Meeting a Princess

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I wasn’t expecting to cry.

I went on mission trips as a child – upper state New York twice, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania – but never out of the country. We drove into Mexico, sightseeing, when I was twelve, but other than that I had never left the U.S. at all. So this was my first-ever international mission trip (or any trip out of the country).

We had driven through an area that looked like something out of the movies. People were living in small shacks with barbed wire here and there. Roosters and dogs ran loose.

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The rented pink bus stopped, and our team from One Vision International walked down a dirt path towards the children’s center where we were to spend the afternoon doing a Bible story, crafts and taking pictures for the kids who still needed sponsors; I took in every detail. A mother was bathing her twin girls in her back yard. They took turns standing in a large pan, because beneath it was clay dirt. She washed their hair and scooped water from a large barrel behind the house, pouring it over the tops of them as they squealed.

The girls were absolutely adorable, shyly grinning as we walked past. But I couldn’t help but think of the differences between that and shower time at my house – where the kids would complain if the hot water was going and their shower was lukewarm.

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When we arrived at the children’s center, the kids were precious and happy to see us. The love they had for the One Vision missionaries was obvious. As we milled around, intermingling with the kids, one girl stood out to me. She was beautiful and stylish. She wore a white button up and a cute jean skirt and flats. Around her neck was a lanyard with scripture in Spanish. She reminded me of my daughter, Faith.

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Trying to make conversation, I asked if I could look at her necklace. The lanyard had small laminated pages with the Bible verses. I tried reading them aloud – butchering beautiful Spanish words as I went. She giggled and read them to me the correct way. I loved the way God’s Word flowed out of her mouth. Although I didn’t understand the language, I could recognize bits and pieces of familiar verses, so I repeated them to her in English.

“For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son…”

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“¿Cómo se llama?” I nervously put words together I hadn’t spoken in years, but remembered from a simple Spanish book I had as a child.

She pointed to herself and said, “Lady Diana.”

One of the One Vision team walked over and confirmed her name. “Yes. She told me. Her name is Lady Diana. I believe she is named after Princess Diana. I think she said her mom was a big fan.”

“Combien?” I asked her, thinking I was asking her ‘how many’ in Spanish. I wanted to know her age. But my default “other” language was French. So, instead, I asked her “how many” in French.

Emily, from One Vision, laughed at me and asked Lady Diana her age in Spanish this time.

“Diez,” she told me holding up both hands with ten fingers.

“Diez? Ten?” I asked. “My daughter is ten, too!” It was in that moment the floodgates opened, and I started bawling. I was in a foreign country, miles and miles away from my family, doing what God had called me to do, and I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed at His goodness. Overwhelmed with ache for my family. Overwhelmed at how similar and how different this sweet girl was from my own daughter Faith.

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“I just realized how much I miss Faith.” I told Emily, not completely able to put all my feelings into words. Emily chuckled and explained to Lady Diana why the crazy lady from the United States was bawling. Diana smiled and hugged me, stroking my hair.

I think I loved her instantly in that moment.

When I returned home and told Alan and the kids about her, Alan insisted we become her sponsor. And so we did.

So in a month from now, I will board a plane, with Alan and the rest of the One Vision team, to fly back to the Dominican Republic. I’ll bump down a dirt road in a bus (I hope it’s pink again.) and walk to a cinder block children’s center to be greeted in Spanish by the sweetest faces. And I’ll be scanning each one looked for a certain princess – the girl who stole my heart – Diana.

And I just might cry.

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**One Vision asked me to return this year to help put on another women’s conference. Alan is going with me this time. We are raising the money for this mission trip by selling t-shirts again this year. You can purchase the gray shirt from last year, or Alan has designed a new blue shirt this year.

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If you are able, I would love it if you would purchase a shirt or make a donation. If not, would you please pray for us? Pray for God to give me the words as I prepare to speak to these women at the conference. Pray for safe travels and for good health for the whole team. Also, if you can share this post or the link to the shirts, I would be so grateful. Thank you! Here are the pics of the shirts. Click HERE to go view them on the fundraising site.

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Carol

Letting Go of Me

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Have you ever seen someone else do something or achieve something and you looked on with envy wondering how you could make it happen for yourself?

I have.

If we are honest, we’d probably all admit we’ve had those thoughts before. With writing and speaking, it’s so easy to look on with envy when others have great success instead of rejoice. Why were they asked to speak at such a big conference and not me? Why did they get a book deal so quickly when I’ve been working so long?

