Having The Faith of a Mustard Seed She Achieved Her Goal-My Friend Ko from Burma

Jesus compared a mustard seed to having faith in that the mustard seed is small but grows to be a tree. If we have faith, even a small amount, we can do great things.

God has blessed me with opportunities to meet and help refugees from literally all over the world. It is especially meaningful for me to see how they progress with their new lives in America. I love going to their celebrations such as weddings and birthdays and also experience their holidays. There is special significance for me in going to graduation celebrations. High School graduations are life markers for anyone, but a high school graduation for a young person who came to America as a refugee as a child with his or her parents is HUGE.

Saturday afternoon I visited the home of my friend Ko. She graduated from high school on Sunday, so she had a party with her family/extended family on Saturday.

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me with Ko

Ko came here as a child with her parents from the refugee camp in Thailand. Her parents are from Burma. Her father was in a class I taught the first several months after they came here. With everything her family has overcome through the years, Ko’s graduation is a major highlight. I have spoken with many refugee parents, who like Ko’s mother, work in places like a meat packing plant focusing on the future of their children. For Ko’s parents, her graduation makes their sacrifices worth it.

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Ko with her proud parents

Ko will go on to become a nurse. I joked with her that if she is ever my nurse to remember to bring me ice cream. Her graduation is a major achievement because it means that she learned English to be able to then study regular high school courses in her second language English to achieve her goal. She is a quiet hero in my mind. It takes courage to go to a high school where she was the only student from her language and country. Step by step she trusted in Jesus to achieve her goal. I am so proud of her.

I have had the privilege of knowing many young people from other countries who have come as refugees, gone on to graduate high school and then on to college. I know young adults who came here as refugee children who are now in medical school, nursing school, pharmacy school, and one who got her MBA and CPA and another one who graduated with her Masters Degree in Architecture.

So if you happen to meet an adult from another country with limited English, not dressed the best, living a low income life, don’t be quick to judge. Their kids might be your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, accountant etc someday. I know because I see it all the time. If you take the time to get to know a refugee family, it could be a wonderful blessing for you.

Ko has accomplished a lot in her young 18 years and will continue to accomplish a lot trusting in Jesus all the way. That is the faith of a mustard seed put into action 🙂

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Being Vigilant for Our Youth/The TV Series 13 Reasons Why

This is not my usual inspirational post or humorous post. In fact I don’t really have a category to place it in from my normal categories. Today’s post is hopefully a wake up call regarding something in our culture. It may not be a popular post for views, but I don’t care about stats for this except if people read this, perhaps they will take it to heart.

Over the weekend I watched a TV show on Netflix that normally I wouldn’t watch, but a tragedy seven years ago was my motivation for watching the show. The show was 13 Reasons Why 2nd season. The tragedy seven years ago was a 19 year old girl I knew completed suicide. I was alarmed after watching the first season last year. I was EVEN MORE alarmed after watching the 2nd season. It is concerning to me that the release of the 2nd season was right at a time most kids are heading into summer break from school and will have less support.

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There are experiences that never leave us, that get stuck in our memories. When I went to the funeral for the girl and saw how devastated her family and friends were, it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. She had graduated high school in May that year and completed suicide in September only a few weeks before she was supposed to start college. I called the high school the next morning to express my concern for her friends who I knew from my weekend groups at my church and who were still in the high school. The high school had not heard yet because she was not a student at the time. I was on the phone several times that day with different people at the high school. Some of the young people were upset with me for doing that, but they were okay and others watched out for them, so it was all worth it.

Out of that group of young people that I mentored and helped with English, 1 is in Medical School, 4 are in Pharmacy School, 1 got her MBA and CPA, 1 got her Masters in Architecture, 3 are in Nursing School, and the others graduated from university, all except the girl who took her own life. That still bothers me to this day. She had stopped coming to my weekend groups, so I had lost contact with her the last 1 1/2 years of her life.

Prior to completing suicide she had been listening to a song several times, “If I Die Young.” When I heard about it, I watched the video and was alarmed the video for the song showed a beautiful young woman laying in a boat on flowers and surrounded by flowers portraying a dead person while singing the song. I informed people I knew about the song and to please be watchful for young people infatuated with the song.

I am deeply concerned that a series like 13 Reasons Why is on Netflix. Netflix is great for binge watching seasons at a time which I have done with Spanish shows to practice listening to Spanish. My concern is that teens will binge watch the show 13RW because the story is centered around a teen girl completing suicide..

