"There are two great moments in a persons life: the moment you were born and the moment you realize why you were born."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The End & The Beginning

Alrighty then…who says three months from your last blog is too long? Nobody that I know : ) I have however, received some slack for not concluding this blog series “alyssa4jc” (Alyssa for Journey Corps). I thought a good way to do that would be to sort of recap the highlights of the last two years or so.

SUPPORT RAISING:
If I were to be honest here, I’d say I’d hated support raising. I don’t even like asking for a discount at the restaurant I worked at let alone asking friends, families and stranger to join in on this adventure with me. But it was also the time where I have felt the Lord’s presence over anything else in my life.
       The day all of my money was due was quickly approaching, like tomorrow approaching, and my support online still showed that I only had 48% of my $18,000 support in. at this point everyone is telling me that I’m not going. Frustrated and confused, I decided there was nothing else I could do by tomorrow except pray and hope God would show me some crazy part of what He’s doing. The moment I sat on the park bench He says “follow me, you are going this fall, just wait and be patient, let my glory shine.” Okay, I say…I mean you can’t really argue with that right? That night I had a meeting with the Missions Committee at my church, who were trying to brainstorm on what to do. Until finally, I shared what God had revealed to me that afternoon. With everyone confused now, I left the meeting anxiously awaiting on what God would do. Well that next morning Journey Corps Admin emailed me saying the due date and departure date had been postponed 1 month. That week my support jumped to 96% and I was even able to be in one of my best friends weddings : ) Oh how awesome is the Lord’s provision!

ON THE FIELD:
Well I think ‘on the field’ deserves just a quick overview, because there are too many good and bad stories to share. Plus, that is basically what all of my other blogs are about. So just to share a few:

FRUSTRATIONS

Language learningWater fightsFirst time in Market w/ the crazy manLearning about: His provision
CommunityTripsMoving into host familiesHis love
Culture shockRock quarryDriving moto for the first timeHis mercy
Rats in my bedCampingSomething happening to someone back homeHis grace
Food I love to hateLate night talksThe unknownsHis justice
Being treated like a two year oldTown runsMy dependency on Him
CommunityLiving day to day w/ Him
Thousands of games playedThat it’s not by my works lives are changed, but by His awesomeness

 
THE SECOND TIME AROUND:
So as I am sure that most of you know that after my first year in Cote d’Ivoire, I returned to California for the month of November and then left again for RCI for two months. Devin (a good friend of mine from the first team) and I accompanied a new couple over to Africa. My ministry turned from secretarial things to administration and orientation. I then focused on helping with Jessica and Steve’s orientation into what Journey Corps is all about on the field. I also looked to help out three others on the team who just moved into their host families and churches.


What is God teaching me now?

And this is the perfect example of what God has been teaching me. If someone were to ask me, this time last year, what I thought my dream job would be, doing what I was doing in Africa those two months was exactly it; mentoring and encouraging people as they try to figure out what it looks like for them to live missional lives. That is the very reason why I had agreed to go back in the first place. The original plan was for me to stay much longer than just 2 months, but for some reason or another God was calling me back home early. Like when I was raising support God kept telling me to just follow him. Thus why I returned to the states so early. Now that I have been here for three weeks I’ve realized that by God sending me back to Africa, He was giving me the desires of my heart. But by Him sending me home again He taught me how well He knows me. He knows the desires of my heart better than I ever could-He made it didn‘t He? I now know that God has something even better planned for me, something I could not possibly imagine. My hearts desire is no longer my own…His hearts desire is now mine. That’s what it means to have my heart broken for what breaks His and moved by what moves His. I get the feeling that that’s how it was supposed to be, even if it wasn’t I am contently resting in the peace that God is so much bigger than I could ever imagine.

Scripture of the Blog:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

I know for sure He’s not done with me yet! Are you sure of it? What is He doing in and through you? The last I heard, although we wait eagerly, Jesus hasn’t returned yet, so I’m pretty sure that that means He’s still working in you too.

