Memories

03/26/2013

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This week has been busy with packing and moving. As I sort through things and pack them away, memories come to mind. Twelve years in this house. Lots of memories. The picture on the left is of a chalkboard that has hung on our dining room wall. It started out as a place to write reminders, the grocery list and notes. It became so much more. It was like a magnet for the youth (& some adults) that entered our home. One day I wrote a friend's birth date that I wanted to remember. A couple of the youth from small group asked me about it and then asked if they could add their  birth dates. And soon we had well over a dozen names and dates and it kept growing. We currently have almost 40 names/dates listed. This represents a big part of our life for the last several years. The lives who have intersected with our lives. Some who have come and gone and some we've bonded with for life. As I look at this board, I know that God has used this home to not only be a place for Bible study & to hang out, but also as a refuge for some. I pray that as we are getting ready to follow the next path God's leading us on, that we have shown these youth (& adults) not only that we love them, but that Jesus loves them. And that they will share that love with those that intersect their paths ~ and on and on...

 
 
There are songs that I associate with certain seasons or events in my life. The 50's/60's music reminds me of my mom's albums. The ones my sister and I would play when we would clean the house. Gary Lewis & the playboys, the Beach Boys, Elvis...ahhh. That was some great music. The 80's music will always remind me of high school, hanging out with friends, cruising (which our daughters said seems like a strange activity. Driving around wasting gas, they said. Lol).

Camp Otyokwah has always had it's own special soundtrack. So many songs that I heard for the first time there, either as a camper or staffer or that have special meaning because of camp experiences. One of those songs is “I Have Decided”. I have loved this song for a long time, but always associated it with camp. Until a few weeks ago. A video was shown at church explaining the story behind the song. I love to know the stories behind the songs, because it means even more when you know the background. This song is no exception. Since seeing the video, this song has seemed to surround me. I have heard this song more in the last few weeks, than I have in the last few years.  Yesterday we sang it at the church where our niece was getting baptized. So fitting for baptism! I think this may be my “theme song” for life. It should be...the lyrics say it so well.


I have decided to follow Jesus...no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow.

The cross before me, the world behind me.




Here is the story behind the song:

 
 
I have to admit this has been an especially emotional Christmas for me. When Katie & my niece read the Christmas story, I got choked up & tears streamed down my face. When they came to the part that said, "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart", I felt like that was me this Christmas. This will be the last Christmas with family for a couple years & when my brother was praying before the meal, even he was choked up (which I rarely see happen). That made me cry again. And again at Christmas Eve service. 

I have been viewing this time as a blessing in a couple ways. One is just the special time with family. But, also, I think of how no one ever knows if it's their "last time" to see someone. We KNOW this is the "last" holiday with family...at least for awhile. What a blessing to know that ahead of time so that I can "treasure up all these things and ponder them" in my heart. We're looking forward to next year when we will have fun new moments to treasure with those we love in Ghana! In the meantime, I'm storing up memories from home to treasure forever. 

Please take extra time during the holidays to relax (not stress about cleaning or the food/preparations). ENJOY your time with family and friends so you have some great memories to treasure!!

 

Today...

10/10/2012

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Today...my mind seemed to be working overtime. Our next couple months are busy (like everyone else, right?). It hit me today how close it is to the holidays when schedules tend to get even busier. We have been so blessed the last few months, spending time with family and friends (who are like family!) and the closer we get to our departure date, the more I realize how precious this time is for us. 


We have seen God move in some pretty amazing ways! We accepted a bid on our house after only having a sign in the yard for 2 weeks (NO newspaper ad or realtor involved)! Completely a God thing!! The couple still needs to sell their house, and we would appreciate prayers for this, but I know God has it under control! :) We have had churches that we have never been involved with, and many that we have,  open their doors and hearts to hear about City of Refuge and the ministry we will be a part of there.  And we have felt the support of so many of our friends and family. 


