Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sweetly Broken

I know you will be happy to hear that my skin rash is almost cleared up, and, after another Benadryl Sunday night, I awoke feeling great on Monday!  I still have no good idea what was happening in my body, but I am very thankful to be free of it.

Sunday was a rough day for me.  Other than dealing with the itchy junk, I just couldn't stop the tears.  I think there is a depression that people kinda go through when they return from a mission trip.  

It wasn't just me feeling it.  Various teammates were struggling too.  Maybe the travel, the exhaustion of the work catching up with us and the emotions that go along with it.  I don't know exactly, but it gets harder to leave and readjust each time.

I don't know any other way to say it:  a piece of my heart gets left there.  I feel torn in two when I get home.  I don't regret going, but I also don't really know how to handle what I feel in returning.

For days, I will see little brown faces and eyes when I fall asleep or wake up.  I just love them...with a love I don't know how to describe.  There is a longing in me that doesn't seem to get filled until I see them and hold them again.

I love the work we do because it is about building relationships with these same children.  However, because we are building meaningful intimacy with them, we get more attached and it gets harder to part ways.  One little girl I had to pry off of me and put her in line to leave!  Another one, I had to ask to keep with me a little longer because she was so sad her sponsor didn't get to come back this year.  She just kept crying...and so, of course, did I!

It rips my heart!  But yet, I never want it to stop ripping my heart.  I never, ever want to grow callous to it!

I need God's strength and wisdom right now.  I need His balance...His holy equilibrium I heard it called today!

I better let my emotions cool before I talk about the kiddos anymore.

Anyway, I spent Monday running to various appointments, one of which was for a mani/pedi from my hubby.  Nothing like getting your feet all cleaned up after wearing flip-flops in a dusty city!  That was lovely!

I opted to spend some time with my parents that day as well and let the to-do list take the back burner.  The boys did get some school work done, but we didn't push it hard.  My friend, Jeff, who I grew up with, was messaging with me that day about letting go of his daddy as he lay dying from cancer, and I just felt like it was a reminder that relationships are more important than keeping up with the rat race of to-do's.

Jeff's dad did pass on last night.  Death always has a way of refocusing us doesn't, it?  

I just feel sad.  But, I know in time, my sadness will wane a bit, and I can focus on being thankful that, again, God provided me with the opportunity to look a hundred something children in the eye and say some version of, "You are loved.  You can do this.  You can make a difference in your life, your family, your community, your country, your world!" 

I am still just in awe that God had it planned before I ever was...that I would step my feet on the soil of Nicaragua and impact lives of children.  Who would have thought???

It's so easy to feel insignificant in this great big world, but you just never know how one word from you...one action...may change someone's life forever.

When those children look into our eyes to see if we remember them, realize we do, and then come running into our arms...man, it's the best feeling to be part of that!

I cannot express the depth of my thanks for those of you who helped me go...whether it was financially, prayerfully, or by molding me into the person I have become, THANK YOU SO MUCH.  I pray with all my might that I could enable these children as you have me...to be people who do their part to make a difference.

I can't rescue every child, but those I can, I sure will...even when it feels like it might break me.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Back Home!

I am back in the U.S.A. now.  I have so much more to write about my trip, but right now I am still recuperating.  I dealt with sickness on this journey, and I still have a skin rash.  My mouth even itches!  I don't know what it is exactly, but I am trying to take Benadryl and pray through.  Only problem is that I can't stay awake on Benedryl so I must hit the hay.  I will try to post more tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My Heart is Full

It's been a few days since I have been able to post what is happening here in Nicaragua.  Internet access went out.  That's just how it goes in third world countries.  I was able to run into town and talk to Tom last night finally.  It was so great to hear all my guys.  I miss them.

So...let's see...the womens' luncheon on Saturday was interesting.  My friend Lori Elder and I were scheduled to speak and we "just happened" to be the only two people who suddenly got ill on our team.  It was the enemy.  Complete assault.

