Friday, April 20, 2012

Our Creator/Creative God

For some reason, since returning from Africa I have really wanted to get back into painting. It is so random because I haven't painted since high school. But for some reason I just keep thinking I should start painting again. I have always loved drawing and painting and coloring. 

When I was a little girl, my friend Katie Cornett and I would draw, color and cut out paper dolls. We would talk for them and create stories for them as most people did with Barbie's. Now that I look back on that, that must have saved my parents quite a bit of money. At any rate, it has been seven months and I have painted one time. It was with the little girl I nanny for and it was with those little kid water colors. But I loved it.

Why is it that our heart beat is so often for the arts? We love to create and be creative. I mean just look at the Pinterest phenomenon. Even Instagram and other similar apps give you the ability to take something ordinary and make it look like a work of art. We desire and love beauty created. I believe the answer to that question is that the very one who created us and was the first creative being saw that creating is "good". Genesis chapter 1: 

 God said, “I command light to shine!” And light started shining. God looked at the light and saw that it was good. 

 God said, “I command the water under the sky to come together in one place, so there will be dry ground.” And that’s what happened. God named the dry ground “Land,” and he named the water “Ocean.” God looked at what he had done and saw that it was good. 

 God said, “I command the earth to produce all kinds of plants, including fruit trees and grain.” And that’s what happened. The earth produced all kinds of vegetation. God looked at what he had done, and it was good. 

 So many times we look at the interest we have with beauty, art and creating and think of it as just a fad, when in fact the one who created us created creating. Not to mention that we are made in the image or likeness of that Great Creator. So it really only makes sense that we also would long for originality, newness and re-creating something old. I love what people are doing now with recycling things and making them beautiful. All of the salvaged wood that people are painting and re-creating is so attractive to me. 

I think it is because it gives me hope and shows the Gospel in a way. So many times I realize how much I need to be re-created and made beautiful once again. And that is what God does. He sees who we were really made to be and he restores us and re-makes us into that. This is a message for all you creative sons and daughters out there (and for me): Your creativity comes from your Father who is all around you, on every side. He is the one who gave you the desire to create and for that very reason it would be denying who you really are if you don't. So let's give God glory by following in the family trade.

A few examples of art created by God and man for the enjoyment of God and man.
Bella, my four year old niece's rendition of Taylor and I on our wedding day. I was obviously a little upset when she revealed my dress and hair do for the day ;) What a budding artist!

One of the most enjoyed and long standing forms of art, people. Dresdyn: age 6months

Bella doesn't disappoint her name, she is truly beautiful.

Our big boy Berr! I can't believe how big he is!

What are your favorite pieces of creativity?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

God's Not Done

I have so many things swimming through my mind right now. So many themes on which I could write. Seeing as it has been seven months since I last wrote it makes sense. Most of these themes are coming out of the Catalyst Conference I have been able to be apart of the last two days. The main theme that seems to connect all the different topics I've heard is that God isn't done with me yet. You may be thinking...well duh, why would he be done with you, you're so young, and all the other encouraging things people say when we believe lies.

But I think that part of me really believed that in some way since my time in Cote d'Ivoire is over (for now) God was over me for now too. In my head I know that God has a plan for all of my life and that until I stop breathing I will work toward His kingdom come, but in my heart I think I had given up. This is hard to admit since I have been practically drowning in Christian work since being back. Volunteering at church, volunteering as a mission coach, leading a small group. But I know that I haven't really been giving myself fully to much of anything. I have been spreading myself so thin in order to do everything, I don't think I have really been able to do anything well.

Today at Catalyst Andy Stanley said something that struck me "Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone." The truth in that is that by picking one person to pour into and build deep relationships we avoid two extremes. On the one extreme we work so hard to connect with and build relationships with everyone that we aren't able to get really deep with anyone. Or we escape and don't do anything for anyone because we are too overwhelmed with the needs.

So, God isn't done with me. In a way I was done with him. In a way I have been accusing him of taking away my dream to work overseas when in fact he has done nothing of the sort. Because I still have breathe, God isn't done with me. the story in my case hasn't ended yet. In reality, as I still draw breathe and live I have the opportunity to join with God's work here in Orange County and maybe even abroad. I am in a time of patience and waiting to see what God has for me next.

