…Prayer…

Small group

Disclaimer: This post was originally written right after the 4th of July weekend.

It’s been awhile since my last guest blog post here… And I’m glad to be back! I was inspired recently by the “Letter to the Ephesians” topic being picked apart in my church in Barcelona. Our head Pastor, John, especially got my attention when he explained by saying: “It’s time to walk in the sonship and daughterhood that we have been offered by the Father.”

I think this is an important idea in terms of the key ideas that children need to understand. God is not some far away, idle being; but rather He is your Father, your confidant, your savior, and your rock. For me, growing up it was much easier to build a relationship with God thinking of him as my loving Father figure, as opposed to an untouchable, vague entity.

The other takeaway from the service was when John went over how to pray. Many, many Christians grapple with the issue of how to pray. Here’s the good news: it’s easy! If you’re someone who likes structure and routine, you’ll probably appreciate how they broke it down. A simple yet effective way to pray is to break it up into three parts: Give thanks, Specific requests, Give Praise. Not too bad, right?

So Part One: Give thanks… pretty self-explanatory there. This is my favorite part of praying. Every time I pray I start off by rattling off a dozen or so things for which I’m thankful. For example, “Dear God, THANK YOU for the sunshine today, for my family and friends, for fireworks, thank you for lemonade, for diversity, for my wonderful church, and God, I also want to thank you for all of my talents, my health, my opportunities, and my relationship with you.” All you have to do is thank God for whatever comes to mind; it is that simple!

Part Two: Specific requests. This is what people usually think of when they think about praying… “God please help me pass this test; God please say that I get this job,” etc. God already knows what’s on our hearts, but there is nothing wrong praying this way. Often times, it also makes us feel better in the moment. What is interesting, however, is if you try to switch from Heaven-up prayer requests to Heaven-down requests. So instead of sending your daily requests up to God, perhaps next time ask: “God, what should I be doing to better this situation?” or “Father please show me how to be a better sister” – that is more Heaven-down style praying. Mix it up!

Part Three: Give Praise! Conclude your prayer by rejoicing in your faith. You can make it as long or short as you like. I usually wrap it up with “Thank you God. You are so good, always. You fill up everything everywhere. I love you; I praise you.”

Don’t make praying harder than it should be. Through prayer we get to directly communicate with our Father and that is awesome! As our head Pastor reminded us, “He is profoundly near whether we feel it or not.” So pray, pray often, and pray with your heart! Happy Saturday everyone!

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A Perfect Love Story

So this is the first time I’ve written a blog post from up in the air in an airplane… But this post has been a long-time coming. For a week now I’ve been meaning to start writing this post, but as life would have it, things have delayed its creation until now. I have been wanting to write about this topic since several weeks ago when my church in Barcelona, ICB, started the series: “Redeemed – A Journey Through the Book of Ruth.” While I had always known there was a book in the Bible called Ruth, I wasn’t familiar with the story at all really. I’m happy to say I now feel well-versed in the small, yet mighty book of Ruth and wanted to share some awesome stuff with yall.

So the book of Ruth starts with Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, and their family as they move from Bethlehem to Moab. For those of you who are also lacking in extensive Bible knowledge like myself, here’s the Spark-notes version: Naomi followed her husband and two sons from their home in Bethlehem, where there was famine, to Moab in hopes of a new start and more prosperous life. This is significant because they were leaving behind God’s land and trying to go it on their own essentially. Also noteworthy, the people of Bethlehem generally held Moab and Moabites in a negative light due to the history of their lineage.

