Wednesday, December 28, 2011

new year's plans

Today is Wednesday - that means it is Compelled. I am happy about that - it is always a highlight of my week. But it also means this week is going too fast! I am really enjoying Christmas break - no school, lots of parties and friends, seeing people we haven't seen in ages! We get back to the normal on Monday, so I am already getting lesson plans done, meals planned, and the next few weeks mapped out. I am also planning some longer-term things. We have a list (and yes, your name is probably on that list) of people to send all our info about South Sudan to. We are trying to get that list in order, figuring out the trips we need to make (Georgia, Ohio/PA, Ithaca, etc.), and getting a strategy in place for the support raising we still need to do. As you plan out this new year for you and your family, be praying about how that fits into your life.

There have been many people asking why. Why would we leave this country? Why would we got to a brand new country that is just developing and has a history of war, famine, and strife? Why would we take our kids there, away from family and familiarity? There is a lot of money we need to raise to do all this, is it worth it?

In a word - yes.

You already know all the "We are obeying God's call on our life" answers, so let me leave you with a few more tangible reasons we are doing this: (Photos courtesy of Larissa - check out her blog under the "team mates blogs" on this page!)





Thanks for your support!

Friday, December 23, 2011

a gift

One of the benefits of doing all the counseling for World Harvest this summer was the friendship we formed with our counselor. This morning we took the hour long trek to Lee, Massachusetts to spend a couple of hours hashing through things with her and taking in her wisdom. It wasn't so much that we had big issues, but more that she is a person who has "been there, done that" when it comes to living in Africa, raising funds, being in the pastorate, and just the life that we lead in general!

She reminded me that I am not a complete failure in every aspect of life, and that some of these emotional swings I have are normal. (You hear that? I AM normal!) ;)

It comes from a snowball effect with emotions. I have a bad day with the kids and I must be a horrible parent. The next day school doesn't go as well as I wanted it to, so my teaching abilities are in question. Then someone decides to leave the church, so I must be the worst pastor's wife on the planet. And I can't even get dinner right - I burn my husband's favorite meal! What a disaster of a wife I am! See what I mean? Something simple-one individual act- makes everything else seem so much worse than it really is, and soon I think that I am a complete failure at life. It's good to be reminded that his mercies are new every morning, and even if I mess up at something in one moment, all that means is the next moment is a new one to start again. I am not defined by who I am or how well (or badly) I do things! I am defined only by my relationship with my Father-and he thinks I am beautiful; he sings over me in love; he pursues me in his desire to be with me and make me whole; he gave his very life so we can be together for eternity; and I am a co-heir with the Prince of Peace! I have everything as his child!

I am so thankful for his gift of newness.

Monday, December 19, 2011

a new song

"Parenting is the composing, the performing, of music, song upon song. Musicians play one right note after the next right note after the next right note. It’s not an erratic splattering of sound, a fickle, helter-skelter banging of random notes. Music has order. It is composed. Notes are intentional, considered, deliberate.

As music has rhythm, recurring refrains, order, so does peaceful parenting. One action thoughtfully follows the next action that wisely follows the next. Days of habits, fluid and lyrical, create pleasing harmony. Lives with known rhythms, thoughtful arrangements, sing.

I have flailed and I have failed.

But there is hope. Listen. Can you hear the serenade of His Kingdom? “Behold I make all things new (Rev 21:5). I am about to do something new (Isa 43:19).” We with shapeless, jarring songs may, thankfully, choose new songs."
Ann Voskamp

I am reading her book, One thousand Gifts right now, thanks to a recommendation from my friend, Jennifer. It is kicking my butt, and changing my heart. As I was sitting in bed reading with Shawn last night there were tears streaming down my cheeks, and he looked at me, surprised. When he asked why I was crying, I said, "This stupid book!" He asked me to explain more, but I felt like I couldn't - like I am at that place where there is something so new, so raw that I can't put it in my own words just yet. Though it touches my heart and soul and I long to understand and know better, it still feels like it is just out there beyond my grasp in some part.

So I told him to read the book. It's not his writing style, and he may struggle through some of it, but I have no doubt he will be curious enough to wonder what touched his wife so deeply that he will check it out.

The blurb above is from her blog, aholyexperience.com. In my desire to seek out Eucharisteo (intentional life-filling gratitude) each day, I realize how much I have missed in the rat race of life. I have hurried and run, pushed and shoved, and overlooked the gifts that are given to me each day. And in the process I have cultivated the same ideas in my children. So as I am learning to savor, to be intentional, to be grateful for each moment and remember it is a gift, not a right, I am desiring to pass that on to my children.

That means changing some things in my own life. Digging up some old, deep-rooted habits of chaos and unorganization, and establishing some peaceful patterns in our family life, in our prayer times, and in our seeking of love.

My sweet friend, Jenna, uses the expression "Word Vomit" and I feel like that is what I am doing right now as I try to express what He is doing in my heart and life! But there is real life and desire and passion and hope coming back in after months (years?) of scurrying, hurrying, and hopelessness. That is going to be number one on my list of gifts for which I am thankful. And as I start to teach my children this way of living, I will sit and enjoy watching as they blossom into people who live this way at a young age. It will affect the way they choose to live and relationships they desire to have.

Lord, make us new...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Home!

This weekend I am going home. Well, at least to the home where I grew up. In all our moving around, I am not sure where real "home" is anymore. Maybe it really is where you hang your heart, and that is not just a cheesy hallmark expression? I think perhaps I am just longing for Heaven one day when I think of home. But that's not what this post is about...

I am going to see my sisters!!! If you have a sister, you probably know that there is no other bond quite like it in this world. We have been best friends and worst enemies at times in life (More the former than the latter in these "adult" years of life!) But no matter what, I always have loved them with an intensity that is real and steady. And I know they love me the same way. And I don't get to see them nearly enough, so I am so excited that all of us (including my sister from marriage, Gina) will be there this weekend - with all our families! (well, minus Shawn, who has to stay here alone - if you are around you can come hang out with him since he is stuck without a car!) It is going to be chaos in my Dad's house, to say the least, but it is a also going to be two days of memory building. And with the idea of moving to South Sudan in about a year, we are storing up all the memories we can get!

This is also going to be a weekend where I do not have to think about anything but enjoying this family. Dad, Gram, and many extended family will be around as we go to a Christmas party. I don't have to worry about planning the service for church, playing the piano, making sure Children's Church is going, who I am sending what to, home school, or anything else. I am hoping that I can share with many people my excitement about South Sudan, but if that doesn't happen, I am not going to stress. Like I said, this is memory building time - for all of us!

