Saturday, January 25, 2014

Laughing in Heaven

I have known her for 37 years.  I have loved her for just as long.  She has always been a part of me.  This is how I will always remember her:

Her favorite color was blue.
Her beautiful smile and kind eyes.
Letting me play her piano phone when I visited.
She scolded me for licking out all the cheese whiz and putting the celery back on the plate.
Listening to her play the piano.
Her laugh.
How she missed my grandma.
How she held her strength and dignity as a gift.
She never had a hurtful thing to say to anyone because she knew how deeply words could cut.
She was a music teacher.
The way she held my face in her hands and told me she loved me.

My Auntie Leah passed from this life to the next last night.  I knew it was coming.  She has been ill and dementia had robbed her of her memories.  But it still hurts.

I loved this woman.

Yet there is life to be celebrated.  For Leah, who loved her Jesus, this is not the end.

Last night, when she breathed her last breath, she opened her eyes to see the face of the One who had called her home...had called her by name.  She left the hands of her children and was wrapped in the arms of her Savior.  Leah was finally blessed to come to a full knowledge of what Love is.  I am sure she laughed when reunited with her sisters, parents and everyone whom she mourned for.  What a beautiful sound!  Laughter in heaven!

John was given a vision that is recorded in Revelation. "...death shall be no mourning, no crying, no pain, for the former things have passed away." (21:4)

In the days and years that follow there will be an emptiness that accompanies the loss of this woman of grace and beauty.  That's part of this life. But we can rest secure in knowing that, "goodness and mercy followed her all the days of her life and she now dwells in the house of the Lord forever." (Ps. 23:6)

Good bye Auntie Leah.  Thank you for richly blessing me with your presence.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Give Us Rest

We had a day of rest...and we needed it! These mamas are tired!

It was a beautiful day in Antigua. We went to the lookout point to see the city and admire the volcano (not the one that exploded). Then we talked Joel into stopping at the Luterana church. We were invited in to see the building and grounds...but not by the Lutherans, they are only there on Sundays. They share the building with Calvary Chapel. One of their missionaries from Florida gave us a tour, showing us the old ruins of the former convent. So beautiful!

Next, SHOPPING! Yes, to the market to "Joel's friends" who will always make you a good deal, because you love Jesus and know Joel. Then lunch and to the ruins.

There was an earthquake in 1733 that destroyed the city. At that time Antigua was the capital of Guatemala. But after the earthquake the people moved the capital to Guatemala City. But people remained in the city and began to rebuild.

We were able to tour a huge convent that had been destroyed in the earthquake. Actually, you could spend an entire week touring all the different ruins. Anyway, it was incredible. To just walk through that place, to know of what went on, the prayers that ascended to God. We were standing on holy ground. The most beautiful experience was this: There was this underground room that had the most incredible acoustics. Everyone was talking really loud, but I started whispering, which echoed also. Joel wasn't sure what it was for until my mom said "I wish I could just sing down here." So then Joel starting singing Amazing Grace and it just stopped us all. It was so beautiful. But then it hit me, the music was rising. So I made Joel sing again while we found where the music was rising to. It was going into all of the nun's rooms. It was amazing to hear this music coming from stone.

I said to myself, “Relax and rest. God has showered you with blessings. Soul, you’ve been rescued from death; eye, you’ve been rescued from tears; and you, foot, were kept from stumbling." Psalm 116:7-8

This afternoon I was drenched with blessings. To be reminded that 300 years ago there were faithful people sharing their faith in Jesus...this same faith that I have so deeply embedded in my heart. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

On our way home I started asking Joel about the salaries of the people who live in Guatemala City. I just was trying to get a better understanding of what people make in the places where we have been. Here is what people make a month, approximately:

Ghetto Dump: $75-90
Ghetto: $150-300
Middle Low: $300-400
Middle: $400-500
Middle High: up to $1200

I think this is what Joel said.

What is important to note is that most families have 6-10 people living under one roof.

What we can do is open door by the gifts that we can give. By just sharing a piece of clothing, a smile and hug, by loving them without reserve we share Jesus. Our organization is their contact to Christ...we just step to take their hand in this moment to share a simple message - Jesus loves you more than you could ever know.

Thank You God for this day of rest. I needed it for reflection. Thank you for calling me to be light among the shadows.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Humbling Day

Today we spend the morning at the Ghetto Dump. For those of you who don't know what the dump in Guatemala is all about, please see my post from 2011 about the dump. It will explain everything. It is called "The City Dump."

