Thursday, December 27, 2012

Only the Beginning

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm going to use my journal to write this post and most likely the others to follow. I'll do my best to italicize excerpts from my journal entries and keep my thoughts to regular font to minimize confusion.

Unlike many of my other posts, I'm just going to write. This post is empty, and I'm simply going to let my thoughts flow. In no way will I be able to convey my emotion or passion, but what I will be able to do is allow you an insight to the many ways God worked during this trip.

So for starters I'll begin with the first full day of the trip and move on from here chronologically. In order to understand the magnitude of the impact the trip had on my heart, I believe you'll have to bear with me as I "watch myself grow."

December 15, 2012

Security is intense. I mean the measures it takes to get on a plane is just quite ridiculous, but at the same time I am thankful that security is as it is, because it ensures our safety. After navigating our way through check-in and security, in which I would like to mention I wan't searched for once!, we just had to sit and wait for our boarding call. Suddenly the fire alarm went off, making a loud commotion and sending flashy lights all over the airport. Thankfully there was no fire, because that could have sure put a damper on our trip! 

Shortly after making our way on the plane...

I would like to revoke my previous statement about not being searched... I was pulled aside with several of my team members to be searched with the dog. I'm pretty sure I scream 'NATIONAL THREAT' when traveling.

To think that these were the first entries about my trip simply humors me now. It was so "me" to be caught up about security and what not. Already I can tell I've grown, because my flight home was so different, but that will come later. So the story continues.

Ok. Already I'm in love with this country! It's beautiful! At the airport, Chris, Walter, and several of the kids picked us up. What a great sight it was to see children who were so excited about our arrival! We loaded our luggage and filed into a 16-passenger van and began traveling through the country. For lunch we stopped at a mall, and were given the option to eat whatever was in the food court. 

I saw McDonalds and Subway, but unlike my usual self, I decided to try my first Nicaraguan dish! Boy was it delicious! 

We loaded up once again and are now on the road to Jinotepe. The scenery is breathtaking. There are volcanoes, I mean ACTIVE volcanoes, and other beautiful landmarks. The poverty here is evident as well. Chris told us how half of the population lives in Managua, the capital, and that startled me! That is just a WHOLE lot of people for one town! 

As we keep driving down the bumpy, dirty roads, I feel like I'm already losing myself in this country. I'm in a new country, a country where I do not speak the language, but I feel at peace. I feel content. My heart is not overwhelmed, but is over run with joy at the days to come.

This was probably one of my very first, and most in depth entries. I laugh now at how quickly I felt comfortable in a foreign country, because truth be told that feeling never left me. RETURNING back to the US felt more like a foreign country. For the rest of the day I was on a high from energy and excitement.

I was in awe. The compound were we stayed was called "Children of the King." To be honest, I whole-heartedly expected to stay somewhere a lot worse than we did! The compound was beyond nice! I felt so rich staying in such a nice place while all around I was surrounded and reminded of the poverty around me.

When I went to take a shower on the first night, I was startled by the freezing water and did my best to shower as quickly as possible. While this might seem like a complaint, to me it was a blessing. In the States I could shower for 10 minutes easy, but by taking a 3 minute shower, I had much more time to devote to the kids, and to my devotions. I miss those cold showers, and I would give anything to be back.

A lot happened the first day, and I journaled EVERYTHING. As the days progressed, I put the journal aside so that memories would embed on my heart, and not on paper. For now I hope this just gives a mere insight to what my first day was like. I look forward to sharing the rest of the trip soon!

Monday, December 24, 2012

God of Healing

"If an opportunity arises, take it. It if has the capability to change your life, let it." 

For the following couple of posts, I am going to do my best to write of my experiences in Nicaragua. I took a journal while I was there, and wrote down almost everything I saw, heard, and felt.

Yet, as I look at it tonight, words simply cannot explain the significance that this trip has already had in my life. Its impact was much more than I thought it would be going in, but thankfully due to God's grace my trip healed me in ways that I didn't even realize I was broken. 

So in order to begin describing my trip, I must begin with a prayer I began praying this summer. That prayer was a difficult one, but I knew that in order to grow in my faith I had to be pushed. I had to be tested.

