He goes with me

This past month has been one for the books! I went from single to married, to living alone to having faithful company at my side, as well as moving houses, and making my first official home. I’ve been adjusting well but I think its safe to say that I’ve had plenty of change and spontaneity to keep me on my toes. From a work-life perspective, I have been learning my new role as a community development promoter and navigating being on an all Nicaraguan team. For those unaware, a few months ago, I was moved to this new team to help support the organization with a need that surfaced on 1 of our 3 community development teams for someone with a health background.

As a ‘promoter’ I work alongside my team of 7 others, promoting our 5 areas of focus throughout my 7 assigned Amigos for Christ partner communities. These areas include community leadership, clean water and sanitation, health, education, and economic development. I get the privilege of using my nursing knowledge to support the role of health in the communities in which I work.  I spend a lot of my time giving health talks on topics of health prevention as well as supporting our mobile laboratory in parasite testing. Most recently, I have been spending my days visiting a lot of families. We serve thousands of families so we dedicate most of our time to getting know the individuals that make up each family. This week, was alike most other weeks but on one day in particular, I was refreshed out of my routine and sincerely felt the Lord’s presence with me in each visit.

My first visit of the day was at the house of a woman named Maria. As a walked up to the house I saw her peek out from behind a barrel full of rain water. She seemed reluctant to allow me to come closer, but when she realized that I worked for Amigos, she waved me back to join her in the back patio. Here was a lady nearing her mid 80s, racking her dirt back yard in the heat of the day.  She looked so feeble and frail. As I started to talk to her about her family, home, and her knowledge of Amigos, she surprised me with how quick witted and sharp she was. She told me that she lived alone as her husband had passed away within the last year. I could tell that the truth of his death weighed on her but that she didn’t allow it to slow her down. Her house was beautifully maintained despite her age and loss. We talked about the modern bathroom that her husband had built a few years ago, and laughed together as she told me that she loved bathing where she didn’t have to wear her “panties” because she knew no one would see her. I wanted to spend all day chatting and keeping her company.

The next home I was invited into, I met lady named Araceli and her niece, Yelsi. Yelsi was stretched out in a hammock on the porch when I arrived. At first, I thought she was sleeping but as I greeted her, she responded with a huge smile. She had some form of disability.  When I asked her name and then repeated it she laughed and seemed excited to have new company with her. She reminded me so much of my twin sister who also has special needs. During the visit I had to review information about specifics of the family members and when I asked about Yelsi she was very engaged although nonverbal. Her aunt told me that her birthday was in December and she giggled when I asked her what she wanted for her 13th birthday. It turns out that the home was occupied by only women, just alike my home growing up.  This was a sweet reminder from the Lord of home.

It was undeniable that the Lord greeted me in every house I walked in to. At the end of the day,  as I made the 1 1/2 hour drive back to Chinandega, I was reminded of the prayer I prayed that same morning for Jesus to refresh my day, for Him to accompany me throughout the day. I knew I needed a refreshing for the work that I was doing and for his companionship amidst the obstacles presented by all the change. As always, He is faithful to hear my prayers. He never disappoints and absolutely loves to be invited into the reality of my days, because He already is, but wants to be recognized by me. Those are the days that echo joy and purpose. I’m thankful that He goes before me and reminds me that He is indeed here by my side.

 

 

Advertisements

All things new.

Sometimes I just laugh with God. He really loves to turn things around, breathe new life into things and give me a heavy dose of irony. Of course nothing is ironic for my God, He knows the future. With that in mind, nothing in my present is how I thought it was going to be, but He knew. I am in the middle of changes that I could have never expected, all good challenging, and sweet in their own way.  Two weeks ago, I moved into my new home, my 4th move in 2.5 years. This new home is different because there I will begin a new season of marriage with my soon to be husband, Daniel. The first time I walked into our now home was my first full day in Nicaragua. I remember thinking to myself, this home is very welcoming and it feels comfortable. Over my first year, I found a refuge in the living room of the house passing time with friends and beginning to create community. The irony of it all is that I lived directly next door to this house and escaped there on many occasions and now the Lord has made it a refuge for me yet again in a new season. He knew the feeling of walking into my friend’s house for the first time would greet me as I take steps of faith into marriage.

