Tuesday 31 December 2013

13 in '13

As the year come to a close, it is fun to reflect on the last 12 months of my life.  I made a list of the thirteen things I learned, relearned, or continued to learn in 2013.

In no particular order.

1. People change, yet God still does not.
Of course, I have known that more than this year... But, it was a common theme this year. Even when people around me change (maybe for the good, maybe not ), but God is still faithful .
 I am also thankful, continually, that God is God... That I serve The One who is forever the same, but is changing me.

2.  Extend grace to myself.
Although I am not the perfectionist that I once was, I struggle with nothing ever being good enough, whenever I finish something, I spend time thinking about what was wrong and what could have been better. (Not always bad to do that, you know). But this year taught me (sometimes the hard way), that I can give myself grace the way I try to give it to others.

3. Live for the moment
Even though I need to think and plan the future, I can not let worrying about what is going to happen over shadow the present.

4. Take new risks.... by myself.
I have never had a hard time trying something new or being adventurous.... And I admit usually it's more fun with a friend. But when no one else is around, why not do something crazy alone. It usually won't kill me, but will make life more fun and make me more interesting. 

5. God isn't in a hurry, even when I think He should be.
His work belongs to Him. He sets the pace. He leads. He guides. He provides. I can not make Him go any faster than His will.

6. Be thankful.
Even when having a tough day/week. In the little things and the big. It is the clue for thriving in life instead of just surviving.

7. Sing in the shower so your neighbor can hear it, it's fun!

8. if you don't know... ASK! 
Don't go around assuming you know or understand something or someone. Also (almost) no question is stupid and you can always learn more. 
You know what people say about assuming.

9. Be good to my body.
Eat right, exercise, relax, sleep.... All make me feel better.

10. Excuses, don't use them.
With the exception of excuses like "my _____died" most excuses  are not legitimate and lame... For everyone involved. 'I don't know where to start', 'I'm tired', 'it's too hard'. They all usually mean,  'I am not making it a priority'

11. When in doubt, make an effort.
I will never regret doing something I think I should do but it might be a little scary. If I fail, at least I tried.

12. Take a day off.
When I stay in my pj's a bit longer, watch a movie, talk to friends on Skype. And do not allow myself to feel guilty about it.

13. Uncomfortable underwear ruin your day, so don't wear them. ;)

14. Set realistic goals
It's easy, for me, to set goals that are far fetched and unrealistic. But, that leads to disappointment and not getting anywhere. But setting realistic small goals aNd accomplishing them feels great.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Eight Reasons I Enjoy Christmas!

in no particular order...

Number One: Christmas Cards
Good Old fashion send-in-the-mail Christmas Cards. They show the families personalities and leaves me feeling closer the family and friends in the States. Plus there is usually a unwilling family member in the picture. The one who is crying, not looking, making a face or not dressed in the matching attire that was mapped out ahead of time. Always entertaining.

Number Two: Ugly Christmas Sweaters.
You know the ones that your grandma still wears but you secretly borrow for the party? Although I didn't get to participate in any ugly Christmas sweater parties this year.... I did see plenty of photos on facebook that kept me smiling.

Number Three: Tacky lawn decorations
Really the possibilities are ENDLESS. A giant inflatable santa clause that takes up a quarter of your lawn, a moving nativity scene, a giant snow globe, a few dozen extension cords that millions of lights are connected to, candy canes lining the path to the front door. Oh don't forget when you can sync music to your lights. You can turn your lawn into christmasy-winterwonderland-youcanseeitfromspace extravaganza. Not done to the extent around here that it is in the US. But, some of my favorite Christmas memories include driving around looking at christmas lights. (by the way,... my grandpa fills every inch of his lawn, beat that!)

Number Four:  Christmas Movies
Nothing says Christmas like HOURS of movie marathons. Including but not limited too---- White Christmas, Charlie Brown Christmas, Home Alone, miracle on 34th street, A Christmas story....... etc. Oh and don't you dare forget about the claymation christmas specials!

