Mustard Seeds

Mustard Seeds

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Imperfect Nature of Man

My dad said something to me recently that stuck. Things tend to stick more when they are true. He told me, "we all have people we don't want to be around, that are hard for us. You just have more. You're pickier." Well, being picky is nothing new for me. But this was a harder one to come to terms with... I don't want to be picky with people!

In my favorite book, Jane Eyre, Jane meets her first friend, Helen Burns. Helen is an older girl at their boarding school who, no matter how wonderful her personality, seems to always be getting in trouble with the teachers. She is too untidy for their tastes. Jane cannot understand why someone whom she loves so dearly, is treated so poorly. When Helen is scolded again for being untidy, Jane gives way to her feelings about the accuser, a teacher names Miss Scatcherd.

"Such is the imperfect nature of man--such spots are there are on the disk of the clearest planet; and eyes like Miss Scatcherd's can only see those minute defects, and are blind to the full brightness of the orb."  -Charlotte Bronte

This is me. I am Miss Scatcherd much more often than I care to admit. Like the verse that talks about the speck and the plank, I too often see the minute defects in a person and miss the brightness of who they are as a whole orb/person. I see a speck in their eye of deficiency, while missing the greatness of who God made them to be. (Not to mention, missing the plank in my own eye in the process of judging others.)

So how do I change my mentality? Become less picky about who I spend my time with or even engage in conversation with? How do I broaden my scope to see the full brightness of people?

A quote from a friend's own journey helped answer some of these questions for me.

"... life will inevitably hand you lemons but God will show you how to make lemonade. Certain people will be the lemons in our life but God will use them to bear enduring fruit in you. And sometimes I am that very lemon and God shows me grace despite my sourness. The only moments that are sweet are the ones in which we allow God to cultivate and sanctify our lives. In a new year of unforeseen lemon, may we be reminded of His sweetness and sovereignty."  -H.W.

When it is not about me, it is much harder to be frustrated. When it is all about God and what He is doing in my life and other's lives, it is much harder to be impatient. When I realize I am a lemon too, it is much harder to be judgmental.

So, a solution? Have a proper perspective. Give grace to myself and others. Remember, lemons serve many purposes (they clean more than just countertops). And... don't be a Miss Scatcherd. She's too picky.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Best Moments

It seems late to be sharing about a Christmas Break when we are on the cusp of February, with stores decked out in the red and pink of Valentine's Day... but oh well, I like talking about things and people I love...

So, an update from Christmas Break... three and half weeks of wonderful coffee dates and deep conversations. Catching up with family, and bonding more with friends... and FALLING IN LOVE with one little man in particular. So here we go!

First Stop... Del Taco with dad right off the plane. Perfection.

Second Stop... SLO with my sister and grandparents. 
This included a few old traditions and some new ones.


Third Stop... THE BEST STOP!!!! This is my new man, Kenneth the Fourth. And I love him, and his toes, and his nose, and his fuzzy head, and his little noises... and well, just about everything. Hooray for Nephews! (Especially for nephews that take selfies with me.)

Fourth Stop... Christmas with the family. Which included hiking everyday, a trip to the Wild Animal Park, and some other random adventures.

Fifth Stop... friends. I never seem to get enough pictures of people, but, there are a few!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Very Happy New Year

Happy New Year!!!
From: The Johnsons
It bodes well for a new year when the first day is purely magical. And being woken up in the morning to inches of sticky, perfect snow in Temecula Valley (not a mountain) was about as magical as it gets.

Two snowmen, a million snowballs, and two wet outfits later I was still glued to the window hoping it wouldn't melt. Even when day four hit and we only had a snowman the size of a leaf left in the yard, I wasn't ready for it to leave. It was a God-sized blessing to kick off the new year. =)

If you live where there is snow that has to be shoveled, I apologize for these next few moments while I gush about the wonderful nature of frozen water. You hate it. As a Southern Californian who has the choice to either visit snow or stay where it is warm, I love it. Even when we got stuck in it and had to hike down the mountain with wet feet.

Our First Day of Snow:

The barn had a facelift with a white top. Can you see the snowflakes still falling?
I took pictures of everything. Even the fence.
This is our street? WHAT???
I made tracks for my mom to get to the top of the driveway in her slippers through INCHES of snow!!!
Poly dog loved it. Our older girl, Kody, did not.
Our snowmen... Kimberly took her time and it looked WAY better than ours. =)
These pajamas were soaked.

