Welcome, Rainy February

Just got home from taking our daughter to school. Yet another 2-hour delay! Freezing rain is such a pain. Now it’s warmed up and just plain raining. Feels more like spring than February! I’m afraid it’s just being deceptive.

Brian is out with a board member purchasing a tractor for MRF! This was approved by the board at their meeting and Brian is ecstatic. A tractor will be so helpful out here in the woods! He’s had to just borrow one the last four years; it’ll be nice to have one that belongs to MRF.

The two empty houses are getting nice makeovers right now. The kitchen in one home had lots of cabinets, but one of them was literally falling off the ceiling. It had always housed an overload of dishes and had finally succumbed to the weight. Brian removed it and then stabilized a few other cabinets since the home is not new and the cabinets have been bowing for awhile.

The other house has had a mice issue for quite awhile, but when you have constant residents for more than two years, it’s hard for Brian to get in and really assess the cause of the mice issue. He finally figured it out. Unfortunately, they had built a nest above the oven, inside the range hood! What a mess! That’s been disgusting to clean out and repair, but he’s basically done now. He’s also replaced a toilet that was obviously installed in the ’70’s!

My job now will be to go in to both houses and rearrange the kitchens and cabinets, as well as remake the beds and fold all the laundry. I’ll also need to finish cleaning once Brian is done with all the repairs.

At church, we are preparing to take the Wednesday night kids to a local nursing home on the 15th. They have made just about 60 sun catchers and will finish them up tomorrow night. We have about 30 kids that we’ll be taking to the home. It’s an endeavor, but we’re really looking forward to it!

Last week, for the first time in a long time, I completely messed up my schedule. I had written down the wrong dates for the Clarks Summit University ministry conference! So, I’m making dinner Tuesday evening and hear my phone beep — it’s an email reminding me to be on the campus by 6pm to set up! oops. The bigger complication was that we had a friend visiting for the week and I had specifically told her last week was better than this week because of the conference! Oh good grief. She ended up coming with me all three days and it was absolutely wonderful having her along! The conference went well and I had a few good conversations with students. I may have messed up, but it still worked out just fine.

Two personal family notes:

  • Brian is in the process of becoming an elder at our church. He was nominated by a church member awhile ago. We prayed (a lot!) about it until he finally accepted the nomination. He was questioned by the existing elder and pastoral team, who unanimously approved of him. This past Sunday, after a fellowship dinner, he was questioned by the church body. It went very well. I was so proud of him because being questioned isn’t, obviously, his most favorite thing to do. But, he answered so well and our church family is so supportive. It ended up being an encouraging time.
  • I leave Friday evening for Beth Moore’s LIT Conference in Houston – a one-day event on Saturday, specifically designed for women who want to use writing, teaching, and speaking as a ministry. Will you pray with me that this trip will be beneficial and that I will use what I learn right away? I know God wants me to do more with my writing and I would love to teach more than just children. I’m praying this conference gets me moving in 2017. I have a wonderfully supportive husband who is fully behind me, too. I got an email this morning from Beth Moore saying that everyone at her office has handwritten all 744 names of the attendees and are praying over them – by name. They prayed every name out loud, then posted all the sticky notes around the building so they could pray for us by name the rest of the week. I am thrilled that I get to be part of this group and I can’t wait to see what God does! Pray for my trip (I hate traveling alone) and for Brian home with the kids (just until Sunday night). My daughter, especially, has a hard time when I’m not home. Thankfully, they have an amazing dad, so I’m not worried.

Still no pictures… I have slacked off this month and will regret it later, I’m sure! You’ll just have to believe me that the houses look great, the kids are still cute, and it’s white and cold outside. Oh wait – here’s one from right now!

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How we roll: color wonder markers, squished on the small couch when the big one is completely vacant, talking to Mommy constantly while I try to work. 🙂
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Reflections

I don’t usually wax eloquent on our family blog – I try to keep it to our family and ministry happenings. But, I’ve been very contemplative this Christmas season and thought I’d just take a couple minutes to share some thoughts that, for once, are not just a typical update.

