Friday, January 14, 2011

Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Just a reminder to myself (and to you!) that God is sovereign and in control ALWAYS!  His plans are the highest and best, even though it may be confusing or seem scary!  A friend recently reminded me of the story in Daniel chapter 3...Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had to first jump into the fiery furnace before God showed up...but when he did show up it was to his great glory!  Sometimes giving the most glory to God requires us to jump in head first and TRUST him that he'll be waiting for us when we get there!

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants!" -Daniel 3:28

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Year, New Adventure

Hi friends and family!  Hope everyone is doing well and not too busy (i.e. stressed) with all that the holidays hold!  I am looking forward to a different Christmas this year, one without the usual snow and cold, but thankfully will still involve my beloved family who will be here to visit me in just a few days!  Very excited for that! Well, since the new year is just around the corner, I wanted to take a minute to update everyone on where 2011 will be taking me!

Over the past several months I have felt a conviction and release to leave Belize and move back to the states.  At first I wasn't sure if this was just me missing home or what, so I started praying about what God desires for my next steps.  These prayers kept bringing me to the word "Tahoe," which was funny because since about the 2nd or 3rd week of my DTS (which started last January), that word had repeatedly come up at various times, through various conversations with various people and so on.  Each time it occurred, I wouldn't think much of it, but I did eventually start making notes in my journal when it would come up because it was starting to become really frequent!

I have heard that when God is trying to get your attention about something he'll continue to bring it up again and again until you pay attention and respond to what he's telling you.  So when I prayed and my mind went yet again to the word Tahoe, it finally dawned on me that God had been trying to get my attention about it all along. So I asked the question I should have asked months ago..."God, are you asking me to go to Lake Tahoe?"  and me being my needy self, I also added, "well if you are, you'll need to clearly confirm it...Today!" (I wouldn't recommend putting such ultimatums on God...thankfully he's gracious! :) Well sure enough, that very same day, a random couple walked up off the beach to the base and the man just so happened to be wearing a Lake Tahoe t-shirt!  Unfortunately I didn't get to talk to this couple so I don't know if they were from there or what,  but I definitely took it as confirmation that God really wants me to go to Tahoe.  After all, how random is it that someone wearing that shirt in Belize of all places would happen to come onto our property the same day I prayed that prayer?!

Faith and Obedience.  Two words I've thought a lot about this year, and really when all is said and done, who am I without faith, and why have faith in the first place if you are not going to be obedient to what it calls you to do?  So I'm going to Lake Tahoe out of obedience and faith that there is some purpose for me there, some reason why the God of the Universe went out of his way to get my attention about it.  One really cool and reassuring thing in all of this is that doors and opportunities are repeatedly opening for me as I move forth in planning and preparing to go; already I've been blessed with a place to stay when I get there, and several people who are networking for me and helping me to find jobs.   The rest I'm just leaving to God and trusting that he's got a plan for me once I get there! :)

So, the next few months look like this:  Spend Christmas in Belize with the family, leave Belize on the 29th and spend New Years with old pals in Chicago, move in with my parents in Michigan during the month of January, travel to Indianapolis and Atlanta to love on two of my best friends who are having babies in late January, and then pack up and move to Tahoe early February.  In the midst of all that I need to find a temp job of some sort to help me get back on my feet after this year, and to help me purchase a car since there isn't the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) in Tahoe.  Can you please be praying for me during all this transition?  Also if you know of anyone who is offering short-term employment or selling a trusty car on the cheap, please let me know.

It's going to be super hard leaving my DP family here in Belize but two things make it easier:  one is knowing that I will always be a part of the DP family and have a feeling this isn't the last time they'll see me, and two is the undeniable feeling of being ready to spread my wings and fly after this amazing year of transformation and renewal!  Everyone here has been so supportive of my decision to go to Tahoe and seriously that's what I love about the Body of Christ-just the love and acceptance received, no matter what.

I can't wait to see what this next year holds and am equally as excited to share it all with you!  My blog will continue on so you can be a part of my story as it unfolds in Lake Tahoe!

Love to each one of you and best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Abundant Blessings,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And then they were gone...