I am thankful for this time - even more as I realize that the "ease" of spending time with my sisters and our family is going away soon. It is hard to think about, that is for sure. But I am not going to dwell on that, I am going to be thankful for many things this weekend:
noisy chaos of 13 kids under one roof at times - my kids being the oldest; exchanging simple ornament gifts; eating around a table together; watching different personalities figure each other out and the dynamics of relationships of people not together often enough; and games, laughter, and long talks. I am so excited!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

back to basics

This year has been a year of God stripping me down to my core at times. It has not always been a fun year - in fact many times it was down right rough. Between some intense counseling that was required to go the next step in getting to S. Sudan, the death of a young friend, the moving of our family (again), the adjusting to not one, not two, but three jobs (counting fund raising), and the re-entrance of an old relationship that was not always healthy and easy into my life recently, I feel like I am stretched to my limit. Yet in it all I see God's fingerprints.
The counseling that felt like another hoop to jump through was a time of acquiring real health and wholeness again. I gained not only a clearer view of myself and God, but I also developed a new friendship with a Godly woman whom I trust and who "gets me." (That feels hard to come by, sometimes!) The death of one young man lead to the eternal salvation of another and the chance to tell of what the amazing change in his life was about. The moving gave us a wonderful house where we have been able to invite people over and develop new relationships and spend good time together. (Our house is always open - come visit - or even stay a while!) And the three job thing - well, God is faithful and supplying all we need in it. The two churches are growing and being stretched themselves, and fund raising is a time of being able to share our heart for Africa over and over and over again. And that relationship that has re-entered after all these years? Well, how does one say no to a person who repeatedly asks you to tell them about Jesus and what that means for his life? I have noticed that as I have prayed for this person and God has given me a real love again for him, that I am (once again) feeling more healthy and whole. I can't imagine how heaven will feel, when all of these earthly hurts and circumstances are gone - I have felt free and able recently in ways that I haven't experienced before.
In all of those big things God has been faithful in the little things, too. And he continues to pursue me, lavish his love on me, show me his plan bit by bit and moment by moment, and astound me with his love and mercy. So, for all my dear friends whom I have recently talked to that are feeling overwhelmed, tired, alone, and hesitant to believe in His faithfulness I say, "Stand strong and persevere." He has a plan for you - one with a hope and a future. And believe that in all of it he will continue to carry that plan out. For your best.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Creative waiting

I feel like I should be posting in something profound in this blog, because it has been a while (it's been a LONG while since I've actually posted something profound! LOL!) But the truth is, my mind is not working in that mode these days! I am simply trying to focus on the every day, each moment, and trust and enjoy. (I guess if I could actually do that it would be considered pretty profound, no?)
Today is the beginning of December so the kids and I are doing a count down to Christmas like we do every year. A couple if years ago my sister in law sent us a long string of pretty envelopes to open each day with fun activities to do. Unfortunately those envelopes were destroyed in storage (I was so sad!) so I had to come up with my own ideas this year. I wanted them to be fun things to do together, but also to have much of the focus on being generous.
Last night at Compelled we talked about being generous financially. As we are in the process of raising support to go to South Sudan, I do not want to get so focused on how to get money that I become completely selfish and ignore others. It would be an easy thing to do-and if I'm being totally honest, I have found myself slipping into that mode at times. Then we had some wonderful friends of ours who are raising support themselves donate to us. That opened my eyes and heart to remind me of the person I want to be.
So while our countdown this year includes building a Lego Christmas wonderland, watching Elf while sipping hot chocolate with candy canes in it, and driving through the amazing light display in Washington Park, we are also looking at things like visiting people in an assisted living place, putting together a surprise "12 Days of Christmas" box for a family, and taking cookies to our neighbors. And we will, of course, be considering what the purpose of Christmas is this season - the amazing generosity of God to send us the ultimate gift.
So I am interested - what are ways you celebrate the advent season? How do you focus on being generous and showing God's love to others? I would love to hear your creative and fun ideas!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving

As I sit in my in law's house smelling the turkey cooking, listening to the kids playing, and feeling content it is easy to give thanks and to genuinely feel thankful. However, just a few minutes ago I was playing the piano and I came across "Blessed Be Your Name." The songs talks about choosing to praise God and be thankful for who he is regardless of circumstances. "Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering, when there's pain in the offering, blessed be your name." It goes on to say, "You give and take away, my heart will choose to say blessed be your name." That is not me. Not naturally anyway. I can see how quickly I go from "Blessed be your name" to "woe is me!" There is no thanksgiving in the times that I am sick and in pain. No praising him when the car is not working again. No offering up thanks to God for his sovereignty and grace when the kids are struggling with their faith or feeling hurt and unloved. No easy blessings come from my mouth when I am facing uncertainty in the future and can't understand how things will play out. Instead I often offer questions, self pity, whining, and mistrust.
But I am thankful that God knows it is my desire to be a person of true thankfulness and praise. He loves me despite my falleness and selfishness. In fact, because I can see these things in me and still can be sure of God's love for me, I understand better how true thankfulness can be a part of my life! And the opportunity to run into his arms and bask in his love is reason enough to be thankful each and every moment. Now if I could just remember that...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving dinner around the world

Tonight we have our second annual Thanksgiving Dinner for international students at Compelled. Our team in South Sudan is also having their Thanksgiving extravaganza today! I am thinking of them and praying for them as I cook one of the four 20+ pound turkeys we will be serving up tonight! In S. Sudan they are eating chicken (no turkeys to be found this year) and playing games outside. In another year or so we will celebrate our first Thanksgiving in S. Sudan, and it will be as foreign to me as tonight will be for these international students. With that in mind I look forward to welcoming them tonight, sitting and talking to them, hearing what they think about their first American Thanksgiving dinner (Surprisingly many of them were not huge fans of turkey last year - but they LOVED the pies!) Pray for this amazing outreach if you have a chance - our percentages of people who do not know Jesus yet are high at this event! And pray for the S. Sudan team as they devour chicken, play games, and enjoy a little bit of America in Africa.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Highs and lows

Many of you have been asking about how things are going in our lives. With two churches, raising support for South Sudan, homeschooling 4 kids, and just plain life - I have to admit there are times when I wonder, "What are you thinking, Lord?" We have definitely had our emotional ups and downs recently. To keep it real, here are a few examples:

High - Compelled. Period. Each week I am blown away by what God is doing in this church. I LOVE the people and the honesty and the rawness of it all. I so desire to see this be a self supporting, strong beacon of light in this community. (By self supporting, I mean financially, certainly not without God!) This has been one of those areas in our lives where God proves that He really does know what is best for his kids and he is in control, even when things seem bleak. We are now stressing keeping our eyes on him and not forgetting that he brought us here, he built it, and he will sustain it if we are faithful to remember that always. It is not about us.

LOW - With all this traveling back and forth each week, and the extra paperwork that is needed to register kids to this school district, starting the support raising, and just normal school, I am feeling like I can't keep things in order. I bought new file folders, copied the mountains of paperwork required by this district, and then after I handed in the originals, I lost the whole stack. Yep - IHIP, report cards, registration lists, past grades and testing, CAT scores - you name it. Also, two test keys for Anna and John's guitar books. How??? these things do not even belong all together - but they have all been missing since the same day, and I fear they were put in the recyclables by two little people cleaning quickly. So I had to email the District (so embarrassing), re-order test keys, and look online for guitar stuff. (I am still not sure they are all together!)

High - The weather! I mean really, it is November, but we have had sunshine and amazing blue skies everyday! I am still wearing flip flops and a hoodie! Whoo hoo!

