Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sweeter as the years go by...

Well.  I haven't even gotten started, and if you could see my eyes you would see that they are brimming with tears.  It's because I know what's on my heart, and I just have to write it down.  I'm about to back up here and tell 3 or 4 stories all in one...because they all have the same point...

Years ago, there was another relationship in my life.  I thought it was going to be my marriage one day, but that didn't work out.  At the time, I was really upset about it, but I had faith that God would bring me the right person.  I had been taught that a marriage is not just about you and the other person, but that God wants a marriage to bring two people closer to him.  It's about a coventantal love. A sacrificial love.  A love that gives more and grows stronger as the years go by.  That old relationship was not about God, or sacrifice or giving--so that's why I accepted that it was over and waited.

I knew early in my relationship with Jon that he was the one I would marry.  We liked each other a lot--we were good friends.  He served me.  He sacrificed for me.  He loved me.  I could see that he was raised in a family that had modeled that for him as well, so I felt secure that we could have a strong, loving marriage.  They day that we said our vows was one of my happiest.

Ten years later, this past May, we celebrated a decade together as man and wife.  Times have not always been easy.  Neither of us has been perfect.  But we have grown up. Together.  We have gone through some really, really tough times.  Together.  We have grown closer to each other, and to our God.  Together.  We have started to raise a lovely family. Together.  We moved to Honduras. Together.

These days, I just look at Jon and my heart flutters like a little girl.  I love him more now than I did back then.  I admire him for the way that he takes care of his family.  I respect him for how hard he works at whatever is put before him.  I am grateful for the way he has always treated me with a sacrificial, servant-like spirit.

Practically, this year has made me even more proud of him.  This life is the life that he was waiting to live--he is a servant at heart and he's a hard worker.  Working here among people who need to witness the hope that we have has unlocked him and he is soaring in life.

A few months ago I heard about a couple's retreat for missionaries that would be put on in Tegucigalpa--the capital city, 5 1/2 hours away.  I asked Jon what he thought about it, half thinking he might say it was too far or not worth it.  But he was just as excited about it as I was!  I was so giddy about a weekend away as I waited for it to arrive.  I figured that even if the conference wasn't very good, just having the time away together would be a blessing.

Turns out that the conference was AMAZING!! The speakers were Steve and Debbie Wilson, who speak on a regular basis through their ministry Marriage Matters Now. Their messages touched us and helped us to feel even closer to each other's hearts. I left that weekend feeling an overwhelming sensation of being blessed--both for having heard such wonderful teaching and for having the privilege of sharing my life with such an amazing husband.

Another way that I just look at Jon and think, "Wow!"...When we moved here a year ago Jon couldn't speak a sentence in Spanish.  I had to translate every conversation he had, and I wasn't sure how well he would do to pick it up.  He ASTOUNDED me!  It's like he never forgets a word!  One year later, he is able to stand before the church and lead a public prayer!  He directed a meeting for the parents of the youth group last week.  He has meetings with employees of the mission.  He visits with the people that the mission ministers to.  He chit-chats and cuts up with the teens in the youth group.  He talks smack with the guys in the shop...It's truly amazing how he has absorbed the language here!

Even more?  Since we have moved here he has put his mind to eating right and exercising--and has dropped 52 pounds!!  He has never before been successful at getting up in the morning and doing a work-out plan...until now!  He has committed himself to this, and it shows!  I am so proud of his determination and hard work.  And now he's even more handsome!!

There are so many scriptures and promises in the Bible that I cling to...especially in regards to life and marriage.  One thing that jumps out to me is when Proverbs tells us to commit our plans to the Lord and they will succeed.  I am so thankful to have a husband who is committed to our Lord, and to our family.

What a blessing our marriage has been to me over the past ten years.  I truly do love him more now that I did the day I married him.  I am praying that it only continues to get sweeter as the years go by...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Battle with the Keyboard

I have an ongoing battle...

My mind never seems to want to take a rest. Ever.  I am always thinking about something.  It drives Jon crazy.  He says it's why I'm always tired.  We could be sitting in complete silence and out of nowhere I ask him the most random thing (that I've been pondering for as little as 30 minutes, but as long as a whole day or more.)  If our fundraising will allow us to meet the needs that we feel led to meet here.  If the laundry in the washer can go another day without getting dried. If he answered those emails that somehow got pushed to page two of the inbox. If the bunch of bananas we bought will go bad if they get rained on.  It sounds ridiculous, but this is the stuff that goes around in my head.  He will get the most surprised look on his face--baffled that in our silence all of that was raging inside my head.

As if battling these little details wasn't enough, I always think of things that I need to sit down and log.  Things that I need to journal or record here, on the blog.  I love to do little one-sentence snippets on Facebook, and I especially love to throw a picture or two up...but I always feel like I need to do more.  And it is SO hard.  As I wash dishes, or shower, or take care of the baby, I am always forming paragraphs, thinking of topics and planning my next blog.  Then I sit down at the comptuer, fingers poised, and there are no words to type.

I don't know where they go.  In the shower this morning, I talked to myself for a good 30 minutes...touching on this topic and that, forming sentences and ideas.  Then I dried off, got dressed and sat down to write.  And the words were all gone.  Who knows?  Maybe they fell out when I leaned over to towel-dry my hair?

Perhaps just having handled them in my head allowed my mind to let them free? I need them back!  There was some good stuff in there!

Anyways...blogging hasn't turned out to be my strength for sure.  It sounds like such a great idea, but then when it comes to actually doing it...

I will try to do better...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Blessed by Community

I knew that moving to Honduras would be a change.  I was fully prepared to embrace "culture shock."  I was ready to be miserably lonely. I was ready to try strange, unrecognizable food.  I was ready to endure weeks on end of Montezuma's revenge. I was ready to break down crying in a store because I couldn't find what I needed.  I was ready to be frustrated while not understanding what someone was telling me, or get myself lost and be afraid I'd never make it back, or whatever other strange situations we might encounter.  I envisioned myself headed out onto the biggest adventure of my life, and I was prepared to climb whatever mountain came my way.

