Friday, September 30, 2016

Day of Remembrance

Just a year ago now, I lost 3 of my grandparents within about a 3-month time frame, and today I’m celebrating my birthday without my birthday buddy, Cherish, who has been in heaven for 11 years now. Time is weird. On one hand, it feels like it has been an eternity without these loved ones. On the other hand, it feels like just yesterday I was with them and talking with them.

I miss them all so much. Cherish would be turning 13 this year! That was the age I was turning when she was born! I remember getting that phone call in the principal’s office like it was yesterday. I credit a lot of who I am to my grandparents, all of whom showed me how to live out a Christian life through some of the most difficult life circumstances. A year ago today was the final stretch for my Grandfather Huntress. Thankful he is in heaven with Grammy now.

I’m so thankful for their lives. I’m thankful for the time we had together. I’m thankful for the impact that God let them all make on my life, and I really am looking forward to seeing them all again someday in heaven.

Basically, I can credit my love for my family, high value of relationships, need for community, love for kids, and my walk with the Lord to these peoples’ testimonies. That basically sums up who I am and what is important to me.

I don’t always understand the “why?” behind circumstances, but the older I have gotten the more I have complete faith in the fact that God’s plan is ultimately good, and He knows what He’s doing.

Grammy and Grampy Cocoa

Cherish Faith :) So pretty! 

Grandpa Wendell 

Monday, September 19, 2016

My Heart

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine way back in junior high on music. All I really remember is being lectured. I don’t actually remember what was said. Something about having loose standards.

Before you start wondering about my standards at that point, they were basically whatever my parents told me was OK, so this particular person was trying to take her Christianity up one more notch than me. The reason why I was thinking about this conversation recently is that this particular friend has now turned away from the Lord and is living by a completely different set of rules.

My list of friends that grew up “Christian” and in “good” families that have now turned away from the Lord is not exactly a short list. Over time, this reality has just become more confusing for me.

Why me? Why did God pursue me to remain faithful and not the others who looked a lot more put together than I ever did? After praying about this question quite a bit, God brought back to my mind that conversation. We were busy serving two very different gods. Her god looked a lot like works. She wasn’t doing those things out of a love for the God of heaven. There was only a focus on appearance and what others saw. She tried for years to make her way work.

Our actions in life matter a lot. I don’t mean to say at all that our actions don’t matter. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). The book of James says a lot about how important what we say and what we do is, because it affects God. 1 John 3:9 states that “no one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” This doesn’t mean that Christians don’t sin; it means that when a true believer sins he’s going to be smitten with so much guilt and remorse that 1) he won’t want to do it again, and 2) he’ll beg God to forgive his sin and help him change. Good works is one of the marks of a healthy relationship with God.

I’m very thankful for my testimony. I started wanting a relationship with God before I ever even thought about changing my life and sinful habits. As I got older, there are certain things that I have tried to change, because I wanted to make God happy. I wanted to change my attitude problems, because I love God and He hates pride (Proverbs 8:13). I wanted to change my language to be kind, because I love God and He loves people (John 3:16). I wanted to change my plans for God’s plans (like ministry), because I love God and I’d rather follow Him (Isaiah 55:6-8). There is obviously a lot more that I’ve had to work on, but I strive for a life of excellence because I love God and want to make Him happy. I don’t do those things because I feel like I have to earn God’s love. Good thing too, because I fail all the time! Or more specifically, I fail every time I take my eyes off of God. It is impossible to change ourselves in our own strength. The only thing that will change us is a close love relationship with God.

It boils down to the question, “who is your God?” Like I said, I have a pretty long list of friends that I grew up with that have now turned away from God. Parents are broken hearted, teachers are confused, and friends move on to new friends. Were they not listening all those years in church? Were they secretly lying to everyone and themselves? Are they still saved and just need to remember where they belong? I’m starting to see how many young people are worshiping the wrong god. When they DO all these “good” things, they receive so much praise! But without a growing relationship with God, how long can good works actually last? Eventually they fail, and everyone ends up shocked and hurt by the wickedness that we are all capable of.

