Saturday, April 26, 2014

Fullness of Life

Life has been full.  Busy and full.  Between school, some health issues, and interviews for a job in Kansas, these last few weeks have flown by! 

First graders at the Science Fair
Work has been a time full of preparation for the Science Fair, then Carnival Break, and then preparation for International Fair....and in the midst of all of this we had the opportunity to share the Resurrecting Power of Jesus' life, death and resurrection to all of the students.  Easter was a time where everyone here could feel the weight of His Presence as we shared the Good News with students from all over the world (and some from closed countries!).  I have been awe-struck by the questions the students ask...even the kindergartners who ask some of the most thought-provoking questions!  It was a privilege and an honor to be able to openly share with all of the students the Hope to which I cling to.  I pray that through this time, not just at Easter but throughout this whole year, I was able to glorify His Name and that seeds were planted for hearts and lives to join in His Kingdom work. 
Having fun at the Science Fair
I have also experienced some challenges at work which have kept me fairly quiet when it came to media interactions with others.  The attack against my character, my teaching and just simple me was difficult.  During that time, I was drawn to the Pauline Epistles and was encouraged by not only Paul's words to the churches but also by the life he lived under persecution and false accusations.  I clung to the Word and God did not disappoint nor leave me to bear the weight alone. He was right there with me and with the administration as they walked through this unique and challenging decision-making process we were facing.  Thankfully, for the most part, things are resolved and there is peace once again with the outside therapy agencies, the families, and with the school. 
When God is refining you, there is never just one area that he addresses...but sometimes multiple.  While undergoing  the stress at work, my health was deteriorating again.  Back in December I was having severe shoulder pain to the point where I could not lift anything...even the daily tasks of getting ready in the morning were hindered.  Just before Christmas, I went to an orthopedist (with a translator) and he prescribed a hierarchy of medication that I could use if needed and an MRI.  Well...the medication helped along with the month long break at work.  I was able to rest and recoup and the pain subsided and I was able to function again so I never made the MRI appointment.  But then, in early March, the pain returned with a vengeance and now not only were my daily activities effected but so was my sleep.  And me without sleep...not a pretty sight. 

So here I was, feeling attacked at work, in pain, and in a foreign country where I had to rely upon others to help me.  It was a very humbling experience and one in which I kind of shut down from the world and had to learn to rely upon God...and those here in Brazil.  Once again, I asked someone to call the hospital to set up a MRI appointment for me...and then I had to ask someone to come spend the evening with me and translate for me at the appointment (which lasted 3 hours!!!).  It's not exactly exciting to share with people that you are near tears while at a doctor's office or while laying on the MRI table...all because you have to rely upon others and cannot do any of this yourself!  And then I had to ask someone to take me back to the hospital to pick up the results and again someone to call and set up a follow-up appointment with the orthopedist.  His recommendation after looking at the MRI results...physical therapy for the inflammation in one of the main tendons in the shoulder and for the inflammation in the Bursa.  So again, I had to have someone call and set up an appointment with the physical therapist and take me and translate for me once more.  Seeing a theme here?!  I never would have thought about how much I would need people to help me go to the doctors!  Well, I had my first PT appointment this past Wednesday and God is good and although the PT speaks only Portuguese, there were other patients there who speak English and we had some great laughs that evening!  Since the PT wants me there every day for a while to reduce the swelling, I went BY MYSELF on Thursday.  It was a challenge, and again humbling as I am relying on strangers every once in a while to help translate....but it is stretching me out of my comfort zone. 

Brazilian Palace Guard...looks like a toy soldier!
And in the middle of all of this, I have been actively applying for a job in the Kansas City area.  I have had two screening interviews for special education positions and one screening interview for a middle school counseling position.  This is a very unique experience to conduct an interview via Skype and my prayer is that I am able to allow Christ to shine through me in these interviews.  No matter what I do, I want to glorify His Name...not my own. 
So life has been full and busy.  And God has been doing some deep work in me through it all.  It has not been easy and I will admit that there was one particularly rough time where I was ready to be done and looked into the cost of a flight back to the States for that weekend.  Obviously I did not follow through with that...but only because I knew that to leave was to simply run from the work God was doing in me.  And instead of finding the easy way out, I wanted to continue to be open to allowing God to refine me and purify me for His purposes.  Finding joy in the midst of all of this has come only by turning my eyes to Him.  He alone is my Rock, my Fortress and my Sanctuary. 

I have 42 days left in Brasil, 28 at work with the students.  I want to make the most of each day and bring praise to His Name.  Please be praying for me as my time winds down....that I would live each day fully in His Presence and giving all I am to the students here.  May all glory be given to Him!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

People are Watching...

