Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Anticipating the new

Here we go 2016.
I guess I could say that looking forward to a new year fills me with great excitement but also with a little bit of anxiety. I've had a few exciting years here lately. While I am so grateful for the work that God has done and is doing in my life and heart, I also know that there were some really rough parts in there. While I don't like the hard parts of life, they allow me to see Him so much more clearly, and for that I'm incredibly grateful.
I made some resolutions for this year; Things like running more, volunteering, reading more, meeting and building friendships with my neighbors and writing more. All of these are important things and things that I know will be so rewarding and grow me into a better person.
I also made some goals; things like being more aware of people around me, being present especially when I have opportunity to invest in people, showing grace, knowing God more and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Now that I have the goals, I'm working on breaking that down in practical steps to make sure that I'm working towards these things.
I read a book last summer called "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. In the book she said she had so many great things but that she should be happier. She set out to make a plan to become happier. I know that happiness comes and goes, but it was interesting to read about the tweaks she made in her life so that she would be happier... In a quick summary, I would say that the main thing she did was to take away distractions and focus on what was important. While I am so grateful for the things I have been given, that gratefulness doesn't always come across in my attitude. So I guess in a nutshell, my resolution for 2016 is first to be grateful and to live a way that shows it.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:11-13, 19

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reminiscing on the old

I can hardly believe that we're about to cross into 2016.
I am amazed over the past two years just how many changes have taken place in my life. I ended up at almost the exact same place that I was at the beginning of 2015 but I've been around the world and I am such a different person. But not. I've learned so much and experienced so many joys and tears.
As I look back over the past year I am so, so thankful.
I got to travel to Africa! Some people dream about that for their whole life. I made so many sweet Mozambican friends, learned a new language, and now have a family there after spending ten months of my life with them. I also got to experience the grace and mercy of Christ in a new context, in a culture that has a simple but intensely deep faith. I want that. I look back over my videos and pictures and cannot help but get a huge, dorky smile on my face as I remember the goofy smiles, the English attempts, the dance lessons, and races down the slide while feeling great sadness that I will never see those sweet people again until we all reach heaven.

I got to return home to my incredible family. They gave me a fabulous greeting at the airport with a host of smiling Polcyns complete with signs, balloons, flowers and too many tears of joy. I spent some time with them and then drove up to Ohio and spent time with my family which was only possible because my sister got me a nannying job. I had so much fun watching three little boys and our days were active and fun as we toured all the parks in the area and spent a lot of time at the splashpad park. My sister got married also and we are so excited to welcome a new brother into the family... (He's not in the picture, but all of the siblings are present except one who was not able to get the time off from her teaching job in Korea).

I returned to Texas at the beginning of August and returned to my receptionist job that I had pre-Africa. It was nice to come back to a job and co-workers that I already knew. I also got an apartment not too far from work and get to see my family very often. Its an incredible blessing that I am soaking up because I never know what God has in store for me next!
We never know what tomorrow holds. That is the adventure of life. I read sometime recently that 'attitude is the difference between an adventure and an ordeal.' The challenge is that when life turns out different than I had hoped or planned, to bounce back as quick as possible and move on. My prayer is that I would have my eyes open and be prepared to be obedient to God as I navigate life.
Some days the decisions and interactions felt really hard. And they were. But looking back, I can see God's hand in many of them and I trust that the others will make sense some day. But I also continue on with hope.
"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." Lamentations 3:22-26

Thursday, March 20, 2014


This is an old entry. It is from January 2014 but just some thoughts on my time in Potosi Bolivia.

There are so many things from the week that struck my jaded heart. 
The faces of Nallely and Alexandra who laughed and smiled as they said 'what's your name' and 'how old are you' and then would respond to the question ten thousand times in hopes that they would earn English.
Experiencing the joy of worshiping the Lord together with our Bolivian brothers and sisters, singing with abandon--for hours; never wondering what time it was or when we could leave-- as I often do at my own church. We wanted to be there, soaking up every minute of it.
The church leaders who gave a week of their time to travel to their neighboring villages to meet people there that they could encourage and follow up with at a later time.
The gentle serving of my brothers and sisters as they loved on children they had never met and each other. There was such respect and kindness in their interactions that I rarely see in others or even in myself.  

And through the whole week resting in the fact that God is with us. Always with us. May I always see Him and seek Him as the treasure of highest price.

When the things of the world are stripped away (technology, materialism, self-centeredness) and replaced with the things of Christ (presentness, contentment and serving) we get a glimpse of heaven. Of life how I'm sure He meant it to be. 
I wondered how I would go back to work. A place that is mostly absent of the things of Christ--because the people in it are of the world. But as I walked into my workplace Monday morning God said, "YOU. You are a glimpse of heaven to a world that needs to see it".  

