Thursday, March 29, 2012

Get your run on.

I"m officially moved in and officially sore!  All of the organizing is to take place today and I'm excited about that.  I think my sore muscles are just a precursor to what is to come this Saturday morning.  I feel way unprepared and a bit nervous about the logistics of it all.  Yet, I'm glad I'll be doing it.  There's a first time for everything!  And I'm pumped to have best friends with me.  Here's to making it the whole way!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A follow up

to this post about my friend selling her wedding silver.  She sold it and received over $1,000 for it.  She told Osvaldo she was sending money to him and this was his response (translated, by me, to easily readable English):

This money will help us a lot for the university scholarships, feeding center and the clinic.

I want to give you a testimony: today at 6 in the mornning the Lord was talking to me about wallking by faith and He told me that faith and doubt walk with us always, but that faith always has to win.  The Lord told me ask for a miracle and that He would give it to me. I said Lord, I want financial help to fix some of the problems we have.

You are the miracle the Lord gave us! The Lord is incredible!

How awesome is that for your Wednesday morning?!

Today's the day

I'm moving!  From James Island to my old stomping grounds of Mt. Pleasant.  Also referred to as Mt. Perfect and Mt. Plastic.  I'm stoked to be East of the Cooper once again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I briefly mentioned Carlos here, but wanted to share more of his story.  He was truly one of my favorites and I think about him a good bit.

I met Carlos at a feeding program and quickly liked him.  He
helped me find my way to a latrine one day* and the next day he got me
set up with a place to hand out eyeglasses.  He was fun and easy to be
around.  The last day we worked a feeding program, He was with Drew
and I distributing glasses.  While I thought he was 34ish, he is just
28.  He told me he was married and had 2 kids.  The glasses station
moved mid day and he shared more of his story with me.

He grew up in Managua (I think) and then his mom died when he was
little.  The family fell apart and he ended up being homeless for 5
years.  A family ended up taking him in and he is still very close
with them.  Then he ended up moving to the "trash dump neighborhood"
and has lived there ever since.  I was shocked to believe that he
still lived there -- this man that I'd connected with so much lived in
a house with a dirt floor, tin walls, shower curtain doors, and the
constant smell of trash.  It was almost too much for me to grasp but I
wanted to hear the rest of his story and powered on with dry eyes.

He was at a feeding program when he 1. was fed 2. met the woman he
would later marry and 3. heard about Jesus.  He became a Christian and
three months later, the woman did as well.  They have been married for
10 years, have sons 9 and 4 years old.  He's had 2 years of education
in engineering and 5 years ago he went through a really hard time.
He'd been given the opportunity to work for a private engineering firm
or work for Pastor Osvaldo -- in his neighborhood.  It was a difficult
decision, but he ended up going with Osvaldo and has been in ministry
ever since.

Praise the Lord someone walked up that needed glasses because I needed
to turn my back and grasp what I'd just heard, as well as shed a few
tears.  Rennie challenged me to see his circumstance through spiritual
eyes -- in those I saw the Lord redeeming his life and using Carlos in
ways he could only be used in and admist people of the trash dump.

It was hard to hear, yet so cool!  Not only has the Lord used him
greatly, but Carlos was a 17 year old kid getting food in a food
program.  He was fed physically and spiritually.  It gave me such hope
for the hundreds of children (and adults) that we fed.
Vegetable and chicken foot soup, coupled with sharing the Gospel of
our Lord Jesus Christ really can be used to change lives!  Thankful
for Carlos and all that the Lord taught me through him.

*I went to him the day we were in his neighborhood and told him I needed to find a bathroom; did he know of one I could use?  He took me to the house next door and we winded through the open rooms/space held together by threads.  We went to the back yard and towards the latrine.  Carlos stopped, looked at me, and asked, "is this ok for you to use?"  "Yes!  I'll go anywhere!  I just need to go."  He looked at my still a bit nervous and asked again, "really?"  "Yes, Carlos!"  I knew in the moment I could read his questions one of two ways: either he thought I would think I was too good to use a latrine OR it was a question out of honor.  I'm not sure which it was in his head, but I'm going with the latter.  I don't know...maybe there aren't too many white girls busting in homes and using latrines?  

The trash dump neighborhood.

Last week I was Googling something (go figure!) and stumbled across this story I found here.  This was the second neighborhood we went to and was certainly the poorest.  This story give me chills and gives me hope.