People watch you whether you realize it or not.  They watch how you act, what you do, what you say, how you serve others.  We cannot prevent people from watching our lives.  But we can examine how we are living out our faith and what we may be saying about God through our actions, words and choices. 

This past week I have heard stories and witnessed some amazing things with the kiddos that I work with.  Just yesterday, I attended a baptism of three students from our school.  And earlier this week I heard one of the students who was to be baptized sharing with one of his friends what baptism is and what it means....and he is only in 3rd grade!  I also heard stories from teachers about a kindergartner praying to Jesus and repenting of her sins and becoming a child in His Kingdom...and of a first grader sharing with his younger sister about Jesus and what it means to follow Him.  These children are not hindered by what others think!  They know the truth and they openly share it.  They seize the opportunity in front of them and with child-like faith, they share the love of God with those within their realm of influence.  Those three students that were baptized invited their whole class to the baptism.  The brother shares his faith with his sister.  The kindergartner shares her desire to follow God with her teacher.  By the actions, words and choices these students are making, lives are being impacted!

Now I know some may be saying "Well that's easy to do when you work in a Christian environment".  True.  But, all of this made me begin to wonder about my actions, my words and my choices that I was making while working in the public education system for 9 years.  Did my life look any different than those who do not know Jesus?  Or did I just blend in?  And...when I join back in the public education system later this year...will I take what God has been showing me these last 6 months and allow it change me so that I am a light for Him no matter where I go? 

What I am learning is that it doesn't matter where you work or who is in your realm of influence.  What matters is how you are choosing to live for Him through your actions, words, thoughts, deeds, service and love for others.  You can work in the public education system, you can be in the military, or work in an audiologist office, work from home, or be a stay at home parent.  It does not matter.  There are people within your reach that are watching how you choose to live for Him.  So what are you saying about God through your life?

I am challenged.  I am examining how I live and if Christ is shining through me or if I am letting my desire to blend in get in the way.  I want to have the child-like faith that I have seen this week.  I want to allow God to shine through me to those that I am around.  I want to be available no matter where I am or who I am around, so that God can use me to influence His Kingdom.  I want my actions, words, choices and love to be an example of His love for people.

What about you?  What do people see when they watch you?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

One year ago....

February 21, 2013:  turned in my letter for a one-year leave of absence from the GFPS District

February 22, 2014:  turned in my letter of resignation to the GFPS District

I do not have a job lined up for the next school year.  I am in the same place as I was exactly a year ago.  But last year it was a scary leap of faith.  I was terrified and I was leaning heavily upon God.  It's not any different this year.  But having watched how God works things out for the good, I have a deeper trust now.  My past experience has taught me that He is faithful and He is good.

It's a bit intimidating looking at it right now knowing that I will be moving away from Montana and Brazil...but I have such a deep residing peace in God and what He will do and how He will provide that instead of being terrified, I am resting secure in Him. 

Thoughts swirled through my head earlier today as I began thinking about the changes I will face once again.  How will I get my belongings to my new destination?  What is my timetable of events this summer?  How will I financially be able to do all this?  Many questions.  But instead of worrying and fretting, I just shrug my shoulders and say, "It'll happen how God wants it to happen".  That doesn't mean that I will just sit around and wait, expecting Him to drop it all in my lap.  No.  I will be praying, reading His Word, and listening for His still small voice so that when I sense He is directing me, I will immediately obey.  It's like last year.  He led, I obeyed and He provided.  And I trust Him to do the same again this year. 

All those questions I had regarding moving overseas...He answered.  And none of it was as scary as I imagined (darn my overactive imagination!)  So...even with questions about what will happen and how it all will look this summer, I don't have the fear I had last year.  I've learned that God is faithful.  I know that His Word is chalk full of examples of His faithfulness, but for some reason, I had to walk through it myself to be able to fully understand and trust Him at His Word.  And now, I stand strong in faith in Him, that all will work out for His glory and the way He needs it to be....not only for my move, but for my walk with Him.  Past experience has taught me that.

But...if it comes to your mind...please be praying for me that I would finish these last three months with strength and joy, and for the preparation in returning to the states and move to a new destination!!!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hugs, Kisses and My Bubble

The realization that I am not just here for the kiddos has recently invaded my thoughts.  These last two weeks have been difficult, exhausting and have made me cling tighter to the One who is in control.  God has been pruning me, shaking me out of my comfortable way of thinking and asking me to look beyond my little scope of the ME world.  There is a great big world out there, as evidenced by these kiddos I see everyday.  So many different countries represented!  And not just by the kids, but by their parents as well.  I am learning that I not only have to adjust my worldview to better understand the kids, but I need to do so to understand the parents as well.  And it's not always easy.

