Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Addendum to my last post.....

After all who can say this is not a wonderful idea of God's?  How much would our lives be missing without her!


Recently I was at a lunch with a bunch of friends.  The conversation came around to having children as it usually does with a group of women.  Eventually there came up discussion about someone who has 'lots' of kids.  With the national average of children per married couple in the USA at less than 2, I suppose even 3 or more is considered 'lots', but this person they were talking about was an overachiever and had a double digit number of kids.  The person they were talking about wasn't me.  It was someone else, so I just sat there quietly as they discussed the insanity of having so many kids.  Maybe you can imagine how I felt.  There was various discussion about why anyone would do that?  Why would anyone have a bunch of kids?  So this post is to try and give a little insight into the answer of that question.

After all let's face it, kids are tons of work and trouble....even the best of them.  They are messy.  They cry.  They fight.  Some even bite.  They wake you up in the night.  They get sick.  (As I'm writing this Joy has just thrown up for the 5th time today.)  They get hurt.  They can bring such heart ache.  When they arrive on the scene they can't even eat for themselves or use a proper toilet.  As they grow it just gets worse.  They get into all kinds of trouble.  As soon as they are mobile you have to totally reorganize your house since they are so good at destroying anything they can get their grubby little hands on.  Have a couple or more and they can destroy a room in nothing flat leaving only a trail of strewn toys, broken antique dishes and spills of staining substances.  I won't even mention the mess they can make in a bathroom.  They flush things that shouldn't be flushed and don't flush things that should.  They shovel in their little mouths with those fat fingers things that they shouldn't like keys, watch batteries, pennies, dust bunnies, and staples and don't eat the good stuff that you want them to.  They deprive you of sleep, hot food, and a good part of your sanity.  I say that with each pregnancy I loose thousands of much needed brain cells.  So, as you can imagine I don't have very many left.  As they get older, believe or not, it just gets harder.  They think they have minds of their own and want to use those minds to make their own decisions.  They start to assert some independence.

My friends who were having the discussion that day mostly have younger children and they were saying how much work little kids are.  Just one can wear out a full grown woman.  Two or more and you are toast.  Triple teamed and a mom can end up in a pool of tears at the end of long, tiring days.  I didn't have the heart to tell them that as they reach adolescence it gets much harder.  I do believe that the early years of having children are much more work physically.  There is so much that they can't do for themselves and we have to do it for them.  However nearing and into the teen years it is so much more work emotionally and spiritually....even when you have great teens like I do....even when you put in lots of work in their early childhood so that you actually enjoy being around them when they are teenagers.  I LOVE having teenagers.  I love the discussions that we have.  I love the contributions they make to our family.  I love being a part of their lives.  I love their independence and seeing the people that God is molding them into.  Yet I feel this real pressure to make sure that I have prepared them well for life.  I can see that in just a few short years they will be off on their own and calling all their own shots and I want to make sure that they are as spiritually prepared as they can be for that.  In the middle and later teen years we as parents really just become coaches.  Hopefully, the older they get they are making more and more of the decisions in their lives and we are just there to be a sounding board, an encourager, and an influencer.  We point out blind spots, pour in as much Scripture and wisdom as we can and pray feverently for them.  Then even as they fly our coup and spread their wings and have their own lives completely separate of ours, we still pray for them, and worry about them as we continue our relationship with them as adults.  The parenting changes, but it never stops.  I will always be their momma and they will always be my kids.

So the question remains why would anyone bring all this on themselves especially multiple times?  The discussion on this day turned to easy pregnancies.  These crazy women who have all these babies must have easy pregnancies or just love being pregnant.  Firstly let me say that is NOT true in my case, I think of plenty of other things to do with my body that doesn't involve stretching it out so that it never goes back together the same.  Better things than throwing up in every toilet that I walk by.  Better things than having aching feet and back from carrying around 30 extra pounds of weight.  But even if I did love being pregnant and had easy pregnancies I can tell you with certainty that those 9 months wouldn't be worth all the work that comes after.  So, let me just clear up this misconception right here.  Most of us who have lots of children don't have easy pregnancies or just enjoy being pregnant.  And while I'm at it, let me assure that it's not because we have 'easy' kids either.  There is no such thing as an easy kid.  Granted, some are not as hard as others, but have enough and you'll get some of all kinds.  I'm just going to put a little plug in here too and say that kids that lots of people think are 'easy' aren't really 'easy', it's just that the parents have put in lots of work and so you see their kids being kind, polite, and obedient and you assume they are just easy kids.  They aren't, they just have parents who have been consistent in their child training and discipline.  But back to our discussion, on why some people have so many kids.

Well I can't presume to speak for all of us, so I'll just answer for me.  Why in the world do I have 11 kids and would happily take any more that God sees fit to give me?  Well let me answer the one question that I get asked the most first.  Yes, I do know what causes babies and no, I don't want to stop.  Joe and I were married for almost 4 years before someone challenged us to look at what the Bible had to say about children.  We had always planned on having one or two "someday", but that's about as far as we had gotten with our planning.  After all we are both last-borns, we were just letting life happen to us and doing what was normal in our culture.  When we started looking at what God had to say about children we were blown away.  God says that children are a blessing.  He calls them a gift.  They are a way He rewards us.  In fact in Psalm 127 He tells us that children are our reward.  The word that is translated 'reward' there really means 'wages' or 'salary'.  Children are one of the purposes of marriage and one of the ways that God rewards or pays us.  Who doesn't want rewards from God?  Why would I purposefully choose to limit the way that God wants to reward me?  Do I want to place any limits on any of the other ways that God rewards me?  Would I say to God, "I know that you meet my needs by providing money, but I'd like to limit that. I don't want as much money as you can give me.  I just want a little money, not too much.  It's too hard to manage and too much trouble."?  I doubt many of us, if any of us, would say that.  We want all the blessings God will give us.  All the blessings God will give us except children, that is.  Those, we'd like to limit. 

