Monday, December 30, 2013

2013...The Year of Faith

As one year closes and another one approaches, I can't help but think back to this past year.  So much happened in just a year!  And if you had told me at the end of 2012 what was awaiting me this year, I would have laughed at you (or yelled in disbelief)!  Everything that I had thought would happen in 2013, did not.  Yet I'm grateful because the lessons that I've learned this year have dealt with deep things that broke me to the core...but the year is ending with a greater faith and love for God.  God truly knows what He is doing when He does not allow my plans to happen. 

This has been the year of faith.  Right from the get-go.

The very first day...January 1st. 

I was rocked out of what I had hoped for and I was left broken.  What a way to start 2013....broken down.  But when you are broken to pieces, God can sure put you back together the way He wants.  It just takes a little faith that He knows what is best for you. 

Over and over this year God brought me to the story of Abraham.  Abraham went through so much, and he was human and made mistakes...but he had faith to believe the impossible.  Whether it was choosing to believe that he and Sarah could have a child (as old as they were), following God to an unnamed place, or laying his son Isaac upon the altar...every single piece required faith from Abraham.  Each time I read the story of Abraham, God kept speaking new things to me regarding faith and trust. 

This was no longer just a word to me, but an action.  An action that He was calling me to walk out.  Even in the deep pain, I was to choose to have faith in God's grace and goodness. 

I had no idea where that faith would lead.  No idea what awaited.  But God did.  He had it all under control.  So, I chose to trust Him and began to jump out in faith at the things He placed upon my heart...even though it hurt to do so.  It required me to turn from my desires, my comfort, and even some of my friends.  Nothing made sense to me anymore, except His Word and His truth.

In faith, I turned in a letter indicating my desire for a one-year leave of absence and then began the process of applying to teach overseas.  A couple of months afterwards, I was offered a job to teach in Brazil.  And obviously I accepted.  ;) 

This new move in my life would require even more faith but in different areas.  No matter what I was doing, the story of Abraham was always close to my heart.  This new move brought me to the faith it required for Abraham to leave his country, his father's home and go to a land that God would show him (Genesis 12).  I began the process to close up my life in Montana for a year and follow God to a new land.  Faith was now being put into action. 

Waiting for my visa to clear challenged my faith and perseverance to hope for things that He promised to me.  And after staying in Kansas City for 2 1/2 months (a little vacation...thanks Heafner family!), I was finally on my way to Brazil.  But living out faith did not end there.

Once I arrived here in Brazil, I was not only living out this faith but I was losing all control that I once thought I had.  Living in a foreign country requires trust, faith and a humbleness to ask for help.  It has been difficult to learn that I cannot do things on my own.  I need others.  I need God.  With this journey I am on, I have to be willing to depend upon others.  Whether it is help interpreting for me, getting a ride to a doctor's appointment, having someone call to make the doctor appointment for me (that was fun), or relying upon a team of people to help me learn to love this place.  It all takes faith in God that He has placed these people in my life to help mold me into who He needs me to be. 

Yes, this has been a year of faith.  And just because I am entering a new year does not mean this lesson is over.  It shall continue, for all of my days.  But I also am beginning to sense a new lesson that God wants to instill in me this next year.  I'm not sure I'm ready for it...but I guess He believes I am.  So even though I may have ideas of what I would like to have transpire in 2014, I give it all up to Him and simply say "Your will be done". 

Bring on the New Year and may I be able to look back at 2014 and see God's handiwork in it all....just like I can see it in this past year.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead...Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
Romans 4:18-21




Happy New Year!  Be blessed, my friends!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's picture time!

Sometimes pictures are better than words....or it's just that I'm too lazy to think of something clever to say! 

Feliz Natal!!!!

 Staff Christmas Party
 Beverly and I
 First 5K ever...and it was the Color Run!!
 Mia and I at the Créche
 Making Christmas Cookies!!!
 Scenic boardwalk in Brasilia
A little Christmas fun on the last day before break!
video
 
That's it folks!  Have a marvelous Christmas with your family and friends!  Blessings to you!


Sunday, December 01, 2013

Just keep swimming!

Now that the holiday's are drawing near, it is a bit strange to be in another culture and environment where I'm not surrounded by the American way of Christmas.  I would love to be able to put into words exactly how things are different here...but I can't seem to figure out how to describe it.  It's just different.  Not bad...just different.  That seems to be my phrase while I'm still learning how to live here.  Well that phrase as well as "it's Brazil".

Since the last time I wrote, I've gone through a time where I really struggled with life here.  I was drowning in the language and the lack of independence.  This has been a very difficult lesson to learn, and one I feel that will continue throughout my time here.  I still have my moments and sometimes days, where I simply struggle but I am learning to adjust to the constant change that occurs.  Flexible is a word I'm learning to embrace....ever so slowly.  But I'm getting there and God is working on my stubbornness and my heart in all of this.

I did venture out to a coffee shop the other day ALL BY MYSELF and was able to order a sandwich and coffee...but is it cheating if the waiter spoke broken English to tell me they didn't have any French Press Coffee?  But still....I did it!  I'm learning to step out little by little.  And all the guys around our block are getting used to the "crazy American girls".  The water guy who delivers our water for us, the Yellow Shack guys who cook delicious Brazilian hamburgers and hot dogs, the people at the market, our guards, and even today...the guy selling whole barbecued grilled chickens on the side of the road (and he spoke English...having learned it while living in New York for 15 years).  And the grilled chicken....totally going to have to go back there each week!  DELICIOUS! 

So life is beginning to have rhythm and I'm learning to ebb and flow with it all.  I'm not always graceful with it, and I make blunders all the time, but I'm trying the best I can. 

