surviving or thriving?

Vulnerability: the state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

I find that our culture has taught us to be everything but vulnerable. We are encouraged to put forth this image of having it all together. Social media teaches us to value that perfect picturesque life. But does that really help us connect with one other or does it remind us of our sheer brokenness when compared to other’s perfectly presented lives?

I want to be vulnerable without being vulnerable at the same time. I’m not even entirely sure what vulnerability looks like? But I think that the Lord uses our vulnerable brokenness to bring us closer to each other and to Him.

So here is my attempt at vulnerability. Here’s where I’m at. Life is challenging and painful. I struggle a lot with figuring out how to live in the face of unspoken pain (as Ann Voskamp puts it). What’s worse is that sometimes I don’t struggle not to struggle, I give into the lie that this is where I belong. In pain, physical or emotional. It’s easy to feel invisible when hurting and to believe that no one sees it.

It sucks. I think we’ve done a shitty job, as a culture, of accepting each other’s pain. Instead there’s this idea that everything has to be good. Everything has to be fine. If life is not fine, you’re not doing it right. You’re not a good Christian. You don’t trust the Lord enough (which is true at times).

But the truth is, I haven’t been fine.

“Are you surviving or thriving?” is a question I like because it can be pretty telling. Surviving as in just barely making it. Trying to keep your head above water. Living day to day. Thriving to me is like growth and joy and peace. Its what comes after the surviving. You toil and fight and struggle, and then you see the growth. The truth is I’ve been surviving for awhile. Trying to figure out who I am and where I belong. Trying to figure out how to do life and what I truly believe and value. Trying to make it look like I’m great to the rest of the world because Heaven forbid we actually worry (and thus pray?) for one another. Sometimes I pray that the Lord would open my eyes to other’s pain. Maybe it’s just where I’m at right now and what I am learning and going through, but it seems like we’re not good at seeing each other’s pain and being there for each other. Out of sight out of mind, right? If we aren’t aware of it then we don’t have to worry about it. We don’t have to recognize it. We don’t have to talk about it. Here’s what I’m learning though, He is sovereign and faithful.

He is sovereign over my pain.

He is sovereign over my anger.

He is sovereign over my brokenness.

What a reassuring thought. There is so much hope in that. He sees me. He sees it all. I want him to be glorified in my pain, struggle, whatever it is. Yes we will struggle. I will have pain and sorrow and heart break, but there is a wonderful Savior and in that fact I rest. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Sometimes I just sit and dwell on that thought and am filled with peace. The Lord is so faithful in times of need. Sometimes we need to see our own brokenness to realize how much the Lord is redeeming our life to look more like His.

“In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

He sees the pain of running that last mile of a race and he’s there at every turn. Not taking the challenge away, but silently whispering encouragement. He is present amidst our struggle. He’s teaching me to thrive while surviving. To find rest and contentment in Him amidst the chaos of life. He is sovereign.

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looking back

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I wrote this back in December but never got around to posting it, so here it is:

 

2016.

I had some of my greatest joys and some of my toughest days. Preparing for the Dominican, living there, coming back to this culture.. It changed me considerably. God has been teaching me so much, and honestly at times it’s been quite painful. It’s like the pruning part of growth. There’s no real growth until the pain level is high enough.

While it has been hard, He has continually showed me His goodness and His sheer faithfulness time and time again throughout this year. Confía en Dios is what I’ve learned. Trust in God. Heading to the Dominican, knowing no one, was quite terrifying and exciting at the same time. The Lord has given me a heart for the Dominican and the people there. I saw the Lord’s faithfulness in the support I received to go. Oftentimes I didn’t have the support I needed, would pray and within days have the donations needed. I was nervous to go alone, but He provided me with a great community of friends in the Dominican that I consider family now. He has shown me that there is beauty in brokenness. That when we are at our lowest, He is still there. He has shown me that He is my rock and will always be the one stable thing in my life.

I learned things in the Dominican that I don’t know if I ever could have learned in this materialistic culture of America. I have to practice daily choosing to be content and grateful for what I have instead of continually seeking more. I learned what it was like to live out of a suitcase and loved living so simply. I saw the love of the church in the Dominican in a way I had never previously experienced. I have never felt so welcomed and so at home then I did at Iglesia Bautista Quisqueyana. I learned how to be bold and communicate how I felt and what I believed to the Dominicans in a way I had never needed to before. Talking to people from a different country allowed me the freedom to be who I was and not who they expected me to be. They accepted me for me and valued me because of who I was. Their culture values people in a way that I strive to emulate.

