Wednesday, December 17, 2014

and if not...

It's 3:30AM and I'm wide awake. Thanks, insomnia and anxiety (anxiety over what, you may ask? Once I figure that out, I'll let you know).
My brain just won't shut off. Why couldn't my brain be this wide awake during 8am classes or finals week? Rip off.

Anywho, tonight something's been on my mind that I figured I should write out; maybe then I'll finally sleep (or I'll take my panic attack meds/melatonin and pass out, whichever comes first).

Tonight I watched/listened to a podcast from She Reads Truth-- a Christmas party, with Ellie Holcomb (ah-mazing as always) and writer/blogger Angie Smith, talking about advent. It was great, and what I got from it is worth a post of its own; but that's not what I keep thinking about.

Rachael (one of the founders of SRT) was wearing this ampersand shirt:

if you're looking for me a Christmas present, this shirt is in the SRT store. #shamelessplug 
Someone during the webcast asked (on the youtube chat box) what the significance of the ampersand was. I (along with a few others) explained that it was based off Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 
It stuck with me the rest of the night, so I decided to re-read the story to refresh myself.  Apparently I needed it today. 

17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (NIV)

16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

Even if not. If He doesn't deliver us, we still refuse to serve or worship another god. 

Is that a tough pill to swallow for anyone else? 

In the midst of their biggest trial, they remained faithful. They didn't backtrack when things got tough--they didn't change their minds and give in to the king just to save themselves. They remained true to the faith that God would rescue and redeem-- and even if he chose not to, they still had faith in their God, and refused to support any other idol. I love the message version: it wouldn't make a bit of difference if God actually followed through with their request: He was still God, and He was worth holding on to. 

At Q Women in November, Annie Downs asked something that resonated with me:

"How do you craft a life that brings God glory and brings you joy, even if God doesn't answer your deepest prayers?"

Even if He doesn't answer my deepest prayers the way I want him to; if my hopes and desires for my life aren't what I planned; and even if I don't understand what He's doing or why He's doing it:

He is still God. 
He is still good. 
He has the plan. I'm simply carrying it out the best way I can. 

Faith is scary sometimes;  I don't want to put anything into God's hands I can't control (control freak probs, I know). So how on earth can I live a life where my plan and His plan might not match up? How can I live a happy, joyous life if it's not the life I have worked out for me? 
 That scares the hell out of me, if I'm being honest. I don't know if I could be like Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego: I'd be running for the hills, if it saved me and my way of life. I don't know if I'd have their, "even if He doesn't save us, I still believe in Him" kind of faith. At least not everyday; there are some days I totally see myself with that kind of faith, then there are the low days where I just shake my head and scream "REALLY?" at God when things don't work out. 

I want to have that "and if not" kind of faith: that "even if it isn't what I want or expect, I still choose to believe" kind of mentality. I really do. He says we only need the faith of a mustard seed, yet somedays I feel like I need faith bigger than Mt. Everest to just survive. Sigh.

The ampersand became more than a punctuation mark to me today: it became a reminder that, even if life goes haywire, He is here, and He is good. 

And if not-- even if He doesn't do things the "my" way-- He is still good. So, so good. 

Give Me Faith-Elevation Worship

Ellie Holcomb-Only Hope I've Got

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Time to Rest...

Well, it's done. The semester from hell is officially over. Grades have been posted (not too bad, considering my 18 hour class load plus my mental state this semester); graduation has come and gone (saying 'see ya later' to some fabulous people sucks royally); now I'm chilling under my covers listening to Christmas music.

This semester felt like it was never going to end, and now... it's over. This time last week I was wide awake, frantically writing/revising an 8 page research paper on Wuthering Heights (I don't want to talk about it). How was that a week ago?!?
Over the course of 48 hours, I went from frantic, stressed, and exhausted, to... well, nothing. By 6pm Tuesday night, every thing I'd worked towards over the semester was finally finished. I didn't know what to think, or what to do.  I don't think my brain knew what to do, being stressed had become a way of life.

I've been home since Thursday; I spent an extra day after finishing finals running errands and relaxing, visiting with friends and not rushing around for the 1st time since August--it was nice to be able to do stuff at my own pace! Home has been great; other than venturing out for graduation and some errands, I've done nothing but sleep, read, and play online.

Originally, my plan for break was to come home and go straight to work at the daycare I worked at over the summer. I was partially excited: I missed the kiddos (hadn't had a chance to visit since I left in August), I was excited about having some extra Christmas money, and I was going to get to be out of the house for at least part of the day (I get reallllly stir crazy, PLUS me and my mother under the same roof for too long causes me to lose my sanity).
Come to find out, they didn't need me-- the process for me to get re-fingerprinted just for December was going to take too long, plus they don't have as many kids during the Christmas season, so they don't need as many employees.

