NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Coco versus The Book of Life

I got to see Coco over the weekend and I really enjoyed it but it couldn’t help but remind me of the Book of Life. Since these two movies have so much in common, I thought it would be fun to compare them. So in case you haven’t seen these films and want some context, here are two previews:

So let’s start off with their similarities. In both films, the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead and remembering your ancestors is a big part of the story. And both films show dead relatives coming back to visit on the Day of the Dead and involve the protagonist getting to see the dead’s world and then coming back to the real one. There is also a large emphasis on music and our protagonist in both films wants to be a musician even though his family is against it. These movies are also both geared towards younger audiences because they are family films and are animated.

Now let’s look at some of their differences. First off, the animation style is very different. Most of the Book of Life is told as if the characters are puppets and so their proportions reflect this and they can look a little goofy. It works in the story, but I tend to enjoy the more realistic style of Pixar’s animation in Coco. Pixar has a way of just making beautiful scenes in their movies and this happens again in Coco.

Speaking of breathtaking scenery, the scene where Coco first sees the Land of the Dead is quite breathtaking. But these two films, though based on the same mythology, take a bit of a different twist on what this afterlife is like. In Book of Life, the Land of the Remembered is where people go when they are remembered and it is a colorful place ruled by the benevolent La Muerte. Whereas the Land of the Forgotten is ruled by the less lovable Xibalba. However these rulers are not mentioned at all in Coco, and it’s world seems more based on reality with many similarities to our own world. Also, when someone is forgotten, they simply disappear from the land of the dead. It is even suggested that everyone will eventually be forgotten which is heartbreaking.

There is also a big difference in how these two stories play out. Book of Life revolves around a romance and a love triangle which makes sense with our older main character Manolo. In the end he proves to his family and Xibulba that he doesn’t have to kill the bull to win but instead he can use his music to win and show love. In essence he is proving his family wrong. I love the story, but I really like how Coco takes this a step further.

Miguel in Coco is much younger than Manolo and is not interested in romantic love. Instead he wants to pursue his passion for music and become a musician. But his family has a deep hate of music and he ends up running away to pursue his dream. Miguel does get to prove his family wrong in the plot, and show that music is not bad and as his family, they should support him. But he also learns a lesson; that family is more important than music, and chasing after a dream at the cost of family is not worth it. I really like that everyone learns a lesson in this film and I think it brings more depth to the movie.

The music in both of these movies is very good. Book of Life uses a lot more popular music with a Mexican twist in addition to a couple of original songs while Coco has exclusively new music written for it’s story. I don’t know if I could choose one soundtrack over the other, but it is fun to hear new songs from Coco.

And the last thing I’ll say, is that while both movies have their twists and turns, and both have well written stories, I think Coco is more surprising than Book of Life. It’s pretty easy to guess where the love triangle is headed in Book of Life’s story and even though there are obstacles along the way, it’s easy to guess the ultimate outcome. Coco, however, has several unexpected twists that I don’t want to ruin for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet. So I’ll just say I think Coco did a better job at doing the unexpected. But since Book of Life came out first, they might win on originality.

In any case, both of these movies are very enjoyable and I hope you get to see them sometime soon. Though I don’t believe in this version of the afterlife and I’m glad that my happiness is not dependent on someone else remembering me, I did enjoy the stories these two films tell.

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An Unthankful Thanksgiving

I was perusing through some old short stores I’d written several years ago and I came across one that happened at Thanksgiving. It reminded me that it’s just as easy to find things to be thankful for as it is to find things to complain about. You can ruin your own vacation by complaining or you can find joy even if the midst of hardship by being thankful. Sometimes I wonder how much I would have enjoyed that trip if I’d practiced gratitude. I hope this year you focus on the things you’re grateful for and enjoy the blessings God’s given you and don’t get stuck focusing on what’s wrong or hard.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the story!

Thanksgiving Cruise

I think it’s a bit ironic that the only cruise I’ve ever been on was set during the week of Thanksgiving. However, this is one of the trips that I can remember a lot of unthankfulness. But it did teach me a lesson. And it is one trip I’ll never forget.

