Happy Thanksgiving!

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…because ‘picture perfect’ is so cliche…

Top 10 things we’re thankful for in 2016 (in no particular order):

  1. E being able to attend, for the 2nd year, a wonderful Christian school.
  2. A new van since the old one was progressively less reliable!
  3. Trip to South Dakota to visit family & friends.
  4. New Supporters!!
  5. Being almost out of the red in our support fund!!
  6. Our life at MRF – getting to know fascinating people and helping them out during sometimes difficult transitional times. We’re also thankful for the Board who takes such good care of our family.
  7. Amazing, supportive friends, both here in PA and around the world. We have a truly great support system who are basically in the same stage of life we are and our kids are able to grow up together.
  8. Our church family.
  9. Healthy, funny, happy children.
  10. Being given opportunities within BCM that we never would’ve dreamed possible just a few years ago. We are constantly thrilled with what we are allowed to be a part of, especially as it impacts global missions.

The Lord truly takes care of us. We have never found this to be more true than during the times we have felt the most lacking. This year, our support level dropped substantially for the first time since we began this journey in 2008. However, we have never once lacked for a thing this year, even though our bank account and support fund screamed at us that it should be otherwise! There is zero logical explanation for this. God simply takes care of us. We have seen His love and care for us in ways that would take much more than one simple blog to explain. Not the least of which happened just recently when we opened an unassuming envelope to find a check with a simple note: “Go buy Christmas gifts for your family.” I stood in the kitchen and cried because God knows we do not deserve things like that! “Grateful” barely begins to describe our hearts this year.

So, we thank you – for reading this blog, praying for us (even if it’s just in passing as you skim these notes!), supporting us emotionally or financially, and just being a part of our ministry. We say it every year, but the truth of the matter is, we could not do or be where we are without all of you. It’s truly a team effort.

From our little house in the woods to yours, wherever you may be: Thank you.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving Week!

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E’s turkey puppet with thankful feathers

For those of you not on the East coast and maybe not aware – we have had an absolutely gorgeous fall. Idyllic, really. Beautiful colors, not a lot of rain, barely any cold snaps. Yesterday, it was genuinely warm out. We took the kids out to Sweet Frog in the evening to enjoy some fro-yo for the last time this year in warm weather. By the time we finished grocery shopping afterwards, the skies had completely blackened and the wind had kicked up. Brian grilled steaks and was positively freezing when he was done – the sleet had begun. When we went to bed, there was almost 2″ of snow on the ground! This morning – at least 6″! Brian had to hook the plow up to get us out this morning! Crazy. It’s snowed pretty much all day and the wind has HOWLED non-stop. Brrr! Buh-bye, fall. We’ll miss you!

In other news…

We had asked you to pray for BigJ as we needed to find him a dentist asap. He had some dental work done in September and it went fine. We went back a few weeks later to finish up and it did not go well. They didn’t use any sort of numbing agent and he went through the roof. It was horrible to watch. They couldn’t finish the work and there was no way on EARTH I was going to take him back there! The MRF Director suggested a local dentist for a 2nd opinion. They got us in right away, checked him out and even did an x-ray for free. They refused to touch the work since they’re not a pediatric unit. So, we got referred to the next city over, about 25min away, to a really great pediatric office. Unbelievably, this place got us in the same day they called us! Last Monday, I took him in expecting just a consultation and left with the work completely done and a super happy little boy in the back seat! So thankful for laughing gas and an amazing pediatric dentist that, miraculously, also takes our insurance!

We had some great times in the kid’s ministries in November.

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There was a puppet skill nite, which was a lot of fun!

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Last Sunday after church, we took 20 kids (10 families) to the local State Police (2min from church) to drop off 20 ‘survival kits’ they had put together with candy and a booklet.

