Tuesday, December 31, 2013


It's been quite the year.

In the wee hours of the morning on January 1st, my dear friend Emily and I stood outside watching friends setting off fireworks and having a conversation which we have since looked back on with great amusement. We reflected on God's faithfulness through the past year, and one of us said something along the lines of, "I wonder what all God will do and where He'll lead us over the next year?" For me, the answer came much faster and more dramatically than I ever could have anticipated, because it was that very night that I read of the Talbots and their need for a homeschool teacher. I wrote about this already, but though the idea launched a fair amount of emotional turmoil as I considered the possibility of being so far from home for so long, though it was some time before I could think much about it without fighting tears, and though I prayed and prayed for God's leading, deep within I knew in the moment that I already knew the answer to the questions that I was asking: "Go."

One year, and so much has happened since then. All of the tears and anticipation and prayer and preparation leading up to going, and now I've been here for five months. God has led me somewhere I never would have chosen, and given me peace in it. New relationships have grown and old ones have deepened, even from far away. I can see him working in the joy and the pain, teaching me to obey and follow Him, and changing my heart and preparing me for whatever He happens to have next.

There's more to this year even than what I've written here, but I'll save the rest for another time. To say a lot has changed is just a bit of an understatement. It might be more accurate to say that God took my life, turned it upside-down and shook it a little. Some of it has been painful, some has been wonderful, and I'm deeply thankful for it all, because it drawn me closer to Him!

I sit here in the Philippines and wonder, as Emily and I did a year ago, what 2014 holds. It's hard to imagine that it could be more dramatic and full of surprises than 2013 has been, but hey, following Christ is always an adventure! I don't dare say that I'm ready for anything now- bring it on! but I guess I'm at least a little more ready to expect the unexpected! And I do indeed trust the One who is in control of it all. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

New Country, Old Friends

6 years ago I was in CYT's production of "Scrooge." I was one of the Cratchit children, and a wonderful lady named Mrs. Nikki played my mom. I've enjoyed getting to know her over the years, and have prayed for her family as they adopted several children from the Philippines. That dear family moved to the Philippines less than a month before I got here! Right now, among other things, they have a learning program for special needs orphans, and their long-term hope is to begin a special needs orphanage. (If you'd like to read more about their ministry, scroll to the bottom of this post on their blog, or check out www.bartimaeusproject.org). This past week, CYT performed Scrooge for the first time since I was in it, and I'll be honest, when I found out they were going to be doing that, it launched one of my more painful periods of homesickness. God is so good to me though! This past Thursday, while the cast back home was in the midst of their final dress rehearsal, I was in the Philippines arriving at Mrs. Nikki's house, getting a giant hug, and enjoying talking about people and places we both knew. That night we even watched the old Scrooge DVD! Being with that family on this side of the world was so surreal, and I'm in awe of God's perfect timing. Whoever would have imagined 6 years ago that we'd all be here together?

I spent a week with them, and it was so much fun. I got to see areas of ministry quite different than what I've seen so far, and even participate a little. I got to spend time with some wonderful kids during their Saturday program. I had my first up-close encounter with some beggar girls, which deeply impacted me. And I saw other areas of Luzon, striking both in poverty and beauty, as we drove to visit their older son for an afternoon. It was both horizon-broadening and refreshing, and I'm deeply thankful for the blessing of time spent with old friends, even so far from home! 

The Cratchit family of 2007

6 years later, watching the Scrooge DVD with my on-stage mom and reliving old memories... and during the opening night of Scrooge 2013, no less! 

Reading to one of the Bartimaeus Project kids on Saturday

Bartimaeus kids again- such sweet girls! 

Philippine Reindeer 

Helping decorate the tree was good medicine for this girl who loves Christmas and is missing her family!

Squatter houses

More squatter houses, with Manila in the background

I've been in the Philippines for over 4 months now, and this was the first time I got around to taking a picture of a jeepney! 

Visiting their oldest son at the shelter for former street kids where he works

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Headin' Out/Thanksgiving

 Today is Thanksgiving, and I have much to be thankful for. I could write a very, very long list! I remember where I was last Thanksgiving- wrestling with fear that God would call me to go- to leave home, my community, and the people that I love. I wanted to be willing to go, but I so desperately wanted to stay. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that God has asked me to do that which I was afraid of. I'm thankful that He has chosen me, and given me the privilege of going, and that in spite of the ache that most assuredly comes sometimes, He has given me joy and peace in it beyond anything I could have imagined. Only through Christ is this possible. He has delivered me from so much, and is little by little, one step at a time, making me willing to go wherever He would lead. 

