Sunday, September 25, 2011

Where oh where is the land of milk and honey?

After spending the past few weeks dodging sickness, it finally caught me.  I had to leave work early on Friday because my stomach was not very happy with me.  Luckily, I work with some pretty amazing people and they made sure that everything was taken care of, me included.  Let me just say, being sick and away from your momma just isn’t easy.  I spent the majority of the weekend in bed…no makeup, no fixed hair, which means I was definitely not feeling well.  The students made me “Get Well” cards and they were so sweet!  I am blessed to be the teacher of such thoughtful and loving children.  I am, thank heavens, on the mend.

I will be honest, when hearing or reading Bible stories, I don’t really pay much attention to the details – who, what, where, when – I just listen for the lesson and how I can relate it to my life.  Our lesson for today (in my best teacher voice), comes from Hebrews 4.  In all seriousness, God really threw this one my way today.  Quick overview, the Israelites are about to enter the “land of milk and honey”, however, they get scared.  What comes to mind when you think of milk and honey?  Sweet, soothing, warm…positives, right?  So why would they (the Israelites), or us, get scared when God is directing us to our own “land of milk and honey?”  The only explanation I can come up with is this – we are the problem.  Why am I constantly wishing I were somewhere else, doing something else, or with someone else?  Because I like to think that I know better than Him.  God’s promises have never (and will never) change, but like the Israelites, we get in the way.  If you are anything like me, we like to walk in front of God.  I know what I want for my life; therefore, I think I can do it better than God.  When we rely on other people or other things to guide our lives, we lose trust and we doubt.  Eventually, we lose our life to human desires, rather than gaining life through God’s desires.  I feel like that is my life in a nutshell.  I have spent my life dreaming, planning, and wishing for a certain things.  It seems as if I have been so close to “it” (whatever that may be) so many times, and then it backfires and all disappears.  Why?  Because God will not allow me to proceed if I am afraid - afraid of giving it all to Him.  How do you do that? Can someone answer me that?  How do you completely place what you want aside, not saying that you could or should forget about those desires, but how do you give it all to God?  I wish I had the answer.

Much like the Israelites, we know that there is something bright ahead, but we get scared.  We get to a certain point and then we cave in.  I am so guilty of trusting to a certain point, and then falling back into lackluster faith.  How can I share my faith with others if I choose to only believe half of what I should?  The really scary realization is, if we give up and compromise our believing, we never get there; we never make it to our “land of milk and honey.”  I don’t know about you, but I want to get there and I think God wants me (and you) there too.  The key to receiving His promises, is simply this…believe.  Not that I can read God’s mind, but I am beginning to think that this whole concept of “believing” is a big reason why He brought me all the way to Honduras.  Believing in me will only get me so far, but fully believing in my God, that my friends, will you get everywhere. 

Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
Psalm 119: 49-50

Choosing to believe (or learning how to),

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I can't get no satisfaction

Hello world!  Hope this post finds you all well, as I hear that fall is making its way into the states.  Surprisingly, it has been chilly and very rainy here.  I don't really like the rain, but the cool air brings a reminder and comfort of home.  I have been a bum for the past couple of in sweatpants and oversized sweatshirts, sipping coffee, and trying new recipes.  We had a couple days off from school for Honduras' Independence Day.  When I wasn't livng the bum life, I did venture out to the valley to experience the annual Independence Day parade.  I hate to report that it put the Canton parades to shame.  Boistrous and colorful music played continuoulsy, along with the "traditional" fair was wonderful and definitely made up for me missing Labor Day at home.  I am happy to report that I am finding comfort in being here.  My heart still misses family, friends, American food (Starbucks, especially), and other little things, but I feel that I have found a piece of my "groove" in being here.

Now, the lesson of the week.  I continue to have heartfelt conversations with my parents, and shout-out to my dad for always being quick to respond to my e-mails and get on skype in the wee hours of the morning when I just need an ear to listen.  For those of you who read my last post, I shared that I had been struggling with finding happiness as a single girl and how I have been praying and looking for God to show me any iittle insight as to my purpose in being here, rather, my purpose in general.  Well, I'm still praying for all of those things.  This week, I have been battling against the issue of seeing myself the way God sees me.  Harmless jokes have been made, and like a normal girl, I find myself comparing my body and other things to those around me.  I will admit that I have always been someone who is always trying to "fix" something about myself; my weight, my hair, my skin, etc.  As women, I think we constantly seek acceptance and glimmers of hope from everyone and everything.  (Sidenote: I have watched the Notebook like 4 times in the last 3 days, so this doesn't help anything).  When I picture my life and what I hope for, I have so many "things" I wish to accomplish.  Moving to another country and loving a different culture and people has been on my heart for a long time.  That is why I am so frustrated and confused as to why I am already praying about and desiring other things.  I feel like I keep getting blindsided by every insecurity I have ever had.  In being here, I feel so completely vulnerable.  I want to live, and I mean really LIVE.  Moving to Honduras and experiencing a different way of everythings, is living to a full extent, right?  But I still constantly long for more.  I guess this is kind of a reoccuring theme for my time here.  I asked my dad if he thought that you could ever be completely satisfied with what you are doing with your life?  So, I ask you find yourself completely satisfied or are you still longing for "more"? What is it that you want for your life and are you willing to work and sacrifice to get there?  I sit in bed at night and sometimes don't even know what to say to God; sometimes I just need to sit quietly in His presence.  Those are the times when I feel that I can breathe without having a flood of thoughts.  I know that God calls us to constantly grow and go, but is there a happy-medium?  Can you grow and not go?  Or vice-versa?  Am I growing?  I realize that I have been asking myself that question a lot.  It's funny really, after losing myself - my identity, in relationships, I prayed and prayed for God to show me who I was and who He wanted me to be.  During the last year or so, I truly felt that I found who I was and who I was in Christ.  That all changed when I got here.  Now, I feel like I am swimming and pushing through the waves of an unknown identity.  Who am I?  Who are you?  Who does Christ want us to be?  I wish I could answer that question for all of us.  Until the answer comes, I will be praying, waiting, hoping that God breaks down my walls and that I finally become the woman God wants me to be.  I pray that you are seeking who it is God wants you to be.  I spent too many years living for me and working to become who I thought I should be.  As I have found, it has been in those quiet moments alone that the only thing that brings me comfort, is the hope and longing for God to take-over, and the promise that He will.  Until next week...