I have never sweat so profusely in my life.  I could barely stand without feeling like I would pass out.  I got up to walk to the stage and my entire body was shaking and my head hurt. 

I have experienced nervousness, anxiety attacks, and panic attacks and this was none of the three.  I was SICK!  It was awful.  BUT, I pressed forward.  I made it through my message of encouragement to these precious ladies. 

When we sat back down, my interpretor looked at me and said, "That was really good.  I will never forget that." 

Now please understand that I am not sharing this to toot MY horn!  I want you to know that ONLY by the amazing empowering grace of God was I able to stand there and speak with any clarity and meaning.

In my weakness, HE is made strong.  That has been the constant thread of our trip.  Time after time...whether it is people speaking at various events, or needing provision...God has met us where we had nothing left to give.

Church service on Sunday morning was beautiful.  If you have never experienced the Latin American people in praise and worship to the King, it's hard to describe their abandonment.  It's encouraging and even mesmerizing at times.  It is definitely something to treasure, as well as singing simultaneously, them in Spanish and us in English, to the same song. 

I will always, always, cherish the memories of being held by a Nicaraguan woman and being prayed for in a language I barely understand, yet feel overcome by the presence of the Lord who loves us both.

We have seen two groups of students so far, with two more to go.  They are growing so fast, but we rejoice in how their health has improved since our team started coming 7 years ago.

To see these sweet children run to us when they realize we do indeed remember them and personal things about them is so exciting.  We are building relationship and trust...becoming a constant in their lives and not just dropping in and out.

My sweet little Deyling was in the group of students who came today.  She is so beautiful with the deepest dimples on each cheek and a smile that lights up a room.  She ran to hug me today.  The past couple of years, she has been rather shy.  She is 13 now, and she is definitely growing up.  She must feel a bit braver.

I gave her the presents my Mom and I bought for her.  She loved them.  I also gave her a card with a laminated family picture she will be able to keep, even in these hard living conditions.  I told her I wanted her to be able to look at it and remember that we are always praying for her and ready to help if she needs anything.

She has a best friend and cousin who is always by her side when I see her.  Her name is Katherine.  I decided to "adopt" both of them as my Nicaraguan girls, and to my honor, I was able to take them out with some other kids to get ice cream and shop in the central market today.  (I will post pics when I can.)

It was a wonderful day.  I know we bring help to them, but I can't help feeling that we are so blessed by them.  Their smiles mean everything.

My favorite moment by far today was when I was working upstairs with the medical team and I looked down from the window and saw Deyling sitting at the table where we have them write letters to their sponsors.  I knew she was writing to me, and I watched as she wiped tears from her face over and over.

I have no idea what was going through her mind, but I know what was running through mine:  Psalm 139.  To think about how the Lord plans our lives...to know that He planned for my life to cross paths with hers...to realize that before I was ever even thought of by my parents or in my mother's womb, God had a specific plan in place...and to understand that it included this beautiful little girl in a foreign nation...well, I can't really explain how all that makes me feel.  There has been a constant lump in my throat and tears standing in my eyes. 

Thank you God.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why I Go...

I'm so excited to be writing this blog post from Nicaragua! 

We arrived yesterday.  After some adventure checking our bags and some rather rude airline employees, the rest of our travel went very well.

We left home around 2 p.m. and arrived at the house we are staying in at about 1 a.m.  That was a long day friends!  After we arrive at the airport, we still have another hour plus to drive to Leon.

If you have never been to Latin America, there is really no way to properly describe the driving here.  You see vehicles, new and old, but also bikes, motorbikes, carts, horses, donkeys.  It is very interesting to say the least.  Some people pay attention to lights and signs, but some just don't and there is a lot of dodging and close calls.

We watched some of our luggage that was supposed to be strapped to the top of the jeep slide down the front windshield.  You just have to laugh and go with the flow here.  That's how they roll!