Low - Trying to get Children's stuff going in the one church. There are awesome people here, but a small amount of them! They can only do just so much. So we are scaling back. Focusing on what we have and what we can do - pray, share Jesus, love each other. This is not really a low, but it took a while for me to accept it and just allow God to work. I also realized that once I accepted it, it was an area I could back off from.

High - Talking with our support coach, Jennifer. She is so encouraging, and even is patient when our lack of computer skills show! She is helping us get things in order to start getting in contact with all of you guys! :) We also had a couple of good meetings with people about supporting us.

Low - Still seeing the "$0" when our weekly reports come in from World Harvest. I look forward to that first week of support coming in - then I will feel like this is really happening!

High - Talks with my sister. They have been real, deep, and wonderful. I love these girls. It has even been fun being able to play online with them each night! We have laughed together, cried together, and vented together in the last couple of weeks - I am thankful for those friendships that are unique to sisters!

Low - The laptop died. But then High it came back to life - again! I was so bummed because so many letters and important things were on it. We thought it was gone for good. Then our friend who is on the Geek Squad (for real) told us to try something and, Voila, it works again!

These are just a few of the things I can share publicly. Obviously there are relationships and circumstances (both good and bad) that I cannot write about. But God has been faithful. We have a small group of people that I know are praying for us everyday as we navigate these crazy times. We have a warm house, full bellies, each other, and tons of fun stuff coming up in the next month. I am grateful - even if at times I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fair Trade and yummy support

Well, yummy if you like coffee - which I don't really. But I appreciate this company that allows missionaries who are raising support and families wanting to adopt to use their website and resources to raise funds! At Just Love Coffee Roasters out of Tennessee, you can buy fair trade coffee from all over, apparel, mugs, and equipment. And if you go to our store front through them to do it, we receive a portion of the proceeds to our fund at World Harvest. The store is justlovecoffee.com/shawnheather96 - check it out!

Monday, October 31, 2011

RJ's Broken Heart

Each year for the past 5 years on Halloween I remember something that took place on this day - RJ had his broken heart fixed! When he was born he had two holes in his heart - ASD and VSD. We were so thankful to be in the Cleveland area near Rainbow Hospital and one of the top heart surgeons for this type of surgery. His doctors and nurses were amazing. We lived for 6 months with the holes and the meds, but when it was clear they would not close on their own and that he was not growing the way he should, they scheduled surgery. I will not go into that day of sitting in the waiting room knowing my son's heart was only beating from a machine - I have blogged about that before! (Probably several times, since each year I remember this!) But as I was thinking about going into my usual, purposeful month of thankfulness tomorrow, I realized that this day was a wonderful start for me! I am so thankful for this this little guy that brightens our days with his smile, dimples, sparkling eyes, warm heart, and "British" accent! And I am thankful that God saw fit to have us where we were so his heart could be fixed. When we were first introduced to Dr. Saloukke, I was not only impressed with his ability to monitor and fix my son's heart - but his obvious love for RJ already and his amazing bedside manner and care for RJ's parents!
I am now pointing RJ towards the real heart-fixer, and enjoying watching as his little mind grasps some of the basics of "Jesus loves me this I know." What a wonderful life I have.

Friday, October 14, 2011

zoo day

My Anna's birthday is the end of this month. When I think about her being born in Buffalo, NY it is crazy to look at our life since then - she has been a nomadic child, that is for sure! Because the end of the month is going to be busy, and because Shawn's parents are coming for a few days then to celebrate, we decided to go today to the zoo, because that is what she wanted to do.

Yesterday I was praying that God would grant us favor with weather today, because it was calling for thunderstorms and nasty weather. In the night when I woke up it was storming, and by morning as I dragged myself out of bed in the cold, damp day I thought, "This day is going to be a bust!" But I packed lunches and we headed out in the rain. Halfway there we could see blue skies, and by the time we got to Syracuse it was a beautiful fall day! The morning rain had kept most people away, and the day ended up being gorgeous! Also, because it was not too hot, the outdoor animals were willing to be up front and personal! We have some great pictures of the lions that were giving "high fives" while they lounged right in front of the window, and we got to see the three baby tigers and their mama up close as they played and relaxed right in front of us. We laughed at the baby monkey that was being teased by it's older brother - some things are the same no matter what the species, I guess! And since the zoo is not huge, we walked through the whole thing twice! The first time there were a lot of school kids, but by the second time it was pretty calm! It was a wonderful time, and Anna was very happy.
We reminded her that though there is very little wild life in South Sudan, across the border in Uganda there are parks and places where we can see plenty of wildlife - including lions! Looking forward to that opportunity someday!

Anna is our nature-lover, science fanatic, and rescuer. She is practical in the idea that animals can provide food for people, yet still loves the thoughts of seeing species on the verge on extinction be protected and given a second chance. She loved watching the the animals interact up close, yet there is still a part that makes her wonder out loud about how happy animals in captivity can really be. She dreams about training animals and having lots of pets, yet wants to enjoy the wild side of them, too. I love watching out "little" girl dream big and grow up. I am excited to watch as God unfolds his plan for her life!
Oh yeah, we finished our day out at Heid's in Liverpool - where Man vs. Food ate some of their famous coneys and franks! Yum!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Where the Spirit of the Lord is

On Wednesday night at Compelled the Spirit moved in our small group in a way He had not yet done.  There was openness, honesty, tears, repentance, forgiveness, prayer, and confession.  There were hugs, love, acceptance, and laughter.  There was freedom.

God has freed me in my life and  I have sensed this year that he wants me to really start sharing this freedom with others.  There was a time in my life when I couldn't stay alone without going into panic attacks.  For many years I was so terrified of the dark that I slept with the TV or some other source of light on.  I feared things in the spiritual realm in ways that were unhealthy because I believed a bunch of lies.

God has set me free of those things!  The last year I have felt that God was impressing on me the idea of steadfastness and perseverance.  Recently the word that comes to mind when I am talking with people, praying, or meditating on his word is freedom.

Do you know how many people I come across each day that are in slavery and bonds to something?  I am not just talking about people who do not have a relationship with Jesus - there are just as many Christ followers out there who have a guarantee of heaven, but earth is simply one day after another of drudgery and bondage.  Slavery to busyness, selfishness, anxiety, desire for things of this world, fear, finances, sex, pleasure - you name it.  It doesn't even have to be a bad thing in and of itself.  But if it keeps your relationship with Christ from flourishing, it is something that needs to be looked at.  I feel like my eyes have been opened and I want to just shout, "Wake up, oh child of the King!  Do you realize what you are forfeiting by allowing yourself to live as though you are that person that you were before you believed?"

As we were praying the other night I just kept calling out to the Spirit to start revealing those areas in each of us where we are in slavery and to start to bring healing and freedom.  My heart soared as these women prayed for and wept over each other.  They laid hands on each other and proclaimed freedom and healing and wholeness in the name of Jesus Christ.  And then they believed that what they prayed for was answered.

This week I have already received many emails and calls from these women who are in awe of the way that God is answering those prayers - and I am reminded that this gospel that I am preaching, the very good news that I am proclaiming really IS true!  Regardless of how I feel, what the circumstances are, and in all times it is true - but I am so thankful for this glimpse into what He sees!  A little bit of understanding of the fact that it really will all play out the way he plans and it is for our good and His glory. (I often need to preach this to myself - or listen as Shawn reminds me!)