So I asked for just that. At some point this summer as I worked at Camp Deer Run, I began praying that God would break my heart. I prayed that God would break my heart so that HE could put it back together in a way that would not only make me a stronger Christian, but a stronger person. In such a way, that my new heart he put together would pulse life for Him, and him alone. 

Prayer is a frustrating thing. Just as I thought God wasn't going to meet this request, he threw me for a loop. So much so, that I didn't even realize that he was working or that he was answering my prayer exactly as I had asked for it.

Only now, looking back, do I realize that God indeed answered my prayer; only now does it make sense to me and that all the pieces fall into place. The series of events since this summer were not "simple tests" of faith, but were in fact God's way of breaking my heart.

I had a great first semester. I truly did. A lot of college freshmen can't say that, but I can. I had a healthy balance of school, fun, and church events. Everything seemed to be going my way, but something didn't feel right. By "something didn't feel right" I mean that I always had an uneasy feeling that I wasn't acting like myself. At one point I talked to a close friend about this, and she helped me voice through my concerns. 

For as long as I can remember, my joy, my happiness defined me; as my smile physically defined my face. But this semester, I found that I wasn't always smiling. Not that not smiling is a bad thing, but for me, smiling is what defines my character. It's how I meet, greet, and say goodbye. It is what makes me, me.

While it might not seem like much, to me it was an inner turmoil. It also led me to believe that maybe college was changing me in ways that I wasn't prepared to handle, because if I couldn't smile all the time, who was I? 

In a previous blog, I talked about my hardships this semester. I truly believe now that God was using those hardships to break my heart, along with this unsettled feeling I had.

Anyway, with that background now, I can begin to tell you the healing I felt, I experienced on this trip.

God used this mission trip to put me, put my heart back together. Like I said, I didn't know it until now, but now everything seems to make perfect sense. All this is because our God is a good God, a faithful God who answers prayers. A God whose plans are so much greater than our own, a God who was capable of challenging me, breaking me, so that on THIS trip he could fix me.

For most people, leaving a mission trip, leaving those kids would break their heart. But God used this trip to heal mine. He used the love, the people, and his evident power to heal my heart and to make me stronger. Leaving was beyond difficult, but as will come in some later posts, I know it is only a temporary goodbye.

I will try my best to post as quickly as possible, to collect my thoughts and notes and share them. Still I would love to talk about my trip! It was revolutionary, and truly an opportunity that fixed my life. I look forward to sharing everything, including videos and photos. But for now I just ask that you will pray for my babies, my kids that I left over there in Nicaragua. Pray for their comfort and protection, but most importantly just pray that God will bless them and make his love so SO evident to them.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

More Than Conquerors

We are weak. We are broken; yet our strength comes from the Lord. How amazing is it to think that our God has not changed. His power has not diminished over the years. This concept is so hard to grasp considering that we live in a world that as you get older your body weakens, and begins to fail you.  God isn’t like this at all. He has not changed! How amazing is it that OUR God is the same God who healed the lame, opened the eyes of the blind, and sent his son to die on a rugged cross for us. How great is OUR God that he provides us with the strength to overcome the troubles of this world?

Romans chapter 8 talks about Christians being “More Than Conquerors.” Verse 28 “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” in ALL things. Not just the good, the easy times, but in ALL things. He works for good when a loved one loses a fight to cancer after years of treatment; he works for good in all things, even when the world seems to tell you that your life is falling apart. How reassuring is it to know that in every day, in everything God is working in you so that his goodness will be glorified.

Verse 31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Doesn’t this one verse say it all? No matter the trouble we face, no matter the number of people who seem to look down on us because of our faith, we can rest knowing that God is for us.

Above all, the last two verses of this chapter always seem to go with me. When I find myself discouraged, I always look to verses 38 and 39, which say that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. Death, life, demons, or even the world cannot separate us from his unending love. How great is our God, that he will love us no matter what.

I know that in my life I struggle with loving everyone. When I see a loved one hurt because of someone’s actions, it is difficult for me to practice “loving” this person who has hurt someone so close to me. It is difficult for me to love people that have wronged me, and it’s sometimes difficult for me to love those people the world tells me that are “unlovable” such as criminals and whatnot, but at the end of the day I HAVE to remember that as God has loved everyone, so should I. How great is our God that he loves every single one of us. No matter our past or our future, we know that God will always love us and will always have his arms wide open for us to return to him.

