The Grand Adventures of the Dominican Republic {Week 4}

Well, it’s all over. I am home now and I told myself if I didn’t write this last blog post that I had to clean my room. Obviously blogging won.
I don’t know if you all realized this or not, but I basically spent 31 days at a slumber party with 6 beautiful women and a bunch of kids. Granted, I was usually the first to bed and the last to wake up. This meant I got to find fake snakes in my bed. But it’s all good, because we all had so much fun. We had dance parties and many movie nights. These girls are creatures of habit. They watched movies over. and over. and over. Seriously. My favorite was when we watched Ella Enchanted 6,498,302 times because it was in English with Spanish subtitles. I didn’t have to guess what was going on.. granted I didn’t have to pay attention too much to the dialogue when we watched Anaconda over and over. I got that plot pretty clearly. The anaconda eats everybody. The CGI in that movie is priceless. 
Last Wednesday night I went to El SueƱos again with Erica for ice cream and pop and to talk about my time in the DR. It was such a blessing to get to know Erica better and to just talk about life in general. She gave me some great insight on working with anti-human trafficking, and just life as a Christian woman, and relationships and stuff. It was so much fun. 
Thursday was probably my favorite night by far. I went out with Yajaida and Erica onto the streets of Juan Dolio to talk with prostitutes, hear their prayer requests, and pray for them. My heart reaches out to all the ladies we met and hugged and spoke with. I realized that these girls are just like me, but they have not been privileged with the blessings that I have. They are working to support families in a terrible economy. Even if they are just prostituting themselves for a drug addiction, it is like an endless circle of chaos. They take drugs to numb their emotions to the life they are living – then they sell themselves to do more drugs. It is heartbreaking, but so encouraging because I see how God has worked through the lives of the ladies in the Lily House. Both sides of the equation show that no one at all is outside God’s grace. It was on this night where I was totally reaffirmed that yes, this is definitely what I want to do with my life. I want to spend my whole life reaching out and loving on women who feel unloved.
Friday was my last day working in “the womb” with the girls. “The womb” is where the girls make jewelry below the shops. It was bitter-sweet for me. I was happy that my nails would stop breaking from trying to clamp a bunch of clasps, but I was so, so sad to leave these girls. They had become my sisters! 
Saturday I supported the ladies through attending their business. I suffered for Jesus and charity by getting a massage and a pedicure. I know, guys, rough life.
Sunday morning a bunch of churches came together in Boca Chica for a big church service. We worshipped together, sometimes in Spanish and sometimes in English, and enjoyed two services. One service was in English and translated in Spanish. The second service was just straight Spanish. And I’ll be honest – I completely zoned out on this one. Carter translated again this Sunday and he was wearing a green shirt. I know this is a weird fact, but Carter’s eyes literally change colors with the shirt he is wearing. If he wears a light green shirt, his eyes are light green. Blue shirt = blue eyes. I wonder what would happen if he wore a red shirt . . . I was pretty fascinated by this fact, though.
A mission group hosted a conference for the women of Juan Dolio, and on Monday the Lily House ladies and I attended. It was in Spanish and English (score) and was so much fun! 
Tuesday was my last day at the Lily House. *insert dramatic face* I spent the entirety of Tuesday morning reading books to the kids and pulling out Jennifer’s teeny-tiny black girl braids. It was during this tedious task when I decided that yep, I definitely want my children to be black. God knows the desires of my heart. If I have to adopt, so be it. Merphi fell asleep in my lap and drooled and sweat all over me on Tuesday afternoon and I absolutely loved every single minute of it.
I had to say goodbye to the kids on Tuesday, and it was somewhat heart-wrenching. I didn’t cry then, and I haven’t cried yet, but the emotions are definitely there. They have yet to be released. I also went to say goodbye to the ladies on Tuesday, but I ended up going over on Wednesday to say goodbye to the ladies one more time.
I honestly don’t feel like I just spent a month in a third world country, in a house without air conditioning, where it was considered a small victory when I got to flush the toilet, with a bunch of ladies and kids who liked to wake up, turn the light on, and sing at the top of their lungs 2 1/2 hours before they had to be somewhere. I was out of my comfort zone many times. I was lonely many times. But I also created friendships with these girls that I will never forget. They are my sisters in Christ, and I take comfort in the fact that one day I will get to hug them and talk with them about anything and everything in heaven because we will all understand each other. 
I was so, so extremely blessed by the loving support of countless friends and family. When I started this summer I said that I wanted to trust God more. God stripped my life of many things I held onto and while I found peace and comfort in His word, I didn’t know what was going on. Then on June 19 I found out that I’m going to spend a month in a foreign country. I prayed and told my friends about this amazing opportunity that I had been presented, and raised more support than I needed – without asking a single person for a dime – in the 12 days before I left. God is just that good. He laid it on so many hearts to pitch in. I am so humbled by the fact that so many people wanted to aid me on my mission trip. I said I wanted to trust God, and He took me seriously. He forced me to trust in Him and He blessed me for it. While down in the Dominican, I had to learn even more so to abide in Him, and I began to let go and process many things that happened in my life. I felt like I was more on a sabbatical because I wasn’t constantly working, but instead I was learning so much about myself and about God. I felt ineffective many times because I was not good at making jewelry, and I felt like relationships couldn’t be established because I struggled with the language. But this forced to depend on God, and lean fully on Him. That is exactly where Christ wants me – totally dependent on Him. 
My time in la Republica Dominicana was absolutely amazing. I am eternally grateful to all of you who followed my journey on my blog, and supported me – whether monetarily or through your prayers. 
For all the photos from my trip – click here

