Paper Angels

A post, inspired by my friend Kristie.

"I used to be a Paper Angel.
When I was two and three, I lived in a homeless shelter and every Christmas, I was a Paper Angel to the world. You know? Those artificial trees placed in the middle of malls and department stores, flooded with names and ages of little children who won't get a Christmas without you. There are organizations that go around to help their kids they're taking care of and place a single Paper Angel on a tree limb somewhere in hopes that some kind person will walk by and feel moved enough to purchase that doll or race car for that one child who that may be their only gift.
I was a Paper Angel.
On my third Christmas, I got a baby doll. She had blonde hair and pigtail braids. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I hadn't even opened the package the whole way before I knew that it was Jesus who'd really brought me this gift. He was with me. With all of us kids without a home. But? He moved through you.
So, when you're out doing your Christmas shopping and your mumbling and grumbling about all the gifts you can't find or don't want to find for all those on your list...? When you brush past that tree...the one filled with innocent children's names and greatest hopes of a toy on Christmas morning...I pray you stop. I pray you look at those Angels and pick one.
Give that child a Christmas. I promise you.
They'll cry when they get it. I did.
And, those children? They don't tear open the paper with wild excitement and vigor. No, we all sat and opened slowly, looking around at each other asking with our eyes, "Is this really okay?", "Do I really deserve this?", "Is this okay to open?", "Are you sure this was meant for me?"
MAKE their Christmas.
One toy.
One gift.
That's all they're going to get anyway -- let it be from YOU.
....don't let Christmastime come to an end and there still be straggling Angels hung to the tree that no one answered to. Don't let them go empty on Christ's birthday. After all, it's Jesus who provided that shelter for them to live in anyway. They had nowhere else to live. At least you have a house, a warm place to cuddle up with family and open myriad gifts. We were lucky just to have a bed somewhere, in a place that wasn't even our home. Add them to your shopping list. You may be the only Christmas they see. Thank you to whomever bought me that baby doll that year. I didn't even like dolls, but I cherished that one for years. She was my angel.
And thank you, Jesus for leading them to not forget me. :')

Paper angels... you're in my thoughts and prayers. No matter where you are right now, remember God's right there. He's asking all of us to help take care of His paper angels everywhere."

All credit to Kristie M.
Click here for the original: [link]


God Bless America

My congratulations to the 44th President of the United States.
May he do his job well.

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you."
-Romans 13:1-3

[Jeremiah 17:5-8]
[Proverbs 3:5-6]

בטח אל-יהוה


Mi Encuentro

It has been three weeks since my Encuentro con Jesus (Encounter with God) weekend, and I'm still feeling the effects.

I guess I should go ahead and explain what all the hype is about. Oh yes, going on the Encuentro is a very big deal. And rightly so. Seriously. I've always wondered how they somehow managed to do what they did. People (like my parents) who went on the Encuentro came back changed. It's only three days long! Technically two and a half days. How..??
In all honesty, I didn't think they could do it. And I was right. They can't. God can. And He most certainly did. So here's a short testimony of what went on in me. (Though I'm convinced it was better when I did it in Spanish. Something is just lost in translation...) I could go into detail about how they did this... but I'm not allowed. They explained their reasoning like this: It's like getting someone a present and telling them what it is. It's still good, but it won't mean as much when they open it themselves. So, without further ado...

God has blessed me with a loving family. Something we learned over the weekend was that your relationships with people can affect your relationship with God. (Ah, that explains that bit in Matthew 5:22-24, "First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.") But not just in a bad way, in a good way too. I realized that, because I have such a good model of what a father should be in my daddy here on earth, it has helped me have a good relationship with my Father in Heaven.
But still, I didn't know that there were so many things you could hide in your heart. Throughout the weekend there was talk of rejection, lack of forgiveness, impurity, generational curses... I hadn't realized where Satan had been chaining me, or where he was even just trying to. I hadn't realized that you can hold rejection against yourself. Even though I had the love of my family and my friends, I still held something against myself. I was never good enough. And worse, if I failed, I would kick myself when I was down. Ask some of my friends, I was hard on myself. I might readily forgive someone else before I would forgive myself. And in a way, that was not only holding myself in too low of a position, but also too high of one.
Take a look at Psalm 139:1-18. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God doesn't make mistakes, and He made you. It says in Isaiah that He measures the heavens with the breadth of His hand, He can hold all of the waters on earth in His hand. And yet, imagine! I've been learning about cells in my AP Biology class. Do you have any idea how complex a single eukaryotic cell is? And it takes millions of them just to form a square inch on the first layer of your skin! It says in Luke that the hairs on your head are numbered. The God of the Universe, who can "weigh the mountains on scales," knows the number of hairs on your head. He knows when a sparrow falls. You are worth more than many sparrows. He knows you. He created you. And He loves you with an undying love.
All of this was being pumped into us during that weekend. That and so much more. I cannot even begin to describe how amazing it was. (And those who wrote a letter, you made it that much more special for me.) I am so glad I had the chance to go. It was exactly what I needed. I will never forget it.

Soy libre.


Techinical Difficulties.

Sorry about the lack of posting lately.
The computer on which I have saved the beginnings of my latest post... won't let me post it. So, I'm having a few issues there. And whenever I find the time to finish it on another computer, it's already in use by someone else. So... be patient. I do have something.

And I will post it soon.

Until then,

-An apologetic Brittany


Summer '08

Summer's almost over, and school starts soon.
I don't think you can even begin to imagine how amazing and crazy my summer has been. Who could have know so much could happen in such a small amount of time?

