Grieving With Hope
A sweet friend of mine died unexpectedly on August 12th, 2021. Amanda Walter became sick on July 30th and two weeks later she was gone. There are many people who are hurting deeply over her death: her sweet husband, Darren, her four kids (Carson, Caroline, Case, & Carrigan), her parents who lost Amanda's sister to cancer less than two years ago, her brothers & their families, dozens of friends who loved her so, and their church families in Kentucky & Texas.
I met Amanda when I was a student at Kentucky Christian College. She was bubbly, hilarious, talented in theatre and voice, fun to be with, serious about her relationship with Christ, and a friend to all. She was especially close to my sister, Tabitha, who later went on to be the maid of honor in Amanda's wedding. Over time I got to know Amanda's childhood best friend, Karla, who has one of the sweetest hearts I've ever seen. I'll come back to Karla.
In college, one of the first things I can remember is Amanda doing the "World's Shortest Play" in the cafeteria with a napkin. No offense to the lady in this video, but Amanda's version was much more entertaining! At the time I thought she had invented it herself - it seemed like something that she would do! Numerous college memories abound. I became even closer with Amanda when my sister graduated. We both felt her absence and found comfort in being together so that we could feel like we were with Tab. When Amanda graduated and married Darren, we partied hard. Well, as hard as we knew how to party!
Amanda & Darren ended up at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, and I loved it. After I graduated from KCC I joined a mission organization based in Louisville and so I stayed with Darren & Amanda many times when I needed to be in town for trainings or what not. I have countless memories of those times together, both with other people and just the three of us. Praying together, laughing together, eating together, meeting their friends, seeing the way they ministered to others, and encouraging each other in the Lord. One funny memory involved a trapped possum in their trash can followed by a dramatic release mission in the country. But my favorite memory was more serious in nature. Amanda had been practicing a new song by Crystal Lewis called "The Lion & the Lamb." She told me I had to hear it, and I asked her to sing it for me instead of just listening to the CD. The next five minutes were unexpectedly amazing. I thought I was going to listen to a new, awesome song, but once Amanda started to sing, we entered into a time of worship to our King. When Amanda sang, it wasn't because she wanted to show off her amazing voice. It was all of her soul praising her Savior, and it made you want to join in. I join hundreds of others wishing that we could hear her sing one more time. The last time I saw Amanda was when they had adopted newborn Carson, and I stopped by to meet him. She was over the moon.
The Walters eventually moved to Katy, Texas, when Darren became the lead minister at Current - A Christian Church, and it was weird to visit Louisville without them being there. I've lived mostly overseas since then, so my trips to the states were always filled with visits to supporting churches and family gatherings. I kept up with Amanda through Tab and Karla, as Karla remained in Louisville until a few years ago when she joined Darren & Amanda at Current. Several years ago Karla kindly asked me to be the missionary at a week of church camp that she was leading. I agreed, and I loved it! During camp I found out that my mom had cancer, and Karla happened to be the first one I told. She just hugged me and shared a few tears, because she had just lost her mom to cancer not long before that. My mom survived her bout with cancer, and 7 years ago when I was in the ICU close to death, I woke up to find Karla sitting beside my mom at my bedside in one of our darkest moments. What a comfort it was to have her there. A few months after that, Karla hosted a friend of mine who traveled to Louisville to get tested to be my kidney donor. Meeting Karla through Amanda has been a blessing that keeps on blessing.
Being far away during this time has been extremely difficult. Amanda's death has magnified my regret in not making a point to visit her over the last several years, but has also magnified the precious times we had together. All the laughs, all the prayers, all the tears, all the memories. My old photos from my college days are in a box in the States, and oh how I wish I had them with me. I'm thankful for others who are sending me their photos. Grieving alone (in the sense of not being physically together with others who feel the loss as you do) has been a new experience for me. My teammate Gaby has been so kind and supportive, even sitting with me to watch Amanda's funeral streamed online. She has listened to me share all of my stories about her, waited patiently for me as I've scoured the internet for any bits of Amanda singing so that Gaby could hear what a precious voice she had. But she did not know Amanda, and so mostly I grieve alone. My heart was glad when my sister and other dear college friends were heading to Texas, but it also ached that I couldn't be there, too.