I’ve been a Christian a long time. I’ve also taught children a long time. During these years, there are a few Bible stories one tends to teach frequently: Christmas and Easter. It can get easy to find these repetitive and begin to think that you know the whole thing, there’s nothing new there. But, the Word of God is “living and active,” so I decided a few years ago to ask God to teach me something new from these stories – something I’d either never thought about or a fact I never knew previously. He never disappoints! Something new always crops up.

This year, it began with a simple phrase:

…And Joseph named him Jesus.  -Matthew 1:25b

A general theme this Christmas season in church, in our kid’s program, and in my personal life was about doing hard things and trusting God to accomplish the outcome. This was summed up in that verse about Joseph.

Let me back up:

God asked Mary to do something exceptionally difficult: to “not be afraid” and to, essentially, be God’s mom. She was a young girl, Jewish and engaged, who was told she was going to get pregnant outside of wedlock. The ramifications of this one statement were enormous. In Jewish culture, at the very least, she was going to be ostracized. At the most extreme, they could have chosen to stone her. More than likely, she was going to end up divorced from Joseph, ostracized, and unable to remarry. This was a big proposition for a young girl of probably 14. And yet, she didn’t ask anymore questions of the angel beyond, “How is this going to happen since I’m a virgin?” After that, we only hear her glorifying God for giving her the immense privilege of being the mother of the Son of God.

God asked her to do something extremely hard – and she said ‘yes.’

Joseph was such a good man. He must have loved Mary very much. He had every right, in their culture and faith, to make a public example of her. Legally, they were married and just waiting for him to complete their home and make it official. To end their betrothal, they needed a divorce. He could have done this quite publicly – made her an example, humiliated her, and made it impossible for her to hold a job or remarry. Instead, his desire was to simply divorce her privately. No big scene, no one had to know the circumstances (although a pregnancy would’ve been made public at some point!). This would have allowed him to remarry eventually if he so chose. By Moses’ law, this was completely permissible and probably the most respectable solution.

Instead, as we know, God told Joseph to “not be afraid” and take Mary as his wife anyway. Not only did Joseph take her as his wife, he stayed pure until the baby was born, AND – Joseph named him Jesus.

We all know step parents. We know really good step-parents and we know not-so-great step-parents. The really good ones are usually the ones who take the step-children in as their own. They give them their last name, the kids call them “mom” and “dad” and there is mutual love and respect. One would have no idea they were “step-children” unless they were told. The family merges seamlessly. This is how I picture Joseph. He didn’t just marry Mary. He didn’t just stick by her while she raised this child. She was not the sole parent. Joseph took the responsibility of raising Jesus as his own and it began with giving Him His name. He took ownership of this child that was not his own.

God asked Joseph to do something extremely hard – and Joseph said ‘yes.’

While God won’t be asking any of us to be parents to His Son again any time soon, I do believe He asks us to do hard things. Immediately, when I think of “hard things”, I think of missionaries. You know the ones I’m thinking of: out in a tribe, learning an unwritten language, with people who have never had an outside influence before, forging through the jungle, and building a home out of mud. That, to me, is hard!

But, God hasn’t asked me to do that. Am I unworthy? Or is He simply asking me to do something else, equally as hard in its own right? 

You may not be asked to leave it all and live in the jungle, either. But, you might be asked to love your impossible-to-deal-with neighbor. To witness to someone who is a staunch atheist. To love a family member who is completely unlovable. To raise a difficult child. To work in a less-than-convenient work environment with little pay and less recognition. To stay in a marriage that feels like it’s crumbling under your feet. To move your family to a new country or State because God has called you to a new ministry or job. To leave your job and be a stay-at-home mom even if it means less income.

Or something else entirely.

And you know what? It’s HARD.

