07 July, 2017

5 Years in Missions


I wanted to write this post a bit earlier, and post it close to the date that marked my 5 year anniversary of being in full-time missions. However, I was on the road, days were long, sleep was short, and it didn’t quite happen that way. It was interesting, though, to mark the difference I felt in this five year mark than what I had felt just one year previously.

You see, with four years of being in missions, I had become disappointed. In some ways I felt let down by God. I knew He had called me into missions though I resented it a bit. I wanted security. I wanted home. I wanted my own home.

With five years of being in missions, it was almost if the coin has been flipped over – but really, my life has been turned upside down in many ways over this last year. And I’m all the better for it I believe. On March 17th, 2017, the 5 year anniversary of missions I found myself in neither “home” (Northern California and Brazil), I was sleeping in someone’s living room whom I had met a week previously, journeying alongside of a woman I had met two weeks previously, speaking about missions and my love for what God has called me to do.

While I do believe we will go through disappointing times in our lives and go through many times when life isn’t what we “signed up for,” I know that I had grown disappointed and resentful because I lost sight and took my focus off of God’s character and who He truly is.

So to commemorate five years in missions, I wanted to put the focus on Jesus and His character. The following are five characteristics of God that I have breathed, lived and experienced and seen over and over again in these last five years of missions and truly, let’s be honest, I’m sure if we take a look at our lives, God’s character is evident, because He is constant and He never changes.
1.  My Jesus is Faithful
I love the scripture that says, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”* Jesus has been faithful to me; specifically in reminding me of my calling to missions. I knew that God had called me to full-time missions since I was 10 years old. Over the years, more than once, God has spoken to my heart and reminded me. When I’ve doubted and when I’ve grown tired and disappointed, He speaks to my heart, “I’ve called you to the nations.” He has me look up at the stars and reminds me of Abraham- whom He called to go to an unknown nation, with the promise that his descendants would be a blessing to all the nations. He’s reminded me that He is my home when my body and my soul are crying out for something permanent. He speaks through a Brazilian friend of mine at a missions conference and my heart is reignited with the desire to go, not only to Brazil, but to China and beyond. “WE’RE GOING TO THE NATIONS!” I yell to a friend.
Oh, how my Jesus is faithful.
2. My Jesus is my provider
From flip-flops to plane tickets, I have seen God provide for the material items I have needed and from friends and those who are more like family, I have seen God provide for my emotional and spiritual needs as well.
Far from home, my heart aching, I asked the leader of our missions campus if she could give me a hug. She did much more than that. She sat by my side as I cried for hours.
Walking to a friend’s house with my broken and three times repaired flip-flops digging into the sides of my feet, I wondered if God would provide flip-flops for me. “and if I don’t get new flip-flops?”  I thought to myself, “God is still good and I will still trust Him.” Upon arriving at my friend’s home, her little sister handed me a package- a brand new pair of flip-flops! :)
From the small things to the big things, the seemingly unimportant minuscule details to the dreams in my heart, my Jesus is my provider of them all.
3. My Jesus is my Father
You know how a father wants to give his kids good things? I do realize there are those fathers who have not been good fathers and who have perhaps been terribly, awful fathers. I am not talking about them. I am talking about the dads who want to give their kids the best, they want to see their kids thrive and they find joy in seeing their children’s joy.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”* (in Matthew it reads “…the heavenly father give good things to those who ask…”)
Jesus, God, He gave us the very best He could give us – Himself.
In addition to this, I have experienced and received gifts from God that have been beyond what I asked for or imagined. I prayed and asked for a car; someone gave me a Prius. A Prius! What? At no point in my life did I expect to own a cute, small, gas efficient, beautiful vehicle like a Prius! And it was simply given to me! Another time I was given a guitar- a beautiful guitar with a beautiful color and one that I had looked at years before as a teenager. Now it’s mine and is being used to lead others into worship. Yet another time, God knew that I loved and wanted some bright colorful socks, so what did He do? He gave those to me as well!
Also, if God is my father, that makes me His daughter. This has been a truth that has been solidifying itself into my core being. I am a daughter. I cannot earn His love, neither do I have to.
Knowing who God is- my father, and whose I am –HIS, shows me who I am – a daughter of the King. And when I know who I am and where I came from, I know where I am going (back home) and what my purpose is – to bring my Father glory and honor- this brings true satisfaction.
 “… I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”*
4. My Jesus is my Lover
Because of culture and connotations, this is one that makes me a bit squeamish to write out and actually say out loud… He is my lover. But He is.
And I am His beloved. Another truth God has been solidifying in my life- I am loved. Why? Because He is love. He is love itself. And He is my lover.
Being on the mission field can be lonely. Being single and desiring to not be any longer, it is a fight to remember that no other love can truly satisfy and that He is my lover, my husband, and I am His beloved. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”*
5. My Jesus is my friend (and ever present travel buddy!)
As a kid, when I first heard the verse, “…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”* I thought for sure the writer of Proverbs wasn’t talking about an actual human, walk on this earth with me type of person, rather, I was sure he was talking about Jesus. And really, Jesus has been this type of friend for me. He’s been a friend who sticks closer than a brother and he has been an ever present travel buddy (which makes traveling better). We have gone bike riding, hiking, and have gotten lost (though I’m sure He’s known where He’s at) together. We have gone through a lot of airport security checkpoints together, made our way through the craziness of LAX (airport in LA), and after having rushed through security and rushed to find the right gate, we have sat and waited for the plane to depart, carrying us to another adventure, together.
Sometimes, oftentimes, while traveling I will say out loud or under my breath, “Well, it’s me and you Jesus.” We have stood in airports where everyone speaks a foreign language and waited to be picked up with no way to contact anyone and hoped that they’d come soon together (to which, in these times, Jesus has placed a peace within me and calmed my anxious heart).  We’ve gone on drives together to Chico, San Francisco, and LA. We’ve yelled and cried and shouted and sung at the top of our lungs. He’s listened to me and encouraged me to speak what’s on my heart. He’s let me rant and get mad and frustrated and cry and blame Him and not understand Him and He’s listened. He’s been a friend and ever present, even when no one else has been.
Jesus, you are my friend. And I love you.  