We started our cruise from Galveston, TX. We should have been very thankful that we didn’t have to fly all the way to Florida to get on a cruise, but unfortunately, we were late getting to the ship, and this caused some bad attitudes.

“If only we would have left when I said we should,” Dad grumbled as he parked the car.

We hurried to unload our many suitcases and glanced up thankfully at the tall ship. At least we weren’t being left behind… yet.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” my younger sister Alicia said with a whine, “I’ve been holding it for fifteen minutes.”

“Just a little longer,” Mom assured her. “We’ll go sign in and I’m sure they have a bathroom somewhere.”

“Come on already,” my younger brother Jonny said with frustration. “I don’t want the ship to leave without us.”

I agreed with Jonny and started following him towards the wharf, with my wheeled suitcase in tow. We soon found the check-in area, and I was a bit relieved to find out that we weren’t the only family that had gotten there late. But there were some consequences. As Dad signed papers, I stared up at the ship’s deck high above us, and spotted groups of passengers clumped together in formation at the lifeboats. They were undergoing a mandatory safety training, and we were missing it.

“You’ll have to do the late training this evening,” the check in person said.

I shook my head; of course it would be my family that missed the safety training. I was pretty sure we weren’t going to experience a Titanic like adventure, but I still wanted to be prepared in case some kind of emergency happened. Now, while everyone else was having fun, we’d have to stand like a bunch of idiots out on the deck and do our safety training, basically singling ourselves out as the irresponsible ones. But it could be worse, at least we didn’t have to do it alone, there were several other families who were late too.

As our trip got underway, I found myself spending a lot of time in our cabin, a tiny room with two bunk beds, and a TV. We watched a lot of old cartoons that I hadn’t even known had existed. There was Adam Ant, and Mighty Mouse, and the Spiderman movie was played continually on one channel.

“Uh, I wish they played some better cartoons,” I whined. “Like Scooby Doo. There’s nothing good on these channels.”

“I’m bored of TV,” Jonny joined in.

“Yeah, I’m so bored.” I knew complaining about being bored was kind of dumb: I was staying in the room watching the same cartoons over and over instead of getting out on the ship. But I didn’t want to make any effort; I just wanted to be entertained. Thus the unthankfulness epidemic grew. Every little thing there was to complain about somehow got mentioned.

“Uh, I wish that stupid rule about not swimming in the adult pool never existed,” I complained.

“Yeah, that current is so fun to play in, and it’s not as crowded as the kid pool,” Jonny added.

“And we’re all good swimmers, it’s not like we need a life guard or an adult to watch us, we can take care of ourselves,” I added.

“You know what I’m sick of?” Alicia asked.

I turned my head lazily to face her, “What?”

“Those lady fingers that they put in all the desserts, they taste disgusting and I’m so tired of having to pull them out of everything.”

“Speaking of food,” Jonny added. “Did you know they ran out of free ice cream in the lounge today? Talk about disappointing.”

This kind of talk would go on and on, and what did we do; sit and watch more boring TV.

Thankfully, this was not the case every day. On the days we were stopped at an island or foreign country, there were chances to explore, and get off the boat. But complaining fests still crept upon us. The worst stop was in Cozumel, Mexico. For some reason, everyone found something to complain about that day, and even though we were all a part of doing something very enjoyable, we focused in on the parts that didn’t meet our expectations.

I climbed into the taxi after Dad had finally flagged down a taxi van that was big enough for our whole family. It had been a long day. We had split up this time with Mom and me going to a ranch to ride horses, and the Dad taking the other kids to the beach. “So what did y’all do?” I asked Alicia.

“Well the boys went swimming and climbed a big blow up iceberg, but it was too far out for me, so Dad stayed with me on the beach. It’s no fun being small. The iceberg looked like fun.”

“Yeah it was,” Jonny said. “But you got to go on the bounce trampoline and do flips.”