The History of Limonal

This poor village of about 1,500 people is situated between the garbage dump, the septic field of the nearby city, and a graveyard–an place the locals call “the triangle of death”. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch hammered this area, killing many and leaving over 350,000 Nicaraguans homeless. As squalid as this piece of land was, no one else wanted it and so refugees moved in, building makeshift shelters from the cardboard, plastic and tin that they scavenged. And so Limonal was born.

Before long the gangs came, operating drug and prostitution rings. They ruled Limonal through violence and fear. Some time later Osvaldo Bonilla, a pastor from the neighboring city, began to come to Limonal to help the people. A church was begun, children were being fed, and the first glimmers of hope sprang up. The gangs confronted Osvaldo several times, demanding that he leave Limonal to them. Osvaldo kept coming back. One day, the main gang leader told Osvaldo that if he didn’t leave, he would cut his head off with a machete and put it on a post at the entrance to Limonal. Osvaldo ignored him and went to meet with the church. The meeting was interrupted by the gang leader challenging Osvaldo to fight with machetes. Osvaldo told him that he would fight for the villagers, but with fists. The gang leader agreed, began to drop his weapon, then suddenly lunged toward Osvaldo, machete in hand. Immediately, one of Osvaldo’s young leaders stepped between them and told the gang leader that he would have to go through him to get to Osvaldo. At this point, with much of the village looking on, something shifted in the atmosphere. Suddenly the gang leader became unsure and faltering. He turned and walked away from Limonal, followed by many of his gang members. Just like that, years of harassment and intimidation were over.

There are so many problems in Limonal. Families do not have adequate housing to protect them; during the tropical storm season the roofs leak and the dirt floors turn to mud. Many of the men have abandoned their wives and children; those that have stayed are mostly unemployed. The air is full of toxic fumes from the burning garbage and the water is contaminated by the septic field. Many women with no other means of feeding their children are forced into prostitution.

And yet…

Osvaldo and his team provide meals for all of the village children 2-3 times each week. They have established a very basic school (no walls, few books or supplies, no desks). Sometimes a doctor and nurse can come and see as many of the sick as time and medicine allows.

Limonal is filled with huge challenges, but a more careful look reveals that these are really opportunities for great transformation. Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Ro 8:22)

Limonal–the men, women and children, and the very land itself–has been waiting for salvation to come in its fullest sense, changing every part of life. Clean water. Meaningful employment. Education. Medical care. Ample and healthy food. Housing that protects and comforts. The power of hope and spiritual renewal. The experiential reality that Jesus sees, cares and acts on behalf of Limonal.

Steve Stewart

Friday: evening

One of the House of Hope employees, Laura, is from Dallas and I wanted to hear more of her story: how'd she end up working there?  What's it like?  She came to our hotel and ended up hanging out all evening.  She and I got to talk for quite a long time and it was really cool to hear her story.

Most of us were going out that night.  Our Nica guy friends were taking us to a disco!  Y'all, we showed up to this outdoor mall situation with lots of shops and restaurants and bars - it felt like you were in the States.  We were there before the disco opened so we wondered around until it was time.  Here's the thing: we couldn't get in because we were dressed too conservatively!

Seeing as how I mainly packed t-shirts, I was thankful to have a dress that I'd worn to church earlier in the week.  That meant most of the girls were in cotton dresses and flip flops; apparently the dress code requires stilettos, tight jeans, and barely there tops.  I tried out some of my dance moves for the bouncer to persuade him to let us in.  Sadly, that didn't help.  Off we went to another disco...and yet again: rejected!  They had a sign of rules out front that seriously included, "no loose tops.  No loose pants."  Sheesh!

But, the third time was the right time.  This place was classy and fun.  A beautiful outdoor restaurant with dance floor and live band.  There were white lights strung about the place.  If I lived in Managua, I'd want that to be my place - where I went to celebrate and relax.  I wish I had pictures because it was gorgeous but Drew Miller, our photographer, didn't venture out with us. I got on stage for a brief bit and attempted to play some kind of funky instrument.  We all had a great time and danced until we were hot and sweaty.  So hot and sweaty, in fact, that I went to get a water from the bar.  It was ice cold and complete with a lime.  Tasted so good!  After I'd gulped it down, someone questioned if we should drink the water there or not.  Oh well.*

We stopped for ice cream at the gas station on the way home.  I ate about two ice creams a day on our trip; not so healthy but oh so tasty!  The real cream and fewer preservatives makes it so much more delicious.  It's an odd thing to be the fish out of water.  To be engrossed in something totally different, yet knowing you're not in it forever.  Among the poverty, we get to play.  We go to buy ice cream and I'm paralyzed at the mom and two tiny children begging for money.  I've seen beggars countless times in countless places, but what gripped me was that I couldn't escape reality.  For our team, we could go from poverty to luxury.  But that's a rare thing; most of the world can't.  There's still much to process and consider...there's still much to trust the Lord with...