If God is capable of loving everyone, so we should practice this love as well. If Jesus Christ died for us, the least we as Christians can do is love everyone even those people that world tells us are “unlovable.”

We as Christians are more than conquerors. We are capable of conquering the world, but in order to do so we must remember the ultimate sacrifice. We also must live in such a way that obeys the commands that God has given us. First and foremost we have to love.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Selfish Desires

In the depths of our souls and our hearts is a desire. A desire to be loved, a desire to be accepted, a desire to live life to its fullest. These desires are embedded in our chemical makeup, but I speak for myself when I say that I probably spend too much of my time trying to achieve some of these "desires."

I spend too much time trying to make myself and my life desirable to others. I desire to have more friends all the time and I desire to be liked by those people I encounter every day. How selfish is this thinking? As I'm thinking about this, I'm disgusted with my own selfishness.

How much of my time do I spend trying to make myself something that quite honestly I can't always be? Do you ever catch yourself doing something, or trying too hard to appear like something you aren't? Maybe I'm the only one, but I constantly catch myself trying too hard, whether that be trying too hard to appear as if I'm having fun, or trying too hard to catch someone's attention. Either way it boils down to this: I'm trying too hard for something I shouldn't be worrying about.

If you are having to try to appear desirable or having to put on an "act" to appear one way or another, is it really worth it? I shouldn't feel like I have to put on this act, but instead I should be confident in being myself. Being myself will draw people in, or push them away, but either way at least I'm not pretending to be someone I'm not. At least I'm not trying so hard to catch everyone's attention when quite honestly they could care less about me.

In the end I have to constantly tell myself to stop. Stop trying so hard to make myself and my life desirable to others. I have to stop trying so hard to pull the attention on me, because that is not my purpose in living.

What I want instead, is to live in such a way that God brings people to me. God brings me attention so that I can positively reflect him in everything. I want God to be seen in me, and that means that my selfish desires to be noticed, have to be thrown out the window.

I'm human, and I want attention. Yet, God calls me to humble myself. Humble myself I will, and from this point on, I'm done.

I'm done trying to impress people. I'm done trying to pull attention in my direction, but instead I'm choosing right now to let God do this for me. He will bring the right people into my life, and he will always be the only one who sees that I feel desirable. He is the only one who will constantly desire you, and if that isn't enough for you, I don't know what is.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Flame vs Fire

Passionate is one word that I would always use to describe myself. Passionate about life. Passionate about causes. Passionate about everything I do. For those of you who know me I believe you can attest to this, but for those of you who don't just so you get a better picture, I don't half-do anything. To many people I'm viewed as a perfectionist, but from the inside looking out I would say that I know what I'm capable of, and I will not stop or settle for anything less than my personal best. In other words, I don't want a flame, I want a fire. I want to look back on life and say that I tried my best in everything, no matter what it was.

Recently I have fallen in love with a song called Do Something by Matthew West. The lyrics seriously speak what I am trying to live every day and for that reason I'm going to share them with you. I realize it's long, but I promise it's worth reading!

