Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hard Work and Patience

The Discipline of Dismay...this was the title of my devotion this evening. Not really the pep talk from the Lord I was hoping for tonight but it was just what I needed. 

My current job is probably one of the most demanding jobs I've ever had. It affects me mentally, emotionally, and physically. I came home today really hungry so I went to the kitchen to find something to eat for a snack because it was only 3:30. I was so tired I decided to lay down to think of what I wanted to eat. Yes, so tired that laying down was what I felt I needed to do in order to think. The next thing I knew it was 7pm. Hard work.

Tomorrow I take 3 of my choirs to be assessed by district standards. Friday I take another class to a competition. Pushing teenagers to work hard is very exhausting it is like herding cats. They have a mind of their own and are most of the time not at all interested in what your agenda means for their life. Let's take a moment to talk about self-discipline, respect, and love for the creative process. The thing about music for me is I love the process of learning music. I can sit and learn music all day and never perform it anywhere.  I remember hearing Jon Foreman speak saying he had hundreds of songs he had never even recorded. I think he might love the process too. My current group of students seem to all love the end result without regard for how to arrive at that place...we are so not on the same page. Hard work that sometimes causes me to be dismayed.

I don't mind hard work. At one point in my life I had 4 employers...I like being busy with work. I have always liked the phrase "work hard, play hard" I wouldn't say it is a philosophy but and underlying theme of how I have functioned for most of my adult life. Because my current job is so demanding it deprives me of any kind of a personal life outside of work. 

I was the girl who was very active in my church, Bible study, and whose primary call and goal in life was foreign missions. I also had a pretty rocking social circle in addition to ministry and career so this is a weird place for me to be. It feels kind of dark and at times I would use the word dismayed to describe how I feel. On a day to day basis I find joy and happiness but in my soul I still feel at times I am not really where I want to be or where I thought I would be. My life is so different. There are still dreams and desires not yet realized and in my current situation those dreams and goals seem impossible and lost which causes me to be dismayed.

The following is an excerpt from my devotion this evening:

"At first I was confident that I understood Him, but now I am not so sure. I begin to realize that there is a distance between Jesus and me... I have no idea where He is going, and the goal has become strangely distant. "- Oswald Chambers

I would say that this accurately describes how I feel. It is no secret I have been frustrated, concerned, unsettled about my current life situation. To the onlooker I probably seem well adjusted and happy (and regardless of how I feel I try to take each day as a blessing)...but for me the goal has become strangely distant. 

The devotion closes with this next statement:

"But when the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come the ability to follow Jesus truly, which brings inexpressibly wonderful joy."-Oswald Chambers

Isaiah 50:10 "Let Him who walks in the dark, who has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. 
Isaiah 54:7-8 "For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you says the Lord your Redeemer"

Though I know these verses talk about the redemption of Israel after slavery, rebellion, and exile, and the promise of a Savior I believe that it can apply for any time of dismay and darkness. There is a way ahead and though it seems like the way is lost we have already been brought back with deep compassion and everlasting kindness.  We must live in that continued promise and endure until it is over...what ever the "it" may be in life.  Anything good in life and truly worth having is going to be hard. 

This is currently my favorite song...I've never heard it in English. I prefer the Spanish text so here are the lyrics in English but you should listen in Spanish. 

"Beautiful Exchange"-Hillsong

You were near though I was distant
Disillusioned I was lost and insecure
Still mercy fought for my intention
You were waiting at the door, then I let you in

Trading your life for my offenses
For my redemption
You carried all the blame breaking the curse
Of our condition
Perfection took our place

When only love could make a way
You gave your life in a beautiful exchange

When only love could break these chains
You gave your life in a beautiful exchange

My burden erased, my life forgiven
There is nothing that could take this love away
And my only desire, and my sold ambition
Is to love you just the same

Holy are you god, holy is your name
With everything I've got my heart will sing
How I love you

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Beautiful Things and the Wall

I am back after a very long time of being away so much has happened since my last post that I cannot even begin to write in paragraph form so I will make a list.

