Friday, May 31, 2013

An Unexpected Friend

I want you to meet someone.

This is Cristela. A sweet lady from school put us in touch with each other almost two years ago. Cristela and her family were new to the school, and she was looking for someone to tutor her kiddos. So I started working for them.

It has been so much more than I would ever have expected.

The "job" has been an incredible blessing, but I have been able to "be" a part of this family in so many ways.

The tutoring has been more than just school work, learning English, practicing math, but has also been about teaching kiddos to speak when someone talks to them, basic manners, learning to break out of a shy shell, working hard, talking about Jesus, sitting on the sofa and reading books, and opening up.

In the beginning, I would hear from Cristela mostly concerning school concerns, worry about her son's progress, etc. But after several months, things began to change. She started asking questions. She was seeking. Really questioning things about the Lord.

Last fall, Cristela came in and shared her story with me. There is a lot and it's not all my place to share it. Last fall, she wrote to me asking about baptism. Cristela made her love for Jesus public in November.

When I finally told Cristela I was moving, it was so difficult. Two weeks ago at our farewell Bible study dinner, she hugged and hugged me and cried with me. I love her babies. I love her. I love the sweet ladies who work in her home.

Cristela is one of the most giving people I have ever met. Her heart oozes generosity and care for others.

She is part of my Panamanian family. She is a sister. She is a friend. She has shared her babies with me for several hours a week the past two years. I love them and I love her.

It was a relationship only the Lord could have orchestrated. I am amazed. Thankful. Sad to leave. He is good!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Carry On, 2012

Many people enjoy shopping at the department stores in Panama because of the LOW prices.

Most of those department stores receive their goods from containers filled with clothes from the states. So Macys, JCPenneys, Kmart, etc eventually send their stuff here. Also, lots of irregular clothes are shipped down.

Occasionally, you can find good things. Gonna be honest, not a big clothes shopper in Panama. I'm such a bargain shopper, that I can typically find better deals in the states.


This past weekend, Cheryl and I were out running errands and stumbled across this find.

The reason I posted this one instead of the other is that right after Cheryl and I commented on who would buy this, a lady pulled it towards her.

It's true. Disney is super popular here. Even if it's from 2012.

For only $3.99, you too can own this piece of history.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hazards and Parking

I saw a classic Panama situation this afternoon.
At a local plaza, there is never enough parking. I've literally circled through the lot three times to find parking. It's crazy.

Double parking here is VERY common. Today class example:
Lady gets out of white car, turns on her hazard lights to go to the bank.

What makes it classic?????

Look at the photo...

See it? The police truck?

Ready for the irony? The police officer was in the truck and watched her do it. I was so emboldened as you raise my eyebrows at him and look at the car. No reaction.

It is true. Your hazards here will help you get away with a lot when it comes to parking.

The end.

Note: the lady walking in the picture is not the guilty double-parker. She is an innocent pedestrian also going to aforementioned bank.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beginning of the "See Ya' Laters"

Reality is setting in. Tomorrow it begins.
Tomorrow I say the first one. The first "see ya' later".
I don't like the word goodbye because it sounds so final. And in Jesus, there aren't really goodbyes. Just a "see ya' later". Heaven becomes so much more sweeter the more you say "so long". Not easier, just sweeter. This isn't all there is.

(The flowers have nothing to do with goodbyes. Except that these are my favorite flowers and soon I will say goodbye to them being available inexpensively).

So tomorrow, I'll fight back the tears that threaten to spill right now. I'll give that awkward we've-known-each-other-the-past-seven-years-and-now-we-part-ways hug.
I'll make some incoherent statement and laugh uncomfortably not knowing what else to do.

And so it will begin. The first of many.

Today is began. Cried three times (ok, teary-eyed and fighting back the spilling over kind of tears). Amber said tonight, "Thanks for loving my baby. We are going to miss you." Oh here they come!
Response, "Saying goodbye doesn't mean I stop love you or your baby." Then of course I told her to move to Dallas! :)

I digress. Reality becomes tangible in the letting go.
The moments and time are slipping by far too quickly.