Coming back was difficult though. I’ve written previously about how everything felt foreign. I knew I would have some reverse culture shock, but it completely surpassed what I had expected. When I came back, I thought it was hard because everything felt different: being with my family, friends, being at home, driving my car, having freedom to choose what I wanted to do and eat and what not.. It all felt so weird. But looking back, I think the hardest part for me to accept was myself. While I looked at everything as if it was different, it was me. I was different. I changed.

I think of my life kind of like a snow globe sometimes with its perfectly laid snow laying peacefully at the bottom. Tranquil and settled. Then imagine someone coming, picking it up and shaking it violently. That’s how this year has felt. Like Jesus has taken my calm and comfortable life and shook it up. Like he’s tearing up my foundation to help me be founded in Him and His truth.

I came back and felt lost and confused. Who was I? My whole life I felt like I was this quiet, shy, obedient, submissive rule follower that wanted nothing but to be comfortable and safe, but I came back feeling totally different. I want to go and do things. I want to life to be an adventure. I want to travel the world and see the beauty of nature. I want to follow Him wherever He takes me. I want to go with boldness. I want to live simply, take risks, and enjoy people.

The very first week in the Dominican I was talking to Noe, one of the lead missionaries where I was interning (basically my Dominican dad for the summer), and he started telling me about what he was thinking- how all of us American interns would finish the summer and what we would take from it. He told me this quote, that even at the time I thought was quite inciteful: “a missionary never goes home.”

A missionary never goes home.

I figured at the time that he knew what he was talking about, the Dominican would end up keeping a piece of my heart. Even when I first got back that’s what I thought; I would have two homes after coming back.

But as time passed, I realized that I still didn’t feel at home in America. And I wrestled with that a lot. Why? The Dominican felt like home after a couple of weeks, why couldn’t I get back to normal and feel ‘at home’ here in America? I had been back for much longer then I was gone for. Reverse culture shock is a real thing. And it’s hard.

Here’s one thing I learned. Hebrews 11:8 mentions the obedience of Abraham to move to the place he is called to receive as an inheritance. He leaves his homeland with a calling, but without a destination given to him. By faith he lives in the promise land, but it remains foreign to him. “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) This chapter mentions many dominant Biblical characters who live as strangers and exiles on this earth, clearly seeking a better homeland. “They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:16) Abraham, along with many others, left a civilized life to follow the Lord’s calling. They lived a foreign life because they knew where they were going and what their purposes were.

It was such an encouragement to me to remember, this earth was never meant to be our home. The saying ‘a missionary never goes home’ reigns true for me. Heaven is our home. The closest thing we’ll get to home here is connecting to people through the love of Christ. 2016 was a year full of travel, change, and learning for me. Learning to trust and depend on Him through the trials and joys of life.

 

Lost and seeking

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I came back from the Dominican more drained and spent than ever before. I had no energy to do anything, let alone serve or be intentional with others. The continual overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and isolation felt so foreign that I didn’t recognize myself. I felt alone and confused and lost in a way that I have never felt in my life.

I’ve always wanted to be the more generous person in a friendship. I want to give more, buy more, do more. But being so overwhelmed made that nearly impossible. I did, I tried. I tried to continue, but it was wearing me out. I was already so spent.

I felt like God was trying to teach me that my friends would be faithful. That they would love me even when I had nothing to give. But I’m stubborn and I didn’t want to learn it. I couldn’t imagine letting my friends be there for me when I couldn’t reciprocate the support and intentionality they were offering.

I had fallen into believing this lie that I needed to love my friends more. [Don’t get me wrong, we are called to love people deeply, but it shouldn’t be a comparison] I felt like if I didn’t love them well enough that they would not value my friendship any more. That it wouldn’t be worth it and that they would stop being friends with me. Prior to the Dominican, I continually gave and gave and gave and I was fine with that. The fear of being a burden somewhat fueled my desire to serve. But coming back from the Dominican I was tired and lonely and at a lower point in my life than I had ever been. I had nothing to give. No energy to give much physically or emotionally. And I felt valueless because of that. I felt worthless without the ability to love and serve like I wanted to.