There is a Chris Tomlin song that goes like this:

"We know where the Spirit of the Lord is
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty
We know living in Your freedom
Living in Your freedom we see Your glory
We know where the Spirit of the Lord is
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty
We're Yours and Yours is the Kingdom
We are Yours, and Yours is the Kingdom"

We want your freedom and your liberty, Lord.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Team work!

I have been so blessed this week to have our dear friends Althea and Carl from South Africa here this week!  Althea is a missionary to Malawi, and was basically a lifeline for us while we were there.  When we were dropped in the middle of Africa with no team on the ground, few earthly possessions, and no clue about life there, she was the person that took charge.  After about 5 weeks on the ground and feeling like we were banging our heads against the wall with work permits, building permits, and orphanage legalities  (not to mention just adjusting to life unlike anything we had experienced before) Shawn finally said to one of our pastors, "Take me to a mzungnu!"  (White person!)  They went to the place where Althea was, and our life started to fall into place a little bit from that point on!  With no vehicle, she took us to the stores.  With no idea of what good prices were, she helped us bargain.  She helped in choosing trustworthy people to work in our house and on our property.  And when Andrew needed surgery, she let us stay with her, drove us to and from the hospital, filled out paperwork, stood in all the appropriate queues, and just plain loved on us.  To have her and Carl here and praying with us and meeting the people in our life here was wonderful.  Not to mention that the timing of hearing from World Harvest was great, and she excitedly prayed with us about being back in Africa - the place we all love!

I loved our time in Malawi, and do not consider any of it a waste of time or mistake.  It was exactly where we were supposed to be at that time, and we would not change it.  And it opened up our hearts even more for this amazing continent that so needs to understand the depth of God's love and mercy. 

As much as I loved our time there, and as thankful as I am that God provided Althea (and many other wonderful ex-pats) to help us navigate and love on us, I am sooooooo excited that this time we are going to a place where there is a wonderful team in place!  Michael and Karen Masso are team leaders, and they have three children that happen to be our oldest three kids ages!  There is also Bethany, Larissa, Christine, Caleb, and Scott on the ground already.  Then there is Heidi, Jennifer, Melissa, John and our family to come!  A team of 20!
Check out our new teammates' blogs on the side of this blog!  It will give you a good overview of where we are going!  :) 
 Some of the team!  They now how to have fun!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just the facts, please!

Ok...so here are the facts!
Shawn and I have been accepted as missionaries with World Harvest Mission (whm.org - look it up!) This is the mission that we have been working with for the last year and a half.  When we went to Sudan and Uganda last year, it was for the purpose of envisioning ourselves there, as part of a team doing God's work.  We loved both places and teams, but felt the fit with Sudan was perfect.  So we attended Assessment and Orientation.  Well, we attended Assessment.  It turns out that we needed to work through a few things still in counseling.  Not one big thing, but a lot of little things.  At first we were taken back by the whole thing...we felt a little humiliated and our pride was wounded.  Yet in it all God proved that he is good.  (Why do we always question that?)  The counseling was amazing and it came at a time that it was definitely needed for us - as we worked through our friend Anthony's death.  Counseling aside we did the MMPI test again and, and after 9 months of questions, we were finally approved.
What does all this mean?  Considering a lot of my friends that read this have a CMA background I just want to clear a few things up.  A 5 year term means that we are on the field for four and then Home assignment for one.  The basic term that most missionaries have.  We will be support raising - we will need financial and prayer support.  Our projected goal of getting to South Sudan (the newest country in the world!) is 18-24 months.  As of now we are still at the Troy and Schenectady churches, and these church families have been amazingly supportive and loving!  They are excited for us and are walking alongside us in this process.
After we meet with our support coach, get our prayer cards, and do a few other things, we will be getting more info out to you all.  But since there are no secrets on Facebook, I thought I should clear up the initial questions!  Thanks for your love, support, encouragement, and friendship through all of this - we will need it!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God

You know how you go back to placed where you have spent some time, and there is a distinct feeling that goes along with that place?  We have moved around and visited a lot of places - each of those places hold a place in my thoughts and emotions.  Some wonderful and some that have pain involved - but all are a part of making me who I am.
When Shawn and I were first married we lived in the Philly area.  Shawn had lived there before he met me, and then moved back there for a few months before we were married.  We loved living there!  We were young newly weds, and we spent any free time we had exploring the area - both the touristy spots and the spots that only the locals can tell you about.  It's funny - for being one of the oldest places in the country, it represents new beginnings and fresh starts to me!
And now there is another layer to that.  We are back in the area this week to attend orientation at World Harvest to start preparing to head (hopefully) to South Sudan.  I am not sure how God is going to do all the work that will be a part of this - the two churches we pastor that we love, the fund raising that needs to be done, the personal stress of getting ready for a life unlike anything we've known before.  It is something that could (and does) cause a lot of anxiety in me if I allow myself to think too much on it and be "responsible" for everything.
Last week at Compelled we talked about being involved in the Body, what that meant, and how to do that.  One of the questions I was asked was, "What are the requirements of being involved?"  As I look at the tasks ahead of us, I ask myself that question - what are the requirements of being involved in all this, and do I meet them?
At Shawn's installation at Carman Road Church on Sunday one of the pastors read from Micah 6:8.  "He has told you, Oh man what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to seek justice, love mercy [kindness], and walk humbly with your God?"
Not a new verse to me - and you can hear it on any Christian radio station in the song "Courageous" by Casting Crowns.  But for some reason it stuck out to me and continues to speak to my heart.  How do we continue on in two churches - loving people, seeking God's will for each of them, growing and stretching ourselves and others?  How do we encourage people to be involved (for their own growth) in these bodies?  How do I even begin to wrap my mind around fund raising as we do this?  Do I really fall into the category as one who can do this?  Do I meet those requirements?
I will continue to pray that God would help me to seek justice, love mercy and kindness, and walk humbly with him so that overflows to others around me.  And then I will trust his words of working out his plan for my life.  I will do this with Shawn and the kids, and we will enjoy the ride.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

MMPI - the results are in! ;)

Yep...Shawn and I had to take that wonderful test again recently.  The results are in...and Shawn had results this time!  :)  When we went over then with the counselor I had to laugh.  Being a psychology major in college I think I have done every personality and psychological test there is.  Many times I think we read into them what we want to see, and I am not so sure how much stock to put in them.  But this one...well, the results were scarily accurate!

The counselor says, "So Heather, your results all came back within the normal range [really?!?!] but it does show that you are prone to outbursts of anger and can have an addictive personality.  What do you think of that?"  What do I think of that?  Pass the chocolate and get on with it,  Mr. Shrink!  (OK...so I didn't quite respond that way!)

These last few weeks  I have struggled with numerous outbursts of insecurity, anger, pride, impatience, and selfishness.  There is no real reason for this other than the simple fact that I have not been resting in my Father's love for me.  I am a naturally passionate person, and that leads to outbursts of all sorts of emotions if I am not allowing who I am in Christ to temper it.  It also explains my addictive personality!  If I like something (or someone) I really like it.  And if I don't - well, I just don't.  That second part can be a problem when I am trying to tell people of God's unconditional and absolute love for them, but I can't stand to spend 5 minutes with them!