In the past 11 months, I have eaten some pretty undesirable food.  I have had (super minor) tummy issues.  I have been a little frustrated in stores and banks and while driving, but NOTHING like I had been expecting.  I have had a day or two of strongly missing friends and family, but the biggest surprise is that I don't feel lonely very much at all.  One reason is because the people at the church here, our new church family, have embraced us completely.  I feel like Jon and I both are forming real-life relationships with several of our brothers and sisters.  But even more than that is the community we share with the team we are working with.

One of the biggest surprises and blessings of the past year is how God has blessed our family with a family that we partner with, work with, and worship with, but maybe most importantly--we are friends with.  The Waldron family has been such a wonderful support for since we moved our family here last year.  We lived with them for 5 weeks while we waited for our container to arrive. They help us with the kids.  Sweet Laura loves the kids so much and having her here has blessed me immensely. Throughout the year, Richard and Ashley have both joined the team too and jumped right in. I love how our house is kind of "free-flowing" and I never know who might be dropping in, coming, or leaving at any minute... I love that we're that comfortable with each other. We eat together regularly.  We sometimes play games or watch movies or shop together.  We exercise together.  We always laugh together.  If we go a day without seeing each other it seems like too long. Donna has offered invaluable experience and advice to me as a wife, mom, and missionary.  Jon and Phil have developed a strong friendship that I think has helped to make the mission stronger.

I am convicned that one of the biggest unexpected blessings that God decided to give us here was real friendship.  Through real friendship, one's spirit is maintained and uplifted and encouraged.

People have asked if it's hard to live here.  If we like it. If it's what we expected.

Some days are hard, but it has been so easy to live here.  I LOVE it.  And not everything is exactly what I expected....most of it is better than I expected.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Momentary Troubles

Sometimes the little things build up, don't they?  I was watching a movie where a guy was drinking a lot of shots of alcohol and his buddy came up and told him, "You know, a lot of little ones makes a big one!" Funny, but true.

In the last two weeks, we have bought 2 full rounds of antibiotics for 3 infected ears.  Those infected ears have caused 2 kids (and as a result, 2 parents) to lose some valuable sleep. We have spent more than the cost of our monthly rent on auto parts to fix my vehicle. We have been tired (and I admit, I've been irritable) because there has been a lot of work to do. Sometimes, it seems like there's too much to do...

It sounds like it, but I'm not complaining.  I'm really not.  I really do love my life, and currently feel like every single day is a blessing that I am aware of.  In fact, even though we've had some momentary troubles, our whole family (even the kiddos) seems to just roll with the punches.

We have purpose here, and we have work that is getting done. It's refreshing and encouraging and really, truly amazing that God's allowing us to be a part of it.

I've been working on some Bible memory work lately and I've spent some time with one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible--2 Corinthians 4.  I love the message in this chapter about the endurance and strength in the faith that we should have; it is just so encouraging to me!

This verse in particular struck me today:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Now I'm not so sure that sickness and car troubles and fatigue were the 'light and momentary troubles' that Paul was talking about here...but maybe they're not so far off base.  Maybe some of those day to day grinds were what inspired those words--fatigue, opposition to the Word, perhaps sickness too....?

Anyways, this verse still provides me with a smile everytime I read it.  No matter what kind of day I've had, this verse always leaves my heart in a very content place.  Even when Satan spends entire days and weeks trying to take my eyes off the prize, the goal, the end result; he can't. He won't win.

If I live every step of my life in devotion to God, jumping those hurdles that are along the path are only bringing me closer to that 'eternal glory that outweighs them all'.  Even when I'm sick or my body fails physically, inwardly the Spirit renews me each and every day.

Wow.  That.Is.Amazing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Given Much

We are currently in the middle of our only week in June and July that will not be full of brigade work! Last week Tobin and I spent the week going to 6 different schools with a group of 8 from Texas who had prepared a VBS class based on the story of Lazarus. Everytime we pulled up to a school, we were welcomed by squeals of excitement and lots of kids ready to participate.

Jon and the big kids went with 35 others who were putting on a medical and eyeglasses brigade in the village of Ojos de Agua. This is one of the villages that we are currently targeting and evangelizing for church planting, and coming to meet some of their physical needs goes a long way when you are building relationships. This village is only 10 miles from Santa Rosa, but it takes 45 minutes to get there. The road quality definitely leaves something to be desired, but the vistas on the trip are out of this world!!!

I love walking around to every station of a medical brigade to watch each person do 'their thing' to serve the people of any given village.  There are always lots of smiles and laughter, loving pats, hugs and touches, and true, genuine concern.

And knowing what a blessing it is for them to go home with medications they need, free of charge, is always a highlight. 

This is one of the little boys who was at the brigade all day, waiting with his family.  I saw him climbing on this pillar, running around playing with our kids, and laying down on the ground taking a's definitely a long day for everyone involved....the medical team, as well as the patients!!
And long days aside, it truly is a blessing to be able to serve in such a hands-on way.

Here is a sweet picture that Jon took, and I'll use it for my last'sthe picture of an 80-something year old lady who came in for treatment standing next to 7 1/2 old Lawson.  I love the contrast in this picture, but it's eye-opening as well...young, clean, shoe-clad next to old, not-so-clean and well, look at those feet.

These are them moments that, aside from the day-to-day hustle and bustle that cause me to take pause and realize that despite our lack of fancy jewels, expensive cars or luxurious homes, we really, truly have been given much.

And I think I've heard something about those who've been given much...oh yeah, it was this:

 " From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."  Luke 12:48b

We're trying....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I just love this picture of this beautiful sweet old lady that we met at a brigade back in April. Her face is glowing and her smile is radiant.  She is actually sitting in a wheelchair, and I can tell you that the village she lives in is not wheelchair friendly.  In fact, pretty much none of Honduras is wheelchair friendly.

I don't know her story, but I imagine that this lady had had some difficult in health troubles, family problems, whatever... yet her eyes are bright and her smile is true.

Similarly, while I was a student at Harding University, there was a young guy in a wheelchair who spoke. I can't say that I remember what his whole talk was about, but one thing he said struck me and I wrote it down inside my Bible...he said, "I don't know why God chose to love me this particular way."

One of my new favorite CDs is Laura Story's Blessings.  I picked it up at Lifeway while we were in the States, and had only heard 2 songs prior to that, but I just love the whole thing!  One of the songs on the CD is called Blessings, and the lyrics are pretty amazing.  It changes the perspective we sometimes have when we don't 'get' what we ask God for, or when we go through hard times.  Hard times definitely tend to scar us, but we can choose to look at that scar negatively, as a wound we will forever have to bear, or positively, as a badge to show what we have come through.

The lyrics to this song have encouraged me in my own personal life to appreciate every single way that God chooses to bless me, even if I don't understand it.  It has also helped me as I look at the people we are ministering to.  There are hard times, but I want to help reach them so that they can learn about just how much their heavenly Father wants them to reach up to Him.

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tree Climbing

Tonight Jordan wanted a bedtime story. Of course she did. After spending almost 3 hours doing her homework, then eating her dinner and getting ready to lay down, she begged me for a story. In a tired, frustrated, weak-mommy moment, all I wanted to do was put her to bed and move on to the million other things I still had to do.

Then a small something inside me urged, "Read your little girl a story. She won't be little for long."

So I walked over and picked up one of our 55 (or so) Bible Story books and let her choose the story that she wanted to hear.  She chose "The Man Who Was Too Little." And I read it to her.  As she struggled to keep her eyes open, the story spoke to me in a very adult way as I turned the pages.

I think that the story of Zacchaeus might be the all-time best Bible story made into a VBS song that will never ever die. In my mind, in fact, it's such a VBS song that I never really looked at the story to see if it had a lesson for grown-up me.  Tonight, it really did.

Zacchaeus was too little.  He was a tax collecter.  He probably wasn't the popular guy in town, due to the two previous characteristics.  But he heard that Jesus was around, and he wanted to see Jesus.  The story is in Luke 19, and in the scriptures it's super short. He wanted to see Jesus but couldn't see over the crowd, so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree.

Jordan's story took some literary liberties. It made him run this way and that, dodging people left and right, trying to peek over shoulders. Luke didn't say all that happened, but I'm 5'1" and can relate--I feel like some of that probably occurred.  Finally, in the story book, he ran way ahead to the big tree in town to climb up and be higher than the crowd.

Jesus knew he was up there.  And Jesus knew why.  And while Zacchaeus was content just to get a glimpse of Jesus, Jesus rewarded his effort with way more than a glimpse.  He went to his house and changed Zacchaeus' eternity.

All it took was the desire and the effort and Jesus came to him.

When I need a fresh glimpse--when I feel like I just can't see through the muck and the mire and the crowd--all I need to do is make the effort.  Find a tree to climb so I can see Him again.  And He will come the rest of the way.

Refreshing, huh?

Thanks for the bedtime story, sweet Jordan.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lovin' on Babies

A few weeks ago, I went with one of our groups to visit the children who live at one of our local orphanges. It was my first time to ever go to an orphanage, and it impacted me. It was nicer and cleaner and bigger than I expected it to be, and the children seemed happy.  Living in a country where so many children are born into homes where they aren't wanted, or are even left to survive on their own, these children are very blessed to live in such a safe place.

It's still so sad, though, to think that these babies don't have mommies or daddies to love on them. The nuns who work at the orphanage take great care of the children, but there's not much time left to love on them. That's why it's so neat when people go with the sole purpose to love on these babies. The babies love it, the visitors love does a heart good.

So going the first time was pretty eye-opening for me.  The next week, another group was here and I needed to go back with them, but had no one to keep the kids this time.  I thought about it, said a quick prayer about it, and decided that we'd give it a go. I didn't know how many questions they might ask.  I didn't know if they were going to behave.  I didn't know if they were going to be rude or ugly.  I just went in with faith that they would handle the situation well. I told them about where we were going, what it was going to be like, and why these children live there. I told them I wanted them to act big and be kind.

They surpassed my every expectation.  What I witnessed that day became a jumbled mess of emotional memories in the making. They embraced the opportunity and almost every time I turned around to spot one of them, I saw them loving on babies. My babies, loving on babies who have no mommas or daddies of their own.  It touched my heart.

It also taught me that sometimes we don't give our kids credit for being able to handle situations that they, really, turn out to embrace and shine in. They want to go back. Because they miss those babies. And we will, by golly. We'll go back lots so that they can share God's love with the very least of these.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Things have been a little crazy around here lately...after reading my last blog post (almost a whole month ago--hard to believe) and now writing a newsletter to send out, I really realize that we are almost always running ninety-to-nothing. I've been thinking about busy-ness lately, as I drive from place to place or pick up the house for the 95th time this week or cook and realize that it's time to go to the grocery store. Again.

It's kind of ironic to me, I guess.  To me, one of the most alluring things about moving our family to Honduras to do misson work was that I'd be less busy with "life" and have more time for focusing on the things of eternal value. On one hand, it's true. We are here working with Mission UpReach and have our hands helping to stir the pot in many areas of ministry here in Western Honduras.  On the other hand, though, I clearly see that no matter where I live, the "life" that keeps me busy follows.  I still have clothes to wash--maybe even more because it's so darn dusty here! There's still food to cook, and in less time because most of the time we're running around town getting things done.  My kids have to go to school every day, and they start earlier than any elementary school I've ever heard of. There's toys to clean up, and I swear, they multiply!

It can be discouraging sometimes, when I'm standing at the sink washing the bottles for the 1,000th time, thinking about how if I didn't have all this "life" to do, I could be so much more productive. I know it's a struggle with people everywhere--not just me, not just here.