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This past Wednesday, we had our first ever Christmas Shopping Nite. We always have a Store where the kids spend points they’ve earned. This time, we asked the church family for specific donations for family members so the kids could ‘shop’ for Christmas presents for their families. Wow – HUGE success! It was a blast! They shopped, had the gifts wrapped, made cards, ate Christmas cookies, and watched Christmas movies. So. Much. Fun. E has a big bag of gifts stuffed in our closet waiting for Christmas Day. Best statement of the night was from Paul, the leader seated in the picture: “Okay boys, we don’t just wrap. We present.” Such a good night.

Our church is now preparing for our annual Living Christmas Village which is Dec. 3-4 (Click Here to see what it was like last year). Brian will run sound and I will be helping with seating people and moving them through the tour. Last year, we had over 2000; we’re praying we get just as many, if not more, this year. I had a part in editing the drama and I think it’s going to be good!

MRF has its annual Christmas dinner on Dec. 1. This year, since we have 18 kids living here, I’m going to do some special stuff with the kids. We always look forward to the dinner; it’s just a nice get-together with everyone.

Brian had taken an old, rotten porch off the back of one of our oldest houses and discovered the siding underneath was rotten as well. He was hoping to get that siding done before the snow flew. We weren’t expecting quite so much this weekend, so that is now put on hold! That home is the only one with no residents at the moment, so it’s not a problem for now. Brian will be working on miscellaneous projects during the winter, while his back heals and the homes are full.

The BCM Christmas giving catalogue is almost completed! And the next edition of BCM World is in the works! Essentially that just means that we’re never bored.😉

Kids are great, though coughing like everyone else right now. E is looking forward to a longer break from school. They’re all looking forward to seeing their aunt and uncle from Vermont this week!

Finishing Fall

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Unfortunately the leaves don’t look like this anymore! They are mostly gone with just a few stubborn trees hanging on still. It’s beginning to look more dreary. It’s already flurried once and it’s COLD when we ship our daughter off to school in the mornings! However, I say that, and yet today it’s supposed to be around 70* again! We can’t complain too loud!

Brian has seen the doctor about his back and was told it’s a herniated disc and just to take it easy and not lift things over 20lbs. He’s been doing more work and has noticed that lifting is not nearly as painful as before. He’s looking into some other ideas to help his back heal more fully. It’s been such a slow process; he still struggles with not getting discouraged. Getting back to work has made him feel more like himself again, though, so that’s good! We also are SO THANKFUL for all of YOU who blessed him with sweet cards over the last few weeks after I sent out the plea via email (if you’re not on our newsletter list, you missed that one! Sign up today!). It really did encourage him – thank you for taking the time to write those!!

Only one home will be mostly vacant this winter. Every other home on the property will have residents throughout the rest of 2016 and most of 2017. We’re really enjoying getting to know everyone on the property these days. Really unique families with unique backgrounds and ministries.

Brian is hoping to finish siding at least one more side of the main house before the snow flies. He finished winterizing the pavilion, including digging (very slowly, on his knees) a trench to help drainage around it. I’m not sure what all his plans are for the next few months since the homes will be full.

With BCM, he finished designing the 2017 calendar (and it looks awesome!). Right now we’re working on a Christmas catalog and I have two articles on my plate for December’s BCM World. This Friday is the annual BCM Banquet in Lancaster which we won’t be able to attend this year. However, if you’re in Lancaster and would like to go – please do! It’s a great opportunity to hear in person what God is doing through BCM around the world.

Church has been going very well. We’re running just about 30 kids both Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings in our main programs, along with 20 kids in the younger classes and 10-15 in the nurseries! We packed 10 shoeboxes together on Wednesday night for Operation Christmas Child. In two weeks, the Sunday morning kids will take “law enforcement survival kits” to the local State Police Department. They’ve been contributing candy and we’ll put them into little bags with a cute note and a booklet (“How Good is Good Enough?”) and a business card with the church info on it and hand deliver them to the officers after church. My goal is to have one service project in both the fall and spring semesters for the Sunday and Wednesday kids and so far, so good!