I am one who likes routine, likes a task-oriented lifestyle, and wants to complete a neat little check-off list.  However, I have been thrown into a relationship-driven culture and am constantly being challenged to let go of some of my rigidity in "getting things accomplished".  Now, building relationships with the students has not really been a problem for me...I seem to be more open to them...even with hugging and the way they love to hang all over me.  I'm okay with that....which people witnessed yesterday as two kiddos clung to me as we walked down the hallway.  But then, I'm beginning to realize that in order to reach their parents and build rapport with them, I need to be more willing to be open, transparent and at times even let an occasional hug (and with some cultures - a kiss on the cheek)...occur.  And that's hard.  And it scares me.  To me, allowing someone within my little bubble, makes me feel vulnerable...and usually the only ones that have ever been allowed in are ones with whom I have a deep trust for. 

But, if I am to reach out and show Christ's love to not only the students, but the parents as well...then I need to learn to be more open, more transparent...and...let go of my little bubble (I just shuddered a bit at that!).  And over the last two weeks I have really had to work on this as I've been dealing with a difficult situation at work.  It's been hard.  And instead of trying to fix it myself, I was open and honest with my director and our human resource director and asked them for help.  I need their help to learn to balance my need to get things done with building rapport, trust and relationships with the parents.  This South American culture is built upon relationships and I need to learn to adapt, change and grow in this area...especially if I want to show them the love of Christ.  This job is not just about demonstrating the love of Christ to the kids, but it's about sharing it with their parent's as well.  This is not just about me, but it is about them.  It is about the truth of God's love reaching their hearts and changing their lives...not just mine.  And if I need to embrace them (sometimes literally)...then so be it.

Baby steps the human resource director noted when he hugged me the other day.  His comment..."See, you aren't shying away from hugs anymore".  Now it's time to work on letting go of myself and really pouring into the kids and their parents during my last three months here. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Four months into this adventure...

It's the little things in life that really make me smile.  Like ground black pepper from the States.  Taco sauce (little packets and a BIG bottle of it).  Sleepytime tea.  Lavender satchels.  Curling spray for my unruly hair.  Stickers and erasers for my students.  Pajamas made with love from my mama. A sweet new Tim Horton's mug all the way from Canada.  And precious encouraging notes from a friend. 

Yes, Christmas presents have arrived.  Doesn't matter that it is almost the end of was Christmas in my home this past week!  Two packages within three days.  I was one happy camper.  And a new computer was delivered to my office yesterday!  The blessings are pouring in.

All of these tokens brought a smile to my face...but even more so were the smiles of the students when I got back to work this past Monday.  It's been a wonderful week back getting back into the swing of things.  The kids seem excited, the teachers are's like the freshness of a new school year all over again!  I suppose that happens when you have a month off for Christmas.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A month off!  And it was an interesting month to say the least.

Both of my roommates left for the states which left me with an apartment all by myself!  It had its positively glorious moments, and it's horrible ones as well.  I had quite a few ugly cries during the first week (with it being Christmas and all)....just simply missing family and friends.  But thankfully, a family here would not let me sit at home for Christmas all by myself and they came and kidnapped me on Christmas Eve and I stayed over at their house that evening and all of the next day.  It definitely helped cheer me up watching their three kiddos and the excitement they exuberated during the holiday!  And hey...we even decorated Christmas cookies...and had a southern-style Christmas dinner!  :) 

After Christmas I then had about a week to myself.  I had great anticipation of making my way around my little neighborhood and had a great to-do list of things I wanted to try.  Needless to say...none of it happened.  I sat in my apartment and watched movies and Netflix, and read books most of the time.  I just simply enjoyed being able to stay in my PJs without anyone having to see me.  I was simply storing up my introvert time and enjoying every minute of it.  I did spend New Year's Eve with quite a few people from BIS and was able to go and watch fireworks by the JK Bridge. 

January 3rd.  Now that was what I was waiting for.  Rio de Janeiro!  Yep.  I traveled (flew) with the same family  I had stayed with at Christmas to Rio for an entire week.  I soaked up the sun, the beach, the hot hot air, the sand, jellyfish, crab, the Redeemer Statue, more sun and beach, glorious sunsets, sound of the waves, and good books.  It was a beautiful vacation with an awesome family.  They even let me devour three books in just a couple of days (Divergent series....check it out!).  My favorite time of the day was dusk as I would sit on our balcony (did I mention that our hotel was right on the beach?) and just watch the waves as the sun died down and Rio came to life.  And....I even visited a Starbucks, and bought way too may "Brasil" mugs from there, and ate at Applebee's!  For a little bit, I almost forgot about my language issues...since Rio is touristy, people speak broken English...matching my broken Portuguese!