A couple weeks ago, I was looking for songs to put in a slideshow for a group, and I found this song "Do Everything" by Steven Curtis Chapman.  I'd never heard it before, and I LOVED the words!  It meant so much to me because it talks about how everything you do is important as long as it glorifies God.  Have you heard it? Give it a listen...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

So much to little time to type it out...

It has been much too long since I've been faithful about updating this blog. There has been SO much going on around here, but would you buy the excuse that my plate has been a little bit full? ;) Some days I wake up, spend the whole day being busy, then arrive at night feeling like morning was 3 days ago. It's a double-edged sword, too, thinking about how much got done but turning right around and realizing that somehow the t0-do list still didn't shrink!!! Anyone else ever feel that way? I'm sure I'm not the only one!!

Anyways...I'm going to do a quick run-down to get you up to speed on what has been filling up our days lately, but I sincerely hope to find the time to fully document each of these things! Putting the pictures on Facebook is one thing, but there are stories behind the pictures too!

I think Thanksgiving is where I last posted about daily life! It feels like a year ago and a month ago all at once!! Well, in December we were excited that a group of basketball players and coaches came down to put on an Upward Basketball Camp. It was a wonderful week of busy activity, but we really enjoyed getting to know the guys who came and appreciated all the work they put into teaching our team how to put on a basketball camp. Lawson was invited by the coaches to participate in the camp, and he really loved it--Jordan loved going to the gym just to hang out and practice dribbling! Mission UpReach is planning on using what we learned this school year when our DESEO team goes into schools to teach kids about health, character and God.

Lawson's 7th birthday fell on Wednesday during the week of the Upward Camp. We invited the Waldrons, the Whites, and the basketball guys to come over for dinner and cake. Lawson was thrilled to get the cowboy boots he's been wanting for a while, along with some other fun gifts! I think he really enjoyed his birthday a lot, and I was SO thankful for all of our friends here who helped make it a really special day.

We were invited to attend the Christmas program at Western International, the bilingual school in town. It was very cute and we really enjoyed it a lot! After the program we went to eat with one of our teens and her family at a DELICIOUS new restaurant in town. I had a wonderful grilled chicken breast, but unfortunately EVERYONE who ordered the (tasty) beef spent the next week VERY sick!! Phil first, then Donna, Richard, and Jon. Laura was spared b/c she was already on antibiotics, but the rest had some pretty hefty doses of antibiotics along with scattered use of IVs and the like. We pretty much spent the week before Christmas waiting for all of the food-poisoned people to get better!!!

Jon, my wonderful trooper husband, spent all of Wednesday sick, but still spent Thursday and Friday in Jorge's wood-shop working on the presents we had planned for the kids. I spent Friday and Saturday painting...then we were so excited to spend our first Christmas in Honduras!! We had a WONDERFUL day and enjoyed everything about it--EXCEPT running out of water in our cistern!! :/

The day after Christmas we headed to spend a week in Roatan with the Waldron family! Talk about being blessed--some friends of the Waldrons own a condo on the island and have blessed them with the ability to take a free vacation the past two years! We graciously accepted their invitation to join them, and the week of fun and fellowship and rest was just what we needed to re-group and get ready for 2012!

The week after coming back from Roatan, we welcomed a group from Oklahoma and Texas who came to do a dental/optical brigade. The brigade was a success, and we just LOVED the group who came down! I'm starting to realize that the interaction that we get to have with these groups truly is a refreshing blessing! It's always so fun to hang out with other 'gringos'--even if it is during the busy craziness that we call brigades!!

For me the highlight of the brigade was the last day when we were able to hand out Magi boxes from Healing Hands International. Have you ever been on the giving/packing end of this program? Its fun and fulfilling, isn't it?? Well, if you LOVE being on your end of that--you should come down and participate in the HANDING OUT end of it--it was an AMAZING BLESSING to my heart. The smiles on those kids faces brightened my day in a very special day!!!

The next week, we were SO excited to go pick up Kathy, Jon's mom from the airport!! We have had such a wonderful time having her in our house--and she has been such a help as far as watching the kids and helping around the house!

We were thrilled to attend a wedding at the church building of a couple that has been living in a common-law marriage for the past 20-something years--they have four sons also. Some of our team members have been evangelizing in their village and this couple had decided they wanted to be baptized...but first realized that they needed to be rightfully married in the eyes of God. It was a joy to witness their union and the example of obedience and faith that they have shown to the the church.

Tuesday, the 31st, Jon went to the airport to pick up our sweet friend Ashley, who will be working here with our team. She's a very capable RN and she will be a blessing to the work that is going on here!! SO, so, so proud that one of Mayfair's former teenagers is working here with us in Santa Rosa!

Last week Jim, Jon's dad, also joined us and we have enjoyed some quality family time! We spent a couple days this past week vising Copán Ruinas, Copán. It's an adorable little town, located near the amazing archaeological site of some historic Mayan ruins. We enjoyed some delicious local food, beautiful weather, a relaxing swim, a great day of sight-seeing and (to top it all off) we were there the night that the Mayans celebrate their new year! In case you haven't heard, 2012 is the last year on the Mayan Jon has been telling people that we witnessed the beginning of the end of the world! Ha! I'm not too worried about it, but at least if it is, there'll be quite a homecoming in Glory Land!!

The day we came home from the ruins we were to host a bonfire for the ENTIRE church in the field across the street from our house. It was fun, but it was also pure, mad, craziness!!! My stomach lurched when I saw the bus pull up FULLY LOADED!! It turned out great, though! I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

Exhausted as I was after (Wednesday) picking up Jim, (Thursday) going to the ruins, (Friday) coming back and hosting the bonfire, I also had to finish preparing for the Ladies' Class we were having Saturday. I LOVE teaching, but this was my FIRST TIME EVER to teach in Spanish. My stomach was nervous and I was terrified that I would stand up and suddenly forget every Spanish word I've ever known, but after much prayer and preparation it turned out really well!! Several ladies told me that they enjoyed the class and thought the material was very good. They also said they understood me very well (YAY!!). Getting that *first time* behind me feels good, and I'm looking forward to more opportunities to share with the sisters here.