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Kids are doing well! They were sick with nasty colds for awhile, but nothing too drastic or abnormal. E just went on a field trip with the 1st & 2nd grades to the Crayola Factory and Brian got to go with her! I think it’s pretty awesome that her dad was able to take time out to go with her and they had a great time.

You can be praying with us that we can find a good pediatric dentist for Big J. He needs dental work and we had a very traumatic experience last Friday in the process. I need to find him a pediatric dentist right away. Poor kid; dentists are not going to be his friend anymore than they were mine I think.

A formal newsletter will be going out soon! If you’re not on our list, drop us a note and we’ll add you.

Unexpected Blessings

We knew back in August that E’s Christian school (the elementary school part of it) were taking on MRF as their offering project this year. I had volunteered to come in and share about MRF’s ministry in person so the kids could understand where their offering was going, but I had no idea when that presentation would be. I got the call Monday that they wanted me on Wednesday! A last minute change meant I could come in and speak to the elementary kids! The only caveat: I had 35 minutes and the last few presentations we’ve done, we’ve had no more than 10! So, I did some quick rearranging, adjusting, adding, and practicing between Monday evening and Tuesday and finally felt prepared by Wednesday morning. Chapel went very well – it was K4-Grade 6, so quite a large group with varied ages, but it was so fun. They were attentive and the feedback from the teachers was that it really helped with understanding the ministry out here. Mission Accomplished.

This week was kind of an unofficial relaunch of our MRF Facebook page. It took a hiatus for a while for a number of reasons, but I am starting to keep it much more current now. If you are on Facebook, please Like our page! Search “Missionary Retreat Fellowship”

Brian’s back is not getting any better. Though not particularly getting worse, he is not seeing great improvement either. So, he was floored when he found out the Board had decided to put together a work crew to do the one roof that really needed new shingles before winter! Today is that work day and they’ve been here since 8. One board member even came last night and began the work since he knew he couldn’t be here all day. Brian is the official runner, nail fetcher, etc. It’s torture for him, but he knows he has to take it easy. We’re just so thankful for these guys that are giving their time to get this roof done! It was in pretty rough shape and the family living there is very grateful.

Brian will see a doctor on Monday and figure out a game plan for his back. Please continue to pray for him as the pain can get pretty intense.

I leave you with a picture of our {drained!} lake at the bottom of the MRF road – fall is gorgeous in NEPA!

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Online Giving Link

We realized we haven’t shared our online giving link recently! BCM has made it super simple to give online to our missionaries. Click here for the link. This takes you beyond just the generic giving page on the website and directly to our own profile. You can set up automatic withdrawals from there as well.

Our support is slowly increasing; we have had two new supporters join us this year! We are still in the red for our general account, so any one-time gifts are being placed directly in there. Having funds in our general allows for months when our support does not all come in or if an emergency arises and currently our general fund is in the red.

The page above, Support News 2016, gives a more detailed account of what we do and how you can be involved. We are always excited to share about our ministries, so if you’d like to meet for coffee with one or both of us, set up a dinner date (our place or yours!), or drop us an email, please do so! We are willing, and able, to come to churches and share in person about our ministries or if you’d like to hear about BCM or MRF specifically. Just let us know!

Thank you, above all, for caring for us by reading our blog and keeping up with what we do, praying for us and our children, and being involved in our ministries. We simply could not continue serving the Lord in these capacities without your help.

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Our beautiful MRF. The directional sign lists our current residents – a full house!

Weekend in VT

Thursday morning, we loaded up and headed up to Vermont!

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We were a little wired to be visiting Uncle Andy, Aunt Tanya, and their dog, Ziva!

The trip up went very well and we arrived in the evening, just in time to celebrate, officially, E’s 6th birthday. Her Aunt made them a special dinner and a cake and we had transported gifts from their SD grandparents so they were thrilled!

