Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Woke Up In Paraguay

Last night I went to a wedding. Second wedding in a week. I hate weddings. When you’re a little girl, weddings give you dreams and hopes and they make you happy. But now they give me visions of a future that I can’t touch. They make me sad. They make me ask “why?”

When I got home from the wedding, I read some news that could have broken my heart all over again. It should have broken my heart. It should have devastated me. But it didn’t. Of course, I did cry. I worried Saúl. He had not seen me cry yet. Christie and I stayed up until around 3 am, talking and watching tv.

When I went to bed, I laid there for about an hour, talking to God, crying to God, letting Him take care of my heart. I felt Him close to me. I felt Him holding me and whispering in my ear, “You are my design. You are my desire.” All I need is Him, holing my hand and leading me wherever He wants me to go. God knows me inside-out. And the amazing thing is He still loves me. Even though He knows all the ugliness, all the hurt and pain, all the short comings and failures….He still wants me….He has never left me.

A few hours later….something happened that amazes me….I woke up in Paraguay. I know that may sound crazy. I went to sleep in Paraguay, of course I woke up there too. But something in it spoke to me. If God did not have a plan for me, I would not have woken up in Paraguay….I would have woken up the same person, in the same place, with no purpose. But no….I woke up 5,000 miles from everything I know….both physically and emotionally speaking….with no one next to me. And I’m ok. I’m more than ok.

My family and I are extremely close. My sister just had a baby this past week. I do want to be there. I want to hold Alex. I want to hug Seth. I want to go grocery shopping with my dad. I want to eat at a café with my mom. I want to cook supper with April. I want to listen to Matt talk about stuff I don’t understand. Christie thought for sure I’d change my return flight ticket and go home when Alex was born. As badly as I want to be there, something greater keeps me here. A strength I have never in my life known or felt. Sometimes it gives me comfort and sometimes it scares me.

Up until this point, I have assumed God’s plans for me based on what I feel. I have let fear, distrust, and insecurities keep me from true surrender. I want the life God made me for….whatever that looks like….whatever that takes.

I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill His purpose for me. Psalm 57:2

The Lord will work out His plans for my life - for Your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for You made me. Psalm 138:8

Friday, April 16, 2010

Paraguayan all the way down to my underclothes

This may end up being one of those “too much information” blogs….but I promise to make you laugh a little.

We have a wedding to attend tomorrow night. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve gotten to experience it all….a quince, a funeral and a wedding. I have a couple of skirts and dresses I’ve bought here but nothing I wanted to wear to a wedding.

Yesterday we had a little extra time in between our planned events. So I wanted to go dress shopping. We found a little shopping area. To me, these places seem like indoor flea markets. They’re a lot of fun. You can find just about any random thing you could want there.

The first lady we stopped at and asked about dresses said, “Oh yes, I have party dresses.” She pulls out a plastic shopping bag. I thought, this can’t be good if she can fit all the dresses in that tiny bag. She starts pulling out the “party dresses” and holding them up for me to see. I knew there was no way those were going to fit on my body. That doesn’t seem to matter much here. They’re always determined that no matter what size it is it will fit me perfectly. They were all tiny, skimpy, and very bright colors that I would never wear. We asked if she had anything with more fabric. She went to look and didn’t come back. We waited for about 5 or 10 minutes, then kept walking.

Next, we found this little dress shop tucked away in the shopping center. It was very small and there were 4 or 5 young women sitting around while the mom sewed dresses. We asked about one of the dresses on the wall and one of the girls immediately pulled it down and tells me to try it on.

The fitting room was just a small curtain in the corner of the room. There was only enough room in there for me to stand. As I changed my clothes and kept losing my balance, I tried to brace myself against the wall as much as possible. I just knew at any moment I’d lose my balance and fall through the curtain. I could hardly even turn around.

I opened the curtain and asked Christie to zip the dress. The zipper was broken and would only go so far. At least that’s what they were saying. For what seemed like about 10 minutes, two of the girls were trying to zip the dress. They were determined it fit and they could get it to zip.

