Sunday, November 13, 2011

Birthdays, blessings, and burdens

This is the first time I am writing to all of you as a 25-year old...eek!!  How in the world did I get to be 25?  I feel like I was just 17 a week ago.  It's crazy how fast time flies the older you get.  I'll admit, I was a little worried about not being around my usual friends and family for my birthday; I thought that I wouldn't enjoy the day as much.  Well, was I ever wrong!  It turned out to be the best birthday yet!  The day began bright and early with an e-mail from my dad....they usually call me once it is officially my birthday, but e-mail was the only route this year.  My family had also sent me cards and I opened those before I even stepped out of bed.  Out of normal routine, I came downstairs before we left, grabbed my luncbox, opened it to get my breakfast, and surprisingly found a card.  I had mentioned to Dom that my mom used to write notes and put them in my lunchbox, so he wrote me a birthday note and placed it in my lunchbox.  How thoughtful!!  When I got to school, everyone greeted me with enthusiasm and hugs (students always make birthdays so much better)!  For all of you who were expecting me to meet someone over here, well...I have a boyfriend.  He is from Honduras, has the cutest smile, and is in the 4th, not actually my boyfriend, but he thinks he is.  Little Manuel brought me the most beautiful calla lilies for my birthday!  God love him, he made his mom take him out the night before so he could get them.  He was so excited to give them to me.  The day continued to get better and students were being very sneaky and after lunch, Mr. Dom had to "distract" me.  Once they were ready, they blindfolded me and led me to my classroom.  When they opened the door and took away the blindfold, I was surprised with music, shouts of birthday wishes, food, and decorations.  My students had rearranged the classroom and had the coolest party waiting for me....complete with Justin Bieber singing "Happy Birthday" (not the real thing, unfortunately)!  They had brought snacks, made cookies and punch, bought pink plates because pink is my favorite, made a beautiful birthday banner, and even made hand-made treat bags for all the teachers.  I was blown-away at the effort, time, and thoughtfulness they put into everything.  We spent the rest of the afternoon having a dancing party, complete with the cha-cha slide, macarena, and cotton eye joe (just for me).  Mrs. Julie's students made me a birthday video (on my facebook), Mr. Dom's students made a huge card that the whole school signed, along with many other cards, notes, and gifts.  While gifts are great, the love they showed me was the greatest gift of all!  After school, us teachers went to the mall and then met a group of friends for sushi!  The birthday blessings didn't end there...friends paid for my dinner and had bought gifts.  On our way home, we stopped at the grocery store and while standing in line, was approached by a needy family.  The mother needed toothpaste for her little girl.  My heart broke at the sight, so I gave her the money she needed for the toothpaste.  However, my heart still hurt for her; I could do more than just give money for toothpaste.  With the financial gifts I've been blessed with, God was able to use me to bless this family with toothpaste and a few groceries.  Dom even gave them some extra money.  Now, that's how every birthday should be to others, rather than receiving all day.  To put an end to the day, Mama Tye and Pastor Pete had made a delicious cake for me.  God has truly blessed me with the most wonderful new friends and family.  I felt so loved the entire day, not just from those in Honduras, but from so many of those at home who took time to write to me. I was not excited to turn 25, but it has definitely gotten off to a good start!  I think it may be a really good year! ;o)

My kiddos

The beautiful table and decorations

Hand-made gift bags
Link to my birthday surprise video
Link to my class dancing to "Cotton Eye Joe".  Thought I'd bring a little country to Honduras.

So, I have always been a big believer in that God works in mysterious ways, and this may seem like a very small way, but it was one that has meant so much to me.  I have been wanting a really good book to read for my quiet time and had heard awesome things about "Radical" by David Platt.  There really aren't any options for buying such a book here and downloading sucks up our internet.  God must have known that I wanted and needed to read this book because my Aunt Ricki bought it for me and sent it as a surprise.  I was thrilled!!  I have spent the last few days reading, and let me tell you, it's intense.  If you have not picked up this book, you need to.  I am just two chapters in and it is changing my life.  The whole revelation behind the book is how we have taken Christ and the gospel and manipulated it into what we think it should be.

I want to share a quick excerpt with you.  Just to preface, Platt is writing about a trip he was planning to take in 2004 to Sudan.  He was reading a Christian news publication and came across two headlines side by side.

On the left one headline read, "First Baptist Church Celebrates New $23 Million Building"....On the right was a much smaller aticle.  The headline for it read, "Baptist Relief Helps Sudanese Refugees"...Now, remember what was on the left: "First Baptist Church Celebrates New $23 Million Building."  On the right the article said, "Baptists have raised $5,000 to send to refugees in western Sudan."  
Five thousdand dollars.
That is not enough to get a plan into Sudan, much less one drop of water to people who need it.

I literally gasped out loud when I read this.  When did we become this way?  When did our priorities become the outward appearance of buildings, rather than the needs and salvation of people?  I will be the first to admit that I focus too much on the outward and what looks good.  Like I said, this book changes your life!  I won't spoil it for you, but we have created a God in our minds that isn't even close to the true God.  We like our nice buildings, catchy songs, and fun retreats, but what if our relationship with God meant that we had to hide in dark room terrified that we would be killed if we were found?  The book talks about this; there are people in Asia who spend 12 or more hours a day in pursuit of God and His word, while hiding in a dark room - no lights, comfortable chairs, screens, projectors, or instruments.  Would God and His word be enough for you?  Shame on me for feeling so sad and sorry for myself when i first arrived here.  Yes, I was away from what I considered "normal" or "comfortable" but I did not have to hide; I live in a beautiful house, always have food to eat, transportation, and spend my day teaching at a Christian school where we worship God freely.  What will it take for us to realize that God IS enough?  I urge you, read this book, learn from it, and step away from comfortable.  Nothing Christ did was comfortable.

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