Later in the day we decided to go for a drive... in the truck... up the mountain... with two wheel drive.
We "almost" made it... then had to back up.
And we got stuck. See the truck?
We had to walk down the mountain to get picked up. Success!


Maybe we will see you next year, snow! I hope so! =)

Airport Photo Update

Since my last photo update about our Amazon trip, some things of note have happened... And what better to occupy me for two hours in the airport than writing a blog update? First update on the iPad... We will see if I can finish this or if I get frustrated. :)

From the Orlando airport.... An update on FRIENDS.

Mincaye and Ompodae came from the jungle to visit Steve and I-TEC... So what better than a sushi party at my house? Yeah, that's an Amazonian warrior on my recliner... Haha such a strange experience! But turns out Ompodae loves sushi :)

I've been so blessed by these people this year... You know you are great friends when you will go see live mermaids together and be excited about it!
Or when you will go to a birding class at the local library... It was awesome :)

Other friends are now part of my Florida family... All the way from good ole Cali! Having the Meyers close is such a blessing!!

Heather and I decided to win the "friends of the year award" and eat Troy's food in the hospital... The BBQ he had later was way better.

Here is our I-TEC team. So many wonderful people!

And my happy place... My church. These kids make me so happy and I love teaching two of them every week in church. Their parents (our pastor and his wife) are just as amazing. Then there is the rest of my church family... I will miss them this holiday season!

But I have this incredibly adorable little guy to cuddle... So maybe I won't miss Florida too much... Tomorrow I get to meet him!!!!!!!! First nephew for the win!


The whole point of this post is that there are things to be missed in Florida. Last year I had no desire to return after Christmas, because I hadn't felt like I had left anything behind. Now I have left A LOT behind and I feel so blessed. To think that I get to come back to so many wonderful people is overwhelming. Praise God for fellowship, friendship, and kindred spirits. :) See you in 6 hours California!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Obedient Rocks

I would LOVE to write an end of the year update that sounds something like this: 

"20 people came to know the Lord, 2 communities were taken out of abject poverty, and 200 children were saved from disease through God working in my ministry this year."

I would love to say I had a hand in things like that. That I shared the Gospel with people who have never heard the good news, planted churches, relieved people's felt needs, empowered the poor...

Unfortunately, my update might sound much more self-centered. Because the fruit of my ministry (YOUR ministry as you partner with me) seems distant to me... at times invisible. My end of the year report is not about living in a foreign country or working directly with the lost. It is about something that seems entirely different. But yet, as God is showing me more of His purposes, actually is the same thing...

Last week my pastor told us the story of a king who was tired of his castles, wars, power. He asked the local monastery if he could instead live with them, forsaking everything he had. One of the monks told the king that their life was one of obedience to God, to which the king promptly responded, "yes, that is the life I want!" The monk replied, "Then go. God has asked you to be a king, return and be obedient to that calling."

I was instantly struck by the desire of this king to be obedient... somewhere other than where he was called to be. Sound familiar? It did to me. All year I have asked God, "Why am I here? Why the States? Why a job where I am on my computer all the time? Where are the interactions with people?"

To which He often replies, "Be obedient. Not to the calling you want me to give you. To the place where you are now. To the people you are finding it hard to love now. To the tasks I have asked you to complete here."

And that is what makes this update the same as my updates from Mexico, or any update I could give from another ministry. Obedience. It doesn't really matter where I am, or what I am doing. It doesn't matter if I can see the fruit of my labor or if only God can. Because when I am obedient to God's calling, then I am fulfilling my place in His grand plan, and that is the best kind of success.

So, what have I seen in this process of obedience? That God is REALLY working on me, I mean really. I feel that this year has consisted of Him chunking off parts of me that were unsightly or unChristlike and smoothing out my rough edges. I feel like I may have started out the year looking like this:

All the while thinking I looked like a nice, smooth little ocean pebble. And now, I realize I have SO many places where God needs to come in with a chisel. I now look a little less bristly, like this rock below, but, I am still rough. Notice the little crosses on the top of this rock? They give me hope that I might be reflecting God a little bit better as I go through this process. (click the picture for a better look)

Basically, I have seen myself under a magnifying glass this year: my flaws, my inability to love well, my judgmental nature, my pride, my... the list goes on and on. And I have come out feeling raw and frustrated yet refined and challenged. I have felt like a failure, all the while getting to see God succeed. Though the frustration and tears are more common than the parties and confetti, I sense that this is a year I will remember for the rest of my life. The hardest year. The one where God made me look more like Him.

