Finshing the Work

While singing with the congregation on Sunday morning, I learned a new (for me) song that has a line “He’s gonna finish what He started in our lives.”  I thought it was a nice song as a whole, but that part has been playing through my mind over and over ever since.  Yesterday, I was minding my own business and suddenly I heard it again, “The Lord is going to finish the good work He has started in you.”  It was one of those moments in which I thought, OK, God, are you trying to tell me something?  Maybe I should pay attention.” Well, I soon forgot and continued about my own business.  Today, I was reading my ever-spiritual Facebook feed.  What caught my eye?  A post from my very favorite author, Ann Voskamp.  She wrote:

Hey, soul?  So Life has a million question marks — but you always have one Certainty:  You can be certain that God’s good work in you never stops, even when things look bad.  You may be bone tired, but God never stops working tirelessly to make your soul a masterpiece.  “And I am *certain* that God, who began the *good work* within *you*, will *continue* His work until it is finally *finished*”…Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

Yes, God is telling me something.  I am ready to listen.  What has God started in me?  He has started so may good works I couldn’t count them all.  He started with salvation, a continual journey of faith perfection and character development.  He started fashioning me to be a wife to my Mexican Man, which is always a work in progress, and will be until He finishes that work (He promised!).  He has started the good work of motherhood (why does He take on so many projects?).  Then there is the good work of being a sister, daughter, discipler, minister, worker, etc.  What has he started in me?  Much.

When I took the time to think about that verse, I was taken aback by the diligence and love of God.  He has so much work to finish!  But, unlike me, when he picks up the tools to do something, He is 100% committed to finishing it.  In comparison, I leave so many projects undone, unfinished, collecting dust.  Perhaps diligence is another good work that God is continuing in me. 🙂

I grabbed a pen after reading Ann’s post and jotted down in my Gifts Journal (basically a running list I keep of all the gifts God gives) He will finish what He has started.  I thanked Him for that gift.

This just excites me and makes me feel secure in the Savior’s love because I know that even though I haven’t arrived; even though the mirror doesn’t reflect a perfected, finished work when I stand before it… He is still working on me!  He will finish what He’s started.

What is God continuing in you?  Thank Him for not throwing in the towel; for never laying down the tools.  Thank Him for continuing.

Sidenote:  If anyone wants to learn to live fully by living a life of gratitude, I recommend reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts.  This post was not meant to be a plug, but I referenced her and honestly, my life is changing just by learning the principle of gratitude.  Believe it or not, I am not as high-strung and stressed as I used to be.  I am confident that this is part of God’s continued work in me.

Lessons of a Banana Tree

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A couple of months after Isra and I got married, we bought a banana tree.  It was on a whim, a fun idea for a girl who grew up in a cold anti-banana-tree climate.  Little did we know how our much our little tree would teach us. 

The first month of the tree’s life on our back patio, our puppy got into the little plot of dirt where the tree was planted and chewed it down to a little stub.  Isra and I were so bummed.  At that time Isra and I were going through a difficult time in our marriage and we had a big fight.  We could identify with that little tree, all chewed up and whittled down to nothing. 

A week later, Israel was cleaning the patio and he called to me, “Cate, you have to see this!”  I went running to the patio, thinking that perhaps Baguira had made some kind of a mess.  But what I saw was a little shoot coming from the tree stub sticking out of the ground.  The tree showed a hint of life.  And our marriage started to look a little brighter.  We were getting along better and, again, identified with the tiny plant on the patio. 

About a month later, after a big fight between Isra and I (and some serious problems), Baguira again ate the banana tree.  And we again felt like just like that tree, we were cut to the ground, nothing to show for our hard work and months of marriage… certainly no fruit.  As for the tree, we gave it up for dead and decided that it was not even worth trying to save.  Thankfully we weren’t so quick to throw in the towel on our marriage and we kept pressing on, trying to nurse life into a dying relationship. 