In writing this blog post, I have re-read what I’ve written and in re-reading it I am reminded of my relationship with God and this relationship we’ve had, in general, and specifically regarding missions. Life isn’t always easy, sometimes I don’t get what I expected or wanted, many testimonies have been shared in this post but there are some that are yet to be written. I don’t always feel “on fire” and sometimes I do still feel anxious and worry about where money is going to come from, there are days when I still feel lonely, there are times when I doubt, or lose sight of for a moment who I am (in the light of who He is) and what He’s called me to do. I know, however, that when these times come, it is because I’ve taken my eyes off of Jesus and I’ve put them on the metaphorical waves around me. When I put my eyes on Jesus, remembering His character, I know that in the light of who He is, financial worries seem small, loneliness is a bit more bearable, and my identity is found in Him.
In remembering who Jesus is, His character, I am reminded that He’s got it under control. He is faithful, He is my provider, He is my father, He is my lover, and He is my friend.  
~*~
*Verses mentioned in text (all have been taken from the ESV):
Faithful: 2 Timothy 2:13
Provider: Philippians 4:19
Father: Luke 11:13 (also Matthew 7:11); Psalm 17:15
Lover: Jeremiah 31:3
Friend/travel buddy: Proverbs 18:24 

27 February, 2017

To Flush or not to Flush – The Surprises of Reverse Culture Shock

“I’m in California.” I thought, mentally reminding myself of the fact that I had arrived in the States. “I can safely flush the toilet paper.” Just to be sure, I took a quick intake of my surroundings- the airport bathroom.  No sign telling me that all paper should go in the trash and the trash was a bit farther than comfortable reaching distance. I was safe and I successfully threw the toilet paper in the proper place
.
I remembered sitting on “the pot” the last time I had returned to my passport country and seriously thinking of where I needed to place the paper waste. I probably spent a serious 30 seconds in one such instance, looking at the paper waste and the trash can to my side, and wondering if I could truly send it down the toilet. It seemed so foreign. This time in returning, I was prepared to be faced with these odd moments in the bathroom where two ways of dealing with a simple necessity left me confused.