God may have called us to ministry and we may have a very clear understanding, desire, and love for that call, but that doesn’t mean we don’t fight, cry at night, get frustrated, or want to give up sometimes. With great joy also comes great heartache. Doing what God asks brings immense contentment and eternal rewards, but it also brings sacrifice. That doesn’t make it bad, nor does it mean you’ve “missed your calling.”

Joseph and Mary were specifically chosen by God to do extremely hard things. We look up to them and every little girl wants to play Mary in the church Christmas program. But, we tend to look beyond what is not written in our Bibles: the scorn, shame, and incredibly difficult time they must have had raising this “illegitimate” child. Think about it: gave birth in a barn (away from home and Mom!), fled for their lives to Egypt in the middle of the night with a toddler, lived in a foreign country for a few years (and who knows how much contact they had with family at that time – did Mary’s mom even know if they alive, or ever coming home again?), and returned home to a small town to raise a child no one had seen yet (and we all know how small towns talk!). And this was just His childhood!

So, what has God asked you to do in 2017 that’s hard? Every year comes with it certain challenges, most of which we will never foresee coming. Yet, when they’re from God they are always prefaced with, “Do not be afraid!”

At least for me, I always enter a new year with excitement and a little bit of fear and trepidation. I know what God has asked of me in the past, so I’m always just a bit curious what He’s going to ask of me this year! This year, though, I’m going to keep in mind what I learned this Christmas season: Do not be afraid if God asks me to do hard things and answer His call with an obedient ‘yes.’

I don’t know what 2017 holds in store for you, either, but I hope this encouraged you to do the same. Don’t be afraid; God’s got this all under control.

Happy New Year!

Well, that slipped by quick…

I am not really sure where this month went! I seriously blinked and POOF – Christmas!

Our Thanksgiving break was spent fighting the stomach bug. Everyone got hit, but E definitely got it the worst. Yuck. I feel like we lost that entire week, from Thanksgiving Day until the following weekend.

December came roaring in with the annual Living Christmas Village, snow, rain, school Christmas program, school delays and cancelations, lots of snowmen with little baby carrot noses on the porch, and only a couple casualties due to sledding and icy snowballs. Now, the snow has all but disappeared, much to the chagrin of two happy little snow bunnies who are busy praying for a white Christmas.

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The Living Christmas Village did not disappoint. Brian and I both worked it Saturday while the kids enjoyed a sitter. Sunday evening, I took them through. Two hours later, we finally headed home! About 1900 came through this year.
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Two of the kiddos in front of the well in “old Bethlehem” (the kids’ area). I was able to save the well and an awesome Bible-times boat which has helped transform the kids’ area into a more Bible-times setting.
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This one only wanted Grandma and food.
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This one had a beautiful Christmas concert last week. She’s such a wonderful little singer and it was adorable watching her little brothers watch her on stage!

Brian’s big project the last couple of weeks has been the BCM World. It took a bit of time to put together and then was put on pause for another project right towards the end, but it was emailed out today! Here’s the link. Brian did a fabulous job (especially with the cover!). I enjoyed writing about Cameroon. Each ministry I get to write about tugs at my heart a bit more!

This week consists of the big Christmas party at church for our Wednesday night group. Brian’s fixing some pretty major problems on the MRF office computer. Brian’s running sound for the Christmas Eve service so he has a rehearsal on Thursday. Friday is E’s Christmas party at school which I will be joining her at and doing some baking for. Then, of course, Christmas festivities and family and friends coming home! Next week, Brian has the unique privilege of making one last trip to D.C. while my uncle is still in Congress (he’s retiring this year) and going up into the dome of the Capital building with my sister, bro-in-law, and father. Wish I could join him, but somebody has to be responsible and take care of our 3 kids! 😉

2016 has been a good, full year. We look forward with anticipation and excitement to 2017! We are so grateful to all of you who follow our journey by means of this blog or in person or emails and letters!

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We wish you all the happiest of Christmases! 

“You shall call His name ‘Jesus’ for He shall save His people from their sins.”

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!