Blessed, ordained, spirit-filled, energetic, life-changing, revolutionary, hilarious, fun...
A few words that come to mind when I think back on my last few months here at DP.  I do want to apologize that this post has come so late but to be honest I’ve been super busy just living life with an amazing group of students who have blessed me far more than they will ever know.
My role here at DP is an interesting one because since I am administrative staff my job requires me to be more in the office and less engaged with students as the school staff members are.  However, at the beginning of this school I felt very strongly that God wanted me to be active and involved in these students lives, not just another face they see around the base from time to time.  Though I would need to be in the office a lot, I made a big effort to spend as much time with these guys as possible and really get to know them and encourage them while they were here.  When Anya asked me if I would like to be in her girls small group, I just knew that God had something up his sleeve...
Girls small group on their last morning in Belize!
Well three months have passed since then and quite honestly they have been some of the best months of my life.  God has shown me SO much of who he is through these students, and even though I set out to be a blessing and encouragement to them, I feel like I am the one who is walking away blessed and encouraged!  As my good friend Dina would say, my emotional bank account has been filled up!  It has been so life-giving just to be around them!  To see them be real and go deep, to watch their faces light up during their “A-ha” moments, to see them worship shamelessly, to catch a glimpse into their souls and all God is doing there, to hear about where they’ve been and where God is taking them, to sense their deep and passionate desire to know Him more, to laugh with them and see how creative and talented they are....all this has brought so much joy to my life!  It has been an honor that they would let me share a little piece of their journey!
Today they left for outreach and took a little piece of my heart along with them.  I am so sad to see them go but excited at the same time for what’s ahead.  They are off on their outreaches to Honduras and the Philippines so please be praying for them!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Falling into fall!

These past few weeks I have been missing fall soooo much!  I miss the crispness of the air, the turning leaves, getting to wear cute sweaters, boots, and scarves, changing my nail polish colors from the bright reds, pinks and corals of summer to the browns and deep colors of fall.  I miss Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Sunday football (even though I never watched football, I still miss the atmosphere of it! :)  I miss wearing sweatpants to bed at night, making vegetarian chili, the Farmer’s Market....I just miss it all!!!  In attempt to bring a touch of fall to my world here in Belize, I changed the background on my computer to a picture of some beautiful fall leaves and will most likely slap on a coat of OPI’s Lincoln Park after Dark in the next few days.  I’ve also been considering carving a watermelon jack-o-lantern since I am pretty sure pumpkins don’t grow around here.  Lately it’s been a little cooler than normal (although still in the high 70‘s!) and not so humid, so sometimes I close my eyes and try to pretend like I’m back in the midwest...I’m strolling in Lincoln Park on a cool autumn day, sipping my latte, kicking the leaves at my feet...and then I’m suddenly transported back to reality as a mosquito bites my leg, a bead of sweat drips from my forehead, and the tamale man rings the little bell on his bike as he rides down the beach... my daydreaming comes to an abrupt halt.  I’m not in Chicago anymore...
Even though I miss fall at home, life here in the eternal summer is amazing.  For one, there are 31 wonderful, eager, and fun new students here who are now in their 5th week of their DTS!  The school is going really well and God is moving in huge ways.  I have been powerfully encouraged and blessed by these students and have had the privilege of mentoring some of the girls.  It’s been so awesome to share and participate in this radical time in their lives and see God begin to bring about deep healing, restoration, and revelation.  Today outreach locations were announced and there will be a group going to Honduras and one to the Philippines.  About 20 of the students are going international and the other 11 are staying regional in Honduras.  
Secondly, I am working on getting my SCUBA Open Water diving certification, and am just about there!  Last weekend we had our written test, which I just barely passed, and this weekend we will have our last set of practical skills in the pool, and then I should be all set to explore the great deep in no time!  I’ve recently had a fixation with Miss Frizzle and the Magic School bus (remember that?)  When I’m diving I feel like Miss Frizzle. :) 
Work is moving right along, I finished up the project I was working on with collecting alumni information.  I sent out a newsletter and survey a few weeks ago and am currently working on analyzing survey results.  The marketing plan I’m working on is nearly done, goal is to have it finished this week!  I’ve also been helping with getting our website transitioned over to a new host site, and will be starting a promotional video for DP in the next few weeks!  All that, on top of being involved in girls small group, sitting in on lectures, and general community living, it’s been a busy season but SUCH A GOOD ONE!  
Some very exciting news to report is that I will be getting visitors in the months of November and December! Yessss! My friends Ali and Gretchen are coming from Chicago right around Thanksgiving time, and then my family is coming out for Christmas!  So excited for them to see and experience my life out here.

Last weekend we celebrated September birthdays with a “Book Club” themed birthday party where everyone dressed up as their fave book character.  Here are some pictures.  That’s me dressed up as Cruella Deville (not my fave, but I couldn’t get my original Miss Frizzle costume to work out, so this was a backup). 
Cruella Deville and "Max" from Where the Wild Things Are
Lining up to play musical chairs!

