asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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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

suitcase

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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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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Meet Rosa

IMG_0024This lady is amazing.  There is no way that words can explain all that encompasses what makes her HER. For that reason, I want to share two stories that she often shares.  To me, both show how God has worked in her life to form that blessing that she is.

Rosa was raised by Christian parents. When Rosa was a little girl, there was a time that her father was out of work and having great difficulty finding a job to provide for his family.  It was almost Christmas.  During this time, their main concern was simply having food to feed their large family.  Christmas gifts were not even a thought. Her aunt heard about their struggles and asked Rosa’s dad to come to her house around 10:00 on December 24th.  She remembers that he was gone for over 3 hours.  It took so long because her aunt and her aunt’s friends were busy cooking for Rosa’s family.  When he returned home, he had more food than she had ever seen.  Not only did he return with this delicious Christmas feast, he also had gifts for all of the kids.  She received a dress, shoes, and a baby doll.

She said this was the first time that she truly saw God’s work in action.  She decided from that point forward, she would follow Him and allow Him to be the guide in her life.

Fast forward many years…now she is married and has children.  Her husband had begun drinking a lot.  He was rarely home, and she spent many holidays and family functions without him because he was out in the streets drinking.  Christmas had always been her favorite time of year to share with family and friends.  Suddenly, she dreaded it and felt very lonely.  She would talk to her husband over and over and over without success.  He was not willing to hear her and change his ways.  She stayed with him but was often heartbroken.  One day, she decided that she would no longer nag her husband, and would fully hand him over to God. She began praying for him and asking God to make him stop drinking.  Almost immediately, he began having major problems and pains in his stomach when he would drink.  It got so bad that he finally had no choice but to quit drinking.  She gives all of the glory to God for hearing her pleas.

Although her marriage is not perfect and there are still struggles, she is committed to the promise that she made.

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She finds joy where many would find sorrow.  She finds beauty in most all things. She is steadfast in her love of the Lord.  She is honest and trustworthy.  Whenever I have been sad or struggling with anything in my life, she listens and shows compassion.  She will often leave my house, pray, and return with scripture that God has given her.

She has told me numerous times that I have taught her so much about the Bible.  This puzzles me because I cannot see how I had anything to offer her that she did not already have.  Seriously, she is one of the most solid person that I have ever had the blessing to know.

When I first announced to Hermanas en Cristo that we were leaving, I asked who would like to take over as the leader.  Everyone immediately pointed to Rosa, because we all knew that she was the most likely choice. They also voted to pay her an additional 10% on top of the sales of her own jewelry, as a salary.  That meant they all believed in her enough to reduce their own pay by 10%.  THAT is nothing more that God’s hand at work!

IMG_0025As I have been preparing to leave, we have been training for her to take over Hermanas en Cristo.  She is a natural leader and never knew it.  She didn’t seem to realize her awesomeness and capabilities.  It has been such a blessing to see her confidence grow.  It has been such a blessing to watch her nurture the spiritual growth of some of our newest Christians in the group.

She is also one of our scholarship recipients. She is studying English at the university.  Learning English has always been a dream of hers.  She wants to learn English so that she can become a translator.  Her goal right now is to visit the United States.  She wants to come meet so many of the people that have bought jewelry and supported the ladies of Hermanas en Cristo.  She is using the money from her jewelry sales to pay for her “papers” so that she can get a passport, then a visa.  She wants to hold a jewelry party in the states and practice speaking English with all of you!

Pray for her as she continues to lead Hermanas en Cristo.

Pray that she can get her “papers”, passport, and Visa!

Wouldn’t it be great if she could come to the states during Christmastime?  That time of year seems to have had so much significance in her life.  It would be great to help add one more wonderful memory for her to see how God works in such wonderful ways to “give us the desires of our heart!”


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A Wall of Warriors

warriorOne thing that I hope everyone knows about me is that I am real.  What you see on social media will be the same thing that you see in my “real life”.  You won’t hear spiritual platitudes coming from my mouth.  I won’t say things just to placate you.  That is both a blessing and a curse.

The reason that I am saying this is because I need all of you to know that.  I hope to show as much of the good, bad, and ugly of me that is socially acceptable.  (Let’s all face it…only your closest of friends see it all!) My hope is that by being honest and vulnerable that you can see God at work.  My hope is that through my own personal struggles and angst that you can see God working in and through me.  My hope is that this gives you hope and points you to the one that seeks your heart!