To our surprise, the tree once again started to grow at a rapid rate.  And so did our marriage.  Everything was going great.. until December.  In December, again, we hit a very difficult bump in our relationship.  It seemed irrepairable.  I almost called it quits.  Aaaand… you guessed it!  Baguira had a delicious snack.  The tree was a little bigger so she couln’t quite finish.  So there was my 5-foot tree lying on the ground, half-eaten.  I took it as a confirmation…  we just grow to be crushed.  But I decided to give my marriage yet another shot.  The tree… we hardly cared at that point! 

A few weeks later, in January,  I found out that I was pregnant.  This is the weird part… Not only did the tree continue to grow, but two other trees sprung up next to it – one on either side of the mama tree!  Ok, so you might be thinking, yeah right you ended up having twins.  I wish…

I actually got really sick with Dengue fever and lost my baby.  (Or babies??)

The tree kept growing.  Isra and I grew farther and farther apart.  I actually spent three months in the United States.  Those three months were so key for both Israel and I to be able to grow in the Lord and so He could repair our broken hearts. 

In July 2013, I returned to my husband and to my banana trees.  One day, Isra and I were cleaning the patio together and I was admiring the height of the mama tree.  And as I looked up, I noticed a long branch weighted down with… you guessed it!  BANANAS! (See photo at top.) And it was in that moment that I knew God was telling me, “now is the season to bear fruit.”

I am happy to say that this month has been 100% different from any other moment in our marriage.  It has been better and richer than the honeymoon, the first month, the first year.  And God has been using us to bear fruit and minister to others.  Best of all, the love and respect in our home is abounding and multiplying by the day.  Thank God for his restorative work! 

Vacation!

Vacation!

There are many positive aspect of working as a teacher. One of them is that I have built-in long vacations, according to the school calander. This has been especially awesome because some friends from Mexico city (whom I met a week ago) are in Cancun for their school vacation. They go to the same church as I do, except in Mexico City. I have been able to spend the entire time with them so far and it has been so fun to make new friends, go to new places, and refresh my sense of fun! These kids are really amazing – most of them are around 21 years old – and they are so well-mannered and thoughtful. We have eaten here at my house several times and I have hardly had to lift a finger to wash a dish, cook a meal, or go grocery shopping. They have been a big blessing to me and I thank God for their lives and for hooking me up with them. A few more days to enjoy them, then it’s back to work. 😀

I haven’t written an update in a long time.  What can I say?  I have been very busy lately, which is great!  I have a job as an English teacher in a kindergarten.  I like it a lot although the learning curve for me is huge.  This is an entirely different experience from anything I have ever done and it takes all of my concentration, creativity, patience, and TIME to be able to do a good job.  My main goal is that the children feel loved and welcome and that by the end of the year their comprehension of the English language is excellent because next year they start elementary school!  It is a big responsibility and there are days when I feel GREAT and other days when I feel like a failure.  But my superiors tell me I do well and the children are definitely progressing so I must be doing something right – thank the Lord!! 

Isra and I are now serving together in the youth group.  We love those guys and spend a lot of evenings and weekends with them.  They have beautiful hearts and it is absolutely amazing to see how God can use youth to make a difference.  What I love more than anything is their DESIRE to reach out.  For example, the other night a group of about 15 youth went to a little girl’s house to pray for her because she would soon have a surgical operation.  After we prayed, we stayed and I was humbled to see how the students reached out to her and played with her and helped her feel accepted and loved.  I SO wanted to send some kind of snapshot of that evening to my students in Fergus Falls.  God wants to use youth around the world to bring light to dark places.  

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The youth also recently did an outreach program called “Pescando con Jesus” and we saw many people come to Christ and many re-dedicate their lives to the Lord.  God is awesome and He is the best reason to be alive and moving!  

Well, that’s all for now, folks.  One thing – I have bronchitis right now, making pretty much everything much more difficult than it should be.  So if you think of me, please pray.  I have been dealing with it for about a month and my energy is giving out.  Thanks so much!!! Love you all!!!

