Stories

Moments and Mercy

 

At times it seems to us that life is moving so quickly that we can barely catch our breath, and then when we have a chance to sit and reflect, there are so many little moments that were such blessings to us that we don’t want to forget them. And the sum of all of these little moments is actually a big thing! We are fully aware that we should probably slow down more often and appreciate how God is working. And in the meantime, we wanted to share some with you…

At the very beginning of the summer, we had a short term team with us, and they helped us do a promo week for summer camp during our kids’ club ministries. The team was leading a number of things, and I (Emily) was helping them include our kids’ club leaders and translating a lot. In the midst of helping the team and making sure everything was working together, during one of the nights at kids’ club, we didn’t pray. We always pray, but I honestly didn’t even notice that we hadn’t this particular night. We finished up the club, played some sports with the kids, I sent the short term team on their way, and I was getting ready to leave when 2 of my regular attendees came running up to me. “Teacher, teacher,” they said, “we forgot to pray!” The girls were very upset. I asked them if I could pray for them right then and there, and so they gave me some requests, and we prayed together. They left in peace, and so did I.

God is for real, and He is present and waiting for us to talk to Him, to share His love, and to believe in Him; to slow down and pray; to slow down and remember and rejoice in His faithfulness.  I’ve been listening to an old Caedmon’s Call CD in the car lately as I drive to the Ranch or to the colonias for ministry…and I am usually crying out to God for grace and love and strength to continue…I long ago reached the end of myself, and God’s mercy is what is  left, and He is completely sufficient. This song is an encouragement to me, and I hope to you as well as you continue in God’s will for your lives.

Thy mercy my God is the theme of my song
The joy of my heart and the boast of my tongue
Thy free grace alone from the first to the last
Hath won my affection and bound my soul fast

Without Thy sweet mercy, I could not live here
Sin would reduce me to utter despair
But through Thy free goodness, my spirit’s revived
And He that first made me still keeps me alive

Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart
Which wonders to feel it’s own hardness depart
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground
And weep for the praise of the mercy I’ve found

(Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)

Great father of mercies, Thy goodness I own
In the covenant love, Thy crucified son
All praise to the spirit, whose whisper divine
Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine
All praise to the spirit, whose whisper divine
Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine

 Caedmons Call – Thy Mercy Lyrics

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Categories: Kids Club, Marquez de Leon, Stories | Leave a comment

Favorite Moments

I (Emily) have been absent for a while from internet land.  Sometimes, I find myself in moods where I don’t know what to share.  There is too much…and I feel overwhelmed often.  And then I am jumbled up.  But in the past few weeks, at the end of each week, I have been reflecting on my favorite moment of the week.  And I try to pay attention.  So, I thought I’d share something that made me smile last week.

In kid’s club (which is going WELL, by the way…I’ll maybe figure out a way to condense all of that into an update soon), we are going through the Bible, focusing on what each story teaches us about God as we go.  So, each week we review together.  The kids have gotten good at telling me that God keeps His promises!  I love it.  We emphasized that characteristic about God when we studied the flood, and, more specifically, the rainbow afterwards and then moving into God’s promise to Abraham.

Well, fast forward a few days to horse ministry (also going WELL…I am learning so much from Cher Gatto and others who have been doing this ministry faithfully for so many years)…and some of the kids who come to kid’s club every week also come to horse ministry every week.  Last Friday we actually had a cloudy day here!  It was AMAZING.  I loved it.  It didn’t rain, but toward the end of horse ministry, a rainbow appeared in the sky!  I didn’t notice it at first, but some kids did…and they yelled to me as I was working in the arena with a horse and child…”Emily…a rainbow…because God keeps His promises!”  That made my whole week worth it.

Sometimes it’s the little things!

