Sunday, October 12, 2014

One year....

It has been one year. One year since the bomb went off that destroyed life as I knew it, the happy little life that I had come to love was shattered early afternoon of October 12, 2013. I remember every detail so vividly it takes my breath away. I remember the conversations, the people, the panic, the cries, and the devastation as I felt everything crumble around me. I remember how I heard the news, and then I had to go to a Scripture Union (Bible Club) hand over party I had promised to attend and couldn’t back out even though my life, my future and my hopes were shattered. I remember insisting on teaching youth group because in my mind that was all I had left to cling to. I remember crying trying to pray with my students before the service began trying to keep it together while not knowing that several of them had already heard the news. (I want to clarify that my husband did not cheat on me or hurt me… so please don’t think that about him).I remember teaching those students I had spent years pouring into and seeing God do unbelievably amazing things in and through and not knowing if I would ever get to teach them again. I remember the amazing friends who cried with me and prayed with me. I remember thinking that I never knew what it was like to wail until that night. I remember waking up the next morning to realize it was a reality and not a terrible nightmare. I remember the decision being reached that it was best for me to come back to the States. It has been one year…

As I write this with tears welling up in my eyes and the pit still in my stomach and the ache in my heart that has still not gone away, I could write of the agony and the pain of this past year where I’ve known loneliness and misery that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But then God whispers “how would that bring Me glory?” Have I hurt… yes, have I cried more that I’ve ever cried in my life… yes. Do I still feel like I’m lost and wondering…. Yes. Is God still faithful… yes. Is God still compassionate… yes. Is God sill good… yes. Are His plans and timing still perfect… yes.

As Jesus says, “the rain falls on the just and the unjust”. The storms come, but the question is will you dance in the rain? Will you endure through the storm with hurricane force winds and rain in anticipation of the amazing rainbow?

Even in this storm, as I’ve written before, I’ve seen God’s faithfulness in the most precious and intimate of ways. The people He’s placed around me… the people who I know and the others I hear my parents say “I saw so and so… they say they don’t know what’s going on, but they’re praying for you.” To every last person God has used to intercede on my behalf, the be His arms and His voice…. I want to say thank you. To every person who chose not to gossip or speculate or slander.... I want to say thank you. To everyone who sought to deal with this situation biblically and with maturity… I also want to say thank you. And above all else, I want to praise God for the family He’s put around me and those friends who are like family. I feel like I literally have the most amazing family on the planet and I don’t know if words can ever tell them how much I appreciate their faithful, patient love as I’ve had to talk things out and seriously go through my own sort of morning process.

I honestly can’t believe it’s been one year. But still I trust… still I hope… still I wait…

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A trip to the dentist

Today I went to the dentist for the first time in four years… I know, I know… gross! But let’s get past the judging. The “dentist” I went to was a school for dental hygienists where you basically get awesome attention to your teeth for almost no money, it’s a pretty sweet deal. Because they are students they have to know what they’re doing and how to explain it and it’s a very thorough check up… nearly 3 hours. As I was sitting there honestly kind of nerding out over the cool dental gear they have out these days, my mind started going. One thing that the student who was taking care of me said was that our body HATES bacteria and will do whatever it can to fight it or stay away from it. Well, I have two permanent retainers that make it rather hard to thoroughly brush the teeth they are attached to, and it showed in my check up today. My teeth are in decent condition, no real cavities, etc… but she could tell that bacteria was there and told me that it’s through cleanings that the bacteria is removed so your body doesn’t have to “run away from it” and cause you serious problems in the long run.