My summer started right after school was over. I know that's pretty obvious, but I mean, my summer got kicking before the night was even out. As soon as I finished, I was packing my bags to go on a trip with my best friend Cheizi. I was at her house that night. We stayed up late watching movies and that morning we were off to the airport. Her family invited me on a trip to Orlando, Florida with them as our last big get-together before Cheizi left for college to live out her dream in Australia.

We have friends in Florida who have come down to the Dominican Republic twice now. We decided to get together and have a Prom for Cheizi. So we got all dolled up and had prom in Downtown Disney. Cheizi had pictures, a date, corsage and everything. We had a great time. I would go into detail, but, I have the rest of the summer to tell you about.

I was scheduled to fly back home alone (my first time) the same day that the Bethel Team would be flying in. Do you see what I mean about crazy amazing, now? Luckily, despite certain obstacles I had to overcome, I made it home alive. And I happily found Kirstin, Kaleigh, Travis, John, and my dad waiting for me as I came out of the terminal.

That week, the Bethel team worked with us on Restoration Ranch digging the septic tank and filling in the foundation of the second building. As well as some other chores the guys found for us. We carried wood and logs that would hold up the ceiling for pouring the roof in (which I witnessed a few weeks later). Some others bent and cut iron bars that would hold the ceiling. You can go here to check out more stuff on that.
Point is, I had a great week. I got to see old friends and make new ones. And even though it seemed like the team was never going to get home (that's a whole story in itself) it all worked out great. We had the time of our lives. I love those guys.

A few days later, Tom and Cindy Darnell came to stay at our house for a month. They are wonderful people of God. They helped in so many ways, I can't even name them all. But one huge thing they helped us with was moving. Yup, in the midst of summer chaos, we were moving too. So we had about a week of packing before another team was coming in. (Oh, and during that, my dad turned 40!) We would be housing a team from Texas who would be joining us for our annual campamento. Every year, our youth group has a camp. This year, we would have 15 Americans joining the fun group. Oh yeah, it was going to be epic.

This year the theme was "Arde in Alabanza y Adoracion", or "AAA" for short. To translate, it was about true praise and worship. Since worship time during camp was already slamming, I was extremely excited to see how it would turn out this year. And I would be a part of it!
Needless to say, the camp was amazing. I had a wonderful time. And then we did outreach with the Texas team for a few days after that. We went to an orphanage, Genesis, and Zona Colonial. We just has a terrific time and it was hard saying goodbye to those guys.
The Millers stayed a week longer, and we had the chance to hang out with them one more time before they left. By that time, another team had arrived. A small one from Florida. Bits and pieces of our beloved BCS team came to help us with moving. So Jesse and Jen tagged along for the "going away party".

Oh...did I mention I got my haircut? I think you can tell a pretty huge difference between the group prom picture and this one above. I decided to do Locks of Love. There's the link if you want to check out the program.
So, the last team of the summer was the smaller version of BCS who came and stayed in March. We had a great time painting, organizing, hanging out, trying out corn flavored ice cream (I kid you not.), and just drawing closer. They even got to see Restoration Ranch since they last saw it in March. And for Jen, it had been a year. She was amazed to see all the progress.

Well, it's been a crazy year. I wish I could tell you more, but those are stories that should be told face to face. This summer was great. I don't think I could have asked for a better one. I met and got to know some awesome people. Friends I'll keep for the rest of my life. So, as the summer comes to a close and the school year starts, I'd just like to thank God for all the opportunities and memories He has blessed me with. I couldn't ask for more.

I love you, Jesus.


Dirty Mop Water

If you know me, you know that God has given me this funny ability to find a lesson in the most random things. For example: [link] Learning a lesson from a leaf bug. Well, I've got another one for you guys. And, you guessed it, it's about dirty mop water.
An excerpt from my journal...

This morning, I woke up early to sweep and mop my room so that I would have more time to do school work before the party with my youth group that night. So, I went downstairs to grap the supplies. A blue bristled broom and dustpan, along with a heavy red bucket of water, cleaner, and one of those old school "spaghetti hair" mops.
I swept and then squeezed the new water from the mop and began cleaning at the back of my room. But, something smelled funny. The mop! It was dry when I had gotten it from the downstairs closet, so I had assumed it was clean. So I went to rinse it in the water that I had in the bucket. I mean, it had cleaning stuff in it, right? That should take care of it. But that water was already contaminated. The new, fresh water that I had just gotten to mop with was already soiled before I even started.
I had to rinse the smelly mop in the tub. I used some soap to clean it off, and hopefully get rid of that smell (and I did...at least on the outside I did). Then I poured the nasty water out of the bucket, rinsed it, and refilled it. I put some cleaner in and started over.
But again, I smelled something weird. I got down on my knees and the newly mopped floor smelled like the mop had. Next step, check the mop. Yup, it had only been a superficial clean. It hadn't gotten down to the "root". Just a great way to start way too early in the morning. Hard labor and supplies that don't want to cooperate.
This silly mop was not only causing me trouble, but it was contamination everything around me! (Hopefully you know where I'm going with this.) While I'm writing this, I'm letting it soak in the water. When I had gotten frustrated, my heart looked for a lesson in all of it. Suddenly, it clicked. I could almost hear Him saying to me softly, "You keep going back to that dirty mop water like it's going to be clean. I am the pure river of Living Water..."

