Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Battling Hope

   It's time. Time for me to reveal what God has been doing these last few months. It's been intense buuuut I'm glad I am going through it all. Because I have a story to tell. A story that I hope will encourage you. I really pray that what I want to say comes out and I get my point across. I have tried several times in the last few weeks to write this post and I have had to stop. I just haven't had the words to say. Now I think I do.
   I have a problem of wanting to always appear like I'm not struggling with anything. I hate getting in trouble. I hate when people are upset with me. I just want everyone to get along. I want to be perfect. News flash Stefanie - you aren't perfect. Never have been. Never will be. I don't like to admit defeat.
It was then that He carried me...
    However I need to tell you something. I've been feeling defeated lately. I've lost hope. Hope, the thing that Romans 5:5 says does not disappoint. Yet every time I read that verse I would laugh inside because I felt like hope did disappoint. Disappoint - to fail to satisfy the hopes or expectations. I felt disappointed by the countless times I clung to what I thought were promises only to be let down again.
    You might wonder what I've been disappointed by? Well as you most likely already know if you know me, or have ever read my blog, I have never dated anyone. I've felt for years and years like I was supposed to remain single and wait on God. So I have been asked out a handful of times in my life and I have always said no. I honestly have not felt like I was supposed to say yes. So I waited. Then I waited some more. I liked a few different guys. Kept on waiting. I liked another boy or two. Kept on waiting.
    Do you get the picture here? I've been waiting for a while. Every time someone new came into my life I would ask God, "Is it time yet?" He said "No, keep waiting. I'm not ready to share you yet." Now, this might sound kind of nice, right? Jesus, the one who came to give His life for me because He loves me, doesn't want to share me with anyone yet. Sure, it's nice at first. To be honest though - when you hear that over and over again for countless years it gets old. And so, I began to lose hope. Hope - a feeling that what is wanted will happen. I began to doubt that what I really wanted to happen in my life would ever happen. There is a song by Casting Crowns that says 'it's a slow fade when you give yourself away.' I've found that is so true. When you hear the lies of the enemy and you begin to believe them you don't even realize you are fading away. So I began to believe that maybe God didn't really have the best in store for me. That He really was holding out on me. His plans for me weren't full of hope. But loneliness.
    About a month or so ago I came to the end of my rope. I'd been believing the lies of the enemy for too long. I'd been hurt, unintentionally, one too many times. I had cried too many times over yet another disappointment. So I decided to do something about it. Luckily I made the right choice and I got together with someone to pray. It's called Theophostic Prayer. You pray and ask Jesus to take you back to the place where you were first hurt, or you first began to doubt His goodness. You ask for truth.

   So I did. I asked Jesus to show me where I began to listen to the lies of the enemy and I began to doubt His truth, His goodness. I admitted to Him that I truly felt despair - to lose hope. I didn't trust Him anymore. I apologized and asked for truth. The amazing thing about God is that He really does not disappoint. I told Him I had no hope left. He reminded me of various times when He called me to wait and He came through. #1 - I heard about DLA. He told me to wait. 2 years later I moved to Colorado for a year and went to DLA!! WOWwww God! #2 - I have always wanted to pay for my college all up front. One semester I felt like I was supposed to sign up for ex. amount of classes but I didn't quite have enough money. On the VERY LAST DAY my money was due God came through and provided me with exactly the money I needed. Wooow God!
    Okay, I was beginning to get the point. All of the times He had asked me to wait, there was a reason. He came through. In a way that I knew it was ONLY God. This reminded me of a passage in Ezekiel 37 that talks about how God came through in a way that it was evident it was ONLY God who did it and NO ONE else. So I opened to read the scripture. I couldn't even read the whole chapter because I began to laugh. I was literally FILLED TO THE TOP with JOY. His joy. Why? Because in the midst of my lack of hope He gave me new hope. Ezekiel 37:11-14 says "Then he said to me, 'Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.' 
     For seriously 5 minutes or more I had a wonderful laugh attack and I ended up in tears I laughed so much. God came through. He renewed my hope. In a powerful way. I won't ever forget it. And now, that scripture is my new promise from God. I still have no idea what the future holds. I can't see past tomorrow. However I do know, whatever He has for me, it will be good. It won't be easy. This is still a daily struggle. I can't wait to be truly on the other side of this. But I have hope. I have a feeling that what is wanted will happen. In His timing.
    Along the way He can use me in my weakness and my brokenness. He seems to work best that way any how. ;) I know that is actually a huuuuge part of why I am going through all of this. Because He wants me to minister to women. To those who struggle with relationships. Or the lack thereof. How can I truly say I've been there unless I've truly been there? So thank you Jesus for the struggle. Thank you for the hope.

  What are you struggling with right now? Maybe, just maybe, God actually wants to use your struggle to teach you something. To use you to minster to someone. Ask Him. I promise, He'll let you in on it.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Very Mexico Christmas

  This Christmas was a little unlike any other one. I spent it in Mexico. Something new. We came to give gifts to some of the neediest families in the church of La Fuente Riviera in Bucerias, Jalisco. Our church in Topeka bought gifts for the families and me and five other ladies flew here to bring the gifts in our luggage. I just wanted to share a little about our trip, so here goes.

