asurprisecalling

Following our calling to the Dominican Republic


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Sum of your mistakes

emoji ugh

“You are the sum of all of your past mistakes”.

This was a lie from satan that I believed about myself for so long.  It was truly something that had kept me in chains for so long.

Today, God spoke the exact same phrase to me, but in the form of a promise.

“Tamara, you are the sum of all of your past mistakes because that is where I grew you and molded you.”

I began to think about all of the biblical figures that messed up royally…and how God used these exact people for His glory.

Take David, for example. Man, what was he even thinking?  He had an affair with a married woman, and she became pregnant.  His solution?  Let’s have her husband killed and then she can come live with me. (Oh my word, how many times has our own best thinking gotten us in an even bigger mess???)

Yet….BECAUSE OF  ALL OF HIS MISTAKES…God continued to refer to him as “a man after my own heart”.  He redeemed him and made him king of Israel.  

Then, there was Gomer.  She was a prostitute.  God sent her a PROPHET for a husband.   She continued to return to her old ways over and over because they were known and comfortable. (Can you even imagine the church gossip that ensued?!)

YET…BECAUSE OF ALL OF HER MISTAKES…God sent Hosea to relentlessly and recklessly pursue her heart!  Because God is a faithful lover of our souls.  He did this as an example to all of us of His unconditional love and his ability to redeem even the most undeserving wanderers.

Then, there was Peter, who betrayed Jesus in His final hours of life.  Peter was part of Jesus’ posse. And, still, Peter denied even knowing Him THREE times the night before Jesus’ death.

YET…BECAUSE OF ALL OF HIS MISTAKES…when the angels descended, Jesus sent a message through them to “his disciples and Peter”.  He named Peter specifically, and continued to use Peter as a disciple to preach of the gospel after His crucifixion. 

I don’t know about any of you but this gives me great hope!

I also know that I don’t learn anything from the mountaintop, where things are good and mistake and problem free. The mountaintop has always been my resting place, where I rejuvenate for my next trek into the valley.  I am thankful that God loves me and sees value in me that He takes me to the valley.  There has never been a time that a mistake or hard time has not taught me a lesson that I would need for the next assignment that God has for me. He promises us this:

“Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” James 1:4

 

If God can use David, Gomer, and Peter BECAUSE OF their mistakes, then…

Yes, I am a sum of my past mistakes because they grew me to be the person that I am today.  

A person in which God sees worth and wants to use for His glory!

So, let go of that shame that you are holding onto for saying or doing the wrong thing.  Let go of those feelings of worthlessness because you, too, screwed up royally.  Let go of those hateful or judgmental words of others that play over and over in your head like a broken record. Yeah, you can stop beating yourself up.  (Seriously though, stop that crap!) God will use your mistakes, screw ups, and hard times to mature you and complete you so that you are not lacking anything! God created all of us with a purpose that only we can complete!  YOU were the one specifically created for that purpose that will glorify Him!

Gosh, THAT is some freedom that I can dance in.  Can I get an amen?


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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!)

redeeming love

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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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)

IMG_5535 - Version 2

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

OneWord

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?


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Project PAWS 145:9

By Lauren Ludlam

After months of  my mom begging, I am finally going to do a blog post. Only, I am not much of a writer so I would like to share with you some of my pictures and a new idea my sister and I have had.

Here are some pictures of the puppies we have fostered so far:

I would have to say Sandy was our first foster. But… We kept her.

Sandy, the 3rd world wonder dog.

Sandy, the 3rd world wonder dog.

Then there was Toby. He would not leave our house! We kept giving back to his new owners over and over and over again!

The cutest picture of  Toby!

The cutest picture of Toby!

Next was Toby’s brother, Lil’ Zeek. Both puppies were left by their mom. Lil’ Zeek was bitten very badly, and I nursed him back  to health. Thanks to my mom’s friend, Dr. Duffey, who is a veterinarian. She donated a lot of supplies that possibly saved this puppy’s life.

Yeah, I know...he looks like a rat!

Yeah, I know…he looks like a rat!

While we had Lil’ Zeek, Lil’ Luna came into our lives…

She is so freakin' adorable!

She is so freakin’ adorable!

Now, if you have watched the video, I am sure you heard the puppy barking in the background.  Currently, we are fostering a stubborn little girl named Estrella, which means Star in Spanish.

She is gorgeous!

She is gorgeous!

And finally… If you are wondering about Sticky, here is a current picture of him.  He has claimed us as his humans and is happy, healthy, and beautiful!

This just gives me goosebumps!