But I had to laugh because it IS the way my personality is bent - to look at things in extremes; to be passionate and impatient about getting to the results of things and steam-rolling people who get in my way; to desire things (good or bad)  to such and extent that I can't focus on anything else.  That is who I am...without Christ.

But I am NOT without Christ.  And the truth is I need to start living as though I actually believe this.  Life is not going to get easier.  People are not going to always like me naturally - nor I them. We will get in each others way, step on toes, hurt each other, annoy one another, and just plain be mean.  Circumstances will take our breath away - death, destruction, and atrocious things will continue in this world because it is broken.  And so am I - my personalty and the way I respond.  Or at least I was - until I understood what HE did for me.  Now I am no longer that person and I do not have to respond that in that impatient, unloving, selfish way.  I was crucified with Christ therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. 

Walking in step with the Spirit means that I can take that crazy passion that often comes out in anger and selfishness and instead allow it to overflow and burst out with love, compassion, and steadfastness.  Instead of the goal-oriented-push-everyone-outta - my -way attitude I can push ahead and go after things that are for others and encourage them to step out of comfort zones and walk with me.  I can take that addictive "I love, REALLY love something" bent and really understand that "To live is Christ, but to die is gain."  Circumstances would no longer have to affect me, because I could love Christ so much and desire after him so that it is all I see, all I long for.

When I first thought about the results of the test, I thought, "How can this change."  Now as I have talked with Shawn and prayed and listened I realize I should be asking, "Spirit, how can you use this for your kingdom?  I am passionate, impulsive, and an addict in the making...what can you do with this?"  I think he will not change that - he created me, after all.  He will just turn those things back from the broken way they come out to the healed and whole way he desired them to appear in the first place.

So thank you, MMPI.  You have helped me realize the that He really is carrying out the work he has started in me.  And it is good.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

This little piggy went to...Compelled

Last night was our Pig Roast for Compelled. We named the night "Beat the Rush" because our hope was to literally beat rush starting on RPI campus, but we didn't manage to do that!  We still had a tremendous turnout and a lot of fun.
Compelled has proven to be quite different from any other ministry we have done before.  We have a conglomeration of people from different backgrounds, churches, places in the world, and personalities - yet it seems to come together well.  Last night was only possible with help from most of the people involved in Compelled and Green Hills, many from out church in Schenectady - Carman Road, a few musicians and friends from Pineview and Oaks of Righteousness, and some people who helped out (and let us borrow a tent and sound system) from Hope UMC!  I love watching the body come together for the purpose of getting HIS love out there instead of focusing on our own things.
Shawn stayed at the church the night before along with two of our kids and a couple of the guys from Compelled.  Even though there was little sleep, there was a lot of laughing from the moment they picked up the pig!  (I will spare you those pictures...)  The music came together, even though it was the first time we played outside together.  There was more than enough food, even when people came back for seconds!  And there were a TON of people that I did not recognize - and that is a good thing!
Thanks for praying for us and this event!  If you are ever in the area feel free to drop in on a Wednesday night at 7, we would love to have you!
Next year though I think we may stick to hotdogs and hamburgers! :)
I will post pics as I get them from people! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

being swayed

(Word of warning:  This is a very fragmented blog today as I write down my thoughts without any real concrete answers and no worries of the writing.  Feel free to comment to me and let me know your thoughts!)


It is very easy for us to speak and theorize about faith, but God often casts us into crucibles to try our gold, and to separate it from the dross and alloy.  Oh, happy are we if the hurricanes that ripple life's unquiet sea have the effect of making Jesus more precious.  Better the storm with Christ than smooth waters without him."  (Madcuff)


This was the devotion for yesterday from "Streams in the Desert."  I had to think through that last line as I was reading last night and spending some time trying to quiet my heart from the day.  During the actual day while the hurricane was hitting did not cause anxiety.  I rather enjoyed the day of watching the winds and rain. We lost power and (after adjusting our minds to no technology) we enjoyed each other and had a good time.  We even let the kids play outside for a while when there was no electrical storm and the winds were calmer!  (Don't judge me -what's a little tropical storm in the grand scheme of things?)  While the actual storm was hitting, my heart was calm - I was even able to take a nap!

However, the night before was a restless night for me as I lay in bed and repeatedly checked outside.  Whenever I heard the wind even a little I jumped and wondered about heading to the basement.  Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep.

It turns out the thing that I anticipated - and worried about - was way off the mark.

That is often the case in my life.  I was telling Shawn last night that I am tired of living my life like the tree that fell so easily in our backyard.  Weak roots that gave way in the rain and wind.  Easily swayed and tipped.  I continually come back to the idea of being steadfast.  Yet for me I see myself being swayed and tipped not by the actual wind, but by the worry of what may happen.  When I am in the situation, I can believe, but my mind takes me places that are filled with doubt, worry, and fear before hand.  The "I could never" s and "There's no way"s take over and my imagination becomes my worst enemy.  I start to live as though those things I wonder about and imagine are the actual truth instead of the real things that are happening around me.

I realized as I went through the storm yesterday that I do believe God is present and with me during the storms of life.  While the winds howled around I was calm.  I had peace.  I laughed and enjoyed and prayed.  I want to be like my children - playing joyfully, trusting in my heavenly father as the rains beat down and the winds blow.  Yet I want that to be who I am before the storm hits, too.  I don't want to live my life in dread of the next thing to happen - because there will be a next thing in this broken world.

So that is my prayer...to know Jesus as being even more precious to me even before the storm.  To believe and live as though I believe that even if those storms happen, it is better to have those storms with him than a calm without him.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Inclining my ear

Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.  Isaiah 55:3
Last week my kids were at Cousin Camp (a week of fun that Shawn's parents put on for their grandchildren) and so it was Shawn and I here all alone all week.  The year before during CC I had made plans with a ton of people that I figured I could get together with easily without kids.  This year my life has changed so drastically with John being able to stay home with the other kids that I didn't feel the need to use all my "kid-less" time catching up and meeting with people.  I didn't even honestly feel starved for a "Date night" because we are able to have a lot more alone time now - though we did go out a few times with each other and with friends.  My one desire as I was looking at a week away from the responsibilities that come from being mom to four was the chance to sit and read my bible, spend some time in the hammock, take long walks, and enjoy the silence of an empty house for a few days. 
It didn't quite pan out that way.  As my week went on, I realized I was avoiding God.  Why?  That irrational idea that things had been feeling a little stale and slow paced in my walk with him, so I needed to "work" to make things right.  And honestly, I didn't have the energy to work.  So I would see my new Bible sitting there beckoning for me to come and spend some time, and I would grab another book, or hop on the computer, or make up meals to be frozen, or plan school for the fall.   I felt like that person that you see on sitcoms that is trying to avoid someone and they go ducking behind trees and furniture!  Yet in it all I knew my feeling was irrational - that God was waiting for me to come running into his arms - the arms of my Father - and find the rest and love that was there for me all along.  And while my heart and soul LONGED for this rest and peace, and this amazing relationship to be full and real again, my flesh fought it with everything it was, and it was winning.  Temporarily. 
Then the Holy Spirit spoke and broke through.  And my heart lept as I opened to Psalms and started reading and finding Him again and hearing Him speak to my weary soul.  I just started reading  and reading, and talking to him and waiting for him to respond - and suddenly everything went from murky, frustrating, and tiring to peaceful and light.  I didn't get a lot of answers to my questions that I had been struggling with, nor did he speak audibly show his face to me.  But I was reminded to incline my ear to him and listen.  And then life was renewed within me and my soul felt alive again. 
So now my kids are home again (yay!) and I am back to a couple loads of laundry a day, a full dishwasher each evening, a grocery bill that rivals the national debt, and a house that never quite looks clean.  Busyness and noise is part of this life again - and that's ok.  I am learning to hear God's voice better in the midst of it all by turning my ear to him and away from the things that distract.  God met me where I was and when I needed him, and I am so thankful for a Father like that. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Closer to 40