-I have moved back to the US to be close to family and am in Virginia
-I teach High School Chorus and Show Choir
-I am still a missionary on journey just in a really different capacity

The title of this post comes from a Gungor (Christian music artist) song called "Beautiful Things". Have a listen it is a great song.

There are several things which come to my mind when I listen to this song. Creation of man as stated in the Bible in the second chapter of Genesis.

Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

We were created from the dust of the ground. From something dead, lifeless, and usually not desirable. God made something beautiful, intricate, and simply amazing out of dust and in His own image. 

This song also is a reminder that regardless of how broken we are or how far away we feel from anything beautiful our Creator God can do anything to make us new.

This past year I have felt very far from beautiful or full of life. By that I mean anything beautiful. I am not just talking about physical beauty here I am taking about the beauty of the soul and circumstances. Let's just say it has been a tough year and a half of transitions and leave it at that. 

Tonight I went through and read older blog posts and remembered some of the words from the Lord in the past. I was amazing to remember God's work and the work of the Holy Spirit. Even thought this year has been tough I know God's hand is still there guiding me it just feels like he is pulling me by the collar of my shirt not holding my hand. 

I still carry around a lot of frustration from old hurts and hang-ups and no matter how many times I do Beth Moore's "Breaking Free" study I always find there is something else to "break free" from. I always find there is a little "dust" somewhere in the corner from some old hurt I haven't gotten rid of. I'm working on not doing this.

I got hurt once and it seemed to destroy something in me. You know the old saying, "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me". Well I am not the type of person to wait around for the second hurt. Momma didn't raise no fool. So, naturally I put up a wall around my heart. It was only put up to potential male suitors. No one can hurt what they don't have access to. You see the problem is that wall doesn't have a passage way, so it ends up blocking even those people like family and friends who once had access. 

I believe my singleness is by God's design, reasons, and a season. My singleness is beautiful in many ways. God has used it and my life is so full regardless of my marriage status. However, I believe my wall has contributed to the length of my singleness. My loving Savior doesn't want me to stay like this. My wall has been there for so long I am not even aware of its' existence at times. It has been creeping up lately. I was made aware of this walls' continued existence by a lovely young lady who is like my little sister who shall remain nameless to protect her identity. She will however feel happy I included her in this blog (to the moon and back). She told me some things that she noticed about me that really upset me and it shocked me into awareness of this wall. I have been so closed off emotionally to everyone and everything. The thing about this wall is it is big and heavy and I don't really know how to get it down. I would love to have the Israelite's come march around, blow, horns, and shout but I am sure that won't happen. 

I thought it was going to take some major construction. I was afraid there would never be someone who could get the wall down. It was just going to be there forever. 

God didn't send the Israelite's or a construction crew. In His gentle way he sent a messenger who erased it away in one conversation. This person opened their mouth and God jumped out in a way I have not experienced. This person spoke to every hurt that put up that wall and the wall fell down so quickly I was in tears.  Now there is nothing left of that wall but dust. 

I am reminded that Jesus cares so much about you. He cares about tearing down walls so you can experience beautiful things. Some times God has to come along and breathe a fresh breath of life into His creation. I love that God gets creative with how he refreshes and restores us. I love that He uses his people. 

Genesis 2:7
"Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

2 Corinthians 2:5 
"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things pass away; behold, new things have come."

BEHOLD; new, beautiful things have come.

Every Blessing,

Saturday, May 4, 2013

After a long period of silence

So I don't actually believe what it says in this banner above I just thought it was funny. I don't think about my singleness all the time. I just have a flare up once in a while. A friend, who is my same age, posted the picture above on Facebook recently and it caused a flare up and the desire to share my feelings once again with cyber space and those who choose to read this blog. Interesting how perspective and life experiences change your opinions on certain matters. You can live your whole life thinking one thing and then life hands you something unexpected. I don't spend all my time thinking about this but recently some fresh light has been shed on the subject by my awesome Savior, Jesus. 

