Displaced Joy

Christmas-Lights

On the drive home this evening, the thought struck me how beautiful the city lights were against the wet pavement, with a few Christmas lights added to the mix. That was my first thought. Which kind of shook me. Because this time last year, and the year before, and every year prior for the last few years, my thoughts were so very far from that. My thoughts were centered on how the early darkness just seemed to press in on me and I couldn’t breathe. Winters saw me stocking up on St. John’s Wort, an herbal anti-depressant. That’s what my winter nights consisted of: St. John’s Wort, lots of Chinese food, and many tears.

I think that is perhaps why the passing of Robin Williams hit me so hard this past summer. While I may never have considered taking my own life, the thoughts could have easily have been there. I felt the hopelessness and helplessness of being stuck in a situation I felt would never change. My life felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. I had lost my joy and I didn’t know how to find it again. So many of us are on the precipice that Robin found himself plummeting from. Had he lost his joy like I’d lost mine?

Robin Williams

I’ve heard so many sermons over the years by many preachers that Christians shouldn’t be depressed. It just wasn’t allowed. It was sinful. Christians were always supposed to be joyful. I felt like I had failed in some regard, because I wasn’t a happy-go-lucky Christian with a smile plastered on my face 24/7. I was supposed to have the “joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” Isn’t that what the song says? So what the heck was wrong with me? The enemy takes pleasure in taking a person’s deepest, darkest thoughts and using them against them.

displace: to remove from the usual or proper place.

While that’s the medical definition of the word, doesn’t it make sense? A person’s joy should be located in their heart. But what if someone went in and performed destructive surgery, removing that joy? The enemy had displaced my joy.

I felt at the end of my rope. All I knew to do, was to continue praying and seeking the Lord.

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14, NLT)

Day after day, some harder than others, and week after week, much prayer and much encouragement got me through. I won’t lie and say that I always remained optimistic, and there were times I tried to take things into my own hands.

However, with a divinely orchestrated answered prayer, my life recently changed for the better.

What a difference a year makes. What a difference a day makes.

The Lord has returned my joy to me. I don’t think that my joy was attached to any particular situation, but when the Lord answers a long-prayed prayer, it’s hard not to let it affect your demeanor.

I’ve been reacquainting myself with the little things that bring happiness to my heart. I can now smile on the way home, because I know that there is hope.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

So I have my joy back. It may not be as bright, shiny, and naive as it once was. It’s a little burnished and scuffed, but it’s there.

I’m smiling more.

Elf-Smiling

I now have a happy heart instead of a sorrowful one when I sing along to a Christmas carol.

ELF

 

The darkness may only last for a little while because joy comes in the morning.

Changed

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As I stood worshipping Jesus this morning, this song made an appearance. I knew in the back of my mind that it would be in the set list because I entered the songs into our Sunday morning PowerPoint presentation. But as I stood there, this song struck a chord within me that I had tucked away in the corner of my heart and mind. It was ten years ago that I first heard this song performed by Delirious. But it was also ten years ago this month that I came back to Jesus after living a sinful two years of not having Him in my life, and multiple years of not even really serving Him at all.

This morning, this song just brought it all back to me. I was reminded of how much I truly had failed Jesus. How I had just swept His love under the carpet and gave in to my own sinful desires during those years. But it also caused me to see how much He has brought restoration in my life. He drenched a dry and weary soul with His everlasting water of love and salvation. A most overwhelming feeling. 

I am not perfect. I have tendencies to strive for perfection, but I am a far cry from being perfect. There have been so many times over the last ten years that the enemy has used my weakness of the sinful desire in my heart to try to take me down. Though I might stumble and fall, Jesus has always and will always be there to pick me up again. Jesus knows the heart. A truly repentant heart that comes to Jesus broken and tarnished can always be restored to a shining brilliance that only He can bring. 

It is not an easy way to live. I’ve been scoffed for not dating many men, or hurrying up to have a relationship just to have the children I so desire. But why? Why take the restoration that Jesus has given me and throw it in His face just because I want something so much? Why jeopardize the future that He has promised (in His timing) just to rush something that isn’t the absolute best? Why risk it?

Many people think that purity is only something that should exist before marriage. They are wrong. Purity is not a stage in life. Purity is a lifestyle. Purity belongs outside and inside of marriage. If purity cannot exist outside of marriage, how can a marriage truly be a representation of Christ and His Church? People are watching you, they see everything you say, do, and post on social media. If your life is not exhibiting this purity from all sides, people will notice and it will cause your claim of being a Christ-follower to falter. 