Number Five: Gift Exchange
Those famous white elephant gift exchanges. I have been to some that get dangerous. People are stealing peoples gifts, small kids getting the ONE thing they wanted taken away from them, but at the end everyone is laughing and having a good time. You  usually leave with something you have no use for, but thats not the point. Fun is the point, and that was accomplished. 

Number Six: Food!
Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, salads, pies, cakes, egg not, candy canes, hot chocolate, mint everything... all the things that make you wish, at the end of the day, that jeans with elastic in the waist were still in fashion.

Number Seven: Friends and Family
Nothing like the holidays to remind you how truly blessed you are. Friends and family, all over the world, that you love. You may not get to see them very often, but they are a part of who you are and you miss them- especially at Christmas. I thank God for all the people He has brought into my life.

Number Eight: Jesus!
Best for last right? Jesus, the reason we even celebrate Christmas. Thank God for sending His son to this earth, to live among us and eventually die for us, lowly sinners. That, in and of itself, is a reason to love Christmas and have joy in our hearts.

Anyways... MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!!!!!!!

Friday 13 December 2013

christmas, riots and visas

This morning we had the privilege of going to a near by school and judging their English Christmas carol contest. I love doing it, every year! Some groups good, some... well, need a little work!

After breakfast with Rod and Mayra and letting out my doggies, operation get visa was in full swing. The way there was fairly easy, as i thought it would be for around noon! I had plenty of time to get where I was going so i thought i would swing by the Zocolo to see the Christmas decorations. First clue to NOT go was metro station was closed. I went on to Bellas Artes and walked down to the Zocolo.
The tree was pretty, and the sledding hill was being set up.

I went to the other side to take another picture, I thought it was strange to see all of the riot police set up, but ignored them and took my picture. BUT, when I turned around I was surrounded people going on a rampage... something about petroleum AND more were coming. I booked it out of there!  

And on to the office of immigration. Back to the Metro where I found protesters. Metro prices have gone from 3 pesos (20cents ish) to 5 pesos. And people are not happy! It took me 30 minutes to make my way through the thousands of protesters. They kept trying to get me to sign things, they were screaming and the police were literally looking the other direction. Strange. very strange. By the way, I TRIED to put the ticket i paid for into the machines but they weren't taking them.  I asked a "police" and he just told me to go. ok, i guess. 

Made it to the office of immigration to stand in line for about an hour! Fun =0) I actually met a guy who is from California. American, lives there with his wife and kids. He was talking about how he owns a skateboarding shop here, travels back and forth. After and hour of standing in line, I learned that he owns the skateboard shop in the mall less than a few miles from me. Small world. He had an interesting point of view on Christianity.
But, no fear, i have my visa now and a contact if i need any skateboards! =0)

Oh and it took 3 hours to get home. haha

Thursday 12 December 2013

December 12

Before the Christmas season "officially" begins on December 16, Mexicans celebrate the festivities of La Virgen de Guadalupe, Our Lady of Guadalupe, on December 12.    This is one of the most important dates in the Mexican calendar.  

 On this date, millions of  the faithful to Our Lady of Guadalupe,  from all over the country make the  pilgrimage  to the Basílica of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, where the image of the virgin is kept.

On the day before the great celebration, millions of people start to arrive.  Many of them make the trip by bicycle.  Trucks follow them to provide assistance. These riders, mainly men, tirelessly  riding their  bikes kilometer after kilometer, with their hearts set on seeing - our Lady of Guadalupe.Usually they have
either a statue or a framed picture of the virgin strapped to their backs.

Some of the people arrive crawling on their knees as a sign of devotion.

No matter how many times you see people passionately seeking approval from their false God, it still breaks your heart. THe fireworks and the parties have been happening for twenty four hours and I really doubt tonight is any different! 


