Family

FullSizeRender-1

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

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.

IMG_3870

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.

IMG_3787

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. 

IMG_3811

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.

• Belize •

SubstandardFullSizeRenderMy passport just came in the mail, and I couldn’t be more excited!

About a month ago my friend and I stood watching our brothers play basketball. I was sharing with her that I would love to write the stories of overseas missionaries—what they’re doing, how the Lord is moving in and through them and reaching the hearts of individuals. I would love to use stories to connect God’s family.

After sharing this with my friend she simply asked,  “Do you want to go to Belize?”

There is a small school, Toledo Christian Academy (TCA), in the Yemeri Grove/Jacintoville area of Belize. The school, run by Belizean and American staff, accepts children in the pre-school age group all the way through middle school. The school is supported, primarily, by churches here in the States and relies on frequent short-term mission groups for the upkeep of their grounds and facilities.

The purpose of the school is to give students a foundational education, grounded in Scripture. Each school day is begun with a devotional time, and teachers use a biblically-based curriculum for the students’ subjects. The children have a full day of classes, sports, and fellowship with their classmates and teachers. (If you would like more information about the school, you can follow this link to their website: http://www.tcabelize.com/.)

May 2nd-10th I will be going to visit TCA, with a small team, to teach/help in the classrooms with the staff, lead devotionals in the mornings, work on building/painting projects, play with the kids, meet the parents, and fulfill the needs of the staff in any way we possibly can. Our primary goal is to be yet another group of believers, living Truth, in these kids’ world. (If you would like to keep up with my team in the weeks leading up to the trip and while we are in Belize, you can follow this link to our blog: www.teambelizeblog.wordpress.com.)

Part of the vision God has given me is to encourage and inspire believers to grow in their personal relationship with the Lord, and to speak truth into the lives of the lost. My goal is to take every opportunity God gives me to use my gifts to fulfill that vision. I firmly believe that this trip is an opportunity to put my vision to action in a specific way. 

Please be praying for TCA, the staff, the students, and the churches supporting them. They are doing good work in Belize as they touch the hearts and lives of children and families for the glory of our Savior.

Please also be praying for me as I seek to trust God even more. Ask him to put me in situations where I am compelled (yet again) to acknowledge that I live entirely by his faithful grace to me. 

