30 June 2011

Too Much for Words

Well as you probably gathered from my last post, life has been a bit of a whirlwind over the last few weeks. So many unexpected changes and last minute decisions with some random chaos thrown in for flavor. Don't worry, you won't have to read a long rambling musing about all of it (at least not now) because frankly there has just been too much to process and I'm too tired to attempt to write about it. So I thought, instead, I'd just give you a glimpse of the story through pictures. I mean, that IS half the reason I'm down here, right? So here is an overview of the last two craaaazy weeks:

At the wooden jewelry factory in Costa Rica. 
My room in Costa Rica for the last two months.
My street in Costa Rica. My house is down on the right. 
Sweet Peruvian lady who runs this stall in the artisans' market in San José.
Drinking a celebratory Dr. Pepper to toast farewell to Costa Rica and "hola" to a new adventure.
View of downtown San José out a bus window.

My room in the midst of last-minute chaotic packing!

All my luggage ready for our 5:30am departure from Costa Rica.

Waiting out our unexpected 7 hour layover in the Panama airport after our plane out of San José left many hours late due to mechanical issues. At least there was WiFi in Panama!
Our first view of Lima from our hotel window. It certainly is a city.
First Starbucks in two months!!! Yay for a caramel frap!
First view of the Lima coast and those famous grey skies. 

I'm not going to translate this, for security sake, but the resort where we've been at conference for the last week doesn't joke around with their translation of organizational names!

"Virtual" prayer-walk for ministries in the Americas
Our resort at night. 
Downtown Ica, Peru.

Dunes in Ica, Peru!
Me...on a dune.
Sand "sledding." I was apparently the champion. Just check out those pointed toes!

Dune buggy rides over the dunes = better than a roller coaster. 

Evelyn. She is awesome. 
Me with a.....LLAMA!!!!
My first Peruvian llama! I tried to speak spanish to him. He was unimpressed. I then tried to feed him goldfish crackers.  He was still unimpressed. My llama adventures are off to a rocky start. 
Path up the dune at the resort.

View of Ica from the resort dune. 

Enjoying some "Peru Cola"!

20 June 2011

Feliz día del Padre!

Yes, it’s Fathers’ Day here in Costa Rica as well! It seems to be a lot like the states: greeting cards, gifts, kids doing special programs at church, and sermons highlighting fatherhood. I hope you were able to celebrate the fathers in your life in a special way. I sure wish I could be home to give mine a big hug, but I can’t, so I hope you’ll indulge me with a little tribute to my daddy. He’s pretty terrific, and I’m so blessed to be his daughter.  

So thankful for my awesome Dad who loves me and supports me (even when he's not thrilled about me running off to foreign countries...again)!

I'm also thankful for my Heavenly Father who is so incredibly faithful! He has taken an unpleasant situation and already used it for so much good! In a series of events that even I haven't really wrapped my mind around, He has turned our plans and expectations on their heads. Instead of heading to Peru in August, we now have plane tickets booked for Thursday. You read that right: Thursday. As in three days away. I'd give you more details but I don't have much more than that to go on at the moment. Everything is just the tiniest bit chaotic right now. So let the list making, cleaning, organizing and packing (ugggh...packing!) commence. We're moving to Lima!

18 June 2011

When You Pass Through the Waters

As I went through the exercises I prayed. Jesus. I let my mask fill with water and then cleared it. Jesus! I dropped the regulator and executed the recovery move. Jesus. I released the weight belt and reaffixed it. Jesus. I cleared my ears to equalize the pressure. Jesus! I tried to sift my thoughts and find the words to pray, but nothing came to mind readily, only: …Jesus.