This just gives me goosebumps!

Thank you for your interest. I hope you enjoyed my blog!

Photo creds: Lauren Ludlam


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An update

By Tamara

It’s been awhile since we have posted pictures.  We wanted to update everyone on some of the projects and events that have been going on in our little world.  Enjoy!

IMG_5808Sandy is getting bigger, and suddenly grew these ginormous ears!  We have enjoyed adding her to our family and really hope that she doesn’t get much bigger.  Because of all of her inbreding, she is slightly crazy but we love that about her!

DR tabby's visitMy sister, Tabatha, and my nephew, Brennan, came to visit for a week.  We had a great time introducing them to our neighbors and our crazy life here in the DR.  My sister fell in love with the hearts of the people, and my nephew loved just being able to run around and carry a machete.  This is definitely a boy’s dream playground!  There is something to do and explore all the time!

DR braceletsMy friend, Julia, is moving to Santo Domingo in July to teach school for a year.  Her mother, Carol, and she came for a visit while my sister was here.  They brought crafts for the ladies in the village to do.  Everyone had a wonderful time and were able to walk away with several beautiful crafts.

IMG_5812Also, while my sister and nephew were visiting, my friend, Nacho, who lives in Santo Domingo, had a friend from the states visiting.  They came to La Represa, and we went on a long hike up the river.  There is an area about 45 minutes upstream with 2 large pools of clean water.  We had lunch, swam, and sunned there a bit before heading home.  The walk is really good exercise.  Who needs Crossfit? LOL!

Photo on 3-27-13 at 2.51 PMWe were gifted a bunny from one of our neighbors but had to decline the offer for several reasons.  1) We don’t need another pet! 2) Bunnies are not food…they are pets!  We simply have to draw the line somewhere!  I am sure that my kids would never look at Mo or I the same if we ate Peter Cottontail!

IMG_5823I introduced everyone to this beautiful lady, Dominga,  HERE after her house burned.  Mo and Chicho were able to get her house fixed.  While they were working, I was able to sit and chat with her.  I would like to write another blog post about her because she is such a precious person.  Here’s the thing though…Dominga is not her real name.  It’s Eugenia (pronounced Oo-Heen-e-a).  I can’t wait for you to get to know her better also!

IMG_5833This is the finished product…no more hole in her house!  Also, while they were working, we figured out that there were termites eating away at the rafters holding her roof in place.  Mo and Chicho fixed that while they were at it too.

DR church ladiesI have been working with the ladies at the church on Friday afternoons doing crafts.  They seem to really enjoy it.  In this picture, we painted placques for their homes.  It is always nice just sitting and chatting with them.  Well, mostly, I listen while they chat and try to figure out what the mess they are saying.  I am slllllooowwwwlly understanding more and more.

DR Special ProgramThis is the Special Program kids that Lauren, Lexie, and I work with 2 times a week.  This particular week, we made Prayer Journals.  We are going to learn a bible verse a week.  With the help of Bersey (who is the girl in the yellow and brown shirt in the front), I explained that these books were a diary between God and them.  My hope is that they write down the things that God places on their hearts.

DR quinceaneraLauren and Lexie attended their first Quinceanera this past weekend.  They were both invited to be participants.  However, Lexie declined when she found out that she would have to dance with a boy.  A quinceanera is a huge party that is thrown for girls when they turn 15.  This party was for Cristal, Pastor Thomas and Sonja’s daughter.  It was a very neat experience and very beautiful.DR lauren dance party

This is Lauren’s dance partner, Gabriel.  He seems like a nice guy.  I think that he developed a bit of a crush on her.  However, she continued to remind him “It’s just one dance!”.  Please, Lord, let her continue to feel this way about boys until she is 30!DR chicho

Many of you may be wondering how Chicho’s wife, Sonja, is doing.  Well, see for yourself!  She is doing very well.  She ended up needing 5 pints of blood total.  She is home now so that she can love on her babies and heal up.  DR baby

Seriously…how precious is this baby!  I held her today and did not want to put her down.  Several of the ladies in the village are starting to have their babies.  I am in heaven!  I LOVE other people’s babies!!!  They are the best kind because I can love all over them, and still get to sleep through the night.

Anyway, I don’t know if I praised my husband enough the other day.  I am so proud of him for listening to what God was asking of him.  His ability to surrender himself to God’s Will has amazed and inspired me!  Chicho came by the next morning and told me that his wife would not be alive if it were not for Mo that day.  The doctor told Mo that she was 2-3 hours from death.  God is soooooo good!!!