Maybe He is refining me for something harder down the road. Helping me see how to love people now so the people that need His love even more will be easier to share it with. I sense I wouldn't succeed in the harder places of missionary life without this refining first.

So, as I sit behind my computer once again, I don't have much to show you. Maybe I could show you some website content that impacted people, and few videos that spoke to someone, new designs around the office that brightened someone's day, pages of edited workbooks that will be used in churches around the country. Electronic based ministry is hard to pinpoint. But I COULD show you my journal, my prayers, my God moments. There is a lot to be seen there. Maybe something you can learn from. That would be nice!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

To Leave a Comment

Quick tip since I have had a few people mention that my blog won't let them leave comments. If you would like to comment, which I would love, simply click on the post heading and there will be a comment box at the end of that specific post. Thanks to everyone who reads this!

One Year in Florida

Today marks a year since my dad and I drove across the Alabama-Florida line and arrived at my new home. A year since we unpacked my car and placed all of my boxes in an empty room. A year since I had a meltdown as I sat on my unmade bed and couldn't believe my dad was leaving the next day on a 5 hour flight away from me. A year since I started a completely new chapter.

I can hardly believe it.
What do you write to sum up a year of emotions, challenges, blessings, and Jesus? It's impossible, unless you wanted to ride the roller coaster with me all over again. So instead, I am going to use this time to focus on what is happening now and what is to come.

I have been abundantly blessed this year with ministry. Not only has my idea of "ministry" changed and grown but also my opportunity to take part in it. Since finding my new church family in April, I have been able to jump right in to serving. So much so that I have run out of time in the week to feel like I am doing ministry well. So after much prayer and talking with my Media boss at I-TEC, I have decided to take Fridays as church ministry days. It is my time to work on media projects for church, plan my lessons for children's Super Church (I have taken over the first service for 1st through 5th graders), practice the worship music for Sunday, and really study my lessons for facilitating a women's bible study group. It is a very full day indeed. But such a blessing.

Another way that ministry has expanded is in the evenings, after I get home from work at I-TEC. I recently started attending classes at a gym and I can see God really bonding me to the other people at this small Karate Dojo where the people are like a family. It has been incredible to be a part of this group where I have an opportunity to shine like Jesus. It's about time I had some non-Christian community! Especially since my church is across the street... that's pretty much my Jerusalem (Acts 1:8).

A third and really huge way that my definition of ministry has expanded is in relationships. Before, when I was interrupted by a conversation or an unexpected interaction with a person, I would feel unproductive. Now, I welcome those moments when I can focus on a person instead of a task. Building relationships at work, at the store, anywhere... that is truly ministry. Time to truly pour out on and receive love from people. This is a part of my journey with the Lord that I have been loving recently.

In this month of reflecting on this one year mark, I have thought many times about the massive amount of gratitude I have for you all. Without your support none of this would be possible. It would not be possible for me to work in missions with the freedom to take Fridays off, to spend time building friendships during the day, to serve wherever God is calling me. You are the team that makes my ministry able to grow and expand and become something new every day. Thank you for being faithful to encourage and uplift me. Thank you for being well... amazing.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Let's Be Real...

Let's be (slightly sarcastically) real... there are a lot of things we as single people get to do that others cannot. To make you more grateful for your singleness let's take a look at some of those things... with some selfies thrown in (because that just makes sense for a post about being single)...

1. Netflix binges. The other Friday night I was sitting on my couch thinking, "I should probably go to bed, that would be the responsible thing to do." Then, I realized I had no reason to be that responsible! So I watched another three episodes of "Top Gear UK." And I was content.
This is Mexico in the World Cup but still a TV binge.

2. Sleeping in. I love going to bed one day a week without setting an alarm. For some reason my body is like a teenager's and I can sleep for days. If I had another person in my room I wouldn't be able to sleep off my "Arrow" binges till 11 in the morning.
How I feel when I don't sleep enough...

