Roof panels

roof blog

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.

Wrestling.

Wrestling.

Last week I was wrestling with a decision I had to make. I was recently accepted to be an intern to serve in the Dominican Republic this upcoming summer. (So exciting right?) Well I found out through an email during a really stressful week so I never quite had time to process or commit to it. I got the email and the next step was to sign some forms and get them sent to the ministry I will be serving with. Before I did that, I wanted to know if I could come back for this wedding of one of my good friends. The wedding fell about halfway through the summer and also happened to be during a really busy time in the Dominican. I found out that I couldn’t go to it and I was disappointed.

I was still wrestling with feeling uneasy and not feeling peace about going to the Dominican. It was partly because of not being able to come back for the wedding, but mostly because I hadn’t sat down and prayed and sought the Lord in my decision to go. I had made a decision to go, but I hadn’t fully committed. When I found out I couldn’t come back for the wedding, that was the tipping point for me. I just felt really uneasy about the whole thing. I ended up talking to my brother about it and he suggested I ask again if I could come back for the wedding, explaining how much it meant to me. [side note- I’m a really loyal person and weddings are a big deal to me] He helped me write out an email to send. I sent the request to go to the wedding again and got a reply that baffled me. The response was about what I considered sacrificing for the Lord meant and what I thought Luke 14:25-30 meant. At first I was taken aback by the in-depth questions, but then I realized that I did need to answer these questions. If this was what the Lord was calling me to, I should be willing to dive into this and study what the Lord says.

Sacrificing is an interesting subject. I think sacrificing for the Lord is giving up what I value in order to serve the Lord and to value what He values. Reading about the Biblical definition of sacrifice, certain articles talk about sacrifice being more all encompassing, meaning that sacrificing requires complete surrender to God’s will.

Concerning Luke 14:25:30 – I’ve read these verses before, but never really intently looked to see what Jesus meant when he said that. At first, I was confused that Jesus would ask his disciples to hate his father and mother, brother and sister because in other places in the Bible like Ephesians, it mentions honoring your father and mother and a verse in 1 John that talks about loving your brother. I did some research and found that what Jesus was saying, was not exactly to hate your family, but only to love them less then you love the Lord. So basically, our love for God should be greater then our love for others. Jesus isn’t demanding just our physical service, but he demands our hearts and our minds. Most of the time, I think that we can love both God and family and friends, but we should always be first loyal to the Lord. When deciding whether or not to commit to something, we should first decide if we are willing to sacrifice what it is going to take.

As I realized this, it sunk in. This means living in surrender to God’s will. It’s when we are asked to sacrifice that we can truly see where our value lies. I should be willing to sacrifice everything to serve the Lord. So I continually prayed “God I surrender. I surrender. I surrender.” And I meant it. I didn’t know what it looked like, but I was surrendering.

Okay, so I figured it out right? No, this is when the real wrestling started. How do I know what God’s will is for my life? When I first applied to go to the Dominican, I was incredibly excited. But when I found out I got to go, my excitement faded and fear took hold of me. It was like the devil was attacking me. Reminding me of how hard it would be and all the things I was giving up to go. I prayed and prayed that God would show me His will. I was willing, but I wanted to know for a fact that going to the DR was God’s plan for me.

The time came and I had to send my reply to the staff in the DR. But the time had also come for me to decide, was I willing to give up my own plans for the summer (such as going to this wedding) for the Lord? Would I submit to His will even if it wasn’t clear exactly what that was?

But still I wrestled. I was willing to do what the Lord had, but how was I supposed to know God’s will. I talked to my sister, Meagan, and said one of the reasons I didn’t feel peace was because I didn’t know if this is what the Lord wanted me to do. And she asked me “Well why wouldn’t He want you to go?”

Wow. Okay. I couldn’t think of one reason God wouldn’t want me to go. Every door had been opened for me to go. I had spent so much time in prayer asking that God would give me peace instead of seeking out an answer in His word. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that God gives peace, but it’s definitely in His timing. My heart wasn’t in it, but Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We shouldn’t always trust what our heart is telling us.

After Meagan asked me why God wouldn’t want me to go, I found these verses – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” “and the gospel must first be preached to all nations,” and “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Over and over again he says go and tell others the good news. That’s what I will be doing this summer. Evangelizing in the Dominican.

The question was how was this not God’s will?? I wanted Him to give me this feeling that it was right. But I didn’t need that; all I needed was my Bible because it’s literally HIS word.

As I read the verses about what we are commanded to do, I felt more peace. I sent the email stating that I was committed regardless of whether I could come back for the wedding. Immediately after sending it, I got excited again. It was at that moment that I fully committed. I had prayed and thought a lot about what the summer was going to take, and I decided that I could do it, but only with the Lord’s help. I would trust and abide in Him. I surrender.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we’re feeling, whether that’s fear, uneasiness, or maybe just feeling unequipped. All I needed to do was focus on His word and his instruction. He doesn’t say “Go and make disciples of all nations  if you feel led to” or “If you feel qualified then go preach to the nations.” He just says “Be my witnesses. Go and make disciples. Preach the gospel.” He is all-powerful, he doesn’t need us to be too. I heard a saying once- God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called – and I couldn’t agree more.

I would never be able to do this on my own. I’m moving to the Dominican for two and a half months. I’m not typically an adventurous person. Nor do I enjoy doing things out of my comfort zone. But it is in my weakness that HIS power is made strong! He is glorified through my weakness and fears, because that is where he shines! I’m no longer scared because God’s got me.