So, tomorrow I turn 37.  Age is a funny thing.  People have been reminding me that 37 is closer to 40 than I was before (thank you for the lesson in OBVIOUS!)  As far as I can tell, I like getting older better than the alternative, so I will take it.  It has been fun to be in the two churches we are in.  At Compelled in Troy I would be considered one of the "older" people, where as when I walked into Schenectady last week one of the women said, "Hello there, young lady!"  (And she meant it!)  I was thinking about it all this week as I get ready to "move closer to the 40 mark" tomorrow and I had to smile.

Turning 30 was rough for me - I felt like I was hitting a time in my life when I should have done some things that I was dreaming about, but hadn't gotten to a lot of them.  Life had gone from college time to marriage to babies and diapers and all the chaos that is comes with that.  When I look over the last decade (when I was turning 27 and hitting that "closer-to-30" mark) there has been some amazing things that have happened to me and in me, and I wouldn't want to go back.
What are some of those things?  I'm glad you asked (teehee)...

I have made some real, intimate, passionate-about-God, change-your-life friendships.  I have also learned (and keep learning)  how to be a real friend.  These amazing women are not around me most of the time, and the number of friendships on this level are limited - but I am so thankful for them.  They are people who lift me up, whom I can call and talk to at anytime without feeling like any time has passed or like I have to apologize for not calling more.  We have been through pregnancy, birth, marriage issues, kid problems, medical woes, self- esteem problems, moves across the world, and journeys with God together.  I didn't know this type of friendship could exist once you became an adult and hit "real life," so I am so grateful for those people who keep showing me otherwise.

I have experienced some amazing adventures cross-culturally.  Not just living in Malawi, but visiting different places - including the different parts of the US - and loving every minute of it.  I love to try new foods, listen to new languages (or dialects), learn new ways of living, and have adventures.  I had not been too many places growing up, and those places that I had been were at times where I could not truly relax and enjoy them.  My heart is constantly calling me to the next adventure, and in that God is reminding me that the real adventure is right here with him, in his will, no matter where that may be.  So I have not only experienced adventure in this world - but in my walk with him. Until recently I never understood that resting in the Shadow of the Almighty is an adventure in itself!

I have learned that I am able to do things that I never would have imagined when God calls me to it.  Homeschooling 4 kids is not something I thought I would ever do - yet I am at the point in that where I can cheer because I have taught 4 children how to read!  (with MUCH blood, sweat, and tears - especially tears!)  I have learned to bake and cook dinners from scratch, from whatever is on hand in my house.  I have learned to wash clothing by hand when necessary, and to be thankful for washing machines when it's NOT necessary!  I have learned to play the piano and even played on a couple of different worship teams.  I can balance my checkbook and stick to a budget - something that continually escaped me in my last decade!  And, by the grace of God, I am (hopefully) teaching John French this year! (Prier pour moi, s'il vous plait!)

I have walked through some things that I never imagined I could even face in these last few years. Sitting alongside my mom as she struggled through cancer and holding her hand as she took her last breath.  Mourning my life that I had to leave behind in Malawi and learning to be content and trust God's love in all circumstances.  Navigating through the grief that comes with the death of different friends that - in my eyes - left this earth too soon.  Watching helplessly as my baby is taken away for open heart surgery, knowing that means for a matter of time his heart would not be beating.  Not being able to get out of bed to feed my kids because I was in such a severe post-partum depression I couldn't do anything but sleep and cry.  All of these things eventually brought me to a deeper, more intimate walk with God and a better understanding of myself.  I didn't always enjoy the ride, but I am learning to be thankful for it anyway.

So, yes - I am getting closer to 40 (But didn't you know 40 is the new 30?) and I have seen those gray hairs and laugh lines.  But I feel more alive, more vibrant, and more confident than ever before in my life.
So I will take it.  And I will be thankful for it and live it to the fullest!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sweet reminders

Shawn and I have had family and friends here for the past couple of weeks and I have been soaking it in!  My sister and her three kids are here right now - they leave tomorrow and we have had a really fun time!  It has been good for the kids to spend some time with cousins that they see far too little and to just enjoy some of the blessings that we have and forget about.  We have been swimming at Rosina's and remembered that wonderful gift of friendship and her unselfish gift of opening her house up to us all the time!  We have been to the Pinebush Nature Center, and I was reminded that this is a beautiful place to live and explore (despite the snow that is going to far far too soon!)  We spent the morning at the Schenectady Church and I was reminded of what a wonderful new church family we have inherited in this place.  We have spent the last several days running in the sprinkler, sleeping all over the house in forts and tents, eating many chaotic meals in the dining room, and doing dishes and laundry together (because life continues on even when you are visiting!) and I have been so thankful again and again for this amazing house to have people stay in!  It is a good thing to have people that have been a part of your life for so long come in and see your life now through their eyes!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Beautiful Things

"All this pain -I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth - Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around - Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You"
-Michael Gungor

I love this song.  It so expresses many of the ideas I have been thinking through recently.  Shawn and I have been going through some counseling as we look at going back down to Philly to meet with WHM again for missions stuff.  I thought it was another hoop to jump through - I mean how often can one talk about their past and the way it affects them today?  However, as I have wandered through my history in my mind and in talking with Barbara I have seen exactly how much God takes old, broken, dry ground and is making a beautiful thing out it.  He is healing me, freeing me from lies that I have believed my whole life, and allowing his love to pour in while hope is springing up from this old ground.  He is so amazing!
As I think about the things that we have walked through recently with Anthony's death, I also see this hope.  I am hearing testimony of Anthony's life and his walk with God from all over the world!  I am listening to people pray for his family to know the love and life that Anthony came to know in his last few months here on this earth.  Yes, there is pain and there have been questions - yet even in our limited ability to see it is obvious God is making beautiful things from even this. 
Out of chaos life IS being found.  Thank you, Jesus!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

joy and pain


When we were losing my mom to cancer two summers ago I remember getting on facebook and thinking that life still went on for everyone else.  I wasn’t upset about it- it was just an observation that I had at the time.  I was taking her for chemo, and my good friend was going to the beach for vacation;  I was looking for something – anything- that she could eat and hold down, and another friend was eating chick-fil-a;  I was hanging out with my sisters at the hospital texting each other across the room so mom wouldn’t hear us (though she did yell at us to stop texting about her!) and another friend was washing their car.  This is life – people come into the world and leave it each day.  We have day after day of routine and life-as-usual, but even as we are doing that someone else is dealing with a crisis that changes their world forever. 
This does not just apply to tragedy.  I remember Shawn’s cousin saying to me on our wedding day, “Funny, this is such an important day in your life, but to the rest of us it is just another day!”  I thought it was a strange thing to say at the time, but have thought that several times since as I have gone to weddings!
Some days are filled with both of these things.  Yesterday was one of those days.  When I awoke I was excited to read the blogs of friends in Sudan and hear firsthand about the activities surrounding South Sudan’s birth day!  It was exciting to hear about the dancing celebrations from people who have spent their entire lives waiting for this day.  It was amazing to see signs giving God the glory and relying on a hope that comes from him!  It was history in the making kind of day – in a good way!


