Sunday, July 29, 2012

.big.family.

.bigger.healing.



.I. feel so full-up..and for now let's just say that's a word ok?



.Right. now thinking about how to sum up what this past week was for me is a little overwhelming..humbling..happy..sad..joyful..etc. God has just been GOOD. No words really to describe what it's like to be in community with my family again...to serve shoulder to shoulder with them..to share what God is doing in us..just to go deep and love each other and God well.



.For. me this week was really neat for me personally just to see some changes in me or in my thinking that God has been doing over the past two months. Not really being able to see or feel the changes because I've just been taking those steps towards God..but being with my Jesus family for two weeks them seeing the changes and me seeing myself be different with them in ways that only God can do! Was neat to experience..and live out..some major things that God is doing in me and ultimately through me.



.And. that's loving others the way I want to and the way God wants me to love his people.



.For. me it's always been this inner struggle of wanting to love others..wanting to be the first to give hugs and just love on someone..and then wanting to stay "safe" and just wait until I know the person before I express any love to them. I know that this inner battle is a direct result of my past..and another level of healing that God has been nudging me towards..before Nica. During these past two months he's been doing a little more than nudging. :) First off..there are 24 girls that live about 10 feet away from my front door that you can't help but hug and kiss a million times. Then there are 14 women now..yay God!..that desperately need love and unconditional acceptance. Then there is Oscar and Velma who are becoming my Nica family. Not to mention that I am living in Central America..which like any other Hispanic culture..touch and physical affection is just what you do. I mean you greet total strangers with a kiss and a hug!



.This. is what God is doing in me..and I got to step into loving my American Jesus family in the way I've always wanted to. Feeling the changes in my heart and seeing them played out as there were people on each of the teams..guys and gals..that I either knew really well or didn't know at all..they all got a huge hug from me. I know this may not seem like a big thing to you..but for me..it's huge. Huge to just be free to express how I feel with God's love inside. Seeing healing lived out..and loving it..also knowing that God is going to keep doing this while I'm here. He is just that good..and kind..to his children.

.healing.



.On. to more important and fun House of Hope news..



.We. now have 14 women living in our residential program! Every house on campus is almost full..yay God! During the first week of Blueridge's team there were two young teens (one who is pregnant) that moved in and a third moved in this past week with her 1.5 year old son. It's amazing to be a part of the daily happenings here on campus. To see the women when they first move in. To see the other women and the girls all pitch in helping her set up her house. Such community. The mornings are no longer "quiet" on my side of campus..which I don't mind at all..most days. :) I love love love living right beside the women..living like they live..just knee deep in doing life with them..as much as possible anyways.



.I. see it as such an honor and a privilege to be able to love on these girls and women. Learning how to die to what Ash wants to do..and just doing exactly what God is whispering for me to do. He's the one who is loving the women through me..He's the one loving the girls through me..it's all him.



Look at what God has done!

Look at what God is doing!

.Feeling. all full of encouragement and love..and fruit roll ups..I know that I can and will be able to love these precious ones better than I ever thought imaginable. Knowing that the rest of my time here will be hard to say the least..but also wanting to squeeze every single opportunity out of each day. Thank you my Jesus family for your prayers and support..because of that I get to love these beautiful people even
more!



"Now to him who is able to immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all the generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Eph. 3:20-21






Sunday, July 22, 2012

.the.body.

I must apologize from the depths of my heart that this blog will be for the actual readers and not just the lookers...no pictures to go along with the stories from this past week.

I must confess that my apology isn't super sincere..the lack of pictures is due to the fact of teams from Blueridge coming and going. :)

This week has been on of a lot of tears and hugs and just love. Tears of joy and being able to talk with friends and family...hugs for everyone...and love for my Jesus family! I've been overwhelmed with how God has loved me well with timing the team to arrive just when I would need a physical "pick-me-up" and to set me on my feet and get me going again. He is so good...in the small and in the big.

Being a small part of the teams has been a neat experience for me..being on the other side so to speak. I was able to sit in on one of the "debrief" sessions with the first team and it was just what I needed. Hearing what God was doing in each person's heart and life through there time here in Nica. (I kept my record of being the first to cry and the last to stop.) Tears of being so moved with hearing stories of the men and women on the team loving my girls well. Hearing their hearts for the girls and how God was showing them things in their lives that needed correction on needed encouragement. Amazing that God would take someone from Lynchburg, VA to Nicaragua to grow their understanding and knowledge of himself. He's good right?!

