June 27, 2014

My Lighthouse

Not sure if you have heard THIS SONG or not, but Sophie and I cannot stop singing it! The tune is so catchy, and the words are good, too. A rare find, at times.

But, I have to admit, when I first heard it, I kind of wrote it off. I was thinking, "It would be nice if we were always led safe to shore, but we aren't. What false hope."

Then, God reminded me that we will always end up safe on the shore if we allow Him to truly be Lord and Master. If we truly follow where He leads. It's just that our "shore" and His "shore" may not be the same place. Of course, studying the Israelites recently, as they were led through the Red Sea, safely to the shore on the other side, had me turning to this song again and I can't get enough. I read something in those verses in Exodus about the Red Sea that I don't ever remember reading before. It seriously took my breath away when I read it. Then I wanted to jump up and down to exclaim the amazingness (is that a word) of this almighty God (but it was at the public pool during swimming lessons, so I restrained myself!) Exodus 14:19-20 says: "Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long." Did you catch that? Darkness to one side and light to the other. At the same time. And this kept His people alive and put His enemies right where they needed to be when He put the waters back where they belonged. Mind.Blown.

God also reminded me of a time when He was the "peace in my troubled sea." (Which has helped me a lot in the last few months being in the midst of another troubled sea.  I am so grateful for Psalm 89:9, aren't you?!?!)  Kevin and I were still dating, but I was working at a large church in Plano, TX and he was still a student at HLG (that's right, there was no U at the time).  During our first summer apart (we'd been dating about 4 months, but I already knew he was "the one"...not so sure he knew, yet, though) Kevin was asked to join a mission team and spend a month in Uganda.  I knew the moment he mentioned the trip that he was supposed to go.  Not one single doubt.  Then, shortly before he left, I began to worry about his safety.  Uganda is not a very safe place and he was going to be working with some of the worst people in the country.  I began to pray very fervently that God would bring him keep him safe and bring him home.  The most clearly I've every heard God in my life, His response to me was, "I will keep him safe, but that doesn't mean that I'll bring him home."  I was speechless, but completely at peace.  I knew in that moment all I had was trust that God loved Kevin more than I did, knew most what he needed, and would care for him as only God could.  All I could do was rest and trust in God's hand.  I'll be honest, I did not expect Kevin to come home.  I honestly thought that the phone call to talk to him before he boarded the plane would be the last time we ever spoke.  I was truly prepared to never see him alive again.  And it was OK.  I was totally at peace.  God was the peace in that crazy, swirling sea.  Of course, Kevin did return.  When he called from London on his way home I seriously about peed my pants because I was totally not expecting to ever hear his voice again!  God is good!  God is true and faithful.  But we must be prepared for His shore to be different than our shore.  Are we willing to still follow His light through the storm, even if we land somewhere we weren't expecting?  I am reminded of something Beth Moore said in her Daniel study.  Sometimes He spares us from the fire, sometimes He delivers us in spite of the fire, sometimes he uses the fire to take us home.  He may be leading you to Africa, Romania, Canada, across the street, to the city slums, or to Heaven's gates.  Seek His light.  Follow where He leads.  Trust and obey.  "You rule the raging of the sea; when it's waves rise You still them." Amen!!!!