I assure you this isn't a personal pity party post! It's just me processing of the reality of life and death, nearness and distance, suffering and joy, family and friends, and memories of a life fully lived. Over the last few weeks I have been able to be in touch with Darren, Karla, Tab, and a few others. All are exhausted and grieving, yet praising God for Amanda's salvation and new life with the Lion and the Lamb!
If you think about it, pray for Darren & all of Amanda's family and friends who are trying to navigate this huge loss. Darren's faith is unshaken, but the pain is real. Praise God for an equally real peace that passes understanding!
If you get some time to listen to this talk that Amanda gave last year at a women's conference, you will be blessed!
For Better or For Worse
A wedding is one of those life events that tends to draw out the totality of sentiments from those getting married and those attending. Undoubtedly there is an abundance of joy, excitement, anticipation, and an overall sense of celebration. There is usually an element of solemnity and reverence, due to the covenant taking place in the presence of God and all the witnesses. For some it is a bittersweet occasion, delight mixed with sadness as one era ends and a new one begins. There may even be envy or concern, but no one dares to mention it on this day. Young people watch and wonder, mostly about their own futures and dreams.
Another sentiment is one that I have observed at every wedding that I can remember, whether it's mentioned by the minister, talked about around the reception tables, or seen through actions of various married couples in attendance.
Nostalgia. Nostalgia and renewal. Married couples inevitably think back to their own weddings. "There was so much we didn't know."
"We were so young and crazy."
"If I had to do it all over again, I would still choose you."
As the vows are read, I've seen husbands take their wife's hand and she looks at him lovingly, thinking about all they've been through together. Wives lean in closer to their husband as he puts his arm around her while the couple repeats the phrases "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health." It's beautiful, really, for the married folks to remember their own vows, initial commitment, and be able to enjoy the shared experience and soft music that heightens the senses of nostalgia and renewal.
I've been in or sat through a number of weddings over the years. As a matter of fact, I had a couple of great ideas for my own wedding, one of which was to have my bridesmaids wear my old bridesmaids dresses. When the movie 27 Dresses came out, I was disappointed that I couldn't use my idea anymore without people thinking I was copying from the movie. Anyway, I suppose I shouldn't have assumed that my idea was original! Nevertheless, my days of wondering when my time will come have fizzled out, and I can happily attend weddings and fully share in the joy around me as my spirit prays "Your grace is enough." But I digress.
A few weeks ago, a Spanish friend of mine, Alba, was being commissioned by her church to go to the mission field. She is a member of a Christian Missionary Alliance(CMA) church here and she is heading overseas to work in Bible translation. Her commissioning service was going to be live streamed through Zoom, and so I signed in to watch. This particular evening, however, I was working on something else and thought I would have her service on in the background and listen/watch for the two hours that were planned. Honestly, I wasn't emotionally engaged as the minister began to welcome everyone attending, both in person and those of us online.
I noticed right away that there were a lot of people watching online, some from Spain and some from other parts of the world: USA, Canada, Mexico, Guinea-Bissau, Australia, England, and others I can't remember. Everyone was smiling and you could feel the excitement, even over the video call. At the church, the service began and they started off with some worship songs. I hummed along and sang the words I could remember, but mostly stayed focused on my work at hand.
Shortly after that, some gentlemen got up to speak. They were the leaders of the CMA churches in all of Spain. They had driven to Granada from Madrid (4-5 hours) for the occasion. They spoke with such delight and joy. They were so proud! Turns out, Alba is the first missionary that the CMA churches are sending out from Spain!
Whoa. All of the sudden, the significance of the event made me pay closer attention to the screen. Another friend of mine in attendance got up to read from the Bible, and she read about Samuel's submission to God's calling on his life, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening," and Isaiah's "Here I am. Send me." She went on to read other verses from the New Testament, including the Great Commission. All of the sudden, I felt funny in my chest. And my eyes wouldn't stop watering. Person after person stood and voiced their support for Alba.
"We are praying for you!"
"We've got your back."
"Go be faithful to God's calling on your life!"
The minister who gave the commissioning sermon didn't mince words. He warned her that there would be really hard times and that there would be times that she would want to give up. He encouraged her to stay faithful to the LORD and to persevere because people needed to hear the good news about Jesus Christ. He talked about how this decision affected her whole family, and he encouraged Alba's parents to stay faithful, too. Jesus is worth it. I swallowed hard and my eyes were stinging as I tried to hold back the tears.
