asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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Sum of your mistakes

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“You are the sum of all of your past mistakes”.

This was a lie from satan that I believed about myself for so long.  It was truly something that had kept me in chains for so long.

Today, God spoke the exact same phrase to me, but in the form of a promise.

“Tamara, you are the sum of all of your past mistakes because that is where I grew you and molded you.”

I began to think about all of the biblical figures that messed up royally…and how God used these exact people for His glory.

Take David, for example. Man, what was he even thinking?  He had an affair with a married woman, and she became pregnant.  His solution?  Let’s have her husband killed and then she can come live with me. (Oh my word, how many times has our own best thinking gotten us in an even bigger mess???)

Yet….BECAUSE OF  ALL OF HIS MISTAKES…God continued to refer to him as “a man after my own heart”.  He redeemed him and made him king of Israel.  

Then, there was Gomer.  She was a prostitute.  God sent her a PROPHET for a husband.   She continued to return to her old ways over and over because they were known and comfortable. (Can you even imagine the church gossip that ensued?!)

YET…BECAUSE OF ALL OF HER MISTAKES…God sent Hosea to relentlessly and recklessly pursue her heart!  Because God is a faithful lover of our souls.  He did this as an example to all of us of His unconditional love and his ability to redeem even the most undeserving wanderers.

Then, there was Peter, who betrayed Jesus in His final hours of life.  Peter was part of Jesus’ posse. And, still, Peter denied even knowing Him THREE times the night before Jesus’ death.

YET…BECAUSE OF ALL OF HIS MISTAKES…when the angels descended, Jesus sent a message through them to “his disciples and Peter”.  He named Peter specifically, and continued to use Peter as a disciple to preach of the gospel after His crucifixion. 

I don’t know about any of you but this gives me great hope!

I also know that I don’t learn anything from the mountaintop, where things are good and mistake and problem free. The mountaintop has always been my resting place, where I rejuvenate for my next trek into the valley.  I am thankful that God loves me and sees value in me that He takes me to the valley.  There has never been a time that a mistake or hard time has not taught me a lesson that I would need for the next assignment that God has for me. He promises us this:

“Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” James 1:4

 

If God can use David, Gomer, and Peter BECAUSE OF their mistakes, then…

Yes, I am a sum of my past mistakes because they grew me to be the person that I am today.  

A person in which God sees worth and wants to use for His glory!

So, let go of that shame that you are holding onto for saying or doing the wrong thing.  Let go of those feelings of worthlessness because you, too, screwed up royally.  Let go of those hateful or judgmental words of others that play over and over in your head like a broken record. Yeah, you can stop beating yourself up.  (Seriously though, stop that crap!) God will use your mistakes, screw ups, and hard times to mature you and complete you so that you are not lacking anything! God created all of us with a purpose that only we can complete!  YOU were the one specifically created for that purpose that will glorify Him!

Gosh, THAT is some freedom that I can dance in.  Can I get an amen?


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Afternoon coffee

Coffee.

Remember how I said that I wanted this be an honest, vulnerable view of our journey?  Remember how I also said that I wanted to share it all with you, even the victories (because, gosh, who wants to just hear the hard stuff?!)?  THIS is one of those posts!

I will just begin by saying that our marriage took a HUGE hit while being on the mission field.  I will talk more about this at a later time.  We truly had lost the ability to speak tenderly to one another. Suffice to say, our marriage was pretty torn and tattered by the time we touched down on U.S. soil.

This season in our lives has been brutiful (beautiful and brutal).  There truly have been some amazingly, beautiful gifts that have come, and are still in the works, during this time.  This is one of those gifts.

Going from having our kids with us 24/7 to being, what we call, “semi-empty nesters” has been an adjustment for sure.  With one kid living in another country, and the other one in school and working, we have lots of extra time for just the two of us.  Also, our home in the DR was always full of people coming in and out.  We loved that because we wanted the mission house to be a safe place for our sweet DR community.

However, we realize how valuable our solitude is for us now. God has used this gift of time to restore what the enemy tried to destroy.

Most days, I make a home cooked lunch for Mo and I.  He schedules his day around this.  It is a time that is just for the two of us.  Occasionally, because of life, we can’t do this but we usually have this time 4 out of 5 days.

Then, between 3 and 4 o’clock, Mo comes back home, and we have coffee together, either at our kitchen table or sitting in the rocking chairs on our front porch.  We have really taken this time to unpack some tough stuff, some hurt emotions, and some dreams and desires for the future. We have learned to listen to one another (mostly) and laugh together again.

