lollapalooza

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Last Week

I keep saying it over and over, but it doesn't make it any more real...I can't believe my time here in Mexico is coming to a close!  The last year and a half spent here in Puebla has gone way too fast.  This time next week, I'll be home in NWA and missing so many things about this beautiful place.  My "Mexican family", the food, the sounds and seeing Popo the volcano everyday, just to name a few.

Almost everyone who's ever been to Mexico would say that once you go, you can't help but fall in love with the people.  They are a unique and special culture that really welcome people into their hearts and homes.  I have always known that from my many mission trips to Mexico but after living here, it has taken on a whole new meaning.  Not only have Hiram & Cati's family taken me in as one of their own, even calling me their adopted daughter & sister, but so many others have welcomed me into their hearts and lives as well.  Last Saturday, they threw me a surprise going away party at church!  I was a little suspicious with some of the events leading up to the party but none the less it was the best (and only) surprise party that anyone's ever thrown for me!  Of course, it wouldn't be a party in Mexico without lots of good food!  We all ate until we were stuffed.  One of my friends, Andrea, even made a video with pictures throughout the year.  If you weren't crying by the end of the video, you were crying by the time I finished my "little speech."  They told me I had to say something, so I stepped up to the mic and told everyone I couldn't say much or I was going to cry...well just open the waterworks up there!  There wasn't a dry eye in the room.  What a feeling of love and gratitude I felt for each and every one of the people in that room.


 On Sunday and Monday, I had my very own private cooking class with a lady in our small group.  She taught me how to make the most traditional food of Mexico, mole (mo-lay) and then how to make tamales with the mole...my favorite kind!  I thought mole was too hard and too long of a process for me to ever be able to make but now I feel confident that I can make mole when I get home.  And good thing because I am going to miss it.  I have to find some Poblanos (people from Puebla) in NWA when I get home.  Here's some pics from my class with Mili...





Can't believe I'm coming home in 6 days!!  See y'all sooooonnn!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Impossible?

This last weekend we had our annual El Camino women's retreat...and it was fabulous!  I was looking back on the retreat last year about this same time.  I had only been here in Puebla about a month and my Spanish was still pretty rough, which made the weekend very overwhelming and exhausting!  Not only was it much easier to understand this year but I could relax and enjoy it even more.  It was a great weekend away and some great time in the Word.  Here's just a taste of what God had to teach us this weekend...

Does it seem like there are impossible things, situations, people, etc. in your life?  I know there are many things in my life that from my point of view and with the limited amount of knowledge I have, seem utterly impossible.  But for our God, NOTHING is impossible.  He can and will do whatever He likes!  For the Samaritan woman at the well, she thought Jesus was a crazy man talking about giving her living water... "Hello?? You don't even have anything to draw water out of this well with!  However, I do, and I can draw you water if you like."  Oh, how silly we can be.  For Sarah, she laughed at the thought of having a baby at 99 years of age.  God says, "What's the problem?"  It seems unreal to see a talking donkey, right?  Again, God says, "Easy!"  Sending your one and only son, who was perfect and without blame to die for the sins of everyone who will ever live, for all the darkness and evil in this world, so that He can have a relationship with such people, amazingly and astonishingly God says, "What's the problem? Done and done."  I'm pretty sure every single parent would say for them, that would be impossible.  But when we see things ahead (with our limited sight and minds) and think there is no way to get through it, God says, "What's the problem?  You're with me.  You can't see what I can see and you can't do what I can do.  Let me take control and have the driver's seat.  All you need to do is trust and obey me.  So, as I walk through times of unknowns and questions, worry and wanting answers, I am reminded that I have a God so much bigger than "my mountain" and though I cower below it, He stands over that mountain, looks at his child and says, "What's the problem?"

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How's your appetite??

Last week, we had a guest teacher on Sunday morning at El Camino.  The theme of his sermon was "How's your appetite...for the Lord?"  I don't know that I've ever thought about it that way before.  Hunger?  yes.  Desire?  yes.  But appetite, never.  He was talking about how we "fill up" on other things- television, social events, magazines, porn, drinking, other people- the list could go on and on.  
But in Matthew 22:37, Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your should and with all your mind."  or as my favorite version, The Message, says,  "Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence."  
I had to stop and think as he had us ask ourselves, "What are you filling up on BEFORE you go to Jesus?"  Because when we fill up on anything other than him first, in our hearts, or in our minds, or with our strength, passion, intelligence, etc., our appetite for HIM becomes less and less.  How true this is in my life.  And of course when God tells us important little things like this that knock us back into place, it continues to tap you on the shoulder.  But what a great reminder to keep coming back again and again.  I pray for myself and for you that our appetites for the Lord would continue to grow and may they be fully quenched and satisfied only by the Lord, in our hearts, minds and strength.  


Last night, the youth of El Camino had their first Saturday gathering.  What a great turnout for an evening of worship, teaching, fun games and small groups!  This is a huge step for the youth ministry as they move towards small groups and focusing in our discipleship relationships.  Despite the fact that we played games that required sitting on the (very) wet ground and dunking your head in a bucket of water if you lost (which of course, I did- hence the hood) I am so glad I got to be a part of this very special night.  I am so excited about the things to come and what God is going to do in and through this gathering time every Saturday night.  Please join me in praying for the leadership, Jera & Eddie, for Hayley, as she teaches some girls on discipleship over the next few weeks, and for all of the students.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Vacations!

"Christians need to stop living like we are on perpetual vacation, viewing the world as a resort where "God is in control" and wake up to the reality that we are in a war zone that is ruled by the evil one."