As a Christian, I am mindful of what the bible says about spiritual battles when it says our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. I think we can tend to think of the battle against darkness as being like the exorcist type movies when what it really comes in like are subtle forms. 13 Reasons Why is spiritually DARK. There is no other way to put it. The only reason I watched it is to know what young people I minister to might be watching.

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After my friend completed suicide in September 2011, I went through suicide prevention training. The concern over contagion, other kids being emboldened to try it, is very real. Teens do not have a concrete concept of the forever aspect of death. If your teen or a teen you know binge watches that show, please check on them. Listen to them and talk with them not at them.

If you are thinking of suicide, or have had thoughts that there is no hope and want to end it, please call- 1-800-273-8255. You have value. There is hope.

Unfortunately we live in a day and age that being vigilant is a necessity if we want to protect the young people in our lives. If you would like to know more about suicide prevention, here is a link –suicide prevention training   Since I went through the training, I have been able to intervene for two teens that were contemplating suicide and both are alive today and doing much better.

If you want to know more about the show 13RW and why it is dangerous for youth but do not have the time to watch it, a blog I follow did an excellent job in a post describing why it is concerning. Here is the link- beautybeyondbones

A final thought is that those of us who are follow Jesus are to be a light in the darkness. A practical way to be a light is to listen and talk with teens. Maybe a teen you know is doing well but perhaps concerned about a friend or classmate. Maybe a pre-teen has watched it. Even elementary teachers I interact with had concerns about the first season. Our youth today need to hear that there are loved, have value, and that we are on their side and that God loves them and cherishes them. There are so many voices pulling them in many directions and filling their spirits with darkness. Let’s love them, listen to them, and pray for them.

Music Mondays- I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe

Jesus said in John 16 that we will have problems in this life but encourages us that he has overcome the world.  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We have no guarantees in this life. As I spend time with refugees, I am constantly reminded of how life can be turned upside down in seemingly an instant. A man from Bosnia shared with me his pain over the fact that a neighbor he had often played cards and drank coffee with turned against him during the genocide there in the 1990s.

I will never forget my friend from Korea, an international student, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer only months before he would have finished his Phd and died a few months later.

Following Jesus does not make us immune to problems in life. My first serious battle with autoimmune began when I was studying for the ministry in the 1990s. In this life we will have struggles, disappointments, illnesses, along with the joys, accomplishments, and celebratory moments. This life is a mixed bag.

Jesus gave another promise that is encouraging to me. He promised he would always be with us in Matthew 28-  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So he who has overcome the world has promised to always be with us. Even if others abandon us, he will be with us.

So today I would like to share a song by Kari Jobe with you, I Am Not Alone in hopes that it helps us remember that whatever circumstance we are in that Jesus is with us. I hope your Monday is blessed. 🙂

Books that have impacted me- Left to Tell by Immaculee Iligabiza

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I love reading books, all kinds of books. Some books I have read for entertainment or escape into a different world such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Some books I read to grow in my faith. But biographies or autobiographies about people who have been through difficult ordeals and made it through with God’s help are special for me to read. One such autobiography that impacted me is Left to Tell by Immaculee Iligabiza.

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I found Left to Tell, or perhaps I should say Left to Tell found me, at a time when I was wrestling with staying in Lincoln to help refugees and immigrants. I was pulled in two directions, go teach English in another country or stay in Lincoln. I love being in other countries and have had several trips of a month or longer in other countries, so the thought of living in another country teaching English has always been appealing to me. But at the time I read the book in 2008, there were already thousands of refugees living in my home city of Lincoln.

In her book Left to Tell, Immaculee shares about her experience of hiding in a bathroom for months during the genocide in Rwanda in the early 1990s. She shares about how she grew close to God through prayer while hiding in the bathroom. She also shares about the horrors of the genocide, and what happened after the genocide as she sought to start life over again.

The book impacted me because it helped me think more vividly about the experiences that many of my refugee friends have been through. Many of them have escaped genocides in places like Burma, Iraq, and Sudan or have been subjected to oppression in places like Vietnam, Ukraine, and Iran. It was because of reading Left to Tell that I had peace in the decision to stay in Lincoln and help refugees here.

I had the chance to meet Immaculee in November 2011 when she came to do a retreat at a Catholic High School here, Pius X High School. I went to the Friday evening segment where she shared her story. I was able to thank her for her book and share with her what it meant to me.

What books have impacted you?

An Avocado Salad + A Refugee Family= Me Learning Something

I have the opportunity to spend time with friends from many different countries/cultures every week, actually every day. I teach them English, help them with issues related to living in America, and spend time with them as friends. What they may not realize is that I learn from them. Sometimes I learn life lessons from them. I always enjoy learning about their cultures. Sometimes it is something that seems minor, but I appreciate it so much.

One example of something that may sound trite or silly to you, but I appreciate learning, is that I like avocados.

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All my life I assumed I didn’t like avocados because they were used to make guacamole and well whenever I looked at guacamole, it made me think of something I won’t mention because I don’t want to gross you out. So for years, I didn’t eat avocados and avoided guacamole at parties.

Then one day I went to visit a refugee family from Iran that I had been helping. They wanted me to come for dinner as a way to thank me for helping them. I love Iranian food, so I was excited to join them for dinner.

I got there and the wife/mother told me their 15 year old daughter made salad for the first time because I was coming for dinner. So I knew that I had to “like” whatever she made and let her know how much I liked it because she had never made salad before and in her mind, I was an honored guest.

We sat down for dinner and I looked at the salad and saw it had avocado, tomato, onion, and bits of cheese. No problem I told myself because I had a glass of Pepsi as back up to wash down the taste of avocado and not let it show to the girl that I didn’t like the salad. So I took a bite of the salad as she watched not wanting to disappoint her.

Lo and behold, I took my first bite of the salad and discovered something. I LIKE AVOCADOS. That may not sound like much to you, but it opened up a new culinary world for me. Now I  enjoy guacamole too. Another benefit for me- Avocados are healthy. I eat them with other veggies a couple of times a week. They are good with eggs too. I even make my own version of guacamole sometimes.

So she was happy to see me eat three servings of her salad and I discovered I love avocados. It was a win/win situation 🙂

A slightly humorous story but one that illustrates my experience in life. As I seek to serve others, I learn and grow. My refugee friends add to my life in so many ways. My hope is that they also learn that God loves them as I help them and share life with them.

 

Saying Goodbye to My Moms for the Summer

Summertime is here, not officially on the calendar for the change of seasons, but for my morning class it is. This morning we will say goodbye for the summer.

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The last morning means taking down the calendar my moms made and also the other things they made to decorate the room, so when we leave the walls will be bare and the room will ready for summer cleaning. The calendar and decorations represent life and learning  happening in the room.

The last day of class brings mixed emotions for me. I have to confess that I look forward to the one week I grant myself of no alarm clock next week because I am NOT a morning person, but that is the one positive aspect of saying goodbye for the summer. It is also a melancholy moment for me because it means saying goodbye to a group of moms I am so proud of.

This year has been one that I have perhaps felt more burdened to pray for my moms than previous years. This year has been one of doing a kind of quick triage each morning checking on how my moms are doing before class begins, asking one mom about her asthma, another mom about her heart, asking the two who had babies how they were doing in the months before the had their babies in March, etc.

Over the summer I will wonder about and pray for my moms such as the mom who came as a new refugee in December and started my class 2 weeks after she came here. She has been battling thyroid issues the past month. She will definitely be on my prayer list.

I will also pray for a mom from Mexico who has been a great helper for the other moms including organizing baby showers even though she has been the glue to keep her family together after her husband had a brain injury and throughout his recovery.

There is also the mom whose husband died this year who is now a single mom of four kids. She will definitely be on my prayer list.

Saying goodbye for the summer represents the commitment to learning and education my moms have made but it represents more than that. It represents relationships formed, breakthrough moments, obstacles overcome and much more.

I am writing this the night before because every year when this moment comes, I don’t feel like doing anything the rest of the day. This morning is the moment to let go and pray for them. When I come home, I will probably binge watch some shows because the emotional let down will hit. Saturday will bring a new day of opportunities to share Christ’s love.

I hope today is a blessed day for you. Thanks for reading. God Bless 🙂

Over 100 Followers as of this week, so time to share a few thoughts

This week my blog went over 100 followers. SO FIRST OF ALL- THANKS. Thank you to all of you who follow my blog!!!

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 While other blogs have far more followers, for me the number 100 means something. I promised myself to write a post to share some things after my blog reached 100.

So I am writing this post while drinking a cup of coffee in my new coffee cup from Cuba thanks to my friend Karen from Cuba. 🙂

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Something that stats do not show you but show me that I want you to know. I see countries in my stats, not who of course, but countries that people view my posts from. I am aware of the countries where being a Christian can mean danger for you. When I see one of those countries, I pray for whoever the person is who viewed my blog from the country.

I also pray for those whose blogs I have read and know a little of their struggles from reading their posts.