  Monday December 24th: We met at the church at 3am to drive to KC. From KC we flew to Atlanta, Georgia. Right when we were about to get on board the plane they announced that it was not safe for us to board because of a thunderstorm so we sat and waited for the storm to pass. After a short delay we were on our way to Vallarta!! Our drive to Bucerias, where the church is, is only about a 20 minute drive from the airport. Not bad at all.
  We took an afternoon siesta before going to a Christmas dinner at the pastor's house. After dinner we went to downtown Bucerias to sing Christmas carols and drink tasty Mexican hot chocolate. The carols were basically in English so we could all sing along. :)
 Tuesday December 25th: We took about a 15 minute walk across one busy street and a little hike downhill to the beach. There we spent the morning enjoying God's beautiful creation. Mountains + ocean = the best of both worlds (in my opinion)! One of the church staff member's parents were in Bucerias for Christmas and we met them at the beach. They provided us with a lunch of apples & pineapple, chips, Pepsi, and cookies. A very well balanced Christmas meal. ;)
  The afternoon was spent wrapping Christmas gifts. Lots of them. All for the families to receive. We are so excited to have them open all these wonderful gifts and pray they are blessings to them!
  We had our own little church service. Listened to Born is the King by Hillsong and then did our own little Secret Santa exchange among us girls on the trip.
My Mexican Family :)
My favoritist sister ever!!!
  Lastly we had a Christmas dinner with the family of one of the ladies on the trip, who is originally from Mexico. It was a fun time of fellowship...and translating. ;)
  Wednesday December 26th: We spent the day cleaning at the church. Some of us cleaned bathrooms and the sanctuary while others deep cleaned the kitchen or painted. Fun stuff!
  In the evening we got to attend the church service and enjoy some Spanish worship. I loooove worshiping Jesus in other languages, with people I don't know, because I still sense God's presence and I am reminded how He really is the same God. NO matter where you go. Then we each went into different children's classes to help. Again, I loooove helping with the kids, especially in Mexico. I think I have a heart for little Mexican children, and they seem to like me. ;)
 Thursday December 27th: We spent the morning in Puerta Vallarta walking along the beach and doing some tourist shopping. It was fun for me to go with the other ladies and help them communicate a bit in Spanish and take them to different places I've been there. It's like another one of my homes. Mexico is.
  We went back to the church to prepare for the party. Our reason for coming! We peeled potatoes for mashed potatoes....we set up the room and decorated it as Christmasy as we could. We brought all the wonderful presents down to get set up. We walked around the room and had a prayer meeting.
  And then the people started coming.
  There were awkward moments at parts because we don't all speak the same language. I can, but not fluently. I tried. They appreciated it and laughed at me when I was incorrect. I laughed. We bonded.
  The families all came from different mission churches so none of them knew each other. They all sat in separate parts of the room with their own families because I'm sure it was a very humbling thing to come and be receiving food and gifts from people you don't know, with people you don't know. As the dinner progressed the families gradually became a little more comfortable talking and the children began running around having fun.
Some of the families enjoying dinner...
 When it came time to give them the gifts our team leader shared how we came to bring them these gifts alllll the way from Topeka, Kansas because God cares so much for them each that He sent us here. It wasn't by accident. Each family was handpicked because of their need. Each person was prayed for by name. We care about them. Jesus cares waaaaay more. He wanted them to know they are special.
 It was such a blessing to start handing out gifts to the families. We each took a family and fit their presents in our luggage and then wrapped them when we got to Mexico. We've been praying for them. So we decided to hand out the gifts to our families. I don't think they were quite expecting all that they got. Clothes. Toys. Purses. Marshmallow Shooters. Candy. Books. Games. Hair Accessories. We made sure they all received plenty.  The thing that was most incredible: the children were most excited by their socks and shoes and plain bouncy balls. They didn't need anything fancy. They were soooo excited to get their clothes. One of the teenage boys put his new shoes and shirt on right then and there. What a blessing to witness! 
 That night the room was filled with joy. Overflowing to us all. It was incredible! I felt even more blessed because when we spent time praying before the party I just felt compelled to pray for joy. That Jesus would overflow these families with a joy they haven't felt in a while. God answered that prayer. I know there was joy in that room. Contagious joy. That each and every person felt to some extent. Thank you Jesus!!!
Me and my 'adopted' family
 The families came expecting a gift or two and went home with an incredible amount of gifts. We also gave them groceries, a chicken to cook, eggs and cheese. They were not shorted by any means. They were all so appreciative. Each and every person had to hug every one of us ladies on the team, even if we hadn't said anything to them the rest of the evening besides hello. They didn't care. A hug was in order. The whole evening was a blessing. For us and for the families. It's a toss-up who enjoyed it more. ;)
  To anyone who donated to the trip or prayed for us while we were gone, thank you. Thank you thank you you! You impacted someone in Mexico, whether you knew it or not. :) It was a domino effect kind of impact. You blessed us so we could bless them so they could bless someone else and I pray it continues on.
  Here is a short video of our trip. Do enjoy!! Mexico Video

All of the ladies on our trip! Wonderful group!