Mind Blown

“You’re everlasting love is higher, higher, higher than the sky.  You’re everlasting love is deeper, deeper, deeper than the sea.  You’re everlasting love is higher, higher, higher than the sky.  You’re everlasting love is deeper, deeper, DEEPER than the sea.”

I’m in “my” little room down the hall from the girls’ room, and all I hear is the girls singing those two verses over and over and over and over.  Just when I think they’ll get tired of saying the same thing, they start right back up again.  How precious!  God certainly won’t get tired of hearing them.

This week has been crazy, and it’s only Tuesday.  In fact, I have not written this post in one sitting.  I wrote the above, then went down the hall to play with the girls before bed (they were making a lot of noise–trying to climb up the walls–so I snagged them and plopped them back on the rug with their Legos… and got sucked in), then made a snack for the team, and now I’m back.  This morning I was told that I had half an hour before I needed to leave with the team to help them with their VBS program in a couple of schools.  Bummer for me, I got to see all the kids!  The team did a great job with the program, and the kids loved it. After the programs, we went out to lunch at the world’s best taco stand.  It’s a huge favorite.  Literally a hole in the wall, though; one lady from the team kept asking how on earth anyone even found the place.  (Maybe by using their noses?)  The food is amazing.  They have burritos, tostadas, salbutes, panadas, garnaches, tacos, and fruit juices like no one else.  Mmmm.

After lunch we all went back to the base.  The team turned around and left again to go work on building a veranda somewhere, so we had some peace and quiet until the kiddos got home from school.  Two of the girls were home already (Irma is homeschooled, and Delmi came home “sick”), but they are pretty good at entertaining themselves.  So I stole away to one of my favorite places here and prayed and read my Bible.  God is showing me so much about His mercy, and I am trying so hard to understand.

But I also wonder, is that even possible?  To fully understand His mercy?  I’m not sure it is, at least not on this side of Heaven.  Why is God so good?  Why does He love like He loves?  Think about that.  Do you realize how utterly wretched we are and how bound for Hell we are?  Why would–how could–a perfect God love us?  It blows my mind.  We don’t deserve anything good, and yet He says He wants to give us good things.  Like a father with his child.

Oh the mysteries of God.  The incredible, awesome, amazing character of God.  You could try to think of how God could be better, but I guarantee your version would be worse in some way.  He’s truly perfect.  You could think that He should be always loving and never disciplining, but what kind of love would that really be?  You could think that He should have created the world with no opportunity for sin, but again, what kind of love would that be?  We’d have no free choice; we’d all have to love Him, and is forced love really love?  God wants us to love Him, and He is so patient with us regardless of what we do.  Just think.  Have you ever heard or seen God tell someone he can’t have forgiveness?  or love?  or a new beginning?  What kind of God is this?

God.  Perfect and holy and wonderful.  Wow.

Thankful

Though the last post may give you the opposite impression, I do enjoy life here.  It is rough and painful at times, but, as I said, God is always faithful.  He gives joy and peace that surpasses all understanding.  He knows exactly what I need and when I need it.  He is ever growing me, and though it hurts I know He loves me more than I could ever fathom.

Because of that, I want to use this post to give a [partial] list of things that I’m thankful for.

*Family that loves me with their lives and would do anything for me–people who show me those truths in their lives.  *Friends back in the States who care enough to send emails and encouragement and who constantly pray for me.  *Skype, which allows me to see the ones I love.  *New friends here in Belize who show great love toward me and are patient as I adjust to the learning curves.  *Belizean food and the ability to jump in and make it alongside the women here.  *Babies.  Enough said.  *Children’s laughter and singing.  *Hoots and hollers from the young men down the hall watching the basketball games.  *Bumpy roads and buses and vans full of people.

*Loads of laundry that never end.  *The myriad of fans here at the base and the two or three vehicles with AC.  *Hammocks and birds on the veranda.  *Early morning walks and the girls who like to walk and talk with me.  *The Internet connection, regardless of it’s speed.  *Loud worship music.  *A bed to sleep in and a couple of dresser drawers.  *Clean water to drink.  *A God who gives ALL strength at ALL times.

God is good, all the time.  His grace is sufficient for my weaknesses.  May He get every ounce of glory possible.