 I was bummed for a minute, then I felt relief. Immense. relief.

 Because in reality? While I say I was excited about working, my brain and heart were both screaming: ARE YOU CRAZY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO YOURSELF? (my inner dialogue speaks loudly, in all caps. As I do in real life).

Jumping from an 18 hour semester to a 40 hour work week: not my best idea.

I was so exhausted thinking about it. And while there were plenty of good reasons to go back for a few weeks, I began to realize the cons outweighed the pros:
working 9-6 all day, 5 days a week, on what should be my time off.
working with small children, which almost always leads to me getting sick (I got sick the 1st week and last week of the summer working there. Seriously).
no time to do things I want to do, like visit with friends, bake and shop with my mom, read for fun, etc.
no time to do things I NEED to do, like Cozumel fundraising stuff and online paperwork, etc.

I need a genuine break from work, both school and otherwise. Even my mom said as much when I told her about the job; her actual words were something like, "why don't you use this break to rest? To actually take a break?"

What a concept.

I've been in a constant season of going, going, going, constant movement and busyness, that I truly haven't given myself a break-- even when I took breaks from school stuff to have fun, or when I came home for Thanksgiving break, my brain truly wasn't on break-I was always thinking ahead of what assignment was due next or what meeting or event was next on my schedule. This is the first time in a long time I genuinely have nothing on my plate-- no school work, no work, no meetings or events or anything of genuine importance. This could be the last time I have such a free, worry-less schedule for a long time.

So, this break will be a break of rest; a 3 week span of time where I have absolutely nothing planned, other than time with friends and family. And baking-- lots of baking. :)
I am using this break to focus on me; to recharge myself so I don't burn out again. Because the burnt out this semester was brutal, and I never want to let myself get to that point again.

There is a time to be productive and work your tail off: it's called fall semester 2014. Winter break 2014 is a time to rest, and to let my brain catch up on some much-needed recharging.

I have never been so relieved and to have plans fall through.

"My Portion and My Strength"-Ellie Holcomb
her album is my anthem for 2014. Seriously.

Friday, November 28, 2014

"This is the good life."

  Guys, I started writing this post over 3 weeks ago. THREE WEEKS! That's how ridiculously crazy my life has been this semester. Thank the Lord I'm on thanksgiving break (though I should be doing homework, but I digress. *sigh*)

 I've been a bit of a hot mess this semester. Okay, hot mess is a bit of an understatement.

   This semester has just been the worst. I freaking HATE admitting that, because I'm finally in classes I love and feel like I'm 100% doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I've loved my classes, and my middle school practicum was my favorite thing ever.
   And yet, I have never been this overwhelmed, stressed out, or exhausted in my life. I don't think I've ever been stretched so thin in school. It's been one of those semesters where EVERY THING is due at the same time, so it's been a constant going, going, going since practically August.
   Then October rolled around, which I'm pretty sure was the month literally sent from Hell to drive me to a breaking point. Somehow I dredged through, barely.
My life. Via the lovely Glennon (Momastery)
  Along came November, with a much needed week break of sorts. The 1st week of the month I had nothing major due (a rare feat!) and I was able to miss classes and practicum twice that week for two different purposes: an elementary school writing workshop, and Q Women Conference.

(This post would've made so much more sense if I'd written it 3 weeks ago, right after the conference, but again, life got the best of me. Sigh).

  ANYWAY. The conference was wonderful and was exactly the charge I needed to get through the semester. All the speakers were great, but one particular caught my attention.
  I'd heard Annie Downs' name before (one of the few names I knew from the conference) because I'd heard of her book Let's All Be Brave (which was in the conference swag bags, wooo!). I'd heard of the book through a blogger of some sort, and had put it on my to-read list (I've since read it, but that's an entirely different post for another day).

 She said many awesome things at the conference, but it was this that caught me in the gut:

I don't want to live in a passive state of waiting; I want to live in a chronic state of, "this is the good life."

Yep. Right. in. the. gut.

   Part of me scoffed and thought, "how in the living HELL can this to be the good life?"
Let me break it down for you:
~I am the most stressed I've ever been in my life (18 hours plus a school practicum does this to ya)
Thanks Glennon (again) :)
~My body and brain have decided to revolt against me because of the stress
~Insomnia and exhaustion have completely take over my life
~As much as I love what I'm doing in this season of life, it has been overshadowed by a pit of depression so deep I somedays don't know how the hell I'm gonna get back out.

   So... yeah. Not exactly a chronic state of living the good life right now. I want to wallow and mope in it, but honestly-- that's (obviously) not helping me much. I've been sitting around waiting for the next season of life to pull me out of this mess. It's not working.

   The other part of me, upon hearing Annie's words, wanted so badly to live in that chronic state of the good life. I NEED to be living in that right now. I want to believe that in my worst of worsts, living in that good life mindset is possible. But how? HOW?!?! How, in the middle of the hellish mess I've dug myself in, can I even begin to live as though this is good?!

