Adventures of the Gringa Girls (Part Two)

Corrie, Mikah, and I had a wonderful visit together in Zacapa, Guatemala last weekend! After our adventurous bus ride there on Friday, Mikah and I were excited to see Corrie again and to be able to spend some time together.

After a very Guatemalan church service Friday night, we all crashed in our hotel room that someone generously rented for us. We showered there (and by the way, there was HOT water! But I was sweaty enough not to want it on the hottest setting for very long. 🙂 Here in Jalapa we only have semi-warm water…and that’s if the water pressure is low.), which felt wonderful after such a long sweaty ride. The three of us spent the next several hours catching up with each other, until we realized how very late it had gotten and decided to go to sleep.

On Saturday morning, after a simple hotel-provided breakfast, we spent some time playing card games with Caleb’s brothers, Joseph and Gideon (the soon-to-be-uncles of the baby Corrie is going to help deliver while she’s in Guatemala), playing violins and singing, sitting with our feet in the pool, and yes, much more talking. 🙂

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The music was beautiful…not to mention its players. 🙂

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While we were relaxing with our feet in the water, Mrs. Martin (baby’s soon-to-be-grandma) looked at us and commented, “Y’all look like an advertisement for hair color!” Yep…and we needed a selfie to commemorate the occasion. This doesn’t happen all that often, much less in a foreign country!!

In between the numerous afternoon games of Spot-It and Dutch Blitz with Corrie, Mikah, Joseph, and Gideon, I Skype-called my siblings, and had a lot of fun talking to them again. I miss their craziness…there’s no little kids to climb on my back, hog my lap, give me super tight hugs ten times a day, run to meet me when I walk in the house, or to laugh with at stupid jokes that shouldn’t even be funny! As a side thought, I’m really glad I get to work on the “little school” side here in Guate, where I can get my “kid time” in each day by playing tag with the 5-10 year-olds. 🙂

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Mrs. Martin treated us all to dinner at a pizza diner on Saturday night! Frappuccinos and orange juice just made the night that much better. 🙂

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Zacapa is only 400 feet above sea level, which is quite a change from Jalapa’s 4,469 feet. I felt a little woozy (for lack of a better word) most of Saturday, probably due to both the drastic altitude change and the increase in humidity and heat…altitude plays tricks on me for some reason. But the Lord is gracious and helped me to still have an enjoyable day. 🙂

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Saturday evening was spent talking about our lives, our thoughts, our dreams, and our Lord before falling asleep, thankfully not quite as late as the previous night. 🙂 For church Sunday, we each put our hair up in buns so that we’d match again (did you notice the braids in the other pictures?!?), and headed off to the Martins’ church.

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The pastor of this church spent several years in the States, so he speaks good English, and he even preached in both Spanish and English, translating line by line! That was pretty neat.

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Aww….look who Corrie got to hold!!! I was SOOOOO jealous. The little boy sitting two seats away from me didn’t want to come sit on my lap…..even though I asked at least three times. 🙁

At the church Mikah and I attend here in Jalapa, the music is usually pretty decent, and it’s easy to sing along  because Mikah owns a little Spanish hymnal. At the Zacapa church, however, the song leader sings one song after another in a slurred manner without stopping, until your wrists feel like falling off (since everyone claps along) and you start to wonder if she’s singing her entire repertoire…

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I got to witness my first Guatemalan baby dedication! We got to talking to this father after the service, and he told us that he has nine children. He got super fired up when talking about children being a blessing from the Lord!! He quoted different Bible verses, and told us that even though he’s a poor man and unable to even sign his own name, God provides for their daily needs! As I stood there listening to him talk and translating most of his words into English in my head, I was smiling…both in full agreement and in conviction. Not only did I love that he was passionate about viewing children (and lots of children at that) as assets and blessings and bringing them up in the way of the lord, his gratefulness for his children and for the Lord’s sufficient provision was neat. How many of us forget to thank the Lord for what we have, even when it feels like it’s not enough? Most of us have many more possessions than this man, but are much less grateful for them than he is for his. May we all be convicted by his example!