However, I have been surprised.

I haven’t been as confused as I thought I would be.

If you’ve kept with me this far, you can breathe a sigh of relief as the toilet story is done (for now at least). Things, simple things that I thought would be a huge adjustment for me (because of differences or because of transitions I experienced last time) have been a lot easier than I thought. I have readjusted and am readjusting to life here in the United States much easier than I thought.

And that is shocking.

A few examples:

Rice and beans- I no longer eat them every day, but I (sadly) haven’t craved them like I thought I would (Note: beans and rice are my favorite.)

Food in general- Let’s take food in general. I am eating like an American (“What’s an American eat like?”  you ask… um…). Cereal for breakfast, lighter lunch, early dinner, more pizza than I’d care to admit…

Language mishaps- I haven’t woken up speaking Portuguese randomly (yet.) The switch to using English daily and ALL DAY and being surrounded by English everything (with the occasional Spanish sign or advertisement) has been an easier transition than I was expecting. While there are times when I can’t find the correct English word or when I almost ask someone their name in Portuguese and then proceed to try to pronounce their name the way it would be said in Brazil, I am still surprised by this transition and my lack of involvement with the Portuguese language (to which a part of me freaks out about).

I am shocked.

I honestly thought I would have a harder time than I am having. Yes, there are still (many) moments of reverse culture shock, language confusion, relearning and readjusting (driving a car is like riding a bike- you never forget, right? Right, but it’s not the same driving again after not having driven for over a year…) but… I am shocked that this transition has been more natural than what I was expecting.
It makes me happy in some ways- I realize that I am more “at home” now in my parent’s new city and home (“new” as in new for me), and I know that I am more sure of myself and who I am (and I don’t have to hold onto another culture so strongly whether it be my native culture or the culture I am currently living and 
working in). And while culture makes up a part of who I am, I am not defined by culture alone.

I am scared, though.

I’m scared to lose the language of Portuguese, to lose the culture, to lose… the ease of slipping into the Brazilian culture and loving it; being a sort of second nature thing.

In processing this I am seeing that rather than “force” either culture on myself (into fitting back into American culture or in holding onto Brazilian culture) I need to simply live and live in the moment. I can’t worry about when I go back to Brazil and how it will be readjusting to life there.

And for while I’m here in the U.S., I can’t worry about things I might say weird or things I might do that are different; I will take each day at a time and if I find myself on the toilet debating with myself on where I should throw the toilet paper… I’ll just laugh and move on. (After having flushed).





22 February, 2017

While sitting in an airport

This blog post is more like a journal entry, written on my laptop while sitting in an airport waiting for my last flight that would finally bring me home to Northern California. It is raw in the sense of, I did not edit it. What I wrote in the moment is what is being posted. What I thought is what you will read. Enjoy reading and catching a glimpse of what goes on in my head and my heart. 

~*~

Jesus.

Culture shock.

It’s for real.

But I’m trying to process some things and I am thinking… I am partly in denial.

Not the denial of culture shock.

But the denial of the importance and necessity of embracing both cultures.

I think in coming back to California, I want to deny that I am – that I still think in English (though it is a mixture at times), that I speak English, that I am from the United States.

Because, congruent with my personality, I want it to be an “all or nothing” sort of deal. Brazil or the US.

Balancing, embracing, and living with the two cultures that are different, is not an easy task. It seems much “easier” or a way of “protecting myself” if I just decide on embracing 100% one culture, language, country, and people.

Because it’s hard to live in this paradigm of never completely feeling like you’re with your people, culture, language, and nation. Cause now that you have become an expatriate, it’s impossible.

Granted, I have only spent 2 years in Brazil. Mas, agora, faz parte de mim, e da minha historia. It makes up a part of me and my story. To reject it would be unfair and I would be doing myself and those who have invested in me (Brazilian and non-Brazilian alike) an injustice.