In high school, I really liked listening to this song. I've listened to it many times, especially at time like this - ones of transition and the see ya' laters. Wept through it many times.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oral Surgery - Losing 1/2 of Wisdom

No, I could not think of a clever title. Boo!

A month ago I went in for a regular dental check up and the announcement I've been dreading for 15 years came up - time to remove the wisdom teeth. I've been told since high school they could go either way - I might get to keep them or they would have to come out. First thought (not a surprise to those of you who know me well), COST! I asked for a quote up front and I brought it with me to the appointment, just in case.

Only two of them had to come out, the other two I can keep because they are straight and able to be cleaned. Whew!

I slept well Friday night, and Saturday ran a few errands before going into the dental office. Amber, Memphie, and Cheryl went with me to be my support team and because they wanted to see the effects of the meds.
(Don't you take photos in the dentist waiting room too???)

However, the controlled substance I was to take apparently had little effect on me. I walked into the cubicle for the surgery and said Good morning to the doctora and she looked up shocked and said, "Did you take the pills?" I told her yes, I followed her instructions to the letter. She said, "You should be very drunk right now." 

When you get your wisdom teeth out, everyone you meet will share their story with you. I heard the good, the bad, and the ugly. I had no idea what to expect. No one really talked about the actual procedure. 

So for those of you wondering, here is what I experienced. I did NOT have an anesthesiologist come in to administer medication (reason: COST!). I did prescriptions from the pharmacy - totally the way to go. Two pills, one injection $9.57. YES, Please! 

I was giving shots in the mouth to numb the area - pinching, not horrible. Yes, I flinched. I had headphones on during the surgery, but could still hear what was going on (doctora told me to bring the headphones). 
There was an iguana outside in the tree, so I was momentarily distracted by that as well. 

There was a LOT of pulling and tugging. I don't know what I imagined it would be for a tooth to be taken out. It didn't hurt, lots of pressure. She told me if I felt pain (she demonstrated by pinching a tiny piece of skin on my arm) to raise my hand so that I could get more anesthetics. I raised my hand once, because the lip-keeper-open-thingy was rubbing painfully on my lip. 

Honestly, with the pulling, it felt like each tooth was coming out in chunks, which I found out later it wasn't. 

About 30 minutes later, two teeth out and then the one thing I was hoping I could leave Panama without getting - the butt shot. They love their butt shots here! Now I have had one. 
It wasn't that bad. 

I laid on my side, waiting for the doctora to come back. Not really any pain, just lots of numbness and feeling like I couldn't open my mouth. 

I heard Amber laughing in the hallway, walking back with the doctora. (The doctora had told Amber and Cheryl how shocked she was that I didn't react to the meds). 

Amber and Cheryl were given the instructions about taking meds, activity, keeping it clean, etc. I remember pretty much all of it. 

She showed me the teeth and they were intact! Shocked! 

(Yes, I took a picture!)

The only gross part has been taking out the gauze. I basically drooled out blood and the gauze. Sorry for grossing some of you out! :) 

I was definitely in pain yesterday - not unbearable, but uncomfortable. I don't think my body feels the affects of the pain meds. Oh well! 

Cheryl and I had developed a "code word" so that she would know if I was being serious about watching a series we have going through. I remembered the code word and then promptly fell asleep part way through. 

Per the doctora's instructions, ice was applied all day long. 

Roo and Amber made yummy soft dinner of mac'n'cheese and Roo cut it up into tiny pieces. Ah, thanks, friend. 

Slept well and woke up feeling pretty good. And no swelling so far today! 

Best thing about having a surgery in Panama! 
Here are the souvenirs from wisdom teeth surgery: 

Removed teeth, extra gauze, and the doctora's card complete with cell phone number. Wow! Who does that? 

Monday (two days afterwards), Dra. calls me to see how the recovery is going and to see if I have any questions! Lovely! So kind! 

Thankful for great friends who have been amazing nurses (thanks, Amber and Cheryl), for an affordable place to have teeth taken out, for a pretty smooth recovery, and for the skills of a doctora who has been amazing! 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Small Kids - Big Hearts

Two weeks ago was the Jr. Kids Camp for munchkins in K5-2nd grade.

This semester in Psalm 8:2 (Sunday night kids program), we've been reading the book, Do Hard Things.

