Monday, July 18, 2011

Do Not Be Surprised...

I'm happy!

If I were a superstitious person, which I'm not,  I would be afraid to say anything about how happy I am for fear of jinxing myself.  But I'm happy and I know it and I want to smile a surely show it!!!  I may or may not also be clapping my hands.

When I was getting ready to move to Florida, I was nervous about all the unknowns.  Literally every aspect of my life was getting ready to change (again!) and I had no idea what to expect.  I would be starting a new job after not working a "real job" for the last 5 months.  I would be living in the same town as Tony after only having seen him in person a grand total of about two and a half weeks over these last five months.  I would be living in a place that has a totally different climate than I have ever lived in.  I would be around a totally different people.  I would be far away from all of my friends and family.  I would be attending a new church.  I would have to make all new friends.

It was a lot to think about.

But you know what, my transition has actually been...dare I say...easy!  The first few days were the hardest simply because it had finally hit me that everything was changing and would never be the same.  I missed my family and friends.  But after the second day, (and a good cry) I felt this overwhelming peace come over me.  When Tony asked me to marry him I said yes with peace and joy in my heart.  Before I said yes to Tony, I had said YES! to God's plan for my life and the peace that transcends all understanding fell on me like a warm, fuzzy blanket right out of the dryer.  

I started my new job last Monday and I love it (I'll tell you all more about that in another post)!  Tony's friends have made me feel welcome and loved.  His church family is amazing and I am so excited to be a part of it now.  Tony's parent's and sisters are treating me like one of the family even though, technically, I won't be an Alicea for another few months.  Tony and I are loving that we are finally in the same town and are having an awesome time learning about each other and spending time together.  

Life is GREAT!  Like, seriously super great!

This morning in church as I was worshipping, God gave me this verse:

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." 1 Peter 4:12-13
At first I thought I had heard Him wrong because right now my life is anything but a fiery ordeal (unless you count the Florida heat).  But directly after giving me that verse, He said to me...."Do not be surprised at the blessings, favor, peace, joy, and grace you are experiencing as though something strange were happening to you."


That's when I realized that in the joy I am feeling right now, I am having a really hard time expecting more awesomeness.  It's not like I'm biting my nails expecting something horrible to happen, but I do find that I am reminding myself that this joy is only temporary; so don't get too comfy.  It's when life is tough and I'm barely hanging on that I expect more joy, blessings, grace, and peace.

When life is really awesome, like it is right now, why not believe for even more?

We can get so afraid of sounding like we are preaching the Prosperity Gospel that sometimes we hold back just how much God blesses us.  God doesn't bless me exceedingly abundantly so that I can keep all the goodies for myself.  He blesses me so that I can give it away.  He wants me to give away love, joy, peace, understanding, compassion, mercy, grace, and comfort.  I can't give away what I don't have.

In John 16:33, Jesus tells us that in this life there will be troubles.  We all know that to be true.  Life is going to have it's hard times, but that shouldn't take away from the joyful times we are graced by God to experience.  If all I do is think about impending doom when life is good, then I will have nothing to give to others and I will have no joy for myself.

Do not be surprised when God blesses you.  Do not be surprised by God's power and reach.  Do not be surprised by God's love.

Expect abundant blessings and persevere through the inevitable hardships.  When life is chalked full of awesome...stop worrying about the future and be thankful for right now.

Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.


A very blessed woman

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Snapping Turtles...

I proudly snapped a few photos as the Difference Makers Church middle school/high school F.U.S.E. summer camp 2011 kicked off on June 27th, 2011 at Summit Lake Camp.  We had 112 campers this year.  56 girls and 56 boys.  Each cabin held a max of 14 kids and had at least 2 counselors.  (Shout out to Cabin 10!!!!)

As the counselors and leadership prayed in preparation for camp, we came to God with a realization that the majority of the campers this year weren't "church goin' kids".  Some of them had never been to church before and certainly had never been to a camp such as this. 

I wasn't sure what to pray at first.  A few different prayers crossed my mind.  The first one was along the lines of asking Jesus to take it easy on the newbies so they don't freak out when He shows up and take off running down the country roads of Emmitsburg, MD.  But I went ahead with my second prayer and pleaded for the Holy Spirit to waste no time crashing down into our camp like a sonic boom and laying us all out in His wake. 

He kindly obliged.

I could type for days about all the amazing touches of God I witnessed; not only in the kids lives, but in my own.  It's amazing what God will do when you invite Him in.

I think one story sorta sums things up pretty well.  It's a story about snapping turtles.

Summit Lake

We weren't allowed to swim in the lake because it was full of snakes and snapping turtles.  That didn't stop a few brave souls from throwing caution to the wind and hopping in anyway.  Instead of swimming, we could fish off the peer or ride around in paddle boats.  At the beginning of camp it became a goal of few of the guys to catch a snapping turtle.  Just when they would almost get him....he would get away.  The desire to catch a snapping turtle spread and more kids were headed to the paddle boats to see if they could get a chance to catch one.  They wanted so badly to catch one that they would even get together and pray before heading out.   The more illusive the turtles became, the harder they would chase.  One day, a few of the kids almost had one and then just as they were about to grab it, someone in their boat scared it away by opening a slim jim.  Classic mistake.  

As the last hours of camp winded down, Kirk told the kids to go out and walk around the camp grounds one last time and spend some quiet time with God.  Pastor Clark's son, Caleb, decided to head back down to the lake one last time and skip a few rocks.  He picked up a good sized rock and just as he was about to toss it across the top of the water, he felt something scratch his skin.  He looked in his hand and discovered a baby snapping turtle.  When all the campers heard about what Caleb had found they were absolutely stunned.  Of all the crazy things that happened to them that week, they were totally floored that someone actually got a snapping turtle.

It may seem like a little thing at first...catching a snapping turtle.  After all the miracles that week, why would catching a baby snapping turtle make these kids go slack jawed?  It's because they got to see that God cares about every prayer and desire of your heart.  These kids prayed some serious prayers that week.  They prayed for healings from cancer and addiction; they prayed for new hearts and minds; they prayed for broken families and past wounds.  They prayed these prayers with tears of desperation falling down their cheeks.  They risked trusting God with their most private fears, struggles, and desires.  When they saw that He is able to hear and answer even the smallest of the prayers that they sent up to Heaven, their seed of faith got watered with a little more hope.  

I thank God so much for that snapping turtle.  He said so much with such a small gesture.  

As much as those kids chased after the snapping turtles that week, God gave one to them when they weren't even trying.  I love that.  The more we chase things in our own strength, the further away they seem to get.  God delights in giving us the desires of our hearts, but sometimes they don't come in the time and in the way we thought they's always better when He brings it to us.

My deepest prayer is that the kids grab onto what happened last week like it's the last life preserver on a sinking boat.  I pray that when life is hard and they feel like God isn't there, they turn to those moments of truth they experienced at Summit Lake.  I pray the same for myself.  

I feel blessed and honored to have shared the week with so many amazing leaders and campers.  I am forever changed.  The burden that I have for the lives of our young people grew even heavier last week. I thank God for that burden.  I will carry it until Jesus sees fit to bring me Home.

I'll leave you with a few pics of our week:

Nell and me dressing up like Ke$sha (Nell)  and Katy Perry (me)

More like Katy Scary instead of Perry

Ah, the beloved bullhorn.  Coveted by all leaders.

The Sharks!

Some of my Cabin 10 ladies!

Rock Star night!

Yep, that's my Pastor.  Yep, he took rock star night really seriously.



What are some things you've chased, that God brought to you when you stopped chasing them and started seeking Him?  Did you go to summer camp?  Talk to me...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My True Bollywood Story: Part III...

Tony and me about to set out on our 18 hour road trip adventure!! :)

Today, I'm writing to you from Sunny (okay it's a little rainy today) Florida!  

I'm here!!  I'm here!

I have so much to tell you.  F.U.S.E camp was kick AWESOME in every way.  I can't wait to tell you all about it.   The 18 hour UHaul drive from WV to Florida with Tony was also surprisingly awesome.

But today, I'm going to tell a different story.  

Today we're going to turn to another chapter in My True Bollywood Story.

My True Bollywood Story: Part III

I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with my girlfriends regarding boys and relationships over the course of a lifetime.  If there are world records for such things, I think at one time, we probably broke all of them without batting an eye.  We would laugh, cry, and struggle together through each heartache and painful moment; each rejection and cringeworthy date.  (One day I think we'll write a book compiling all of our favorite dating horror stories.)

After 4 years of a boyfriendless existence, my parents worried aloud to me as I told them that I refuse to just "get out there" so that I can meet my soul mate.  I told them what I had to tell myself over and over again....He'll find me while I'm living my life for Jesus.  The End.

I would tell people what I wanted and what I was waiting for and they would tell me over and over again that that guy doesn't exist.  

They meant well.  I know they did.  

But I'm stubborn.

So I waited.

I hoped.

I had faith....even though it truly was the size of a mustard seed.

And in God's timing, Tony found me!!!  That guy DOES exist!!!!  

Or more accurately...Tony found my blog.  

It's been 7 months since he first wrote a comment on my blog.  

It's been 5.5 months since we started our whirlwind long distance relationship.

It's been 3 months since he told me he loved me for the first time while we were standing in the waves at Deerfield Beach, FL.

And....It's been 2 days since he asked me to marry him...

He liked it so he put a ring on it....

I hate to ruin the end of the proposal story, but....I said YES!!!

I knew we were getting engaged when I decided to move to Florida, but Tony somehow managed to totally surprise me with his proposal.

I know you're just dying to know how he did it, and I'm dying to tell you, so here goes:

Sometime during our loooong drive down, Tony mentioned to me that his best friend, Andy, was having a 4th of July party at the beach in front of his place on Monday evening.  

Even though I was still totally exhausted, and I am sure Tony was as well, I couldn't wait to see the ocean and stick my feet in the sand!

When we got to the beach, Tony and I walked around looking for Andy's party and couldn't seem to find them.

We walked down closer to the water  where the sand was harder and easier to walk on.  

We kept walking for a minute but couldn't seem to find them.

I wondered aloud where they might be as Tony scanned the beach for them.

After a few minutes of joking about throwing me in the water, Tony finally said, "If I'm being completely honest....they're not here."

"Really!?  Why?" I said with a confused look on my face.

"Well, I really just wanted to bring you to the beach."

I didn't say anything, but my first thought when he said that was, "Well, why didn't you just tell me you wanted to go to the beach with me instead of making up a story about Andy's party...?"  But before I could form that thought into an audible sentence, Tony said, "I just know how much you love the beach.  It's the first place I told you that I loved you, so I figure it's the perfect place to propose to you."

I jumped back, threw my hands up over my smiling mouth, and said, "NO WAY!!!! Oh my gosh...NO WAY!!!!"

Tony reached into his pocket, pulled out a little, shiny wood box, got down on one knee, opened the box to reveal the most beautiful ring in all creation, and......proposed to me!!!

I said YES and he stood up and kissed me.  Well, he actually kissed my teeth because I couldn't quit smiling!  

It ended up that there actually was a party at Andy's so we were met with tons of hugs and congratulations when we finally arrived.  That night we all sat out on the beach and watched the 4th of July fireworks explode over the warm waters of the Atlantic.  

As the sand around us lit up blue, green, and red, I looked over at Tony and thought to myself, "Look what God can do for you when you only believe enough to put one foot in front of the other!  Look how good and faithful He is to give us what He promises us!  How can God really love me so much that He would give me a partner in life that is custom made for me, and me for Him!?  How can His power and reach in my life be so much bigger than my fears and worries!?  This God I love and follow is truly beyond my understanding, but yet, with my permission, wants more than anything to live in me, guide me, counsel me, comfort me, hold me, discipline me, reveal truth to me, strengthen me, and fill me with love so abundant that it overflows into the lives of those around me.  His lavish love is enough to make me blush."

The ring that Tony picked out for me is completely perfect in every way.  Every where you look there is a tiny detail that makes it all the more special.  It's as if he has known me all my life and not just a few short months.   

When we let God write our story, He doesn't just give us the big desires of our heart...He gives us things we hid away deep in our hearts.  He gives us the details.  

The moral of this story is...

Following Jesus no matter where He goes or how long He takes to get there isn't always easy, fun, and is most certainly not painless, but believe's worth it.  If you are tempted to give up because you feel like God isn't answering your prayers, or you've experienced too much pain, or you're just plain tired of waiting....I encourage you to keep pressing in toward Him.  Claw, crawl, and bawl....but don't stop.  

Don't give up.  

He's there.

He is always there.

He hears every prayer, He knows your hurts, He collects every tear,......He loves you.

Please keep Tony and I in your prayers and we set down the narrow path together.  We know that marriage isn't easy, but we aren't looking for easy....we're looking for Jesus.  

Thank you for your encouragement, thoughts, and prayers!


The Future Mrs. Alicea!