As for all the other crazy things that occur and give cause for adjustments...well...here's a list that I've compiled so far:
  • no left turns when driving - I'm not kidding? It's a constant round-about sort of driving world.  If you had wanted to turn left once you get off of the "highway", you go down one round about, get on another and then I think you are pointed in the direction you had wanted to go. 
  • toilet paper goes in a garbage can...not the toilet - gross but true
  • hot water:  for the showers, the water is heated by some sort of mechanism on the shower hose, which is good for a house with three girls...we don't share a water heater so we always have hot water for our showers.  But there isn't any hot water for dishes.....unless you want to heat some up on the stove and who's got time for that?!
  • Portaeao:  guard downstairs who lets us into our building
  • We don't have squirrels, but we do have monkeys!
  • When at a restaurant you have to ask for the check when you are done, otherwise they don't bring it to you.
  • Part of the highway is closed on the weekends so that pedestrians can walk/run/bike on it
  • People wear sweaters when it's 80 outside
  • There aren't any drive thru coffee places....good and a bad thing
  • Drive thru at McDonald's is not automated.  You pull up to a window and order from a person, then pull to the next window to pick up food.
  • You go to the same stores and places to build relationships, not because of cost
  • People are all about relationships here...building friendships and connections with people are top priority....
  • so is hugging and kissing on the cheek
So when I come back to the states I might have some trouble with the whole left-turn thing, and my precious "bubble" may exist no more.  Let's just hope I don't go up and try to kiss some American on the cheek...that could get awkward!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Brutally Honest

I didn't really want to share this.  Tried to hide behind the facade that "everything is ok" by just not posting things to Facebook, or responding to close friends (sorry Alisha).  I simply shared with two people asking for prayer and left it at that.  I didn't want all the follow-up questions or for anyone to question the work God is doing here...because He IS moving!  I just couldn't put into words exactly what was going on within me.

It started on Tuesday when I simply became frustrated with the culture and lack of being able to understand others and have them understand me.  And for my roommates and I, it was a McDonald's kind of night.  I know I mention this a lot, but I have a disclaimer - I never really ate at McDonald's all that much in the states!  I tried to keep to a healthy diet and exercise.  But here...all bets are off and when you need something that reminds you of home, you get it....even if it's McDonald's. 

So there I was standing in line rehearsing how to say what I wanted.  Nuggets were out for the night because I simply did not have the energy to ask for a cardapio (menu) or to figure out the name of the sauce I would want.  So I went with a quarterão (quarter pounder).  Bravely I stepped forward to the counter, said my order and the lady didn't understand me, even though I believe I was saying it correctly.  Tears began to well in my eyes as I had to turn around and ask for help.  Again!  And by-the-way....who cries in a McDonald's line????  Apparently this girl!  (rolling my eyes at myself!)

Then we made a stop at the ATM so I could withdraw money and I forgot that it was all in Portuguese and again became so frustrated I almost walked away without any money.  I was done!  If I could have, I would have packed up everything and flown back to the states.  I had hit the point where every defense, every ounce of control, traces of pride and independence and anything left that I try to hide behind was stripped away and I was laid bare before Him. 

I have spent the last two evenings in prayer and with a tear-soaked pillow.  Seriously though...what is with all these tears this year?!  I was never like this before!  I am so thankful though that God sees these tears, hears the desperate prayers and even those prayers that I can't even put into words.  He knows it all.  He knows that I'm struggling with all of this.  And He is faithful in it all.

 
And He places it upon people who have no idea what I am walking through, to drop "tastes of home" on my desk - TWO different people!  He also placed it upon another person to write a note of encouragement and to say they were praying for me...someone whom I haven't seen in years!  These people listened to that still small voice within, and obeyed...even though it may not have made sense to them as to why they felt that nudge.  They just obeyed it.  And I'm so grateful, because through those gestures He is reminding me that He hears my prayers, He sees my struggles and my pain, and He cares enough about it all to send those gifts of love through other people. 

When you get the sense that you should say something to a person, pray for someone, send a note, give a gift, drop a quick email...do it.  You never know what they may be going through and that may be a way that God is using you to bless someone else.  And I guarantee, in the process, He will bless you too!  My friend, Ali, shared something similar to this when she wrote about following His leading to pray for a complete stranger (click on her name to read about her story).  So the next time you feel that instinct....go with it and see what happens.  I'm so thankful for the people who did that these last few days....it was an encouragement to me in this time of refining.
And if you think of it....prayers are always welcomed!  This is tough and I don't always want to paint the picture that life out here is this grand adventure....because it has it's difficult moments.  This week is one of the hardest I've hit since I arrived and I know it won't be the last.  I cherish your prayers more than you know!  There's my unedited honesty of life in the moment. 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Constant Change is the New Normal

Change stinks!

I've never been one to embrace constant change.  I like to find my rhythm in life and keep on with it.  No drastic changes - just an even keel pace.

But that can be problematic.  After a while, it becomes easy to remain in that rhythm with all its familiarities and I can find myself relying upon me.  There isn't anything that challenges me to think outside the box or accept help from others.  My rhythm is simply that - mine.  No need for others...and sadly, no need for God.

However, this rhythm I am on here in Brazil is unlike anything else I've experienced.  It is a constant change creating a "new normal" in my life.  One day the rhythm is as quiet as the gently lapping ocean waves upon the sand.  The next day the rhythm is more of a "perfect storm" raging about.  Each morning I have no idea what I am waking up to.  And even if the morning starts out quiet and peaceful, things could drastically change the moment work begins.

Please don't think I'm talking about the storms as bad experiences.  That's not what I mean.  The storms are more about things that shake me out of my comfort zone and challenge me to new perspectives.  It's more about opening myself up to things God places before me and allowing myself to be changed and formed into something new by my Creator.  The old has to be refined into something new so that I can shine for His Glory.

In the midst of all of this constant change, I am learning that one thing never changes - my God.  He is constant, reliable.  As I look to Him and cling to Him in all the different rhythm's of life, my faith and trust in Him goes deeper and I am beginning to embrace this constant change and create a "new normal" way of living.  A life of unexpected twists and turns in every moment and a life of faith and trust in God alone.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

One Month in and None the Wiser

Monday was a big day for me.  It marked not only an increase in a digit (one's digit thankyouverymuch!) on my age, but it also marked one of month of living in Brazil.  One month.  I've never been outside of the United States for this long.  Ten days I believe, was my longest stretch in the past.  And in one month I've learned a few peculiarities about this place in which I am learning to call home (for the time being). 

Drum roll please.... cause here are the top 5 things I've learned in one month!

1.  Parallel parking is all the rage.  Last time I parallel parked in the U.S. was....let's see....um....never!  I always found a different space!