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Cost of Different

There is the saying we hear in church a lot: we are to be in the world but not of it. It is adapted from the verse below:

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.
 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."  John 17:13-17

This is a great prayer and worth nothing. Usually I think I do pretty good at not being of the world. However, when I see someone who is godly, someone who has shaped their entire life around the teachings of Christ I can see how far off I am. I am in the world, obviously. I am not of it... Technically. But when I honestly look at how my life measures up to the life of Christ, I realize that I am a lot more like the world than Him.

As I see daily examples of the indifference of the lives of "Christians." I wonder if in America Christianity will grow or implode. We idly stand by, say a few prayers or attend a church service every so often, but our lives are no different. We talk the same as the world, we 'stand' for the same things, or at least we don't stand for anything different, in many cases silence is interpreted as agreement; we watch the same things, spend our money the same way and many times Christians try their hardest to look like the world so they will not have to explain themselves.

I believe that God can do anything. But, how often do I/we let myself/ourselves be the one(s) that He uses.

I guess the more we live in the world and think ourselves a part of it, the more we expect things and we feel that we have rights and entitlement to things. Not that we should be allowing others to take advantage of us, but do we need to live like everyone else?

What about counting the cost to follow Christ.

"Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
 Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose the one coming against him with 20,000? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 14:25-33, 35

Just the fact that He calls us to 'count the cost' before following Him should make us stop and think. Our life will not look the same as those who do not follow Him. We may make less money, we may not have all of the comforts, but we should have a different attitude and our lives better be characterized by humility, grace and love.

God has chosen us to be His people. We are to be like Him and that is most definately different from being like the world. Sometimes it will hurt. Sometimes it will mean purposely allowing ourselves to be hurt to keep humble and to consider others as better than ourselves. Our lives may not be glamorous, or we might not live the 'high life'. But that is what we have to take into account when following Christ. He wants us to count the cost lest we jump in and decide shortly into the journey that we don't want to follow and bring disgrace to His name.

"If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?" --David Livingstone, Doctor and Missionary to Africa in the 1800's. Look him up. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

True Sacrifice

Lets take a few moments and look at an event in David's life.
2 Samuel 24
Remember the part where David wonders how many people are in Israel so he takes a census. Afterwards, he was convicted of his sin in taking the census to measure the size of his army. As his punishment, the Lord sent an epedemic on the land and 70,000 people died. David says to the LORD that he was the one who had sinned so the punishment should not be on the entire people. The LORD tells him to go to Araunah's threshing place, build an altar and to offer a sacrifice. When David tells Araunah of God's command to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to end the epedemic, Araunah eagerly offers it to him for free. David's response is one that should be all of ours when we are asked to offer something: "I will not offer to the LORD my God sacrifices that have cost me nothing." (2Samuel 24:24)

As we spent our days in Potosi, this was so meaningful to me as I saw it lived out daily.
These people, who had not had much time to prepare for our coming, provided meals for us from their meager supply. And not only that, they served us generous portions. And they did it cheerfully.
As I prepared for this trip, there were many times I wondered how I would pay for it. The job I had did not work out and a month before leaving I did not have a job. There were many who graciously and willingly helped me financially. What a blessing and how very grateful I am!
I purposely did not send out a ton of letters or ask as many people to help that I could have. I knew that I wanted it to cost me something too. I knew that if it was costing me something to go that it would mean more and that I would have to trust God to provide. I didn't expect to have to trust so much but how wonderful to have Him to trust.

I personally have never had to wonder where my next meal would come from. I have never been in such a tight spot that I did not know where I would lay my head to sleep at night. God has always been so good to me. Yet, I hold back to be so good to others.
I hold onto my material goods too tightly. I worked hard for my money and things and I am not very generous with them. Often what I give is out of my excess and does not cause me any "discomfort" or really cost me much.

How these wonderful people challenged my attitute and my heart.They don't have an abundance of anything, yet they share what they do have.

God has given His very own Son. For a people who had done nothing for Him except mock Him and bring dishonor to Him. That was a tremendous cost. And I just toss a few dollars into the offering plate, give a few hours of my time here and there or offer a little bit of emotion to the work of Christ.
What a shame.
May I give more. May I love more. May I hurt for Christ. May I sacrifice, really sacrifice, myself for the furthering of His kingdom.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bolivia Overview:

So many thoughts and emotions from the 10 days I spent in Bolivia.
It was such an incredible experience and I don't even have the words to express just how amazing it was or know where to start. So I will give a brief overview and follow up with more specifics later.

