Sunday, December 19, 2010

I love Christmas Cookies!

We do not have a lot of traditions in our family.  I remember growing up, and it seemed like there were things that we all knew were going to happen at certain times - like going to Gram's house on Christmas Eve and having a venison roast, provolone cheese, a big box of chocolates, and mixed nuts (family excluded!)  I think maybe because we have moved so much in our years of having kids, and because it seems that most years we are in the car traveling (does that count as tradition?) we have not done a lot.  But we DO make Gram's sugar cookies each year!  Even when we were in Malawi, we gathered all the pastor's family and baked and decorated.  Of course, half the cookies disappeared before they made it back into the kitchen (and the other half went just as quickly) but I have great memories of watching the pastor's kids licking their fingers of all the "extra" icing and trying not to think too much about it!  It is a wonderful experience each year, even if it does end up being Anna and I doing the last 50 cookies ourselves!
Just thought I would share a picture of some of the goods...


We are looking forward to spending Christmas with Shawn's family this year!  But the sugar cookies are already gone - sorry!  :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Honesty Becomes You

Really?  Because if that were true, wouldn't more people like it when you were honest?  This is an area I have struggled with consistently in my life - especially in my ministry time.  As the pastor and his wife, there is always that underlying idea that we should have it together.  Even though people will say that is not true, and they will acknowledge that we are only human, when the pastor starts to have a crisis in his life, the church becomes uncomfortable.  Suddenly the fearless leader is not so fearless or so full of leadership potential. 
I do this same thing to Shawn sometimes.  Obviously in my head I know that he cannot always be the upbeat, charge-ahead leader I so badly want him to be.  Don't get me wrong - he is strong, godly, and I would not trade him in for anyone else! ;)  However, like all of us he has days of insecurity, doubt, confusion, and depression.  And then I start to feel upset with him for being so vulnerable - the same things that the church sometimes does to it's pastors. 
I have had to learn to repent of this.  And not just repent of my actions and attitude toward Shawn, but because ultimately I have sinned again Him and Him alone, I have had to repent of replacing God with Shawn in my life.  Often I run to Shawn when I am hurt and want to talk, when I am angry and need to vent, when I am scared and want answers, when I am confused and want clarity.  And those things are fine to do - God gave us each other for those things.  He is my best friend.  However, when my first thought is Shawn and not God, and when I get frustrated because Shawn can't give me all the answers or be the person I always want him to be, then I am looking to him for things that can only come from God. 
God is teaching me a lot things about this and all the areas that I replace him.  I appreciate your prayers as I work through some of these.  As I continue to try to be honest and (at times) am hurt or rejected because of that, I have to remember to run into my Father's arms and trust that he loves me unconditionally.  I have to remember that we are all human and make mistakes, but that does not make honesty any less valuable in life.  So I press forward...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

dirty oven

So I cleaned my oven today, and realized as I was cleaning it (translation:  hitting the self clean button) that I was trying to come up with a good analogy - cleaning out the yuckiness inside where it is hidden?  Burning away the mire?  haha...I can't help it!  This blogging thing gets in my head!  I remember in Malawi whenever I was doing something new (pretty much every day) I was figuring out how I would write it on my blog!  I guess I just like to write!  Or preach.  Or tell stories. 

But I will spare you the oven story and just say that yesterday was a bad day.  One of those "I am grumpy because I want to be grumpy and nothing you can say will make it better so go away" type days.   Fortunately I have a husband who does not go away, and even goes so far as to remind me that it is just a day, a feeling - fleeting.  And those feelings can be deceiving and are not necessarily what or who I am.  And as soon as I was ready to stop being stubborn and listen, and run back into the arms of God, life was in perspective again. 

Kinda like the dirty oven being cleaned from the inside out...
lol!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful for the little things!

If there is one thing I have learned in the last few years, it is that I need to be thankful for the little moments as well as the big ones!  (OK, so I am still learning that in reality - but I AM learning!)  Three years ago we spent Thanksgiving in Malawi since we were living there at the time.  I missed my family (and turkey) - but we had just made some new friends who would turn out to e a life line for us, and they invited us to a Thanksgiving in Zomba with some other ex-pats from the USA.  There was no turkey - but there was ham, chicken, and all the trimmings, as well as a a bunch of people that became friends and family there.  Our kids made friends and laughed a lot that day.  I thought that we would spend many more Thanksgivings with this wonderful group of people (as well as other holidays) but that was not to be.

The next Thanksgiving we were back in the States and we had Thanksgiving at my parent's house.  All the siblings were together with our kids, and even though it was loud and chaotic with so many little ones running around in a small space, it was fun.  It was the perfect day, as we played games, laughed, ate, and laughed some more.  I remember not wanting to leave.  But I figured that we would have many more holidays together.  Once again I was wrong.

 (Me and my sisters!)
(The cousins! )


This Thanksgiving I was again with my family in that same house, but without my mom.  Though we spoke of her and definitely missed her, she would have been very happy to see the smiling faces, the friendships that are blooming between cousins, and the bond that her daughters have.  She would have loved hearing the giggles and outright cackles from playing games together, the good-natured teasing, and the friendly banter that happened around the table.  I loved it - it was a blast!  The kids are getting a little older, and they play well together so the adults can also "play" together for a while!  We played Pictionary Telephone (Thank you, Travis and Amy for teaching us that game!), Dutch Blitz, and Last Word - sometimes with the kids and sometimes just us grownups!  And once again I did not want the night to end.  But I am learning to be thankful for the times that I have with my family and friends and not worry about the future or focus too much on the past!


I do not know what the future holds for us - where we will be over the next few Thanksgivings.  I certainly hope it involves friends or family, games, and laughter.  I just know that I will embrace each of these times that I have with people I love.