No matter where you are in life, whether you are single or married, 15 or 55, I urge you to make purity a lifestyle. Make it your anthem. Take up purity as your flag and wave it high so that in every area of your life people will see it and know that you’re striving after a life that is pleasing to The Lord.

Future and a Hope

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This week marks 9 years since the horrendous car wreck that should have claimed my life.

I was high on life and Jesus. It had been six months since the Lord rescued me from the pit of darkness and despair, and I had rededicated my life to Him. I had found a new church just a few months prior, and was soaking in His goodness. June 22, the day after the first day of summer in 2004, was a scorcher. We had dressed up at work in summery clothes to commemorate the first day of the summer solstice (since we had missed it the day before!), so I was wearing my bright orange and yellow Hawaiian shirt, dark blue capris, and leather sandals. It was hot. So hot. The AC in my 1997 white Chevy Cavalier had went out about a week before, so the windows were down as I was driving home from work that evening. The heat, and my lack of sleep from the night before, was lulling me into a doze that brought a rude awakening. Not even a quarter-mile from my house I dozed off for about 30 seconds and veered off onto the opposite side of the road. When my eyes opened all I saw was green flying past me at a ridiculous rate. I panicked. I tried to pull my car back onto the road, but I was already driving in the grass covered ditch. When I jerked the wheel, my car started flying.

I closed my eyes, held on tight to the steering wheel, and just remember praying “Please God, don’t let me die,” over and over and over again, as my car flipped in the adjoining field. After what felt like an eternity, I finally landed with a great thud. I was upside down, and could only see dirt through my shattered windshield as I hung from my harness. Again. I panicked. I hastily saw that my only exit was my driver side window that had been rolled down, so I released the seat belt I had been wearing and dropped onto the ceiling of my car and scrambled out. I sat up and did not really know where I was initially, other than sitting in the middle of a large field, next to my upside down car. I knew I had to call someone, and realized that my cell phone was in my purse. I reached into my car again, freaking out thinking that it might collapse on me as I lay reaching for it, and pulled it out quickly. Hands shaking, I dialed my sister and told her I had been in an accident and was sitting in the field belonging to the Hendricks family. All I could remember thinking at that moment was that my parents were going to be so mad at me for wrecking my car (they weren’t, but I obviously wasn’t thinking rationally at the time).

Within seconds, the sweet neighbor lady and friend of our family across the street called 911 (we had recently just received that in our rural area), and the two ladies who had been behind me in their car were making sure I was all right. My parents and sister arrived in record time, as they were just down the street. I don’t know how much time had spanned since the wreck until the ambulance and highway patrol arrived. I have a vague recollection that I was in shock and rambling incessantly.

Did I hit anyone in my car? Had I hurt anyone? (No, I had not). Where were my friends? I needed them? Oh my gosh, I hurt so bad! Make it stop hurting!

As they strapped me to the board from the ambulance, I remember the medics raising my shirt and tapping on my tummy, making sure I had not ruptured anything. My friend JC was there, as was my cousin Loren. When nearly everyone in the area has a police scanner, everyone and your brother will show up to a scene of an accident. They loaded me into the ambulance, and I heard my mom say to take me to Cox South. I didn’t want to be alone. I know now that I was truly in shock, because I was thoroughly freaking out. My cousin, who was a firefighter at the time with West Republic, offered to ride along with me to keep me calm. He did a good job. While the medic was checking me over, my cousin talked to me to keep my mind off of my current situation. I was in an amazing amount of pain. My back hurt. My the pain in my head was unbearable. I really did not know at the time what my injuries entailed.

After what seemed like forever, we arrived at the ER. They carted me to the back, my cousin still with me, thankfully. At some point the rest of my family arrived, though I don’t remember when.

I was still strapped to the backboard, my head placed immobile by a strip, as well as the rest of my body. I was barefoot. I knew this, because suddenly the frigid AC of the ER reached me and my bare feet. My mom sat beside me as they waited for the doctor to come in and examine me. After trying, and failing, to get a blood sample (my veins are incredibly hard to get to), they pricked my finger and squeezed it until they had an ample amount of blood to use as a sample. That freaking hurt. Much of the next couple hours were a blur as they examined me. I remember crying a lot. I was in pain. It felt like my back and head were on fire. I am claustrophobic, so being strapped to a backboard for hours did nothing to ease my sanity.  They gave me some kind of pain medication. My shirt was cut off. I begged them to spare my bra, since I had just purchased it (I know, strange request at the time). I was shimmied out of my capris by my mom and the nurse and converted into a hospital gown.