3. Eating cereal for dinner. How many married men want their wives to say, "I don't want to cook and I am not that hungry. So I am going to eat cereal, and maybe some chocolate, for dinner"? Not many. So I happily eat whatever I want for dinner while I am still only responsible for my own food. 
Maybe onions are more your style... still not a complete meal.

4. Running around like a headless chicken. While I can, I overbook my life with ministry, friends, church, and the gym. Because I can! I don't have a single relationship (other than God, mind you) that I have to focus on daily. I see my roommates and friends a lot but our friendships are not affected if I sometimes only see them for ten minutes a week. I am basically free to fill up all my hours with things I love to do.
Selfies work with other people too. Out to dinner for Emma's Birthday.

5. Traveling. I love it. And sometimes at the last minute I find myself planning trips to places because my schedule is mine. We really need to realize how cool that is. To do what we want, when we want (within reason) on a whim. 
 Amazon Jungle!? Yes.

I totally understand that things like spontaneous trips to the beach, marathons of TV shows, and eating only a pile of veggies for dinner can be done (or even improved upon) when you are dating/married. I am just grateful that I get to do this all the time now.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Home

When we were giving praise reports last night in Bible Study I had to praise God for this most recent transition back to Florida. Thinking of leaving my friends and family AGAIN made me cry a little bit everyday when I was in Mexico and Temecula, CA. (Not that everyone knew that I was on the verge of a meltdown for about a week there.) I teared up seeing my older sister's belly containing the newest Kenneth Ernest Fietz (IV), I spilled some tears saying goodbye to Mexico once again, I even cried just looking at my mom. She wisely told me to go to bed. That helped, I was exhausted. The worst, however, were the tears in the airport on the phone with my grandma (the San Diego airport is tiny, everyone saw), and the tears as I left the Orlando Airport and stepped into the extreme mugginess of Florida. I was a mess.

The praise is that only a few days later I was ok with Florida once again. We reconciled (most) of our differences and I feel more at home again. I still hate the bugs, humidity, and distance from home. But I also love my church, my friends here, the work I get to do at I-TEC, flying, and my roommates. So I think the giant spiders will have to die one by one as I get my courage up to squash them and  the humidity will just continue being destroyed with air conditioning. All is well. Praise God for contentment in His plans. When you know He has you someplace on purpose, sometimes it doesn't even matter what the purpose is (the jury is still out on that one).

As for the trip itself... too many good things to list them all! I spent 4.5 days in Ejido El Porvenir, Mexico and 4.5 days in Temecula, California. It was not enough time in either place but unless I can clone myself to live permanently in both places, it never will be. Both places are home to me. Which is probably why I maximized my time with people. I think my longest night of sleep might have reached 6 hours. Most were closer to 5. For me, that's insane. I was a zombie by the end. A happy zombie. Once again, I regale you with a tale via pictures:

 After two trips it took me FOREVER to be motivated to pack again.
Such a welcome sight! I drove down with three close friends: Jason (on staff with me my first year), Jessica (one of my students last year), and Rachel (worked at the orphanage in Porvenir my first year).
The first day in Porvenir meant a nice lunch in the valley with the Vomsteegs and gang. Oh how I love these people!
 We went to the beach of course and discovered you could tour ships, for free, from the Mexican Armada... pretty sweet!
 Our old houses were gone. No more Ventana as we know it. Lots of changes happening!
 Rachel and I attended our friends' wedding and it was beautiful. Then I found out last week that we made it in the newspaper (middle right). We are now Ensenada Socialites.

I don't know why I don't have any pictures with my Mexican friends. I spent more time with them than anything. I think others have pictures on their phones.

To Temecula!
 Temecula was a whirl of coffee/dinner/hang out dates with people who mean the world to me like Kristin and Chelsea here. Chels was showing Kristin how to do makeup and I just know it was a lost cause for me. ;)
 I got a great afternoon of Del Mar, Ikea, and Panera with Stacey. She makes everything great. =)
Spent an evening at the beach with Matt (who now lives in Chicago) and Chelsea (who lives in Ukraine)... such a random but good combination.
 Then the best part of California! Celebrating Amanda and Kenny, and itty bitty Kenny, aka Cuatro. The shower was beautiful (go mom!) and it was so great to spend time with this baby bump and the family.
 I am truly blessed with such amazing sisters. =)