Well what a "Good Morning!" wake up call that was this morning as I read a blog that I follow.  A little bit harsh and abrupt but totally in line with what Paul says in Ephesians 6:12...


12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
A Fight to the Finish
 10-12And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. (The Message)




This reminded me of a message that someone shared last week in the mountains.  He said that we cannot take spiritual vacations.  He even had us turn to our neighbors and say "NO VACATIONS!".  We can never allow ourselves to take a spiritual break and "go on vacation."  He was teaching through the story of David & Bathsheba.  As he taught, I began to see a story I had heard, read, studied, etc so many times in a completely different way.  He walked us through David's unfortunate series of events that led to much misfortune and heartache, all because he took a spiritual vacation.  The enemy is waiting for us to let our guard down so he can attack.  And it doesn't happen with a big bang or all at once, no it usually is a slow process.  A slow, winding process of sin that will drag us into a downward tailspin until we are at the bottom of the pit.  


Yes, I believe that God is in control, but evil still exists and I can guarantee that our enemy is not now nor will ever be (in this lifetime on earth) on vacation.  Let's be on guard today.  Remember the battle we are fighting daily and that we are on the winning side of the Lord almighty. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thankful

"Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.  This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live."  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 MSG

Challenge: How many times can I thank God today?  I don't think Paul is so much saying we should thank God FOR everything but we should thank him IN everything.  I am thankful for his presence at all times, even bad times.

Sidenote...
We had a great trip to Amixtlan & Cuautatola in the Sierra mountains last week, with a team from Fellowship.  The doctors, nurses and dentists saw over 900 patients!!  That's a record!  We also had an average of 50-60 kids every day!  I met so many new faces that I will never forget.  One in particular will always stand out to me.

This precious little girl is Elisa.  She became my sister in Christ last week!  On the last day of the kids' club, we shared the gospel at the end of our Bible story and gave kids the opportunity to come talk to us afterwards about what it meant to accept Jesus as their personal Savior.  As the rest of the kids were returning to their seats to finish their crafts and coloring sheets, I thought no one was going to stay up front and talk with us.  Then, I saw three girls standing together just waiting.  I asked them if they were interested in talking more about Jesus.  Elisa, who was standing in the middle of her two friends, very confidently said "Yo si" (Yes, me).  Now, you have to understand that in Cuautatola, people are very shy and the kids very seldom talk to us at all.  So for her to step up and say, "Yes, I am interested" was a huge step.  Marita walked the three girls through what it meant to accept Jesus and to have Him as your personal Savior.  I don't know what happened in their hearts that day, as those three little girls sat nervously listening and then prayed that prayer, but I could see a change in the eyes of Elisa.  It never grows old, experiencing someone, especially a child, experience the love of the Savior for the first time and choose to ask Him into their heart.  Please join me in praying for Elisa and for Barby, who will continue to try to water the seeds that have been planted in these three young hearts.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Who is following you?

Hebrews 13:7
"Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God.  Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." (ESV)

"Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God.  Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness.  There should be a consistency that runs through us all.  For Jesus doesn't change- yesterday, today, tomorrow, he's always totally himself." (7-8 The Message)

This morning as Hiram opened our staff devotion and prayer time, he read this verse to us...in Spanish of course, but I just really love the Message version.  As we discussed the grand privilege and even greater responsibility of leadership and all that it entails, I was reminded of three keys to leadership : faithfulness, truthfulness and consistency.  What a challenge!  As leaders, we have to look backwards, following the path that others have led before us, "imitating their faith and way of life", as the verse says, but also looking forward.  Are we setting the same example for others to follow in our footsteps?  The most important thing about a leader is their character.  It's not my abilities or anything of me that makes me a good leader.  It has to be about my character that is molded by Christ in me.  It's also refreshing to remember that my skill, wisdom, creativity, guidance, and every single thing I need in leadership comes from God.  Someone told me a long time ago, "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called."  I have seen this proven true in my own life.  When I was approached two years ago with the opportunity to come to Mexico and provide children's ministry training, I had no idea how I would possibly do that.  I felt so inadequate and lacking in so much training myself.  But God called me and then God equipped me. And he continues to do that every day.
I encourage you, look back and thank God for those leaders who brought you closer to the Lord and then, look around, see who's following you.  I pray that God will make us all leaders of great compassion, strength, wisdom, kindness and mercy, leaders that others can follow and imitate.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

rainbows, rocks and revelations


"God continued, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you.  I'm putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth.  From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life.  When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth."  {Genesis 9:12-16}

WOW!!  How often do we look up in the sky to a rainbow and all we see is a beautiful thing?  Yes, it reminds us of God and his majesty and wonder that He could make such a wonderful thing.  But to be honest with you, sometimes I forget this part of scripture.  That when God puts that rainbow in the sky, He is remembering His covenant with Noah, you and me and every generation to come.  His promise that never agin will he wipe all peoples from the earth with a flood, like He did in Noah's day.  Does that blow your mind or what?  God speaking to us through beautiful colors displayed in the sky.  Our God truly is amazing and sometimes I forget to take time to bask in that.  I'm finding myself really excited to see the next rainbow in the sky, just to know that God is reminding us once again of His promise to us.