“But you got to do both,” Alicia whined. “I wish I could have gone with you Lydia. I would have rather ridden horses.”

“Well it wasn’t too exciting. I was separated from Mom for most of the ride. My horse wouldn’t go at all, even when I kicked like the guide said, he wouldn’t listen. He just walked when the horses in front of him walked. I really wanted to gallop with the others, but when I tried, the horse was still really slow.”

“So you didn’t have fun?” Alicia asked.

“No, it was fun. There was a cool show they did for us where this rider danced with his horse. And we saw a lot of ruins on the trail ride… they looked fake to me though.

“Well I’m starving,” my older brother Brain said. “I can’t wait to get back to the ship. Dad didn’t want to pay for any of the food at the beach. He said it was too expensive.”

Just then we pulled up to the curb. I glanced out the window at the ocean in the distance; there was our cruise ship, still as a sunken log. “Good timing then,” I said. “Let’s go eat.”

We jumped out of the van, ready to get back to our temporary home aboard the ship, but as we started moving towards the ship, a yell disrupted the evening air.

I turned back to see Dad yelling at our Taxi driver, saying something about the amount was wrong and that it shouldn’t be that expensive to drive three miles. I kept walking, hoping the other vacationers returning to the ship didn’t think we were part of the same family. I hated this day, not only had the horse ride been quite disappointing, but now my Dad was having a breakdown about money for the whole world to see. At that moment, it seemed like I was on the worst vacation ever.

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Being With Jesus

Study, Read, Book, Bible, Koran, Torah, Religion

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So first off, I’m sorry for not posting last week. July has been a crazy month for me, full of vacations, Bible Clubs and my birthday. But during all the hubbub God has been teaching me something that is really important and I thought I’d share it.

To give some context, I’ve been reading through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship and also reading through Luke and several of the New Testament Letters this month. That’s part of where I’ve been learning from God. But I was also heavily involved in my church’s outreach called Great Adventure which involves Bible Clubs (similar to Vacation Bible School for those who don’t know what that is). And in the craziness and busyness of it all I realized that I was focusing on all of the little details of a club: how presentations went, if the leaders were connecting to kids, and if the kids were having fun or bored. One day I was focusing so much on all these details and what could have gone better, that I realized I was missing the point.

That night I read in Philippians about all the things Paul did that he now considered rubbish.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ… I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-“ Philippians 3:7-9

And in the next chapter he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

I had been so focused on works that I hadn’t remembered to rejoice in what God was doing. So I changed my perspective, and instead of looking at all the problems, I looked for all the ways God was at work. He was connecting students to kids, teaching students that He answers prayer, and showing us all that it wasn’t our effort or work that mattered, but His power.

But God wasn’t done with me. As I was reading in The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer dug deep into this passage:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” Matthew 7:21-23

Just as Paul said his works were worthless, these great deeds of casting out demons and healing people were worthless. My own efforts in doing Bible Clubs would be worthless too, if I missed the whole point. Why am I doing these things? If I’m not doing them with Jesus, for Jesus, and because of Jesus, then they are worthless.

Fast forward to this morning and I found myself reading Luke 10 and the last section jumped out at me:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

I know God isn’t impressed with my works but all of these passages really reinforced that message. Jesus doesn’t care how much I do for Him, how many Bible clubs I help with, how many times I share the Gospel, how many people I serve and love. Those are all great things, and following Jesus does mean doing these things, but the whole point is being with Jesus, loving Jesus and knowing Jesus. If I forget that, it’s all meaningless. So I thought I’d share that with you today. Don’t forget to be with Jesus today.

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Forgiveness

Lonely, Boy, Child, Sad, Black And White, Atmosphere

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I had to go back in my blog posts and make sure I hadn’t already covered this subject, and I was a bit surprised to find that it had never come up, or at least not in the titles of my blogs. Recently I’ve been thinking about forgiveness and since I don’t think I’ve even done a blog post about it, I guess it’s time to.