Serving had become something I found my identity and value from. My identity had been found in the quality of my friendships and my ability to love and serve well. When I couldn’t do that, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know how to ask for help knowing I couldn’t give it. I didn’t know how to receive knowing I was incapable of reciprocation.

I was talking to my cousin about this and what all I was going through and he reminded me of my aunt’s sister, Holly, who has severe MS. He reminded me how her husband, Brad has selflessly served and loved her throughout their marriage. How it’s such a beautiful picture of unconditional love. My cousin and I talked about how we both aspire to be the Brad, to serve others in their brokenness. And I shared with him how I wanted so badly to be the Brad, but I felt like the Holly right now. So drained I didn’t even have enough energy to take care of myself, and how I felt so valueless in that. But as we talked, I thought about Holly’s situation and how her MS does not define who she is as a person. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and her value has nothing to do with her physical capabilities. She is still an incredibly joyful and loving person.

God has been teaching me that my identity is not found in what I do, (praise the Lamb), but my identity is found in who I am in relation to Christ. I am His BELOVED child. I got caught up in my service that when I no longer had the energy to serve, I didn’t know who I was. It was like I lost a part of myself, when in reality my identity has never changed. I am, still, and will always remain His child.

I think God has been challenging me to stop idolizing my service. Finding my identity and value in how much I give will never satisfy. I’m learning to be vulnerable and ask for help. It’s hard and humbling. And I continually feel like I’m fighting the feeling of depression and oppression right now. An ever-present feeling of being burdened and weighed down. But it’s in this time that I feel like God is teaching me so much. And it’s a process. I’m still learning, that just like my friends will love me through my neediness, so will God. His love is not conditional and is not based on my ability to seek him out and be intentional. I had no energy to do anything, including read my Bible sometimes. I’ve been so overwhelmed with processing stuff from the Dominican, yet God continually shows me his steadfast faithfulness. He shows me who he is again and again and again in answering my prayers and continually blessing me. With all the instability in my life, I’ve learned that He is my rock. He is my anchor in the storm.

Sometimes we go through rough times in life. Sometimes we feel like we’re drowning and fighting to stay afloat in the storm. Sometimes we need people and can’t give much in return. And that’s okay. All I have to say is keep fighting. Keep your head up. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Others have been there too. It’s okay to ask for help. That’s what I’m learning. Friendships that glorify Christ are give and take. My value is not found in how much I can give, but the fact that as a Christian, I am a part of Christ’s family. That’s what I’m holding onto. The earth was never meant to be my home. So, I feel a little lost and life feels a little foreign, but you know what my consolation is? My citizenship is in Heaven. We were never meant to feel 100% at home here because this isn’t our eternal destination. We have hope in a future with no suffering.

Wandering

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I’m currently transitioning between two totally opposite cultures and it’s hard. There are positives and negatives to both cultures, but they are very very different from each other.

It’s funny cause I still find myself trying to control things and the Lord just being like-do you trust me?

I wrote in an earlier blog about how I was learning to trust God. –

“He created me. Doesn’t that make him worthy and capable to fulfill my needs? To be my friend when I’m lonely?”

But the funny thing is, I never felt that lonely in the Dominican. God gave me people that became family to me. It’s actually been the transition back that I have felt alone in. Disconnected to everything here in America and back in the Dominican. It’s like my minds trying to decide where I’m going/ where I’m headed/ where is my home? What is my purpose here? The foreignness makes me feel lost in my own culture. I’m in this awkward middle ground that I honestly don’t understand. Everything still feels weird. I get frustrated easily with people around me and the excessiveness and high maintenance requests that some have. Sometimes I pridefully think to myself – ‘oh wow you could never live in the Dominican.’ As if I was perfect and not excessive before I went. As if I am not guilty of the exact same thing even now. Maybe not anymore, not to the extent I was prior to the Dominican. It really has changed me.

Everything feels foreign. Things that use to feel normal, that I expected to feel normal feel weird in a way that’s hard to put into words. I knew it would feel weird coming back. I lived there for 10 weeks. Life there became my new normal. But I never expected being “home” to feel this foreign. Sleeping in my bed at home feels weird, the quietness is weird. It made it hard to sleep at first. Hanging out with my family is weird. Even being with my friends is hard sometimes. I miss the community I had in the Dominican.

