But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility... Eph. 2:13-14

Friday, March 30

Did my clock grow wings?

Time is certainly flying!

Somewhere along the line, I think I missed the announcement that minutes are no longer made up of 60 seconds, and hours are no longer made up of 60 minutes. It must've happened while I was in Texas. Maybe in conjunction with Daylight Saving Time?

Something must have happened, because ever since I've been home my time has been evaporating before my eyes. Sure, you could attribute it to very poor time management on my part, and the fact that there is so much to do right now, but at the rate time had been flying by even that doesn't seem like a sufficient explanation! I mean, Palm Sunday is the day-after-tomorrow. Seriously???

My sudden lack of time has served a good purpose, though, in that it's been a sharp reminder that life is a vapor. When I was younger, vapors must've stuck around longer, because even though I've always been acutely aware of the brevity of life, it never really sank in just how fast time was flying by. Until now.

And now I'm beginning to realize how precious time is. Minutes are not pennies that I have an abundance of and can spend carelessly. They're 20 dollar bills. And contrary to my former belief, I'm not necessarily rich in time. I have no guarantee that there's another cent in my account.

So what does this mean? How will this realization affect my life?

First, I'm realizing that I'd be a fool to waste my time. Back to the money analogy, I want to be able to look back at my account and see that I've only made wise or meaningful purchases, not that I misplaced hundreds of dollars, or spent it all in one of those claw prize machines. I don't want to be that person who started building a house, but had to leave it half-finished because they ran out of money. I'm only given enough time in life to finish what God would have me finish, and I don't want to waste that time doing something else. This is a HARD lesson for me, and I know that I will either forget that I've written this, or frequently regret writing it, because now I have this blog post to keep me accountable. But that's a very good thing!

Second, I want to cherish every minute as the precious gift of God that it is! As you know, I've been dealing with a lot of questions about the future for several years now. My mind is constantly spinning with "If this happens then I'll do that, but if this happens, then I need to look into doing this or that, but if that happened what do I do???" Many times this is necessary thinking, but I often find myself so focused on the future that I'm ignoring the present.
Christ said not to worry about tomorrow, because it has enough worries of its own. He hasn't given us tomorrow. He most likely will, but that's by no means guaranteed. He has given us this very moment. He's given it to us as a gift, and put it in our charge to use wisely.

I very much want to grasp this and apply it to my life. I want to be able to take every moment to look around and think, "God has given me this breath, this second, and has put me in this very place for my good and His glory. How can I use and enjoy it for Him to its fullest capacity?"And then I want to follow through.

I hope this has been an encouragement to you! It has been an encouragement to write it. Now, however, I need to use my time wisely by putting together the report for the Kurt Warner Foundation. If you read this over the weekend, please pray that it would come together well, and be very informative. I'm so thankful for the scholarship money, and I really want to be able to convey what a help it was to our trip!

Love and Peace,

Friday, March 23

The Update goes ever on and on...

Okay, so now that you know everyone, let's continue!

VBS went very well. Day by day we fixed the schedule here and there to find the best way to do things. I was in charge of crafts again, and I did a dreadful job of it. None of my plans worked, so we ended up making posters almost every day. Also, I shared my time with snack time, so the kids didn't have very much time to work on those. Somehow, however, in a way that only God could manage, the kids enjoyed it. 

Since I couldn't do much, I really tried to help them learn the memory verses, but they hardly needed my help! Their ability to memorize scripture amazes me. At no point in my life have I been able to memorize anything like those kids! The boys' group and the girls' group each contributed to one huge poster of two of the memory verses, and on the last day we got to hang them up in the hallway, which I think they were pretty proud of. Also, on Saturday we took all of the kids who had memorized all five memory verses out to Chick-fil-a for dinner as a reward.

I don't want to keep you forever, so I'll wrap up with my two favorite parts of the trip and some prayer requests.

1. Sharing the Gospel with Samantha
One of the sweetest little girls I've ever met is named Samantha, and lives in Mission. Last time God used her to help me realize how important it was for us to return, and how wrong it was for us to begin developing relationships and then leave forever. Anyway, I love her, and she loves me (I know, because she told me so, and wrote it a few times on a piece of paper). She may love Blake more now, but I don't mind coming in second.

I said all that to say, as sweet as she is, she didn't necessarily listen well during the Bible Lesson. During one of the lessons, while Gennie was teaching, I was holding her on my lap, trying to encourage her to pay attention, and trying to keep her from talking to everyone around her. Gennie was talking about Heaven, and Samantha asked me what Heaven was. From there, she asked more questions, and I was able to share all about how we are guilty, and Christ died to take away our guilt, and how if we are His when we die will we go to be with Him forever in Heaven. It was so amazing! Every time I'd finish saying one thing, expecting that she'd lose interest, she'd ask the perfect question to lead to the next part. I felt a little bad for distracting her from Gennie, but I think it was worth it. 
Even more exciting was that just a few minutes before, unbeknownst to me, Kim was able to share the Gospel with an older girl in another room! It was so cool!

