When God Consumes What Makes You Likable

Change: /CHānj/: make or become different.

God has worked a lot of change into my life and to be completely honest as much as I say "Lord, change me to be more like You", I don't think my heart always means it as much as I'd like it to. 

Recently the changes God has made in me have gone toe to toe with my pride. "Will I still be likable?", "Will I still be funny?", "Are people going to think I'm just putting up a holy front?". These are some of the questions I've thought to myself while pondering the changes God has worked into me. Because I have changed. 

In all transparency, I really want to hold on to some of the things God is changing because it's easier than dying to it. Putting to death the things that aren't of Christ. The selfish, prideful, and narcissistic side of me wants to hold on to the things I've always been able to fall back on; the things that made me feel well-liked by people. 

I asked God to consume me in His fire, and He made two things happen simultaneously; 1. He consumed (or destroyed) and continues to consume the things He can't work with. 2. He refined and continues to refine the things that He can work with. 

God has refined my humor. I'm not as funny. I probably wasn't even that funny before, but as someone who prided herself on making a room laugh, it's kind of a tough blow to realize I don't generate as many laughs anymore. My humor has always been either Sarcastic (or as I like to call it, 'saying what you really think and getting away with it'), or it poked fun at the expense of myself and others. I always built and cultivated friendships with people that were mutually okay with poking fun at each other, but still, does that make it okay in my personal walk with Jesus? Should that kind of humor be one of my primary traits? You see, I'm not as funny because God showed me the importance of interaction with others, specifically those laboring here at the orphanage. When the enemy is already firmly against the work we're doing here and striving to discourage anyone on board with God's plan and I see people in the midst of their discouragement, why is my response humor instead of encouragement?
When I first got here, and y'know, like the rest of my life prior to that, humor was my go to source of conversation. Humor was my way to deal with changes, hits to my pride, conviction, praise, etc... EVERYTHING came back to humor. Now I've seen the importance of responding with encouragement. My natural self wants to respond with sarcasm or jokes, but when there's already so much working against believers in Christ, it's vital that I give encouragement from the Word of God, because the word of God actually has power. And when I'm lacking words of encouragement instead of awkwardly filling in the silence with a stupid joke isn't it better to just pray? Don't get me wrong, there is definitely room for well placed jokes, and I take advantage of them! I fully believe laughter is good for us, but I want to be funny in a way that glorifies God instead of bringing down His people. 

God has consumed my speech. I'm not as blunt. I used to say whatever I wanted to whomever I wanted. I figured "if it's the truth then why does it matter?" Oh I don't know... Maybe because God says that our speech is supposed to be filled with grace and seasoned with salt. Oops. The hard part is that a lot of people really liked that I was that way. And I liked that people liked it. Because narcissism. But God is working that out of me.
I work with kids, and I learned very quickly that they have feelings. A lot of them. Like, too many. And when the goal is to point them to Christ, there's not a lot of room to speak before thinking. Seeing how my words can build up a kid and point them to Christ is great. Really great! But there's no feeling more awful than when you know your words have torn a kid (or adult for that matter) that Jesus loves so much down. When I've reacted too quickly without the full story and I've made a kid sit alone in his room only to find out that he did nothing wrong, it's border-line devastating. Humbling myself before a seven year old and apologizing was powerful, it taught me the importance of being patient with my words and hearing people out before throwing in my two-cents. And just because something is the truth, doesn't mean I'm supposed to call it out. I'm supposed to, as far as it depends on ME, be at peace with Christians, right? So that really doesn't leave a lot of room for bluntness that isn't filled with grace. It had to be consumed for the sake of Christ in me.

These two character traits are changes that have created some sorrow, but the sorrow doesn't compare to the feeling of knowing Christ more. And the longer I've gone with the changes the more okay with them I've been. And when I slip up I repent and keep going. I know these two things, amongst several others have been the source of many compliments in my life, so my pride really feels the loss. But the goal when following God isn't to be liked, complimented, and have your pride built up, the goal is to be made into the image of His Son. And when I look back I'd rather say I embraced the fire and became more like Christ rather than I was afraid of the fire and got just close enough to feel the warmth and have an ember or two land on me and do some temporary damage, but nothing permanent.

