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!