Do Hard Things Book

As a leadership team, we've talked a lot of taking on responsibility, going beyond what is expected, and doing things that are meaningful and push outside of our comfort zones.

Jr. Kids Camp was set before this team of youth volunteers (Lisa and I being the only ones over 20) as the hard task to take on. They were each in charge of different areas to coordinate and lead.

I had asked several weeks prior for each team member to list his or her's passions or gifts in certain areas. The beautiful part was that we had people for each category - love the diversity of talents on the team!

So the planning began! I gave the topic and an idea of what I would talk about at big kids camp, but they were on their own. I was available for asking questions or brainstorming, but wanted them to take the leadership of going after it.

Everything went really well! We had 47 kiddos show up, full of energy and ready to have fun!

First game - modified duck-duck-goose. You say each person's name and if you don't know it, you would shout "Kids Camp" or "Campamento de Niños"
Super fun! 
 Yes, we played with the mush pot (anyone else remember that????)

 Singing - all of my singing pictures are blurry, because there was constant motion! All worship!

 Lesson 1 - "I am a sinner"

 Sweet story, little man on the left wasn't going to spend the night. So his sweet friend on the right told him, "It's ok. You can share my sleeping bag until your mom comes to get you." They laughed and were so excited to have a sleepover.
 Sleeping bags, pillows, stuffed animals, blankets - everywhere!! This was obviously the girls side with all the pink.
 One of the most precious things I hold from the weekend was going to sleep that night, lots of munchkins pulled out there Bibles to read. They would sit with their flashlight reading alone with friends. Unbelievably sweet! .

 We learned the several kiddos begin snoring at a very early age.

I learned I am too old to sleep on the floor. Sleep would be a relative term. And when you look out over so many people and know that you are responsible for all of them, sleep doesn't really happen. Thankful for the Lord's goodness.
 Probably my favorite picture from the weekend. I Love watching kiddos worship!

It is ok to study the Word with cowgirl boots next to you.

The girls the next morning painted a poster as they taught lesson 2 - "In Christ, I am..."

It was a beautiful representation of our theme for protecting identity.

It was a great time together! Thankful and overwhelmed for the parents who entrusted their babies to us for the night.

My favorite take away moment besides the kiddos reading their Bibles was Friday night.
There were 44 sleeping bags spread all over the sanctuary floor (3 kiddos went home and came back in the morning).
Most of you who read this blog know that I don't have my own babies, but lots of people share their munchkins with me. The responsibility that night was overwhelming (I don't know how parents do it!).
The Lord really impressed on my heart to tuck in every kiddo. So I walked around and told every kiddo goodnight, that I was thankful they were there, and pressed my kissed fingertips to their foreheads.

Thanks, parents, for sharing your babies with me!

What an amazing group! Praying the Lord continues to draw these precious hearts to Himself and to ignite a passion within their hearts for Jesus!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Fire in the Hole

Ten days ago the electricity went out. Right in the middle of Cheryl making an awesome dinner. Good news - we have a gas stove. Bad news: we had meat in the freezer.

(Side note: one of my biggest pet peeves is opening the fridge or freezer when the power goes out. Yes, it comes from my paranoia of getting e-coli or salmonella.)

Not long after the power went out, I receive a text from TJ saying there was a fire across the street.
Picture included:

What you may not notice at first, is that there is a hole next to the man. Do you see it?

An hour goes by. Pizza is now ordered as the other parts of our dinner could not be finished. We gather with out neighbors outside to enjoy some cooler air, lots of laughter, dinner, rice krispie treats, and sweet tea.

Electric trucks come to check out the scene. Jorge and TJ go interrogate and find out the scoop.
Power went off. Electric company tries to restart it remotely. Two wires underground meet. Explode. Small fire in the grass. Hole made from the exploding wires. Hours to repair.

Amber, Cheryl, and I pack up our most perishable items and run them down to the hill to the church fridge for safe keeping.

Go to sleep. Eerily quiet, but nice.
Wake up at 11:18 when the electricity comes back on - way to go, power people!

And that hole?

That giant concrete thing is covering it and the dirt that was thrown back in.

(See how dry it is????? Example of the drought we are in. It did rain yesterday, but it needs to rain a lot more).