Christie told them I wanted something that flowed away from the body more, not so tight on the hiney. One of the girls went out to the hallway and came back in with the absolute perfect dress. As soon as I opened the curtain to show them, they were all pulling at the straps and the top of the dress, making it look just right. I’ve always wanted to be able to walk into a store and have them be so attentive and just start dressing me and even making sure everything’s exactly where it’s supposed to be, you get the point. There is no such thing as personal space here in Paraguay. If you need help getting dressed, they have no problem helping you out. I’m not always great at dressing myself, so this was an incredible experience for me. I bought a dress that was made right there in a tiny store for only $13.

Next, we went into the lingerie store because I knew I’d need a new bra for my dress. Bras, panties, those sorts of things are not things most people from the US want to buy here. They’re very different than what we have at home. I don’t know that I can even explain it. They’re mostly all the same size and extremely tiny. I just assumed that since no one else can find one here to fit them I couldn’t either. The very first one I tried on was perfect. I’ve never even had a bra at home that fit me right. This one is amazing. Like it was made for me. Who knew? I’m the only North American who prefers a Paraguayan bra. It does wonders for me, something Victoria could never do for me. I may buy as many as I can afford to take home with me.

You’ll have to wait until another time to see my dress. You won’t see the bra but you’ll see the effect of the bra.

A visit to the children’s hospital and a missions conference

Yesterday Christie and I went to Itagua to pick Heather up. From there, the three of us went to Capiata where friends of ours, Jerry and Connie White, pastor a church. A group of ladies from the church visit the children’s hospital every Thursday. They invited us to go with them and see the ministry in action. They go from bed to bed praying with the children. They give each child a gift according to their age. Then they share a few scriptures and Christ’s offer of salvation with the parents. They started this ministry five years ago. God continues to open doors and bring healing and salvation through this group of ladies. It was a blessing to be a part of this ministry for a day.

Last night we attended a missions conference at Pastor Jerry’s church. We heard two great messages from Pastors Clarence and Marion Wright from Guatemala. Ken and Christie also shared with them about Tapé Missions. Afterwards we enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship and, of course, food.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Girl Time

With our busy schedule the past month or so, we haven’t been able to have our young ladies study group in awhile. We started that back up this Sunday. While setting up the room, I started to only put a few chairs out. I thought, no, I’m going to put them all out and God can fill them up. We had 8 young ladies here and only 1 empty chair!

The book we are studying is Lies Young Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss & Dannah Gresh. This week’s lesson was Lies About Myself: Beautiful Girls Are Worth More. I want to share one of my favorite paragraphs in this lesson:

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. (Genesis 3:6)
The fruit had function - it was good for food. It also appealed to Eve’s desire for wisdom. But equally important, it was beautiful. The Enemy succeeded in getting her to value the physical appearance of a piece of fruit over less visible qualities such as trust and obedience. The problem wasn’t that the fruit was beautiful, but that she placed physical appearance above her relationship with God. In doing so, she believed and acted on a lie. And we’re still doing it today.

It’s great to see young women come together, sharing their hearts, and learning the truth that God has for them. Even in the culture here, from a very young age, they begin to believe the lies that surround them. They’re not taught above the true value and purpose of a women. They’re not taught about modesty and respect for oneself. By the time they reach their teenage years, they’re so filled with hurt and confusion, from what they themselves have gone through or what they’ve seen others go through as a result of these lies. We not only want to expose the lies, but also to teach them how to be set free by God’s truth.

This is a great book for any young woman to read. There’s also one called Lies Women Believe.

*God created me a masterpiece*
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. ~Psalm 139:14

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

National Convention

Saturday we traveled to Asuncion to attend the COGOP’s 33rd National Convention in Paraguay. I don’t want to steal Christie’s thoughts on that. So you’ll have to visit her blog and read more about it.