The Breaking

This post is not easy to write, but it’s been on my heart for many days now.  I’ve only been here for a little over two weeks.  But the Lord is stripping me clean.  Some of you know that I was expecting these three months in Belize to be a shade of Hell.  I knew God wanted me here, and I knew Satan did not.  Both God and Satan have proved their agendas over and over.  These months are a combination of God molding and making me, and Satan trying ever so intensely to thwart the process.  It’s war.

Thankfully, God’s promises ALWAYS hold true.  There is not one of them that fails, because if any part of God failed He would cease to be God.  So when He says that He’ll give me strength to withstand temptation, He will.  When He says that He will not give me more than I can handle, He won’t.  His aim is not to make me miserable–it is to refine me and purify me with fire so that I am exactly who He wants me to be.  His love is unending and unfathomable.

But the breaking?  It hurts.  It’s excruciating.  I can’t even describe it.  There are ways in which He’s breaking me that I never thought were even possible.  Some of them I expected, but most of them are a surprise to me.  The stripping of close friends started over a year ago, which I now see as being preparation for being here.  Loneliness sinks deep and it hurts.  Yet I’m learning to cry out to Jesus even more and talk with Him even more.  Make Him my everything–beyond what I thought I knew.

The dirt and poverty and bugs…  I didn’t think those things would be a means of breaking.  But as I sleep on the couch with tiny bugs on the floor and sheet and geckos on the ceiling or on my neck and cockroaches that crawl out from no where, and huge spiders in the shower–these can make me crazy.  And the sweat comes constantly; an ice-cold shower only helps for a few minutes, because the second I step out the sweating resumes.  Why can’t it just be clean?

My question every day has been: How?  How do you deal with four adopted girls under the age of 12 who don’t get along?  How do you love them when they cry and scream and shriek and use infinite other means to tell you how hard their lives have been?  How do you smile at and love people who don’t appreciate you or treat you kindly?  How do you communicate with people who need help but don’t speak your language?  How do you express how homesick you are in a foreign country and how all you want sometimes is to be back in the place you know?

How do you have joy in the pain of a broken people?  How do you love people who yell at their children and get so easily angered?  How do you praise the Lord when Satan is visibly so against you and earnestly seeking your destruction?  How do you live for three months in a place you know you’ll never return to again–how do you build relationships and love the people and stay strong in spiritual warfare that you’ve never experienced before?  And how do you desire the plans God has shown you when you’re not sure you’ll even survive the next two and a half months?

How do you go through a day that seems utterly pointless?  How do you submit to things you don’t agree with–at all?  How do you get past your own selfishness to cuddle and hug lice-ridden heads and sore-ridden bodies?  How do you find the good in everything?  How?

Jesus.  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.  There is absolutely no other way.  His strength is enough.  He died to bring victory–He overcomes in ALL circumstances.  His sacrifice gives victory over everything.  I’m not writing this post as a pity-party or a means of drawing any attention to myself.  I am sharing the realities, because I can’t sugar-coat them.  I can’t ignore them.  There is pain, yes–excruciating pain.  But there is Jesus, who is always more than enough.  I have to decide to not live by emotion and circumstances.  Instead, I must live by faith.  Living without faith is exactly what Satan wants me to do.  Therefore, I must allow the Spirit to enter me and fill me with all riches, because He wants to.  Oh, what a Savior!

Please pray.  As you read this post, pray for the things God lays on your heart, whatever those may be.  And thank you.  Thank you for being faithful.

An Update–With Pictures!

Aren’t they adorable?  These are the babies running around here right now.  There are three adult cats as well, plus the three dogs.

Below are pictures from my fun with the little girls.  This pool has gotten quite a bit of use since they got it last week.  Pictured are: Irma, Dani, and Elbia.  Delmi came later and jumped in, but refused to be in any pictures.  I’ll have to catch her at a later date.  :)

Now you have a small glimpse of life here, thanks to some work on behalf of my parents to get the pictures up.  There will be more to come.

This past week has been hectic but fun.  The team came Saturday–26 people.  Right now, the first thing I think of when I hear the word “team” is “food.”  As I mentioned earlier, there are two women who work here in the kitchen–Kelly and her mom, Blanca.  They do the housework for the family here as well.  And, they do the cooking for the teams that come.  This week I have been in the kitchen… all. day.  It’s a lot of fun, actually, to cook and talk with these women.  They’ve taught me a lot about Belizean cooking, and even helped me fulfill one of my goals: master the art of making flour tortillas.  Mmmm.