Despite the horrific thing I had just gone through a couple of hours earlier, it was generally determined that I had come out unscathed. I was lucky, they said. I merely sustained a whiplash, possible concussion, and immense bruising across my upper body from the seat belt. No internal injuries. No longterm effects.

I had a hard time going to sleep that night, as the moments leading up to the accident kept replaying in my head.

The next day, my parents went to the place where my car had been towed to, and took pics for the insurance company, as well as talked to one of the EMTs who had been on scene, JC’s dad. He said that I was lucky that I made it out alive. My car had flipped end over end quite a few times before landing. My steering wheel had been warped dramatically out of shape by the sheer supernatural strength by which I had held on. He said I was lucky that I was even able to crawl out of my window afterward, as he had retrieved some things (my keys probably) from the interior of my car while it was still in its upside down state. And he said he had been barely able to get in and out while crawling on his stomach. He is a super skinny and lanky guy.

I was not lucky.

I had just been given a miracle.

I was off work for a week recovering from the back and neck pain. I went back to work and I was still suffering from debilitating headaches. I remember thinking in moments as I tried to concentrate on what I was doing at work, if there would ever be a day when I wouldn’t have one of those headaches or would this be my forever. It didn’t last forever.

I had to go through 8 weeks of physical therapy to regain full mobility in my neck again. Those were long weeks of painful therapy. But it ended.

As I sit here, in another season, a season of discouragement and the unknown, I know that this too will end. Although, it is not nearly as severe or painful as some of the other seasons I have found myself in, it isn’t any less difficult. I believe that if God brings you to a season, He fully intends to bring you through it. As I reflect on the things He has brought me through, I know that He too will bring me through this one.

In the years since, and even just the last few days, I am reminded about something that I once heard a pastor say. The enemy will come up against and attacks frequently those who God plans to use in a big way. He must have something pretty big planned then, for all the ridiculous things He has rescued me from. And I hope – I pray – that He will use the places I have been to help others that may be going through similar circumstances.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Forsaking Christ

Last night I had a very disturbing dream. Some dreams are forgotten instantly, others stick with you. This one, I can’t seem to shake.

The first scene was at a church (I do not recall which one, and it did not seem familiar), and the pastor was giving a rather inspiring message. Two married men were seated, each holding a Bible and looking at it with confusion and disgust. They were married to each other.

The pastor realized this, and I could see he was torn about whether to continue on with his message, or tone it down so as not to offend the two married men. He decided to risk offense, and went on with his message. The married men stormed out of the church, leaving the Bibles behind.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6, 7 NIV)

The next scene of my dream was probably what is the most saddening: Another church, another time. Walking into the youth room, I discover that the students had written their own “Bible” to create a “gospel” that was more relevant to their lifestyles – to allow them to do anything they desired to do. Devoid of the true Gospel of Christ. On the table lay a Bible that had been completely ripped apart and replaced with handwritten pages of pop culture doctrine and lyrics from secular music. Because they refused to devote themselves to the commandments of Jesus.

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. (Galatians 5:7-10 NIV)

My heart ached at this discovery. Why would anyone want to leave the protection and love that Jesus offered? Why would they want to create their own Bible? Their own gospel? Their own religion? Because what the world offered was better?

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13 NIV)

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:16-21 NIV)

Is what the world offers truly better than what Christ offers? Is that why these guest stars in my dream were so convinced that they could do life better without Jesus? That they could do it on their own?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-26 NIV)

I do not mean for this to be an anti-(anything) type of post. Because it’s not.

I cannot help what I dream about.

I am not against the world. I am just not of the world.

I have merely been pondering this in great depth today.

What is our generation coming to that it wants to push Jesus out of it completely?