 Being here in general is an adventure, but some days contain more adventures than others. Yesterday was one of those. We're going to be away from the village for the month of December, and the time came to leave. Ordinarily, we would go by helicopter, but our helicopter pilot has been in the south helping with typhoon relief (side note: please pray for him and all of those living in the aftermath of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan that hit several weeks ago). There was a good chance that we'd have to hike out, but we were actually able to go by truck instead. I honestly wouldn't have minded hiking, but the ride proved to be quite memorable also. There is a road going from the village to the main road... a very muddy, rough, and curvy road. The village is in the foothills, so it gets rather steep in places. The truck wasn't ready until several hours after we were ready to leave, but eventually, we were off.

 You have to understand, I'm not a big fan of heights. I get uneasy on mountain roads when they are paved and have guardrails. And when the vehicle feels slightly more... uh... reliable. But there we were, Shannon and Bea in front with the driver, the girls and me squished in the back seat, and Chuck and the boys in the back with some other guys, bumping along, and I do mean bumping! At one point, the guys had to get out and fill a rut with their shovels so that the truck could make it through. It was quite an experience, and I'll be honest, I was rather nervous at first. I prayed through it and mentally ran through all of the verses I know about not being afraid and God being with us. :) He gave me peace, and after a bit I was able to relax and just enjoy it, bumps, hills and all. I was glad I had my camera with me, because it was truly beautiful!

 The rest of the journey brought challenges of it's own. We switched vehicles when we got to the main road, but before we reached our final destination, it started overheating. After three long stops during which the driver tried to fix it, we finally switched vehicles. At long last, we arrived at our destination. Our dinner should have arrived shortly after we did (McDonalds has delivery here), but as a grand finale to our day, it took nearly 2 hours. It was a long day for everybody, but the part of me that enjoys adventure actually had fun, in an odd sort of way. 

It was sobering too though. We drove past other villages, other houses, other people, who have no way to hear the gospel. Once again, with my will if not fully with my emotions, I placed myself in His hands, asking Him to use me in whatever way He would choose. Yes, I am still afraid. But I know that the same God who took my fear of a year ago and brought me this far is able to take this heart of mine and conform it to His own. "He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake." (Psalm 23:3b) Wherever He leads, following isn't easy. But He is a good and faithful Shepherd. And I am thankful.

Bea, Hala, Charlotte and me, all ready to go! 

The truck

I never get tired of looking at the beauty of God's creation that surrounds me here. 

Stopping to fix the road

Ooh, a real cow! Things you don't expect to see...

Funny when a cow is surprising, but a water buffalo is perfectly normal.

Squished in the back. Good thing we love each other!

Changing vehicles

Goodbye, truck!

Being in the Philippines with a Canadian family, U.S. Thanksgiving was sort of a non-event. But I am very thankful for my family away from home!

Everyone is having pumpkin pie back home, but we had mango and ube (purple yam) ice cream- yummy!

Friday, November 1, 2013

From My Heart

There is so much I don't know. Life is so big, and I am so small. I look at circumstances and wonder how things can possibly work out. But you know what? I serve a big God. My Lord “upholds the universe by the word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:3)

He is bigger than everything I face.
He is bigger than all of the details which somehow have to come together just right.
He is bigger than my sinful heart, and my propensity to fail.
He is bigger than the storms.
He is bigger than the hurt.

The unknowns are big, but He is bigger.
The challenges are big, but He is bigger.
My questions are big but He is bigger.
The enemy is big, but He is bigger.

And this is the One who loves me. Who died for me. Who lives in me.

He calls me to follow, and He makes a way. Nothing is impossible for Him. How can I ever doubt, for when has He ever been anything but faithful to me? How can I not worship when I see what He has given me, in this world, but most of all in Himself? How can I not trust Him when I look back over my life and see His faithfulness again and again and again? He is God and I am not. It's only when I realize that, when I let go of control, when I am willing to not know how everything will play out, that I know I am safe.

Dear Lord, may I never want anything more than Your will, and may I never live for anything less.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Snapshots of Life

Those who have spent even a little bit of time with me will probably not be surprised to hear that I have taken quite a few pictures in the time I've been here. This post has no particular purpose other than sharing some of them. Enjoy!