I have tried to take my singleness with humor and dignity even though most places and society gear things to finding a “significant other”. I mean seriously where are they selling singleness? There are no websites on how to stay single. No books are written on why single is the better way. Advertizing companies don't sell being on your own. Churches don't discourage couples who want to marry. Churches cap their "Singles Ministry" at 29 or 30. The next small group you see is "Singles Again". Even on certain job applications for ministry organizations I have looked at recently there is a cap age of 30 for single missionary positions. Secular society is even trying to make marraige attainable for everyone they possibly can. Being a never married, over 30, Christian single is almost an oxymoron. Maybe that last one was a slight exageration. Just trying to get you to think. 

One time in the staff lounge at school a young married girl was telling of her fiancĂ©e’s extravagant proposal. It was amazing and she was encouraging people to wait for the good stuff. I totally and honestly agree. I was joking around and said, "Man I would be happy just to hear the words “Will you marry me?” I laughed and the rest of the room was quiet. When I got home from school I told my roommates, who are also over 30yrs old, and they laughed hysterically. I was glad to know they got my joke. Most evangelical churches spend a significant amount of their resources on married people and families. Rarely have I heard a sermon on “What to do when you are single.” We are kind of left to our own devices and the self-help section at bookstores or a therapist if it is really deep.

I would consider myself an optimist. However, over the past couple of years I think my fears and insecurities have come out like a roaring lion of pessimism. Especially regarding the areas of dating and marriage marriage. I would say this ship sprung a leak July of 2011 in Southaven, MS at my Orientation for NICS for serving overseas as a teaching missionary. There I realized this was a sensitive area for me. We were being schooled on life overseas and issues that would arise. One of the sessions was on serving as a single along side married couples in a small community. 

Libby Alexander is a dynamic presenter, energetic, mature single women. I cried and/or laughed through 95% of her presentations and I am not joking when I say cried. I think a few times it was ugly and I needed tissue. I went up to her after one of the sessions trying to thank her for what she said and I couldn't even get the words out. She said it for me, "I know, you feel validated". Like magically someone else knew and had been where I am, survived and lives a happy, full life. She is still longing for that special someone to minister along side. She finally put into words the things I had felt but never put into words. The above picture reminded me of something Libby said. She said, "I hate it when people meet me and say I am so great wondering why I don't have a husband." She replies that her husband’s parents decided not to have children. She enjoys watching them think it over. I love it because it is so true for many single women. I too have had people say this to me, like I have the answer to why I am single. Trust me if I could just run out and fix it I would. Just the other day a cab driver grilled me on this topic. "Don't you want to get married?" As if I really had total control over the situation. I have read books (secular and Christian), done devotionals, talked to other women (single and married), and sought council with respectable married friends. Watched my single friends go through dating, marriage, and now families. I have tried to figure it out.  

Hi, my name is Marissa. I will be 34 on July 23. I am single. I would like to one day be married and have my own family. I am also happy, well adjusted, have experienced professional success, and living independently out of my parent’s home for almost 17 years.

I have enjoyed living the single life through college and now career years. I really have tried to embrace my singleness and do what Paul said and allow God to use me because I am not tied down to a family. I hope that is what people see. However, I will be the first to admit that it was fun in my 20's but as soon as I hit 30+ fun has turned into challenging.  