Right now in Club Neon, we are in our Super Heroes series.  This week I have been studying as we prepare to talk about David and Goliath.  I always love rediscovering a childhood classic Bible story.  I don't know the last time I actually read the scripture about the story of David.  What a man!  Actually, what a boy!  David was so young, obedient, brave and confident in the power of the one-true-living God that he knew was on his side.  He was more than happy to step up and be God's instrument in fighting the battle against the Philistines.  Not to show off or be the battle winners.  No, David couldn't believe that Saul's army had forgotten in whose name they fought- in the name of the Living God.  He wasn't going to stand for any ol' 9 foot tall, giant Goliath to bad-mouth the name and the people of the Lord.  So, when no one else would take a stand- David did.  Now, that sounds like the kind of guy I'm looking for!!  Haha If anyone finds this man, please, let me know!  But seriously, what a great heart-check moment for me as I was reading and preparing this lesson.  I don't want to be like the Israelite troops who wore the uniform and talked the talk, but when it came down to the battle, they backed away in fear.  I want to be like David, who though he might have been lacking in armor, strength, age and training, He knew he had the only thing that he needed...David had God on his side.  So with that little rock and his sling shot, he took a stand in the name of the Lord, swung that rock and killed that giant.  He knew the battle was not his own, it was the Lord's battle to fight, and he was going to use David to accomplish it.  I pray for the strength, confidence and bravery to face every situation in life like David.  Walk a little taller today, knowing that like David, you have the one true living God on your side and He's already won the battle!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I am a horrible blogger...I always forget to blog.  So here's what's been happening lately...

Mom came to visit!!  My came April 19-24 to help me celebrate my 25th birthday.  We had so much fun!  I got to show her all around Puebla, introduce her to my friends, take her to a cooking class and so much more.  She cooked a good southern meal (fried chicken, mac n' cheese, rolls and cooked carrots) for my birthday lunch with friends at our house.  I was imagining I was at Monte Ne Inn the whole time...just needed that good bean soup!  That's one of the restaurants on my list of places to eat next time I'm home.  There, and Waffle House!  I'm dying for a good American breakfast...bacon, pecan waffle, hash browns, grits...I want it all.  And of course, as always, Sonic is number one on the list of places to stop first.  Crushed Ice!!  Can you tell I really miss food from home?? :)


Some little people had fun with the blue cupcakes...

 We celebrated Día del Niño or Day of the Child, here in Mexico.  At church, we celebrated with a family service being led by the Club Neón team, with help from some of our kiddos!  It turned out really great!  We had a fun worship experience and some kids shared testimonies.  We told them they could share whatever they wanted- something God had taught them, something about Club Neón, a verse or anything!  They all did a really good job.  One little boy, Alexis, was a little nervous...as I held the microphone for him and he was standing there with the deer in the headlights look, I didn't think we were going to be able to applaud enough to get him to ever talk.  But with a little help from his mom, he finally got it out.  And what Alexis said made me want to jump and shout with joy.  He said, "I am really grateful for Club Neón.  Before there was Club Neón, I didn't like coming to church and thought it was boring.  Now, I love coming to Club Neon every Sunday and spending time with my small group."  And that is what it's all about, folks.  Changing kids lives and getting them excited about the Bible and what God is doing.  I couldn't have been happier.  After our fun family service, we celebrated like we were all kids again with a CARNIVAL!!  Our coaches and volunteers were amazing and I think everyone stuck around after for food, face painting, games and fun.  Needless to say, my first Dia del Niño was a success!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Full House

What an exciting summer it's going to be...first, I go to the beach with my family in June, followed by my life-long best friend's wedding in Nashville, then 2 weeks at home in NWA, THEN 2 girlies will be coming to stay in Puebla with me for the rest of the summer!!  I am so excited that two of Fellowship's finest, Ryan Duffy and Hayley Hill, will be spending about a month or more here, serving at El Camino and working on their Spanish.  It's going to be a great summer and I can't wait to have them here.  I love that other people are getting to be a part of what I have been blessed to experience through the relationship between Fellowship and El Camino.  These two girls will be such a blessing to our ministry and I can't wait to have them...right next door.  :)  They will be living in the other apartment at the house where I live.  So looking forward to this!  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Good Friday or Good Business?


This Good Friday was unlike any other Good Friday of my life.  In a lot of parts of Mexico, this is one of the biggest days to celebrate.  But they've got it all wrong.  Some of my friends live in a town called Pueblo Nuevo, where every year they do an all day, full-on, semi-real-life passion play.  (two different groups do it actually.)  So, I thought, why not head over and check it out.  My friends and I walked around the town for a while, taking pictures of the beautiful designs they make on the road up and down the streets with sawdust, flowers or sand.  They are beautiful!  Some are just designs, others are murals, even Jesus' face.  We were all so perplexed at how they make it stick to the road because it doesn't blow away very easily.


Then we walked up to the town center where there was a huge fair.  Tents of hundreds of merchants selling any and every thing and food you can imagine lined the streets leading to the top of the hill.  This is where I was blown away.  One side of the open field was covered with carnival and fair rides, the other filled with chairs in a semi-circle formation for those willing to pay to watch the passion play, and all this madness separated by the rigging where they would later "crucify" Christ.  The whole thing was so odd.  We decided to leave and come back later to see the crucifixion part of the play.  About 6:00, the procession of Jesus and the crowd came through the street past their house and we followed them up the hill to see the crucifixion.  Soldiers, slaves, whips and all were very real.  As I stood there in the crowd with the crucifixion scene in front and carnival rides behind, surrounded by people drinking and carrying their souvenirs and carnival prizes, I was so saddened.  How sad that they celebrate Friday...don't they know what's coming on Sunday??  He rose from the dead, people!  THAT'S the day to celebrate.  The biggest day of the year they celebrate in this town, and they don't even get it.  I was praying the whole time that maybe someone in the crowd would really understand the significance of the whole celebration and experience Easter in a whole new way this year.  I know for me, this year's Easter celebration was all new. I hope you had a blessed Easter weekend too!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When God Talks Back

I often wonder and am quite perplexed by this very thought of God talking back...hearing God's voice/knowing whether or not it is in fact God himself speaking in that voice I hear is often difficult for me.  I'm reading Jesus Calling right now and I often wonder, "Did she really hear God's voice this clearly everyday or did she skip some days because she wasn't sure about what he was saying?  Or did she make it up sometimes?"  Crazy, I know, but I really do think these things in my head.  I think I still have a lot to learn about "being still before the Lord" and listening to His voice.  Just this morning  I read a blog by a pastor, Dan Kopp, about this very thing.  It was a great read...you should check it out either on his blog : http://dankopp.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/when-god-talks-back/ or just read it here below...


