asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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A Season of Rest

We are often asked, “When do you think that you will return to the states to live, or will you ever?”  My response is always, “When, or if, God closes this door”.

On January 29th, we will be celebrating our 4 year anniversary in the Dominican Republic. These past 4 years have been incredible and difficult and joyful and challenging.  We have learned so much about ourselves and God’s will and guidance in our lives.  He has broken us and molded us closer to His image…with much more molding needed!  We have learned how to truly “love our neighbor” and how to “lean into God for our strength”. We have learned how to selflessly serve others because God desires us to ‘serve one another’.

We have been hearing God speak to our hearts over the past 6 months.  If we are honest, it has been longer.  We didn’t want to hear what He had to say. However, we know all too well what happens when we don’t listen to God and His will for our lives. Now, we must be obedient to His will…

It is with sadness and understanding that we want to announce…

God is closing this door to our service in La Represa…

He has clearly stated that He will be sending us to a “season of rest and healing”.  We are tired.  We have served with all of the energy, passion, and love that God has filled inside of us over the past 4 years.  We are emotionally, physically, and spiritually tired and empty.  It is time to heal minor health issues that we have, and allow ourselves to be filled and fed emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

At this time, we do not know our next step.  He has not revealed that to us.  We have resigned our position as New Vision missionaries, and will fulfill our responsibilities with them in July.  We do not know if God wants us to stay in the Dominican Republic or return to the states.  We do not know if we will be returning to TN or to FL…or another state or country altogether.  We only know that we will have a ‘season of rest and healing’ for now.

Please join us in prayer as we finish our time here in La Represa.  This community is family to us.  This decision was not an easy one to make, and one that was made with much prayer and discernment (and tears).  To leave here will be one of the most difficult things we have done.  Our specific prayer requests for now are:

  1. We FINISH STRONG.  Pray that we serve well until the end.
  2. Pray for our girls.  They were 11 and 13 when we moved here.  This is the life that they know and the hearts that they love.  This community has embraced them as their own children, and my girls think of them as family, as well.
  3. Pray for our family’s hearts as we will be saying many ‘goodbyes’ over the next 7 months. In our own strength, we will not be able to do this.  In His, we can be comforted.
  4. Pray for discernment as more decisions will need to be made.  Pray that He makes it clear to us where we need to live. Pray that He provides a home, income, and direction.
  5. Pray for many fears that we have as we make this transition.  The unknown is always fearful.  However, sometimes the known can be even more fearful. Pray that we have TRUST IN HIM, as opposed to fear in our flesh.
  6. Pray for the missionary family and interns that will coming in behind us.  Pray that God brings them forward.  Pray as God begins to prepare their hearts.
  7. Pray for this wonderful, sweet community.  They are not accustomed to saying ‘goodbye’ to the ones that they love. They have already learned how hard that was by saying ‘goodbye’ to Keely, and they will be doing the same next week when Kristi leaves.  As we leave the field, Macy’s internship will be over in July, and she will be returning with us.

Thank you for all of your love and support over the past 4 years.  For those of you, that messaged us regularly, prayed for us, and supported us in ways too numerous to mention, THANK YOU!


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One Word 2017

It’s that time again- the New Year!  This means it is time to post my One Word for the year.  (I wrote about it–>Here and Here and Here if you would like to read more.  I posted a few links in one of the post to read more about the One Word concept.)  I know many of my friends ask God for One Word each year as well.

Last year, my word was Open…which seemed like a bizarre word at the time.  However, as God always does, He showed me throughout the year how He could use this word to grow me.  There are numerous ways and situations throughout this past year in which I have needed to be Open to Him or Open to others.  The ways in which He grew me and stretched me in this word were quite surprising.  By the end of 2016, I saw how He truly needed me to be Open to HIS will for my life.  I feel like all of 2016 was basic training for the question He would ask me by year’s end, which was “Do you really trust me and my plan for your life?”

The past few years, I have not truly known my One Word until almost February.  However, THIS YEAR…He gave me the word in November.  I felt Him saying…”You are gonna need a little more time with this word so I am giving you a few extra months to work on it!”  I can already see how He is teaching me, growing me, and challenging me beyond any other year.  I can see how this coming year is going to present me with ways in which I will need to practice what I am learning.

This year’s word is Love {Well}.

I say word because it feels like one thing to me, although it is more of a phrase.  Here’s why: It is easy to love those who love us and love those who are easy to love.

I feel God saying,

“Ok, so how are you going to love:

those who are difficult to love,

those who have hurt you,

and love when you are so far up in your junk

your heart is closed and locked up.

Tamara, how are you going to love MY children?

Now…how are you going to balance this

with boundaries and codependency and vulnerability

and all those other things which get love all twisted and turned?”