"Everybody's got a water buffalo..." Ok, not quite, but there are quite a few!

Up on the helipad. I've started having a little worship service of my own up there on Sunday mornings, and it's lovely.

Charlotte and I are prepared to go hunting for Matilda, the cockroach lurking somewhere on my shelves. We were successful! The official victory belonged to Charlotte, the Raid, and the shoe, but I did help. :)

The river after a very heavy rain

The house behind ours

A picture of pictures! This is one of the walls in my room. It's so great to be reminded of the promises of Scripture and to see the faces of those I love everywhere I look.

I got three packages and some letters on the last supply flight! Quite fun, to say the least. :)

Sunset... the colors were a bit brighter, but one must do the best one can with the camera one has. 

The neighbors dog had puppies! The kids and I named them after the queens and explorers we've been studying in history: Magellan, Queen Isabella, Cartier, Queen Elizabeth, and Leif Erickson

 Leif is my favorite. :)

Kyle and his friend have been building a very impressive fort!

Passing by a rice field on an expedition to acquire more bamboo

Harvested corn

Me, Sophia, Charlotte, Jenna, and Jojo, the Talbot's dog

Kyle getting bamboo, while the girls and I waded in the river

Jenna in the river

Me, Hala, Charlotte, Sophia, and Jenna talking with Mom, Dad, Zach, and Kirby over Skype. Definitely a memorable experience!

We play games all the time around here. During this particular game of Life I had 7 kids, breaking my personal record of 6.

I hope you enjoyed this rather random post! I've been here over 2 months now, which is officially the longest I have ever been away from home. These pictures give you an idea of some of the fun I've been having. Though there have been hard times too, God has been faithful through it all, and is slowly working to accomplish much in my heart. Following Him is always an adventure!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Faith and Victory

For the last month, I have been slowly working my way through 1 John. So good! Everything I've read goes right along with what God has been teaching me anyway (coincidence? I think not!) and I pray that these lessons stick. I don't want to simply read and appreciate it, I want to, by God's grace, live it. Anyway, I'm nearly at the end of the book now, and I wanted to share something that stood out to me when I read the beginning of chapter 5 a few days ago.

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:3-5)

There is so much to that, but what struck me that particular morning was what John doesn't say. He doesn't say that the victory that has overcome the world is our perseverance, our endurance, our obedience, our willingness to stand and fight in the battle... it's our faith. We are called to do all of those things, but that's not where our hope of victory lies, because it's ultimately not about what we do. Faith is the key to overcoming because our faith is in Him. The point isn't faith in and of itself. After all, I could believe with all my heart that I could jump off a cliff and fly, but my belief wouldn't somehow magically produce results (although I have to admit, that would be pretty cool!) It's the object of our faith that matters, and faith in Christ plants our feet firmly on a Rock that cannot be moved.  As we persevere, obey, fight, and seek to run faithfully the race He has marked for us, may our confidence rest not in our ability to stand, but in His ability to keep us standing. If He is our hope of victory, we will indeed overcome!

In other news, while it may not feel like fall here, at least our schoolroom door is festive! The girls and I end each week of school with a craft project, and this was our project last week.

Monday, September 23, 2013


  Yesterday morning (which was Saturday night back in NC) I had the privilege of being present at my dear friend Tori's 16th birthday party via Skype. It was a surprise for her, and while I pray it was a blessing, I realized almost as soon as I got on that the one receiving the greatest blessing was me. For about a half hour, I got to "be with" many of my very closest friends, most of whom I haven't gotten to talk to in nearly two months. It meant the world to me, and I could feel their love even though I was only looking at a blurry image on a computer screen.

  I have not been homesick too much, but after saying goodbye I ached so, so deeply. Truly, I am happy here. But I do miss home. I miss my family, CYT, and all of those I love dearly, and I've been feeling it a bit more strongly this week. Right now I am reading Hind's Feet on High Places for the third time- it's one of my favorites. Towards the beginning, the Shepherd, who represents Jesus, says, "If you would know love, you must know pain too." It's true. The reason why it hurts is because the community I have back home is a gift from God, so full of His love. This ache is a testament to the beauty of what He has given me. Hurting is not a bad thing, but I don't want to focus on it. My real home is not North Carolina. It's in Him. Home was only beautiful because He was in it, and He has promised never to leave nor forsake me. This pain is His gift to me, an opportunity to find that He really is enough. I pray for the strength to continually choose to rejoice in Him, for He is good.