God is a consuming fire. It's a bold and scary thing to prayer for Him to consume you. But I suggest it. Give Him every facet of your life and He'll bless it, protect it, and change it for the better.

Deuteronomy 4:24://For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Being A Missionary is Oddly Different Than I Thought It'd Be

Moving to a foreign country is weird, man. I've said things I never thought I'd say. I've thought things I've never considered. I've stepped in things with no real conclusion as to what they were. I've made questionable decisions when eating. And I've expressed pride in ways I didn't know I had in me.

I'm going to take you through some verbatim, real-life sentences that have come out of my mouth. Some of these are just funny thoughts I shouldn't have said out loud, and some are actual struggles in the mind and heart of a flawed missionary.

Okay so the first one didn't actually come out of my mouth, it happened in my head, but it's a great insight into the struggle of being English speaking in a Spanish speaking country.
"Should I even bother talking to this dog since it's a Spanish speaking, I mean... hearing dog? Wait, do dogs understand Spanish? Wait do they understand English? Are dogs bilingual? Oh yeah, I don't even like dogs. Bye Felicia. Did I just contemplate the language barrier of talking to a dog?"
Yes. I did. Yes, I'm embarrassed. Sometimes I don't get enough sleep and spend too much time in my head the next day.

"I wonder if there's any benefits of having a parasite? Maybe I'll keep it. Wait, parasites aren't pets."
Yeah... So this one is fun. I should clarify that I don't actually know if I have a parasite, it's definitely (definitely, definitely, definitely) possible that I have one. But I don't feel like doing the literal dirty work of getting tested for them. Hard pass. Until it gets unbearable I'll just go ahead and imagine that it's helping me get rid of fat cells. If Starvin' Marvin is even in there. Yes, I named my potential parasite. No, I'm not ashamed of it.

"Do I need this pocket? I bet I could cut it out and use the fabric to stitch the hole in my pants. Wait, I don't know how to sew. Maybe I should try anyways."
You've gotta become resourceful in a place like this. To answer the question you're dying to know, no. I haven't tried it. I decided it's not worth ruining a pair of pants that I'm shrinking out of anyways. Besides I don't want to deal with my bleeding fingers when I'm trying to figure out the whole needle thing.

"I wonder if my leg is sweating, or if it's a bug biting me."
I've gotten to the point where i just don't care enough to look for the answer anymore.

"I want pizza. And cookies."
Okay, so this one isn't embarrassing. Just frequent. I really don't think I need to explain.

"I wish the people back home weren't carrying on so easily and successfully without me."
This one is an ugly one straight from the heart of Dana. But I want to be real. It's actually really hard to be away from everyone you've loved and done life with for so long and to see their schedules and lives carry on as if your presence wasn't ever needed. Everything changed for me when I came here, and life keeps going for those I used to meet up with to love on and encourage. It's hard to see them like that; doing well, pursuing ministries, and turning my old town upside down for Jesus while I serve in what feels like small ways in Colombia. I'm not saying they don't miss me; the encouraging texts, e-mails, and messages prove that I'm missed and loved, but it doesn't change that I don't like that they're okay without coffee dates, and hangouts with me. This  showed me the grotesqueness of my pride. This showed me that, to my shame, I want to be the Jesus in people's lives. I want them to need me. But truly all any of us need is Jesus. It's the GOAL to point people to a place where they'd be okay with only Jesus, because people leave and lives change and there's nothing we can do to stop that process. I was there for people while I could be, and it's actually an honor to know they can carry on without me because it means they're following Jesus. It means, despite my wicked heart, I didn't make myself their savior, I pointed them TO the savior. Which I'm aware the idea of me being any type of savior is laughable because let's be real, I name parasites.

"Why am I even here? Is the kingdom being affected at all by my presence in Colombia?"
I suffer from a disease called 'self-worth-itis'. I look at my outside efforts and circumstances to decide my self worth. Hey look, my religion is showing again! I don't mean to be this way, but life on the farm is more ABC practicing, tract folding, dish washing, and argument settling than the soul saving, life changing, revival experiencing, rose-colored outlook I expected out of being a missionary. I may not do much off the farm to win souls for the kingdom, but I'm learning God loves the work of his behind-the-scenes people. I spend more time folding sheets of paper than I do playing with orphans. 

