Full!

May has been jam-packed! Let me see if I can highlight our different ministries for you:

Bible Centered Ministries:

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Currently, our projects have been in direct relation to the massive flooding occurring in real-time in Sri Lanka. Brian is doing the web work of getting up donation pages, etc, while I’m writing. My evening yesterday was spent working on writing an update to be sent out globally and talking quite a bit with our field director online. The situation is dire, sad, and unfortunately, not over yet. Please pray with us for our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka! Protection, provision, and the cessation of rain.

Grace Bible Church:

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We closed out our Wednesday evening Kidz Konnect on May 10 with an awesome group of kids and parents. We are attempting to have monthly Wednesday night meetings this summer in order to keep momentum going. My summer plans include the planning of these events, organizing a family carnival slated for the end of August, and writing some Bible lessons {a project I’ll explain another time}. I will also be discipling one of our girls, something I’m probably most looking forward to!

Brian and I had the opportunity a week ago to share our ministry at our church. For some it was the first time that they heard all we are involved in, so we were glad for the chance to give an update!

Missionary Retreat Fellowship:

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This picture is already dated; Brian finished tiling the floor in the bathroom in Unit #3 and is preparing to tile the walls. Of course, the unexpected always arises and this morning he’s helping the sewer guys take care of a sewer alarm. But, I know he’s hoping to get the walls tiled as soon as possible.

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This is the area for the new heated workshop. They are getting ready to pour concrete and then the structure should go up fairly quickly. Brian is not working alone on this, which is helpful. He’s definitely looking forward to having a space to do projects and have storage {and I have to admit, not having a giant tractor in my garage will be rather nice!}.

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This is a driveway in behind the Main House duplex. They began the clearing of the woods last fall and Brian was finally able to spread gravel and actually turn it into a usable driveway. The current tenants are appreciative of their own parking spot with closer access to their door. And let’s be honest, Brian didn’t have a hard time “finding time” to play with the tractor!

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Last Friday, we had our pastor’s banquet for MRF where we invited in area pastors and provided a meal, first and foremost to thank them for their involvement with MRF and then to encourage them in their own ministries. We had a pretty good turnout and it was an enjoyable evening.

This week, we say goodbye to our neighbors who have actually been here three years. They are now all my children know for neighbors, so this transition might be the most difficult yet for them! We are happy for them, though, that they finally have their support to get to the field (a testament to how hard it is to raise funds anymore!).

The Children:

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E will finish school in one week! She is looking forward to being home. Even a week ago, she drew us a picture that showed us how very much she craves being with family. We spent Memorial Day with good friends and she kept commenting how it was “the best Memorial Day ever!” since we were all together all day long.

The two boys are wild and want to be outside constantly. Our nasty rainy weather has impeded that, though. The 2 year old is fighting some pretty awful allergy issues so we’ll be in the doctor’s office again this afternoon. Poor kid. Just can’t seem to kick his fevers and stuffiness. He’s talking up a storm, though, and we are actively working on being a “gentle giant” since his go-to is a tad more violent than necessary!

This week, one of my closest friends is visiting from the south! Haven’t seen her since she showed up in Peru in 2009. Counting down the days until Sue gets to meet my children for the first time!!

Then next week, my siblings arrive and we have the retirement celebration for my dad. They listed their home less than two weeks ago and it sold within the week. You can be praying for our family as we walk this new road and begin this new season of life. Our daughter has not been good at “goodbyes” since we left Peru and this one is especially difficult for her, probably because it’s not especially easy for me, either, since they will be moving to Florida and not staying in the area. Just pray for all of us, including my parents. It’s rough.

Thanks for checking in! See you in June…

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Spring

As promised, here’s a wrap-up of other events we’ve been a part of this spring:

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In April, Brian and I helped lead a Marriage Conference at our church. Brian was burdened about this about two years ago. He kept bringing it up to a number of people until finally, it took root and exploded. We went from thinking just a couple families might attend, to having a room full of 23 couples. For the first time helping lead a marriage conference, we were very pleased!

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We led it with our good friends, Mike and Karrie (he’s one of the pastors), and it was such a good time. We used the program “Love and Respect” which basically ran itself. Now, Brian and I are in charge of a couple of follow-up sessions and we’re in the planning stages of seeing when we can do this conference again.