After some time in Moab, all we know is that Naomi’s two sons married Moabite women, and both of her sons and her husband end up dying there. So Naomi is left with her two daughters-in-law and that’s about it. Especially back in this time, this would have been a pretty destitute situation. Hence, Naomi urges the two women to go back to their families in Moab and there they can attempt to re-marry and have a good life still. One of the daughters obliges Naomi’s request and bids them farewell before leaving to return to her family in Moab. Ruth, on the other hand, says no. Despite all of Naomi’s prodding, Ruth is resolute in her loyalty and commitment to sticking with her mother-in-law. It is here that Ruth uttered the well-known verse of “where you go, I will go; where you live, I will live.” As Naomi explains to her that she is planning on returning to Bethlehem, Ruth goes even further by saying “your land will be my land, your God my God.”

And so as the two women make the journey from Moab to Bethlehem, we learn about how Naomi wants to change her name to something that means, literally, bitter. As our Lead Pastor, John Carrano, said during service, “This was big. That’s like going through a rough patch in your life and deciding to change your name to Failure.” Moreover, both women were dealing with their own unearned disgrace. Naomi came back to Bethlehem basically like a dog with her tail between her legs. She felt ashamed of what had become of her life, though what happened was not her fault in the least. Hello unearned disgrace. Then we have Ruth, who has to deal with the unearned disgrace of being a Moabite, a foreigner.

I bet a lot of people can relate to these women who were working through shouldering this unearned disgrace, right? With all of the labels and quick-judgments of today’s world, most of us have experienced some unearned disgrace by this point. For example, the fact that I didn’t end up going to an Ivy-League university caused unearned disgrace to fester within myself for a good amount of time. That disgrace was certainly unearned, but man it was heavy. But let’s get back to the good stuff…

Ruth and Naomi are settling into a new life in Bethlehem. Ruth goes to the fields to try and gather the leftover scraps of barley. She soon finds herself in the field of a distant relative of Naomi’s, Boaz. Boaz had heard of Ruth before he met her in person, for the story of her unfailing loyalty to Naomi was hot news. Upon their meeting, Boaz shows favor on Ruth for these reasons, and invites her to continue finding food in his fields and to work with the other women there. Suffice it to say, Ruth was shocked at his favor and kindness.

So as the time passes and barley harvest goes to wheat harvest, Naomi eventually prompts Ruth to approach Boaz… (The women were hoping to be redeemed by a male relative of Naomi’s husband. This was the only way they would possibly have a prosperous future, restore the legacy of Naomi’s family, and ensure land for future generations). In Chapter 3, Ruth presents herself to Boaz with the utmost humility, and in response Boaz promises her their redemption.

Then in Chapter 4, Boaz follows through with his promises and goes through the ritual of asking the man who was first in line to redeem them (technically). This man declines on hearing that Ruth is part of the deal, and so Boaz and him finalize the arrangement with Boaz promising to redeem Ruth and Naomi (aka he’ll marry Ruth, restore their family’s land to their late husband’s last name, have a family, etc.). Towards the end of Chapter 4, we learn that Ruth and Boaz have a son, and in the end their family’s lineage leads to King David, the greatest King Israel ever knew.

My favorite thing I learned from the Book of Ruth is what ICB’s other Lead Pastor, Brandi Carrano, introduced as “HESED” – this Hebrew word does not have an exact English translation, but means compassionate love, loving-kindness, and love in action. Hesed is also said to be a vertical action, as in God shows Hesed to people, and then from one person to another person – as Hesed is also a reciprocal action. Hesed is mentioned 248 times in the Old Testament; it is through Hesed that people are redeemed and legacies are rebuilt.

I like the idea of Hesed because it goes in stark contrast with lots of modern ideals, such as self-interest, self-pity, greed, and so much more. I can’t recall now if it was Brandi or John who said this, but this really spoke to me: “If we can’t take our eyes off of ourselves, than we cannot be agents of redemption.” Showing love, compassion, and interest in others isn’t always easy, but it’s what we were created to do. God redeeming us is the most beautiful love story of all time. And even better, it’s a love story that has no end. Today, tomorrow, or the next day if you posture yourself towards God and humble yourself at his feet, God will show you Hesed. I guess overall, being familiar with the Book of Ruth has made me feel quite lucky and reaffirmed by belief that our God is for us.