Flashbacks

I’ve never had a lot of pain in my life. That is, pain from someone leaving.In the past year and a half, two people I love passed away, but one was especially dear to my heart. The pain I went through the week my Papaw passed was insurmountable. It compares to no pain I’ve ever felt in my life. It was horrific and terrible. I cried more that week then I ever have in my life. I didn’t just cry, I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.

No. Life’s not fair. And no, I didn’t think I could get through that week. But I did. With the help of Jesus, family, and my dear friends. But you never really “get over” these things. They stay with you. You carry them forever. I will never forget Papaw and the tremendous impact he had on my life. I made it through that week and thought that the worst was far behind me. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been worse. But there have been some really tough times since then. Times I miss him so much it hurts. I wish I could just call him. Talk to him. Hear his voice. Give him a hug one last time. Tell him how much I love him and miss him. But last week I experienced something worse than just missing him. I experienced a flashback. A flashback that felt like it was all happening over again.

My other granddad was in a horrible motorcycle accident a week ago, Wednesday. After sustaining life-threatening injuries, he was resuscitated and care flighted to the hospital in Tyler. This hospital also happened to be the exact same hospital that we found out Papaw had cancer in. A “good” cancer to have they told us. A “bump in the road” they told us. “Totally manageable” they told us. He was gone within 2 months of that diagnosis. And now my other granddad was there, injured and hurting. And I had to go back. Go back to that dreadful place that started everything. Go past that room we spent thanksgiving in. The last thanksgiving with Papaw. The room that we took our very last family picture he will ever be in. The place that I headed to after I found out about his cancer. As I drove to Tyler Wednesday, I sobbed. I cried out. My vision was blurry as I was driving. I couldn’t stop. I was having a mini panic attack. All I could think was I CANT DO THIS. This CANNOT be happening again. It brought back all of the fears and emotions of that night with a renewed vigor. The night I knew he was dying. The night my mom said come home now. Come see him. The night I said goodbye to him. It all came rushing back. And I couldn’t go back. The memories and pain flooded in. I couldn’t stop it.

Pain. Life is pain. If we had no joy, we would have no pain. It’s those we love, that will hurt us the most. Because when you love someone, they become a part of you, you give them a little piece of your heart. And when they leave it feels like they’re ripping your heart right out. Your very breath. I couldn’t do it again that night. But the good news is that I didn’t have to. And neither do you. Jesus sustains us.

As I drove, sobbing, back to Tyler, I called one of my best friends. She lives out her love for Jesus more than anyone I know. As I talked to her she listened. And then she prayed for me. That I would have the strength to go for my granddad and family who needed me. Immediately I felt calmer. I felt peace. A part of me wanted to live in that pain. Because it reminded me of the life my Papaw lived, and the impact he had on my own life. It’s easier to remember it all when I feel the pain. I feel guilty when I’m not hurting for him. But we can’t live in that pain. Yes, when bad things happen, grieve. Let. It. Out. But let Jesus be with you in your pain. He doesn’t take it away. He sits with you in it. He feels it. And He brings peace. As soon as my friend prayed, I calmed down. Because I knew I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t do it, but there was someone who could.

We aren’t meant to live in that pain. Jesus blessed me that night. With that peace and strength to go back, but also because of what ended up happening when I got to the hospital. When I arrived, I was still nervous of reliving those memories. Thinking about walking on that skywalk from the parking garage to the hospital, to my granddad, still scared me. Seeing the room Papaw was in would be so incredibly hard. Why did the circumstances have to feel so similar. But because I got there after midnight, all the normal entrances were closed, even the skywalk I had walked so many times to go see Papaw. The only entrance open was one I had never entered, the ER entrance. It felt like a totally different hospital. 

A Year Ago Today

When you hear the words “a year ago today,” you know something really great or something terrible happened. Something worth remembering. Maybe a graduation,  a first date, a wedding, first day of a new job… But sometimes when you hear the words “a year ago today..” It means something more. It means something that broke you and changed you. Something you will never get over. And never forget.

For me this is what that is. Just a little over a month ago, I had a “year ago today” moment. August 14th, 2014. Forever ingrained in my memory. I got the call while I was working at camp, the call that changed me, broke me. It was the day I experienced death truly for the first time. But it wasn’t just any death. It was a life that was stolen from this earth. He felt he had no reason to live, so for him that meant he had a reason to die. A reason to not live. A reason to leave this lonely world in hope of something better. The pain he carried in his life, is now carried by those who loved him. Those whose lives were impacted by him. There were a lot. A lot more than you would expect for someone who felt he didn’t matter.

I read an article recently called “the day after I killed myself.” It’s written from the view of someone who did just that. But what she writes is interesting. She wrote that the day after she killed herself, she fell in love. She fell in love with the way her mom looked at every little picture of her and cherished her old stuffed animals. How her mom went into her closet and held her clothes just to smell her scent as if she was still there. It’s hard to accept reality sometimes. She fell in love with how her dad took all the gifts she had given him and cradled them. How he kept calling her number just to listen to her voicemail. Just to hear her voice. One. More. Time. She fell in love with the way her brother broke over her. The love he expressed for her. The way he could talk to no one. Because they were best friends.

How can you explain that to someone? How do you explain the way death effects you? You can’t. She fell in love with the fact that she was needed. She was wanted. She fell in love when she saw her dog walking happily along the trail they used to walk together. The beauty of the outdoors. The shining sun she had never quite noticed before. The warm gentle breeze that wraps itself around you. The day after she killed herself she went back to her corpse and tried to convince herself not to do it. But it was too late.

Everyone has an impact they don’t realize.

Always remember that.