2. Getting to know Sofia
There was only one girl over 12 that came, and her name is Sofia. While we colored posters, I was blessed to be able to talk to her and begin a friendship with her. She's a smart, lovely girl who (like every teenager) is in need of godly influences and role models.
One evening when we invited kids 12 and over to stay later, Kim, Gennie, and I got to spend more time with her, and we learned that she really likes a certain frozen yogurt place. Her birthday was that Saturday, so we immediately fell to scheming. After a few ideas had been tossed around, we agreed to have a girls' night and take her to the frozen yogurt place, and also to try to find a nice Bible for her. Finding a Bible seemed a daunting task. We wanted to get it in English, since that's what most of the kids read best, but Spanish seemed wiser, since that's what the kids comprehend best. Also, she would better be able to share it with her family. It was decided that we needed to get a bilingual Bible, but they usually run at around $70, and none of us could afford that! So we started praying that God would quickly lead us to an affordable Spanish/English Bible. We had about half an hour to find it.
Guess what! We found one! What a Great Provider we serve!

So Saturday evening after Chick-fil-a, the girls said that we would like to ride together to go home. At first we tried fitting 6 girls (Rachel, Kim, Gennie, Sofia, her friend, and myself) into a 5-passenger car. I was going to ride in the trunk, and I was ecstatic! But after rolling about 40 feet, they stopped and said I couldn't. Apparently everyone on earth was worried that I'd die. Party poopers.

My epic disappointment turned out for good, though, because Rachel left us to shop at Target while she went back and got the van. So we checked out sunglasses and jewelry and read funny birthday cards. When Rachel got back, we all waited in the van forever while Kim stood in line to buy a necklace. While we waited, we drove through a car show and joked about entering our not-very-pretty van. Good times. 

The yogurt place was AMAZING, and Sofia really liked her Bible. I was and still am so thankful that we were able to help her celebrate her birthday and begin developing a friendship with her. I hope that as time goes on our friendship will grow.

So here are a few ways you can continue to pray (I'm rather persistent in dishing out prayer requests, aren't I?):

1. Continue to pray for wisdom and guidance for me.
I guess I should've mentioned this before. While we were in the Valley, our group had the opportunity to take a tour of the Rio Grande Bible Institute while Billy had several interviews. I know for absolute certain that if Aaron and Rachel are able to go, I will move down with them and attend Missionary Language School. But if they aren't, I still don't know what to do. I really, really want to go, but I'm not at peace with the idea of going without a male head. Maybe that seems old-fashioned, but that's how I roll. I don't want to go without a protector (especially since everyone likes to play matchmaker down there!). Pray that the way would be made very clear to my parents and me!

2. Pray for wisdom and guidance for everyone else.
I'm not the only one facing big decisions. The Suttons and Billy need wisdom and direction, too. I'm willing to bet the rest of our team could use your prayers as well. 

3. Pray for Iglesia Bautista Cristo El Rey.
They're a small, struggling church, and they need a pastor, among other things. Please keep them in your prayers!

4. Pray that God would pour out His salvation on Mission, Texas
Beginning with those children we reached out to during this trip! They have heard the Gospel, and despite our sin, we have striven to be ambassadors of Christ. Pray that God would use what He allowed us to do in ways that only He could! Pray that Samantha, and Sofia, and Elmer, and Evaristo, and Emanuel, and Enrique, and Leslie, and Daniel, and Freddy, and Lupita, and America, and Mario, and Jeszel, and Marco, and Irvin, and Naillyn, and Hermes, and Abraham, and Filipe, and Hector, and Diego, and Lianie, and Diana, and Lesley, and Raul, and Vanessa, and all of the other children would recognize their sin, repent, trust in Christ's sacrifice and be saved, they and their households!

Thank you so much for your prayers! They are so encouraging, and appreciated! If you have any questions, please ask! I want to be sure that I'm giving you a full report of all that you've been supporting.

Love and Peace,

Wednesday, March 21

The Long-Expected Update

First, let me apologize for my extreme rudeness! After begging repeatedly for your prayers, I didn't post one update the whole time I was gone, and I'm sorry. But here I am to make all things right. Let's hope I do a fair (and not too tedious) job of it.

We had a good (albeit squished) trip down, and Friday night saw us snuggled in our beds in the parsonage, ready for whatever adventure the Lord brought our way. The next day, and really the whole week, featured a lot of knocking on doors and handing out flyers for VBS. We were able to make a lot of new connections that way, and found treasure troves of kids! It was pretty fantastic.

