asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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When God speaks through peppermint mocha lattes…

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

invisible personThose close to me know that I struggle with invisibility…and now the whole interwebs know as well.  It’s a nagging childhood wound that doesn’t seem to want to go away.  It’s definitely a scar that satan uses to pull me down…to tell me that I don’t matter…and I am not good enough.

Today has been a really rough day for me.  For a few months now, we’ve been going nonstop, entertaining teams and guests, working our ministries, and dealing with numerous illnesses.  Seriously, I feel like this whacked out little peacock:

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Can you say ragged?

I know how important self-care is here on the mission field but have been too busy to slow down.  Satan knows this.  When I get rundown and tired, he wants to isolate me so that he can bully me with his mean ole words. He is such a jerk face!

However, tonight, I didn’t let that happen.  I immediately messaged the people in my life that I  love and trust.  I told them,

“Pray for me!  I am struggling with invisibility tonight and am wallowing in a huge pool of pity!”  

Each one of them sent crazy encouraging words to me, along with lots of prayers.Starbucks_Peppermint_Mocha

Earlier in the day, I had posted on Facebook how I needed someone to bring me a Starbucks peppermint mocha latte STAT…

…because that would cure my pity party and make me visible again. I am quite certain of this!

Right in the middle of the crisis in my mind, I got a message from a childhood friend that said, “I work at Starbucks and I want to send you all the things to make a peppermint mocha anytime that you want to!”

TEARS!!!

It felt like God spoke straight through her to say,

“I see you there, Tamara!  You are not invisible to me!”

God really does love me…

And He kicked satan’s butt with kind words from friends…

…and a Starbucks peppermint mocha!

You go, God!!!


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One Word 2015

OneWordLast year, I posted about having One Word for the year.  This is a word that God gives you to guide you through the year.  Last year’s word for me was Understanding.  It’s amazing how much God used this word to teach me so much.

I felt that I truly was taught to understand not only myself and my circumstances, but also so much about the world around me.  It was a year of breaking down and building back up of self.  It was a year of taking more time to listen, so that I could truly learn from and about those around me.  It’s amazing how God knows exactly which word that He wants to use to mold and shape me more and more into His image.

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As always, I began praying for my word for this year in November of last year.  I got NOTHING for the longest time!  Finally, close to the end of January, my word came to me.  The word for this year is… Intention!  This year, I want to be more cognitive to “live less out of habit and more out of intent”.  I am focusing on all aspects of my life: spiritually, physically, relationally, and mentally.

Spiritually

It’s amazing how, when I first started focusing on this word, I wondered what this journey would look like. I began by getting up about an hour before the rest of my family to spend very quiet time with the Lord.  I knew that this was going to be tough for me because I love morning sleep-ins!  However, most days, I am able to get up, start the coffee, and study His word.  I now love this time because my house and my community is quiet so I can’t be easily distracted and am able to focus.

In order to be more intentional in this area, I finally submitted to something that God has been pushing me to do…the women’s bible study.  I cannot wait to share more about what God is doing with this small group of women in my community (but that is another blog post).  I am truly in complete admiration of the Lord right now!

Physically

Last year, I packed on an extra 10 pounds to the already too many extra ones that I have have been carrying around!  My goal is to get moving every day in some form or fashion.  I haven’t been completely successful in this so far, but I am going by the 12 step rule…progress, not perfection.  Although my daughters now do online schooling, I still teach them Bible and PE, so I have built-in workout partners that have to do what I tell them to do.  Score!  In all seriousness, we have really enjoyed working out together, and learning new exercises.

I also want to be more intentional about what I put in my body, as well as what I serve my family.  Thanks to Pinterest, I am able to find healthy, yummy recipes that my family likes.

Relationally

As I get older, I realize that I am becoming more and more of an introvert.  It’s not that I don’t like people and crowds.  I actually love them.  It’s just that I need to be alone to recharge afterwards.  I have to be conscious to keep a balance between the two.