Moving Along

Immigration Progress

Immigration is an adventure!  (note my choice to be positive 🙂 )  I am working on getting a status change so I can be legal here for a year.  Fortunately, I am on the last stretch of my journey.  Unfortunately, I booked a flight for Minnesota on June 5th, not realizing that I have to stay in Mexico until I get my FM2.  Honestly, I am hoping and praying that I will get it tomorrow (anyone who wants to pray with me… your prayers would be much appreciated).  Reading this blog, Surviving Yucatan, gave me hope because I learned that I truly am at the very last phase of the process and at any moment my papers could be waiting for me at the immigration office.  If I get my FM2 tomorrow, I can still go to Fergus next week.  If not… well, I will be steaming in the 75% humidity, 90+ degree weather of Cancun.

I am learning a lot about the difference between faith and hope.  Faith must be grounded on the Word of God.  A year ago I probably would have said something like, “I am standing in faith that I will have my FM2 by tomorrow and I will be in Fergus next week.”  But the Word doesn’t promise me that, so I can’t just whip out the faith card.  I can present my requests to God, however, and ask him to grant this desire.  And I am asking and hoping that I will be in Fergus next week.  Whatever happens, I know that God has the best plan for me and I will be content.

Thanks so much to all of you for your love and support – for those who pray for me, those who chat with me on gmail, those who encourage and bless me, and for my amigos aqui en Mexico, I love you all so much.  This adventure of moving to another country would be so hard without all of you.  But thanks to the love of God, the love of my husband, and the love of my family and friends, it isn’t really hard at all.  God bless you!!

School of Marriage

As I sit in my dining room enjoying the cool breeze (thanks to the rain we got last night), I am reflecting on the past few weeks of marriage.  On the 10th of May we reached the 2-month mark.  For the most part, life is starting to feel like normal for me.  I don’t miss home quite as much, though an occasional feeling of home-sicknesses still sets in from time to time and I would do just about anything for a lazy afternoon of coffee and chit-chat with my sisters and my mom.

Currently, the aspect of life that impacts me most is that I am seeing my own faults in a more amplified way – as if someone placed a giant magnifying glass in front of my “little” defects and trouble areas that I never completely defeated as a single person.  I was warned that in marriage, those “little” defects grow and can become big problems.  The root of all of them is selfishness.  I remember a visit I had with Pastor Patrick before I headed down to Cancun in which I told him that my biggest fear was that I would allow selfishness to get the best of me.  He responded by saying that in marriage, we are confronted by our selfishness as never before in our single lives.  He was right!

The funny thing is that when you don’t get what you want and you allow your frustration to affect your relationships, you end up getting more of what you didn’t want.  Frustration never resolves anything.  I am realizing more and more my need for dependence on Jesus.  My need for Him didn’t decrease when I got married – it increased!  Now, I am one flesh with another person.  We don’t always think the same way or have the same plans.  Sometimes I don’t make as much of an effort to please him and other times I feel like he isn’t as sweet as he could be.  But regardless of the circumstances, my attitude either makes the situation better or worse.  To have a good attitude, I have to depend on the grace of God. I have to ask Him for what I want rather than putting pressure on other people.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  ~  James 4:1-3

I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I am miserable.  Quite the contrary, I am very content and thankful for my marriage.  I am simply going through the same things I have always dealt with.  The only difference is that now I don’t have all that many things I can do to distract myself from dealing with the issues of my heart.  God and Israel are the only ones I have the liberty to talk with on a super deep level and I am really glad I am learning this stuff now.  I imagine these times of stretching are what form wise men and women of faith.  I am determined to be such a woman when I grow up.  And one thing that my children will not be allowed to do is mope… Just sayin’.  😉

That said, I hope what I shared encourages you to identify the areas of your life in which you are not walking in victory and begin a journey with Jesus to refine your heart to be more like His.  It doesn’t get easier with time nor with change in relationship status.  I am here to testify that yes, when you get married, you bring all of your faults and weaknesses into the relationship (and also your strengths and positive qualities, don’t worry).  Better to deal with stuff early in life so you don’t inflict your issues on someone else.  And for those who are in the same boat as me, or even further along in marriage, God’s grace is always enough to do what He asks us to do.  My personal challenge to myself is to respond to every situation with joy.  God’s grace is enough to enable me to do that because it is a standard that He has established.

Well, enough for today.  I love you all!!  Please receive an electronic hug from me, to be followed by a real one soon.

Life in Paradise

Happy May Day, friends and family. May is my favorite month of the year, not only because I get to celebrate my birthday, but also because May is bursting with life – at least in Minnesota. I love seeing the buds on the trees, the flowers popping out of the earth, and hearing the birds. Here in Cancun it is like that all the time so the contrast is not as profound. However, today I feel springy! America needs to learn to rest like we do in Mexico – today is a holiday and no one works so I get to be with my beloved husband all day long. We have done nothing strenuous today and it is a good thing because we both have been running ourselves down physically and need a day to recuperate. So, it feels restful here in my home with my doors and windows open, enjoying the breeze and sun, hearing the birds and the occasional street vendors, watching my husband and dog as they sleep, sipping on my mango and chamoy smoothie – yes I live in paradise 🙂

I am very content with the work the Lord has been doing in our lives here in Cancun. We are growing a lot spiritually. It is one thing to grow individually but I never could have been prepared for the richness of growing WITH someone. It is like learning everything I already knew but from a completely different angle. I love it! We are at church 5 days a week: Mondays we go to a marriage course, Wednesdays we go to the school of faith, Thursdays I practice with the praise band, and we attend the Saturday and Sunday church services. At first I felt a little overwhelmed with it all but now I can honestly say that there is nowhere else I would rather be than with the family of Christ, learning and laboring for the Kingdom of God. Yes, we are incredibly content. I just got home from a weekend retreat and let me tell you that just when you think you have experienced almost everything, God can move in a new way. I am feeling refreshed and energized to press on; he definitely traded my sorrow for joy. God is so good.
For those who do not know, we have a little puppy. She is growing like crazy. She is two months old today and stands at mid-calf on me. She is going to be a handful when she gets too big to physically redirect. We are working on training all day, every day. Poor thing hears the word “no” more than any word known to man. But we love her and she loves us. She will be a good dog. She is a Boxer and her name is Baguira. I can hardly finish any of my household tasks without stopping to pet her or play with her – she is super energetic and playful and she LOVES to be my shadow. 😀


Well, I guess that is about all for now. I love each of you and I pray that all is well stateside! God bless you!!

Back from the Whirlwind

Wow, what a month!  One month ago today I was traveling to Cancun with my sister… My last of such journeys as a single gal going to see her man. I am happy to say that the wedding was amazing and the honeymoon in Cozumel was refreshing but now I am living the most important part – the marriage. I thank God ever day for the life he has given me and for the gift of my husband.  I love being married. It isn’t a flippant, naive feeling. It is hard sometimes and sometimes it is easy.  I am learning to make it good and enjoyable regardless of emotions because if we each only look out for our own interests we will miss the joy and blessing that God intends marriage to be. That said, I love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything. And obviously I love Israel and wouldn’t trade him for anyone!!!

We live in a sweet little orange house (with an extra room for visitors… Consider yourself invited).  I am currently waiting for my degree to come in the mail so I can get a work visa. Until then I keep house and run errands. I also am a regular at Curves (a gym for women) and love to walk and explore the city. I was so excited the other day when I figured out how to make Jamaica, a beverage made from the Jamaica flower. It is way cheaper to make than to buy it prepared and I really enjoy it as an occasional alternative to water. In the evenings Israel and I visit friends, go grocery shopping, work on decorating our home, prepare tomorrow’s meal, or work on homework for our Bible classes.

I would appreciate prayer for the Lord to provide a good job. I love and miss everyone back in Fergus Falls! Blessings!