Final Farewell:

Well this is the end of my Africa season and the beginning of the next season of my life. When people asked why I hadn’t written a final blog or newsletter yet, the only thing I could thing of was because writing one last blog, to “officially” close my time is a little silly. My friends, I’m not ready to say ‘good-bye’ to my Ivorian brothers and sisters, or my parents, or my friends, or my church, or my neighbors, or even the guy I buy a bottle of gas from. I don’t want to say ‘see you later’ to the team who has become my family. I don’t want to figure out work and other stuff back here and get caught up in the routine and craziness of life again. However, despite all of these things I know God is going to use them. I will be back to see my Ivorian family members and friends again one day. I know my JC team will be reunited some day (probably a day in July for our friend Heidi Kogler’s wedding). God has a plan and again I am resting in the peace that He knows what He’s doing.

So for one last time…I say thank you to everyone who has supported me in any way, shape or form. Whether you gave money, prayer, a kind thought, or just read these blogs for the kick of it, I am so appreciative. Please update me on your lives and hey…maybe we can get some coffee now that we’re in the same continent again : )

Love always and forever,
Your sister through Christ Jesus
Alyssa Joy Grabarkewitz
         FUN STUFF                SCARES                     GOD MOMENTS

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Provisions in Benin

Greetings everyone! I hope your day goes awesomely well and something fun and unexpected happens. Wow! I can hardly believe that it is already October! This time last year I was freaking out, trying to get ready to go to Africa and now I am freaking out, trying to get ready to go back to the United States. It is truly such a surreal idea that I’ll be returning so soon!


A very unique and cool part of Journey Corps is that we have the opportunity to go on a “West Africa Adventure” if we so chose to. Well my friend Naomi and I decided to do just that and left on a bus for Benin. There, we joined a YWAM team on their outreach. Instead of writing all about our trip I thought I could just use Naomi’s blog to inform all of you. Here is her link: http://theivoryjourney.blogspot.com/ so please check out the pictures and read about our craziness of Benin and Burkina Faso. Just to add…we just calculated the time in the bus…66 hours!!! I won’t lie…if I never get on a bus again, it’ll be TOO soon.

Scripture of the Week:
“So don’t worry about these things…these things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously and he will give you everything you need.” ~ Matthew 6:31-33

The whole trip to Benin and back was an awesome testimony of how much the Lord provides for us. Naomi shared a few examples of how He provided us with bus tickets when the bus was sold out, how our contacts found us randomly in an alley at 1:30am and even how I got to climb my waterfall. But it was so much more than that. God provided us with His peace and serenity in this crazy adventure. We were blessed to learn new things and in new ways about the God we serve and to depend on Him to show up. Like Francis Chan says in ‘Forgotten God,’ “we should be living a life where we are SCREWED if the Holy Spirit doesn’t show up.” Well Nao and I learned just that.
Prayer Requests:
*Pray for my Uncle John. He is sick in the hospital, pray that the Lord would reveal Himself to him and also for healing
*The YWAM team in Benin & soon in Togo. They will continue to be warriors for the Almighty, in perfect unity in mind, heart and spirit
*Our JC team…we have 19 days left with our host families and return to the states in just 27. Please keep all of us in your prayers as we start to make the transition home.
*After being home for 2 to 3 weeks I am looking to return to the Ivory Coast. Please be praying for this transition as well. It’ll be extra hard to leave again and know that majority of my team will stay in the states.

Well as always I thank you guys for joining me on this adventure and keeping updated with what goes on here, even though I fail at keeping you updated regularly. Take care and let me know how things are going for you and how I can be praying for you. Until next time…

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mouse Trap

Happy Friday everyone :) So in my last blog I wrote about how awesome prayer has been and how it has become a new ministry for some of us during this summer break. In this blog I would like to share with you guys a story about my frustrations with prayer. So here it is!

