Sunday, June 10, 2018

20 Things Honduras Has Taught Me

So I thought the previous post on fear would be my last from Honduras, but I decided I didn't want to leave on such a depressing note. So instead I'm ending with 20 things I've learned from my time in Honduras. Some are silly, some serious, but here it goes.

I have learned...

1. how to arrange about 100 kids to all fit on one school bus.
2. how to flag down a taxi.
3. how many buckets of water it takes to fill up the washing machine (12).
4. to truly enjoy worship in a foreign language.
5. to speak Spanish.
6. to accept grace.
7. to hear God's voice. 
8. to make (imperfect) tortillas.
9. to really trust God.
10. that no matter how many times I sweep the house, the dust will always find  a way in.
11. that I need to be discipled.
12. that I need to disciple. 
13. how to receive 30 hugs at once without falling over.
14. how to pretend being pegged in the back of the head with the soccer ball, accidentally (I think), didn't hurt.
15. how to engage my students in class.
16. to let go of control.
17. to expand my taste buds. 
18. that if you want to motivate students, just offer them cookies. Or cupcakes. Or candy. Really, anything with sugar.
19. that the slow-paced Latin American lifestyle is true until they're behind the wheel of a car.
20. love.

Nothing could have prepared me for the experience of the last four years, and as I get ready to leave this place I am so thankful for all that God has taught me through Honduras, my friends and coworkers, and my students. I will carry these memories and these lessons with me forever.


Dios le bendiga. (God bless you.)
Alexa
al02846@georgiasouthern.edu

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Fear

In exactly three weeks I will be moving back to the States, and I'm afraid.

Most of you probably read that statement and were immediately confused. How could I be afraid to come back "home"? It was understandable, expected even, that I be afraid when I first moved to Honduras, but now? Now I should only be "happy, happy, happy" in the words of the Duck Commander (Is that show even still on?)

Over the past four years, this blog has been like a public journal, letting whoever cares to read in on a little bit of my journey here. But this will probably be the most honest post to date. And I have debated even posting it. But maybe by putting this out there, it will help you understand a little more of what I'm going through. 

So here we go. My fears: 

I'm afraid people won't understand (hence the blog post). Usually when I come back to the States I receive many comments that are some version of, "Oh, you must be SO glad to be home!" And I am. But I am also SO glad when I am in Honduras. It's not that I can't wait to leave one and get to the other, and it's not that one is better than the other. It's that both of these places have been my home, and I love them both. And this time when I'm back in the States, I won't coming back to Honduras in a few months. And that's hard. So yes, while I will be SO glad to be home, I will also be missing my other home, and processing the fact that I will probably never live here again. It's a sadness mixed with happiness that's hard to explain, and I'm afraid people won't get the sadness part.

I'm afraid people won't care. Typically when returning to the States for the summer I try to catch up with people, and I may be asked to give an update to the church. But when people ask about my time in Honduras, it usually just feels like a politeness thing. Again, some variation of "So how was Honduras?" How do you answer that? How do I sum up ten months of my life in the answer to a simple question? As with the usual "How are you?" greeting, I don't think most people really want an honest answer. They ask because they should, and then it's on to other things.

Mostly, I'm afraid I'll forget. I'm afraid that after a little while I'll get caught back in the America trap and forget the awesome things God did and is doing here, and the things He did in me in my four years here. I'm afraid I'll get comfortable and forget to depend on Him. I'm afraid I'll get distracted and forget to listen to His leading. 

However, even in the mist of all this fear, God is still speaking. And what He is saying is "I love you daughter. Trust me. You know I am leading you home. You can trust me to continue leading you once you get there."

So if you see me in a few weeks and ask me how I am and I spontaneously burst into tears, hopefully this will help you understand why. But I am excited to see and reconnect with many of you.

I'm not sure what will happen to the blog after this. I might post occasionally after I'm back and continue to share what God is teaching me. Thanks for taking the time to read my crazy rambles.