2.  Rainy season is my friend.  Without rain, it gets warm. And there isn't A.C. here.  So bring on the rain!!!!  Oh man, now I'm singing "It's raining men" which has nothing to do with any of my top 5 things because well, I just don't see what others see in Brazilian men.  Meh.  Give me a good ole, hard working man from the U.S. who loves Jesus, and I'm good. 

3.  Bugs.  Are.  Everywhere!  Even in my home.  Case in point:  this morning.  I went to pour my first cup of coffee and noticed what looked like a piece of shredded cheese on the counter.  So I naturally did what any lazy person would do before their cup of coffee and tried to flick the speck off the counter.  But when I touched it....it began to move ON ITS OWN!  It was not cheese but a worm-bug (aka...maggot).  If I had been more awake, I would have remembered that shredded cheese does not exist here.  But apparently maggots do.  And how it got on our counter....yea...I don't even want to begin thinking about that!  And you can't tell me it's because we live in a messy place because they whole apartment had just been cleaned the day before!

4.  Language is tough.  I really struggle with it.  But there are funny things that happen because of the difficulties.  Couple of examples for you:
  • My roommate went to tell our guard that we were going to have workers at our apartment the following morning.  However, with the limited Portuguese what she said was "the men are coming to see us in the morning"  Yea....that doesn't quite sound right.  Maybe that's where the "it's raining men" song came from!
  • I learned this hilarious (maybe only to me) translation fail.  Tubetop...you know those shirts women wear...well, in Portuguese it is called "tomara que cai" and literally translated says "hope it falls down".  Yep.  Had a great laugh at that one!
5.  Taxes.  When receiving a package from the States, if the amount declared on it is more than $50, then they will tax you 60% on the amount declared.  For example, if you send a package that is labeled to have a value of $140, in order to pick up said package from the post office here, you have to pay R$240 (Brazilian:  reis) which comes out to about $130 American.  You do the math.  Basically you are paying for your items TWICE.  Yeah.  I did it.  But receiving something from the states was like manna for me.  I was longing for home and to have anything that was sent with love, was worth the cost.  What I've learned from this little experience, no matter what is in the box, you simply write the value at under $50 and don't write specifically what is in the box.  Instead, you write things like "teaching supplies", or "nerds" "Twizzlers" instead of candy.  It's how Brazil works and it even makes Brazilians mad....but it's life out here.

So there's the top five things I've learned in one month of living here.  I wish I could tell you that I've got the language down but I'm letting the little preschoolers teach me words.  Today I had the 3 year-olds trying to teach me the word for chair....which I cannot remember.  But I do remember that they laughed at my lack of rolling my r's.  Guess it's back to preschool for me until I can put together a complete sentence and order my own soda!

Hopefully by next month I can offer more insight into the culture here, but for now...this is what ya get!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Missionary or not?

The word "missionary" keeps being thrown around regarding my time here in Brazil.  It was first mentioned by the director of BIS (Brasilia International School), and again while raising support for this adventure, and even more by staff at BIS.   But can I let you in on something?  I don't feel nor necessarily think of myself as a missionary.

When the word missionary is mentioned, I think of people like Amy Carmichael, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Gladys Aylward, George Muller, Katie Davis....not me.

I see myself simply as someone who wakes up each morning, goes to work with the joy of loving on little people, I
 come home, and if I am brave enough that evening - attempts an adventure out among people I don't understand.

There is nothing grand or glamorous about my life.  Nothing like what Amy Carmichael did, or Gladys Aylward.  I am simply living my life as I feel God has directed.

 The term "missionary" seems to carry this connotation of great things accomplished in God's name.  But really, is the term "missionary" even in the Bible (I haven't researched that, so please let me know if it is)?

When Jesus sent people out to proclaim His Good News, He didn't send out "missionaries".  No, he sent people out as disciples (Mark 16:20, John 15:8).

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
~Matthew 28:19

He did not say "go and make missionaries".  No, he said disciples.  I think I can handle the word disciple versus missionary. 

A disciple is a student or follower of a doctrine or teacher.  And ultimately what Jesus is saying is "go and be my follower, let Me be your Teacher, follow My Truth.  Live for Me."

This means that wherever God has placed you, whether it is in another country, in a big city, in a small one-room school town, or as a home school mother...you are to be His disciple.  Listening to Him.  Following Him.  Being obedient to Him and sharing His truth and love right where you are.  And in that obedient life lived for Him, those around you may become His disciples as well.

My life really isn't any different than yours.  My heart is just as stubborn and honestly sometimes defiant, demanding the way I think things should be.  I just happen to be living in a foreign country.  But maybe that's what needed to happen because here...I cannot rely upon my own strength or resources.  And in order for God to make me His disciple, He had to bring me to a place where my stubborn will would be broken and where I would (hopefully one day) live fully for Him.

So, wherever God has you...whether it's mothering your little ones, or brightening some one's day with a cup of joe, patrolling the streets in your town keeping people safe, nursing the wounded, serving in the military, or even living in a foreign country - wherever you are - become a disciple of God.  Life out His truth and His Word each day.  You are a "missionary" right where He has placed you.

And my guess is...that Amy Carmichael, the Elliot's, Gladys Aylward,and George Muller didn't really see themselves as this great big missionary but as someone who simply chose to live for Christ each and every day that they were given.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week Three: Learning to be real

"In every degree in which you are not real, you will dispute rather than come, you will quibble rather than come, you will go through sorrow rather than come, you will do anything rather than come the last lap of unutterable foolishness - 'Just as I am.'  As long as you have the tiniest bit of spiritual impertinence, it will always reveal itself in the fact  that you are expecting God to tell you to do a big thing, and all He is telling you to do is to 'come'....
...anything at all that will put the axe to the root of the ting which is preventing you from getting through.  You will never get further until you are willing to do that one thing."
~Oswald Chambers

To be real, to be transparent, should be the aim in my life...to be honest and vulnerable about my struggles and flaws.  Instead, I'd rather hide behind the front that says "I'm ok.  I'm doing well. Everything is fine."  But is that front really going to enable me to draw closer to God or will it keep me stagnate?