Early May found us celebrating our youngest’s 2nd birthday!

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This little guy keeps us moving. He looks all sweet and innocent, but looks are deceiving! 🙂 While he is just adorable, he sure is stubborn! Yet, he’s quick to apologize and loves to give kisses and hugs. We love this little guy so very much and can’t believe he’s already 2.

Our daughter had her spring program last Friday and did a fabulous job as part of the choir. I wish my camera could take beautiful shots in the dark, but alas, it does not. Just trust me, she knew all the words to every song during the hour and a half play and she sang with great enthusiasm! We were very proud of her.

We ended our Wednesday evening Kidz Konnect last Wednesday with a great group of kids with their families. We promoted our wonderful 6th graders and gave out a few other prizes. This has been a challenging year, yet one full of fruit. We ended on a high note and already have people excited to join our team and kids who can’t wait to return! We’re going to keep the momentum going by having once-monthly Kidz Konnect meetings all summer. Usually, we stop in May and return in September, but I’ve always thought that was a very long break, so I’m excited to offer some fun nights over the summer months, too.

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Next up is my father’s retirement party. My parents have been in full-time ministry for like 46 years and he’s finally retiring… from full-time ministry. Once you’ve been in ministry that long, there’s no way you can just retire completely! He’s actively looking for where to go next, but knows that it won’t be full-time or as intense as what he’s been doing. We didn’t feel like he could just fade into the background, so we’re throwing them a party on June 10. My brother is coming with his family and that’s probably most exciting since the last time we saw them was 2010, so he has 2 nephews he’s never even met! It’ll be nice to be all together again for a few days. Our daughters are just a few months apart, so it’ll be good for them to get to know each other. If you know my dad and would like more info about the party – which is essentially an open house, free to anyone to attend, feel free to ask.

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This week, it’s time for the final Serve-a-Thon (Friday) from E’s school. Brian is also part of the Ordination Council on Saturday for two of our pastors who would like to become official “Reverends” before my dad retires. At MRF, we are welcoming more new short-term residents this week and within a month, a few more long-term, so we’ll be cleaning and getting homes ready this week.

If you are still (somehow!) not a part of our newsletter recipients, you are missing out! Drop me a note so I can add you to our list; a letter went out last week.

“Today’s the Day!”

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We do our best to read a Bible story or a children’s devotional each night before bed with the kids. We are far from 100% faithful, but we do our best. We’ve been working our way through the Jesus Storybook Bible {again}, which I cannot recommend highly enough, and last night, we made it to the final story.

P1100831The author, Sally Lloyd-Jones, does a beautiful job explaining Revelation in the simplest form possible. She succinctly describes the glory of heaven and the ultimate defeat of Satan in a way that is profound enough for adults, yet simple enough for children to grasp. She ends the whole thing with this:

John came to the end of his book. But he didn’t write “The End.” Because, of course, that’s how stories finish. (And this one’s not over yet).

So instead, he wrote: “Come quickly, Jesus!”

Which, perhaps is really just another way of saying…

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The kids looked at me and said, “That’s it? For real?” I had them grab a regular Bible and I showed them that yes, it really does end like that! A total cliff-hanger…because the story’s not done yet. We talked about how everything else in the rest of the Bible came true just like God said it would, so why wouldn’t the rest of it happen the same way? Jesus is coming back! And everything will be made new!

But, we don’t know when.

And my little boy jumped off the sofa, a huge smile on his face, and proclaimed:

Today’s the day I’ve been waiting for! I want to ask Jesus to take my sins away! I’m ready now!

Now, he’s known truth for quite awhile. He can repeat the Gospel back to me, no problem. But, for whatever reason, it hadn’t sunk down into his little heart. Every time I’d straight-up ask him, “Do you want to ask Jesus to be your Savior tonight?” He’d say, “No. Not yet. I want it to be perfectly quiet and do it all alone because I don’t want anyone to know.” He just wasn’t ready.

He was ready last night. I had his sister sit quietly next to me while I asked him questions to ensure he truly knew what he was doing because I am a firm believer of not scaring children into salvation with talks of hell, and hell had definitely come up in the last few minutes. I put all thoughts of heaven and hell aside and asked him if he knew what sin was, what sins he had committed, why couldn’t he be with God, what did God do for him so he could go to heaven, and what does he need to do in order to be with God? He knew it all. And before I could ask if he wanted to pray, he said, “Mommy, I want to pray right now!”

