Saturday, November 29, 2014


Being in Nicaragua makes for an untraditional Thanksgiving but I can't say I would change much about it.  

Thanksgiving Eve (if you will) was spent with my Vida Joven family.  All of the team leaders from the 3 areas of Managuan YL get together every year to give thanks for the year that is ending and share vision for what's to come.  We talked about the clubs that are that maybe weren't around this time last year and dreamed big for what's to come in 2015. 

As I was sitting at the table this year, the thing I was the most thankful for was remembering how it felt last year at the same dinner.  I felt lost in the crowd, knowing I was right where I was supposed to be but not really sure of the fit.  This year, still knowing I'm right where I'm supposed to be and grateful for the way Managua Vida Joven has made a Boliche size hole for me to settle into.  (Boliche is a nickname that is some how easier than Jen.) 

My actual Thanksgiving was spent cooking a few of my favorite things (pretzels, green beans and cinnamon rolls - not traditional but still delicious!) to share that evening with my gringo family in Nicaragua.  Unlike the night before that was typical Nicaraguan food, we dined on the traditional American food, including turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, rolls, and stuffing.  I don't even have the words to explain to you what these people mean to me.  Life would be much harder without them and a whole heck of a lot more boring.  

Both families are necessary to my life here in Nicaragua.  I could never choose one over the other.  I am so grateful that I got to celebrate this sweet holiday with so many people that are dear to me.  

Thanksgiving::the act of giving thanks, as opposed to the holiday:: isn't always a natural tendency of my heart.  It's easy for me to see the things to be thankful for or the people but not always the circumstances. Finding reasons to be thankful for the tough stuff is, well, tough.  In a recent Bible study, one quote struck me that keeps echoing in my head: 

Peace is the companion of thanksgiving. 

So even in hard times, in sticky circumstances if we can tune our hearts to sing the praises of thanksgiving to the Father who cares for us, peace will soon follow and, truthfully, in turn make the crumby situation a little more bearable. 

I have much to be thankful for and through that, I can be hopeful for the new year that is just around the corner. 

Friday, November 21, 2014


I have a need, a desire, a standard that I have put on myself when it comes to blogging that it has to be profound and heart changing or it has to be exciting and full of life.  The problem is, those don't always come naturally to me. And even if it came "naturally", the days I have time to sit down and blog, I get distracted.  I apologize that I am not the best at keeping this up to date.  I also admit to you that the season I talked about in the previous post has extended and I'm still learning and growing through it.  I want to tell you that I'll be better, that I'll do better but I won't and I hate saying things that I know even as I type it that it will get better.

Ministry in Managua is amazing and it's truly an honor to be a part of right now.

Life right now is a challenge because Jesus is working on a lot of heart issues that he wants to show his victory in.  I'm not giving up on these challenges.  I'm not throwing in the towel on the hard but that's only because I know the victory is already won and I'm not fighting alone.

Thank you for reading this.  Thank you for your interest in life down here.  Thank you for understanding that when life gets tough and blogs get scarce, you are always welcome to email me and ask what's been going on.

The verse that has struck a chord in my heart this week is where I'll leave you because it's a promise to you too:

Wait for the Lord;
be strong,
let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14

Take courage & wait.
Not on your own strength.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Seasons are something we can look forward to because in the chilly rain of spring we can't wait for summer and in the heat of summer we're ready for fall (winter is not a season I anticipate with great expectation so we'll just skip over it). Seasons are generally able to marked on a calendar so we know what to expect and approximately when to expect them.

But, and you knew there was going to be a but, seasons in life are not quite that easily identifiable.  Seasons in life aren't marked on a calendar and you can't really know when they're going to change, for the better or for the worse.  Seasons in life can either sneak up on your or hit you like a ton of bricks and all you can do is tread water until the next season comes...who knows when exactly.

Well this season that I'm in kind of snuck up on me in the April/May range and I was hoping since the US calendar has changed from Spring to Summer to Fall that maybe my season would change too but since I'm living in Nicaragua and April/May is about the start of rainy season, it's been pouring (hypothetically of course because Nicaragua is in a weird drought that postponed the start of rainy season...bla bla bla).  This season has been trying on my heart, filled with heartbreak, unmet expectations, technological/mechanical frustrations and who knows what else.  The weird thing about this season is that it hasn't been ONE BIG HEAVY THING, instead it's more like lots of little things that keep knocking me as I think I'm about to stand back up.  Last week I saw a glimpse of a lesson that I've been learning in this time and had hopes of it being the light at the end of the tunnel but now it seems like it could be a light in the tunnel to keep me moving forward in this season.