June 20, 2014

Lord, Give Me a ten Boom Kind of Faith and Love

I had a lot of time on a plane in the last few days, so I spent it reading.  I picked up the book The Hiding Place at a yard sale recently and decided that I'd read that on the plane.  I must confess that, a) I've only heard bits and pieces of Corrie ten Boom's story, but never read the book and didn't know much about her, b) I thought she was Jewish, and c) I thought she was in her twenties at the oldest.  Man, was I way off! I had no idea her crime wasn't being Jewish, but playing an integral part in the underground hiding Jews.  And wonder of all wonders, she was in her 50's!  Never think you're too old to change the world, or at least your world! I also thought this book was all about Corrie.  It really wasn't.  It was about her whole family, but really about how God used each of them, with their own strengths and gifts, at one of the worst times in history.  It's  a story about how God used a concentration camp to reveal Himself and His love to hundreds (maybe even thousands) of women dying in the concentration camps.  Mind.Blown.  And the way they risked their own lives, loved those around them at the risk of death, and the concern and care Betsie had for the Germans who were causing the pain is almost beyond comprehension.  How one person could treat another person that way is unimaginable.  The things they prayed, the people they prayed for, and the wisdom and insight God gave them in the midst of such horrible circumstances was so encouraging to me.  I just had to share the quotes that went straight to my heart.  I hope it encourages you, too.  (And Kevin, if we ever have another girl, her name is going to have to be Cornelia Elizabeth and we will pray she will be as wise, loving, faithful, and God-seeing as these two ladies.)

  • Their mother had tuberculosis and suffered a great deal of pain for most of her life.  This never slowed her down.  Even when she eventually became confined to a bed and couldn't speak (which were all of the last years of her life.)  Corrie said of her mother, "It was astonishing really the quality of life she was able to lead in that crippled body, and watching her during the three years of her paralysis, I made another discovery about love.  Mama's love had always been the kind that acted itself out with soup pot and sewing basket. But now that these things were taken away, the love seemed as whole as before.  She loved the people she saw in the street--and beyond: her love took in the city, the land of Holland, the world.  And so I learned that love is larger than the walls that shut it in."
  • "Love. How did one show it?  How could God Himself show truth and love at the same time in a world like this? By dying. The answer stood out for me sharper and chiller than it ever had before that night: the shape of a Cross etched on the history of the world.
  • After losing one of the young boys working for the underground: "Once again we considered stopping the work. Once again we discovered we could not.  That night Father, Betsie and I prayed long after the others had gone to bed.  We knew that in the spite of the daily mounting risks we had no choice but to move forward.  This was evil's hour: we could not run away from it. Perhaps only when human effort had done its best and failed, would God's power alone be free to work."
  • Corrie's sister, Betsie, almost took joy in being in the concentration camps, not really even for their ministry for those in the camps, but for the opportunity to love and pray for those running the camps.  "'These young women.  That girl in the back at the bunkers. Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes...' I realized then she was talking about the guards. I wondered, not for the first time, what sort of person was this sister of mine...what kind of road she followed while I trudged beside her on the all-too-solid earth."
  • "But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear. And that was the reason the two of us were here.  Why others should suffer we were not shown.  As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not  in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope..The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God."
  • After learning that prisoners were never released from a concentration camp if they were sick, Corrie started wondering what horrible thing would have happened to Betsie (who was ill and died in the camp) if she had been considered for release.  "There are no 'ifs' in God's kingdom. I could hear her soft voice saying it. His timing is perfect. His will is our hiding place. Lord Jesus, keep me in Your will! Don't let me go mad by poking about outside it."
  • After meeting one of the S.S. officers who had mistreated her at the concentration camp and asking God to help her forgive him (which He did): "And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His.  When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. It took a lot of love.
If you haven't read this book, I encourage you to do so!  Oh, Father, give me the strength and faith to love this world in Your name, whatever the cost.  Help me to train up my children to do the same. Protect this world from the crushing hand of Satan.  When trials and hardships come, give us the strength to look to You for our comfort, peace, healing, and protection.

June 12, 2014

Praying For This Beautiful Mess

As we look ahead to the next year of Afterschool Adventures, would you join us in praying for the following things?  We thank you in advance!!

