Family

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The world just outside the mission house.

I don’t think my experience in Belize is something I will “process”, and then move on with my life. Instead, I think this this trip, the people I met, the work I did, will become more and more meaningful as I continue to grow.

I cannot fully describe what this trip means to me, how it has affected me, because I’m not even sure yet. What I can do, is share with you how grateful I am that it happened and how God used me and blessed me while I was there.

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My Team 

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Team Belize 2015

 

I’ve known 10/11 other members of my team for many years, but going to school and playing sports with people is hardly living with them.  Being with them nearly 24/7 helped me get to know them better and love them more. Truly, I learned so much from each of teammate.

In addition to working at the school together, we also enjoyed going on several adventures, some as simple as star-gazing in the back of a pick-up truck and jumping fences, and others as jaw-dropping as snorkeling in the Caribbean.

We have an endless list of inside jokes that will live on for years to come.  The influence of late-night conversations, when we challenged and encouraged one another in our faith, will always be with us. I got to know each of them on a more personal level, and I look forward to developing those relationships now that we are home.

The Kids 

In the weeks leading up to our trip, my team members who had previously been to TCA, told me that the kids would love me instantly. I figured they were exaggerating; but on Monday morning, when I walked into the cafeteria to greet the  kids for the first time, I was quickly swarmed by smiling kids. By lunch time I had a small gang of little girls who followed me around requesting piggyback rides.  I could not refuse.

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My faithful buddy from day one.

Each school day I led devotionals in the Standard 3 (5th grade) classroom. The first day was a bit rough. I couldn’t tell what the kids thought of me, and I was pretty sure they thought I was completely nuts; but after that first day, things got progressively better. I enjoyed getting to them a little better each day.

I also had the opportunity to get to know their teacher, Louisa, and am hoping to keep in touch with her through e-mail and social media. She’s a special young woman and I learned from her as she interacted with her students. It was neat seeing someone only a few years older than me, taking on something as challenging as teaching 5th grade. I was inspired.

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Four of the five girls in 5th Grade.

My last morning with the class, I talked to them about gratitude. I shared what it means to be thankful, and how to show others love. I had them shout out things, people, and experiences they were grateful for and wrote them up on the white board. Their activity was to write a note to their teacher, telling her why they were grateful for her.

Before they hopped on the bus that afternoon, they all ran up to me with notes they wrote for me. It meant a lot to know I had touched them, even if my impact was small.

New Family 

Yesterday I was texting with a friend who asked me to summarize my trip in one word. Several descriptive adjectives flashed through my mind—incredible, amazing, life-changing, fantastic, stupendous. None of them would suffice. I came very near to simply giving up, telling my friend it couldn’t be done, and writing a summary sentence. Then I found my word: Family.

My whole life God’s been telling me about my brothers and sisters in different countries around the world. I’ve met many who have visited my church and enjoyed dinner in my home. Some family have even stayed with us for a time.

Last week I met some of my Belizean brothers and sisters for the first time. I worshiped with them, I heard their testimonies over meals and in classrooms, and I heard their life stories while doing dishes and riding down dirt roads. I enjoyed playing volleyball with them and sitting down over coffee sharing our prayer requests. 

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The team and the teachers playing volleyball.

Then I had to leave. 

I had to leave family I had just met. I don’t know the next time our paths will cross.  It could very likely be Heaven, and it just felt wrong to leave so soon. This isn’t a foreign feeling to anyone who has had to leave church family. Connecting with people through the bond of Christ creates strong, powerful relationships. It’s no wonder leaving fellowship is painful; yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s hard … because it was good.

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I’m not done writing about Belize. There are individual tales and lessons I am sure to write about very soon.
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Never Forgetting Neverland

The last two weeks I spent some of my free time reading through Peter Pan for the first time. I realized how much I have missed reading books simply for the sake of enjoying the story. The last four years have been packed with textbooks and (amazing) theology and Christian Living books that I did not have much time to pour into a fun piece of fiction.

2007WDPPGC01XLNeedless to say I thoroughly enjoyed Peter Pan. It was written beautifully. It made me laugh, think, cry…and then it made me mad…

At the end of the story Wendy is grown up. She is a mother and has forgotten pretty much everything that happened to her as a child when she flew off to Neverland with Peter. She even smiles patronizingly at Peter’s sadness when he cries about how old she is! It made me so mad. I practically shouted at the book, “how dare you forget?! How is that possible?!”