These two times in each day are so valuable and precious to us now.  We are so thankful that God is allowing this time of quiet, stillness in our marriage.  We are so thankful that our marriage is so important to Him that He would give us such a gift of time. He really does love us THAT much!

 

***I would love to hear the small ways in which you connect with your spouse***


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Just Visiting

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I guess this is segment 1 to publicly writing about our transition, the victories and struggles that have come from returning from the mission field and the messy aftermath of it all.  I will write about the physical challenges that I have *hopefully* begun to overcome, the various emotions that come from readjusting to a known, but now, unfamiliar culture, and working through spiritual wounds that have ripped so many of our beliefs wide open.

One of the hardest parts of returning from the mission field to the city from which you left is this subconscious belief/expectation that you are simply returning to your old life. BUT, you’re not…not even close.  We were gone for almost 5 years. Although our life here had been paused, no one else’s had.

For us, also, EVERYTHING has changed.

Our home is MUCH smaller.  Our bank account is MUCH smaller. We are restarting our business from the ground up AGAIN. Our friend circle is (necessarily) MUCH smaller.  Since we left our former church, we no longer have a church community, which has been necessary for certain healing to take place right now.

AND…

The BIG one that we are learning is that WE are no longer the same people who left this city and this life. We are trying to navigate a familiar place and space with unfamiliar selves. Until we learn who we are now and what we now believe about church, religion, money, and the U.S. lifestyle, we will continue to feel like visitors of our own lives.

This is our current rumble.  It is messy and beautiful all in one.  God is meeting us where we are.  He is speaking to us.  Sometimes, He gives us the answers, guidance, and kick in the butt that we need.  Other times, He just pulls up floor space next to us and sits in the sludge quietly with us.  And…that’s ok too!

 


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Freedom

breaking the chains

Each year, I post about the “Word for the Year”.  I wrote about it HERE and HERE and HERE

The last two years, God has given me my word in November.  If the past taught me anything, He is ready to challenge, stretch, and grow me with my 2018 word, which is “Freedom”.  In other words, this word is about to kick my booty!

As soon as I heard this word, I knew deep, down in my soul that this year would be a year of reckoning. Just hearing this word made me feel lighter.  There has been so much over the past 5 years that has been weighing me down and causing me to feel enslaved. I am ready to be free of those things.

I recently read this from Brené Brown in Rising Strong:

“It takes courage to share a story that is still in the process.  To say, I am still in the rumble.  Still trying to figure out what is true and what is not.”

In my last post, A place of healing, I wrote that, when we first returned to the states, God ask me to “Be still and be quiet”.  As always, with God’s instructions, that was wise and necessary.  However, now, I feel He is telling me to speak…to be raw and vulnerable…and honest.  This, I believe, will be part of my healing.  It is part of my Freedom walk. It is a way that He is setting me free from the chains that have bound me.

Oh, how I would love for this season to be finished.  How I would love to continue to wrestle through all of this quietly alone, as I have been doing . How I would love to be writing AFTER the rumble…AFTER the lessons have been learned…AFTER the pain has subsided, and we could bask in God’s glory for the journey that was traveled. I would so love to wrap all of the pain and lessons up, and present them to my readers in a pretty little package wrapped in a satin bow.

Unfortunately, that is not what I feel God asking me to do.  He is asking me to speak IN this season BEFORE I have the answers.  He is asking me to strip naked and present all of this as it is.  He is asking me to tell the journey that I have been on since returning to the states.  He is asking me to name my pain for the world to see. He is also asking me to share the joy, the hope, and the victories with you. (Of course, that part will be easy.)

I do not feel courageous.  I feel fear. 

To speak publicly about very private pain is scary. With all of this comes great responsibility.  I need to be aware and accountable with my words. My hope is, by speaking of the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain and healing, that someone else seeks God to help release you from the chains that bind you.  My hope is that other missionaries that have returned, or will be returning, from the field, understand some of the pain and confusion and transition in which they have or will travel.

My story may possibly not look exactly the same as many of yours.

Still, I hope that my words are the words that you need to begin your Freedom walk.

Galatians 5:1

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.”


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A place of healing

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When God began to close the door on our season in La Represa, I clearly heard him say,

“I am taking you into a time of rest and healing.

Do not worry. I am preparing a home for you.”

I came to the U.S. for a visit specifically to find a house and purchase furniture. We literally had nothing to start our life over in the U.S. We had sold everything that we owned before moving to the DR.

