Visiting Our Sponsor Child in El Salvador

adventure, Beautiful, Christian, Christian womanhood, marriage

 

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For seven years we’ve sponsored a (now) young woman named Briseida in El Salvador through Compassion International. If you’re not familiar with Compassion, it’s an organization that partners with local churches and families in communities all over the world, fighting poverty and equipping children with an education, skills, and savings accounts (to name a few things!), as well as giving them access to doctors and dentists. Most importantly, the mission is to offer the hope of a brighter future in the name of Jesus.

All these years Briseida has been writing us long letters and sending us drawings. A few years ago she asked us to come visit. I was pregnant at the time and the Zika virus was a threat, so we couldn’t go, but a few weeks ago, we did it! We went to see “our” sweet girl. Mountains of paperwork, along with much thought and financial resources went into this trip–from setting up our will to travel release forms for my parents to the U.S. Embassy website advising us to change our plans due to the general violence in the country. Yikes! We belabored, asked advice, prayed, and went.

Leaving Talitha was so hard, but the time Eric and I spent together (even the stressful and chaotic) was so beautiful and growth-filled for our marriage. I’ll save the touristy days for another post, but I’m so excited to share about our final day in the country, the day we met Brieseida, her mom, her brother, and all the lovely people at her “project” (the Compassion center).

For those wondering, the project is not an orphanage, it’s a huge facility where children come to learn the Bible, music, English, and various other skills like using the computer, cosmetology, chocolate-making, shoe-making, etc. From what I understood, there is a public education system in El Salvador, but it’s half-day, and the project allows the children to receive extra coaching, teaching, and preparation to succeed (along with medical aid).

We both had butterflies as we rode the bumpy and wild ride to get to the project. Such anticipation! Upon our arrival, we were met with children holding signs and waving flags, a few little girls dressed in traditional dresses. They cheered and I tried to take in this moment while somehow not wanting so much focus on us. Simultaneously looking for Briseida and trying to enjoy each of the children was a sweet little challenge. The host told us to follow her up a flight of stairs. Then we heard someone call out and turned around to see Briseida standing in front of us.

There she was, a good four inches taller than me, long dark hair and a bit shy. She grabbed my hand as I said, “Mucho gusto” and she repeated the sentiment then began whispering to me in Spanish. In that moment I so regretted how years ago I’d stopped practicing. I had to tell her (irony of ironies) in Spanish that I didn’t speak much Spanish. After a little welcome program and tour of her amazing project (which also employs Briseida’s mom!), we went to her home.

Walking into her home, we saw our framed picture, and my hands flew to my mouth. What a precious sight to see–so humbling and sweet. Sitting with the translator we talked and shared beautiful moments that will stay deep in my heart for as long as I live.

We later went out for pizza and Facetimed with Talitha (Briseida was sad she wasn’t there, since she considers Talitha her little sister). After lunch Briseida’s tutor showed us her file–so impressive the amount of detailed records they keep. Our girl is a star performer! After lunch it was back to the project for prayer and final hugs. Also tears–so many tears.

I think Eric would agree that besides days like our wedding day or Talitha’s birth, this day was one of the best days ever. Praise God for this good gift. We are just one small part of Briseida’s success. So many love her and we are humbled to parter alongside them. If you’re interested in sponsoring a child yourself, go here. Do you already sponsor one or a few? Be sure to write them! According to the tutors, it means a lot. Enjoy a few snapshots from this special day.

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Limits of Love

Christianity, love, marriage

It is the ultimate trump card. You toss it down with a flick of your wrist and no one dares cross you: ‘love.’ No one can question your actions. If done in the name of ‘love,’ it is good and decent and obligates others to support it. 
‘Love’ is god, we say.
But we have it backwards. God is love; He defines what it looks like, both its possibilities and its limitations. His love is far greater and more magnificent than I can ever understand, let alone write.
Since ‘love’ is our lowercase ‘god,’ we twist its definition into anything we want it to be. 
Love is messy. We know that. From the mama who wipes poopy bottoms, to the woman whose man keeps looking at porn, and the husband who tries but seems to have lost his wife to his children. Love is messy. 
And when Jesus went to the cross? That was messy, too. 
When we define love ourselves and manufacture our own cookie cutters of what it is and what it looks like, we miss out on the grandeur and truth of what God has given us. We tear down boundaries when we do not like them, because we are free, so there. 
If I made up ‘love’ myself, it would always be lacking. It would always be full of my mood swings and how I felt, instead of the everlasting and unmovable intrinsic characteristics of God. And because HE decided what love looks like, I no longer have to grovel in fear of being known, for He knows me, the real me. 
The moments I have most known love are those when I have sat on the porch of our house and cried, broken before my husband over sin in my life or confusion. Getting dressed up and smelling new roses is delightful, but it is only a symbol of love–not the substance. The substance of love is never sentimentality. 
Love is never a soft feeling that justifies sin. Rather, it is forgiveness and the hope that we can be more like Him today than we were yesterday.

Supreme courts do not define love. And neither do I. God does.

