I am thankful that God's Word has become so dangerously relevant (who knew that God would ever speak to me through Twitter?).

So, today was the first day I officially began. I boiled a large pot of water and brought a cup and a tea bag strong enough to last through several steaming water refills. The ESV Study Bible was a little overwhelming at first. But, now, I am understanding how absolutely amazing it was the day I decided to order a year of WORLD magazine and receive the study Bible as a bonus. A BIG bonus. I am doing the Bible Reading Plan, conveniently found at the back with the mountains of other useful information.

I read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Genesis 1, Luke 1:1-25, and 1 Chronicles 1. I spit through the genealogies of Chronicles and spilled a bit of tea on the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke, but other than that the readings are starting out splendidly, with Eric Schrotenboer playing some great piano hymns in the background. I feel the weight of the Old Testament and have a new hunger to understand it, thanks to Lauren Winner. I want to see the beauty of redemption through the eyes of God's chosen people.

Tonight I will go see the Micah boys for Sunday night service and probably return to more tea before I read a bit (now onto Forgotten God by Francis Chan) before sleeping soundly in my slightly tidy messy room.

Look tomorrow for the first of many short stories of my childhood :)

here I am, Returning

I'm back.

My room is a mess. My overflowing suitcases lazily rest on the floor where I dumped them after a 16 hour journey, a bed of rumpled blankets boast the 12 hour nap that directly followed my arrival, each thoughtful gift I received over Christmas lays half-pondered on the ground where I have very good intentions about fully pondering it, a strange collection of mail that should've been shoved in one of those convenient blue boxes is still clinging to the insides of my suitcase,

and I am sitting here, drinking jasmine green tea and typing.

I was in Iowa for almost 1 1/2 weeks. The snow wooed my warmed, Honduran heart and the faces of favorite people filled my vision. There were not enough hugs and jokes and convos and laughs... but there were so many! The laughter made me certain of God's goodness (if I wasn't before), because if we are made in His image then He must be the Ultimate at laughter and that makes me love Him all the more. Sewing with my grandma and crowding my mother's kitchen, running around with cousins in the snow and cuddling up in a blanket with my sisters, wrapping a cold night with the wise words of my grandpa and chilling with my best friends who also happen to be my siblings...
I'm returning to community and family. I'm returning to the admission that we need people.

My best friend Meghan asked me to be her maid-of-honor. Our eyes filled up a little bit, but life is mostly the same between us - we share the kind of understood love that doesn't necessarily send emails or letters or phone calls, but it prays and hopes and is still so fierce.
I'm returning to the joy of the heart friends I only see once-in-awhile. I'm returning to believing I can love them without a face-to-face coffee date.

I snuggled into two books before I jumped on a big Continental bird to fly back here. One I have nearly finished after two days: Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner. Winner's writing style reminds me why I love getting lost in between black and white typed words. I heard her speak when I was in college, but my too-skeptic college self didn't allow me to believe her story was good. Well, it is. The other book is Forgotten God by Francis Chan and it is proving just as delightful ... my heart is necessarily challenged at each page-turn.
I'm returning to believing things are good and worthy of hours of thinking and digesting and several cups of jasmine green tea.

I bought a new journal at Target in Michigan. The store startled me with all the bright reds and discounted prices, but I managed to find a $3.24 eco-friendly journal with wide pages and a wire binding (very important, as I like to flip each page completely behind).
I'm returning to writing with a pen. I'm returning to saying my prayer with bold strokes. I'm returning to a personal account of fears and failures.

My sister Christina's birthday is today. I only left the states a couple days ago, but memories always make me feel uncomfortable with my love. My sister isn't really one for precious, picture moments with fluffy words and embraces. She is the queen of conversation and wild with wit... but sometimes I just have to know that she can feel my love without words or corny phrases. I know it, I do and I'm whispering happy birthdays today for her.
I'm returning to confidence in how people understand my love. I'm returning to believing that my sister doesn't need to be persuaded - she just knows how much I love her even when my hands are empty.

My friend Chels is my new mentor (she doesn't know that yet). I turned my head slightly after college to pursue what I thought important. It was easy, as we all went separate ways ...but a few years later here she emerges as this gentle well, deep with wisdom. I am sad to not have watched the process or been more supportive as she grew brilliantly toward the light of Love.
I'm returning to knowing I have much to learn. I am returning to humbly searching the deep, deep wells of the wise ones around me.

here I am, returning.

Blessing Facilitator

You know, if I had to create my own job ... I might consider using the title "Blessing Facilitator."

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. :)

More Blessed to Give than Receive

Cliché ... maybe. But, test it out and then see if you want to have a fight over word choice. Blessing others is like peeking through a window at God's glory and goodness and then getting knocked off your feet at its splendor.

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:

Here is a description of the ministry of AFE in 30 seconds.

Today more blessings came in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some of the blessings came after my muscles were so tense and my heart so anxious that only afterward did I realize how much the blessings depend on God and not me. All I can do in my worrying is take away from God's steadfast promise to be there as sturdy as an oak.

More stories will follow...

to life, to life lechaim

Lechaim means to life in Hebrew and Yiddish

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'

Lost and Found

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.

Thank you and MUCH love.

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

in addition to the previous list

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. It does not feel like December... at all.
  4. I'm getting a little discouraged. A lot bit, to be exact.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. Above is evidence that God is good. All the time.
  8. Answering the invitation to meet with a Savior who came oh-so-humbly... and being blown away.
  9. I'm reading a wonderful, borrowed book called "The Singer" by Calvin Miller.
  10. 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).

a great big list of things

You know, I am pretty comfortable admitting that I live far below my expectations for myself. Case in point: this blog. I could probably link back to the MANY times in the past I've posted a post like this.

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

  1. Rode in an ambulance with a 7th grader
  2. Was told by a student that I seem "19 years old"
  3. Went through an identity complex after I heard the above comment
  4. Quickly assured myself of same-age friends by hosting my new church friends Johanna and Gaby for vegetarian lasagna
  5. 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.
  6. 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?!?!)
  7. Led the kids at the feeding center in singing and prayed for one of my favorite little ones and her father, who is blind.
  8. Had our first two mission trip meetings (I'm leading a group of high schoolers on a mission trip here in Honduras in March)
  9. Cherished every Sunday night I can spend with Micah Project, worshipping
  10. Found my new favorite Christmas song: Winter Snow by Audrey Assad (also on Chris Tomlin's Christmas CD)
  11. Re-discovered my love for walking the city (the car has been in the shop for several weeks)
  12. Hosted 11th grade girls for Thanksgiving .... lasagna - their choice! :) and made my first ENORMOUS cookie
  13. 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.
  14. Wondered why all the world leaders (minus the US) in the movie 2012 were white... hmm?
  15. 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!
  16. 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.
  17. Spent the night at a student's house... again.
  18. Watched as one of my dearest girls was baptized.
  19. 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:)
  20. Decided to be on the worship team at church... starting in January.
  21. I have savored many moments quiet.
  22. I have asked many times forgiveness in these last couple weeks.
  23. 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.
  24. Painted a watercolor.
  25. Missed my sister pretty intensely.
  26. 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.
  27. Decided to pray for one of my brother's football players and already feeling connected to the mighty work of the Lord in Michigan.
  28. 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.
  29. Went to a church conference with a student... interesting experience
  30. Worship night with the kids... pretty awesome.
  31. 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...
  32. caught myself being foolish A LOT!
  33. Caught up (a little teeny bit) with friends in Michigan, Chicago, and Indy.

That's it for now, folks! I love you and half-way promise to be more regular in my writing.