Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Precious Event

On the Seminary grounds, there are many transient, temporary groups. In fact, for a person to stay 1-3 months, they are semi-long term and you get used to having them around. The Nazarene Church has a common mission group called "Work and Witness" where people come down for a week (or more) and do physical work for a church or community, as well as do witnessing activities.

Last night, the ladies of the current Work & Witness team went to a local church to encourage and serve the women of the church. It was epic. There were a dozen or so American women serving slightly over a dozen Costa Rican women. After introductions, there was a short homily in Spanish about feet being beautiful when they are tired/calloused/blistered/wounded/etc. in the service of the Lord. I had a really good comprehension of the message. (My theory is it is easier to under an American speaking Spanish than a native Spanish speaker, because the American's Spanish is more similar to my Spanish.) We did a craft together, an American paired with a Costa Rican. We found their shoe size & got them flip flops. We then tied balloons around the straps & snipped off the ends to make them pretty.

The best part for me was getting to facilitate communication. (Most of the time, as I work with native Spanish speakers or missionaries who have been here for 4-7 years, my Spanish is not at the high end. I typically need help with words or grammar, but last night, I got to be the translator.) I translated English messages into Spanish. I translated Spanish messages into English. I helped the women communicate with their partner & it was delightful. I loved the craft we did and I loved the work I got to do.

Our goal was to encourage & uplift the women of the church. Sometimes, after several years of hard work, it is easy to get tired and discouraged. So we had a women's event to encourage these precious women. While several ladies mentioned how much they needed that time together & how they would always remember that night, somehow, I think they blessed me more than I blessed them. Somehow I think, although I came to serve, encourage, & uplift, that I was the one who left feeling blessed and encouraged.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Singing the Praises of....Memverse

There is a site called Memverse. (Click the link to be taken to the site).

It is designed to help Christians memorize Scripture. Memverse uses mnemonic devices to help you memorize Scripture easier.

For example, if you want to memorize Genesis 1:1, you would see: "I.t.b.G.c.t.h.a.t.e.". Then you would type "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." as the program gives you feedback on each word you type.

You can check your accuracy (type the verse based just on the reference to check for errors).

You can verify you know the Scripture location (see the verse & type the location to verify you know the book, chapter, and verse tags).

You can also learn new verses (by typing the verse as the computer takes away one word at a time, until you are typing from memory).

Memverse tracks when you will study the verse again, based on how confident you feel in your knowledge of it.

So I'm sold on Memverse after 5 days. Why should you sign up?? Here are my best top 10 reasons!

10 Reasons to Use Memverse
1. It's free.
2.You can learn the memory verse through mnemonic devices.
3. You can practice matching verses with their references. (No more: "it's somewhere in the Bible")
4. You can check your accuracy. (No more: "I think I'm not adding or subtracting words to this verse.)
5. You can select your preferred translation for memorization, more or less. If they don't have your favorite, you can request it!!
6. You can review entire passages & chapters together to verify you are linking them together correctly.
7. You can have members of your church or other groups join & have a friendly competition in memory verses!
8. Memverse tracks your progress, so you don't have to do so yourself!
9. It saves trees, because you don't have to have tangible cards to study. (Ok, I do have tangible cards, so I can study in other places & without my computer.)
10. It's an encouragement. You can see that other people have memorized their 10th, 25th, 1000th verses, entire chapters or books, on the recent activity of the home page. How epic is that?

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Heart of the Issue

I clean. A lot.
I minimalize.
I organize.
I purge.
I categorize.
I sort.

Sometimes I do this too often.
The heart of my cleaning issue lies, not in the work of my hands, but in the state of my heart.

I clean. A lot.
When I am stressed.
When life seems out-of-control, I take control of one area (my kindle, my emails, my documents).
I control this area.
I defy the unknowns in my life, by seizing one area firmly.
I defy the chaos, by controlling other chaos.

When I go on one of my organizing sprees, I can typically trace my desire to clean to a stresser in my life. The start of something new. A lack of information on something coming up soon. Fear. Doubt. Confusion. These are the triggers that start my obsessive organizing.

Yet, however useful my organizing is, it doesn´t deal with the heart of the issue. It doesn´t deal with my fear of the unknown or my lack of control in an area. It doesn´t bring me closer to my Creator for comfort.

I replace my fear with work. I replace chaos with order. I replace my Creator with myself.

Lord, help me turn to You, not organizing projects when I need comfort due to the unknown. Help me face the heart of the issue and the root of the problem.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Many times I am asked The Question: When will you come home?
I understand the intent of the asker.
They mean, when will you return to your prior life after your missionary experience? When will you come back to the familiar after this fling with the exotic? When will you pick up your life back where I am? When are you coming to where I call home?
Please understand that for me, where you are isn’t home.
Home is where I live.
Home is not in the United States for me, right now.
Home is currently in Costa Rica.
Home is where my things are on the shelves.
Home is where I have a key to enter.
Home is where my husband is.
Right now, home is Costa Rica.