Categories: Horse, Marquez de Leon, Stories | Leave a comment

Life or Death

Wordle: LiveA few weeks ago, I read Deuteronomy 30:11-20 and was really impacted by the entire passage (you can read it all here).  The last verses, especially, reminded me that running after anything other than God is really running after destruction.  “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.  For the LORD is your life…”

In all honesty, the past month has been difficult for me.  I have been really, really missing friends.  You know, the kind that you just call up and freak out with when you discover a dead cat on your entry mat in the morning; or the kind you call and cry with when that very same day, you accidentally drive over another cat and have to watch it suffer and die.  Yeah, that was a bad day.  I miss my friends who have known me forever and heard me vent about a million things and still love me, even when we disagree with each other.  Yep, I miss you all.  To the point that sometimes I want to forget it all and move back.

I clearly need God to remind me that He is the one who blessed me with all of my friends, both the old ones and my new, beginning friendships here.  He is the one equipping me to submit to a new culture and discover a new way of friendship.  He led me to remember that He alone is my life.  Not friends, not family, not activities…those are incredible blessings, but they should not be the source of my life or my contentment.

With the little phrase “For the LORD is your life” as a recurring prayer, I had the opportunity to share the message at horse ministry a week ago.  I spoke about this Deuteronomy passage, (but only after seriously considering something else because “Deuteronomio” is hard to say in Spanish).  Seriously.  We talked about choices, played some fun games with silly choices, and then talked about the most important choice we ever make…Life or Death.  God or something else.  I was speaking to myself as much as anyone else there.  But then God did something that made my loneliness worth every second.  One of the adults who had come with some children was crying after the talk.  He told me it was a beautiful talk and that he wanted life but didn’t know how to draw near to God.  Miguel, one of our Ranch staff, was sitting with us, and he started sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Others in our community joined in, answering questions, and we were all soon rejoicing with our new brother in Christ.

We sang this song as a prayer.  And the Holy Spirit encouraged my heart.

Renuevame Señor Jesus, ya no quiero ser igual (Renew me, Lord Jesus, I don’t want to be the same)
Renuevame Señor Jesus, pon en mi tu corazon (Renew me, Lord Jesus, put your heart in mine)
Porque todo lo que hay dentro de mi (Because everything there is inside of me)
Necesita ser cambiado Señor (Needs to be changed, Lord)
Porque todo lo que hay dentro de mi corazon (Because everything there is in my heart)
Necesita mas de ti (Needs more of you)

Categories: Church, Mission, Ranch, Stories | 4 Comments

Letters to God

One of the verses our girls have been learning is Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  They have learned a song to memorize this verse, only Ava sings it differently and always says, “do not forget them” (instead of “forbid”).  I think it works, though.  At least it reminds me to pray for the children that come to our programs.  We are called to disciple children as well as adults!  Pete and I are currently teaching Sunday school on Sunday mornings, and last week, a new student came to class.  He is five years old, and we had the most precious conversation.  Our class is going through the Bible, using a children’s story Bible, and we were discussing the Fall, and how we all have made bad decisions and need God’s forgiveness.  We talked about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection, and how He wants to live with us and help us know God and follow him.  Our new student looks at me and says, “How can I tell God I want Jesus to be with me? Can I send Him a letter? How do I do that?”  I told him we can pray to God, and that prayer just means that we can talk to God wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, whenever we want!  This little boy was so excited that he could just talk to God and that God wanted to listen to him.  He asked Jesus to live with him forever.  And when I saw this little boy next, he told me he’s been praying.  And when we prayed before a meal that we were sharing together, he told me that praying means we’re talking to God and that it’s good to tell God thank you.  I am so thankful to learn with and from the littlest followers of Jesus.  Their faith is an example for all of us.

Categories: Church, Marquez de Leon, Stories | Leave a comment

Top Things I’ve Googled Since Living in Mexico…

What would I do without internet…seriously…I would probably freak out so much less, I’d have more time to read, you know…real books, I might actually do crafts with my kids instead of pinning crafts that look like so much fun…I wouldn’t have made so many delicious dinners…I actually do put into practice the recipes I read online, at least there’s that.

But, I would know so much less.  I mean, Google…it fulfills my quest for knowledge like skittles fill my belly.  And to enlighten all of you, dear friends, today I will share my favorite topics-to-google-while-living-as-a-gringa-in-Mexico.  You’re welcome.