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Above: a typical Guatemalan house and yard

Below: A large cactus! Definitely not something you see everyday.

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After church, the pastor drove us to the bus station in Chiquimula. Mikah had made sure that we would be there in time to take a direct bus to Jalapa, and the Lord blessed us by arranging the timing so that we arrived just a few minutes before one such bus left. 🙂

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Thankfully, this trip was not nearly as adventurous as our previous one! These two physically tired but spiritually encouraged girls had a hot, sweaty, stinky, dusty, and cramped trip home…but we got home safely, and without having to switch buses. I even fell asleep for a bit towards the end of the three hour ride! A friend drove us home from the bus station, and we made supper, talked to family and friends back home, and went to bed, thankful that the Lord had allowed us to make this trip and kept us safe. It was really special and encouraging to visit Corrie!! It’s not everyday that three girls from three different families who all know each other end up in the same foreign country at the same time!

Keep praying for us!! We need your prayers every day, and very much appreciate them. I’ve been pretty busy lately, but I really do hope to start posting more about my life down here…but until then, keep serving the Lord! 🙂

The Power of a Positive Attitude

Today the Lord impressed upon me again how powerful my attitude is.

Yeah, we all know that happy people are more fun to be around than complainative ones, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that we can CHOOSE to be one of those happy people ourselves! Joy isn’t in our genes; it’s in our minds and hearts.

I worked in an assisted living facility this summer and saw a wide range of attitudes in workers, from lazy to hard-working, from nasty and sour to joyful and sweet. Now you must understand: nursing home work is hard, dirty, and stressful, and it’s so easy to slip into complaining when you’ve just about had all the stress you can take for the day. But there were some aides that chose to look on the bright side of things, and (surprise, surprise!) those were the people I most enjoyed working with!

To be totally honest with you, I am probably one of the least qualified people to be telling you how to act.  As a child, I once made it my quite unkind goal to make everyone in my family mad (or at least unhappy) on this certain Sunday, right after we got home from church. I was in a nasty mood and wanted everyone else to feel the same way I did. To my shame, my scheme worked and within a few minutes of walking in the door, everybody was upset about something or other. In retrospect, they were probably all upset with me for having such a sour attitude that day!

Other Sundays, though, I remember trying to help every family member be happy. This took a little more work than making them mad, probably since we were born with sin natures, and it took some serious self-denial, but choosing joy anyway resulted in a much more restful afternoon and the enjoyment of each other’s presence! These are the days I love to reminisce on. 🙂

Pessimistic personalities are no excuse for not choosing joy, either. I am, by nature, almost (key word there) a full-blown pessimist, but have had to realize over the years that personality traits such as pessimism or optimism are not meant to DEFINE me! Both pessimists and optimists have to work to keep themselves from going off the deep end, and yes, even pessimists can count their blessings!!

Counting your blessings, even the little ones, really does lighten up your day and world! Earlier this year, someone told me about a personal project she was doing called One Thousand Things. She and a friend each got a journal and began to write down everything they were thankful for, numbering each thing and aiming for 1,000 of them. I was inspired, so I bought a cute mini-journal and started my own gratitude book!

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It’s helped me refocus and count my (VERY many) blessings, and I think I’m going to start carrying it around with me so that I write in it more often. I’m not nearly close to one thousand things yet since I’ve slacked off some in the past couple months, but I’m going to get there!!!

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You know, I’ve noticed that when I make a conscious decision to focus on the bright side of things, and whisper thank you to the Lord every time something happy happens, I suddenly become a lot more joyful! While doing this at work today, I even began to wonder why the Lord decided to bless me so much today! In reality, He blesses me EVERY day, but I miss out on seeing those blessings if I’m wallowing in complaints or self-pity.

What are some things you have been blessed by today or this week? The blessings on my list included hearing a bunch of my favorite songs on the radio at work, being able to have a really neat conversation with a co-worker that I don’t usually get to talk to much, cloudy weather (it makes taking pictures of cars easier because I don’t have to worry about the sun reflecting off of and casting shadows on cars), hot coffee on a cold windy day…. 🙂

This feels like a post more on the random side, not quite as “put together” as I would like, but I hope it makes sense. 🙂 I hereby challenge you to find a way to proactively choose to have a joyful attitude and praise the Lord for the little things, even when it feels like you’re in the midst of a storm. He inhabits the praises of His people, remember?