This year, I want to intentionally invest in my relationship with my husband and children, and those in my life that love and invest in me.  I want relationships that have meaning and value.  I want to be intentional about loving others.

Mentally

As I mentioned, last year was a huge time of understanding truths in my life.  Many of these lessons were hard to learn but the growth made it all worth it.  I feel like a flower garden that had many weeds interwoven throughout it.  God came along and ripped out weeds that were preventing growth and were slowly killing anything from blooming.  For a long time, it looked bear.  Finally, the flowers are beginning to bloom in so many different and vibrant colors.  With that, comes peace.  I am now so protective over that peace, and want to guard it with all that I have.  I know the things in my life that help me to stay balanced and the things that keep me sane.  I want to intentionally focus on those things.

happiness jar

In our house, we started this “Happiness Jar” to write small things throughout the year that made us happy.  I cannot wait to see what “living more intentionally” will do in all our lives.  My hope is that this intentional living will fill that jar to overflowing!

What is your word for this year?


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When it’s overwhelmingly hard…

Often, when we get away from our community for a break, I will post pictures of us relaxing on the beach.  It never fails that someone will make a comment like, “Oh yeah, your life is so hard”!

For the most part, we are incredibly grateful to be living here.  We have wonderful neighbors that genuinely love us.  We have numerous beaches within an hour and a half away.  We get to host so many fascinating people that come here to serve our community.  I love working with the kids in the library at the school.  Plus, we have really cute goats, chickens, and dogs.  Seriously, how can we not be grateful for all of those things…and more?

Yes, all of that is awesome.  And those pics on the beach…well…those don’t tell the whole story.  Those are pics of us relaxing…of us “checking out”…of us recharging.  You typically won’t find photos of our “real” life.  Those photos aren’t always very pretty, like when I am sending photos of goat poop to my goat guru, Arden.  Yeah, those would definitely not make for a nice glossy photo.

The thing about living in the middle of nowhere in a 3rd world country is sometimes…it’s overwhelmingly hard!  This week I have had a sadness that I cannot even put into words.  It has literally been a paralyzing sadness.  Sometimes we forget that we live with poverty.  Poverty is not just a state of one’s bank account.  Poverty is a way of life and a way of thinking.  Almost always…Poverty sucks!  Poverty breaks our hearts.  This week has reminded of us of how our neighbors, who have become like family, have lived their entire lives.

First, we are in one of the worst droughts they have had here in years.  When we are low on rainfall, the community typically does not have water.  For over a week, there has not been water in my neighbors’ houses.  Because our church had the money to put in a cistern, my family was only without water for one day.  My neighbors didn’t have that luxury, and we never heard them complain.  They were bathing and doing laundry in what little water was left in the river.  This is something that, because of poverty, they are accustomed to.  We were very glad that we were able to offer jugs of water to them.  However, it still broke our hearts that this is the 21st century, and people are still living, at times, without running water in their homes.

Then we had a situation with a family in the community.  I really don’t want to go into details to protect their privacy.  I will say that it is a situation that literally hurt our hearts.  Mo and the dad were able to sit down and talk, and, hopefully, find a solution.  So much of this could be different if poverty thinking was not in place.  As the saying goes,

“When you know better, you do better”

Please pray that this will be the outcome for this particular situation because our hearts are aching for them.

Then, we had 2 goats get sick.  One of them was our pregnant momma goat.  We have tried NUMEROUS times to find a vet to come out here.  Due to living in the middle of nowhere, no one wants to come help.  We have gotten by fairly well by using Google, books, and texting pictures of EVERYTHING goat to our goat guru in the states.  That was working fine until yesterday, when I walked into the goat house to see four precious little dead baby goats laying all over the floor, with my momma goat confused and trying to care for them.  Then she started getting sicker and sicker.  We frantically tried to get a vet to come help.  About 9:00 last night, a young man in the community found a vet that could come today around 8:30.  We woke up this morning to a goat that was progressively getting worse and worse…and a vet that never showed up.  We tried to call a few vets but they didn’t answer.  We can’t leave messages because our cell phones only work in certain areas in the community.  In order to receive calls, we have to be in those areas, which are not near our home.  We couldn’t take our goat anywhere because our truck is in the shop AGAIN.  We literally felt helpless.  It made me question how many times have our neighbors felt like this because options are limited when funds are limited as well.