Being able to be a small part of the body of Christ here has been refreshing...I don't even have the words to express how encouraged I feel. I was talking with God while running the other day about just how being apart of my Jesus family in a physical way has given me strength in a way that I know only He can do! Knowing that this is my reboot..my refresher with my Jesus family until December...I've been taking in every moment. It still seems a little surreal that when I look up to see who is speaking or who is translating that it's one of my friends..my Jesus family.

At the House of Hope we welcomed two young ladies into the residential program this week as well. Amazing to see God bringing more and more women out of prostitution and into this community. Being a part of this on the front lines has been and will continue to be an amazing opportunity...to love these women well...and to show them Jesus. God is so good to bring them to HOH. The new women are young...16 and 15. The 15 year old..I will call her Jessica..has a mom and many siblings who also live at the HOH. Jessica is 4-5 months pregnant with her first child. She left the life of prostitution the  day that the first Blueridge team got here! Amazing..God's timing..it's just so perfect. Jessica is being loved on by Blueridge and by her mom and siblings in a way that only God can orchestrate. The other girl, 16, who I will call Megan, is a spunky full of life young lady. She also came the the HOH the day after Blueridge arrived. Megan lives right next-door to me so it's fun to have her just pop in my room and ask me about "strange" American things I am eating. Fruit roll ups of course...which for the lack of my Spanish I just end up calling a cookie...close enough right? Megan is learning how to cook and take care of household duties...which every 16 year old should learn. :) I have woken up to the sound of her washing her clothes at 4:00am however...so maybe there will be a lesson on when to actually do these household chores?

Being able to be a part of the excitement of new women coming out of a life of darkness and being given on opportunity to experience life..and light..and ultimately Jesus has been a privilege and an honor. God is so good.

God is also good when the darkness of the girl's past is heavy.

This week one of the girls wanted to share her story with someone on the team, after sharing her story she was upset and vulnerable...just like we all get after opening up to someone...and she came to me sobbing just wanting to be held. I took her in my arms and for a couple of hours just held her as tightly as I could. These are the moments that I KNOW God is near...that God is good...and God just loves us with such abandon. The moments when life is dark. When I am holding a young girl who is just barely 13 and has been used and tortured for most of her precious life. As her tears ran down my legs I prayed for her...and for Jesus to let her know what I am saying because of the language barrier..which is really only a barrier if I let it become one. Being able to sing songs of praise to Jesus and pray for this precious child is evidence that God is good.

That's what I've been learning this week. That in the joy of two young ladies stepping out of prostitution and into a life of freedom...and in the sadness of unspeakable pain and sorrow..that God is good. He is good.

Oh that we may know God more.

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to KNOW this live that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."  Eph. 3:16-19

love you friends!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

.protect.your.valuables.

.peace.out.forever.




The above is one of the favorite sayings of this beautiful young lady...along with "Get outta here and never come back!" followed by a loud laugh. This lady is always there for a smile which is great when life in Nica gets a little rough. Last week was one of those weeks for me...along with this week. Just part of the process I guess. Settling into life here...the business of hosting teams that come and tending to the women and girls who live here on a daily basis. The work is not for the fait of heart. It's amazing to me how tired I can feel at the end of a day that all I did is hang out with 24 girls. One of the girls called me grandmother the other day...mainly due to my age as in comparison to the other interns...but I think it was partly because I was super tired.

These past couple of weeks have been busy on so many levels. Teams from all four corners of the States were here at any given day...girls needing to get off to school...jewelry production in full swing on Tuesdays...the list goes on.



We welcomed a few more residents into the program at HOH which is super exciting! We currently now have 12 women living in the residential program with their children and 24 girls living in the dorm. Now..just like in the States..if you have 12 women coming from rough backgrounds living together(ish) there will be drama. I wish I could report that it is different in Nica..but people are people..and we are all broken. It makes it a little entertaining though..for the women at least..for me to step in and try to "help" sort through the problem. Which I guess humor is better than fighting.

These past two weeks have also been hard for me personally. I wish I had a solid clear cut answer for you as to why..but I don't sadly. Believe me I would like to know why I am feeling the way I am. After all of my thinking and sorting it through with God my only conclusion is spiritual. With that said I'm not going to go off of the deep end guys so don't get all up in arms.

 I just feel weary spiritually.