For some of you, this may not be a problem.  For me, it is.  Somewhere along the line, Love got all twisted and turned and confusing and scary and unsafe…and a whole lot of other things.  If it didn’t for you, that is wonderful. For the rest of us, you understand, right? You can still be a Christian and say, “These things can be hard for me, and I want to learn to do it better.”

Brené Brown said it best in this talk, Brené Brown on Boundaries, Empathy, and Compassion,

“The most compassionate people I have interviewed over the last 13 years were also absolutely the most boundaried.”

She goes on to say, as she became more boundaried,

“I am not as sweet as I used to be but I am far more loving.”

For me, all of this is how you truly learn to Love {Well}!

As I listened to her, I knew exactly what God was doing with this word in my life.  My journey has definitely already started.  I am praying (oh my goodness…I am praying!), researching, reading, learning, and seeking such wise counsel on this!  I am excited, scared, apprehensive, and so ready to see where this journey is taking me because…

in order to truly love His children WELL…

I have to learn this stuff…

so I can love myself well first.

I will be sharing throughout the year what God is revealing to me and ways in which He is stretching and growing me.

I may come out of 2017 bumped and bruised and a little rustled…

and, I hope above all else,

I am not as nice as I use to be to His children but that I am definitely more loving!

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What is your One Word for 2017 and how can you see God using it to grow you?


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Becas and Beads

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In my last post, Hermanas en Cristo , I mentioned we were donating 10% of all sales to a scholarship (beca) program for the women in the group and their daughters.  We are super excited to announce that…

WE HAVE OFFERED SCHOLARSHIPS TO FOUR OF THE WOMEN IN OUR GROUP!!!  They will be starting school in January!

Allow me to introduce our recipients:

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Rosa is a wife and mother of 3.  She will be studying English. Rosa would love to work as a translator for mission teams.

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Yine is a wife and mother of 3. She will be studying Pyschology.  This has been a dream of hers for many years.  

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Ruth graduated from high school in June.  She will be studying Languages and Tourism. She hopes to work within the Dominican Republic with tourist and as a translator.

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Yaselis is still in high school. She will be studying English on Saturday.  She wants to work with the mission teams as a translator.

We cannot be more proud of these 4 ladies, and, also, all of the women in the group.  THEY made this happen!  Talk about empowerment!  These women continue to meet each week to strengthen their faith and understanding of the Bible, encourage one another, and better themselves, each other, and their community. It is seriously a blessing and honor to be part of this group and to see it grow and strengthen! I truly feel that God is opening more opportunities globally for these women in 2017.

Remember, these scholarships are available because 10% of all jewelry sales are donated to our scholarship program.  If you would like to partner with these women, you can do so by:

  1. Praying for them.  Pray that God continues to capture their hearts and that they continue to serve Him, their families, and their community.
  2. Continuing to purchase their products.  Their paper bead jewelry is not only beautiful, it is also functional and affordable.
  3. Donate.  If you are interested in being a financial partner, please click the “donate” button at the right side of this page.  All donations are tax deductible.

 


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Hermanas en Cristo

Hermanas en Cristo is a group of women that love Jesus, and also make jewelry.

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This group is actually a combination of two groups that I have been working with while living here.  I had a group of women that made crafts once a week, and a small group that we formed about 2 years ago to study the bible.  We finally joined the two together for convenience.  What started with about 10 women is up to 32 now.

God has been working in this group in amazing ways!  We have women that are not (yet) Christ followers, who are now reading their Bibles regularly.  We have women who were not Christ followers before, but are now.  They attend church and are growing their relationship with God daily.  We have women who accepted Christ as young women who are reading the Bible with new eyes, have a new found excitement for His word, and are sharing it with the next generation.  It has been a true blessing and joy to experience all of this with them.  Some of the concepts/books that we have studied over the past year are: fruits of the spirit, the book of Hosea, the book of Ruth, and we are currently studying the book of Esther. It is a delight to see them enthusiastic about studying the Bible and excited as they see the Word come alive. When I am in conversation with them about their life, and they reference a theme or a lesson that they learned in one of our studies, my heart leaps.  To see them applying God’s truths to their lives is incredible!

We often talk about how our ladies are special and are held to a higher standard by being part of our group.  We talk about how we are examples to everyone about what God’s love looks like in walking, human form, and that it is a blessing and a responsibility.  These women have taught me more about love than I could ever teach them, and I KNOW that they have taught this community the same thing!

hec-specialtyThe ladies also work together to make insanely beautiful jewelry from paper!  It is so wonderful to see the pride they take in their work. The money that they make from their jewelry is used to help support their families, provide money for medical care, help purchase building supplies for their homes, and so many other uses. They are not receiving a handout.  They are a self-supported group, and they take great ownership and pride in that. Because they feel empowered, their confidence and self-esteem has soared.  I, seriously, cannot believe how God has used paper beads to teach SO much.