Sunday morning the three girls of the team (Kim, Gennie, and myself) taught the younger Sunday School class, and later Gennie and I taught an unplanned Children's Church while Kim and Christian watched the little ones. It went well, and like the last trip, it served as a good introduction to the week to come.

Before I go any further, I should probably introduce our team to you:

Aaron & Rachel Sutton -
Our fearless leaders, and the Mom & Dad of the trip. Aaron preached on Sundays and taught the VBS lessons. Rachel kept everything everywhere running smoothly.

Rick Clausel -
The Music Man. He led worship on Sundays, worked with some of the young men in the church who can play instruments, and taught a music class during VBS that I hear was incredible. I wasn't ever able to sit in on one, but the singing I heard coming out was great. :)

Billy Jackson -
Fellow veteran of the last trip, mastermind of recreation, bus driver, and photojournalist extraordinaire. If you've been reading my blog, you must know a little bit about him already. Check out his blog for more information.

Kim Lee -
Expert child tamer. My almost lifelong friend and the daughter of my pastor took a week off of work at a daycare to teach kids around the same age in a much less structured setting. And she was really, really good at it. It was also nice to have her there as a companion. I love that girl!

Blake Pollock -
Wisconsin gentleman. One of the three people I met for the first time on the way down, Blake helped lead recreation, and was really good at swinging kids around in circles.

Craig Kopp -
That Guy. He's the second of my three new friends, and is very good at coming up with songs on the spot. If you want a pretty good description of Craig, you should check out his post on Billy's blog. Besides providing comedic relief, he also helped lead recreation.

Christian Brandon -
The athletic drummer. Christian both helped lead recreation and helped Rick work with the drummer in the church. I met him on the trip down, too. I knew he had to be cool, because he was reading a book by Tolkien, and procrastinating in his math homework. He was a guest blogger on Billy's blog. You should check it out.

Gennie Jackson -
Miss Amazing. She's Billy's little sister, my sister's best friend, a really good friend of mine, and she pretty much rocks. Gennie did most of the teaching for the little ones, which was a special challenge, since many of them don't speak English yet, or have a lot of trouble sitting still and listening. Like her brother, she works great with kids, and like Kim it was such a blessing to have her around!

Olivia Sutton -
Aaron & Rachel's four-year-old daughter. She's adorable, and like a little sister to me. She also knows waaaaay more Spanish than I do.

And then there was me, but you already know that. This post has already gotten rather long, so I think I might end here and pick up later with the rest of the week. If you just can't wait, I highly recommend checking out Billy's blog. Specifically, you should read the post I helped write.

Thank you all for your prayers! Please continue to pray for Iglesia Bautista Cristo El Rey, and for the team, even though we're home. Some of us really want to go back soon, and some of us are making big decisions. Prayers for guidance, wisdom, and clarity are very much appreciated!

Love & Peace,

Thursday, March 8

Ready to Go! Like, Now!

Today is the day! I'm so excited! I have a feeling this is going to feel like the longest work day I've ever had.

First, a digression from the main point of this post:

Last night I went to the theater to see The Lorax with my sister, and there were several parts that have stuck in my mind. Personally, I loved the movie, but then I really love environmentalist propaganda (no really, I do). I thought The Lorax did a very good job of trying not to be pure big business-hating, earth-worshiping, brain-washing stuff. There were very good lessons to be learned, such as the wisdom of elders, the danger of not thinking a plan through, and the wisdom of conservation vs. annihilation. More importantly, I also took several spiritual lessons out of it. Unfortunately, I'm having a very hard time describing them without giving away the entire plot. If you go to watch the film (or wait for it to come out on DVD), try to think of Thneedville as the city of Destruction, and the truffula seed as the Gospel, and you'll get what I'm saying. Oh! And think of the young Once-ler as unregenerate man. Maybe it's a little Armenian, but it's still good stuff. ;)

But I didn't get on here to tell you about a cute Dr. Seuss movie! I came to ask once again for your prayers. Specifically, I would love it if you'd pray that I would gain much clarity and wisdom about the language school while I'm away. I'd really love to come back knowing for certain if I'm going or not. I realize that very, very often in my life God chooses to increase my faith by not allowing me to plan things so far in advance, but whether He makes it clear on this trip or no, at least pray that I would have much peace about it.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support!
Egads, I'm so excited!!!

Love and Peace,

Tuesday, March 6

Hallelu-Hallelu-Hallelu-Hallelujah, Praise Ye the Lord!

God is amazing!

I don't know about you, but sometimes I realize that fact more than others, and it floors me.

I mean, God's self-sufficiency, omniscience, faithfulness, justice, love, and all of His other attributes should have us on our faces in worship constantly, but He gives us even more reasons to praise Him and ways to know Him better!