The cooking and baking part has been crazy.  I’ve never cooked meals for 40 people (that includes a bunch of teenage boys) constantly, every day.  Yesterday was burrito day (lunch), with fried rice for dinner.  That’s a lot of cooking, because both meals are quite involved.  As breakfast was cooking we had the beans going.  We made tortillas for 1.5 hours, then assembled the burritos for another half hour.  Once we’d finished the burritos, we jumped into making the rice.  Lots of chopping, boiling, stirring…  Lots of standing.  And talking. And laughing!  And last night my friend and I made lime pies and lime slushies.  There’s a lime tree here on the property, as well as some coconut trees and a mango tree.  (Have I mentioned how good the fruit is?!)

The team has been very appreciative of everything, food and otherwise.  They built a house for a couple named David and Sonia, who have four boys and lived in a little shack that leaked and was really dirty.  David and Sonia had been praying for years and trusting God to bring them a new house, and now the Lord has answered their prayers.  The new house came out great, and they were overjoyed.  The dedication took place Wednesday, and yesterday some people from the team returned to help them move in.  Today the team is all out at the beach for their last day.

There has been a lot more going on behind the scenes.  I ask that you be praying for the kids who live here.  Pray that their hearts would be turned toward Jesus, that they would deeply desire Him and seek His face.  Pray for wisdom for Pastor Ron and Linda and the other adults here, and that they would be continuously seeking God themselves.

One more thing.  Make some time today to listen to the song link below.  Worship along.

A Day

I am trying to find a way to get pictures on the Internet so you can see them…  For some reason I can’t upload them on WordPress or Blogger.  Hmph.  I’ll keep thinking, though, because I’ve snapped more photos and you all need to see faces that go with the stories!

I thought for this post I would share a typical day here.  Actually, there really is no such thing.  But here’s a rough estimate.

7:30am – breakfast.  Eggs, french toast, pancakes, fryjacks, muffins, etc.  They do cook a lot of American food, since the family is from NY.  The hired help, Blanca and Kelly, are a mother/daughter pair that stay here during the day and make all the food and do laundry and clean.  They’re wonderful!

8:00-8:30 – clean up, the little girls finish getting ready for school and leave.  A few of the village kids come here in order to be driven to school.  So, in the van for school go Delmi, Elbia, Judith/Dani, Nigel, Darwin, Jordy, Yasmine, and Jacqueline.  Irma is homeschooled (finishes by lunch, and she’ll let you know!).  All the other, older kids are long gone.  They are off at 6:30 to ride their bikes or catch a bus to their respective schools.

8:30-12:00 – whatever.  Everyone is always doing something, but that something could look like reading in the hammock or talking in the kitchen.  It also could be cutting lumber, running errands, doing paperwork, etc.

12:00 – lunch.  Burritos, rice and beans, chicken, stew, sandwiches, pasta…  I actually prefer the Belizean foods; they are so good.  Here, though, they have incredibly hot “pepper” – aka: hot sauce.  Most of the kids love it (minus Elbia) and put it on everything.  They also are addicted to Kool Aid juice.

12:30-3:20 – more whatever.  Same as above.

3:20 – leave to get the kiddos from school.  Yesterday I went with Ms. Linda to get them and there was a cute little gecko stuck to the winshield of the van.  Ms. Linda watched it while she was talking and driving…  I was asking questions and talking with her, and all of a sudden she screamed and jumped in her seat (high, because nobody wears seatbelts).  It had flown in her open window and hit her.  We got a really good laugh out of that.  Irma was in the backseat and started screaming and then keeled over laughing–until she saw it again on the window behind her.  Then she jumped on my lap.  That made me laugh, because the geckos and lizards are everywhere here.  We sleep with them on the walls and ceilings.  But hey, maybe it’s different on your window??

After we get the kids and drop them off, we come back and the girls get changed.  By now, all the other kids are home from school.  The boys might be playing basketball on the slice of pavement or doing lawn work or rapping in the church building.  The girls just got a pool yesterday, so that’s what they were doing.  And again today.  I have pictures of that too, which WILL come somehow!  Irma, Elbia, and Dani jumped in and stayed in there forever.  So they are the ones I have pictures of.  Delmi came in later and I went to get my camera but she freaked out because she doesn’t like having her picture taken.  I’m going to have to sneak some, I guess.