The Ghetto Dump is a shanty town. People invaded the ground five years ago and just started building shacks. They are working with the government to give them the land. It is a very poor place. The people in Ghetto Dump are "cleaners." They are not the people who work directly in the dump, they buy the garbage that has been scavenged and then clean it. In reality, these people are the "recycling center" for Guatemala City.

The ghetto is dirty (the people work in garbage all day) and run down (even though it is new). The first thing I noticed were the flies and smell of raw sewage.

We delivered three pilas today. These are large, concrete sinks. When Joel starting asking people in the ghetto what they needed, this was the first thing they really said. A pila. This thing is a gift because it gives them a way to "clean" the stuff they are getting from the dump. These sinks weigh 500 pounds.

We also went into a special area of the ghetto to hand out socks and underwear (thank you to all of the LWML ladies who donated these items!), pillowcase dresses (thank you Lillian Pierce, Gloria Casey & LWML societies!), shorts (again, thanks Lillian!), clothes, Scentsy packs (thanks Mary!), The Angel With Big Feet books, crayons and soaps. The lady in charge set off a loud alarm and people just came and lined up. They came in one by one and picked out one or two things. It seemed like a never ending line.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Meek, in greek, is translated humble. These people who live and work in such poverty, more than many of us can even imagine, blessed us. They verbally blessed us. All we wanted to do was give them a little something that can help, share the Word and put it into action...but they blessed us. They put their hands on us and breathed blessings over us. It was more than I can bear.

We were given a tour of the ghetto, invited into homes to see new concrete floors, which are the second blessing for these people. To get them off the dirt is so important because it is cleaner (obviously), cooler and healthier. It helps keep the rats, cockroaches and lice at bay.

Then we went to a different world...

We went back to our orphanage to pick up the four older kids to take them shopping for new shoes. We headed to the Oakland Mall! At Payless we found shoes for everyone and then we treated them to Starbucks!

After the mall, we came back to make dinner for the children of the orphanage. Nayeli Lux helped us prepare the all American meal - chili dogs, chips, carrots sticks and Coca-Cola! Also, brownie sundaes with carmel sauce! It was a success! The kids loved it! And let me also say, we are the first team to ever make dinner for the children! These mama's are proud!

Jesus' words to on the mount really strike me today.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus had compassion on the people who were following Him and shared this message with them. Life is hard, but I am better. God desires us to be humble, merciful, pure, seek righteousness, to be peacemakers. He knows who is struggling with sadness, who is persecuted. He knows. He knows we are not perfect and can't do this all perfectly. But He has! He has done this already for us to set us an example. And when we fail, it is because of the blood that He shed that we can be made right. It is because of His grace and mercy that we can continue.

Friends, blessed are you because you have Him!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Where to begin?


I have been blessed to study portions of God's Word under the direction of my friend Joel. He has such a heart for God, for God's children, the lost and in need. Today we looked at the passage from 1 Samuel when David goes to fight Goliath.

A quick background: The Philistines were at war with God's people. The giant, Goliath, was taunting King Saul to send out his best warrior. King Saul didn't know what to do. But the child, David, stepped up and said, I will do it. King Saul said, "No way! You're just a child!" But read David's response:

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it." 1 Samuel 17:34-35

David killed a lion and and a bear! But before that, he probably killed a wolf. Before that, a fox. Before that, a snake. Before that, a scorpion. Before that, ants.

God had been preparing David for that moment.

Today we went to the HIV/AIDS orphanage. I wasn't sure if I was ready to step into a place like this but God knew I was.

What a place! What beauty, tranquility and spirit this place had. The children were all in school while we were there but we were invited to go into the preschool classroom to give hugs and kisses to the children. It is a private school for the HIV/AIDS children, but other children from the community attend there as well.

We were able to go into the baby house to see and touch the children, but not pick them up. Not because it wasn't safe, but because when we would put them down and leave they would cry. They showed us all the medicine. It costs $500 a month (US) for each child to receive their medicine. There are about 60 kids at the orphanage. Most of the meds are donated.

We toured the entire place and spoke with one of the nuns that was the "mother" of the two year olds. Sister Rosalina. I hugged her and thanked her for her service to God. It is evident that she loved the children and her heart blessed God. Our God has been preparing her for this moment all of her life.

I think my heart is sad for those children with this terminal disease. But in the 7 years it has been opened it has only lost 6 children. My heart is thankful for the incredible sacrifice of servants who work there on a daily basis, without rest or days off.