Some days, though, I allow Satan a foothold and fear sets in...fear of the unknown. I am so excited to see the faces of those I love in Ghana, but I am, also, not naive enough to believe that everything with our move and adjustment will be a piece of cake! During these days, God keeps reminding me of verses such as 2 Timothy 1:7 which says, 


"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind." 


I must choose to not fear, but to TRUST!  Trust that the creator of the universe, who loves me, has it all under control and that He is with us each step of the way. There is a song by 33 Miles that I listen to often. It is an amazing reminder that I can rest and know that God has everything in his hands. Here are the lyrics:


The Arms That Hold The Universe

I know it seems like this could be

The darkest day you've known
But believe you me
The God of strength will never let you go
He will overcome I know

And the arms that hold the universe

Are holding you tonight
You can rest inside
It's gonna be alright
And the voice that calmed the raging sea

Is calling you His child
So be still and know He's in control
He will never let you go

Through many dangers toils and snares

You have already come
His grace has brought you safe this far
His grace will lead you home

And the arms that hold the universe

Are holding you tonight
You can rest inside
It's gonna be alright
And the voice that calmed the raging sea

Is calling you His child
So be still and know He's in control
He will never let you go

You can hope, you can rise, you can stand

He's still got the whole world in His hands
You can hope, you can rise, you can stand
He's still got the whole world
The whole world in His hands

And the arms that hold the universe

Are holding you tonight
You can rest inside
It's gonna be alright
And the voice that calmed the raging sea

Is calling you His child
So be still and know He's in control
He will never let you go
He will never let you go
He's still got the whole world in His hands

Still got the whole world in His hands

 

Life :)

09/26/2012

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It's been a long time since I've posted! Life has been busy! Sorting through 22yrs. worth of "stuff", even when we have never been pack rats, is a lot of work. More and more I realize how blessed we are...we have so much in this country, but in some ways, I think that's also a curse. We have been too consumed, well, maybe distracted is a more accurate word, by our stuff. It's felt really good to clean things out. We still have so much to do, but we're well on our way! We are showing our house 3 times this week and praying for God's provision when it comes to selling our house. This is a tough market for selling, BUT GOD has it under control! 


I  began homeschooling our two youngest. We thought it would be easier during the move if they were already on the "same page" as the school they will be attending when we are in Ghana. WOW! That's all I can say! Easier for them, but kudos to all the moms out there who have been homeschooling! I know there is an adjustment period, but I'm not going to lie, it's tough being mom & teacher at the same time! 


I came across a quote by Louie Giglio yesterday, "The Father doesn't give life directions in one big bundle, because the goal is knowing Him, not the plan." So many times in the last months as we're preparing for our move, I've wanted the whole plan! When will our house sell? When will we get all our support raised? What will we miss while we're gone (life stuff: graduations, weddings, etc...)? As the reality of moving begins to settle in, I'll be honest and tell you that I'm nervous, a little scared and excited.  Yet, I know I didn't come across this quote by accident! God knows my heart, he knows my fears, but he also wants me to trust HIM with all of that! Not worry about the plan and seeing the finish line, but just for me to put my focus on HIM and trust that he loves me and has my best & HIS glory in mind! I am so thankful that He knows me and understands me and that NOTHING is too hard for him!!


Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  Matthew 6:8
 
 
Hindsight: Perfect understanding of an event after it has happened; a term usually used with sarcasm in response to criticism of one's decision, implying that the critic is unfairly judging the wisdom of the decision in light of information that was not available when the decision was made. 

There is a saying that hindsight is 20/20. It's always easier to see things once we're past them rather than in the middle of them. This is especially true when it comes to trials and storms in our lives. Or things that take us outside of our comfort zone. How many times do we worry and wonder why God is allowing us to go through certain things? Yet when we look back weeks, months or sometimes years later, we see how God was working in that situation. He was beside us the entire time!