 It's a weariness that sleep or a good nap or even a bubble bath can't take away. (Although sleep and a bubble bath sure do sound amazing right about now.)

It's the kind of weariness where you don't feel like yourself and you don't want to do the things that you love. You just want to hide and disappear for a little while. I've def felt this way many times before and have just given into the desires of hiding...or more recently..I've fought through those feelings. Pushed through until it lifted. Pushing through for me in the States looked like getting in the Word...not ditching on coffee dates to talk about Jesus...not skipping on CRASH...etc.


 But what does it look like to push through in Nica?

I wasn't sure until this past week when I had to figure that out.

It looks a lot like pushing through in the states...but without my people. It looks like getting up at 4:30am with the girls and engaging with them...not just saying "I'm tired". It looks like sharing my heart with the other interns who I don't fully know just yet. It looks like getting in the Word and sticking there until I feel God shift my heart. It looks like doing the stuff I don't want to do until God moves and changes my heart and my thinking to WANT to do them. The reality of it is that I do want to do the things I know God is wanting me to move towards but it's like there is this wall that is stopping me. Spiritual battle. I can feel it deeply that it's just an inner battle that will just change and shift through the days and months here in Nica and the years to come wherever I am.

These past two weeks have been hard but have also been a huge learning curve of God's protection and how he has called each and every one of his children to protect their personal relationship with Himself.  In my small group at Blueridge one of the core values is "protect God's character". This has been my mantra for the past two weeks. To protect in my mind who God really is. To focus on what is TRUTH and not the falseness that is everywhere. To protect how we...the other interns...talk about God and how we help each other protect our relationships with God.


It's looked a lot different over these couple of weeks but has brought tears to my eyes or brought me to my knees as I can feel the importance of God's protection over us, his children, or us protecting or guarding God's spot in our lives. Seeing our...my...relationship with God as ultimate and supremely important. Not just in the "I'll read my Bible and pray everyday" kind of way...but I will be soft and ready to move towards God at each moment of the day...no matter what the outside circumstances may be.

 I know...trust me...easier said than done.

But..He is worth it. I say this all the time..those closest to me will vouch for me..God is so very worth our sacrifice...the giving of ourselves so He can be glorified. It's a dying to myself on a whole new level. I was listening to a podcast the other night and the pastor said "if you have surrendered your life to Christ your life is no longer your life." This is SO true for me right now. Thinking back to a few months ago when I felt so strongly that I needed to come to Nica not really knowing why but knowing it was a must...my life is not my own. I am here...and living here...and loving it here because of God. So that HE can be glorified...and so that much can be made about him.



My prayer has been "God teach me...show me...where and how I can die to myself more. Shine your light on places I've tried to keep dark and keep for myself. Open me up and move into where I don't belong."

Here's to dying to myself more each day.

P.S. I am super excited for the Blueridge teams that are coming in tonight and over the next weeks. I have been praying for you all! That God would move in your hearts. That you would be moved closer in a HUGE way in your relationship with Him!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

.running.with.rocks.

.danger.is.everywhere.



This week has been a week of learning how to ward of tropical "pests" and the local "wildlife". Pests being scorpions and tarantulas and wildlife being wild dogs that chase this gringa while running. I've learned I need to run with rocks in my hands to throw at the wild dogs that enjoy chasing me. I'm also learning how to take care of house guests. 


Last Saturday I had a scorpion visit me two days in a row. For my own peace of mind I'm telling myself it was the same one both times. I was a chicken and was too afraid to kill it. I have no previous experience you see killing such pests. I wanted to watch it be done first before I can feel confident in being able to defeat one myself. I called a friend over who bravely smashed him into bits and pieces...as I screamed like a little girl. Then Friday I had a HUGE tarantula in my room! Legit. I quickly did what anyone would do in the situation...pick up my cell phone and call my friend. I said "Um where are you? *scream* Can you come to my house now?! *scream*" Haha! I never knew I was such a baby with critters until now. My friend came thinking I was just overreacting to such insects...but when she saw the hugeness of the spider she screamed as well. It took a whole 5 minutes to work up the courage to get close enough to smash him but it was well worth the funny videos. I bravely photographed the killing as I crouched on a chair in my house. I deemed myself the encourager...because I was encouraging my friend who was the killer to be brave...because I was not! I now feel more than confident to handle any scorpions or tarantulas that decide to come by for a visit. I just can't kill em without watching first. *eek* 


On to more important and interesting things... 