Excited about wetsuits...and SCUBA!
I was sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool in full scuba gear in the middle of an urban area of San José. A storm was building up overhead, but under the water everything was quiet and blue. Every exhale sent bubbles rushing past my face. Around me a few friends practiced the safety drills with our instructor while an occasional swimmer passed by in the lanes above. But I didn’t really see them. The muted slow-motion world underwater seemed in such stark contrast to my chaotic thoughts and feelings. I watched the bubbles tracing a path to the surface and listened to the magnified sound of my slow rhythmic breaths, but my mind was still reeling, trying to process what had happened just an hour before. The thoughts tumbled one upon the other without order or flow. Bits of the conversation replayed in my head mixed with questions: Had I done something wrong? Should have I had said something else? Where did this come from? How in the world can I possibly fix this? …Why?! But even as I asked the questions, I knew I would never be able to make sense out of the situation. Nothing about it was logical or understandable. All I could do was pray. And pray I did, sitting there on the bottom of the swimming pool. For a long time nothing would come from the confusion in my brain but “Jesus!” and that was enough. But as the assurance that God is in control washed over me, I could finally put together coherent sentences: Jesus, calm my heart. Give me peace. Father, comfort her troubled mind, and change her heart. Give me wisdom and your eyes to see the situation. Help me to glorify you in this situation. What others have intended to harm me, use for Your ultimate good.

It began to sink in, the absurdity of the day, and I bit down on the regulator to keep from laughing. Here I am. I’m in Costa Rica. I’m in Costa Rica in a swimming pool dressed in gear that looks like I’m planning to lead an intergalactic war (or at least a war on fashion).

This is the only thing that could have possibly made my experience underwater any more ridiculous.
 I’m on day three of a nasty head cold, I’m facing some mild…“intestinal challenges,” and yet the knot in my stomach isn’t from being sick or the anxiety of breathing underwater for the first time. I had begun the day by receiving an unprovoked email from an acquaintance in the states full of bitterness, judgmental personal attacks and name-calling. More amused than annoyed, I had assumed that would be the random ridiculous occurrence for the day. There was no way I could have known that it was just the warm-up act for what else was coming. The details aren’t really important, and I won’t share them here for the sake of the others involved, but I was completely blindsided by a person making ridiculous (and I mean seriously, seriously ludicrous) accusations about my behavior and intentions and impugning my integrity when I tried to explain the truth. And so I found myself in this preposterous position, floating along with a heavy heart, considering the magnitude of the damage that could result from this situation and struggling to find the missing piece that would make it all make sense. Yep. My life is ridiculous.

I spent the evening processing, praying, and trying to track down supervisors who were, of course, gone to Guatemala for the week. The first victory from this situation was that not only did I figure out how to call Guatemala from Costa Rica, I called the hotel and spoke to the receptionist on the phone in SPANISH, and she actually understood me. I mean, sure she eventually switched to English for my benefit (and probably hers too!), but we had communicated effectively to that point. Gotta celebrate those small victories!

The next morning I awoke still sick and feeling like I had had crazy dreams, only to realize…no, that’s actually my life. I was just in the process of waking up for my day when I heard an explosion and…the power went out. Yep. I had left messages through every conceivable medium for any and everyone to please contact me ASAP, and now I was uncontactable. But I heard Brittany squeal with relief when she saw that the coffee pot had produced just enough for two cups before the power went out. (Again, it’s the little things!) In a melodramatic moment as I listed all the things that had gone wrong in the last two days, I moaned, “I feel like Job!” Realistically I knew there was no comparison between the current challenges in my life and the complete testing to which Job was subjected, but I couldn’t help feeling that when it rained, it really poured. A couple of hours later, Brittany and I both chuckled when we sat down to take our test in phonetics class. We were given a passage and asked to circle all the diphthongs. And that passage was? The first chapter of Job. ;-)

My favorite part of the day is always reading from the Bible in Spanish in phonetics class, and the passage selected by another student that morning jumped off the page and into my heart:

“But now, this is what the Lord says- he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’” – Isaiah 43:1-3

God promises they won't, but this is what I'd look like if the waters DID sweep over me.

I thought back to the two verses I have memorized in Spanish thus far:

“Do not be afraid for I am with you, do not be afraid for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” –Isaiah 41:10


“And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Such peace for an anxious soul:
Fear not!
Our Savior is faithful!
He is with us!
He is working all things together for good!

In illness, in opposition, in false accusations, in hurtful words, in criticism, in trials, and in the simply absurd days… He is there, and He is faithful.