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I started this blog in 2009 as a way for those who had come to my Sunday morning group at church and moved away to keep in touch. But something happened along the way. I lost my creative side due to foggy brain of Celiacs. So after the first six months, I did not post much from 2010  until this year and I had about 25 followers. Last year I found out I have Celiacs Disease and became gluten free. A few months later, the foggy brain was gone and then one day Pastor Nat at my church preached about how we want to be a creative church. It was like God opened the window mind and my creative side emerged again. As someone who has acted, written drama scripts and directed, to go through a monotone world of not being creative for 7 years was depressing, which is why I am thrilled to be back to writing. God reminded me of a piece I wrote about the Angel Gabriel visiting the Nativity of Christ. So I rewrote it with a few changes and my church used it in our Christmas Eve service.

This is a video I made with my iPad of the Gabriel piece it you want to see it.

Other writing ideas kept coming to me and in late March this year, I began to focus more intentionly on this blog. So in 7 weeks, my blog went from 25 followers to over 100. I am so grateful to you for following my blog and to those who read it via facebook and twitter.

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One thing I have not shared is why I chose the name jesusluvsall for my blog. Jesus is my everything. I am only alive because of him after he intervened for me that night in July 1995 when I was close to death. It is because of him that I am alive to help others. He guided me to become an English Second Language teacher and to share his love with people from all over the world living here in my city Lincoln Nebraska that for most of you would be in the middle of nowhere 🙂 Jesus has also led me to share him in my travels to Romania, France, Mexico and Brazil. He has blessed me to be able to join in worship with brothers and sisters in a church in Romania, a Turkish speaking church also in Romania, in a church in Lyon France, in a church in Ensenada Mexico, and in churches in Brazil through my travels, and also in Spanish speaking, Ukranian speaking, Vietnamese speaking, Karen speaking, Zomi speaking and Arabic speaking, Korean speaking, and Nuerr speaking churches in Lincoln. Jesus has blessed me to experience his love for ALL PEOPLE. So to sum it up, my blog posts are written for an audience of one- Jesus-to honor him, in hopes that it blesses those he loves- YOU.

Again THANK YOU for following my blog, reading my posts via facebook and twitter, for the likes and the comments. I love comments. I hope you have a blessed day.

Now if I could only decide whether to shave off my beard for summer or not. What do you think? 🙂

 

3 Day Quote Challenge- A Quote That Shows Life Is An Adventure

Quoting a hobbit for the 3 Day Quote challenge? Yes, I am going to quote Bilbo Baggins and his advice to Frodo because in a light hearted way it communicates how I view my life. Biblo advised Frodo, “It is a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.”

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Why am I quoting Bilbo Baggins in the 3rd day of a  3 Day Quote Challenge?

Because for me life is an adventure. I never know who the Lord will bring across my path and into my life. Some days I don’t know where I will go if need arises.

Bilbo had adventures, which according to the Tolkien books were quite unnatural for a hobbit. Yet as I read the book the Hobbit, it seems to me that despite his protests, Bilbo enjoys adventure even with the troubles, detours etc.

When I think back on my life following Jesus, I realize that after I stepped out the door, I was swept away into an adventure I will never regret. Yes there have been struggles, troubles, detours etc. There have been times I wondered if I would have been better off staying at the position I had before I left for school in Minneapolis to study for the ministry.

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But God causes all things to work together for those who are called according to his purposes. The adventure God has led me into has been one of meeting people from all over the world who have come to my city as refugees and immigrants. I have experienced their cultures, foods, celebrations and best of all their friendships.

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Another aspect of my adventure has been international travel with 7 trips to Romania, 1 trip to France, 1 trip to Mexico, and 2 trips to Brazil. It has been a huge blessing to serve Jesus in those places in different ways and of course to have side trips to places like Austria, Switzerland, Germany and England.

God knows how each of us is wired because he weaved us in our mother’s wombs. He knows us better than we know ourselves, so when he calls us onto the road of adventure, the adventure of following him, he knows what that adventure should be to match how we were created. For me it is international travel and ministry. That is how I am wired and is what fulfills me the most in serving Jesus.

There are other kinds of adventures serving Jesus. What kind gives you fulfillment?

Thank you to Amy of A New Life blog for nominating me for the 3 Day Quote Challenge,

To the challenge…The rules are as follows:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

I would like to nominate a blogger I have come to really admire recently, thevoiceofpeace

Please check out The Voice of Peace and be inspired by how she overcomes with the help of God 🙂

 

3 Day Quote Challenge- Light and Love in the Darkness

Over the past 18 years I have met people from all over the world. Some have been fun friendships such as my friends from Brazil. Such friendships are mostly meeting to help with knowing things about Lincoln and helping with English while also learning about their culture.

But some people I have met have stories that when one hears them, it can rip your heart into pieces. These friendships cause me to draw from Jesus in prayer, so I can show them love and friendship and not be completely drained.