Friday, November 19, 2010

National Geographic article on Southern Sudan

For those who are not familiar with Sudan's history, here is a link to a good article in National Geographic.  Take the time to read it, and then pray for this country as they look for a peaceful referendum in January 2011.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/11/southern-sudan/teague-text 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

thankful for my mama

Something strange has been happening to me the last several days.  It seems that everywhere around me I hear people talking about their moms.  Many of these people (most?) have been older than me, and their mothers are definitely older than my mom would have been.  And I find my self inadvertently thinking, "Why do you still get to have your mom?" 
I know that sounds childish and bitter. 
Honestly though, when I think it I am not feeling bitter.  In fact I am happy for these people that they can take their moms shopping, call them on the phone, and argue about Thanksgiving dinner with them.  However, the thought still pops in there for a second, until I am reminded of how selfish that is of me!  I know where my mom is-without a doubt- and as much as she loved us, she would not want to come back.  And I don't blame her one bit! 
That doesn't stop the self pity from settling in at times. 
This year in my life marks the year that I have been living away from my parents as long as I lived with them!  I left home at 18 and never lived there again.  (Yes, since I know you are doing the math in your head - I am 36!)  So there was this irrational part of me after she died that thought I would not miss her the way some of my other siblings would.  Not that I didn't love her or feel loved by her - neither of those things were ever in question.  But I guess I felt independent and self-reliant.  I am married to an amazing man and have 4 beautiful kids.  I have lived a life of adventures and crazy rides with God.  I love my life!  But God has shown me my self righteousness yet again in this time - because I miss my mom more than I ever imagined.
She was the glue in our family.  She was the one that made sure we all knew what was happening with the others and when people could get together.  She smoothed over disagreements and hurt feelings.  She planned and organized and changed her schedule and life to make ours work.  Oh, we had our fair share of fights - what mother and daughter don't?  But even with both of us being stubborn and pig-headed, we loved each other enough to work on it and work it out.
 It seems harder to make those extra efforts now.  I am going home for Thanksgiving - for the first time in a year - and I am so excited to see my sisters, my brother, and their families, and my Dad and Gram!  But there is still this part that wants to hold back because she is not going to be there. 
I find that I miss her when times like getting back from Africa happens and I just want someone to share in my excitement and look at all my pictures;  When I discover a super delicious recipe and want to tell someone who will be happy for me and want me to make it so she can taste it next time we are together;  When I get frustrated with home school and need someone to cheer me on and confirm our decision instead of making me feel inadequate. 
I miss my cheerleader.  I didn't realize until she was gone that she was really my biggest fan!  (Next to my husband, who is obviously in a totally different category!)  :) 
So today I am thankful for my mom.  I am thankful for the example that she was even when she (or I) did not realize it!  I am praying that my kids will know me to be their cheerleader, fan, prayer warrior, confidant, and friend. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thankfulness in the unexpected!

Well it's a new week and a new Compelled!  We had a wonderful time tonight with our new church plant.  For the first time we had almost as many women as men! :)
God is working in Troy, and I am happy that he is allowing us to be a part of it.  This church plant is not what I imagined - I never thought that I would be working with 35 college students each week.  But he is faithful, and I am blessed to be allowed to be a part of their lives.  In my small group tonight we had good conversations about the things in our lives that need to be covered in grace.  To my surprise - and delight - people were very open and honest in their talking.
I am also very honored to be a part of the worship band.  This group that is made mostly of college students  is full of a lot of life and excitement!  We are working out the kinks and getting to know each other, but for only playing together a few weeks, things are coming together well.  And it is so fun to watch them takes steps of faith in their walk with God.  They are an amazing group!
God is teaching me a lot about being grateful!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

thankfulness despite...

Well, it has really been a bad day!  Woke up really late because we were exhausted after Compelled last night (Thursday is our new Monday!) Got school started on the wrong foot because we were running late; had to get my own homework done and in to Richard for our skype time tomorrow, so I was grumpy that anyone needed me or my help; I had to go to Sam's with a friend to get stuff for Compelled at 1 and we were still not done with school; by the time I got home I felt under pressure to make the pierogies that I had promised Shawn for his birthday, but apparently my stress was getting the best of me, because Shawn said to forget it because he would rather have less stress, so we got Chinese food-ugh!  And on top of it all, it was gray, rainy, and cold!
I felt like I failed at everything I was supposed to do today.  I am committed to teaching my children in a healthy, good environment for them, and that did not happen.  I want to make my family healthy, delicious meals and not feed them processed, gross stuff - and that did not happen.  I have a very strict food budget- and I blew part of that today on the gross, processed food.  And then because Shawn had to teach his Bible Class at RPI this evening, I felt like the whole day was rushed and yucky - and I felt responsible.
Not exactly the birthday - or any day- that I wanted for Shawn and my kids!
So what am I thankful for today?  My homework in this class; a wonderfully wise man named Josiah whom I have never met, but have learned much from as I listen to his CD's; The fact that even when I am an absolute mess up and nothing goes the way I want or plan God loves me perfectly and completely.  The fact that my husband is my best friend, and really doesn't overly romanticize birthdays anyway!  ;)
I guess I am learning what real love is through all of it.  And for that, I am thankful!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Compelled Thankfulness

Tonight at Compelled I was a little disappointed at first when I realized that our numbers were down.  But then I had to start looking around.  We have been praying for people from the community to come in - especially some families that are more permanently in the area than college students.  Tonight for the first time there was a couple there from the area - and they have been looking at the church and following the changes on the website since July!  AND he plays the guitar!  Hopefully we did not scare them off!  :)  Also, as we were playing I felt so at ease with this band that I have only known for three weeks!  It went smoothly and was fun tonight - no nerves!  So even though numbers were lower, God is still answering prayers!  I am thankful that he reminds me to look at the big picture and not just the things I can see.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thankfulness


 Our car that we bought from my mom!  (Notice the neighbor ALSO has a two-color car!) LOL!