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:7-10 NIV)

Purity Matters: Refreshing

“…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1 NIV

I saw a video called “Purity Matters” on a youth ministry website a couple of years ago.  It sounded interesting, so I downloaded it and watched it.  The premise of the video was this: a group of young adults went around the city handing out bottles of water. They would ask the intrigued passersby, out of two bottles, which they’d want to have.  Before the person could answer another group of young adults would jump out of a nearby van and grab one of the bottles of water and start chugging it and passing it around.  The guy who had initially asked these clueless people which water they wanted, again would ask “Do you want to drink from that one?”, indicating the now “contaminated” bottle.  The people would look at him with disgust and say things like “No way, I don’t know where their mouths have been!”  They would even be offered $5 or $20 to drink from the back-washed bottle of water; and still they refused.  The guy would then say, “So you want the ‘pure’ water?”  And of course everyone chose the untouched, clean, pure bottle of water.

The video ended with a tag of “purity matters: sex is for marriage”.

That is where the inspiration for PurityMatters.com came from.  The videos depiction of purity is right on.  Who really wants to drink after five, six, or even more people from the same bottle?  No one.  Everyone wants the first, fresh off the assembly line bottle of water.

The same goes for people.  How would you feel if someone came up to you, with the love of your life by the hand and say “Here you go” and hand them to you.  But then you got an instant flashback of all the people they had slept with before meeting you.  And then you were asked “Do you still want this person?”

Do you really want to get to your wedding night and find out that your new groom or bride has “been around the block” several times? Probably not.

Not to say that mistakes can’t be forgiven, because they can.  The Lord is gracious when we mess up and come to Him with a repentant heart.

Those of you who are reading this, this is just to show you how to prevent the heartache of impurity.  It’s an insight to see the right path to take, and how to sidestep temptation before it has a chance to take you down.

(Originally written August 15, 2006)

Blurred Shades of Grey

If you are living and breathing and participating in any form of social media these days then you’ve probably heard whispers (or shouts) about the popular book “Fifty Shades of Grey”. If you haven’t, you will. I haven’t read it, and I refuse to. From what I’ve been able to interpret from reviews and other blog posts, it is not anything that I would want to read. Ever. Or recommend to anyone I know and love. And I hope my plea, and those like mine, reach you before you fall into the trap of reading it. Although I know I’ll probably receive flames about what I’m about to write, I can’t sit idly by as girls, godly girls even, are pulled into the allure of this story. This book is sadistic trash. I’m sorry if you disagree and if I’ve offended you with my statement. Actually…I’m not sorry. Here’s why…

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is classified as an erotic romance. In all actuality though, it goes way beyond that. It is really just a bunch of sickening BDSM (Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, Masochism).  That description in itself is enough to make me blush to my roots and want to throw up. If that makes me a prude, then so be it. But more than that, is the simple fact that so many people are held captive by the lies and bondage of this particular genre, unaware of how much damage it is doing, not only to their psyche but to their soul.

Not only are married ladies in danger, but single ladies (and some rather young influential ladies at that) and their future marriages as well. Men already have unhealthy expectations of what women should look like and what sex should be thanks to the pages of magazines that portray women as sex objects. Now ladies have that issue to battle as well due to decades of lurid romance books (i.e. soft porn, though there’s nothing “soft” about it in my personal opinion). They have this fairy tale image (laced with eroticism) of what sex and love is. Though, still never having experienced either myself, I know it can’t be as fantastical as those books make it out to be.

I can already hear what you’re thinking. “What the crap do you know about marriage? You’re single and still a freakin virgin!” I don’t have to be married to observe what a marriage should contain and what it shouldn’t. What it should contain is Respect.

What does respect have to do with this book? Everything. Respect is something that, if you don’t have it for yourself, you probably won’t have it for your mate (or future mate). The way you look at yourself and the opposite sex can fully effect your marriage. Respect is lacking from this book. The main characters in this book do not respect each other or themselves. In fact, their relationship is nothing to admire. It’s disturbing and all sorts of wrong.

I know what you’re thinking. “It’s only a book…it can’t hurt me.” Believe me, I know all the justifications and arguments out there, because I had these internal conversations with myself so many times. Everyone has addictive qualities about something, whether it be alcohol, tobacco, pornography, self-gratification, whatever it may be… the thing is, we all have vices that will trip us up given the chance. And if you know this, you should do everything you can to protect yourself from it.

I write these things not to cast judgement on anyone (that’s the last thing I want to do), but to warn you. I’ve dealt with years of self-worth issues because of reading books and stories similar to this one. The images and thoughts that the words of the book will evoke will stay with you for life. Ingrained into your memory. The things they will make you do will cause you to not even recognize yourself. Trust me. It’s been several years since the Lord helped me to break free from this bondage, and still to this day I have to battle with those images that try to surface and make me stumble. Daily.