So instead of wishing I were back in Cote d'Ivoire or day dreaming about the future. I want to choose to be present. In the here and now, I am alive for the glory of God. And in this moment I choose Him.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reflections on the Year

As my time here in Cote d'Ivoire is ending (October 31st I will be back in the USA) I wanted to write out some of the things I have learned During my time here.

This year my vision for my life has been sharpened and more defined. One of the Journey Corps leaders (Phil Bjorkland) challenged me to write a vision statement. He said that having a vision statement can help in making decisions. If something doesn’t fit within my vision statement then I probably shouldn’t do it or I need to pray about whether God has a different vision for me.

My Vision Statement:
To aide in the growth of the church: both in number (evangelism) and in depth (discipleship).

This year I was able to sit in on some theology classes taught to the wives of the Ivoirien Bible Students. All the Bible Students are men so the school requires their wives to take a little theology/Bible in the afternoons as well as alphabetization in French and the local language. I just love learning more about the Bible and helping others to understand it too. I would love to one day teach and especially to women overseas. This is one way that this year has helped to define my vision.

Just two nights ago, the little girl at my house was telling me about a scary movie that she had seen in the village a while back. It was something about a sorcerer that was killing people. The other little girl at my house was getting scared and didn’t want to hear about it anymore. I realized that what they both needed was to hear truth.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

“The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.” Isaiah 8:13

So I enlisted my host sister who is sixteen to tell the story of Moses and the ten plagues. Since my French isn’t good enough to summarize the story and it would not be interesting for us to read it to the ten year olds, I told her that she was going to retell it. At first she didn’t want to and even said she couldn’t, that I should tell the story. Well after a little persuading she conceded but said she needed some time to write some notes. While she was doing that I told the story of Moses birth and some of the events leading up to the ten plagues. But I love making it fun, because the Bible is way too interesting and life changing not to be fun too! So I got out some of my cherished Sour Patch Kids to give as a prize if they answered my comprehension questions right. Mischaelle (my host sister) did a great job telling the story. At the end she ask “qui est fort?” (who is strong or powerful?) and the two girls answered in unison “Dieu est fort!!!” (God is strong!). As soon as we finished the same girl that was recounting the story of the sorcerer earlier asked if we could do it again tomorrow night! I love showing people the power of God’s Word. It isn’t boring or out dated or irrelevant. No, the Word of God is strong.

So that is what I would like to do with my life. Teach the Bible and empower others to teach the Bible. When I get home I am going to start applying to grad schools and seminaries. Since I get home in October though, that will give me almost a year before I start school. So please be praying with me as I seek God’s plan for me this year, specifically with work.

Some Realizations about Cows:

I AM REALLY REALLY AFRAID OF COWS! That might sound crazy but this is the first time in my life I have regularly had to ride my bike/run/walk through herds of cows. And it is truly terrifying.

BUT….I REALLY REALLY REALLY LIKE COW PRODUCTS! This year I know that I must have developed a Calcium deficiency. I haven’t had a nice cold glass of milk in a YEAR! Although, cheese is now available in my city since the war is over, it is expensive and I don’t have a fridge (no electricity, remember?). Finally, I have searched and searched and there is not one drop of ice cream in my city. In fact I would have to drive four hours to have ice cream!

Thanks for all your prayers and support! I love you and hope to see you as I return to the states October 31st.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

i must decrease while He must increase

I thought today I would share a little story with you. This is something that happened a while back but that I never got to share with you all.

One night we were sitting outside in the dark, as usual since we don’t have electricity. There was a single lamp on the ground to provide some light as we ate our rice dinner. Suddenly my host mom got up and said something in Senoufo, she grabbed the lamp and started to walk toward her garden. For a little while the lamp lit her body up too but quickly she disappeared and it looked like the lamp was just floating.

Immediately, I thought this is what I want my life to look like. Jesus is the Light. I want to carry the Light into the darkness, but I don’t want it to be me that is seen. I want to be like my host mom who just disappeared and all that was seen was the light. I want to become less so that Jesus can become more. That all the glory would be for Him alone and that His Kingdom would grow. May God bless you this last day of August.