As we began to discover what God's Word had to say about children, Joe made a list.  On one side of the page he wrote reasons why we should not have children or why we should limit the number of children that we have.  On the other side of the paper he wrote down what the Bible had to say about that.  What we found was that God had already provided an answer to all of our doubts, concerns, or objections.  We determined that all of the reasons we were not having children were at the root unbiblical.  How eye opening for a couple who were dedicated to following God with their lives and were even in preparation for following Him in full time ministry.  For example we had written down "We don't have the money" but God has said in His Word that "My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory".  We had written down that we didn't have the time, but the Bible says "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."  In fact what Joe noticed was that every objection he had to letting God be in control of our family planning was that he had already memorized a passage from the Bible that contradicted his reasoning.  We just weren't living out our faith as much as we thought we were.  After that eye opening exercise we decided to walk by faith in this area and trust God that He knew what He was doing with our family and who He wanted in it.

I find it amusing that when families let God have the control over how many children they have people think it unnatural or strange.  Having a large family, yes even one with a double digit number of children, is the natural result of trusting God with how many children He wants to give us instead of trying to limit the number.  Yet somehow it's thought of as weird while limiting our blessings to 1, 2, or maybe 3 is accepted as 'normal'.  Like I said, somehow that seems backwards to me since the natural result of sexual intimacy is pregnancy.  Unless you interfere in this process, it is natural to have a lot of children and strange to just have one or two children.  Our culture has changed that so that unless you interfere with the natural process you seem strange because you have lots of kids, when in fact it seems strange to me to interfere in what God has for us.  He has given us a time to stop having children.  We call it menopause.  I know that not everyone who gives God control of their family size has lots of kids.  Some don't even have any, but most will have a bunch.  It's the natural process of life.  It's the way God created us.  As I am much closer to that time of life when I won't be able to have any more children than most of those gals around the lunch table the other day, I think understand a little more the preciousness of life.  I have a little more perspective to see how quickly time passes and what really does matter in this life.  My life is full.  Full of beauty.  Full of blessings.  They sit around my diner table in the evening.  I get to buy them Christmas gifts this year.  I kiss their precious faces as I tuck them in at night.  I hear their prayers.  The sweet ones uttered from tiny lips and the powerful ones from lips of young men.  I am overwhelmed at times by the miracle of life.  I am so thankful that God has chosen to bless me with 11 amazing gifts.

If you are a parent you know that love is just multiplied when you add members of your family, it's not divided.  There is more love, not less.  There are so many more relationships and family dynamics.  Having so many brothers and sisters has enriched the lives of all my children.  As far as people who say they like their family size just as it is and don't want to 'rock the boat' so to speak by adding any more kids to the mix, here's my question to you:  Which of your children do you wish you didn't have?  Of course the answer is none.  You love each precious one and can't imagine your life without any of them.  Every one of them has enhanced your life and has added so much to your family.  I feel like that about all my kids too.  I also know that I would feel the same way about any more that God in His infinite wisdom would choose to send my way.

I think that children in our society are seen as a burden not the blessing that they are.  As Christians, we need to get our ideology from the Bible not from culture.  When our culture says that kids hold us back and tie us down, God teaches us that they ARE our purpose as we teach them about Him and launch them into their own lives.  Society says that they are a burden, the Bible says they are a gift.  Our culture tells us that children are a liability.  The Bible teaches that they are assets.  They are a benefit not a disadvantage.  So when people say "Better you than me", I wholeheartedly agree with them.

So, why do I have 11 kids?  The real answer is I guess I don't really know why God has chosen to bless me so richly, to reward me so much, but I am so thankful that He has.  I feel completely honored that God's plan for me was to be the mommy of eleven beautiful lives.  I feel blessed to have been given the privilege of being entrusted by God to take care of eleven of His priceless creations.  I can think of no greater reward.  So why do I have 11 children?  Because so far God hasn't given me 12.

Great Christmas Quote

From my favorite preacher who also happens to be my hubby:  "Christmas is not about Jesus.  LIFE is about Jesus.  Christmas is a reminder to us of the meaning of life."
Help me, Father, remember the Meaning of life all year round.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Happy December!!!

The countdown to Christmas has begun.  I turned the page on the calendar to the last month of the year today.  December.  I love it.  We finally got our Christmas tree up yesterday.  We had quite a few interruptions on the way to getting it completed.  We usually try to put up all our Christmas decorations the weekend after Thanksgiving.  However this Thanksgiving weekend was unusually busy with kids spending the night at friends houses, Christmas play rehearsal, youth group, etc. plus I got some kind of a bug and I don't mean the Christmas decorating bug.  I mean the kind that crawls around in my intestine and makes my life miserable and renders me pretty useless.  Any way, we finally have most of the decorations up.  It's been fun this year because here in Bolivia most people don't decorate the outside of their houses with lights since we all live behind walls.  Now we live in an apartment on the fourth floor so we can decorate our balconies with lights.  Here's a little peek of our interior decorations for those who care.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Even Dozen

So this blog post marks my 12th of the year.  Yes, far behind the number I set out to do, but one more than I did all of last year.  So, I'm choosing to look on the bright side and see the glass as half full of blog posts with more to come.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thanks and Giving: Gratitude is Not Enough

I have to admit I am a Christmas freak.  I love Christmas and everything it entails.  Even though I love every last strand of it, the true meaning of it does tend to get lost in all the tinsel and merriment.  So, for a 'truer' holiday my preference is Thanksgiving.  Even though football, turkeys and shopping have crept in to try and steal the day and the big Halloween push in stores seems to have overpowered Thanksgiving, it seems that the focus is still mainly on the reason the holiday was begun:  to give thanks.  It's a day that we put aside to give thanks to God for all He has done for us.  It's a day when we acknowledge that we are blessed and we give thanks for those gifts.  I think we've done pretty good to keep up the original intent of the holiday in general.  However, I have a small insight to share on giving thanks:  It's not enough.