  • Wisdom and Guidance: Please pray that God would show us just what we need to do with them every week.  In working with Family Quest, we try to do a service project and fun event each set of 5 weeks, plus we do a Bible story with them each week.  Join us in seeking God for what things He would have us do with them as we seek to have them serve and have fun each month.  Pray that He would give us the words we need to help explain to them the stories we read as we lead a devotion time with them each week.
  • Behavior/Discipline Issues: As you can imagine, having that many kids in one place, there are definitely some behavior issues.  And, as you can imagine, when dealing with other people's children, knowing just how to discipline can be a challenge.  Please join us in praying that God would show us how to deal with each child as situations arise.  Pray that we will be able to show them that discipline, when done correctly, is for their good.  Pray that God would show us how to effectively teach them how to deal with frustration and conflict in a godly and wise manner.
  • "Adoptive Families": Please join us in praying for God to send along some couples who would be willing to adopt these kids and take them to Family Quest.  This provides many benefits to the Afterschool kids (seeing a husband and wife working together properly, in-depth Bible study, learning scripture, etc), as well as those in our church (creates a mentoring/discipleship relationship, gets them involved in Kingdom work, positive impact in the lives of children who have very little positive impact, etc.)  Right now I am not sure how many couples we would need, but we'd be more than happy to pair up any and all we can!
  • Afterschool Workers: We start each Wednesday around 3:30 p.m. over at the apartment complex.  While there we work on their homework, play games, do service projects, have snack, read Bible stories, etc.  We really could use more help there, from about 3:30-5:00.  If you have kids, bring them along!  It's been a great experience for my kids having to meet new people, learn to get along with people who don't live or act like they do.  It's also been a great way to teach them about serving others.  They are not only seeing me do it, but they are walking right along with me in it.  You're a college student?  Great!  We need your energy!!!!!  Please join us in asking God to send more workers.
  • Home lives: Please pray that God would protect these children in whatever their home situation may be.  Some of them come from nice, loving homes, but several come from homes with parents who are rarely there, take little care of them, and move constantly in an effort to avoid DFS.  Most of us cannot even imagine the lives many of these kids are living.  I am thankful that several in our church have completed the classes to become foster parents and the reality hit me the other day that it is totally possible one or more of our kids could end up in their home.  The day may come when our Afterschool kids are living with some amazing church members, so I also want to ask you to lift up those who are foster parents/future foster parents.  Pray that they will have wisdom, discernement, and strength to love these kids as their own and fill them with as much God as they can while they are in their home.
  • Bridging the gap with the parents: We have had a hard time getting the parents involved in much more than bringing or picking up their kids. Jennifer does have contact info for most of them and does a great job of keeping up with them, but we still have yet to really make a connection with them.  Ask God to show us who to reach them, love them, and serve them.  Ask Him to show us how to connect with them.  
  • Encouragement: Pray that God would continue to encourage and strengthen all who are working with these kids.  It's hard.  Like, really hard.  And very messy.  Very, very, very messy!  It's not for the faint of heart, that's for sure.  Pray that He would remind us each week to spend time in prayer specifically for the kids we will be working with that day.  Pray that He would keep showing us the little changes and improvements that happen, even when we don't want to see them.  Pray that, if the time ever comes for any of us to step out, He would show that and we would be obedient. Pray that when we want to quit, but God has not told us we can, that He will give us the energy and passion we need to continue.
  • The connection of Afterschool Adventures and Family Quest: Let's be real, at times, this is a challenge.  We are very protective of both ministries and our families.  At times, it seems like these two ministries are at odds and can never work together.  I think, however, that it's beautiful to see how God has grown and changed Family Quest over the years, and I think this is just another way He is growing it.  FQ has beautifully fulfilled it's mission to train and equip parents to disciple their children. And now we're adding the element of allowing the rest of the church to come alongside and use FQ as a way to mentor, disciple, and love on some kids who need it badly!  Please pray that, as both ministries grow and change, that they will continue to work together. Pray that all families, those that are biological and those put together through Afterschool Adventures, will continue to grow, learn more about each other, and come to love each other through this process.  Pray that there will be no conflicts and no judgments made from either side.  Pray that all involved in Family Quest have prayed to ask God what they need to do for their family and that they will then have the courage to follow in obedience with whatever He has asked their family to do.  Lord, move in mighty ways during Family Quest!  Most of the children attending FQ, both our church kids and the Afterschool kids, are lost and need to know their deep need for You as their lord, master, and savior.  Help them all to see that! Give the parents the words to be able to explain the hard things, to answer the hard questions, and to be real so their children can see You in their lives.
  • Jennifer: Let's be honest, Jennifer does a large majority of the work each week and she is the one that stays in contact with the apartment manager and the parents.  She plans all activities and snacks and she's the one who does most of the discipline and comforting.  Pray that God would give her wisdom as she leads.  Pray that God will continue to give her energy and strength as she pours her life out with these kids each week.  Pray that God will show the rest of us how to support and love her as she leads.
Thank you so much for joining with us in prayer!  We have no idea which kids will be back next year and how many new kids we may have.  But, we have seen God's hand all over this ministry this year and feel confident He will continue to guide and direct as we move into year number two!!!