"Comedian Lily Tomlin once said, “Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying, but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic?”
That quote may make you laugh but it points to something that is part of our Christian worldview, namely that God is not deaf or mute. We talk to God through prayer and we believe God can talk back.
And yet if this is true — and I believe it is — then why don’t we hear God’s voice more clearly and more often than we do?
As a Vineyard pastor I receive a church planting magazine called “Cutting Edge.” In the current edition, pastor Ken Wilson reviews a forthcoming book by Tanya Luhrmann called “When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God.” An intriguing title indeed! Much of what you will read below is paraphrased from that article.
In modern society most people must work very hard to experience God. This may sound jarring to you, yet it was what John Wimber (founder of the Vineyard movement) believed.
Why? Because the busyness of our lives and our worldview in general often obscures or marginalizes God and our experience of Him.
The bottom line: there are obstacles to be overcome if American Christians are to experience God. A person must be pulling to put in the effort.
People learn to experience God in the way that humans learn many things.
We need to help people view their minds as an inner landscape where God is already at work, often through whispers or nudges from the Holy Spirit. And it takes work — mainly, the work of paying attention, of comparing notes with others and with Scripture, of noticing patterns — to discern this presence.
As we head into the climax of Holy Week — Good Friday and Easter Sunday — put forth some effort to practice the presence of God:
  • Turn off the “noise” in your life like the TV and sports talk radio to make room for the still, small voice of God.
  • Pick up a Bible and read portions like Mark 14-16 over and over again.
  • Spend time “being still.”
  • Pray Psalm 139:23-24: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Grab a journal and record the thoughts that come to mind.
  • Treat church on Good Friday and Easter Sunday as the “main event” of those two days and not something to “get out of the way” so you can have your family party."


Monday, March 26, 2012

spring break

After a couple of days of rest and relaxation, I'm beginning to feel recuperated from the last week, which is now a blur of fun, food, craziness, little sleep, worship, fellowship and pure insanity...I LOVED having the FSM team here in Puebla!  What could be better than having some of my favorite people (Katelyn, Alexia, Kyle and Dick Nelson) here, along with a great group of FSM students??  Not much in my book could be better.  It was an incredible week packed with a new activity and event everyday.  We went to the coolest water park, did a rally where we ran all over the city of Puebla (and my team won!!), ministered in a jail, visited a local high school, had a volleyball tournament and even had mini-youth-conferences at night.  I was so encouraged by their love and support, in the form of sweet words and prayers, as well as TONS of games, balls, markers, toys and supplies brought for Club Neon.  It was a sweet time for me to remember my many spring break trips in high school.  Seeing how the Lord was working in their hearts and minds through this one week was really special for me and brought me so much joy.  The students did an excellent job leading in small groups, sharing testimonies and teaching.  People were so impressed to see how equipped these students are in their faith...and it's all the proof of excellent discipleship and training that FSM promotes on all levels.  I could go on and on about how wonderful the week was but I think you get the idea.  I now understand, as a missionary, how much a team visit from your home church blesses you and your ministry.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to all!

Also, I think the world needs to see how the students of El Camino and Fellowship get down...
video

situational leadership

I don't think I've ever really even considered the term 'situational leadership'.  Today I read a great article from Bible Gateway.com and realized that 'situational leadership' is exactly what I'm experiencing in Mexico.  What a great reminder that like Jesus, I am only here for a short time and to be intentional in the leadership and situation in which I have been placed.


Jesus chose twelve men and developed them into the church's first leaders. Within a few short years from the event recorded in Luke 6, he would delegate the continuance of his kingdom work to them (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

Even a casual study of the manner in which Jesus prepared the twelve apostles shows us how effectively he adapted his leadership activity to the realities of the situation. He instructed them when they were uninformed, directed them when they were confused, prodded them when they were reluctant, encouraged them when they were downhearted. When they were ready, he allotted them limited tasks and responsibilities and then participated with them, guiding them through their assignments. Finally, he empowered and commissioned them as his apostles.
The Master Teacher shows us that effective leadership is situational. The leader's whim or desire (even when that leader is Jesus) is not what drives intelligent action. Effectiveness in leadership is driven by what the followers need. Jesus observed and understood what his followers needed, and he supplied it. He always interacted with them within the situation and responded appropriately to it. And within three years these obscure Galileans began to change the world.
As we observe Jesus' training of the twelve in the Gospels, we notice how consistently his actions were exactly appropriate to the situation. Jesus was very intentional about situational leadership. Leaders who can analyze a situation and adapt their leadership activity to address it can function as servant leaders and as transformational leaders, and they can profoundly affect the lives of their followers.

I pray that I would be a good 'situational leader' and that you would also lead well in whatever situation God has placed you.  There's never too little time to make an impact.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

finally home.


