Busy Bees July 12, 2016
Over the past several years, I’ve established some good relationships with the English teachers at Otto Hubbe, one of the schools just outside Carpio. Last month I was invited to their first ever English festival–a new requirement by the Ministry of Education, as they raise the standards for English and hope to motivate the students in their language learning.
The day before the festival, I found out I was leading the spelling bee, and judging the speech competition! So, instead of sitting and watching, I was up at the microphone quite a bit. It was a great time, especially since about 40% of my students attend Otto Hubbe, and many participated on stage, others shouted out greetings from the bleachers.
I took along our two North American short term volunteers, Connor and Rachel. The day started off with breakfast for all the invited guests/judges. We were very impressed with the amount of planning that went into the festival. The decorations were amazing, all the teachers at the school were involved, there were many varied presentations and the children who participated in the speeches and spelling bee did exceptionally well in English! And at the end of a long and noisy morning, the school surprised us once more, with a special lunch just for us, as well as some small gifts. Truly, they outdid themselves!
HAPPY NEW YEAR! March 15, 2016
New Year’s is on my mind, and I’ve been wondering just what exactly makes a New Year? January 1st gives us a conveniently new starting point with just a flip of the calendar page. Or maybe you start with a new liturgical year, the Chinese New Year, Rosh Hashanah, or the Hijri (Islamic) New Year.
At back to school time, students and educators launch a new year–but even that varies quite a bit. The Costa Rican academic year, like many countries in or near the southern hemisphere, runs from February to December.
Or how about your birthday? Your own personal day rings in another new year, marking both the passing of time and your hopes for the future. Weddings and anniversaries, births and deaths all remind us that another year is done and a new one begins.
So I wonder….when was my New Year?
- Waking up in Intensive Care after back surgery, the start of a long and complicated road to recovery?
- Day 1 of a plant-based diet, which eliminated animal products, dairy, sugars and processed foods from my daily life?
- My birthday, in which we celebrated 37 Megan-years gone by and a 38th in the making?
- The moment I chose forgiveness over resentment? (if that’s the case, I hope to have lots of New Year’s in the future!)
- The weeks in which I swept all the too-big clothes out of the closet and began to build a new wardrobe…and everyone commented about my new look?
- Asking God to do whatever it takes to destroy my self-sufficiency and draw my attention to Him alone?
- Setting a new work schedule, because for the first time in seven years I expect to be able to handle a longer workday?
- Or was it the first day of English classes, when the building filled up once again with old and new students, all eager to learn?
We are well into 2016 and I am ready for a new year. The truth is…any given point can be a new year. Losing a job, committing to healthier habits, unpacking in a new apartment or house, changing your attitude, landing on foreign soil, receiving an unexpected medical diagnosis, graduating, meeting someone new or picking up the pieces after a broken relationship… all of these constitute another beginning.
The Bible tells us, “We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.” (Romans 6)
No matter what you’ve messed up in the past year…what others have done to you…what lengths you’ve endured… what New Year’s resolutions you left dangling… what your outlook has been up until now… Begin anew today. And Happy New Year.
Are you ready? February 6, 2016
It is one thing to follow God’s way of service if you are regarded as a hero, but quite another thing if the road marked out for you by God requires becoming a “doormat” under other people’s feet. God’s purpose may be to teach you to say, “I know how to be abased…” (Philippians 4:12). Are you ready to be sacrificed like that? Are you ready to be less than a mere drop in the bucket— to be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served?
Gulp. It feels like I am blindsided every time I open up this year’s devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. Oswald Chambers, how could you know? Especially since you died a hundred years ago.
I am a missionary, in my 10th year of working with many unwanted, unloved, and disadvantaged children and families in a slum outside San Jose, Costa Rica. People look at me and tell me “you do amazing work” all the time. It’s easy to let such comments go to my head.
I also struggle–as a single woman in a foreign land–with a sense of belonging. Most of the time I feel like I definitely don’t fit in, or that others don’t allow a place for me in their world. So, being noticed gives me a somewhat fleeting significance.
This is not what God wants for me. He does not want me to turn heads, receive accolades, or to be remembered over a lifetime. He wants me to serve him… rejoicing even as I am entirely used up. (Philippians 2:17)
I guarantee I am not going to get this right most days, but I am ready for a change this year. Here’s my subsequent conversation with God….borrow it if you’d like. I know He would like to hear from you.