As I reflect on the future that awaits us, I think too about one of the first times I saw Daniel. I was sitting at my desk probably 2 months into my time in Nicaragua and from across the office I saw him as he stood at his desk. In that moment I heard the Lord whisper to me, “he is going to be a very important man in your life.” As soon as I heard it, I pushed it out of my head, trying to refocus my thoughts on my work task. Months later, Daniel and I begin to hangout with mutual friends almost every Wednesday night. After getting to know one another over time, he asked me out to smoothies one Thursday night (He brought me a bouquet of Gerber daises, I had no idea it was a date, haha). We walked around the city of Chinandega for hours, talking about anything and everything. It was a long process for us to discern between staying friends or becoming more, but the Lord gave us the answers we needed to decide to become more. The Lord reminded me afterwards of what He whispered in my ear, what a sweet reminder it was for my heart. Its been a wild ride so far for us, traveling to different countries, suffering through sickness, cultural differences, and country instability, but always growing individually and together. I can only expect the Lord will continue to provide and guide us as we ask Him.

My prayer before coming to Nicaragua was “Lord, make this step a stepping stone to what is next.” I never wanted my time in Nicaragua to just be something cool I did, a risk I took that brought me to a dead end or that didn’t open a door for me. Honestly, praying  that prayer only echoed my confidence that the Lord was going to do something new, something that awoke desires in me and fulfilled dreams. Never in my wildest dreams would have I imagined meeting my husband in another country and having the joy of serving the Lord together. He opened up the way to step into the newness of the future, not just a stepping stone but a firm base to establish our next steps together. He truly is making all things new.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk about the fruit

There is the most beautiful tree from the view outside my bedroom window. It is a tall tree that is grows from the seminary grounds that shares a concrete wall with my house. This tree has transformed from a typical green leaved tree to huge flowers the color of a fierce red-orange sunset. Every time I have my curtains drawn back and catch a glance of it, I can’t help but smile at its sight. This tree seems to have transformed over night because just a few weeks ago it was simple green and now its color cannot be avoided. I think my favorite thing about the tree is that I keep expecting it to lose its flowers and return to green, and for weeks now it hasn’t. It is still the same constant flame that never burns out. One morning as the tree caught my eye once again, I was reminded of one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, found in John 15 and probably the 2nd group of verses I ever memorized that say “I am the vine and you are the branches, if a (wo)man remains in Me and I in them you will bare much fruit. But apart from me you can do nothing.”  

Really Jesus? Nothing? Yup, literally nothing He reminds me on a daily basis. I’m learning this recently as I start my day with that tree in sight. I’m challenged with the question, what fruit is my life giving? Is it a fiery fruit or one that is easily overlooked or even non existent? Are people seeing a harvest of brightly colored fruit from my life? Or are others struggling to see it because it blends in with all thats around me?

I’m not all too sure about my fruit these days. I’ve noticed how different I am and maybe I’m just comparing past seasons, but my fruit tastes different now. The fruit of my favorite past season was the sweet, tart apple I used to keep in my bag for any inking of a hanger event. Those apples were always satisfying, always trustworthy and good. I’d say my fruit these days is the papaya that makes my favorite drink. On the average it is not highly liked because of its very strange texture but on the plus side it is excellent for GI health and pairs great with lime and carrot. What does any of this even mean you ask? The point is that fruit changes. Different seasons and climate yield different crop. The tree outside my window blossoms in due season and then returns to its green state (hopefully not too soon, I love it).