Through a series of sermons, Bible studies, conversations and life I've realized I am a person who loves:: black&white, right&wrong, rules and order.  On the outside I may appear easy going and up for anything, and to a high degree that's true but deep down I long for structure.  Living in a place like Nicaragua has brought this to light.  There are little to no rules in this country, especially when it comes to driving.  I like this when it benefits me and it sends me into a tizzy when it doesn't go my way.  If we could all just follow the rules, my life would make more sense.  The things that go quickly here, I expect to take forever; the things I expect to be one and done, take s o  l o n g. Nothing fits into a box.  Nothing is black or white.  It's all covered in a shade of grey.

The lesson: grace. The grey between stark black and brilliant white. The wiggle room.  The place I haven't quite figured out yet and may never fully grasp and that's ok.  I'm learning to let myself wiggle and hoping that I won't fall down.  I'm learning about this freedom.  I'm learning I don't have to have it all together and I'll never have it all together and that's ok.  I'm learning that I am not enough and Jesus is all I've got and that's the best news there is.  I'm learning and if there's anything I've gotten from my first year in Nica it's just that, I've got a lot to learn.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


One thing I haven't been: Good at keeping up with my blog.
One promise I refuse to make: I will get better.
One promise I will make: This blog will be long and full of pictures.

March, April & May were jammed packed with goodness.  I realize it's mid June so I'll be behind on my blogging but just enjoy the flood of pictures and email me if you want more details.

Start with one of the legendary clubs of this semester:

Clubbus - dubbed the FIRST ANNUAL meaning, it was too good not to repeat!

One of our student leaders' dads owns a bus company and was willing to drive us around Managua as we had club on a bus filled with games and songs and chaos.  We made several stops around town including McDonalds where they TP'd the bus and then the last part of the game was to clean it all up and the team with the least amount of TP in their trashbag won!  We also had students race to eat the whole dollar menu in 2 groups of 3.  With a few other stops in between, we finished the night at a park where another student leader did an awesome job giving the talk.  I can't wait for next year!

Starting in March, I've worked with at least one work team a month.  I've been up at the Finca every month anywhere from a couple days with Raleigh YL, a week as work crew and a week with a team from Tennessee.  When I work up there with teams I'm kind of a project manager (aka cheerleader because hauling rocks, moving dirt and painting ceilings needs a lot of encouragement!).  The Finca is getting a facelift which is so exciting to be a part of.  We are expanding the camp from a max capacity of about 180 kids to 350!  That means almost DOUBLE the amount of kids in one week will here about Jesus and be changed forever. I will be up at the Finca a few more times this summer as my "summer assignment" with other teams.  Will you pray for safety, team unity and that we see Jesus in the details and the people?  

My first work team.  This group was from Mississippi with a few friends from Esteli, Nicaragua and the Finca workers who live in Jinotega.  We got to work on what is now a beautiful fire pit that overlooks the entire camp and the only way to get there is to walk through the coffee plants!  Amazing. 

Again, my favorite volcano in Nicaragua.  
This is the Vida Joven team from UCA - a university in Managua and I love them all.  

The girls from UCA and Kansas at the end of a fantastic week. 

This is a mural painted on a missionary family's gate in Matagalpa.  It says Your Smile Inspires Us and that inspires me.  

The Tennessee girls, Dina from Matagalpa, Ludem from Masaya and Maynor the Finca worker.  We sanded and painted this gazebo that will be used as a place of prayer by leaders and kids during new kids camp in July.  Pray with us, will you? 

The true joy I've had recently is getting to hang out with the girls from NCA.  They had a musical, the first ever in fact, in these crazy months and I had the honor to see their amazing talent.  The musical was based off of the book of Esther. 

Lydia was behind the scenes. 

Maggie showed off her singing skills as one of the main roles!  

Hery played her part too, beautifully!  These girls are so talented people! 

And the best part of my job is getting to show up at school and take girls on an impromptu "snowball" run aka snow cone aka slushy aka delicious in the heat of Managua.  I don't know if I've told you but I have the best job ever and I'm humbled every day that I get to be a part of something so amazing.  Jesus is moving and grooving down here in Nicaragua and I couldn't imagine being anywhere else.  I know that seems cheesy and maybe redundant after a while but it's true.  My heart is the happiest here because of the call that is on my life.  