Our sweet Bobba has gone to be with the Lord.  
How sweet are these words.  Wednesday night two weeks ago, Mom and I got to Chattanooga around 8:00 pm.  Bobba said goodbye to this world that night in the wee hours of the morning and finally made it home.  I am so grateful that the Lord allowed us to get there just in time.  The Lord heard the cries of my heart to be with my family when he passed and to see Bobba one last time.  It was a full week...full of things to do and people to see, a full house with visitors and family, it was full of fun times and sad moments too and I think it goes without saying that WE were full.  Constantly full of so. much. food.  You know you live in the south when the fridge is full of casseroles, fried chicken, ham and congealed salad.  Even though I'm not a big congealed salad fan, it warmed my heart to be surrounded by some familiar foods.  And no one would have enjoyed all of this more than the one and only "Shotgun-Shirttail Robert Bryan Kile".  The man loved life, having fun, softball and cracking jokes, he loved his family, his wife and his Jesus.  What an example of a man that took this life by both horns and lived it to the fullest.  I might be biased, but I think my dad, (uncle) Steve and (uncle) Clay did a fabulous job at the service as we celebrated such a joyous life in Christ.  As I was helping Meme to make the programs for the service, we decided on the front to say, 'Celebrating a Life in Christ: Robert Brayn Kile.'  She and Bob had decided long ago that this day was to be about Christ and not about them.  His life surely was and I hope that we honored Christ and Bobba's wishes in our celebration of his life.  I am so thankful for the heritage of faith I follow after.  I am blessed to have such strong believers and leaders with the most incredible faith to call my grandparents and family members.  Family is a gift like no other. 

In other news...
I returned to Puebla exactly one week later (last Wednesday).  The following morning we headed out to Guadalajara.  The family I live with and I went to a discipleship conference in Guadalajara at El Camino's daughter church.  The conference was great and of course I was so excited to see all my girls there!  


Sadly, I only got a picture of Johana and Andrea.  I have got to start taking more pictures.  I wish you could see cute little Alma's happy face that was once so shy and sad when I met her 2 years ago, or Valeria, or Karla, or sweet Armando's face that now has burns from where his mother threw hot beans in his face.  The situations of the kids in this community of Guadalajara are heartbreaking.  It's full of prostitution, drugs and alcohol...and you can imagine the repercussions that come with these things- abuse, infidelity, single parents, poverty, hunger- the list goes on and on.  Sometimes I am so overwhelmed for these children that I love so much and the situation seems helpless.  But I know that the Lord is the only one who can change their lives and their situations.  Although, it sometimes seems impossible, I know that nothing is too hard for the Lord.  He can change their hearts, their lives, their families and their situations.  Please join me in praying for these kids who deal with bigger, darker, harder and scarier things every day of their lives than many of us will ever experience in our lifetime.  I can't wait to see the plans He has in store for their lives.

Monday, February 20, 2012

waiting on wednesday...

Alright, well....I did pretty good on the cleanse-diet...for the first two days.  The third day was a complete flop.  We had Esteban's birthday party on Saturday.  Who can say no to sushi and a mexican-choco-flan-with cajeta (like caramel) cake that I made myself?  Definitely not me!  So I only cheated at lunch but had great plans to continue on...then yesterday, we went to eat lunch at some friends' house.  Hamburgers...ice cream...cookies and cream ice cream! my favorite!...I clearly have no self-control but people, there was really no other option.  And now I am going to Chattanooga on Wednesday, so all the healthy groceries I bought are going to go bad.  I think this is what you call a complete flop.  Oh well...

I feel much more at peace knowing that I will be in Chatt soon with (parts of) my fam.  I just couldn't imagine being here without my family and getting the call that Bobba has passed.  I think I would have a completely embarrassing breakdown that would be unconsolable due to the lack of my family.  Can't wait to see my Meme!  (and of course my mom and Karen and whoever else may be there too.)  I received so many sweet texts and emails last week.  Some of them were the kind that make you go, "How on earth did they read my mind?"  I was really struggling with being so far away at a time like this and so many people said to me exactly, "I know it is hard for you to be so far away at a time like this."  Made me cry every time.  It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord works divinely in and through those around us.  Thanks for praying...thanks for the encouraging words...thanks for the love for me and my fam.  So thankful for the body of Christ that surrounds our family.  We are blessed and I am convinced that God can turn your "mess into a message" and your "test into a testimony."  

Friday, February 17, 2012

just another day

Yesterday, I started a one week cleanse-diet.  I have never done anything like this before and thought why not give it a try.  It's actually called the GM diet, started by General Motors decades ago to help keep their factory workers in shape.  Weird, huh?  Can you imagine your employer putting you on a diet?
Everyday the foods you can eat changes and by the end of the week you could lose 10-17 pounds.  Honestly, I am highly skeptical and kind of doubt it so this is really a test to find out if it really works.  Day 1, yesterday, all melon, all day.  You know, it's a good thing that I have recently developed a love for cantaloupe because for breakfast and lunch yesterday, that's all I had.  I tried to shake things up a little and had watermelon for dinner but could barely choke it down.  I bought from  a "fruteria"  (little produce store) down the road- the man told me the watermelons were very sweet and delicious....this one tasted like grass.  Also, in the states we've gotten quite spoiled on seedless watermelon.  I don't know when the last time was I had to dig/spit out watermelon seeds.  Let's just say I did not enjoy that part very much.
Today is all vegetables but wait, a treat....a baked potato for breakfast!  I wouldn't go so far to say "who eats potatoes for breakfast??"  Because as an avid breakfast lover, I enjoy some good hash browns with my morning meal, but a potato with just a "pat of butter" (which I'm pretty sure I exceeded the normal "pat" size) was rather hard to get down this morning.  I did it and I'm feeling good....we'll see how the rest of this week goes.