I’m learning a lot in this season and climate. If I am honest, its hard and uncomfortable at times in the growing season. I realize as I prepare for a new, quickly approaching season of marriage, that new fruit is needed and the lessons that I am learning now will fertilize the fruit to come. Living in a country that is under political unrest hasn’t been my favorite either but there’s fruit to be cultivated in this too. I am learning how to strengthen my faith in new circumstances, learning patience in the unknown. I am learning what long-suffering looks like in circumstances that require it. I’ve heard a lot of messages about being content, so I’m working on that too (haha). Lots of humbling, patient work. The single ringing truth remains that apart from Jesus, no fruit is possible in my life. As I abide in the Holy Spirit, He will cause me to bare the “fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). I pray and know with a heavenly confidence that as I look to Him, these fruits will indeed be produced. 

Lord of the harvest, keep me abiding and connected to You in all things. Please harvest in me, good pleasing and lasting fruit. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

The secret to long life.

I’ve recently made a new friend. I have to hold back the urge to hug him every time I see him because I honestly think the force of my hugs just might break him. You see, my new friend, Don Fransisco turns 98 years old today. I met him one day as we did a baseball clinic for the local kids of our partnership community,  El Pedregal. I remember glancing over and seeing him sitting outside of his daughter Maria’s house, thinking to myself, “that is the oldest person I’ve ever seen in my life.” Since then, we’ve become frequent visitors to Maria’s large open field to play a game of baseball or to share a meal and sit under the shade of her fruit trees.

Each time we head that way, I find myself drawn to go and talk to him. I guess its because I’ve always loved to be in the company of the older generation, as a result of the times with my own great-grandmother who helped care for my sisters and I growing up, and all the countless interactions I’ve had with my more ‘seasoned patients.’ I’ve always enjoyed the wisdom (and sometimes the funny, blunt, or confused remarks) that pour from them. Don Fransisco is no different.

The other day, I walked over to the field with some friends to see him, and there he was like always, enjoying his seat outside. As I approached, I remembered I had to speak loudly because at his age, he can’t hear much at all. We started talking and as always his first words were “Dios te bendiga” (God bless you). He started talking immediately about how he couldn’t read the Bible anymore because everything looked black, just like my face looked to him. He told us about the importance of loving the Word and telling others about the Gospel. He talked about his belief that Jesus was coming soon and that we must stay faithful to Him as He is to us, He is the King of all he said, of heaven and of earth. I was reminded in that moment of what I felt God had been whispering to me all week, “stay rooted in your first love, this will keep you going strong.”

We are all guilty of looking at someone in their older years and wondering, ‘what’s their secret?’ ‘How in the world have they made it so long?’ Maybe for Don Fransisco its the hot corn tortillas or loads of beans. Maybe even the hard work in the field and his share of sunny days. For us, maybe its a daily workout routine, raw honey, organic produce, and time with loved ones. But if I am honest, I think the main reason that he has made it to a ripe 98 years of life is because he has remembered the secret to long life, holding fast to your first love. Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life, and in Him is life everlasting. Don Fransisco may be seeing with failed vision but the Word of God that he has hidden in his heart remains faithful and keeps him living long. And that my friends is the secret to long life.

The Climb

If you have ever joined us at Amigos for Christ for a life-transforming week, you would very likely remember your first full day in Nicaragua with feelings of both joy and challenge. This is because on every Sunday we as a group venture to climb the youngest active volcano in Nicaragua, Cerro Negro or “black hill.” Just to look up at from the rocky road can be rather intimidating as it is visually obvious why it was named accordingly. I actually remember my first climb, seeing all the black sand and increasing elevation, thinking  “am I supposed to help other people get up that thing?” After many Sundays and successful climbs, I have cultivated a rather unique relationship with that very familiar cerro.

A few Sundays ago, we had a group here visiting and it was my turn to climb as the group nurse. Alike many climbs before, we prepare the group members for the day ahead by giving them tips and advising them the best tactic to conquer for many, their first volcano. The major takeaway and focus for the climb is to create a sense of team bonding and allow them to lean on one another and God, as the rest of the week will require it. We, as Amigos always believe that things are better together, that no one should do anything alone. In fact, our tag word has grown to become “together” or in Spanish, “juntos.”