The adventures have continued and stories have been left out but these are a few of the highlights.  One of my prayers has been and will continue to be as missionaries leave Nica for one reason or another and new ones come in for community and I can tell you that the Lord has showed up and showed off once again.  These people, Nicaraguans and "Gringos" down here know how to love and know how to love me well.  This season of life has been a bit of a challenge for me for various reasons but like I just said, I wouldn't change...most of it...for anything.  (If I'm honest. ;) )

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recent happenings...

1 Year in Central America (Sat. Feb. 15th)
6 Months in Nicaragua (Tues. Feb. 18th) 

This is literally my friend's backyard! 
Every Monday night since probably September I have had the joy of getting to know the missionary community/NCA teachers at Monday Night Dinner hosted by a beautiful family.  Homemade food + making new friends = A great way to start each week!  

Got to watch the Superbowl with these lovely ladies!  Maggie is one of the girls I meet with weekly and her mom is my Bible study leader on Tuesday nights.  So much love! 

Our first club of 2014 took place at the Burger King (two-stories, nicest BK I've ever seen!)

The next club was in honor of the Winter Olympics in Russia so of course we had mustaches to celebrate! 

The premiere of the Duct Tape Sisters - Sticky & Stuck 
What an honor it is to be the reoccurring skit character to get kids excited about camp! (Things I never thought I'd be: Ghetto and a reoccurring character)

Young Life staff has given me a flexible schedule in the mornings so I was lucky enough to fill in for the PE teacher at NCA a couple weeks ago.  Playing tag with 3 year olds is good for the soul. 

We had a leader retreat at the beach a few weekends ago - student leaders, volunteers and staff all coming together to learn how to lead as a team with the love that only comes from Jesus.  It was a sweet weekend filled with lots of laughter, beach time and strong community. Thankful to be a part of this team! 
Boys will be boys even when they turn into men.
My team is AWESOME! 
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Friday, January 17, 2014


Home is an interesting concept to me these days.  I've made an effort not to refer to the US as home in order to encourage myself to think of Managua as home.  After only 4 short months, I truly believe by God’s grace, I can call Managua home but not because I don’t still consider North Carolina home.

We all know those cheesy one liners, “Home is where the heart is” or the most recent “Home is where I am with you” and these must have become popular because they ring true for so many of us.  Now, don’t get confused, I don’t have any one person that encourages me to call any one place home but I believe that the community that God surrounds me with wherever I go helps me to call each new place home.  

Asheville will always be home because my family is still there, the house I grew up in is there, my life long friends are (kind of) there, the memories I have start from there.  I love going back to the mountains.  I love spending time with family and seeing old friends.  Asheville is home. 

Raleigh is also home.  Raleigh is where I started to become the woman I am still becoming.  God used my 6+ years there to help me know him better.  He showed me what it means to live in sweet community.  He showed me what it is to love him beyond anything else and without anything else.  For anyone who has gone to college, you understand that the college community is unmatchable.  The friends I made in Raleigh will also be lifelong friends.  Go Wolfpack! Raleigh is home. 

Managua is home.  Managua is quirky with it’s ox carts (that make me laugh every time which is almost daily), its apparent chaos yet somehow slower paced life.  Managua is teaching me so much and I know the lessons will just keep coming.  The community that surrounds me here is new and different.  It’s people from many cultures who teach me more about how dynamic God is.  Managua is home. 

Home to me now means the glimpses of heaven, glimpses of the ways it was always meant to be.  The laughter at the Christmas dinner table with family, the late night chats with friends, the Young Life Winter Training/New Staff worship where 500 voices proclaim the goodness of our God, the warm sun and the cool breeze, the way things are meant to be.  

Now, let’s be honest, all of these places also have their qualms about them too.  The weather, the traffic, the bugs, the lack of this or the too much of that, and these things also help me to remember that there is more to life than the homes we create for ourselves on earth.  I don’t have to choose any of these to be HOME because none of them really are.  All of them remind me of what’s the come, the new Heaven and the new Earth.  The day we get to reconciled to God.  The day everything will be made new, set right.  So, until that day comes, I will be thankful for the many places that I get to call home.  The many gifts that point me back to Jesus.  The many people who reflect Him.  The many places that long to be set right with the Father in the same way I do.