This morning we met at the church to hand out some Magi boxes from Samaritan's Purse. It was a wonderful morning of activities, a skit, fun songs, lots of smiles and laughter and seeing some sweet, sweet kids receive gifts from some generous givers!

In addition to all this activity, we've also had our regular things--
taking care of 3 kids plus housework,
Jon's daily work in the town and office,
monthly bonfires at the house for the teens,
worship on Sunday
men's meetings every other Monday
praise and prayer worship Tuesday
discipleship classes Thursday
small group on Friday
youth group on Saturday

Among other news, we have been battling some illness here at the house. It seems that since we've arrived I've pretty much had at least one sick kid non-stop. It's never been super dramatic--just fevers, ear infections, coughs, etc. Lawson's the one who's currently sick, and I'm sad because tomorrow is supposed to be his first day of school. I'm hoping he might be able to go b/c he's not had fever today, but we'll see how he is in the morning! We feel that this will be the best way for them to really pick up Spanish. I've been in prayer that going to (Spanish) school will be a good experience for them and that they will have good teachers. I really, truly hope that it's harder on me than it will be on them...because I will miss having them at home with me!!!

Anyways there's the run-down of what's been going on! And it doesn't look like it's going to slow down!! We take Jim and Kathy back to the airport this weekend, then the next day a group is coming for a brigade--Life is going to be practically non-stop til September!

Thanks again for all of the support and love that you have shown us!! Please remember to keep us and the Mission in your prayers!!!

Be blessed, friends!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

From where you stand...

From my balcony, where I stand right now, this is what I see:
Beautiful, right? I know. Some days, it is easy to look that way and just soak in the beauty of what is standing right in front of me. The beautiful green grass, trees, rolling hills and mountains. It's hard to see in this picture because it's small, but in real life, I especially love the little picturesque Honduran home way back by the hill side. I stare over there and see this little home with its property, trees, corn field, and banana trees and think, what a beautiful, beautiful sight.

Right this minute, you may be in your own reality and perhaps a little bit jealous of my view. You may think, I want that view. My view doesn't look like that. My view isn't so has _____ in it, or ________, or _________...whatever you decide you need to fill in the blanks with. And I agree, compared to the view I just showed you, mine might appear to be better.
Let me share this with you, though. From where I stand, on my balcony, I also see this:
Not so appealing, right. The rear-end of a huge, gray, smelly, coffee-bean-drying factory. Trucks coming in and out. Smoke billowing up to the sky. Not quite so picturesque. There is the chance that I could choose to look only in that direction, and start to believe that this view is my only option. My only view.

In our every day lives, we are faced with many decisions. Lots of options. From where you stand, you can't see everything that lies in front of you, but you can surely see glimpses from different directions. Sometimes it's a struggle--we get stuck looking at one ugly choice. An ugly glimpse. An ugly view. And we somehow talk ourselves into believing that the ugly is all that lies ahead of us, from where we stand.

Not to say that "the ugly" is not real. There are many, many very real things in life that are very, very ugly. They can take over our lives, it seems. Sap us of all the energy and will that we possess. The point, when we are faced with these ugly things, is to not be consumed by them. David found this out and wrote about it in Psalm 121. Even with all of the hard times that he faced in his life he learned which direction to look at--which view to look at:
"I lift my eyes unto the hills--where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, Maker of heaven and earth."
I would encourage you, friends, when you find yourself thinking that "the ugly" is all that lies ahead of you, to look again. To spin around. Crane your neck. Look for the rest of the view. Because it may take a little effort, but you can always see more than it might first seem from where you stand. Then, when you can see more of the picture, it is up to you what you will focus on. You can choose to succumb to "the ugly". It can bring you down and discourage you. It can cloud your vision. Or you can look to "the beautiful". And it can bring you up and give you strength and hope.
I read this verse today and it encouraged me. We will all have days filled with sunny skies and a beautiful view, along with cloudy skies and an ugly view. The key is to look to God through it all--He really is where our help comes from.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

Monday, November 28, 2011

To Redeem

Do you remember the sign at the prize counter in the arcade? Redeem your tickets here. It meant that you have done the things asked of you and now you can receive your reward.
Webster classifies the word redeem as a verb. It is an active word. Action accompanies this word. The definition is this "to free from the consequences of sin".

The redeeming power of God's love, mercy, and grace were so clearly demonstrated before our eyes over this past week. We were blessed to be able to put together the first retreat for the teens here in Santa Rosa. You can read about that here. We had been praying for several weeks that God's power would be at work in the lives of these teens that weekend and as usual our ideas fell incredibly short of what He would come to do that weekend. On Saturday night 4 teens gave their lives over to God and put on Christ in baptism. A total of 8 teens would become our brothers and sisters in Christ that weekend. But the redeeming power of the blood of Jesus didn't stop there.

Church here meets on Sunday night for regular worship service, Tuesday night is a night of praise and prayer, Thursday night is discipleship classes, Friday night is for the life groups, and Saturday night is for the teens. On the Tuesday night following the retreat our fellow missionaries, Phil and Donna Waldron, came up to us to tell of more fruit that was been born as a result of the retreat. One of the teens that was bapitzed Saturday night was Nelson. Turns out that Nelson is 21, not that uncommon here since a jóven (young person) is anyone from 13-29 In our youth ministry program we make our age range 13-21. The story from there becomes one that only God could orchestrate.
Nelson goes home to his uncles house and tells them of how he has given his life over to God and was baptized. He then tells them that he needs to go and reconcile to his common-law wife Yulissa and their 2 year old son Nelson Gustavo. Nelson had gotten Yulissa pregnant at 16 and had stayed with her for a time until his drinking and trouble making led her to kick Nelson out of the house and out of her and their son's lives.

