I have spent weeks trying to figure out where to start on this blog post. So much has happened, so much has changed… I have changed. The last two years were a lot different than I expected. Plans were postponed and life held many twists I was not expecting. Although I often felt helpless, overwhelmed, and stressed, I was not hopeless. God has been constant, his love has been demonstrated in numerous ways through the care of family and friends who have demonstrated such grace and love. During this season I have been able to cling to God’s faithfulness despite my weakness and uncertainty.
My Siblings, niece, and I – Easter 2016 – Sabrina, Sierra, Sophia, Gunnar, Me (Sheena), Savannah, & Trinity
Watching the cancer overtake my mom’s body was the hardest thing I have had to go through this past year. It hurt… a lot. I wanted to do whatever I could to take away the pain and struggle yet was never able to fix any of it. God was with me through it all, through all the tears and pain… my constant comforter. Her death has been hard on all of us in different ways and at different times. I grieve for myself, for my siblings, for my dad… it just doesn’t make sense. Yet as I pull out of survival mode and break back into real life, the reality of it all seems to hit me more often. Mother’s Day was a tough day, Costco trips without her are often still difficult, and there are days I just need someone to remind me I don’t have to have it all together. I can’t be who she was, or fill the gap she left in our family, but I can take the things she has taught me and be who God created me to be. I can honor her by loving and serving those around me, just as she always did. As a family, we laugh and we remember. We share memories together honoring her life and her example as a faithful servant of God. We remember and honor her this year by planting her garden, and trying to remember to water it regularly…good thing they are hardy little plants. We also carried on her yearly tradition of making strawberry jam, a lot of fun and a little bit crazy. We continue to live positively and enjoy life the way she did, seeking to honor God in all we do, and as Gunnar put it in his graduation speech, “Striving for Excellence”.
I sometimes feel like I have just been doing just what needs to be done, sometimes falling into default mode, helping take care of my family, working, studying, and volunteering, but God seems to have placed me in a time of transition right now and I don’t exactly know what’s next. I am letting go of the safety of routine and my own pursuits and following the open doors he has placed in front of me. I just finished finals and have decided to take the summer off. I also quit my job, further stripping away my personal sense of security and provision which is really forcing me to trust and obey God. So here is what my summer looks like…
The first wide open door in June is a trip to Arequipa, Peru to visit my friends and church family whom I served with for 2+ years. God provided all the funds needed for my plane ticket and has presented an opportunity for me to help lead and translate for a short-term team of high school students who will be going to serve the local church and community in Peru, my second home. I am excited and nervous to see old friends and the many changes that have taken place since I was last there. I pray that God will use me to encourage and build up the church leaders who have continued in the work of reaching the lost and discipling the body of Christ. I want to speak the truth boldly and love and serve the community of Arequipa.
I am also looking toward visiting a youth center and church plant in Mexico in mid-July called Studio del Creador (The Creator’s Studio). The couple who run the studio are an amazing couple with huge hearts to reach the city of Tecate. They have seen true transformation in the lives of their students by offering a sense of community and family while using art as a medium of restoration and healing teaching them to create instead of destroy. I am going to visit, explore, and serve looking into possible long-term ministry opportunities with them. They have a full schedule of classes over summer break so it will be fun to jump right in and serve with the leaders there.
In August will be traveling to Nebraska to celebrate the marriage of one of my dear friends whom I had the privilege of working with while in Peru and then plan on taking a few days to meet up with a few friends and explore Colorado while I am out that way.
What’s next after that??? I don’t know. Taking it one step at a time. God’s timing is so interesting. Despite the craziness of the past couple of years I can look back and see God’s hand in the timing of it all. We received the diagnoses for my mother’s cancer just 2 1/2 months before the end of my contract with Extreme in Peru. I was able to finish well and be home the week she started chemotherapy. God provided a job close to home that allowed me the opportunity to serve and be in relationship with people while also providing the flexibility I needed to take care for my mom and family. God also provided opportunities to use my Spanish and serve the nations here in my own backyard through different outreach programs to at-risk youth in our area. I have been so blessed by relatives who have gone over and above to help us through this process, old friends who have stuck with me through it all, amazing co-workers and customers, new soccer friends, work-out buddies, and an amazing church family who continues to love and encourage me through it all.
Despite the unknowns, I do know this:
“Life is only ever found when we put ourselves in the hands
of our creator and cast ourselves upon his amazing grace.”
(Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies)
This quote from my devotional a couple weeks ago is so fitting during this time of transition and a good reminder for me to choose to live in the moment God has placed me in at and trusting him with the future. Please join me in praying for safe travels, health, and energy this summer. Pray for boldness to step out in obedience and for wisdom, discernment, and directions for the next steps. Thank you for being a blessing in my life.
A friend shared this a couple weeks ago on facebook and it made me smile. It is the reason I say “Ya” all the time. Just can’t shake some old Peruvian habits.