There’s a song they sing a lot here in the church services. The music always makes me feel Jewish. It’s actually talking about when God lead the people out of Egypt. As they sang this song Saturday night, people were dancing and having a great time. The word that comes to mind is “joy.” They were joyful in the Lord. I’ve never been one to feel free to dance and enjoy the Lord like that. I do long to though. I want to be completely free in the Lord, free to express my joy in whatever way it comes out. It is such a blessing to be in worship services here. I may not understand the words of the songs but I can still feel the Spirit of God. No matter what language you speak or what culture you’re in, God can speak to your heart in a way only you can understand and He can make His presence known to you in a way you can’t deny.

Youth Center

The front room of the house here is where we host our youth nights. On Friday nights we usually show a movie, serve popcorn and kool-aid, and offer a place for the youth to hang out.

Someone had donated a Playstation 3 to Tapé Missions. This past week we had PS3 night, instead of a movie. It went over really well, since we mostly have guys who come. They loved the car racing game. None of them were very good at it but I can’t say much about that, I was horrible at it and I do drive a car in real life. Most of them just drive motos.

I usually end up sitting out on the porch. But it never takes long for a few others to join me. I’m not much of a movie gal and definitely not a video game gal. I like the conversations on the porch better.

Earlier that day, Christie and I made a chocolate cake, all from scratch. To our surprise, it turned out delicious. That was a great treat that night when she came out with a piece of chocolate cake for everyone. Sometimes it works out for us that our desserts are too sweet for the people here, I got to eat my cake and the icing off someone else’s. Yummy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Visit to the School

Friday afternoon, we visited the school in Arazaty, a nearby town. Before I could get both feet out of the car, I had a little girl, about 5 years old, with both arms wrapped around my waist hugging me. So sweet!

The kids here don’t go to school all day. Depending on what grade they’re in, the either go to morning classes, afternoon classes, or evening classes. Many kids only attend school through the 6th grade.

When we arrived at the school, the kids were in recess. They were all so sweet! One of the teachers gave me a tour of the classrooms. I loved the classroom for the youngest kids. There was a lot of artwork and creative learning tools. The kids all wanted to show us their drawings.

Saúl is starting to teach a Bible class there for all the kids. He taught on Noah’s Ark. They were each given a coloring page. The little girl who greeted me with a hug when we first got there sat in my lap while she colored.

I had such a good time, I told Christie that I wanted to enroll in school there so I could go hang out with those kids everyday.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Great Weekend

I started feeling much better on Friday, after two whole weeks of being sick. Had a really great weekend! I will post all about our weekend fun as soon as I get a chance to sit down and type it all out.

The time finally changed here today. We are now the same as Eastern Standard Time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Infection, antibiotics, and restless nights….

Are not good for the mind. While we were still in Uruguay, I started having problems with my sinuses. It’s just gotten worse since then. I started taking an antibiotic on Saturday and I’ve been taking cough syrup. At night, I can’t seem to fall asleep because I can’t stop coughing long enough to.

Two nights ago, it was 5am before I was able to fall asleep. Last night I got in the bed early, hoping to get more rest. I was able to fall asleep pretty quickly but woke myself up coughing. When I looked at the clock and saw that it was only 11:00, I was so upset because I had only slept for an hour and a half.

Remember now, I’m sick and I was just starting to wake up….I became even more frustrated, as these were the thoughts going through my mind….”I’m coughing in English. It’s supposed to be in Spanish. But how do I do it in Spanish? I don’t know how. They’re all going to get mad at me because I can’t do it in Spanish. Maybe if I can stop, they won’t hear me. But I can’t stop. I have to figure it out in Spanish.” A few minutes later, when I was fully awake, I thought, “I’m going CRAZY!”