I read many accounts of brutal honesty in the Bible.  Honesty that could alienate.  The Gentile woman begging for her daughter's healing and then being compared to the dogs who eat scraps from the table...and yet she still has faith to be honest with Jesus (Mark 7:24-30).  The Samaritan woman who shouted throughout the town about what Jesus knew regarding her life (John 4:1-30).  The woman who dared to go into a crowd just to touch the hem of Jesus' robe.  And then when she was confronted about it, she was honest before Jesus AND the large crowd (Mark 5:21-34; Luke 8:43-48).
"The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed." (Luke 8:47)


What about the disciples in Acts, who spread the Good News while being mocked, ridiculed for being honest and real with people? 

Honesty is difficult.  It is risky.  But it is life changing and can loose the bonds which hold me captive.  To be honest and real first with God, after all He already knows it all, and then to allow Him to work on those areas that need refinement.  Then I need to be honest and transparent with others because that will produce a healthy life lived for Him, where His glory can shine through. 

In each of the examples, with the women and the disciples, God got the glory.  His name was praised.  People came to know Him because of the brutal honesty of the women and the disciples.  Transparency can create a beautiful testimony of a life lived only for Him. 

So instead of hiding behind my walls and facade of "I'm ok", I need to begin to be real with people...be honest, and share my struggles and share the pain so that His healing can occur and He can have the glory.

"I'd been hurt and scarred and banged around a bit in the past year, but God was using all those things to help me become real.  My stuffing was coming out because I'd been loved to tatters.  I was coming to understand that what it means to be real is to love and be loved until there is nothing left.  And when there's nothing left, and we feel we're all in pieces, God begins to make us whole.  He makes us real.  His love sets us free and transforms us."
~Katie Davis

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Week Two: Contradictions of the Heart

”If I had to summarize in one word my first weeks and months in Uganda, it would be contradiction...My life - especially my emotions - hung in the balance between absolutely loving my new life in Uganda and battling severe loneliness."
~Katie Davis

 I feel the same.  I love this adventure God has me on in Brazil.  I love the smell of the rain, the house-rattling thunder, the lightening that lights up the night sky, the bloom of flowers I've only seen in stores, the red dirt that cakes the bottom of my shoes - and my feet, the sound of exotic birds, the smell of fresh baked bread on my morning walk to work, the chatter of a foreign language and the sound of little children praising God.

 
All of this brings joy to my heart.  But I have to admit I get lonely.  Yes, I am making wonderful connections with people here and forming new friendships.  But no one knows my past, no one knows what might trigger a memory that will bring tears to my eyes.  And it's hard to attempt to explain it to people so that they understand the complicated connection of it all.  I long to just sit with an old friend, coffee in our hands, and cry (which I don't like doing in the first place!) and have them understand the complicated emotions of it all with little to no explanation needed.

"During my early days here, I was learning so much - everything from how to eat foods I'd never seen before to how to communicate through hand signals and facial expressions with people whose language I did not know.  My horizons were being expanded in the most amazing ways; my perspectives were changing every day; and my faith was being challenged and stretched.  All of this was so exciting to me.  I didn't want to admit that, in the midst of such a wonderful and invigorating experience, I sometimes felt tangible pangs of loneliness when I thought about how many miles away I was from the people I loved."
~Katie Davis

Contradiction of the heart.  Difficult to understand or explain to anyone.  But it's there.  Raw emotion of a life being flipped upside down by God.
"I could praise God with all my joyful heart and then later pour out my heart to Him with frustration and weeping when no one could hear."
~Katie Davis


I am so thankful for this opportunity to be part of a school that is sharing the message of Jesus with children and families from all over the world.  At times it simply feels like I am teaching in the U.S., but then a teacher asks me about how to reach a child in their class who is from Tanzania - and who is still learning English - when I realize that I am not teaching in the U.S.  There are so many underlying factors teaching children from all over the world that I forget to stop and consider it all.  On top of having to learn and study their academics, these kids are also having to learn a new language..sometimes two if they don't speak English, they want desperately to make new friends and fit in without losing who they are and where they come from, and they may long for something of comfort from home.  And it's then that I realize that all the complicated, contradictory emotions I am feeling, these kids go through them too. 
"I thought of how, after a long, hard day in my previous life, I would have crashed on the couch with a pint of ice cream, a good sappy movie, and my closest girlfriends.  Here at the end of a long, hard day, there was nothing to do but cry out to Jesus for the strength to go on."
~Katie Davis

And that's the same for me, and for some of these kiddos here.  When we don't have the strength or energy to keep trying at this new normal for us....we need to turn to the One who understands it all.

 The beauty of crying out to Jesus is that He understands all the complicated, contradictory emotions without a word being spoken.  He knows that I long for comfort, yet desire to be stretched so I can be used by Him.  He knows that I feel inadequate and yet also feel made for this job.  He knows I want to make a difference but don't know how.  He knows the pain of the past that haunts me and how I am challenged each day to lay it down and follow the calling He placed upon my heart.  He knows it all...my weaknesses, my desires, my fears, my hopes - and He keeps reminding me that in all of it...He is my strength, He is my refuge.  And there's no contradiction in that!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Change is challenging

As I sit here and eat a coconut cookie (happy find in Brasil!), I am just pondering all the changes that I've been through in the last 11 days. Wait!!!  (Cookie frozen in mid-air to my mouth!)  Has it really only been 11 days???!!!  Sure feels like a lot longer than that!  Eleven days is like a short vacation to see family in California or Christmas Break.

In 11 days, I've moved from the states to a country I had never been to.  Started at a job that had no foundation to start from.  Ventured to Walmart for supplies...like a skillet and real butter.  Yes, I cook with real butter.  And it's delicious.  Don't fault me.  That's why I walk a mile to work.  For that butter, or that slice of bread.  Justification done thankyouverymuch.  Ordered pão de queijo on my own.  Seen a movie with Portuguese subtitles.  Visited a McDonald's, Brazilian buffet, and a Mexican restaurant (not all at once...and hey...we like food out here! I think I'll toast that with another cookie).  Started a Portuguese class.  And settled into a routine at home and work.  In all of this, it is easy to try to rely upon my own strengths and skills, but what I am finding is that with all of this change, I am having to rely upon God even more. 