I have two lovely students that I mentor. God uses them in countless ways in my life. I watch them navigate through the difficult waters of being a teenager and praise God for his grace and mercy. I try to encourage them the best way that I can. On occasion as I encourage them God reminds me of things I should direct towards myself. When I was their age I struggled with this dating and relating to boys thing. It took me until college before I had guy friends and they still scared me to death. I always remember being nervous around them. Not because I liked them but because I had no idea how to relate to them. Those guys taught me how to without even knowing it. Thanks Jeff, Matt, and other Gardner-Webb Christian dudes who treated me like a friend. I still managed to make it through college single. The college girls that openly stated they were there for their Mrs degree really made that single girl stereotype unappealing. I don't want to be that single girl. That being said, I totally loved seeing the relationships God brought together while at college. Once I was in the working world I saw girls small group/church hop to find guys. I saw that as negative and didn't want to go to church to meet guys. I do have several friends who met guys at small group and church but they didn't attend for that purpose. I don’t want to be that single girl that is on the hunt. I have been paranoid about being seen in a negative light. I think one facet of my adult spiritual life has been plagued by flare ups of trying to figure out how to be single and still want something God clearly created/blesses and is the norm around me. 

As a teenager I saw girls at school and church go through countless relationships and heartbreak. The tears that flowed and hearts that broke made the whole dating thing really unappealing to me. I remember thinking, "Ain't nobody got time for that!" I even made a bet with my Dad that I would not date until after I was 21. I kept my end of the bargain and didn't date until I was 25, but that is a whole other story. I look back at the statement I made and my views on dating and realized deep down I wanted to be those girls dating and it hurt that I wasn’t being pursued like the others. I think that I said that just because I was insecure and no one was asking me out so I used the whole "heart break isn't appealing" line to make myself feel less like a looser. My stubbornness knows no limits. I seriously remember thinking, "Fine, if no one is going to like me then I just won't date at all. I don't need it.” I think there is some truth to waiting until you are older but I think there was a little stubborn streak in there too. Now that I have lived a little more life I can see a pattern with my stubbornness. 

I started out this semester with fasting and prayer. I decided to do the 21 days Daniel Fast. I highly recommend it for first time, longer than one day, or one item fasting. Let me just say Jesus rocked my world in those days and every day that has followed. One of the things (I mean one, there were a ton of things revealed to me) he has showed me is how I cope with negativity or rejection. Some people get sad or depressed. I get stubborn. My mom tells me about how I dealt with the word "no" as a toddler. She said that if she told me no that I would go sit down at the brick fireplace and beat my head against it. Yes, literally beat my head against it. This brings new definition to hardheaded. I will pause to let that sink in.......Yes, I actually hit my head against a brick wall. Fast forward a bit and think of what that means for adult Marissa receiving rejection or being told no. I no longer hit my head against the wall. I have also learned how to internalize most things, which can sometimes be more dangerous. The stubbornness that causes one to react by beating your head against the wall might be deep down inside there somewhere setting up really negative ways of coping. Brick walls turned into sayings like "I don't need that", "It doesn't matter", or even "The Bible doesn't say anything about dating", "I can do it alone", "Maybe something is wrong with me", "Two play at that game". There may be some truth to some things. But in general telling myself negative things so the seemingly unmet expectations would be less painful only ends up hurting me in the end.

Genesis 2: 18-24
18 Now the Lord God said, It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him.
19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every [wild] beast and living creature of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them; and whatever Adam called every living creature, that was its name.
20 And Adam gave names to all the livestock and to the birds of the air and to every [wild] beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a helper meet (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him.
21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and while he slept, He took one of his ribs or a part of his side and closed up the [place with] flesh.
22 And the rib or part of his side which the Lord God had taken from the man He built up and made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
23 Then Adam said, This [creature] is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of a man.
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall become united and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

What does the woman who was created from the rib of man, to be a partner for him, do with that desire to find the thing you were made from and for? Man isn’t it true the longer you wait for something the harder it gets. Think of a crying baby waiting on a bottle. That cry gets a little more intense as the wait is longer. Think of 20 minutes in traffic versus 1 ½ hours. Any time you wait the longer it is the harder it is. That is why you need more encouragement.