Wendy was grown up. You need not be sorry for her. She was one of the kind that likes to grow up. In the end she grew up of her own free will a day quicker than other girls. – Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

But then, after reading those three lines, I saw how much I am like Wendy. And it scared me. Bad.

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Part of me, my personality, is that I have always been the girl who wanted to be older. My parents and my extended family say I was just born older, which is probably true in some respects, but I also have always had this constant desire to move on to the next step. If there was a way to get a move on with my life, to see what experiences my next age would give me, I wanted to take it. People told me to slow down and enjoy my childhood (whatever that meant) and I thought them incredibly irritating (sorry…everyone). I mean, why? To me it seemed as if they were trying to hold me back from something so much greater (whatever that was).

Basically I have wanted to be here in adulthood for my whole life, and I love it—school, work, writing, ministry, friends, family—life is good. But I am finding that a touch of what all those irritating people said is true. In some respects I feel as if I’m trying to get back to 8 years ago through the old adventure books I’m reading, as I am dressing up like Robin Hood for VBS, babysitting, obsessing over superhero movies, and playing crazy games with little boys as we nerd out over stories, shoot each other with nerf darts and make home movies. ships,drawing,map,pirate,neverland-3e62ccf11a969449e070fb576ad41abe_h

I cannot quite articulate it, but as I finished Peter Pan I went into a panic about that fact that I am about to turn 18. It’s like I snapped into the reality that the official and legal title of “adult” is descending upon me—I can’t be the child who is an adult anymore, I am simply the adult. I have found myself declaring these strong vows in my mind about how I am not going to forget Neverland.

Please go ahead and laugh, it’s okay, so am I!

Maybe I am having some kind of crisis here, but I’d like to think of it as more of a decision to never lose touch with what it means to be a child—to have awe, to enjoy innocence, to love adventure, to see beauty in the smallest of things.

Precious Time

Many peoples’ fears center around death and what it means to leave this world and go into the next. My personal fear does not come from losing my own life, but from losing the people I love (much more than my own life) to death. The times I have experienced a loved one dying have caused me to hold on to my family members and close friends just a little tighter in my heart—my hugs got longer and my time with people became more precious.

I wish that I could know ahead of time that I was going to die…that way I could have a chance to say “good-bye” and “I love you” to people. But then I realized, I do know…now that I am going to die. Tonight, tomorrow, next week in 2020 or when I am 80 years old, I am going to die in some form or another. So every day I have on this Earth is a chance to tell those dear to me that I love them in how I act and speak. Then, Lord willing, when I go they will know beyond any doubt how much I care for them.

Do not take the beautiful, amazing people in your story—the people who make your every day brighter and the people who have helped make you who you are—for granted.

Save The Storks

47 million children have been aborted—murdered—since 1973. 47 million. That is not just a number, it is representation of lives that were cut very short, while millions of people looked on in approval or indifference. 47 million.

I realize that the pro-life vs. pro-choice issue has become somewhat of a dead horse in the United States public arena, but that is the problem—it has become just another voting issue that Republicans use to prove they are conservative. Pro-life is a stance that we take and do not back with action. That is, aside from checking a little box on our ballot every two years. This discussion of abortion is something that is constantly philosophized about by Believers, who then focus their time and attention on making their views government legislation. Meanwhile, millions of women a year make the choice to abort their child, and no law is going to stop them from making that decision. This sounds rather dark. It is dark.

If Christians truly have the desire to lessen the statistical numbers of abortion, then we need to change our approach from legislative to relational and evangelistic. The only way clinics are going to shut down and stay down is if the “doctors” don’t have any customers. We need to address the women at a personal one-on-one level about their decision, and then pray that we can be God’s tool to leading them away from making that choice to abort their child.

Being realistic though, how do we go about this? Walk up to random women on the street and say, “Hi! Are you considering an abortion? If so, don’t do it! And by the way, Jesus loves you.”? Hardly. I really did not have an answer to the question of “how?” until I came across a ministry called Save The Storks. Save the Storks is “a  pro-life nonprofit dedicated to saving mothers and babies” that  “build[s] fleets of mobile ultrasound units (called Stork Buses) that pregnancy centers can park outside of abortion clinics.” These buses are equipped with an ultrasound machine, a comfortable, warm , welcoming set up with couches, tables a little kitchenette and a few loving people. Groups from churches and crisis pregnancy centers go and park this bus outside of abortion clinics and make the effort to reach out to girls and women before they can get to the door of a Planned Parenthood. They offer help and support by asking the woman if she would like to get an ultrasound free of charge. From there, they simply love on the woman by giving her help, answering questions and sharing the Gospel in a non-threatening environment.