Reality hit when I arrived back in Brasilia and prepared for my roommates to arrive home.  I slipped off to work the day before they arrived and along my walk was stopped by a lady asking directions...and I had no idea what she was saying.  Then when I stopped in "our" bakery, the guy asked about my "amigas" (hey, I understood that!).  And I did my best to tell him that they were on their way back to Brazil, but the conversation ended with both of us shrugging our shoulders, smiling and having no idea what was being said!  Then.....the lady at the counter tried talking to me and again...I was lost.  Yep.  Back to reality.  And this simply made me realize just how much I want to try to learn the language so I can communicate more!

Once the roomies arrived (on the same flight), the apartment was buzzing with life again as I was able to hear stories from the States, as well as receive goodies from them!  Bless them...they brought Oreo's, Reese's Pieces, hair stuff, and macaroni and cheese!!!  We were not able to enjoy the apartment for long as we were headed out to a staff retreat in Pirenopolis.  Yes...a staff retreat.  With everyone!  For three days!  I was thinking how this would all look and was pleasantly surprised at how smooth it went.  I kept thinking what it would be like to put all of an American school staff together like that for three imagination made up some pretty crazy stories!  But with the staff here at BIS, it was a time of prayer, encouragement, vulnerability and honesty so that we can come back refreshed and ready for the second half of the year.  Along with our time spent at the retreat, we did venture out to the town of Pirenopolis for dinner one night.  Beautiful little town!'s a first....saw a Wandering  Brazilian Spider. ...and I hope to never see one again!

And now that brings you up to date.  I still struggle, still have my moments of difficulty, but if there is anything that I have learned recently (especially during my time alone at Christmas), is that God is always there.  He is at work.  He is orchestrating even the painful times for His glory.  Things are looking up, my walk with Him is deeper than I ever imagined, and I am excited to finish the race out here in Brazil with His help.  I am even looking at taking a Portuguese class so that I can do more than order food (which is a HUGE accomplishment!).  But I would like to be able to actually converse with the bakery guy, the people at the Brazilian church I visited (and want to visit again), or even the taxi driver.  But it is one step at a time.  One step in the direction that God leads.  Because wherever He leads, is where I want to be.

Blessings my friends!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bolta Faith

Cancer has not won.  God HAS won!

It may not seem like it to most people that when cancer slowly takes a life away, that God has won.  We are often asking:

Why do You allow this evil to steal lives, God?
Why hasn't the healing come?

But the reality is that with this family, God HAS won. 
Healing may not have come in the form that we had wanted, hoped and prayed for.  But healing has come.  I have watched and read testimony after testimony from the Bolta's on how even in the many valley's they've experienced, God is victorious and all glory has been given to Him. 

Just because God did not act in a way that we wanted does not mean He hasn't healed and hasn't responded to the many prayers said for this family.  Thousands of lives have been impacted by their walk, by their faith.  I am just one of the many that can say that I have been encouraged, challenged and drawn closer to God because of what they have been through. 

We have been praying for healing for John.  Crying out in prayer for healing.  But think about this Acts 3:1-11 is a story of a beggar.  Lame from birth.  Carried each day to the city gates to beg for his food and for a living.  When Peter and John walked by, the man did what he always did...beg for food.  But Peter offered him something greater.  He offered him healing.  The man was healed and his healing was a testimony to many about the works and glory of God.  The simple lesson I see in this example is that we are not to be afraid to ask God for something...but just keep in mind that He may answer in a way that we don't a way better for Him so that His name can be proclaimed.

I don't pretend to have all the answers as to why the healing has not come on earth for all those in pain.  But I do know that watching the Bolta's, John is healed.  He is walking with the Savior that he lived for, the Savior that he proclaimed was good no matter what.  And in the healing that came a different way, I've seen many people encouraged, challenged and humbled by John and Schelli's faith to remain strong in the midst of it all.  I have watched as Schelli has written from her heart...raw emotions for all to see.  Raw tears spent as she shared their life with us.  And in this, lives were changed for His glory.  In this, His Name has been proclaimed from the rooftops and all over the world. 

Inasmuch as we wanted John to remain here on earth, I believe that  even with his death, John would want all of us to keep proclaiming God's faithfulness.  Proclaiming that God is good, He does heal, He does provide and that He does love each and every one of us.  John's testimony is that God has won, not cancer.  God is still good in death.  We need to embrace Bolta like Faith and live each and every moment for Him, looking for ways to give Him praise and glory and choosing the faith that proclaims His goodness and faithfulness.  If we become angry and bitter, then yes, cancer has won.  But that is not the message that John and Schelli would want.  Look for ways to be thankful, for ways to lift your hands to Him in the midst of your darkest pain, look for ways to live each moment in His light and glory....because then He wins and John's battle was not fought in vain. 

Choose Bolta like Faith.  Because God HAS won, and always will.

John....thank you for living out your faith and for choosing to serve Him!  Your legacy lives on!