And in case you were lost on the dirty mop water thing, think about it like this. The mop? That's our flesh. The water is our spirit/soul. And the floor represents our surroundings. Sometimes we've only done a superficial "cleansing" of ourselves. We did it ourselves instead of letting God handle it. So there's no way we could get to the root. (If you've read "The Dawn Treader" by C.S. Lewis, it's kind of like that moment by the pool of water with Eustace and Aslan. He kept peeling off the layers, always getting a little closer, but he would always find another layer beneath it. Only Aslan could get down to his heart.) "Whatever the body does, effects the spirit." If we don't allow God to cleanse us to our hearts, our "mops" are going to contaminate our "waters". And eventually, our "floors". So what's the cure? Let go and let God. Only He has water fresh enough. Only He can cleanse deep enough.


And today? I heard it again.
Kind of connects, now that I think about it.
During praise and worship, I was feeling bad for always coming before the Lord feeling so dirty and unworthy. Just like I was kneeling down with all this filth and shame every Sunday. (Understand it's not the only time I spend with Him, but there's something about being in His House that helps you let things go and be refreshed..) Then I hear Him again, whilst singing. "Why do you think it is so bad to come before Me and be washed often? Don't you cleanse your body daily? Why does your soul deserve any less? Sometimes it's not something bad that you've done that has made you dirty or tired, but effects of the work you've done or where you have been."
He always knows just what to say.

So if your mop is clean, but you're cleaning up dirty floors, your going to get dirty, even if you're doing the right thing. Living in this world and in this flesh, it's inevitable. So go to that pure flow, and let Him cleanse you again.


A Short Review

The Pulse Podcast - touching the heart beat of today's generation.

The Pulse is a new podcast that just started this year in South Carolina, run by two youth pastors (Javin Proctor and Brandon Goff) in the Camden-Lugoff area.
Here's a little bit of information from their myspace (www.myspace.com/thepulsepodcast):

"Monthly Javin Proctor and Brandon Goff get together to discuss current events, share how God can change your life, and laugh a lot! This is a podcast experience that can and will help change your life, your attitude and maybe even show people that God is a pretty fun God."

Next, they share a bit about themselves. But I think, at least knowing what I know from being in the youth group under Pastor Javin, and all the nice things I have heard about Brandon from him, that I will try to add on a little bit about them.

Pastor Javin - Lovingly nicknamed PJ. Pastor Javin has served as the youth pastor of High Intensity Student Ministries at Bethel Worship Center in Camden, SC. for 7 years now. His sense of humor (or is it sarcasm?) is positively hilarious. It is said that he has an "unhealthy appetite" for picking on Brandon. He is not just armed with a quick wit, but is overflowing with words of knowledge and advice. He's got a lot to share, and this guy knows what he's talking about.

Pastor Brandon - New to the youth pastor scene. At least...to old guys like PJ he is. He has been a youth pastor of Impact Student Ministries at Highway PH Church in Elgin, SC. for a year now. Apparently there is a debate going on whether or not Brandon looks like an ostrich. Or..there was a poll on it on their site. Pastor Brandon is a fun guy full of new ideas to get this generation on fire for God. Full of laughs and good advice, he does well putting up with Pastor Javin's teasing.

These guys are fantastic. They allow people to send in questions for discussion and bring in people for different perspectives. Not only do they hit on tough issues like abortion, cursing and other things teens deal with daily, but they are able to manage to throw in some smiles.

Click here to listen to their promo.
C'mon, you know you want to check them out.


World Dance Day

Courtesy of cid-unesco.org.

International Dance Day (World Dance Day) has been celebrated on April 29 through promotion by the International Dance Council (CID).

The holiday was introduced in 1982 by the International Dance Committee of the UNESCO International Theatre Institute.

Among the goals of the Dance Day are to increase the awareness of the importance of dance among the general public, as well as to persuade governments all over the world to provide a proper place for dance in all systems of education, from primary to higher.

According to the CID, this year's Dance Day is dedicated to the children.

The CID believes that caring for children is the cornerstone of human progress. Our primary goal is to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child’s path. Thus we advance the cause of humanity.

Dance is a basic component of personal and societal development. We recommend quality basic education in dance for all children with an emphasis on gender equality and eliminating disparities of all kinds.

No child should be left without the opportunity to learn and to practice dance. Access to the art constitutes a right for every person and children in particular. This right should be protected, in order to help meet their basic needs and reach their full potential.

Have a wonderful day full of dance!
Dance for the children.

"Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow."
Jeremiah 31:13

"David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might..."
2 Samuel 6:13-15

"They send forth their children as a flock; their little ones dance about. They sing to the music of tambourine and harp; they make merry to the sound of the flute."
Job 21:11-12

"I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful."
Jeremiah 31:3-5

"[There is] a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance."
Ecclesiastes 3:4

2008 is the year of Jubilee!


Desde Mi Interior

"This is the heart of Christian living: God keeps on entering, using, redeeming, and sanctifying His creation from inside.

Christ not only does something for us; He means to do something to us, and within us; He means to reproduce Himself in everyone. Nor does He wait until we have reached some unimaginable perfection before He comes to make us new. He takes us as we are, just as He once took all mankind as it is.

And, as far as we will permit Him, He makes us over from within, redeems us, and begins the long process of making us His."

-Bible 11 [Authentic Christian Living 11.2] "Apply to Life", Jubilee Academy


"I Need You" - The Swift

My heart is restless in me
My wings are all worn out
I'm walking in the wilderness
And I cannot get out

I need You, Oh, I need You
Blessed Savior come
I need You, Oh, I need You
Fill the every longing in my soul

Oh, how I need You, Lord
I need Your perfect Word
With tearful eyes to see
The sin that I afford
I need to weep and pray
For all the thousand ways
That I have failed You just today

My bed is soaked
with sadness
My sadness has no end
A downward spiral of despair
That I keep falling in

I need You, Oh, I need You
To You my soul shall fly
I need You, Oh, I need You
Yaweh, how I love You more than life

Oh, how I need You, Lord
I need Your perfect Word
With tearful eyes to see
The sin that I afford
I need to weep and pray
For all the thousand ways
That I have failed You just today

Your silence is like death to me
So won't You hear my desperate plea?