And right there, on our couch in the living room, my little boy had a sincere talk with God and became His child.

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The reality is that I wouldn’t have cared who led my boy to the Lord. It could’ve been one of his church teachers, a babysitter, or a grandparent for all I cared. We just want our children to know Jesus! But, the fact that Jesus has now allowed me to pray with two of my own children… I couldn’t be more ecstatic! Leading any child to Jesus is a privilege, a joy, and a humbling experience. To pray with my own kids? There are no words {and trust me, I usually have plenty}.

His big sister sat down next to him, gave him a big hug, and said, “And guess what? You don’t ever have to do this again because you are saved forever!”

I tucked her into bed and she looked at me and said, “Okay, Mommy, now we need to pray for James!” Absolutely, little girl! She even talked about how her brother is starting a new life now with a clean heart. Man, she gets it. She really gets it.

If you ever prayed for my children’s salvation, I thank you. You had a part in this, too!

The Gospel never ceases to amaze me. Only our God made salvation so simple, a 4 year old can comprehend it, yet so profound that we’ll spend our entire life never fully understanding all it entails.

Serve-a-Thon, Part 1

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Thursday afternoon, we welcomed a group from E’s school to do their first ever Serve-a-Thon! The school was divided up into groups and MRF was just one of various places the groups were sent to serve. The second group assigned to MRF was to come on Friday, but forecasted rain caused them to postpone.

Brian had everything all planned out and within ten minutes of their arrival, four groups were spread about the property working on the different projects.

Group #1 put in edging and mulch behind the Main House:

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Group #2 cleaned out the flowers around the fence (that will soon be replaced) lining the driveway to the Main House:

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Group #3 was my assignment and we worked on clearing leaves (years and years’ worth!) from an area near the mailboxes – not a consequential area except that it changed the aesthetic as you pull up the MRF road substantially!

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We made probably over 50 trips with a tarp to move all the leaves!

Group #4 was with Brian, removing tree limbs and branches by Compton Hall. The power company came through at least a year ago (maybe more?) and chopped down limbs for the power lines. They were just left behind and never moved, which was really not an issue, until now! The new storage shed is going in and they will be putting in a little driveway so Brian can get the tractors in and out easier. To make the driveway, all that brush has to be cleared out.

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The kids worked very hard and made great progress! There is still plenty left for the next group to do, too. Brian and the principal are excited about making this an annual event.

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Even our oldest boy got in on the action! He was ECSTATIC to work with sister’s classmates. This little guy cannot wait to start K4 in the fall; it simply can’t come fast enough for him.

By tomorrow, we’ll have two new residents on the property (one is a BCM co-worker who stayed about a year and a half ago!). Two families will be pulling out in June and quickly replaced by new residents. Turnovers in the summer go very quickly, which is one reason why Brian is anxious to finish Unit #3, which is currently a disaster zone. He assures me it’ll clean up fast and I just have to trust him on that one!

A lot of other stuff is going on, too, so in the next entry I’ll try to fill you in on all that. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Marriage Conference summary
  • Wrap-up of our church’s Wednesday evening program for the school year
  • Little J’s 2nd birthday (click here for the time being)
  • E’s spring program at school
  • Upcoming summer events (including a big retirement bash for my father in June!)

I leave you with our baby who turned 2 today!

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Beautiful Easter!

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Easter this year was definitely different than last year when we had the stomach bug, for which we are quite thankful. But, it was also different in that ever since we returned from Peru, we’ve spent Easter with my parents. This year, my father is slowly backing out of full-time pastoral ministry and decided it would be wise to take a little vacation during April and let the new team of pastors do Easter on their own. So, no extended family was around for the holiday! Honestly, I was not looking forward to them being gone. But, it turned out to be a wonderful weekend and Brian and I were grateful to be able to spend the weekend with our little family starting new traditions and making memories with the kids.

We began it Thursday evening at church for our church’s remembrance service. BabyJ was the only one who couldn’t sit still, so he ended up with Daddy in the sound booth! The big kids loved the music and were so good for me; I was proud of them.