I love seeing God's word in action. That is what marriage and family are to me, God's words and commands in action. There is so much joy in seeing your friends meet who God wants them to share their life with. It is a blessing to stand along side them on their wedding day. I have cried tears of joy over God creating new life holding their babies in the hospital. When those babies learn to talk to me and remember when I come for a visit or talk on the phone calling me Rissa my heart melts.  I have shared tears in dealing with the trial of raising a young family. My married friends have cared for me and allowed me to be Auntie Rissa to their kids. I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences for anything in the world. I have learned with them and from them. I totally love the fun relationship my friends Bobby and Christine Turner have. It has been a blessing to know them as single friends serving in church, to a dating couple, and now seeing them as parents. While they were dating they would say, “I love you like peanut butter loves chocolate, like cookies love milk etc.” The point is those things individually are great but together it is a powerful combination.  It is clear that God created both the institution of marriage and being single. Both are equally hard. I remember one friend saying it was a miracle she and her husband made it through their first year of marriage.  I have seen friends meet challenging difficulties in marraige and learn to trust God on a deeper level. If marriage is hard enough with two people, let the married people procreate and add little dependent people to the mix. Marriage isn’t the answer to singleness God is the answer to anything hard.

To all the single ladies and especially the friend, who inspired this late night reflection…. you are valuable, and it is ok to desire something God hasn’t brought you YET. A friend here in Peru made me say YET recently. I almost cried. I haven’t been able to say that word for a long time. That should tell you right there how hard it is. I stopped saying yet and when the “yet” goes so does hope. I found that picturing what my wedding might be like one day was too hard.  A series of bad experiences with guys made “yet” look really unattainable. Looking at the statistics for Christian single women took “yet” right out of my vocabulary. Also the Romantic Comedy genre on movies and TV made the “yet” look like the fiction isle.

God doesn’t know how to be late. He wants only good things for you. Keep letting him fill your heart with truth and don't let disappointment tell you a lie. Our hope is the Lord Jesus and comfort is in His word. We don’t live in the “yet” or hope of a husband. We live in the hope for the return of our Savior.

O my God, I trust, lean on, rely on, and am confident in You. Let me not be put to shame or [my hope in You] be disappointed; let not my enemies triumph over me.

And now, Lord, what do I wait for and expect? My hope and expectation are in You.

Those who reverently and worshipfully fear You will see me and be glad, because I have hoped in Your word and tarried for it.
I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His word do I hope.

Isn’t it true the longer you wait for something the harder it gets. Think of a crying baby waiting on a bottle. That cry gets a little more intense as the wait is longer. Think of 20 minutes in traffic versus 1 ½ hours. Any time you wait the longer it is the harder it is. This can be applied to any area or answer that is "wait". That is why you need more encouragement and more happy music to keep you in the right frame of mind. Fill your mind with scripture and ears with happy music. I am performing this song with my High School vocal ensemble. If you lay the songs out we are doing this semester it is a direct reflect of this journey. I had no idea when I selected these songs it had to do with my journey on this topic. Once I picked up on it I had to appologize and say, "We just have to go with it we can't change now." So here is a happy song to close out this long session. The theology isn't perfect but it is fun and I like the hook on the Chorus :-) I hope the saying "good things come to those who wait" will be true for all who wait on the Lord!


Friday, July 6, 2012

Brace yourself, it's a long one.

You might be looking at the title of this and wondering where I am going with this blog. You may decide that you just don't want to go there with me...but I hope you will.

I find myself repeating this line, "Does anybody hear what I'm sayin'?!" over and over in my head. This phrase might not mean anything to you if you just read it with a monotone, dry voice that we often read with. Try saying it out loud, in your most Southern accent, making sure to leave off the 'g' at the end. Also make sure that you try to say it as if no one is listening to what your saying and you are trying to make a point. 

Go on...say it out loud.