After we left there, we drove the hour back to the city and stopped at the World's Best McDonalds! Yes, Guatemala was voted as having the best in the world. They open the doors for you. They clean your tables for you. The food was much better than ours. My husband always wonders at the commercials on TV, who really goes to McDonalds and sits around laughing and having a good time in a clean place like that? Well, people in Guatemala do! It looked just like the commercial! And then - McCafe! No not just coffee behind the counter folks, they have a separate McCafe in the McDonalds with couches and a coffee house feel. And the dessert counter! Cheesecake, gourmet cookies, tiramisu, marble pound cake! Fabulous. Then we went to Walmart. It was Walmart.

We then headed home and made corner monster bookmarks with the kids and handed out the clothes, pajamas & shoes that we had brought for each of them. And then, we handed out the pillowcase dresses to the girls. And then, we headed to the baby house to feed them - and all those girls were wearing their dresses! It was so cute! We also have been handing out he special mother gifts, silver spoon bracelets (thank you Mary Padilla!). And then, we headed back to our house and Jack came up and I helped him make thank you cards for all the gifts he received.

It was a busy day.

But I keep coming back to this morning. Preparation. Doing what we are meant to do.

You know, God doesn't call the qualified - He qualifies the called.

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty..." 1 Samuel 17:45

David faced his giant with confidence.

Whatever my giants are I can go against them with confidence that God will qualify me. I pray that you will know that with all your heart as well. He is preparing you for this moment and He will not allow you to go in empty handed.

David had 5 stones. What has God given you?

Monday, February 4, 2013

For This Moment

Today we went to the National Orphanage. Last time I wrote about this place it was the worst place I had ever been. It smelled, it was dirty, lice could be seen crawling in the hair of the kids, there were open was just bad. But this time, under a new director, it was better. Not fabulous, but bearable.

Our time with the special needs kids was so much fun. We didn't really need to color with them, all we needed to do was hug them, love on them and bring out the camera. Once that camera was out, that was it! They all just wanted their pictures taken. One sweet guy liked to move his eyebrows up and down...and he was proud of that! But, when Linda showed him how she could wiggle her ears, I thought he was going to fall on the floor laughing! Oh my gosh, he was so ticked by her "gift."

After they left the recreation room, we set up for the teen mom's to come in. We had prepared a special journal craft for them to do (thank you Mary!) and set out baby clothes (thank you Alaina and Hope!). The craft was incredible. The girls stood in line and picked out clothes for their babies. What was so hard though, was just seeing these kids with babies. The youngest was 12 and had a one month old baby (see picture below). I know this happens everywhere but that shouldn't make it easier to see and experience.

The woman who stayed in that recreation room and taught the special needs kids and worked with the teen mothers shared with us that she wanted to share Jesus with them. Wanted them to know that there was Someone holding on to them. That there was a God who cared so deeply for them.

The story of Esther goes like this: Xerses, who was king, was a terrible and crazy man. After he dismissed his wife Vashti, he sent out a decree to all of the kingdom that he needed a new wife. He called for young women to come and present themselves to him so he could choose. The women came and after extensive beauty treatments they were called to his chamber. After he had his way with a woman he could choose to keep her and send her to another part of his palace to probably never be seen by him again. But Esther was different, the king didn't send her away. Meanwhile, his right hand man, Haman, hated Jews and planned on tricking the king to issue a decree to have the Jews slaughtered. Esther's uncle came to her and told her she had to fight for her people. He told her, "...and what if you have been brought here for such a time as this." (Esther 4:14)

There is no way that I can even try to understand poverty, abuse, children having children. What I know is that we live in a fallen world. It is full of sin and hate and bad things. What I know is that God is not sinful and it breaks His heart when His children hurt. What I know is that God can bring healing to the broken because He was broken on our behalf to redeem us from that pit. What I know is that even though this world is evil, God is good all the time. And all the time, God is good.

I can say to those kids that they are there for such a time as this. That God had brought them to that place for a reason. And more than that, that God created them with a purpose.

Bad things happen, that is the consequence of sin (and sometimes that consequence reaches us in a ripple effect) but God is bigger. His love covers a multitude of sins...mine included. That is grace and mercy.

A few other blessings from this day: we played with the kids. We fed the babies. My mom received a "bravo" and clapping from the toddlers when she sang the ABC's with Dora the Explorer. Linda and I put all the two year olds in their pajamas (footy PJ's backwards so they can't escape). My mom rocked the babies. Jack turned 6. We watched him open presents for the first time in his life...and like every other kids he counted them as he put them away (22, which includes the cardboard package inserts.)

Tomorrow we will go to the HIV/AIDS orphanage and meet with some nuns. Do crafts with our kids and hand out all the new outfits we have brought for them.

Continue to pray for us.

And remember, you may be where you are for such as time as this.

Bless God friends.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

To Be Blessed

It has been a blessed day in Guatemala City.