In other news, I miss Barcelona and all of my friends there! But I am very happy to get to spend some time at home with my family and friends here. This last weekend was a whirlwind of activity but I loved it! Although I am currently suffering from serious allergy problems here, it has been so great to spend time with the people I care about most. More on my time in Lincoln to come…

 

Enjoy the Ride.

The last few weeks have flown by! In between Valentine’s Day and now, I have observed Lent, gotten more into my ICB Community Group, and had my last week nannying for Ferran’s girls, Mar and Clara. All last week the new nanny, Mateja, shadowed me as we got the girls all ready and off to school and then the PM routine as well. She’s from Slovenia, and seems sweet and capable; it’s definitely bittersweet, though, to see that chapter close.

Whether flying solo, with our gal’s small group, or simply meeting a friend (Hannah) for coffee, I’ve also continued trying new places and continue to fall in love with most. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m relatively easy to please, or if it’s that there are innumerable cute spots with great food and drink. Whichever the case, I am now a big fan of Oma Bistró and Caravelle.

Oma Bistró (c/ Consell de Cent, 227) is a bright, open, trendy spot as of late that’s located in Eixample. While I’ve only personally tried their original coffee (the “Stumpy” – a twist on a flat white), I’m looking forward to tasting their cheesecake, craft beers, and myriad brunch offerings. Sadly, the name does not have anything to do with Omaha, I asked; rather, Oma happens to mean “grandma” in German.

Caravelle (c/ Pintor Fortuny, 31) is an Australian owned homey café in Raval. I finally crossed this place off my to-try list when I met Hannah there last week to catch up over coffee and talk social media stuff. Our waitress was super nice and friendly (turned out she was from Miami), and I ordered a chai latte while Hannah opted for the standard café con leche. Not after too long, though, they brought out freshly baked strawberry and ricotta cheese muffins. Needless to say, we had to share one. It was heavenly… arguably the best muffin I’ve ever had. Lovely spot in general –definitely recommend!

Juicy Jones (c/ Hospital, 74) is also located in the heart of Raval. Juicy Jones, in terms of the physical space, is covered in bright, attractive murals from floor to ceiling. A juice bar and vegan restaurant with reasonable prices, Juicy Jones is sure to please the masses. I am not entirely sure what I ended up ordering but it was green and bubbling and delicious.

I already posted about my calçotada experience, which was delightful and I would love to do that every weekend. Staying with my Lent intentions has been good, though some days quite challenging. The hardest one by far has been to work on my blog daily, which if you’re unfamiliar with blogging, actually requires a substantial amount of effort and work. Especially when I got a cold/flu thing last week so that has been extra fun!

Preview for this week: an upcoming post on my take on the chapter of Ruth, Mexican send-off dinner with my awesome community group, meeting Hannah’s best friend who’s in town for the week, watching Dylan and baby Ryan a few last times, gift shopping, and packing!

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First Time For Everything

My birthday was lovely… It was my first birthday away from my family and good friends, but Damian, his family, and my friends here spoiled me. The actual birthday was spread out in about a week’s worth of festivities – one night I went to a cabaret show here (The Hole 2) with my old host-mom, Marta, and a mutual friend, Janelle, as a joint bday celebration for Marta and myself. It was a racy show and I probably blushed through the majority of it but some pretty good stand-up acts and amazing circus type performances. I was impressed and it was a fun first time experience.

The celebrations continued by having a delicious brunch at Marmalade with my gal friends here on Saturday the 7th. There are few ways I’d rather start my day than with Eggs Benedict and a mimosa. That night Damian and I went to our favorite pizzeria (Tío Mario) and then got drinks at Balius Bar, a cute old-school cocktail bar in Poblenou. On my actual birthday, when I got home from church at ICB, Damian and his dad had made a large quantity of milanesa, homemade fries, and a bizcocho cake. So far 24 has been lovely!

