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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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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A grateful heart

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Somedays I wake up and have such a grateful heart. I wish that I could say that happens every single day but, to be completely transparent, it doesn’t. Somedays, I wake up and stumble to the kitchen begging for coffee!  On the days that it does, I think about how overwhelming grateful (and undeserving) we are of God asking our family to come here to the DR to be His helpers to this beautiful area

 

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Then I think about ALL of you back in the States that do so much to support God’s plan here. Many of you have covered us in prayers, have given money, and have collected shoes, books, clothes, school supplies, toys, etc. for the community.

 

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We have been working on the library for the past few weeks. I get butterflies in my stomach and tears in my eyes when I think about seeing it completed, with books in it and the littles reading these books or getting to read books to them. It sometimes just overwhelms me with happiness!

All of this to say….THANK YOU! Thank you to every single person that has prayed for us. We feel them! We NEED them! Spiritual warfare is real, and satan has been attacking us from all angles lately.

Thank you to every single person that has supported our family or our church, New Vision Baptist Church,  financially.  Without these monetary donations, NONE of this could happen!

Thank you to every single person that has sent us gifts, care packages, or notes of support to let us know that SO many of you back in the States are thinking about us and loving us from afar.

Thank you to every single person that saw a need and decided to take action by starting a drive to collect needed items here.

We truly know that ALL of you are God’s hands and feet.  Your mission field in the States is an extension of ours here!

Last, but not least, we want to thank the pastors and staff at New Vision Baptist for ALL that you have done for our family.  So many of you have come to visit us, have prayed with us, listened to us, been a shoulder for me to cry on, and such a strong support system in so many ways.  There have been so many of you that have sent emails, FB messages, text messages, or notes of encouragement.  Thank you!

We would like to personally thank Daniel Koon, our missions’ pastor, for all of the HOURS that he has spent with us on Skype, whether it’s just to listen or pray, or to talk through plans for a project.  Most importantly, your wife, Lara, and you have helped us feel heard and valued.  Thank you, Daniel!


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Donde he estado?

nsf checkSomeone once told me that our emotions and relationships are like a bank account.  We naturally make withdrawals daily.  However, if we don’t make deposits…then we will get overdrawn.

That’s exactly where I was…I was feeling a tad bit overdrawn.

Living in a country that worships much differently than you do, and in which, there is a language barrier, church can be a difficult place to grow your faith.  I no longer pray to understand what the pastor is saying.  Now I just pray for God to allow me to feel His presence around me.  My relationship with God is much more intentional and purposeful here.  The time with Him is much more valuable and necessary.  I am no longer being fed the way that I was when I went to the church in the states….

…and I have been feeling distant from Him.stressed out woman

I find myself trying not to feel the things that I am feeling.  I find myself trying to fill my time and body with things that distract me and allow me not to feel.

“Love yourself enough to do whatever is needed to care for your soul”

(from Revealing Jesus by Darlene Zschech)

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So…

I am halfway through a 40 Day Fast that ends on February 21st.  This is not a fast in which I don’t eat for 40 days.  This is a fast from things that I was using to numb myself…so that I could be distracted and not feel.  These things also kept me from growing my relationship with Christ.

This is what it looks like:

~No FB/Instagram/Twitter (I am still on Pinterest but she is pressing her luck and may be eliminated as well because I catch myself just wanting to SCROLL SOMETHING!)

*I would like to thank all of my sweet friends that have sent messages of genuine concern for my well-being.  Many of you have noticed that I have not been on FB lately and sent messages asking if everything is OK.  Truly…super sweet…thank you!

**Just so you know, I still get FB messages through Messenger which sends them straight to my phone like a text message.  When I respond to your message, I am not actually on FB, so I am not breaking my fast. AND, my blog post automatically goes to FB/Twitter.

~No sugar (OH, sweet Jesus…what was I thinking???)

~No soda (In the states, I rarely drank Cokes but, here….they put crack in this stuff!  It’s made with real sugar cane and is highly addictive to me.  Don’t try detoxing from this stuff at home, kids…It ain’t pretty!)

