asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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A Wall of Warriors

warriorOne thing that I hope everyone knows about me is that I am real.  What you see on social media will be the same thing that you see in my “real life”.  You won’t hear spiritual platitudes coming from my mouth.  I won’t say things just to placate you.  That is both a blessing and a curse.

The reason that I am saying this is because I need all of you to know that.  I hope to show as much of the good, bad, and ugly of me that is socially acceptable.  (Let’s all face it…only your closest of friends see it all!) My hope is that by being honest and vulnerable that you can see God at work.  My hope is that through my own personal struggles and angst that you can see God working in and through me.  My hope is that this gives you hope and points you to the one that seeks your heart!

Yesterday, I posted a plea for prayer on FB.  Over the past month, we have been getting attacked from all sides in ways that we have not made public.  The same thing happened when we were entering the mission field.  We have been a bit shocked that it is happening as we are leaving the field to enter a season of rest and healing. We feel that we aren’t much of a threat right now and couldn’t understand why we were under siege.

Hermanas en Cristo has been doing the War Room bible study, and our recent Women’s Retreat’s theme was “This is War!”, with our focus on becoming Prayer Warriors.  For anyone that has not read Priscilla Shirer’s book, Fervent, she talks about how satan attacks us in all areas of our life to distract us so that we will lose our focus on God. He uses problems in our marriage, our relationships and our finances to distract us.  He wants to take away our passion and our energy so we won’t have the strength to fight.  He uses others to remind us of who we were in our past. Once he distracts and weakens us, then he goes in for the kill.

That is where I was yesterday…distracted and depleted!

How can we fight against that?  Through prayer and scripture!!!

I heard God say, “Ask for help!  Surround your family with a Wall of Prayer Warriors!”.

I needed to “practice what I preach”.

As I reached out on FB, I was nervous for laying it out there for all to see.  I was weak, vulnerable, and sinking! I was nervous about being judged for “being weak in my faith” (<—don’t get me started on that! That is for another day, another post).

We were overwhelmed by love and support! We received so many private messages and words of encouragement, and so many people began praying for us. It did feel like we had a Wall of Prayer Warriors all around us.  It gave us strength to refocus on Him.

There are going to be times in our lives where we don’t have strength to fight alone.  God is always with us and always faithful.  I believe that is why He also provides us with Prayer Warriors to surround us and protect us as we refocus on Him.  God also uses these times to grow and mold us.  He will never let our pain occur in vain.  He always uses that for His good.  God is teaching me to be vulnerable, bold, and to live without fear of judgment. He is teaching me not to listen to what others say about who I am, but to believe who He says I am.  He is showing me that I am not the sum of all of my past mistakes and failures. I hope that my moments of weakness can serve as a testament for Him.  I hope that you can see that no one is perfect in their walk with Christ.  Yes, I definitely hope that you do not see a “perfect Christian”, but that you see a broken person that NEEDS Jesus! I hope that you can see the new story that God is beginning to weave into our lives. I hope to continue to focus and rest in Him.  I hope that you can see that He will always turn something beautiful from the ashes to glorify His name!


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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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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.

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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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Watch for the Helpers!

mr-rogersI have been sitting here staring at this blinking cursor trying to find the words to describe everything that has happened today.  I have prayed that God’s words fill me so that He can be glorified in all of this.  He has truly showed off, and I hope that I share it in a way that you can see His greatness.

We left Tennessee yesterday and drove down to Georgia, staying in a hotel in Stockbridge.  We only brought an overnight bag into the hotel with us with pajamas, a change of clothes, and minimal toiletries.  This morning, Mo went out to the car to get my tennis shoes.  He noticed the handle to the driver’s side looked a little janky but didn’t notice anything askew inside the car.  He thought that someone tried to break in, but they saw there was nothing inside to take and left.  Then, he popped the truck and walked around the back of the car.  As soon as he opened it, he realized how wrong he was!  ALL of our suitcases were gone.  Four large, overpacked suitcases filled with all of our clothes, 3 computers, and all of our Christmas gifts had been taken.

For reasons that can ONLY be described as God’s grace, Mo and I were immediately filled with peace.  It felt as if God said, “It will be ok.  It’s just stuff”.  Unfortunately, and way too often, our initial response in situations like this is anger, but, this time, God filled us with peace.  The girls, however, were distraught.  They felt violated and were so sad that ALL of their Christmas presents were gone.

As Mo was taking care of all of the phone calls, reports, and responsibilities, my job was to comfort the girls. God really showed up here by giving me a peace that was not of me, and giving me the words to help calm their hearts.  I told them,

“Just watch because you are about to witness God’s goodness”!

I just knew that God would take care of us and comfort us.  Immediately, I felt everyone’s prayers surrounding us.  Immediately, we started getting phone calls and comments on Facebook with people saying, “How can we help?”.  Throughout the day, we continued to be in awe and amazement as He weaved people into our lives that would envelope us in His love.

We were in tears all day…not from sadness, but humility.  I just want to share some of the ways that God showed off today!  I want to shout this from the rooftops so that He can be glorified for all to see!

*He gave my family laughter!  We had an incident in TN in which I ended up with only one boot.  When it happened, I was so frustrated and annoyed, but had to just let it go.  Well…the thieves now have that one boot in my suitcase.  PLUS, they only took ONE of my tennis shoes out of the trunk.  So, now, those idiots have one boot and one tennis shoe.  Ha! Ha!