On a different note, my family is in somewhat of rough situation right now.  After years of steady decline in the health and Alzheimer's status of my uncle/grandfather, "Bobba"/"Dede"/"Bob", we are now preparing for the worst.  I can't even bring myself to type the real words to explain the situation because I don't want to think about it, but I think you know what I mean.  I am so sad at the thought of really losing him.  Though he hasn't been the "Bobba that we knew as kids" for many years now, we have grown accustomed to this silly Bob who makes jokes and doesn't remember our names, and talks to every woman in public and does crazy things like eat sand dollars out of a bowl on the table because he thought they were candy.  Yes, we love this Bob and the Bob he used to be.  He has been a part of our lives, for our whole lives, and holds a place in our hearts that can be replaced by no one else.  If you don't know my family very well, you might be confused by the uncle/grandfather title.  Bob is technically my uncle, the brother-in-law to my mother.  My mother's sister, Joyce, my Meme, is 19 years older than my mom.  So when my mother's parents passed away when she was just 13, she lived with her sister, Meme & Bobba, for the rest of her growing up years.  Bob is in all respects, her father, and my grandfather.  He's also one of the most fun-loving, silly, goofy, hilarious, and genuine people I've ever known in my life.  I often think back to what it must have been like for him, to not only lose his in-laws within 6 months of each other, and deal with the stress of helping his wife through that, but then the reality that he will now have not only 3 children and mouths to feed, but 4- and another teenage girl at that.  But his heart has always been so full of love and kindness and compassion, I'm sure that he never even thought the things that I sometimes think I would in his situation.  He didn't ask for that and he didn't plan on it but despite all, he loved her just the same and was a wonderful father to my mom and the best grandfather any of us could have asked for.  Please be praying for our family, and especially my Meme, Joyce, as we walk through the next days and weeks.  You are never prepared for situations like these.  But at times like these I am never more thankful for the peace, love and comfort of the Father who holds Bobba in HIS hands.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day!


It's so easy to get caught up in the negativity and bad attitude of the beloved "Singles Awareness Day", but when I look at this I am reminded that I already have a love so much greater than the love I may think is lacking in my life right now.  How HIGH and how DEEP and WIDE and how GREAT is HIS love for ME!  When I think about this I don't care that I am "alone" on this day of love, roses, candy, cards, gifts PDA and all the mushy sentimental stuff that goes along with February the 14th...no I don't care because I'm not alone.  I have a family (actually two- American and Mexican) and so many friends who love me.  But most of all I have a Savior who loved me enough even to give His life for me.  Let's remember that today.  

And for all my single girlfriends...here's a little note I got from MA today.  (Way to go!  She learned how to copy and paste on her iPhone!  So proud of her. )

Also, just for your personal knowledge...in Spanish today is 'El Dia del Amor y la Amistad'...translated to 'The day of love and friendship'.  That's right!  I think we need to focus a little more on that friendship part in the states.  Just a personal opinion, but it kind of makes me happy.  :)

Hoping that you have a great Valentine's Day, whether you're "celebrating your independence" or the love of your life.  Just remember to celebrate the greatest love of all too...oh, that makes me think of Whitney Houston...enjoy!  



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

peanut butter is to tortillas, as....

I was never good at those...whatever you call those confusing phrases that are on the ACT and every standardized test.  I mean I'm good at english and grammar but those are just downright mind-boggling sometimes.  Anyway...I stumbled upon a picture today and realized I forgot to blog about this very important moment in history.  Take a look.


This is my friend, Olga.  And last week she tried peanut butter for the very first time!  It was a couple of weeks ago that Eddie, Olga and I were strolling through Wal-Mart while I did some grocery shopping.  Of course, I had to get some peanut butter because as any good American I can't live without having it in my pantry at all times.  Olga looks at me and says, "What's that?"  At this point, mine and Eddie's eyes proceed to pop out of our skulls and the volume rose increasingly as we replied, "YOU'VE NEVER HAD PEANUT BUTTER??"  We explained to her that just about every child in the US grows up with a peanut butter and jelly/banana/honey/something else sandwich in their lunch box 3 out of 5 days of the week.  It's the stuff that children all over American survive by and we were astonished that she had never tasted it.  We related to her in Mexican terms like this, "In Mexico you have tortillas.  In America we have peanut butter.  You just can't live without it! It's like a part of your culture."  I don't think we offended her with this but we made enough of an appalled reaction to convince her to find out what she was missing and try peanut butter for the first time last week.  As you can tell from the pictures...she was skeptical at first...gave it a brave first bite...thought it over....(what you don't see is she took another bite to re-evaluate)...and then decided it was....okay.  JUST OKAY!  We were slightly disappointed but never faltered from our proud love of the creamy peanut concoction.  She said she was going to stick to her tortillas.  We decided later that it wasn't a fair judgement because we gave Olga her first sampling of peanut butter slathered on a piece of bread with nothing else.  This caused a very dry and sticky mouth and probably lowered her chances of love for our favorite staple.  So, next time you're introducing someone to peanut butter, remember to include one of the following: banana, honey, chocolate, nutella or the always faithful jelly.  Just another crazy cultural experience in my daily life.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

living for the weekend.

