Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas in Paradise!

This is my last update from Belize until February! 

We're in our final week here as we prepare to head to our outreach locations. I'm blown away by how fast the time went here. Sad to leave my YWAMDP family and this beautiful country, but my outreach team is so great. I'm excited. :)

Christmas is the day after tomorrow! What!!! I can't believe it. It doesn't feel anything like Christmas here. But we've been doing things throughout December to put us in the Christmas spirit a little bit. Last night we went around the island to sing Christmas carols! Mixed reactions. Apparently everyone doesn't love Christmas carols as much as I do. 

Our outreach team will be leaving on December 26th at 6:30 AM. We're taking so many different types of transportation and staying two nights in different countries. We're even exchanging a ride to Honduras for hot sauce. Sketchy. But awesome. We'll arrive in Costa Rica at some point on Monday. We hope. :) There are so many variables. Haha. 

So far all we know is that we're going to stay at a place that hosts outreach teams and its on the side of a volcano!! We're going to take a day to hike up to the top to see the lava! Coolest ever!!

Team Costa Rica!!! (Our leader isn't pictured here, but he still loves us. Josh is in the back center, and he's the assistant leader.)

Quick emotional paragraph::

Guys, I can't thank you enough for your continued support through prayers. Your finances helped me get here, but your prayers have carried me through one of the most significant seasons in my life so far, and they will continue to be my lifeline as I'm experiencing new things in a new culture. I wouldn't be seeing the growth and healing that I am if it weren't for your prayers for me. I'm beyond blessed to have you all as my prayer warriors. I pray extra blessings on you at home as you invest on me down here in Central America!!

Here are a few pictures from my time here in Belize to close the post with. :)

"This trusty snowman shows up here every year!" Spotted on a resort on our walk to town. 
Team building activity. Taking our unconscious leader to the hospital through treacherous conditions with a "local" who can't speak our language or read body language. (I'm in the background!!!)
We do yoga sometimes here. :)
Mermaid Alyssa!
Our wonderful staff put on a fancy dessert night for us last week. We dressed up and they escorted us to our seats and served us so well with wonderful food and coffee drinks. Favorite night ever. Such a thoughtful group of people.
Pictured above are the girls of our DTS. :)
I got to live with these four WONDERFUL girls in the "Bonita Casita" over the past few months. So many laughs and so few arguments. I wouldn't trade my time with them for anything. We pray together, laugh together, and sing together on an almost daily basis, and I love how well all of them shine for Jesus. (It's okay to be cheesy because we have Aly Cheese on our squad.) 
I took this during my quiet time this morning, and while it's not the best quality of picture, I love the bright sun in contrast to the darkness of the ocean. Such a good representation of life. :)

Merry Christmas from the land of the Palm trees!!! I hope your holidays are full of joy and you give an extra hug to those you love! Because I wish I could this year. :) 

Hugs and kisses!
- Alyssa - 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Great Divorce

For my final book report, I read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. (READ IT!! Because there is no way I'll do it justice.) 

It was about a man's journey in a dream from a grey world, which represents hell, to a heavenly world where the ghostly creatures who are traveling from Hell meet solid people in this new foreign world. 

The ghosts are only there temporarily unless they make the decision to journey up the mountain which will cause them to become solid and enter "heaven". The problem is that most of them are not aware or refuse to believe that the top of the mountain holds eternal glory, so most of them choose for one reason or another not to make the journey. If they don't choose verbally to go back to hell, their lack of choice is the decision itself. 

The book is fictional, but it tells of scenarios that we see every day in which people are choosing to refuse the gift of eternal life in heaven. Whether it's because they can't believe in an absolute heaven and hell or they are too chained to their fractured self to let go and gain freedom, all of the characters have their reasons for not making the journey, and the ghost telling the story is present to witness many of the conversations that determine their final destinations. 

I loved this whole book, but one part stuck out to me more than others. In this part, the one experiencing the dream - a ghost - is asking one of the solid men in the new world about those who never make it to heaven. He is concerned that people won't be able to experience this incredible place. 

The man responds:

"Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened."

It is portrayed here that there is no one who hears of heaven that simply misses it. Either he wants it, or he rejects it.

There is no way to know when our time on earth will be over. I pray today that those who are waiting for a huge revelation will receive it. 

I pray that those who are holding onto bitterness or mistrust will let it go and claim freedom over these things. Those negative thoughts were put there by the enemy. He wants you in hell. But they were nailed to the cross with Jesus so we don't have to carry them.