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Friday morning, we went down to the church (check them out here) and visited with the pastor for awhile. So, back story on this pastor: he was basically my dad’s intern and then associate years ago, then he took his family to Honduras and were missionaries there for a long time. They transitioned to Houston for a few years and are now back in Vermont. At one point, he was even in Peru doing some pastor training and we got to see him for a bit, which was a big encouragement at the time. It’s really neat to have them back in VT. Definitely a highlight of the weekend was sitting and talking with someone who knows what it’s like to be in missions, knew what kinds of questions to ask, and just let us talk, debrief, unload, and share the ups and downs of ministry.

Saturday, the church was having pictures done for a new directory and since we’re missionaries of the church, we joined right in. The kids did awesome (well, minus Baby J wanting to walk off with all the props in the middle of the session). Brian took them back to my sister’s while I had lunch with a good friend (another blessing, just being able to sit and chat with a high school friend, uninterrupted, for a few hours).

Sunday morning, I spoke in the children’s Sunday School class. They had a good size group:

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We had about 10 minutes during the morning service. We had a great response and felt like the church family really connected with us and the ministry. They’ve supported MRF for something like 30 years and us since we joined BCM 9 years ago. After church, we had a great luncheon with the Outreach Committee. They were thrilled with what’s going on at MRF and we look forward to future interactions with the church as a whole.

The weekend was really enjoyable with my sister and her husband. It’s just relaxing being there, spending time as a family. They live in the woods with a bunch of chickens, a dog, a big yard, a quiet road, and lots of walking trails in the woods. The kids helped Tanya with her garden, fed the chickens, gathered eggs, picked blueberries, and went for lots of walks. The dog was probably more tired than the kids just trying to keep up! Their uncle gave them a tour of his sugar shack and explained how syrup is made. All three had a hard time leaving Monday morning!

Now it’s back, again, to reality! Brian’s back is slowly healing, but he’s still taking it very easy. Any extra work or movement causes a great deal of pain still. Please pray he heals soon! Thankfully, the board is putting together a team to do the roof that really needs shingles this fall and the other bigger projects can’t be done right now anyway since the homes are booked. The only thing that he’s not able to do is side the Main House. On days that he’s in less pain, he’s going to work little by little. Currently, he’s been doing lots of BCM computer work, focusing on the design of the 2017 calendar.

I have had back pain since about May and finally saw a physical therapist this morning. Wow, I wish I’d done that sooner! She knew exactly what was wrong and after an hour, I was able to move with such a minimal amount of pain that I felt brand new!! However, this means a few weeks of additional PT… another thing to put on my schedule… but if it continues to help like this, it will be worth it in the long run.

Until next time…

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Oh, and she lost her 2nd tooth while in VT! You can’t tell because her permanent teeth are basically already in! She was very impressed that the Tooth Fairy found her in VT. Her uncle convinced her tooth fairies in VT are all blue because it’s so cold!

6 Years?!

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How, how, HOW can it be possible that she is 6?! I go through this every year, and yet somehow, I feel like 6 is a real milestone. I don’t know why.

This little one arrived with a bang and has been surprise after struggle after surprise ever since. She is strong-willed (as evidenced by her delivery – she refuses to conform to the ‘normal’ way of doing anything… from her own birth to how she wears her socks…), independent, yet strangely dependent, friendly, and imaginative. She is super creative and artistic with a beautiful singing voice. She can be extremely obedient, helpful, and caring when she wants to be.😉

Watching her grow in school has been spectacular. Now, I get to teach her in church, too, since she’s in 1st grade. Just yesterday I watched her join in with all the other kids playing gaga ball and I just couldn’t believe she was big enough to be in the fray with everyone else. She is smart, inquisitive, and just pure lovely inside and out.

I think my heart’s desire for E is that she does not grow bitter towards us being in ministry. Her love language is quality time and sometimes it’s very difficult to give it to her in the quantity that she so desperately needs. This year will be all about my own priorities as I learn to respect her need of, well, me. My other desire is to see her heart shaped to be more like her Savior – to let Him more fully control her attitude and her will. She has great potential; I hope she lets herself be directed well.

I love this girl with everything in me. I’m so glad she’s ours. Happy birthday, baby girl.

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