Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Dream that Carries You

Dreams carry one on towards who they want to become and what they want to do in their life, future, and before they pass on. According to Anne Ortlund a Christian book writer,“A dream is a precious exciting thing that carries you forward from day to day; a goal down the way that keep you on the straight road to get there, a purpose just for you alone, exhilarating enough to give you momentum for a long time to come” (Ortlund). I have many dreams and have found that one must have a intent, purpose and plan behind those dreams to carry them forward and make them a reality.

My dreams ultimately sit under the umbrella of one big dream: The person I want to become, represent, and the things that I do to make that possible.  I desire to be known as a girl who genuinely loved people.  Not with a love of that comes from a desire to be loved; however, a love that that stems from being loved first by a perfect love.  Love is displayed through actions in ways that words cannot attain to. The Perfect Love was demonstrated to me in a way that overtakes all acts of love in history.  Actions of love from a genuine heart of love prove that it is real.

Surrounding my ultimate goal are the dreams I have to complete that goal.  Many of them seem small while others appear impossible to attain.  However behind each desire is a want to show others what Perfect love is.  In the past I have tried to attain love by means of earning it.  I had to do things to earn the love of another.  The powerful thing about the Perfect love is that it was displayed when who I was did everything possible to crush it.  Daily, from the moment of birth, I have performed many actions out of self-love, actions labeled both 'good' and 'bad'. Love from a mere want to be loved is not complete love.  The Perfect love was given when I did not love, nor did anything to deserve love.  I desire to proclaim the name of He who is true love and have others know His love that fulfills every desire to be loved.

But what is my intent and purpose behind such goals and dreams?  Why do I desire to genuinely love people and show them the One who filled me with his love?  Because He has made me to love Him. The point behind it all is to show Him my complete adoration. The purpose is to follow what He desires, which is that I serve Him with a complete and pure heart. By doing this every desire and dream of my heart is fulfilled.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Footprints on my Heart

Dust encircles the footprints left behind on the roads of Mezcales, Mexico. Thin air allows the scents of livestock, stucco, and sewage to wander.  A colauge of debris grows wherever it was last left. Lining the soggy, uneven roads are the homes of people living as though they are standing still. Despite the surrounding filth and poverty, I left behind in Mexico some of the most beautiful sights ever created: the faces of Mezcales I came to know. The sight of children in the streets made my heart soar, I was excited to meet them, while the sound of their laughter made me want to dance, I was going to share God's love with them .
For three days I lived where they live and played where they play. While immersed in living where they live, we shared also in their fun. A soccer field on the edge of town was the place to be for jubilee and laughter.  With objects such as a baby doll, a kitten, the Sunday bell, or a ball the imaginations of the kids ran wild. Love was shared in many moments with flannel graph stories, pet frog rocks, silent skits, pictures, and treats.
Without words our love was shared. Hugs, “pony” rides, and tears from laughter abounded in every direction one looked. The world came alive with colors of children sprinkling their confetti and joy. With music, the barriers of language were crossed and a common ground was found. Dancing, laughing, singing, and shouting, the sounds were a joy to any ear. At the end of each day the dissapointment was seen on the faces of those saying good-bye till tomorrow. Each child filled with anticipation for the next day when they could be with their, “maestros,” again. Not many could describe the love that was shown without words and through actions in the streets of Mezcales.
Love is universal. It is shared beyond what words are able to describe. If one could catch every tear that fell from the eyes of those saying farewell on the last day, one could start a light drizzle of rain in the skies of Mexico. On my cheeks are stained the tears I cried and the kisses from the little treasures I left behind. On my heart each name is inscribed. Over and over the words, “te amo” reached my ears and still ring. “I love you, I love you,” is what was proclaimed, “Because God first loved me and sent me to show His love to you.”
In the dusty streets of Mezcales, many little feet walk. God sees each footprint made in the ground and each tear that drops from each eye. He holds each little hand, calling their souls to Himself. Not every one will run to Him, not every one will see. But love has been proclaimed and the God who intricately created each child  knows each little heart He wove together. My prayer remains that someday their feet will run straight into the arms of love.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

When you take that first step. . .

You look around
it's staring back at you
Another wave of doubt
Will it pull you under
You wonder
What if I'm overtaken
What if I never make it
What if no one's there?
Will you hear my prayer?