MY plan had been to find a house early on so that I would know what furniture would fit and purchase what we needed. I was driving around town hoping to find a “For Rent” sign. By the 2nd week, I continued to come up empty.  I was worried and stressed.  I began to cry and thought, “God, you said that you were preparing a home for us.  Where is it???”

At that exact moment, the song, Stillby Hillary Scott, came on.  These lyrics felt like God speaking to my weary, unbelieving soul:

You’re moving mountains that I don’t even see
You’ve answered my prayer before I even speak
All You need for me to be is still

Yeah, I hear ya, God! “Being still” for my type A personality is difficult.  I had a mission.  I needed to do something.  Yet…

He asked me to just “Be Still”.

Once again, God was growing and stretching me. He was pointing out that I was still struggling with trust and unbelief.

So, I stopped “doing” and began to “be still”, which, in turn, helped me to thoroughly enjoy my U.S. visit. On the very last day of my visit, I signed a rental agreement on our house.

This home has been more than we could have ever asked for!  It is small (much smaller than the house in which we lived prior to moving to the DR).  We could probably fit 2 1/2 of these homes into our prior house.  However, that’s just it:  That house was just a house.  This house is a home.  We love this home because it is perfect for us!  Rarely does a day go by that I don’t say to Mo or one of the kids, “I just love our home so much!”

It has become a place where I can sit in Jesus’ lap and rest.  In this home, I have wrestled God until my soul felt like it was bleeding. It has become a place where many tears have fallen as I have begun to heal physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  It is a place where God has ask me to “Be still and be quiet”.  It has been another place and another time in which God has taught me to be obedient…where He has taught me humility…where He has broken me in ways that only He could heal me.

He has shown me that He has been moving mountains that I couldn’t see, and He has been answering prayers before I could even speak.

Now, it is time to talk.  Now, it is time to share the physical, emotional, and spiritual fight that I have been fighting….

 


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PRAISE REPORT!

Hey everyone!  I know that it has been a minute since I have posted.  I have so much that I want to share, and, eventually, will get all of that into words and onto the web.  For now, I have some AMAZING news to share!beadsAs most of you know, the Hermanas en Cristo program is very close to my heart.  Many of you, though, may not understand how the program works.  I would like to share that with you.

All of the ladies in the group are considered business owners.  The purpose in that is to create ownership in the group.  When they feel ownership, it also empowers them and helps build their self-worth.  In order to stop the cycle of poverty, HEC’s vision/purpose has been to empower and educate the women in our group, as we, FIRST, grow their faith!

That being said, the women receive 100% of the sales.  However, 100% does not go into their pocket because THEY ARE BUSINESS OWNERS.  By creating the system this way, they understand that running a business costs money.  There are 4 ways that they split their money: 30% for cost of doing business (supplies, shipping supplies, additional costs, etc), 10% for their employee, Rosa’s, salary, 10% for our university scholarship fund, and the remaining 50% to support their family.  I have numerous stories that I would love to share about the changes that have occurred in the women.  I have seen true transformations in the self-esteem of the women as they have grown their relationship with God and seen that they have worth as His child…and, also, as they have been able to support their families as business owners.

Now, with that being said, we have 2 women and 1 young adult in the group that are currently attending university. Whoop!  Whoop!

What many of you do not know is that my family has been supplementing the bottomline of the group for the past two years as we have been getting “up and running”.  Prior to moving back to the states, our sales only consisted of mission teams coming down 6 times a year and various sales that I was able to have online or when I came to the US for visits.

So….here is where the praise report comes in:  Due to sales from August, September, and October, HERMANAS EN CRISTO IS NOW FULLY SUPPORTING THEMSELVES!!!  Not only are they fully self-supporting now, THEY WILL SOON BE ABLE TO OFFER ANOTHER SCHOLARSHIP! This is absolutely God’s hand at work!  Can I just get a group “amen” on that one?!

As always, if you would ever like to partner with these ladies to provide additional scholarships, let us know!  The more women and young girls that are educated and empowered, the more change that they can make in their own community.  (It typically costs between $50-$75 a month for university tuition.)