Alexa
al02946@georgiasouthern.edu

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Come Away

This weekend my housemate and I participated in an online retreat designed for female missionaries through Velvet Ashes. Velvet Ashes recognizes that it is not generally feasible for overseas workers to leave their countries of service and travel to a retreat or conference, so each year they video different retreat session and put them online for missionaries to work through wherever they are. The theme of this year's retreat was "Sustain."

I have had a lot going on and on my mind recently, and this retreat was needed more than I knew this weekend. In the opening session, the retreat leader shared a verse from Mark 6, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (v.31). That is exactly what my soul needed this weekend. We were encouraged to bring an object that represented what we were bringing into the retreat. My object was a pillow, because I have felt so tired, physically, emotionally, and sometimes spiritually. The first night I learned I have been setting up idols of comfort in my life, seeking peace from things that weren't from the Lord, when God was the one who wanted to sustain me and give me "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:6), and that all I can do is show up and show love, knowing that God promises my work is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58), even when I feel like I haven't made a difference.

The next morning we prayed through Exodus 18. I received so much from the Holy Spirit while reading through this passage of Scripture, and I'm not going to share it all here, but the Lord spoke comfort and direction to me through this chapter, and it is just what I needed to hear. Just as Jethro communicated to Moses that he was not supposed to go it alone, God has been revealing what that means for me, especially regarding the lies I have believed, and He spoke truth over me. 

In the afternoon (after some killer Cardio Kickboxing to get our blood flowing) we did a Visio Divina activity with Psalm 131 and the painting below. As we were guided to reflect on this image, two things stood out to me. The first was how this mother was holding the rather large child. Only one arm is supporting the child, yet the mother does not look to be straining under the weight at all. Through this God spoke to me that the weight of my burdens is not too much for Him. He can handle it, and will sustain me, if I will just rest and allow Him to. Secondly, I noticed the ground underneath the grass and flowers was white, which in my mind translated to snow. Although there was snow on the ground, life was still springing up. God told me that He is able to make new, beautiful life, even in the midst of a hard winter or desert season (desert is a word that He has been bringing up a lot to me lately since our pastor preached on it two weeks ago).

Image result for "Mother and Child" painting by Giuseppe "Pino" Dangelico 

In the evening a DIY at home facial was part of the retreat. The leader explained how part of the priests' duty in the Old Testament was upkeep and maintenance of the temple - this was part of their worship. Now, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and we should see the daily tasks we do to tend to our bodies as acts of worship as well.

Finally, today we did a guided contemplation of Mark 4:35-41. As we closed our eyes the leader challenged us to place ourselves in the scene and experience it with Jesus and the disciples, focusing on senses and emotions. I found myself relieved to be in the boat with Jesus, away from the crowds (that's the introvert in me!), and I saw the exhaustion on Jesus's face as we pulled out to sea. When the storm came upon us and we woke Jesus from His sleep, I saw the sadness in His eyes, and when He looked at me and asked "Why are you afraid?" the first thing that came to my mind was "Because I didn't understand." I didn't understand Jesus and His power, not only to calm the wind and the waves, but to calm me in the midst of the chaos of my own life.

As I said, this retreat weekend has been so refreshing. The leader went back to that Mark 6 verse in the closing session, and afterwards when I looked it up online, I found that this is how the King James Version reads:

"And he said unto them, 
Come ye yourselves apart 
into a desert place, 
and rest a while."

The desert place doesn't have to be bad. I think that's the view I had of the desert before, but it can be a good place. A place that God calls you to go to. And a place where HE will refresh you, because there is literally nothing else there that can. The things God has spoken to me during this retreat will be things I need to continually sit on and pray on. Some need to be acted upon, but not right away. Most of all, I just need to obey, to come away with Him to the quiet, desert place, and rest a while.

Alexa
al02846@georgiasouthern.edu

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Home

Home is a word I have been contemplating quite a lot lately. I guess when you buy a house and spend most of your vacation painting, even though you won't get to live in it for three and a half more months, you start to think about what home means.

