Thursday, September 30, 2010

when i leave

So I'm home sick. Which is quite upsetting, but I am trying to use the time to genuinely rest. And that resting brings time for pondering and reflecting. This song says exactly what my heart is feeling:
"When I Leave"
JJ Heller

Am I too busy chasing a temporary fortune
That my priorities get lost along the road
The seasons bring their moments
They linger for an instant
They never wait for you to pay the debts you owe

When I leave I want to leave a memory filled with love
The kind you don't forget
When I go I want to be known
As one who lived with no regrets

If life is like a flower
Am I doing all that's in my power
To leave a fragrance behind
It's time to count my blessings
Forget about my savings account for a while

I want them to say
What a glorious day
She had so much to gain
But she gave it away
And I want them to see something different in me
And that I'm going to be free

Some glad morning when this life is over
I'll fly away
To a home on God's celestial shore
I'll fly away
When I leave I want to leave a memory... 



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

take heart

Psalm 27

Of David.
 1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
       whom shall I fear?
       The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
       of whom shall I be afraid?
 2 When evil men advance against me
       to devour my flesh,
       when my enemies and my foes attack me,
       they will stumble and fall.
 3 Though an army besiege me,
       my heart will not fear;
       though war break out against me,
       even then will I be confident.
 4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
       this is what I seek:
       that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
       all the days of my life,
       to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
       and to seek him in his temple.
 5 For in the day of trouble
       he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
       he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
       and set me high upon a rock.
 6 Then my head will be exalted
       above the enemies who surround me;
       at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
       I will sing and make music to the LORD.
 7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
       be merciful to me and answer me.
 8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
       Your face, LORD, I will seek.
 9 Do not hide your face from me,
       do not turn your servant away in anger;
       you have been my helper.
       Do not reject me or forsake me,
       O God my Savior.
 10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
       the LORD will receive me.
 11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
       lead me in a straight path
       because of my oppressors.
 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
       for false witnesses rise up against me,
       breathing out violence.
 13 I am still confident of this:
       I will see the goodness of the LORD
       in the land of the living.
 14 Wait for the LORD;
       be strong and take heart
       and wait for the LORD.

Monday, September 27, 2010

awakening

Wow. What an encouragement to my heart. For those of you who don't know, the Passion Conferences are events that are for university age students around the world who want to lift and exalt the name of the Lord. 


Tonight I had the privilege of watching the Passion 2011 Live Link, which was a live simulcast of a service that was happening in Atlanta, just 30 minutes from my house. The Lord just spoke to my heart in so many ways; it would be hard to put it all into words. All I can say right now is that God is good. His ways are perfect. His love is true and eternal; it never fails. This world has nothing for me, and I have nothing apart from Him. His goodness is overwhelming and His love is so worthy of the praise from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

Isaiah 64

 1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
       that the mountains would tremble before you!
 2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze
       and causes water to boil,
       come down to make your name known to your enemies
       and cause the nations to quake before you!
 3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
       you came down, and
the mountains trembled before you.
 4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
       no ear has perceived,
       no eye has seen any God besides you,
       who acts on behalf of those who wait for him
.
 5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
       who remember your ways.

       But when we continued to sin against them,
       you were angry.
       How then can we be saved?
 6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
       and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
       we all shrivel up like a leaf,
       and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
 7 No one calls on your name
       or strives to lay hold of you;
       for you have hidden your face from us
       and made us waste away because of our sins.
 8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
       We are the clay, you are the potter;
       we are all the work of your hand.
 9 Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD;
       do not remember our sins forever.
       Oh, look upon us, we pray,
       for we are all your people.


confessions

If you ever want to be shown the depths of your selfishness and pride, become a missionary. I'm just sayin'. God will show you things about yourself you wish you hadn't seen. But in the midst of all that yuckiness He is so faithful and true and good. He just makes you love Him all that much more.

A couple weeks ago I participated in a race put on by a club called "Atletas por Cristo." This club, whose name means "Athletes for Christ." The race was a 10k, and since I did the Peachtree this past summer with my dad, I figured I had it in the bag. I mean, so what if I hadn't been running consistently in a month? I'm young. I'm supple. I had it. NOT.

First of all, I ran three times before the race. There is a place called "La Ciudad Deportiva" downtown here that my roomie and neighbor had been going to a couple nights a week. The name literally means "Sports City" because there are so many different things you can do; there are basketball courts, tennis courts, a aerobics classes, and a 2k that goes around the entire park. So in the 2 weeks prior, I had run/walked around this 2k track and done 4 laps each time, which is 8k for you non-math kids like me. So I figured I was ready for the 10k. 

Boy was I wrong. First of all, running on a track is completely different than running on a course in that: 1) there are hills, 2) you are surrounded by people who you want to think you are super in shape and capable (is that just me?), and 3) there are hills. Add to that the fact that I am super out of shape when it comes to running and the elevation of the city and you had a situation just begging for trouble. 


