Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A time to be single… 4 of the things I've learned.

I'm 32 years old and in 32 days I will be getting married. Some days I didn't know if this would ever happen, and honestly most of the time I was content with that…because I knew (because I had learned over and over) that no matter what humans were my "rock", they would fail me but that God was always faithful. Therefore, even if it was only ever me and Him, it was going to be okay. That said, I'm very thankful for my future husband. He is so good for me in many ways and I can see God's hand in our relationship over the past few years. Meeting Joel was fun, becoming friends was exciting and getting to know him as a boyfriend and fiancĂ© has been an adventure...and I know that this is just the beginning.

The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3

After one of the particularly frustrating days of paperwork we were talking about the really happy days, and the sad days we'd experienced together and how through it all God has things to teach us. And I totally believe that is true in the season of singleness. Sure, there were moments or days of loneliness, adventure and spontaneity (sometimes intermingled), but God taught me many things. So I wanted to share some for those of you who are single, or those of you who know single people so we keep learning what it means to enjoy every season, and encourage others.

1. Make each other feel welcome.  It was/is fun to be apart of the lives of my friends and their families. I don't know if I can even count all of the couches and spare beds I've slept on, the cars I've borrowed, the meals, coffees, desserts I've been given, babies I've held, house keys I've been entrusted with, or parties I've attended. I feel blessed. I've loved seeing friends getting married, friends going into retirement and friends graduating high school (or preschool). Mostly I think I'm trying to say that I believe that it's good for all of us to have friends in various seasons, maturity and late phases.

2.  Make each other feel valued in whatever life stage you are. If they are married encourage them in their marriage; if they have new babies, encourage them that they will get sleep someday and maybe hold the baby so they can take a shower or make themselves a coffee; if they are parenting teenagers…wish them luck, haha!,  if they are single don't feel like it's your job to set them up. God has His timing for all of us, and we should enjoy it!

3. Remember that you are where you are for a reason.  God is very purposeful with us, we just can't always see it. I'm sure all of us can look to five years ago and never would have imagined a lot of the things we experienced during that time-and sometimes He gives us a window to see why things went a certain way. Remember those things, and be encouraged that you have a God that is incredibly personal and loving. He is a good, good father.

4. Remember that God is your only faithful traveling companion.  It's okay to feel emotional about the struggles of your particular season of life I think…but I think it's important to look beyond whatever emotion that evokes. I don't know that I've always done especially well with this. I remember some times of profound loneliness (sometimes because of not having a spouse, but sometimes just because I didn't have any local friends after yet another move) and feeling consumed by that. I remember making really big decisions and feeling like God was truly the only one who knew or could understand why. (Because sometimes He calls us to do crazy stuff). When you're single, sometimes you just feel very alone. I don't know exactly how it feels when you're married…but I think it's safe to say that your spouse will disappoint you sometimes (and you them) and you might still have times of loneliness, because none of us are perfect except God, and He will always, always accompany us on the journey of life.

So I know getting married isn't going to make my life perfect, in fact I think it's going to reveal a lot of ugly things about my heart, and sin that still lives in there- but I'm sure that God wants to use this season as well, to make me more like Him.  So there is a time to be single, and for some of us, a time to be married, but for all of us there is always time to be thankful.

Where I'm at in 2018

Well it's been a really long time since I've updated this, so I should let you know what life looks like for me now-a-days. Since I moved to Cochabamba a lot of things have changed so here I'll answer some questions you might have.

Where do you live:
Since July of last year I have lived in the city of Cochabamba. I house-sat for two months for a friend and decided that it was time to move to the city. So as I was looking for a place in the same neighborhood, one night while walking home I saw a sign on a gate for an apartment for rent, only 1/2 block from where I was staying. It all worked out beautifully and I moved in September. It's a small, modest apartment but just right for me. I also have a pet rabbit named Lolo.

Where do you work:
My primary responsibility these days is as the director of the ESL program at Ciudad de Refugio (CdR). CdR is cafe a few blocks from the local university. We hope to provide a safe place for college students where if need be they can also find help and guidance for their lives. We offer games, inexpensive food, English classes, activities (concerts),  opportunities to volunteer in the community and counseling.  I schedule, enroll, teach, and oversee classes. We currently have four interns for the summer.  I also spend some time co-leading a Bible study for young ladies and when I can, helping at a Saturday Kids Club.

What about community there? 
I attend the Cochabamba International Church and with a few couples who live in the neighborhood we have a weekly Bible Study.
I also am engaged to a young man from here named Joel. We will be married next month.  He loves the Lord and helps me grow in my relationship with Him as well.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Christmas is coming…

Hello friends! Christmas is right around the corner and so I just want to share a few opportunities for you to bless some kids here in Bolivia. (And by blessing them you'll also be a huge blessing to those who serve them here too!)

