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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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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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.

IMG_0023

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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Cops, Sweat, and Tears

IMG_5499I have mentioned numerous times how interesting it is driving here, especially stopping at red lights.  Another “fun fact” about driving in the capital and being American is that the cops LOVE to pull you over for no real reason.  Often, as my friend, Ashley, commenting on THIS POST, they want a “donation”.

Seriously, in the beginning, we would get pulled over almost every single time that we would drive into Santo Domingo.  It was so frustrating!

I had a friend tell me that we should take a picture of the police officer with his name badge clearly visible the next time that it happened.  She said that they would typically back off then.

One day, Mo and I had gone into the capital for a few errands and a quick “day date”.  When we turned left at a light with about 20 others cars, the cops pointed us out and told us to pull over.  We literally had done nothing and were in the middle of the pack.

We pulled over, the cop asked us for our paperwork, and began to make up a reason that he pulled us over.  I had had enough!  I pulled out my cell phone and started taking pictures.  The cop immediately got defensive and told me to delete the photo.  Mo was driving so he was in the middle of all of this.  At that time, I didn’t speak a lot of Spanish but was attempting to “give him a piece of my mind” in Spanish and in English.  I was telling him that “we were sick of being pulled over when we did nothing at all and that all he wanted was money.”  I told him that “we were going to report him.”

Of course, he understood NONE of what I was saying because, truth be told, it was mostly said in English with some Spanish thrown in here and there.  The cop starting saying “Why is she so angry at me?” and “Tell her to delete that picture.”

Remember, Mo was right in the middle of all of this and was paralyzed with fear!  He seriously thought we were going to Dominican jail, and he was about to becoming someone’s “Mrs”.

He looked at me with pleading eyes and said, “Tamara, I really think we should just give him some money and get out of here before we go to jail!”

About this time, I put my face in my hands and start crying!  The cop is suddenly like, “Ok, hey, here’s your paperwork.  I don’t know what I have done to upset her so badly but why don’t you guys just get out of here?”

He leaves, we drive off, and Mo turns to me and says, “What the mess is wrong with you?  You never cry.  What got you so upset?”

I just looked at him, smiled, and said,

“I wasn’t really crying.  I just wanted him to leave us alone.”

Moral of the story:

A crying woman translates the same in all languages! (Hehe!)

 


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A sudsy experience

sudsy spongeIn 10 days, we will be returning to our passport country.  As expected, we have a million and one emotions surrounding this.  We are closing out and transferring leadership of our ministries, slowly saying goodbyes, and reflecting on our time here.  We have been writing down different experiences that we have had- some good, some bad, some funny, some sad.  Mo suggested that I begin sharing them.

Here is a funny one for you:

When you stop at a red light in this country, you will be bombarded with vendors selling various items- windshield wipers, sunglasses, fruit, water, chicken shaped wooden holders to store your eggs, etc.  The one thing that bothers me the most is the windshield washers.  They sneak up out of nowhere and squirt your windshield with dirty water.  Then, you have no choice but to allow them to wash your windshield, and you have to pay them.  Mind you, it is typically only about 20 pesos (equivalent to about 50 cents US).  However, it happens at every single red light…even if your windshield is already clean.

(In defense of the windshield washers, many of them are homeless teens that are just trying to get enough money to eat. We didn’t know that when we arrived here though.)

So…

In the beginning, we had a friend tell us, “If you don’t want your windshield washed, then turn on your windshield wipers, and they will leave you alone.”

During our very first outing as a family, we decided to venture out of our little community and drive the hour or so to the grocery store.  We were sitting at a red light waiting to turn left into the store when out of nowhere comes a windshield washer.  Mo turns on his wipers and…

…THE GUY LIFTS IT UP SO IT IS FLAPPING IN THE AIR!

We were like…”But she told us they would leave us alone. Now we have a wiper just flapping in the wind, and the guy won’t stop washing our windshield!”

All of our windows are up but Mo starts yelling “No, gracias, No!”

THE GUY CONTINUES…

Mo then bangs on the windshield AND IT CRACKS (because that car was so janky)! And…

THE GUY CONTINUES…

Mo then rolls his window down and tells the guy to stop. And…

THE GUY HITS MO IN THE FACE WITH HIS DIRTY SUDSY SPONGE!!!!

Suds go all over the inside of the car,

on the girls and I,

and…

We just start screaming…

“GO, JUST GO!  WE ARE GOING TO DIE!!!”

Mind you…this is our very first experience out on our own!

We pull into the grocery store parking lot and just sit there for a second.  We are all shaking and so thankful to have NOT DIED!!!

Hahahaha…we laugh so hard about it now though!

So there’s one!