The capital city is about an hour or so away from our house.  I asked Mo and Lauren, “Please go into the city and don’t come back until you have a vet.”.  Literally…that was the only option that we had!  After much begging and pleading by Lauren at the Agrovet, we had a vet at our house around 6:00 pm.  He was wonderful and helpful and kind and understanding.  He was our lifesaver…and quite possibly, Ribo’s lifesaver.  She is not out of the woods yet.  He said that the next 48 hours are crucial.  Had it not been for his willingness to come out here, she definitely would have died.

This entire week has been overwhelmingly hard!  This week I have had a difficult time finding the silver lining in many things.  I know God has a plan for everything.  I know that God carried me through the entire week because, honestly, I could not have made it on my own.  I am definitely a 1st world girl learning how to live through these 3rd world issues.   Along the way, my heart is being broken into a million pieces…not just for my family, but all of those that we are doing life with in this community.  My neighbors and friends that live this life every day of their life inspire me to lean more and more into our Lord and Savior for my strength every single day.  Please pray for our community and that our family continues to see life through their eyes.

Oh…and BOTH of our propane tanks just ran out of gas.

Oh my word…what am I going to do about coffee in the morning?…..


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Yoga

Women-Are-More-Stressed-by-the-Marriage-Men-by-WorkLiving in a third world country can be wonderfully exhilarating and overwhelmingly stressful on a marriage.  That is exactly what we have felt in the almost two years that we have lived here.  On one hand, our neighbors have taught us how to be more intentional with the relationships in our lives.  On the other hand, we can get so overwhelmed and exhausted that, once night falls, we have no words left to share with one another.  In other words, we just want to be silent, which isn’t good for keeping communication open in a marriage.  Our marriage has definitely taken a beating, and we have felt the effects of it.  Luckily, we have a wonderful support system that has been praying over our marriage and supporting us in every way possible.  (Believe me, we feel your prayers!)

no kidsWe don’t have the privileges that we had in the states of having our “once a week date night” or our weekend getaways to help us connect.  Thanks to a generous donation from friends of ours, Mo and I are taking a weekend trip…JUST THE TWO OF US! (No kids, dogs, goats, chickens, neighbors, etc.!)  Kristi and Keely are taking care of our girls so that we can get away ALONE for the first time in TWO years!  Did I mention that we are going ALONE?

Here’s the really fun part…we wanted to do something different…to have an experience that we haven’t had before or possibly wouldn’t have if we didn’t live here.  We are going to a yoga retreat in the mountains of Jarabacoa.  I happened upon this place on Facebook of all places.  I know it’s must be legit if it is on Facebook, because the Book don’t lie!  I told Mo about it without really…investigating it…thoroughly.  Being the trusting husband that he is, he quickly agreed that it sounded fun.  I made reservations right away and didn’t think too much into it until this week.  As I went to the website, I began realizing…”Oh my, what have I gotten us into!”.  It is like a REAL Yoga thing, with hard poses and meditation and quietness and all.  The website keeps emphasizing “Silence” and “Quiet”.  I’m not really sure how we are suppose to connect and communicate amongst all of their “silence” and “quiet”.