Those are the things that I have been eliminating but I have been adding things that are good for me as well…

~Minimum of 4 fruits/veggies a day

~80 oz. of water a day

~Exercise 6 days a week with 3 of those days being running

For my mind, body, and soul to feel strong, I need to spend time with people that love me, time creating beautiful things (that’s why Pinterest is allowed), thinking time, time to read, time to strengthen my body…and, most importantly….time with God.  These are ways that I make deposits.

During this time, I have been trying to reconnect with myself and God.  I have been praying and journalling and reading and spending time with those that I love, at home and in my community. I have been building a strong body, mind, and soul.  I have been listening for God’s voice and asking Him for guidance.  I have been filling myself with things that feel good and are good for me.

I want to remember that I am a child of God…that is fearfully and wonderfully made.  Somewhere along this journey, I forgot that.  I forgot to look at the beauty that God created in me…and have only been seeing the cracks and jagged, broken edges.

During this time, I have been asking God to empty me of me…

…and fill me with Him…

…That seems like a better option than filling myself full of Oreos…

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Please pray with and for me during this time. Have you ever done a fast?  If so, how did it go? 


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One Word

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Several years ago, I read an article about choosing one word to keep with you for the entire year.   I have tried to find that article on the internet numerous times but can’t find it.  There are NUMEROUS websites and blogs that now discuss this ONE WORD philosophy.  There is actually a book that was written about it.

I don’t choose this word.  I usually start praying in November for God to show me the word for the following year.  Yes, in NOVEMBER…because I am stubborn!  I usually want to tell God what I think the word should be…over and over again.  The article stated that you will know when it is God’s word.  It may not make sense at the time but will by the end of the year.

This word would be something that you focus on, pray about, and live towards for that year.  As you focus on it, God will put you in situations in which He can teach you how this ONE WORD is important in your life…or ways in which He is using it to help you become more Christlike.  He wants to use this word to mold you.  Throughout the year, during my morning devotional time, He would point me to scripture surrounding this ONE WORD.  Seriously,by the end of the year, I GOT it!  I understood why God put that particular word in my path.

Forgive

Two years ago, the word was FORGIVENESS.  I have made it no secret that, for many years, I struggled with unforgiveness.  When someone hurt me or I felt wronged by someone, I would hold a grudge…for years!  There are a few relationships in my life that have always be difficult.  Relationships that I could not let go of the hurt.  I could not forgive.  I had bundled up all of my anger, resentment, and unforgiveness into a tattered little package, stuck a black bow on it, and kept it on display as a reminder of my hurts.  By the end of that year, I had opened up that package and sorted through it.  I realized that I didn’t need any of the stuff inside of it.  God helped me to see that.  He helped me to get rid of it.  Does it mean that those difficult relationships are healed?  No, it just means that I no longer hold anger, resentment, and unforgiveness toward those people.  God holds none of those things towards me.  I have done many things in which He could choose not to forgive me…BUT…each and every time He forgives…and loves me!

releaseLast year’s word was RELEASE.  When He first gave me the word, I thought “Huh?”. I seriously could not understand how that particular word would apply to my life.  As always, God showed me!  I had to release a lot things this past year.  I had to release a country that I have called home for 43 years.  I had to release a life that is much different than the one that I now live.  I had to release relationships that I wanted so badly to work out.  Most importantly, God continued to show me how to release much of myself.  This word has actually given me some of the hardest lessons to learn about myself.  I hold onto so much…junk!  I hold onto other people’s words…and allow them to become truth.  I hold onto negative self-talk…and allow that to define me.  This particular word is still a work in progress for me.

For 2014, I *think* I have the word that God wants for me…but do not have complete clarity and conviction toward it.  I am not concerned because last year’s word didn’t come until the middle of January.  For now, I will pray and wait because I know that God knows.  I know that it is something that His heart has for mine…to continue to mold me into His image.  I think it’s pretty fabulous that He loves me that much!!!

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Do you have ONE WORD for 2014?  What is it?