The two hours passed by quickly and they ended the service by praying for Alba, her parents & family, and anointing her with oil to commission her to the life & task ahead. It was an absolutely beautiful service.
After the service was over, I found myself unexpectedly overwhelmed with emotion, nostalgia and renewal. And the tears flowed freely. As I participated in this life-changing day for Alba, you can bet it took me back:
Beechwood Christian Church (Alliance, Ohio)
John Hannum, minister
Elders/Family/Church Family surrounding me
Laying on of Hands
"We are praying for you!"
"We've got your back."
"Go be faithful to God's calling on your life!"
In a way, it looked a lot like what I wrote above:
"Undoubtedly there is an abundance of joy, excitement, anticipation, and an overall sense of celebration. There is usually an element of solemnity and reverence, due to the covenant taking place in the presence of God and all the witnesses. For some it is a bittersweet occasion, delight mixed with sadness as one era ends and a new one begins. There may even be envy or concern, but no one dares to mention it on this day. Young people watch and wonder, mostly about their own futures and dreams."
21 years ago, my vows might not have been in the context of a wedding, but the life circumstances that have followed are the same. There have been better times, there have been worse times. There have been sick times, and healthy times. There have been times with plenty of funds and times where I have been in great need. I promised to be faithful, 'til death...
Oh, how I needed that evening of celebrating Alba's new life ahead! I needed to be reminded of my own calling from the LORD, my commitment to Him, and all that we have been through together. He's worth it.
There was so much I didn't know.
I was so young and crazy.
If I had to do it all over again, I would still choose You.
Keeping Up With the Joneses
I don't know about you, but I have had an interesting relationship with Keeping Up With the Joneses. (K.U.J. from here on out)
Like most kids, I didn't really know too much about K.U.J. before middle school. My childhood was routine oriented; Monday through Fridays were sleepy morning Bible readings, school, Little House on the Prairie, playing outside until supper, winding down after supper, and early bedtime. On Saturdays, we were sent outside to play after watching a cartoon & finishing our chores, of course. After Saturday night baths we got to watch HeeHaw before bed. Sundays were fun days: running around the church building before & after Sunday School, imitating the grown ups during the service and sometimes listening to the sermon more than I'd originally anticipated. Sunday afternoons were big lunches, books, playing outside and cereal for supper. It was a pretty light & free childhood. (Except for having to work in the garden during the summer. Torture.) Anyway, if my parents ever struggled in their own relationships with K.U.J., I never knew it.
I became more aware of K.U.J. in middle school and high school. I think K.U.J. also went by Peer Pressure during those years, now that I think about it. However, I still didn't see what the big deal was. It seemed to me like K.U.J. involved actions that could ruin my life, and I just didn't find it too attractive. I was busy having fun with my friends, playing sports, and trying to be a good student. Every once in awhile I would think that I was missing out on something, and I would feel the pull to K.U.J., but for the most part I lived in my own world.
Keeping Up With The Joneses began to look a LOT different in college. As a student in a Bible College, the majority of the student body shared a desire to grow in Christ and it was, to this day, one of the most favorite seasons of my life. But, looking back, this is when I became aware that even among Christians there were different ways of doing life and it seemed that I could choose which Christian "group" to belong to. I found this to be difficult, especially when I looked up to and respected many professors and friends who had different ways of viewing the same situation. Sometimes those views really put them at odds with one another, and I began to feel the pressure of having to choose a side, even though nobody was telling me to do so. K.U.J. had suddenly gone spiritual, and it would influence my life over the next 23 years.
As I reflect on the last two decades, I can recognize that I have struggled when it comes to decision-making within the Christian community. If I am trusting that each person/group is trying to obey the Lord the best that they know how, how do I make personal decisions? After looking first to Scripture, then to whom do I listen? Whose advice do I take? What place does submission to authority have here? Two people whom I love dearly see this issue from opposite sides - how do I proceed with this decision? What role does the Holy Spirit play in this? How do I resist individualism but move forward boldly when I feel the Holy Spirit raising red flags in my heart?