Today I am thankful for the fact that my husband is much more patient that I am!  On Thursday, when the car started smoking under the hood and refused to run I was done with it!  But the next day it started again, and we decided we could risk it to go to Troy Night Out.  It seemed fine as long as we were going under 40 and only a few miles!  But that would get old fast - not to mention impossible since the next few months has some traveling to see family and for World Harvest stuff! 

Shawn took it to the mechanic today, and it turned out to be something simple - a fuel sensor or something.  $300 later we have a car that runs relatively safely.  It is still a 1993 with many miles, a really tight fit for us, and ugly as all get-out-but hey - we are not stuck at home!  
I am also thankful because our church family gave us a gift last Wednesday (the day before the car died) of $300 for pastor appreciation.  No coincidence that it was exactly what we needed to keep the car on the road!  Now we can keep what we have in savings and actually get a decent vehicle (hopefully a van!) when we have the money instead of when we are desperate! 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Life

As we enter into November, I have decided to do my thankfulness thing again this month (I really should do this more than one month a year!)  I am going to try to write each day about one thing I am thankful for - and I am going to try to make it things that are not obvious!  :)  For example, I could write every day that I am thankful for Shawn and the kiddos, but that would get kind of boring to read!  So I am going to look at things in my life that I usually take for granted and be thankful for those things.
For today:
I am thankful for teacher's manuals - it seems I have been using them a lot recently, and it certainly makes my life as a teacher/mom much easier!  I even found out that when the answer is there, it makes sense and I can actually usually explain the problem!  ;)
I am thankful that I can go to the church and play the keyboard tonight!  I love playing, and I miss my own keyboard at home, but it is a blessing that I can go there anytime and play!  (And I do not have to try to figure out where it would go in this house!)
I am thankful that our car is able to get around town...we still do not know what is wrong, and I would not go far in it, but we are not stuck at home!  Every time we pray over it, it starts working (kinda) again!  ;)
I am thankful for cooler weather and the snow flurries we went through last night.  OK, so this is a stretch for me, but I am CHOOSING to be thankful because my children are so excited about it - and I AM thankful for the smiles and squeals of joy from them!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The New Sudan

Hey Philly-area friends and family!  This weekend there is an opportunity for you to understand better what is happening in Sudan!


Nadus Films will be showing their latest film on the situation in Sudan in the Philly area this weekend. Liberti Church Fairmount, (meeting at the Berean Institute) Oct 30, 8:00pm.

You would also be able to meet the amazing Masso family, some of the missionaries we stayed with in Sudan.  Make sure you tell their daughter, Acacia, happy birthday!
 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From World Harvest Mission

Hi everyone,
We received this prayer request this morning from World Harvest Mission (whm.org) and want to pass it on to you because it echos our hearts:


"I need you to pray for the country of Sudan. The people of Southern Sudan will be voting about whether or not to formally secede from the North on January 9, 2011. Tensions are running high, and there are many questions: will the vote take place on time, and will it be free and fair? Will both sides honor the outcome?

We have ten missionaries and many Sudanese partners doing incredible work. Together, they are building water wells, strengthening the education system, and sharing the Gospel with hundreds of people.

Please pray that these elections are peaceful and that our team will be able to continue its work in the country."

This is serious warfare, people!  I will be continuing to ask you to keep it in the front of your prayers as we get closer to the January 9th date!  Thanks!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Compelled by the love of Christ

Last Wednesday was our very first night of Compelled- our new church plant.  It was wonderful!  Many of you were praying for our kick-off, and we could feel your prayers!  It did not go off without a lot of spiritual warfare, I will tell you that!  Many of our band members were sick, having bad dreams, having guitar strings break constantly, missing practice for one reason or another.  There were sudden meetings that sprang up that were not supposed to happen.  The copier broke and we literally laid hands in it in the name of Jesus so we could make enough music for all 13 people in the worship band!  (It worked, by the way!)  On Wednesday afternoon out of the blue I suddenly had a piercing headache like never before.  It went from my neck into my head and I almost blacked out.  Everything was tight and I thought I was having a stroke.  Shawn prayed for me and the intense pain went away.  As the night wore on I felt 100% better, but it was scary!  There has been nothing since, and even as it was happening I felt strongly that it was spiritual.
In one way this was an encouraging thing for all of us involved...the enemy was not letting us off easy, so there must be something good that was going to happen.  And it was a wonderful night!  A bunch of people came, the atmosphere was one on worship, and there was a lot of laughing and getting to know each other afterwards - and not one broken guitar string! :)
Please be in prayer as we continue this.  The "kick off" was not really event so much as a beginning of what we hope becomes a church that really impacts this community for Christ.  There seems be positive feedback, and I have heard that people are inviting people this week (apparently last week they were checking us out to see if it was worth inviting people too - I can't really blame them!)  But as was so evident last week, this is not about good music, yummy food, and fun - this a real battle because ultimately it is about leading people to the one true God and the free gift he has for them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's tonight!





