October 31, 2017

Guatemala. Day One.

We’ve been asked a lot about our time in Guatemala. Honestly, so much happened! It’s hard to give a quick answer to such a loaded question. So I thought I would do one blog per each day we were there (4 days). I’ll upload photos on my Instagram and Facebook that will coincide with this post so you can get some visuals of what I’m describing.

So...without further ado…

Day One.

We landed in Guatemala City. As we exited the airport, we were instantly surrounded by hundreds of people waiting for their loved ones to exit. Many of them were dressed in the traditional Mayan garb. They greeted their traveling family members with posters and balloons. It was one of the sweetest things I’ve seen. We met Lee (the founder of Redeemer’s House) and one of his key leaders, Jonathan. Jonathan is from Guatemala and was with us the majority of the trip. I loved listening to Lee tell us about the ministry and then hearing about the ministry through Jonathan’s eyes. This is his country. His people. It was moving.

We went to the mall and had lunch with Ramiro, Shirley, and their two sons. Ramiro is the pastor of a church in Zone 17 of Guatemala. He was saved after being in and out of prison for drugs. Ya’ll have to understand that the majority of Guatemala is basically divided up into five classes: The really, really, really rich (I’m talking EXTREME wealth), the rich (who probably make less than the average American - just to put this into perspective), the poor, the really, really, really poor, and the destitute. The majority of those living in Zone 17 would be considered the really, really, really poor. The fathers work for about a $1 a day and then spend it on alcohol. So many of the mothers enter prostitution and/or the children begin selling drugs. The house may have four walls (if you can even call what we saw walls) and tin roofs. Nothing is really closed off so during the rainy season, their belongings (what little they have) get soaked. The street is lined with cow intestines and guts. The music is loud. The kids are out playing soccer, some as young as two or three. As soon as we got out of the van, my eyes started watering. Ramiro bounced around. He was so excited to introduce us to the people he KNOWS God called him to. He walked us through his little church. They have a projector, a beat up screen, an old speaker, a delipidated drum box, and two or three classrooms for the children. The “main auditorium” was tiny. Probably just a bit bigger than my master bathroom. Ya’ll, we have so much. But that’s for another time. He was just so excited. He explained that during the week, they teach the kids how to read and write. They also tell the children about Jesus. The parents are often times incredibly resistant. They will drop crap through their windows onto the outdoor grill that they use to feed the kids. They will blare their music on Sunday mornings so it distracts from the worship and the message. But Ramiro is undaunted. As we were about to walk out of the church, Lee asked that we pray over the building and Ramiro’s ministry. They would love to purchase the apartment building the church is in so that they don’t have to deal with the distractions. They rent the rooms for under $200 a month. To purchase the building, they’d need $35,000. We placed our hands on the columns and each of us prayed in our own language. I was sobbing. One of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced. Jesus was in the room with us, ya’ll. I prayed so hard for Ramiro and Shirley and their boys. That Jesus would just empower them to continue to penetrate the extreme darkness with His light.

As we were leaving, Lee pointed to a house and explained that one day, he was delivering beds to a mom and her several children. He noticed a man was just watching him carefully. It took Lee a minute, but he realized that the man was a pimp and the mom was a prostitute in the house with the kids present. My heart split in two. We asked Ramiro about the situation and his reply, “Well, I started a community group there.” WHAT THE HECK. But that’s just Ramiro. Undaunted.

While we were driving away, a fairly nice SUV with several lighter skinned, well-dressed men pulled in. It was obvious they didn’t belong there. And they didn’t. They were just dropping off the drugs that would soon be distributed and sold.