Monday 9 December 2013

weddings and events.

Another busy weekend this weekend.

Two young people from our church got married!  It was a fun evening, a little cold, but a good time!

Sunday after church I took the youth to Neza for a youth event at another church. I had no idea what to expect but it ended up being good! Fun games, a good speaker and food...can't go wrong!
But, I however, was told it would be an hour event.... it was about 5 hours! hahahaha

I made it back for the last half hour of the Pastor Appreciation Dinner. 
I found out in the midst of the craziness yesterday that I needed to be at the Office of Immigration bright and early this morning. Nope didn't get my vias, but i did wake up to this view!

Thursday 5 December 2013

cookies, tamales, christmasy season

Today started off with a baking class: Christmas cookies!

Then it was tamale/ponche making party!!mmmmmm I wish you could smell them, so good. Maybe one day there will be scratch and sniff blogs. But for now, you will have to take my word for it. I wonder if I will ever be able to cook like these hard working ladies, and the answer is 'probably not'.

Then the closing ceremony after classes today. It was a successful block of classes, and so fun!
We ate tamales, all the classes were recognized, and Rod gave a great devo!

Now I even have poinsettia to tower over my festive christmas tree!

And I apparently need to spend more time with my dogs. One ate all the candy bags and i had to remake them all this afternoon AND the other broke a mug (I am actually pretty sad about this mug)

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Lots going on!

Let's see...an over due update (again).

Every year we (as a Camino family) head to Veracruz for a four day fellowship time and conference. This time, it was SO COLD! But, we still had a pretty good time, most of the kids swam even when they could see their breath, laughed a lot, played games, etc. etc.
Here is a picture of the ladies at the craft time!

We get back Friday from the conference and Saturday we have a 15 birthday party- bigger than most weddings here. Lots of work went into this party!

This week we are spending it getting ready for a wedding this weekend and the closing ceremony for the community center. But, spent the morning with the Fry family choosing a Christmas tree for their home. 

Have you ever been to a christmas tree farm with a view like this?

AND I even got a little tree too (I am not a grinch, see?!)

Oh and tonight was a craft class with the kiddos!

Friday 29 November 2013

A video, gifts, and giving.

We just got back from a fun conference with our fellow Camino Global missionaries in Mexico. Each team was assigned to make a video of their ministries. A big thanks to Jim Cottrill for putting such a great video together...

He summerized a bit on his blog about the video
"Incidentally, the team name – the “TLC Team” – is intended to have a bit of a double meaning.  In English TLC is familiar as “tender loving care”.  But in Spanish it’s Tratado de Libre Comercio – or free trade agreement, the equivalent of NAFTA in English.  It reflects the fact that our team is made up of people from various cultures – currently from Canada, the USA, Mexico, and Nicaragua.
I should point out one more thing for those that don’t know Spanish – the newspaper clippings in the early part of the video show some of the sad things that you would see in most newspapers – death, unemployment, crime.  We know that sin has done terrible things to the world.  But then we look up and see who God is, and our perspective changes…"

Take a look!

Tis the time of year when you are considering giving to organizations, buying christmas presents, and getting those LAST minute tax deductions!

Some ideas:

First of all, you can give a one time or monthly gift to my ministry fund. All of that money keeps me here in Mexico ministering to these amazing people.

You can also give to our community center! 

You can give the best gift ever. COFFEE! Hope coffee is a  Camino Global ministry. Buy coffee and most of the proceeds go to a ministry in Honduras that builds homes, adds roofs, or clean water systems to houses. It is a practical way to share the Love of God. If you put that you heard about Hope Coffee from me (Tina Barham) then I get a few cents per dollar spent in my account! =) There is discounts right now AND a christmas blend!

Thursday 21 November 2013

Thankfulness (Part Two)

 1. The small moments that leave you in awe. 

2. Space heaters. Never thought I would use them like I do in Mexico.

3. Travel. It is so great to be able to go to a new area, experience new parts of the world. I am thankful for the people that I get travel with- the adventures shared together creates great memories and some amazing stories.