At the starting line, I was near the beginning (mistake #1, other than doing the race in the first place) with all of the insanely fit 2% body fat sprinters. These people do 10ks and other athletic events all the time and run them in less than 50 minutes. I'm just happy to make it out alive with another story to share. So anyways, I start out in the beginning and of course I have to run to make sure I look like I belong. I start out running and immediately want to turn around, but obviously I keep going.

I was ready to quit after the first kilometer. I am not exaggerating. I was tired because I usually walk a kilometer/mile before running, and that did not happen. So I told myself that I had to run at least the first 2 kilometers and then I would walk; I didn't care who saw me walking so early in the game. So I did just that. I started walking when I saw the sign for 2k, even though I was only 1/5 of the way through at that point.

It had been maybe 30 seconds of me walking and feeling like a complete loser since everyone else was running, and this cute little man came up to me and grabbed my left hand. My left hand had my ipod, so I didn't know what he wanted; I thought he was wondering what I was listening to, but no. Oh no. He grabbed my ipod from my left hand, put it in my right hand, and proceeded to hold my left hand as he ran with me. I could have cried. He said, "You are not going to walk one!" I thought to myself, "Oh, yes I am!"


This is my friend Willy. He took my hand at the 2k mark and ran with me the rest of the way. He literally would not leave my side, even though he could have. Willy is a believer and is an avid runner. He also offered to buy me water at the convenience store when I asked where the water was, and he slowed down when I had to power walk my way through side cramps. He could have gone on and finished the race 20 minutes before I did. But he didn't. And for that sacrifice, I am forever grateful. I thanked him profusely, because I know he could have done better, but he just said, "Today it's for you, sister." As in sister in Christ. Wow.

When Willy took my hand, I was so relieved that I didn't have time to be embarrassed. No one has ever done anything like that for me before. I just thought to myself, "This is what the body of Christ is." People who care so much for one another that they take the time to love you in the midst of your hardest and ugliest moments. I mean, even before Willy took my hand, I was thinking to myself, as long as I'm not the last one to finish I'll be okay. And then the police were right behind us at one point, and I thought to myself, Oh no! Not today! I'm not going down like this! And I kicked into high gear and ran just so that we wouldn't be at the very end. I was so full of pride that I thought I could dominate the race, or at least run the whole thing, no problem. Boy was I wrong. That day was so special to me, though. Because on that day, I experienced the love of the body of Christ in action through a stranger I had never met before. I'll never forget it. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This is what the Lord says, "Don't let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord, who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!"


-Jeremiah 9:23-24

Sunday, September 19, 2010

la ladrilleria

About a week ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer, along with my roommate and other friends, at a place simply known as "the brickyard." The brickyard is a place where many people from the mountains have moved to work and live. They have constructed tiny little homes that are falling apart, and there are children running around barefoot amidst trash and scraggly dogs. The site is absolutely heartbreaking. But this is the Mexico I came to see. This is the Mexico I long to know and love. 

The children all freaked out when they saw me. I'm pretty sure most of them have never seen a Black person in their lives, so this was a cultural learning experience for them, too. A group of boys all pointed and laughed at me, screaming "AFRICA, AFRICA, AFRICA!" And when my roommate told them that I speak and understand Spanish, they were quite sheepish. However, for the rest of the time, I had to keep reminding them that I am, in fact, from the United States; I have never visited Africa, and my family is from there, but it was many many many many years ago. 




What I loved most about going to the brickyard was loving on the kids and making them feel special. It reminded me so much of the Broadacres community that I worked with when I was in Athens. There were the tiny, cute, and sweet kids. Then there were the little troublemakers who knew they were cute. There were also the kids who truly wanted to be there and those who obviously just came for the candy and because it gave them something to do. It is funny how the Lord prepares you for various experiences based on those prior. 


My experience at the brickyard made me crave more times where I am getting dirty and not even caring about it for the sake of children who are precious in God's sight. I came to Mexico with hopes of gaining new perspective, starting a new chapter in my life, and being given a vision from the Lord to change the world. Little by little, He is beginning to do all that and more.



 I first heard the song "Change" by Carrie Underwood (love her) on CNN's Heroes awards show last Thanksgiving. The lyrics are provocative and simple; will you allow them to speak to your heart as they have mine?


Friday, September 17, 2010

adventures with Barb

I have been meaning to write about this adventure, but life got in the way.