One good thing that came out of Crazy 2020 was that I had ample time to FINALLY sit down and reevaluate my life in ministry. I had been feeling a change coming for a couple of years prior, and even though I had already taken the first step of preparing for a move to northern Spain, there were still changes that needed to be made regarding ministry. And sometimes the truth hurts. I had to face the hard reality that I had been following certain ministry practices mostly because of two reasons:
1. People I love are hard-core into it and "what would they think if I wasn't?" (K.U.J.)
2. I wanted to prove to those above me that I was following their wishes enthusiastically. (K.U.J.)
These motives are, well..........embarrassing, to say the least. Which also proves why the previous 3 years had been miserable. I had turned into a person that I myself couldn't stand, and it was obvious that others felt the same. That's hard to swallow. But that's a story for another day.
Back to the Crazy 2020 lockdown: I prayerfully came to the conclusion that I was tired of Keeping Up With the Joneses (Missionary Edition).
For so long there had been pressure from all around, always pushing at a pace that was unsustainable. When that was taken away, I found myself getting my bearings for a moment. But then, there came this growing realization/feeling that I hadn't had in a long time, and it was accompanied by a deep sense of joy..........it was freedom! Freedom in Christ! Freedom from a specific ministry system, freedom from comparison with other mission teams, freedom from a prepackaged way of life. Instead, there is joy in obeying the Word of God, peace in discussing life in Jesus with loved ones, and delight in following the Gentle Shepherd. I have a new hunger and respect for the Bible, a deeper love for the Church & its place in society, and renewed trust in the Holy Spirit to lead and to guide.
(A little disclaimer here: All of these changes have been in regard to different views on ministry and strategies in missions and how they have affected me personally. I am not talking about the indisputable essentials of the gospel. May the Lord bless every effort to make his Name known!)
I do not know what the rest of my life holds, but I do know this: my days of Keeping Up With The Joneses are over. Oh, I am not so naive as to think that my mistakes are over - that is only a hope for heaven! But my new aspiration is more along the lines of what Paul says to the Galatians: "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."(5:25) And although keeping in step with the Spirit often seems harder than keeping up with the Joneses, the grace & joy that comes with it allows for a reasonable pace. Well, at least for this slow gal. 😁
**Just for fun, I looked up the origin of the phrase "Keeping up with the Joneses," and found that it was born out of a comic strip by Arthur R. "Pop" Momand that ran from 1913-1940. Enjoy a piece of it below!
If you look over to the right of this page, you'll see that I went almost 5 years without blogging! In those five years so many things happened. And though I plan on blogging about many of the experiences through which I lived, I thought I would start off simply with one of the biggest obvious changes.....a move!
I knew about 2 years ago that my time in Granada was coming to an end. What I didn't know was what that would look like. Was it time to go back to the USA? Was my time as a cross-cultural worker coming to a close? Or did I simply need to change locations in Spain? Truth be told, I was ready to accept either one. But after much prayer and consideration, I just didn't have peace that I should go back to the States yet.
I began to look for other areas of Spain that had fewer churches, and a couple of regions stuck out. One of those areas was Galicia, and autonomous community in northwestern Spain, just north of Portugal.
At the end of 2019 my teammate, Gabriela, decided to join me in the new work, and so we took an exploratory trip at the end of January/beginning of February 2020. You can see more details of that trip HERE. Although we felt that the Lord would be glorified wherever we chose to settle, at the end of that trip we felt confident saying "yes" to Ordes, a city right in the middle between La Coruña and Santiago de Compostela. After the trip I began looking for apartments, ready to move in early April. Mid-March came along and........Covid.
For me, the 2020 confinement was such a blessing. Not just because I absolutely needed physical rest, but because it provided the retreat that I needed spiritually and changes that needed to be made in my life. Some of my future posts will probably reflect on some of those changes.
I moved to Ordes in at the end of August 2020, shortly before Covid restrictions started up again. At the time of this writing I have been here for exactly six months and I give thanks to God on a near daily basis for this move. Not only are we seeing God's hand move in some individual's lives and enjoying the friendliness of the people of Ordes, but Galicia is just plain beautiful. It is a welcomed change from the hot, arid, brown countryside of southern Spain. Although southern Spain has its own beauty (I'm talking to you, Mediterranean Sea & Sierra Nevada Mountains!), it does my heart good to be surrounded by so much green here in northern Spain!
I'll just end this post with a few photos so that you can see the beauty of the region and praise God with me for his beautiful creation as well as his guidance & provision for this most life-giving move!