Día de San Valentín: The day started off lovely with donuts at Lukumas with the gals and then spent some quality time hangin’ with them. I had my first legit Valentine’s Day plans this year. For my birthday, the parents of the American family for which I nanny gave me a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant in the city, Santa Gula. So we made reservations early, and then Saturday the 14th Damian and I had dinner there – the food and wine were amazing and the atmosphere was cozy yet light. Also, first time getting Valentine’s Day flowers!

I am still loving my church here, ICB, and I am now in a new small group that is led by a missionary couple from Texas and Kansas- they are missionaries here that are working to open a dream center in Raval (a very diverse inner city area of BCN)- So I’m hoping to get involved in that helping in some way or another. Also, looking forward to going to my first ever Calçotada tomorrow afternoon in Les Planes with Awaken, the young adults group at ICB. Good company + an onion BBQ? Yep!

I’m also getting super excited to be coming home soon! Woo hoo! Less than 3 weeks!

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365 New Days

So it’s 2015. …What?! This spring that means I will be SIX years out of high school, and that is absolutely wild. Pardon my delayed post; December went by in a whirlwind and now I’ve been revamping the majority of the blog in general so this is the final piece of that puzzle.

First things first, since the last post I’ve finished reading Janet Fitch’s White Oleander, Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, and am currently reading Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Our book club January pick is Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and I’m also looking forward to my library find: Red Pony by John Steinbeck. On this note, I am planning on creating another new page on this blog solely dedicated to book reviews, so keep your eyes peeled for that addition. Also, I have watched seasons one through three of HBO’s Girls; great content, hilarious predicaments, and relatable happenings.

Apartment hunt update: That chapter was put on hold for now. Not only did we not have enough money to put down four months on a new apartment, but also we realized that logistically it just does not make the most sense for us right now. Side note: it was crazy to see how many scams are out there (on the web) with people trying to get potential renters to deposit money into Western Union or PayPal or Airbnb, etc. before even seeing the space!

Masters update: I am almost done applying to the UPF Barcelona School of Management for a Master of Science in Management with a Specialization in Marketing. I have all of my necessary documents in, now I’m just waiting for confirmation of submission on my transcript and letters of recommendation. Thankfully, they use a rolling admissions schedule and they usually let candidates know their fate in a matter of mere weeks. Prayers and crossing of the fingers would be much appreciated!

December Happenings: On the 4th Damian and I went to the annual Barcelona Shopping Night all along Passeig de Gracía. Cass and I went last year. It’s a festive evening to kick-start the holiday shopping season where the stores are all open later, plus there are fashion shows, lots of DJs, free food and drink, discounts, etc. Another fun holiday outing was going to the Santa Lucia Christmas Market with Jesús; highlight was definitely the suiza (thick hot chocolate with tons of foamy whipped cream).


Of course I’ve continued to nanny for both the American family (Dylan and now baby Ryan), and the Catalan family (Mar and Clara). Ferran, Mar and Clara’s dad, was nice enough to give me two bottles of really nice cava as an early Christmas present. They rock. I’m also still working for the Barcelona promotional venture (though that is now coming to a close) and Family Box. I am thankful to be learning a lot by working for Family Box… Also, quick plug: if you’re busy with a young family and just can’t seem to find the time/strategy/etc. necessary for family devotionals, you should check out Family Box!

I’m still going to the International Church of Barcelona, aka ICB. It is a wonderful ministry and I’ve made some quality new friends there. Mid-December I went to the ICB Women’s Sugar & Spice holiday event, which entailed snacks, testimony, and ginger bread house making.