I don’t know what to do with all I learned. Honestly I don’t even know what all I learned. I’ve never gone through so much and seen so many things and met so many people in a span of 10 weeks before. It’s like I just had a life time of experiences packed into that 10 weeks and how do I process that in just a couple days? Weeks even? I’ll probably be processing that for the rest of my life.

I came home so drained in every way, and I still feel that way. More needy then I’ve ever felt in my life. I just feel like I have nothing to give. Like I’m so poured out that I need to recharge. I’m not sure what that looks like as I continue to remember to depend on Him through it all. I’ve never been so spent in my life.

One thing one of my camp leaders used to say is to be spent for the Kingdom. And that’s how I feel. Completely and utterly 100% spent and it kind of feels terrible. Like I gave and gave and gave and I have nothing left to give. Maybe I didn’t depend on God as much as I should have? He definitely sustained me but I have scars from this summer. I came home dehydrated and malnourished (it was difficult being GF in the Dominican) and exhausted in every way shape and form. I came home with a lot of anxiety and a continual feeling of burden in attempting to process it all and re-adapt to the fast-paced and overly materialistic American culture.

The more I connect here, the more I long for the relationships I had in the Dominican.

How do I explain it?

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I could tell you all I did this summer. All that happened and it would sound like a terribly hard summer. You would hear about times of sheer joy and laughter, times I laid on the ground from sheer exhaustion, and times I wanted to punch something from sheer frustration (once I even did punch things, but that’s a story for a different time.) I’ve never been more physically, emotionally, and mentally drained in my life.

But how do I explain to you how much it meant to me? How much the people in the Dominican touched my heart. How much this summer changed my life.

Yeah, Dominicans can be overwhelmingly aggressive at times, but they’re the most passionate and welcoming culture I’ve ever experienced. Going to IBQ -Iglesia Bautista Quisqeyana- was like going to my home church. Every week I went I knew more and more people and it felt more and more at home there. Even the weeks with no translation, just solely Spanish, I loved it. Spanish is really a beautiful language. It was such a blessing worshipping with them every Sunday. During the welcoming time, I’d be hugged by strangers and friends alike. I even got to help in the nursery a couple times. They welcomed us into their church like the body of Christ should – with open arms.

Dominicans are genuine. They’re not caught up in what they look like – although they know how to look sharp- but they care about the person. They’ll tell you how you really are, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I learned a lot about myself this summer just from the random honest comments my Dominican friends made to me about myself. Sometimes it was a little harsher then what I’m used to in America, but it opened my eyes to a lot. Then when I’d receive a compliment, I knew they weren’t just saying it, they meant what they said. One of my Dominican guy friends told me that I worked like a Dominican, and I’ve never been more honored to receive a compliment. I have never met a group of people that work harder.

This summer was life changing. I saw God work in so many cool ways. I learned to trust Him even when it seemed impossible. I learned to give up control over myself and those around me in a way that I had never done before(it’s still a learning process). At one point my best friend in the Dominican got extremely sick, like more sick then I’ve ever seen a person in my life, and that was the hardest part for me. To see her that sick was so terribly hard, but that was also where God taught me the most. I so strongly wanted to help her, but I was doing all I could and she wasn’t getting better. I couldn’t control it or help the situation and that was terrifying. I didn’t even have the power to get her gatorade when she needed it because I couldn’t drive or leave the place we stayed by myself. Seeing her get sicker and sicker was stressing me out so much and I felt so powerless to help that I was overwhelmed by anxiety. At one point I just had to be like ‘Okay God. I can’t control this and I’m going to stop trying.’ And I just felt like God was saying “HEY. Trust me. If you can trust me with Your life, you can trust me with Hanneh’s too.” And I had to release that. To recognize that God is in control and remember that He has shown me again and again how faithful and good he is. Of course He is qualified to take care of my dear friend.

I learned that even with 2 opposite cultures with different people, the Gospel unites us. Those few times we were able to worship in both English and Spanish were such a beautiful glimpse of the body of Christ. Worshipping our creator together. A first world country and a third world country, a country born from freedom and a country born from seeking freedom from slavery, an excessive and materialistic country and a humble and simple country. To witness these two groups of people coming together and singing reminded me of the verse that says ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord,’ because that’s what it was – such a joyful noise. Words can’t even describe what it felt like standing there in awe of God’s power to unite such diversified cultures in glorifying Him.

I learned what it’s like to sacrifice everything for Jesus. My time, my comfort, my choice of what to eat and when to work out, the ability to purchase what I want and when I want it, my comfort, my relationships back home- I missed two of my friends weddings. But because of those sacrifices I got to see how good my God is. He is SO faithful. How he gives such good blessings. I made some lifelong friendships in the Dominican that would have never happened had I given in to my fear and not gone.

I learned how he uses us even when we feel like we’re giving nothing. He taught me that’s it’s not about me or how much effort I put into it, He is in control. Any and ALL growth comes from Him.

I was afraid I would be lonely this summer, but God blessed me with amazing friends who became like family to me. He gave me friends I could joke around and laugh with, sit down and cry with, and friends that encouraged me to follow and pursue God’s calling for my life, whatever that is.

He opened my eyes to the materialistic nature of Americans. We have so much and yet we continually desire more. I saw what it looked like to live in poverty and be completely content with it. I saw how easily Americans pity the Dominicans and what they have materially, when in reality the Dominicans are so much more content. The believers that I met and interacted with there recognize how blessed they are, regardless of their circumstances. I saw how easy it can be for Americans to see the Dominican as this culture that needs us so much, they need us to come do VBS for them, they need us to raise money for them, they need us to build chapels for them, they need us to evangelize to them, when honestly I think Americans are more impacted by the mission trips then the Dominicans. We need them to remind us how to live simply and joyfully. We need them to show us what true gratitude is like. We need them to teach us how to be content in whatever circumstances there are. We need them to remind us it’s not all about what we have, but who we have in our life.

I learned full dependence on the Lord in a way I had never experienced before. Honestly I think it’s much easier to depend on Him when you’re forced to that point. I realized that nothing else could sustain me other then the Lord. He continually gave me strength when I sought Him for it. I could not have survived this summer without Him and the friends He put in my life this summer.

I knew that the Dominican would become my relative home for the summer, but I never realized how much it would feel like home. How normal life would become there. Those random daily occurrences that became normal to me – like car alarms going off after it thunders, living in the city and hearing the city life and the disco all night, like the people and the culture and hearing Spanish, even how normal speaking the little Spanish I know was, not drinking out of the tap (it still kind of freaks me out back in America sometimes), taking the bus everywhere, constructing things, getting jugo de Cana at La Sirena every week, going to church in Spanish… It was all normal. It was home to me.

How do I explain it all?

Be still.

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This week we had three different groups here! I wondered if it would be kind of hectic and disorganized with over 80 people, but the Lord definitely worked this week cause everything from construction to doing VBS at 4 different places went smoothly. I led the construction of the roof panels yet again (I’ve done this for the past 6 or 7 weeks). It’s alright though. I’ve done it so much I know how to do help my team get them done quickly and relatively efficiently.

I’ve done it so much that I like to start and work till they’re done. But sometimes that’s not how it works out. We had a lot of workers so work got done quickly. But there’s only 2 chop saws, so oftentimes the wood couldn’t be cut at the pace the panels were being constructed.

There was one day that I was consumed with finishing one side of the roof panels. We needed 18 left panels and 18 right panels. It was time to clean up but we only had one right panel left to do and I was just like – let’s go ahead and finish this! Come on! The team I was working with was willing, so we started getting it done. It was the fastest we had made one. We were like 75% of the way done when the guy that’s the head of the construction came over and informed me that we already had the needed 18 right panels.

Frick. I was so frustrated that I made my team work extra. That I had carelessly had them do extra work that we would then have to fix later. Failure is something I hate. I hate messing up. I like to do things right. I can remember the detailed stuff and how to construct it, but I had still made a mistake. It really wasn’t that big of a deal, but it bothered me a lot.

The next day, we were back at it again. But still, all the wood wasn’t cut, and I started getting a little antsy. I still really wanted to finish them already. I just wanted to get it done. And all of a sudden I just felt like the Lord was telling me – Be still. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and focus on the relationships here. Be still and focus on the people.

This is something the Lord is continually teaching me. Focus on the people. The groups we had this week were incredible. I loved each one. And I think part of that was cause I did try to focus on the people this week.