As fun as it that very poor lesson in dental hygiene was, that’s not why I’m writing. I want us to look at our lives… there are things in our past that tend to make it hard to deal with certain situations and sin. Much like my very permanent retainers, they may be have a purpose to protect or preserve, a “coping mechanism” of sorts, a wall we put up and it makes certain things difficult to reach and sometimes down right off limits. Maybe it’s a behavior, a temptation, a habit that we have that we just don’t like to expose to the convicting work of the Spirit and the double edged sword of His Word. We go to church, we do a nice little topical “brushing” so we feel nice and clean and minty when we leave but we fail to allow God to do the real work. We may go to retreats or afterglows where we give Him access once in a blue moon but then after that emotional mess and actually dealing with the filth in our lives, we neglect it again for years to come only for it to build up more and more. Sin is a lot like cavities and gingivitis, by the time it hurts, it’s almost too late and drastic and painful work needs to be done. We feel like we’re protecting ourselves not dealing with the tough stuff, when really we are doing the exact opposite. People in oral health emphasize the need for consistent and frequent cleanings to keep that nasty bacteria at bay, if only we would take care of our spiritual health like we do our mouths… we brush twice a day, but how often do we read the Bible or pray? We go into the dentist (be it a bit begrudgingly, but we go nonetheless) when we begin to feel discomfort, but do we seek godly counsel when we’re going through trials or have fallen into sin? Anyway, just some things I was pondering from the dental chair today. Who knew God had so much to “drill us on” from a trip to the dentist.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The One Who Was and Is and Is to Come

Jesus gives Himself this title in Revelation 1, and I can't help by find comfort in it. To really ponder and meditate on how He was on the throne in the past, He's on the throne now, and He always will be on the throne is truly breath taking. We so often get caught up in our past either our past glories or past regrets and they become a snare to us... Jesus was there and He WAS at work. We get so bogged down with today all the stress and to-do lists... Jesus is here now and He IS at work. We look at the future and the "what if's" we see the news and the imminent threats and the hopelessness and this is what really gets me... He WILL work in the future as well.

You read in Job as Job is starting to slip down that slope of self righteousness and "woe is me!" and his "friend" reaming him up and down accusing him of being in sin and that's why he was suffering. But then Chapter 38 happens and read that ominous call from the whirlwind and God asks "Where were you when the earth was formed?" Talk about a paradigm shifter! To really recognize that God was there in the beginning, He's aware of our current suffering, and He holds our future in His hands and somehow in His amazing power and sovereignty He fulfills His promises to work it all together for our good and His glory.

It truly blows my mind to think about how really NOTHING is out of His watchful gaze or too big or complicated for Him to handle. He doesn't sit there and scratch His head and say "Wow! That is a pickle! Let's see how this thing will turn out because I sure don't have a clue!" Oh if only we took time to remember who He is and that He's the God of our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

No words...

It's now been 10 months since the life I loved and knew seemed to crumble before my very eyes. I wish I could say that I've healed, that I'm at the point of "moving on" but I continue to feel like I have a huge gaping wound that just can't seem to heal... and it hurts. God has been mind blowingly faithful in this season of pain and has worked in ways that have left me in awe of Him and yet I still have my moments when the pain engulfs me yet again. Many of you may not know the circumstances about why I'm back, but have faithfully prayed for me and I appreciate how so many have just allowed me to have some space. I used to be the social butterfly but have been quite a hermit and I'll be honest, I've really enjoyed staying in my safe bubble of work, home and then spending time with only a few other people. My ministry experience has been on a lower key than I'm used to, God has given me the gift and passion for teaching, but right now He seems to have that on the back burner. I feel like life is on in a rather painful season of "pause" when all I want to do is get back to being "myself" again.

There are times when I have definitely felt like God was/is silent... times when I beg Him with all my heart not to be... there was a teaching just a couple of weeks ago titled "Say something" and then even yesterday Psalm 13 was coursing through my mind "How long God will you forget me?" But in that same breath as I feel like the silence is deafening... He speaks. Brokenness does not even come close to where I feel like I'm at right now, the best illustration I've used is a vase thrown against a wall and then rolled over by a paver... BUT GOD.