We all want the prize – the mirror ball trophy – the golden cup – the seat next to Jesus. It’s a struggle that’s been going on for years upon years.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. Mark 10:35-38 NIV

In case you haven’t noticed, my last post was October 30 and even that was a repost of something I had written long ago. I’ve been struggling with that. Asking God why He hadn’t inspired me. Usually, the only time I’m uninspired is when I’m not spending time in His Word. But I’ve been there. I’ve spent morning after morning reading His Word and pouring out my heart in prayer.

I’ve been super busy, but still I’ve found time to do all my freelance writing. But nothing here on my site. I’ve worried God about this. “Lord, I’m going to lose my readers and followers.” He was silent.

“God, look at her! She is launching another new book!” Silence still.

“God, please let me write! Lord, am I still supposed to write? Send some encouragement.” The day I uttered that prayer, I received an email congratulating me for one of my stories making it into another Chicken Soup for the Soul book. (Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to my Mom Coming out March 2015)

I cried, knowing God sent encouragement but still my website remained unchanged. No new words to share. I praised Him anyway.

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I started incorporating some serious praise in my daily time with God. I listened to worship songs on YouTube singing along and lifting my hands here at the kitchen table. I poured through the words of the Bible and found myself weeping over the miracles of Christ, His death and resurrection and the stoning of Stephen.

But today, I started my day reading THIS post by Jon Acuff on the difference between inspiration and comparison. Then in my quiet time I read the story of Simon the sorcerer. It’s in Act 8 if you want to read it.

Simon heard the gospel from Philip and was saved. Then he saw Peter and John lay their hands on believers and watched them receive the Holy Spirit. It was powerful! And since Simon, who was a sorcerer or magician by trade, like to put on a good show he envisioned the awesomeness of having that type of power.

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:18-19 NIV

Peter rebuked Simon telling him:

“May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God.” (v.20)

It would be so easy to gloss over this story and think, “Ha! I would never do that. I have never offered to slip our pastor a $20 to let me give the invitation. That’s crazy!”

But.

What kind of pushing and manipulating have I done with God? God, I’ve baked goodies for the widow down the street. Can you hook me up with a speaking engagement? Or Lord, I just donated all of our old stuff to a homeless ministry. Think you could send that book proposal this way now?

Because isn’t that the way the world works? You do this to get that.

But y’all. That’s NOT it. God’s kingdom doesn’t work that way. It’s the opposite of this world. Jesus told James and John just that after they asked for special seating.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

And just in case I may have attempted to gloss over Simon’s story in Acts 8, the Lord plopped Philip and the Eunuch’s story right after it.

You see, the reason Peter and John came to Samaria (where Simon the sorcerer lived) in the first place was because they heard people were accepting God’s message there. Guess who was the one preaching it? Philip.

Philip had a great ministry going in Samaria. The Bible tells us many men and women were being baptized. But in the middle of this great ministry God asked Philip to “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26) God sent Peter and John to take over in Samaria while he sent Philip elsewhere. It would have been so easy to say, “Hey! This is my ministry! I’m not leaving!”

But Philip didn’t, and we know by reading the rest of the story he was allowed to participate in the conversion of an Ethiopian Eunuch. God had a plan for him there. But Philip would have missed out on it if his heart wasn’t in the right place. Philip wasn’t focused on Philip. Philip was focused on God. And God’s message for the world.

And friends, that’s what God has been reminding me. It’s not about me. It’s not about speaking engagements, book deals, number of followers or how often I write on my website.

It’s all about Him.

The comparison thing? It takes the focus off of God and puts it on us. The trying to “buy” the Holy Spirit? It’s like trying to buy the spotlight. The holding onto ministry so tight you aren’t willing to let someone else take over? Again, the focus is on us.

I’m obviously a slow learner. But God has been teaching me the lesson of dying to self. My wants, my desires, my love for the spotlight all have to die. It’s a matter of heart. As I’ve read the Bible through, over and over again that’s the same theme I see.

It’s a heart issue. When we put God first, others next and ourselves last, we view the world the way He does. It’s hard to be judgmental when you are Christ focused.

So, I share my flaws with you because we are in this together. And just maybe there’s something in your life that you need to give to God. Maybe you struggle with the same things as me. It’s time we do some letting go. It’s not all about me. It’s about Him.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV

*photo credit

Carol