That is how I hear it in my head, only Beth Moore is the voice I hear. Our small group has been doing a study on Romans using Beth Moore's audio teaching. She says that phrase a lot and it just sticks out to me. The inner Southern woman in me has the voice of Beth Moore, the stubborn fire of Madea, the sweetness of Southern Tea, and the free spirit of a salty ocean breeze carrying with it all the places it's been. Lately the inner Southern woman in me has been a little frustrated. I feel like Beth is yelling, Madea has her saw out asking me "Which half do you want?", the sweet tea is more like syrup, and the ocean breeze is like a Morton's salt shaker. My momma always said, "Too much of a good thing is just too much". I find that balance is a lifelong lesson. Sometimes I just want to say out loud DOES ANYBODY HEAR WHAT I'M SAYIN'!

We all need to be heard. It is important to know that our voice and experiences, whether bad or good, matter to someone. When you have a bad day everyone needs someone who will just listen and say, "I'm sorry you had a bad day". I find that most of the time with my little ones in school that their discipline problems come when they just don't feel like they are heard or seen. Many people look at little kids and miss them entirely. My goal has always been to let them know that, "I see them". I make eye contact, smile, and say I see you. 

Like most strong willed women it takes extreme circumstances to get my attention sometimes. The Lord never wastes an opportunity for a teachable moment. Right now it is BRACES. 

At 18 I found out I had a baby tooth on a routine visit to the dentist. Their suggestion at that time was braces to pull the tooth into place. I immediately dismissed that idea thinking I was not going to go through braces my Freshman year of college. I asked the dentist how long I could last with the baby tooth. He said I could have it until I was in my 30's. In my mind that was an instant pass to do nothing about it at that time. I clearly remember thinking let's just take it out and stick in a Chicklet. The next thing you know I am 32 at a dentist in Peru and he says I have a ticking time bomb in my mouth and that I will have major problems if I don't do something soon. After more mouth ex-rays than I have ever taken, ever, and being presented with all the options I decided on braces to pull the tooth into place. I cried the whole way home from the orthodontist office. The inner Southern in me was saying, "Are you hearin' what I'm sayin'?" My first carnal/fleshly thought was, "Lord, I am already 32 and single and you want me to put on braces?! Let's just join a nunnery and secure eternal sigleness". Thought number 2, "Oh my goodness did he say $4000?!?!?!". My final thought was, "I guess maybe I should have done this when I was 18".  After a long walk home, a bunch of tears, and me trying not to cry out loud as I passed by my Peruvian neighbors in the street, I finally settled down and accepted reality. 

Thursday April 19, 2012...a day that will go down in infamy. I went into the orthodontist and came out with rocks on my teeth that have to be there for 2 years. For whatever reason I am really sensitive to pain in my mouth. Some people might say I am a wuss but my mom will just tell you that I am stubborn. I also hear adults just have more pain associated with braces.  Right now I can't brush my teeth, talk, eat, or even close my mouth without pain. These braces are instruments to pull things back into shape and into place. I have felt a whole new connection to all my students who have braces. They have been most helpful, encouraging, and supportive. There is comfort in people who are going through the same thing as you. They just happen to be almost 2 decades younger than I am, smile. I dislike braces probably more than anything. Right before I got my braces I asked my middle school choir what their thoughts were. One quiet, but poignant, student said, "It ruins everything". I knew I was doomed when the person who never talks chose those words to say when he had the opportunity to speak in class for the first time. As I sat in the orthodontist chair last week and cried due to the pain, I reminded myself that I was paying for this service. Today when the doctor said, "Now... this is going to feel like I am pulling all of your teeth out" I reminded myself that I willing walked there and sat in that chair. Apparently there is a lot of "shaping" up I have to do.

So I find myself again at the original question. Is anybody hearing what I'm sayin'? My answer from the Lord, "Yes, I see you...I hear you". It doesn't mean he is going to take it away it just means that I need to keep sitting in the chair and letting Him put things where he wants them to be...no matter how much it hurts.