A couple weeks ago, my friend Barb (another teacher missionary) invited me to go along with her to her neighbor's mom's house in a little town at the foothills of the mountains a few miles outside of our city. We also were going to cook out and explore some caves. Since everything here is new to me and anything counts as an adventure, I enthusiastically told her to count me in! That Friday evening, Barb came and picked me up at my house so that I could stay the night with her. She lives out in the country in a small town called Sacramento that is about 15 minutes away from my house. That evening I had also locked myself out of my room, so she arrived at the same time as my "locksmith" (the father of one of my students). Anyways, after a little bit of a hullabaloo, we made it to her house. 

Let me tell that Barb is legit. She is so wonderfully giving and kind. Her neighbors are quite poor, but she allows them to work for her and help her out around the house. She also has a kids club that meets at her house each week where she teaches them about Jesus and the Bible. Her time is spent just loving other people and giving them the bread of life. I greatly admire her willingness to bring the Gospel to the overlooked and unreached who are right by her.

Her neighbors, Angelica and Concha, are sisters, and we were visiting their mother's 200 year old home that Saturday. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. It was so wonderful to finally get to see the sights of the mountains I have been staring at for over a month now as I ride all over town running errands. The wide open spaces of the country were so inviting and green. There were cows and horses everywhere, and the people were kind and sweet. Angelica and Concha's mother was the sweetest little woman. When I told her that I liked her house and thought it was pretty, she laughed and said, "But we are poor and humble people who have almost nothing!" Wow. 

That entire day was wonderful. The Lord was just so sweet to me through the entire day as He revealed so many wonderful aspects of His awesome creation to me. As I looked at the mountains and the fields, I wondered how people could not believe in a Creator! 


Hopefully you, too, will be reminded of the greatness of our God through these photos. 


The beautiful 200 year old home



Mmmm...yes, it was as delicious as it looks. :)

The beginning of our journey to the caves
 
This adventure was intense; we had to crawl under quite a few barbed wire fences to get to our destination!

Everyone catching their breath and putting their shoes back on after crossing the little creek

Look! A cave opening!

 
The group

Aren't they precious? I kind of fell in love...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

viva Mexico!

Tomorrow is Mexico's Independence Day, and it is also the bicentennial celebration of their independence from Spain. Tonight I am going to a party at a church with my roommate and friend, and I am super excited. Right now I'm about take a nap so I can rest up...

 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jesus, Saviour Pilot Me


 I just finished reading Shauna Niequist's second memoir, Bittersweet, and I devoured it. So many beautifully written words brought tears to my eyes and evoked laughter from my lips. If you click on the picture above, you will be brought to a video link. In this video, Shauna shares one of the chapters, and a wonderfully talented woman named Becky sings a hymn entitled "Jesus Saviour Pilot Me" that I had never heard. It is now one of my new faves. Enjoy. :)

daydreaming

So I am a little under the weather today. I am sitting in my little yellow house, donning my well-loved grey Old Navy pocket cardigan, a Georgia shirt that used to be sky blue but is now a dingy greyish blueish color, and my plaid cotton pjs. I just finished watching my favorite movie, Little Women, and now I am thinking about how wonderful it would be to be here:


 Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott penned Little Women in Concord, MA.

or here...


Santorini, Greece

or here...


Two Story Coffeehouse, Athens, GA

But then I remember just how blessed and undeserving I am to be here.



 Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico 

Monday, September 13, 2010

refining

I'm really thankful He's not through with me yet.

  
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
  The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
      His mercies never cease.
  Great is his faithfulness;
      his mercies begin afresh each morning.
 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
      therefore, I will hope in him!”
  The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
      to those who search for him.
 So it is good to wait quietly
      for salvation from the Lord.
-Lamentations 3:21-26

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

things I miss from the States

So a few of you have been asking about what it is like here in Chihuahua and how it compares to the States. To be completely honest, there are lots of things here from the States, because we are so close to the border. El Paso, TX is only a four hour drive away, so people make the trip more often than you would expect. I go to Walmart or some other grocery store about once a week, and for the most part, they have just about everything I would like to buy. However, there are some things that they don't have here that I miss, such as:

1. Chick-fil-A
2. Sour Patch Kids
3. Black people makeup (but I can hardly find that in the States either)
4. reasonably priced holiday decorations
5. Kashi cereal or granola bars 
6. canned pumpkin
7. sweet tea
8. grits
9. sweet potatoes 
10. Clif bars
11. and to make it uneven...Target 



So....a few of you have asked what I would like/want to receive in the mail. And there you have it. Use your judgment. I mean, as much as I would love to receive a #1 from Chick-fil-A in the mail, I don't think it would taste too good freeze-dried...

Jessica Miller
10101 Dellwood Drive
El Paso, TX 79924

And fyi, just plain old snail mail is also quite encouraging! My mommy is pretty good at that. :)

"CEs"

So Mexico is just a little different than the United States. I mean, hello I am in another country. Just because we are geographically connected doesn't mean that we are culturally connected. 

