Blessings and Close Calls

Hello from Guatemala, friends! Today is my fifth full day here, and I am enjoying it! Coping with the language difference is definitely a challenge, but the two years of high school Spanish that I took are coming back more each day.

Thank you to all who have prayed and are praying for me! I could sense the Lord’s help the past few days as I’ve packed, traveled, and begun to adjust to this new lifestyle.

I have some fun stories to tell and pictures to show already, so here goes for update number one!

Last Saturday night we went out as a family to Cracker Barrel to have some good quality family time before I left.  We enjoyed having Charles’s good friend, Brian, from college, with us as well.

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It was also Mary’s twelfth birthday!! She got a special free dessert and was sung to by several waitresses. 🙂
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A very competitive game of checkers was in order….

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God answered a prayer of mine that night! Below is my subsequent Google+ post written later that night after returning home:

 

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Monday was my big packing day, and I had a sweet little helper!! It was so fun to spend time with Ella, and she was very helpful. 🙂
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Cutie pie. 🙂

IMG_7046I had a paper to write for my online class…..so I was occupied the entire six hours of plane time!
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I had two flights with a 45-minute layover in Dallas, but when I walked into the airport, my flight appeared to be delayed 20 minutes. I was quite nervous about the possibility of missing my flight and being stranded in Dallas, increasingly so as the estimated delay lengthened from 20 to 30 to 35 minutes. Praying helped to calm me down some, though, as did knowing that God was still in control. Since I had ten minutes or less between landing in Dallas and boarding my next plane, which took off from a different terminal, I cut in line to grab my gate-checked suitcase before literally running through the airport. I ran up and down the long escalators and stepped into the right shuttle ten seconds before the doors closed. This two minute ride gave me some time to calm down a bit, and thankfully I went the right direction after getting out…I did actually turn the wrong way at first but somehow realized my mistake before taking ten steps. 🙂 I made it to my gate and began pulling out my passport, less than sixty seconds before the guy called over speakerphone, “This is the last boarding call for Flight 1034 to Guatemala City…”

As soon as I found my seat on the plane, I realized how very shaky I was, from the panic of the moment and possibly from low blood sugar, since mealtimes were kinda quirky that day. I thanked the Lord for His miraculous provision and help! Just think about it…I could have easily missed my plane by missing the shuttle, running the wrong direction, or forgetting to get my gate-checked valet bag! I am not typically clear-headed when I’m in a panic, so I am very thankful that God gave me clarity of mind in a new place, and I know your prayers helped!!

Mikah and the Schaper family picked me up in Guatemala City, where we stayed the night before doing some shopping and heading to Jalapa the next day.

In case you didn’t know, this is the best way to transfer food from a shopping cart to a cooler on top of the car…

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Beautiful Guatemalan flowers // Ashlyn Schaper and I
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I drove the moto for the first time this week! Actually, I’ve never even ridden a motorcycle before this week. 🙂 Apparently, the motorcycle’s speed is controlled by twisting the right handlebar. I found that out a few minutes before I drove it, so I had just a wee bit of trouble trying to turn. The first time I got on, I was going the opposite way that the photo below shows, and while trying to turn almost 90 degrees to avoid the grassy curb, I accidentally gassed it up and flew right OVER the curb, almost running into a soccer goal and landing the motorcycle on its side, with my leg pinned underneath and both wheels still spinning. The only battle scar I have is a 8-inch scrape on my leg…but it didn’t even bleed.

So this week I rode a motorcycle for the first time, drove a motorcycle for the first time, wrecked a motorcycle for the first time, and I even rode side-saddle for the first time today on the way to church. 🙂
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Thursday was my first day helping out at the school here in Jalapa, and Mikah and I taught first grade all day. This is the biggest class, with fourteen children, and I enjoyed spending time with them. They’re a lot of fun! Of course communication was difficult, though, because I know very little Spanish and they know very little English.

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On Friday, I helped out a bit in first grade and kindergarten, then moved to third grade, which has six students, where I’ll probably be stationed for most of my time here. The teacher in third grade hardly knows any English, however, so that’ll be interesting. The kids can translate a little bit, and they are a fun class, so that will help.

On Saturday evening, we had several of the older school kids over for pizza, a movie, and games.

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MIkah made imitation apple-cider for everyone, but our nice little “Hannah and the cider” picture was photobombed!! Hence this face…

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Your prayers for both Mikah and I are coveted this next week! Thanks for your continual support, and I will keep you updated!

 

I Smile // praising the LORD in all situations

I don’t always feel like smiling.  I don’t always feel like being polite.  I don’t always feel happy.  And I definitely don’t always feel like praising the Lord for and during the trials.  But often, those periods of trial are the most important times to praise Him.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

-James 1:2-4

Praising the Lord is important even when we don’t feel like it.  Praise is not a feeling – just like love, it is an action.  We can praise God anytime, regardless of our feelings, simply because we know that He is God and that He is worthy of our praise and adoration.  So on those rainy days when we just feel like giving up, when nothing seems to be working the way it’s supposed to, and when we’re just plain tired, we need to lift our heart to Jesus and, through the carnal feelings of despair and discouragement, tell Him that we love Him, and that He is an awesome God…because He really is!

Not too long ago, my pastor pointed out that even if we come out of a time of true worship, out of a pure heart, with absolutely no feeling of a spiritual experience, we can still rest in the knowledge that we have worshiped the Lord.  Isn’t that cool!?  We can worship Him no matter how we feel!

So a few weeks ago, I decided to try it.  I was at work and feeling pretty blue and ready to go home, being tired and a little stressed.  I had to force myself to put a smile on my face and thank Jesus mentally as I worked.  As I began to thank Him for every little thing that crossed my mind, my smile slowly became less forced and more real.  He gently gave to me a joy like no other as I simply told Him what I was thankful for.  Though I don’t always feel a burst of energy as soon as I start to praise Him, I do know with all of my heart that He has heard me.  And, as the old song reminds us, counting our blessings always helps to cheer us up!

So why do I smile?  Not just because I feel happy…I smile because Jesus loves me!  Because He died for me, He’s given me a beautiful day, and He answers prayer! And even the because of the little things, a cup of hot coffee on a cold day, or a safe trip in the bad weather.

Sometimes, we just need to smile and thank God for the simple things. Praise Him not only in the moments of peace and contentment, but also in the moments of despair, discouragement, and confusing moments.  It is then that He desires and enjoys our praise the most. And it is then that He rewards us with unspeakable joy.  So come!  Let us worship the Lord together!

“Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”  

Psalm 32:11