However, at the same time I must remember that I cannot do the opposite and reject the nation, language, culture, and people I was born into. I was born in the U.S. for a reason.

~*~

In the blog posts to follow I will be documenting some of this journey- of transition, reverse culture-shock, the idea of home, identity and other such heart ponderings. I invite you to come with me on this journey and if you have a question, or even something you're curious about, I hope you feel free to ask. :) 


28 January, 2017

"I've got this."


"I've got this."

This is what God's been saying to me lately regarding my financial situation - no money in my bank account to buy a ticket to get back to California, tickets costing just under $1,000, and no idea of where the money is going to come from.

A lot of things and ideas have gone through my mind in the last few weeks. Will the money come in time? Will I be able to buy a plane ticket? Do I need to do something more? Contact the people who read my newsletters and who already support me again? Will it come down to going to the airport and hoping and praying that there will be a ticket for me? Where is the money going to come from?

I had no idea.

God, he's been talking to me about trust. Like really trusting in Him. Not in my supporters or in people's generosity but in HIM.

A lot of people have been asking when I'm going home. The conversations have gone kinda like this:

"Are you planning on going home soon?"
"Yeah, I am. Actually, I'm hoping to leave by the end of January."
"So you have a ticket?"
"No."
"Why haven't you bought one yet?"
"Well, cause tickets have been really expensive, around $1,000 and I don't have the money to buy one."
"How much more do you need?"
"The full amount."
"So what are you going to do?"
"I'm waiting on a miracle."

And I have been waiting and praying about what I should do.

A couple weeks ago, a couple I know, came to my mind. They had told me in the past that if I needed anything, I could contact them. I remembered this but still wasn’t sure whether or not I should contact them. Was this God bringing them to my memory or did I need to wait and not share my need (once again) with anyone and trust God in this way? Two weeks later, I felt at peace to contact this couple and I sent a message.

The next day I received a reply. They wanted to help! But there was more, they themselves were planning on going on a missions trip in the next two weeks with their family and still were in need of finances themselves. It was “interesting” that while at the same time that they were in need of finances, I asked them if they could help me financially. There have been countless stories of how God has provided for His people while they give, helping someone else out, while in the midst of their generous giving they are in need themselves. The day after they received my message, they received a “random” check from the husband’s company.
It amazes me at what God does. He told me that He had it covered. And He did. This whole situation… there’s a bigger picture going on and most times I don’t realize it. Jesus is at work in our hearts, in our lives, in our families, in our day to day.


To God  be all the glory. :) 

30 December, 2016

A (Messy) Christmas Story

During our children’s discipleship group a couple weeks ago, we read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2 and then acted out the story.

While reading the story, André, Ben, and Julia each read a section - 7 verses- while Marcos wrote down all the characters that appeared in the story. During the middle of the reading, Marcos looked at me, with that grin of his and twinkle in his eyes and said, “Now I know what story this is…”

We divided the roles amongst us and grabbed some costumes and began improvising.

I was Joseph as no one else wanted that role, Julia was Mary.

While Mary and I were acting out the first scene of hearing the decree made by Cesar (André), the angel Gabriel (Ben) and baby Jesus (Marcos) were talking rather loudly on the side. I tried quieting them, even saying “quiet on the set” in English and trying to translate my “theater talk” in Portuguese (I don’t think it directly translates) and em fim it just wasn’t “working” to keep everyone quiet while we acted out the scene. Baby Jesus kept trying to enter the scene, even when it wasn’t his turn yet.

The drama continued- both the actual drama of the story and the drama of the ones acting- in the sense of noise, wanting to enter in the scene prematurely, and the pure and integral improvisation made by children who know each other well and love to be silly with each other.

It wasn’t the “exact” story and dramatization of Luke 2, but it was authentic. It wasn’t at all the picture that we have in our minds of the first Christmas (at least the one I have in my brain) of being quiet, calm, peaceful, tranquil, perfect (and after a little thought, I realize that what I mean by “perfect” is “orderly”) but maybe our improvised “version” of the Christmas story was a bit more similar to that of the first.