It was about 4 hours later when I was finally able to go back to sleep. I had crazy dreams, which is pretty normal for me. But there was one that I didn’t even remember until later this afternoon. It was about the Judds….yep, all 3 of them. It was supposed to be Naomi’s wedding. I’m not sure if I was in the wedding or just attending it. She started out in a red dress. Then about half-way through, she suddenly had on a black dress with a gold jacket. She joined Wynona and Ashley on a different stage. Wynona was wearing a matching outfit. Ashley was wearing a different looking gold jacket with black pants. Then they all sang “Love Can Build a Bridge.” It’s amazing that I didn’t wake myself up during that. What’s funny is that I always remember my dreams, especially the really strange ones. Somehow I pushed that one way back in my mind for several hours, until hearing Ashley Judd mentioned in a Brad Paisley song. Then it all came back to me.

I’m praying for better rest tonight….for my cough to be better and no guest appearances in my dreams!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Law of Sacrifice & The Law of Victory

The Law of Sacrifice: Jesus Gave Up His Life to Gain the World
Mark 15:15-24

Anywhere worth going carries a price tag. Jesus chose to endure torture, mocking, humiliation, and an excruciating death, even though He could have stopped it at any moment (Matt. 26:53). The Leader of humankind, the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), decided that gaining the world was worth the pain of the Cross.

The Law of Victory: Jesus Defeated our Greatest Enemy
Matthew 28:1-20

Jesus raised several people from the dead, but each case differed from His own resurrection. Those people would eventually die again. But Jesus rose from the dead, never to die again. He defeated mankind’s greatest enemy: death. All other problems are problems because they kill us. Once Jesus defeated death, His followers could operate in total security.

No struggle is too big for God. No question is unanswerable. No problem is too difficult. The resurrection of Christ trumpeted good news from the graveyard! In spite of the black prospects, in spite of the big problems, in spite of the bad predictions - Jesus practiced the Law of Victory, decisively defeating even death itself.

Marks of Leadership in Jesus’ Ministry

Mark 1:16-35

Jesus clearly was a different sort of leader from the scribes and Pharisees of His day. Mark 1 reveals the following qualities in Him:

1. Competence: He took responsibility to “make” them fishers of men (v.17).
2. Comprehension: He had a thorough understanding of the scriptures (v.22).
3. Command: He had authority and command of every situation (v.25-27).
4. Compassion: He served and healed the pain of others (v.30,31).
5. Control: He maintained organization and control in messy situations (v.34).
6. Communion: He stayed renewed by connecting to the Source of His Power (v.35).

*Maxwell Leadership Bible

Friday, April 2, 2010

Profile in Leadership: Jesus

Luke 7:1-17

There exists no better example of a godly leader than the Lord Jesus Christ. Every word He spoke, everything He did, served to model what godly leadership looks like.

We see Jesus spending a day ministering, not to those who seemed by human standards to be most worthy, but to those who needed Him most. He healed the sick and lame, cast out evil spirits, even raised the dead. And when He entered the home of one of the religious leaders of the day, He spent His time ministering to a lowly sinner.

All of those to whom Jesus ministered had one thing in common: They knew of their own need. They came to Him with empty, outstretched hands, hoping He would show them compassion. And He did not disappoint their hope, for when the people saw Jesus’ loving power in action, they glorified God and said, “A great prophet has risen up among us,” and “God has visited His people” (Luke 7:16).

Our world is full of needy people, overflowing with men and women who know they’re missing out on something, bursting with hurting individuals who come to us with hands outstretched. As leaders for Christ, it is our job to reach out to the whole world so that those who admit their need have a chance to come to Him.

Mentoring: Jesus Spent the Majority of His Time with Twelve, Not Twelve Hundred
Luke 6:12-19

In less than one generation, the disciples of Jesus progressed from ignorant laborers to bold spiritual leaders. How could this transformation occur?
It happened because Jesus spent the bulk of His time with them. The Son of God invested the vast majority of His time with twelve, not twelve hundred. Jesus practiced the axiom: More time with less people equals greater kingdom impact.
Like all good mentors, Jesus provided:

1. Handles: He simplified truth into something his men could grasp, practice, and pass on to others. He took complex theology and made it usable.
2. Roadmaps: Roadmaps give you the big picture: they reveal where you are; they show you what roads to take; and they tell you what roads to avoid. Jesus did this consistently with the Twelve.
3. Laboratories: Labs are safe places for experimentation. Jesus didn’t just lecture, He provides labs for His disciples to practice what they learned.
4. Roots: Jesus gave His followers a firm foundation and a sense of heritage. They sunk their roots into solid ground and were willing to die for Him and His teaching.
5. Wings: Jesus empowered His men to soar beyond where He went Himself (John 14:12). He pushed them and cheered them on in their victories.