While it is good to be grateful for what we've been given, it is not enough.  Let's think a bit on that.  Let's all agree that all of us who have access to this blog via any computer are blessed financially.  We have way more than 90 percent of the world.  So, why have we been given these blessings?  Why were you born in the country you were born in and given all the blessings you have?  Why has God poured out financial blessings on you?  Why do you live in a warm house with heating and air conditioning when so many people in the world have never even seen such a wonder.  Why do you have more food and clothing in your home than many have in their entire village.  For pity's sake, we have whole stores devoted to containing and organizing all our stuff.  We have so much that we need help to keep up with it all.  Why have I been given the Word of God in my language in a world that dying in darkness without the same? In the US there are literally thousands of ways each day where I can be exposed to the Bible and good teaching.  I would venture to say that we have more discipleship curriculum than we have disciples or disciplers.  We have been blessed.  But why?  It is just to be blessed?  Just to soak it all in and be grateful for it?  No.  I am blessed in order to bless others.

Many people go on mission trips and their eyes are opened to how most of the world spiritual darkness and/or extreme poverty. Lots of times they have one of two reactions to what they are exposed to:  either they feel sorry for those that they see or they become, at least for a season, more grateful for what they have.   But I say that neither of these things is enough.  It's not enough to feel sorry for all those who are not as well off as I am.  Pity is not enough.  Pity doesn't clothe or feed anyone.  When Jesus had pity or compassion on folks, he acted.  He healed them. He fed them.  He raised them from the dead.  He taught them.  He didn't just feel sorry for them.  He had compassion for them and then acted on that compassion.  He used what He had been given to ease their suffering.  Just like pity for those without as much as me is not enough, gratitude for what I do have is not enough.  It's not enough to be grateful for my blessings.  For instance when people return home from their mission trips they tell everyone who will listen how grateful they are for all they have been blessed with...both physically and spiritually.  They understand that they are blessed.  This is a good thing, right?  Well, once again, while I think that it is good to be thankful, it think it's lacking.  Being grateful should just be the beginning, not the end result of having our eyes open to all we have been given.  Since I am grateful to have been given, I should be motivated to give.   I believe that I was blessed in order to share those blessings not just to be appreciative for them.  I really am only a conduit.  I am to pass the blessings I have been given on.  Just think of God's example given to us in John 3:16.  God loved the world so much that He GAVE his only begotten Son.  He loved and was motivated to give.  The natural result of the love that He had was to give.  He had love, not just pity for those without or thankfulness for what He did have.  He had what the world needed, so He gave it to them.  He is our example.  It's not enough to feel sorry for people that don't have what we have or to be grateful that we have it.  We begin with compassion or gratitude and let that develop into love and ACT on that.

Let's look a little deeper at this.  I have been blessed with spiritual knowledge and wisdom.  In order to be built up myself?  No.  In order to build up others.   I have been given material blessings in order to help provide for those who do not have as much. Just as James teaches us that faith by itself is not enough.  Appreciation by itself is not enough either.  It's not enough to say 'Be warm and filled' to those who are cold and hungry.  It's not enough to be appreciative that we are better off than so many or to be grateful that we are not having to beg for our next meal or go without eating.  It's not enough to be glad that I have food, clothing and shelter and that I have so much food, clothing and shelter that it has become a problem.  A problem of managing all that I have.  We have been blessed not just to be blessed,not to just store up, but to be a blessing to pour out our blessings on others.  We are conduits of blessings.  All I have been given should flow freely into and out of my hands.  It's the way that God established for everyone to have their needs met.  Those to whom blessings have been given in turn give to others.  In fact in Luke 6:38 the Bible teaches that as we give He will give even more: "Give, and you will receive.  Your gift will return to you in full--pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.  The amount you give will determine the amount you get back."  According to this there is a direct correlation between what I give and what I will receive.  God keeps on giving to those who are givers so that all will be blessed.

The Bible never teaches that we are blessed just to hang onto those blessings or simply to be thankful for them.  To the contrary, Scripture says that we have what we have so that we can share with those who don't have the same.  Most of the time in the Bible the word thankfulness is associated with some sort of giving.  In the Old Testament there was even a sacrifice of thanksgiving.  By definition the word sacrifice means that it costs me something....something dear.  A sacrifice by definition means that I am giving until it hurts.  It is the surrender of something prized or desirable.  It's not a sacrifice if I am giving something that I don't care about or want myself.  God even gave specific instructions on giving the best, not the left overs or the animals with blemishes or defects.  They were to give the best because it was a sacrifice to the Lord.  We are to do the same.  Remember our giving is primarily to Him.  We share with others to show that God is Lord over all we have.  We give to acknowledge that He owns all we have and He is the reason that we have anything in the first place. We are to give our best.  We are to share our best....not just what we don't want or what we have 'left over'.  We are to give out of our abundance, but also we are called at times to sacrifice our prized possessions.  

When Jesus sent out His disciples He told them that they were to give as freely as they had received.  I think that he tells us the same, but so many times we don't do it.  Somehow we think it's okay to just store up blessing and build bigger barns and houses and buy more stuff to organize all the stuff I already have instead of freely giving it.  God has given us so much and we store it all up and dam up the flow of blessings.  And then dissatisfaction creeps in when we see that others have bigger and better barns than we do.  So, we become even more greedy in hoarding what we've been given.  That is not God's plan.  It's that dissatisfaction that comes from hanging on to all we have that makes us need to be reminded to even be thankful.  I've found that those who give are already grateful for what they have received.  They acknowledge that all they have is a gift.  They don't need the 11th month of the year to remind them.  

So, thankfulness is not enough.  Appreciation acknowledges that we know we have been given something, but giving shows that we are like the Giver.  Which is our goal to be a receiver or to be like the One who gave us His Best?

