Written by Ashley Mendoza, Beauty for Ashes Short-Term trip: Costa Rica, June 2018
It has been a long while since I have done anything to live out my deepest God-given dreams. I signed up for a Beauty for Ashes trip over a year ago because my heart is for women, and seeing them live out their redeemed lives in Christ. I landed in Costa Rica a few weeks ago to meet up with women that I did not know and to serve at a ministry that was just as unknown. I fully expected to serve women, see tears, and hear stories of freedom. What I did not expect was a God who intentionally set me on a path to healing during the rainy season in Costa Rica.
God is good and faithful, but disappointment is REAL LIFE. When you do not deal with disappointment it eats at you and takes from you the very things that used to bring you joy. Two years ago, I served as a missionary in Honduras. I fully believed this was me stepping into my life-long calling. When I packed my suitcase a year later and said goodbye to people who became family, I also packed away my dream of being a long-term missionary. The season that followed was 2 years of a heart trying to fill itself with everything but God’s truth that He desired to speak into my life. I arrived in Costa Rica heartbroken over perceived failure, disappointment, and with a sense of loss. During my time at our ministry site Casa Transforma, God began to chip away at those hurts. Our team went through a Beauty for Ashes retreat to understand what the women would be experiencing when we led them in the days to come.
At our team retreat, God revealed that I viewed him as disappointed in me, and that I was keeping my heart far from Him because I could not get past feeling like a failure at my life-long dream. God is such the gentleman. I watched as He not only revealed lies I believed, but in the hearts of many of my teammates as well. He did it in the sweetest way.
We were all invited to ask God where He was during a time of hurting. I waited and waited, asking God in my mind, “Where were You when I felt so disappointed and alone during that season?” The wind started to pick up at that moment, and a cool breeze began to blow on my face. I could feel my hair blowing as I was asking. I heard Him say, “I am here, I am here, I have always been here. I am in the wind you feel, and I am in the very breath you breathe.” Peace rushed in, and I felt so loved and known. I fully believe God sent that breeze to remind me that He is all around, in every season, and in every moment where it feels like too much.
The days that followed left me in awe. I cried with women as they shared their stories of heartache, I agreed with them in prayer over special needs, and I even shared my story of disappointment to women who are in ministry. God also gave me another pearl of wisdom in Costa Rica. He let me know, “I care about your story, and when your story intersects with MY story, then you can take care of HER story!” God cares about each of our stories so much that He will set up divine moments like being in Costa Rica, or a grocery store, or random acts of love to bring us closer to His heart for us. My final full day in Costa Rica was spent at a park that had wildlife, waterfalls, and lush vegetation. At the butterfly exhibit I was surrounded by butterflies of beautiful colors. What caught my eye was a wall of cocoons and the newly hatched butterflies. Some were still in the cooking stage, others had just come out and had limp wings, and then there were empty cocoons. Beloved, we are all in different stages of our journey. My time with Beauty for Ashes reminded me that every story, and every part of the journey is valuable in the Kingdom of God. Some of us are still hidden with the Lord in a cocoon, others of us have just burst forth but are waiting, not yet able to move on to what is next. Then there are those who are fluttering about, flying high, working and looking to the best days ahead. Wherever you are in your journey remember that you are God’s workmanship, created to do good works!