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For a year and a half, I prayed to God. I resigned to waiting on him. Then he blessed my patience. He blessed me with the knowledge and the compassion and the passion to defend women who have been slaves of the human injustice of sex trafficking. I am sickened by the injustices that go on in our world, and I want to help heal these women. I am scared, because I don’t know how I am going to do this. I’m also excited, because I know that God is going to use me. I am his vessel, and he is going to do something amazing that only he can take the glory for.
That is really where God wants us – at the point where we are solely dependent on him. We are resigned to trust in him blindly, by faith, and wait on the Lord. Waiting stinks. It is no fun. But it gives us time to breathe, gain new perspective, and draw near to the Lord. My devotions today mentioned several verses. One of which said: 
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you . . .” James 4:8
In times of trial, we can choose to curse God, or draw near to him. He is always there, waiting for us to turn back to him. It is such an amazing thing that God is so patient and loving with us. Even when I have felt far away from God’s love, I am truly not. I am the one who has distanced myself from his love. Yet when I return to my Abba Father’s arms, He wraps them around me and encourages me with His love.
Elizabeth Fry said “The spark of goodness if often smothered, never wholly extinguished.” (I feel like there should either be a semi-colon or a but as a conjunction in that sentence; that is how it is written, however.) Even when my life exhibits behaviors that are not inherently godly or good, that does not mean I am still not a child of God, or a human with goodness. Because I am his offspring (Acts 17:28), I am good. I am made in the image of God, therefore I am innately good. But because I live in a sinful world, I am also innately evil. We are all this way. This is why it is so important to draw close to God so that He can influence our lives. In effect, we are His light.
I am so encouraged by the Scripture God has poured into my life the past two weeks. Even though my heart hurts, I am comforted and surrounded by this inexplicable peace that God is still holding my heart.  At every turn, if I seek His face, I see that He is there – especially with my involvement to learn and pursue a career in anti-human trafficking. These women, children, and men are hurting, yet they, too, are children of God. Sometimes when life is so foggy it is hard to see where God is to draw near to them. This is why I want to help. I want to show God’s love without being overt about it. I don’t want to have to Bible thump them into His arms, but rather coax them through love to open their hands and their hearts to God. 
It has taken me 16 years as a Believer to truly surrender my life to God. It is becoming the most difficult thing I could do, yet at the same time it is amazingly rewarding.

