Thursday, October 24, 2013

Brutal Honesty

I went for coffee with an old friend yesterday after my art class.  Well I had peppermint tea because I'm doing a 10 Day Detox (check it out here! It's put together by my health coach Amanda Daley and it's awesome!  I am deconstructing cravings and also detoxing from all the meds I have been on throughout my journey this past year!  And I can excitedly say I am officially weaned off of all my sleeping pills now, which only leaves the antidepressant and I can probably start weaning that soon now that I'm off everything else!!)
Anyways, back to what I want to write about today... Sorry I have a bit of a tendency to go on rabbit trails when I am excited about something!

So we went for coffee/tea to catch up, talk about Guatemala and church.  And we ended up coming to the topic of brutal honesty.  And how far too many people say they are good when they are not.  So I was like "well let's do it - let's be brutally honest."  And we decided to hold each other accountable to a month of honesty - to everyone.  And I hope you will consider joining us too!

But I got to thinking how hard it was to answer the "how are you?" question when I was sick.  I didn't want to be flat out honest with how I was struggling with depression, not getting better, and wondering if I would ever get better.  Partly because of selfish reasons.  Pride is there and it's hard to admit you are really not doing well.  
But I also found I didn't want to share how I was really doing because people didn't want to hear anything other than "A bit better" or "Today is a good day!"  And this was really hard for me.  I didn't want to lie but it was way easier.  And to someone I wasn't close with, I just didn't want to have to get into it. 
But what good does saying you are well when you aren't do?  I don't think it does any.  Yes it's important not to get stuck in the bad and to focus on gratitude and reasons to be joyous.  But honesty also sets us free.
And it is freeing to share how you are really doing.  What is going on in your life.  What your struggles are.  And what your joys are. 

And yes it was really hard to answer honestly when I was sick but I find it almost harder now.  
Harder now because people expect I should be great - because I am doing better.  
Harder now because I don't want people to think I could be getting worse. 
Harder now because I refuse to go back to how I was.  To be sick again. 
Harder now because I know I have so very much to be grateful for and have such a story to share. 
Harder now but that doesn't excuse it. 

So in all honesty, I am trying to find my place again.  And it's hard. 
It's hard to find where I fit.  Who I am now that so much has changed in me. 
Where God wants me to be in this different season of rest - a chosen season of rest. 
And hard because of fear that sneaks in.  Sneaks in and says I shouldn't or cannot do something because I will relapse.  Or fear that I don't fit there anymore.  Or ... the list can go on. 

And so although in some ways I am really doing so great, I am also struggling. 
And that's reality. 
And that's honesty. 

And I hope and pray that striving to be honest about these things will help me work through the fears and realize that it is freedom I stand in.  
That He is in me. 
And I have no need to fear.  
And that honesty will set me free. 

Sets us all free.  
Accepting the Truth of Christ. 
Living in that Truth. 
And living honest lives with each other. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Home in Guatemala

"So do you feel at home?"
This was a question that my friend Les Peters, the founder of Impact Ministries, asked me two weeks ago, shortly after arriving in Tactic, Guatemala.
My answer:  a full blown yes. I didn't have to think about it.  I wasn't shocked by his question.  Or my reaction.
I was at home.  And I was experiencing it with my family.

I was at home.  Even though I knew I was only staying a week.  I was living in the guest house but I didn't feel like a guest.  I felt immediately connected.   Loved.  And filled with joy.

Guatemala is a place that holds a huge part of my heart.  It was so hard leaving and it has been hard writing this post because it makes me really reflect on what I left.  I wish I didn't have to leave because it is home there - in a whole other way than here.  
But I know that home isn't just a place.  But it is relationship.

Filled and healed relationship with God, myself, and people around me.
And God is doing so many amazing, incredible, and almost inconceivable things in that community.
He is working. He is shining down His love and blessings.  He is giving hope.
Hope to a people that have been oppressed and weighed down.
Hope to a people who don't know what it is to dream.
Hope to a people who live in a 24 hr cycle of hoping to be able to get food for their family.

But Hope is changing these cycles.  Giving dreams.  Instilling worth.
Providing a seedbed for growth.  And completely changing lives.
Including my own. 

Six years ago,  I never would have dreamt I would be where I am today.  Filled with a story of healing and hope.   Back from my fourth (and definitely not last - Lord willing) trip to Guatemala.
And witnessing change in incredible ways in my life and Guatemala that can only be explained by one things - God.

His life-changing, hope-giving, worth-instilling, and revolutionary Gospel.

While in Guatemala, I had many amazing and life impacting opportunities.  But a couple stand out among the rest... So if I may, I will share some of those things with you now..

I had the immense privilege to be able to stand before one of the school devotionals and personally thank each child there for praying for me.  While I was sick, every school was praying for me.  I knew one of the schools was, but I didn't know all 1300 amazing children were.  And you know, God heard those prayers.  Those prayers from hearts that physically are small, but emotionally and spiritually are overflowing.  Prayer is powerful and from the lips of all those children, powerful seems too weak a word.  I was able thank them for praying and encourage them that they helped changed my life because God not only heard but also answered their prayers for healing.  It was a pretty incredible moment. 