After our final scene of the shepherds visiting baby Jesus (that included me telling one of the shepherds that he couldn’t drag his “lamb” around and soon after  this, pulling that same lamb off of baby Jesus), we took off our costumes, sweaty (it’s nearly summer here!) and tired, and gathered in a circle. “Do you know what I thought while we were acting?” I asked the kids. I told them that at first, with all the noise and things that didn’t seem to go right, it didn’t seem to be the Christmas story that we see portrayed in movies, books, or nativity sets where everything seems perfect.  “Foi uma bagunça.” Piped in Ben. “It was a mess.”

It was a mess.

Ben’s raw and honest observation of our reenactment of the birth of Jesus helped pull the ideas together. It seemed to “click” for me.

Jesus entered into a world that was a mess.

Jesus entered into my mess.

He came to be peace, He came to be God with us.

And He wants to enter in to your life- whether it be that of a Hallmark card or a train wreck, or perhaps a not so happy medium. Wherever you are at, Jesus wants to enter in and do life with you. 

Simply put- He loves you.

29 November, 2016

Secure

Yesterday I went with a staff member to visit a neighbor of ours. Upon arriving we exchanged the normal greeting of “Tudo Bem?” “How are you?” – and our neighbor, an elderly lady replied with, “Good… no, actually I’m not. Lately I have not been well.” 

She began telling us of how her heart was beating at an accelerated rate and that she had scheduled an appointment in January (the soonest she was able to).

Honestly, I was worried, and still am. How is she really? Is she going to be okay? Is she resting? (She's a "go-getter" and I find it difficult to believe that she would sit still for very long.)

With assurance and peace evident in her composure and voice, she said, “My heart is in the hands of Jesus, the most secure place to be.”

I almost cried thinking about and seeing how much faith she has. She truly trusts in Jesus. 

God is continually nudging my heart, showing me that my faith and trust aren't truly in Him. Rather, I've put my trust in people, my own strength and my own self, plans, my thoughts, what's happened before and makes sense. I don't truly trust Him like I say I do. And I want to. 

I want to be able to say, just like my dear lovely neighbor, that my heart is in the hands of Jesus, the safest place to be. I want to say it with conviction. My head knows this fact, but my heart hasn't caught up yet. 

So along with chopping down banana trees, I'm learning hard things. Deep heart things. This journey is far from over, but it will continue. Until Completion. 

15 October, 2016

Dormant.

Lately I have felt to be on the verge of tears, emotional yet at the same time emotionless or really, not been able to feel completely. Partly due to the fact that I haven’t wanted to. Feeling exerts energy and emotions… it takes a toll on you and who you are and if you are not ready - firmly planted and rooted in Christ and who He calls you, and more importantly, in who He is – the wave knocks you down and you decide that it’s just better, safer, if you lie low.

Something I have discovered in my journey of learning a second language and learning (or relearning) my own is that often times I know how to use a word in context, but I don’t know what the actual word means. Or maybe it’s that I haven’t taken the time to stop and think about what the word actually means. For example, as I thought about this blog and what I wanted to write, the word “dormant” came to mind, but I wanted to look it up to ensure that it was the right word.

One of the definitions I found was that in relationship to plants, it is when a plant is still alive but not growing.
My blog has been dormant.

I have felt dormant. Like a plant, I have felt like I’ve been living but not growing.

I’ve learned lots of things, God’s spoken and been faithful in many things, but the battle between that of my will and applying this knowledge and what God has spoken has been a downright ugly one. A battle that, thankfully, I have lost and that God’s love is winning.

My feelings have been dormant.

Oh, I can be very emotional, in the sense of letting myself feel happy or sad at a surface level and going along with however I feel in the moment. But the act of letting myself feel the deeper feelings - of heartbreak, disappointment, dreams that I have yet to see materialize, the wretchedness of my sin, the reality around me, the tragedies happening in far off places- these feelings have been held back and put to sleep. But they’re alive and they need to be expressed. They cannot remain dormant.

Tonight, I let myself feel.

And as I cried and told God what was on my heart and in my mind, I felt a burden lift from my shoulders. I actually felt lighter. I felt freer.



God has set my heart free.