1. “What are the symptoms of Dengue fever.”  Yes, that was a minor freak out moment, when Kylah got so very sick our first month in.  Thankfully, I phoned a friend who talked me down.  And then we actually visited a doctor.  That helped.  Or not, when he told us it’s not really the season for Dengue right now, but that there have been a lot of cases of Scarlet Fever going around.  I don’t actually know what that is, but I did manage to restrain myself from Googling it.

2. “Efficient time saving method to hand wash dishes.”  Ummm…please don’t judge me.  It takes a while to get used to hand washing after having a dish washer.

3. “How do I know if my child has worms.”  Because they are drinking the shower water, and it took a while to teach them not to drink tap water.  And you just never know, right?

4. “Chocolate chip cookie recipe without brown sugar.”  Let me save you the time…it’s not worth it.

5. “Can African Americans get head lice.” Apparently, only a very, very small percentage.  But what can I say?  We have an exceptional child in every way.

And the winner of the silliest thing I’ve googled in Mexico:

6. “What to do if you get hot pepper in your eye.”  Yes.  This happened to me.  And it hurt worse than I remember child birth hurting.  And Kylah was breech. While cutting jalapenos one day, my knife sliced through the pepper skin and a seed jumped out at my face, landing in my eye.  It might have well been a match lit on my eyeball, because that is how much it hurt.  Maybe more.  I ran screaming to the bathroom.  Ali continued to color.  Kylah continued to play with her toys.  Ava ran screaming with me, thinking mommy was surely dying.  (She still cries at the mention of hot pepper seeds.  Sympathetic child.)  After 20 minutes of cool water running into my eyeball, I still could barely open it.  I walked half-blind to the computer and googled it.  Do I need to go to the E.R.? Am I going blind????  I found a solution.  Dump milk in your eye.  I was desperate.  I dumped an entire liter of milk into my eye.  Immediate relief.  Then I made cookies.  Without brown sugar.  And I’m not blind.  But I am still a bit scared of cutting hot peppers.

Categories: Family, Stories | 4 Comments

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Running in Mexico

The Good:  We live one block away from a fenced in park with a 1500 meter pathway along the circumference of the park.

The Bad: The park has been under construction for the past 4 months.  Which means construction workers.  And you have to run multiple laps around the park in order to run a decent distance. Which means running past said construction workers several times.

The Ugly: The ummm…shall we say “compliments” received every.single.lap.

The Benefits: The motivation to turn my music up louder, pull my running visor down lower, and run faster.  Thank you, construction workers.  Oh…and my desire to research at home work out videos.

The Winner: Of the best “compliment” of the construction running season goes to unknown workers today during lap 2…singing “you like to move it, move it” ala MadagascarAND performing a, well, dance (?), I guess.

Categories: Stories | 3 Comments

A Precious Gift

She came to our home one day about 3 months ago asking for anything we could give: clothes, food, a job she could help me with to earn a little bit of money. This wasn’t surprising; people come by our home every day asking for help of one kind or another. Because our God has been so radically generous with us, we feel called to give more than we feel like it…clothes, food, as many odd jobs here and there that we can think up, a kind word, a conversation, purchasing a handmade napkin while commenting on how beautiful it is…but this time was different for a reason I cannot explain. Brenda and I started to get to know each other. We became friends. Slowly, during the past 3 months, we have had more and more conversations. She cleans our home, and she does an amazing job. We pay her the going rate for housecleaning, and we give her food. We gave her a chance. In Mexico, you don’t have people clean your home without references. But how are you supposed to get references if no one gives you that first chance?

She’s given me a chance too…a precious gift of friendship. She comes on days she doesn’t clean and we talk. She tells me her story.