When you meet someone, one question they always ask you is "Where are you from?" When I was younger, I remember not being sure how to answer that question. "Well, I was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, but we lived in Corinth, and then we moved to Atlanta, then LaGrange, then Atlanta again, then LaGrange again." But after being in LaGrange for a good while, that became "home." When I went off to college in Statesboro and people asked, "Where are you from?" I had an answer.

Then I graduated and moved to Honduras to live ten months out of the year. At Christmas and summer vacation, I would say I was going "home" to see my family, and then at the end of the vacation I would say I was going back "home" to Honduras. I lived most of the year and worked in one place, yet I grew up and had most of my family and friends in another place. Which one was truly home?

Now I'm preparing to leave both of these "homes." This Spring Break made that all the more real for me. In two and a half months, I will pack up the rest of my stuff (or whatever will fit in one 50-pound suitcase and a carry-on) and move my life from Honduras back to my parents' house, where I will live one more month before getting married and beginning life in my new home with Chris.

But the truth is, none of these places are really "home" for me." The Bible says "This world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come" (Hebrews 13:14). It calls us "sojourners" and "exiles" (1 Peter 2:11). Basically, we are just passing through. This is all just a taste of the eternal home we will have in heaven. And how great that home will be! All this expectation I have for the new house we bought is just a glimpse of the expectation I should feel for my heavenly home. 

But for now, I live as one not of the world, just as Jesus was not of it (John 17:16). However, the Bible also commands us to "offer hospitality to one another without grumbling" (1 Peter 4:9) and to "share with the Lord's people who are in need" and "practice hospitality" (Romans 12:13). The Lord entrusts us with things like homes and possessions here on this earth so that we can share with and bless others. So that will be my goal, wherever home may be for me in the coming years.

I will leave with this quote, which I found when my mom and I were planning my graduation/going away party before I moved to Honduras in 2014. I had no idea then how true it would become.


Alexa
al02846@georgiasouthern.edu

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Reckless Love of God

For 2018, the Lord gave me the word "love" as my Word for the Year (which you can read about here). I started the year meditating on 1 Corinthians 13, which is a descriptive picture of God's love for us. In February, I started choosing a passage a week to mediate on that dealt with love. This has really helped to focus my mind on this word and all that it entails. And I am learning there so many different ways to describe God's love.

On Thursday at church we had a pastor visiting from the US, and he chose to preach on the book of Hosea. This particular book of the Bible tells the story of one of God's prophets who was commanded by God to marry a prostitute as a picture of how Israel had been unfaithful to the Lord. No matter how many times Gomer (Hosea's wife) left him or was unfaithful to him, Hosea still loved her and went after her to bring her back, and God does the same thing with us. He ended in Hosea 3, where Hosea must buy Gomer from a slave auction, saying "Hosea paid the full price to buy something he already owned, and that's exactly what Jesus did for us." His two main points were (1) You can't earn God's love, and (2) You can't exhaust God's love.

I truly began to understand the story of Hosea after reading Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (which I recommend to anyone who hasn't read it!). This story is a great picture of how God redeems us with His love. But it also shows me another aspect of His love. 

On Friday morning, Passion released their new album, which I immediately listed to on Spotify. There is one song on the album I immediately fell in love with, called Reckless Love. The words of this song describe the love of God so perfectly, and it's this reckless love that I see in the story of Hosea. No matter where we go or what we do, he loves us anyways. He risks being rejected again and again by mere created humans when He extends His love to us. It is an "overwhelming, never-ending, reckless" love that "chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine" although "I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, still You give Yourself away." Take a moment to listen by clicking here.

The Lord has been so so good to me, and I grow more and more thankful for his reckless love every day. I can tell you I'll be worshiping to this one for a while.

Alexa
al02846@georgiasouthern.edu


 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Unrest

I've been feeling restless lately. 

And it's not just me. The country of Honduras, my home, is in a state of unrest. Political unrest. That's usually how we hear that term mentioned. This Saturday is the inauguration, and people are still unhappy. So they take to the streets. They protest. 