“Father God, forgive me. You know how self-centered I am, and how much I want to be noticed by others and told “well done.” Change me, Lord, from the inside out. Teach me the way of your suffering servant. Teach me to pour myself out to YOU, not to others around me. Fill me with joy, whatever menial task I face, and most especially when no one takes notice of me. Make me willing to be utterly forgettable, if it means that you receive the glory.”
Giving Thanks November 25, 2015
I’m not feeling thankful. Today I just about burst into tears. I am worn out and there are just two more days left of English to close out the school year. I had volunteers but it felt like they tuned out while 13 fourth graders wandered around. This is an already busy week, as I finalize the details for the big Parents Night, and on top of that I was expected to make time to tutor two girls for a make-up English test, and cook for our mission’s Thanksgiving lunch.
Today I was tired, it was raining, my ankle hurt so much(I sprained it a few months ago), and I had to make an extra stop, out of the way of my normal route. I had already been to two other supermarkets this week, in search of creamed corn for a specific recipe–corn that my (tica) coworker promised was readily available, and that the recipe was super easy. Gratitude was definitely not foremost on my mind, and I didn’t care about the stinkin’ cornbread.
When I got home I just lay around for a few hours, since my ankle hurt enough that I couldn’t stay on my feet. Then I remembered that I had to pay rent–and went to get the money, only to realize that I had handed half of my rent money to a volunteer to pay for the dictionaries and cakes ordered for Saturday’s party. Sigh. I got up and went out in the dark, limping 10 blocks to the ATM and back. Turns out my landlord wasn’t home at all. Nothing to be thankful about here.
But somewhere along the way I started thinking about my English kids, and that made me smile. Remembering how Joshua burst in the door on Tuesday with a giant mango for me. Heiner and Hilary conspired to buy me a chocolate bar for a belated Teacher’s Day present. And Mauren whispered that her mom might buy me an end of the year gift, since they may be moving away next year. (Mauren’s family cannot even afford to pay the $2 monthly fee for English class).
It turns out I am thankful after all, it just was buried under so many grouchy complaints. The Bible tells us to give thanks continually, and to pray without ceasing. Easier said than done….I feel like I let criticisms rise to the surface faster and more frequently than I do with thanks. It’s time I got a grip on myself. Not because it’s Thanksgiving–frankly, I could care less about the holiday (especially when living overseas), but because it’s right to give thanks.
Giving thanks helps me to see past myself to the people and the world around me. It grounds me once again in the God who made them all. It lifts me above the grouchiness and makes room for praise.
(Cornbread’s done. Time to sign off.)
Pain-full and Praise-full August 13, 2015
Post-surgery Thoughts, Part #1.
The past 6 years of my life have been very painful. I mean, PAIN-FULL. I was in pain every hour of every day from April 2009 to April 2015. Very well intentioned people would ask me every week, “How are you? Are you in pain?” The reality: I was in pain, in a lot of pain, or in enough pain to make me want to scream. If you really want to understand some of it, you can read some of my previous writings:
The past 6 years of my life have also been very PRAISE-FULL. All the doctor consults, treatments, therapies, medications and advice from the general public did nothing to ease my pain, but God kept breathing life and hope into me every time I faltered (which was often).
I think most of us wish that God were visible, a “real-live” person we could consult with on a moment’s notice, and get “real-time” results. It’s not so easy to pin Him down. (In all fairness, He’s the Creator of the universe…perhaps it’s time to stop trying!) In these years of pain, I have noticed God through prayer, Bible verses, bear hugs, notes of encouragement, lunch with friends, bursts of laughter, rest, work, good food, doctor’s offices, rides in a car, and strength to walk one more hour when I didn’t think I could. There is so much for which to PRAISE GOD.
A paraphrase of Colossians says:
We look at this Son [Christ] and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.
From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. (Colossians 1: 15-20)
There is pain, and there is praise. Kinda of sums up life, doesn’t it? Not every day is perfect, and not all good things last. But I have found a great joy from learning that God is holding me together, even when the circumstances feel hopeless and unchanging. He IS near, and He IS listening. I want for you to know this truth in your own life, for you to praise God for at least some part of each day.