I've been fairly "silent" as I've gone through this season, especially recently, but in a teaching I heard this morning, there was the encouragement to use our pain/scars knowing that God has given them to us for someone else as well as ourselves. I'm trying to break the silence to whisper encouragement, because honestly, right now I don't have the strength to do much else...Are you broken? Do you feel like God is silent? Do you feel like you're in a hopeless situation? Here are three "tips" I've learned that have helped me get out of my funk and at least make it through another day of wandering in the desert I find myself in.

1. Be still - Knowing He's God and intentionally listening for Him to speak is scary but amazing and you will be blown away by what He whispers to your heart if you just listen.
2. Read your Bible - without daily having quiet times and being saturated in His Word with the addition of also listening to several podcasts throughout the day, I would be lost... seriously! Read your Bible, meditate upon His promises and more than that His character. Focus on Him.
3. Serve others - one of the best ways to make it through hard times is to serve others. Yes, you need to give yourself time to heal and be ministered to, but if you're so focused on "woe is me..." then you're going to keep slipping down that slope where you can't even see God work if you tried. Allow God to use you in your brokenness, and even that can help you to heal.

Like I said, I'm still pretty miserable, but God is good and His love endures forever and I still have countless things to rejoice about. I'm being honest to show you that if you're struggling there's still hope. Lift your eyes to Him... the maker of Heaven and Earth... He sees and knows your pain and to quote Irwin Lutzer "Even when you can't see God in the midst of the storm, He can see you."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What is your identity?

Last night I had two very unique opportunities: I attended my 10 yr high school reunion and helped be a leader at a girls lock in where 40 girls ages 8-16 were in attendance. It was funny having those two experiences in one night because it really just kept reiterating what God's been teaching me about identity, that thing that defines who you are.

At my reunion, it was definitely still A LOT like high school. Everyone was in their own groups... you know the usual clicks that seem to define us in high school: the popular kids, the band kids, the jocks, the loaners, etc... Going to the lock-in, I saw a lot of the same thing.

It doesn't matter if you're 8, 28, or 78 we tend to allow what we do, our hobbies, our friends, families, appearance or significant others define us. The problem is that when things change, our worlds get rocked, we loose those people, etc... we don't know who we are anymore. I've come to realize that my identity was that I was a missionary. It was my everything, it defined me. That can be a good thing in some ways but now that I've lost that part of me at least for a season, I've felt lost. But God has been showing me that my identity is more than what I do... my identity needs to, wait, HAS TO be in Him. His love, grace, and holiness should be what consumes me no matter where I'm at, who I'm with, or what I'm doing. I wish I had learned that lesson long ago as I wouldn't have felt so lost but I praise Him that He's starting to help me understand that now.

My question for you is, what is your identity? Examine your life and think "if that person left" "if I got laid off" "if that gets taken away from me" where would you be? I encourage you to find your identity in the One who will never leave you, the One who's love is truly conditional, the One who doesn't judge you based on your interests or appearance, the One who died because YOU are His everything.

Monday, June 2, 2014


I honestly cannot believe it was ten years ago today that I turned 18. It's funny, they say 18 is when you become an official "adult", while honestly still at 28, I don't always feel I've arrived to that point. Every year I tend to find myself rather nostalgic, and I think this year it was even more than usual. So so so much has happened in the past year, and then when I reflect on the past ten years... well... I still can't believe it. Am I where I thought/wish I would be celebrating this birthday, honestly? Not really... but as the saying goes, "when life gives you lemons..." But really, sometimes it's really hard to make lemonade from those lemons, sometimes you need help. This birthday, God blessed me with some pretty amazing people to surround me and help me make some rather tasty lemonade.

The celebrations commenced on Saturday. My mom had booked me for lunch about a week ago and she made it for a rather specific time, but I didn't want to think too much about it. That day as we pulled into the Chile's parking lot, I started to see some familiar cars. As we walked in, I saw a table of truly some of the most beautiful, hard working, hilarious, godly, passionate women on the planet... and they were there to hang out with me! It was so special! We talked and laughed and ate way too much and I couldn't believe that I had known all of them for over 6 years! All of these ladies, God has used in mighty ways to be tangible expressions of His comfort and grace. I have laughed, cried, and prayed with pretty much every single one of them. I am so blessed by these precious friendships and even if that was all the "celebrating" I was going to do for my birthday, it would have been perfect.

But wait... there's more...

On Sunday, my dad prepared an amazing pre-birthday breakfast and then my mom, Keelan and I decided to go on an adventure. We packed a lunch, loaded up in the car (including our puppy Mombasa) and headed to the East Mountains to find a picnic/hiking area. It was so much fun just getting to have that special time laughing and being outside of the city.

Later that evening, Keelan and I went on another excursion, this time it was to an Isotopes game! I have not been to a baseball game in over 5 years so this was awesome! We took out a small loan... just kidding and got ourselves some yummy baseball food (we pretty much made sure we tasted it all) and we also got our fair share of Vitamin D as the seats we chose were super close to 1st base (like seriously not even 10 rows up) but there is also not a whole lot of shade. Needless to say, you live and learn. But really, it was such an amazingly special time to spend with that brother of mine! We laughed, watched baseball, ate lots of food, and took in the whole experience. Again, if that had been all that had happened for my birthday I would have been more than content.

But wait.... there's still more....
Today, June 2nd... marks the day my poor parent's lives changed forever. Little did they know their new precious first child, would quickly grow into the sassy fireball they now know and love 28 years later. I woke up this morning to my mom bringing me my pre-breakfast breakfast on a cute basket with a note and flower and I was able to have my quiet time. Then I was able to go to the gym and pick up "brunch" and coffee for the fam before we got ready to head out for lunch... yes, I realize there was a lot of eating...but that's just how we (I) roll. We met family and friends who are like family at Casa De Benevidez for the world famous sopapilla burgers and just enjoyed being outside and getting beautiful roses from my grandpa (there's seriously nothing like them). My mom and I then rocked a little shopping and then it was time again for a fabulous simple dinner at home with the fam. The night was ended by a beautiful sunset and watching some episodes of Castle (our family's new favorite show).

Basically, my birthday consisted of all of my favorite things and people all rolled into three amazing days! I truly am so grateful for everyone who made it what it was, and like I said at the beginning of this post, helped to make some pretty sweet lemonade.

For everyone God has placed in my life over the past 28 years... thank you. Thank you for your love and support, your prayers and your encouragement, your patience and your grace. I'm praying that 28 will be a bit better than 27 was, but although I don't know what 28 holds, I know the One who has gone before me and that He loves me with an unconditional love and that's what I have to cling to... to 28 being a year where He does exceedingly more than we could ever ask for or imagine to Him be the glory!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The things you miss

Being out of the country for five years you miss a lot of things... green chile, chick-fil-a, air conditioning... but the things you miss the most that no care package could ever help are the people and events that take place while you're gone. Over the past five years I've missed huge mile stones in the lives of so many that I care about - weddings, funerals, holidays, babies, graduations, birthdays, and everything in between. It's seriously probably the hardest thing about being called overseas.

Well, although the circumstances are not "ideal" for me being back, I have been blessed over these past seven months to take part in things I've desperately missed and hadn't been able to be a part of for the past five years: Thanks giving, Easter, Mother's day and today I got to have the awesome privilege of attending my brother, Keelan's, high school graduation. I wasn't able to attend Kyle's but I'm so glad I was here for Keeks. I have to say that growing up, Keelan and I were 9 years apart and therefore not incredibly close. Over this time of being back in the States, I've had some amazingly precious time getting to hang out with him and really get to know what a great kid...young man he has become. God has been so faithful to show me that He's got a beautiful plan for the pain and the craziness life became those months ago. He had His reasons for calling me back, and I know I don't even know half of them yet. I praise Him that even in these times of pain, He gives us these times of joy and seeing that He's got it all under control.


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