Those rose petals, lovely as they are, will fade and fall, and so will my relationship if only based on how good I feel. Love is messy. Who knew how beautiful messy could be, thanks to our Lord–Love in a manger, Love who sent the plagues, Love who told the adulteress to stop her sleeping around, and Love who is our glorious King.
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann

The Beauty of ‘Boring’

Beautiful, Boring, Christianity, marriage, Parents

There is a scene in Shall We Dance that makes me cry. The fact that I like this movie might surprise a few. However, so many movies show a love I do not recognize, a love I do not know…probably because it does not exist, or is not actually love. 
It is a story of a steady, married, middle-aged man who is intrigued by a woman in the window of a ballroom dancing studio window. He starts secretly taking ballroom lessons and even competes–all along not telling his wife that he is cha-cha-chaing with J-Lo once a week.

Now, do I like this part? Goodness, no. There is NO WAY that I would like to see my husband doing the tango with J-Lo (unless they happened to be related, seeing as they are both Puerto Rican). 
Anyway, it gets better. The man comes clean (after his wife hires a detective). He loves his wife–they have a good life, albeit a boring one. Life is sometimes boring.  
Her initial anger gives way to understanding, and she encourages him to go to the farewell dance party of the J-Lo character. She buys him a tux and shiny shoes, and slips off to her job at the mall.
Cue the part that makes me sob: the man comes to the mall wearing the tux and carrying a rose, for she is his true dance partner.
She says she does not know how.
“Yeah you do,” he says. “You’ve been dancing with me for nineteen years.”

Surrounding the scene is Peter Gabriel’s “The Book of Love.”
“The book of love is long and boring…and is full of…instructions for dancing”
We live in a world that is constantly trying to redefine love. We live in a world that says love should always be wild and passionate. We live in a world that (at the same time) says lasting love is impossible, so just go to the nightclub for an experience (and likely an STD).
Forget about the morning, because mornings are boring…and we couldn’t have that. But we get ‘boring’ all wrong. It is what you do with ‘boring’ that matters. It is the effort to spice things up and bring a smile to one another’s face; that is what matters. 
I saw my parents go through boring days. I saw them go through gut-wrenching days. But I also saw them dance. And that is what made the ‘boring’ beautiful. 
If you ask me, a man who is willing to risk ‘boring’ with you is much better than stupid “Hey girl” quotes from Ryan Gosling or fantasizing over Nicholas Sparks flicks.
Romance is important, but remember that it is only worthwhile if experienced with someone who is willing to do ‘boring’ with you. To quote Lady Grantham from Downton Abbey, “Marriage is a long business.” So let there some beautiful boring times. We serve a God who does exciting things, but most profoundly we sense His daily faithfulness. Can daily faithfulness be boring sometimes? Sure, but mostly…it is beautiful.
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann

“We need a witness to our lives…in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things…all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.'” ~Shall We Dance

This Fraud: Some Thoughts on Sex [Appeal]

Christian, love, marriage, Sex

It is the beat of every drum, the rhythm of every song, and the butt of every joke–sex. We can’t even sell a hamburger without giving a little peek-show. Men and women struggle to see themselves beyond how appealing they are–for sex. Cosmo offers up hundreds of new ways to be satisfied–in sex.
And while we swallow it up, it is we who are consumed. 
The Tempter has taken this precious, valid, and fun gift of God and twisted it into something the very opposite of God’s plan. Our Father gave us bread, but the Prince of the Earth gave us rocks. And we keep  gnawing on them–choking them down like we are dogs. Growing up in a Christian home and church, I knew sex in marriage was okay, but it still seemed like a dirty word–it seemed more like a Satan-word than a God-word. 
The innuendo of movies and TV shows is rarely of married sex, but rather forbidden sex–glorified affairs, uncontrolled passions, and people taking their clothes off in a way that they must have practiced a hundred times, seriously. It is ridiculous.
Bachelor and bachelorette parties become a “last hurrah” a.k.a orgy, because apparently sex inside the confines of marriage is never going to be as fun as sex outside of it.
And we believe. 
The intensity of these lies has continued to build, social norms have shifted, and nothing is off-limits.
Under the guise of liberation, women have succumbed to objectification. Confusing fiction with reality, we flaunt our bodies and say we have every right–men should get over it. What we forget is that we do not get to define what it means to be dignified, what it means to be human. God already did that.
What a dichotomy it is–we say we want to be appreciated for our minds, but we make the focus of our persona bulging breasts or a swaying booty. And yes, a man’s mind is his business, not ours, but we are fools if we think we can will his brain to work differently when he see us scantily clad. Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University, presented some some fascinating/horrifying research on the subject. Look it up.
Girls, if we want men to see us as more than our anatomy, then we must first believe that, indeed, we are. True beauty is that of an honest smile and the light in joyful eyes. It is found in the love of Jesus Christ revealed through our everyday lives. 
Perhaps you have killer legs and perfect hair. Good for you! But this is not who you are. We berate men for objectifying us, but the truth is, we have also objectified ourselves. Placing our value in ten pounds lost or gained, in the size of our bra, or a new outfit, we are left hollow. 
Satan lures us all to a harem–to sell ourselves, telling us this is all we have to offer, our bodies as instruments of sensuality. But we know there is more; there has to be more. 
In the Christian circle we have hammered the “modesty” topic into the ground. But whether we wear full-length skirts or cut-off jean shorts, we must always check ourselves to examine if we are believing the lie. Dear girl, your body (and the way you present it) is important, but it is not who you are. 
So scoff at Satan’s version of sex and what he says about your worth. It is a bunch of malarky. Embrace the truth of what God has said.
Go ahead, reread Song of Songs, and enjoy good, married sex.
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19, ESV).
Photo credit: Google Images/pccwired.org