I know from personal experience that words and images can effect the way we think and operate. Media of this nature will suck the very life from your soul until you are lying in the dark one night wondering how you got to that point. But you can break free. It takes time. You’ll have scars. But even Jesus has scars. Scars are part of the story, too.

I was at a women’s rally a couple months ago and the guest speaker reiterated over and over how as ladies we are worth something. That as ladies of faith we needed to share our story. No matter how ugly it is. Some of you may already know my story. Some of you may not. This was a very dark part of my story, and you can read it in its entirety here. But ultimately I want you, ladies and guys, to know that there are things out there that are meant to divert us from the path that the Lord has laid out for us. Things like smutty books, magazines, websites, movies and such. It’s not too late to stop. It’s not too late to get help. There’s freedom there for you if you’re willing to fight for it. And it is worth fighting for.

This has gotta be the good life

“Hopelessly
I feel like there might be something that I’ll miss
Hopelessly
I feel like the window closes oh so quick
Hopelessly
I’m taking a mental picture of you now
‘Cuz hopelessly
The hope is we have so much to feel good about”

~OneRepublic “Good Life”

As I’m reflecting back on my latest trip to Oaxaca it made me realize a few things that I’ve been struggling with for a so many years.

The second afternoon when I was reconnecting with my spiritual parents, and was relaying everything that had taken place since they had moved to Oaxaca, was when it struck me. And I’ve been contemplating on it ever since.

I love serving in my church youth ministry. I love my job. I love how unique my family is (and how we’ve grown closer over the last couple years). I love serving on short term mission trips, and how each time I have been thoroughly enriched with deep experiences and lasting relationships. I love how I have so many different and amazing friends for every part of my life and that I can share my dreams, hopes, and ambitions with them.

I am blessed in ways that I truly never grasped before. I was always rather forlorn that “this” hadn’t happened yet, or “that” hadn’t happened yet, that I never truly was able to just be okay with my present.

But I’ve realized, how content I really am with my life – and I had not felt that way, well…ever. I think for the first time in my life I feel…content.

But you want to hear about my trip, so without any further delay, here we go. 🙂

We arrived in Huatulco, Oaxaca on Saturday, May 7th in the afternoon and was quickly launched into ministry. That day was the nationally recognized “Children’s Day”. A local pastor that we were going to be partnering with that week had organized a children’s event, kind of like a little festival, with music, dancing, dramas, giveaways and everything! It was so awesome to watch the children being celebrated that day. Most of these children had walked miles just to come to this event that only lasted a couple of hours. But for them, it was the world.

After the children’s event, the pastor and his team took asked us to come down the road with him to a plot of land that they were believing to purchase to build their church building on. They have huge vision for their area. They want to build a church that will accomodate 1,000 people, as well as a residence for the pastor, a visitor’s apartment, classrooms, a kitchen, and more. The small sum they are believing and praying for to accomplish this work: $90,000. So we spent the next moments praying and joining with them in faith for this to come to pass.

We stayed in a quaint little hotel in Puerto Angel that night. The next day was Sunday, so we had an amazing church service in the hotel’s restaurant. Though I digress – after breakfast, but before church started, we all went down to the pier to watch all the fishermen bring in their catch. It was actually quite fascinating. Some of our group even asked the fishermen on the pier if they could fish, and the little Mexican guys were ever too obliging. Those were some great and entertaining moments. 🙂 But back to church – the Leadership College’s leader, Chris Myers spoke on how your life changes when Jesus gets inside your boat. His analogy was about a friend named Tony who threw something inside his own boat when he wasn’t expecting it. Somehow I think I know who this Tony is. The worship was awesome and the church members were so welcoming of us. After church, we all changed and went down to the beach so we could get boated out to a little lagoon so four of the church members could be baptized. On the way there we saw some manta rays in the ocean as our boat flitted and coursed over the waves. It was pretty cool! The little lagoon wasn’t so little. It was actually part of a tourist attraction complete with a luxurious hotel built into the rock-faces. It was a little odd to see men walk around in their Speedos as the baptisms were going on. Only on a missions trip.