Then, I realized…”Oh, it’s a vegetarian only kinda place too”.  At this point, I kinda panicked because my husband is a carnivore!  No, seriously, when we first got married, I made this wonderful meal of various kind of vegetables (sans meat).  I was so proud of my cooking skills, and that I was providing a healthy meal for my husband.  He sat down, looked around the table, and said “Where’s the rest?  Where’s the meat?”.  Needless to say, for the last almost 18 years, there is always meat with every meal.

silenceAt this point, I decided it was time to break the news to Mo.  He was actually a bit TOO excited about the “silent” and “quiet” part.  Not sure how he expects us to connect if I can’t talk to him, but he seems to think it’s a great idea.  I really don’t quite understand him.

yogaThe REAL Yoga part has him a bit frightened.  I mean, he did once get kicked out of our dance school because they said that he wasn’t “cut out for it”, aka “you ain’t got no coordination, white boy”.  I think he had flashbacks of that fateful night.

vegetarianLastly, he handled the vegetarian thing very well, although he is planning to pack a little stash of beef jerky for our room.  His only question was:  “What about coffee?  Do vegetarians drink coffee?”.  I said that I think they do, since it comes from a bean.  Goodness, I sure hope so.  (I am packing my coffee and coffeepot…just in case.)

yoga retreatThe place is in the mountains of Jarabacoa and appears to be absolutely beautiful.  Despite a “few” reservations, we are getting really excited!  We leave tomorrow.  Everyone say a few prayers for us please.

Seriously, we are going to be sooooo zen when we return!  Oh, and did I mention that we are going ALONE?!!!


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God, thank you for coffee creamer

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In a bible study that I attended in the states, there was a single lady in the group.  She spoke one day about how much she wanted a husband.  However, she accepted that God was not ready to bless her with The One yet.  It was during this time that she decided that she would allow God to “court” her.  She wanted to be aware of the ways in which God blessed her, loved on her, rubbed salve over those hurt places in her heart, ways in which He comforted her loneliness, and healed her brokenness.  She began to notice beautiful sunrises and sunsets that she shared with Him.  She noticed how He would use a coworker to place a cup of coffee on her desk.  She noticed how He would gently show her broken places in her heart that needed repairing.  In essence, everything was God’s way of delighting in her and preparing her for His plan in her life.  She was so thankful and sang His praises with tears in her eyes.

Her words have come to me many times since then…

“Find ways in which God is courting you”

I have been trying to be conscious of the ways in which He delights in me and ways that He wants to make my heart smile.  The land in which I currently live is stunningly gorgeous so it’s very easy to see the beautiful landscape that He prepared for me.  I noticed when He answered my prayers for rain to coat the dry, dusty terrain from our current drought.  I also noticed how, in the supermarket the other day, Mo found this:

Well, hello, deliciousness!

Well, hello there, deliciousness!

Yes, my husband knows how to still court me too!  Liquid coffee creamer is something that I have missed sooooo much, so my heart feels like it is being kissed every morning when I drink my coffee.

It is so easy for me to see the physical things and say “Thank you so much, God!”

How about the things that are not physical…that I can’t see or touch?  Am I noticing those things also?

This week, I got a call from our women’s minister at our stateside church.  She told me that they had arranged for me to come to the women’s retreat that is taking place in September.  To say that I was overjoyed is an understatement!  Ever since I heard about this retreat, I have been so sad that I wasn’t able to go.

Now…this is a HUGE change from where I once was and, for that, I am thankful…

Alice_fetal_positionPrior to this time in my life, the thought of going to a women’s retreat would cause me to break out in hives, my breathing would become labored, and my palms would sweat!  I would rather sit in the corner in fetal position poking myself in the eyes with a pencil (<–dramatic effect intended there).

Relationships with women have always been very difficult for me.  Quite honestly, I don’t understand them AT ALL.  Women have never been a “safe” place for me.  With all these “mommy wars” going on, relationships with women have always felt like some kind of competition that I did not sign up for and was not equipped for.  It always felt like women were doing life AT me.  (Glennon Melton wrote exactly how I feel in THIS POST .)  

truthGod wanted to heal this in me and has been teaching me differently by sending women into my life that now speak truths to me, instead of the lies that I believed for so long.  They have loved me for being me.  They have guided me through this crazy maze called “girlfriends”, pointing me to His word and sitting patiently with me when I have wanted to run because it’s JUST SO HARD!