I woke up this morningSaw a world full of trouble nowThought, how'd we ever get so far downHow's it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to HeavenI thought, "God, why don't You do something?"Well, I just couldn't bear the thought ofPeople living in poverty
Children sold into slaveryThe thought disgusted meSo, I shook my fist at HeavenSaid, "God, why don't You do something?"
He said, "I did, I created you"
(Chorus) If not us, then whoIf not me and youRight now, it's time for us to do somethingIf not now, then whenWill we see an endTo all this painIt's not enough to do nothingIt's time for us to do something
I'm so tired of talkingAbout how we are God's hands and feetBut it's easier to say than to beLive like angels of apathy who tell ourselvesIt's alright, "somebody else will do something"
Well, I don't know about youBut I'm sick and tired of life with no desireI don't want a flame, I want a fireI wanna be the one who stands up and says,"I'm gonna do something"
Bridge:We are the salt of the earthWe are a city on a hillBut we're never gonna change the worldBy standing still
I love Christian music, but this song just blew me out of the water! God made us to be his tools here on Earth. I realize I probably "preach" the same thing over and over, but it is so important to let God use you. Allow him to show you a cause, and DO SOMETHING! We live in a world full of causes, full of pain, a world that is so lost and consumed by darkness. Be the light, and do something. Often we will simply complain or talk about "how bad" a situation is, but how often do we step up and do something about it? We've been brought up with a mindset that one person CAN'T do anything alone, but this is SO wrong! It only takes one person to make a difference, and I promise you that if you were to stand up and do something, others will stand with you. Look at the world around you, and allow God to use you. We are God's hands and feet, but if we preach it without living it, are we really claiming anything at all? We can't call ourselves Christians if our lifestyles don't reflect it. We can't expect for people to be receptive of the Gospel if we do not take them in, feed them, and nourish their physical needs so to say. In order to touch their hearts, their souls, we have to take care of their needs.  
It takes a flame to get a fire going, but if you don't give that fire any oxygen it will eventually die. So live passionately, and allow God to take your flame and build it into a fire. We are capable of changing the world; you and I are capable of doing this! Let's stop complaining, and actually do something about the world we are living in. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Together We Stand

Panic. Confusion. Chaos. It’s amazing how one text can change your day. One text that took my simple lunch and cram session before my calculus text, to a complete evacuation of campus. Leaving my calculus behind, I grabbed my backpack, keys, and wallet and did what everyone else was doing: evacuate. On foot I began to make my way off of campus, and towards an AFC friend’s home that lives in the “safe” zone.  Taking in to mind that these threats have been occurring all of the country, that evacuation is just a precaution, I knew this wasn’t the time for a real panic. 

Anyway thousands of students were walking off campus, traffic if backed up, streets closed, and yet we are still an Aggie Family. The war hymn was blaring, and I was checking with friends to ensure that they were safe. Within 30 minutes of the initial warning, I had taken so many steps to ensure that my “loved” ones were doing well. PamPam was informed, and was well aware of the situation, and all of my friends were aware and were making their way to “safety.”

Four hours later, we are still waiting. Still watching Duck Dynasty as the campus is being searched. Something that I truly appreciate is hospitality. Paul, Reagan, and Matt opened up their home to us, not only the AFC fish who live on campus, but they have opened up their doors to those people waiting on the street. Several people came in to their home for water or to simply use the restroom. Their hospitality and kindness to strangers, truly reiterates how we are an Aggie family; we are the 12th man.

We stand together, whether that is for a football game, or in a bomb threat, together we stand.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

90 to Nothing

Human. It's all I am, try as hard as I can to be a super-woman. At the end of the day, I'm always reminded how weak and human I truly am. This week has been such a reminder as I have been studying for three tests, writing papers, stressing to the max, and every night as I finally manage to lie down, it hits me: I'm human. I'm trying my best to accomplish so much more than is probably physically possible, because I feel pressure to live up to the world's "standards." I have to perform well academically, and this pressure has caused me much stress this week. So for most of the week I have been running ninety to nothing trying to accomplish a "To Do" list that never seems to end.

While I'm reminded of this common fact that I'm simply a human, it always makes me conscious of my time here. Sure I've spent hours in the library studying this week, but how many hours have I spent dedicated to the Lord? In the midst of chaos, is my relationship with God making its way to the back burner? Absolutely not. In a world full of "To Do" lists, does God seem to be the last thing on the list? Do you find yourself pushing time off reading your Bible for tomorrow, or saying you'll pray at another point? I'm guilty of this, but this week has been different for me. I've constantly been seeking God, even in the library. I've really focused on making sure that my time with God has not been suffering because of my crazy schedule, and I have seen a difference.

The difference you ask? I'm happy. I'm stressed, yes, but God has given me so many opportunities this week to see him, and to serve him. These opportunities would often be small things I would overlook with such a crazy week, but I have been conscious to search for them. They are simple: saying hello to the old man sitting alone on campus, carrying a backpack for a girl on crutches in my dorm, and lastly being able to explain to a guy in my class that though I did have a test the next morning, my involvement at church rejuvenates me. Being able to explain to him my relationship with God, was so good, and I so hope that he took something from it. These opportunities would often pass me by, but I have been searching and acting on them. The rewards are so good, and it's amazing just how they can change your attitude for the day.