Kids Club. This is what I do with the Vargas' every Saturday! I've become quite fond of the little ones who play frisbee; duck, duck, goose; and relays every Saturday, listen to Bible stories and then ask me about the zombies, and can't stop hugging me when they find me in the multitude of children.  Every Christmas we pray and trust God to provide gifts and snacks for 1000 children, family gifts for 200 families with consistent attendance, and prizes for the children with the highest grades. Maybe you want to be a part of that?  (We estimate we will need around $8,000 USD)

Navidad en Bolivia. This is where my friend Katie works. When I lived here in 2008, I also served with this team. They hope to provide gifts for about 80 kids who regularly attend the center for help with homework.  For $16 you can sponsor a kid…and check out their self-portraits. They are some of my favorite little artists!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

When we choose the wrong boss

Do you remember being a child and taking suggestions from a sibling…when you got in trouble for not obeying mom, you find yourself sheepishly trying to defend yourself by saying "but ____ told me to do it this way!", "Is she the mom?", my mom would inevitably ask. I remember my stomach sinking realizing how right she was.  What happens when you take instructions from the wrong authority? In life, work, school, family, etc. We get ourselves in trouble!  It's the same in our lives as christians.  If we take our cues from the world, we end up contradicting the very God we should be representing. 
In my Romans class in Bible school we talked about how even though sin is still present in our lives as believers, it no longer is our master! We've died to that life, and now live for Christ, meaning He is the only one we have to listen to!  
I think of how much time I spend doing things that make absolutely no difference in the big picture of living to please Christ, I think of how secular music, movies, conversations about superficial things, and other things take up way more time than actually studying God's Word. If my goal as a christian is to become like Christ-which it is-then shouldn't my focus be on what HE has to say? If as a church (a body of believers…a group of people who want to know, represent and share the God of the Bible with the world) our goal is indeed to be set apart from the world, ambassadors of Christ, and messengers of His good news of HOPE to the world we are going to have to know Him. Know His heart and His character, His love and His plan for the world.   

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, 
as though God were making an appeal through us; 
we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 
2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, 
for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, 
equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So WHY IN THE WORLD are we looking to the world to tell us what love actually is, how christians are supposed to act, what's appropriate and cool, what relationships are supposed to look like, etc, etc, etc?  Should we not rather be looking to God? 

Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. 
If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant. Gal. 1:10 NLT

It's my challenge for all of us to look to our Savior who indeed shows the greatest love, not by letting us remain as we were but saving us from ourselves and from our sin so we can enjoy LIFE abundantly in a relationship with Him.

Greater love has no one than this, 
that one lay down his life for his friends. 
John 15:13 NASB

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. 
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 
I am the good shepherd. 
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 
John 10:10-11 ESV 

Friday, December 11, 2015

When all we have is way more than all we need.

I've been thinking of some of the believers that I've met in some of my trips to really, andI mean REALLY, rural parts of Bolivia and previously to Mexico.  One of the things that has always hit me is how genuine and simple their faith and trust in the Lord is.  I see how little they really have, and believe that they hold on to the Lord because they know that's all the hope they really have.  They have no education, money, titles, or fame to cling to.  It makes me wonder if all the distractions that pull us were all stripped away we would realize that God is in fact all that we need?  

Monday, October 26, 2015

The weight of the world on His shoulders

I work with kids from some pretty tough life circumstances. Sometimes because of their own choices, and sometimes because of someone else's.  It's pretty tough and sometimes feels incredibly unfair that they suffer because of someone else's sin.  (Ultimately, no one is without sin and all sin is wrong, but some sin affects others much more deeply.) 
I spent a lot of time last week processing, talking, and crying about this, and ended up overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted.  And then, this Sunday we read Isaiah 53 in church: 
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men;

    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
   smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.
(ESV version found at biblegateway.com) Here is most of the chapter…but read the rest…it's all good.

And friends…I cried. And here's why: Everything we suffer through, all that breaks our hearts, and the injustices we see, He received, experienced and endured exponentially more than we do.  So when we go to him with a broken heart for the messed up world we live in, He totally understands…and I think He hurts too.  He loves us so much that He allowed His Son to suffer and die to rescue us from this life where we are affected by sin.  He will make all things right one day. And that, my friends, is the greatest hope I can even imagine. 
(picture from here)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When the real you comes out...

Under pressure, when you're shocked/surprised, when you're with those you know and love the most, when you're mistreated, etc.  There's not really any way to hide it, I don't think…
I just finished reading two really good books.  They both take place in WWII, both of the main characters are held in prison camps, put under pressure, beaten, psychologically manipulated, looked up to by their co-prisoners, and both lost people that were very close to them.  But they responded so differently.
Unboken by Laura Hillenbrand is the story of Louie Zamperini, and Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose is her autobiography.  There are lots of similarities in their situations but as I read I felt increasingly discouraged and hopeless as I followed Louies story…that is until the end when he reaches the end of himself and comes to know the Lord.  It's amazing the transformation to how he mends his marriage, and refocuses his energy into helping people and moving forward…and even forgiving the men who abused him.  Darlene's story was sad, and awful-in different ways, but I found that for some reason there was hope.  She knew it was likely she could die, but she found her strength in the Lord, she found consolation in the One who loved her so deeply, and she found hope that no matter what happened the Lord would use her pain and grief for some greater good.
I began to think…if something like that happened would what I have filled my life with give me hope? Would I know enough of God's promises and truths to sustain me and encourage others?  Or would I only be able to think of articles that I had read that offered no real wisdom?  Could i think of songs of praise of God's sovereignty and trust in His goodness? Or would I only have pointless songs of breakups and shallow love songs?  Could I have enough meaningful conversations stored away in the recesses of my mind, or would I only be able to think of small talk  had or feel-good movies that I had watched?  
I remain so convicted of my apathy.  I know that in the situations where I find my ugly side showing itself, instead, I want God's wisdom and goodness to pour out of me.
(*I totally recommend BOTH of these books!)

"The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45
"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Ps 119:11
"The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip." Ps. 37:31
"I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart." Ps. 40:8