I may seem like I can handle all of this, but really, emotionally I am tired.  I don't handle change all that well to begin with.  So now throw all of this new stuff at me, not to include the difference in language and constant dependence upon others to translate for me, I'm now hitting that point of asking "what have I done?!"

And to top it off, I have lived the life of luxury and had instant communication access to any one of my friends and family members for the last number of years...but now, I only have internet at work.  And let's face it....I'm so busy doing my job that I don't take advantage of the quick email or facebook stalking like I used to.  So instead of instant internet gratification, I have five-minute snippets before or after work, or on the rare breaks I can find.  Even calling family has it's challenges with the time difference.   My roommate and I were even so internet/connection deprived that we were going to venture to work on Sunday but the power was out at the school (common occurrence during storms here). 

Life without the constant connection to people has opened my eyes up to how much time I spent just facestalking browsing facebook, gazing at pintrest, sending random ridiculous text messages to Alisha (just so you know Alisha....I miss that so very very much!!), reading the news, etc. etc. etc.

I began to rely upon those connections.  Began to rely upon people.  Along the way, I lost my reliance upon God.  And now, faced with all of these changes and the inability to call friends up right away and talk it all through or to vent through a series of text messages, I am re-learning to depend upon God.  Honestly, it's hard...but it shouldn't be.  It should be something that I do all the time, in every situation and circumstance.  But I tend to be very independent and I choose to rely upon myself and others instead of the One who created me.  So what does God do to get my attention?  Put me in those places that are so uncomfortable, with no way of reaching out to those who are familiar, all so that I will turn to Him and rely upon Him.  I'm learning this lesson the hard way.  It's painful and it's a slow process with me, but I'm learning. 

Maybe by the time we have internet set up at home, I will have learned this process and the need for instant communication gratification will have subsided and I won't feel the need for it as much.  Will I still want it...probably, yes....but my prayer is that I will not depend upon it to fill that void.  That instead I will depend upon God and choose Him as my refuge and my strength through all of these changes and challenges.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Week One: First Impressions

 Stepping off the plane after traveling for 20 hours, I know that I'm not in Kansas-Missouri-Montana anymore.  First off, I cannot understand anyone.  Second, I can barely read the signs around me.  Third, um...where's the AC in this airport?  Quick someone hand me a fan!!!  I won't even mention the bathroom trip experience before gathering my luggage!

After my relatively smooth trip through customs (thank you English speaking woman!), I finally made it to the luggage area where I secured TWO carts for my five pieces of luggage (hey, a girls gotta pack not only for clothes, but for teaching as well!).  And yes...all my luggage made it safely to Brasilia.  Moving around with two carts was probably very entertaining for all witnessing, but my many games of Mario Cart paid off and I made it out and was greeted by some Brasilia International School (otherwise known as BIS) staff members and my new roommate.  :)  They promptly took my carts from me and ushered me over to a table with café com leite and pão de queijo (cheese bread).

After getting to know my new friends and support system, we departed the airport for the drive to my new apartment.  Driving in Brasil brought back memories of the driving in Kosova!  Hold on to that handle and wear your seatbelt...Mario Cart has nothing on driving in Brasil!!!!

 The apartment that was secured for Erin and I (secured literally the day before I arrived...that's a whole other story for another day!), is a beautiful 3 bedroom, 3 bath apartment on the 6th floor (top floor), and is about a half-hour walk to school/work.

 Seeing as how I had been waiting for this adventure for 2 1/2 months, it did not take me long to unpack and settle in, take an hour long nap and then hit the town with some of the girls.  An American night in Brasil - we went to the theater and watched O Ataque (White House Down) in English with Portuguese subtitles, and had good ol' American-Brazilian style McDonald's.  A pretty full day considering I stepped foot on Brasil soil at 7 that morning...and had been up since 6 the morning before.
On Sunday I attended the International Baptist Church which is the only English speaking church in Brasilia, and one in which the majority of the staff at BIS attends along with a few students and their families.  Church was followed by lunch at a buffet place where you pay for the weight of the plate you create (hey that rhymed!).  I will admit, I am trying new foods and for the most part I have enjoyed everything.  Lunch was followed by a test run of our walk from home to school and then a quick trip to the market by our house.  Quite a selection of produce and I am excited to try out some new foods!

Monday brought on my first day at a new job.  Everyone was very welcoming and excited to finally have me join them.  I spent the day just getting to know the routines and reading student files.  Nothing too exciting there.

The rest of the week followed with getting to know the kiddos and the staff, observing the students I would be working with, gathering resources and organizing how I wanted to create this special education program so that the needs of each child could best be met.  I've never had to create something like this from scratch and it is both exciting and exhausting!  Hello 7pm bedtime each night!  But...somehow with God's grace, I've got the kindergartners and first graders up and running starting on Monday! 
The most amazing thing about all of this is that I am meeting kids from all over the world!  AND....I have the freedom to share God's Truth with them.  I cannot even begin to explain the deep joy this brings to me!!!

It's hard to believe I've only been here for a week...but...at the same time, I am fully aware of it.  Especially when it comes to the language.  I find that is my biggest frustration with myself.  I want to know more and be able to order things for myself, and simply have a conversation with our neighbor!  I shocked my roommate when on my 3rd or 4th day here, I walked right up to the bread counter and attempted to order 4 pão de queijo.  The lady at the counter was very kind in attempting to understand my butchering of her language and I did walk away with what I asked for.  I suppose if you want something bad enough, you are not afraid to look like a fool!

But then...isn't that what living for Christ all about?  Dying to myself and living for Him...even if it makes me look a bit strange?
 
 
"If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it."
~Mark 8:35
So for me right now, if I am to truly lose my pride and selfishness, I need to begin to attempt this language (no matter how much I may butcher it...I have a bit a lot of perfectionism in me), so that when people ask why an American is in their country, I can tell them about His work in and through me.

But baby steps first....it is after all only week one.  So let's master simple greetings to begin with:

·         Good Morning:  Bom dia!

·         Everything well (used as a question & answer, depending on intonation):  Tudo bem

·         You:  Você

·         Thank you:  Obrigada

Until next time where I am sure to have some stories of my mistakes in attempting Portuguese....
 Até Mais!

~Verão (Summer)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Brazil or Bust?