It's not enough to be grateful that I:

  • don't suffer persecution for being a Christian.  What can I do to ease the suffering of those that do? 
  • have God's Word in my language.  What can I do to see that all other people groups have the same privilege? 
  • have enough food for today.  Where can I give to see that others can eat? have clean water to drink.  What I can do to help all people have this access? 
  • have a roof over my head.  How can I help those who don't? 
  • can meet in public with a group of fellow believers on a regular basis.  How can I encourage those who can not? 
  • have heard the Gospel since I was a child.  Who is God calling me to share the Good News with?  How can go myself and tell others in all parts of the world the Good News of Jesus' sacrificial death?  How can I financially support someone who is making Jesus' great commission a reality? 
  • have experienced the love of a father and a mother.  What can I do to ease the suffering of orphans of the world?
So, this Thanksgiving my challenge to you is to not just be thankful for your many blessings, but that your gratitude would motivate you to give.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Colossal Fail

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know.  I blew it.  Once again.  The big March date of my last post is staring me in the face just taunting me.  So much for the 2 a week goal.  Did I say 2 a week?  Maybe I meant 2 a quarter....nope, I'm behind on that one too.  Two a year?  Yeah, then I'm ahead.  You's the American way...when I don't meet my goal or what I've said I'll do I just change it.
Okay, now that I've admitted defeat and failure I will try to pick up the pieces and start again.  Here's the quick update since March:
March:  We had our first ever fund raising banquet.  It was lots of fun with friends who came even from far away places like New Jersey.  We had it catered by On the Border and boy was it yummy.  Oh, yeah, I guess you want to know about more than the food....even though that was a high light.  Joe shared a bit of what we had accomplished our last term and our vision for the future and he did an outstanding job if I do say so myself.  We asked people to get behind us and support our ministry and they responded.  Thank you God.  As always we had people give sacrificially who really 'can't' afford to do that, but they did.  May God bless them with many returns in this life and the one to come.  It always blows me away who gives and to what extent.  We know some awesome people.
April/May/June:  Joe and I took a 2 year late 25th  anniversary trip and had a FABULOUS time alone together.  We came back home and hit the ground running.  We got to take Jake, Caleb, and Ben to the Passion Conference in Texas.  We had a great time just hanging out together, participating in awesome worship with Chris Tomlin, David Crowder Band, and Ben's favorite LaCrae.  We also heard some great teaching from John Piper, Francis Chan, and Louie Gigglio.  Next, we went on a 4 week road trip.  It was fun to take the gang....well not all of them, but the seven Texas to visit relatives and friends.  Caleb and Ben worked at Sandy Cove Ministries for the summer and awesome times of their own.  We got back from our road trip in time for me to speak at a one day Ladies' Retreat at Blue Ridge Bible Church.  It was a highlight for me.
July:  It sinks in that we really are leaving....and soon.   We start packing selling and dumping.  When the big dumpster is delivered I breath a sigh of relief.  Good friends chip in to a fund that Joe created so I don't have to do a second yard sale.  Like I said....we know some awesome people.
August:  We finish packing and saying our goodbyes to family and friends and head back to Bolivia.  Our time in the States literally flew by and it is hard to believe that we were there for a little more than a year.  We arrive in Bolivia on August 18th.  We were greeted at the airport by good friends.  I cried as I deboarded the plane on the tarmac to their welcoming yells. Home.  Home to an apartment that we are locked out of (the locks on the gates had been replaced) and no electricity (the bill had not been paid).  Oh well we were tired anyway so we lit a few candles to get us through the night (good thing I'm a candle freak, cuz we had plenty) and hit the sack....after Joe and our good friend/neighbor, Jaime, drilled out the lock on the gate.  The next day some of my dearest friends come to surprise me and take me out for a welcome home dinner.  Magnificent surprise.  I've missed these girls.  We spend the rest of the month readjusting to life here and unpacking our things.  We've decided to stay in our apartment.  It's a cozy three bedroom (a girls' room, a boys' room, and a parents' room) but we're happy here.  The day we went to start our visa process the battery from our truck was stolen.  Welcome to Bolivia.  Then we learned that a crucial step had been skipped in the US on our paperwork.  We work for the next few weeks to get that issue resolved and get our visa paperwork completed on the last possible day that we could without having to pay $30 a day fines.  YEA!  Four short days after we arrive, Caleb and Ben start school at Carachipampa and I begin homeschooling six others 3 weeks later.  The joy of homeschooling.  On the 27th we celebrate Caleb's 19th birthday with a huge chocolate chip cookie made with real Nestle Semi Sweet Chips I brought from the States.  We are so happy that Caleb has decided to come back and spend this year with us.
September:  We're still working on settling in and readjusting.  Joe begins preaching at the Cochabamba International Church.  I begin homeschooling after reorganizing our school bookshelves and a week or two of putting it off.  We're also preparing for some friends who are coming down near the end of the month to work with the House of Dreams orphanages.  We are also in the middle of our birthday season....6 birthdays in 5 weeks starting with Caleb's 19th.  This month we celebrate Mercy's 3rd, Patience's 7th, Joe's 48th, (yes, Joe I announced it to the world....well not really the fact, you are pretty safe because I'm pretty certain I've lost all my blog readers by now) and then the Holsingers (well part of them, Steve, Emily, and Amanda) arrive on the 30th (David's 15th birthday).  We also receive our first packages from our friend Tim this month.    YEA!  The fun has begun.  Also the Holsingers brought down tea and Reese's I had ordered and sent to their house.  They also brought us gifts of pepperoni, parmesean cheese, more chocolate chips and pecans.  Tastes of heaven.
October:  Well here we are.  The Holsingers left day late because of a cancelled flight and I decided to start writing on my blog again.  A landmark day.  Or not.  Anyway here is where we stand....and no promises so as to not affect my fragile ego with more failures, but I really do think I'll be writing here much more often.  And posting pics too.  Check back and see if I continue to fail or not.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

On the Verge of a Breakthrough

As I think about going back to Bolivia, I am excited.  In fact, I feel like I am on the verge of a breakthrough.  A personal breakthrough.  A spiritual breakthrough.  I am more excited about my future than I have ever been.

People often ask us if Cochabamba is really our home or do we feel more at home here in the States.  I have a couple of different answers, but I'll share just one of them here.  Truly I feel as if I don't have a real home.  I'm not at home anymore here in the States, I just don't 'fit'.   I'm not Bolivian, so I'll always be a foreigner there.  I guess the short answer is that I feel like I don't belong anywhere.  I feel like a foreigner where ever I am, but I think that is a good thing.  I embrace it.  It reminds me that this world really is not my home.  I'm only gonna live here on earth for a short while.  There is so much more.  So much beyond this life.  So much I need to prepare for in this life.  I'm glad to not feel tied down to this life.  I want to free myself even more.  I want to be free to follow Jesus where ever He leads.  I want to lay aside every weight that slows me down on my journey.  We all know that possessions weigh us down.  They take our time, our energy and give us back nothing in return.  I Peter 1:17-18 tells us """And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors."    I no longer want to live that 'empty life' and more and more clearly everyday God is showing me what an empty life this one can be. 