Normally before I go to sleep I read in bed for a little while. On Wednesday I am reading the last of the “Mark of the Lion” series and then see a rat on my sister Martha’s bag. I’m not usually afraid of rats so I shine the light on it and watch it scurry away. I am then dead asleep for about 15 minutes and feel something tugging or moving on my blanket. I think “no no no…it’s not possible for a rat to get into the mosquito net, I tucked it under the bed. I must be imagining it (hallucinations can be a side-effect of my malaria preventative that I took that night).”
I feel it again.
Frantically, I throw off the blanket and search for my flashlight. When it is nowhere to be found I use my ipod and feel something soft brush my fingertips. I shine the light and there it was, now by my pillow…THE RAT!! I scared it out and thought it wouldn’t come back, well…it did! I obviously left my bed at this point and decide to go into the unfurnished living room and sit on a kitchen chair.
There, I had the strong inclination that the Lord wanted me to pray. I knew there was something I needed to pray about, but I wasn’t sure what that was and kept getting distracted about thoughts of that rat or fear that there were more in the living room. I kept telling myself; someone will come out of their room and help or the rat will just leave. After almost falling asleep a few times and each time being woken up by something, I finally hear the Lord’s voice, “you didn’t pray about the rat or for help.” Then it dawned on me, I had set expectations for God, expected them without asking Him and then got frustrated when they didn’t happen. So after hours I finally laid it all out to God. I prayed that someone would come out of their room, notice me and then help. Since I knew I was supposed to be praying, I vowed that I would continue to pray until then and just wait on God’s timing. When I say ‘amen’ my host dad walks out of his room and starts talking to me. I couldn’t help but laugh, because then and there God refuted my doubts and worries that I had been struggling with for a good two and a half weeks. Doubts about God even hearing me or that they were being answered.
My host dad un-successively searched for the rat and tucked me into my mosquito net again. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep at all that night! The rat kept making noises and I was super jumpy. I prayed for the supporters who sent requests and some that didn’t and prayed for a ton of other things. Finished Harry Potter on tape, read more Mark of the Lion and still sat there waiting for the sun to come up. Next morning, my host dad said that he saw 2 rats in the living room just a few days ago and I needed to tuck something under the door so they couldn’t get into my room…that would have been helpful to know beforehand.

Scripture of the week:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people, then you won’t become weary and give up. After all you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” Hebrews 12:1-4

I read this after reading about the apostles healing people. I was thinking, God when I pray nothing like that EVER happens. I don’t hear about that in the churches, or in other Christian Communities. Prayer and faith go hand in hand and can’t be separated from each other.

With all of this I realized just how often I put requests or expectations on my prayers. I want it done a certain way, within a certain time period and then I say ‘Lord willing.’ So I basically superimpose my will on God’s and expect Him to work. I am finding that God doesn’t work that way. I also realized that a huge part of my faithlessness is due to me. It’s about me ridding me of myself. I have to be humble enough to not seek after my benefits or asking what will happen to me. I can’t worry about happens…I’m in His hands. Things are going to happen, I feel it…He is waiting for His perfect timing and in His perfect way!

Prayer Requests:
~PRAISE…a few people have emailed me prayer requests and a week later crazy cool answers to those prayers
~Continue to be praying from all of our Muslim friends and families during the month of Ramadan
~Let’s pray for our faith and our prayer. That we can start a faith praying revolution! What would it be like if we actually started praying boldly? Or if we really stopped worrying about the “us” in the equation and instead sought a faith that could move mountains? Dude…I can’t even begin to imagine these things. So let’s pray for a praying revolution

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Got Nothin’

Since it has been FOREVER LONG since I have posted a new blog, I thought it would be a good idea to at least jump on here and shout out prayer requests and praises, for those of you who are on my prayer team. That, and I totally don’t have an idea for a blog. I was hoping that this would buy me a little bit of time : )

God has been laying prayer heavily on my heart. I have NOTHING other than prayer. It is only through prayer that lives are changed, mountains move and the enemy is defeated. We shouldn’t be taking this lightly and should be sensitive to the Holy Spirits leading in prayer. Also be expecting God to show up. So in your next prayer session please lift these up with me:

Prayer Requests:
- Our new team members arrive this Monday. Please keep these girls in your prayers as they are preparing to come to Cote d’Ivoire. Pray that their good-byes with friends and family goes smoothly and that the Lord would prepare them for what He has planned to show and reveal to them. Also pray that we would be open and welcoming to these girls and for them to be open with us. Pray that the enemy could not get a foothold between our group and especially within their small group.
-We have our week of seminars also starting on Monday. Pastor Kéo will be going through Acts for our seminar. Please pray that God would speak to our hearts and that we would here His small, quiet voice. Also for rest, I know a few of us are running low on fuel and really need to be energized and encouraged (me including).
- My high school girls in the states. This week is camp and we all hear the stories about how awesome camp is. (that’s how I became a Christian) Pray that this would not just be another camp or camp high, but this week lives are changed. Specifically be praying for Hayley, Emily, Kelly, Danielle, Natal, Kylie and Makenna and their leaders Anna, Amanda and Sarah. Pray that God would rock their worlds and change their lives. That they (including leaders) would hear God’s voice as though it were shouting through a loudspeaker in their ears. Also for our wonderful youth pastor Jason Hickey, that he would be renewed and refreshed this week.
-Something God has been putting on my heart it prayer. Please pray that I would learn what it means to DAILY sit at the foot of the cross and sit in awe of my Savior. Also that I would learn and recognize the power in prayer

Scripture of the week:

"Then Jesus said to the disciples, 'Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, 'May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've recieved it, it will be yours.'"
-Mark 11:22-24

Let’s continue to pray all day every day.

Thanks for joining me in prayer. I pray for you as well. That God would show you just how powerful He is through your prayers. With that, that we would start a praying revolution and let the Spirit change the world around us. Shout out prayer requests on the bulletin or email them to me so I can anonymously post them so we can start praying for our brothers and sisters. Love you guys!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bizarre Everyday Life

I am now 8 months into living here in Cote d’Ivoire and things after that long start to become normal and just a part of everyday life. So when I was dodging someone on a moto the other day, because they were on the wrong side of the road, I was thinking that would never happen in America. Well this blog is going to be about things that would never happen in America that I have grown accustomed to, because they are just everyday normal things here.

Transportation
In Cote d’Ivoire:
~it is ok to drive on the wrong side of the road if:
-the road has less pot holes, sand or water
-you are going to be making a turn anyways, it doesn’t make sense to go over to the right side of the road when you are going to end up taking a left turn anyways
-you were already on that side, going that direction…just SO much simpler this way

~it is more economically efficient to mimic the clown cars and cram as many people as you possibly can into a vehicle or moto. This means:
-squeezing 45 people in a 20 person car
-it’s not necessary to close the door to the bus, because someone can hold on to it and that’s just one more person that can fit inside
-riding on top of an already packed bus is fine
-jumping on the back of buses and cars are a good idea
-5 people riding on a little moped such as this one…

In America:
The cop pulling you over would say that both of these things are unsafe and a little stupid as he hands you a crazy expensive ticket.

Babies

In Cote d’Ivoire:
~we like our babies pretty so dressing them up in make up for special events or just because you want to happens often.

~breast feeding happens in the following places:
-church
-the side walk as you are walking, with something on your head
-on a moto
-at work
-as the baby is strapped to your back
-basically…EVERYWHERE and anytime
*more on breast feeding please watch the “Ode to Wrinkly Pancakes” by thee Heidi Kogler and Naomi Smith*

video
~carrying children is a piece of cake with your extra panya (a very common fabric, used to make clothes, blankets and everything else fabric is made out of). You tie the baby to your back. Women also do this while on the back of motorcycles, carrying things on their heads, or just cleaning the house. Since I am a twin, I’m always curious about what moms do with multiple children, well they tie one on the front and the other on their back. We are always looking for hands free methods of things in America, like cell phones and such, well in Cote d’Ivoire we have hands free child care.