Some stories stay with me such as a woman I met from Afghanistan who struggles with PTSD because she saw loved ones killed in front of her and then she had to go over the mountains into a neighboring country to go to the refugee camp with her two year old in her arms and other children beside her.

I have visited Yazidi refugees in their homes and listened to them share about back home as they show me pictures of their homes in Iraq and of family and friends. When they look down and can’t say anything, I understand it is because the family member or friend was killed by the terrorists.

I have met young men from Sudan who were missing part of or all of an arm because when the government troops came they grabbed the young man, when he was a boy, a cut off part of or all of his arm so he could not fight against them when they were older.

There is such darkness in the world. Jesus said of Satan, “The thief comes to rob, kill and destroy.” I have met many victims of torture and survivors of genocides over the years.

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Jesus has called me to be a light in the darkness. That comes in different forms in the lives of people I meet. Sometimes it is helping them as a friend with their new lives in America. Being a light also means in my classes when I encourage my students and treat them with dignity. I will never forget when I heard my Yazidi friends were labeled as less than human by the terrorists as a ‘justification’ for the genocide. My desire is for every refugee I meet to feel that I treat them with the dignity they deserve as human beings created by God.

I love what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I have not been around the perpetrators of the hate my refugee friends have endured, but my hope is through my friendship with them that it can help to bring light into their lives and that they feel they are loved. In other words help drive out what the darkness and hate did to them. Most of their physical scars can never heal, but perhaps their emotional and psychological ones can heal over time if they are shown love.

Jesus did not stop with saying what Satan wanted to do, he finished it by saying, “But I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus wants to give life, healing, peace in our hearts, and much more. My hope is to show that through practical ways  to my refugee friends who are victims of some of the worst horrors in this world.

This is Day 2 of the 3 Day Quote Challenge that Amy Blount of A New Life blog nominated me for. Thank you Amy.

To the challenge…The rules are as follows:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

I would like to reach across the pond and nominate a blog I enjoy by a young woman who has overcome a lot of adversity and shares encouragement joypassiondesire

Thank you for reading today. I hope you have a blessed day.

3 Day Quote Challenge Day 1- Music Mondays- I Can Only Imagine Sung by Aliyah Moulden on The Voice

Wow I woke up and found that while I was sleeping, I had already had my best day for views and visitors and ALSO that I have been nominated for the 3 Day Quote Challenge by Amy Blount in her blog A New Life.  You can click on her name in blue to visit her great blog where she shares about her life overcoming difficulties with her faith and being a mom. I enjoy reading her posts and think you will too. The 3 Day Quote Challenge is for a blogger to write a post 3 days in a row using a quote that means something to them.

So for my first quote in the 3 day quote challenge I would like to share one from Billy Graham one of my heroes of the Christian faith. “My home is in heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.” I try to have this perspective on life and after having been through 2 health crises in my life the reality that God has a far better home waiting for me gives me the desire to live for him in this life. This also leads me to one of my all time favorite songs for Music Monday I Can Only Imagine.

I Can Only Imagine was written by Bart Millard and originally recorded by Mercy Me. Aliyah Moulden sang it on the show The Voice in May 2017. Her father died when she was in infant, so it is no stretch to think that as she sang, she might of thought of her dad being in heaven. I love the song whether it is the Mercy Me recording or a cover by someone else because the song reminds me that this is much more beyond this life. As someone who has had one serious health crisis 20 years ago and another one not quite as serious more recently, the realization that there is so much more waiting for us in heaven is a blessing I cannot adequately describe in words.

 It is Monday which means one of my favorite TV shows will be on this evening. I love watching The Voice but perhaps for a different reason than most. Yes, I enjoy the singing and watching the performers, but the thing I love most about the show is seeing the coaches, musicians themselves, mentor the performers on the show.

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I think I should mention that I am not a country music fan. It just simply hasn’t been a genre I have enjoyed, not that I have anything against it. So Blake Shelton is a singer whose music I have never listened to unless he performs on The Voice and I have never bought any of his CDs or downloaded his songs from iTunes. However, I am impressed with how he cares for singers on his team, mentors them, and is all in for them. The connection he has with each of them is obvious. As a result, I often find myself voting for people on his team.

So I hope you have a blessed Monday and that maybe this video helps you along on a Monday. God Bless and thanks for reading my blog 🙂

For the 3 Day Quote Challenge I would like to nominate Ana who has the blog Beauty Beyond Bones where she shares about how her faith helped overcome eating disorder and also about her life. I have learned a lot from her blog and think you would enjoy it too.