* Oh well, until Monday when the water thing caught up with me and my stomach.  Luckily I was out of town at a work conference -- because that wasn't awkward at all.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Friday: day

We were back in Managua, the capital.  We spent our day at Casa de Esperanza = House of Hope.  The director, April, and her husband have spent more years as missionaries in Spanish speaking countries than not.  When they arrived in Nicaragua, he was planting a church and she was feeding the everyone else.  She felt the Lord challenge her to care for the mothers.  If you care for the mothers, you care for the children, too.  Over the years, she started teaching classes, etc. and eventually House of Hope was born.

House of Hope takes in prostitutes; their youngest rescued out of a brother was 4.  Four years old.  April told us that when we were with the kids we'd think, "oh, surely not that one!"  But, yes.  That one, too.  I've read book and watched a documentary, but the real thing was...well, real.  No escaping it.  Many of the girls were sold by their families.  Many of the girls come from a long line of prostitutes.  Too many were pregnant - they leave, earn some money, get pregnant, and come back.

House of Hope has a girls dorm for those rescued off the street or out of a brothel.  Then they have apartments for women to live; they can live alone or with their kids.  Boys can live there until they turn 10.  The girls and boys go to school.  The women have to help cook for the campus, make jewelry and other crafts to sell, and are discipled.  There are Bible studies for women throughout Managua overseen by House of Hope.

I was blessed to spend time praying with the older women that live there, along with my friend Meredith.  We didn't fully understand them, but in some ways it was so freeing to pray to the Lord knowing that He would understand even if we couldn't understand each other.  After lunch, I worked with the girls 13 and up.  A few gals from our team shared their testimonies and then we put on some calm worship music and prayed over the girls and women there.

A few thoughts:

  • I sat next to a 14 year old girl while our team spoke for a bit.  She played with my shoe and tried it on.  We have the same size foot.  I forgot for a bit, yet quickly remembered, this seemingly innocent girl has been forced to see and do things that I'll likely never have to.  Such a big and unjust pill to swallow.
  • As we prayed for and over these women, I just kept thinking "the Lord has been with you in the dark places."  While I cannot begin to imagine where they have been, what they have done, what has been done to them, the Lord has been there and walked through it with them.  
I read Hebrews 4 today and these verses are so fitting:  14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Summing up our hours at House of Hope, I would say they are sobering.  It's hard to remain in fantasy land when the faces of girls and women clearly show stolen innocence.  Young girls with eyes that tell you they've seen too much of the world at far too young an age.  Women my age with eyes that tell you they've been used and abused longer than I could comprehend.  And, yet, it is a house of HOPE.  Hope in the things unseen.  Hope of a life of freedom: freedom from prostitution and freedom in Christ Jesus.


I emailed a very good friend of mine this morning; she and I went to Nicaragua together.  In her response to my email she mentioned this:

I polished all of my wedding silver this weekend so that I can sell it and give the money to Osvaldo.  Would you mind taking it for me along with a few other things? 

Seriously?  Talk about challenging!  I shed a few tears when I read it...  I love her heart and what the Lord's doing.  I love that though her daughter won't get that silver; instead, she is getting so much more - a legacy of loving others.

This morning

I checked my credit card balance online.

My first thought: OMG someone has stolen my card!

My second thought: no!  You bought a plane ticket back to Nicaragua.

That's right.  Two months from today, I'll be en route back to Nica.  No team, just me.  Not sure of any details yet.  Let's be honest, they're not concerned with itineraries so no need to have one.  I'll be staying with Osvaldo and his family.  So, so excited!

Remember when

I ran 30 min straight last week?  Then rewarded myself with a Lean Cuisine frozen pizza and Budweiser for supper.  And burned my lip on the frozen pizza.  And now it looks like I have the herp, classily referred to as a cold sore.

Yes, I remember.

Friday, March 23, 2012


I didn't take any pictures in Nicaragua, but my friend Drew Miller did.  Trust me, his are better than mine would have been.  If you're interested, here's the link: 

This is my favorite.  Even more so because Beth printed it out for me, framed it, and included this verse:
Romans 10:15, "how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"


Most Days

Looked fairly similar in Chinandega.  We started our days off with breakfast at the hotels.  In accordance to my training for the Bridge Run, I ran two mornings.  Thankfully I had a buddy pushing me along because I tell you what: I did not want to be doing that!