We arrived in Bolivia on Tuesday, January 1. It was a holiday which meant that everyone was off school and work. Eduardo came with his van with Laura, Rachel and Kristina to pick us up at the airport. We went to the house where we would be staying.  Dr. Jorge met us there and we went over some details for the week. We then sorted through bags and bags of donations. Dr. Jorge would go later to get some more things to hand out in the villages for later in the week. As we sorted through the donations that were given, it seemed like we had a lot; as we got to the villages, what we did have seemed very minute. However, God used what we did have and we did not run out after seeing about 500 people.

We left on Thursday for Potosi (actually villages on the way to Potosi). We had been preparing emotionally for the week but it is a little hard to know what to actually expect when you have never been there. I had seen pictures before and heard stories, but it wasn't until I actually began to see the villages and the people that I was in awe of their beauty. The mountains rose majestically in every direction. The skies were a brilliant blue and opened widely before us. The serenity of the people, their generosity to share what they had: food which is a precious commodity and even their own matresses. Their gracious welcome was humbling.

We were joined by Maritza, a nurse; Eliana and her son Jesus who is a patient of Dr. Jorge; and Carlos, a professional clown. What a joy they were to have along. Maritza, who patiently instructed us how to help prepare the food, washed dishes and served us all week. Eliana who helped out whenever she could and Jesus who was so curious and brought never-ending smiles to us. He was the most adorable and well behaved child any of us had ever seen. And Carlos--he also brought much joy and laughter to us and the children. He also provided advice and encouragement to us. Dr. Jorge gently cared for team members as 6 or 8 of the team from Cochabamba became sick. He calmly found transportation to and from each of the towns that we visited after our bus driver left us in Macha after a 15 hour bus drive on the first day.
We were well cared for by Dr. Jorge, Carlos and Maritza. It was such a comfort to know that God is always with us and never surprised by circumstances and he provides people to be His hands and his face to us.

Probably one of the greatest things about mission trips is that they separate you from your comfort zone and you are made more aware of your inadequacies. God must be trusted. There is no other option. And the beautiful thing is that you get to see him provide time after time after time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Questions in the midst of Certainty

Sometimes we cannot see past our present circumstances but the amazing thing is that God does. I have been reading through Judges and when I got to chapter 6 I was struck by the many pictures of grace that God shows to a reluctant, scared guy.

When Gideon is first encountered, he is threshing wheat secretly for fear of the Midianites. The angel of the Lord approaches him and what does he call him? (Judges 6:12) "the LORD is with you, brave and mighty man!" Gideon responds by stating that if God really was with his people, they would not be in the situation they were in. And the response, he gives Gideon a job: to lead the people in battle against the Midianites.

As we all do when we are given a huge task, Gideon immediately tells him why that is not possible: not only is his clan weakest but he is the least important of his family. He better get someone who has better credentials. That is not a good excuse and the LORD answers, "You can do it because I will help you. You will crush the Midianites as easily as if they were only one man." (6:16). Excuses don't work with God since he obviously had made up his mind.

I think that at this point, God is addressing the one thing that is holding Gideon to his present, oppressive situation--his fear. Perhaps he feared failure, perhaps he feared what others would think, perhaps he thought that no one would go with him and he would be alone. All of those fears are answered when the LORD says that HE will be with him. This kind of reminds me of some other people in the bible and in real life.

So Gideon acknowledges that God has showed up and called him to obedience so he prepares his heart to do what God has said. He takes the first step. Then after the offering he gathers 10 guys to help him tear down his own father's idol to Baal and offers a sacrifice to The True God. But again, he is scared so he does it in the dark. Obviously the next day people notice and they go to his dad and ask what happened to the idol and they threaten to kill Gideon. But Gideon's step toward obedience spurs his father to obedience as well and his father tells the men to 'let Baal defend himself.' Then Gideon gathers his army.

As soon as he does that, he does the thing he is most famous for--he asks God for a sign. Twice. I guess I always though he was a wimp or unspiritual for doing such a thing. That was when I was ignorant and a child. As I have been reading this passage it gives me a great picture of the patience and grace of God. He responds to excuses and impatience with answers and love. Who are we to question the word of God. But yet, we are very finite and in our weakness we want to know that we embark on a 'scary' or huge task that someone has our back. And especially that we are doing the right thing.

And as I read this I am reminded that God doesn't hold our questions against us. He requires obedience and as we obey, sometimes we need reassurance along the way. God gives that.