Good works matter, but they mean NOTHING without a heart that loves God. We have to encourage others to grow and become more Christ-like because we love God, not because that’s how Christians are supposed to act. One reason I have been thinking so much about this is because of the influence I have on kids right now. If my background is any indication statistically, most of my students will end up turning away from God for a good chunk of their lives. I don’t want that! I have prayed so much, asking God, “How can I help warn my kids and prepare them with the right weapons to survive those spiritual battles that are coming their way?”

I’m still praying about that…. But I definitely want my kids to know that there is a God that gave His life in order to be able to have a relationship with them, not just one prayer and a list of rules. I want this to be an open conversation in the classroom. I want my kids to know that faith is all about their heart wanting to know and clinging to God’s heart. God’s love for us does not falter, but our love for Him obviously does. The only way for our love and devotion to last until we die is to become closer and closer to Him.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Break Time!

This week has been a nice break off from school. I want to say that it has been restful, but I don't think I can quite go that far. It has been a fun week though! To catch up a little since my last post, last week was SEW (spiritual enrichment week), and we had a blast. The speaker for the elementary served with her family in Papua New Guinea for a few years before coming to Mexico, so we learned a lot about Papua New Guinea and how we can follow God no matter where we are. I personally LOVED the challenge, and pretty sure the kids loved learning about PNG as well as the challenge. I led the music, which was a little difficult to do with a cold and 8 am in the morning, but I was encouraged overall by how loud the kids sang. We also had some crafts, and I helped with the shirt decorating craft. It was messy, but as you can see, the kids did a fabulous job.

After SEW, I had signed up for a ladies' retreat connected with the church I've been attending here. I would like to say that I had a great time, met tons of people, was able to talk to them (in Spanish), and 100% understood the speaker, but that isn't exactly the case. I will say I enjoyed what I could go to and learned a lot of Spanish, but I may have bitten off more than I could chew! I was able to meet a few women that go to my church. I was more blessed by the few women I met that knew English, just by way of being able to have good conversations. I met a sweet teen that lived in the states for a while, and I was so encouraged by her testimony! Her and her mom were at the retreat and trying to live out godly lives with a father and husband that is antagonistic to Christianity. Seeing her faith was a huge blessing to me. There were a few other women I met and heard their life stories that I can't repeat here, but overall that was my favorite part.

The speaker at the conference helped me learn lots of new Spanish words!
Here is the church I've been attending here: Capilla Calvario.
After recuperating from the retreat, I was pretty desperate to go grocery shopping (my weakness in life). I thought you might like to see and hear what shopping is like for me right now. The closest grocery store is about a 15 minute walk away. Not bad, right? Except for when trying to carry a bunch of groceries home! So this week I buckled down and bought a cart to carry bags in, which is so much easier than trying to carry 4 or 5 big bags on my back.

My update for my classroom is more of what I'm anticipating for after break. I have made a THINK chart, and my students and I are excited to start it! Or...maybe just me, but new things are always fun at first. My goal with the THINK chart is to keep my students accountable to know my expectations in the classroom, but also to keep me accountable to make sure that I'm following through with  my expectations. I'm praying it helps our class run smoother!

My roommate and our guest on our supper
The rest of the break has been spent going on adventures and trying some amazing new food. Tuesday was day of prayer, and then for lunch I was able to meet with one of the ladies here to discuss starting a girls Bible Study with the high school. I'm so excited to be involved with this, and can't wait to start! (I am missing my teen girls back in Maine). On Tuesday and Wednesday, we had one of the BI students staying with us, and it was fun having someone younger and more energized around! We all walked to a restaurant for supper, which cost about 5 dollars for 3 people to eat amazingly yummy and big meals! Wednesday, my roommate and I got to go out with our neighbors down stairs, and we had some really nice fellowship and fun adventures. Today, we are heading downtown to see the fireworks and celebrate the Mexican Independence day. There is also a baby shower, birthday party, and game night coming up for the next few days. By the time I get back to school, I'll be thankful to slow down with work! This is a pretty fun week.
It was a beautiful night!! The weather recently has been so beautiful.