Most importantly, when God sits with me in the mornings, He delights in me.  He tells me, through His word, that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14).  God is my friend, my homie, and my heart!  He knew that He was enough for me…but then He added my husband…and then my kids.  God knew what I needed next was girlfriends but He also knew that He needed to prepare my heart for them.  He taught me how to open my heart to relationships with women.  For this,  I am eternally grateful!

I am so thankful that God sent my church to arrange for me to attend this retreat!  I cannot wait to spend this time with all of these ladies while we sink into His word and pour into each other’s lives.

Thank you, Lord, for loving me enough to show me how to love and receive love from others!!!

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IN WHAT WAYS HAVE YOU NOTICED GOD COURTING YOU LATELY?


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Reminders

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

2Peter 1:2

andWhen I was in real estate, I went to a seminar where the speaker said, “It’s time to take the word ‘but’ out of our vocabulary and replace it with ‘and’, because ‘but’ usually means something negative is following.  Nothing is either good or bad, but most stuff is both.  The word ‘and’ shows that it’s both.”

That being said….

I have these neighbors.  They are super sweet AND they are driving me crazy.  Here’s why…they play the same song over and over and over for HOURS every. single. day. at full volume.  It’s so annoying!

silence of the lambsIn the beginning, I was concerned that they were holding someone hostage and sewing little jackets out of skin for the kids in the community.  Then I realized that only happened in Silence of the Lambs and wasn’t real life, so I let that theory go…for the most part.

crazy_insane_womanThen I settled on the fact that they wanted my sanity.  Somedays, I think they are winning.  My family thinks it funny.  My kids even walk up to me and start singing it…and laughing!  I have known for years that those two were plotting for my sanity so it’s no big surprise that they are jumping on the bandwagon on this one.

Red bow on fingerThen…I came up with another theory.  *Maybe* God is using this as a reminder to me.  Most days I am sure that He thinks that I am plotting for His sanity…

like on the days when I cannot respond in kindness…for the 150 millionth time…

or when I say all these nasty, negative things to myself….for the 150 millionth time…

or when I harbor anger, resentment, jealousy, etc against others…for the 150 millionth time..

grace*Maybe* He just wants to remind me that I annoy Him on a daily basis as well….AND…AND…AND…He gives me GRACE anyway.

*Maybe* He wants to remind me to give grace to others as well.

So, when you are annoyed because…

your neighbors’ dog poops in your yard for the 150 millionth time…

or your husband breathes too loud for the 150 millionth time…

or your kids lick the glass at the store for the 150 millionth time (maybe that only happened to me when my kids were young)…

or you think that your best friend’s hair/clothes/husband/house/kids/life is better than yours for the 150 millionth time…

or your neighbors are sewing little jackets out of skin playing the same some over and over and over for the 150th millionth time…

Just stop, breathe, and thank God for the reminder…

Give grace because it was first given to you.


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Why fast?

Abraham being obedient

Abraham being obedient

You know how God said to Abraham…

“Hey, I need you to pack up your family and all of your stuff and all of your goats and go to this new land.  I can’t really tell you why right now but I just need you to go, ok?”…

…and He went!

Jonah not being obedient

Jonah not being obedient

Then God said to Jonah…

“Hey, I need to you to go to Nineveh and tell all the people there that they are really screwing up and need to do better.”

…and then Jonah fled…….FROM GOD!!!

So God had his friend, The Whale, gobble him up help Jonah change his mind.

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My heart had begun to resemble Jonah’s more than it had Abraham’s.  I kept feeling myself fleeing.