Nelson moved in with his uncle and aunt and began to slowly straighten is life out. He had quit drinking and making trouble and had begun to work in the construction trade. He had been to church a few times before and one of the brothers here pushed him to go on the retreat. Little did Nelson know what God would do in his life over those 2 days. Hearing the word and being convicted by it, Nelson put on Christ in baptism and then reconciled himself to his common-law wife. Yulissa, moved by Nelson's life changing decision started studying the Bible with one of the brothers here.

This past Saturday afternoon I was up at the church with Jóse Batres getting the teen room ready for class that night. While we were rearranging the room we heard voices coming up the stairs. As we walked towards the stairs to see whom it was, we were greeted by Yulissa and Nelson's Aunt. God was going to redeem her too. Aristedes would arrive in a few minutes to take Yulissa's confession of faith and we would have the privilege of watching Yulissa become our sister in Christ.
God has the power to redeem, not only people but marriages as well. Nelson and Yulissa also want to get legally married and will be as soon as their paperwork gets approved. Not only have they changed the course of their lives but in a country ravaged by absentee fathers and single mother homes they have changed the life of their son Nelson Gustavo. He will now have the far too uncommon privilege of growing up in a two parent Christian home.

I'm sure that God is not done with Nelson and Yulissa and I can't wait to see the rest of their story.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thinking back. Being Thankful.

Think back. What were you doing eleven Thanksgivings ago?

Eleven Thanksgivings ago, I was with a campaign group. We were on the island of Cozumel, Mexico helping the church there put on a gospel campaign preached by Bob Brown. My Spanish teacher, Ava Conley, had invited me to come along. I was seriously committed to the mission efforts in Venezuela, so for me this was just a chance to do some work in the kingdom and see some place new. For me, I was just along for the ride.

We rented jeeps and rode around the island with our hair blowing in the ocean's wind. We snorkeled, saw schools of fish and a barracuda. We dodged sea urchins as we headed out of the water. With a friend we grabbed a conch shell, cracked it open, and ate its meat right there at the edge of the water. (Ew. I know.) We went to a pitiful little 'zoo' that someone had that their house. It only had a few skinny little animals. We ate at a church member's house who was serving chicken soup. I held out my bowl for my spoonful and saw something horrific looking plop into the bowl. Ava confirmed that I had, in fact, received a tiny bit of broth and the whole chicken neck. (Ew. I know.) :) I tried to drive the stick shift jeeps and it took me 25 minutes to drive across to the street and pull up to the gas station. The gas station, who had been watching me approach from 30 feet away for as many minutes (and everyone else in my jeep) started applauding when I finally got close enough to fill up and stalled out for about the 95th time.

On Thursday of that week, we bought tacos from a street vendor for lunch, then for dinner we went back to the house, and made make-shift Thanksgiving dinner and pumpkin pie. We ate and were thankful--it's hard to be anything but thankful when you are on a mission trip.

For me, I had received a paradigm shift--I wrote a little bit about it here--when I met the Waldron family who were missionaries helping the church in Cozumel at the time. They had small children and I didn't know families with small children could even be missionaries. I thought that job was for old people and single men! I came back home, told Jon about it (we were only a 2-month old dating couple at the time) and he was impressed too. Well, we went on with life as usual from there.. Dated. Married. Jobs. Kids. Etc. Then God had a bigger plan for us. I'm pretty sure He had it all along; we just didn't see it coming.

Flash forward to yesterday:

The Waldron family had dinner at their home in Western Honduras. And they invited US. Because we're working with them. On their team. We're partners. Eleven years later. They still have 3 kids, but they're not little anymore. This time it's us with 3 small kids. Talk about a Full Circle Moment. Wow.

We are here because it's where God has a job for us now. I'm praying that some young college kid may see us and realize that ANYONE who is willing can work for God in the kingdom. He can use anyone who has a heart for Him. Who knows? Maybe in 11 years we'll be somewhere working with someone who visits us on a campaign and decides that they, too, can bring souls to the Father somewhere. Who knows? Or God might have an even bigger idea. Something that will wow me even more. I'm wayyyyyy over thinking something's too big for God.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are
my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As
the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to
it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it
yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out
from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:8-11
SO. My life is a daily reminder that my God is meeting all my needs and has also provided so, so many of my desires as well. He has over-filled my life in such an exceeding way that the only way that I can respond is with thankfulness. Humility, gratitude and thankfulness.

I hope that you had a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope that you were able to spend it with friends or family. I hope that you were able to reflect on what God has done in your life.

Be blessed. And be thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Retiro Juvenil 2011--Youth Retreat!

Good morning!! This blog has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to receiving attention from us lately! I'm not sure if we should chalk it up to moving to another country, staying with friends for 5 weeks, unloading a container and setting up a house, getting 3 kids settled in said house, schooling 2 of said kids to catch up for a late start in the school year, going to church 5 nights a week, or planning an entire youth retreat in a month and a half...Hmmmmm... :)