Please be praying, as today is the holiday for Ramadan. Millions of Muslims in Cote d’Ivoire are lost in darkness and celebrating without knowing real joy that can only be found in Jesus Christ. That the Light might shine through their darkness.

Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 17 & 18

The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.
John 3:29-31

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Rush

I really think there must be less time in a day over here in Cote d’Ivoire because time is just flying. It has been over a month since I have written you and I am so sorry. You know when it gets to the point where there is just too much to tell and putting it off just seems easier. But today I woke up in my tiny bed with my mosquito net covering me and decided I would get ready and ride my bike to the church so I could write you. Mind you there were very menacing clouds and I arrived just before the rain.

So here I am in the baby blue library at my church listening to the rain and wondering what I can share with you. Well July was pretty busy. I was working at Don Orion [the center for the handicapped kids] each Monday and Wednesday morning. Those little kids fill me up and remind me that kids are kids no matter where I go. They bring me so much joy. They have vacation the whole month of August so I will continue my work there starting in September.

I also had the opportunity to visit the high school near my house and teach some English classes. I would just introduce myself and let them ask me questions about my life and the US. They LOVE Americans. This particular high school is the biggest in Korhogo. Whenever I would go and see all the students [over a thousand] I would feel such sadness knowing that so many of them do not know the Savior. My prayer in July was that God would use me to tell someone about God. I felt so full of the Gospel that I just wanted to spill out but I knew that I had to wait for the Holy Spirits leading. Waiting is frustrating! On Friday, July 15th I shared this desire to share my faith and the heaviness of heart I feel at the High School with my team here. Then Tuesday, July 19th my prayer was answered! One of the teachers that I work with at the school had been thinking about my life decisions the night before and he had some questions. Lucky for me, my life is so entwined with Jesus and the Gospel that it naturally came out as I answered his questions. He is a nominal muslim and a father of six. He has been working at the high school since 1990. Be praying for Mr. Troure to see the truth and for more opportunities to show him the difference of a life lived for Christ.

July 25th at 2pm Taylor Lindblom arrived at the Abidjan airport. The 6 hour bus ride down to Abidjan that day felt so long! He was here in Cote d’Ivoire for three weeks. It was so cool to show my life here to someone from back home. He even got to stay with me at my house in Korhogo one night and live without running water and electricity. Haha it made me realize how normal this strange life has become. We spent the first couple days he was here at the beach down south. It was the first time I saw the ocean in nine months…and it was a joyous reunion. Then we headed up to Bouake for a week long seminar. We got to see the largest Basilica in the world which is right here in our capital city of Yamoussoukro. The final week of Taylor’s visit we went up to Korhogo which I consider my home town. We had a great week and Taylor got the full experience including getting sick with amoebas. It was really hard to say goodbye to him on Monday but I am so thankful that he got to come.

Prayer Requests:
-Small groups for the youth here have been hard to organize but there is one group of girls meeting each week and seem to be great! Pray for the other 12 groups to take advantage of this opportunity to grow deeper in their faith in this way.
-Guidance in how to use my last two months here in Cote d’Ivoire and which relationships to focus on.
-The transition to thinking about going home is starting. Prayer for strength and adaptability in coming back to the States. [I had a little bit of culture shock just going to Abidjan because they actually have high ways there!]
-Tricia and Kelly-the newest addition to Journey Corps. Pray for their adjustment to life here.

Love you so so soooo much!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Helloooo July!

Welcomed Interruptions
I ride my bike probably three-five times a week. The twenty minute bike ride from my house to church used to be a time of solitude and just thinking about things. Now I probably get stopped at least 10 times by friends that see me passing by. I don’t know if you realize the joy in that! After months of just trying to greet and be friendly to people it has paid off, they know my name and are excited to chat! Hopefully, God can use these relationships to share about Him.

Within the span of two weeks I attended two all night funerals. One might ask why the funerals last all night. Well according to my brother it is because people come from far away and there aren’t enough places to house everyone so why not just stay up dancing and singing all night. The first funeral took place in my host-dad’s village of Kombolokoura (not to be confused with Kombolokouro). It was an animist funeral, so there were traditional masques (spiritual leaders dressed in costumes) and the traditional instruments (balofon and drums). They sing and dance all night and a good part of the next day too. I made it until about 10pm before I fell asleep on a cot outside.