Today my soul is soaring
Way over mountains high
Though I can see the valleys
They're all just passing by

It's not that I am stronger
[Look at my feeble wings]
But I've been lifted higher
Yaweh's lifted me in His own strength

Oh, how I love You, Lord
I love Your perfect Word
With tearful eyes to see
The God who always will endure
Now I will celebrate
For all the thousand ways
That You have shown me grace
And made my heart in grace to stay
You've made my heart in grace to stay
Lord, make my heart in grace to stay

I need You, Oh, I need You...

If I could only sing one song for the rest of my life...
I need You, Lord, I need You...


Every New Beginning

marks a beginning's end.

You know, it's been awhile since I've sat down and just written whatever came to me in a blog. And to be perfectly honest, all the things I had to say in their perfectly captured order have suddenly left my consciousness. And here I am, with just a few things swirling in my mind. Hoping I've not fallen into that place I never said I'd go back again.

"It's been one of those days
When everything just feels so far away
Hope don't be a stranger
Won't you help me make it through today?
Someone tell me how I
Stumble into doubting all the time
Some days I'm all together
And other days I stand here asking 'Why?'

Needless to say, I'm bummed the team has gone. However, I have been talking to them (oh, modern technology). So, it's not so bad as waiting a few weeks to get a letter. Though, strangely, I'm beginning to miss phone calls. (I'll happily be calling Kaleigh tonight.) I've been keeping up with some by email, messaging, IM... It's not the same, of course. But it is sufficient.

Complaining is the last thing I want to do. I have nothing to complain or be sad about. And I don't think that I am. So, I'm inclined to keep silent, since I have no logical way of describing it. And this whole thing is probably just a sorry attempt to postpone cleaning or homework. Which makes me sound like a flibbertigibbet. (Yes, that is a real word. And it cheered me by just typing it and imagining some of your reactions...or attempts at pronunciation.)

Every new beginning marks a beginning's end.
I thought, at first, that is what happened over the team. That I marked the beginning of a new level, a new step. And that I had left the last behind. Maybe I did, in some small ways. Then again, maybe I've started the circle all over again. The one I'd tried very hard to detach myself from for so long. And I'm wondering if I've been ringed back into it again--against my will. The way it was talked about over and over again...

Maybe I'm just over-thinking all of this. But this was something I hadn't realized until it was pointed out to me. And I'm still debating whether it is good or bad that it was pointed out. I think I could point to the end of that beginning and the beginning of what will hopefully end soon. I probably shouldn't have opened my big mouth. Maybe then it wouldn't have been egged on so much.

Then again, aren't some thing inevitable? Is this one of those things?
Luckily, this is written solely for my benefit. The fact that any readers of this post are most likely lost or bewildered at this point only means you are sane.

I've no idea where my book is, and it's about to drive me crazy. My guess is that I'll find it (not surprisingly) after I clean my room. If I don't, then I'll get worried. It's one of those journey books. And I was at my

...[I was called away for a time lapse of about two hours]...

You know, doing what you ought can lift your mood.
Playing praise and worship music while doing what you ought can lift your spirits considerably.

Still yet to find my book...s.
Life goes on.

-=end maddening Brittany mind process=-

Oh for Pete's sake.
*lyrics by MercyMe, "Never Alone"


Beautiful Feet

Isaiah 52:7 ~
"How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
"Your God reigns!"

March 29 - April 5, 2008
Spring Break
The BCS Missions Team
Fastest week of my life

You can hardly imagine my excitement that Saturday morning. Or my anticipation that afternoon as I practiced with the ARDE praise team before youth group. While we did a sound check, Cheizi held on to my phone in case my dad should call. She got a call, around 4 I would say, and it was Jenny! We screamed. We danced. They laughed.
They were really here!
That night we mixed the American team with the Dominican youth group at our church here. Singing praises, playing games and dancing. We had a great word from Mr. J about Thomas. And spend the night snacking on chips, drinking soda, and mingling. Then we came home to the wonderful smell of Ratatouille and pasta made by our dear friend Mrs. Betty Poppe. Then the team crashed. Some sleeping in the living room, some on the screened back porch, some in the blue and palm tree rooms, some upstairs. Good times.
[[I should note here that most of them, if they didn't sleep during their layover, had been up since 6 o'clock the morning before. They woke up for school, had a normal day, stayed up until 2 in the morning to meet at the school so they could get to the airport on time and so on.]]
Sunday morning we went to Iglesia Cristiana Palabras de Vida, the Dominican church we attend here. The worship was great, it was just a wonderful experience. Mireya had a word from the Lord during worship, in which she said, "There is an oasis in the middle of your desert." Senor Hector, who had the pulpit in place of Pastor Raffy, spoke on Loneliness.
After church, we had lunch, then got on the bus to head to La Romana. We played the Cup Game. If you know what I'm talking about, then...well, you know. It was hilarious. Poor Dillon was so very frustrated. We made a small pit stop by the ocean (exactly where we stopped with Mr. J's church team last summer) and took a moment to look over the Caribbean, take a few pictures.