MOST IMPORTANTLY, please continue to pray for the ladies in the group.  Specific prayers are:

  • More “non-believers” continue to join our group (We have 37 total women in the group at this time.  About 1/3 of the group are still non-believers AND they are spending time weekly and daily in the Word.  Praises!)
  • Our sales continue to rise to provide additional scholarships
  • Our Holiday sales just blow us away!!! (We are continually looking for more craft fairs to sell our jewelry.  We have also been blessed to get discounted or free booth rental space to reduce outgoing costs.  Please pray that we continue to receive that grace!)
  • We will be scheduling Home Parties soon.  Please pray that more and more ladies in the US will be willing to open their homes for these parties to help support these ladies.
  • We have several boutiques that will possibly begin selling our jewelry soon!  Please continue to pray that we are able to work that out in a way that is financially beneficial to all parties involved.
  • Hermanas en Cristo TRULY believes in ‘women supporting women”. That being said, we will also begin selling jewelry from another program in the DR that helps rehab and support women that have escaped the sex trade industry.  Pray that both groups are blessed in amazingly abundant ways as we support one another.
  • Pray for each and every woman in this group that they continue to fall deeper in love with Christ.  Pray that all of their marriages continue to strengthen so their family unit as a whole will continue to blossom.  Pray for each woman that their own hurts are healed and prayers are answered.
  • We are also currently working towards getting an intern that will help with marketing and social media information.  Pray that God sends exactly who we need for this.
  • Pray for Rosa as she continues to fight for and work hard for this group.  Pray that she is blessed in numerous ways!

 

 


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my hero

Hola All! It’s Mo…

It has been a long long time since I shared a blog with you all. I am not the best at expressing myself with the written word. Here it goes anyway. Tomorrow my bride and youngest daughter leave our home of 4 1/2 years . We are closing a season of our lives to begin the next season that God has in store for us. We moved to the Dominican Republic with no clear cut plan and no real guidance on what to do. Our family moved because the Lord called us to do so…..specifically me. We had a fairly comfortable life back in Murfreesboro, TN. Moving and leaving that life was questioned by many, but not by my wife. She said, “If you feel that you are being called by God to serve, then let’s go serve.” (I think most of you know it wasn’t THAT easy……but pretty close). Now, mind you, we were moving to a different country with a different language and a different culture with no plan. If you know my bride, then you would know that she does not roll that way. Normally, we have a plan and possibly another plan. But, with this move….we had no plan!

So, we move, and the adventure begins. Nothing went how we imagined it, and we were immediately challenged with a bunch of stuff that we “North Americans” are not accustomed to. (All of that for another day!) Through all of those initial challenges, my bride was actually our rock. I crashed and burned daily with our challenges here. (Also, another story for another day.) We pushed through and with God’s help, after we let him, each found our gift to give the community. We, in return, received our greatest gift, the people here in our ” barrio”. Once again, there are many, many stories to tell, and Tamara will probably be telling them for us because she is better at it.

Let’s get to why I am posting this blog.

tamara with broom

My wife is my hero. She has supported me, our family and this community with not a lot of fan fare. As a matter of fact, while our interns and I were getting all of the accolades, Tamara just quietly served.  She served our family, and she served everyone around her. The legacy that she will leave with the women here is hard to describe. She has helped our ladies here know their self-worth. She has taught them that studying and learning about God is beautiful and fun. She has had my blind side and helped me with all that I do. Our primary job here was to manage logistics for short term mission teams. Not an easy task to insure a safe and event filled trip with little to no problems, but we did. Tamara helped serve close to 30 mission teams with joy in her heart. Now, if you know me, then you know that I am a hard worker but not always the most organized. Our mission team trips were organized ( do you get the picture ) ?

Hermanas en Cristo was started to give the ladies here an opportunity to meet and learn about the Bible. It has become so much more. At the risk of offending some people, here goes a layman’s explanation of the culture here. Women are treated like 2nd class citizens, but are given the challenge of raising their families for the most part. This takes a toll on them physically and mentally.  Tamara saw this and created a safe environment for them to come. With her, they were able to share with each other their challenges. They were able to pray for one another. They created a way to supplement their income by making jewelry that Tamara helped design. By the way, did I mention that she got no financial help from anyone for any of this? She managed it, and then she taught the women to manage it. If you all could see what all of this has done for the self-esteem of the women, it is beautiful! All of this because she wanted an environment conducive to learning about God.

My bride is leaving a few days before me, and I tear up every time I think about it. I am proud to call her my bride. She gave her yes to come here with no pretext other than to be obedient to God and whatever plan he had. Her life here has been like the avocado tree that she planted from a single seed and is now bearing fruit. I guess, if we have to leave, its when the seed, that you planted, starts to bear fruit, which in turn creates other seeds.

Honestly, I have some fear in moving back to the US, and all that it entails, but I know that, with God and his plan, we will be OK . I say OK. I think it will be great, and I am excited to see what kind of seed my bride will have bearing fruit. Thank you, Tamara, for being a great example of a servant of God. The service that you have given to me, our daughters and this community is way beyond attaching a dollar value. Muchisimo gracias!!!

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