Well, I was reading this morning in Matthew 18 about the servant who was forgiven a huge debt by his master and then didn’t show forgiveness to his fellow servant who only owed him a small amount of money. When his master found out he got pretty upset and threw the unforgiving servant in prison. At the end of the parable Jesus says “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Now don’t get me wrong, just because I’m a Christian and know a lot of facts about Jesus and the Bible, doesn’t mean that actually doing what God says is easy. I try to obey God, including when it’s doing something hard, like forgiving someone. But there are times when it just feels impossible. What that person said or did just hurt so much, was so unfair, and my heart does not want to forgive. At those times, I have to ask for help. God forgave me, of everything I’ve ever done, the times I ignored Him, when I didn’t do what He specifically told me to do, when I was lazy or selfish or prideful or arrogant. And He is able to help me forgive others.

And I know when He asks me to forgive, it really is for my own good. Letting go of those hurts is hard, yes, but holding onto them is painful too. I’ve seen so many people lose relationships because they couldn’t forgive. Those hurts may feel like huge things to let go of, but what God has forgiven us of is even greater. And we didn’t deserve His forgiveness any more than our friends and relatives deserve ours.

So anyway, that’s what I’ve been learning recently, and I thought I’d share and encourage you to show forgiveness today.

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We all need a little help

 

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On an average day I do all sorts of things without a thought: dishes, laundry, organizing, driving, reading. And most days I think I’m fine, I don’t need any help. I am a functioning adult after all, I can handle life. Of course everyone has a day when things go wrong and I shouldn’t stress about that either, it’s normal. But well yesterday things went wrong and it taught me a lesson. You see, I am a proud person, I love to help others. I’ll listen to your problems, pray with and for you, help you move, or buy you a chocolate shake, whatever you need. But when I need help, it’s hard to ask for it. I’ve struggled with this all my life. I even remember once on a youth trip that I was having a hard time being homesick and finally opened up about it and cried like a baby. But instead of feeling worse for crying, I actually felt better, and I knew the people around me cared about me.

So fast forward to yesterday. I had spent the day doing some work, meeting up with friends, discussing life and it’s problems and joys. Like usual, I didn’t talk too much about myself. (Remember that pride thing I mentioned). So I got home and just got the details on a big project I needed to start working on when my sister asked me to drive her to a chiropractor appointment. This is a fairly normal occurrence in my house, so I said sure, grabbed the keys and drove over to the medical center. We went inside and as we waited quite awhile for her to see the doctor, I started wishing I had brought a few boxes in the car that I could start organizing while my sister was waiting, or getting adjusted. But I hadn’t, so I contented myself with drawing with a new app on my phone. By the time we left the building, I had already been gone an hour and I wanted to get home and get some work done.

But when I reached in my pocket, there were no keys. I wondered if they fell out somewhere inside, but no, when I glanced inside there they were, snug in the cup holder. I shivered, for I hadn’t had the sense to grab a jacket and the temperature had dropped in the last hour. I knew there wasn’t another set of keys, my family had never gotten around to buying a spare, so I started calling. I started with parents and eventually got around to a Roadside Assistance hotline, which in turn called a company in the city where I live. And finally after lots of waiting, calls, texts, and more waiting, someone was on the way to open the car for me.

I was trying not to be too upset, but come on, I never forget to check my pockets, why in the world did I leave the keys in the car? I should have put them in my pocket. My sister remembered seeing me put them down and thinking it was odd, but she didn’t say anything and we both forgot about it until we found the car was locked and I had no keys. And I couldn’t wait outside because now it was getting dark and very cold. I had already called lots of people, but I asked my sister to call one more person, my brother, to come bring me a jacket. And when he came, I lost it. I started crying. I was just so stressed out by the whole situation and tired of being the “adult” who had to handle everything. Having him come, helped me let go of that pride and overflow with thankfulness that someone cared about me too and that if I ask for help, it’s okay.

I couldn’t help but think of the country song “You Find Out Who Your Friends Are.”