One of the things that my heart has been missing and wanting is my church back home. It is that time of year that I've been getting a steady flow of mail from people in my church. I cannot express to you all how much I miss you and love your advice that you send me. Your prayers mean so much, and the fact that a lot of the older generation has figured out how to read my blog makes me so happy! I'm thankful for such a wise, older generation that I have to look up to and imitate.

To wrap up this post, I have been really loving and enjoying life here! I joke that this is really suffering for the Lord, though I feel so blessed by the missionaries here and the relationships that I'm building. God has been doing a work in my life recently, just through searching Him out and searching for His will, and I have been reminded of the verse Psalm 37:4. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." I have a lot of things that I am wanting to pursue right now, and I have found peace and comfort in realizing that my main desire needs to be delighting in the Lord. I'm just so thankful for His relationship and love that He died to give to me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Classroom Update

Things have been going so well at school! My kids are such a blessing to me. They are extremely funny, but they are also tender hearted. It means so much to have my kids want to talk and learn and laugh with me. School has been so busy, but I try to take time for those little conversations that happen within a day, because they encourage me more than anything! I have created a “party jar”, which the class has to work as a team to earn cotton balls in (I haven’t been able to find any pom poms here). When the jar is full of cotton balls, CLASS PARTY! It started off with a bang, and students will probably be earning us a class party in about 2 weeks. Can't wait!
Here is the stop light, and we seem to really like it so far.

I just love seeing these type of journal entries! This one
made an impression on. She wrote on what grace
means to her, and this is her picture she drew
with her entry.
The other thing that I created (with the help of my students) was this stop light with magnetic lights to change out. It is meant to help students stay aware of their noise level. Today when my students were talking at a point they really should not have been talking, I stood up and was in the middle of my reminder when they all started pointing to the stop light…it did not have the red light up! I had to laugh, because apparently it was my fault that they were talking. I put up the red light, and we could have heard a pin drop. Who knew following a red light could be so fun! Most people I know wish they could run red lights.
My students each made a hand flower
with their favorite verse and
things are thankful for on each hand.

The first few weeks have been hectic for everyone, and we have all felt it. One of my students broke his writing hand, another student is leaving for a few days to visit family, and to top it off, we have all passed around a nasty cold, which I was last to get. This week is SEW (Spiritual Enrichment Week), which adds a fun, new schedule for us. I will be leading music the next three days during the services. All this to say, next week is a week of vacation, and we are ALL looking forward to it. Perfect timing for a rejuvenating break for us all. 

Here is a volcano one of my students made to go
along with science. We also made lemon
volcanoes, which were quite exciting.
On a more personal note, I have really been enjoying studying Spanish, and I keep getting glimmers of hope when I understand things. I am busy learning on the app Duolingo, which I have loved! I basically work on the app for about 30 minutes a day. I also have been listening to Christian Spanish music, which helps me learn Spanish pronunciations. I have sent a few, very small, Spanish emails back and forth with my Aunt Vicki in South Africa too! I love the practice, but I probably need to find someone closer to start practicing with. This weekend, I am attending a ladies’ retreat with the church I am attending here, and I’m excited to practice my Spanish and hopefully get to meet more people there.

And they are growing nicely,
now that I have planted them.
Dark chocolate
avocado cake
My lemon seeds actually
sprouted :D
In my spare time, I’ve been enjoying experimenting in the kitchen. My favorite end result so far has been dark chocolate/avocado cake! I never would have guessed it, but the avocado kept the cake so moist and delicious. I also have been trying to plant a lemon tree and grow some mint. I plan to eventually let my kids take over as we study plants.

Thank you all for your prayers! I have been getting the most encouraging letters, texts, and emails. I am one blessed girl, and I am just so thankful for the people in my life right now.