*When we stopped to use the restroom at a rest stop, I locked the car doors.  Unfortunately, there is only ONE place that you can unlock the car…the door handle that was broken!  We were now locked out of the car.  We called Roadside Assistance but they never showed up.  For two hours, person after person tried to help us break into our rental car.  How ironic is that?  Over twenty people couldn’t break into our car, but the thieves were in and out in a blink of an eye.  (Special shoutout to Brian with GDOT who finally was able to get us into our car!)

*We met amazing people!  At the rest stop, we met an older couple that stayed around to help us.  They offered their cell phones, since ours were locked inside our car.  When I went into the information center, the lady came in with me.  She grabbed my hand and put money in it.  When I refused the money, she said this,

“When I was young, I was very poor.  Since then, I have always said that I wanted to help those that were in need.  It’s not    much but we want to help your family.  My husband and I are retired.  Each week, we help someone.  We love what your family is doing as missionaries.  Please, allow me to do this.”

I said, “But I don’t even know your name.”  

To which she replied, “It’s Sherry but that’s not important.”

With tears in my eyes, all I could say was “Thank you”.  My girls got to witness this!  What a gift that God gave them through this sweet old lady!

*I spoke with my friend, Lisa, throughout the day.  She kept saying, “You are so calm, and you are laughing.  I would not be so calm.”  I couldn’t be sad!  God was shining through every person that came into contact with us.  Soooo many people called or messaged us.  Soooo many people donated money to help us replace all of our missing items.  Sooo many people shared our post on Facebook to try to get help.  How could I be sad about that?  It was ONLY stuff!  God was using everyone to show my daughters that those things were not important.  It’s people…and it’s love…and it’s about community coming together to help those in need that are important.  It’s about showing satan that he will NOT win!

What satan meant for evil, God used for good!

*Pastor Brady (our senior pastor) and Pastor Daniel (our missions’ pastor) both called us and said, “We are here to help with anything that you need.”  Neither of them probably realize how much that meant us!  So many people from our church messaged us asking to help.  I just love my church family!

Tomorrow is our last day in the states.  We were hoping to be able to rest and spend the day relaxing with Mo’s parents.  Instead, we will be spending the day shopping and attempting to replace all of our missing items.  Once again, I can’t be sad about this.  Because of so many people’s goodness, we have money to help with this.

I want to end with this:

Matthew 6:25 states, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Sometimes it feels like we don’t have enough.  Sometimes relationships are hard.  Sometimes life feels completely overwhelming.  Sometimes we are overcome with depression and illness.  Sometimes it feels like we are all alone and no one cares.  I have spent so much of my life feeling like people were doing life AT me, but they weren’t.  Everyone is fighting a hard battle of their own.  We need to be gentle with each other and show compassion when possible.

I encourage each one of you to know that God promises that He will take care of His children.  He showed us today that we need not worry, and we need to put all of our trust in Him.  He will provide, whether it be spiritual, emotional, or physical needs.  He wants to fill our hearts with His love so that we are filled to overflowing…because, when we are overflowing, that love pours out to all of those around us.


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Community Walk

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Lately, in our community, we have experienced numerous deaths of our young people.  Mostly, it’s the young men that have been in motorcycle accidents or dying in their sleep.  When someone dies here, the entire community grieves with the family for 9 days.  They set up a tarp near the house, bring in tons of chair, and serve food to everyone.  It speaks to how closely knit our community is.  They share their happiness and their sadness with one another.

On several occasions, we have discussed how God is using our youth to grow our community.  You can visibly see God’s hand at work!  More and more of our “jovenes” (the word used for the teen to 20-something group) are accepting Christ and living their life for Him.  It’s truly remarkable to experience!

Recently, a young 20-something year old man died in his sleep.  While visiting the family, a group of us were discussing how many young people had passed away or been injured lately.  Our assistant pastor, Jorge, said that it feel like satan was attacking our community. His words really sank in for me.  It’s true…satan was attacking the group that was being used the most by God right now.

Oh, you know...just a random horse coming through

Oh, you know…just a random horse coming through

Pastor Tomas planned a community walk in which we would all pray protection over our community.  I remember doing something similar to this in the states, in which our pastor asked us to go out on a planned night and pray over our neighborhood.  My family walked our neighborhood together, stopped in front of each house, and prayed for the family that lived there.

IMG_3310What we experienced on Saturday in this community was nothing short of awe-inspiring!  The entire community met at a specified point and walked from one end of the community to the other.  Along the way, we sang songs.  We had a “band” set up on a trailer with speakers and a mic system.  We were definitely heard throughout the community and into the heavens!

IMG_3302One of the main songs that we sang stated: “God gave us *insert something here, such as our homes, our spouses, our children, etc*.  They are gifts from God, and you cannot have them satan.  Go away!”  They let him know, in no uncertain terms, that he would not take these things from us and was not welcome here!

IMG_3317At each barrio, we stopped, and Pastor Tomas or Pastor Jorge prayed over that community. They prayed for each individual group in each community…the churches, the jovenes, the children, the men, the women, the elderly, the businesses, the homes, etc!  Our community was covered with a blanket of prayers and protection.

To see everyone come together in such a powerful way showed the love that they have for one another and our community.  The faith that this tiny community has can move mountains.  It definitely should scare satan enough to send him packing his bags and high tailing it out of here!IMG_3309*I challenge each of you to give the best present possible to your neighbors and community this Christmas season:  the give of prayer!  Walk your communities, and pray for each home, business, and family.  I dare ya! 😉