So my brother stayed with us till the locksmith showed up, and broke into my car. Eventually we all made it home and went back to life as normal. But that whole event reminded me that I’m not perfect, I make mistakes, I’ll need to ask for help sometimes, and that’s okay. There are people that still love me and will help me face the hard times, all I need to do is humble myself and ask for help.

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Praying and Praising

 

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For my next installment of Mozambique reflections I thought I’d focus on a lesson God was teaching me before and during the trip. Since we were in the country for 10 days (the other 4 days of our trip were traveling there and back) each of the 10 members of the team led a devotional on one of the days. My devotional fell in the middle of the trip and I decided to use James 5:13 as my starting point. It states “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” NIV ’84

For some reason God had put it on my heart to learn this verse before we even left for Africa, and during the trip I couldn’t get it out of my head. During my last mission trip to Haiti, God had taught me a lot about the importance and power of prayer. I couldn’t help thinking about that when I went on this next trip, and I wanted everyone around me to know how important it was to pray. The beginning of the verse states that if anyone has a problem, an issue, is “in trouble” then the obvious solution is to pray. That isn’t the normal reaction most people have and when I’m at home I often forget to pray too. But ever since my mission trip to Haiti, I’ve been trying to pray more often. So on this mission trip I encouraged my teammates to pray as well. And man there are a lot of opportunities to pray on a mission trip. Whether it was a car breaking down, getting lost in the countryside, or asking God to open people’s hearts to His gospel, there was always something to pray about. And it was exciting for me to see the team be proactive in praying after I shared about my experience with prayer. I’ll share two quick stories about prayer.

1. At the very beginning of our trip one of the cars broke down and we had to take it to the mechanic. We prayed that God would fix the car, but in the meantime we used our translator Dilon’s car which was much bigger and could even fit the whole team if we squeezed in. I didn’t realize till late in the trip that the only reason we used that car and could travel all together, and get to know Dilon so well was because the other car broke down. We had prayed for God to fix it, but He knew that it would be better for us to have the whole team together in one car and get to know our driver really well. I’m so glad for all of those bonding experiences and that God didn’t fix the car.

2. I think it was the day after I shared my devotional, we were trying to drive a bunch of orphans to the beach, and there were so many people that they had to pile onto the trailer since there weren’t enough seats. But once we arrived at the highway, we could see police cars waiting on the side of the road. If we pulled out on the highway we would get in trouble. So we stopped. There was supposed to be a taxi to meet us so everyone could be in a seat, but there was no taxi. We sat uncomfortably, unsure what to do. Someone asked Dilon, “What do we do?” His only response was “Pray.” So we did. And soon the taxi pulled up and the kids piled in and we drove past the police with no issue. It was amazing how quickly God answered our prayers.

All of my experiences with prayer were a good reminder for me that God is a loving Father ready to give us what’s best, and whether we ask for what’s best or not, He will give us what’s good and we can trust Him.

The second part of James 5:13 is something I hadn’t thought about as much. It said that if someone was happy, they should sing songs of praise. Now I don’t know about you, but in America I usually only break into song in my car or shower, not around other people. But in Mozambique things are very different. People sang all the time, while working, playing and worshiping. It really inspired me to not just sing when I’m at church, but sing when I’m happy and praise God throughout the week. And instead of writing a story, I thought I’d share this short video I took. It’s of some girls singing and dancing enthusiastically at one of the worship services we got to be a part of.

I hope this post encouraged you to be more proactive in praying and praising too.

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A Lesson in Joy

 

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I’ve been learning a lot about joy recently. Partly because it keeps coming up at church as we read through Philippians, but also because of what I’ve been going through lately. I tend to be a happy person, and look for the positive in each situation. But when circumstances get hard, I feel like I have a right to be angry, upset, hurt, sad, depressed, etc. In essence I can throw myself a little pity party and I want everyone to notice and try to make me feel better.