With the idea of “juntos” in mind, my mission for the climb  especially as a nurse, is to always accompany those who are struggling to encourage them upwards, to let them know that they are not alone, and intervene medically if needed. On this particular Sunday, I accompanied a new friend up the back of the volcano and even though it was familiar, strangely it felt new.  As with most people who have a harder time, we take many breaks for water and rest. I think on this particular day, we rested about every 5-6 minutes. I know at some points, she wanted to give up, but never once did she complain or come close to actually giving up. Even if she decided she wanted to turn around, I don’t think anyone was going to let her, especially the 5 men assisting and motivating her to keep going. She inspired me with her commitment to push herself physically and her humility to embrace “juntos” with the entourage around her.

I got the blessing of being reminded of the importance of community around you, especially when you are struggling. Nearing the last stretch of the climb, I stood behind as she and her “men” trudged forward. I watched as “juntos” came to life in front of me.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman so supported by others, from all sides she had a hand to hold, a hand pushing her forward from behind, and a voice ahead of her calling her forward.  I was reminded of one of my favorite verses found in Psalm 139: 5 that says “you hem me in behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me.”  In hard, joyful, and challenging times we must always remember that the Lord himself hems us in on the climb forward, always giving us the assurance that we aren’t ever alone. I know I’ve needed this lately, and I hope you too are reminded of that truth. May we always maintain the spirit of being “juntos.”

Year 2 Timing.

I don’t have very many vivid memories of my childhood. I remember glimpses and snapshots but I don’t remember many details like a lot of people I know. I do remember sitting one night with my Dad at our hand-made kitchen table as he told me how time moves so much faster when you’re old. As a 5 or 6 something kid, of course, I didn’t believe him in the slightest bit. I just wanted my birthday and Christmas to come as soon as possible. Now, in my later 20s, I know that what he said that night is very true. At the end of last week, I celebrated my 2 year anniversary serving with Amigos. At that major milestone, I can’t help but think on my Dad’s words and ask myself–how has time gone so fast? I know I was asking myself the very same question this time last year.

I sit here a year and a half after the 6 months I originally signed on for and wonder how much longer I’ll be here and whether or not God will guide my steps elsewhere. I wonder if my position at Amigos will evolve. I think about how much has changed since last year or even since my first 6 months. I think about how I’ve changed, what I’ve learned, and all the people that God has brought into  my path along the way. I think about how He originally called me here, ever so discretely and how I am now listening for His voice once again for direction. If I can honest and even vulnerable for a second, I have no earthy idea what the future holds. I think about all the possibilities, the dreams, and the hope of having someone special at side to do it with, and I’m filled with excitement and anxiety like I’ve never felt before. I worry I’ll make a wrong decision, not navigate well the ins and outs of newness, and most overwhelmingly, that I won’t hear His soothing voice like before.

In the chaos of the questions, I force myself to remember Who’s I am, and ask for help. I find myself taking a million deep breaths a day, asking the Lord to take captive my thoughts and bring His clarifying peace.  The truth is, I know He hears me, I know He cares for me, and has good things for me. Yes, the unknown scares me and when I venture too far in the future,  running through all the scenarios that I can muster up in my imagination; I am reminded that I’m going ahead without Him and that’s why it feels so scary. I have this quote on the front table in my bedroom that says “I don’t know the what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future.” Many people who don’t worship the Living God might think that its an absurd statement to proclaim but my faith stands upon it. He tells us in His word: “that if if He delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm; through he might stumble, he will not fall, because the Lord Himself upholds him with His right hand.” Knowing this, I can be confident that the future will unfold just fine.

I spent some time reflecting as I always do at anniversary dates, and have complied some major life lessons learned and experiences gained:

Following Jesus closely daily is the only way to true life.