That is what I love about Save the Storks—they head off the first step on the path to abortion by getting to the woman before she steps foot into the abortion clinic. Save the Storks seeks to reach the heart of a scared and needy woman who is desperately in need of someone to tell her of Salvation through Jesus Christ. In the end, that is what is going to stop the awful, gory reality of rampant abortion—more Jesus.

Christians, I am talking to you. We should know better than to go to the government to solve these sin problems in our culture. God has called us to bring justice to the fatherless (Isaiah 1:17) and to go into the world preaching the Gospel of Jesus (Matthew 18:18-20). I challenge you to take the time to educate yourselves on ministries like Save the Storks. Consider contributing to their ministry financially and/or volunteering. My personal dream is to eventually see one of these Stork Buses in my own city, in the parking lot of Planned Parenthood with people bringing life to children in need of an advocate, and women in need of a Savior.

 

Big Little Brother

photo (9)The picture on the left is of me and my little brother** in our little toddler years of 2 and 4 1/2. I made a Christmas ornament out of it (tacky gold paint with noodles and a paper plate…oh yeah!) when I was about 5, and every year since the two of us have fought over who gets to put it on the tree.

My little brother knows me better than anyone (besides my parents) in the world. My dearest and closest friends know my heart, my desires, my dreams, my fears, my aspirations, my feelings and my thoughts–but they have not seen my worst, or even my most normal days. They have not seen me in a temper, when I’m angry, when I’m irritable, when I am overly emotional , when I am a brat, when I am stressed, when I am so goofy that all of my friends would think I’ve snapped–my brother has seen me at every point, and he still loves me and is a best friend to me. He doesn’t get me all the time (I don’t get him either, so we’re good) but he knows me and makes an effort to be the best brother that he can possibly be by being a man of God first, and then loving his two sisters in the best way that he can.

Well, after having 15 years of having a little brother I now have a younger brother–he is now taller than me. I knew it would happen some day, and I really don’t mind. 😉 photo (8)There is still debate as to whether or not the picture truly shows that he’s taller, but the point is he’s not shorter than me anymore.

Brother, it’s February 4th so Happy 15th Birthday! I am grateful for your friendship. Neither of us have been perfect during our 15 year friendship, I know that we have clashed dozens and dozens of times, but we’ve learned how to reconcile with each other. You’re the best younger brother ever. I know I’ve probably embarrassed you by writing all of this, but just be grateful that I didn’t post those music videos we made…

Happy 15th Birthday!

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**His name has been purposefully excluded to protect me and my family. It’s frustrating, but in this world it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you comment (and know his name) please…don’t use it! 🙂 Sorry!

Beautiful Change

In my extended family, we have a tradition that when each cousins turns 16 there is a ‘Coming of Age’ ceremony/celebration. It is our official “right of passage” into adulthood within the family. The occasion is different for the girls and guys. Girls get whisked away by grandma, the aunts, and girl cousins over sixteen (and those who married into the family); guys are with my grandpa, the uncles, and guy cousins. No one under the age of 16 [really] knows what occurs on these occasions as secrecy is expected from everyone involved. (Background)

Beautiful CHangeOn my Coming of Age, I received a lovely, colorful picture of a butterfly my Aunt Karen painted for me. I adore this painting, and it hung on my bedroom wall for quite a few months until the frame broke. This Christmas my parents had it custom framed for me as a gift. No other present under the tree this year could have given me such joy.

My Aunt Karen used this illustration of a butterfly to encourage me to look at the changes occurring in my life–both exciting and challenging–as beautiful and purposeful means of God to shape me into a young woman unto His glory.

Aunt Karen was an absolute perfectionist when it came to her artwork, but in this painting she explained to me that she purposefully made the lines of the butterfly jagged and the patterns and shapes slightly different to remind me that, while I am not perfect, God makes me beautiful in spite of my defects through His son Jesus. She also reminded me that in the pain and the struggle of change that “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we can each lean on Him in the midst of life-changes. He is our solid foundation that holds fast, our friend who will never leave or forsake us, the One we can cast all our cares upon because He loves us.”

My Aunt Karen is no longer here to see me grow into a woman, but her encouragement, her example and her painting are with me daily.

The picture can’t really do it justice. Sorry!