Obviously we have a lot to catch up on, and we plan to do so, but right now I want to tell you about the retreat that we just came back from this weekend! Mission UpReach generously provided all of the things we needed to make it happen, and Jon did an amazing job putting together a youth retreat for the youth group at the Iglesia de Cristo en Santa Rosa de Copán. It was the VERY FIRST time that ANYONE there (adults and youth) had ever seen anything like it! The theme was impactful. The lessons were powerful. The activities were purposeful. The games were fun. The food was delicious. Lives were touched. Transformed. People were changed. Eight new brothers and sisters were added to the kingdom by putting Christ on in baptism, and many renewed their commitment to Christ and were covered in prayer.
The youth group here had been a sort of scattered mess. Meeting regularly, but no sense of unity. No real growth. No order to the lessons. We wanted to provide them with a weekend that would teach them about true surrender to God. About becoming one as a group. Supporting each other, helping each other and growing together rather than tearing each other down.
The theme of the retreat was Entregate, which is a term that means to bring yourself. Surrender yourself. Hand yourself over. Give yourself up to HIM. Submit. Follow his calling. Allow him to work in your life. It's a pretty heavy word.
Raul Solis and his family, who live in Toluca, Mexico, came in to bring us the lessons. He did an amazing job. In three sessions (1. Deny yourself and follow Him, 2. Forgetting what is behind, 3. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me) Raul did a beautiful job teaching our teens how to surrender themselves. We learned how we need to leave behind our former lives when we choose to follow Him. We no longer should think as the world things, act as the world acts, admire what the world admires. How we become weighed down by the baggage that we carry around daily--the sins that overtake our lives and make us feel helpless to change. Things like lying, hate, anger and gossip. Others like malice, pornography, fornication, and hypocrisy. When we can let those things go and ask God to purify us, cleanse us, and help us move forward, we can strain toward what is ahead--to the purpose he has for us. Finally, in the third session Raul talked about how once we forget was is behind and we bring ourselves to God that we are to become a new creation--that we no longer live but Christ in us.
We had activities to help bring out these points...We made up a sort of relay game that we called Baggage. During Solo Time they had spent time following a guide that directed them to write their sins and struggles, their baggage, on 3 bricks. During the Baggage game the groups had to haul their 18 bricks of baggage through four different stations:
  • Put a puzzle together.

A brother in the church made us these puzzles that were SOOOOOO hard to do, but I just love them. They're beautiful! The cross is cut out in perfectly straight lines, and the other pieces were curvy and confusing. The application verse in this activity was Romans 12:2--"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."

  • Crawl under a net.

We made a cargo net and staked it to the ground. The kids, and their bricks, had to cross to the other side, completely under the net. The application verse in this activity was Hebrews 12:1-2--"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..."

  • Red Corn.

In a jar full of kernels of corn, each group had to find ONE kernel that had been colored red. The verse was 1 Corinthians 4:7, 10--"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us..."

  • Brick Puzzle.

Finally, after carrying these bricks through the entire course, they had to take them out, and sort them out to read Filipenses (Philippians) 3:12-14--"Not that I have already obtained this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on and take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Saturday evening, we had a bonfire and after another powerful message an invitaion was given and 4 teens responded to the call. Phil baptized them for the forgiveness of their sins and we had a joyful evening welcoming these new brothers and sisters. Sunday morning we had a special communion service followed by the Application message--over 20 responded that they were renewing their commitment to Christ and 4 more responded to the call of baptism. A brother, Daniel Perdomo, baptized these 4 and one of the most touching moments of the weekend was watching him baptize 3 teens and then his own daughter into Christ. There was hardly a dry eye to be found.

God was working here this weekend in Santa Rosa and it was amazing to watch. Personally there were a few times that I was nearly overcome with emotion. As I watched Jon running here and there, I was so proud to see how all of his planning, preparation and hard work was being blessed by God. As I reflected on that, and as I saw the way that the message was touching these kids' lives and changing their hearts, I had no doubt that God had brought us here because he has a work for us to do. It was amazing confirmation to my heart to see how He was blessing every effort that had been made--down to the beautiful weather, the power not going out, and the wet firewood staying lit during the bonfire. It is obvious that He was at work, and we gladly give all the glory of the success of the weekend to Him.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ironic yet Refreshing

Our family has spent the better part of 3 years praying about our decision to come down here and help the church here grow. We've talked to friends, family, and elders to get advice and feedback. Jon has preached several times to different churches letting them know our plans and petitioning support. Part of his sermon includes the Francis Chan quote that I've blogged about here before--
"God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if he doesn't come through."

He's talked about how we have felt like we were too comfortable and we needed to go somewhere else so that we could re-focus on serving him and not on what it took to maintain our comfortable life. This involves a measure of sacrifice, and for most, moving to a 3rd world country would be considered a sacrifice of sorts.

Our mission (and this blog) is based on the Great Commission, which tells us to go into all the world preaching the good news about Jesus to people. We have studied and heard lessons on the story in Isaiah 6 about the Lord expressing a need for someone to go minister to his people and Isaiah says, "Here am I, send me!" We have expressed our desire to work with the church here as they desire to plant churches throughout their region of this country. It is our desire to do this work, and we have chosen to come here, to Honduras, to work with the people here.

Tuesday night we went to church and Jon and I were stunned at the material in the lesson. Josue Molina was bringing the lesson, and his topic was "What does planting churches look like?" The discussion was centered around being a reproductive, active, living church that reaches out to plant churches and take the message to places that don't know about Jesus. He read from Isaiah 6. He read the Great Commission in Matthew 28. He lined out the biblical model for mission work and how the apostles went from their home churches, sponsored by the church, into far-away lands to spread the word. They were encouraged by the brethren where they went, and sent back reports to their home church. This material is found in Acts 13-16. Then he told the people in the meeting that they needed to stop being so comfortable and step out for Jesus--being a Christian is not about being comfortable.

He told them to stop being so comfortable. The people we left our 'comfort' for so that we could come help them do their work and attain a better standard of life. We thought coming here was a little bit uncomfortable, and the first lesson we hear here is the teacher telling the people here that they're living too comfortably. Now that's ironic.

What's refreshing, though, is how passionate they are here to spread the word. This church wants to be a reproducing church. He said, "We are a church that has 20 years of history here. How much do we have to show for it?" I think there are lots of churches that might need to ask themselves that question. After 20, 50, 100 years, does a church have lots of 'children-churches' that they have planted and helped to grow? Or are they just a group of people who have met together, all by themselves, and not done much of anything outside of their walls? Reminds me of the parable of the talents. I'm thankful that I've grown up in churches that are passionate about missions.

We are so thankful to be here--to work with the people as well as to learn from them. I am sure that God will bless this work and allow it to blossom and grow because the church here is focused on doing what He wants them to do.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Smiles along the way

Monday our day of travel was so great!! It was long, but the kids were troopers and everything went almost perfectly--couldn't have asked for a better day. It is the morning after our first full day, and I just wanted to put down some of the things that have happened that I want to remember...