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It may not look like it, but these bad boys took A LOT of time. But it's worth it because God loves the tract folders, the dish washers, and the school helpers on the mission field. I didn't get to choose what part of the body God put me in, but I get to choose to work hard at it and do it to the glory of God. I'm going to fold those papers as precisely as I can, review alphabet sounds over and over and over and over until they get it right, and I'm going wash the dishes until they're spotless. Because it's for the glory of God. And in those daily monotonous tasks I'm reminded to pray, and in those moments God reminds me that my self worth comes from the work He completed on the cross for me, not from any work I could ever do for Him. And it's there that I find my confidence; in the absolutely scandalous love of Christ.

 

And when you pray... Mush.

Time is really hard to come by when you're helping out a family of eight. There's always something to do. Always a kid who wants to play a game. Always a dirty dish or 50 in the sink. Always a snack to be made, a mess to clean up, a lesson to learn, a lesson to teach, or a laugh to be had. There's joy in this. But I have found it a struggle to pray.

I'm learning the art of short and sweet prayers. I didn't know before that God would honor those because ummm... it's GOD. I need to come to Him with a solid prayer set up in the same order that the Lord's prayer is in; with my thanks, requests, according to God's will, who God is, in Jesus' name, amen. Uh-oh. Looks like my religion is showing.

When you feel like a failure because you don't have time or brain capacity left to think of all the steps in the Lord's prayer, or words in general, Jesus steps in and teaches you a lesson. Or at least He does with me because I always hug the line of rules and religion so He doesn't let me get away with it for long.

Last week I was having a hard time thinking, my brain had turned to mush, and I don't think I formulated a coherent sentence in some time. I was in my head trying to pray and the sentences were coming out like verbal goop. Then God reminded me of Matthew 6 when Jesus is teaching His disciples about prayer. I remembered verse 7 when He says, "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words." 

At the time, gentiles were those who didn't KNOW God, the gospel hadn't yet been introduced to them. I don't want to pray as if I don't truly know God, talking at Him in long sentences because I think I have to instead of with Him. Some of my best conversations with friends are short; "How's life?" "Hard." "I'm sorry, friend". These precious, short, and mostly silent conversations speak more words of love than any lofty sentence I could come up with on my smartest day. So when my brain is goop I've learned God loves my short, confusing prayers that scream out for help from my heart. When I'm frustrated and pray for the grace to get through the extremely hot afternoon it usually goes like this "It's hot. Help." I say it with sincerity, I know I'm only dust and need Him to breathe life into me, I know I'm on the verge of a melt down without His grace, but in the moments of struggle I can't verbalize it to Him. He loves my short prayers, and He's answered them. He gives me the grace to get through day by day.

I have to qualify this with letting you know it's absolutely vital to life to have times set apart where you have extended times in prayer with the Lord. The same passage that tells us to not be lofty in meaningless words even tells us we have to go to our prayer closets and be alone with our Father. God is FOR extended prayer, He's FOR long conversations with us, He's FOR praying without ceasing. Prayer connects our hearts to the Father's. We need that every moment to successfully walk in His Spirit, but don't feel like a failure when it comes out mush. God honors your mushy prayers. 

Matthew 6:5-8// "And when you pray, you must not be like hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to you Father who is in secret. And the Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

 

A Day in the Life

This blog update feels so narcissistic and self-serving, but I wanted to be able to answer the question that it feels like everyone has been asking, "What does an average day look like for you?" Please hear my heart, I'm not trying to get kudos, in fact I don't even think I deserve them. I'm living in a tropical country, eating fruits and veggies straight from the earth, home-made Mike's special caramel cappuccinos with milk straight from a cow and gleaning wisdom from some of the wisest people I've ever met... All for spending some time on a computer working with websites, writing updates and researching. God has given me more than I deserve here. So please know this blog isn't to say "look what I'm doing!", it's to answer those who want to know what a day in the life looks like for me here. It's to say, "look what God has been so merciful to use me for".