As I look back over the last few posts in this blog, I realize that a whole season of life has passed since I last wrote. As a matter of fact, a couple of seasons have passed. Very hard seasons. Necessary seasons.
Last year I started to want to write again. Not really for anyone's benefit, because I don't know who will read this. I suppose it's mostly for me to be able get some long standing thoughts and experiences out of my head. "That's what diaries are for", you might argue. I agree. Maybe I should just keep these things to myself. It's not like I'm a real blogger, or a professional in my field, or even someone to whom people should pay attention. I guess it's just faster for me to type than to write, it's easier to add pictures/links to a blog than to a journal, and maybe someone might stumble upon something that would point them to Jesus. And a journal is for the stuff you wouldn't write here anyway, right?
Last year I migrated the blog over here to Weebly because it's free and I could no longer justify paying so much for a website that I wasn't using. It's basic but easy to use and so here we are. Welcome to the new site! You probably don't even remember the old one. I don't either.
The last five years have been filled with heartache, anxiety, depression, anger, pain, sadness, betrayal, pride, and hopelessness. And this isn't even including any of the Covid-19 business! The last 5 years have also had its share of joy, healing, freedom, growth, and hope - and this is only because of Jesus. Emotionally speaking, these years were more stressful than any of my kidney transplants. I'm not surprised my hair is thinning and has more grey!
So I guess this is an introduction to the new season of The Reign in Spain.
Thanks for visiting!
Meet my friends, Paul and Judi. Paul goes by Pablo. Judi goes by Judi. I call them Pb & J. :)
They have been in Spain around 8 years now, I believe. I met them during my first few weeks in Granada. We met through mutual friends and we have been pals ever since!
They are fellow believers and workers for the Lord. We share a meal together once a week and it's always encouraging to be with them as well as a delicious way to spend time together!
Pablo teaches English in a school nearby and Judi tutors a few people in English as well.
Pb & J are also members of a couple of different choirs in Granada. They both sing very well and have been able to converse with numerous people about Christ by being part of these groups. One of the choirs is a Gospel Choir. The interesting thing is this: Pablo and Judi are the only Jesus-followers in that choir. The rest are non-practicing Catholics, atheists, and agnostics.
A few weeks ago Pb & J invited me and my teammate, Gaby, to one of their concerts. It was a great performance and we had a wonderful evening. Afterwards we went out for shawarmas.
But it was definitely an experience that provoked many feelings and emotions throughout the evening. I'll just share a few:
During the concert we heard some traditional gospel songs and old spirituals, as well as some songs made even more famous by Sister Act I. (I Will Follow You, O Happy Day, etc.) I was pleasantly surprised to see that our Pablo had arranged some of the songs and even directed a few! He also had a couple of solos! We were proud of him and Judi.
The majority of the songs were in english, which meant that the majority of the listeners didn't understand what the choir was singing. At one point during the concert, on one of the really upbeat songs, the choir director turns to the audience and says something along the lines of "this song is for dancing, so everyone get up and dance!" The ambience of the theatre was electric! People were clapping along and smiling, filming with their cameras and laughing. At one point some older guy from the back yells, in english, "come on everybody!" and lots of people stood up to clap and sing along. I was stunned. Talking to Gaby later, she shared the same sentiment. Of course we were pleased with the songs and we could worship along with our hearts, knowing the God to whom we sang. But this was just a show for many people. The music was good, upbeat, their friends/family were singing well, etc. But Gaby said "I wonder... if they knew what the words were saying, would they still have been up on their feet dancing around?" Sadly, we doubted it. It was a mixture of emotions! We were like "YES! YES! YES! This is what it feels like to be in the Lord's presence and feel the freedom and joy that following Him allows!" But then on the other hand we were so sad because the spiritual oppression over Spain is heavy and dark.
At one point I said to Gaby: I feel like someone needs to go up and give their testimony! I want to go up and grab the microphone and tell them about Jesus! The Living Savior, the Hope of all nations.