June 07, 2014

Confessions of a Real Housewife of Marion County

(WARNING: That was just a more interesting title for "this is pure randomness.")

  • My kids eat cereal and pop tarts for breakfast virtually every morning.  I am not exaggerating.  Thaaaat's right, I pump them full of sugar and all kinds of bad things to start the day...well...because it's fast, easy, and they can get it themselves while I am finishing up getting ready for the day.  I am THAT mom.
  • We are attempting to eat less sugar in our house.  Some days are better than others.  We'll leave it at that. (See above comment!)
  • My really-cute-$7-from-Wal-Mart-online-that-from-a-distance-almost-look-like-Toms-shoes shoes don't do well in the rain.  My feet were soaked!
  • I love that Aldi has so many organic products now.  Even the kids enjoy shopping there!
  • Summer's finally here!  And, now it finally feels like spring.
  • Ethan calls Angel Food Cake "Angel Fruit Cake."  It cracks me up every time!
  • I could sit and eat cookie dough all day.  I don't even care about the raw eggs.
  • Sherlock.  Genius.  Amazing acting.  Amazing writing.  I need more episodes.
  • We watched the movie Jobs today.  It's a "biopic" of the life of Steven Jobs.  I am still confused as to why they made the movie.  Did they want us to dislike him because he was a jerk to pretty much everyone he ever met?  Did they want us to be amazed at his change toward the end (even though they left us with huge questions that, in my mind, made that impossible?  What was the point?  Ashton Kutcher did a great job in the film, but the movie seemed a little pointless to me.
  • VBS was a blast!  It was so fun going in a different disguise each night.  It's going to be weird to go to church tomorrow and not be in a costume!  ;)
  • I actually had to wash dishes by hand this week because we had used every fork, every bowl, every plate, and almost every cup and they wouldn't all fit into the dishwasher.  Yeah, I was that lazy this week.  But, hey, it was tennis camp and VBS week, plus there were even some days that were great pool days.  OK, the real issue is, I just don't like doing all the housekeeping things.  Still working on a schedule so I can get better at that.  Still failing at getting that schedule together so I can get better at that. 
  • I finally got most of the laundry done...well...washed and folded...I still have four loads of it to put away.  I hate that part.  Ugh!  Living out of laundry baskets is perfectly acceptable, right?  That way if my kids end up doing something that requires a lot of traveling, they'll practically be used to living out of a suitcase already!  ;)
  • S'mores would be so good right now!
  • I love going to the pool with two children able to play on their own.  I love that I don't have to follow them around.  I love that they will play together or with other children and I can relax and just watch them from a comfy chair or even read a book.  It really is a blessing!
  • The West Wing.  I love it.  I could seriously watch it all day everyday.  Kevin and I have watched all 7 seasons at least 10 times.  I do not exaggerate.  I know.  We need help.
  • I really enjoy Breakout Kings. We found this series o Netflix and have really enjoyed watching it.  But, I have to be honest, the main reason I watch it is the character of Lloyd Lowery, played by Jimmi Simpson.  He amazes me!  The character is written and acted so well I just can't stop watching.
  • In fact, a lot of shows I watch, I watch because of just one or two characters.  Alphas is another show like that.  I watch the whole show for the autistic character.  He is so well done! (Not to mention the fact that the theme song is awesome.  It's my ringtone for Kevin.  Lots of electric guitar!  Listen to it HERE!)
  • I totally just started the dryer again with clothes for church tomorrow because they were wrinkled...and I hate ironing...so I'm letting the dryer take care of that.  Again I say, I am THAT mom!
  • Prison Break season 2 may be the most well written piece of television in quite a while.