This week has been a week of getting the campus back together after the medical team. The women have been working hard cleaning up and moving their families back to where they were prior to the medical team being here. The dorm girls have been enjoying an easy week at school due to exams and teacher work days...which means a lot of days off from school...and a lot of girls running around campus. The two new dorm girls have been adjusting to life and are fitting in amazingly well. There are two new women living on campus with their children as well. They are just settling in and building relationships with the other women. It's neat to see the other women reaching out to them and inviting them over to talk over dinner...discipleship at the front lines. 



There were two teenage girls that had moved in right after the medical team as well but they ran away in the middle of the night a few nights ago. They were not so on board with the program at the House of Hope. Sad to see them give up and not really even try...especially when they would be given such opportunities...school...housing...Jesus. 

That got me thinking about the opportunities I was given in the states. Opportunities to learn..to grow..to be challenged..to be moved..and what I did with them. I wasted so much time and so many opportunities. This made me really thankful for what I had in the states. Thankful for my Jesus family...that they desperately move towards God in little and big ways...that they are locked arm and arm moving together as one. Thankful that I was a part of that day in and day out...not that I'm separated from the body...I'm just a little further away. Thankful for the ways in which God chose to use me to spur others towards himself. Showing them his love through me. Humbled. 

He is good. 



Thankful that I was a part of small groups of women who just love God and want to look more like him every day. No matter what that means. Painful at times. Revealing to the depth of our yuck.

He is a jealous God. 

Thankful for a God that is after our hearts...our sacrifice...our obedience...the death of us...for us to experience the abundant life in Him!

I was looking back through my journal the other night to answer an email from a friend who had some questions about my former lifestyle. It was interesting reading though what I wrote just two years ago. I wrote about how I had "tried Christianity...been there...done that...got the 50 t.shirts." I was so DONE with Christianity. It was all facade and smoke and mirrors to me. 

Nothing of life. Nothing of growth. Nothing of depth. 



Then I remembered a conversation I had in the atrium at Blueridge almost two years ago now. It was with someone who I call my best friend now. Talking about salvation and not really having God. I could tell what she was getting at...that I didn't really have God. I told her "You can't talk me out of my salvation!" I said this arms folded...beyond angry with God and with Christians...living my life how I wanted to. Wanted absolutely nothing of God. But. I was holding onto a prayer that I repeated when I was 15. A prayer that I didn't really understand. A prayer that had no meaning. No depth. A prayer that was what I thought my salvation. Why was I holding on to that? If you would have asked me if I was a Christian I may have said yes..but more than likely I would have said no. But I held onto a prayer that meant nothing so that I could claim something when this life is over. Huh. 



I've been listening to a lot of podcast sermons from Mars Hill, The Village Church, and Blueridge. One sermon was from Woody where he challenged us about having the abundant life that Jesus promised...and if we didn't have that why. I remember hearing this sermon live...sitting in the big room...arms crossed thinking "there's just no way that's true!" But remembering another thought fly through my head "maybe I don't have God." The reality was that I had smoke and mirrors of God. I had stories and pictures to tell but nothing of depth. Like a first date when you run out of things to talk about...that's what I had with Jesus. A ten minute conversation over coffee but no second phone call. 



It's wild to think about where I was in life just two years ago today. I didn't know God. I did what I wanted when I wanted. I was living for me with a lot of anger and bitterness. Crazy to think I was living with someone three years ago...in a lifestyle void of God...alcohol...eating disorders...and self injury controlling every move I made. 

Look at what God has done! 



It's only him. Only Him that rescues us and places our feet on solid ground. Only him! 

Only God who rescues us from ourselves. 
Only Him who rescues women and girls from the brothels and places them at the House of Hope.
Only Him who gives life. Real life. Abundant LIFE. 
Look at what God has and is doing. 

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and made you strong, firm and steadfast" 1 Peter 5:8-10 

In other words...run with rocks...wild dogs bite hard. God is good...run well brothers and sisters! 


P.S. I got some rough and tumble Chacos for the six months here. (Pictured above). And the soles started peeling off last week! Only two weeks into this and they were falling apart! Not like Chacos to fall apart. I called the company this week and told them my unique situation and they were quick to respond with "Where would you like us to send your replacement sandals?" AMAZING! Only five minutes on the phone with Laura and I have my replacement sandals on the way. Without the expensive hassle of having to mail her the broken shoes. Shout out the Chaco's customer service and flexibility...and making things right! :) Thanks Laura!