After breakfast, our team had a time of praise and worship and prayer.  It was the perfect way to start our days ahead.  Monday we headed to tour the medical clinic that Osvaldo's team runs: a free medical clinic, dental clinic, and pharmacy.  Then we headed to a neighborhood, el barrio.  We went to a different one each day.  While each of them were impoverished, it was easy to spot levels of poverty amongst them.  Tuesday's was at a trash dump.  I have never ever seen kids so dirty in all of my life.  Filthy dirty.  Covered from head to toe.  Lucky to be fully dressed.

Once there, our team split up and did the following:
  • build a latrine 
  • play with kids
  • dress up like clowns
  • have a "candy party" -- a pinata
  • cook lunch.  lunch was a HUGE cauldron of soup: all kinds of vegetables, rice, protein flakes, and chicken heads and feet.  yes, you read that right.  i had the pleasure of cutting off chicken toenails one day and then trying to chop up the heads.  you cut off the beak, pull out the esophagus, and cut the head in two, but i never got the system down right and the nica ladies laughed at me.  :)
  • hand out reading glasses - what i did daily
We were in the barrio for several hours and then we left to eat lunch at Rossy and Osvaldo's.  I know I've mentioned this before, but wow, was their food delicious.  The afternoons varied and included: moving hotels, dance practice, and hanging out with prostitutes.  One day we got a bit of free time and it was so fun to have some of Osvaldo's team play with us in the hotel pool.  

We headed back to the barrio in the evening for a revival.  Now, if you told me a few years ago that not only be working a revival, but loving every minute of it, I'd have likely told you you were nuts.  We'd arrive and dance with all the kids.  Jamming to praise and worship music - dancing in the streets.  Such a fun time.  It was also really cool to see the folks you'd seen and worked with earlier that day.  At some point in the evening, a midst the praise and worship, two of our folks shared their testimonies and someone gave a talk.  I shared on Monday evening and it was a really sweet time, for me, with the Lord.  There were also dances and dramas that portrayed the gospel of Jesus Christ.  One night I played the "sexy girl" and another night I played a druggie.  Neither are my forte, but anything for the Lord, right?!  Haha. 

At the end, we asked people if they wanted prayer and to come up if they wanted a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  I loved this time.  People came to know Jesus.  People were healed.  People were reminded that the love of God is furious and real.  

Afterwards, we headed back to Osvaldo's for another incredible meal.  Then it was back to the hotel for showers and bed time.  Days were long and hot and sweaty and dusty...and they were filled with laughter and prayer and praise and time with the Lord and seeing Him work in all kinds of ways.  

Sunflowers and grapes.

Nicaragua: Wednesday afternoon the women on our team went to hang out with some prostitutes.  Before we left, our team spent some time in prayer.  During that time, Drew Miller said he had a vision of a field of yellow sunflowers and above them were a bunch of grapes.

We didn't dwell on that too much, but figured the grapes meant fruit from our labors - in some capacity.   We headed to the church where a few of our gals shared their testimonies and then we spent time praying over the ladies and children there.  I couldn't help but wonder about their lives and how vastly different we are...yet so similar.  In some ways, we all whore ourselves out for things in order to get ahead/survive.  We all have fallen for the deception of false intimacy.  And, for each of us, there is only one way to redemption and full life: Jesus.  It was a sweet time that ended with handing out bags of groceries to each lady.

But here's the thing.  At some point, Edy looked up and saw a plastic bunch of red grapes hanging from the ceiling of the church -- all the walls were painted yellow.  She showed me and busted out laughing.  I have absolutely no idea why they had grapes hanging from the ceiling!  But, I do know that the Lord was in our midst.  It was such a fun reminder.  


Good times.

Mary Glenn just sent me this picture from her rehearsal dinner:
I wouldn't call it flattering, but neither was the toast going on in the moment.  I'm pretty sure I don't want my aunt talking about my childhood diarrhea issues at my rehearsal dinner.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Be bold.

Last night I was at Year Team -- the Bible study that I went to Nicaragua with.  It was the first time I'd been since Nica, as last week I was in Spartanburg for work.  My friend Jan and I were the first ones there and at some point started talking to the caterer.  He talked about being sick this week and having car trouble.  My first thought was, "if I was in Nica, I'd be praying for you right now, but I'm not..." 