We went directly to the Haitian church we would attend that night, Sanidad de Jehovah. That night they had a special Praise and Worship service. Three amazing hours adoring our Father God. Dancing, singing, worshiping. That is one of the best services I have ever been to.
The next two days we spent in La Romana. The Seniors went on a small medical missions team for the day, while the rest of us went to a girls' orphanage. Immediately, this little girl in the picture on the left of my site clung to me, all day long. Yaneli, I believe that's how you spell it. She was a fiery little thing. Very demanding and excitable. And yet, there was a sweetness about her. Her only desire was to be loved. She was frustrated, and I think that's what made her lash out a bit. But I nicknamed her "Buena" because I knew that, really, she was a good girl. God taught me quite a few lessons with her. One being that, no matter how wrong we feel or how much we hurt (and lash out against Him) He will always hold on to us with loving arms. Patiently waiting for us to accept His love. It doesn't matter if He is hurt in the process, or if it looks like we aren't making any progress. He will love. I will love.
That night we went Altos de Chavon in Casa de Campo. A lovely place. Jenny, in the picture below, said that if she could marry a location, this would be in the top ten. I would suggest visiting there at least once in your life.

The next day the whole team went to the girls orphanage for a good amount of hours. We played baseball, played jump rope [[I was in a contest the day before with some girls. One girl jumped 102 in a row. I was supposed to break the record. My legs wouldn't move anymore after 90.]], danced in the rain, played bingo, pushed them on the swings... So many things. By now, all the girls were teasing each other with which boy they liked from the team. Giggling and teasing one another about telling and such. But, of course, no one dared.
Right at the end, we made bookmarks for the girls with their names on them. So they were quite content with their bookmarks and heart shaped balloons. Some still had bracelets on from when we visited last time. For those who didn't, we made new ones. We had a fantastic time, we found it hard to leave, and they found it hard to let go. There were many promises of visits in the summer. I have no doubt that will happen.

On Wednesday we went to Cercadillo to help paint a church for the kids. They decided they wanted to join in. They were so very eager to help that paint brushes, if you weren't looking, would be taken right out of the bucket or tray. They did work really hard. And helped. But what you see below is an amazing feat. Some on the team were instructed to keep the kids away from the shovels and picks, so they decided to start a game of pato, pato, gonzo (what we call duck, duck, goose). I don't know that I've ever seen a better circle with so many kids.
We also carried large wooden benches on our shoulders quite a long way from the school to the church. I did this. All I could think about was how much harder it had been for Jesus. With forty lashes on His back, until He hardly looked human, dragging a rugged cross on His bleeding shoulders uphill to Calvary.

He doesn't really ask much of us, does He?

The picture at the top is from the highest point on Restoration Ranch, where we did a prayer walk and some painting on Thursday after going to the market. That was an amazing day. It began to rain, and we just all went out in the fields and under the trees to pray for all those whose feet would set upon that land. What a privilege to be a part of something that will bring glory to God's name. That will be a place of refuge for me. And for many others.
If you would like to read more on Restoration Ranch and what we will do there: go here.
We also had dinner at the Cheizi's house. We had a great time swimming and playing pool. And may I just say, Cody and I dominated the table. Thank you very much.
The last day was fantastic. Friday was our free day. We went to Jarabacoa and hiked to a waterfall. A few others and I climbed this huge rock wall next to the waterfall. Estamos locos. Seriously. But the really awesome thing that happened that day... Three from our team got baptized! Including my little brother Isaiah.

So needless to say, saying goodbye at the airport on Saturday was not easy at all. But it was definitely the right thing. In more ways than one. Amazing things happened in the terminal during their layover in Puerto Rico. Ministering, singing, praying... just a wonderful way to end of their missions trip and keep them pumped about what they can do when they get back.
We can make a difference.

It's time to set the world on fire.
See you later, guys.


In the [Mist] of This.

How lovely and nimble are thy feet,
- O prince's daughter!
They flash and sparkle and can run more fleet
- Than running water.
On all the mountains there is no gazelle,
- No roe or hind,
Can overtake thee nor can leap as well~
- But lag behind.

Thy joints and thighs are like a supple band
- On which are met
Fair jewels which a cunning Master hand
- Hath fitly set.
In all the palace, search where'er you please,
- In every place.
There's none that walks with such queenly ease,
- Nor with such grace.

-(Cant. 7:1)

[Hannah Hurnard]



Right now, our dog Gracie is nursing three healthy, beautiful little yauzers. Or make it's snorkies. I guess we'll have to see if they favor their mother or father before we decide that.

You cannot imagine what I have learned, seen, and felt in the last twelve hours. It feels like it has been days. The panic and excitement both wonderfully and terrifyingly real, still.

I found her first. I had actually been going in my room only to get my camera.
There was this stubborn little leaf bug I was learning a lesson from in my parents' bathroom. You see, I wanted to help get it outside. I'm not much of a bug person, but I figure, well, this little guy isn't much of a people person. That we have in common. I'm not going to hurt it. So I'm assuming it wouldn't hurt me. We have the same Creator. He could work something out.
So for like 15 minutes or so, I had been offering my hand very slowly and offering a folded sheet of paper even more slowly, for it to step on so I could take it outside. But every time I got a little too close for comfort, it would fly away.
Didn't it understand I was only trying to help?
I would hold up a paper, my arm extended up, holding it as still as possible. The little bug took its very sweet time to crawl towards it. Antennas first. Then one leg....
Steps off. Cue big sigh from me.
Repeat. Only this time, three legs, an accidental nudge from my tired arm, and it flies up higher.
Repeat, other arm. He's coming, coming...coming...All his legs are on there! I slowly, deliberately try to lower the paper. But it freaks him out that he's no longer in control. He flies away.
"Well, If I could just be a little leaf bug and show him it's okay!"
Ohhhhhhh. That's what You did, isn't it God?
No matter how gentle and loving in Your offering you were, we didn't understand You and that scared us. So, you became a man. So that you could feel what we've felt, hurt, know, speak in a way that would not terrify our poor minds. You sent Jesus.
And you've only been trying to get us where we're supposed to be. Where it's better for us.
Just like I was trying to get the bug outside.