*We decided to get the kids their own cameras--figured that it would be a good way for them to document their favorite things along this journey. The things they take pictures of makes me laugh--but they have had so much fun playing with them. I'm impressed that they've been very careful to take care of them, and have picked up how to use them so quickly! Monday during the flight I had fallen asleep and when I woke up I looked over to see what Lawson was doing to entertain himself and he was holding the camera backwards, videoing himself singing! Hilarious! :)

*Monday during our layover in Atlanta we got ourselves settled in at the gate for our next flight, and Jon went over to the other terminal to get us Chick-Fil-A for our last American meal for a while. It was de-lish! An added bonus? He stopped and got me a Cinna-bon that I hadn't even asked for!! MAJOR brownie points! :)

*While he was gone, the kids took turns pushing Tobin around in the stroller--he was having a ball and they were feeling like such a big brother and sister! I admit that I was a little upset at first that the baby would be so far away from the big kids in age, but day by day I realize that God gave us this baby at just the right time for us and I love, love, love my family so much!

*Sitting in the airport, Jordan came up behind me to play with my hair. I don't care for this--it gives me the shivers and makes me twitchy--but it made me smile when she leaned around me and said, "Mommy! You have hair just like Belle's!" :)

*During the descent of our long flight, we started to hit some turbulence. Some people may react to turbulence with fear and intense gripping of the seats, but not our kids. Last time and this time, our kids react to turbulence with uncontrollable giggling! I'm self-conscious about how loud my kids are being in an enclosed space, but it is still so funny, and often contagious, to hear them grabbing the arm rests and giggling like crazy every time the bumping tickles their bellies!!

These are just a few things that have caused me to smile along the way so far! :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Last Sunday

Our family has spent the past month visiting our friends, family and supporters as we traveled around on our “Farewell Tour.” We spent a week in Michigan, a week in Oklahoma and a week In Huntsville, with a few other stops in there along the way. We have grown weary of packing and re-packing, living out of suitcases, driving forever and ‘being’ company, but those things do not overshadow the fun we’ve had, the encouragement we’ve received and the bonding time we’ve shared as a family. In fact, even though at each stop people were hugging us ‘good-bye’, it was hard for me to even realize it as that because we were having such an enjoyable trip, and for us it wasn’t over yet.

Even this past week at Mayfair, which has been a week full of wonderful blessings and seemingly-endless good-byes, it didn’t seem real because we were still going to be at church Sunday night. Then Wednesday night. Then Sunday again, Then Sunday night again.

When we got to that last Sunday, though, it was a little bit different. Sunday morning was pretty bittersweet. I love church, and I love Mayfair. Trying to soak it all in—good singing, a great lesson, a thousand friends in the hallways, our amazing class—I couldn’t help but get choked up. For a long time from now I am sure I will still love church, but the church that I will love will not be the same as Mayfair. I am going to miss this. Then for the invitation song we sang I Surrender All and tears sprang to my eyes.

I surrender all, I surrender all. All to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all.

A little redundant, I’ll give you that, but in light of the fact that in about 26 hours my whole family would be stepping out of an airport in another city in another country put that song in a whole new light. I cried because I felt that (in my mind) there were things that I were surrendering for my Jesus, but on the flip-side I couldn’t help but do some self-reflection and question, “Do I—no, would I—really surrender my all to Jesus. That’s a tough call to answer, I’ll tell you that.

For lunch we ate with some of our very dearest friends. Among other times that we hang out, we have eaten Sunday lunch with them pretty regularly over the last few years, and Jon and I both consider them among our closest friends. Our kids are also the best of friends with each other and it has been so sweet to see them grow up loving each other like we love each other. These friends are true, I tell you. They have given so selflessly to us in every way as we’ve prepared to make this move, even though in the end it’s hard—they’ve actually been helping to send us away because they know that’s what God is calling us to do. I can’t even articulate how grateful I am that they have been so involved in our mission, and on such a real basis. For our last lunch I was focused on enjoying their company and making a good memory and that’s just what happened. We ate, talked, laughed and just enjoyed each other. Then my friend and I took our girls and we got pedicures—a memory I’m sure they enjoyed making and will treasure too.

Later, we attended our last youth event and we knew that after this we were going to pack and be on our way. For real. For good. The youth group has been a very big part of our life over the last 6 or 7 years and we love those teenagers. It was great to visit with so many families with whom we’ve built relationships and love dearly. It was heart-warming to sing in worship together. And that’s when they came. Round one of real, ‘I-can’t-believe-it’s-finally-here’ tears. We got up to leave just a little bit early and people started following us out just to give us one last hug, and knowing those were the last hugs to share with them for a while truly brought sorrow to my heart. I walked away with tears streaming because standing there longer would have only brought more.

That night we headed back to the house we had been staying at to try to wrap up the packing that I’d been working on already for three days. The baby was fussy, I was hot and irritated, and we were all exhausted already. It was like an impossible puzzle that you absolutely must finish by a ridiculous deadline. My friend blessed me by dealing with the baby so I could work, and at 9:45pm we had finally gotten the van loaded up and were headed over for a couple last goodbyes.

We arrived at our hotel at 11:15pm. By the time we got a roll-away, put the kids to bed, brought the 10 suitcases up, and took showers, Jon and I laid down about 1am. I was so exhausted. I had a thousand things running through my mind, but just didn’t have the energy to type it all out—and our wake-up call was looming only 2.5 hours away!

The feeling I had was just so surreal. This move has been in the making for over 2 years, and so much has gone into the preparation for every detail. For all this time, though, it always was something we were just talking about, and was so far away. Until now. As each month this year has passed I have seen the end of September approaching, and the emotions that go along with that are just so varied. Just like in one day I experienced joy and nostalgia, laughter and tears, anger and sadness.

My Facebook status for Sunday was this:

Trying to decide whether or not to even put on mascara. I am sure that this is a day that will exercise every emotion that I possess.

It for sure lived up to that.