Well it all starts at 7:15 AM. Or 7:30 because let's be honest the snooze button is the grace of God in button form. So, 7:35 comes around and I peel myself out of my bed and get dressed. And if I'm feeling fancy I'll brush my hair before I put it up in my classic bun, usually it stays tangled, though. I slip on my paint-stained flip flops and head out the door and up the 4 or 5 steps to the house where the kids are usually finishing up breakfast. At that point I try my best to shove in the kitchen and take care of dishes for Stacy, sometimes she beats me to it, but I can't cook so I try my best to do all the dishes I can and buy her some extra time to do what she needs to do to prepare for school. At 8:00 the kids go up to the school room and start reading while I try to finish up the dishes and make myself some breakfast, usually consisting of two eggs scrambled with some veggies. 

At 8:15 Stacy heads up the stairs and I sit at the table to spend some time with the Lord. I grab my favorite coffee mug which came with me from the States, fill it to the brim, put worship on, plug my headphones in and open up the Word and beg God to nourish me for the day. Real talk; it's hard to walk in His Spirit here. The elements are draining and the complete change of lifestyle has my brain confused most of the days. It's weird going from a single person who lives on their own with only myself to worry about, to someone who lives and operates in a family unit consisting of six kids of varying ages to be looking after, luckily though, they're pretty good kids. Needless to say, this is the most important part of my day. 

At 9:15 I head up the stairs and get to do one of my favorite parts of the day, hang out with the kids and teach them my favorite subject: writing and language! Usually during this time I start with the two older girls and work out of a workbook with punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. After we finish the daily task out of the workbook I switch to the youngest girl and oldest boy here at the house and teach them the same kind of things but with a lower level workbook. These two are at such a fun age; they ask a lot of questions and have a lot of commentary to add. When they listen to a story and answer questions the kind of things they come up with have me struggling to hold in my laughter! After we finish up the workbook and activity lesson I switch to the youngest. We've been working on the alphabet and letter recognition. This part of the day has been extremely rewarding; it's been so fun to see him go from struggling with some letters to then being able to identify and say them with no problem after some practice. I never thought I'd be thrilled to hear someone go from saying "elmumno" to "LMNO", but it's great to see work and prayer pay off in a little one's life like that!

After writing we take a small break from 10:30 to 11:00 where the kids usually run to the guava tree to pick their snack and Stacy starts heating up lunch. The clock strikes 11 and we head back up the stairs to start on math. I'm not very math savvy, but it turns out I remember more about fractions than I thought. During this time I usually just sit by and try to help answer questions out of their workbook so Stacy can work with them on a more one on one basis.

At 12:00 we go back down and eat lunch, usually a form of soup (or sopa if you care how much spanish I'm learning). The kids dish up and eat, then start their chores. I usually eat standing up in the kitchen so the kids can finish eating and work on their chores as quick as possible. They're pretty diligent at this part so after lunch I usually retreat to my room and start working on my "communications specialist" side of the job, except on Thursdays when I spend about an hour doing laundry.

Communications Specialist is just a big fancy title for getting to research website ideas, write blogs and newsletters for the foundation. It's funny how God chose to use my passion for informative writing for His glory, I truly never expected it and I feel so privileged to be able to put it to use. It reminds me of Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart", He implanted the desire to write and chose to fulfill it's purpose in this way. During this time I also listen to a teaching online to keep myself fed as the church here is Spanish speaking and I still don't have any conversational Spanish figured out.

At around 3:30 I head back into the house and chat with Stacy, or do dishes, or cut up some veggies for salad, really anything I can think of to be helpful. This time frame is where I've really gotten to know Stacy. She's ridiculously smart and has more wisdom in her pinky than I do in my whole body, so I REALLY appreciate this time with her. 

At 5:00 we sit down for dinner, usually some form of rice, beans and chicken. We've had some pretty special dinner nights since I've been here, though. One night we made a full thanksgiving dinner, another night there were fajitas complete with Mike's guacamole, and tonight was a special treat for me! Pizza night! The food definitely hasn't been as rough as I was anticipating.