Christmas: Cynthia and Will (parents to Dylan and Ryan) invited myself and Damian to go with them to Baquiera-Beret (a town in the Spanish Pyrenees about 4 hours from BCN) on a last-minute Christmas holiday! We gladly accepted their invitation and drove up into the mountains with them on Christmas Eve. We pretty easily found the rental house in Salardú upon our arrival in the late afternoon. Once we unloaded the van and got settled into the “ski lodge” we walked down into the village and had tapas at the one open restaurant in the main plaza. It was so much colder there- holy brrr.

On Christmas Day, Cynthia said they’d rather go snowboarding the following day, so Damian and I were free to go skiing! Considering the fact that Damian had never seen snow up until this trip, you can imagine his simultaneous excitement and fear at the now near prospect of going skiing for the first time. After a hearty breakfast, we got all bundled up and the whole crew drove over to the Beret ski resort. Anticipation continued to rise as we got fitted for boots, tried out the skis, and attached lift tickets.

Once out on the actual bunny hill/practice area what have you, Will and I were trying to give Damian some general pointers and beginners tips as to how to stop, turn, and not wipe out. Although Will is a really good skier and snowboarder, I quickly realized that Damian would have greatly benefitted from a proper class before we took to the slopes ourselves, but that was too little, too late.

After the family left to take Dylan sledding, Damian and I spent about another half hour on the bunny hill. While I hadn’t skied in many years, I was surprised at how fast it all seemed to come back to me. Aware that daylight was burning, we decided we’d warmed-up enough and it was ski-lift time! Not recalling how stressful/frightening it is to mount the lift until we were literally on the precipice, I was helped (thrown) onto one of the fast-moving chairs alone with Damian still approaching the loading area. Seconds later I hear the lift operators yelling “Stop! Stop!” and turn around to see that they’ve momentarily stopped the entire lift and that one of Damian’s skis fell off. After a quick dialogue, they help Damian off the chair and re-start the lift.

Less than one minute later, I noticed that I was on the lift that went to the very tip-top of the entire mountain, rather than the one that stops mid-mountain allowing one to ski in the green category area (which is what we had paid for). Perfect. Seemingly a century passed by the time the lift inched to the exit area at the apex. The female worker called out to me, and assisted me to make a much less than graceful dismount from the ever-mobile chair. Finally on my feet, I looked around to notice that there was not another living soul for as far as the eye could see. Nor directional signs. Nor any interest from the aforementioned worker.

Alas, I picked to descend to my left, a decision that in hindsight was less than ideal. As I began to pick up speed, before I knew it I was flying down the mountain and barely caught sight of a passing sign notifying skiers via a blue circle and a black diamond. For a split second I debated stopping, sitting down, and waiting for help to get down, but then just as quickly resolved to ski down without help. Continuing the terrifying (yet exhilarating) solo descent, I wiped out once and thankfully caught myself with my hands. There were also passing signs reading “Slow” near patches of particularly icy spots. Good looking out.

As I got closer and closer to the foot of the mountain, it was more exhilarating and less terrifying. When I eventually (successfully) reached the bottom, I had been assuming to see Damian there waiting for me. I was wrong! He had actually gotten himself onto the other lift, gotten off mid-mountain, thinking that was where I was going to be as well. In the end we found each other about an hour later and the whole adventure was still to fresh to be funny. We grabbed a warm lunch in the resort cafeteria before going back out, right as fresh snow began to fall. All in all, we had a great day!

New Years: In Argentine culture, it’s really important to ring in the New Year at midnight with your family, as opposed to in the U.S. for my age group it’s more of a time to be with friends. That being said, Damian and I rang in 2015 with Mar & Sergio’s family and friends at her parent’s apartment in Poble Nou. It was quite a spread of food, drink, and party trinkets for the little ones. For the first twelve seconds of 2015 everyone stuffed a total of twelve grapes into their mouths, a Spanish tradition said to bring good luck. Later we went out to a Latin club in Eixample with friends.

NEWS: I will be flying home for several months on March 12th! I am very much looking forward to spending time with friends and family, visiting my Aunt Charlotte, and attending bachelorette and wedding festivities!

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