My favorite part of the evening was when the choir sang a song called Every Praise, by Hezekiah Walker. Hezekiah's music video is below. The night of the concert, the choir performed this song EXACTLY as it is done in the video. The soloist is a young man who is a friend of Pb & J's whom I've met. He has a great voice and led the song beautifully. But he is not a believer. Not even close. However, during the song I was so moved because I was sitting in this theatre, surrounded by people who, most likely, have no relationship with God, and I was hearing words of praise to the Only True God! My eyes started tearing up and I found myself swallowing hard so as not to burst out crying! I looked over at Gaby and she had tears streaming down her face as well. We could see Judi in the choir with her hands raised in praise. We knew for sure that 4 of us in that theatre were praising God from the heart that night.
And so we pray for seeds. We pray that someone in that theatre would be moved deeply....more than what music can do, more than what lyrics can do. We pray that the Holy Spirit would move in the choir members' hearts so that they can have a true encounter with the One of whom they sing.
Keep up the good work, Pb & J.
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
You Just Never Know
You never know when God is going to move.
Last week I was invited by some friends to eat supper with them at their home as well as visit with some mutual friends that I hadn't seen for about 3 years. Unfortunately not everyone could go and so there ended up being only five of us. But my hosts asked me to share some of my testimony with Marcos, a man from Africa who is a believer in Christ. He listened quietly as I shared the story about when Jesus Bueno showed up on my way back to the US during my kidney failure. After I was done he just shook his head, thanked me for sharing the story with him, and said some kind words about my faith. I assured him that it was all God and that I, too, was amazed by all that happened. Then Marcos went on to explain some other details.
He said that during all of my kidney stuff he would ask our friends, Pb & J, how I was doing and that he would then contact some friends of his to pray for me as well. His friends would later contact him and ask me how I was doing because they were following along with what God was doing in my life. He said that people were praying for me in France, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Sweden, and many more countries. I got goosebumps as he listed all of the places. This was a new part of the kidney story of which I was not aware. And it stunned me.
I mean, I knew that people all over the world were praying for me: from all over the US, Mexico, Chile, Cambodia, Spain, North Africa, etc. But this new piece of information impacted me because it was proof that this whole kidney journey was/is, without a doubt, everyone's story! So many people were involved in the process and God was working all over the globe to bring Himself glory through my little tromp in the valley of the shadow of death.
I certainly wasn't expecting that an evening at some friends' house would add to my kidney testimony, but it did. And gratitude swells up again in my heart and soul, overwhelming me again to the point of tears. You just never know...
I love the Lord because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!
31 years ago...
31 years ago today I decided that I wanted to follow Jesus. My sister Tabitha and I were baptized the same day and we have celebrated this spiritual birthday every year since then. When I decided to follow Christ, I really couldn't understand the extent of what that meant. But I did know a few things for sure:
- I knew I had sinned.
- I knew Jesus died for me and that he would forgive me of those sins.
- And I knew that I would go to heaven if I chose to follow Jesus alone.
And that was enough for me to confidently make the decision to follow Jesus.
I didn't realize just how hard that would be.
I love to observe families and see how children grow and learn. I love to watch their little vulnerable selves interact with their parents and their siblings. A couple of years ago I witnessed something that was like watching my own spiritual life being lived out in front of me. There was a mother and a father walking with their two children down the sidewalk, the traffic hurrying by. The little boy was holding his mother's hand, and the little girl was holding her father's hand. The little boy walked peacefully with his mother, letting her guide him along the way, without a care in the world, excitedly pointing out things that they were seeing all around them. The little girl, on the other hand, was different. She, too, was excited to see the things all around them but tried several times to get free of the father's grasp and run off. She even whined and pouted when he would scold her and explain the dangers of the road. And for a while she would calm down and let herself be guided down the street. But inevitably she would pull at her father's hand and try to wiggle free, all the while her father never releasing his hold on her. I'm sure you see where I'm going with this.
In regards to my spiritual life, I always wished that mine was like the image above of the mother and the son. I look at some people's lives and am amazed that their constant trust in Jesus, their discipline in walking with Him, their joy in being by His side, and their peace in holding His hand. But my life is more reflected in the little girl. I have been easily distracted while walking with Jesus. Instead of enjoying things with Jesus, I have found myself trying to wiggle free from His grasp many times in my life. I have tried to pull Him in the directions that I have wanted to go and have pouted and cried when He says "Obey me." Walking with Jesus has not always been bells and whistles. It's been hard. Very hard. I've had my doubts. I've thrown my tantrums. I've threatened to walk away.