Please be praying!!  Tonight is our kick-off!  See post a few below for details! 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Uganda




Before we have our Compelled kick off on Wednesday, I decided I better get all my thoughts about Africa wrapped up!  (Well, not ALL my thoughts, but the ones I am sharing right now! )  ;)
We took our last MAF flight into Bundibugyo along with Robert and Chrissy.  It was amazing scenery - one moment you felt as if you could touch the mountains, then suddenly they dropped out from under us and we looked down into the valley at the beautiful green landing strip!  Did I mention that our plane this time was not a 10 passenger, but a 6 passenger?  It was a little crazy - and loud - but Samuel did a great job navigating it and getting us there safely!
When we stepped out there were hugs all around from the team!  It was a wonderful welcome, and we quickly got in the trucks and drove back to the mission.   From that time on we were pretty busy!  We visited the marketplace on Saturday with Anna and ate some yummy samosas; we went to the health center and watched as Travis did a few ultrasounds; I prayed for a young girl (and I mean young) who was experiencing a possible miscarriage; we saw a baby - the one survivor of twins- that was born prematurely and at 1 month weighed only 1.7 kgs; we watched as this baby's mom looked on in happy surprise as she was taught how to express milk from her breast and it squirted Travis; We went to Christ School - an amazing secondary school that WHM started and has been improving the chances of kids from this area getting an education that was worthwhile; we played games and laughed til we cried with Travis and Amy (We have already brought that one back to church!); we went with John to see the cocoa plants being harvest and sampled one bean fresh from the pod; we toured the rest of the farms and saw the goats and palm oil; we gazed in awe at the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and the range that was beyond us in the DRC just a few kilometers away; we went swimming in an icy cold waterfall coming from these breath-taking mountains; we found a rhinoceros beetle that I was glad was NOT alive; I very carefully entered the bathroom in the Myhres house expecting to see beady little rat's eyes each time (but was pleasantly surprised to never see them!); Shawn rode a boda boda (motorcycle) through the forest to a rural church that he was preaching at; we ate and ate and ate (I LOVE g-nut sauce and rice! mmmm) 
Bundibugyo was a fun time to see places and do things that we had not experienced before.  As we got to know the Clarks, the Johnsons, Pat, Anna, and new arrival Chrissy, we came to love this team that is spread thin but loving their lives in this jungle in Uganda.
In the coming weeks I will update you on things to pray for with both the Uganda and Sudan team, but if you want a better taste, or want to hear from them, please check out the blogs that are posted on my blog!
On the way back to Kampala we decided to drive so we could get a feel for the country and where we really were.  When you fly in and land in under two hours, it is hard to realize how far removed from everything this team really is!  But we drove for 3 hours on crazy dirt roads over the mountains to get to Fort Portal for lunch and where we were meeting David, the wonderful driver for the rest of our time in Uganda.  In Fort Portal (which reminded me very much of Malawi) we bought some gift for the kids, had lunch, then got on the road again.  David told us we would probably not see monkeys since it was mid day and he did not usually see many - but we saw monkeys and baboons for several hours of the trip!  Some came right up to the car when we stopped!  He was amazed, and we told him how much God enjoys giving us even these little gifts!  8 hours after we started we were in the American Recreation House and sleeping soundly in a comfy bed!
The next day we had David take us to see a few cool things - including the "Botanical gardens" near the airport!  It was extremely exciting to see more monkeys - different kinds, and even a black snake!  (David was not impressed with the snake!)  :)
I am thankful for this amazing time and for the chance to get to know these people in both fields that have left the comforts of home to do what God has asked them.  Thanks for all your prayers!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sudan



To try to put our experiences in Sudan in a blog that would make much sense to read is harder than it seems!  I am glad that I kept a journal throughout the trip, since the emotions and experiences in all the places we visited varied so much!
In those early morning hours that I lay awake in my bed in the safari tent that we were sleeping in,  waiting for there to be enough light to get up and move about without disturbing the rest of the mission,  God gave Shawn and I this verse:  Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast [that word again] because he trusts you. In the night when I woke up full of fear, my mind was not on Him.  It was on circumstances that seemed less than ideal.  It was not trusting in Him, but trusting in my flesh - and in my flesh there is not a whole lot to trust in other than failure, fear, and hopelessness!  
The first night in Sudan we floated off to sleep to the sounds of a party of some sort going on next door!  I do not know if it was a funeral or something good - it can sometimes be hard to tell if you are not familiar with the language and culture!  But I know it lasted all night! Each time I rolled over I woke up enough to realize that there was strange music and singing, I was under a mosquito net, in a tent, in Sudan of all places!  Good grief - what was I thinking?  :)  As usual, God was good, and despite lack of sleep and emotions running high, His grace was sufficient.
We had a wonderful time the night before getting to know the amazing team there a little and eating the most delicious black bean salsa and home made lime chips (Thanks, Larissa and Acacia!)  We introduced ourselves and told a bit about our lives, and they did the same - though I admit that thanks to my blog stalking I already felt I knew them!
Our goal on these trips was not the usual work-yourself-to-the-bone goals that we have when we have gone on other trips.  We were not there to build something, paint something, teach English, do a vbs, or any other type of typical missions thing.  We were there to get to know the team, see the ministry they are doing, and see if we (and our kids) could fit.  So much of the week was spent riding along to see what each of them were doing - anything from water projects, teacher training, pastoral training, formalities of ceremonies, church, or just visiting the market!  We spent hours talking and laughing and playing games, and just basically getting to know the world there.  Getting my butt kicked by 11 year old Liana in dutch blitz was, while admittedly humiliating, a good thing to do so I could picture my own 11 year old daughter here playing and laughing too!  Was it possible that life in Southern Sudan could almost take on an air or normalcy?
Michael and Karen are the team leaders, and I felt a wonderful connection with them from the beginning.  We spent hours talking through questions on both sides, doing "what if " scenarios, and being real and personal.  I loved that they live as if nothing is off limits and just want to be used by God in real and practical ways.  I love that Karen admitted she doesn't like cooking and that homeschooling is not always her cup of tea!  There was no pretense, and I felt I could be real and honest in all my many failings!
It was humbling to walk through town and not be able to even say hello! You do not know the times I wanted to say "Muli Bwanji!"  But I enjoyed the slower pace of the market, the delicious Arabic food we ate at the restaurant, the feel of the relationships that this team has made throughout the whole community in just two years.  I admit that I was also happy that the team is at the two year mark, and not the initial stages of cutting through the land, building the houses, being new to the area, and all the other "new field" things!  I will be willing to face that should the time come, but a little stability is nice!  :)
So we loved our time in Sudan.  When  the MAF plane came (and we were so happy to see the wonderful Samuel flying again) and we went back to Kampala, it was a little disconcerting to know that the next morning we were flying out to Bundibugyo to experience another week of new people, new language, new culture, and new food.  The only thing that was familiar was the guilt and sadness I felt about missing my kids, and once again I had to hand that over to Him!
More on the beautiful and breath-taking Bundibugyo to come...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010