Today, for example.
I woke up (woo-hoo!) on time, got dressed in clean, nice clothes, was blessed with an AMAZING cup of Italian Roast coffee via French Press (seriously, God's common grace bestowed through Starbucks sometimes chokes me up; not only did He give us taste buds, but He gave us delicious coffee for them! How incredibly generous is that???). Then I actually had enough time to eat and get all of my Bible reading read before I went out to a reliable, gas-filled car and a pleasant and uneventful drive to work (accompanied by Andrew Peterson and Shai Linne via my phone and a radio adapter). When I got to work, He gave me strength and joy to do it well. My finger that I lacerated on Thursday was finally healed enough today that I was able to wash dishes (which I have to do a lot of). I found out that I'm leaving on a perfect week - I'm easily replaced because someone else is on Spring Break next week! The weather was gorgeous, customers were happy, I didn't do anything stupid, and I discovered that we sell the best cottage cheese I've ever tasted. I got my paycheck, AND it was a really good tip day, which means I'll get to enjoy Thai food with my sister tomorrow! After work, I had a safe and pleasant drive home, and my brother is here, so I'm not all alone.

Add to all of that the prayers that God has been answering regarding the trip (that begins in two days!!!). For one, He's provided us with a much larger team. For another, we were given some of the scholarship we applied for! Which leads me to the third answered prayer: at least as far as I'm concerned, God has abundantly provided all that I needed to be able to go on this trip! Through the generosity of His people, my grandma, the scholarship, and tips, every penny of what I needed has been supplied. Besides being fantastic, this also means that the money I was going to have to spend on it all can now replenish what I spent on my passport, and pay my bills (which is kinda important) without dipping into my savings. Is that amazing or what???

I'm so thankful for this time that He's given me where I can more clearly see what a faithful Provider I serve. I have a feeling I'm going to need to remember this next week.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers. I'm so psyched to see what God's going to do! But now I guess I should go finish packing...

Love and Peace,

P.S. Please forgive me for the way this post sort of trips over itself in happy chaos. It accurately conveys my thought process, but I realize that it is also very difficult to read.

Friday, March 2

Here's the mail it never fails it makes me wanna wag my tail. When it comes I wanna wail: MAILTIME!!!

Not long ago I stepped outside into a downpour to feel the cold splash of reality and the rawness of Creation. It was fantastic. Then, just as I began spinning around in a circle like a little girl, I was klunked in the head by a pea-sized piece of hail.

That put an end to my soaking, but as I watched the rain from my front step, I saw the mail lady coming, and what she brought prompted me to type up this post!

This is not my passport, my hand, nor my photo.
It came! And I applied for it less than a month ago! Praise God!

Its presence makes me even more excited about the upcoming trip to Mission, and reminds me that I need to update ye readers who may not know much about it. 

There isn't much to tell, I suppose. We're going back down to do VBS again, only this time with less chaos and more learning, Deo volente! We'll be going down during Spring Break, so we can spend more time with the kids. Plus, we want to help the church as much as we can.

I'm excited to see what God is going to do on this trip. Our team is much, much bigger than last time, which seems like a recipe for order and productivity, but I'm learning that God often chooses to glorify Himself through apparent chaos. Who knows, maybe we'll have so many kids that we will be even more understaffed than in January! 

Whatever happens, it is a joy and a comfort to know that it will be the best thing that could possibly happen. We serve a sovereign, perfect God who doesn't allow any harm or discomfort or irritation that will not bring forth perfect fruit.

That being said, He uses our prayers, so here are a few for your list:

1. Pray for us as we prepare to go
As we plan and pack and study, pray that we will make the wisest decisions, and that God will begin preparing our hearts for the work that lies ahead. 
Also, money is scarce and travel is expensive. Pray that God will abundantly supply all needed funds.

2. Pray for those we will come in contact with
While you're praying for our hearts to be prepared, pray for those we will be meeting with. Pray that God will soften the hearts of unbelievers, and encourage His children.

3. Pray for us as we travel
Three by train, and I think eight by van. I don't expect there to be any difficulties, but it is a rather long trip, in rather confined areas. Pray that our love for each other would abound more and more, and that it would manifest itself in patience with each other. 
Also, gas is much more expensive than it was when this trip was budgeted. Pray that when we need to refuel, there will be cheap gas nearby. How awesome would that be?!

4. Pray that the trip would be blessed
Pray that the lessons that will be taught would be clear to the children, and that God would use them. More than that, pray that the way we live our lives (both while in Texas and always) would point to the greatness of Christ. Pray that we would be a help and encouragement to the saints, and never a burden to anyone.
Also, pray that God would use this trip to give much clarity for the future.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support! I will do my best to keep this blog updated while we're gone. If you would like to get a better feel for the area we will be visiting, I encourage you to watch this video that Billy put together.

Love and Peace,