asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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When satan is a punk, God shows off!

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This transition time is no joke! We are processing through so many different emotions right now. I woke up this morning overwhelmed with emotions that I was struggling to name.  Mostly, I was feeling empty and like a failure. I know that satan is using this time to try to steal my purpose and passion and also to tell me lies.  That’s who he is… he is a liar and a thief whose only purpose is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  He is such a punk!

Often, when I am empty, I allow satan to put blinders on me to show me all of the ways that I have failed, all of the times that I did not love well, all of the times that I allowed those rough, dark places in my heart to spill out from my mouth (Matthew 15:18).  Even though, I know better because…

GOD!

God is much more powerful than satan.  He is the strength when I am weak (2 Corinthians 12:10), He saved me and delights in me (Psalm 18:19), and He wants to fill me with joy (Psalm 16:11).  The thing is… I have to remember these things!  I have to readjust those blinders so they focus SOLELY ON HIM!

Also…God knows when we need a little push, a little encouragement, and little pep talk to say…”Nope, those lies are not MY truth about you. Allow me to show you”…

and He does because He is God.

THIS is how God encouraged me this morning:

Hermanas en Cristo has been given an amazing opportunity to share our story and sell our jewelry at a group market to support the empowerment of women.  Rosa and I will be attending and staying at a hotel in the Capital tomorrow night. This morning, I went to Rosa’s house to discuss the details of the next few days.

Before I started talking, Rosa said, “I want to tell you something.  Last night, I was laying in bed thinking how you have been an angel and a blessing in my life. The first time that I went to the beach, I went with you.  The first time that I will be staying in a hotel will be with you.  I am going to the university because of you. Most importantly, I have learned so much more about the Bible because of you.  God has used you as a blessing in my life.”

I was speechless.  All I could say was “thank you”!

As we all know, that was not me. That was GOD using ME in HER life…and vice versa!

I say all of this, not to show off, but, hopefully, to show how God can use us in such small ways that we may not see it ourselves.  You may be hearing lies in your own life that are telling you that you are just doing it all wrong.

But God knows better!!!

He created all of us with a purpose!  HIS PURPOSE!

If you are believing that punk satan and struggling to believe God’s truth about you, ask Him to show you!

He will…

Because…

He is so good like that!

 


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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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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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Punta Cana

IMG_6464We have been planning a vacation for our family, which includes the K’s, for several months now.  We knew that it would be the last time that we would all be able to get away as a family before Keely returned to the states in July.  We had all been setting aside our money and had planned to go the last week of May.

God had an even greater plan for us though!

About a month before our trip, I had lunch with a missionary friend named Jodi.  She asked me if we got an invitation from CHN for the missionary retreat in Punta Cana.  I told her that I knew nothing about it.  She said, “Let me see if I can get you an invitation”.  Long story short, she was able to get us one, and they gave one to the K’s too!

Get this…IT WAS THE EXACT WEEK that we had planned our trip.

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Worship was in this room each night. All of those people in the front in the dark shirts were our angels. Can you see their wings?

Let me explain what the CHN Getaway is, to the best of my knowledge.  CHN (CHRISTIAN HOSPITALITY NETWORK) is a group of angels that God sent down to earth to provide a respite to those who are working on the mission field.  Each year, these angels gather at a 4-or-5 star resort and invite all the missionaries from far and wide.  They give them 4 days and 3 nights to relax, rest, and rejuvenate.  During that time, they bring other angels that have names like “Counselor”, “Hair stylist”, “Photographer”, “Chiropractor”, “Masseuse”, “Pastor”, “Worship leader”, “Handmaiden”, “Helper”, and “Babysitter”.  Let’s also not forget all of the angels that stayed back in the States to help coordinate all of this, and those that donate money to make all of this possible.  All of these angels come together, in one form or another, to love and serve all the missionaries! Each night, we are able to worship in ENGLISH!  This year, the members of DALLAS BAY BAPTIST CHURCH came to sponsor and serve at this retreat.

Did I mention…that ALL OF THIS WAS FREE to us?!

IMG_6477 We stayed at the MELIA TROPICAL CARIBE RESORT. It was a beautiful resort with tons of restaurant options and a huge pool right by the beach.  It was so wonderful to sleep in air conditioning, watch cable TV, and shower with water pressure and hot water!  The staff at the Melia was very helpful, and many were able to speak English.  There was a gym available, as well as a spa with a steam room, sauna, and hot tub.  The  food was wonderful.  We loved all of the options available: Thai, Japanese, Italian, American, Dominican, Mexican, and French, as well as several buffets with numerous options. IMG_6503

The main goal of these Getaways is to pour into the missionaries.  Our team had not truly had time away from the community since February.  My family took a two day getaway recently to get logistics together for the Surf Camp in June, which was a working getaway.  The K’s, on the other hand, had not gotten away at all since February, and were running on what little reserve that they had left.  This trip could not have come at a better time.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me”  Matthew 25:35

That was us…and so many other missionaries that joined us this week.  We all came thirsty and were given ‘a cold drink of water”.  We were filled to overflowing, so that we are now able to return to our work and fill others with our overflow! All because of these angels that came to show us God’s love!  “Thank you” does not begin to show our gratitude for the love that each of these individuals gave to us!  We left feeling loved and appreciated…and relaxed and rejuvenated!