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”- Romans 15:13, ESV 

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.

~~~

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.

Books|Cuppas

So! Sort of by accident, my last post on books is the perfect transition to something new I wanted to share with all of you!

Along with a pair of two sisters (dear friends of mine) who share my love for a good read and a cup o’tea, I will be writing on another blog called books|cuppas.

Here is our ‘About’ Section:

Hello there!

In the delightful words of C.S. Lewis, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

Our thoughts exactly. Please join us on our journey through fifty-two books and fifty-two cups of tea. One a week for a year. So pull up a chair, put the kettle on, and settle in.

Mae

Also, here is the ‘Prologue’ to our blog, explaining a bit more what we our focus is:

We’d like to think of this as a quiet nook where you can take a deep breath and curl up with a steaming cuppa and a well-loved classic. We encourage you to drink tea while reading this, and please chime in with any thoughts on the books we cover! It’s an unassuming venture – none of us know the first thing about tea other than the fact that its warm and quite delicious, and we are no great literary critics. How better to start learning though, than by doing?

We humbly hope to peruse books of the highest literary and moral quality recognizing that, “As a man thinkers so is he.” And “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” So fill with the best!

By this time you may be wondering why we’re talking in plural – We are plural – three young women, though we’ll be sharing under the plume de nome ‘Mae’ to keep things simple.

Chuffed you can enjoy these quiet moments with us!

Here is the link to our first post on a book written by yours truly. Please read and tell me what you think! We’d love to have you read our musings!

E

Books

So, I had a choice tonight: write about the election tomorrow, or write about books. I chose books. 🙂

How can I describe a book? How can I explain the wonderful feeling of getting pulled in to a delightful story? How do I share the truly magical experience of reading?

The written word is special. The ability of an author to take me to another world; showing me the things that his characters see; helping me to feel the things his characters feel; conveying a message through a story—to give me an adventure—is a beautiful art. When I read a fictional book, I feel like I am a part of the story and each character and idea is firmly planted in my imagination because I’ve experienced it.

Reading a book is unlike watching a movie. With a movie, the story is given to you: this is what the story IS. With a book, the story is told but is then left up for personal interpretation: go imagine it in your own way. That is just special.

I pray that I end up with someone who at least appreciates this story-loving side of me and will support me in my unashamed indoctrination of our children to loving every book I read and loved when I was little. Don’t worry, I have enough books to cover both girls and boys…and if I only have boys, well, sorry, they’re reading Little Women and Anne of Green Gables! If I only have girls, they’re still going to read Lord of the Rings, Sherlock Holmes, Hardy Boys and so on.

Go read an old favorite book of yours! It’s one of the best ways to relax and pass the time in an enjoyable way!

Stage 1 Adulthood + Driving

I am currently in what I call “the field of experience” stage of adulthood. I’m kind of getting my feet wet and learning lesson by lesson how everything works. I have everything I need to succeed: my Bible, the Holy Spirit, my parents, good counsel from friends and coffee (just kidding). Basically, everything is an adventure to me right now, even the smallest of things. So…the other night:

My responsibilities for the evening were to, a) get my little sister, myself and our car safely to a volleyball gym 30 minutes away in San Diego, b) to cheer like crazy for all of the volleyball teams, have a blast, text my parents updates on how my little sister was doing etc. c) get my little sister and myself (and the car) safely to where everyone was going to go eat and hang out, and d) to make sure I got my little sister, myself (and, yes, our car) safely home before 11:00pm (because apparently the state thinks that all of those 18 year olds out there are so much more responsible and capable than little old 17-year-old here of driving after 11:00pm without getting into trouble!! But I digress.) Simple enough, right? Driving, eating and cheering, driving. I can handle this.

*Ahem*

Well, on the way home, I got lost. I made a wrong turn and returned to the restaurant to get directions to the freeway from one of the parents there.  I was embarrassed because I felt like an idiot; I was nervous because was now 10:30pm.  So I was cutting it close with the state law; and was getting directions through unfamiliar territory to an unfamiliar freeway—terror. I will not tell you if I cried (hint: I cried).

It is this part of my story that reminds me of quote from a current favorite program, Dr. Who… 🙂

The Doctor: ‘You know when grown-ups tell you everything’s going to be fine, but you really think they’re lying to make you feel better?’ 
Amelia: ‘Yeah…’
The Doctor: ‘Everything’s going to be fine.”
 (Dr. Who, Season 5)

Why was getting lost so scary? I mean, I’ve been lost in a car before, only one small difference—someone older, with experience, with knowledge and with an iPhone (i.e. Dad or Mom) was in control of the vehicle and responsible for my safety. That Friday night—it was all me. I was in charge of getting myself and my little sister home safely and I was in an unfamiliar place with a vague idea of how to get home. I never doubted that I would get home. That was not why I was scared. I was simply feeling the burden of responsibility and the simple fact that I could not give that responsibility away.

In the end we got home safely by 11:15pm (so I broke my state-inflicted curfew) and I collapsed in bed utterly exhausted. I would like to note, that my little sister was completely calm and peaceful the entire time.  She talked so sweetly and peacefully to me telling me, “It’s going to be okay Emily. We’re going to get home.  It’s okay.” She put complete trust in me as she prayed that God would give me peace and guidance. I love that girl.

I realized another step in the responsibility of adulthood.  I also learned that I never want to do it again! Here are some  lessons I learned for  next time:

1. Never, ever leave until I am sure of where I am going and how I am going to get there

2. Study Google Maps harder, or at least try to as a friend keeps telling me. 🙂

3. Always, always have my cell phone so that I can call someone who can help me

  • Sub-lesson: buy an iPhone

4. Never, ever panic again. One, it only makes things scarier, and two, it doesn’t help me figure things out.

There it is: a long, vulnerable story about me and one of my lessons on this journey of Stage 1 Adulthood.

God is good!

Superheroes, Jesus and the Original Fairy Tale

This guest post was written by Marli Renee. She regularly blogs at Cause for Joy.

Once upon a time, Darkness covered the land. Men quaked under an evil hand, and wickedness felt no restraint. When all seemed black, a young hero emerged to fight. The darkness was destroyed, but at a great price – victory paid for with the life of the lionheart… A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. 

Once upon a time, Darkness covered the land. Men quaked under an evil hand, and wickedness felt no restraint. When all seemed black, a young hero emerged to fight. The darkness was destroyed, but at a great price – victory paid for with the life of the lionheart… A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. 

The same story lurks behind every hero, breaks through the fluffiest children’s books and darkest yarns. It’s a story that every culture tells and every human heart knows. A story stretching into eternity.

We need a hero…

A hero came. He sacrificed everything he had. He vanquished evil. Forever. 

That’s the heart of the fairy tale, the deeply rooted reason why people crave superheroes. But why is a desire for these stories so closely tied to being human? We were created with a yearning for Christ, and all true stories, all great stories, point us towards him.

How? To keep it simple:

  1. Fairy-tales point us to the Gospel.
  2. Superheroes are modern fairy-tales.
  3. Everything goes back to Jesus.

1. Fairy-tales point us to the Gospel.

If life were random chance, it would seem strange that every culture would have evolved with a fairly equal propensity to love a hero. To know that good and evil were engaged in an epic battle. To feel that their land is covered in darkness, and that they are not capable of rescuing themselves – that they must call on a higher power to rescue them.

Good thing it wasn’t random chance.

The world’s love of the fairy tale is a beautiful case for the existence of God. There’s this cord bound around our hearts, wrapped around His, and we feel it. We want everything bad to come undone. And so we wait for him, but in waiting, we ease the pain of our separation by telling each other stories. Our dark seems less black when we talk of another land plunged into woe, then saved by a hero. Of a fair lady in danger who was saved. Of an evil dragon that was slain. Of hope in a coming king. The once and the future king. Someone who came and is coming again.

Do you see it? Whether we mean it to be there or not, behind every hero, there is a greater hero. Each tale is a shadow of things to come – a foreshadowing.

Tolkien loved this idea, and wrote about it in his essay, “On Fairy Stories”,

In such stories, when the sudden turn comes, we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart’s desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through… I would venture to say that approaching the Christian story from this perspective, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. …and among its marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation.

By eucatastrophe, Tolkien means the triumph of good and the undoing of evil. In a sense, the Gospel is the greatest fairy tale, because it is the only true fairy tale. The original story, scribed on the hearts of all men.

If you’re interested in exploring this further, G.K. Chesterton discusses it in his book Orthodoxy. Fairy tales, he writes, shock us into remembering how wonderful the original story is. Chesterton believed we write about apples of gold and rivers of wine, to remind us how excited we were as young children when we first knew apples were red, and rivers ran with water. So also, we talk of the hero to remind us the wild delight of knowing Christ is our hero.

2. Superheroes are modern fairy tales

The days of court minstrels spinning fairy tales, and tribal folk stories are long behind the Western World. Instead, we gather our tribes and sit in front of a screen for two and half hours, allowing it to tell us our stories.

Nothing except the medium has changed. We still long for Christ. We still need the fairy tales. And the comic film industry know this.

Last year, Stan Lee, co-creator of Spiderman, Iron Man, the X-Men discussed Superhero films,

 My theory about why people like superheroes is that when we were kids, we all loved to read fairy tales… Fairy tales are all about things bigger than life… Then you get a little bit older and you stop reading fairy tales, but you don’t ever outgrow your love of them. Superhero movies are like fairy tales for older people.

Yet I think we could have deduced this on our own. Superhero’s fall under the exact same story pattern. We all need a hero, and until that hero comes to rule the earth forever, we will not stop making stories about Him.

Now, I want to make an important note. Simply because superhero movies point to Christ, that does not mean they are holy, entirely beneficial or innately helpful to watch. I’m saying as long as we create stories, we can’t help but put Christ in, even subconsciously. We want him so badly, even when don’t recognize it. But many of the modern superhero films are filled with dark, twisted ideas. Some flaunt sex, still more are filled with profanity, others worship the dark as much as the light. This is not of the Lord.

The main idea is to show why our culture loves the superhero. Not, we should all watch superhero films because they are about Christ.  

3. Everything goes back to Jesus.

Yes. Do you see it now? Christ is our true hero.

Once upon a time, Darkness covered the earth. Men quaked under an evil hand, and wickedness felt no restraint. When all seemed black, a young Jewish man emerged to fight. The darkness was destroyed, victory paid with the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ … A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Questions, Comments, Thoughts? 

Artwork, left to right:

1: St. George and the Dragon, Beowulf, Gilgamesh, King Arthur

2. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America

3. Christ by Carvaggio, Christ by Akiane, Christ in ‘The Passion’, Christ by Dore