Saturday, September 29, 2012

.reflection.

.before.and.after.

.God's.story.

.This. past week has been one of some major reflection for me. Reflection can either be good or bad for all of us...but this reflection moment was all good and ALL GOD. It's kind of wild really where I am even just typing these words...Managua, Nicaragua...all because God interrupted my life in a way I never saw coming. He's just that good. That he would save me...he chose me...even though I was his enemy.

.I. was against him in every way possible.



.For. those of you who don't know me...or God's story through me...this will be a lil' recap of what God in his power and grace and mercy has done and IS doing. For those of you who do know me...the before...and you have a relationship with God...join me in worshipping what a powerful God we surrendered to.



.My. story in a few words or less would be: "I was hateful...angry...bitter...hurt...and broken trying to act whole. I had a really good mask...and I knew how to wear it. Then...God in his power and grace...saved me. He chose me. He saved me. He is making me more like him. And because of who God is I am FREE!" There ya go...God's story.



.God's. story with a lil' bit more words would be:

.I. was born into a home that was founded on drugs and alcohol. I learned at a very young age that the world is a hard tough place and I better get wise to that as quick as possible. My parents were explosive and rageful at best. I had no safe place to turn to as a child. My dad began sexually abusing me at the age of six. This was only the beginning of the abuse that I would endure for the next 11 years of my life. Around that time my dad would often include me...sexually...in sales of drugs with his friends. This imprinted the reason for my existence here...to be used...to be sold...nothing more. By the age of 9 I was soliciting myself to older boys at school for anything from watches, cigarets, shoes...or just gum. I believed deeply that I was worth nothing more than what men/boys wanted from me.

.As. I grew up my unstable home life got even more and more unstable with the divorce of my parents, poor relationship choices from both parents, and drugs and alcohol ruling my parents. I became the outlet for my mom's anger at times through her violent rages. This was the perfect recipe for a very very angry little girl. That was me. I like to say I was the kid your parent's didn't want you to play with.



.At. the age of 14 I was arrested for fighting. Charged with 1st degree battery and disturbing the peace. This is where my mom knew that something had to change. She made the best choice for me that she ever could have...and that was to send me to a boarding school in northern Mississippi. This school is where I first learned about God. Church or God did not play a part of my life prior to this so the whole "Jesus thing" was culture shock to say the least. It was a shock...but it's where God started his furious pursuit of my heart. By the end of my first year there I prayed the "sinner's prayer". Although my words said I was surrendering my heart and giving God my life I was doing nothing but praying a prayer and wanting to stop getting into trouble at the school. No life change. No heart change. Nothing.  That is when I say I stepped into religion and not into a relationship with God. I mean anyone can say a prayer right? Well...a prayer is all I said. For the next 10 years I would cling tightly to that prayer I said as a freshman in high school to point to my eternal security...all the while living life as I pleased.

.I. played religion really well for 10 years.



.Fast forward. a few years and I ended up at a christian university...on a dare none-the-less. That's where I spent four years learning how to play religion even more...and where my bitterness and absolute hatred of God and what I used to call (and still do sometimes) "Jesus people" grew all consuming. I had everyone fooled. Everyone. I was a leader in the dorms...an RA even...teaching spiritual truths and leading others to God the whole time counting down the days when this nightmare would be over. Under the thin layer of what others saw I was falling apart. I had been battling a serious addiction to self-injury that started around the age of 11. I was either taking 60+ laxatives a day or counting calories to a low 250 a day allotment. I was trying to control my wildly chaotic life. Upon graduation I threw away the Bibles and study notes that had anything to do with God and walked away from God for, what I thought, forever.

.The. next few years were rattled with alcohol, self-injury, a decision to live in the homosexual lifestyle and run as far and as fast away from who I thought God was. I was making choices out of brokenness and hurts that had not been healed.

.After. pretty much falling flat on my face I found myself at a women's small group at Blue Ridge Community Church in a last ditch effort to prove God wrong or right. This is where God chose to release his family to pursue me like only he can!



.I. went to the small group for a few months...to the astonishment of myself and the other women there. I think for the first time in my life I was open to hearing from God. I was open to the possibility that maybe I had it...had him...all wrong. It was a slow...yet quick...process of me discovering I was totally wrong about God. I was his enemy to every degree...yet holding on desperately to that prayer I said in high school.

.Only. God could have knocked down the walls of religion, pain, anger, bitterness, and fear that nothing would change and bring me into his family!