(if you think I'm gonna be ending this post with a solution or anecdote of some sort, you are sadly mistaken. I wish).

    I think right now, the most important thing for me to realize is that I'm currently NOT in a place where I can confidently say, "this is the good life." I want to be there, but I'm just not. Admitting that is huge for me; I want it all to be perfect when in reality somedays it feels like life is crashing down on every side of me. My world is just spinning too hard right now, and as much as I want and need to live in a "this is the good life" mentality, I just can't right this second.

   But I can start. I can start taking baby steps to get me to this good life place. The key, for me, is in the waiting; I've been stuck waiting this semester out, hoping it would get better or easier, or maybe just disappear from existence (ok there have been good things I promise but the sucky outweighs the good). I have to remember that yes, life is hard; some days are blah, some days are wonderful, and some days feel straight outta hell, but whichever kind of day the Lord gives me- He's given me for a reason. And hopefully, He'll give me the next day too, whatever kind of day it is.
   I saw this on twitter and thought it spoke volumes into my life right now: "Today was a hard day. Reminding myself that hard days are days the Lord has made too (via Sammy Rhodes)." This is the day the Lord has made. Every day is a day He has made- good, bad, amazing, or ugly. And I should rejoice and be glad in it. It doesn't say to rejoice only on the good days; every day, no matter the day's outcomes or unravelings, is a day God has given me. It is a day I have been graciously given, so I should rejoice, be glad, and do my best to remain in that, despite the circumstances the day gives me. That's freaking hard, y'all, especially when the sucky days outweigh  the good ones.

A good life, I've finally begun to realize, doesn't mean all of my days will be good. Far from it. To me, it means that I'm trying to simply live out my life's work each day, in spite  what life throws my way. It means to step out and be brave, in the midst of my mess, and truly live- even when it's the last thing I want to do.

  It's gonna take all of the bravery and courage and strength I have to live this right now, especially on the pit days where I don't have the strength to get out of bed. But guys, I HAVE to--I NEED to. I need a reason to feel something other than numbness right now. I'm ready to feel His goodness moving in my life again, even if some days don't seem all that good. I need to live like it's the good life, or to fake it til I make it to that point where it genuinely is good. I don't know when that'll be right now, but I know God promises me that He will work everything out for those that love Him. That he takes my brokenness and mess and makes beautiful things from it. That's all I've got right now, but that's something pretty good to cling on to in this pit, I think.

So no, this post doesn't have a happy ending right now. I'm not magically in a place where the good life is my constant right now, nor am I in a place to rejoice and be glad, despite my utmost want and need to be. It's a work in progress that I someday soon hope to fully live out every day, despite the circumstances of my day. This is going to be the good life, even if the every day isn't. And that's a start, friends.
Ellie Holcomb-My Portion and My Strength (but really, go listen to her whole album. It's helped me so much).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The running and the returning || #SheSharesTruth: Hosea

 Life catch up: school, school, and more school. All of life is school when you're taking 18 hours! (Welcome to senior year, y'all). It's crazy busy and exhausting. Pretty much sums up this season of life, I suppose.

In the midst of it all, I've been keeping up with my She Reads Truth studies. These studies were a spiritual life saver this summer at home. Though I was often too exhausted to do much Bible study, I tried to keep up with them this summer. I was almost always successful. I'm still pretty successful during school, even if it means I'm reading at 1am in bed using the SRT app (which is awesome. if you haven't checked it out, you should).

And then they decided to do Hosea. Right as school was starting.

After my friend introduced me to Redeeming Love (which is based off Hosea- and is a topic I could write an entire post about itself!), I've had some interest in studying it, but I've been kinda hesitant.  If you haven't read it, Hosea is an intense book of the Bible. I'd never studied it in-depth for this reason. it was so hard for me to study, hard for me to understand-- especially at the beginning of my most hectic semester to date. As someone that didn't grow up reading and learning scripture, reading these stories (especially Old Testament) are a bit scarier for me. SRT makes reading these books and stories I'm not familiar with easier, but still... it's tough.

I learned a lot I needed to learn, even things I didn't want to learn. I was challenged, even when I didn't want to be, about things I didn't necessarily want to be challenged about.

And I was reminded of so, so much that I needed to hear.

"The book of Hosea is not about Hosea, it is about God’s relentless pursuit of an undeserving people." (Day 1)

 Even when I run. (Especially when I run).

 Even when I'm a hot mess.

 Even when I fail and flounder.

 Even when I don't want to trust or follow Him, when I'd rather do things my way.

 Even then, He still wants me. 

He knows me. He knows me well enough to know I'll run and keep running. He knows my messes and my struggles and my story. And yet, He still pursues me. He chose me to be His.