Seek my face.

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Coming into this summer I expected it to be hard. I expected it to be lonely and difficult to adapt. I expected to miss home like crazy and be homesick. I expected to be counting the days to when I would come home.

I mean a part of me also feared that when coming here, I would never want to go back.

I expected to learn a lot about Jesus. To be continually poured into by the people I’m working with. But what I found challenging was not what I expected and vice versa. I got here and immediately connected with the other interns. I fell in love with the culture and within the first week knew that I would be heart broken to leave. God has been so faithful to make this place my home.

What I found difficult was focusing on Jesus. Do you know how easy it is for me to get caught up in the physical work of building chapels and doing construction and easily forget to be in the word pursuing my relationship with Christ? I can often be very work focused and that’s where I’ve been at the past couple weeks. So incredibly physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, I had less then enough energy to function. I neglected the one relationship that reenergizes me. I neglected the one book that offers more truth and encouragement then I could need in a thousand life times.

On top of that, I’ve been trying to figure out God’s calling for me. I love it here. I love being a missionary in the Dominican. The cultural differences make life a little more difficult sometimes, but I still love it. Spanish is a beautiful language and I desire so deeply to learn it in order to connect better with the people here. I feel called to missions, but the where is hard to discern.

I’ve been letting my exhaustion take over. I’ve been so busy that finding a moment to be still with the Lord is tough. The only consistent time I’ve found to be successful is in the mornings. Free time is sparse; if i want to read my Bible I have to be more proactive here then I am at home. And the past couple weeks, I’ve done that poorly.

But yesterday I got up early. One of the other interns, Hanneh, and I decided to get up yesterday and start studying the book of Proverbs. It’s evident just in the first chapters that He promises wisdom to those who seek it earnestly.

Proverbs 2:4-6 “if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

My prayer that morning was that God would teach me and show me Himself and His will for my life.

You know what’s cool? I probably felt God speak to me more yesterday then I have any other day here. Hanneh and I got the chance to talk to the founder of the ministry we’re working for after church. I asked her if she had any advice for someone considering going into missions full time and she had three tidbits of wisdom:

1) Yes come. We need more young people that are passionate about overseas missions.

2) To determine God’s calling you have to continually be in the word and in prayer.

3) There’s no coincidences.

Then last night another leader of a ministry in the Dominican came and talked to our group about her journey of becoming a missionary. She felt called to do missions overseas but couldn’t figure out where. She kept praying and praying about it and telling God – “I’m willing. Show me your will. I’m willing.” One night when she was praying she felt God telling her “Stop seeking my will and seek my face instead.” And she knew exactly what He meant. She had gotten so caught up in seeking His will for her life that she had neglected pursuing her relationship with Him.

What I learned was that sometimes (or maybe all the time?) God doesn’t show you His whole plan for your life. Just little steps you can take to continue following his will for your life. If you’re pursuing your relationship with God and seeking Him out, then you can’t really be outside of His will. He will show you in His timing.

What a good check to be reminded three times yesterday to seek God and be in the word daily. 

Philippians 4: 6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Roof panels

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This week I got to work with a smaller sized group that came to the Dominican to build a roof for a chapel. Typically we get to build the whole chapel (or in last weeks case- a house) but since we had less people, building a roof was a better option.

Coming into this week I was like “cool we get to build a roof.” Pretty neutral about it. As the week went on, my attitude got a little more negative. I just felt like building a roof was not nearly accomplishing as much as building a whole chapel. The group worked incredibly hard and quickly, and we often didn’t have enough work for the amount of people we had.  There was more sitting around then usual. Because my job as an intern is to equip the short timers, oftentimes I had to sit back and let them do the work.

As we headed to the chapel site at 4 in the morning to build our roof, I was riding in the bus thinking about how much cooler it is to build a chapel. I was thinking solely about the practicality and necessity of a chapel versus a roof.

When we finished putting the roof up on the chapel we circled up with our group, the pastor, his family, and other church members. We all came and worshipped together in that chapel with the  roof we had just constructed. We sang songs that could be sung in both Spanish and English. I was standing between our group and the Dominicans, and I could clearly hear both Spanish and English words being sung to our Creator. The presence of the Lord was so prevalent in that chapel. To hear people from such different cultures worshiping together is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed. There’s just something awe-inspiring about hearing people worship in two different languages. It just reminded me how powerful our God is, that he connects even those from different countries and backgrounds.