So this whole God-timing thing....very very difficult to walk through. I love the story when all is said and done....but the creation of it all...well, it just stinks.

My visa and passport should have arrived today, and as of right now (9:51pm to be exact), there is not even a record that the USPS has even received it!

This isn't the first time I've encountered complications in the process.  First, the visa took a bit extra time being cleared with the Ministry of Labor in Brazil. Then when my aunt went to the Consulate to finish up the application stateside (oh yea it had to be done in person...not by mail), there was a hold up with a document and that had to be sent back to me and another appointment scheduled. And then, when that appointment came, instead of the normal five day processing time...it was going to be two weeks.  And here we are. My aunt went back to the Consulate yesterday to pick up the visa and passport and thankfully there were no complications! But now....where is said envelope that should have arrived today?

So when do you throw in the towel and give it all up? When is enough, enough?

But then I look to Scripture...my solice in all of this....and I'm reminded of Abraham and Isaac. God waited until the very last moment when Abraham had raised the knife towards his bound son laying upon the altar.  That last moment when the sun gleamed off the sharp edge of the knife. Then and only then did God step in and prevent Abraham from sacrificing the promise He gave him. And somehow through it all, Abraham still had faith. He believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead, if He so chose to. Abraham trusted and believed God at His Word. It may not have made any sense, it may have grieved him deeply, but he still made that choice to trust. To have faith.

Honestly, I'm not so sure I have that same faith right now.  I'm weak. I'm scared. I'm hurting. And for the first time, I feel defeated. But instead of dwelling on this, I must find the strength to stand strong in God no matter the circumstances. To chose faith instead of defeat. To trust the outcome, no matter what it is. To know that God is after character and after my heart...not my agenda.  But the process still stinks...just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Throw Out the Agenda!

I've been here in Kansas City for over a month now.  Longer than I anticipated...by a few weeks!  I assumed that I would arrive here, spend about two weeks with my dear friend, be refreshed at World Revival Church and then be on my way to Brazil. 

I came here with my agenda; but God's agenda prevailed.

God wasn't after my "hurry-up-and-get-to-Brazil" method.  He was after my heart.  The pain that I've hidden so deep within...the pain that I thought I had dealt with (but was actually running from)...He made me face it.  IS making me face it.  He is bringing it out in the open to let "the air get to the wounds" (thanks Pastor Steve for that analogy!)  Thankfully, I am not alone while I go through this process.  God has brought me to a safe place where my pain can be exposed, and with people who though they may not even know me, will pray with me for the healing and the restoring power of our Savior.  I am in a safe place.  I am in this place not so I can hurry-up and get to Brazil, but so that God can heal and mend the deep recesses of pain that I've run from.  I came here with my agenda.  God brought me here for His.

It's more about the process of God taking someone broken before Him, and allowing Him to heal and bring Life to the depths of the heart, mind, soul and body....for His purpose and His ultimate glory.

When the time comes to go to Brazil, God will have used this period of waiting in Kansas City to not only refresh me, but heal and build up my faith for the work that lays ahead.  My faith has been strengthened.  His Word has been made clear to my heart. And healing has begun for this broken vessel.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Deployments are tough

Living in a military town, you experience a lot of things most people may not.  One such thing is dealing with a deployment.  Right now, I am running three deployment groups for about 15 kiddos whose father (and a mother) are deployed overseas.  One little third grader was having a particularly rough day...and so she wrote out her thoughts.  Here's some insight into just how tough it is living in a military family.  Please keep these kiddos in your prayers.

*All spelling and punctuation kept how the kiddo wrote it.  And all names have been omitted.

Dear Daddy,
I miss you like I'm gonna die, and we're only a month in.  Please get the first flight back.  Or come home early like the insert different family name dad did.  Either way, I want you home, and fast.  I want to see you.  And not over skype or even over a regular webcam.  I want to feel your big, warm, hands.  I need to hug you like neither of us can let go.  Just thinking about you makes me feel extemely upset.  Yes, this paper is stained of tears.  I'm coming close to my last week of deployment group.  It'll be two months into fourth grade when you come home.  Why did you leave in the first place?  I mean, know it's your dudy as insert rank here, but you know this hurts me, siblings names, and even mom.  Next time, could you ask politely not to go?  For me?  Anyway I hope you recive this letter and that you can reply.
Love,
Name with a heart in it

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lessons Learned

1.  Cell phones in school = torture

2.  Kids are struggling so much more than I ever imagined; and with things that I never fathomed.

3.  I love all of my students and I will miss them dearly next year.

4.  With Christ, all things truly are possible.  I can stand up under pressure as long as I am standing firm in Him.

5.  I miss the days where passing a note in class was the worst offense...and the dreaded moment the teacher caught it and read it aloud to the class. 

6.  Did I mention my distaste for cell phones in schools?  Both for the staff and kids?

7.  People...not just kids, do not know how to effectively communicate with one another anymore.

8.  People are able to hide things more than I thought...behind smiles, technology, and staying busy.  And I am just as guilty of that.

9.  Self-esteem issues in girls hasn't changed.  The things I struggle with are the same things my kiddos struggle with, just at varying degrees.  I need to recognize that and find ways to encourage them to fight that negative battle raging within their heads...and to fight that battle that rages regarding boys.  Ugh!

10.  Even when standing in Him, the tears will come.  The pain doesn't hide.  But the pain draws me closer to Him. 

11.  Ben & Jerry's may not fix the problem, but it sure does taste good!

12.  Laughter and pain can occur in the same moment.  What are you going to do with it all though?  That's what matters.  You going to drown in the pain, or find healing in the laughter?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

An altar, an empty tomb, and a willing heart...

I cannot recall being stuck on a word more than I have this year.  Now don't get me wrong, it's not a bad thing...I just usually find myself meandering onto another word or topic after a month or so. 

But not this time. 

Since the beginning of this year, God keeps speaking FAITH over me.  And it's challenging!

And the story I am drawn to over and over and over again is that of Abraham.  I always knew what an amazing man of faith he was, but I have discovered so many different facets of faith from him, that I'm hungry to learn more. 