It's been a busy and very fun weekend...
Saturday night, I went to my very first Quinceañera.  A friend from the church, Sara, turned 15 and as is customary in Mexico, she had a blow-out birthday party.  It's almost like a wedding.  The girl has a huge, beautiful ball gown, everyone her family knows is invited, there's a ceremony, dancing and a presentation of the quinceañera, dinner and cake are served, accompanied by a toast to the lucky birthday girl too.  For a day, she is truly a princess.  This is not your average birthday party and is quite the extravaganza.  I'm not gonna lie, I would have loved this when I was 15- especially the part where she dances with her 'chambelanes' (escorts that are usually her guy friends).  The dances always include the traditional waltz with a few fancy tricks thrown in there.  Sometimes there are just one or two but sometimes more, like hip hop.  So fun!  I'm jealous I didn't have a 15th birthday party like this.  It was all really beautiful and fun but the sweetest part were the words her father shared.  Sara's father, Horacio, adopted her five years ago.  Though he is not her biological father, you would never know.  He had the whole room in tears as he shared about 'his quinceañera' and though she had only been his daughter for five years, he loved her all the same.  He said that day he understood what it meant for God to adopt us as his children, and the love that He has for us.  What a beautiful picture and story of adoption.  



This little cutie is Sara's cousin, Ester.  Her 3 little cousins were part of the first dance.  They were all dressed as Disney princesses.  Adorable.


The birthday girl.


me and diana, enjoying the festivities.


Yesterday's greatness was two-fold.  First, my sweet friend Tere came over to eat lunch with us.  She's a sweet older lady who owns the little store down the road, where we go to buy tortillas or other last minute items.  I usually stop by on my way to or from Zumba most days.  I would say I'm not sure how we struck up a friendship but I know that it's because of the Lord.  From the first week I was here, she took notice of me (is it that obvious i'm a gringa- white girl?)  and started to ask me questions about why I'm here and what I'm doing.  She was quick to share with me that she too is a believer and from the very beginning we had a connection.  Sweet Tere works at this store, which takes up the entire lower level of her tiny apartment, all day, every day and hardly ever leaves or gets a day off.  Tere is desperate for relationships and friends.  It was such an honor to invite her over yesterday to eat lasagna (which I made in the crock pot!).  She was so nervous at first and said she didn't get invited to people's houses much.  As I sat and listened to her share with us about her struggles and rough life experiences, I kept thanking God for this sweet friend that He brought into my path and for the opportunity to serve and love on her.  

And then...we watched the Super Bowl!!  Yes, it was in Spanish and no, we didn't get to see any of the fun new commercials BUT we did have a complete supply of the super bowl munchies.  I got busy with some pinterest recipes - homemade salsa, samoa cookie bars and herbed crackers.  Everything was de-lish and I think everyone had fun.  Go Giants!  I'm not really partial, I'm just saying that since they won.  It was a fun night piled up on the couch with my Mexican family all together.  I love introducing them to these classic American celebrations.  By the time the game was over, it had been a long day since 7:30 am lasagna prep and a full morning of Club Neón and I was ready to hit the hay.  

Also, on a sidenote, I am now a driver in Mexico.  Please pray for me as I take to the streets of Puebla.  haha It's actually kind of fun with less rules...you can drive as fast as you want (basically) and you don't have to stay in your lane or really a lane at all...there's so much freedom!  Here's to another step in becoming 'a real resident of Mexico'.  


Friday, February 3, 2012

it's been a while...

So, in making over my blog (more) today, I used photoshop for the first time in...I don't know how many years.  Yes, sadly and unfortunately, this very expensive program (which included the whole Adobe design program set) has been sitting idle on my computer since my days of interior design when I was forced to use it.  The thing is that I don't really feel like I was taught or trained how to really use photoshop back in the studio era.  It was so rushed and of course because it was homework, I avoided it at all costs.  But using it today to make this fun new banner (look up!) and add my name to my photo (check it out...) I think I have a new-found love for photoshop.  Maybe I'll watch some tutorial videos because I don't remember all the tricks anymore.  Maybe I'll leave my powerpoint-for-everything days behind and move forward into the much more advanced realm of photoshop.  So exciting!  I'm sure there will be more to come from this...stay tuned.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Today...

I have a countdown app on my phone and I absolutely love it.  I keep only the most important upcoming events on it...

I CAN NOT WAIT to see the FSM team coming in March (which includes my loving cousin, Kate, Alexia, Kyle McCarthy & Dick Nelson...just a few people who make me smile.)


April 19th, my mom comes to visit!  (I think she's anxiously counting down the days too!)


Wahoo! June 13th I will meet my fam in Tampa.  Probably my most favorite time of year.


June 23rd, my oldest friend (like we've been friends the longest, not she's the oldest) is getting married.  So excited for this wedding!


And on April 23rd I will turn 25...I'm not so much anxiously awaiting this one as I am dreadfully holding on to every day of 24.  I don't know why but 25 just seems so much...older.  (No offense to you who are older and wiser than I.)


Even though I think it's all good and well to look forward to these events with anticipation...I sometimes have to remind myself to LIVE FOR TODAY.  It's not that I'm worrying about tomorrow or the next day all the time (although sometimes I do) but I just don't let myself enjoy a day to its fullest when I'm focused on how much I'm going to enjoy future days.  Matthew 6:34 (Message version, of course) is a great reminder for me today: 


"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, 
and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. 
God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

I have to "give my entire attention to what God is doing right now" because if I don't, I not only miss out on the good and wonderful things He has in store for me today, but I'm probably not hearing his voice as clearly and following him in obedience of the plans he has for me today.  What a wonderful thing that our Lord and Savior "will help you deal with whatever hard things come up WHEN THE TIME COMES."  Just another day I have to remember to rest in the promises of God and not worry about my own petty thoughts.  He's already got it under control.  Praying that you can enjoy this day to the fullest that God has planned for you!