Didn’t finish school beyond 6th grade because she had to take care of multiple younger siblings. Pregnant by 14 because that is the story in her neighborhood and her family. That is what she knows and what all the other women she has told me about do (sisters, cousins, friends, neighbors). Now, four children later, the money she makes cleaning for us is about all she gets each week. She lives in a home made of laminate sheeting. Her sister who lives there, too, is terrified the roof will fall down in rainstorms. Her brother is in jail. He gets out in December. And more…

What does she want? More than anything, she wants to be able to provide for her children. She wants her daughter to finish school. So she swallows her own pride and asks for help. She’s proud she has a regular job now. She brings her kids with her when she comes. I read them stories. Her family laughs because her 4 year old son has memorized Oso Pardo (Brown Bear, Brown Bear), but he repeats it with my accent!

Today, she came with her 8 year old daughter. We sat and had coffee and oatmeal cookies. We talked, and then she asked me about heaven and how it seems like heaven has to be where we all go when we die because hell is on earth. So we talked and talked about Jesus, about life, about what Jesus came to do…to give us life and life to the full. About God’s mercy. About our choice to believe in the King of Kings. We read Scripture. I gave her a Bible. She’s never read the Bible. She told me she’s never heard that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. She has more questions.

If we believe God, if we follow Jesus, we have to believe that the most precious gift we possess and can give is the Gospel. The Good News that Jesus is Messiah and that God’s Kingdom is near, and that we can know God through His Son Jesus. That Jesus is life and peace and joy and hope. In situations where it seems hopeless, we have an everlasting hope. I believe that with all my heart. I also believe that we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I leave Guadalajara in 3 months. I desperately pray for my friend. That she would believe. That her daughter would believe. That there would be a community of Jesus in her neighborhood to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That God would send more workers and that believers in Mexico would boldly share the Gospel with people who have never heard it clearly presented before. I also pray for wisdom. In terms of helping my friend economically, educationally, and practically, I am often at a loss. And a whole community of people like her? The community of Marquez de Leon where we will be starting a church/community center is full of similar stories. God gives wisdom to those who ask. We are looking at more training, specifically in how to help without hurting in poverty stricken areas, but we also (firstly) desperately need prayer for wisdom.

Categories: Mexico, Mission, Stories | 12 Comments

Tea with Yoli

One block away we have a neighbor named Yolanda; Yoli for short.  She turned 80 years old this past spring and she lives alone; she’s never been married.  The first time we met her, Kylah and I were playing outside, and she called us over and beckoned us to walk with her for a bit.  Well, she ended up inviting us into her home and gave us a grand tour.  Her home was the first Mexican home I had been invited into.  It is decorated with home made tablecloths, curtains, pillows, very traditional furniture, and lots of saints.  Yoli has a tiny kitchen with pink tiles decorating the walls and in her laundry room she still uses a hand-cranked washing board.  That first visit with Yoli opened the door for many more.  She typically walks past our house on her way to the neighborhood tienda each afternoon, and if she notices we are home, she will stop by to visit us.  We have had many wonderful conversations about God, Jesus, and what it means to be at peace.  One of Yoli’s favorite things to do is to teach my girls Spanish.  She is delighted by the girls and likes to sneak them treats when I’m not looking.  I don’t think she has stopped by our home without bringing some sort of chocolate candy or vegetable soup for me or crackers to share.

Yoli visiting our house

Yoli visting our house

Yesterday, the girls and I decided to drop by Yoli’s house to say hi.  We had been gone for 2 weeks, and I wanted to let her know that we were back.  Seconds after calling out her name, she started telling us, “Me voy, me voy.” (I’m coming.)  She was overjoyed to see the girls, invited us right in, and we sat down at her tiny kitchen table while she pulled out a toy tea set and began playing tea with the girls.  She poured water in the tiniest tea pot, gave each of them a little cup (that held about one swallow of water), and opened up a brand new package of chocolate chip cookies she had bought just for our next visit.  It was the sweetest time, and while I wish I had a camera, it was one of thost moments that would have been ruined with a picture.  A moment I didn’t want to stop because it was such a gift. A moment that reminds me why we are in Mexico…to love people, to share our lives with them, and to testify to the full life of peace and joy that Jesus offers to those who believe in His name.

Categories: Mission, Stories | 1 Comment

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