Captain Underpants and a Bible Character
(can't remember which)

As always, many thanks for standing with me and for the blessing you are to me!  I hope you are doing well!  I wanted to share a verse that has been speaking to me a lot lately, and I hope that it’s an encouragement to you too!  
The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love.  He will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17
Abundant Blessings to you!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A New Season!

The past week has been a whirlwind here on the base as we have been getting everything ready for the September DTS students who arrive TODAY!  This is going to be DP’s biggest school yet:  18 students will be on base for the Diving/Adventure DTS and 14 students on the boats, plus 12 staff, the 5 Toney’s, and 3 long-term guests.  In just a few hours this place is going to be hoppin’ with new people!  I am SO excited to meet these students!  It’s exciting to think about how much they have ahead of them....and that 8 months ago I was in their position.  Crazy how fast those 8 months have gone by!  I’m excited for these students that they are just starting.  That there is nothing but endless possibility ahead of them.  When we were praying for the students the other day, for some reason it just hit me really hard that God has specifically chosen these specific people to come to this specific school at this specific time.  These students were handpicked by the God of the Universe to be here right now for such a time as this.  What big plans He has for them and I’m excited and privileged to be a part of their journey!

Me and some of my besties at the airport the night I left for DTS...8 months have FLOWN by!

Last week we got three new staff members, Jeremy (who I call Jaguar), Megan, and Allysen.  Also, Anya came back from the outreach in Guatemala and Louise came back from her holiday in England.  The past week has been SO fun getting to know the new staff.  There is such a good energy here now and I have this funny little feeling that this school is going to be epic :).  
Lately I’ve been working a lot on what I’ll call “alumni affairs.”  In my opinion, one of DP’s most valuable assets is their alumni.  There is no better voice than of someone who’s already been through DP and can tell potential students about their experience, or someone who can come back and staff a school, or provide an awesome internship opportunity, etc.  The relationships that we have with alumni are invaluable.  The past few weeks I have been working on tracking down the alumni contact information and organizing a database with their contact information.  I also put together a newsletter and will be sending it out to alumni soon!  Just another way for people tied to DP to stay in the loop...especially now that things are changing so fast!  
Once things settle in with the new school, I’m really going to crack down and finish up the Marketing Plan that I had started at the beginning of the summer.  I just have a few loose ends that I need to tie up on that and hopefully it should be good to go for DP to have and distribute to their board members.
Well, I need to go and help with last minute things before the students get here.  Thanks to all for your ongoing support and love, and for being a part of this awesome journey God has me on.  
With the Wind,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On Following my Bliss....

During my travels I’ve had many chances to meet and talk to some really interesting people.  Our lives have intersected during various points in their journeys and I’ve loved hearing their stories.  It’s gotten me thinking about the fact that most everyone I’ve met is, in some way or another, seeking something more than that which they already have;  whether it's an adventure in the Amazon, inner peace at an Ashram in India, plastic bags to weave into purses and sell in the streets of Bangkok, a college education in Belize City, or the love of their life in Chicago.  Knowledge, experience, relationship, necessity...these “things” are what propel them to move, what feed their energy in their everyday lives. Everyone in their own way is searching for “more;” following after their bliss by doing what leads to happiness and a sense of satisfaction. 
I’m in Chicago this week visiting friends and family and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked how long I’ll be in Belize and what I’m going to do next.  I wish I had a better answer but honestly I don’t know, and I am slowly coming to a place where I’m ok with not knowing.  For me, being willing to live in the unknowingness of life is my way of following after my own bliss, because it brings me closer to God.  Author Mike Erre says that we waste much our time trying to “find out God’s will for our lives,” while living in a constant state of worry that somehow, we might miss it.  Erre challenges his readers to quit worrying about finding out what God’s master plan is for our future, and instead being obedient to what he has called us to do today.  Putting others above ourselves through living and learning in love, being selfless in our actions, speaking less, listening more, and doing this all in humble adoration of God and His kingdom is His will for our lives; and we can start doing this right now.  For me, following after my bliss is being obedient to what God has called me to do today, so that I may fully understand His love for me and in turn be able to love and bless others.  And I know that I have grace to catch me when I stumble and fumble in the process.  
It brings a lot of peace to know that I’m smack dab in the middle of His perfect plan for my life, a plan that will prosper me, not harm me.  While I don’t know what all that plan entails, the joy that I have experienced through being intentional and obedient brings me hope.  It encourages me to keep living day-to-day and pushing forth even if there is no visible light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ve learned sooo much this year and I am content in the season of life that I’m in.  I don’t know what bliss looks like to everyone, but what I’ve learned over the past seven months is what it looks like for me.  It’s waking up each day and dying to myself all over again.  Putting my wants and desires on the table and saying to the Lord, “take it.”  It’s trying my best to act out of love even though it may not be easy or come naturally.  It’s spending every day in the arms of a loving Father who will never leave me nor forsake me, and living in the comfort and hope that comes with that truth.  That, to me, is bliss.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Life these days...