People came, dinner was eaten, things got started.  A few people made comments to me about how they'd heard I was really bold in Nica.  My friend Elizabeth was especially curious about it and complimentary.  We talked for a minute about it and then I told her about not praying for Josh.  And, here's the thing: I really want my life to look the same regardless of my location.  And it doesn't always. 

Have you ever had one of those moments where how you feel about yourself and the things people are telling you just don't line up?  That was definitely one of them and I wanted to scream.  Haha.

Flash forward thirty or so minutes later and we had a time of praise and worship.  I don't remember the song we were singing, but I felt compelled to go find Josh, the caterer.  I pulled him out of the kitchen and asked if I could pray for him.  I think he thought it a bit strange, but I did it.  And as I walked back into the Year Team room, I was reminded how much it wasn't about me, but rather about the Lord.  

Better is One Day in Your Courts was the next song that played and I believed the words.  A bit of time really meeting with the Lord is SO much better than much time without Him.  Such a sweet blessing for me last night.


I was hanging out with D-K at school and then his cousin/friend came over to hang with us.

Highlight:  His cousin said, "when you were gone D-K kept talking about you and how you were the best tutor."

Low light: 

Cousin: how old are you?
Me: 29
D-K: she doesn't look 29 does she?!  (He thinks I look younger.)
Cousin: No!  You definitely look like you're in your 30's!

Well, cousin, there's a reason why I hang out with D-K.

One thing I asked

the Lord for before our trip (and during our trip) was for a BIG miracle.  I wanted to see something crazy from the Lord.  I don't really bump into people missing limbs and can clearly remember three from my trip: Ramon who I got to pray for two mornings in a row and hopefully explained in my poor Spanish that we were moving hotels and I didn't know if I'd see him again.

The first day we handed out eye glasses, I saw this beautiful old woman that was missing a leg.  I prayed for her while we gave her glasses.  To my delight, she came back that night for the revival and I got to pray for her for a long time, along with some friends praying too.

Our last day of handing out glasses, there was a man without an arm.  I got to pray for him.

For all of these people, I asked that the Lord would grow back their limbs.  Sound crazy?  Maybe so.  But I believe the Lord can do it!

Yet, He didn't.

A few days into the trip I told the Lord I wanted a BIG miracle and He hadn't given me one.  Since I am sarcastic, I think the Lord likes to be sarcastic back with me -- it's a language I comprehend well.  He said, "really?  Have I not?"  Then I remembered all the things that had gone wrong and how the Lord had provided for us over and over again on our trip.  He gave me miracle after miracle; they just didn't look like what I pictured/wanted.  And yet, I loved praying for these people and trusting the Lord for their healing.  AND they may be healed now...I have no idea!

I never see people missing limbs in my everyday realm, but the day after I got back, I saw a lady with missing fingers.  Prayed for her.  My first day in Spartanburg, as we checked into the hotel, the lady came around to give me my key and I noticed her legs weren't even.  I didn't pray because I was with my bosses.  There's no condemnation for those in Jesus, but I realized how much I missed out by not praying for her.  I went back to find her a few times but she was on the phone or gone.  I checked the rest of my days at the hotel, but didn't find her.

I say these things because I still want to see a BIG miracle and the best way to do that is to ASK the Lord for them.  To trust that He can and will.  And that means being actively engaged.  And I want that.  I also want to see and be thankful for ALL the ways the Lord is working -- what I might deem small might actually be something huge.  So thankful for the God I serve and the ways He works.

Monday, March 19, 2012

My favorite Sunday

Of all the days in my life thus far, March 4 may have been the best one yet.  Definitely a top five.  I woke up that morning and headed out with my buddy David in search of a Coke Light.  We went to the store across the street, but it wasn't opened yet, so we meandered through the streets and the market until we found a Nica version of Wal-Mart.  One Coke Light coming up; koozie brought from home.  Along our path, we met Ramon.  He was kind and gentle, an older man selling something on the street, and he was missing an arm from the elbow down.  We prayed for him and bid him our goodbyes.

Our team split up into two and went to two different churches.  The small church we went to treated us well -- we were ushered up front and handed bottles of water.  After the praise and worship, two of our group members shared their testimonies.  During that time, I prayed that the Lord would use Drew and Heidi to affect at least one person in the church on a very personal level.  Throughout the church service and later in the day, I found out they had.  So sweet.

I preached the sermon in the church...I don't say this to boast in myself, because I know it was the Lord in me and not me at all, but it was one of those moments in life where everything was right.  The Lord prepared me for that moment and standing up in a church sharing personal accounts, along with scripture, seemed like the most normal and right thing for me to be doing in all of the world.  It was crazy.  Afterwards, the pastor's wife shared with me, and then in front of the congregation, that she'd been wanting to preach on the Holy Spirit, but hadn't had a chance.  And it was unlikely that she would.  And that's what I preached on -- it encouraged her, as well as me!

