asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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Waiting for God’s voice

listeningAs you know, we are studying the book of Esther in Hermanas en Cristo.  We continue to be in amazement and awe of how God used a 14 year old girl for such an important task.  What continues to come up in our weekly study is her character.

We have all agreed that she is patient, obedient, and wise beyond her years. In Chapter 7, THIS was truly her “time such as this” moment. We talked about how it was crucial that her words were perfect. If she said the wrong thing, it could be the death of her. If she spoke the correct words, she would save her Jewish people. We know one thing…

She did not speak before she had prayed about it AND waited for God’s voice.

I asked the women to share any experience they had had in which they prayed before speaking to someone about an important matter, or an experience in which that didn’t pray before speaking to someone. Also, what was the outcome?

One of the women told a story about how she needed to talk to her husband about something important so she prayed about it.  She, then, went to talk to him, and things went horrible wrong.  They ended up in a huge argument.  She was so confused so we went back to God and said “God, I prayed about this before talking to him.  Why did it end like this?”  She laughed and said that she heard God say,

“Yes, you prayed to me but you did not wait for my answer!”

Oh my goodness! What an wonderful example and reminder to us all!

We all need to let Esther be an example to us.  She prays, waits, and LISTENS to God before speaking.  She allowed God to prepare her mind and heart, while He also prepared the path, minds, and hearts of those in His great plan.  When He wants to use us for His purpose, He also wants us to know that it is in HIS strength, knowledge, and wisdom, not ours!

I don’t know about you, but I needed to hear this!


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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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I’m a little teapot

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First, I ask that everyone please pray for France and the families of the victims of the horrible attack yesterday.

Second, with all the chaos and pain in the world right now, I would like to share something positive and show the kindness that exists.

A few months back, I commented on a picture that one of my FB friends had posted. I have never met this person personally but “knew” her through a missionary group. She lives in China. Her post was a picture of a little teapot and a description. I love a good cup of tea and thought this looked precious, so I commented something similar to that. Almost immediately, she messaged me and asked for a shipping address because she wanted to send me a set. (For those of you that have asked, we don’t have an address so everything has to be sent to our church)

This simple, selfless act of kindness has touched my heart in more ways than she can imagine. This little teapot put the biggest smile on my face and my heart.

Why do I share this? Maybe…we could ALL be a little teapot to a stranger today! Maybe a simple, selfless act of kindness can put a smile on someone else’s face and heart today.

This is what God asked of His children…

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”

Matthew 25:40


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On being intentional and your one word…

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Each year, I write about the importance of having one word for the year.  I have written about it —> Here and Here.

Basically, I begin praying in November for God to give me a word that will direct my life, and mold me to be closer to His image the following year.  Each year, my words are spot on.  Typically, it makes no sense when He first sends it to me.  However, by the end of the year, it has helped me in ways that could only be of Him.  He uses this one word to inspire and guide me throughout the year.

My one word for last year was Intentional.  It really served as a reminder to be conscious in so many areas of my life.  God used this word in a big way to draw me closer to him and grow my relationship with him.  He also helped me to be more intentional about the words that I used in many situations in my life.

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I have a challenge for each of you reading this:

  1. Begin praying for God to send your “one word”
  2. Once you get it, write it on something (paper, rock, paint it, etc.)
  3. Post it on social media. (This will give you a reminder and accountability)

It is not always easy to hear what that word is.  Often, I want to decide for myself.  Don’t despair! When you have the one word for the year, you will know because you will have a peace around it.

Here are two wonderful websites that might encourage and help you:

myoneword.org

oneword365.com

I may possibly have my word for 2016 but am continuing to pray over this.  Good luck, and I can’t wait to hear what word God gives you and how He uses it in your life in 2016!

 


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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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That time when God said, “Be still and shut up”….

IMG_8008I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but I have been very quiet lately.  No Facebook, no Instagram, and no blog posts.

“Be still and know that I am God”  Psalm 46:10

For quite some time now, I have been vaguely hearing God ask me to “Be Still”.  In fact, we ask our mission teams to come up with one word that describes their trip, or a word that God is speaking to them.  With the last two teams, my word has been “Still”.  I wasn’t exactly sure what He meant because I couldn’t quite hear Him over all of the hullabaloo of my world.  Yes, my current culture is much, much louder than my passport culture.  However, that wasn’t the noise that was preventing me from hearing His voice.  It was too much scrolling, not enough quietude…too much talking, not enough listening…too much doing, not enough being.

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For many years, I have been wanting to do a silent retreat.  I have asked numerous friends to do one with me.  Each time, my lady friends laugh and say, “I don’t think that I could be quiet for that long.”  It’s true…when women get together, we just want to talk and talk, and then talk some more.  It’s one of our favorite things.  We have a love for words that men just can’t seem to understand.

I mentioned all of this to my best missionary friend here, and she thought that it was a fabulous idea.  She had been hearing God telling her to “Be Still” also.  So, we marked a weekend off on our calendars, made a plan, and met up for this interestingly, strange weekend of quiet.  To prepare for that weekend, I decided that it would be good to cut off social media to begin to quiet my mind.