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want."
Psalm 23:1

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Lock

On the door inside my room here in the village, I have a drawing of a padlock, along with the words "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." (2 Cor. 9:8) written above. Why a lock? Because a lock has become to me a powerful reminder of something vital in my walk with Christ.
  Several years ago, while working on a CYT play, I was asked to do some team building exercises with one of the groups. Having no idea what to do, I prayed about it. By the time the evening arrived, God had given me the ideas I needed, including one I was quite excited about.
  After an activity involving a puzzle and a blindfold, I handed the girls a locked padlock, directing them to work together and get it open. They dived in with eager optimism, passing the lock around and tossing out suggestions. Some of their ideas were funny. Some were quite clever. All were wrong. I let them work at it for awhile (it was really quite amusing) and finally asked them to stop. "Do you think you can get it open?" I asked.
  Pause. "No."
  "You're right! You can't! But may I have it?" They handed it over and, turning the knob back and forth, I opened it easily. "So why was I able to open it?"
  "Because you knew the combination."
  Just like I gave them an impossible task in handing them that padlock, the task facing them in bringing the play together- memorizing, dancing, singing, conveying emotion, loving each other with the love of Christ- was impossible. At CYT we are amateurs trying to put together high quality theater, which provides plenty of opportunities to see God work. Even if they could have pulled something together, it never would have had the anointing of the Holy Spirit that we pray for. But though it was beyond their ability, it was not beyond the God who had given them that work to do in the first place. I also pointed out that, in order for the lock to be opened, they had to give it to me. I could have opened it the whole time; I would have, if they had asked me. But they had to let go, and place it in my hands. How foolish we must look, trying and trying in our own strength when the God who made the universe is waiting for us to yield control, so that He might display His mighty power on our behalf.
  There was one more thing I wanted them to see. "So the lock is open now. Would it make sense for you to go down and tell the others, 'Look, we got it open!'"
  "Because you did it," they answered.
  Seems pretty obvious. But how often do we cry out to God in desperation, then take the credit when He answers (in our hearts, if not with our words) as though we ourselves had done something grand?

In my life right now, I am facing situations which I know full well are utterly beyond my ability to navigate. More than that, Jesus Himself said, "Apart from me, you can do nothing." (John 15:5b) I can try and try, but the solution cannot be found within. It's not that I simply sit back and do nothing, for that is laziness. But only when I place my impossibilities in His hands in surrender and trust will I ever see those mountains moved. This simple illustration has had a profound impact on the way I view life. I don't know if the students remember, but I pray I never forget.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

And So It Begins!

It is now Saturday, and we have made it through our first week of school! As my mom said, I guess I am now a second generation homeschool teacher. For months now I have prayed about teaching, and the first two and a half weeks in the village were spent in preparing. It was a daunting idea, and I knew I could never do it in my own strength. Now here I am, one week in, more convinced of that than ever. I can't! Even if I could get us through a school day, I couldn't help them really learn anything. On day one I prayed that Jesus would keep me depending on Him and not let me get too comfortable. I know it's only week one, but so far so good! I knew that there would be challenges, and I'm certainly able to see many of them right now. It will take wisdom, patience and endurance, but I know that all are found in Him. Amid questions and moments when I wonder how in the world this is going to happen, I find that I have joy in it. It's satisfying. I know that it's the work He has given me to do right now, and I'm truly happy. Real contentment and joy come from walking in His will. I want to seek His strength to be faithful in teaching with excellence, but more than anything, I am praying that as we go through each day, He will live through me to show these kids (who have come to mean so much to me) His love, which is patient, kind.... (1 Cor. 13) I want them to see Him in me. This is only the beginning of this adventure! Your prayers are appreciated more than I can say, and it means so much to know that there are many faithfully praying in the days ahead. 

And because blog posts are just more fun with pictures...

This is the school room in the very early stages of organization. Scary!

Here it is the day before school, posters all over the floor, and still in need of benches

Our little first grader, very excited to learn about planets!

One more sleep until school!

The posters are up, and it looks so nice! The one on the right is my favorite- it's like a mini thesaurus. Looking at it makes me realize how much I love words.

Students and teacher on our first day

Hard at work!

A misprint in the history workbook resulted in Hala cutting Leif Erickson in half. We all had a good laugh over that one. Good thing we have glue sticks!

We finished our week with our first art project. I think I had as much fun as the girls!