First we went to church, fitting 25 people into one mini-van...which makes this mama nervous. The sermon series was about 40 Days of Generosity. And that is about all I can say about it since that's about all I understood. Well, not really. It was about how as a response to the generosity of Christ, we can also be generous to others. And it was just amazing to listen to the pastor challenge his own congregation to step up and help those in their own country, those who are in desperate need.

We then took the kids to the park to play which was so much fun. We met a nice couple who work at the United States Embassy and we were able to introduce them and make a connection with Joel. They are looking forward to a tour of Dorie's Promise and hopefully getting some donations to the orphanage.

And finally, we went to the ghetto, which was just an incredible service that we were able to be a part of. My mom was in tears most of the time. To see that kind of poverty makes you take a step back and examine yourself. Not so much because we are thankful for our stuff...but it is because we are in awe of their contentedness, their own thankfulness and their strong value of family.

We delivered food baskets to three families. The first family was in dire need. In the small, tin home we were introduced to a family of six. They shared their story with us...her husband walked out, she cares for her 2 daughters, who have six children between them and her nephew who stays the night at her home. They work at a shoe factory and make 3 Qs ($.50) per pair that they sew together. It is a tough life. The grandmother asked for prayers for her sadness because she was deserted by her husband, for enough money to pay for the education of the children and for their health.

The second home we were invited into housed 16 people. They were a proud family. They loved their home and their community. They appreciated the food basket so much were just so thankful for everything that God provides for them. They asked for prayers for safety for her children who all worked, for her health and thanksgiving for all that they had.

The final family lived in a concrete house, which is a huge blessing. They have lived in the ghetto for 18 years. Her grandson broke his food yesterday, so he was a little bit grumpy. That woman asked for prayers for her health, healing of the foot and just thankfulness for all of the blessings she had.

I must add that we also gave the pillowcase dresses to all the little girls and shorts to all the little boys we met in the ghetto. Thank you to all the women and church groups who made these precious dresses that we have the privilege to hand out.

All were blessed in ways that I cannot fathom. I live in a country that seems to have an abundance, at least I have abundance, and yet all of these people focused and the blessing of each day and how God provides daily.

Juanita, the president of the ghetto and the woman who keeps that place safe and a close community, shared her story of building that place and desiring for people to know God. She said that she prays for help for these people and then here we come walking down the steep pathway giving the help. She had such conviction to help others and she just hoped that she could make a difference.

Let me tell you that woman is an ambassador for Christ! She is making a difference in the lives of the people she lives with! And as a side note, that lady knows every single family in the ghetto by name and need.

Jesus said, "For I was hungry and you gave me food..." and the people asked, "when did we see you hungry and feed you?" And the king answered, "As you did it for the least of these, you did it for me." Matthew 25:35, 37 & 40.

Juanita feeds people daily. It may seem like a small thing to do her work, to know people by name. But she knows them. How many of your neighbors do you know by name and know their need? She is generous of her time and spirit...which leads me back to the message today. She has responded to God's love by loving others. She has responded to Christ's sacrifice by sacrificing of herself. And she responds to the call of the Holy Spirit trusting that she will be led by faith. She has a generous soul. I hope I can grow up to be like her.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

God's Will For You...

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

1. Joy is eternal and from God.  We don't have to be happy (happiness happens) about what is going on but we can find joy in knowing that God is who He says He is. He promises us that He will take care of us.  We must cling to His promises!

2.  Pray!  Pray!  Pray!  God does not desire for us to be silent in our relationship with Him!  We are to call upon Him in trouble, in sacrifice, in peace, in good times and bad, when we are right with Him and when we have fallen back into our pit!  God says, "Call to me and I will answer you..."  Tell Him when you are angry and disappointed (He can handle it)!  Give Him your questions and doubts (He can handle it)!  Praise Him when all is right (it teaches us and will help us remember when things are wrong)!  

3. Practice thankfulness.  Everyday find something (or 5 or 10) that you are thankful for.  There may be some days when you have to search for that one thing, but it is there.  And if you can't find one thing on this earth to thank God for, praise Him for who He is.  Turn the focus off of you and back on to God.  Thank you God for being who You say You will always be.

4.  God's will is for you to live in a relationship with Christ.  Relationship: a connection or involvement; connection between persons by blood.  Jesus established that relationship with you when His blood covered every part of who you are.  He is involved in every aspect of your life (whether you choose to accept that or not) and He has connected Himself to you through your baptism.  You are His.  This is His will.

May the God of grace shower you with His love, may Christ Jesus remind you of the forgiveness you have through His redeeming blood and may the Holy Spirit cause you to sigh in wonder at the joy at God is about to do!