.This. past week marked two years since I gave God my broken life and he gave me his abundant life in return. His grace. His mercy. His righteousness now clothes me. To think back to just 2 and 1/2 years ago is wild for me. I was living with a partner, drinking heavily, and headed fast into self-destruction.



.Now.

.That's. just the before.

.The. after is a way better...a picture of God's glory.

.Since. giving God my life two years ago God has done and is continuing to do a full renovation and restoration. One of the first things God had me walk through was who I am in him...now that I was actually his. Reading through Galatians, Ephesians, and Romans all about who I am now in Christ. Who God REALLY is and not just who I thought he was. There are not words to describe the depth of darkness and pain that God ripped out of my heart to replace with his Truth and himself. Though that process was and is still at times painful...I fell even more in love with who I am finding God to be.

.The. main theme of my relationship with God has been slaying my truth with His TRUTH and dying to who I am. Learning that I am His. Everything is His. I am not my own...and that is so a great thing.



.I. guess as hard and fast I was running away from God is who hard and fast I am running towards him now. ONLY God can do that! Only God can make me...you...alive. I'm not talking like wake up in the morning and brush your teeth alive...I'm talking like ALIVE! There is a HUGE difference. I used to snicker (Like literally laugh audibly when people would say that verse) people who would quote the verse in John that says that Jesus died to give us life and life abundantly.

.BUT. GOD.

.But. while I was his enemy he chose to save me. Chose to give me LIFE...ABUNDANT LIFE! Amazing right?!? Yep...he is absolutely amazing.

.All. of this to say...no matter how far you are from God he is real. He is truth. He is good.



.So. with that said. I love you friends and family. I thank you all deeply from the depths of my heart for your support and encouragement...be it Facebook posts, emails, texts, phone calls...or anything. I feel loved by God through you. I feel my community around me even though I am far away in a different country. I know that you all...my Jesus family...are praying for me standing in the gap for me and supporting me in more ways than even I can see. Thank you for your friendship and your love.

Thank you for being Jesus to me.

.run.hard.

P.S.-- HOH news: There are two new women now! They moved in just a few days ago. They are sharing a room...but they are younger and know each other so hopefully they will get along. One of them has a 4 month old little girl who is just a doll. My precious Alma came back last Sunday but left again Tuesday morning. Please be praying for her safety. For the safety of all the girls that have come and left HOH. Alma is one of many girls who are on the streets of Nicaragua with no where to go...who will quickly fall into the trap of sexual slavery.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

.ouch.


.ouch. doesn’t really begin to describe this past week.



.this. week started with one woman leaving with her four month old daughter early in the morning. She was here at HOH for about a week and a half. Then in the evening when all of the business of dinner and homework was going on two girls packed up their belongings and ran away.

.heartbroken. is a better way to explain how I felt when we discovered they had left.



.one. girl had been here maybe a week and a few days. She has lived here at HOH in the dorm off and on and it is typical for her to come and go sadly. She was a major influence of the second girl leaving. The second girl is one of the girls I have become the most closest too. I shared my story with her. She is the one I wrote about a few weeks ago…her story we are likely to never forget. Over the past several weeks there was a change in her…a GOOD change! She actually wanted to go to school. She was getting excited about school projects and proud of herself when she received a good score. She was letting the other intern get close to her emotionally as well. She was making HUGE steps in healing and just becoming a beautiful young lady.



.that’s. how satan works. He is here to “steal, kill and destroy..” and I saw that more clearly than I have in a long time Monday night when I found out those two girls ran away. He hates us who follow Christ. He hates us and what we are doing. He is angry that she was changing. He is out to destroy whatever he can.



.i. can’t explain how deeply I hurt for those girls and the sucker punch to the stomach feeling I had that night. Feeling God’s ache for them that they chose the “freedom” of the streets over the freedom at HOH and the ultimate freedom he offers them both through relationship with him.



.the. next morning was met with an equal amount of pain as another girl who has been here for just about a year was picked up by her grandmother to go home. She too no longer wanted to be living here.

.through. all of the ups and now downs of HOH…God is good. He is always good and always in control even though it hurts and it pains me to see these girls and women run away. 



.my. affections for him have grown just in these past few days of the unsettledness here at HOH. His comfort and fatherly-ness (I just made that word up) has been more present than I think I have experienced yet here at HOH. I’m getting to experience God as my father…the father that knows best…the good father…and for that I am grateful beyond measure. 



.with. all of the heavy stuff said...

.God. is moving and working among the women here. It's been really neat to see some of the new women building and grown relationships among the women who have been here for some time. Amazing to see the women reaching out to one another in ways they could only do with God leading them. 