5:30 – dinner.  Burritos, sandwiches, chicken, pasta, rice and beans, pizza (very rarely), etc.  Leftovers come out for lunch and/or dinner some nights.  And it’s amazing what can fit into the two fridges.  I don’t know how it’s going to work for a week with 28 extra people… the team comes Saturday, from Montana.  They’ll be here for a week, and then I think we have a week “off” before the next team comes.  Usually teams aren’t that big.

After dinner, there’s more whatever.  Wednesday night is church, Thursday is Ladies’ Bible Study, Friday is Salt and Light, Saturday is Youth Group, Sunday is church.  I know I’m missing something else, too.  But we hang out and goof off and relax.  And the air starts to cool down, which is lovely.

So that’s a day.  I actually have to go now and get ready for the Bible Study.  Hopefully I’ll be able to write again soon with more, specifically the things that the LORD is doing here.

This morning I awoke to find one of the top bunk beds, the one with all the extra pillows, covered in fire ants.  Swarming.  The other day they had invaded all three of my bags.  In case you don’t know, fire ants are nasty.  They bite, and it hurts!  Hence the name.  When you step in a swarm of them, they quickly climb up you and bite all the way.  Ouch.  So I grabbed the pillows and put them on the back porch of this dorm, and flung the ants off with my flip flop.  I tried to get a picture of an ant for you, but they moved too quickly.  :)

However, I did get a few other pictures.  When I came back into my room, one of the cats had decided it needed my bed.  The lighting is bad so I don’t have a good picture for you of her, but I got a few pictures of her adorable kittens!  (Note: I just tried to upload them, and it’s not working.  So sorry.  I’ll keep trying.)

Friday night the kids from the surrounding villages came for a program called Salt and Light.  These kids are youger, probably up to about 11 or 12 years old.  The older kids (about 13-18 years) have a Saturday night youth group.  Friday night began with singing worship songs, one of which I especailly enjoyed.  It’s called “Jesus is My Superhero” by Hillsong Kids (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPSwd87thzE).  The kids had motions to the song and were very ethusiastic–I really wished I had my video camera.  It wasso fun and funny!  There was a video clip shown with the message for them, and then they broke up into groups to do some coloring.  I ask that you pray for these children, and for the youth group kids, that they will truly experience the love of Christ and desire to know Him.  Pray that they won’t just go through the motions–pray that their hearts would be forever changed.

Saturday we all sort of hung out.  I did a bit of work for Ms. Linda, and one of the sweet girls here (Delmi, 10) jumped in and helped.  Yesterday I got up and ready for church and waited around to see where everyone else was.  I finally heard a few of the younger girls outside, so I went out to see them.  They were still in their pjs!  I asked Irma (11) if we had church and she said yes.  “What time?”  “6:30.”  At first I thought I’d missed it, but then I realized she meant 6:30pm.  Irma had a real good laugh at me.  In fact, she later told her older sister about it and they both laughed.  It was funny.  I changed, and spent a good portion of the morning playing house with the little girls.

On that note, let me introduce you to the people here.  The “little girls” are Delmi, Irma, Dani (5), and Elbia (7).  There are a few teenage boys (I don’t know their exact ages, though): Juni (14?), Melvin (16), Benjamin (18), and Akeem (17?).  Pastor Ron and Ms. Linda Braaten run the base and parent the children, and their daughter Sondra has moved back from the States as well.  Heather and Allison are a young married couple who live down the street but come over to help out (Allison is the Braatens’ adopted son), and Andrew is a young man who has lived here for five years helping the Braatens.  I think that’s everyone…

Back to yesterday.  We all went out for fried chicken at lunch (a Sunday tradition), then came back and laid low until church.  After dinner we got ready for church and then met at 6:00 for prayer in the church.  Once people came, we had worship–amazing worship.  So good.  The Spirit came and brought His anointing, and we worshipped with hands and voices lifted high.  What a blessing, to be ushered in to the Throne Room by the Spirit!

There are many miracles I’ve seen so far.  They’re ones that have been in me individually, just watching how the LORD has pulled all things together.  There have been struggles that I’ve only made known to Him, but He has passed them along to others in order that they might faithfully pray.  He is good!