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 

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.

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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.

• 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 

Bigger Than Me

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CLA Eagles – Varisty Girls

This past winter I had the opportunity to teach, train, disciple and build relationship with 22 jr. and sr. high school girls alongside people that I respect and admire. For four months I found fulfillment in doing the work God had called me to. Every day I found joy in the knowledge that coaching was what I got to do with my life. The challenges were minuscule in comparison to the daily rewards, in fact, the challenges made everything all the brighter.

I dreaded the end of our season.

Sure enough, Saturday, March 22nd came and along with it the Winter Sports Banquet. It was a lovely time. I had the blessing of talking about the Varsity Girls team and it gave me a lot of closure. But that was the problem—the season closed, and I slid into deep post-season depression.

The following Monday I started a new job, and it went well. I had a great boss, helpful and encouraging co-workers, and I was confident that I could do well in the position. To my own confusion, though, when I got home I cried my eyes out. I didn’t understand why, I mean, things had gone well. Then I realized that for four months I had been doing work that I felt meant something. Coaching was much, much bigger than me and I felt honored to be a part of it. To go from that kind of joy and fulfillment in coaching to work retail flattened me. [1]

I let myself cry a little longer, but as C.S. Lewis said, Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” So, reluctantly, I forced the tears down and opened up the Word to 1 Peter 1:5-9:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

The verses were so perfect I started crying again. I realized my own fear of becoming ineffective and purposeless…and God addressed it immediately. That passage told me  that as long as I am constantly pursuing him, it is impossible for me to become ineffective. If my desire is to be close to and serve the Lord, than I will be a fruitful force for his Kingdom, and thus, always a part of something MUCH bigger than me.

…..but *cough* I still miss coaching.

[1] Not that it really matters to this post, but I’m actually not working retail anymore. Yay! 

Work Well Done

I consider myself blessed by my job. I enjoy what I do and the people I do it with/for. Some people cannot say that about what they get up for in the morning, so I am very grateful. However, as is natural, a feeling of discontent sometimes finds its way into my heart, because this job is not what I ultimately want to do with my life. Eventually I want to see myself writing part time; building and maintaining a home for my family; being a good wife to my husband; and teaching my children from home. No “offense” to my current working position, but those occupations carry a lot more value to me. The truth is that they always will.

But, as always, God is faithful in giving me something to think about and apply in my present situation. Ironically, I had to read an article for school today titled, “Why Work?” by Dorothy Sayers. My professor pulled out a few specific quotes that really touched me:

“Work should be looked upon, not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God.” – Dorothy Sayers

and…

 “The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables”. – Dorothy Sayers

In and of itself, the work I do—filing, data entry, typing, billing—is not that important, however, the fact that I am doing this work for others (because it makes their job of supporting their families easier) is important.

 I have the opportunity, 20 hours a week, to bless people by doing things that are necessary for their success, but that they don’t have time to do. That gives me fulfillment. I am working so that I can contribute to paying for my education. That gives me purpose. I work hard, which gives me pride and ownership. I can do my work joyfully and purposefully even though it sometimes feels like a stepping stone towards something bigger.

Find pride and purpose in your work well done. God does. 

A Little Sleep

I get excited, no…strike that, giddy when I realize that I can finally go to sleep. I’ve actually found myself grinning as I jump into my bed and giggling (a tad insanely) as I snuggle under my big fuzzy blankets. I lay there reveling in the fact that I’m actually here!! In bed!! Going to sleep!! It is an amazing experience.

But, what is sleeps’ purpose? I know that sometimes I actually use sleep to escape from my problems or as an excuse to delay what I know I need to accomplish. Wrong.

Proverbs has harsh words for people who sleep too long and neglect the work that God has set before them.

“How long will you lie down, O lazy person? When will you rise up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little rest, a little folding of the hands to rest, and being poor will come upon you like a robber, and your need like a man ready to fight.” – Prov. 6:10-11(NLT)

“Do not love sleep, or you will become poor. Open your eyes, and you will be filled with food.” – Prov. 20:13(NLT)

Slight ouch, no? But God also has words like this;

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”­ –Psalm 127:1-2 (ESV)

Here’s what I am seeing as I read through Scripture (there is obviously so much more than what I’ve noted here), sleep is like food—it is necessary and it is enjoyable but it’s proper place is in moderation and in need.

So going forward, I will continue to be excited when I get to go to bed after a long day of school, work, basketball (yes it’s a game…but it’s painful and draining too) and the emotional ups and downs of my life. I will thank the Lord for the blessing of rest. Yet, I will also not stay too long in my comfy bed. I only need so much rest, and the excess time spent under the covers needs to be cut off and put to better usage in spending more time with the Lord, in my studies etc.

Thoughts?

Not About Me

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Within 5 minutes of waking up this morning I was crying under the weight of my stress load. Not a good beginning to a Monday, right? Trying to get my mind into working gear I straightened up my room a bit and made myself a cup of tea before settling down to spend some time with God in prayer. I almost didn’t do it. I looked at my history book and back at my Bible and back to my history book, no, God needed to come first. So, with a not so fantastic attitude I began reading and then praying. As I continued into my time I found that I could not focus, speeches, history tests and basketball crowded out my thoughts of talking with God. Frustrated I bent my forehead down onto my desk and just sat there. I took a deep breath and told God that I needed to let go of every thing in order to wholly focus on him. I listed every thing that was stressing me out and I asked him to just take them, and show me how to handle everything. Then, in the silence, I heard “it is not about you, Emily, it is about Me.” I thought about it for awhile and then I saw that in my stress and worry, I was focused on what I was doing and what I needed to accomplish, not the fact that I am living the life God has called me to and He, in his timing and in his own way will bring about his purpose in and through me. Again, basic, but difficult.

I cannot say that I did not mess up for the rest of the day, I still worried, but the Holy Spirit quickly convicted me…and did not leave me alone until I listened. Do not get me wrong, I am still pretty worn out by all of my work and activities. But now, I have a better perspective on how God wants me to handle all of the things I am trying to juggle.