Friday evening, we did something I’ve always wanted to do: celebrate Passover. I’ve wanted to do it for awhile apparently because the PDF with all the instructions that I had was downloaded back in like 2010. We had been given some lamb by a resident who moved out a few months ago, so I cooked that up, along with some chicken (because I know my kids). We had potato latkes, hardboiled and then baked eggs, radishes, charoset (fruit mixture), parsley, and naan bread (because I couldn’t find matzah). Brian read our little script, we discussed each element, and the kids were awesome at trying a little of everything. They loved it! We decided this will probably be an annual family tradition. It really kicked off the weekend beautifully.

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The table all set! Yes, that’s Ranch dressing and horseradish mustard.. we are American Christians after all. 😉

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E was super excited. She helped prepare some of the food and couldn’t wait to go through it all together.

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Looking for the hidden ‘matzah’

Saturday was opening day of trout season, so I was a fisherman’s widow for the day. 🙂 When Brian finally got home, he dyed eggs with the kids:

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Sunday, everyone was up before 6 (and we were still a tad late for the service at 7!) and anxious for the sunrise service. Between pregnancy and the stomach bug, the big kids don’t remember attending a sunrise service, so they were excited to see what it was all about. BigJ thought we were ushering in the sunrise and was disappointed that the sun was already up when we got in the car! However, this made up for it:

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A rainbow on Easter is morning was a perfect reminder that God keeps ALL His promises!

They loved being outside (and it was like 60* – the warmest sunrise service I ever remember!).

During the breakfast, Brian had to go run sound for worship practice. Everything had worked fine Thursday evening, but Sunday morning, half of the sound system was not functioning! After a lot of prayer, Brian was able to come up with a temporary solution about twenty minutes before the service began! Total Satanic attack. Satan keeps forgetting that the whole point of Easter is celebrating the fact that he’s already been defeated!

I helped my sixth graders do a puppet song they’ve been practicing for the little kids’ Sunday school class and then again for the children’s church. They did a great job! I was quite proud of them.

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I had the privilege of teaching the kids during children’s church with my team. After the lesson, I offered to talk with the kids and answer questions. I spent about 10 minutes with a 7 year old boy who’d never set foot in church before and had no idea Who God is and that he’s loved by Him! While not even remotely ready to understand the Gospel, I loved simply sharing with him that he is loved, he was created with a purpose, and that Jesus suffered all those awful things because Jesus loves HIM. Now we just need to pray that his family brings him back so he can keep learning!

Easter afternoon was filled with naps (phew), finding Resurrection eggs and retelling the Easter story again, an awesome Easter meal, playing games together, and running around in the spring rain. I’m not sure it could’ve been a more perfect day.

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no, he’s not very good at taking things serious!

Now, it’s back to reality. 😉 Brian’s finishing up Unit #3 so I can get in there and get cleaning. Coming into summer, the homes are booking rapidly for short stays, which means everything has to be totally ready to go. At church, we’re part of the team putting on a marriage conference next weekend, so last minute prep is going down for that. I’m wrapping up the Wednesday night program for the school year within the next couple of weeks. Brian’s got web design work to do for another BCM camp and we’ll be heading down to that camp sometime in the next month so he can do some on-site repairs and we can get away for a night as a family. E is finishing up 1st grade and we’re praying about finances already as we enrolled BigJ into preschool and E into 2nd grade for the fall. God will make a way, of that we have no doubt.

Speaking of school, you may have received a little fundraiser letter from E. We are SO EXCITED to be partnering with her school for a work day out here at MRF in early May! We cannot wait to have a large group of students, teachers, and parents out here helping clean up the property and get it ready for summer. We don’t know yet if E will be helping out here or if her class will go to one of other places, but we don’t really care, as long as she’s learning to serve, too! If you received a letter, we just ask you to prayerfully consider sponsoring her. This school is awesome and has done so much for us in allowing E to attend. This fundraiser is a great way for us to help give back to them. You can contact me with any questions.

Happy Spring!

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Easter Week

Flipping through Instagram nonchalantly this afternoon I ran across the breaking news about the bomb the U.S. just dropped on Afghanistan. It seems like you just can’t escape bad news and catastrophic events these days.