4. I am thankful for all of the tough times in my life--- they have made me the person I am today.

5. Laughter and silliness. Gosh, life would be boring without them!

6.  Scarves, jeans, tshirts, hoodies, fuzzy socks.

7.I am grateful to have the opportunity to listen to other peoples stories. I love that.

8. I am thankful for modern technology- Skype, facebook, e-mail etc. etc. Without them, I wouldn't be able stay in contact with people all over the world!

9. Colors.

10. I thank God for relaxation after a day or week or month of not much rest.

11. Blankets. Wrapped up on a chilly night with a warm cup of (chose your favorite hot beverage!- mine is coffee!)

12.  naps. I take them like once a month, but when I do, its the best thing in the world

Sunday 17 November 2013

Just another Sunday

A lot of people always ask what a typical day looks like here. Well, there is no such thing, and I love that. But lately, my Sundays are killer! They are really fun, but at the end of the day--- I am tired!

First, wait for all the stuff for the church to be picked up from my house.... I am the storage unit!

Second, head to church for worship and praise time. Have I ever mentioned I like worshiping in Spanish more than English?

After worship time, take the youth girls to my house for a bible study. We are studying the Fruit of the Spirit. This weeks topic: LOVE

Then youth group. We eat, have a small bible study and do some sort of activity. We are studying David. This week we talked about the story of David and Goliath.
 During the activity, the girls were at the table talking and being creative... the boys- watching football (american) --------- typical!

Then I went to watch a youth play soccer. Today was the finals so it was an intense game with LOTS of people. It is fun to watch the youth do what they are passionate about. They won by the way in a shoot off at the end. =0)

And finally, a youth leadership study. It is a study for the older kiddos.... give them more responsibility in the group! This week we studied.... "why is it important for leaders to pray"

Saturday 16 November 2013

Thankfulness (volume one)

In the spirit of Thanksgivingness, I am just going to make a list of things I thank God for. (installment one of at least two)

1. I am thankful that I serve a God who is bigger then I can even comprehend. I am thankful for His love, mercy, forgiveness and grace in my life.

2. I continually thank God for all the blessings, hard times and life changing experiences I have had while living in Mexico.

3. I am thankful for my friends in the USA.When you move somewhere, especially a new country you find out who your true friends are. I am blessed to be able to say I have some of the greatest friends who are more like family.

4. I am blessed to have a great support system and friends in Mexico as well. I am thankful to have not only Mexican friends but also some incredible missionary friends as well.

5. I am thankful for Maggie, my great dog! (well, shanti too-- Tiffanys dog currently residing in my house.) On a hard day she is there with her head on my lap, when I need protecting she protects, she is always worth a smile and a constant companion.

6. I am thankful for every prayer and financial supporter that I have. Without them I would not be here in Mexico. I am thankful for their encouragement and prayers.

7. I am grateful that God has always provided me and my family clean water to drink and food to eat beyond what we need.

8. I am thankful for Nebraska football. No matter where I am in the world it is a constant for me on fall Saturdays. It is something most of my friends from Nebraska love and it is a hot topic of conversation within my family.

9. I am thankful for coffee. Its like a warm hug on a chilly morning.

10. I am grateful, everyday, to hear how friends of mine are changing the world with the Love of God. As a teacher in a public school, sharing the Gospel all over the world, being a mommy to precious kids, being an example in a hard workplace ... etc.

11.I am thankful for the opportunity and ability to learn new things.

12. I am grateful for adventures (big or little) and new experiences. It can be a planned adventure where I do something I have always wanted to do. Or the unplanned ones like getting lost and seeing something amazing that I would have not other wise seen. God never ceases to amaze me.

13. I am thankful for creativity. I never feel so alive as when I get to use my creative juices! I actually crave it sometimes.