Then later in the day I got one of those phone calls that you never want to get.  A wonderful young man from our Compelled Church went missing (and presumably drowned) while kayaking with his girlfriend at camp.  At this time his body is still missing and shock is settled in to everyone.  He was a sophomore at college – a brand new Christian this year.  God had cleared the way for him to meet people who would lead him to Christ in what seemed like a random way, but as I look back I can see His loving hands in the whole thing.  Anthony was a different person yesterday than he was a year ago.  He loved God in a real and pure way, and he had overcome (and was overcoming) many obstacles in his life and in his spiritual journey.  To watch him was at times frustrating and at times amazing.  He was a young man who had become full of hope and dreams for a future – one that included serving Jesus somehow. 

And I wonder…why?  Why, Lord?  I know he is with you now.  But why so short?  Why now?  Why when he was on the cusp of learning to live for you?  We were so excited when he decided to work at a Christian camp this summer and had been praying for amazing things in his life.  I know that You are God and your plan is good – but I don’t understand this one at all. 
Then his girlfriend wrote the words of a song (Anthony LOVED music) and I wept as I remembered:  “All of my life, in every season, you are still God, I have a reason to sing- I have a reason to worship.”  I trust you.  You will be glorified in all of this somehow, Lord.  And Anthony is certainly singing and playing guitar with you now in ways that I would never want to take back from him.
Meanwhile life goes on…we will eat dinner, play the piano, weed the garden, go  on vacation... and life will never be quite as we knew it before.  
 How I can’t wait for heaven!!!  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Birth of a new nation!

Pull out the noise makers and the party hats...you have an excuse for birthday cake and ice cream!  On Saturday, July 9th South Sudan becomes the 196th nation of our world!  Instead of repeating all the info that has already been said much better than I can say it, please read some of the blogs highlighted on the side bar of my blog - they will give you much information and an introduction to some really amazing people!

Monday, June 27, 2011

music and nature

Our family is finding a couple of hobbies this summer that we can do together and all enjoy - music and nature!  It has been a fun summer for me because all of our kids are finally old enough to go on real hikes and not complain (too much) or need to be carried!  We have done a lot of exploring this new area we live in and are finding a ton of cool, beautiful, fun places.  We haven't done anything too extreme, but getting in a couple of hours in the woods, playing in the streams on the way, finding crayfish, watching animals, and looking at different things in nature has been a wonderful time for us.  And we are all getting good exercise without thinking too much about it.  That is one of my goals for this family - good habits to keep our minds and hearts healthy and active! 
This summer has also been a time of discovering a love for musical things!  I play the keyboard and love it. But I have to admit - now that I am planning and playing at two worship services a week, much of the joy that I used to find in it has been replaced by the stress of getting new songs (but not too new that no one knows them!), finding songs that everyone can play with minimal practice time together, and songs that have words that touch the heart.  And let's face it - there is never a time when everyone is going to be pleased!  ;)  So I have been playing recently because I have to, not really because I enjoy it or want to.  That was sad for me, because music is something that I can get lost in easily - playing or listening.  It's a way I can meet God and worship him and prepare my heart.  But recently it has just been plain duty.  So when John and Shawn decided to start learning guitar, I was glad to hear that someone else in the family wanted to play music.  They are both doing a great job - learning mostly off youtube, but some from friends.  Shawn is playing my mom's old acoustic guitar and John has borrowed a friend's electric one.  (He loves our electric guitar player in our compelled band and has been learning a lot of the intros and stuff he does!)  Anna is also taking violin lessons now, and JP fixed the strings and tuned RJ's little guitar!  So now we are all attempting to jam together!  It is probably not a sound yet that would be pleasing to everyone's ears all the time - but God loves it!  And I love having this in common with my family! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

fragrant

I am sitting here smelling the delicious scent of Cornell BBQ chicken wafting through the sliding glass doors as my hubby is slaving away over the grill! ;)  It reminds of our theme this year for Alliance Women which is "Simply Fragrant!"  I was thinking about smells I like and why I like them.  Some of them are just simply enjoyable smells - the chicken (or anything on the grill!) for example!  I love the smell of Dove soap because it takes me back to my great-grandmother's house where I always felt loved and safe.  The smell of chocolate is a happy smell...I think living near the Hershey Chocolate World would be a fantastic thing!  I love the smell of the body mist I get from Bath and Body- and Shawn loves that smell on me!  The smell of freshly cut grass alludes to beautiful summer days.  And sometimes I will even put sunblock on in the middle of the winter just to close my eyes and pretend it is nice out! 
Other smells are not necessarily "good" smells, but they make me remember or think of good things!  This weekend our DS (there's another acronym - for District Superintendent) told us that he liked the smell of cow manure because he grew up in farm country!  I also like the feeling that is evoked from driving through the country and passing farms and fields!  The smell may not be something I would seek after, but the feeling that comes from that smell is one of "home!"  The smell of diesel makes me think of our time in other countries and the crazy traffic.  Though I didn't enjoy the pollution from the fumes, I did love life there!  The smell of Aussie shampoo or Aqua Net hairspray make me think of some really fun times in high school with some crazy big hair!
We played a game this week at the training and one of the questions that was asked was "If you had to lose one sense, what would it be?"  Smell was the common one, and I certainly would have answered it at the time.  But when I realized how much scent is connected with good memories and mood for me I thought that maybe my answer would have to change! I don't think I would want to lose that "instant flashback" ability!
I think that God is going to use the theme verse for AWM in my own life this year as I work through what it means to be a fragrance to this world.  And how often am I a good, pleasing, unique aroma as opposed to a rotting stench?  2 Corinthians 2:14b and 15 says, "God uses us to spread His knowledge everywhere like a sweet-smelling perfume.  Our offering to God is this:  We are the sweet smell of Christ among those who are being saved and among those we are being lost."  (NCV)  My prayer is that I will exude the aroma and beautiful fragrance of Christ.  So what about you?  I am interested to know:  what are some aromas that you love?  And how are you spreading the fragrance of Christ to those around you?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

NED AWM of CMA love our IW's TCKs! ;)