In America:
~we still like pretty babies, but instead dress them up in ridiculously expensive outfits they can only wear once (probably for like an hour) and then the next day they out grew it.

~let’s be honest, most of us are terrified of breast feeding, so we don’t usually have to see it.

~instead of using a blanket to strap in our kids, we just put them in a backpack…the same thing we put books in…huh

Cooking
In Cote d’Ivoire:
~Safety and sanitary rules include:
-cooking on the dirt floor
-using a dull knife, not using a cutting board (it’s your leg if you need one) and cutting towards yourself
-if something falls on the dirt floor, it’s totally ok, just rinse it off with water and your are good to go
-finding different preservatives (since rice and sauce don’t store well in refrigerators) such as ashes from coals

In America:
~if this was going on when I was still working at Stonefire I would only hear “EWWW…I’m not eating that!”

Other bizarre differences would include
~the use of your left hand…traditionally, people don’t use toilet paper
~mesh (fake hair) vs real hair
(I can’t tell you how many people ask me if I have mesh or if this is real)
~matching: the more colors you use the better you look
~men in loin clothes talking on their cell phones (there’s nothing to compare that too)
~rear ends sticking up in the air
-when you sweep
-drop something
-cooking
-washing dishes
-people here are ridiculously flexible because they are constantly bent over at their waste

These are just a few of the things I went through during my culture shock. Although they sound bizarre these things feel so normal. I can’t believe how at home this all feels and how much Cote d’Ivoire feels like home. It sort of goes with the…

Scripture of the Week:
“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”
Hebrews 13:14

Reading that I remember that this world will never truly feel like my home. I don’t belong here. It makes me so excited to go home, to my real home. I can’t imagine how awesome it’ll be to run to my heavenly Papa’s arms in my heavenly house.

Prayer Requests:
*I would be present wherever I am at and sensitive to the Lord’s leading. Some day this place is going to feel like a far away dream, I want to soak up as much as I possibly can in the little amount of time I have left
*In just a few weeks we have lots of traveling and work to do to prepare for the next group of Journeyers. Please pray for these preparations and for our new family members. Pray that they would arrive safely and for their families in the states
*Heidi and I are starting a new project with the youth group at our church, small groups. I feel like Beachpoint has drilled that into our brains and now we have the opportunity to help start it with our church here.

I hope you enjoyed the fun things that shocked me about Cote d’Ivoire and that you were able to learn something new today. As always I am going to say if you, your family, or friends have prayer requests or praises shout ‘em out. And I would love to hear your updates or comments. Have a great day and I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Active Living Word

I know what you are thinking…WOW 2 blogs in just 1 week…how does she do it? Well this is something I felt the Lord telling me to share here on blogspot.

Scripture of the Week:
“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angles or demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38-39

So the last few days or so I have been feeling a little restless and discontent, honestly I have just been downright in a bad mood. On Thursdays I go to the dispensary with my friend CJ and while she works I find a quiet place to read and journal. I can’t find an alone place at my house or at the Bible Institute. So yesterday I read in Romans chapters 6 and 7. I was still feeling not like myself so I stopped and prayed that God would show up and be my all and all, my ONLY vision. Then I discovered how hungry I was for the word of the Lord and I decided to keep reading Romans and read until chapter 11. I can’t even begin to explain the night and day difference and freedom there is from sitting and soaking up the Lords words. I literally forget how chronic I am without Jesus and how much of a necessity and source of nutrition He and the Scriptures are. And that’s how we were created to be…to be dependent on God. I praise God for creating us like this. So desperate and dependent on Him and NOTHING else (though people try to search) can ever fill or take His place. He is the Lord of EVERYTHING and especially of my heart. I want to freely and daily live for Him and bring glory to His name. I hope He would continue to mold and stretch me (although a painful process) far beyond what I expect. Even if it feels small and insignificant at times, He deserves nothing less than ALL of me.