Today we packed 100 gift bags for a precious group of ladies we will get to serve lunch to and speak with tomorrow.  We unpacked 22 suitcases full of clothes, backpacks, shoes, toiletries...  and got them ready to hand  to students on Monday.

Tomorrow we will also pack bags of groceries for every student we have sponsors for and their families.  Sunday we will get to meet some of our students' parents and share with them the importance of encouraging their child to stay in school and get better jobs in hopes of breaking the cycle of poverty.

I wish I could express my happiness to be back in this nation.  I have no idea why God would choose me to come here, but I am blessed beyond words to step out in faith and do it!  A part of my heart is here now and forever.

I want to share how God provided for me to get here.  I want you to be challenged to believe...maybe for the first time...maybe for bigger things. 

Our trip is not cheap and we certainly are not women who just have this kind of money laying around to spend. 

This is my third year, and I have watched God provide supernaturally for me every single time! 

For this trip, I started praying back in the fall about how to raise my funds.  I was reading my sons a book on the missionary, Hudson Taylor.  He came from a wealthy family but knew once he went to China that He would not have his father's finances to help him.  He decided to start praying and believing for God to meet his needs to serve God's people. 

You see, it's God's heart to help people.  He wants people to know Him and be with Him forever.  So when He calls a person to go and serve, He also will equip that person to walk out His plan.

So I felt a little nudge in my spirit...to believe for something big.

I prayed more and felt the Lord instructing me to use my gifts to get money to go.  I made handmade cards and sold them.  That paid for almost all of my plane ticket ($700).

I then read another book about a man named George Mueller.  He felt the leading of God to set up orphan houses in London in the 1800s.  The cool thing was that the main purpose wasn't to help the kids, but rather to show people that God loved the orphans so much that He would move through people to meet the needs to take care of them...if someone would just believe and pray for it to happen.  George Mueller did.  And God always provided.  ALWAYS.  FOR YEARS.

So, I felt the nudge again.  Believe for the big.  Believe for God to move through the hearts of people and help me get to Nicaragua to do HIS work because He LOVES children! 

I know the Lord spoke into my spirit and told me not to write one letter asking for support this time, but just believe and pray.

I received a precious message from a friend who had been in our youth group when we pastored there years ago in SC.  She said she and her husband had agreed that God was telling them to give me $1000 for my trip.

Stunned.  Dumfounded.  Speechless.  Humbled to my core.

In one fell swoop God was providing all I needed for the rest of my trip...from the least likely source.

The mother in me didn't want to take this young couples' money, for they have struggles of their own.  But the wisdom of God in this young woman told me to stop seeing it like that and see it as an investment for her in God's work because one day she was going to go and help others too.

Even still, my faith was stretched as the money was not available until days before I was leaving and needed it.  It is one thing for someone to have the best intentions and make you promises of a gift and another thing to actually hold that gift in your hands! 

But my God is faithful and the money did come.  Now here I sit...sweating at 9:40 at night, but gloriously happy to know I am right in the middle of God's will for my life.

Tomorrow I will have the honor of standing in front of 100 women and encouraging them to stay strong in the midst of a hard life.  I feel completely inept to do this.  I can't help but wonder why God would send me.  But, I think, if I am understanding correctly, that it is because it's just not about me.  It's about these people and it's about Him.  Where I am weak, He is made strong.  I am simply a willing vessel empowered by the Spirit of God because of the sacrifice of His loving Son. 

I'm so thankful that my life has purpose.  I'm so glad I am not floundering around meaninglessly, wasting away my days.  I want to get to the end of my life and know that I did all I could to make a difference and love to the uttermost.

So many people have asked me why I go to Nicaragua when people in my own country have needs.  First, I say, I don't go there and not help at home.  It's not an either/or option for me!  I do both and more.  I want to reach as many people in need as possible...wherever they happened to be born!  And second, I go because I know I am supposed to.

What a precious gift...to know your purpose and lay down your life to walk it out.  In my own strength, I cannot do it.  But with God, ALL things are possible.