I guess that is what is so neat about going off to college; everything I grew up with is something that I have to make my own. I am thankful that the grace and mercy of God covers my soul and floods my life, allowing me to learn and sit at the Father’s feet. In return, I can be the hands and feet of Jesus. 
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Even though I see God’s hand evident in my life every day, I am still hurting. Trials make us stronger, but can still hurt us. This is okay. God needs me to be broken so that the Master can pick up my pieces of brokenness and create something beautiful with my life. He cannot purify me without fire – and I need to be purified through the flames of the Holy Spirit. If my life had no trials, there would be no reason to grow. I’m perfectly okay living in stability and enjoying the comfort of stability, but with stability there is no growth and there is no reason to need faith. That is what my faith is teaching me right now – continue to trust in God and have faith even when I have no hope. He is my hope. I will grow from this. God can take my brokenness and turn me into a vessel of love. He continues to pour His love into me and my cup overflows into the lives of others who need his love. 
Just because I am a Christian and I believe God, I believe in God, and I trust God does not mean my life is happy-go-lucky all the time. I’m allowed to have bad days. I don’t have to be a rubber band and bounce back to life. I’m allowed to hurt. But I know that I’m okay, because the Creator of the Universe still holds me in His hands. He has prepared for this trial, and continues to hold me and carry me through. I will come out a better person on the other side. But for now, I’m allowed to cry. 
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A New Chapter

So I had this moment where I fixed a broken toilet all by myself and I thought “Wow. Maybe I could be totally okay being by myself.” Then I saw the shadow of a raised arm in the shower and freaked out, only to realize it was my own arm. So then again, maybe I wouldn’t mind having someone to protect me from the boogie-man.
That aside: Life transitions are rough.  God was doing so many awesome things in my life, and I could see his hand in everything.  I was praising him for how amazing my life seemed.  Then it felt like crap hit the fan and spread it all over.  Life was not going the way I wanted.  And all I could do was cry.  I especially didn’t want to cry.  I hate crying.  But I found myself crying.  And I hated it.  So I accepted that I was crying and got over it.  However, amongst all the chaos that is my life, there is a lighthouse.  
While life is not going how I thought, or planned, God is still in control.  He is sovereign, and he has been faithfully showing me every single day that He is sovereign.  He loves me, and I can trust Him.  I don’t know what is going to happen, and that is okay.  He still has his hand in everything!  Even though life is not how I want it, He knows what is going to happen.  When everything seems hopeless, we can hope in Him.  There is a reason for everything that happens.  He makes all things good.  And He gets all the glory.  When it feels like there is just a big obstacle in the road, God is simply saying Trust me.  I am Sovereign.  I am in control.

I’m almost 20.  In less than a month, I can no longer call myself a hormonal teenager.  I’ll be a hormonal woman in her 20’s.  EEEK! This is so scary.  I’m not old enough to be 20.  Yet I am.  The big 2013 glares at me every time I fill in 1993 as my birth date.  I know things won’t seem different until I’m sitting alone in my apartment in a couple years, eating Gelato and realizing I don’t have the money to pay for my bills, but I mean wow.  The coolest thing about this is that God is closing doors and finishing the pages for this chapter I’ve been in.  He turning the page and writing a new chapter in my life.  While I’m sad to see one chapter closing, I couldn’t be more excited to see what God has ahead for me in this new chapter of my life.  Plus, I’m really happy to not be a teenager anymore.  While it was good, good riddance.  God has opened a new chapter.  THIS IS SO COOL!
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Trying to Understand Finals

Here’s what I don’t get about the dreaded finals week.  Let’s take the spring semester, for example:
You take a bunch of college students who probably have checked out mentally when the trees grew leaves and the first heat wave occurred and then one professor says “Hey, I want you to gather your 900 pages of notes for my class, and devote all your time to studying for my exam.”  The next professor says “Hey! I’m pretty sure that I’m the only class you’re taking.  Please devote all your time to studying for my exam.” And so on, and so forth. (Luckily, most of my finals are just writing papers, and I would take that over an exam any day. Hoorah for English majors!)
Did I mention we checked out mentally in March? Yeah, we all did.  But now we’re forced to realize that we were only pretending to know what Existentialism meant for the entirety of our class, and now we have to know what it actually means.
We’re all tired.  We’re all hungry.  And we’re all hyped up on Starbucks caffeine.  So we’re all out of money, too.
On top of that, we have to move everything out. 
I want a nap.  And a juice.  And a clean room. 
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