Reflecting on our time at church: it was the best church service I'd attended, and it had nothing to do with us.  I loved that they welcomed us, people shared what God was doing in front of everyone, we spent time praying for people.  Someone came to know Jesus.  A man, Carlos, received a personal word from God that he'd been longing for.  It was worshipful and personal and all in all filled with the Spirit of God.

After church, we headed to Rossy and Osvaldo's for lunch.  Once again, a superb meal.  At some point, we had plantain empanadas with black beans on the inside.  My word!  Once we stuffed ourselves, we changed for beach and then took the one hour drive to the beach.  It was my first time in the Pacific Ocean and it was amazing.  This beach girl was so thrilled to be in the sun and sand for the first time this year.

We laughed and played on the beach.  Rode some waves.  Some of us, not me, played volleyball against our Nica friends and got creamed.  I was privileged to hear my friend Anelma's story.  A story of being heartbroken and disappointed when she was nineteen and pregnant -- the "perfect church girl" no longer seen as such.  She was abandoned by her church and members wouldn't speak to her when they passed her on the street.  Then her family met Osvaldo and Rossy and they were kind and full of love.  A story of redemption as she has a beautiful eight month old baby girl, a family that loves and supports her, brothers that act as fathers, a job, a church and mentors, and a strengthened relationship in the Lord Jesus Christ.  She taught herself English from TV and music.  She encouraged me time and time again on our trip.  I watched her share her story many times with others throughout the week and saw small glimpses of the Lord using her over and over again for His glory.

Driving back to Osvaldo's for dinner, I reflected on my favorite Sunday: a great day filled with worship, rest, friends, learning more about the Lord, and good food.

While I didn't take any pics in Nica, my friend Drew Miller took many.  Here are some of my favorites from the beach that day:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Understanding in Everything

In my daily reading, I just read 2 Timothy 2:7, "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything."   Being quite busy since I got back from Nicaragua, I haven't had much time to process and this verse hit me like a ton of bricks.  My brain doesn't have much capacity to dive into it right now...but here's what I can conjure up...

Today has been hard.  Hard to wrestle things like throwing a baby shower for friends that are rich according to the world's standard, knowing that a week ago, I held babies with nothing.  Hard to admit that I'm so selfish here (and everywhere), but I don't want to be.  Hard to function when everything seems backwards and/or upside down.  Hard to accept the shallow lives we accept, rather than fight for depth, even when it is hard.  I want the things that I have seen to change me.  I love Brooke Frasier's song, Albertine that says, "now that I have seen, I am responsible."  I want processed words to yield actions.

Paul tells his beloved Timothy to be strengthened through the grace of Jesus Christ (v1) and to share in the sufferings of Jesus as a good soldier (v3), and then he says that the Lord will give him understanding in everything.  Paul exhorts Timothy to fight and be strong...and then the Lord will give Him insight.  Sometimes we just have to keep fighting when the battle doesn't make sense.

There's just so much I don't understand.  And, yet I know the Lord will give me understanding -- not necessarily answers, but understanding.  He will settle my heart because it belongs to Him.  I think understanding goes back to the Lord: knowing Him means knowing His character and trusting Him.  And He is worthy of our trust, worthy of our worship.  Regardless.  So, when the Lord draws our hearts back to Himself and when He reminds us who He is and who we are in Him, we do gain everything.

You make beautiful things

This was our worship theme song.  I learned most of the chorus in Spanish which was fun to sing.  The fact that the neighborhoods were so dusty (I mean dusty!) made the words come alive all the more.  It really is a beautiful reminder that the Lord is constantly working.  He sees beauty in what may be otherwise discarded.

Crash course in Nicaragua life

It was one of those trips where everything seemed to go wrong, yet it was so right.  We landed in Managua (the capital) and Pastor Osvaldo & company were supposed to be waiting on us.  That wasn't the case.  Fifteen of us gringos stood around wondering what to do.  One of us put his free time to good use and stopped off at the pharmacy in the airport - turns out the going rate for antidepressants there was $20.  Same brand and dosage as his prescription in the US, only  no prescription needed and clearly no FDA regulations or red tape.