*These were taken from the Maxwell Leadership Bible

A Small-Town Girl in a Big City

Even though we had done research on Uruguay and even put together a PowerPoint presentation, I was not prepared for what it was actually like. Montevideo is the capital, with a population of one million people. If it had not been for the language, I don’t know if I would have believed we were still in South America. It was definitely the largest city I’ve ever been in.

It was beautiful there! The day we arrived was the first day of Fall. And it actually felt like Fall. There are beautiful trees there, amazing parks, fountains everywhere. The architecture is amazing, beautiful buildings, wooden doors, stained glass windows.

My favorite thing, of course….there are bakeries everywhere, tons of desserts. Here in Paraguay they don’t eat desserts like we do at home. Even the cookies we make are too sweet for some people here. So it was incredible to see all the desserts and sweets there. I didn’t try any of them that I didn’t love. All the food was very different. More variety. I got to eat fried fish one night. I was very excited about that. We ate pizza three times while we were there. So far, the best pizza I’ve ever eaten has been here in South America.

We met a lot of really wonderful people there. They made sure we had plenty to do during our stay there. One night I attended a college class with two of the girls I met. It was a law class. Law + Spanish = I was extremely lost. I just sat there writing in my notebook the whole time. The teacher never even noticed I was there. After class, they took me to McDonald’s. Both McDonald’s I went to there were like “super McDonald’s.” They were huge, with two levels, and a huge indoor play place. Much nicer than any I’ve ever seen in the US.

We could walk from where we were staying down to the beach. It wasn’t a nice beach or anything but it was a pretty walk down there. One day I laid under a tree by the beach and took a nap. That was really nice.

I love the vendors on the street, selling everything you can imagine. The sidewalks sort of freaked me out at times. There were people everywhere. We rode the buses a lot. The buses there are so much nicer than the ones here.

I do plan on writing some more about our trip to Uruguay. Stayed tuned….

Thursday, April 1, 2010

It Feels Like Spring

And, yes, that does surprise me. It’s Fall here in the southern hemisphere. The temperature is still much higher than it would be back home in the Fall.

I haven’t been feeling good for the past few days….runny nose, sore throat, coughing. I was laying in bed this morning thinking about how much I feel like Spring. I say, “I feel like Spring” because I’m not sure anyone else feels it but me. The sun is shining in my windows and I hear birds singing. I knew this Sunday would be Easter but it didn’t seem like it until today.

After breakfast, I started reading my Bible chapters for today. As I read about the disciples right after Jesus ascended into Heaven, I began to feel a mixture of peace and excitement. I have been reading out of The Maxwell Leadership Bible. There are a lot of things I want to take the time to type up and share about the life of Jesus.

Prayer Seminars

We got to spend almost two weeks with Dr. Henry as he taught prayer seminars here in Paraguay and in Uruguay. Every seminar was very different and God worked in great and unique ways in each of them.

The song that was sung at the beginning of each seminar was He Decidido Sequir a Cristo (I Have Decided to Follow Jesus). That has always been one of my favorite songs. By the end of the two weeks, we were all singing it without even realizing it.

We really enjoyed the time we got to spend with Dr. Henry during the days. It was fun to hear him talk about all the places in Tennessee that we both know so well. I mentioned where my parents’ church is and he said he loves to eat hushpuppies at The Catfish House in Smyrna. He says they’re the best he’s ever eaten.

When he left Uruguay, he had been gone from home for a month. I’m sure he was so happy to back at home with his wife and all of his family.