“A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

Living in a Fallen World

I am disturbed.  I’m a bit upset.  My mind is whirling, trying to come up with answers to its own questions.

Why?  Because all around me, Christians are failing.  And I, in my humanness, don’t know what to do about it.

I learned yesterday of Josh Duggar’s confession that he has been secretly unfaithful to his wife over the past few years, even while he was promoting family values for a pro-marriage and pro-life organization.  He resigned from that organization recently, however, due to the publicized report of his previous failures as a teenager.  Those failures, I understood, were forgiven by all affected parties, but this news shocked me.  To clarify, though, this post is not about Josh Duggar and I do not wish to either defend or bash him by this writing, but I am using his situation as an example and a learning point.

How can this happen to a family who has done their best to do everything right, and has strove to train up their children in the way they should go, teaching them to trust in and obey God??  Why did he choose that sinful route?  How can I prevent this from happening to me???  These questions are just some of the few that are swirling around in my brain, and I am realizing that even the “best” of all Christians (which honestly, there is no such thing – God has no partiality: Romans 2:11) are not and never will be infallible.  We are all susceptible to temptation.  We will never get away from it, either, as long as we have breath.

But Josh is not the only example I know of.  I have cousins, close friends, many acquaintances, and knowledge of people with big, powerful ministries that have backslidden and chosen sin above the Lord.  I have watched families split up, young people abandon the Lord and go their own way, and soooo many others choose compromise over full obedience.  It’s heartbreaking, to say the least.

Seeing conservative, homeschooled, well-trained, Christian children allow themselves to fall into such worldly, horrifying sin such as affairs and whatnot makes me wonder and worry….if they did it, how do I know I won’t?  Or my siblings?  Or my close friends?  But as I sat in the car staring at the sun today, thinking, Jesus’ sweet voice whispered to my heart.

“You trust me, child.  I’m the only One who can keep you from this, so there’s no need to worry about it.  Just keep following Me and obeying my voice, and I will keep you safe from the raging storm.”

Then I realized – He’s right!  Of course…He always is.  🙂  It’s not just something that “happened” to these believers so that they were uncontrollably pulled down into the deep pit of immorality or rebellion!

They chose that route themselves.

But we all know that nobody just wakes up one morning and decides to rebel against God.  Rather, it happens slowly, one compromise after another; one “little sin” after another.  I know this all too well from my own experience!  Give Satan an inch of wiggle room in your life, and he’ll take a mile.  It’s so easy to talk yourself into one insignificant wrongdoing, but most of us are deceived that that one little thing will lead to destruction!  Yet Jesus has given us a way out of every. single. temptation. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

As I pondered these things, I realized that it doesn’t matter how tight and extreme I may have to make my boundaries – the most important thing is to cling to Christ and to flee sin, even the appearance of it!  I don’t want to risk succumbing to the devil….yet I know that my flesh is weak and there is no way I can keep myself from sinning.  But Jesus can, and He will!  Remember Hannah, trust the Lord and obey His quiet, steady voice, and you needn’t worry about a thing.

Maybe you have to limit your fiction reading and movie watching and spend more time focusing on God.  Maybe it’s social media that is distracting you and luring you away.  Maybe it’s your constant internet surfing, or maybe it’s some friendship or relationship that isn’t honoring God.

Whatever your spiritual hindrances may be, they need to go – and that’s not an option.

1 John 1:5-7 tells us,  “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

It’s way too easy to pretend the Christian life.  But don’t do that – set your standards high and aim for them!  Don’t be satisfied with half-way Christianity or just being “better than THEM.”  We live in a fallen world, and we can only rise above it with the AWESOME POWER OF JESUS CHRIST.

I and all of heaven are cheering you on!  Do hard things and follow God with your whole heart, Christian!  There’s nothing more truly satisfying.

🙂