I will never understand it. I will always wonder why.
"The chasm of sin grows wider and we run faster, but our God changes not. He is still sovereign, even as we flee." (Day 5)
There have been so many times that this story has been mine. I think that's part of what makes it hard to read: I have been the unfaithful bride, running away from the best thing that's ever happened to me. I have struggled with letting love in. With being fully known and fully loved. I've shut myself off to love and letting people love me for so long.  I have created this bulletproof shield, keeping my heart and love from everyone (too much trust has been broken to give it to people freely).  In doing so, I've been too afraid to let anyone in- including God. 
This has been a work in progress, this idea of letting people (including God) fully love me, over the past year. It's so much easier to run the other way, to flee in fear of getting hurt. It's easier to put my shield up to anyone that comes my way.

And yet, God still pursues me. He wants me. His love is unrelenting- even when I'm gunning it in the opposite direction.

He waits for me. 
He loves me fully. He knows me fully. Even when I don't want Him to.
He chooses me as His love. 
He knows I'll return, and patiently waits for me to come to my senses and come running back where I belong. 
He relentlessly loves and pursues every part of me.

That's a beautiful, yet scary thought. It used to be more scary than beautiful, but the fear is starting to be left behind- slowly, but surely.

"We are sinful. He is steadfast.
We are fearful. He is faithful.
We are broken. He binds up.
We cherish idols. He cherishes us.

His love and affection toward us do not change, no matter the depth of our sin." (Day 5)

"Build me a home inside Your loving arms, the only place I ever will belong"
When I think of me and my running, I think of this song. It made me cry when I listened to it after reading this post.

How amazing is it that He waits for me to return to Him? He doesn't just wait, either- He is joyful and unbelievably ecstatic when I return to Him, even if I've run 100 times to the opposite side of the world to get away from Him. Nothing will subdue His love and affection towards me. Nothing.
"Whether it’s the first time you’ve run willingly out of God’s precious protection that comes from obedience, or it’s the five millionth time, the Lord doesn’t stand unmoved by your genuine return." (Day 8)

How unfathomable is it that He constantly pursues me, loves me so much that He wants to have a relationship with me? No matter what I do, or where I am, or how far I run... His pursuit and love for me stay the same.

He wants ME! He pursues ME! He loves ME! And that will never change. 

   It's overwhelming.  I've never felt a love this strong towards little ol' me.

It's amazing how much your life can change when you're being pursued and loved so deeply.

Earlier this week, we had Ellie Holcomb speak and perform during chapel. It'd take me an entire post to relay her whole beautiful message, but she spoke a bit about being fully known and fully loved. It's a hard idea for me to wrap my brain around- the idea that God sees my mess, my screwups, and my failures, and pursues me anyway. But He does. Because if anything else, He is a God that fully knows His children for who He made them to be, and fully loves us in spite of our mess.

One of my favorites by her, Love Broke Through. (I bought this whole album after hearing her in chapel).
"Your love has called me out
Out of my sorrow
Out of my broken places
Hope has been renewed
'Cause there in the darkness
Love broke through"

And another for good measure: The Broken Beautiful
"I know that I don't bring a lot to the table
Just little pieces of a broken heart
There's days I wonder if You'll still be faithful
Hold me together when I fall apart?
Would You remind me now of who You are?
That Your love will never change,
that there's healing in your name
That You can take broken things,
and make them beautiful
You took my shame
And You walked out of the grave
So Your love can take broken things
and make them beautiful"

The book of Hosea and God's constant pursuit of us teaches me that no matter who we fully are or what we have done, He loves us enough to chase after us, and lavishly extend His grace and love to us when we finally return. Hosea teaches me that His pursuit isn't because of what we've done or haven't done- it's because He simply loves us and wants us to be loved by Him. No matter how far or how much I run, He will still be waiting, still be pursuing, and still loving me. And to me, that's pretty amazing.

Thank you, Hosea, for reminding me of the depth of His love.

Thank you, Lord, for the running and the returning back to where my heart truly belongs.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Along Came August

     Crazy how last time I posted around here, I was just returning back to "normalcy" post- Cozumel. April was kinda sorta the month from hell, and in May I immediately jumped from school mode to summer mode by beginning my summer job at a local day care. I was a fill-in/substitute teacher, helping when teachers went on vacation; if no teachers were on vacation, I spent my days split between the Pre-K and toddler classes, and helping teachers when they needed an extra set of hands.

   And now, here's August. Classes start two weeks from tomorrow. Friday is my last day at work. The summer both dragged on and sped by all at once. Time is interesting like that, isn't it?