Which makes Easter that much more poignant.

The Thursday before Easter feels, to me, like the real start of the Easter celebration. Tonight we remember Jesus having His last supper and instituting the Lord’s Supper that we celebrate today. From there, the events of the last hours of Jesus’ life commence. It’s a solemn weekend – until Sunday, of course, when the entire world breaks out in song!

What has struck me this year is the need an Easter weekend. A time that is specifically set aside to quit looking at what’s happening around us and focus on eternity.

While ultimately our sins are the reason we need a Resurrection Sunday, the weekend is not about us. It’s about Jesus – His incomprehensible love and sacrifice for us. Not because He had some compulsory need to die a gruesome death, but because He wanted us to spend eternity with Him.

Being purposeful in remembering what this weekend is about has become progressively more important to me as I’ve gotten older. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in world events (especially when they’re so horrible) and in raising kids (even if they’re adorable) that the focus can be completely shifted from Jesus and the empty tomb to a busy schedule with no time to just sit and think.

World events – and simply life in general – can easily squelch all the solemnity and even all the joy out of this weekend if we let it. Remembrance must be intentional or it simply won’t happen.

We don’t have it all together (admittedly, I just spent an hour in my room, alone, while Brian watched the kids because I just needed to be separated from them for awhile!), but here are the few things we plan (I use that term loosely knowing anything can happen with 3 kids!) to do as a family this weekend to intentionally put the focus off ourselves and back on Jesus:

  • Taking the whole family to our church’s annual communion/remembrance service this evening. Usually just Brian and I go, but Brian wanted all three kids there tonight, so we’re going to give it a shot!
  • Tomorrow, I’m going to do some Easter crafts with the kids (if you know me, you know this is NOT in my comfort zone!).
  • Tomorrow evening, I’m going to put together our first mini-Passover. We absolutely love all the symbolism of Passover and the correlation of Passover and Easter, so I found a little booklet online that walks Christian families how to do “Passover” on the miniature with their children. Can’t wait!
  • Sunday morning, we head to church before 7am for the best service of the year: the sunrise service! Yes, we will have tired, possibly cranky children – but some of my best memories are from early morning sunrise services growing up. I love passing that on to our kids (and last year we missed it due to the stomach bug – ugh!). We’ll be at church all morning and it’s going to be awesome.
  • Sunday afternoon is when we’ll do our Resurrection Egg hunt, so that our kids get to do the traditional egg hunt, but we also get to reinforce the Easter story again.

I played very specific music all morning long for the boys and I while I worked, too. There’s just something about music that completely sets the stage for any event (here’s a good one).

Whatever you do with your family, I hope you are able to take some time and specifically remember what Jesus did – for you. It’s almost a breath of fresh air to be able to take the focus off of “here” for a few days. To take the genuinely awful events of this earth and put them back into perspective in view of eternity and what awaits us.

Come quickly, Jesus. 

Happy Easter!

Getting back on track.

Now that March is just about done, I feel like I have a bit of a breather and maybe I can give more regular updates again! Brian and I are wrapping up all those crazy deadlines, but we’re not quite done yet. Would you mind praying for us about the following?

  • Brian is working overtime to get the BCM World out. A variety of meetings and MRF responsibilities continue to push the date back; he’s really wanting to get it done within the next couple of days.
  • As is usual with ministry, I have some unexpected things that have come up; I just need some wisdom. I’m also back to teaching now that snow is over! This Wednesday, Brian will join me in teaching a discipleship class for the 6th graders. Sunday begins my team’s rotation in our equivalent of children’s church.
  • This Friday, I will spend the afternoon at E’s school for career day. I’m one of a couple career missionaries coming in to share with a variety of grades.
  • Easter prep for our church is in full-swing, as is a marriage conference Brian and I are helping lead.

Then, of course, there’s life and trying to figure out how to fit everything in! Our good friends are home from the NICU with baby Jax – praise God! I finally got to hold this precious little boy today and frankly wish I could just cross everything else off my to-do list so I could go be with them every day and help out. Next weekend, I head to a writer’s conference, leaving Brian home alone with the kids again. There are two homes and the suite here at MRF that all need cleaned and beds made. Along with meetings and other church activities we’re involved in, we’re definitely not bored!