But that is not right. Even if a lot of other people do the same thing, and there is a time and place to mourn and cry and be sad. At the end of the day, it’s not about me, what I want, what I don’t have, my feelings, or anything related to me. It’s really all about God. His plan for my life is what matters, not my own. And I know if I let go of my self pity, and focus instead on what God is doing, I will have joy. It’s more of a choice than I realized at first. And it’s a hard one to make. There’s something in me, probably in my selfish will that wants attention, wants other’s love, wants to be noticed, but even when I finally do get that attention I crave, it doesn’t make anything better. I’m still stuck feeling sorry for myself. It’s only when I stop looking at me, that joy, life, and peace shine through.

Well it’s a lesson I’ve had to learn again and again, and I’m not done learning it. Each day I have to choose not to focus on me, and instead focus on Jesus. But I know it’s better. And I’d like to ask you to do the same thing with me today.

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Lessons from Haiti: A day of frustrations

So I’ve decided to do a series of blog posts about my mission trip to Haiti. I know it’s not what I usually write about on this blog, but I figure I can tell some fun stories, and who knows, it may turn into a novel or book someday. I’m going to break up each day of the trip into a blog post and hopefully come up with one lesson that I learned on each day of the trip.

So feel free to leave comments, suggestions, or any of your own stories or lessons you’ve learned from your own adventures.

Haiti airport

Day 1: A Day of Frustrations

Early Friday morning I set off to the airport to meet the group of 15 people headed for Haiti. But right off the bat, I was hit with distractions, or frustrations really. I hadn’t slept well the night before the trip, or really the whole week leading up to it. In addition, my sister had woken me up, due to a panic attack in the middle of the night. So I was… not rested. In addition, I’m a very time-oriented person, so when I was unable to get to the airport at 8:00 am, and in fact was the last of the group to arrive, I found my attitude about the trip as a whole taking a turn for the worse.

After hugging loved ones goodbye, we set off to check in at the baggage check. And then another unforeseen event occurred, our connecting flight to Florida, leaving from Dallas, was said to be delayed and we were told we would have to take a later flight. This would mean that instead of getting into Florida in time for some dinner and chill time, we wouldn’t get in till 9:30, and probably wouldn’t get to our hotel till after 10pm.

This frustrating stream of events was getting under my skin, but I took a minute to relax and reminded myself that none of this should be unexpected. Mission trips are rarely a smooth process. I released my anger to God and went on with the group, passing through security and making it safely to Dallas for our connecting flight.

When we landed in Dallas, I was surprised and excited to find out that the original flight we were supposed to take was not delayed after all and that our group was in the process of being transferred back to our original flight. Things were looking up, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I grabbed some girls from our group and just stopped to pray. In the middle of the airport we gave the whole situation into the Lord’s hands, and asked Him to show up.

After that moment, I stopped worrying. And God did show up! Our flight was switched without any more hassle, and our whole group made it to Florida in good spirits.

However, the day was not over, and God provided one more lesson in providence before it came to an end. I know it sounds a little weird for a group on a “mission trip” to go out to a fancy restaurant, but we did. We went to the Cheesecake Factory of all places. I’d only been once before in my life, so this was a big treat. However, going to any restaurant on a Friday night with 15 people means a long wait. And I mean a LONG wait. We were told it would take about an hour, but when that hour turned into two hours, all of us were experiencing some impatience.

Now I know this is a mission trip, and I should be expecting the unexpected, but we were still in America. We weren’t in Haiti at all, and this was difficult. We were all starving by this point, one team member even said he was close to “angry bear mode.” But still we were waiting. I started getting anxious thoughts about not getting enough rest for the morning, or maybe even the restaurant closing before we could get something to eat.

And that’s when we did it, finally… it really shouldn’t have taken us this long. We prayed. We asked God to open up the tables so we could eat. It’s amazing what God will do, once you actually stop to ask Him for something. Within minutes the tables were clear and we were being seated.

And that’s the lesson I learned from day 1: Come to God with your problems, and don’t try to handle them alone. Suddenly you’ll find that your frustrations will become glimpses of God at work.

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