Well, a week ago today we were getting ready to get on the plane and fly home from Africa...hard to believe that it has been a week already! We got home a little later then planed due to a few plane issues in Amsterdam, but still made it in time to get a little sleep in before the kids got home! This last week has been busy with missions conference, bonfires, practicing for Compelled (less than two weeks away!), catching up on sleep, and getting the kids back to where they need to be for school. Grandparents tried their best with school, but it is not easy homeschooling 4, and somehow the older kids work never got checked, so I was busy for several hours on Sunday catching up before school on Monday! I think today was the first day life started to feel more "normal" here again!

Many people have asked about our trip, and I am trying to decide how to write about two weeks in two different countries with an amazing array of people, foods, languages, experiences, and fun! I think this will have to be spread out over several blogs! :)

We landed in Entebbe, Uganda at about 9 at night. It was pretty simple getting through customs, getting our luggage, and exchanging money. The airport was almost empty that time of night other than the people getting off our plane. We came out into the night to find Lawrence, the driver sent from the AIM guesthouse, with our names on a sign. He had to go back into the airport to do something before we left, so Shawn and I stood in the night air, looked up, and breathed in deeply. We were back in Africa.

I do not want to sound overly romantic here...Africa can be dirty, poor, and chaotic. I mean, who knew that the smell of body odor and diesel and the crush of people could take me to a happy place? But honestly, it was like I was feeling my heart come alive again! The sky is amazing in Malawi, and it seemed to be just as big in Uganda. When we got in the car and drove the hour into Kampala, I thrilled at seeing roadside stands, fires burning with people gathering outside to eat, cows crossing the street with no thought to the traffic, and drivers going seemingly crazy but with a casual smile the whole time. I saw advertisements that were familiar - Celtell, Zain, and other cell phone providers. I always found it funny that there was so many ways Africa was cut off, yet even in the bush there was 5-bar coverage!

We got to the Inn and I was happy to see the bed with the mosquito net over it - a common site in Africa. I was tired and felt grimy, and looked forward to a shower and sleep. However, when I awoke in the night, the reality of Africa hit me. Crawling out of the mosquito net and using my flashlight because the power was out, I opened the bathroom door to see the biggest cockroach I have ever seen looking at me and scattering away. Lizards were crawling on the wall and making scurrying noises overhead (I am pretending that was the lizards, ok??) I was exhausted, away from my kids, and heading into the unknown the next day. And I was an emotional mess.

How could I go from such a high to such a low in that time? I did the only thing I could do - I woke up Shawn and had him hug me, then I prayed. I cried out to God to take away the irrational fears of the night, the guilt of leaving the kids, the tiredness of my mind. And you know what? He is sufficient.

I fell back asleep for a couple more hours, and when it was time to get up to get the MAF plane, I felt like I could see things more clearly again. I do not claim to always know what God is doing, but I am learning more and more that as I rely on Him, he makes each step clear. I want to see the whole path, and usually he only shows one step at a time. But with each step he shows, he gives the strength and grace to do what he asks. That night he was asking me to trust him with the bugs, heat, weather, plane trip, and my kids. Some were easier to hand over than others. But I am so grateful for a God who loves me that much!

More on this trip later...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Please be praying!

So, we leave tomorrow for a two week trip to Africa - Sudan and Uganda. Here are some things to be praying for:
1. Safety in all our travels.
2. Separation from the kiddos.
3. Clarity in what God wants in our lives and how/if these places are involved.
4. Spiritual protection from discouragement, fear, etc.
5. That we can relax and enjoy the ride!

Thanks! I will update you all and post some pics when we return!

Compelled

Soooooo much happening in our lives in the next few months! I will start with the church here in Troy...
It is no secret that we have struggled as a church. This struggle goes back long before we (and even most of the church members currently involved) were here. This is a church that has been on it's "last leg" for 20+ years. When we came two years ago, it was the last chance for the church to make it. Funny how God works.
Having been in a redevelopment church in Ohio that went relatively well (and developed life-long friendships for us) I guess we felt that we had some experience in this area! The truth is, though both churches were on redevelopment, that is where the similarities end. Kinsman was a country church with a rich history of families being there for generations, and those generations worshiping together. It is a small town with traditional views and life that is a lot slower than here in NY. There were issues in the church, but truthfully, after a rocky start, God intervened and the church started healing and growing again pretty fast. And it was definitely God - we had no clue what we were doing! :)
Enter Troy, NY. Small city where most people commute to Albany to work or work at the colleges in town. Busy-ness is a constant way of life. There are few stay-at-home moms and even fewer home schoolers! And the problems at the church were not things that had blown up suddenly in the year prior to us coming (like in Kinsman) but rather from decades of bad leadership. I am not saying this is true of all the pastors previous - but how long do you fight when you are constantly running into a brick wall?
Still, in the last 6 months God has made it clear to Shawn and I and the leadership here that he is not completely done with this church. But instead of doing things our way, it was time to figure out where HE wanted us. Troy is a city with hundreds of churches and only in the thousands of church people. The problem is that MOST of the churches in the area are fighting for those people. It is not even a conscious thing, but it is the truth. We were doing the same thing - and losing the battle in amazing ways! We do not have the manpower, people, resources, money or anything to "outdo" the churches that can run amazing kid's programs, put on a concert each Sunday, and do other things. This sounds like I am making excuses, but actually I am confessing that we wallowed in self pity too long. Then God started to wake us up as we found ourselves in a desperate spot of sink or swim - NOW!
So here is what he has put on our hearts in the last few months: We are church planting.
WHAT?
Yep...you heard me! We have had plenty of opportunities to reach college students and international students. We have a plethora of apartments behind the church filled to the brim with young families. We have parents of young adults attending the church that want to see their de-churched kids back in church. But none of these people see the relevancy to what we are doing in Sunday mornings. We want to reach these people - the ones who do not know Jesus, the ones who are less than excited about church, but are still (inside) hungering for Jesus and to know their purpose!
We already have a building that is paid off. We have a pastor who has lived here two years and has relationships. And we have a core group of people who are praying and on board. God has also provided an amazing worship band in the form of students right now (and Shawn and I, which is just funny!)
So on Wednesday, October 20th at 7pm we are kicking off "Compelled!"
This is our last chance...can you pray for us?
Pray:
1. that we are following HIS lead all the way through this
2. That we fall more and more in love with him and are able to lead others to that spot
3. That The Spirit moves and people in Troy see church not only as relevant, but the actual beautiful bride of Christ that we are
more specifically:
4. We need more musicians - people who are settled into the area and not leaving every year. I love the students, but we need a sold base that will last.
5. For a person to come that Shawn can work with to become the pastor of this church eventually, as we do still feel that we are called to overseas ministry. Obviously we are open to His leading in this.
6. For a worship leader (Shawn wants one with a British accent!)
7. For steadfastness and Spiritual protection of our church and all the people involved in this ministry.
2 Corinthians 5:14 "For Christ's love COMPELS us..."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

one week!

A week from now Shawn and I will be on a plane on our way to Uganda and Sudan! We are very excited, and trying to get things in order here before we are gone for 15 days! Getting school in order, church things in place, missions conference (which starts the day after we get back) planned, finances in order, the house cleaned, supplies shopped for, etc., etc., etc.
I just want to thank all of you who are praying for us and who have supported us on this trip. We now have enough to pay for all of our expenses.
Here are a few things you can be praying for:
1. Safety for our family being apart. Satan has hit me hard with this one this time around. I know the kids will be with grandparents who love them, and it will be a quick two weeks for us, but my mind is going into overdrive thinking of every possible bad scenario.
2. Wisdom for us and our future - in Africa, in this church in Troy, or wherever God has for us!
3. For this church - we are starting a new service midweek specifically aimed at people ages 18-35. There will be a band, more contemporary worship, and preaching, and small group time. This is our last chance to keep things at the church going. We are trying to follow what God is asking us to do and do it with all our heart. The new service kicks off on October 20th with a Night of worship.
Thank you!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

truth hurts

So, for our homework assignment this time Shawn and I were supposed to ask each other the question, "If you could change one thing about me, what would it be?" That was not so hard, and I pretty much already knew the answer. Then an additional assignment was to find others and ask. That is not so easy.
First, finding someone that will tell you honestly is not the easiest thing. Think about it - how many people are in your life that will be that real with you? Since I am the pastor's wife, I knew that I would be putting my church family in a weird position, so I decided to ask a few of my close friends and my sisters.
Receiving the answers has not been all fun.
My sisters gave the same answer. It was something that I was not surprised about, but it still hit home. There was not even complete truth to it, but it was what they all perceived, so it still showed something on my part. I am glad that they were honest with me (as I knew they would be) even though I immediately got defensive and made excuses! :)
The answers I received from others were not easy either. I know the truth, and the truth hurts. And is frustrating. Because many of these things are things that I have been trying for YEARS to change.
But it is a good eye opener.
I want to be a loving, compassionate person. I want to be healthy in every way. I want to show Jesus in my living...not just to those outside of the church, but to those already in relationship with Him. I want to be a different person than I am. It's the old Romans 7 issue!
My immediate reaction was trying to figure out ways to make myself better! Be more disciplined, pray more, have an accountability partner, reach out more, etc etc. And all of those things may come into play. But the truth of the matter is this- I can do nothing of any real and lasting value apart from the Holy Spirit.
So Holy Spirit, I am yours. Once again, I realize that I need you every second of every day. And I will always need you until I am with the Father.
Thanks for the reminder.
And thanks for being honest (and gentle!)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fenelon, Fenelon, and more Fenelon

It seems that everyone I speak to and every blog I read recently is devoted to Fenelon, so when I read this today, I knew I had to post it. I hope it speaks to you as it did to me. (Stolen unashamedly from the Myhre's blog!)

Do not worry about the future. It makes no sense to worry if God loves you and has taken care of you. However, when God blesses you remember to keep your eyes on Him and not the blessing. Enjoy your blessings day by day just as the Israelites enjoyed their mana, but do not try to store the blessings for the future. There are two peculiar characteristics of pure faith. It sees God behind all the blessings and imperfect works which tend to conceal Him, and it holds the soul in a state of continued suspense. Faith seems to keep us constantly up in the air, never quite certain of what is going to happen in the future; never quite able to touch a foot to solid ground. But faith is willing to let God act with the most perfect freedom, knowing that we belong to Him and are to be concerned only about being faithful in that which he has given us to do for the moment. This moment by moment dependence, this dark, unseeing peacefulness of the soul under the utter uncertainty of the future, is a true martyrdom which takes place silently and without any stir. It is God's way of bringing a slow death to self. And the end comes so imperceptibly that it is often almost as much hidden from the sufferer himself, as from those who don't even know he suffers.