Greetings from Central America!
Well I have been here almost exactly a month now...hard to Belize, huh?  :)  I'm located on an island called Ambergris Caye, which is a bit to the east of the mainland of Belize.  It's tiny slice of paradise in the Caribbean, which has (so-far) been clear of any hurricanes and overly dangerous tropical storms.  Look it up on a map sometime and start making plans to come visit me!  :)
I arrived on June 8th and spent that week settling in and getting reacquainted with life on the base.  I'm sharing a room with two other girls on staff, Alyssa and Louise.  The April school is already in week 11 of their lecture phase, so one more week and they'll be taking off for their outreach to Guatemala!  It's been really fun getting to know the new students and do life with them for the past few weeks.  Last week, I said goodbye to Kristin, or K2 as we called her, who became a very dear friend to me.  Kristin recently graduated with her masters in accounting from UT and was here for just a month volunteering at the base.  We hit it off almost instantly and had a blast hanging out.  I was sad to see her go.  :(
Now that I'm back on base as an intern, my official title is "Communications Coordinator." Basically I am involved in anything that someone may hear, read, or see regarding Destination Paradise.  Right now I'm working on a marketing plan, which involves a lot of research and strategy.  I'm having a lot of fun with it though and learning a ton of new stuff about social networking and marketing strategy.  A lot of people have asked what a typical day looks like, you go!  6:30 get up, 7:00 breakfast, 7:30 read, 8:00 worship and devos, 9:00 work on marketing stuff, 1:00 lunch, 2:00 work on marketing stuff or other projects, 4:30 workout, 6:30 dinner, after dinner hang out/read/watch movies/whatever and then bed.  Pretty typical schedule for a weekday, and then on the weekends I'll often go into town which is about 15 minutes away, or do something like ride bikes, kayak, relax by the pool, etc.  

This past Wednesday was my 26th birthday (thanks to everyone who sent me some love on FB!).  It was a great day.  I woke up to a sweet birthday poem and flowers from my lovely roommate, Louise.  My other roommate, Alyssa made me dirt pudding (YUM!)  and then at night we had a bonfire.  So fun!  It was a wonderful celebration of a wonderful 26 years!  Woo hoo!
I am definitely living the island life here, where things are a lot sloooower and I have much less of the daily grind I became accustomed to living in Chicago.  I'm actually still getting used to the pace of things here and the flexibility of my work and life right now.  For the first few weeks I was feeling stir crazy and anxious/antsy being here.  But it's starting to become more normal to me, even though I've had to very purposefully allow myself to take things down a notch or two.  I'm learning to enjoy the quiet, the solitude and simplicity of my life, and embrace the time to just be with God and in fellowship with other people.  
I don't want to make this too long but, I do want to send out a prayer request for my director Chris.    As many of you know already, Chris was involved in a horseback riding accident about 3 weeks ago.  He was thrown from the horse and suffered instantaneous head injuries causing his brain to swell and bleed.  He spent 2 1/2 weeks in the ICU in Belize City, and part of that time he was in a medically-induced coma.  Fortunately he was released from the hospital on Sunday after CAT scans came back normal, however he still has a long way to go in the recovery phase.  He still experiences confusion and agitation from time to time and is very restricted in his daily activities.  We are very much praising God for how well Chris is doing, especially since all the doctors that treated him said this should have been a fatal accident.  However he still has a ways to go and could definitely use prayers for a full and speedy recovery.  Also please keep his wife, Lynn, in your prayers as this has been an incredibly stressful and draining couple of weeks.  
Well...that's all I have for now.  I'm sure you noticed I changed the look of my blog, so I hope you like it.  I'd love to hear your comments, so let me know what you think!  Also, notice that there are now seperate pages for things like photos and stuff, which will all be coming soon!  Fancy, fancy, huh! :)
I love you all, and so appreciate your friendship and support!