But, like a good father, He has never let go. And it's that faithfulness that draws me back to Him every time. The longer I walk with Him, the less I want to stray. There truly IS a peace that passes understanding when I abide in Him. And since we walk together, He has been present in everything: Heartache, pain, the valley of death, delirium, celebration, laughter, stillness....the list goes on.
When I decided to follow Jesus I only knew a few things for sure. I am more certain about other things now, but the basics remain the same.
I am a sinner.
Jesus died and forgave me of my sins.
As a follower of Christ alone, I have eternal life!
So here's to 31 years of walking with Jesus!
It's not been without its struggles, but it has been absolutely 100% worth it.
And the best is yet to come!
(Would you like to discover for yourself what God is like and how He wants you to live? Send me a message and let's talk!)
Un día como hoy, hace 31 años decidí que quería seguir a Jesús. Mi hermana Tabitha y yo nos bautizamos el mismo día y hemos celebrado este cumpleaños espiritual cada año desde entonces. Cuando decidí seguir a Cristo, realmente no podía comprender el alcance de lo que eso significaba. Pero sabia algunas cosas con certeza:
Yo sabía que había pecado.
Yo sabía que Jesús murió por mí y que me perdonaría de esos pecados.
Y yo sabía que iba a ir al cielo si quisiera seguir solo a Jesús.
Y eso fue suficiente para mí hacer con confianza la decisión de seguir a Jesús.
No me di cuenta de lo difícil que sería.
Me encanta observar a las familias y ver cómo crecen y aprenden los niños. Me encanta ver a sus pequeños seres vulnerables interactuar con sus padres y sus hermanos. Hace un par de años fui testigo de algo que era como ver a mi propia vida espiritual que se vivía en frente de mí. Había una madre y un padre caminando con sus dos hijos por la acera, el tráfico corriendo al lado. La mamá estaba sosteniendo la mano del hijo, y el papá sostenía la mano de la hija. El niño caminaba tranquilamente con su madre, dejando que lo guiara en el camino, sin ninguna preocupación, con entusiasmo señalando las cosas que veían a su alrededor. La niña, por el contrario, era diferente. Ella también estaba muy contenta de ver las cosas a su alrededor, pero intentó varias veces librarse de la mano de su padre y huir. Incluso se quejaba y hacía mala cara cuando el papá la regañaba y le explicaba los peligros de la carretera. Por un tiempo se quedo se quieta y se dejó guiar por la calle. Pero, inevitablemente, tiraba de la mano de su padre y trataba librarse, mientras que su padre nunca le soltaba de su mano. Estoy segura de que pueden ver a dónde voy con esto.
En lo que respecta a mi vida espiritual, siempre deseaba que la mía fuera como la imagen de la madre y el hijo. Miro a las vidas de algunas personas y me sorprende de su constante confianza en Jesús, su disciplina en caminar con Él, su alegría de estar a su lado, y su paz en agarrar su mano. Pero mi vida se refleja más en la niña. Me distraigo fácilmente al caminar con Jesús. En lugar de disfrutar las cosas con Jesús, me he encontrado tratando de librarme de su mano muchas veces. He tratado de tirar de él en las direcciones que he querido ir y he hecho malas caras y he llorado cuando me dice "obedéceme ." Caminar con Jesús no siempre ha sido campanas y silbatos. Ha sido duro. Muy duro. He tenido mis dudas. He tenido mis rabietas. He amenazado con abandonarlo.
Pero, como un buen padre, Él nunca me ha soltado. Y es esa fidelidad que me atrae cada vez de nuevo a él. Mientras más camino con Él, menos quiero alejarme. Realmente hay una paz que sobrepasa todo entendimiento cuando permanezco en él. Y ya que andamos juntos, Él ha estado presente en todo: Angustia, dolor, el valle de la muerte, el delirio, la celebración, la risa, la quietud .... la lista sigue.
Cuando decidí seguir a Jesús sólo sabía algunas cosas con certeza. Estoy más segura en otras cosas ahora, pero los fundamentos siguen siendo los mismos.
Jesús murió y me ha perdonado mis pecados.
Como seguidor solo de Cristo, tengo la vida eterna!
Brindo por los 31 años de caminar con Jesús!
No ha sido sin sus luchas, pero ha valido la pena sin duda 100%.Y lo mejor esta por venir!