What I realized when building that roof was that it may have taken less work than a chapel, but it still blesses the body of Christ and that’s what matters. Sometimes God’s will is not glorious and all encompassing. Sometimes he needs us to do the little things. Not that this was a little thing- we built so many stinkin’ roof panels [so many I even dreamed about constructing roof panels].

We don’t get the credit for building the whole chapel, but focusing on that made me lose site of what was truly important. God has already been glorified in that building. Constructing the roof was so incredibly worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing about the week. What an opportunity to witness the first worship songs sung in the completed chapel. Maybe we didn’t get to put up the whole chapel, but we got to build a dang roof for a place that’s purpose is solely to glorify God! What an honor to get to take part in that.

Power Tools

So I’ve been doing a lot of construction the past couple weeks, and I’ve learned how to use lots of different power tools. Now, could I tell you what all their names are and what to do when something doesn’t work quite right? Ehh maybe. Some I’m better at then others. Drilling is my favorite. Probably cause I’m good at it and for the most part others aren’t (or it just takes more practice). I’m also good at the chop saw (even though I forget its name sometimes.). It’s a more technical/ detailed job and involves working with numbers – which I like.

As I was thinking about all the different tools and how each one is necessary in construction, it reminded me of the chapter in 1 Corinthians when Paul writes about spiritual gifts. Without all the necessary tools – hammer, nails, screws, chop saw, router, hand saw… Construction would be so much harder and take so much longer. Some tools are more difficult to use, some take more precision, some take more time and others involve seeing the whole picture and not just the details. Different workers have different strengths. But we brought it all together to create a house this week. We had many different power tools and we needed a team to carry out the work we had set out for us.

In the same way, God has gifted us each with different spiritual gifts such as giving, serving, hospitality, teaching, encouragement, wisdom, empathy… It’s easy to neglect the tools in our belt and try to do it on our own. But just like how each person’s tools are needed in construction, so it is with spiritual gifts also. We don’t need to just be present in order to get work done, we need to be willing. Willing to learn and work on our giftings.

As Christians, we are all part of the body of Christ. We are each gifted differently and each of our gifts are needed to create a team that glorifies the Lord. Sometimes we don’t know exactly what tools we have [I spent hours using the chop saw but it took me half a week to learn it’s name] but we need to be willing to use and practice the tools God has given us in order to have an effective ministry.

Honeymoon phase

DR blog tres honeymoon

I like to think there’s a honeymoon phase in every big commitment or adventure. There’s the nerves and adrenaline that come prior, but as you take that leap into a new adventure there’s this excitement and naivety. It’s like this huge blank canvas that you’re starting to write. It’s a clean slate and it’s (somewhat) easy to start.

Being in the Dominican the first two days didn’t feel real. It was all so foreign to me that I felt like I was going to wake back up in my air conditioned room at home. I kind of think it was my body’s way of taking it in – not letting me realize that this is what the next 10 weeks would look like. At least until I was ready to accept it.

It was a short “honeymoon phase,” but the first couple days I looked around like – how cool I get to do this! The other interns are awesome! This is gonna be my best summer yet! And while those are all still thoughts I have, I’m also coming to the point I’m realizing it’s going to be hard. I always knew that, but now I’m experiencing it.

I miss home. Not necessarily my house, but I miss the people in my life at home. My family, my roommates, my friends… I miss being known. I don’t think your past defines you, but your past helps define who you’ve become. There’s other random things I miss too: Chick-fil-a, driving my car, easy access to anything I need (aka target), air conditioning…

I know that it will get better as this becomes my relative home for the summer, and I really am so incredibly excited to see how the Lord will work here this summer. What an amazing opportunity to get to live in the Dominican for a summer and be able to evangelize and build chapels and most of all get to know the people here!

The “honeymoon phase” is ending. I’m starting to realize that this is a really big blank canvas I’m writing on. It’s not just a short-term, mini trip. It’s gonna take determination and grit and most of all Jesus to joyfully serve these next 10 weeks. It’s when things are hard that we allow the Lord to work through us. It’s in our discomfort that we truly learn and grow. I can’t wait to see what He will do here.