Our next stop was Zone 18. The most dangerous zone in Guatemala...which is saying something. We were told to either take off or to hide our really nice jewelry and to leave our phones in the van. I think I had a vague understanding of what I was about to walk into, but ultimately, it was Jesus Who just calmed my nerves and gave me the strength to walk around. I had such an eery peace about me. It was wild. We parked right across from a soccer “field” (really, just a stretch of dusty land). The kids were having a ball (get it?). None of them had phones. Or toys. People just stared at us. They had probably never seen a white man there before and DEFINITELY not a white woman. Houses were stacked on each other. Wild dogs roamed the streets. We didn’t spend much time there, because after walking around for a bit, it was made clear to us that we were not welcome. But once again, we stopped and prayed over Ramiro. Well, I was asked to pray. To pray that Jesus would continue to give him inroads to the people's hearts and the plans and resources to start a church there as well. And so I wept as I prayed over this man who had an unspeakable amount of courage.

And that was day One. I was blown away. I couldn’t get over how much Ramiro loves HIS people. How much HE is willing to sacrifice to reach them with the love of Jesus.

Redeemer’s House is known for Orphan Prevention. Lee and his team have opened five centers that feed and teach children. He would like to connect these centers to local churches in Guatemala. The dream is that the churches will ultimately become the centers, because the CHURCH is the vehicle of the Gospel and what Jesus is using to change the world. He is working with two pastors now: Ramiro and Pablo (I will tell you about him later). Most of the churches in Guatemala are not solid, Jesus Churches. But more on that later...

January 24, 2017

For All the Momma's

I was texting a sweet friend of mine yesterday and we were discussing kids (seriously though - is that all I talk about these days?). We each have a few. And she told me that she would love to have another baby, it’s just that some days she feels so much like a “momster” she’s not sure she should. Then she asked me if I ever feel that way. Ya’ll, I just laughed. Errrrrrrday. For instance, I just lost it on my four year old and started yelling, “STOP IT!” because she was crying and carrying on a little bit too much for my fancy as I was putting her down for a nap. Nevermind that she had been to three church services this weekend and missed her nap yesterday and was out all morning with me shopping. Nevermind that. I just got frustrated that I had to deal with a weepy little thing when I felt exhausted myself. And I yelled. And then my heart broke. And a little voice started whispering that I was going to ruin her and that I’m the worst. You guys, I have a terrible time telling that voice to shove it. But I need to!

Here’s what I think…

If we truly LOVE Jesus, then we will love our kids deeply. That’s what 1 John 4 is all about. The overflow of our love for Jesus spills out onto other people. And if we truly KNOW Jesus, then we also know that we are just stewards of our children. They are actually Jesus’s. He specifically chose you and I for the kids we have because He knew we would be the best equipped to care for them. Let that sink in. I don’t have your kids because I wouldn’t be the best mom for them. And you don’t have my kids for the same reason. Wild. It’s like He’s sovereign or something (I write that sarcastically of course). The Psalms say that our Heavenly Father also knows we are completely human and more often than not we are going to get it wrong. And this is the part that’s the most strangely comforting to me. I truly believe that Jesus will fill in the gaps, however gaping they may be. And that doesn’t mean I cop out. Nope. I do what I can to the best of my ability and then I trust Him to flow the grace over what I get wrong.

I love Psalm 4:5, “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” I do what I know is right and what I know He’s called me to. And then I trust Him. I trust Him that He will finish the good work He’s started in my life and in my kids’ life. I’m not going to get it right all the time. More often than not, I’m going to give my kids a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal after a morning of TV so I can make some phone calls and a day of running errands all afternoon with no naps and forget to brush their teeth for the third day in a row just to get them to bed somewhat on time with very little crying (from me of course).

So here’s a thought for us young momma's:

Don’t fret the small stuff. If you need to eat out and order in more often than not during certain seasons, ya’ll, just go with it. I don’t think there is any reason whatsoever to feel like a failure. We have three under four and there are stretches of time where home cooked meals at a certain time just aren’t feasible. But you know what? Our kids love to eat out! And we love to invite their grandparents to join us. We’ve just started a “No Phone Til After the Meal” policy so we get some time to be together. I’m not dismissing the importance of meal time. Especially as your kids grow up. I’m just saying that we tend to put unrealistic expectations on ourselves and in the attempt of trying to create the most perfect family times, we run ourselves ragged and are spent and unable to truly enjoy our time together.