After dinner we do family worship. Mike leads a study out of the chapter of the bible we're in and at the end he asks questions about what we've read and talked about. It's been really amazing to see this part of the day take place. This family is a true example of seeking first the kingdom of God. After the study and questions whoever's day it is to pick a song to sing picks, we sing, and then close out in prayer. This time in fellowship has been my favorite part of every day, even when I'm exhausted, I love seeing the kids listen, answer and engage in the study.

Family worship usually ends between 6:30 and 7:00. Lately after this time I've gone down to my room with Erianis, we chat and then watch something on Netflix, we just finished up Once Upon A Time so I'll take some suggestions on shows if you got 'em! After about an hour I go back up to the house to shower, get in my PJ's and then I relax. I usually spend an hour before going to sleep to catch up with people back home: FaceTime, Snap Chat, Facebook, Texting.

Then I fall asleep in my cozy bed with the fan on full blast and do it all over again! 

Being here has been really amazing. Please keep praying for me, I feel like there's more I could be doing to help out so pray that I would see the opportunities to serve this family and be bold enough to do it. Pray I pick up the cooking situation so I can help with lunches and dinners more often. I've got sandwich days down to a science, though! Please also pray that I would continue to be fed by the Lord and be able to walk out my daily life in the His Spirit and Truth!

Journaling through Colombia. Part 2

So I've officially been in Turbana 11 days. It's really hot here, man. I think I'm finally getting "used to" the heat here. And by "used to" I mean, "I still sweat I've just grown used to being in my own stink. So whatevs". 

Every night here the family does night time devotions... It's used as a way to center the family around Christ and go the Word together as a family. So far these times have been the biggest blessing to me. I don't understand anything at church and can't talk to the people because of the language barrier, so this short time of fellowship at the end of the night has been helping to sustain me.

Yesterday we started homeschooling. The kids and Stacy start with Science or Bible time at 8 and I join them at 9:15 to do language and writing. That hour and 15 minutes has been a blessing the last couple of days to spend time in the Word and getting refreshed. Before school started I read sporadically throughout the day when I could so it's been nice to see a window for a set time to do that.

With the heat the way it is, it's pretty hard to sleep at night so I've been feeling like a slacker when it comes to getting out of bed. It's hard to find the motivation to get up. Usually everyone's done with breakfast and cleaning up by the time I join them, which is okay because I know my way around the kitchen enough now to take care of my own breakfast. I need to pray to be more diligent in waking up and eating with the family, though. 

I miss home. Not as much as I did a few days ago. But I really miss my friends and family. I miss coffee dates at 3 Cups. I miss chemex with AFM, I miss Urban with Katie, I miss hanging out with my mom and poking fun at each other. I miss Morgan family meals. But I still know that this is where I'm supposed to be. The peace in my heart is overwhelming. The farm is starting to feel like home now. The Riffles feel like family. I've been undeservedly welcomed in by them. Stacy has taught me a lot about being a diligent person. She is constantly going, doing and being an amazing mom, wife and servant to the Lord. I also learned when you get some coffee in her she's hilarious and talkative. Which I really appreciate. I would REALLY like some prayer on how to better assist her, I'm doing as much as I can but I feel like I could be doing more. Pray that the Lord would show me where to take action and be her helper.

Funny thing about living life in Colombia that I'm thankful for... Food isn't a priority. Or even exciting, really. In the states I always planned my life around meals... Going over to this persons house for dinner, or going to this restaurant to meet that person for lunch, grabbing a costco dog after church... Life tended to revolve around food. Here eating is just another thing to do on the schedule. The food is good, don't get me wrong I enjoy my meals here but I don't focus much on what or when I'm eating. I eat what's put in front of me, clean up and start the next task... And it's been a blessing. The fruits and veggies also taste WAY better over here... So I've been eating a lot :)

God is good. He's been fighting this battle for me. Today I'm back to working on the website. It's been kind of hard but I think the Lord is really helping me to bring it along in a more functional way. He cares about every detail. I'm thankful for my Jesus today.