Also, in complete transparency, we decided on 24 hours of silence.  I mean, we were at the beach without husbands, kids, or ministry pulling on us.  We couldn’t NOT talk at all…

We met on Friday at our little resort around lunchtime.  During lunch, we came up with our rules and schedule.  After lunch, there was no talking until lunchtime the next day.IMG_8010

During this time, we could pray and journal.  We agreed to no music (because that was more noise) and no books (because that was still words).  We stayed in the same room, and went for a walk early Saturday morning.  We ate dinner and breakfast together, and even sat beside each other in our lounge chairs on the beach.  ALL of this was done without talking.  FYI, eating with someone without talking is very difficult and awkward!

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We were both happily surprised at all that we were able to experience with God.  Once we cut out all of the distractions and commotion and sat quietly with Him, God spoke into our hearts.  In that short 24 hours period, He healed some wounds, spoke many truths, and showed us how He was molding us closer to His image.  Life is not perfect, and neither are we!  I am so thankful for that truth.  God loves His broken people because they know that they need Him.  I am thankful to be one of those broken people!

He showed me how He has provided for us here in the DR in so many ways. One of those ways was simply being able to go away with a friend that loves God, lives and understands this crazy life we are living, and loves so many of the things that I love. This friendship is so special to me.  I am in complete awe that God cares so much for me that He would send me a friend here in the DR to love.  That seems like such a minute detail in His grande plan. It was important to Him because it was important to me. I fell more in love with Him that weekend!IMG_7993IMG_7994After sitting in silence and coming back together to share what God had spoken to us, we did a craft.  Then we just filled the rest of the time with words.  Neither of us was ready for our time to come to an end, but life was calling.

I still haven’t ventured back into the Facebook or Instagram world yet.  I am sure that I will eventually because I miss seeing all of the people that I love.  I just don’t feel like it’s time yet.

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 Could you do a silent retreat?  We are considering doing another one in the Spring.  If you are interested in attending, let me know!



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Redeeming Love

I recently reread the book “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers.  I read it many years ago when I was still “doing church”, and, not yet, understanding “true relationship with Christ”.  I enjoyed the book for its love story quality back then, but truly fell in love with its biblical teachings this time around.

(Before I go any further, if you have not read this magnificent book, stop everything right now and go read it!  Yes, now…because this post will have spoilers in it.  Then you will regret not reading it first, and I will feel bad for ruining it for you.  So…save us all this heartache and go read it…then come back here!)

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In this story, Francine writes about a man named Michael Hosea, who truly has a heart for God.  He has been faithful to God and praying for God to send him a wife for many years.  One day, he sees a woman who immediately captivates his heart, and God tells him that this will be his wife.  Come to find out, she is a prostitute.  Michael questions God, “I have been faithful to you, and you send a prostitute to be my wife?”  However, being the man of God that he is, Michael begins to pursue her, and, eventually, he marries her.

His wife’s name is Sarah but she does not reveal this to him right away.  Throughout her life as a prostitute, her name is Angel.  Michael does not think this name suits her so he calls her many different names throughout the  story.

Because of all of the lies that she has been told about herself and the things that she believes about herself, she continues to run back to her old life over and over and over.  Each time, Michael pursues her and brings her back to his (their) home.  Until the final time that she leaves.  At that point, he knows that she must return to him on her own.  He continues to love and pray for her everyday, but he no longer actively pursues her.

Michael’s love for her was pure and faithful without expectations or pretense.  I caught myself falling madly in love with Michael!  Oh, to have someone love me the way that he loved Angel!!! Oh, to have a Michael Hosea!!!

After finishing the book, I began to study the book of Hosea.  I am in absolute adoration of how the Bible continues to come alive to me.  While studying Hosea, everything clicked!  Hosea is all of our stories.  We all tend to “prostitute” ourselves when we trade an intimate part of ourselves to something that is temporary…whether its our time, our thoughts, our love, or our bodies.

The more that I read, the more that I realize how intense God’s love is for us.  When we ‘prostitute’ ourselves to the things of this world, He continues to pursue us and call us home.  He has always wanted us in His arms, in His home, in a reconciled relationship with Him!

When I was searching for my identity through partying and men, He patiently pursued me.

When I searched for my identity in success, approval of others, awards and acknowledgments, and the need to acquire more and more material things, He no longer actively pursued me but did not allow these things to give me peace.

There was always an underlying discontent because I was settling for less than I was worth.  We do this when we allow negative thoughts to overtake us.  We do this when we fill our bodies full of junk food.  We do this when we settle for relationships that do not direct us first to God.

Much like Angel, I would continue to go back to my old life…to my old sins…because I had believed so many lies about who I was. I would go back thinking that, this time, I would find peace because I would finally fill the dark, empty places in my heart.  Each time, much like Angel, I would secretly wish that He would rescue me from myself.  I secretly wished that He would wrap me up in His arms, and I would finally…FINALLY…feel safe in this world.

It wasn’t until I looked my sins straight on that I was able to truly surrender my life to Him!

“Being found isn’t as beautiful if you don’t admit you were once lost” (#shereadstruth)

Then…and only then…was God able to show me where I belonged.  Only then, did I realize that HE was my Michael Hosea…

And HE was offering me true redeeming love!

This is something that He offers to all of us but we must be willing to accept it!

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 (If you would like a really great Hosea bible study, go here —>#shereadstruth )