  

  

Our team then went our separate ways that afternoon – the LC’s staying to do more outreach and ministry in that town, and myself and the rest of the construction team (Don, David, Mike, Brad, and Kristen) heading to Roca Blanca Mission Base. We had some amazing Enchiladas Verde that evening at the mission base (probably the best and most authentic meal you’ll have while you’re there) and met the families that we would be serving that week. We settled into our rooms that evening, and I got to know my new roomie for the week, Kristen.

Monday kicked off a week of beautiful sunrises (early alarm clocks) and awe-inspiring sunsets (late bedtimes). That first day of work was spent at the home of Vidal & Norma and their precious teenage daughters and young son. (Their oldest daughter in graduating high school soon with honors and has chosen to go to university to be a doctor. This is quite an accomplishment for someone who has grown up in near poverty.) This family’s house had been constructed for a few months, however it was lacking the necessary floor and walls, having only a dirt floor and sheets as walls. When we arrived they had got their walls up, which were bamboo slats cut in half and assembled together to create a sun/wind block. For that entire day, together with Vidal’s brothers/father-in-law/cousins/any-male-relatives we worked at mixing cement to pour and lay their floors. It was such a hot day, and the humidity was stifling. I spent the day pulling 5-gallon buckets of water for them to add to the cement mixer, (and sometimes buckets of sand…but that wasn’t too many times). It was great to see the end result of our work three days later when we returned to have a celebratory dinner with the family. We were presented with tacos and coconut bars and bright lights. This was the first time this family has ever had electricity! This was certainly a call for celebration!

Tuesday we made our way to Diego and Betty’s house. They already had constructed a nice brick house with walls, ceilings and cement floors. We were just going to lay the tile for them. Mind you, these were not typical floor tiles. There were heavy, handmade, clay tiles. The process was to transport them into a tank of water so they could soak so that when they were laid, they could adhere to the cement better. This was a hot and strenuous job. The guys laid the tiles, while myself, Kristen, and anyone else readied the tiles. By the third day of doing this, nearly didn’t have fingertips left. If I hadn’t thankfully acquired a pair of gloves from our leader, Don, I’m sure they would have been bleeding by the end of the day.

  

Tuesday afternoon posed a treat for myself, however, as I got to spend time with my friends Rebekah, Arnulfo & Caleb Rios, and Angie, Berna & Bryson Cruz. The Rios’ are pastors of a church in Nopala up in the mountains, and came down just to spend the day with me! I was truly blessed and excited! And the Cruz familia were visiting from Wisconsin and it was their last day before returning home. After much deliberation, we decided to go into Puerto Escondido for coffee and pastries at Cafecito. Once we got there however, we ditched the expensive coffee idea and instead got a value frappe from Oxxo (a fairly popular Mexican convenience store). It was quite tasty, and affordable at only 23 Pesos! We did however get pastries from Cafecito. Since it was dinner time, I had a ham and cheese pastry, which could be compared to a warm and flaky Hot Pocket. It was so good, and really hit the spot. Afterwards, the girls needed to get shoes for their little guys (Caleb who’s 3, and Bryson who is 2). So we went to a market that was down and around the street (I think…I sort of felt lost after all the driving). It was interesting to see all the various vendors with their wares. Produce, meat, sweets, clothes, shoes, basically anything and everything you could ever need or want, or not. 🙂 Once adequate shoes were found for the boys, the Rios family had to jet back to Nopala, so I got to round up the evening with the Cruz family. As it was their last night in town, Berna was wanting Tlayudas (a large grilled taco-like food). Since I’d ate earlier I wasn’t hungry, but I did get a nice cold Sangria. Tasty, and non-alcoholic. 😉 And nifty enough, it was Mother’s Day in Mexico on that day, May 10th, and the little taco shop was giving away handmade mugs decorated for Mother’s. So since I wasn’t home for Mother’s Day, I have a unique gift for my mom.

  

Wednesday again, we spent the day at Diego & Betty’s house working on the tiles. But that afternoon I was able to do a little design work for my missionary friends, James & Cassie Olson, that live and help run the mission base. That was a nice and fun change for me, as I’m not used to extreme physically laborious activities performed in the heat. 🙂 Wednesday evening we joined up with the reset of our team, the LCs, in Puerto Escondido at a Christian-operated rehabilitation center for men struggling with addictions. These men, of all ages, have dealt with debilitating addictions to drugs and alcohol. But as they smiled and welcomed us to their evening church service, you could see the joy of the Lord on their faces. What warmed my heart though, was as the worship set began, and these men just began worshipping with undignified abandon. Dancing, jumping, praising, hands-raised wild worship! It left me in speechless wonder. 🙂 As the evening progressed a few people from our team got up to speak, with translators, about their own struggles with addictions. Michael and Justin spoke about how drugs and alcohol controlled them at various difficult points in their own lives and how Jesus gave them freedom from these addictions. Kristen shared how her life as a PK expected to perform with perfection led her to start cutting herself, and how moving across the country and surrounding herself with good influences (church, people, friends) was able to free her of this addiction.

