asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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Meet Rosa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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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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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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 )


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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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You had me at juice…

IMG_4487This has been the best Valentine’s weekend ever!  It began by Mo surprising me with a night away together SIN KIDDOS in Santo Domingo on Friday night.  We don’t get dates very often here, so we get pretty excited when it happens.  I am afraid that we may have offended our kids a bit by peeling out of our driveway so quickly.  In hindsight, maybe we should have been a little more subtle…

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Due to some very kind people and being rewards’ members, we were able to stay at the Marriott in Santo Domingo.  We seriously felt like celebrities!

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We had lunch together and planned to have a nice dinner that night but we didn’t want to leave our room.  It was so luxurious and it smelled SO good and it had this humongous television.  I was having major cognitive dissonance!  Seriously, our two worlds were colliding!

The next day, after breakfast, we worked out at the hotel gym IN AIR CONDITIONING!  I think that I may go back and live there.

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We enjoy spending Valentine’s Day with our kiddos.  It’s just something that we usually do as a family.  In the states, we would cook a nice meal, use the nice china, sit at the formal dining room table, and wear fancy clothes.  Celebrating it here looks a little different.

When Mo and I returned on Saturday, the girls had made us the sweetest Valentine’s surprise.

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Then I made plates of sweet treats to give to my family my bible study ladies, and some of our friends in the community.

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On Sunday, Mo took the boys surfing.  After cleaning the house, the girls and I packed a picnic lunch, and went for a hike into the mountains.

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We also took our books and enos, and spent a couple of hours just relaxing where we were.  Seriously, when it was time to go, none of us wanted to leave!  Definitely something that we need to do again!

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Can you see the girls hanging in the background?

Monday nights are pretty busy in our house.  We moved our women’s bible study to 4:30 on Mondays, instead of Tuesdays.  Then, the Surf Ministry is at 6:30.  Normally, for bible study, I serve coffee/tea and some sort of sweet treat to the ladies.  Tonight, my sweet ladies got together before group and made natural juice and empanadas as a Valentine’s surprise for me.  A few of them brought gifts as well.  I could not believe it and felt so special and honored!

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This week is the week that Mo cooks dinner for the boys.  When he saw what the ladies had done, he jokingly said, “It’s because God loves you more.  My boys show up wondering what I am cooking for them!”  He cracks me up because this is one of his jokes.  Like, we are in competition for God’s love. Like, if something good happens, it’s because God loves that person more.

After the meeting, Mo told me that almost 40 boys came tonight and a couple of new boys joined the group.  One of the boys told him that he didn’t really care about going surfing. He came because he heard that he could learn more about God and the Bible.  Seriously…SUPER COOL!!!

God must love Mo more! :O)


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Experiencing God

For months, I have been feeling God pulling pushing me into leading a women’s bible study in our community.  This is something that I would not have felt worthy of doing even in the states…in English.  Now, God was asking me to do it here in the DR..in SPANISH!  Aye, mi Dios!!!  As I have stated before, my Spanish is not quite where I wish it were.  I often compare my Spanish to that of the other Domericans here, and I always fall short.  Of course, we all know…comparison My word for this year is Intention (which I will discuss more about this on another post).  One area that I really want to be intentional is my relationship with Christ and with other women.  A women’s bible study is the perfect place to practice this intentionality!  Although I prayed that God would just bypass me on leading this, He never did.  After finally surrendering, I prayed that He would calm my nerves and give me the courage to pursue this.  Once again, He did not fail me.  (Seriously, EVERY SINGLE TIME, I doubt!  When will I learn?)  My fear of not speaking Spanish well was holding me back.  But God knew better!  He replaced my fear with excitement and expectation.  Not expectation of the ladies that are attending, or even expectation of myself, but of the expectation that God is going to do something wonderful in this!

IMG_4323After praying and seeking counsel, I finally settled on the study by Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King, Experiencing God.  It’s about learning what God’s will is for your life and doing it.  It is also about developing a deeper relationship with Him. This excites me because half of the women that are invited are not currently attending church.  I remember being that woman.  I was lost for so many years.  I remember friends inviting me to church and truly experiencing God’s love for the first time.  I remember finally understanding that it had nothing to do with religion and EVERYTHING to do with a relationship with Him.  I want this for these ladies!  I want them to know how much God truly does love them, and how He has a plan for their lives.

When I first knew which ladies that God wanted me to invited, I was SO nervous to ask them.  Because half of these women are not currently attending church, I had no idea what they would say to me.  Imagine my surprise when each woman immediately said “yes” with a smile!

Yesterday, when I was passing out the workbooks, one of my friends, that is part of the group, asked who else was coming.  As I was telling her, she said “But they don’t go to church”.  I smiled and said, “I know!  Are you still coming?”.  She got so excited and, with a huge smile on her face, said “Claro!”, which means “Of course!”

Here’s another cool thing…when ordering the books, I miscounted and ordered one extra.  Of course, we all know that there are no accidents.  I am not sure, yet, which lady this extra book belongs to, but am waiting for God to point her out!

Tonight is just a meet and greet, and develop a plan.  I am so crazy excited!  I am making coffee and cookies!!!  We will be meeting on Tuesdays at 4:30.  We are on Atlantic time, which is one hour ahead of Eastern time and two hours ahead of Central time.   Could you guys stop and pray the following for us at that time, please?:

1)  That God comes before us and opens minds and hearts to hear His word

2)  That God deafens our ears to satan’s nasty lies so that we will not be discouraged.

3)  That God breaks down any language barrier so that we can all learn from one another

4)  That God fills each of us with the courage to carry out His will for our lives

5)  That God shows us the lady to which this extra book belongs

Thank you!!!