In the beginning, this didn't seem to affect me too much personally. I was praying for the peace and safety of the people in the this country, but I was relatively unaffected. 

Then we had multiple days we had to cancel school.

Then I almost didn't make it home for Christmas.

Then we came back, and things seemed to have settled down.

Then the call for more protests came, and school was canceled again.

When you Google "unrest," what comes up is:

a state of dissatisfaction, disturbance, and agitation, 
typically involving public demonstrations or disorder.

Yes, I would say there is "unrest" in this country.

But there is also "unrest" in me. I have felt disturbed, agitated. And it has very little to do with politics and very much to do with a million little things that seem to keep getting me down. So I ask myself, as the Psalmist did:

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
 And why are you disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
Psalm 43:5

I must confess, the millions of little things have been stealing my focus. And just when I think I've turned my attention back to the Lord, another {metaphorical} bullet comes flying at me. And I know these are from Satan. How he loves to try and distract us! But just as this verse states, I need to keep putting my hope back in God, keep praising Him, because He is my help.

The one thing I have managed to do since I've been back is maintain my Sunday Sabbath. This weekend, a song came to me in my email (and people laugh when I say God uses the internet to speak to me!) and I need to share it with you all. I had never heard of this artist until Rhonda and her nephew sang one of her songs for us at Thanksgiving (living that sheltered, Honduran life you know), and it was incredible. But this one that found it's way into my inbox was just what I needed to listen to Sunday morning (and probably every morning). It's called "Restless" by Audrey Assad, and it's been helping me "again praise Him" as it says in the Psalm. (Side Note: I also heard one of her Christmas songs, "Winter Snow," on the radio while I was in the States, also amazing). 

Please take five minutes to listen to it, even if you've heard it already, and really let the words sink in.


Doesn't that just wash over you in the best way? "I'm restless 'til I rest in you." How true that is. 

So in moments when I have no words of my own, I'm singing with Audrey, "Speak now, for my soul is listening. . . . You're more than my salvation, without You I am hopeless."

Do you have any Psalms or songs that have encouraged you? I'd love it if you'd share them. Leave a comment or email me. 

Alexa
al02846@georgiasouthern.edu

Saturday, December 9, 2017

One Word 2018

Only 5 more days of school, 7 til I'm back in the States, 16 til Christmas, and 23 til the New Year! That means it's time again to think about my one word for 2018. I started choosing (or rather, letting God choose) a word to guide my focus for the year three years ago. My first word was "joy," then "freedom," and this year was "wait." (You can click on any of those words to read the blogs I wrote for those years.)

Towards the end of October and end of November this year I hadn't even begun to think or pray about what my word for next year would be, but I noticed a word showing up a lot and jumping out at me in my devotions, Bible reading, and music I was listening to, so I began to ask the Lord if this was the word He wanted me to focus on for the next year. This word was

LVE

I mentioned it to one of the other teachers here, and she reminded me that we have been memorizing Colossians 3:1-17 since September. Verse fourteen of this passage about putting on the new self says: "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." Since we're supposed to put on love above all else, she felt this was a great word.

In thinking about two major things that are going to happen in my life next year, I am certain this is the word God has for me. January will start my last five and a half months in Honduras. I want to rest of my time here to be marked with love, both for my students and my coworkers. I don't want to pull away from any relationships just because I know I'm leaving, but I want to stay fully invested and continue pouring out my heart here.

Then on July 14th I will begin a new chapter in my life by marrying Chris. Obviously, I want to love him well, so what better word for me to focus on as we start our lives together?

Just this morning in my devotional time I read 1 John 14:15-16: "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

That was my final confirmation. I want to abide (remain, dwell, endure) in God, and I want Him to abide in me. The way to do this, according to this verse, is through love. 

So would you pray for me as I strive to love everyone around me as God would have me to love them? When I read 1 Corinthians 13, it reminds me that I still have a long way to go:


Alexa
al02846@georgiasouthern.edu