 Transitioning from being a full-time student to being a full-time 40 hour a week employee was difficult. I was totally not anticipating the drastic change, though I totally should have. It's a totally different way of life.
    Besides that, I loved this summer. I enjoyed never being bored, unlike past summers. I laughed every day, both at funny things kids said or did, and at my co-workers' antics. The kids could make me smile AND drive me nuts within a 5 minute period. I've always LOVED kids, but if this summer has taught me anything, is that kids can sometimes be overwhelming. Okay, a LOT overwhelming. They are so all over the place-- and that's what makes them fun to be around (annnd definitely what makes me totally exhausted by 5pm every day).  This job taught me a lot about how to manage a classroom, even though my future classroom will likely be filled with teenagers. ;)  

  This job was my first experience with a full-time job. It made me grow up a LOT. I was scared at first, realizing that I was in charge of these tiny humans. Especially if I was by myself with the kids; the first few weeks, I was so unsure of myself. I didn't know what I had permission to do (if anything) or if I said or did something in a class that a co-teacher disagreed with, or if I should just jump in and act like their full-time teacher. I felt clueless at times. Really, I felt like a kid myself- how could I be responsible for kids in a classroom?!?! How were they going to look to me as the adult to listen to, when I barely felt (feel) like an adult myself?!?!
     After I got the hang of it so to speak, I loosened up and started feeling confident. Even when the kids were unruly, or when they wouldn't sit down or stop talking when they were supposed to, or when they started scream-singing Let it Go at the top of their lungs-- I tried to enjoy it and learn from it.

  And so, here we are at the end of the summer and the cusp of a new school year. Senior year, to be exact. (though I won't earn that official title til January). The fact that I'm at this point in my life is surreal. I'm gonna miss this summer more than I realized back in May when I started this job.  Friday is going to be bittersweet, leaving the munchkins and preparing for life back in the realm of college life. I'm mostly ready for it, because I miss my friends and am ready for my next chapter. I'm looking forward to starting classes (minus the papers and lesson plans that loom ahead) and being back on campus.
   But closing the chapter on this summer will be different than in past summers. It's been a summer of growth, a summer of (mostly) solitude (minus a few friend excursions, I've spent most of my off-time at home, reading or online shopping. Oops.), and a summer of fun, sweet moments with a bunch of cute, (slightly) crazy kids (and some crazy adults too).  I'm excited for what's to come, but am sad over what I'll be missing.

  August brings so must change, every year. This year more so than in other years. Though I'm sad to leave the summer behind, I'm excited to embrace what the fall has in store.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What I Learned In March- COZUMEL EDITION!

So, I've had a really hard time articulating my thoughts about Cozumel this year, hence why I haven't written my usual Cozumel blog post (or any blog post as of late). It's been taking me a bit longer to process this time around, and a lot more time adjusting back to normalcy. I know friends and family that I haven't been able to talk to directly want to know some details about the trip though, so until I am ready to formally write about it, I thought I'd combine it with my monthly "What I Learned" Post via Emily.  I'll be ready soon with a more beautifully written prose about what Cozumel meant to me this year, but my heart needs a little more time to sort through it all.

Bottom line: it was an amazing trip, where I felt God moving and working, both in the old friendships and new bonds. It was wonderful, different (in good and bad ways),  and some beautiful memories were made I'll always cherish. I miss Ciudad and Cozumel with every fiber of my being.

Without further ado, here are some things I learned in Cozumel:

1. The best days/weeks go by the fastest. The worst days go by the slowest.
How is this right, universe? Why should the worst days take forever, and the best ones feel like they are cut short? We left for Cozumel 2 weeks from March 1st. Those were two of the painstakingly hardest weeks of the semester (between classes and the anxiousness of wanting to be in Cozumel), and felt practically unending. The trip itself was 8 days (including 1 1/2 travel days), and yet it felt like it was over in the blink of an eye. Though most days were long, (10+ hours) jam-packed busy days, it really never felt like it to me. Time goes by so fast when you do something you love. The irony is that the culture is so, so much slower down there. I love it, but it's such a tough dichotomy between  a slow, relaxed atmosphere and yet time itself going by so darn fast!

2. Reunions in the dark are hard.

On the 1st night we're there, we have our annual "S'more Fest", where we are reunited for the 1st time with the angels over s'mores outside on the campus. By the time we get to the campus, it is already dark, so it was hard to reconnect with some of the kids. Conny didn't recognize me in the dark, but the next day we were back to how we were the year prior, as if a year hadn't lapsed between visits! I love that girl.
The next morning, in the sunshine so I could see her beautiful face!
3. Never underestimate the difference 1 year can make. 

One of the things I love about this trip is the opportunity to go back year to year. I am so thankful I was able to go for a 2nd year, and Lord willing I'll return for a 3rd next year. It AMAZED me to see the difference a year made, both physically and in personality. Some were the same with some minor differences, some were drastically different, but there wasn't one kid that was exactly the same. I guess part of me felt like they'd freeze in time and stay the same, but they of course change and grow and grow up, just like us. I wasn't prepared for this, especially with the little ones! It's crazy what one year can do. 