At a women’s conference that I once attended, the speaker was discussing the importance to spending our first minutes of our day with God.  She described it like this…

“Think of God coming to your house every day to chat and have coffee with you.  He shows up everyday, takes a seat beside your favorite chair, and waits for you to sit with him.  You run to the kitchen, get him a cup of coffee, and tell him that you will be right back after you {insert anything here}.  Then, you jump in the shower, make the kids breakfast, start getting ready, etc.  Each time you pass God sitting in the chair drinking the coffee, you say ‘I’ll be right back’.  As you are grabbing your keys to leave for work, you look over and remember that He is waiting for you.  So, you say, ‘As soon as I get home from work, I will sit with you’….except you don’t…because, well, life…”

I saw God sitting there…quietly sipping His coffee…waiting for ME!  But, I knew what He wanted.  He wanted to speak some truths to me that I didn’t want to hear.  So, I was fleeing…

“Hold on, God…I’ll be right back after I (check FB, look on Instagram, numb myself silly with sugar, etc) 

That is why  I chose to fast.

I knew that it was time to spend some serious one-on-one time with God.  In order to do that, I had to remove things that I used to distract or medicate myself.

So, what did I learn?

Evil sugar!

Evil sugar!

1)  I learned that giving up sugar was harder than social media.  The thing about fasting is that is shouldn’t be easy.  It is designed to make you uncomfortable so that you will reach to God for strength…instead of Oreos.  Here’s the thing: Oreos filled the immediate discomfort but then left me empty later.  When I reach for Him, I have to slow down, be purposeful, and BE STILL.  This takes longer but fills empty places in my heart.

scrolling 

2)  I am addicted to….scrolling stuff!  It is what I do to “check out”.  I don’t care what I am scrolling…just, please, let me check out for a bit and  scroll something so I don’t have to engage!  By taking this element out, I spent time with those that I love and that love me back.

you are loved

3) It’s ok to miss out, and FB and Instagram are liars!  Living on a island, FB and Instagram have been my connections to the “outside world”.  I was concerned that I would feel lonely or feel like I was “missing out”.  Quite honestly, FB and Instagram have been lying to me.  I don’t need “likes” to know that I am worthy…to know that I am liked…or loved.  Those that know and love me still found ways to communicate with me and show their love.  However, and this is the biggie, God is showing me that I am worthy in HIS eyes.  God is helping me to understand that my identity and worth need to come from Him.  I am STILL struggling with this.  As someone that has always only wanted to be told that I am worthy, important, and special, I am STILL seeking that from outside sources.  It is a need that I have always yearned to be met.  Slowly, I am trying to understand that it can finally be met by the only one that has ever shown me unconditional love…Jesus Christ. I wish that I could say that I believe this completely, but the lies that I have been told oftentimes speak louder than the truths that I am learning.  I am so vulnerable in this area and am clinging to God’s strength in this.balancing_life

4) Balance!!!  It is so important.  There are many areas of my life that I need to focus on daily, weekly, monthly.  If I forget one, I am out of balance.  During my fast, I realized that I had not been feeding my creative side.  This is an important side of what refuels me.  I have several things that I found on Pinterest and made.  I am hoping to share some of these on future blog posts.  I also spent a lot of time following up on blogs that I read, finishing books that I started, and studying various scriptures.  I did A LOT of journalling.

Weekly Plan

Weekly Plan

I found this fabulous WEEKLY PLANNER  to help me remember to keep my life in balance.  I absolutely love this because it makes me be more intentional about all areas of my life that need to be nurtured.

coke

5) The Coke here is still addictive!  Anyone that has ever visited can attest to this.  It is made with real sugar cane and sold in glass bottles.  CrAzY addictive!  I didn’t even care about Coke in the states and rarely drank it…but here…Oh my!!!

So, in a nutshell, that’s how my fast went.  There were times that I struggled…hard.  Those were the times that I just had to lean into God.  There was never a time, though, that I wanted to quit.  During that time, I had a peace about me.  Because I didn’t hear all the voices of the Internet, I could hear HIS voice more clearly.  I truly had to turn off all of the noises of the Internet so that I could slow down, relax, and hear His voice to help me remember mine.  I was a bit sad when it ended, and even considered extending it for 10 more days…

In the end…it was the Coke’s fault….