The second funeral was for a well known Christian woman in a village just up the street from my house. My brother and I arrived at around 9pm and there were sooo many people there. There were at least a thousand. They came from as far as Abidjan just for the funeral. It was such a different feeling to be surrounded by Christians from all of our churches around the country. They started singing at about 11pm in Senoufo (the local language, well languages but Tyembara is the name of this particular Senoufo). After each song they would give an explanation of what the song was talking about. My brother translated a few of them for me. One was about how we get sad when people die but if a family member was going on a trip to somewhere where we know that they will be happy we are happy for them too. The song talks about how if they are going to heaven we have no reason to be sad but we should celebrate because they are going on the best trip possible. Then they also gave a Gospel message but I was asleep at that point.

So as you can see, I am not much for all night things. I actually made it till 2:00am at the second one. The immense difference I felt between the funerals was crazy. Knowing Jesus makes the difference. It just sharpened my vision for the church to grow in number and in depth, knowing Jesus and living for him.

Future Plans
This is a hot topic right now as the year in Cote d’Ivoire will be complete this October. As hard as that is to believe that is just three months away! My preference would be to not think about the future but details like flights and money force me to do otherwise. I am still praying and trying to wait on the Lord to see what He has next for me. As of right now I am planning on coming home in October. I think I am leaning towards getting my masters at a Christian University or Seminary fall 2012. Please continue to pray with me in this. I feel like my time here in Cote d’Ivoire has solidified my passion for missions but I am still seeking God on when, where and with whom.

Love you so much and thinking of you this 4th of July. Light some fireworks for me!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How Far I’ve Come but… Where am I Going?

This week I had a girl from the States staying with me and my family in Korhogo. It was a fun and eye opening experience. First of all, I was her TRANSLATOR!!! Please, everyone keep in mind that I didn’t know ANY French before I came. Can I just say praise God, I am learning French?! Having an outsider in my house just reminds me of how it was when I first got here and didn’t know how anything worked. Somehow, this place that was once strange and distant has become home. This is my family here. And I am proud to show them off to anyone that should happen to pass through Logokaha (my little village). I know the drill now and that feels so good. I am no longer just a visitor.

So these last couple of days has shown me how far I have come since February even. But the last sentence about not being a visitor anymore is what makes it so hard to think about where I am going. Because that brings the possibility that it might be away from here. We have begun discussing plans for next year. (Pause here to say that this year is going by sooo fast!) The leader of Journey Corps wants us to each be thinking about whether we could stay here in Cote d’Ivoire to be leaders for the next group. My first reaction was no, then it changed to maybe, and then I thought that that was something God really wanted for me. My pastor here told me that there would be an opportunity to start reaching out to a near by village to hopefully plant a church there. My heart rose, this is what I want to do! We set the date for the 28th (this Saturday) to go and make initial connections. Just a couple of days ago my pastor said that the village is really closed to having Christians come. Missionaries have been trying to get into this village for years. My heart sank. This opportunity made me think God wanted me to stay and help this get started.

Yesterday, I was missing the States. It is not that I am not happy here. I just know that so much is happening with my family and friends stateside and that is hard not to be apart of. Every time I go on facebook it seems there is a baby being born or someone getting married. The reality is that life keeps going even though I am not there….shocking right!? Today, I was reading in a book about how many times we should do the thing we are most afraid of. For me that happens to be returning to the US. I studied International Missions and that is what I am doing right now. If I go back to the States, what will I do? If I go back I have to make decisions about the future, if I stay here the decision is made for the moment. In some ways staying seems like it would just be prolonging the inevitable of returning to the States for next steps. So at this point I am thinking of returning this fall. I would love for you to be praying, though for clarity in this area. I know that God wanted me to come, but does He want me to stay?

Thank you so much for your support through this journey…it is definitely not over yet and I am thrilled to have you along with me, to debrief with and get an outside perspective. Let me know if you have any thoughts for what I could do next! I pray for you and thank God for you daily. Merci et que Dieu te benisse.
<3 Heidi