I pray for those who are dragging their feet in this area in order to experience "life". That they will realize that there is no joy in life without God. He is the source of joy. He is the source of freedom. He is life. 

And I pray that people will be awakened to the fact that an indecision in this area is a decision to spend an eternity separated from the Creator. 

The very one who breathed life into each of us in the womb wants us to join him. We have been invited on an adventure!! And let me tell you.. It's so much fun. 

Sorry to get preachy on ya. :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Perceptions vs. Reality

Background Knowledge
Last week for lectures we had Jeff Pratt come and talk about God's heart for us. It was my favorite week of lectures so far. Not only is Jeff an incredibly talented speaker, but he revealed truths to us through his experiences and through movie clips that so closely related to our lives. (Fun fact: I would do DTS all over again just to hear his teaching again. So impactful!!!)

During the week, we were given questions to answer that helped us identify our "false self" - the person we want people to see us as, but not our true selves. After coming together and revealing our false selves to the rest of the group, we discussed who God sees us as. Then there was a time of prayer and affirmation which was super powerful. (These things took place over three days.)

One of the last things Jeff had us do was to write the things we falsely believed about ourselves -our false selves/old names- on one side of the paper, then on the other side what God believes about us in regards to the words we wrote down. He wanted us to have "new names" that we could go back to when we were feeling attacked in those ways again. 

I want to write some of the things that have been revealed to me in my time here. Not all of these are from last week, but I'm realizing all the time that the way I see myself isn't always how God or other people see me.

Introvert vs. Extrovert
I've seen myself as a complete introvert for so long. I always thought that I would rather be alone than with other people, but I'm realizing that I'm not that way at all. There are definitely times that I need to get away and recharge in peace, but I'm generally one who loves being around people. I think my retreating has been more about insecurity than it has been about being an introvert. My time in Belize has been spent mostly with lots of people all the time, and I absolutely love it. But I still won't be the first to speak up in large groups. :)

Bad Speaker vs. Competent Speaker
I have always told people that I'm bad at public speaking. I don't love it, but in the past few months I've been pushed to do it (a ton of times), and I have found that I'm not actually bad at it at all. When I spoke at the churches before coming to Belize, people told me they couldn't tell that I was nervous, and all my presentations here have had comments on the feedback forms about me being a clear and confident speaker. That was a shocking discovery for me.

Tall vs. Short
I know this sounds funny, but until about two weeks ago I thought I was tall. I always thought it was funny that my Auntie Robin called me petite because in my head I'm as tall or taller than most. Two weeks ago in line for lunch I discovered that I am in fact NOT taller than all my "little" friends. I'm the shortest one in my casita and one of the shortest on base.

Rude vs. Friendly
This one was hard to label. I basically believed that people saw me as a rude person because I'm not super outgoing when I meet new people. This stems from high school when I had a friend who told me he thought I was a snob before he got to know me. I realized while talking to a friend at home about this that people don't actually view me this way. I've spent years assuming that people all viewed me as rude, so I rarely made an effort to reach out to new people in fear I would come across wrong. 

Since being here, I'm realizing that people truly don't see me in that way, and it's changing the way I interact with people. So crazy that I let someone's opinion of me become a truth. 

Weak vs. Strong
I came to DTS very guarded. I didn't want anyone to see my emotions because I believed that emotions showed weakness. For whatever reason I felt that I had to be strong all the time and that meant I had to hide myself in order to portray that I had it all together. 

My small group leader and I were talking in a one-on-one and this came up. She asked me some questions then said, "you don't want people to see you as weak, but you're afraid to show your strengths." She challenged me to talk to God about it and to write the things God loves about me so I could find my strengths. 

There is absolutely no way I can write all of the transformation that happened in this area of my life, but God has shown me that many of the things I viewed as weaknesses were actually planted in me on purpose and FOR a purpose. He's showing me that the emotions help direct me to a passion and a purpose, and I will use this information to impact people in crazy cool ways. They're not weaknesses at all. 

In closing..
Like I said before, I'm realizing new things all the time about myself - which is a really cool thing about DTS, but I'm also learning so much about God. There are only two weeks left of lectures and that kind of breaks my heart, but the closer we get to outreach, the more excited I get for that phase. 

Thank you for your continued prayers as we dive into the rest of our week of teaching (on spiritual warfare!) and as our leaders figure out details of our outreach. We still know nothing. Ha! I'll update you when we get answers.

Thanks for reading! If you made it to the end of this monster of a post.. Kudos. 💜