14. Sweatpants

15. I am thankful for nature. Being able to see Gods beautiful and wonderful design. Especially, for the the two volcanoes I get to see everyday.

On a completely different note:
My house is a disaster... see why here.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Toughing out the brrrrrr

Today was/is a BITTER cold day in Mexico City. It feels like its near freezing- with the midst and crazy winds.  Do you want to know how good a little space heater is---- not good! Unless, of course, you are sitting RIGHT in front of it, which my dog does.

As i was sitting and shivering at the community center earlier I kinda doubted ANYONE in their right mind would show up for classes. But they did!

On the docket-
Rod's guitar class
My kids craft class: we made masks!

Thursday 7 November 2013

Bake a Cake - Make some Fondant

Today Shari did a great job organizing a cake decorating class at the community center. Fun times, new people, creative cakes, some of God's Word shared! =0)

Friday 1 November 2013

Day of the Dead

Today we got together as a church to celebrate, our own way. Because Christians celebrate LIFE not death!

We started with the adults praying and the kids getting a small devo on why we do not celebrate the Day of the Dead.

All the children wore white and made angel wings. So, they suited up and we hit the streets. The adults received little gospel papers and the kids, well candy of course! =)

Then we came back and partied with the kids!

As we were walking around a few of us stumbled upon this house with a HUGE tent in front of it. It was packed with images and statues of the saint of death- something that is definetly worshipped here. I have also seen many offering tables with food and pictures of their dead relatives.
BUT this one takes the cake. It really breaks my heart seeing the emphasis they put on the dead. I didn't take too many good pics because i didnt want to be rude. As we were standing there we were invited to thier prayer time to the saint of death as well... yikes. In the picture below you can see about 1/2 of the statues and images.
Keep praying for Mexico!

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Halloween, its so different here.

I think one of the hardest things to do is go into a completely foreign culture (whether that is in your own home country or in a different one) and accept all aspects of that new place. I am not saying that we should adopt all of the values, behaviors and aspects of the new culture that you are in, especially if they aren't biblical.

But sometimes it is hard to wrap your head around why people don't act like you, value the same things you do, etc. It really makes you take a good look as to why you believe the things you do, why you act the way you do, why you value certain things over others. So much of our own culture isn't directly taught but it is what we observe the people closest to us doing and it is what we subconsciously adopt.

Anyways, I was thinking about it this morning when I was sad that I am not free to buy a whole bunch of pumpkins, have the youth over, and carve them. How we can not have a costume party. How Halloween is not the innocent thing it is in the United States (I know, a lot of Christians do not support or participate in Halloween in the states--- instead they call it Fall Festival).

Here in Mexico, Halloween or Day of the dead- which are basically the sameish thing- is very different than anything I experienced before coming to Mexico.

In the United States we are free to have a party with pumpkins, fall themed activities, drink hot apple cider, have a costume contest, watch non realistic scary movies and go to haunted houses.

Here in Mexico, people set up a table either inside of their house or right outside, cook a whole bunch of food, and hope that the spirits of their dead relatives will come back and be pleased with their offerings... they also do that to the grave sites... You may chuckle at that, but it isn't the fun innocent thing that your Spanish class taught you about. It is sad, creepy and disturbing.

I wrote this blog last year about Day of the Dead, take a look. 

So, it completely makes sense why Christians in Mexico do NOT support any part of Day of the Dead or  Halloween.

Of course, I still wish I could do the fall fun stuff that I grew up with, with the innocence that I use to think that accompanies it all. But, I can't and I understand why. Please pray for Mexico this week as alters to the dead are going up, as people celebrate and worship the dead.

Friday we hand out candy and have a time of evangelism followed by a kids "Celebrate Life" party (instead of celebrating death). You can pray for all that too, we would be grateful!

Also, Rod wrote this blog about Halloween--- it's in spanish.