Many things are still up in the air right now, but the company has been extremely helpful in dealing with the situation, and I have a peace that God is working things out as He sees fit for the good of His children and for His glory. I have certainly felt the prayers of so many who have been lifting up the situation to our Father. It has also been a blessing to be reminded of what wonderful friends I have. I’d be lucky to have one or two close friends who love, encourage, and defend me, but I have been blessed above and beyond when it comes to the people in my life. They exemplify what Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

 (I hope you're lucky enough to have some friends like these awesome people!)

Please continue to pray for me and for everyone involved in the situations. Pray for physical health, and for continued peace of heart and mind. Pray for wisdom and guidance for those making decisions. Pray for those who have lashed out in pain, that they will turn to God to heal their hurts and restore their joy and peace. We know that Satan is the Accuser, the Father of Lies, and the author of confusion. Pray that he does not get one ounce of victory from any of this! Pray that God be glorified in every aspect and that His purpose be accomplished in me and everyone else involved. Also, please pray for Brittany, as she has been caught up in all of this just by being associated with me. She’s been great about it all, but her life will be affected by how this plays out, so don’t forget to lift her up as well! Thank you thank you thank you for your encouraging words and prayers!

13 June 2011

Not There Yet

Last weekend we took a mini-vacay to Playa Hermosa on the Pacific Coast. We figured after 6 weeks down here we should probably make it to a beach. I was excited, because, well… I love the beach! I really don’t like being in landlocked places for too long because I start missing the ocean. (And yes, when you grow up 5 minutes from a beach, anything over about an hour drive from the ocean qualifies as “landlocked.”) Also, I thought it would be a nice comforting thing to be back at a beach since it’s one of the things I associate so much with my home in Florida. I was expecting it to make me feel better about being so far away from the places and people that I love, because, hey…maybe I can’t hug my friends but at least I have a beach!

Now, I’m going to admit something here that you may never hear me say again because, when you are as brilliant as I am it doesn’t happen often:


*Gasp!* I know, I know. Astonishing! I can’t believe it either! The trip to the beach was fun and a nice change of pace, but instead of being a pleasant substitute for Daytona and making one less thing that I had to miss… instead, it just made me incredibly homesick. :-/ I know you’re probably thinking, “So what’s new? You talk about hard days of missing home all the time!” Everyone may not distinguish between the two like I do, but to me there is a big difference between missing something, and being homesick. For the most part, on a daily basis I miss people. It’s the hardest, and the most constant. Occasionally, I miss things. A favorite something will cross my mind and I’ll think “Aw, I miss Publix subs!” or “Man, I really wish I could go to Target right now.” But those are fleeting thoughts that seldom linger. And rarely I miss home, the actual physical location of my house, my church, and my beach. I usually just think of it in fond memories. 

But as I lay on the dark sand of Playa Hermosa, so different from home and yet so familiar, all I could think was “I wish I were in Daytona right now.” Honestly, who goes to a beautiful Costa Rican beach with a backdrop of lush tropical jungle and thinks, “I’d rather be in Daytona”?  In Daytona with the irksome tourists and hotels and often-murky water and red sand that gets glued to your skin and the heat…the sizzling scorching heat? Who would take that trade? You guessed it. ME. It didn’t help that I knew that at that very moment most of my friends were spending a nice day on MY beach at home. It also didn’t help that Playa Hermosa is basically an outpost of American surf culture. Maybe a half mile long and one block wide, the “town” feels like all the Americans came to surf and never left. Signs are in English, hotels and restaurants are run by Americans, everyone takes dollars, and American surfers crowd the waves. Even the hostel we stayed at had a link on its website to my favorite surf shop in my hometown.