Hospitality & Clean-Up

Way back in Candidate Orientation in 2007, we had to take a spiritual gifts test. Mine ranked highest in “hospitality,” which at the time I didn’t even realize was a spiritual gift! We were encouraged to make use of it, so while we were in Peru, we became one of the guest houses on the property. We had something like 15 people stay in our home during our first year. We loved having people in our home! It was a blast welcoming people to the country and making them feel at home with coffee and brownies.

We also came to see how much we enjoyed talking to people about missions and encouraging them into missions, whatever that looked like for them. Then, after being on the field for awhile, we saw the value in encouraging fellow missionaries. Some of the best encouragement we ever received was from others in ministry and we wanted to be able to pay it forward.

Here at MRF, we encounter missionaries and full-time ministry workers from all over the world, all walks of life, from all sorts of backgrounds and life experiences. Some arrive completely burnt-out and tired. Others are just starting out, energized and excited for what lies ahead. Some are needing a rest – time to be with family, in the quiet, to regroup, shop for supplies, go to the dentist, and head back to the field. Some want constant interaction; some desire to be left alone, in the quiet.

We make it a point to try to greet everyone who comes through and to get to know them as much as we’re able. With some families, it’s more conducive than with others. It’s easier for Brian to meet everyone since he’s out every single day and I’m home with three small children. But, as much as we both can, we make an effort to at least say hello and introduce ourselves. Sometimes we’re able to really make some good friends; other times, we stay barely acquaintances. We try to give people the space they need while being available if they would like that instead.

I have thrown a baby shower, taken women out to breakfast, had moms in my house with their children, counseled about support raising, listened to some crazy stories, and shared advice and encouragement as needed. Brian has done the same with the men – breakfast, encouragement, counseling, a listening ear. Now that I have one child in school and am no longer tied down with a newborn, my goal is to make sure I get to know all the women better and be more available to them.

Every resident who comes through has the responsibility of leaving the houses clean when they check out. We ask that beds be made, linens washed, dishes put away, and fridges cleaned out. However, there are times when families leave from here to other countries and we understand the rush of packing for a life overseas while trying to clean up a home here! It’s crazy stressful! We do our best to accommodate and help out as much as possible. We have basically not had to buy condiments for three years as many residents leave items with us (yellow mustard, anyone? I currently have four bottles and have never actually purchased it in 3 years!). If we know someone is leaving, say early in the morning, and they didn’t have time to do laundry, we’ll do laundry and make beds for them. We always enter the homes after residents check out and double-check that it really is clean (to our standards, which admittedly are pretty high) for the next resident.

Our desire is that no resident who stays here feels like they’re in a second-rate home. Everything is clean, as modern as possible, everything works, and most importantly – it feels like they’re the only ones who have ever stayed there. So, if a house hasn’t been rented for awhile, we enter the day before someone checks in and dust, check the WiFi and TV, turn on the fridge, hot water heater, and heat, and leave it unlocked so they can just go right in. While we both check homes, I am usually the one who does the cleaning and double-checking. Things like broken appliances and mice disposal (we do live in the woods!) fall under Brian’s jurisdiction.

Usually, we don’t need to do much deep-cleaning. It has happened! But thankfully it’s the exception and not the rule. *phew*

One thing I’m slowly working on (it was paused with BabyJ’s appearance!) is updating the homes. They really haven’t changed for a long time and are in need of some modernization. I’d like to put some new bedding in, new artwork, and new furniture and lamps. And by “new” I do mean “new-to-us”! It’s a slow process as sometimes I only have a week (or a day!) in between bookings to get into the houses and change things up. I have to wait until they’re open for a few weeks at least usually. But, as I’m able, I like to update. I’m currently looking for:

  • New bedding, particularly quilts/comforters for twin or queen beds. Plain colors OR fun quilts work best with coordinating (and all our walls are white).
  • Modern artwork. A lot of our pictures are quite old – sceneries that simply look dated (and not the “vintage” dated). I’d like to replace them with prettier, more modern artwork. Colorful, timeless, and a variety of sizes. Some go in children’s bedrooms, others are used in living room spaces.
  • Lamps! Oh, those are hard to come by! Even just lamp shades! A new lamp shade can go miles in updating a tired lamp.
  • We actually have an urgent need for a couple of sofas. They need to be smoke-free, preferably pet-free. Don’t need to be fancy, just comfy.
  • Outdoor toys and balls for kids. All the soccer, basketball, and baseballs are shot and could stand to be replaced. We have a small playground, but most of the little play houses are also at the end of their short lives! It’d be nice to get some new stuff for the kids if possible.

{This wraps up all the different ministries we’re involved in! I hope this helped you understand our life behind-the-scenes at MRF and with BCM. Now maybe you can pray for more specifically for us! If any of it resonates with you and you would like to be a part of our team, contact us! We’d love to chat with you about it if you need more info. Click here for part #1, part #2, part #3, and part #4.}

BCM Behind-the-Scenes

Installment #3 of “what exactly do you do?”! To read #1, click here; to read #2, click here.

The rest of what we do with BCM can be summed up, really, in three words:

website, representation, and training.

Website: Brian is like the web master – and he absolutely loves it. If you’ve never visited the BCM International website, now’s your chance! Just click here. If you are like me, it may never have occurred to you the hours of work it takes to simply maintain a website so that it’s current and modern. So much is done online anymore (how many of us google every place we’re going, every event we’re attending, before we ever leave the house?), so it’s extremely important to have a good internet presence that is up-to-date! We all know how frustrating it can be to go to someone’s website in order to glean information only to find it was last updated in 2010. That’s not helpful! So, not only did Brian design and build the website, it is his job to keep it current, which is an almost daily activity. You would not believe how often he has to fix glitches, all-out crashes, and keep up with spam and other issues. On top of maintaining the international website, he helps maintain a number of other sites worldwide AND he helps with all the social media accounts. Even mission boards needs to be on social media anymore to get the word out about what’s happening. (Click here to join our Facebook group!) It’s a big job! This summer, he will actually have two interns helping him out for 10 days. These guys are graphic design majors and so Brian will be meeting with the IMC (our headquarters in Lancaster) next week to make the final decisions on what all these guys will do over their short internship. What do I have to do with the website? Nothing but proof-read! 🙂 Every now and then I do some writing for him, but overall, the website is his deal.

Representation: Since we are young and Stateside, it’s relatively easy for us to do some representing for BCM. We attend missions conferences at different universities and when churches call the IMC and ask for someone to represent BCM as a whole, sometimes we’re called up. We love this job and thoroughly enjoy sharing the international ministry with anyone who will listen and encouraging them to join missions, be it with us or someone else.

Training: While website is all Brian, training is all me. As you know, I am a certified “teacher trainer” with BCM which basically means that I can train children’s workers in our program, “In Step with the Master Teacher.” This program is near to my heart and one of my favorite things to do. I have led trainings in North Carolina, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Now that the kids are not so little, I’d love to get back into it and do more training in our area. The difficulty? Convincing people training is a good thing and actually having the opportunities to share this course! Brian’s role in “my” training is keeping the house running while I’m gone! He’s been awesome at getting up early with me on the mornings I need to leave before dawn. He makes sure my coffee is hot, the windows on the car are scraped, and the kids are taken care of before he prays with me and sends me off. He does all my printing and laminating and makes sure I get the rehearsal times that I need with no kids crying at my feet.

These three posts sum up our work within BCM! Next time, I’ll cover what life looks like for us out here at Missionary Retreat Fellowship.

As you read any of this, we humbly ask that you prayerfully consider if maybe God would have you join our team as a financial supporter. Maybe you can identify with one of the roles we have within BCM or the work we do at MRF. Would you join our team and be a part of this ministry? Contact us if we can answer additional questions for you. Even a one-time gift would be greatly appreciated to help get us out of the red. Thank you!