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I am proud to announce that their paper bead jewelry will now be used to offer scholarships to the women and their daughters in the group.  The World Bank did a study in which they learned that the way to break the cycle of poverty is through the women in a community.  Men, in poverty, will use their money on other things, such as cars, drugs, alcohol, or other women.  Women, on the other hand, will put 90% of their income back into their families. By educating women, you are empowering them to make better choices for their family and their community, and they will teach their children to do better as well.

So, that is what we are going to do with our little group of God loving women and our paper bead jewelry …

WE ARE GOING TO BREAK THE CYCLE OF POVERTY IN OUR COMMUNITY!

10% of all sales go into a university scholarship funds!!!

AND…

We will have a few of our first candidates starting college in JANUARY!!!

If you would like to support these ladies in their endeavor to change their community and bring the gospel to others, you can purchase their jewelry from our Facebook page, Hermanas en Cristo, or Instagram at hermanas_en_cristo.

Coming soon: Hermanas en Cristo etsy shop!!!

If you would like to make a tax-free donation to our scholarship fund, you can do so by clicking the donate button to the right of the page —->

Over the next few months, I want to introduce you to the faces of Hermanas en Cristo…

 


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Stilling the storm

My last post was about our New Normal .  I talked about some of the daily struggles and troubles that we have living in our third world community.  As much as there are so many wonderful and lovely things about our community, some days are more challenging than others.

The reason that I wanted to post about that is so that I could share this!  One morning, when we had gone days without power, and my frustration level was high and my patience was low, God spoke deep into my heart during my quiet time. I wanted to share this immediately but then life happened.  So, here it is:

I was reading Psalm 107:28-31

“28Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and He brought them out of their distress.
29He stilled the storm to a whisper;
The waves of the sea were hushed.”

As I read it, I realized that it stated that “He brought them out of their distress.” It did not say that He brought them out of their troubles.  Just the change in those two words were a game changer for me in that moment.  Because God hears our cries, He wants to help us.  However, in our troubles is where He grows us most!  So, He loves us enough to keep us in those places but comforts us through it!!!

I will be the first to admit that I lean more towards  pessimism than optimism.  I am naturally (unfortunately) a “glass is half-empty” kind of gal.  I am not one that immediately sees the best in people.  My admiration, respect, and trust is earned, not immediately given.  If I feel that your “outsides are not matching your insides”, I will immediately not trust you or pursue a relationship with you. I KNOW…I KNOW..I am supposed to think differently, but, for now, this is how I am wired.

The point to all of this is: Peace does not come naturally for me.  The “broken crazy” place in my mind is a storm of many emotions. These emotions can get me in trouble.  If left unchecked, they can seep out in unhealthy ways.  However, ifwhen… I call out to my Father, He will bring me out of this distress. When I am like a helium balloon floating around in the abyss, He ties me to His wrist, and He quiets the storms of my mind to a whisper. Then, and only then, can I hear Him in order for Him to grow me.

“30There were glad when it grew calm,
and He guided them to their desired haven.
31Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love,
And His wonderful deeds for men.”

In verse 30, I love how it is showing their joy.  And, oh my goodness, isn’t haven such a peaceful sounding place?

Lastly, but most importantly, they gave Him thanks for His unfailing love! Let us always remember to give thanks to the one who brings us out of the storm and places us on our desired haven.

When we first moved here and were trying to learn how to live with limited electricity, our neighbor said to us, “Con luces de calle, Gloria a Dios!  Sin luces de calle, Gloria a Dios!”  which roughly translates to “With city power, Glory to God! Without city power, Glory to God!”

Regardless of the challenges in our lives, we always need to cry out to God and be thankful for His unfailing love.  In that, even this natural pessimist can have peace and contentment!

 

 

 


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New Normal

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Living in a third world country, you learn patience, perseverance, and flexibility. Our first year here was just one big lesson in those three characteristics over and over and over. Learning how to live with inconsistent electricity, water, and internet took major adjustment for all of us.  There were many tears, frustrations, and sleepless hot nights.  Through the grace and mercy of God, we made it through that first year, and living with these inconsistency became normal.

Fast forward four years to now…

Since July, there have been new challenges with our electricity and internet, so we have been trying to adjust to a new normal.  One that has challenged and stretched us more than before.

Let me explain our power system here. When I say “city power”, this is the electricity that comes through the electric lines from the capital city. We have an inverter and batteries that provide electricity to us when “city power” is not on. However, the batteries only provide electricity for up to 4 hours…or 6 hours if we unplug our refrigerator. As you can imagine, we are super conservative with our electricity when living by battery power.