Pastor Osvaldo arrived and I was immediately drawn to his wife, Rossy (pronounced Rosie).  She grabbed me and told me to get in the car with car.  My A-type feared getting in trouble for leaving the team, but I was in Nicaragua where it is best to be as laid back as possible.  She shared photos of her children and told me some recent hardship in their family.  It felt comfortable from the minute we met.

We met back up with the group and headed to Tip Top for lunch.  They serve a lot of American style chicken products, but I opted for the most authentic I could find and it was yummy.  It's really the only American style fast food  restaurant we saw in the country (other than some actual American restaurants in Managua) and it began my love of Coke Light for the week.  When we left lunch, we headed to Chinandega in three cars: a van, a Jeep, a truck, and Rossy's tiny Toyota.  I was with her, two teammates, and Melvin, our fearless translator for the week.

I'll just go ahead and say this: a drive from Managua to Chinandega should take two hours.  It took us EIGHT. And, then I'll go ahead and say that all eight hours were fun and awesome.  Here are some things that happened along the way:

  • The radiator in the Jeep started actin' a fool.  This meant we pulled over every 10-15 minutes to fill it up with water from our Nalgenes.  
  • We saw the beautiful Lake Nicaragua.
  • We pulled over more times for the radiator.
  • Eventually we pulled into a cantina where Osvaldo talked to a friend and traded the Jeep out for another car.  We had a nice respite in the catina, filled with some dancing, enjoying a Tona, and some new found friends let me try their chocolate/maize smoothie type beverage.  
  • Eventually we were back on the road...until a tire blew out.  I'm not even sure which car lost the tire.  
  • Heidi, the two Drew's, and I were in the van laughing and talking when all of a sudden two men (on our team) hopped in the van and took off going about 100 kph (fast).  At first, we weren't sure why, but realized we were the tire search party.  The four of us had a blast in the van -- laughing a lot and maybe a few tears.  We got to swing through a supermarket to use their bathrooms.  
  • Looking for a tire on the streets of Nicaragua looked like pulling up to a sweet grass basket stand on the side of highway 17 and asking for a tire.  We finally found on the 4th try and cruised back to our team.
  • We found the team praising and worshipping the Lord on the side of the road -- such a sweet picture and experience.
  • We loaded back up and eventually made it to Chinandega.  There, we went to Osvaldo and Rossy's for supper.  Y'all, the food was SO good.  Every meal we ate with them was incredibly delicious.  
  • We left their home and headed for the hotel around 11:00 pm, only to be told there was no room at the inn.  Though we'd made reservations and checked the week before, they didn't have us on the books.  I just started laughing -- of course!  They had a group coming in a few days, but we could stay there for two nights.  The Lord is good.
  • The rooms were nice, and the breakfast was tasty the next morning.  
I guess you could say our first day in Nicaragua was adventurous.  It was a great glimpse of our week to come: nothing goes as planned, our team had a great time together, and the realization that trusting in the Lord for what He has in store is the best thing to do.


Just watched this. It went viral when I was out of the country. Wow.  Totally worth 30 minutes.

Traveling south of the border

Second to arrive at the Charleston airport, I was bouncing with excitement.  Once airborne, I quickly realized who my partners in crime would be for the week.  Heidi, Drew, and I seemed to have to most random conversations and came up with several book titles.  Mine is going to be Everybody's Neurotic -- a funny, yet educational book on the quirks that make us who we are.  I'll keep you posted on publishing dates.  Haha.  From then on out the flights were filled with stimulating conversations and much laughter.

As soon as we'd ascended into the clouds this took place:

Drew: you know what's sad?  When I was little and my family would fly down to Disney World, I'd look at the clouds and try to see if people were in there/on them...
Me: well, what is worse is that I just wondered if I could sit on a cloud.
Busts out laughing.
Me: well, a cloud could hold something.  Something like a feather or a dollar bill or anything with mass, but very little of it.
Drew: no, it couldn't.
We asked Meredith, a science teacher, who agreed with me.
Drew dared me to ask the flight attendant; obviously, I did.  She agreed with Drew, but told me to ask the captain.

A good 30 or so minutes go by and everyone's seated, buckled in, and quiet as we're about to land.  The flight attendent comes back and quite loudly says, "about your question.  I asked the captain, and NO!"

Hahahahahaha.  I still don't buy that.

Dolla, dolla bill, yo!

Oh, and don't worry.  I emailed the US Geological Survey this morning; hopefully, I'll have a response within two business days.