People also sometimes tell us that what we're doing...selling all our possessions and moving to another part of the world to join God in His work something special or great or more than most.   I've found that Christians in particular like to categorize people.  It makes us feel like we are in control if we can put everyone into a certain box.  We can then judge them by their 'box' and we don't have to deal with the messy parts of seeing one another as the complicated beings that we are.  Anyway, I digress (yet again).   Personally I know we haven't done anything great or outstanding.  All we've done is taken one more step on our journey.  I'll admit it is an exciting one and one that makes me greatly anticipate the next, but it's just one step in our journey of following God.

I grew up in a Christian home where my parents knew and loved God and wanted me to do the same.  I knew early in my childhood that the Lord of the universe, the Creator or all life, was calling me, a five year old little girl, to become His follower.  Wow!  I responded to that call and I have NEVER been the same.  Over the next few years I learned that God speaks very clearly to His children no matter what age they are.  I knew by age 10 that He had something special for me and I committed to following Him no matter what that was or what it meant.  Over the next 40 years or so since then I've heard His Spirit continue to lead me and I have had to make that same commitment to follow Him no matter what that means over and over again.

One Sunday when I was a young girl still in elementary school the Holy Spirit nudged me to give away all my money to some missionaries that I learned about in church.  All of it!  Not small change, not just some, not even a large percent of my money, but everything I had.  All $40 of it.  Then beyond that He laid it on my heart to save all my money over the next year and do the same with it.  So I socked all my money away over that next year and the next Christmas I gave everything I had saved for the entire year to the foreign missionaries.  I'm sure I probably did without some stuff that I wanted during that year.  I'm sure at the time I felt like I was making some big sacrifice, but to be honest with you I don't remember what I had to do without, what I had to give up, in order to follow God's leading in my life.  But I'll tell you what I do remember.  I remember the joy I felt as I gave all my savings.  I remember feeling like God was pleased with me for my obedience.

After Joe and I were married we have dealt many times with following the leadership of the Holy Spirit:
  • We have committed our lives to Him vocationally, to serve Him as we serve His bride, His body.  
  • We have given away all our savings on one more than one occasion to more than one missionary.  (See, God in His goodness was preparing my little heart for this way back as a girl.  He wanted to show me that He was faithful and that I could trust Him.)  One time we were saving for a car, so we could replace ours in a few years or so we thought.  Just about the time we had enough saved up enough for a car, God asked us to give it all away so that a missionary in the Philippines could buy a van he needed for his ministry.  See we thought we were saving for us, but really we had been saving for a car to be used somewhere else in God's kingdom.  He is so much bigger than we are and has such bigger plans than we do.  
  • We have trusted Him with the size of our family, giving our plans over to His leadership and now as I look at each one of my children, I am so thankful for every one.  Every one has made my life richer.  I can not imagine not having any of my 11 beautiful children.
  • I have followed Him as He lead me to school our children at home so that I could spend time with them and disciple them.
  • We took another step on our faith journey when the Lord called us to plant a church in Colorado instead of taking an easier path we had been offered close to home and family.  Joe was in his last semester of seminary and we didn't know anything about church planting.  Yet God worked as only He can to show us that He was calling us to start a church and to share the Good News with people in an unchurched/unreached area of Colorado. 
  • We continued to follow God's leading as we adopted our two precious boys from South Korea.
  • Sometime in there we were contacted by Blue Ridge Bible Church to see if Joe was interested in being their pastor.  Of course he was not.  Not that they were not a great church, but we knew we were where God wanted us.  But then He began speaking once again and we began packing once again as we followed Him even further away from 'home', but more deeply into His work.
  • Then about 5 years ago He spoke once again and asked us to sell all our possessions and follow Him like Abraham a land He would show us.  We didn't even know where we'd be going this time.  But, He had prepared us and shown us His faithfulness through all our other steps of faith, so this one was just one more.  
At each step I've had to decide am I going to trust God and do what He is asking having faith that He is leading me to something even better for me.  Something that will continue to mold me into the person He wants me to be.  So really I guess to me this 'big decision' we've made to sell everything we have, move further away from 'home' to where we no longer have a 'home', to leave everyone, even our family, our older children and our parents to be a part of working in His kingdom in another place is another way is just one more step in our journey of faith.  I know that I can trust Him with this because He has proven Himself faithful to me over and over again since I was five years old.  I feel like I understand so much more about God, His kingdom and the way He operates than I ever would have if I had not taken each step on my journey.

Now once again as we begin to prepare what our next term in Cochabamba will look like, I feel like I am on the edge of a cliff and I'm getting ready to jump off.  I feel like God is preparing me to take the next step, but this time I think it just might be more than a step, perhaps a leap.  A leap to know Him better and I am excited about what that might mean.  I think He has incredible things in my future.  I am waiting with great anticipation to see what He is going to do now.  Now that we have our first term under our belts, now that we understand a bit of the culture and people I feel like we are, that I am, on the brink of something BIG and exciting.  Even though some of the steps we've taken up to this point might seem to be 'big ones' I feel like they've all just been preparing me for one that's coming in the near future.  I don't know exactly what God will call me to do next, but I do know by His grace I will do it.

I've been reading the story of the rich young ruler everyday for the past several days.  He was on the verge of a breakthrough too.  I am blown away by the opportunity that Jesus offered him and yet he turned it down.  He chose to not take the next step even though from his childhood he had followed what God had required.  Here he came to a place where he knew there was more.  Here he was standing in front of God himself and do you know what Jesus offered him?  He offered him an opportunity to walk with him, to learn from him, to be with him and experience His ministry, His life up close and personal.  Jesus said go and sell all your possessions (which is the part that we often focus on) and then come and follow me.  All three tellings of the story in the gospels say that Jesus said to him, "Then come and follow me."  WOW!  Jesus said if you loosen yourself from all this stuff you have I am giving you an opportunity to follow me and learn from me and be with me.  He could have been one of the disciples, but instead he went away sad because He had so much stuff.  He wasn't willing to take the next step.  He had followed God's teaching until now, but here he had reached a point where it became too much for him.  He made the decision to not follow any further.  I don't know how much he had, I know it was a lot, but I guarantee that today he knows that he chose poorly.  I guarantee if he could go back and give everything he had to have that opportunity to follow Jesus again he would take matter what it cost.  Mark, in his telling of the story, says that Jesus felt genuine love for this guy.  He wasn't telling him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor to punish him.  He said it because of His great love for him.  He said it so the man could be free from what tied him to this world so he focus on God's true kingdom.  He said it so that the man would be free to follow Jesus.  Not as we do by following what He taught while He was alive here on earth, but in real life, in the flesh following Jesus.  This man was given the chance to follow Jesus and the flesh.  What an opportunity.  What a missed opportunity.  What a sad choice he made.  God help me not to make the same choice whatever you ask of me, but prepare my heart to be willing to make the leap of faith and follow you into the world.  By faith and in your Spirit, where ever you lead, I'll go.  I'm ready to leap.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Discouragement and Encouragement

Today I've been thinking about how easy it is for me to get discouraged lately.  I don't think I am typically someone who feels discouraged easily.  This seems to be a recent phenomenon.  Usually it takes a lot to discourage me.  Maybe I've been feeling discouraged more recently just because I don't feel like I belong anywhere these days.  (I'm thinking of a whole post on this later.)  But for now it seems that any little thing makes me want to have my very own pity party for one and sing the old song "Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I'm going out to eat worms".  Yes, for those of you who don't know, it is a real song.  Well I haven't gotten to the worm eating part yet, but just because I'm wise enough to eat some chocolate instead. 

I'm not sure why it's so easy for us to be discouraged.  Maybe it's partially the fault of our American society that has raised a generation of critical people who tend to tear people and their ideas down instead of encouraging them and building them up.  It could be that our churches or other groups of Christians have caused us to feel like we just don't measure up to some standard.  It could even be a spiritual attack from our enemy.  Whatever the reason, we can be easily discouraged.  We can become discouraged when our children make wrong choices and we know they know better.  We can become discouraged when we hear of a party that we aren't invited to.  We can become discouraged when we don't seem to have any close friends.  We can even become discouraged because we see someone that we believe has it all together and we know that we don't. 

No matter how we get there and whether or not it is hard or easy for us to become discouraged, we have all been there. We've all been discouraged.  We all know the pain of discouragement and the desire to just give up the fight.  We are human.  We at times feel defeated, unwanted, unloved, unmotivated and these feelings make us want to just stop trying.  Stop forging ahead and just resign ourselves to just getting by.  But God has so much more than that for us.  He wants us to not to be overcome, but to be overcomers.  Not to just make do and get by, but to forge ahead for His kingdom and in His name. 

Understanding my fragile emotional state of late helps me realize the importance for us as Christians to keep on encouraging one another.  Several times in the Bible we are told to encourage one another...even daily.  I think we need to be encouraged daily because it is so easy for us to become discouraged.  How can I encourage someone else?  We can encourage others with our words and with our actions.  Have you ever met someone who was an encourager?  Someone who seems to build up everyone they are around?  It doesn't take a lot to encourage someone.  For example,  here's just a partial list of things off  the top of my head that have encouraged me in the past few days:
  • A card from a friend telling me that she is praying for me.
  • A phone call just to chat.
  • Dinner out with friends.
  • Lunch with my parents.
  • Watching my kids play together and tenderly care for one another.
  • Watching my kids make new friends.
  • A long overdue coffee date with another mom.
  • Chocolates in the mail.
  • Flowers from Jake.
  • A date with my honey.
  • Reading the books of Luke and Acts.
  • Hearing about God at work in other parts of the world.
  • A friend's news that he is going on his first short term mission trip.
  • Cupcakes baked and delivered by a friend.
  • Hearing the stories of kids in AWANA who want to be missionaries when they grow up.
  • The excitement of kids as they earn and save money to care for children in an orphanage.
  • Helping a friend complete one of her long overdue tasks.
  • Meeting a group of elderly ladies that pray for my family on a regular basis.
Each of these things encouraged me and helped drive away my discouragement and even made me feel like they were prompted by God just to encourage me and to keep on going.  I am so grateful for each one.
What can you do to encourage someone today?


Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Want to Be Where You Are

Mercy is a momma's girl....although she's turning into a mamita's girl too (mamita means little other words Faith's girl) .  She doesn't want mommy too far out of her sight.  She likes to be near me.  She sits on the island while I am cooking, she sits in my lap when we are watching movies, she asks to sit beside me (the highly coveted seat) at lunch and dinner.  She misses sitting in my lap when we go on car trips.  Those pesky US car seat and seat belt laws.  :>)  She knocks on the door when I am in the bathroom.  She comes in when I am in the bathtub just to chat.  When she is proud of her work she wants to show it to me and have my approval...even if it is her artistic rendering on the side of my desk or on the wall.  She takes a nap in the school room on the couch so she can be near me while she sleeps.  When she is hurt she wants me to comfort her and give her a band-aid because that fixes everything.  When she is sick she wants me to doctor her.  This week she had to get some immunizations and her leg hurt and she wanted me to carry her everywhere.  She wants to be right where I am because she knows I'm her momma and that I love her and she loves me right back.

As I thought about that I realized that I am like that with my Heavenly Father.  I want to be right where He is.  When I hurt I want, I need, His comfort.  When I am proud of something I have done, I desire His approval above all others.  When I need advice, I want to know what He has to say.  When I am weak, I need Him to carry me.  When I am tired, I need His strength.  When I am empty, I need His Spirit to fill me.  I just want to be near Him.  To enjoy Him.  His strength.  I gain security in His presence.  When I feel uncertain, I gain confidence in His love....knowing that He loves me despite all my failures...that nothing I do changes His love for me.  I pray I never outgrow wanting/needing to be with my Heavenly Father.  Right where He is.  Close by so He can give me just what I need whether it is correction or comfort. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Observations from the First Half of our Time in the States

  • There is good medical care available...even if you don't have insurance, but you have to pay dearly for it.
  • It is so easy to cook in the USA with all the prepared, canned, and frozen foods.
  • North Americans are very friendly, but lack truly deep friendships.
  • There is an abundance of water and even an abundance of hot water here.
  • There is wealth everywhere even in the midst of economic crisis.
  • The Dollar Tree is my favorite 'dollar store'. 
  • More isn't necessarily better.
  • Faster isn't necessarily better either.....except when it comes to internet connections. 
  • Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birth, if you don't like that, don't celebrate it but don't change it into something else.  
  • Canned biscuits are really good (and stinkin' convenient!)....ditto canned croissants, cinnamon rolls, orange rolls, etc.
  • Lindt truffles are hard to beat.
  • Kids love to play outside and in the woods
  • It's hard to make friends when you aren't around that much and people know you are only here a short while.
  • The more I go to Walmart the more I am amazed at all they have....and for so cheap.
  • Celebrating American holidays is more fun when you are actually IN America.
  • Having all my kids and my parents in my house on Christmas Day was a treat and a memory I won't ever forget.
  • Most things work better here.
  • Being able to take things back when they don't work is a wonderful thing.
  • Home is where your herd is.
  • Snickers Candy Bars taste better here.
  • Canned sodas are really cheap and there is a huge variety of them available.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Making the Cut

If you haven't noticed the USA is a land flowing with milk and honey.  I know there is an economic crisis and all, but seriously almost every single American is rich by world standards. (I don't want to get off on another subject here so I'm saving an entire blog to show this, but for now let me just give you one statistic: If your income is $25,000 you are wealthier than approximately 90% of the world's population.  That's right, if you make $25,000 a year you are in the top 10% of wealthiest people in the world!)  There is so much stuff available to buy here in the US.  We have been blessed beyond measure with material wealth and material goods.  I think that the majority of North Americans are drowning in their stuff.  We spend so much time, energy and money just managing our things.  Moving them around, maintaining them, organizing them, cleaning them, weeding through them and getting rid of some of them because we all just have too much.

Since our family is only in the USA for approximately one year, we realize that even though there are so many things available to buy and even though many of them are available for such a good price, we still shouldn't buy too much. Why?  Because in just a few short months we will be packing our suitcases for our journey back to Bolivia and there is a limit on how many things we can take with us.  A very restricted limit imposed by the airlines and even by the country of Bolivia.  We can only carry two suitcases each and the suitcases can not be overweight (over 50 lbs.).  Knowing this I evaluate each purchase I make by a few criteria:  How much does this item weigh?  Will it make the cut of the small number of things that can fit into my suitcases?  Does it justify buying it if I have to leave it behind?  Even though we are celebrating our birthdays and we celebrated Christmas here in the States, we really have to watch every gift we purchase.  Is it small enough, light enough, and valuable enough to us to justify buying it and hauling it back to Bolivia?  One more consideration we have to give is will it fit in our cozy little apartment in Cochabamba.  Again we have a very limited amount of space in which to put all the things we are taking back with us once we get it home.  Is there a place to put it in our apartment?  Just to give you an idea of what this means let me give you an example.  When we had all of our bags packed to come to the States from Bolivia (and we were only bring about one bag each) we had to put them on the balcony because there was no room for all of our full suitcases in the apartment.  It is as I said cozy with 11 people living there in a small space. 

As I pondered the enormous task of taking back things that we will be wanting and needing for the next four or so years, I realize more and more I literally weigh each purchase carefully.  If it is not something that will be used up before we go back to Bolivia (i.e. cookie dough, good chocolate, Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, flowers, Diet Dr. Pepper, Starbucks Mocha Frappuccinos, candles) then I have to decide do I REALLY want this?  Do I want enough to buy it and cart it back to our little apartment?  Do I love it enough to leave something else behind in order to carry it?  There are somethings that for sure fall into this category: my new(er) laptop, our camera, pecans, makeup, our Kindles, Bath and Body Works stuff, Yankee Candles, many of my clothes, new sheets, some soft blankets, a dog tazer, good towels, computer software for homeschool, medicines, vitamins, Lip Smackers, a label maker, a sharp kitchen knife, Tupperware, a really big non-stick skillet, and good walking shoes...just to name a few).  Others just won't make the cut (many school books, a Crockpot, heavy tools, new pots and pans, lots of our clothes, our Christmas decorations, magazines, photo albums, my china dishes, toys (the kids get to carry one backpack each of whatever they want to haul in it), heavy coats and many other things.

All of this weighing and decision making of every item I buy has been good for me.  It makes me truly consider how much I want something and how perfect it is for me.  Do these shoes rub my little toe sometimes?  They're out.  Are these the absolute most comfortable flannel sheets I've ever felt?  They're in.  Is this jacket not really my color?  It's out.  Do I want something to remind me of our time at Walt Disney World?  The refrigerator magnets are in.  How often will I really use this cookbook?  It's out.  Do I want to remember the smells of fall at 'home'?  The pumpkin candles are in.  Everything I value as worth fitting in my bag has to be special to me:  It makes me look skinnier (clothes); I could walk for miles in them (shoes); I can't get this in Cochabamba (pecans);  It reminds me of 'home' (home decor items).  Will it be a special treat to my friends there?  (I'm not telling this's gotta be a surprise)  When I get down to the actual packing even more will get weeded out.  Only the best of the best will make the journey with me.  The space is just too precious to take stuff that is just so-so.

All this evaluating of stuff got me to thinking.  I am being so vigilant in preparing for our journey back to Bolivia because even though I am here in the States now, it is no longer my home.  It is only my temporary home.  My home for this year.  A place where I am for a short while not permanently.  A place that I am enjoying and loving, but I know that one day soon my time here will be over.  This reminded me that as a Christian, this world is not my home.  It is only a place where I am for a short while.  My temporary home.  It's a place that I know and love, but I realize that I will not be here forever.  One day in the not too distant future my time here will be over.  The only things I can take with me from this place are eternal things.  Matthew chapter 6 tells us Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  I need to be just as vigilant about what I am packing in this life.  What is it that will actually make the cut into the next one?  In talking about what we do with our lives here on this earth Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3 "Anyone who builds on that foundation (Jesus) may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.  If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.  But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames."    Am I packing this life with things that will be burned up when I stand in front of the Great Judge or am I packing it full of precious things that will stand?   What things are worth collecting here in this life?  What is worth investing my time, money and energy in? 