This weekend I spent time with some wonderful women in the Northeastern District (NED) learning how to be a better leader in women's ministry.  The denomination that we are in is the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA for short) and the women's ministry is called Alliance Women Ministry (AWM to make things easier).  I am the new district chair for Third Culture Kids (TCKs-well, you know) which means I help match up the kids of our international workers (IWs -we like acronyms, what can I say?) with churches here in this district to be "adopted" and cared and loved on while they are part of a ministry family overseas.  As the new chair of the TCK ministry, I get to be a part of something that I understand from both sides.  When we were overseas it was such a blessing when people remembered my kids in special ways.  Whether it was stickers in a card, a picture or a big package at the holiday time or just to say "I love you" it was always an occasion to get something in the mail!  As a pastor's wife at a church that has adopted it's own TCK I get to see this side of things - the fun of picking out gifts that are meant especially for her, the prayers that happen for "our" kid, and the getting to know a family that is raising their kids in another culture.  I understand (to some degree) what some of those difficulties can be, and also can be excited because of the wonderful benefits that these families will experience from choosing this lifestyle!  I am excited about my new "job" can you tell?  :) 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Five Rivers

This afternoon, in the heat of the day, we went hiking again at Five Rivers Park.  We also went to the visitors center and learned that the name is somewhat deceiving - it comes from the five major rivers in the AREA, not the park!  (I won't try to name them!)   The park itself only has two streams running through it, and several little ponds.  But it is still a wonderful place! Last night we went in the evening and walked around the Beaver Tree Trail.  We went back today with a couple of backpacks full of sunblock, bug spray, waster bottles, and snacks.  (The important things in life!) 
It was such a fun day.  We hiked the trails, saw many animals, waded in the stream, and had a lot of fun just sitting and watching as the kids played.  It was nice not to feel rushed or to feel like I needed to "keep moving!"  I often have a hard time letting the kids explore because I want to get to the next thing - whatever that may be.  Kinda like life for me, I guess.  I am learning to savor the moment in all aspects of life. 
As John, Shawn and I were sitting and watching the younger ones play, we noticed a hole in the ground.  After wondering what it was, we decided it belonged to a chipmunk.  Not 5 minutes later the little guy started spying on us!  He had his cheeks packed FULL of leaves, and we decided he must be trying to build a nest in the hole or something.  He would scoot on one side and watch us, then run to the other side and get close and sit and watch.  He just couldn't get brave enough to actually come to the hole.  We finally gave in and moved - but not before getting this picture:

Yes, that is a real picture, even though I know it looks photoshopped!  So funny!
Thanks God, for a good day of rest and laughter! 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

how's it going?

It's been a while, so I feel like I should write something - but honestly I am not sure what!  :)  Things are going well in this new life that we are living.  It has been wonderful to get to know our new church family.  Today Shawn baptized a young woman who has started attending the church with her kids.  RJ and Andrew have taken a special liking to her son, who is about RJ's age - and it is wonderful to see RJ wanting to hang out with his new friend!  (He is just getting to that age where he is even interested in that!) This week I took Anna over to someone's house and we played Chinese Checkers and went for a walk to break up the monotony of living in an assisted living place for her.  Next week Anna is going to help another older woman weed her rock garden.  John and Anna have both been helping out in Children's Church and they are doing an amazing job!  It is so much fun to see them involved in people's lives and enjoying doing ministry.  Tonight they headed off to youth group with a few of the teens from that they are getting to know, and it made my heart happy.  They have (as usual) adjusted well to this move.  On Wednesdays we spend the entire day (from 8:30 am to 10pm) at Troy, so that day can be pretty long.  But since the weather has gotten nicer, and Rosina's pool is up and running, things have been a little more fun! ;)  Overall I would say things are going rather smoothly, so than you all for praying!  (Keep it up!)
Shawn and I have had a few things in our lives recently in ministry that have made us feel a little overwhelmed.  God is teaching us a lot about our strengths and weaknesses, and the fact that even our strengths are not good enough when not used in him - and our our weaknesses are made strong in him!  (That was kind of a confusing statement!  I hope you got it!)  I can't really get into details, but we are learning that we are not meant to save the world -not in and of ourselves.  Our battle against pride, wanting to look good and feel needed and praised, and realizing that we have no clue what we are doing in it all is constant!  But God is good, and he us reminding me that I need to remain in relationship with him, bask in his love and grace, guard my own heart (something that I have not been great about in this first month of the new schedule!), and proclaim him and him alone.  He takes care of all the ins and outs and I can rest in that.  I am so thankful for that!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Schenectady = heaven? ;)

So it's May 22 and we are still here.  Not that I thought it would be different, though it is wise to remember that day will come sometime! In that spirit the kids and I had a fun talk at breakfast yesterday.
They have been around and heard people talking about the end of the world - at church, with friends, etc.  So I asked them, "If Jesus were to come back today, how does that make you feel?"  I got a couple of nervous smirks and a giggly "I don't know."  So I encouraged them to be honest because there can be no wrong answers when you ask someone how they feel about something.  Eventually we got around to talking about being nervous because we don't really know what heaven will be like.  We had some fun discussions on that one:  No, we will NOT turn into angels, they are created beings and we have the ability to choose to love and serve God where as they don't; We will be "caught up together with them in the clouds" (1 Thessalonians 4:17, NIV) so I don't think that means we just dissipate into thin air ("That would hurt, Mom"); I hope there will be animals in heaven, but I don't think it will be these animals - they don't have a soul or the ability to choose Jesus; Maybe a log cabin is a possibility instead of a mansion???; I have no idea at all what will happen as far as ages and bodies are concerned in heaven, so I have no idea about how the babies that I lost look or live there; There are MANY more unknowns than knowns about all this; Through all the scary unknown, we still know and trust that God has the absolute best for us!!!
I was thinking this morning as I sat in my new house and relished the birds singing, the bright, cheerful colors, and just the house in general (have I mentioned how much I LOVE my new house?) that we really have no clue what is best for us or even what we really want!  I liked the house I lived in prior to this.  I know it was small (ok, minuscule) but we made it work!  And we even had friends and family stay and were able to have fun and keep things relaxed and mostly stress-free.  It was not ideal but I didn't think too much about it,  because I assumed with what rent costs and the haziness of our future here, that as long as we lived in this area we would live there.  So I made it home.  And it was a nice home. (I may fight change sometimes, but when I accept it I have an alarming ability to roll with it!)  
In fact, when we talked about moving here, I was a little sad about leaving our neighbors and the pretty green living room and the big counter top in the kitchen where I rolled out so many cookies and pizza doughs!  But each day here I am so thankful for the space, the brightness, the backyard, the neighbors, the neighborhood and area to walk, the chance to garden, the basement, the comfy family room...well, you get the point.  I didn't know that there could be something better for me and I almost fought the chance to have the thing that was given.
Obviously heaven is better than Schenectady!  (hahahaha!  People around here call Schenectady "Skanktady" and Troy "Troilet" though I think those are undeserved names!) But I realize that as I was nervous about the unknown and not really wanting Jesus to come back, that I was also fighting the thing that will be the best, most amazing thing I could ever have or experience.  Not that I could stop it anyway - like most things in this life.  But I have decided to start the paradox of living in each day to it's fullness and being content, but experiencing the excitement of looking at what is to come by falling more and more in love with him and learning to trust him better.