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Honduras is not for the "week"

Shout out to Dom for the catchy title (thanks, Dom)!  This has been, by far, the most exciting week!  For the first time, I really began enjoying my job.  I wish I had remembered that is does take time to get to know your kids.  I also wish I could give you more detail about each of the kid's individual "story", but I want be respectful of them.  However, I do want to say that they are the most loving and life-filled kids I know!  I am continually amazed at their spirit and enthusiasm.  They are real inspiration.  Just to share a little bit about the start of each school day...we begin each day with a class devotion and prayer time.  I usually find a verse for the day and we talk about how it relates to our lives.  We end by sharing prayer requests and praying.  Shame on me for being so negative and complaining because I am the first person my kids shout out when I ask for prayer requests.  Quickly after they mention my name, they ask that we pray for my family and Tibby (they love my cat).  I wish you all could hear these kids pray!  And man-oh-man do they love to pray!  It is a true blessing being able to work in a school where God is a priority and you can openly share His word with your students and colleagues.  

I have to say that I am rather proud of myself because I started learning how to drive a stick-shift this week! Whether you can believe this or not, I can be a little "high maintenance" and never learned how to drive a stick.  Learning to drive a stick-shift, especially on the roads of Honduras, was a very exhilarating feeling!  Hopefully I will be a pro before you know it!

Okay, coolest part of the week...getting to meet the PRESIDENT OF HONDURAS!!!  In Honduras, they celebrate many awesome holidays (we could really learn from them).  On Friday, we celebreated Dia del Ninos, or Children's Day.  Well, I like to think that our school is very lucky because the President's helicopter pad is literally in our backyard.  It is located right outside my window, so it is a daily occurrence for our lessons to be (pleasantly) interrupted by his helicopter taking-off or landing.  Since it was such a special holiday, we were planning a fun celebration for the kids; the parents were bringing in traditional food and we were going to watch a movie.  Around 9 in the morning, we heard the sirens leading Don Pepe to the heli-pad.  My students happened to be outside for P.E. when I heard them yelling for us to come outside.  Once all the students and teachers ran outside, Pepe was already surrounded by the kids.  As I found out later, it is fairly normal for him to stop by and visit with our students.  Because I was a new teacher, and following cultural custom, he grabbed my hand and leaned in to kiss me on the cheek...way cool, right?  He spoke some English and told me that he was happy I was here in Honduras.  That isn't even the best part...all of a sudden, he pulls out his phone and calls in pizza, burgers, chicken, candy, pinatas, and toys for the whole school.  Once he ended the call, all of his servicemen take out their phones and start calling.  It was just incredible to watch because that would never happen in the states.  Before he left, he told us that he would be back at another time for us to enjoy a ride in his helicopter!  Later in the afternoon, like he promised, the goodies arrived!!  I have never seen so much food!  It was by far, the coolest experience!!!

Now that I have shared the experiences of the week, I have just a few insights into my mind and heart for the past week.  After my streak of no crying, I broke down on Tuesday.  Tuesday was Leia's 16th birthday and it hurt my heart that I could not be there to celebrate with her.  As an older sister, while I try not to be a second mom, I love my sister more than anything else in this world.  She is my best friend and I want so much to be there for her.  I feel like she is the older sister sometimes because she is the one who consoles me when I am crying and upset.  Needless to say, I am very grateful for her and her understanding.  