Choices have repercussions.

Cleaning ceramic tile floors well is laborious.

Nothing humbles me like repetitive sickness.

I’m still dreaming.

Relationships and love are real work. (Qué vale la peña..its worth it)

I found out that I’m actually not very patient, who knew?

Communication is key.

My heart needs adventure even if it invokes anxiety.

The Lord’s voice is the only one voice that matters.

I am loved even when I don’t love myself.

Puppies are like newborns ( I love my pup, Rosie!)

I am a learner, and I like to be purposeful and challenged.

The Spanish language has way too many verb tenses (I graduated Spanish school!).

Judging someone gets you nowhere good.

Making choices out of fear is not the Father’s heart.

I am an extremely emotional person, and I think I’m okay with it.

I need Jesus, rest, and body of water to keep insane.

The Lord even still has good, even excellent plans for me in the unknown.

 

Here’s to year 3!

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Worlds Collide

We stood in the waves at the beach and as I verbally processed, I was reminded of who I am. One of my very best friends, Alyssa came to visit me the other week not only as my friend but as a fellow nurse to join us in the Amigos for Christ surgical brigade that performs life-changing surgeries to patients in Chinandega suffering from pain, deformity or dysfunction in one form or another. The whole week I was overwhelmed by the feeling of having the worlds of my life colliding. That feeling where a friend from a lifetime ago comes into present day and reminds you how you got there.

You see, Alyssa and I had met years ago as unsure sophomore nurses at Liberty University. We laugh about it all the time when people ask us how and where we met because we think back to when we were in the skills lab learning how to take blood pressure for the first time. We were both struggling and ended up bonding amidst the struggle and have loved each other ever since. We spent hours together every week in class, clinical, and sitting at my round kitchen table quizzing each other on the material we needed to know for the upcoming Wednesday test. Alyssa and I would sneak away to the pet store to play with puppies and look at colorful fish when we were overly stressed, found ourselves both loving our share of pizza and ice-cream, and probably spent the time in between complaining about our schedules and how hard school was. I got the blessing to stand next to her as she married her best friend the summer before we graduated.

After years of friendship, it was so sweet to have her with me and as we enjoyed the week together, having the familiarity of someone who knows me so well only got better. I think one of my absolute favorite things about our time together was seeing her in her element in the OR and knowing how far we both have come since the first day we met in skills lab. We would dream of the day when school was over and we’d be ‘real nurses’ and although there’s been ups and downs in both of our careers, its been a ride I wouldn’t soon change. As I translated by her side of the sterile table, bright lights illuminating our views, God reminded me of so many truths, “Taylor, you have come along way,  look where we are. What you thought was so impossible all those years ago are now your reality.  Keep dreaming with Me, there’s so much more.”

Throughout the days serving together surgery after surgery, it felt right to be where we were even if the days were long and tiring. I felt my world’s continuing to collide when I was asked to scrub into a total knee replacement; and got to assist in drilling and hammering the knee to fit the new prothesis. For a few years as I started my nursing career, I worked on a floor as an orthopedic and neurosurgery trauma nurse. I can’t tell you how many knee and hip replacement patients I cared for, probably in the hundreds. There I was, years later experiencing it first-hand, but this time, from the OR table and not the bedside. It really felt full circle and I can see how my experiences have prepared me for what I am now learning and living out. Lets be honest, I now fully understand why my patients complained of so much pain.

I really needed to be reminded of who I am that day on the beach. I needed friendship to meet me there in the waves and I’m so grateful it was Alyssa. World’s colliding can some times feel awkward at first, like one of them is not like the other or that they don’t belong in the same place and time. But for me, this was a divine collision of what the Lord knew I needed. He, unlike anyone else, knew part of my past needed to be delivered in the form of a friend to remind me where I came from and to give me the confidence that the path ahead was going to even better. The collision of worlds came and went and I can say with a happy heart that I’m okay with the aftermath.