We are all humans, we all have our "to do" lists that never seem to end. But, in the midst of the chaos are you allowing God to work? Are you allowing him to provide you with opportunities to shine your light? Are you still being considerate of others? Are you allowing the stress and pressure to get to you, causing you to take it out negatively on those around you? If you are, I'm begging you to step away and reevaluate your life. How much more important is being kind to a stranger rather than getting home to start that last load of laundry? It's the small things in this life, the way we handle situations, the way we treat people that can make the difference on how Christianity is perceived. Always allow God to work, and be conscious of the opportunities he provides you with.

Remember, your actions speak louder than words. Live out your faith. Don't simply claim it in words, but together let's show the world what Christianity looks like, even in those busy weeks.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

10,000 Reasons

I am officially halfway through my first semester. While I should be sighing in relief, I am really feeling the pressure to make sure my grades improve. Anyway I really want to get into the body, the purpose, of this blog. I'm going to apologize in advance if this blog isn't as encouraging as it should be, but this blog's purpose is for me to really track how far I have come in such a short amount of time.

When my parents dropped me off here on August 18, everything in my world was perfect. I was so happy that my dreams were finally coming true. I had just completed what was definitely the best summer of my life at Deer Run, and I was so ready to start my college career at A&M.

Little did I know just how hard the Devil was going to try to get me down, and how hard he still is trying.

I came to college in a knee brace for a sprained MCL, and I had to wait a long week for the doctor to simply call and tell me that my knee was still showing severe bruising. In short my knee needed time to heal, but little did my doctor know that I lived on the 4th floor and had a 15 minute walk to every class on campus. I prayed for healing, and had close friends pray that my knee would somehow heal even when it couldn't "rest" and the Lord was faithful; my knee has healed.

One week after being dropped off, I received some bad news from my mom about my pawpaw. For some background, I have an EXTREMELY close relationship with my grandparents. When I lived at home, I made a point to go over to their house and visit with them as often as I could. My Thursdays spring semester of my senior year, were actually devoted to fishing trips with them, and then a home cooked meal. Those Thursdays were such a blessing and we grew extremely close. One week after my parents left, I received the news that my pawpaw was going to have surgery to remove what could possibly be melanoma cancer off of his eyelid. My heart sunk, and it was all I could do not to go home for the surgery. I won't lie, it was all I could do not to drive home and comfort my hurting family. But, as sad as I was, I knew that this situation could not get me down. I had to rejoice in this suffering, and I am so thankful that I did. The Lord is faithful, and through constant prayer, he took care of my pawpaw through surgery. My pawpaw has no signs of melanoma and that is such a blessing. His health still concerns me, but I refuse to let the Devil use this to get me down. I can stay here at A&M, pray, and be as much of an encouragement to them as I would be there with them. Prayers for his health would be appreciated still today.

The reasons go on. My great-grandmother, Grandma Mills, will be turning 99 next month. For the past 6 years she has fought a number of health related battles, and to be honest, I'm not quite sure how she has made it this far. After going home this weekend, I learned that she is truly deteriorating. I am at peace with this solution, because she has lived a long life. Her time has been meaningful, and I know that her time to go looms. I ask for prayers for my grandparents as they wake up and take care of her every day. Be with them in encouragement, because this situation weighs on them daily.

School. Oh my goodness. A&M is hard, way hard. I have been studying, and going to SI sessions, but you wouldn't think it based on some of my first round test grades. Yet, my difficulty in school is not enough for me to give up and quit. Sure I'm not making as high grades as other college students as smaller schools closer to home, but I AM going to one of the largest and most academically challenging universities in the nation. That alone makes it worth it. Well that, plus the fact that I'll have a little chunk of gold on my right hand one day. The Devil is attempting to use my bad grades as a way to depress me, as a way to make me feel like I'm not intelligent enough, or that I don't belong here. He won't win though, because I know God has bigger plans for me.