  

On Thursday, the day started pretty well. Wonderful breakfast of fruit and eggs, and then we all made our way to the chapel to spend a short time in worship/prayer before going to our posts – the LCs to teach in the school and the rest of us to our construction sites (to completion at Diego & Betty’s and to start at David & Gres). We were trying to bust it out to finish all the tile work at Diego & Betty’s house, and it went fairly fast, only having to soak and prep 70-some more tiles. However, about 11am I got to feeling very hot, sick to my stomach, and dizzy. I just thought it was the food or something getting to me. But that didn’t seem to be the case. I was taken to the clinic at the mission base and met with Nurse Laura who determined that I was suffering from dehydration. I got to drink this nifty rehydration liquid (it was pretty nasty, haha!). After taking my vitals again, and talking to the doctor, they decided it would probably be best to get an IV of fluids into me, as any other method would take hours longer. So I spent the next couple hours chilled to the bone (in Mexico nonetheless!) and getting my first IV. My good friend Viri took real good care of me during this time, making sure I had anything I needed and just offering consolation that I’d be okay. Once the IV was emptied, Viri walked me back to my room, crackers and rehydration fluid in hand. I spent the next few hours tossing and turning in bed, trying to sleep off the effects of the dehydration. By the end of the evening, I was feeling much better, albeit exhausted.

Friday we headed out to drive to Huatulco to spend our last full day as “tourists” in a day of fun. Our first stop was at a neat little Belgian chocolate and Coffee Shop. James jumped in to help make cappuccinos as everyone placed their coffee orders. As a coffee aficionado, it was one of the best lattes I’ve had in a really long time. Coupled with a chocolate-topped pastry, it was a delectable breakfast.

  

As the day drew on, however, I began feeling horrible again, and was not able to enjoy any of the touristy stuff that we were doing. We made our way to another little restaurant as lunch time arrived. It was exceedingly hot though, and adding that into the equation, I really didn’t think I was going to make it through lunch. And I didn’t, unfortunately. I was able to down a half a bottle of Coke (the wonderful Mexican Coke!), and only a few spoonfuls of lentil soup. Bradley had to eat my chicken, so the sight of it wouldn’t make me sick. Which I was super grateful for. Another great friend, Danbi, took me back to the hotel and got me settled. That’s when waves of sickness overcame me. I was kind of panicking, to be honest. It’s a scary thing to be sick in a foreign country, without your close loved ones to take care of you. But Danbi was amazing. She sat me down as I was balling my eyes out as my stomach roiled and prayed healing over my body. She got me settled into my bed and left me with bottles of water and Gatorade and Pepto Bismol tablets, air conditioning filling the room. For the next four or five hours I slept fitfully. But about 5:00pm the precipice of the illness hit and I got violently sick. For the next two hours, the sickness just left me, and I was able to relax and a calmness flowed over me. During this time I roamed my hotel room, and eventually settled on turning on the TV. Grasping at hope, I needed an English program to come on that wasn’t dubbed in Spanish. And praise be, “Friends” was on, and it was in English, and only subtitled in Spanish! Nothing really soothes a soul than a little piece of home when you’re in a foreign place and not feeling well. After I felt considerably better, I called to rejoin my group. They had just finished dinner at a pizza parlour in the city center, and were going to go souvenir shopping.

  

  

The rest of Friday evening, and part of Saturday morning, I was able to get some really nice souvenirs for my family. Including some really great, fresh-roasted coffee! You can’t leave Mexico without taking some of the coffee with you.

So overall, discounting being sick and dehydrated, it was a really great trip. I was able to serve in ways that I never would, or ever think I could. I was able to spend some valuable time with friends that I only see every couple of years. And I was able to truly see how God has blessed my life.

**Stay tuned for an all-foto blog post later on…

*No geckos were harmed in the making of this blog. Well, at least not on purpose… 😉