I can remember when Cayle went on his first mission trip to Mexico. He was so excited when he came back. As he shared pictures and stories with me, I can remember saying to him, “I'm glad you had a good time, but that's not for me!”  A couple years down the road, our 2 oldest daughters were planning to go on a mission trip with the youth group to Mexico. I was one of the youth helpers and though I had not planned to go on the trip, I could not get it out of my mind. I went to the leader in charge of the trip and told him that I thought God was prompting me to go. I think it took him less than 5 minutes to hand my paperwork over! That trip was the start of God stretching me outside of my comfort zone. From the plane trip (I'm not fond of flying) to going to a country where I did not speak their language to talking to strangers to playing with kids in a trash dump. 


The next stretch came less than a year later when a pastor friend told me that an Epiphany team to Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correction Facility was needing additional team members. Once again, I felt God prodding me to say, “Yes!” I have never regretted agreeing to serve! I'm not going to say I wasn't incredibly nervous the first weekend I served because I was! However, the blessing I received (and still receive) has far outweighed any fear that I initially had. 


Still, God continued to stretch me. Our youth was planning a mission trip to Ghana, West Africa and I agreed to go as one of the youth leaders. A nine to eleven hour plane ride made me nervous. Applying for visas, getting yellow fever shots, malaria pills...all firsts for me. I was excited, nervous...but we weren't in Ghana more than an hour before I knew that God was going to use that trip to change me yet again.

So, here I am a little over a year later and God has worked a miracle in my heart! He has stretched me from one extreme to another...6 years ago, I said that I had no interest in even going on a mission trip. Now, our family is planning to move to Ghana in January to work with City of Refuge and be Jesus' hands and feet to trafficked, orphaned and abandoned children.

God knows exactly how each of us is wired...He created us! He knew that it would take 6 years for me to be ready to leave everything I'm familiar with to serve in another country.  Looking back, I can see how He was working in our lives to prepare us for this very thing. Hindsight is 20/20 and honestly I wouldn't have it any other way! It forces me to trust Him completely...He has His best planned for us. I think if He would have shown me His plan even a couple years ago, I would have been terrified...but He knows and loves me enough to show me just one step at a time!


Proverbs 19:21 says: Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.


 
 
One of my daughters loves to watch "Nitro Circus" – a tv show where several friends travel around the world riding dirtbikes, base jumping, and performing reckless stunts. Every time I have watched it I have thought to myself, "These guys are CRAZY! What person in their right mind would try to do this stuff?!" Yet to them it seems it’s not a big deal. They know they may get injured but to them that’s a risk they are willing to take for the thrill or adrenaline rush. Yet I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks they are crazy.

This morning I have been thinking about this quote from "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan,
"Having faith often means doing what others see as crazy. Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers."

In our world today I think sometimes the things we do make sense to unbelievers if it’s a humanitarian outreach or something similar. However, when we start doing things that are more than a short term mission trip or something that requires more sacrafice on our part, that is when it doesn’t make as much sense to them.

You mean you spend EVERY Wednesday with 15 teenagers? ~
Why are you willing to do _____ without getting paid?! ~
Ministry in a prison? Those people deserve to be there! ~
You’re forgiving so and so?? Don’t you remember what they did to you?! ~
You’re quitting your job to do what?! ~
How can you have peace when ______ is happening?!

I have to say that all too often, though, it isn’t just the unbelievers who question those things. Too many times those who claim to be believers find it difficult to understand why someone would willingly spend their free time mentoring youth, working on ministry teams in prisons, quitting a good job to go into the mission field.