Now for the uber girly stuff...many of you know that I am chronically single.  I haven't seen many relationships in my day and I have spent the last couple of years working to find confidence in being a single woman.  I know what some of you are thinking, "Lauren, you're only 24!", "Why are you so worried.  You have your whole life to be married."  Yes, I agree with all of these statements, but that doesn't take away the desires of my heart.  God has really been incredible and has allowed me to discover myself within the last couple of years.  There was a time when I thought the end of relationships were the end of me.  My identity was not of who I was but who I was with someone.  Within the last year, I really lost the desire for dating and being in a relationship.  I found happiness in being me and experiencing life as a single woman.  Even better, God opened the door to Honduras and I KNEW that I could not do this if I were in a relationship.  Well, I don't know if the devil is trying to get me down or God is opening my heart, but my desire for love is definitely on the rise.  This has always been difficult for me because I have always been the "single" one, always watching from the sidelines.  As I said in my last post, God is working in me...I can feel it everday.  Sometimes I think I can physically feel Him working in my heart and my life.  Right now, at this very moment, my heart is longing for something that I cannot physically see, nor can I even begin to wrap my mind around.  Like the worry-wart I am, my constant thought is, "You will be the old maid with a house full of cats."  On the other hand, I try to encourage myself with the thought that God would not place a desire in my heart if He did not have the intention of fulfilling it.  I was talking to a friend tonight and told him that I have the hardest time being still.  I believe I spoke about this some last time.  If God is trying to show me anything, I really believe He is teaching me how to be still in Him.  (Side Note:  I have been thinking about getting a tattoo of something regarding "being still".  Thoughts?  Sorry, mom and dad).  I also had a really great conversation with my parents about what all I was feeling and what I was wanting for the future, notice I said what "I" want.  If you asked me where I would have wanted my life to be at this very moment, I would have told you that I would want to be married, living in our own little house (preferrably near family), teaching in a school, volunteering in some way, and taking cooking classes (I've really been into the cooking thing lately).  Funny when you look at my life and it is absolutely nothing like that.  I think that God really finds it hilarious when we try to make plans and when we think that we know what is best for our lives.  I think I can actually hear the laugther...

I apologize if I have been rambling.  Honestly, I feel like my heart and my head are working overtime wtih all of my emotions lately.  Much like how I left you last week, my prayer for you and I is that we find a way to be still and hopeful in our God's promises and plans.  Another friend told me that we need to wake up and go to sleep thanking God.  Even in the moments when we can't seem to find anything positive, thank God.  Thank Him for having it all planned out so that we don't have to worry.  I have not fully grasped this concept yet, but I'm working on it. ;o)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Calming the storm...and me

The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us!  We're going to drown!"
He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
Matthew 8:25-26

Storms.  We all go through them, right?  Death, loss of love, financial struggles, and every other uncertanity and pain that life can bring.  For the past 3 weeks, I have been struggling.  Why am I here?  Why can't I just live a "normal" life?  Why can't I be with my family?  Where are you God?  These are just a few of the thoughts that have been clouding my mind since my arrival in Honduras.  I will admit, though, that things have gotten easier.  However, even though some things have gotten easier, I still catch myself constantly worrying.  For those of you who know me well, you know that I worry about something to worry about.  Not my finest quality, I'll admit.  When I decided to take this step, my thought was that God would work through me for the betterment of others.  I guess I thought that my purpose in coming here was to be the one who helps, not be the helped.  I know it is only a few weeks in, but God is beginning to show me things that I was not expecting.  Bear with me for a little bit...I will do my best to truthfully share what I've been thinking and feeling.

I have always thought of myself as a strong Christian, not the best Christian, but strong in my faith.  It is easy to go around acting like you believe and trust, and telling yourself that you believe and trust, but the reality is...I don't think I've been very honest with myself.  After participating in mission trips for most of my life, I felt confident in my ability to love and help those in need.  After teaching in an inner-city school for two years and seeing the fruits of my labor, I felt confident in my ability to teach the youth of today.  So of course, I felt it to be God's will that I come here and teach.  I came into this thinking that was my purpose - teach and love these kids.  Honestly, I have not been happy going to work everyday.  I miss my "normal" school and my "normal" kids.  I have been continuously doubting that I have purpose here, until today.  My "storm", like the disciples, is not my circumstance but myself and my trust in God.  At church this morning, Pastor Pete spoke about the above verse from Matthew, and it occurred to me, maybe God's main purpose in bringing me here wasn't to help calm the storms in the lives of other, but to calm the storm in me?  I lay in my bed every evening feeling terrified.  Why?  I don't know.  God is starting to reveal himself to me in a mightier way than ever before.  I have lived my life always being within a good distance of comfort.  I have always had "normal" to fall back on, until now.  I do believe that God has a plan for me that involves me helping and loving the people of Honduras.  Above that, I believe God desires for me to learn to live a life completely secure in His promises.  I apologize if this is the image I have portrayed, one of complete faith in God.  During these past few weeks, God has really opened my eyes to how much I need to grow as a Christian.  This is the first time in my life where I feel like I am really learning what it means to live a life that is completely submitted to Him.  I have never been so scared.  Crazy to think that God had to get me to another country to learn this.  

When people would ask me why I wanted to do this, I would say it was because I was terrified that I would get to the end of my life and know that I had wasted gifts and opportunities.  I have been wasting some of my time here because I have been discounting God's faithfulness.  My "theme" verse has become the verse below.  My prayer is that me and you both would take time to breathe and be still in God's promises.   

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Exodus 14:14

Finding rest in God's promises,