Thursday, December 31, 2009

A time to be proud...

When I got to Ecuador, I decided that I wanted to go to a church that none of the other missionaries went to. The church I decided to go to was a difficult one for me. There are many Sundays that I don´t agree with what is preached and to be honest, it is a constant fight to stay there and see it as my ministry.
For the past 2 years, I have tried to encourage the youth leader to see outside the walls of the church, which was also his desire. The problem was, it was not the desire of many of the church leaders. Trying to convince them to do an ¨outreach¨ was like hitting your head against a brick wall: you get nowhere and it´s more pain than what it´s worth.
Yesterday all my prayers and desires manifested themselves in the form of an awesome event that my church put on called, ¨Gracias Dios¨ (Thank God). I was amazed at the quality of music, theater and preaching that was presented last night in San Sebastian Plaza. They got OUT of the walls of the church and got IN with the people. Tears blurred my vision as I saw the thousands of people watching the Lord glorified as they presented HIS WORD instead of our church. The name of chruch was not even mentioned until the end of the program. I almost cried as the pastor said, ¨This is not about any religion. This is about glorifying Jesus who is the Son of God and Savior of the world.¨
In the 2 years I have gone to church here, I never would have guessed that this day would come... but it did. And I was bursting with pride as I saw Jesus lifted high above any church name or single person. Gracias Dios for allowing me to see fruit from this church you have put me in!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

If you didn´t have a tree, would you still have Christmas?

If you didn´t have lights and Christmas carols, would you still have Christmas?
If you didn´t have snow and cold, would you still have Christmas?
If you didn´t have presents and twinkling candles, would you still have Christmas?
If you didn´t have commercialism telling you to buy stuff, would you still have Christmas?
If you didn´t have sweaters with ugly blinking trees... oh wait, everyone wishes that that would just stay away from Christmas...

The reason I ask all of this is because I don´t. Yep, that´s right. As I walk down my very normal street, I see people going about their normal business. When I leave the grocery store, I don´t hear the friendly ¨Merry Christmas¨ nor is there snow. Instead I am wearing flip flops and t-shirts and hearing the normal sounds of techno blaring from a nearby car. Is it still Christmas? I wish I could say YES... Christmas is in the heart, not in the presents or the decorations, but instead I´m going to be honest and say it doesn´t feel like Christmas.
But one thing it is, it is time to celebrate... why? Not for the trees or the lights but because many years ago God decided that it was time. It was time to give up his very precious Son so that I could have eternal life. As the clock strickes midnight tonight, I won´t be with my family like I have been for the past 26 years, but I will be thankful because Christ came so that every year I have had and will have can be lived for his glory.

Merry Christmas from the other side of the globe... may Jesus show you what Christmas is all about.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas... bad timing

I am a big planner. I like it all planned so we can have the least amount of stress as possible. But there are always those little bumps... that sometimes look more like huge mountains.
By now, most of you know that I love to tell stories... things that happen to me or people around me. This morning I was reading Jesus´ story; how the whole thing got started. And I started thinking about Mary. I don´t think she was very much like me.
BUT if she was, I think Jesus would have ruined her Christmas. I think her thought process would have gone a little like this:
1. I just got engaged! Why did God have to chose NOW to do this whole virgin birth thing. Do you know what he´s going to say?! This is not going to be pretty.
2. I´m about to pop. There is no way I am going to Bethlehem just because Ceasar thought it would be a good time to take a census! A donkey? Really? Give me a jet plane and I´ll consider it.
3. Of course, we have to come to Bethlehem on the busiest day of the year. And, of course the baby decides right NOW is the time.
4. A stable? Hay is itchy and I don´t want the first thing my child sees to be a cow.
God, this is the worst timing ever! I want my warm bed, my mom´s help, and my home town.

When you think about it, it looks like the worst timing ever. But in reality if it weren´t at that appointed time in that specific place, prophecy would not have been fulfilled.
How many times do I complain that things are not according to my calendar? This Christmas season, may we stop seeing things as inturrptions, and start seeing them through God´s eyes... as Divine Appointments.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Do you want the gum?