Right now this is my favorite song..."King of All Days"-Hillsong

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Furlough and Friends

Well...it is well past time to write. I originally started this blog to keep supporters updated on things that were happening with ministry. Ministry updates now happen through other methods in case you were wondering. Every time I sit down to write it turns into therapeutic writing and far more personal and deeper heart feelings that I am unable to get out otherwise. Somehow putting my thoughts into cyber space is easier than verbally processing. A moment for the shock to absorb for those that know me well.

1.    Military a vacation or leave of absence granted to an enlisted person.
a usually temporary layoff from work: Many plant workershave been forced to go on furlough.
a temporary leave of absence authorized for a prisonerfrom a penitentiary.

My definition of furlough comes from our families missionary friends definition and aligns most closely with definition number 1. I listed the others because I thought it was funny. This is my second furlough after beginning my service in Peru. Second...wow crazy to think that this is my second in one year some missionaries have to wait years for a furlough. I am so grateful. I was able to come visit for Christmas and now for US summer. The most difficult thing about my time in the US is that I split that time between North Carolina and Virginia. You see I have family in both places and I couldn't imagine coming here and not being with one or the other. My natural family is in Virginia and my adoptive families and sending church are in North Carolina. I end up splitting the time pretty evenly between both and my heart in three places. Three? Yes, North Carolina, Virginia, and Peru. 

The first time around was really tough on me personally. I put a ton of pressure on myself to see everyone I could and the best way was to car trip and stay a couple of days with one family at a time. By the time I returned to VA for my trip back to Lima I was ready for a vacation. I tried to make up for 6 months of relationships in 2 weeks, impossible and exhausting. I also think I was in a little bit of transitional fog. 

This time around I decided to stay in one persons home and do day trips with people. I ended up really getting to spend the same amount of quality time without moving around so much night after night. It seems to be better but I have to say I am still ending up with a broken heart not getting to spend enough time with my dear friends. 

I have the most fantastic, supportive, loving group of friends who have poured over heaps of prayer, love, and patience with me over this year. I am leaving NC this weekend feeling so much love and support. 

I distinctly remember one youth group lock-in when I was in Middle School. Oh yeah I am going there. Stick with me this is good. 

My family had just moved to Greensboro, NC from Greenville, SC and I had started my 6th grade year in a new city. Needless to say I recall this transition being very difficult on everyone. I remember our first summer there how my sister, mom, and myself would talk about going back to SC because none of us liked NC. I was an awkward, low self-esteem kinda kid and didn't make friends easily. I was kinda shy. Another moment to pause for those that know me now to get over the shock. Well it was true. Middle School is a tough time for everyone and it was especially hard for me. I remember never feeling like I had friends and being so frustrated with the drama Middle School girls created. I would go sit in the nursery and rock babies when I would get frustrated with youth group stuff. Back to the lock-in I mentioned. It was my first lock-in and drama started to occur with girls in our youth group. I vividly remember thinking this is not what friendship was supposed to be like. I had not accepted Christ at this point and was still very much searching. I remember sitting down praying with my bible looking up every reference on the word "friend" I could find in my concordance. I wanted to know what God had to say about friendship. 

Proverbs 17:17
"A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity."

Proverbs 27:17
"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."

These were the first 2 scriptures I found. I will never forget it and have searched for it and strived for it my whole life. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God answered that prayer so long ago. I am blessed to have friends that are what these 2 scriptures say a friend is. 

To my soul sisters (and the brothers who now come with the sisters) you know who you are:
You are a forever part of my heart. No matter where the Lord takes me or how little time we are able to spend together I carry you in my heart. I carry the prayer times, laughs, hugs, movie nights, road trips, talks, amazing meals, and most importantly the incredible gift of seeing you develop into amazing godly single women and men, godly wives and husbands, and super hero moms and dads. Thank you for sharpening my countenance on this furlough.

I haven't even gotten to spend much time with my family yet...I'll just have to keep those thoughts to the closest place in my heart. I have used almost a whole box of Kleenex writing this post...just so you know. 

To know that Jesus is the reason that I even get to enjoy some part of this on this side of glory is all a part of Gods lavish love for his children.