Cristi- still the baby (for now!), but man, she isn't a baby anymore. So much bigger, more talkative, and so. much. sassier. (how on earth was THAT possible?!?!) Here, she was demanding it was *her* turn for her nails to be painted. (and they sure got painted too!)
And don't even get me started on how much THIS girl has grown up. **Sigh** Such a beauty.

4. No matter how much he grows up, I can always count on Carlos to take silly photos on my phone/camera. 
I'll let these pictures speak for themselves: 
We tried the whole "selfie" think but this is how it turned out. Haha.  

This one's my favorite. :)
Such. a. goof. 
5. The Sheet Game= Real-Life Name That Angel. 
At our team retreat, we play a very competitive game called Name That Angel, where we have to guess the kid's names after Mark reads us a description of them (we get a few minutes to study the info packet with names, pics, and descriptions). It's rather intense and a fun way to start learning names. 
So, on one of the nights we had the grandes (teenagers) over for food and games and a devo. The game Abby and Luke came up with was called the sheet game- we split up, Lipscomb vs. Grandes, sat across from each other, and each took a turn saying our names; after that, they held up a sheet in front of both teams, and one by one we sat in front of the sheet, the sheet would drop and we had to try to guess a person's name from the other team that was on the other side. Andrew called it real-life Name That Angel... and I about died of laughter. It was true, and absolutely hilarious! We played for practice at retreat... now we have to play the real-deal. 
Not gonna lie... this game stressed me out; but seeing how much the grandes got into it was the best. You'd think that since we knew the kids names and had studied them prior, we would have won, but alas- the grandes beat us by one! (sub-lesson: teenagers are competitive no matter what nationality they are). 

(enough silly stuff (for now), now onto more serious/Jesus lessons):

6. When you ask God for something specifically, He really, really delivers. 

He may not deliver in the way you expect, but man, does He deliver.

 I went into the trip very exhausted and drained; the semester (especially the hellish week leading UP to the trip!) has been busy and rough and all kinds of stressful. It showed on the first night (you know, the awkward reunion-in-the-dark), and I just knew I HAD to do better.

 I was having quiet time/journal time outside, by the pool the next morning, when Jesus Culture's "Holy Spirit" played on my phone. 

I had been journaling about the night prior and how I felt about it, and this song kind of stopped me for a minute. Instead of continuing to journal, I wrote out a prayer in my journal - a prayer that I would become fully aware of God's spirit, and that I seek His presence and where He was leading me with my whole heart. When you pray for God to show up, He doesn't just trickle in... He overwhelms. In the best way possible. 

 Becoming aware and seeing God's presence became a theme for me for this trip in different aspects, but it was in this prayer of asking for awareness that I was able to see and feel God throughout this trip. This whole writing down a prayer was a different thing for me- but I kept doing it everyday(anybody else think of Abilene writing her prayers from The Help like I did?); after I'd write about the day and what all happened, I'd write a prayer out for the next day, asking for whatever I felt like I needed to do or whatever was coming my way that day. But each prayer started with asking for His presence- and the awareness of His presence. And as I'll talk about in the next lesson, He answered this for me in some beautiful ways. Something about writing the words where I can see them and go back and see exactly how he answered my prayer is just so powerful. Even going back and reading them now, seeing how they changed throughout the week, how my prayers started including specific kids and events... it really brought me a whole different way of remembering parts and memories of the trip.  I've been continuing this practice since I came home, and I hope it becomes a habit in my prayer life. 

7. God works in the smallest, most spontaneous moments of our lives. 

I think I oftentimes look for and expect God in these grandiose, in-your-face, overt actions. Sometimes, He does come through those, in these larger-than-life moments that are unmistakably God. But as He's been teaching me, and as He primarily taught me through this trip, it's in those more miniscule, almost forgettable moments that He works His way into. . . into the margins of the day, in the little in-between details and the spontaneous moments and words that He speaks to life when we aren't looking. Sometimes it's in those moments that you don't think of when they happen, but look back on in reflection and have a sort of "aha!" moment- that God was all over that moment without my noticing. 

It's amazing to see how God works His joy into every part of our day, especially while I'm in Cozumel. While His presence became overwhelming (as I mentioned in lesson #6), it was overwhelming in these little obscure, fleeting moments where God revealed Himself and His lessons to me. It reminds me of one of my favorite hymns, My Father's World, particularly this line : "This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass I hear Him pass; He speaks to me everywhere."

