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.


My Team 


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.


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.


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. 


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.

I’m not done writing about Belize. There are individual tales and lessons I am sure to write about very soon.

Me and My Roommate

Photo on 10-20-13 at 2.59 PMThe adorable one on the right is my little sister (the picture is in black and white because  the lighting in our room is horrible). Both of us are holding a ball of yarn and crochet hooks. A rather normal state for two girls to be in, I suppose. Only, not the girl on the left—I don’t crochet. In addition, I cannot knit, sew, mend, or do needlepoint. My creativity is best applied elsewhere….I also just have no patience to learn or finish those kind of projects.

So why am I holding a ball of yarn and a crochet hook? Because this afternoon I asked my sister to teach me how to crochet a specific (a.k.a easy) kind of scarf. Did I have any wild desire to learn? No. Will I ever make a scarf again? Eh, probably not.

The reason I asked my sister to teach me is because I recently recommitted to being a better sister. Let me rewind and give some background here.

I mentioned that I am learning a lot right now. The neat thing is that all of these lessons are reinforcing each other. It can be rather overwhelming sometimes, but I am getting used to it.

About two weeks ago I talked with one of my mentors who helped me formulate a life mission statement—a few sentences that describe my heart, my passion and my desire as I seek to live for the Lord. Within that statement I describe my heart to invest in other people and help them dig deeper into their relationship with the Lord. My mentor challenged me to start thinking of ways that I want to apply that desire.

That night, I felt convicted that the person I needed to start with was my little sister, Judy. I love Judy very much. She is a perky little bundle of smiles, laughter, joy and beauty that I have always enjoyed being around. But in the 13 years I have known her I have not truly invested in a real, solid relationship with her.

As I prayed over that mission statement I began to realize the powerful influence that I have on my sister’s life—negative and positive. God showed me that the words I say and the actions I take do affect the young woman she is becoming. To think that I have that kind of influence on a person’s life is simultaneously terrifying and humbling.

I resolved to start—that night—being a better sister to Judy. I actually went and gave her a hug, told her I loved her and said I was going to start making a better effort. She looked up at me and I wondered how many times I had said this to her and then never followed through. Too many. This time had to be different.

The next day, I listened to a sermon in which the pastor challenged Christians to stop feeling convicted or resolving to change and actually take action. TAKE_ACTION_SIGN_movivational_and_inspirational_signs__54610.1337457936.1280.1280

BE a better sister.

Over the next week, along with just loving on Judy by talking with her about her devotionals, asking her about her day, lots of hugs, helping her with her hair and put together an outfit, I wrote out a few principles for myself to follow:

  • make an effort to talk with and listen to her
  • create time to be with just her
  • follow through on my commitments and plans

Photo on 10-20-13 at 2.58 PM #3So that is how I ended up crocheting with Judy this afternoon. I found something that she is good at and enjoys doing, I told her I wanted her to teach me, I created time to learn from her, and I followed through on our plan to do it.

Woohoo. One afternoon. I know, I have no room to boast (I never do). I am going to fail time and again.  But I am praying for strength—I’m not going to quit on her or on God.

Older siblings, I we need to understand that our words and actions do have an affect on our younger siblings. No matter the nature of the relationship, it will touch the younger person in some way. We have the God-given opportunity to be the strongest force of encouragement and support in our younger siblings’ lives, second only to our parents.

We cannot waste our power simply because they are difficult to get a long with or we don’t connect well. I ask you to think and pray about renewing your commitment to be a loving presence in your siblings’ lives…then go do it. Throw up a prayer or two for me while you’re at it, please!

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.

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!

photo (5)








**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!

No Fun

I consider myself to be a fairly disciplined person. I get what I need to get done…done and on schedule. But, let’s just say that I got a little behind in geometry…and now have a lot of lessons to catch up on before the end of October while studying for a U.S. History I CLEP test, a Spanish class AND speech writing/competing. I really cannot tell you how much I regret procrastinating.[1]

[That was background information]

So, the other night I began lamenting my woes of school and scheduling to my dad. After I was done venting I said, “well, at least I’m more disciplined and get more done when I have a lot to do.” Dad just nodded his head and gave me a smirk. “What?!” I asked, “I am more productive!” Dad, still smiling just said, “Yeah, but you are absolutely no fun to be around!”

I needed that. It is just SO true. When I know that I have a lot to get done, I get so focused on my work that regard for other people’s feelings/needs gets promptly tossed out the window. Everything is about me, the schedule that I have to keep and the school work I must get done—interruption is not taken very, err, well.

In these coming weeks of insaneness my goal is to keep my attitude towards my family loving. How difficult will this be? Let me put it this way…in the middle of writing that last sentence I snapped at my brother for making an infinitesimally small amount of noise. Ironic? Yes. Lots of room for improvement? Yes.

So, how am I going to do this?

