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 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Holidays in Honduras

On Thursday all the American teachers were invited to the children's home at Destino to celebrate Thanksgiving. Rhonda is always so sweet to cook a big meal with all the traditional foods for us (even if most of her kids won't touch the dressing!) and host us for the day. This Thanksgiving, we all went around and said something we were thankful for that began with the first letter of our names (A=aviones [airplanes]) before one of her older boys blessed the food and we dug in!

After our food had settled and a short devotion and some worship songs we headed to the volleyball court for a little girls versus boys game. If you know me, you know my coordination level is zero, and my number one instinct when a ball is coming towards me is to duck and cover, not try to hit it. So needless to say, I was not much help to my team and although we were in the lead for a while, the boys won.

After the game another of Rhonda's older boys gave me some volleyball lessons so I could work on how to hit it right. After some practice I made the statement, "I'll do better next year." But then it hit me:

This was my last Thanksgiving in Honduras.

While I am happy to return to the States and excited for all the future holds for me, it still doesn't feel real. And this isn't the first time I've said something like this and then had that same realization. Chris and I were talking one day about a movie coming out next year that we want to see, and I made the comment "Hopefully it will be out in the summer before I come back." Then he had to remind me that I'm not coming back. I am experiencing so many "lasts" this year in preparation for a year of "firsts," but it doesn't feel that way.

My prayer for this year was that God would help me live in the moment and not get caught up thinking about the future so that I miss out on things here, and I guess this is His way of answering that prayer. I'm also one of those people who pushes off dealing with sad stuff until I can't delay it anymore. And again, while I'm excited to begin a new chapter in my life, it's also a little sad. But that probably won't really hit me until my last night here, or maybe once I'm back home.

Anyways, this was supposed to be a happy post about the holidays, so let me end with some good news! Everyone (even in Honduras) knows that the day following Thanksgiving is Black Friday (sales!) and then there's Cyber Monday (more sales!), but not everyone knows about Giving Tuesday. This was started in 2012 as a response to all the consumerism that follows Thanksgiving, and it is a day that encourages giving back. On Giving Tuesday this year, the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation is matching donations given through Facebook fundraisers to non-profits. So, if you would like to give back this Tuesday, we would love for you to donate through a Facebook fundraiser for Destino. If you're not in a place where you can give financially, you can still help us out by creating a Facebook fundraiser for Destino and sharing it with your friends. The Foundation is only matching $1000 per fundraiser, so we need as many people to create different fundraisers for Destino in Tuesday as possible!

Thank you all for supporting me and this place that has become a home for me for the last three and a half years. Three more weeks until I'm back in Georgia to see some of you for Christmas!

Alexa
al02846@georgiasouthern.edu
P.S. If you're not sure how to set up a Facebook fundraiser, there's a post on my Facebook page with directions :)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Mystery in Marriage

This summer I started a morning devotional by John Piper, and in the past few days, the topic of many of the devotionals has been about the mystery of marriage. Of course, this is a topic that is on my mind a lot, since I will be entering into the covenant of marriage in July, and I love how Piper points everything in marriage back to Christ. 

You may have heard this oft-quoted sentence from John Piper:



Piper loves to talk about joy and satisfaction, and how we can find complete joy through finding our joy in Christ. He says that seeking our joy is not selfish, because if we are seeking true joy, we are seeking Christ. And this is the same thing we should do in marriage. We find our joy in the joy of our spouse. Making our spouse happy, in turn, makes us happy because we are "one flesh."  

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."
Ephesians 5:21-33

Marriage is meant to point to the relationship between Christ and the church. A man and a woman, coming together in submission to God. An in that submission, I will also submit to my husband, because God has appointed him to be the head. I recognize the roles that God has given us in marriage, and mine is to support and respect my husband. Since Paul says to do this "as you do to the Lord," that tells me if I am not respecting my {future} husband, I am not respecting Christ. In the same way, if he is not loving me, he is not loving Christ. 

I don't write this in any way as an expert (I've still got a little less than 9 months before I even become a wife!), but just to share what God is teaching me as I prepare for marriage. Those of you who have been married for more than -9 months (haha) feel free to drop me some advice. What has God shown you over the years about the marriage covenant, and its relationship to Christ and the church? 

Thanks for reading my ramblings. I look forward to hearing from some of you.

Alexa
al02846@georgiasouthern.edu

P.S. These doors are at our ceremony venue, and I love the verse above them (Mark 10:9). Would you pray that for us?