Some of the best, God-soaked moments were the littlest, private details, such as:
-Marce pointing me out and recognizing me the 1st night- best. feeling. EVER.
-Painting nails with Conny and Cristi 
-Watching Conny color, write my name (how she remembered it AND knew how to spell it I'll NEVER know), and give her drawings to me as a gift. 
-Carlos and his silly faces
-Chasing Marce around the playground and hearing that God-given musical laugh. I miss that laugh. 
-Realizing that I have almost enough broken Spanish and Wendy has enough broken English to hold a decent conversation! 
-Letting Conny and Alicia play with my hair (the results of that were just fabulous)

-Seeing Wendy's face COVERED in stickers (and the fact that at age 13, she didn't seem to care. That made it better).
-Watching the kids that could swim really well, and helping those that couldn't swim (especially that little goober Cristi who was SO determined to get to the deep end despite not being able to swim a lick). It was kinda crazy sitting there thinking how much they depended on us in that moment...
-Seeing Marce's face light up when she saw me from across the playground- and her running into my arms for a hug (I think there's a picture of that somewhere, but I haven't found it yet)
-watching Wendy work on her own on a craft, then receiving a card (in English) from her. The sweetest. 
-reading to Marce and seeing her try to make some of the sounds/ faces of the story (Andrew was right, I WAS in heaven in that moment).
There are many more I could list, but I think I made my point: God is in everything. He really does speak to me everywhere, even when I'm struggling to hear Him at all.
It's amazing what one little prayer can do to open my eyes to His presence. Especially in such a God-breathed place- it's really not hard to see God there, but when you're struggling like I was, letting God open my eyes really showed me all the little places He was intervening in.

8. Relational trips are really awesome. They are also really, really hard. 
 Ask just about anyone that knows me, and you'll know I'm not the best with my hands. I'm clumsy, I turn just about everything into a bigger and better mess, and asking me to build something is just out of the question. Which is why, as I've learned due to previous trips, that a mission trip based around building/a work project is not for me. I used to think those were the only kind of mission trips, until I came to Lipscomb. I'd never heard of a trip solely based on relationships-- but it seemed right up my alley. Yes, we do work projects and some task-y things while we're at Ciudad, but the primary goal is to build relationships and love on these kids while we're there. It's so great, because I LOVE getting to know people and love that relationship and being with people is the center of our trip. It was so much fun spending time bonding and engaging in conversation that I'll remember forever. 

It's also really hard, because at the end of the week you have to leave those friendships back in Mexico, with a "hasta proximo año" (I hope), and return to normalcy. It's not easy. I miss the kids, I miss the conversations, the laughs... I miss it all! It's hard to come back to reality after 1 short week of spending time at Ciudad.

9. These angels are normal kids and teens, and should be loved as such. 

A friend/team member of mine pointed this out a couple times while on the trip; I didn't really 'get' it for myself though until later. I guess I kinda have a tendency to assume that since they're in a children's home, their circumstances make them extremely different.  But their circumstances don't make them any less human. They still act and behave like kids and teenagers do, they just come home to Ciudad as opposed to a normal living situation.  Yes, they do have some different situations and some things that are different about them, because of what they've been through and because of life at Ciudad; however, they don't let that stop them from being themselves. 

The little kids are like normal kids, that like to play games and want you to push 'em on the swings or chase them around. The teenagers are like normal teenagers that sometimes don't want to sing in front of everyone with their siblings for fear of embarrassment (sorry Wendy), or don't like school and would rather play soccer, or like the same bands or singers or movies you do. They all like hugs and high fives. They love crafts, and they love to laugh-with you and at you. 
They want us (me) to realize that they are human, and they deserve to be loved and treated like such--- not any different because of their circumstances. I'm starting to understand this looking back on the trip. 

10. Ciudad will ALWAYS have a piece of my heart. 

There aren't many words to describe what this place means to me. I can't wait to (Lord-willing) return next year to the friendships and the silliness and the sweet sweet people there. My friend Lydia last year said that God's fingerprints were visible all over Ciudad... and she couldn't be more right. My heart is filled with such joy and peace from the minute I'm there, and my prayer is that the love and joy and peace I had there will be visible back here too. It's hard, but I know God is here in Nashville like He was in Ciudad... I just have to tune my heart more to see Him. I can't wait to be back in this place someday soon. 

(& one last fun lesson!)

11. Mexican kids love Frozen too! 
We learned this during our Wednesday hang out time in Casa 3... After the Americans in the room gave a rousing performance of "Let It Go", we noticed they knew the words too! We then proceeded to find the Spanish version of the song and let the kids sing it. It was the cutest. thing. ever. Then all of us decided to perform the English version and video tape it... Probably one of the most outlandish things I've ever done, but it was so much fun! I have a video of them singing the spanish one... but my phone isn't cooperating at the moment, so hopefully I'll add it soon!

Until next time, thanks for reading about what I learned in Cozumel! 

Friday, February 28, 2014

What I Learned In February

Jumping on board with Emily again for her "what I learned" series.