  1. God’s Word. I’ve got to be in it every morning just soaking it in. Thank you Lord for providing me with an instruction manual of direction and encouragement in my time of need.
  2. The Holy Spirit. I need to be calling on Him every moment of the day. He is there at all times. It is by His strength that I live.
  3. My parents. Cool thing is, they’re perfect for me and they know exactly what I need when I need it. Trust me—I am going to need a few reprimands, hugs, walks and “Emily, just…RELAX(s)!! in the next few weeks.
  4. My friends. I know that I can count on them for encouragement, making me laugh when I start stressing out, hugs and praying for me. *This is a hint. Especially on the hugs part…and if you want to buy me a Starbucks or something…I’m totally cool with that. JK JK*

My encouragement to you this week is that whatever stress is going on in your work/school… don’t let it  transfer into how you treat your husband/wife, kids, siblings or friends. It’s not their problem or their fault! Why take it out on them?! Go to the scriptures, ask the Lord to help you through your work load—He will provide for you a way of endurance and an exceeding joy in the knowledge that you are doing His work. Go to your family and ask them for prayer, encouragement and accountability to make sure you’re staying on task and then go and serve them the way they need you to.

Okay. Off the soapbox now…kind of just realized I’m preaching to myself here!

[1] Hey, Stage 1 Adulthood, right? Learning lessons…even if they are repeats?


My cousin (who probably gives the best and the most hugs out of anyone I know) told me about this quote a while ago.

In an ideal world, no one would talk before 10 am. People would just hug, because waking up is really hard. Zooey Deschanel

I love it. Sometimes you just have those days where talking just doesn’t do anything for you…and a hug does.

So go love on someone. Give them a hug. Tell someone that you love them—mom, dad, wife, husband, a friend, a sibling—and then act on it.

I really did not have a purpose for this post except to say that I love hugs and that you should go give one to someone else. 🙂 My work here is done.

Laugh! It’s OK!

Sometimes I take myself a little too seriously. I analyze myself and my actions to death while beating myself up about my stupid mistakes. But over the last few years, with the help of my parents, my family and friends, I’m learning to look at my failures and silly as future funny stories and taking from them life application lessons.

My Favorite Aunt (as she informs me quite often) told me this when I turned 16:

“One thing that I hope for you is that you learn early in life that you are a work in progress. You will learn and improve through mistakes. There may be things in life that you aren’t good at, and there will be embarrassing moments. Now that I’m older I have learned to be self-deprecating, I can laugh at myself. It is a lot more fun than being stressed out or disappointed in who God made me.”

If only you knew all of the ways she has encouraged me to apply that. 🙂 Example: Her nickname for me is Amelia Bedelia. I hated that when I was little, but around 12 years old I saw that; one, my aunt called me that because she couldn’t think anything that rhymed with “Emily” so she went with Amelia; two, giving me a nickname is sign that she loves me, and; three, how many people have the nickname Amelia Bedelia?!

My cousin Cho (nickname) has also helped me in this area. Believe it or not, he even got me with the “if you say green beans slowly it sounds like gullible,” line. I will never ever, ever, ever , ever live that one down. But instead of getting defensive I poke fun of myself…and so does Cho. 🙂

Think about it, how many times have we all made some stupid “duh” comment in front of a bunch of people, received all of those “you’re such an idiot” looks and then fall all over ourselves instead of just saying “oops!” How many times have you pushed on a PULL door or pulled on a PUSH door (the last time I did that it was hilarious. I crack up every time I think about it.)? How many times have you tripped in front of a bunch of people? How many times have you run into a wall? because that can never be as bad as walking right smack into a sliding glass door thinking that it was open! It’s happened to me.

These are all the funny things that I know happen to   everyone. I’m just learning to apply that in how I respond to those things.

But there is more to laugh at in life than just ourselves.  A Jewish proverb states that, “It is better to laugh about your problems than to cry about them.”

I’ll give you a quick story to illustrate this. So, I’ve decided that my families “lot in life” is car trouble. It has actually come to a point of hilarity. We have had 3 DIFFERENT CARS BREAK DOWN THREE DIFFERENT TIMES IN BAKERSFIELD, CA. To be clear, these were not “Oops! Flat tire!” kind of break downs. These were transmission blow up, engine die completely, and transmission again kind of break downs. When my dad called from Bakersfield (the third time), both mom and I thought he was joking. When we discovered that he wasn’t, we started laughing. God totally has a sense of dry humor sometimes.

Please understand, I’m not saying that every problem that pops up in life you should always say “ha-ha,” shrug your shoulders and then move on. There are life situations, hurtful words etc. that simply cannot be “laughed off.” What I am saying is that life is just too short not to laugh at some of the ironic, silly, coincidental things that happen. Does that make sense?

Thanks to some silly things that I’ve done/said recently, yet another car break down last week (flat-tire with a trailer on the freeway on the way home from a camping trip), remembering my aunt’s advice and a final push from a Messy Monday’s video this morning it’s clear to me that this is something that God wants me to work on and remember in the day-to-day life experiences. Who knows, maybe he wants you to do the same.