IMG_6475 God calls us to be His hands and feet here on earth

In Matthew 9, we see Jesus helping others and performing miracles. This was His way of showing us SINCERE LOVE.  His living example taught us how to go out and offer that to others. The Kingdom of God needs more “workers”, and God needs us to be His hands and feet more today than ever before. IMG_6474

For our retreat, the Chik-Fil-A company donated money to hire the team of masseuse at the resort to give daily foot massages.  There were also volunteers that were called “Handmaidens” that gave daily hand massages, while loving on and praying over us.  Seriously, these people have amazing hearts!  I love the imagery of this as well…The hands and feet of Jesus massaging the hands and feet of His children!

If anyone would like to get involved with CHN, click here for their website –>The Christian Hospitality Network.  The work that they are doing, their vision, and their love is truly a blessing for those of us on the mission field.

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That crazy, stressed out peacock at the top looks a little worse for the wear.  I am fearful that we looked a whole lot bit like him when we arrived at the resort.  Now, that fella on the bottom…the one with the beautiful, relaxed feathers…I am certain that we looked a whole lot more like him when we left!

 It’s much easier (and less scary looking) when we are serving our community if we look like the bottom fella than the top one!

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

And He does…because God is faithful to His promises!


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Las Terrenas and Samana

We often get questions about places to visit and stay while visiting the Dominican Republic.  Although we haven’t traveled the island as much as we would like, due to time and money, we have tried to visit different areas when possible.  I hope to start writing about these experiences more so that others can see the beautiful sites to see here in the DR.  This island truly has some breathtaking scenery!

Last year in February, the K’s, our friends, Julia and Jo, and my family went whale watching in Samana.  Each year between 3-5 thousand humpback whales migrate and mate through the waters of Samana during the months of January-March.  If you ever come here during those months, this is a DON’T MISS opportunity. There are several different boat tour companies available.  We used Whale Samana and were very pleased. We were fortunate enough to see a momma and baby whale breach, which was very exciting.  It just so happened that, during this time, Lexie was studying whales in her homeschooling.  She was able to take much that she learned and actually see it in person.  She loved sharing with us the things that she had learned.  It was a good education for all of us.

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We didn’t actually stay in Samana.  We stayed about 45 minutes away in Las Terrenas.  I love this community and think that it would be fun to live there someday.  It seems like a quaint little beach town.  There is a heavy European population so there are many restaurants from which to choose.

After searching on VRBO, I found a little casita within a short 5 minute walk to the beach.  After contacting the owner directly, he offered us an amazing discount so that we could afford to stay there.  It was large enough to accommodate 12 people, and also included a large den and kitchen with an outdoor living area and dining area.  We also had our own private pool. IMG_8812

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Las Terrenas breakfast

We enjoyed Las Terrenas so much that we returned this year with the K’s and Mo’s family.  The little casita from the year before was not available.  I did, however, find another one on VRBO –>HERE .  This owner also gave us a super good deal since we were missionaries.  It turned out to be PERFECT for our crew.  If you ever stay in Las Terrenas and have a large group, this one is very accommodating.  Each room has air conditioning and there are actually 3 separate little casitas, 2 with bedrooms and bathrooms and one with the kitchen and living room.  It also has an outdoor living room and outdoor dining area, and a private pool.  The manager was very helpful, and we had a lady that came to clean everyday.  You can also pay extra and have your own private chef to cook your meals if you prefer.  There are several grocery stores near by so we bought food and cook for ourselves.  We will definitely stay here again.IMG_4773

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Seriously, it was a little slice of paradise nestled within a 5 minute walk to the beach and about a 5 minute drive to restaurants and shopping.  Not sure why it’s called the little banana though…

We took this picture during our visit in 2014:Las Terrenas 2014

We tried to get a similar one this year:

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We are super sad that the 2016 picture will not include the K’s as they are both returning to the states this year.  However, we are excited to start new adventures with the new interns moving here when the K’s leave.  The K’s can definitely not be replaced, and they are truly like family in our hearts.  God is showing us how to open our hearts to welcome others into our lives though, because the fleshly part of me wants to cry and pout about them leaving.

After staying at these two place the past two years, we fell in love with the outdoor couches and living spaces.  We are currently working to finish our own little outdoor space also.  Although it isn’t finished, we have already gotten so much use out of it!IMG_5602

Las Terrenas is about 3 hours from the Santo Domingo airport, and definitely worth the extra ride time.  If you are looking to get away to a place that isn’t super touristy with a taste of a local beach town, this is perfect.  The beach is beautiful and not overcrowded.


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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?