First it was the fact that he obeyed God and laid his promised son on the altar to die.  And in that example, God was asking me to lay my desires on His altar and allow Him to shape me into what He needs me to be...that He would shape my desires to match His.  Then I was drawn to the story with Abraham's nephew Lot and how Lot's wife looked back and how I am prone to look back at the things that I wish could have been.  And now, it's back to the altar...but I'm seeing it in a different light. 

Allow me to shine said light with you...

Let's examine first, the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.  He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned."  Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
Hebrews 11:17-19

Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead.  Had he ever witnessed anyone raised from the dead?  In my general search...I could not find any Biblical record of Abraham witnessing such a miracle (please correct me if I am wrong here....after all...I'm not a Bible-know-it-all...just someone who loves the Word).  The one thing that someone pointed out to me though, is that Abraham had record of Enoch walking with God and "then he was no more" (Genesis 5:24).  But raised from the dead?  Nope.  Nada. 

And yet Abraham chose to believe that God could raise Isaac from the dead.  That's faith!  And if Abraham was able to believe that God could do something he hadn't yet seen, shouldn't I be able to have that same kind of faith? 

After all, I serve the same God that Abraham did. 

God is the same yesterday, today and forever. 

Nothings changed.  So why is my faith so weak?

We have the written Word that documents times where men are raised from the dead and people are healed; where our Savior is put to death upon a cross, dies and is resurrected so that you and I may have fellowship with Him (thank you for the empty tomb!!!).  We have so much more than what Abraham had when he laid his son upon that altar.  And I look at this and I see just how weak my faith is.  But I don't want it to be. 

I want to believe in miracles.  I want to see people healed, raised from the dead, and new life breathed into dry and weary souls.  I want to be able to know that even if things seem dead in my heart, that God can bring them back to life.  That hurt, pain, and loss can be laid upon His altar and offered as a sacrifice so that His will may be done not only in my life, but those around me.  I want to lay my life upon His altar so that I may be used by Him.  I want not only a willing heart but I want the faith that Abraham had that speaks so boldly of a God who can do anything!



I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20



Let my faith arise as I choose to follow Him.  And let me be like Abraham and believe in what may seem impossible by human standards, but is possible through God.

Faith isn't the ability to believe long and far into the misty future.
It's simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.
- Joni Earickson Tada

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

By faith...

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

And without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

By faith Noah...
By faith Abraham...
By faith Isaac...
By faith Jacob...
By faith Joseph...
By faith Moses...
By faith the people [Israelites] passes through the Red Sea..
By faith the walls of Jericho fell...
By faith the prostitute Rahab...
(Hebrews 11:7, 8, 20, 21, 22, 23, 29, 30, 31)

Faith is a challenging word.  It's an action word.  It requires something from a person.  Not only was the Old Testament filled with people of faith, but the New Testament as well.  From numerous healings, to raising Lazarus from the dead, feeding thousands with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, Peter walking on water, and many others. 

Just take the ten men healed from leprosy in Luke 17:11-19...specifically verse 14:
When he saw them, he said, 'Go show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went they were cleansed.

Did you catch that?  AS THEY WENT.  Not right then and there with Jesus.  But as they left, in faith, to go to the priests.  They had to believe Jesus at His Word and obey before the healing came.  It was out of their obedient faith that they were healed. 

How many times does God require us to step out in obedient faith before He reveals what is going on?

Noah built an ark...and it had never even rained before.  Did he really know what an ark was or its purpose?

Abraham was called to move...to where?  He didn't know.  God hadn't revealed that to him yet.  But he obeyed.  And he obeyed even when God told him to sacrifice Isaac.  Didn't make sense, but out of faith he obeyed.

The Israelites walked through the sea.  Out of faith they walked between two massive walls of water that could have swallowed them at any moment!

And really... who knew that simply marching around the walls of Jericho would send them crashing down?!  I wonder what went through the Israelites minds as they continually walked around and around the walls each day.  Did some think it was crazy?  Cause I know I would most definitely might be prone to think that!

No matter where you look in the Bible, faith is not an idle word.  It requires action.  It demands an abandonment to what may seem normal, and to trust in the unseen.  It demands that we break out of our comfortable little control box and step out into the unknown.  Scary.  Frightening.  Terrifying.  Makes me want to throw up.  But at the same time there is something electrifying in stepping out into the unknown.

When we step out in faith, our eyes are off of ourselves and upon God.  And that is when He loves to move - when all that can be said is "God did it".  He wants the glory.  He wants the praise.  He wants our trust, our hearts, our faith.



Want your name in the Hall of Faith...step out.  Jump.  Abandon it all for God and you will not be disappointed.  Through your faith in Him you will tell the world of His greatness.  Let your obedient faith be a testimony to the world of a life-saving God.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Even if...

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands...Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:4, 7-8

Even in the pain, I will lift my hands to You.
Even in the darkness, I will reach out to You.
Even when I cannot see the next step before me, I will cling to Your steady hands.
Even if everything around me crashes, I will hold tight to Your truth.

You are God.
You created the heavens in all their splendor.
You breathed the galaxies into existence.
You knit me together in my mother's womb.
You hold me together with laminin - Your glorious cross.
And You chose me, as Your daughter.
You are everlasting; Creator of all.

So even if life falls apart, I can still be found in the shadow of Your wings...
...in the shadow of Your cross.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Comfortable in the Uncomfortable?

This past Christmas I flew back to California to soak up some glorious sunshine and of course to see my family.  After an exciting trip and wonderful memories with everyone, I headed to the airport to anxiously await the plane that would bring me back to the Winter Wonderland of Montana.  And since I always have to find some sort of excitement to entertain me as I await a flight, I was pleasantly surprised to have a little sparrow fly past my head and land a few feet from where I sat.  This little guy and I locked eyes and possibly pondered one another's existence...ok...maybe I simply pondered why a bird was inside an airport and how he snuck past TSA.  But then as I watched this bird, I recalled a few years ago when in the same airport, that a little bird flew past me. 

Could it be? 

No...a sparrow wouldn't just hang out for a couple of years in an airport.  And certainly the airport staff wouldn't let him stay for so long.  And why do flashbacks of the movie "The Terminal" flood my mind?  It's like Tom Hanks and this bird had to simply experience living life inside of an airport!