Health. I've been sick a majority of my time here. The reason: my body can't adjust to the allergens in College Station. I know, it's crazy. My sinus, and congestion problems are taking a toll on my body. Not to mention that I need rest, but what's that in college? My doctor's diagnosis was a hit in the gut, because what am I supposed to do if my body can't adjust to the town I'm living in, move? Absolutely not. I will be praying about this situation, and I pray that my body will adjust. I am completely confident that God will fix this situation; it just takes time.

As I said earlier, I'm sorry if this blog is depressing. It's title 10,000 Reasons, is how I feel the Devil is working on me. He is trying in so many ways to get a foothold, a way to pull me down. He won't succeed, because even in these hardships I know God is greater. God is bigger than this world. The Bible tells us that living in the world won't be easy, and good I'm glad! If it was, would we honestly appreciate our reward: an eternity in Heaven?! No, we wouldn't. So I look at these hardships as a blessing. Some just call it adjusting to college, but I won't call it that. I've adjusted faster than I thought, but these hardships are the Devil's way of trying to pull me back home. He won't win, because through these hardships, I have also reaped many blessings. I'm surviving my chemistry class, and I'm making an A. I've realized that I can go to Medical School, and my approach to make myself a competitive applicant will be my involvement in the Lord's work. I'm involved in AFC (Aggies For Christ) which has given me more opportunities than I've ever had. I work with inner-city kids on Sundays, and that challenge alone has been a blessing. The newest addition to this list is the fact that this Christmas Break I'm going to Nicaragua for ten days. Yes, it's the break and I should want to rest and be with my family. No, I've been called to serve God's kingdom by helping children in Nicaragua. I'm so excited about this adventure, yet so anxiously nervous at the same time.

All of this has been said to prove the point that the Devil and the world will give you 10,000 reasons to get down in this life. But for every blessing, it's more than worth it. My college experience this far has been great. I am so blessed to have new friends and I am so thankful for every opportunity that arises for me to get involved here at A&M. I've learned to take every day, just by that. Day by day, rather than stressing myself thinking of next week. My time here is just beginning, and I am so glad that I have so much more time here. I know I'll face many more challenges, but like I said a single blessing is so much more to be than 10,000 hardships.

Be blessed this week, and don't give up. Keep your eyes on the goal, and together we'll make it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Patiently Waiting

“Patience is a virtue,” is a saying that often grows old as we are desperately waiting for something. Every day we have the opportunity to practice patience. Every day we are forced to wait for something, whether that be a stop light, or waiting in line at Starbucks, every day we have the opportunity to practice patience.

In today’s society, patience isn’t the norm. We EXPECT to be served quickly and immediately, like we are entitled to be number one in everything. Having to wait is becoming less and less normal every day.

Yet, God calls us to wait. God calls us to be patient.

Psalm 37: 7, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”

Be still. Stop what you are doing and wait for the Lord.

In the midst of our chaotic schedules, and “to do” lists, how often do we stop to wait for the Lord? How often do we stop to patiently wait for him? Whether it’s stopping to wait for his calling, his plans, his answered prayer, or even waiting for him to come back to the Earth, how often do you take time out of your day to wait for him?

We don’t plan to wait; we plan to go. We get frustrated when we get stuck in traffic, or when the line at Starbucks extends past the doors, because we are impatient people. We’ve been told all our lives that waiting, is inconvenient, when really a little patience, a little waiting will serve us well.

Throughout the Bible are hundreds of instances where men and women patiently waited for the Lord.

Sarah waited for the Lord to give her a son.
Noah waited for the Lord to seal the ark.
Joseph waited for the Lord as he sat in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Multiple people in the New Testament waited for Jesus to heal them.
We are waiting for the Lord to deliver us, to one day come back and save us.

The list could go on and on, but all the signs point to one thing: we should patiently wait. God promises us so much, and all he asks is that we will patiently wait. His timing is beyond perfect, so who are we to get frustrated when his timing isn’t the same as ours.

So together let’s be patient in waiting.
We can help one another through our waiting, by praying for patience. We can wait together as we anticipate a doctor’s diagnosis, or as we anxiously wait to feel God tug at our heartstrings. Whatever it is you are waiting for, do just that. Patiently wait, and consult God in prayer and petition. Who knows, maybe through it all, we can make it where patiently waiting becomes much more than a practice. It becomes a lifestyle.