  • I love clothes. If we were wealthy most of my money would be blown on clothes that I would probably never need and never wear.  Probably a good thing we aren't wealthy (at least by American standards.)
  • How is it already like halfway through June?!?!?!
  • I've been reading some books so far this summer to see if they are OK to let Sophie read them on her own.  So far, they aren't bad, but nothing spectacular.  Thankful for the fun classics that we've been able to read together so far.  
  • I think I have become the bag lady.  There are so many bags in my van...one bag for Sunday morning, one bag for Wednesday nights, and one bag for drama.  They stay in the van most of the time so that I don't forget to take them to church when I need them (because, yes, I am that forgetful), so now I look like a traveling bag lady.
  • We were able to take Jamarqus with us for a couple days of VBS this week.  It was so fun to listen to all three kids laughing and talking and singing together in the back seat.  It warmed my heart to see that my kids were genuinely sad the days that he couldn't come with us.  He really has become a little part of our family, even if it's just one day a week.
  • I am so excited to get to read to the kiddos next week at story time over at the Centerville St. apartments. We are reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and I love doing the accents!  I am almost giddy!!!!
  • When I get sent a big group Facebook message I can never bring myself to leave the conversation, even when I want to, because I know the sender can see who has left and I don't want to hurt their feelings.
  • I like still like totally have like VBS songs like totally running  like through my head, like totally. (If you were at CBC's VBS, you'll think that's funny...I think.)
  • Sunday mornings are usually disasters for us.  It's the only morning each week that I have to wake up my kids.  And, y'all, my kids are monsters when they don't wake up on their own.  And, even during the week, my kids (regardless of what time they wake up) are not ready to eat breakfast until about 9:00 or 9:30 a.m.  Yep, that's right.  That's right as Sunday School starts.  Oh, Sundays!  We've tried a lot of different things: get everything ready the night before, have a special breakfast, take breakfast to church, etc.  So far, nothing is working.  I think the next step is to just not go to SS and not go to church until time for the worship service.  I would do this in hopes that they could sleep a little longer and have breakfast at a later time.  Hopefully this will allow them to focus better and get more out of church.  This is a last resort and I am really hoping to not do that until summer is over and Family Quest has started back up.  This way it they won't be missing out on as much.  They'll be getting Bible time on their level at home with family devotions and Bible during school, and they'll be getting Bible time with others at Afterschool Adventures and Family Quest, so missing out on SS won't really be as big of a deal then as it is in the summer.  But, we're still praying about just what it is we need to do so that our kids can really be focused and learn as much as possible on Sunday mornings.  Any suggestions would be much appreciated!
  • Did I mention that eating less sugar is hard?  It's in everything!  And it tastes so good.  
  • Can't wait to spend time with the family at our annual Hazelwood 4th of July campout.  It's gonna be lots of fun!!!!
  • I really loved the movie Mother's Day Out.  I laughed so hard!  It was well written, well acted, and just well done. Made me really miss acting.  I love being part of something that can move someone from laughter to tears to frustration to anger back to laughter, etc.  I am so thankful that I get to act, even in small ways, here and there with church.  It really does my heart good!
  • Why is it that the shows Kevin and I end up really liking only last for one or two seasons? (The West Wing and Prison Break being the exception.) 
  • I had one other really funny thing that I was wanting to write...but alas, it's gone.  I have no idea what it was.