I forgot that February was short, because February felt SO FREAKING LONG. It wasn't my best month, so I'm glad it's over; if I'd had to deal with another week of February I dunno what I would have done.  0.o One week I was sick,the next I was extremely busy (while sick), then this week was just one of those where everything that could go wrong did. So fun. Yay that it's over!

1. I always get sick at the most inopportune times. 

Always. Pneumonia 4 days before my service club's biggest event of the year? So fun. I spent Valentines weekend in bed, with very little human interaction. It was part glorious and part miserable. Two weeks later, I'm still coughing.

2. Never underestimate the power of bake sales. 

We raised a fairly decent amount of money with a bake sale and t-shirt sale. I was floored. People like baked things apparently.

3. Sitting in the student center at said bake sale everyday for 2 hours drove my introverted self in a tizzy (especially while still sick!), but it was perfect for people watching. 

Especially since it was 60 degrees almost all week, and EVERYONE was outside. IT WAS PERFECT, Y'ALL.  The introvert in me loved all the people watching. Crazy things happen when you sit in the student center for hours on end. (In a related story, I never want to sit in the student center that long ever again).

 I did sneak out some to sit in the sunshine, and man, it was wonderful. And now it's back to freezing and snow warnings and someone please make it stop. Please!

4. Baking is a really cathartic stress reliever. 

I already knew this, but I baked a lot this month, and this couldn't have been more true. Baking gives a sense of control to me when everything else goes haywire. And the rewards are glorious (though my rewards went to the bake sale and not to me, haha). My baker of a mama has apparently trained me well, my tagalong brownies were a hit. Mmm so good.

5. Poetry involves a lot of math.

Between figuring out the syllables to figuring out the meter, it made my head hurt. Any type of writing that requires math is NOT for me, I know that much.

6. My English professors would make very good theatre people. 

Seriously. So much theatrics! Especially Dr. Reed and Dr. Garrett, they are so dramatic in class. I love it. Dr. Reed particularly, she is downright adorable.

7. Sky High probably gave me my best workout ever.
Wall to wall trampolines, including a trampoline dodgeball court? That was a blast. I wanna go back!
  In other news, my pneumonia-sickly lungs still haven't forgiven me.

8. I am in dire need of quiet and rest. 

Sleep doesn't come til 1-2am most nights, and then I toss and turn so restful sleep rarely happens. Blah. I've  been going, going, going, ALL month long, and it wore me out bad, both physically and spiritually (the latter primarily).

 I've been good about quiet time this school year, but I've been slipping this semester. It's a struggle to make time, especially for someone like me that needs to do everything but be still and rest. Such a struggle.
 I need to take better care of myself, both spiritually and physically (cause obviously me getting so sick again is NOT an option. DO YOU HEAR ME IMMUNE SYSTEM?!?)

9. I love the Lenten/Easter season. (and NOT just for the Jellybeans.)

Okay the jellybeans might be part of it. Especially the starburst ones, though they are my favorite candy ever (don't judge).

But really, the Lenten season IS my favorite season of the year, spiritually speaking. It's so important and reverent and lovely. I love Easter and springtime coinciding, showing us literal rebirth of nature as we prepare and celebrate the resurrection. How poignant and fitting, right?
I'm still working on what I'm giving up and adding on for Lent, but I can guarantee you it'll have to do with #8 above. :)

10. Adding a new dog to the family after losing our boy is incredibly bittersweet. 

Losing Sebastian so suddenly and unexpectedly sucked. It's been so freaking hard; even three months later it takes everything in me not to cry when I think about it or look through pictures. Mom and I both knew we needed to add a new member to the family, to help ease the heartache of losing our bay Bastian. We knew it wouldn't replace or fill the hole he left, but we needed a source of some happiness back that we lost when he left.
So, when one of Mom's customers told her about a pug that needed a new home, Mom went for it:

This is Lola. I swear her face resembles Grumpy Cat's, but I digress. She's pretty darn cute. She's 2 1/2, so she's still in the puppy stage a bit. I haven't met her yet, but I'm hoping I can go home before Spring break to get some pug snuggles.  Mom calls her a hyper little diva. I love it.

Part of me is comforted and happy, part of me looks at her and wants to cry because I want my boy back so bad. I'm beyond happy my Mom has a new pug to love and snuggle with, I can already see a huge difference Lola has made in her. She's been ten times the wreck I've been since Sebastian died; while she won't bring him back, she does bring a bit of him back home, and for that, I'm happy.

As much as I love and miss my boy, I absolutely love our new little girl.

11. March is destined to be a great month. 

I'm calling it now!! Hear me, God? It's gonna be awesome.

2 weeks from tomorrow, I'll be back with these beautiful babies:


 And man, I  cannot wait. 

So here's to leaving February behind... and embracing March for the beauty that it's bound to bring. 

Follow Me! :)