Handing out reading glasses, oranteojos” to those in need seemed simple enough.  The task was simple, yet the memories of it are far greater.  A few hundred reading glasses were graciously donated to us and piled into a big suitcase.  Monday morning, Drew and I set off with a suitcase full of glasses and Hazel, our translator and soon-to-be-friend.  We set up a table in someone’s home front and got to organizing.  That in of itself was simple -- set up a makeshift eye glass stand in someone else’s home.  I don’t know about you, but that hasn’t happened on my front porch yet.  Those first few minutes I was reminded how gracious the neighbors were to one another.

Hazel taught Drew and I a few key words in eyeglass distribution.  We’d pick out a pair of glasses and ask them to try them out, or “pueba  lo.”  Then we’d determine if they needed higher or lower strength, “mas or menos fuerte.”  It was fun to watch person after person come and receive sight that they didn’t have before.  I was amazed at how quickly the word got out about the glasses and how quickly they seemed to go.  The days Hazel didn’t guide us, my buddy Carlos helped me by finding a home to use and making sure I at least half way knew what I was doing.

It was fun to give others the gift of reading glasses.  But I received far more gifts than I helped distribute.  Gift of prayer: I loved standing in lines guiding people, yet also letting the Lord guide me in prayer.  Lifting up a lady missing a leg, a man missing an arm, asking the Lord to raise up children as lights in a dark world.  Through the laying on of hands with their attention or from afar, it was a time of seeking the Lord to be in our midst.  

Gifts of friendship: I learned more about Drew and we got to be silly and serious; it was fun to see him want to learn the language and be able to communicate as best as he could.  I also got to know Hazel and Carlos on a much deeper level.  Hazel shared some things going on in her life which eventually led to a sweet time of prayer with some other girls.  It was also a pleasure to see kids in the neighborhoods that she’d discipled and had relationships with.  Carlos shared his testimony with me one afternoon and it is one I hope never to forget.  In a nutshell: he was fed, met his future wife, and came to know Jesus through a feeding program -- a program just like where we were handing out glasses.  It gave me such hope for the people we met and excited to see what God will do in their lives.

Gifts of faith and hope: Hebrews 11:1 says, “now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  It may sound ironic that as we helped people see better the Lord taught me about up the things I cannot see.  I was blessed to glimpse and partake a glimpse into the lives of those living in the neighborhoods we served.  However, I may not ever know what happens to the lady without a leg or the boy that walked around praying with me.  And, so, as I reflect on my time with the glasses, I must also remember that the Lord works in mysterious ways and must have hope that receiving a pair of glasses was just the beginning.  The Lord increased my hope for the people there and increased my faith to believe that He will work in big ways -- whether I witness it or not.  

Love in a hopeless place

My trip to Nica was filled with worship -- in church, every morning, on the side of the road, in the van, you get the point.  Yet along with worship van times there were intense dance parties.  Dance parties in the van - one time we had a crowd surfer.  Seriously, awesome.  There were also dance parties in the gas station parking lots and just about anywhere else we could bust a move.  This song was our theme:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Back to life; back to reality.

Nicaragua was incredible.  I'd venture to say, it's been the best week of my life to date.  I am home and back at work today.  I'm a bit overwhelmed that all I need to do at work - and my personal life.  Here's hoping for time to process and relax.  For your enjoyment, I look like a Cullen I'm so pale:


Friday, March 2, 2012

South of the Border

I'm getting up at the crack of dawn tomorrow -- or actually before -- to head to the airport.  Our plane takes off at 7:15 (I think) and heads to Atlanta, then on to Managua, Nicaragua.  Once landed, we'll drive over to Chinandega, Nicaragua for the week.  I'm excited to bring lots of stories home with me!

We get back late the night of the 10th and I take off for a work conference March 12-14.  Then home for a day and off to Columbia to throw a baby shower.  All of that to say, the blog will be sparse for a while, but I'm excited to get my thoughts and reflections of the trip out there on the interweb!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


As I've rejoiced with one friend today, been sad for another, am reading through Job, and deal with some of my own junk, I'm reminded of Job 1:21, "And he (Job) said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Thirsty for more?

Pain that is?  I still have to do the last day of Feb's ab madness today, but am going to attempt March's as well.  Though not so much while I'm in Nicaragua...get a pass on those days!


liligolightly:littlelaur:did you do fab ab february? either way, we’re one month closer to summer - let’s up the ante! | via ilikeyourwigjanice 

why not?!

True Story

While contemplating bringing a blanket in for days such as this -- dark, dreary, rainy -- to nap under my desk over my lunch break, I made a sad realization: George must not have been a stomach sleeper!  There's plenty of room under my desk for a nap, but not so much if you sleep on your stomach.  Blerg!