What may have started as an inconvenience, became a fun memory in the making!

Oh and those groceries? All rescued! No disease this time! :)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Calling on Praying Folk

It's almost here - Big Kid's Camp!

Last weekend was Jr. Camp for munchkins K-2nd grade. It was a blast!! I can't wait to blog about it and share so many sweet memories and mental snapshots. Last weekend was led by most of my Sunday night volunteers (more about that in the future blog).

This post is about storming the gates of heaven to pray for this weekend!

As of this very minute, we have 51 students signed up and registered. I know of at least five more that are signing up tomorrow.
Because our numbers have increased, we had to reserve another bus today.

It's not about the numbers. It's about the people going.
It's not about the fun we are going to have. It's about lives being impacted for eternity.
It's about knowing who we are apart from God.
It's about knowing who we are in Christ.
It's about knowing freedom that comes from believing truth.
It's about living.

And because we are talking about the lies of Satan and how to protect our identity in Christ, we are inviting attack from the enemy.

Will you pray with me?
Will you lay before the Lord these 50+ kiddos who are coming? Those who know Jesus and those who dont?
Will you fight this spiritual battle in prayer?

I've been about to burst out of my skin the past few days in wrapping up the lesson prep and listening to the Holy Spirit speak. How my heart longs for these students to get it! Oh, if they can understand how to distinguish between hearing the voice of lies and the voice of truth right now, how much further ahead they will be!

Will you pray each one hears the Holy Spirit?
Will you pray freedom from distractions as students have time alone with the Lord?
Will you pray freedom from distractions during our worship through song and through the study of the Word?

Will you pray?

If you know some of these sweet babies coming, will you pray for them by name?

Also, will you pray for the leaders on this trip? Pray they know how to love the students, how to be available, how to discern what is going on, and how to lead the small group times. Pray for health and for sleep for them too!!!!

This is a family matter - here we go!

Can't wait to tell you what God does!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

More Clouds

We need more sky like this with rain in them-thar' clouds. (Insert southern accent, just in case you think I can't spell!!!)

For those of you not living in the country of Panama, we are in a state of crisis because of drought.

School has been cancelled for the rest of the week, including today, as a means of conserving energy (don't question it, just embrace it!)

Supermarkets, bars, and discos have had restrictions placed upon them for hours of operation. Government buildings also have limited hours. Businesses have been asked not to use fans, lights, and AC during the hours of 11am-3pm. If you have ever lived in Panama, those are of course the hottest hours of the day.

We may not get snow days, and right now we aren't having flood days. But it's not often you can say school was cancelled to conserve electricity.

I was talking to a Panamanian lady today and she confirmed that this is very abnormal weather (I felt like it was having lived here for seven years, but it's always better to talk to a local).

Tomorrow, I may take my photo with this lady. I want to blog about her. She is a dear. Nearly made me cry today. Y'all, that is astounding to me, because our entire conversations are in Spanish.
She is precious.

 Off to build an AC unit out of some cloth and a funnel. Just kidding. I'm not that clever.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Isla Contadora by Boat

Over a month ago, a group of us girls hired Dalton to take us to Isla Contadora in the Pearl Islands for an overnight adventure.

Cheryl picking up the marañon off the ground (cashew fruits).
 Beautiful Bridge of the Americas in the background as we left the marina.

The crew - don't you love how we all match????? Totally unplanned!!!! - Jess, Abby, Cheryl (back), Esther and Julie in the front.
See the smoke? This is when we were having the bad trash fires and there was a haze over the city.
The air was SO bad to breath!!!

It is so fun being out in the water and passing these massive vessels that have been through the canal. Amazing!!!!

On the island exploring with Dalton - we are quite the group!