Try this object lesson: Take a 100 ft. rope and measure off 2 in. at the end (or even be generous and measure 6 in.). Cover that first 6 in. in red tape. This represents your life here on earth, the rest of the rope represents eternity. Too many people (Christians included) spend entirely too much time worrying about that first 6 inches: what kind of car they drive, how big of a house they can get, how much they can save for retirement, etc. How crazy is it that we spend so much time worrying about our time/ treasures here on earth when the rest of the rope is what should really matter?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

More and more I am realizing that there is no sacrifice I can make that is too great. After all, Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for me and you.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. – Jim Elliot, missionary to Ecuador (check out his story in "End of the Spear")

 
 
Relationship: n., 1. The state of being related by kindred, affinity, or other alliance (Webster’s dictionary definition)

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we can bond with others. Anyone who has been to a camp or on a mission or ministry trip may have experienced this. When you share a special part of life together during a concentrated period of time, it forms strong ties to those on the journey with you. Those bonds may be only for a season, but some are for life! You can spend only a week or so with some people and feel more connected with them than with those you have spent years with.


"Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same."

"Life is relationships; the rest is just details." - Gary Smalley

 From the time we are born life is about relationship with others…bonding between parent and child starts immediately after birth, a process that continues as a child grows. Then begins bonding with others…grandparents, siblings, friends, teachers, etc… The whole purpose of Christ dying for our sins is so that a holy, eternal God can have relationship with a sinful human us! We are built for relationship from the beginning to the end of our lives…for eternity!


 "This is the kind of love we are talking about – not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God."– 1 John 4:10 (The Message Bible)

 
 
When we were preparing to leave for Ghana, so many people told me to have a fun, but "safe" trip. That seems to be a common thing that others say when someone is going anywhere further away. The more I think about it the more I am sure that I am not called to be "safe".

There are no guarantees to life...we are not promised that we will wake up tomorrow morning or arrive home safely from a trip to the grocery. If I died today, the last thing I would want someone to say about me at my funeral is that I played it "safe"!! I want to go where Jesus leads...and I am SURE of the fact that at times it will not be what I would consider safe.

C.S. Lewis’ children’s book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, tells of the adventures of four children in the magical kingdom of Narnia. Jesus is represented by the lion Aslan. When in Narnia, the children meet Mr and Mrs Beaver, who describe the mighty lion to them.

"Is he a man?" asked Lucy.

"Aslan a man!" said Mr Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great emperor-beyond- the-sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great lion."

"Ooh!" said Susan, "I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"That you will, dearie, and no mistake" said Mrs Beaver; "if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly."

"Then he isn’t safe?" said Lucy.

"Safe?" said Mr Beaver; "don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you."


The disciples did not live safe lives…in Acts 4:1-4 it says:

"The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand."

Jesus' life was NOT safe...and if we choose to follow Him, I don't believe His desire is for us to live "safe" lives either. His desire for us is that we would follow His example, listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading & trust Him, no matter where that leads us…even if it’s not safe! 


 
 
I love music. A pretty wide range of music…everything from blues to rock to gospel. I love to sing. My family asks me not to, but I even though I know my voice isn’t pleasant to their ears…it’s pleasant to God’s. After all, he created me ~ voice and all! That’s the wonderful thing about our Father in heaven…he doesn’t care if you are talented enough to be on American Idol or sing professionally…he loves the voices of his children lifted to him in praise.

As I was listening to one of my favorite bands today, the song ended with no instruments, just vocals. I had goosebumps on my arms it sounded so wonderful. It reminded me of when I had seen them in concert and they ended the song the same way…I remember being amazed by the sound of thousands of people singing praises to our Saviour!! It hit me today that if the sound of music from my speakers can give me goosebumps, how much more wonderful will the sound of our voices mixed with the voices of the angels praising our Father will be when we get to heaven!!

If you get a chance listen to "Agnus Dei/ Worthy" by Third Day

Here are some of the scripture verses that talk about music and singing:

2 Chronicles 5:13-14 ~ "The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: "He is good; his love endures forever."

Then the temple of the LORD was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God. "

Psalm 81:1-2 ~ "Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre."

Psalm 150 ~ "Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!"

James 5:13 ~ "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise."