Friday, July 30, 2010

A Sad Heart

Last night my friend Elsie went to be with Jesus.

She found out a few weeks ago that she had very aggressive, inoperable lung cancer.

She lived in Arizona and turned 77 years old last Friday.

I've known Elsie since I was a teenager. She volunteered in our church office and was in my mom's church small group. When my mom had medical issues, Elsie helped check up on her. She and two other friends have lovingly been dubbed the "Silver Foxes" by my husband. I sat for a while last night looking at the picture of him with the Silver Foxes at our wedding.

Elsie was always happy to see me when I'd go visit. I can hear her saying my name even now. She was a sweet woman who loved Jesus and others well. She touched many lives.

I have cried many tears since last night. It's always sad when a friend is gone.

But, I have to admit that I've really struggled with my grief. Amidst my tears, I began to ask myself why I was so sad. If I know she's in a better place and our goal is to be with Jesus, then why am I not jealous? Why am I sad? I haven't lived near her for 8 years, so it's not like I will miss regular interactions.

I'm not trying to sound callous at all. But, I've had to ask myself a question that was posed in Francis Chan's book Crazy Love. (I am working through the book so I can do a series on the book without taking forever. I re-read the first two chapters just recently.)

Chan talks about how it is sometimes hard to love God. We forget who He is, how deserving He is of worship, and how He sustains us. After talking about this, Chan (in later chapters) talks about desiring to be with Jesus.

I'm just struck today with the question - do I look forward to heaven? Of course I would say yes, but I don't want to die today. I want more of Jesus in my life here. I love my family and friends and don't want this to be done. It's also made me ask another question of myself that I've found in Crazy Love, do I really hate sin? (see ch. 4) If I hated it, truly and absolutely, wouldn't that alone drive me to want to be in heaven where no sin exists? Wouldn't I hate this world?

But, I see so much redemption in this world. I see so much good amidst the evil. Even though my kids drive me nuts at times, I love them to pieces and am not ready to be done.

My heart is heavy today. I am sad. And, I am full of questions.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Far Reaching

God is continuing this process of breaking my heart for the women of Asia.

I'm loving it!

I have wanted Him to give me a holy passion with a specific target for the work we do here. Not everyone on our staff has a "niche" within the ministry that they love most, but many do. I wanted to really be broken for something specific.

Someone once said that it's dangerous to ask God to do such a thing. I would agree. I don't think I'll ever be the same. But, I think it's just as dangerous to go our whole lives without asking God to grow us in this way and give us a bigger vision. He commands us to care in tangible ways.

Sometime soon I want to write down every single little specific thing God has been doing as I've been on this journey. Sometimes it's been as simple as hearing something spoken that I just read that moved me.

Today, I read about women in Goa. Don't know where it's at? Neither did I a few years ago!
GFA has done an entire special on the women's ministry in Goa. You'll learn more about the physical location of Goa. There is a photo slideshow of the Church in the Red Light district. You'll hear a woman's story of shame turned into rejoicing.

I encourage you to take a moment and read as many of these short stories as you can. Let your heart be challenged and changed for a people who don't enjoy the luxuries we take for granted. Ask God to break your heart for what breaks His. After all, that's what following Him is all about.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Brief History

I wrote the following in an email recently as I pondered how quickly time can pass. Enjoy!

We got married and celebrated one year when I found out 2 months later I was expecting our first baby (a big surprise!). The next 9 months were focused on this new life growing in me and then on the new baby that consumed us and transformed our lives. I don't know that we ever caught our breath before we found out I was carrying two more tiny people inside my tummy.

We sold our first house, bought our second, began fixing it up, and tried to prepare for the craziness to come. Craziness came, for sure. Rylee wasn't quite 2 years old (didn't talk and was still in diapers) when we added two more babies to the mix. Life that first year was crazy and amidst it all (including youth ministry, which is what we did at the time), God began stirring our hearts to missions.

The twins were 6 weeks old when we first said "yes" to the Lord to go where He called. That year is a blur. The following year had us coming to interview in Texas, returning home to raise support, putting our house up for sale after fixing a few things, then packing up our kiddos (ages 3, 18 mos x2) and moving across the country.

That brought us to Texas to serve on staff with GFA. Life has settled, but looking at the wedding pictures above my bed yesterday, I marveled at all God has done and how quickly life moves.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Music Sometimes Moves Me

Several weeks ago I was introduced to a song that moved me.

It was playing in the background on a friend's blog.

I listening to the song and then played it over and over. Pretty soon, even the kids were singing the familiar chorus (to my heart's delight, of course!).

I couldn't find a video to post on here to talk about it, so I used Facebook instead. I found the artist's page and then did some comment thing where it would like the song to the post. Through that posting, another friend told me the artist would be in concert in the DFW area in a few weeks.

I got tickets and planned a date night.

I only knew one song by the artist. This song that moved me.

About two weeks after discovering the song, I had the privilege of sharing at GFA's Tuesday night prayer. I was asked to share about the plight of women/widows in Asia.

I've talked a little about it here on the blog (post #1, post #2), sharing some of the things I shared that night.

While I prepared for sharing, I listening to this song. I realized that the very things God was stirring in my heart seemed to be echoed in this song. How had I missed it all the times I had listened to it already?!

As I wrapped up my notes for the evening, I printed the lyrics to the song.

But, then I never shared them because I just wasn't sure how it fit.

I've listened to the song several times since then. It always stirs my heart.

Tonight, I heard the artist explain how her heart has been challenged and changed in the past five years. She told a story about a ministry she partners with, International Justice Mission. They are a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.

According to the artist, she wanted to know how she could be more involved. "Her answers came in a series of global conversations and experiences, from the flood-ravaged gulf of Louisiana, to the genocide memorials of Rwanda, to the testimonies of Southeast Asia sex trade survivors. These experiences showed the disparity between some of the American pursuits of comfort and wealth and the joy of joining the difficult work of social justice and engaging in the suffering of the afflicted." (*taken from her website)

She wrote quite a few songs based on her experiences. The song that moved me is one of them. It now makes complete sense to me why the song spoke so clearly to me as I was preparing to share about the plight of women in Asia.

Tonight was another little affirmation that the Lord is, indeed, stirring my heart for the women of Asia in a more significant way.

I enjoyed the Sara Groves concert. It was a good date with my wonderful husband.

Here are the lyrics to the song. I wish I could insert a cool video with this beautiful song, but there are only lame videos on the web and I don't know how to insert music on my blog. So, search for the song, use Grooveshark to hear it for free, or just close your eyes when you find one of the videos.

lord i have a heavy burden of all i've seen and know
it's more than i can handle
but your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones
and i can’t let it go

and when i'm weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

i think of paul and silas in the prison yard
i hear their song of freedom rising to the stars

and when the Saints go marching in
i want to be one of them

lord it's all that i can't carry and cannot leave behind
it all can overwhelm me
but when i think of all who've gone before and lived a faithful life
their courage compels me

and when i'm weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

i think of paul and silas in the prison yard
i hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
i see the shepherd moses in the pharaohs court
i hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord

chorus x2

i see the long quiet walk along the underground railroad
i see the slave awakening to the value of her soul
i see the young missionary and the angry spear
i see his family returning with no trace of fear
i see the long hard shadows of calcutta nights
i see the sister standing by the dying man’s side
i see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
i see the man with a passion come kicking down that door

i see the man of sorrow and his long troubled road
i see the world on his shoulders and my easy load (*also taken from the artist's website)

*www.saragroves.com

Friday, July 23, 2010

Take Time to Dance

We had a graduation at GFA on Tuesday for the students who have just completed the year-long School of Discipleship. What a sweet class of students we were blessed to have with us for 12 months!
Several of them will be returning to serve on staff full-time while others will be pursuing God at other places.
The ceremony was a little long for my 6 year old and two 4 year olds. So, they had lots of energy to release at the end. A friend, Ruth, captured these sweet photos of the girls dancing at the front of the auditorium.
Take time and dance today...wherever you might find yourself!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quiet on the Home Front

Sorry the blog got very quiet this week.

Being pregnant can be exhausting.

I remember when my first friend my age was pregnant. I asked a mutual friend how she was doing. When she replied "just really tired and staying close to home right now," I remember thinking "why?! Isn't that supposed to be at the end of pregnancy?" I was so clueless!

I was a little more fatigued during my first trimester with Rylee and I was queasy. I got sick a handful of times. With the twins, I remember my blood sugar would drop if I wasn't careful. But, I don't remember being too tired. This time around...whoa! I'm old, apparently. I've been totally wiped out. I'm just now starting to feel a little less tired. And, I've been very queasy, but I've managed to only get sick one...on vacation.

I'm hoping all this fog will lift and I'll get back to a 'normal' level of energy soon. I'll be entering the second trimester in another 2 weeks and that was always the ticket before. Until then, I apologize for my lack of things to share. It really has been pretty "quiet" around here. Not that my three kids don't make plenty of noise each day, but we've been doing one activity each day and then resting the other half.

This week we ventured to the dentist on Monday and had 2 friends come play for an hour, went to the library on Tuesday, went to the grocery store and pool on Wednesday (that about did me in!), and today I worked in the office while the kids played with friends.

All this "quiet" gives me lots of time to think. I'm trying to enjoy the rest and not wish it away. I know there have been plenty of times I wanted a period of rest and it just wasn't the season. Hopefully I will glorify the Lord in all things, even when I'm resting!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Heart's Dilemma

While I've been posting pictures and stories to recap our recent vacation to visit family, my heart is being slowly torn to shreds.

It's been in this process for a while.

As a "home team missionary", people sometimes make assumptions about me/us. Yes, we've given up "other jobs" to come serve on staff with Gospel for Asia. Yes, we want to see the lost in Asia reached with the Gospel. Yes, as a family we are learning by taking part in prayer meetings and talking about reaching Asia.

But, I was asked in March during a support trip to Arizona "what's your biggest struggle right now?" I loved the question.

My answer is simple, "Maintaining a focus on Asia and reaching the lost while I live in suburban America."

Not to lessen the struggle of those in the office at all, but I think it's particularly hard given the circumstances of my life at this current moment. I'm primarily a mom to young children. I spend most of my days with my children home with me. I'm reading books, making meals, picking up toys, settling disputes, keeping house....

During the school year when Rylee is in school from 8-3 and Jenna and Asa are in preschool from 9-2 two days a week, I am able to be in the ministry office and take part more actively in our calling to reach Asia. But, most of my time is spent on the homefront, with my children, doing typical American mom tasks.

We have playdates with friends; we shop for groceries; we go to the library.

How do I maintain a focus on reaching the lost in Asia? I believe wholeheartedly that we are more effective in reaching the lost in Asia by serving here at the home office than if we tried to go and share the Gospel in villages in northern Asia. I know it. I'm not saying there's no place for Western missionaries there, but that's another talk for another time. I know we are right where we need to be. The struggle is to keep my heart focused!

I don't think the answer is simply being in the office more. I've talked to enough of the staff who are in the office all day, every day to know they struggle with the same things. Yes, their work is directly impacting Asia, but sometimes it's sealing envelopes to be sent out and it's easy to lose your focus when doing a repetitive task like working with paper.

So, how can I keep my heart focused?

Reading. Listening. Talking.

I need to be in the Word. I need to be reminded of God's call to reach the lost. It's what the whole Bible is all about! God's story of redemption for a people He created and loves. The whole world. Every single soul. He loves them and wants them to know Him. I know Him, so I must share!
Reading about what's really happening in the world. Sometimes I get info from blogs I read, but many times I waste this time and don't spend enough focus on the right things. I read things that, in the big picture of my life, don't matter. Who cares what my house looks like when there are women in Asia living on the streets begging with only the clothes on their back because their husband died and now they are blamed and cursed by their culture? Does it really matter if my family eats the most yummy meal when there are children across the world dying of liver failure because they are eating mud and rocks?
I've been reading about widows and children lately. My heart is being broken.

I just can't seem to justify the way I waste so much of my time.

Talking. I find that the more I share with others about what's happening in Asia or discuss it with others who have a heart to see real change, my heart is lifted. I see action happening. I see people sacrificing their own comforts for the sake of those who have greater needs. We need to give more...financially, yes, but I need to give more of my focused time.

I don't have to serve in the office to do that. I can be right where I'm at and have eternity stamped on my eyes and live as though my life is not my own.

It's my choice.

I'm just praying I will daily make the right one.

I've included links to two of the stories that have moved me significantly. Just recently I was also told about a documentary by PBS called "The Day My God Died" which focuses on forced prostitution in India. The reality of life for millions of women is something I can't fathom...and can no longer ignore.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our House Guest

This is Matt. He lived with us for 8 weeks this summer while he is serving as an intern at the ministry in the Graphics Department. Matt still has another 5 weeks of ministry with us, but he has moved in with another family for the second half.
We have enjoyed having Matt with us. He is a very sweet guy who loves the Lord and looks forward to all God is teaching him.

Our kids like Uncle Matt and had fun messing around with him in the evenings. Matt was such an easy guy to have living with us. We will miss him. He was a great jokester with the kids and loved to tease them. Many times I would get on them only to turn the corner and then find myself saying "Okay Matt, don't provoke" with a smile on my face.

We took Matt to Ft. Worth a few weeks ago to watch the bulls run. (ha! They walk at a saunter down the brick street, but they are definitely cool to see.) We also ate some yummy ribs while there. It was all-you-can-eat for a really decent price! Matt had bunches.
Matt is staying at the ministry longer than some interns stay, which is neat because he gets to really understand what we do. Joel has already had 3 interns this year; one back in January and two thus far this summer. It's always fun to have college students added into the mix of things to teach the staff new stuff and to be taught. We always hear neat testimonies of how the Lord has worked in their lives through their time with the ministry. This is our first time to actually host a student, which has given us lots more opportunities to get to know him.

If you know a student who might be interested in an internship, they can check out the GFA website here. We also have a School of Discipleship for students ages 18-25 to come spend a year serving at GFA, growing in their walk with Christ, and take a trip to India. More info can be found on the website, as well.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vacation - A Visit to the Beach

After the NC crew all left to return home, Ron and our family headed south to the beach in Florida. Ron has friends who live near the ocean and they graciously allowed us to stay with them on Monday evening.
We went to their house and visited for a bit. Then, we headed to the beach. The kids were so stinkin' excited to go to the beach. The weather was dicey and we had hit patches of rain during our drive, but the skies were clear when we arrived in Navarre and stayed that way until we had played on the beach for about an hour.The kids splashed in the water a little but seemed to enjoy digging in the sand the most. They built castles, dug holes, and got buried. Asa picked up "treasures", of course (the boy picks up rocks, leaves, sticks, and anything else he can find...all the time!).
We went back to the home of Ron's friends and had baths and dinner. The next morning our hosts had to leave early for work, so we packed up and headed to breakfast and down the coast to visit the beach where I worked for the summer of '01, Panama City Beach.
It was rainy as we drove, but the sun came out as we approached the camp where I worked. We drove by, just so I could see it, and then we hit a newly built shopping center. They had a section with bounce houses and slides, so we paid for the kids to play and then walked around a bit. I think we all had our fill of the sand the previous day, so we grabbed lunch and headed back to my brother's house.That evening and the following day were full of relaxing and playing the Wii. I was amazed at how much fun our kids had with simple things like having cartoons on Nick (we don't have cable) and bowling and boxing on the Wii (we don't own one of those either). They had a blast taking turns. Ron was helpful and laughed along with them as they tried to figure out how to make things work. It was nice, relaxing entertainment for the whole family.

Sometimes it's the most simple things that make the best memories.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Vacation - Visiting Family

We decided to "meet in the middle" with some of my family for a summer vacation this year. My stepmom suggested meeting at my brother's house in Alabama, which was about equal distance for both them (in NC) and us here in Dallas.

We picked the dates and everyone converged.
My dad, stepmom, and youngest sister drove down on Thursday, as did my brother, his wife, and their daughter Charlotte. We met at my younger brother, Ron's, house in southern Alabama. (Unfortunately my sister, Jessica, and her husband and daughter couldn't join us. They were missed!)

Our family left Texas on Friday afternoon and drove over to Shreveport, where we stayed with my aunt and uncle. Their kids were in town, so we got to visit and enjoy everyone! We left very, very early on Saturday morning to drive 500 miles. (Early as in 4am! It makes for much easier traveling for everyone in our family.)My kids were ecstatic to see their cousin Charlotte. She immediately walked up and hugged Jenna...the closest to her in height! They ran around together and chased Ron's dog Zoey and played with her bouncy balls in the backyard. They were a hoot to watch.
That evening we went to a BBQ at a friend's house and then caught fireworks at the Army base nearby.
We spent the 4th of July swimming. Another friend had a pool that they generously allowed our family to use. It was lots of fun for everyone. My brothers spent a lot of time trying to do various dives. I joined for about three dives and then quit. Between my shoulder injury and my pregnancy, it was best if I just watched and took pictures. Most hilarious was watching the adults go down the slide!
My kids all did a great job swimming. Rylee loved jumping off the diving board and Jenna got brave and joined her. Asa jumped a few times, but he's not quite as confident in his swimming skills just yet. Charlotte, who is normally pretty terrified of the water, was brave and adventurous. She went off the slide a few times and swam around with several different people in the pool. And it was great to watch the adults going down the slide. One of my favorite parts of the afternoon was watching Rylee and Charlotte jam to some music. They both have a dangerous booty shake. We're trying to let Rylee enjoy dancing while teaching her to curb some of the hip action. It was hilarious to watch them let it all loose while we were with family!
After a full afternoon of swimming, we returned back home to grill some steaks. It was a delicious ending to our day.

Unfortunately everyone had to leave Monday morning to return to NC. Our family stayed on in AL for a few more days, though. It was a quick visit with the family, but it was incredibly fun.

*My sister has become quite the photographer, so I left that job mostly to her for the weekend. When going back through my photos I realized I have lots of gaps. But, hopefully you still get the picture.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vacation - New Orleans

On our way back from Alabama, we decided to take the southern route and stop in New Orleans for a half day/overnight.We took the kids to see The Princess & The Frog a few months ago and they thought it was cute. We talked about the culture of New Orleans that was included in the movie and I talked about how I had gone there for a mission trip three years ago. We decided it would be fun to visit on our way home.
We got to the City around lunchtime on Thursday and checked into our hotel (thanks to Hotwire, we got a decent room for a great price right on Canal Street at the edge of the French Quarter and the Business District). We went to grab lunch and then drove by to see the house I had helped work on 3 years ago.The kids napped a little in the car and then we took the street car down to the river. (Jenna likes to pretend she's painting her nails all the time. This time it was the straw from her juice box as the brush!)We rode the ferry across the river and back and then walked along the river to Cafe Du Monde to get beignets. (Definitely something from the movie! Beignets are square donuts covered in heaps of powdered sugar. Cafe Du Monde is a NO landmark and only serves beignets with a few drink options.)
We walked back to our hotel (meeting two guys dressed as transformers on the way) and let the kids swim while Joel walked to get us some dinner. After a good night's sleep, we headed out of town to spend the day driving home.
We wish we could have spent another day and night in New Orleans. There was a lot more to see and do than we could fit in. But, it was a good introduction for us both since Joel had never been and I had only been there for a work project mission trip 3 years ago. We would definitely like to go back.
(The last photo is Asa at work trying to capture the fountain.)