So I went in the room and smelled before I saw.
"DADDY? Gracie's having her puppies!"
I don't think I reacted as well as I could have at first, but I came around after awhile. Thank God I didn't find what Dad found. She had already had the first three puppies in her new bed, but was now in her box working on a fourth one. How in the world she got from the bed to the box, though they were feet apart, during labor is beyond me. But I hadn't seen the first three. They were already dead. The vet told us today that when a small dog has so many puppies, the first few are cramped and are usually dead. If a boy, we want to name the forth one Chaim (hhighm, with a guttural "h" at the front) which is Hebrew for Life. The fifth one came out and didn't make it either. But at about 10:05ish, two more puppies came. So we have three.
My heart is already drawn to the little one who always cuddles right at Gracie's neck and seems to have a little bit harder time fighting his/her siblings for a place to suckle.
My mom said up until 3:17am with them. Then I took her place and counted my time by "tens". I wrote a fairly long journal entry and would look at the clock on my cellphone. "Okay," I'd say, "only 11 'tens' left."
I watched the sunrise.
Then my dad got up, took them to the vet, and I slept until 11.

Praise God for homeschooling. :)


Ultimate Freedom

Jesus is the perfect example of true freedom.
From the very beginnings of His ministry as He was tempted in the desert, to His pleading in the Garden of Gethsemane, and finally to the Cross, Jesus demonstrated to all of mankind what true freedom really is. He faced the fact of freedom, its limitations, and freedom’s obligation. And in the process of understanding what freedom truly is, He lived in a place knowing whom He wanted to serve. His was the highest obligation. Jesus knew what needed to be done, and did it.

To be free is to have the possibility of choice and the power to make the decision we want to make.”
The problem is knowing what you want. And there’s a process of using your freedom. From doing what we want, we realize that our choice will lead us to who we will become. So then it changes to who we want to be. From there it solidifies into knowing who we want to be. And finally, we see that our loyalties strengthen and or freedom finally revolves around whom we want to serve.

Jesus lived by this. He served His Father no matter what the costs. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He pleaded for His life, Jesus ended His tearful prayer with “Not my will, but Your will be done!” And the paradox of this is, that Jesus wasn’t giving away His freedom when He said these words. On the contrary, He was realizing the ultimate freedom we can live. God came within our very nature and redeemed us from the inside.
Salvation must lie in freedom. Freedom is inescapable and necessary. The knowledge of good and evil made us unable to automatically choose the right and true. Since we lost that innocence because of freedom, we can only be reached through freedom.

When Jesus was standing before Pilate and was asked why He wouldn’t respond (Pilate reminded Jesus that he had the power to kill or free Him), Jesus finally responded, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above." Jesus could have called on legions of angels to come down and save Him from certain death at any moment. But with every step He made a choice. He went in His freedom to die for us. No one forced Him to, He chose to. The purity of His freedom showed us a way to that same freedom. The Crucifixion was the climax of the entirety of His freedom. Literally, Christ was an example of freedom with His very life, for our ultimate freedom.

Now what are you going to do with that freedom?



The following is an excerpt from the Joshua Fund blogsite.

"You don’t hear much about it on the news. The media doesn’t much care. And the world has all but forgotten. But here’s the brutal truth: More than 4,200 rockets, missiles and mortars have been fired at Israeli towns along the southern border with Gaza by Palestinian terrorists since the Israeli Defense Forces withdrew from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005 in an effort to give “land for peace.” Radical Islamic jihadists launch an average of five to seven attacks a day. As I am writing this, 22 rockets were launched at innocent Israelis in just one day.

Hundreds of homes, schools and shops are being damaged in Israeli towns like Sderot and Ashkelon. Scores of Israelis are being injured. Some Israelis have been killed. The Palestinian rockets have no guidance systems. No one knows where they will land or who will be hit. It’s a 24-hour a day life of 'Russian Roulette.' As a result, Israeli mothers live in constant fear for their children. Fathers have trouble sleeping at night. Seniors are having heart attacks. Older children – even teenagers – are having terrible nightmares and are wetting their beds, night after night. And there seems to be no end in sight. The Palestinian government has not taken decisive political or military action to stop these terrorist attacks. Nor has the government of Israel. Indeed, the current Prime Minister is talking about dividing Jerusalem and giving away all of the West Bank. The U.S. has been virtually silent on the topic. The Arab world, the European Union, and the United Nations condemns Israel when it uses occasional air strikes to take out terrorist leaders.

At The Joshua Fund, we are determined to bless the people of southern Israel as much as possible. We must not forget them. We must not let them feel abandoned and alone. Rather, we must do everything we possibly can to mobilize evangelical Christians around the world to LEARN about what’s happening; PRAY knowledgably and consistently for peace; GIVE to the humanitarian relief work we are doing there; and even GO on one of our volunteer projects."


For more information, please go to the official Joshua Fund blog.



The Greatest Quest

"Love never fails."
-1 Corinthians 13:8

What is the number one goal in your life? What is your dream?

Maybe you want to build a successful business. Or be a teacher. Or join the Armed Forces. Or maybe you're called into the ministry. Those are great goals, but something even more important should be "your aim, your great quest" [1 Corinthians 14:1, AMP].

What is it? Living a life led by and filled with God's love.

Human love is changeable and unpredictable. On the other hand, God's love, which is the kind of love you and I should walk in, is entirely different. It doesn't act one way today and another way tomorrow. It doesn't let circumstances or emotions alter it. It is sure and consistent.

[First Corinthians 13:4-8] tells us precisely what its characteristics are. This passage of Scripture sets a very high standard for love--so high that you might be tempted to think it's beyond your reach, but it's not. In fact, if you're a Christian, it's natural for you. It's in your heart. You may not be letting it out, but it's there. When you made Jesus your Lord, God put His love inside you [Romans 5:5].

Without time with God and His Word, however, you'll naturally pull towards selfishness. We all have a natural mind that has been trained to believe things like, "You have to look out for yourself...and stick up for your own rights." Plus, Satan continually tries to draw us out of love, because he wants to steal the answers to our prayers.

The bottom line: Love is the foundation for your new life. When you walk in love, you put yourself in a place where God Himself can protect you--and then nothing can stand against you [Romans 8:31-34]. Love is the key to God's wisdom, power, and protection. No wonder the Word says, "Make it your aim, your great quest!"

Backup: [1 Corinthians 13:4-8]
"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!

"I eagerly desire and follow the way of love. I make it my aim and my great quest in life."


All the above is from the February 14 devotional from "Load Up" by Gloria Copeland. [emphasis added]


Not So Negative

When we hear the word "discipline" most of us cringe.
Ever thought of it as an opportunity?

Spiritual disciplines are the behaviors that facilitate spiritual growth.

Henri J. M. Nouwen said, "We should know that a spiritual life without discipline is impossible. Discipline is the other side of discipleship. The practice of spiritual disciple makes us more sensitive to the small, gentle voice of God."

So, without spiritual discipline, we have no spiritual life. And without a spiritual life it makes it really hard to pray to God effectively. And without prayer, we are really lost. That makes spiritual discipline essential to our Christian walk if we ever want to get anywhere.

Spiritual disciplines help us to get to know God. It is a building block for a friendship with God. When we choose to spend time with God instead of cleaning, reading, writing, watching a movie, video games, internet or anything else that can distract us, we are practicing spiritual discipline.
And a step of from that is disciplining ourselves to be silent. To "be still and know that [He is] God."

It has been said, "A love which has no silence, has no depth to it."

Consider the way lovers gaze at each other at a wedding ceremony just before they say their vows. Or how a mother watches her children loving from the bench at the park as they play on the slide and swings. That's love beyond words.

Selfish prayer, unorganized priorities, and being distracted can threaten spiritual growth. When our schedules are way to busy that we begin ignoring God, He's not going to force time on us. He won't change the world to get our priorities in the right order. Instead He simply asks us to shift the point of gravity, to replace our center of attention, to change our priorities. Jesus wants us to move from the 'many things' to the 'One necessary thing'. He wants us to live in the world, but be firmly rooted at the center in Him.

Spiritual growth and discipline involves imitating God, developing a character like His. "If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that He knows how to live and imitate that." -Dallas Willard.

Don't be threatened by busy schedules, don't like mixed priorities keep you from Him. Spiritual growth is essential to who we are as Christians, and to what we represent. Prayer and silence are important to that growth. And a relationship with God is the basis of it all.

It's in your heart. Not your head.



I found this in the "Draft" section of my email with this title in the subject.
It's from my Bible class last year.
[Jubilee Academy: Bible - Old Testament]

Maybe someone needs to see it.


With God we may have these varying levels of knowing.

There are many who have but a nodding acquaintance with Him, lasting only as long as the nod. There are many more — far more than we readily admit — whose only knowledge of God is about Him, second-hand; and who never arrive at the first-hand knowledge of Him that comes from first-hand experience with Him.

We all start our religious life by leaning upon the experience of others. The child's first knowledge of God is not direct, but rooted in the belief and practice of parent and teacher. It is possible to go through adult life without ever passing beyond this second-hand knowledge of God. There are also very many whose only religious knowledge is that of the externals of religion. Their interest and main concern is with the minutiae and mechanics of church life. This constitutes a deadly temptation for many of the clergy. Here the externals of religion, its churchiness, or devotion to legalism and ritual become the substitute for knowing God.

But it is also possible to have with God that deep and rich relationship, which is His friendship and love, and which the New Testament calls eternal life. It is only this kind of knowledge that can ever satisfy the heart of man and set him at rest and at peace. The life of praying seeks to prepare us for that kind of knowledge of God.

Ultimately we can draw near to God in but one of two moods: the mood of using God selfishly, or the mood of disinterested love — the mood of adoration.

In the life of Christian praying we heed and seek to obey these mysterious workings of God. We learn slowly that much depends upon our immediate and willing obedience to them. When we do not live by the light of prayer, we often seek to ignore them, to forget them, to resist them, to disobey them. We have thus a very decisive part to play in this work of God for, in, and upon us. We shall find that the universe of God will not budge before us, when we set our wills stubbornly against all the mighty powers of God's ordered world.

In the life of Christian praying we joyfully and peacefully give God the time and attention and consent which He asks from us. Thus does God works His redemptive action in us with every resistance broken down. But in this work we shall have to fight against long-established tendencies to forget God, to ignore Him, and to live for ourselves as if He did not exist. We shall have to fight against deep and hidden fears of the inevitable, worldly consequences of belonging wholly and first to God.