When you take that first step into the unknown. You know that He won't let you go
 So what are you waiting for?
What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities try to hold to you
You know you're made for more
So don't be afraid to move
Your faith is all it takes and you can
Walk on the water too

So get out and let
Your fear fall to the ground
No time to waste don't wait
Don't you turn around and miss out
Everything you were made for
I know you're not sure
So you play it safe
Try to run away

(step out) Even when a storm hits
 (step out) Even when you're broken
(step out) 
 Even when your heart is telling you telling you to give up
(step out) When your hope is stolen
(step out) You can't see where you're going
You don't have to be afraid. So what are you waiting, what are you waiting for?
So what are you waiting for?
What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities try to hold to you

You know you're made for more
So don't be afraid to move
Your faith is all
It takes and you can
Walk on the water...
Walk on the water too

~"Walk on Water" by Britt Nicole, and 
Camp Sonshine Africa photo album by Jeff Keiser

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Starting Place for Confidence and Purpose in Youth

Every year thousands of children attend children's summer day camps. Children's camps have been proven to have a positive impact on the lives of those who participate. One such camp is Camp Sonshine, a Christian children's summer day camp. Many families have endorsed Camp Sonshine as being influential in the lives of their children. Youth benefit from effective children's summer day camps, like Camp Sonshine, in their relationships, personal talents, and confidence.

The first of many ways that camp effects the lives of children, is relationships are started, built, and continued. Relationships with peers and leaders are an imperative part of a child's life. The team building and emotionally protective atmosphere at camp provides a safe environment for children to make friends. Alice and Sara are examples of a friendship made at camp. Alice, a shy and unsure middle school girl, had experienced cruel bullying and nonacceptance during the previous school year. The tough and outspoken Sara, who was another middle school girl, also suffered from not fitting in and being bullied. Alice and Sara were both a part of the Leaders In Training (LIT) program of Camp Sonshine. The two girls became best friends by the end of their first week together. Each girl felt comfortable with being herself and showing love and acceptance to each other. The two newly found friends continued their friendship into the school year and still remain good friends. Camp Sonshine not only encourages peer friendships but also counselor to camper friendships. Many counselors at camp invested into Alice, the LIT. One particular counselor took the time to send Alice encouraging notes throughout the summer that she took to heart and treasured. The once shy Alice became one of the strongest and outgoing LITs, assured in who she was and what she was capable of doing. Her newly found confidence was due to the quality friendships and relationships Alice was able to develop in the safe and encouraging camp atmosphere.

A second benefit of summer camp is it encourages children to discover and develop their own unique talents and qualities. Many children discover that they are capable of things that they were originally scared of. Cattie was only in Kindergarten when she first tried to shoot an arrow in the camp archery range. She feared even stepping into the archery range until a counselor assured her that they would do it together. Her very first arrow hit the target and archery became Cattie's favorite activity at camp. Little Cattie was able to overcome her fear and discover a talent that she did not know she possessed. Also, many campers who were originally thought of as trouble makers become known as natural leaders. The once “rebellious” Mark, who came to be loved and known by all the staff at Camp Sonshine, was sent to the head counselor almost once a day because of a discipline issue during his first weeks at camp. However, through leaders investing into him and the experiences he had at camp, Mark became a true leader to his peers by leading familiar games and songs while encouraging his peers to listen actively to the leaders. Both Cattie and Mark learned important qualities about themselves at camp; Cattie overcame a fear, and Mark discovered his natural ability of leadership.

Some would say that the children who really thrive at camp are only the confident, outgoing, and active children who get along well with others their own age. Conversely, critics claim that children who are disconnected or introverted cannot be impacted by children's camps. Mandy's story testifies differently. Mandy was a third grade girl who never talked nor smiled in social situations when her leaders first met her. The mother of Mandy had tried many other children's programs and consulted children's specialists before sending her little girl to camp. Though Mandy's case seemed hopeless, by the end of the summer she was one of the most spunky, outgoing, talkative girls at camp. She loved being on stage for singing and dancing, participating in all the activities with enthusiasm, and hugging every leader any moment she saw them. Mandy became a little chatter box who was all smiles and hugs. Any child can enjoy the benefits of camp, whether he/she is outgoing and adventurous or socially unsure and insecure.

An additional benefit is that children's day camps give children confidence. Participants of camp receive a confidence to be themselves and to use their talents and skills, resulting from realizing that they have value for who they are. Joe was a kid who was adopted and had a heart transplant when he was very young. He used to be insecure about the scar he had because of the surgery. But, according to his mom, after the first couple of weeks Joe had built up confidence to tell his peers about his scar and where it came from. Another example of built confidence in a young individual is Ethan. The video game obsessed LIT started his very first summer without self confidence and had insecurities about himself. Ethan was unmotivated to do any of his jobs, having set a low standard for himself. Nevertheless, through intentional leadership and training he received from the counselors and directors of the camp, Ethan slowly grew in character and maturity. By the end of his third summer, the leadership of camp entrusted him with his own activities to lead. He truly enjoyed his days at camp and has returned each summer to Camp Sonshine, a place where he is accepted.

In closing, the benefits of camp are numerous and have affected hundreds of children and their families each summer. Camp provides a safe environment for children to build relationships with each other and their leaders, discover their talents and abilities, while also building their self-confidence in who they are as individuals. Children's summer day camps benefit children in many aspects of their lives and provide for them a starting point to live their lives with confidence and purpose.

(The names in this post have been changed to protect the individuals) 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Free To Be Me

"Free to be Me," by Francesca Battistelli is a song with lyrics that describe the theme of my life.  The chorus sings, "I'm trying to fit the pieces together. But perfection is my enemy. On my own I'm so clumsy.  But on Your shoulders I can see, I'm free to be me."  It has taken some time, but I have discovered that in spite of all my clumsiness, I can stand on God's shoulders and feel free to be who I am as His girl     

First Verse: At this point in my life as a high school senior "I'm still looking for a dream. A war is already waged for my destiny." The future and my dreams are uncertain. My mind is at war as God fights for my destiny, against my sinful desires. Yet, the following line of lyrics speak out, "But You've already won the battle and You've got great plans for me." God has already won the battle over my sin and has my life planned out for His purposes, which are beyond being explainable.  
Second Verse: "When I was just a girl, I thought I had it figured out. My life would turn out right. . .," are the thoughts of the girl I used to be. I was convinced that if I had life figured out, obeyed God's Word perfectly, and performed excellently in everything I did, my life would become near perfect. Perfection of myself and my life were what I lived for.  I have come to realize the words sung by Battistelli in the following lines of the second verse, “Things don't always come that easy.” The reality I needed to face with my "perfection" mentality was that God never promised that my life would be perfect. I am expected to pursue His holiness, in full knowledge that it is not for my life to be "better," but rather to serve God's purposes which are guaranteed to include trials.  I am far from having life figured out, but praise God that He does.
Chorus: Returning to the chorus of Francesca's song, "I've got a couple dents in my fender. Got a couple rips in my jeans. Trying to fit the pieces together. But perfection is my enemy," I find that I have many dents and rips.  I am not perfect.  The desire to be perfect is my enemy because I want perfection for self-satisfaction.  In other words, I want to believe that I am worthy to be a child of God.  In truth I am far from worthy to be His child. But, God came to save the least of mankind, the sinners, and the sick in heart. At the end of the chorus the words sing, "On my own I'm so clumsy, but on your shoulders I can see, I free to be me."  Because He is working on changing me in spite of myself,  I can stand on His shoulders and be free.
Third Verse: The final verse of the song states, "Sometimes I believe that I can do anything. And other times I think, I've got nothing good to bring."  In so many instances I have looked at myself with utter hopelessness, believing that I can no longer bring anything good into the world.  Nevertheless, the next verse is where God steps into the picture, "But You look at my heart and You tell me that I've got all You seek, even though I've got a couple dents. . ."   God uses sinners.  I am a sinner that is being used by a perfect God.  I have discovered that in spite of my clumsiness, my sin, I can now stand on the fact that I am His and can be who I am in Christ.  I am free to be me. 

Free To Be Me Youtube Video Link:

There is Power in His Name

Nancy Lee was a true woman of faith, a faith that showed itself not only in her words but also in her actions. Her confidence in God was reflected in what she treasured, in what she did to invest in my life, and in the devotion she had for her Savior.

My grandma Nancy lived for her family and treasured her friendships. One of her common sayings was, “I am a very 'wealthy' woman,” in reference to the people she valued in her life. Although she had no biological grandchildren, her house was filled with pictures of her “grandchildren”, each one loved and valued. Undoubtedly, my adopted grandma's talent was for keeping people together; she was often referred to as the “glue” of my family and her companions. Her home was the location for many family events. While we were at her home, “Eat to your heart's content” was a common phrase heard from her lips. For example, a large glass jar of gummy bears, among other treats, was never absent from her home to share with her family.

Nancy showed her love to me by not only giving, but also in listening and sharing. Being a confidante, a source of comfort, and a storehouse of wisdom, my Grandma Nancy was someone I looked up to. I could talk to my grandma about anything because she was always ready to listen to my worries and to encourage me with words of wisdom in my education, music, and spiritual life. I always felt accepted by my loving grandma. When I felt ugly, she told me, “You are beautiful”; when I felt like a failure, she would say, “You are talented.” In addition, the words, “You are loved” were not only what she said, but also what she showed in her actions. For instance, we used to send each other e-mails in which I would tell her what was new in my life and she would reply with words of encouragement. We also had a monthly “girls' day.” On that special day of the month we would load into her old car and do anything from going out to a movie, to visiting the Germans historical museum to explore our heritage. I remember our outings with fondness. However, my most cherished memories are of the times in her car, commuting from place to place. In her car she would share stories of her life and give me advice for the moments in mine. She loved retelling memories, as well as acquiring new ones. “We are making memories,” was one of her favorite sayings.

Nancy Lee was a woman of powerful faith in God. In a lot of ways, her faith was the result of deep-cutting hardships she experienced in her life. While still a young woman, she lost her husband to a long battle of cancer, and the following year, she lived through the nightmare of her son's surfing accident that led to paralysis and the loss of his legs. God was her solid ground, passion and desire throughout her whole life, especially through the trials. My grandma's admiration for God was displayed in her everyday life and in her words. The phrase she said the most still sticks with me today, “There is power in His [Jesus'] name.” My adored grandmother was a woman who truly knew the power of relying on God.

I treasure the memories I had with my Grandma Nancy. I looked up to her, not only because she loved all and loved deeply, but also because of the powerful faith she had in God. Grandma Nancy is now with her Savior, her stronghold in eternity. I am no longer able to go to her home to open the jar of gummy bears as we chat about life, or sit in her car listening to her stories. I miss her. I miss being able to ask her about anything and talk to her about everything. But, I am inspired by her to excel in everything I do because she believed that I could. As a true woman of faith, Grandma Nancy was my role model and I will never forget her life changing words, “There is power in His name.”

Children of Mexico

Lately I have been remembering some precious faces I met back in Mexico last winter. Kevin, David, Viki, Tono and Manuel are orphans of Mexico.  I met these little ones on two different missions trips to Mexico. The children I met in the orphanage we served at are each created by God, known by  Him, and seen by Him.  I know they are in His hands.  


Kevin is a boy who loves to cuddle and be held.  He  always  seems  to be in deep thought about things.  He would  hold my ear whenever he was near me, as if he was making sure I was there.   A boy of few words, his sweet smile says it all.


David is a strong personality.  He feels things with intensity.  When he is upset he fights, when he is happy he laughs loud, and when he loves someone he loves hard.   David is missing three of his fingers on one of his hands.  He liked to place his hands in mine, weaving his fingers in between my fingers, holding on tight. 


Viki is a blue-eyed beauty.  Her eyes sparkle and laugh  and her smile is contagious.  A little chatter box, she loved to tell me  all the names of the animals in Spanish. It was a game we played, I would make an animal sound and she would tell me the name.  Most of her teeth have rotted and blackened, but this does not dull the sweetness in her smile. In pink, butterflies, and a ponytail, Viki is a little doll.


Tono is a boy with a tender heart, intelligent mind, adventurous spirit, and curious nature.  Tono loved to show me around the orphanage grounds, play games, and teach me Spanish words.  He also desired to learn some English words.  It gave him great pleasure to say my name,"Alejandra" over and over, at times, singing it to himself.

Manuel holds a very special place in my heart.   Manuel is all boy with toy cars, a spider man shirt, wrestling, making silly faces, and pretending to be a scary monster.  He is also very loving, wanting to be held and loved.  The most heart-melting moments in my life have been when he would wrap his little arms around my neck and hold on tight.  Additionally one of the most heart-breaking moments of my life was when I had to say good-bye to him after my first trip to the orphanage.  Just before leaving, I held him for a long time as he lay his head on my shoulder, while tears streamed down his precious face.  I am unsure which of us had more tears that day.  He kissed my cheek over and over calling me his "mama."  Manuel has a "Papa celestial" who will always be there with him.