Sometimes in this life of faith God will remove His blessings from you. But remember that He knows how and when to replace them, either through the ministry of others or by Himself. He can raise up children from the very stones.

Eat then your daily bread without worrying about tomorrow. There is a time enough tomorrow to think about the things tomorrow will bring. The same God who feeds you today is the very God who will feed you tomorrow. God will see to it that manna falls again from Heaven in the midst of the desert, before His children lack any good thing.

Life and such

life and such
August 25, 2010

I haven't updated my blog, even though I promised to keep you all updated with class, church, and Africa...so I decided I better get on the ball and do it! :)

Class with WHM has been intense. If I am being honest, we have experienced some of the most intense spiritual warfare that we have ever faced over these last couple of months. God is stripping away so many things, and being so exposed and raw is scarey and frustrating. The last couple of weeks I have felt like I am walking around in a fog.

Once again I am going to quote our workbook, because it says it better than I ever could.

"When we think about sanctification, we need to keep a number of things in mind. First and foremost, it is God who sanctifies us. The holy Spirit alone has the amazing power to transform our heart, conquer our idols, and cause us to delight in Jesus. We are not however, passive in this process; we are called to live by repentant faith, humbling believing and receiving the good news. Daily we are to live out the gospel and love others. Every day we need to appropriate the righteousness and forgiveness that is ours through Christ. Each day we are to live out of God's delight in us. As we live by repentant faith, we will have a decreasing confidence in ourselves, and an increasing confidence in the Holy spirit to transform our lives. As we grow, we become more aware of sinful capabilities and expressions of our hearts, while also becoming more aware of the great capability of the Holy Spirit to help us." (Sonship, WHM)

I am still working through all this. I think in my mind before I always lived by the expression "God helps those who help themselves" or that "God expected me to do my part." And I suppose in a way that last one is true...god does have a part for me. It is just not what I have thought all these years. I have been living like the "foolish Galatians" - I believed in Christ for salvation, but have been trying to work out my sanctification through my own righteous acts. In some ways I do feel foolish even admitting this - I have been a Christian for several years, a pastor's wife for 13, and even on the missions field (isn't that where they send the "holy" people?) ;) However, I am just starting to grasp this! And I feel like in it I have lost the part of me that I am most familiar with. I feel lost and vulnerable.

I am so thankful that God will not leave me here. I know that even if I hate the way I am feeling now, it is an answer to my prayer to "show me the iniquities of my heart." (I will admit, I have been tempted to stop praying this prayer! But my desire to know God more eventually overtakes, even if all my motives are not pure.)

So that is where I am at with all that. Feeling like a little child just starting to grasp it all over again.

In the middle of this growth life continues to happen (isn't it funny how that happens?)

The church is still here...we are not sure what the future holds. We have some ideas that we are excited about praying through and looking at more closely. As they develop I will update you for prayer! For now I would ask that you pray that we find where God is moving and hop on board instead of trying to do our own thing,as we have so often done. We have enough left in this body for one more good fight - we want to make it worth the battle.

We started school with the younger two boys this week. Many of you know that reading (and teaching reading) has been a struggle for Andrew. I was honestly dreading teaching both him and RJ. But it has been such a wonderful surprise! Andrew picked up a book and read like an old pro! And RJ is anxious to learn to read, so we are off to a good start. I have been enjoying these two smart, tender-hearted and comical little men that God gave me!

And Africa...well, we leave in less than a month. We have shots done and plane tickets bought. I am excited to meet the amazing missionaries there and see if this is the equation that God has us involved in for the future. But I am admittedly nervous too! I am struggling with how much of this is lack of faith and how much is lack of knowing how to do this! :) We are still over $1,000 short of what we absolutely need for your trip. There is no way we can do this on our own...our savings is almost depleted. Please pray with us for this...both for funding, but also for whatever it is that God wants to grow in me through this!

Thank you for taking time to read this and for your love and encouragement to us! Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my mom's death. I miss her terribly - but not anymore yesterday than I usually do. I miss her in the little things...baking bread and making a piece of peanut butter toast; playing foursquare; watching Little House on the Prarie and crying; catching myself "twiddling" my hair; when my Voice of the Martyrs magazine comes (she loved this ministry!) But God has been and continues to show his love to me in this healing, and I am most grateful for friends like you who bring comfort! God bless!!!

repentance

repentance...
July 29, 2010

It has been a stressful couple of weeks for us emotionally and spiritually. I could go into all the details of attempting to buy tickets, kids being sick, doctor's appointments, and all that, but it is not any different than most of you face each day, so I won't bother! The thing I want to write about tonight is our class that we are taking through World Harvest and all the things God is teaching us!

Last week's lesson was on repentance. I am learning that repentance is so much more than saying I am sorry. Motivation is a key thing in repentance - and I realized that often my motives were not pure. I wanted to feel better, change a situation, see different results, get out of something - and in my mind I thought that I could manipulate God by saying I was sorry. Of course, it is not like I never understood all of this before - I have been a Christian long enough to know how to word things and seem more spiritual. But in reality, I was not sorrowing about what my sinning did to God in his great love for me.

I really can't write anything that sums it up as well as part of the lesson, so I am going to take a passage from it:

"...there are two great misunderstandings aout our heart. First, we think too highly of oursleves. We loath looking at our hearts and seeing what we are really like. So we are constantly surprised at how angry, lustful, and hateful we can quickly become. Our response to sin is something along the lines of, 'I can't believe I just did that!' Bottom line: we don't believe what God says about our heart condition. Second, we think that we have the power to change our hearts. So in response to our sin, we make resolutions, or try to impose various laws on ourselves, Since we have a light view of our sins, we think that the law has power to change us. After all, if we only have a minor problem, a few resloutions and laws ought to be able to sort everything out."

That's what happened to me this week. When I blew up at the kids and Shawn after several weeks of being a "good" mom and wife, I was so surprised! What happened? I thought I had gotten past this?! I was surprised by my sin. I have since realized that I though I thought I had become a better person, I had merely set up rules for myself that I eventually could not follow. God used this last week to give me the opportunity to peer into the deep, dark ugliness of my heart and sin. And I shuddered and wanted out. And I prayed, begged, and made all sorts of promises.

Then God reminded me of the prodigal son. When was his moment of repentance? When he ran into the Father's arms. When we stopped talking about what he had DONE and started seeing what he WAS. First - what he was without the father, and then what he was in him.

And I ran.

Hesitantly at first - after all, I was so unworthy. Would he really want me?

But the closer I got, the more I could hear his words and feel his amazing love. And then I sprinted and jumped.

I am beyond thankful for this class that is repeatedly stripping away things and making me become more aware of my ugliness and his intense love for me regardless. I am falling in love with him. I want to live my life as Augustine said, "Love God with all your heart and do as you please."

But I can't. So Holy Spirit, I am yours.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Steadfast Love

stead·fast also sted·fast (stdfst, -fst)
adj.
1. Fixed or unchanging; steady.
2. Firmly loyal or constant; unswerving. See Synonyms at faithful.

This is the word that I am focusing on this year in my walk with God. Remembering HIS streadfastness in character and his love for me; and in my own self- being steadfast in my trust of him and his love for me, and not always wavering and being swayed so easily by emotions or circumstances.
God is teaching me so much about this already, and though I am thankful, because I know it is ultimately for my own good (as is everything He allows in our lives) it is not an easy lesson. I feel like I have been stretched, prodded, and exposed so many times aready, and I do not like what I see in me.
So burn away the mire, Lord. I expect that it will not be simply unpleasant, but downright painful at times. But I am tired of this "existing" with no understanding of why at times. Reveal yourself to me, Holy Spirit, Create in me a clean heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

sit still, my children

Love this...
5 of 10
Love this...
February 5, 2010
Sit still, my children! Just sit calmly still!
Nor deem these days - these waiting days - as ill!
The One who loves you best, who plans your way,
Has not forgotten your great need today!
And, if He waits, it's sure He waits to proveTo you,
His tender child, His heart's deep love.
Sit still, my children! Just sit calmly still!
You greatly long to know your dear Lord's will!
While anxious thoughts would almost steal their way
Corrodingly within, because of His delay---
Persuade yourself in simple faith to restThat He,
who knows and loves, will do the best.
Sit still, my children! Just sit calmly still!
Nor move one step, not even one, until
His way has opened. Then, ah then, how sweet!!
How glad your heart, and then how swift your feet,
Your inner being then, as then, how strong!!
And waiting days not counted then too long.
Sit still, my daughter! Just sit calmly still!
What higher service could you for Him fill?
It's hard! ah yes! But choicest things must cost!
For lack of losing all how much is lost!
It's hard, it's true! But then ---- He gives you grace
To count the hardest spot the sweetest place.
taken from Streams in the Desert - 1925

Heaven is the face

Heaven is the face...
June 3, 2010
A year ago this month we started our cancer journey with my mom...well she had actually started it much earlier, but just didn't know it yet. By the time we found out, there was not a lot of itme left to spend with her. Last summer was spent driving back and forth, spending a lot of time with mom and my sisters and dad, and just thinking through some of the stuff that was happening around me, as surreal as it all seemed. I have one particular memory of sitting on the porch with her and holding her hand. She was not yet too sick from chemo or jaundiced and worn out, so we could sit and chat for a while. I remember her saying she knew that she was probably not going to get through it. And though I had thought that, it was hard to hear her say it. Yet there was such a peace between us. Even though we were both crying and wishing that we had more time here, and wishing that we had made our time here on earth more precious together, we also realized that this is so temporary.
I hear that song by Steven Curtis Chapman called "Heaven is a Place" and I can understand what he is saying. "God, I know it's all of this and so much more, but God, you know that this is what I'm longing for..."
Having lived in Malawi for a year, we held the hands of many people that we loved, and sat with them as they mourned for their loved ones that had died. We lost a few people that we had cared for...but not to the extent that I did last year. Now I feel like I am a part of that club. It's not a club that anyone is clamoring to join, but sooner or later, we all become a part of it. Death in Malawi was not considered the worst thing that could happen to a Christian. It was accepted as a normal part of life. Though there was pain and grief (and sometimes very public displays of it) there was also the idea of living each day for what it was...a gift. When you live every day around sickness, disease, and poverty, you realize that every day you see means you have cheated death once more, and that life is precious and temporary.
As Christians we know that it is not really cheating death, but rather being alive in God's plan for our lives - a plan that he had from before time began. I am very thankful for my mother, who was the first person to teach this to me, and continued to teach it right up until she entered eternity.
So as I enter this summer - one that will be very different from last summer - I hold tight to those memories, love on my family, and fall deeper and more in love with my creator each day. And look forward to the day when we are all together again, with no more death, tears, or sorrow. But I also pray that I live here on earth each day with a vibrancy, and a passion for this life that he has given me.
Thank you, Jesus!