.And. on a super light...well...at least I think it's humorous...I have had some interesting health experiences so far here in Nica. I've had worms. No worries...just took some meds. I've had lice...and probably will have it again...only a matter of hatching time. Annnnnd...drum roll please...I have a freshly hatched colony of scabies. How fun is that?! I actually do think it's fun...it's all part of the adventure of living in Nica and loving on my family here. I get these fun things from close contact from my girls here. Just evidence of loving on them. :) 



.live. well friends. Run hard after Him. 





This is my prayer in the desert
And all that's within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides

And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames  
       
And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

And this is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on it's way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I'll stand

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I'm filled to be emptied again
The seed I've recieved I will sow
Hillsong United "Desert Song" 




Sunday, September 9, 2012

.shaky.grounds.




.This. week has been a pretty crazy week. It’s flown by. Honestly I can’t believe it’s already Sunday…and already September 9th! Craziness. There were also some earthquakes on Monday, which caused three volcanoes to erupt about an hour from Managua. That’s fun right? This was my second earthquake in my life…much shakier than the one in Lynchburg though. My friend who lived in Cali def prepared me for Nicaraguan earthquakes.



.This. is Jenny. She is a Tuesday woman that I've grown a friendship with. She is new(ish) to HOH and sometimes come drunk or high...but she's coming...and she hears the gospel. How we met is a super funny story. You see...she is living in the gay lifestyle. One of my first Tuesday's here in June she came up to me and asked if I was gay. (Some of you who know my story know that if someone would have asked me this a couple years ago it would have shaken me to the core.) It was because of my nose ring she was asking...but I think it was God that prompted her to ask. That began our friendship. I'm hoping to get to share that part of my story with her and her partner that also comes on Tuesday. Please join me in praying for Jenny! 





.This. past Tuesday was payday for the women who work here for the production of jewelry and cards on Tuesdays.  Which meant a small break from counting out beads…but a busy morning helping the women get their correct amount of money and being security so that no money goes missing. Afterwards April and the other on campus leaders had a luncheon for the table heads of the Tuesday production. Vilma had made a FABULOUS lunch for everyone! Vilma is Oscar’s wife. Oscar is the on campus director here at HOH. He’s the one who helps life run smoothly here at HOH for the women and the dorm girls. April, Vilma, and Yahiria shared with the women…encouraging them and teaching them how to follow God.



.Just. yesterday a new woman, 16 years old, named Anna moved in with her 4 month old baby girl. She used to live here at HOH as a dorm girl for a few years. Also another dorm girl returned to the dorm. Her name is Luvy. She was here when the group I was with in January came down. She ran away a few months ago and has since decided to return to HOH! Now…I know I said this a couple of weeks ago…but we are officially maxed out. At least with houses for the women…for the dorm girls there is always room. It’s amazing to me to see these women choose to leave their lifestyle of prostitution one day and choose to live here at HOH. It’s even more amazing to have women returning after running away from HOH.



.It’s. no different from you and me when we know what’s best for us and we tip-toe into it then we run as fast as we can away…because we are scared or think we aren’t ready. Some day we will return by the grace of God.








.I’ve. so enjoyed connecting more and more with the women who live here. Getting to know them a little bit more each day. Especially the new ones. I absolutely LOVE that I get to say good night to one who lives right on the other side of a partition from my room. We chat each night about our day and her exams…and just life in general. I love that about living with the women. I’m humbled to know such brave and powerful women. As I get to know these precious women I fall even more in love with God and who he is. I love seeing how God is working and moving.

.I. am just in awe of my God.



.I. love how God is shaping and forming me to look more like him each minute of being here in Nicaragua. Even though sometimes it’s a bit painful to have layers of who I thought I was stripped away…what God puts in it’s place is even more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed up.

.I. love that I was SO VERY WRONG about who I thought God was. I love that God is who he says he is.

.He’s. so good. 



P.S.  Also this week I discovered a colony of lice in my hair. Apparently I’ve had them for quite some time because they were HUGE! I guess I just got so used to my itchy scalp due to the cold-water showers that I didn’t notice a little extra itchiness. I’ve always felt gipped as a little kid because I missed out on the “coolness” of getting lice in childhood. I am now proud to say that I had lice…at the ripe ol’ age of 27! I’m a pro at finding them and killing them now too.  Let’s hope I can keep them away for the next three months. Some how I think this may just be the beginning for making up for lost time in childhood. J