And of course, once these silly thoughts subsided, God had to give me a lesson for my heart.  Really God?  Why can't we just leave it at the funny thoughts...the lightheartedness?  Why must we dig down deep into the heart and uproot something that I tried to hide, tried to ignore?  Oh...that's right...because You want me to be refined for Your glory.  I suppose....if I must....so what was this heart lesson that He revealed?

"Don't become comfortable in the uncomfortable."

Really?  Back to words spoken to me from a friend awhile ago?  Oi vey!

The sparrow was making his home in the airport flitting to the water fountain for nourishment and soaring around like he owned the place, visiting people along the way...he didn't realize that the airport is not his home.  There's a great big world out there where he can feel the wind beneath his little wings and drink from fresh spring water.  But he would rather remain in the comfortable than venture out into the unknown.

I tend to be like the sparrow, so comfortable in my surroundings.  I allow the comforts of this world to seep in and I adapt and find ways to plug along without desiring any change.  I continue each day to do what I want to do that will make me happy and make life easy.  I enjoy the scenery, friendships and life before me, but all for selfish purposes....because they simply make me happy.  Granted the world and all it holds - the beauty of the mountains, the crashing sound of the ocean waves, the vibrant sunsets and sunrises - are God given and amazing...but they are temporary.  Even my friendships are temporary.  I have been given an opportunity to experience it all, but if I live only for these things, then I am becoming comfortable in the uncomfortable. 

God placed me here, called me His own, and asks that I make the most of my time here on earth for Him.  I have the privilege of enjoying the things He created...but ultimately it's not about my comfort, my desires, or even me.  It's about Him.  It's about living each moment for Him. 

My life on earth is short.  This is not my eternal home.  My eternal home is with Him.  So I need to stop being comfortable in the temporary things and begin to step out in faith into the things He places before me, so that His name and glory can be proclaimed.  Sure I can enjoy the sunsets, the mountains, the friendships, my job...but my focus in all of it needs to be upon Him. 

There are things that He wants me to do that will take me out of my comfort zone.  If I keep trying to control my little world, I'm like the sparrow and making myself comfortable in a world that I don't belong in.  I need to find the courage, in Christ, to step out into the great unknown and trust Him.  Freedom is there...waiting for me to leave my life of what I deem is comfortable and safe...and choose a life lived for Him.  My eternal home with Christ is where true comfort will be found.  My eyes must remain on Him and my heart tuned to Him as I jump out of this "comfortable" world and into a life of obedient faith...

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:17

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Obedience, Sacrifice and a Little Bit of Crazy!

I don't know what it is, but I have been really drawn to the story of Abraham lately.  He was far from perfect...but he was obedient and loved God.

In Genesis 22 it speaks of Abraham's heart and his obedience to God.  Here he is, God promised that nations would come from him (Genesis 15:5), and in this chapter we see God asking Abraham to take his one and only son, Isaac, and sacrifice him.  Kill him!  If God had said that to me, I would be questioning whether or not that was His voice.  I'd hem and haw and find some excuse not to...cause really...God couldn't possibly be asking me to sacrifice something He promised to me!  Especially since He is the God who doesn't change his mind (Numbers 23:19-20, Malachi 3:6, 1 Samuel 15:29).

Yet Abraham didn't question.  Didn't procrastinate.  In verse 3 it says...

"Early the next morning..."

Seriously!  Early!

Not late in the day, but 4am kind of early...THE VERY NEXT DAY!!!  He took Isaac and began a journey that would, in his mind, end in the death of a promise.  It took three days to get there.  Three, long, tedious days of walking.  I wonder what went through his mind.  What agonizing pain he must have felt as he spent the last moments with his cherished son! And yet, you don't hear any doubt, anger or bitterness from him.  In fact in verse 5 it even says...

"We will worship"

Really?!  Worship the God who is asking you to kill your only child?  But that's exactly what he did. 

Worshipped.

And afterwards he binds his son...who is now questioning the sanity of his father since there isn't an animal to sacrifice on this altar they built.  Somehow though, Isaac trusts Abraham and lays himself down on the altar and allows his dad to bind him to it.  And I'm sure with tears streaming down both of their faces, with the knife shining from the glare of the sun, Abraham raises the knife in the air to kill his promise from God.

Instead of questions and doubts, Abraham trusts.  Not only trusts, but obeys.

Thankfully the Lord sees the heart of Abraham and his willingness to slay the promise and obey God above all else, and He intervenes.  He sends an angel at just the right moment, when that knife is about to come down and end Isaac's life, and stops Abraham. 

"Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."
Genesis 22:12

It is in that moment when Abraham probably allows the knife to clatter to the dirt, when he looks up and sees a ram in the thicket and realizes the magnitude of God's mercy and grace in obedience.  Now with grateful tears streaming down his face, he releases his one and only son from the altar and instead binds the ram for the sacrifice.  The Lord will Provide (Genesis 22:14).

"I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."
Genesis 22:16-18

Instead of pitching a fit, arguing, questioning and doubting God (like I'm prone to do), Abraham in faith, simply obeyed - all the way, right away.  And because of his immediate obedience (even if it meant killing the promise God had given him) God rewarded him...because his heart loved God more than his son.

How many times do I put other things before God?  Even good things like serving others, worship music, devotion to a scheduled quiet time, people...if I put any of this before loving God first in my heart, then they become idols.  And idols need to be sacrificed on His altar.

I am tested daily in this.  Will I place God first and foremost in my heart, mind and life?  Or will I let other things creep in?  Each day God is asking me to lay those things - those idols - upon His altar and to let them burn to ashes so that I may seek Him above all else.  This is not an easy task sometimes.  But what it comes down to is...do I want my will or His?  And deep from within I hear the cry of 'Thy will be done, Lord'.

No matter the pain, loneliness, obscurity of the task - His will be done. 

Some things he may save from the fire and some things He may let burn into a pile of nothingness.  But His will be done for holiness in my life.

After all, He let His Son die upon the cross for me.

"A sinless Savior died, so my sinful soul could be counted free"
Paraphrase from Before the Throne

My desires must die upon His altar so that my life and heart serve Him above all else.  And through His transforming work, my desires are changed to match His...and will lead to a life of radical obedience to Him.