Yesterday, I posted a plea for prayer on FB.  Over the past month, we have been getting attacked from all sides in ways that we have not made public.  The same thing happened when we were entering the mission field.  We have been a bit shocked that it is happening as we are leaving the field to enter a season of rest and healing. We feel that we aren’t much of a threat right now and couldn’t understand why we were under siege.

Hermanas en Cristo has been doing the War Room bible study, and our recent Women’s Retreat’s theme was “This is War!”, with our focus on becoming Prayer Warriors.  For anyone that has not read Priscilla Shirer’s book, Fervent, she talks about how satan attacks us in all areas of our life to distract us so that we will lose our focus on God. He uses problems in our marriage, our relationships and our finances to distract us.  He wants to take away our passion and our energy so we won’t have the strength to fight.  He uses others to remind us of who we were in our past. Once he distracts and weakens us, then he goes in for the kill.

That is where I was yesterday…distracted and depleted!

How can we fight against that?  Through prayer and scripture!!!

I heard God say, “Ask for help!  Surround your family with a Wall of Prayer Warriors!”.

I needed to “practice what I preach”.

As I reached out on FB, I was nervous for laying it out there for all to see.  I was weak, vulnerable, and sinking! I was nervous about being judged for “being weak in my faith” (<—don’t get me started on that! That is for another day, another post).

We were overwhelmed by love and support! We received so many private messages and words of encouragement, and so many people began praying for us. It did feel like we had a Wall of Prayer Warriors all around us.  It gave us strength to refocus on Him.

There are going to be times in our lives where we don’t have strength to fight alone.  God is always with us and always faithful.  I believe that is why He also provides us with Prayer Warriors to surround us and protect us as we refocus on Him.  God also uses these times to grow and mold us.  He will never let our pain occur in vain.  He always uses that for His good.  God is teaching me to be vulnerable, bold, and to live without fear of judgment. He is teaching me not to listen to what others say about who I am, but to believe who He says I am.  He is showing me that I am not the sum of all of my past mistakes and failures. I hope that my moments of weakness can serve as a testament for Him.  I hope that you can see that no one is perfect in their walk with Christ.  Yes, I definitely hope that you do not see a “perfect Christian”, but that you see a broken person that NEEDS Jesus! I hope that you can see the new story that God is beginning to weave into our lives. I hope to continue to focus and rest in Him.  I hope that you can see that He will always turn something beautiful from the ashes to glorify His name!


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When satan is a punk, God shows off!

Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 1.02.22 PM

This transition time is no joke! We are processing through so many different emotions right now. I woke up this morning overwhelmed with emotions that I was struggling to name.  Mostly, I was feeling empty and like a failure. I know that satan is using this time to try to steal my purpose and passion and also to tell me lies.  That’s who he is… he is a liar and a thief whose only purpose is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  He is such a punk!

Often, when I am empty, I allow satan to put blinders on me to show me all of the ways that I have failed, all of the times that I did not love well, all of the times that I allowed those rough, dark places in my heart to spill out from my mouth (Matthew 15:18).  Even though, I know better because…

GOD!

God is much more powerful than satan.  He is the strength when I am weak (2 Corinthians 12:10), He saved me and delights in me (Psalm 18:19), and He wants to fill me with joy (Psalm 16:11).  The thing is… I have to remember these things!  I have to readjust those blinders so they focus SOLELY ON HIM!

Also…God knows when we need a little push, a little encouragement, and little pep talk to say…”Nope, those lies are not MY truth about you. Allow me to show you”…

and He does because He is God.

THIS is how God encouraged me this morning:

Hermanas en Cristo has been given an amazing opportunity to share our story and sell our jewelry at a group market to support the empowerment of women.  Rosa and I will be attending and staying at a hotel in the Capital tomorrow night. This morning, I went to Rosa’s house to discuss the details of the next few days.

Before I started talking, Rosa said, “I want to tell you something.  Last night, I was laying in bed thinking how you have been an angel and a blessing in my life. The first time that I went to the beach, I went with you.  The first time that I will be staying in a hotel will be with you.  I am going to the university because of you. Most importantly, I have learned so much more about the Bible because of you.  God has used you as a blessing in my life.”

I was speechless.  All I could say was “thank you”!

As we all know, that was not me. That was GOD using ME in HER life…and vice versa!

I say all of this, not to show off, but, hopefully, to show how God can use us in such small ways that we may not see it ourselves.  You may be hearing lies in your own life that are telling you that you are just doing it all wrong.

But God knows better!!!

He created all of us with a purpose!  HIS PURPOSE!

If you are believing that punk satan and struggling to believe God’s truth about you, ask Him to show you!

He will…

Because…

He is so good like that!