The water on this side of the island was so peaceful. I have no pictures of our adventure sleeping on the boat. Pretty much there was no sleeping. Cheryl had the best spot on the back area. Julie and Esther tried sleeping on the front. Jess moved to the back with us. It was so rough rocking back and forth all night as the tide came in. I'm never rocking a baby to sleep again. That is pure torture! (Just kidding!)
 The beach where Cheryl was stung by the jellies.
 Right before she jumped in and was stung.  Cheryl we called Ariel the whole time because she flipped and swam and splashed all around in the water. Hilarious!!!
 Can you see the flags???????? That, my friends, is where Survivor was being filmed. Before you get as excited as we were, we found out later that it was Turkish Survivor. We kept yelling for Jeff Probst, no wonder he didn't come out.
 Boating around in the glorious water! It is seriously so gorgeous out in the Pearls. Love it! It's one of my most favorite places in Panama
Returning to the city - look the haze and smoke had lifted!! Such a delight!

We had a great time, even with no sleep, but enjoyed laughing together, swimming around, and just enjoying some time off!!!! Thankful for those fun moments!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Provision in the Process

So this looming new adventure...

Many have asked about is next, where am I going, etc.

Quite honestly, at the beginning, I had no idea. I only knew I had to be obedient. Step into the unknown and watch God do His thing. Place my foot into the Jordan River in order to watch the waters part.

The biggest two questions have been:
1. Are you going to teach again?
2. Are you looking for a children's ministry position?

I didn't know. I was open to anything. Really wanting to see what the Lord would put before me. Yes, doing what I could in being faithful, but totally trusting Him to show up.

Not long after talking to CBC,  I sent an email to some dear friends who own a business. Twice in the past three-ish years, we have talked about the possibility of my coming to work with them, I even filled out a strengths profile with them (that I had forgotten about), etc. It seemed annually, I would receive an email sent to friends saying they were looking for folks to join their team and my heart would jump at the chance, but the timing wasn't right.

Even last year, right after things were finalized for me to go over to the church side of things here, I got one of those emails and gonna be honest, I doubted if staying here was right. I so desperately wanted to pursue that option. But the message was clear, Not yet.

So I sent the email saying, "I realize you may have no open positions, but I thought I would let you know my time in Panama is closing." And I left it there.
In the meantime, I looked into teaching options, some random options, looked at ministry positions of all kinds, and waited and prayed.

Remember this lesson of the P's the Lord is taking me on? The process is still in motion, and the waiting for a job is part of this process. I knew the provision part would come, I just didn't know when or how.

In the process, I learned a lot about trust (still learning!). And I knew it was the Lord, because that sick feeling in your stomach about "WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I DOING???? I HAVE NO JOB!!!" didn't come up. There was just a calm I can't explain other than the peace of the Holy Spirit.
The other response is far more typical of Abby! :)

Within one day, I had heard back just to say, "let's chat."
Within one week, we chatted. In that first chat, I learned there were two positions open in the exact area they had talked to me about in the past.
Y'all, I was in shock! It wasn't supposed to work out like this. In my mind, I played this scenario out as taking MONTHS, no leads, no options, nothing, and then an option? Lord, really?

Oh how the Lord love to shock us!
We continued to talk, interview, send messages, ask questions, and pray. They were praying. I was praying. Friends were praying.
God was moving.

I was officially offered a job at Morning Star Tours almost exactly one year to the day from the time I had battled with wanting to go and it wasn't time.

So what is Morning Star? Some of you may know this, but I love the land of Israel. I love studying Scripture and "seeing" the locations in my mind as I read. I love maps and studying Scripture with maps spread around or drawing them as I go.
Morning Star organizes Biblical tours to the Holy Land for churches and organizations to introduce people to the land of Israel. The family who started and runs this business have such a heart for ministry, for the Word, for the land of Israel, and for people to fall more deeply in the love with the Savior through an experience in the Holy Land.
My official title will be a Tour Manager and I'll be helping groups put together their plan and make sure things are all set for their adventure to the land.

Sometime this summer, I'll be moving to Dallas, Texas to begin this new adventure. A sweet gift to go along with this is that Abby and Luke live there and it will be so nice to live near some family and get to know and hang out with them as a married couple!!!

Yes, it is a big change, but one on which I am excited to embark!

How our God provides in the process! Far beyond what I would have EVER designed myself.
Oh the fears He has quelled. And the truths I have had to hold to when the lies and insecurities have crept in and still do.
There is still a process taking place. But He is providing far beyond what I would have imagined. Fulfilling a desire of my heart to be a part of this ministry. Stretching me in new ways and skills.