Monday, January 30, 2012

o, rodrigo

3 weeks down and many, many, many more to go for Club Neon!  Starting a new ministry is challenging, stretching, enlightening, inspiring, beautiful and downright exhausting sometimes...but this experience has been one of the most amazing of my life.  In three short weeks, I have been hugely blessed by leaders, volunteers and kids.  Meet one of my favorite kids, Rodrigo.



Rodrigo is 6 and is part of (small group) team purple.  I will never forget meeting him the first day of Club Neon, he was soooo excited. His parents came to drop him off and he was just running around- almost gleefully.  Even sitting in his small group and talking with his coach, Angie, I noticed he could hardly sit still.  The next week, God blessed me with one of those little moments.  As I was running around from one end of the church to the next and back again, Rodrigo came through the main gates with his parents...once again, he was "gleefully" running, ready to split and bolt from his parents as he kept saying, "I'm going to Club Neon!  I'm going to Club Neon!  Bye Mom and Dad!"  And off he went.  It was just a moment but truly one of those where you see the beauty of the Lord in a small child.  I don't know about you, but I need moments like that, and God frequently uses them to redirect my eyes back to Him.  It's as if He's saying, "Slow down.  Take a minute to soak it all in.  Don't worry about the details and the schedule and the papers, leaders, music, etc....just stop and listen to the excitement in this kid's voice.  That's ME!  Remember, Caroline, it's all about ME.  And would you just take a second to look what I'm doing."  It's not in a mean tone or like a slap on the hand.  It's like a soft hand on your shoulder that turns you around with a grin and a chuckle because of your current state of "chicken with its head cut off" that He finds so silly.  I love it when He does that.  I don't think it's ironic at all that these moments in my life generally always come in the form of children.  For everyone it's something different, but I know that God has given me a passion for children for a reason, because HE speaks to ME through THEM.  Amazing.  And blows me away every time.  Beth Moore was riding my same train of thought this morning as I studied in my Patriarchs bible study...check out what she said.  (I think she's maybe one of the wisest women ever BTW...besides the one and only Mary Ann McIntyre, of course!)


"Among the things God surely must enjoy doing, He can choose to reveal Himself any way He wants.  His revelation doesn't have to make sense to us.  We don't have to worry ourselves to death trying to get the Hebrew sentence structure to work for us.  We don't have to debate it in seminaries (though we can).  And we don't have to automatically accept a brilliant scholar's attempt to take the mystery out of it.  God can reveal Himself through flames of fire from within a bush, through a water-gushing rock, through a commander of an army, or through a voice out of a storm.  If I may be so bold, I think He rather likes the variety.  So today why don't we just sit back and enjoy it?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Club Neon

The day we had been waiting for...the kick off the ministry we have been working on all this time...FINALLY THE DAY CAME!!  Last Saturday night we had our Fiesta de Inauguracion de Club Neon, or our kick-off/launch party for our new children's ministry!  It was a mix of emotions (stress, nerves, excitement, anxiety) as we prepared to show all the families of El Camino what we have been cooking up.  And what a fiesta it was!!  We had a great turnout of families and I think everyone seemed to have a great time.  Everyone got a little preview of what was about to come...the very next morning!
Here's me and Nissi, one of our large group teachers, with our mascot, Sandy the ostrich.


Sunday we officially launched Club Neon!!  For the first day, everything went miraculously.  God has really taken care of all the details and put the right people in place for each and every area of the ministry.  We have more than 40 people currently serving in Club Neon, from small group coaches, to large group teachers, praise team, band and coordinators.  It is truly incredible to see how God has particularly gifted each person serving with the passion and skills that they need to do their part in serving the kids of El Camino.  I am so grateful that the Lord has all of this in His hands and under His control!  It was great to see these kids worshipping and experiencing the Bible together with their peers in a way they never had before.  Please continue to pray for us as we seek God's guidance in the next steps for the kids of El Camino.  I know He has great plans and I am so honored, blessed and excited that I get to see and witness what He's doing in Mexico.

{For some reason, I can't upload photos...if you want to see more photos from this weekend, check us out on facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Club-Neón}

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Home for Christmas

And oh how sweet it was to be back home for Christmas....somehow I didn't take hardly any pictures BUT maybe it's because I didn't have a second to take a picture with my jam-packed schedule of visiting friends, supporters and family all day, every day.  I loved being home and seeing everyone, the time just went by too fast.  A few highlights from my first homecoming...

Eating at Chick of course!  My most favorite things?  #1: chicken biscuit #2: Southwestern Chargrilled Spicy Chicken Salad  #3: "extra crispy" fries (learned this trick from the great Rachel Morris)


Night o' Fun with some of my favorite people, Kat, Jenna and Nolan.  We went ice skating and to a Boom Kinetic concert.  My absolute favorite and most fun concerts to go to!


Visiting friends...and often getting treated to my favorite meals.  I really miss this little Jack Jack who's growing up entirely too fast, his fab momma, dad and sis too.


Family photo session with the one and only Blanca Garcia.  If you haven't checked out her work, you should.  www.blancavgarcia.com


Dad thought he was the creative director for the shoot.  He was really adamant about a few things, a picture with sunglasses being one of them.  Gotta love him.


Family fun day at the Gentry Safari. 


I feel like he's saying, "whatchu lookin' at willis?"


CHRISTMAS!!  I think this one pic says it all.  Mom with "the mother of all bows".


HAPPY NEW YEARS!!  Got to ring in the new year with such a fun group of friends.


And before I knew it, it was time to leave again.  It was really hard leaving this little face....


BUT knowing what I was coming back to, made me all the more excited!  I arrived back in Puebla on January 6th and the January 15th date of the first Club Neon was approaching quickly!!

More to come...