So I didn’t want to be preachy (because I can’t stand it when people are) but I really want to be encouraging my brothers and sisters in Christ to stop and find their rest in God. As Americans we are constantly on the go, we never stop to look for rest. So today, if possible right now…STOP, pray and find out what God wants to show you in His word. Be honest with him with your frustrations and disappointments; watch what He does with them. I forget that the Scriptures are supposed to be an active living source, yet way too often I just see it as an ancient boring text. So I want to challenge you to explore those life giving Words. Then let someone know what you find, you never know if God is using you to pour the gospel over someone else. And as always let me know what He is doing in you and how I can be praying for you. I hope this finds you well. Until next time…

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Birthday Surprise's and Updates

Greetings everyone! I hope while you are reading this that the Lord is giving you rest and peace from school and work since it is finally SUMMER VACATION!! Which, by the way, I completely forgot existed. So when I was in-putting the final grades for the pastors in training at Bethel Bible Institute and see a bunch of them leaving with suitcases, I thought we were being evacuated for something haha…yup…it’s summer! So there is just too many good things going on right now and I want to share a little bit about each one.

Koko Church
On June 13th there was a roof pouring project at AEBECI’s Koko church. People arrived starting at 5 am and working till about 8pm. Hundreds of people passing buckets of cement on scaffolds and sketchy beams. I literally do not know the words to say about how amazingly cool this day was. The unity of the church was absolutely phenomenal. My friend CJ, who attends the Koko church here in Korhogo, has some pretty cool things to say about the roof pouring along with a few pictures. So check her blog out!

Birthday
My 21st birthday! This was just another normal day at work in the morning and then I was suddenly kidnapped by my two friends, Devin and Chazz, from Bouaké. They literally picked me up and put me in the car (it scared me) and took me to our favorite restaurant in town. There the owner, Rodolph, surprised me with my picture on placemats, a HUGE cake, salad, yummy frozen fruit drinks and a photographer! I was blown away by all of the surprises! It was an awesome Africa birthday the best I’ve ever had :) and the cool thing about it is that it is totally something that my friends would do in the states and something they did for my brother George. [Happy birthday to you as well brother! Love and miss you like no other, you being here would have TOPPED it off]

IBB Guest House
The Korhogo Krew had a last meeting/lunch time with Rod before he and his wife leave for Germany. So I went shopping in the market and came back to the guest house and was able to cook American style food in an American style kitchen! It was delicious. Afterwards we just spent our team picking Rod’s brain, talking and just spending some time together before they leave. The next day Naomi started not feeling well and here in West Africa it is unthinkable to leave a sick person by themselves…so the Korhogo Krew came back to the guest house and just had a kick back day. It was an extremely needed and great day of rest. We were able to watch a movie and eat lunch together again.

Scripture of the Week:
“It is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.” Romans 2:29b


God is continuing His path emphasizing that it is His Spirit moving and working in me, it is not by my works that things are accomplished. As always God is concerned for our hearts. He is also continuing to teach me about seeking His praise ABOVE all else. I always seek to please others, when the only thing I need to be worried and focused on is seeking my Father. Like the popular Christian song “How He Loves Us” says…He is jealous for me. He’s also jealous for you too…

Prayer Requests:
-I would be here and not distracted by things in the states or questions about what’s next
-Pastor Kéo, he is still in the states and the last time I heard, the presentations and his travels are going well and are being received well.
-EVERYONE is still sick!!! With rainy season comes mosquitoes, and with mosquitoes comes malaria please pray for our health, rest and energy
-As we are creeping up on our 8th month living here in Cote d’Ivoire, things start to feel normal, please pray that we would not become comfortable in our faith and complacent with our ministries. It is so easy to fall into a normal routine instead of being pushed and sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading

As always I really look forward to hearing about you and what the Lord is doing in your lives. Please know that I pray for my supporters every Friday night, so if there is ever anything I can be lifting up for you please shout it out. And also just let me know what’s new with your life. My favorite thing about my birthday was all of the encouraging notes and updates from my friends and family in the states…so I think we should keep that up! Haha. Take care and God bless you, can’t wait to hear from you! :)