(¿Quieres descubrir por ti mismo cómo es Dios y cómo Él quiere que vivas? Envíame un mensaje y hablemos!)
4 days ago I celebrated my 39th birthday. I'm one of those people who doesn't care that people know how old I am. Considering the fact that my kidneys failed when I was 28, I'm actually amazed that I've made it this long! But Sunday, February 7th, was a great day and many people celebrated with me.
When my sibs and I were growing up, our mom had a tradition of telling us our 'birthday story'. She would make us our favorite meal and we would eat chocolate cake & ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce (except for my 7th birthday when I pleaded for a Strawberry Shortcake cake and have regretted it ever since. Long live chocolate!). After we would get done eating, Mom would "tell us our story", about the days leading up to our births and the day of the birth and all of that. And usually she would end with something like "and we were soooo happy that you were born into our family and we are still so happy!" I can't speak for my sibs, but I always loved hearing that story.
As a matter of fact, I still love hearing it. She continues to tell us our stories, although now it's mostly only when we ask for it. I couldn't this year because of time issues, and I feel like my birthday wasn't quite complete.
Here are the highlights of my story:
In February of 1977 there was a blizzard that hit the Brookville, IN, area. Every three days the snow came in, and nobody could go anywhere. So in the three days between snow storms, the town would clear the roads and help people get their cars out and everything. Since mom and dad knew I was going to come soon, they decided to go to Connersville that first day that they were able to get the car out and see our family doctor, Dr. Ellis. He agreed that I was coming soon, but everything was up in the air with the weather. Dr. Ellis was an old-fashioned doctor, and he gave mom and dad the option. "We can wait and see if you make it until after the next storm comes, or we can go ahead and move things along." Mom & Dad decided to move things along and started by sending Nate and Tab (then 4 and 2) with my Grandma and Grandpa Wasson just in case "this baby comes". Dr. Ellis told her to go buy a bottle of castor oil and drink it. When my mom asked how much she needed to take, he answered "the whole bottle!" Mom says it was so disgusting that she asked dad to get her a can a 7-up and they sat there in the car while she took one sip of castor oil and then one sip of 7-up until they were both gone. But by that evening she was in labor, playing Rack-O with Dad while they waited, and I was born that night on February 7th, 1977. And if I remember correctly from what they've told me -- I was their favorite baby ever.**
Out of my 39 birthdays, I've probably heard this story 30 times. It's nice to have a story. It's nice to have something to celebrate. It's nice to be born into a family that is excited for your arrival, and that still seems genuinely happy that you are still a part of it even 39 years later. :) I am really thankful for parents who have celebrated our lives with the traditional story-telling that still makes me content to be a Hannum.
**This part of the story may or may not be true. :)
5 months. Really?!
I'm pretty disappointed in myself for not writing in here for 5 months. It's not that I haven't thought about it. As a matter of fact, I think about it often. Something will happen and I think: "I should write about that in my blog." And then I don't. Real cool, Bek. But what's done is done. I can't do anything about it now. It's time to move on.
I have a goal of writing in my blog once a week this year. And I will do my best to make that happen. I really DO enjoy writing. I think part of my problem is that I have sooooooo much to write about. And it's overwhelming to process it all. For example, I am still trying to journal about my return to the States in October of 2014. It's emotionally taxing to dig some of that stuff up. But I know that it's necessary and I have recently been inspired by a friend who is recovering from major surgery. She blogged about some hardships in her life leading up to the surgery and that was just the push I needed to jot a little something in here today.
Here's the quick review of where I am today: By the grace and goodness of God, I am back in Spain! I arrived just before Christmas and I am getting back into the swing of things. Here in Monachil I am the leader of a Venezuelan sub-team. There are four of us and we are working to find people that are searching for God.
My personal word for this year is discipline. I want to be disciplined in different areas of my life: in prayer, work, exercise, and play. This blog fits under those categories and I want to be diligent in expressing my heart and thoughts through this channel. I guess I needed to write this out because it serves as a sort of accountability.
The Spirit of God is moving in Spain, and His Kingdom is coming here. This is not for me to keep to myself. So, thank you for your patience in waiting for me to write again. (Although you and I both know that no one has written asking me to write again. And that everyone forgot that I had a blog.) :) But that's ok. I knew.
So, here's to another year of the Reign in Spain!