On Saturday I got the opportunity to share with my youth group for the first time. If you know my story at all, you understand that speaking to a bunch of teenagers is nothing new to me. I’ve been doing this for a long time… but it was my first time to do it in Spanish. I had it all done and ready to go… I had 4 people read over it and correct it… I had read it a ton of times and was as ready as I would ever be. But, as usual, I was still nervous.
Something very unusual for me is that that nervousness didn’t go away… it stuck with me until the moment I finished. During the whole deal, I was sweating so bad, I had to brush my hair back because it was actually sticking to my face!
But it was a great time. It’s amazing how true it is that the Lord loves to use our weakness to show his strength. Hold on, I gotta back track for a second. I also felt this type of nervousness when I baked my first thanksgiving turkey a couple weeks ago. Its one thing to do something like that for your family who has no choice but to love you, it is something completely different when you do it for 15 people you don’t really know. I finally told God, with the turkey and my message… Jesus, it is all you. If this turkey/message flies, I will give you all the glory because it is you and you only who did it. If it doesn’t, I’m blaming you as well. 
As I was in worship before I got up to speak, I was talking to the Lord about my nervousness… he didn’t take away my nervousness, but he did give me something…. I realized that I didn’t have one of my classic illustrations that I always use and He gave me an illustration that worked amazing with my message. The Lord used what I had… in one pocket I had a piece of gum; in the other $10. In the middle of my message I called a kid up and said, “I have a present for you. It’s a piece of gum (and I held out the gum). You can either have this gum or you can have what’s in my other pocket. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but I am going to tell you it’s good. The question is, do you trust me enough to believe that I want good things for you?” The cool thing is that the kid actually thought about it for a second… but in the end picked the pocket present and got $10.
I think about how that has been God’s question to me time after time… “I have such good plans for you, but are you going to trust me enough to believe that I want good things for you? Would you rather have the thing you can SEE now or wait for my best later?”
I’ll take the $10 over the piece of gum any day… and like I told him I would, I give Him all the glory for all the good that happened that day and every day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The people who have shaped me…

No one knows you better than the people you live with. Why? Because they see you in your pj’s with buffy eyes after crying and love you anyways.
I have had the privilege of being known and loved by some of the most amazing roommates I could have ever asked for. Each one of them has become a part of my family and each has left their mark on my life. This is my tribute to them.
When I met Candace, I thought she was crazy. My first impressions were right. Her craziness makes her extremely unique and one of my favorite people to talk to. I just found a note that she left with a plate of cookies for me the day that I got to Loja; just a little word of encouragement and welcome, even though she had only gotten here 2 weeks before. Candace and I lived and worked together for an entire year without killing each other. When she left I felt like a part of me was missing. Thank you friend for your love and acceptance.
Now when I met Nicole, I thought she was quiet and timid. Nicole comes off as being very put together and slightly quiet. Boy, was I wrong! Nicole is really one of the weirdest people I know. She loves to laugh, take pictures, be her in her pj’s (which have different levels… you cannot leave the house in 1st level pj’s but you can in 2nd tier pj’s because they are more like sweatpants) and has the biggest heart for people. Collie and I lived together for a year and a half and she probably got to see the worst part of me. She was my “go to” person when I was losing my mind over the management of El Sendero. She always let me talk, rant, cry or laugh with a knowing and compassionate look. I could not have done the past year without her. Only you know how much I miss and appreciate you.
Those two probably got to know me the best because of the length of time we spent together, but there were others who I desperately love and appreciate. Kate and Gabi were the first two I lived with. They taught me so much about laughter and joy. No one can forget my roommate that stuck out like a sore thumb in Ecuador, Erin (long blonde hair, blues eyes and pale skin) with her infamous quote, “I hate milk in a bag!” And my most recent roommate, Britney… I met B when she came with a short term team, and she ended up coming back for 3 months and staying with me. I saw her grow and change into the most amazing woman of God.
When Britney and Nicole left in October, I realized how much I couldn’t have done the past 2 years without each and every one of the above ladies. Each one of you has shaped me into the woman I am today and I am eternally grateful for your friendships and love.