Don’t get so caught up in what needs done that you forget who you are doing it for. We try to carve out fifteen minutes of alone time with each of the kids every day. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s more. Sometimes it’s less. But it’s a goal that keeps us accountable and forces us to slow down. I’m a task oriented person so adding this to my “To Do” List may sound cold. But it’s honestly a great way to make sure I stop and BE WITH my kids.

Take a break from Social Media. Really, does this need an explanation? And here’s another thought: Be real about what you post. And maybe use some discretion? Sometimes, we have an awesome day and I just choose not to post about it. Why you ask? Because this awesome day was sandwiched between two horrible days that I also didn’t post. And when you scroll through my feed, if all you see is the awesome day in the midst of your horrible day, well how are you going to feel? So, that’s why. I think we need to keep each other in mind. And just remember, the grass always looks greener on the other side. Doesn’t mean there aren’t ant hills.

Take a break from the books. I love reading. And I read 38403820394 books before Brooke was born. And they were helpful. But then they started getting in my head and messing with me and making me feel like a failure. We need guidance. We need wisdom. But every once in awhile, we also need to trust the God given instincts He’s given us and take a deep breath and rest.

Get into counseling. We went through one of the toughest seasons we have ever had with Brooke after Braxton was born. We were honestly at a loss. So we got our butts into counseling. And oh my gosh you guys. It was so helpful! The counselor met us right where we were at and gave us some incredible, practical things to do. We've weathered the storm and are on the other side of it. But we have realized how smart Brooke is (she can process things faster intellectually than she can emotionally, which can cause some crazy outbursts - a light bulb that went off during counselling) and so we are going to take her to counseling just to get some wisdom as to how to communicate with her to make sure she feels safe and loved. All of our children are unique. And some are a little more difficult to deal with than others. NEVER EVER be ashamed to seek professional help. Don't be embarrassed. Realize that most of the baggage you have is from someone who didn't quite know how to reach you where you were at and to help you. What if we could do that for our children? Why wouldn't we?

Take a nap.

Make some time for yourself.

Get some exercise.

Get in the Word. Ya’ll, this is the hardest for me. I have battled with guilt for a few years over this. My husband and I were talking about it and he challenged me to read the verse of the day from You Version every morning and then to pray it over my heart. That seemed easy enough. And so I’ve started doing that and it’s made ALL THE DIFFERENCE! I read it, pray it over my heart, and then I actually REMEMBER it because it is one verse. What a blessing this practice has been to me!

Have fun. Remember, you will never ever ever get this time back. So embrace the crazy. Stop caring what everyone else thinks. Stop trying to be in control. Be in the moment.


And older momma’s:

Love on us. We need hugs, coffee, chocolate, and encouragement. We need you standing on the sidelines cheering us on. We need to know you’ve been there. You get it. We are going to make it. It’s just a season. And that we are doing great! We need your prayers, cards, love. And we need the GOOD stories. Please try never to start a story with, “Just wait till they are…”. We don’t need any more anxiety. Give us the “You are going to miss this” stories. Leave us in tears wanting to rush home to hold our babies.

Don’t ever forget. Don’t forget what it’s like to live off of three hours of sleep. To have not spoken to an adult for ten hours. To have a messy house and to be running off of caffeine and a stray Cheerio. To struggle through the grocery store with multiple tired, hungry, greedy toddlers. Just please don’t forget. Cause we need you in our corner when we feel like the world is staring and judging.

Give us your wisdom. But when the time is right. Some of us feel like failures 95% of the time because we are so tired and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We want your wisdom. We need your wisdom. But some days we are better at receiving it than others. So just watch and wait. And then give it to us!


Love you all! Remember, as High School Musical said it best, “We are all in this together!” Happy Memory Making!

Stay Golden,

Nicole