God has created us for Himself, for His glory, and for fellowship with Himself; not that He is seeking something for Himself, but that He is seeking us for our sakes.

To have friendship with God involves necessarily the transformation of our old self-centered being by God's own action in and upon us into the likeness of God.

To say that we must become like God in no way implies that we can escape or ignore the basic distinction between man and God. Even in heaven man will ever remain a being, utterly dependent for both the fact and the kind of his existence upon the Creator God.
We know that we have become so deeply attached to things and to persons and to ourselves that we have no longer power to detach ourselves. We gradually learn that not we ourselves, but God, is the main factor and agent in the long, progressive work of detachment.

"He that loses his life shall find it; he that keeps his life shall lose it."

But once we have heard and accepted this Christian purpose of life
— that we are made for God, for His glory, and for intimate friendship with Him — then the whole of life here on earth takes on a new and satisfying significance.

But however great may be our confusion or bewilderment concerning the purpose of our lives, God knows completely the purpose of our existence. He has brought us into existence for His purpose, and He sustains us in order that that purpose may be fulfilled. We know ourselves only in a very fragmentary and partial way. We know ourselves as spirit far less than we know ourselves as body. But God acts upon us with complete and perfect knowledge of every factor, whether we think it relevant or irrelevant to Him. He knows what we require: often we do not. His action is limited and conditioned only by His self-subjection to the ways of divine love.

God is a jealous God.
But we are not to interpret the divine jealousy in terms of our human jealousy, which is always self-seeking. God's jealousy is never for His sake, but for ours. He knows how much we are missing when we seek to live apart from Him. He is jealous because He wills to give us the high gifts of holy friendship, and He cannot tolerate our lives becoming so attached to earthly realities, good as they may be, that we have no time or concern for spiritual fellowship with Him. He knows that we can never be truly joyful until we place Him first in our lives, and thus enter into that holy friendship with Him which is the pearl of great price. Therefore God must be jealous — yes, even angry and wrathful — at the idols which absorb us in earthly life.



why is it we are so afraid of trials, suffering, pain, or simply, just being uncomfortable?

[Romans 5:3-4]
"3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. "

In Acts 16:16-40 we see that sometimes doing the right thing can get you into trouble.
But God can do something in it. He can use bad situations for His glory.

In the middle of being unjustly punished, Paul and Silas sang praises to God. And so, they were able to witness to the jailer and his whole family.

God used the disgrace and injustice against Paul and Silas to touch the life of the jailer.

In Genesis 37-46 we see the story of Joseph, son of Jacob.
The same Joseph with the coat of many colors, and dreams.
The same Joseph whose jealous brothers sold him into slavery for 20 silver pieces.
Joseph who made Potiphar's house blessed.
And then was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar's wife.
Then, in prison, interpreted the dreams of the baker and the wine bearer.
The Joseph who was not remembered for two years, though through it all the Lord was with him.
The same Joseph who was finally summoned to interpret the Pharoah's dream.
And became second in command to the whole nation of Egypt.

Yes, Joseph was unjustly persecuted and punished. But through it all, God had a plan. He was preparing Joseph, so that in His timing the nations of Egypt and Israel would be saved.

This same Joseph had learned to forgive...and love.

God did not forget Joseph.
Nor the promises He made to him.

And He has not forgotten you.

God did not promise us a safe journey, but a safe landing.
Do not pray to be brought out of your trials, but for Him to bring you through them.

If you got in it, God can bring you out.
Just pray you pull the lesson out with you.

Do not give up hope.
He is nearer than you dare think.



We are finally back home.
It's quite bittersweet.

I'm so glad to be back with our church and our mission. I'm so glad to be back to my house and my bed. My things. I'm glad to see friends I haven't been with for awhile now. I'm glad to be back to the smells, humidity, warmth...just everything.
I love everything about this country.
All the stuff that drives me crazy, I love about it too.

But at the same time I have left family and friends behind. Our home church is back "home" too. It's almost like my heart is torn in two. As if it would be better to hover over the seas an equal distance between my two homes than trying to pick one over the other.
I love America too.

I love knowing that I'm supposed to be here for a time.
But I love going to an English church service and hanging out with old friends.
It's so torn.
So beautifully tragic.
So heart-breakingly amazing.

It's a paradox.

And I thank God for it.

I thank Him for all the adventures we had the past two months. All of the "Diosidencias", divine appointments. I thank Him for keeping us safe. For watching out for us and blessing us with a great time.

I cannot wait to see what He's going to do with this new year.
He has great stuff in store. I'm sure of it.

I'm just waiting on Him to find out.


Have You Ever...

started to cry because something was so beautiful?

sung something you just made up on the spot, and when you try to go back and remember the words you realize that song was made for those moments only?

sat still in silence?

heard the silence?

been scared by it? Not because of something ominous. But because you felt so vulnerable?

wondered why?

put pen to paper before you thought about what you were going to write...and something beautiful came out of it?

dared to stare Holiness in the face?

slept peacefully and deeply without a care in the world?

tried to snap a shutter on a lovely scene, then put the camera aside realizing some views are made for the moment?

seen a stranger and felt compassion for them? Not pity. Compassion?

wanted to hug someone you barely know, but stopped because you were afraid of so many things?

wished you could just get that homeless guy on the the street all he would ever need?

stared out the window in awe of the things around you?

thought you could change the world?

lived in the moment?

Have you ever...?

Happy New Year

A year of new beginnings.

Don't stop dreaming.
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