I thought I would share some of my "cultural experiences" or what my roommate and I like to call "CEs" with you. Some are funny, and others are a little more thought-provoking, I'd say... Enjoy!

1. One day, Tanya and I went out to lunch at a local restaurant called "El Rincon Chilango." We were the only people in the restaurant other than the employees, one of their sons, and another guy who was just hanging out. It was around 12:30, which is "normal" lunch time for Americans. One of the employees told us that it usually fills up around 4:00 P.M.

2. That same day, as Tanya and I were eating our lunch, I looked out the window and saw some random guy washing her car. I was, to say the least, a tad confused. So I told her, and she got up to watch him, along with our waitress. The waitress told us that she had seen him around before and thought that he might be addicted to heroin. He just kept on washing her car; he was doing a good job, too! We didn't know what to do, because while he was working hard and we didn't want to be rude; he also didn't ask permission to wash her car. So we were stuck between a rock and a hard place. He came to the door when he was done, and our waitress told him we didn't have any cash. He said it was okay and stood by the car for a while but eventually walked away. As we got into the car, he came running from across the street to talk to us. We (we meaning Tanya since she is bilingual) talked with him, and he said that he works a job all through the night so that was why he looked so weary. (Tanya told him that he looked like he was on something.) She told him that God loves him and doesn't want him to destroy his life, and that we didn't want to contribute to his habit. He said that he reads God's word every day, so Tanya admonished him to read it and then follow it. We ended up giving him a few pesos for his time and told him we would be praying for him. This man, Ruben, has not left my heart since. Yes, it seems stupid and naive to talk to a stranger. No, I don't want to be an enabler of a drug habit. But I also want to be salt and light. Our school theme for the year is "Got salt?" This theme stems from the verse in Matthew in which Jesus says:

13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
 14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." -Matthew 5:13-16

So I want to be salt and light, preserving what is good and illuminating the darkness. Please pray for Ruben and others who are hungry for Jesus, just like him. There are people like him in your neighborhoods and towns, too, not just in Mexico.

Goodness gracious. I was supposed to be writing about CEs. Well here we go...


3. The other day, 2 men on horses rode past our house. Enough said. 


4. When you meet someone for the first time here, it is customary not only to shake their hand, but to kiss their cheek. I quite like it and I might just try to bring it back to the States. I mean, Paul says to greet each other with a holy kiss a jillion times in the New Testament, right?


5. I went out to lunch the other day after church with my neighbor friend who lives in the little house in front of Tanya and I, and we were an international bunch. There were 3 American ladies and a Brazilian family. Spanish, Portuguese, and English was spoken. I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least. 


6. An adventure to a historic home with another fellow missionary/teacher was had this past weekend, but I've got to go cook dinner, so I'll have to save that one for later...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

living the dream

It hit me sometime last week that I am truly living. my. dream. Wow. What a privilege. I don't even know what to do except thank the Lord for the privilege He has given me to be here. 

I clearly remember my first week at Miss Carla's Bible study last fall in Watkinsville. I was in my senior year of college at the University of Georgia, and she shared with us a special moment in her life when the Lord kind of woke her up and showed her that she was living her dream. She had delighted herself in Him, and He gave her the desires of her heart. (Psalm 37:4) I also remember hoping that one day I would have an epiphany like the one she seemed to have.


And I must say that the Lord has given me something quite like an epiphany. For those of you who don't know, the first time I came to Mexico was when I was 15 years old. I came with my church and fell in love with the people- their spirit and passionate love for the Lord. 


To be here in Mexico is quite literally a dream come true for me. The fact the Lord has allowed me to be a part of the work He is doing here through the lives of my students and Mexicans who need Him is incredulous. It is insanely humbling, beautiful, and frightening that He would choose to use me. In our Bible class we have been learning a lot about Moses. I hate to admit that my students seem to know much more Bible history than I do and can tell me all about Moses and his life. I may be learning more than I am teaching, which is quite humbling. 

To be here is such an honor, and one way or another the Lord finds a way to remind me of this honor each day. One day He may encourage my heart through the respectfully kind way that my students' parents call me "maestra Jessica" (teacher Jessica) or through the simple gift of an apple on my desk. Just this week one of my students brought me a leaf from their yard that had turned yellow because I have been talking so much about how I am going to miss the beautiful fall leaves in Georgia...Other days He shows me that I am, in fact, in over my head if I choose to rely on my own "strength." He uses the weak to lead the strong, and He chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. How great He is! How deep the Father's love for us! Friends, be mindful of the ways that He can use you. Don't be afraid to fail or to dream big. He loves to give us new dreams to dream and then watch us thrive. He loves to allow us to depend on Him like the air we breathe. And He is good. So very good.  







Did I mention that we now have a pet lobster in our class? One of my kids bought him for 45 pesos with his own money! (That's about $4 USD.)

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