Although I know how to surf I don’t consider myself a surfer by any means, but that surf culture is part of my hometown and so very familiar. It was nice to talk to other Americans and work on my tan, but everything there just reminded me of home. I thought about it, wondering if I was really just missing people and projecting it onto a place. I considered: if I could push a button and be in Daytona right now, but none of my friends and family were there, would I do it? Yes, I thought without hesitation. Obviously I’d rather have the people than the place any day of the week, but at that moment, if that was my option, I would have gladly taken it. I missed my pink beach chair, the flat white sand, the red lifeguard stands, the intense sun, and the swimmable water. I missed driving down A1A in my beloved Gerald, sandy and sticky with saltwater, with my sunroof down and my radio blasting. I missed my house, my cluttered bedroom, my bathroom with a BATHTUB. My church, my stores, my familiar streets and favorite places. The sights, the sounds, the smells. I was just simply homesick.

Sunday morning I woke up, grabbed my Bible and went down for some quiet time on the beach. My heart had been feeling restless for some time now, and I was looking forward to some alone time with Jesus by the water, just like I normally do at home when I need some refreshment for my soul. I flipped open the Bible aimlessly and opened to read Luke 9:

The Cost of Following Jesus
 57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
   But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Ouch. Talk about getting smacked in the face by the Word of God. Those are some challenging statements there. Most of us have heard them numerous times, but how often do we stop to think what that looks like in our lives? It was a huge conviction to me as I sat there on that beach, missing my loved ones and missing my home. When you leave most everyone and everything precious to you behind, it’s so hard to not spend a great deal of time looking back. But what did that say? “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” I don’t know that there’s anyway to soften the seriousness of that verse, and we shouldn’t try. But I really wish I could. I wish that was one of those “ambiguous” verses with lots of room for interpretation. I want to say, well that’s a conditional command just for that one person. Because, like so many other verses in the Bible, if I hold my life up next to it for comparison, I fall so very short.

I was reminded of David Platt’s discussion of this passage in his book, Radical. (Great book. Read it.)
“[Jesus] was simply and boldly making it clear from the start that if you follow Him, you abandon everything- your needs, your desires, even your family.”

I’d like to say that I read that passage, everything snapped into place in my heart and mind, and I skipped gleefully on without another thought of what I’ve left behind. But although it was a precious and powerful time with Jesus, He is still working this out in me. Later in the week, while I was looking up a quote I once heard, I came across a website with a bunch of excellent Christian quotes. The first one challenged me. The next one slapped me in the face. The third one punched me in the gut. On and on they went. I love a good quote, but I wished I hadn’t read these. Here’s a few of my favorites:

Most people do not want to know the will of God in order to do it. They want to know it in order to consider it.

Partial obedience is not obedience at all; to single out easy things that do not oppose our lusts, which are not against our reputation, therein some will do more than they need; but our obedience must be universal to all God's commandments, and that because He commands it. Empty relationships are nothing; if we profess ourselves God's servants and do not honor Him by our obedience, we take but an empty title.
-Richard Sibbes

Most of us labor under the delusion that we have every right to our lives; that we have the right to go where we wish, do as we please, live as we choose, and decide our own destiny. We do not. We belong to God. He made us for himself. He chose us in Christ out of love, from before the foundation of the earth to be his own. He has bought us twice over, both through his generous death and also by his amazing resurrection life.
-Phillip Keller

God is God. Because He is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will, a will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.
-Elisabeth Elliot

It is true that He does sometimes require of us things that to others seem hard. But when the will is once surrendered, the revolutionized life plans become just the plans that are most pleasant, and the things that to others seem hard, are just the things that are easiest and most delightful. Do not let Satan deceive you into being afraid of God's plans for your life.
-(Reuben Archer) R. A. Torrey

The true follower of Christ will not ask, "If I embrace this truth, what will it cost me?" Rather he will say, "This is truth. God help me to walk in it, let come what may!"
-A. W. Tozer

Yep. I got totally owned by some of those. Looking at yourself and realizing how far you are from where you are supposed to be as a follower of Christ…well that’s never fun. Thank Jesus, He’s not finished with me yet! 

P.S. I like mail. A lot. Getting mail pretty much makes my day. So, if you're bored and thinking, "Hmm, what should I do with all this free time?" Well... it's only 98 cents to send a happy note to Costa Rica. Just sayin'. And yes, this was a shameless plug.

(Email me for my mailing address here: lyndseysnewgroove@gmail.com)