As I evaluate my suitcase space I look at what I can fit in that's worth taking and what I should leave out because as wonderful as it may be (Diet Dr. Pepper) I just can't justify the weight of taking it with me.  I believe I should be even more watchful as I appraise what I fit in my life on this earth.  Just because it's good doesn't mean that I have space for it or that I should include it in my life.  I should only put in the best of the best.  I should save my time and money for things of eternal value.  That's what I should be packing in my life.

How about you?  What are you packing in your life that will make the journey with you into the next?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Last year here in the DC area they were pounded with tons of snow.  In fact at right about this time one year ago there were 30 inches of snow on the ground outside of the window that I am looking out right now.  At that time I was in Bolivia enjoying our 85 degree sunny weather.  As I saw all the pictures of cars and porches and doghouses covered in snow posted by friends I admit that I felt twinges of envy.  I love living in Cochabamba.  It is my home now, but we have pretty much the same weather year round in the daytime (about the only way you can tell the different seasons is the night time temperatures vary a little more).  It gets up into the 80s in the daytime unless it’s rainy season and it’s just a little cooler as long as the clouds last, but the next day it will back into the 80s again.  Hot Christmases were one of my biggest adjustments to make in Cochabamba.  We get sunburned on Christmas.  I know many Northern Virginians got their fill of snow last year and want a year ‘off’ with no blizzards, but I say BRING IT ON!!!  Bring on the blizzard.  I want snow.  Lots of it.  Tons of it.  I want the kind of storm where we can’t get out of our long winding driveway.  The kind where we are snowed in.  The kind where we have snowball fights, build snowmen and snow forts and then go inside and drink hot chocolate.  I want to enjoy one BIG blizzard during our time in the States.  I want it to be a memory I carry back to Bolivia with me.  I want to remember the freezing fingers of kids on my back and face.  Their red noses so cold that they are numb.  I want to remember snow angels and kids dressed up in so many layers they look like ticks about to pop.  The weather channel says it is supposed to snow tomorrow, here’s hoping it’s a good one!  I’ve got my hot chocolate ready just in case.  

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Last night our family was talking about the value of paintings.  Joe mentioned to the kids that he remembers a long time ago when the Kimball Art Museum in Ft. Worth purchased a Van Gogh and that they paid more for it than any of their previous exhibits.  Numbers in the millions of dollars for paintings baffled our kids, so one finally spoke up and said "WHAT is the picture of?".  She was thinking what on earth could someone have painted that could be worth so much money.  I told her that it's not what is in the picture but WHO painted it makes it so valuable.  It was painted by a master artist.

Then God spoke to me once again about the value of people.  People are valuable just because God made them and we should treat them as such.  But do we?  Do we treat people as the masterpieces that they are?  It doesn't matter what they've done with their lives or their 'quality of life'.  They are precious just because they were made by God in His image.  They have additional value because of the price that He paid for them...the blood of His only Son.  It doesn't matter that they don't have a job, or a house.  It doesn't matter that they are still in their mother's belly.  It doesn't matter that they are old or feeble.  It doesn't matter that they don't have the same political views as me.  It doesn't matter that their belief system infuriates me.  It doesn't matter that they color on my walls and mess up my desk and aren't conscientious about cleaning up after themselves. 

People are valuable to God.  He made us and then he bought us with the most precious commodity there is.  Himself.  He didn't wait for us to try and do something to prove our value or to straighten up our lives.  He loved us when we were unlovable.  He brought us back to Himself when we wanted nothing to do with Him.  Do I demonstrate that love of who God that loved us when we hated Him or do I portray the selfish kind of love who wants people to act a certain way before I will bless them with my love and acceptance?

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  (Romans 5:6-8)

I love to go to yard sales and hearing stories of people who bought something at a yard sale for a quarter that ended up being a work of art worth millions of dollars excites me.  Have you ever heard a story of someone who found a painting in their attic and took it to an appraiser and they discover it's worth a fortune.  What if you discovered a masterpiece by Van Gogh in your attic?  The real deal.  How would you treat it?  We we are daily surrounded masterpieces.  We live with them, work with them, encounter them on the street and in our neighborhood.  Works of God...the Greatest Master of all.  How do we treat the works of art that He has created?  People are so much more valuable than anything created by man.   They were created by God.  Imagine that.  A masterpiece by God made to have a relationship with Him. 

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  (Ephesians 2:10)

I pray that I will see people for the great works of art that they are.  That I will see that God is not finished with any of us, but He made us and is working in and on all of us.  We are all still in process.  He is molding and making us into His image.  Give me eyes to see the value of God's masterpieces and to treat them as worth His precious blood.  May I treat humanity with the respect that they deserve.  May I treat each masterpiece, each person, as priceless.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Can't Get Enough

In no particular order here are things that a girl just can’t have too many of….

Lip Smackers…every size, shape, color and taste…including one in every pocket, purse, bedside table drawer, bathroom drawer, desk drawer, kitchen drawer, coat pocket, cup holder in the car…

Friends…real ones…ones you can call on to talk you down off the ledge, rejoice with, or help you bury the body without questioning you about it until afterward (just kidding), but most importantly those who encourage you on your journey with the Lord

Good smells including perfumes, lotions, room sprays, diffusers, and candles


Moments alone


Sincere compliments from those who love her

Hot baths

Bath and Body Works Lotions (see above under good smells)

Reasons to celebrate

Flavors of diet soda and tea

Christmas decorations

Pictures of loved ones


Days in the company of her family

Nights alone with her honey

Romantic songs on her ipod


Intimate moments….with God, with her hubby, with her children, with her family, with her friends

Hours spent in amazement at the awesomeness of God

Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups

Colors of fingernail polish

Good recipes

Times truly worshiping God with other believers

People who read her blog

Feel free to comment and add your own.  I know I’ve left out plenty.