Another moment that stood out for me was the official Seeds of Tomorrow Greenhouse opening (you can read more about this in my last post here).   It was a surreal moment for me - Seeing how God worked and completely changed my dad's heart, gave him a vision, and then brought that dream into reality in 15 months!  It was amazing and such a blessing to be a small part of.  The gratitude was tangible by all in attendance (approximately 1000!).  It was a special morning indeed.  And all glory to God!

The last story I will share in this post is about my sponsor child - the one who left that special message months ago (you can read more about that here!).  Going to her house and seeing her whole family together with most of my family was so special.  Thanking her for all she has done for me - including earnestly praying for me - and sharing my love to her.  I bought best friend bracelets and had the joy of giving her one.   I know that forever is a long time but I also know we will be connected for eternity.  Being with her family and mine honestly felt like being in heaven.  The Spirit was so present as we shared love, tears, prayers, and gratitude with another.  It is a moment I will not forget. 
And to top off that amazing visit, I saw her twice after that - at church and at the greenhouse opening, and we were both wearing our friendship bracelets.  And she was also wearing the beautifully and lovingly knit sweater a dear friend of mine made for her. 

This trip was one I will never forget as I did not know if I would ever be back again due to my health.  But God is so amazing and has blessed me beyond belief. 
So I am thankful.  So very thankful to Him. 
Because I know it was Him and not me that got me back to Guatemala.  
It is all Him. 

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5 ESV)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Seeds of Tomorrow

I have recently returned from an absolutely incredible and impacting trip to Guatemala.  I am still processing all the amazing and also extremely challenging things I witnessed and participated in while there with most of my family.  It was a huge blessing to be there with Impact Ministries for the fourth time and continue to build relationships.  Another surreal blessing was the grand opening of the Seeds of Tomorrow Project that was spearheaded by my father only 15 months ago after I convinced him to come with me.  A few months ago I honestly did not know if I would ever be back in Guatemala or able to see the greenhouse in its glory.  

But God is so unbelievably good and I was there.  Celebrating and rejoicing for so many things. 

Here is a short clip about the project and below is an article that came out this morning about it in an agricultural magazine!

I am continuing to process this trip and am working on a blog (with a lot of photos!!) but for now here is the amazing piece done by about the project and ministry!

With help of KUBO Greenhouse Projects and Monsanto,  a group of volunteers from Houweling's Tomatoes, one of North America's largest tomato growers, opened a greenhouse that will help feed children in the village of Tactic in Guatemala. The Seeds of Tomorrow project, which was spearheaded by the head of Houweling's, Casey Houweling, at the urging of his daughter Rebecca, celebrated the opening of their greenhouse last week.

“It was a beautiful opening,” said Monica Houweling. Monica is the sister of Rebecca, who suggested her father, Casey, to go forward with the project. “The crop cycle is now underway, and everything's working out well.” Rebecca got the idea for building a greenhouse in Tactic from her travels there as a student and missionary. At the urging of his daughter, Casey took a trip to Tactic, and after spending some time there he realized it was a special place.

Impact Ministries had grown a vibrant school community that serviced the region, with a special focus on the region's children. But Casey noticed a lack of access to nutritious fruits and vegetables, something that was especially confounding because of the region's good farming conditions. He discovered that one of the reasons for the dearth of food grown in the area was due to a torrential downpour every afternoon that washed many of the seeds away before they could take root.

Once back home in the fall of 2012, Casey knew he and the greenhouse community could do much to support the children of Tactic and the work of Impact Ministries. Addressing the need to supply access to nutritious and tasty fruits and vegetables, a small seedling greenhouse would need to be constructed. Casey sounded the alarm bells of urgency to Houweling’s trusted suppliers and employees to join the cause. A multitude of companies came on-board with dollars, goods and services. Kubo of Holland was a significant force, mobilizing their suppliers to have a brand new, fully-kitted greenhouse donated. In preparation for planting, Damian Solomon of Monsanto worked diligently to have much of the seeds donated.

The project was finished in less than a year, and now the community of Tactic has increased access to food, education and employment opportunities, noted Monica Houweling.

“This greenhouse will also help the parents of Tactic's children by allowing them to work the greenhouse and take some of the produce to market,” she said. “The program, run by Impact Ministries, will also offer agricultural courses for students.” She added that she's grateful the project will be able to offer so much for Tactic's children, and that Seeds of Tomorrow would not have been possible without the help of all who donated their time, money and resources.

The greenhouse is entirely built by the help of volunteers and locals. “The construction process was a remarkable, nice experience”, said Monica Houweling. “Especially because the group consisted of many nationalities, which caused some funny language barriers.”

The greenhouse is a modern Venlo styled structure that will be used for the seeding and propagation of vegetable young plants. Wouter Kuiper of KUBO; "The greenhouse measures 487 square meters. There is gable and roof ventilation with trip mesh to keep out moths, aphids and other species.

The entire greenhouse structure is sponsored by many Dutch greenhouse suppliers, the growth management is sponsored by Houweling’s, who will keep an eye on the cultivation process now that the structure is completed. “My father will return once in a while to see how things are going and growing at the project site”, secured Monica Houweling. 

“We're thankful for the many people who participated, because it was a great team effort from people in the U.S., Canada and Europe,” said Monica Houweling. “It resulted in such a positive outcome.”

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