Mo thinks that we are getting more city power than before…when it comes on. Our electric lines are old, and there are more people living in our community than when they were initially installed. Because there are longer periods of time that our community is getting power, that means more work for the old lines. Plus, the power station in our community is old and not able to keep up with the additional work placed on the lines.  Something always seems to be breaking there also. Once the power comes in, blows something along the line or something at the power stations, we go without power for 2-5 days at a time while it is getting fixed. We rarely go a full week without something breaking. Few people pay an electric bill here, and most have spliced into the lines to hook up power to their homes.  Thus, the electric company doesn’t have extra money to replace the lines or whatever is broken or needs upgrading at the power station.

As for the internet, something is broken there as well. Our internet literally comes on for about 10 seconds, then goes out for 5-10 seconds.  All of my extremely patient friends can vouch for me on this one.  Trying to Skype, FaceTime, or have a phone call with us looks something like…say a few sentences, freeze, wait, and then repeat yourself. We also lose internet for short periods each day as well. It is frustrating at best!  The hardest part is that my daughters do school online. That means it can take a few days to get assignments submitted, and almost impossible for them to have their verbal testing with their teachers.  I am so thankful for understanding teachers and patient daughters.

A few weeks ago, we all just kind of broke. Months of struggling (on top of numerous other stresses that I won’t go into) finally just did us in. We were empty and had no more fight left in us at the moment.  Yes, God is our strength and our perseverance.  However, we also need to know when it is time for some good old-fashioned self-care!  Luckily, we were able to go away for the night, get hot showers with water pressure, solid electricity, and my girls were able to submit assignments through consistent internet. That is exactly what we needed to fill us back up.

Here we are.. working through and living in our new normal. We don’t have a happy heart every single day, but we are definitely working on it.  We are leaning into Him right now…I mean, we are leaning…and leaning…and leaning! Goodness, keep those prayers coming!

 


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Marriage Retreat

We recently held a marriage retreat in our community.  We had a total of 13 couples attend.  It was an amazing experience.  We spent Saturday and Sunday learning about God’s will for our marriage, ways that we can connect and invest in our marriage, how to deal with strife, and, basically, laughing, singing, and playing.

For lunch on Saturday, we had a picnic.

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For dinner that night, we had a romantic candlelit dinner.

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We played lots of games that required the couples to work together, and learned lots of ways to love on one another in order to put deposits in each other’s love bank.  It was beautiful to watch the couples come together to show that their marriage was important and worth investing the time to make it better.

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Pastor Tomas and Sonia, Pastor Jorge and Arelis, and Mo and I spoke on various topics such as: having Christ centered marriage, the top 5 needs of men and the top 5 needs of women, how to be intentional and make daily connections with your spouse, and how to deal with strife in your marriage. We all learned so much about one another. It was eye opening to see how marriages here have similar challenges as marriages in the US.  IMG_0702

I would also like to give a huge shoutout to Kristi, Jack, and all the jovens for all of their handwork of cooking, babysitting, and serving our couples during the retreat.  We couldn’t have done all of this without them.IMG_0740

 

Often times, we are asked, “How can I help with what you are doing?”

We have an “Ask” now.

All of the couples that attended this retreat have an opportunity to attend a marriage retreat in Punta Cana in October that will be held by missionary friends of ours.  They hold this retreat each year with a different topic to be discussed.  Mo and I were privileged enough to attend last year and were able to share that information in our marriage retreat.  It is a 3 day/2 night retreat held at an all-inclusive resort.

It is a rare opportunity for the couples in our community to be able to get away from the responsibilities of home and work to focus exclusively on one another.  It is a rare opportunity for the couples to be able to stay in an all-inclusive resort as well.  It is a rare opportunity for them to learn from and share with others outside of our community on what they can do to improve their marriages.

The “Ask”

In order for these couples to attend, we need sponsors.  The cost of the retreat is $275.  Each couple must pay $75 and provide their own transportation to and from Punta Cana.  We need individuals, couples, or groups to sponsor a couple for $200.  You will receive a picture of the couple that you are sponsoring so that you can pray for them and their marriage. You will truly be providing a opportunity of a lifetime for these couples.  You will be providing a opportunity for them to focus solely on one another without responsibilities to distract them.  You will be improving our community…one couple at a time!

If you or your small group would be willing to sponsor a couple, please message me at tamaraludlam@gmail.com.  (Please put “Couples Sponsorship” in the subject line.) We need these sponsorship as soon as possible so that we can begin paying deposits.  Deposits are due next week, with the remaining balance to be paid to the resort by October 1st.  The date of the retreat is October 7-9.  Your donation will be tax deductible as well.  Thank you in advance for your partnership!