Home can’t be in the United States for me, right now.
Sure, I have more possessions there, but they are all in boxes, crates, & bags in storage.
Sure, I have the most family there, but the One whom I have promised, before God & man, to love, honor, obey, & follow is here beside me.
Sure, I have plans to return to the States, but that is a long way off.
Home has been in the States.
Home will be in the States again. Rest assured, the States will become my home again, but right now, it is a place of unknowns. I don’t know the city or state we will live in. I don’t know the type of work we will complete. I don’t know how our year at home in Costa Rica will impact our future life. I don’t know how close we will be to family. I don’t know how well we will readjust. Home will be in the States again.
But right now, home is not in the States.

Home is SENDAS in Costa Rica.
Home is the campus I have grown to love.
Home is Casa 25, with variable neighbors: student teachers, Spanish students, overnight visitors.
Home is within walking distance of “Missionary Row” with the long term Servants of God living there. Two years, four years, seven years they build their lives, with husband, wife, child, and children.
Home is within walking distance of a store, fruit stand, and Saturday fruit market.
Home is where I speak English, Spanish, and Spanglish, sometimes complete with air quotes as I attempt to speak a word I am not sure is real.

You ask me, “When are you coming home?” I know that you are expecting an answer of “Oh, at the end of September.” Please understand, that for me, my answer is, “Oh, at the end of September, I will be leaving my home of one year to return to the States.” I will find home in the States again, but for me, the end of September marks my departure of home, not my return home. I look upon my future return to the States with sadness, not because I don’t love the people there, but because I mourn my departure from Costa Rica, my home. I feel sadness, not because I don’t want a life in the States but because I am leaving my home for the past year. September doesn’t mark a home-coming; it marks a home-leaving.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

More __________ Does not Equal More Happiness

On March 14, 2011, my life drastically changed. On that day, my husband bought me a kindle. Soon after that day, greed subtly arose in my life. It did not look evil. It did not look sinister, but it took a hold of my life. My kindle whispered that there were MORE books to have, MORE games to play, MORE to possess to be happy.

In recent years, I have learned to love the fifth verse of the thirteenth chapter of Hebrews.

Keep your lives free from the love of money 
and be content with what you have, 
because God has said, 
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

This verse resonates strongly with me, probably because of my kindle. You see, there are a TON of free books on the kindle. Some are always free, but many are only free in a short window of time. There is considerable pressure to “BUY” it now, while it is free, before it costs money again. There is pressure to “buy” now & figure out if I actually want it later. There is a desire to “buy” books I wish I wanted to read, to “motivate” me to take interest in ________ subject.

I fell into the trap of not taking time to decide if I really wanted a book. I just clicked the “buy now with one click” and went on my way. Like an addict, I would go on “buying” binges where I would “buy” a hundred books at once.

I rationalized that they were free today, so it was better to “buy” it now. I rationalized that my hoarding of books was not detrimental, because there were no piles in my house, no obvious danger signs. I rationalized that I had only bought (and paid money) for 32 books (actually 45, but I returned 13 of them for refunds because I did not really like them), so I was doing a really good job.

I realized that I spent more time downloading & organizing my free books then I spent reading. I spent more time agonizing over which book to start reading next then I did reading. I was overwhelmed in choices & stressed out by my inability to choose.

After binging and stressing, I started the purges. I would ruthlessly cut away & delete books that I deemed uninteresting. I deleted books with offensive language. I deleted and deleted and it felt good to do so.

Over the course 1,085 days (or 2 years, 11 months, & 17 days), I have  “bought” 2,802 kindle books. Of those, I have kept 227 of them. Two-Hundred and Twenty-Seven. I kept 8.1% of the books I downloaded to my kindle. 2011 was my worst year in my-book-buying-is-out-of-control-to-the-point-of-being-ridiculous. I “bought” 1,888 books, but today, I only have 45 of them. That is 2.38%. I significantly calmed down in 2012; I only “bought” 328 books. Today, I have 9.15%, which is 30 books. In 2013, I found more websites listing free books. I “bought” 478 books, but I have kept 103 of them (21.55%). My percentage of books kept per books “bought” has increased and I started to exercise more care in which I bought. So far in 2014, I have “bought” 108 books, yet I only have 49 of them (45.37%) after my latest purge.

For me, I seek out new kindle books when I am stressed. When I am uncertain of the future or the outcome of a specific event, I get on Amazon. I get on my sites listing free books and start “buying”. When I am stressed, I do not take the time to decide if I really want a book. I just verify that it is free.

The bottom line is this: more ______ (e-books for example), does not equal more happiness. In my life, more actually caused more stress. Hebrews 13:5 speaks to me. It is a warning. It is advice. When I go on “buying” binges, I am not content with what I have. When I go on deleting purges, I am not happy; I am ashamed. When I rationalize away over-shopping because it is free, I am loving money, yet being stingy.

Keep your life free from the love of money.
Be content with what you have.