Monday, June 30, 2014

Hands and Feet of Christ

Wow, God!

I think most of our group, being new to this type of mission work, entered the weekend with a little anxiety and uncertainty.  For many, this was way out of their comfort zones.  For some, they tiptoed into it, unsure of the outcome but excited to see what God had in store.

As always, God didn't disappoint.  All the time, God is good.

Saturday night, waiting for our kids to come out of the gym from playing basketball, a bit of free time after a long day of mission work, I broke down in joyful tears.

For each of us, this trip was such a milestone - spiritual breakthroughs -to think of where we've been to this place, being used by God to reach the was just almost more than I could fathom.  The fullness of the moment was too much.  I sobbed in prayerful gratitude.

Humbled.  Exhausted, but in a good-tired kind of way.  Surprised.  Joy-filled.

We came on this trip to help others but were blessed tenfold for our service.

It would take me pages upon pages to speak for everyone, so many moments I could share from past 48 hours.  Today, I'll just tell the story from what I least as much as one post can allow.

God opened my eyes more in eight hours than a lifetime before.
He broke my heart for the lost on this trip.
I am forever changed.

My Saturday began doing a prayer walk in a refugee complex where many first stay upon arriving to Nashville.  What impacted me from the start was how the homes and places we visited looked so very normal and ordinary from the outside.  At first glance, I would not know or guess that nations from across the seas now lived within these walls.  But upon opening their doorways, I peered into other worlds.

I tried to picture myself in their situations, slowly walking past each breezeway.  Voices in languages I couldn't understand.  Scents and sounds that were foreign to me.  All the while, the bustling and busyness of city life swirled all around, cars zooming in the streets that circled these apartments.

Could I leave the home I've always known, the comfort of my small town where I can tell by the bend and curve of the road where I am, even with my eyes closed?  Could I fly into an unknown area, where I don't speak the language or know the streets, with nothing to claim as my own?  Could I start life over in a town I'd never heard?  Could I leave everyone I've ever loved for the chance to start anew?

Lost in a new world...

It was unimaginable to me, these brave souls with dark brown eyes, standing on American soil in their bare feet, our flag hanging from some of their balconies.  Unimaginable yet beautiful.  But also heartbreaking.

Because I knew many of them were lost in the worst way.  Lost in the sense that no amount of worldly help or direction can lead them.  Searching for hope and not yet realizing it is within their reach and free.  The price has already been paid by The name above all others.

In the hallways of this complex I prayed for these souls.  That among the fresh start they are beginning, they would find new life in Jesus.  When I came upon tiny chairs, or toys tossed on the back porch, I paused for the littlest of souls in hope that they might grow up to know the One who would never leave them, no matter where their feet may journey.

Later in the day we handed out light bulbs to a Burmese housing complex.  We were told from our group leader that many, upon coming to our country, don't even know what light is.  Some have to be shown the simple act of flipping a switch to get light in a room.  And most don't realize that when the light burns out, they can simply replace it with a new bulb.

When those timid but smiling faces answered their doors, their rooms were often dark and the symbolism made my heart ache.

Living in a world of darkness when the One true source of light was just a prayer away.

In a universal language we smiled back and shared the love of Jesus.  There's so much more I want to tell you, friends.  Moments that are forever etched within me that I need to put into words.  For now, I'll thank you for the prayers you said for us on this trip.  They made an impact more than you may ever realize.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Faithful Friday: Let it Start with Me

Will you spend some time praying for us this weekend?

This Faithful Friday post will be short and sweet, as we are headed to Nashville for our first international family mission trip.

When I say this, some people pause...waiting for me to share where we are going after boarding a plane in Nashville.  But we aren't flying anywhere, just driving the few short hours it takes to get to Music City from our home.

Yet, within those city walls 
we'll have an opportunity to reach the world.

To date, there are over 100 different people groups living in Nashville - from all parts of this Earth.  And through groups such as, No Other Name, churches like ours can partner for short term mission trips and help with World Relief.

My husband and son will be working on a construction crew, niece at a Kids Club, and I will be going on prayer walks in various international neighborhoods.  No matter our role this weekend, we'll all be the hands and feet of Christ.  And I cannot wait!

We feel very blessed to go on this trip and 
have no doubt God has wonderful things in store.  
Please pray for our safety as we travel and for 
the hearts of those we meet to be open to the message.

Even though Nashville isn't far from home, we'll still have great reach across the world, 
but we must remember that the mission field starts in our own backyard.  

You don't have to board a plane, or even get in your car, 
to make a difference and share the good news with others!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Empty Nest Experience

Tim and I are getting a taste of what life is like without the kids at home this week.

We prayed our teens off to youth camp on Sunday morning with about 40 others from our church.  They'll get to spend their days on zip lines, tubing on Kentucky Lake, and attacking each other in Bazooka Ball, with lots of good Jesus stuff mixed in.

We're hopeful they come back sunburn free and overflowing with His spirit.  I'm especially praying He speaks to and prepares them for their return, when our family will leave for an international mission trip, right from our backyard in nearby Nashville, TN.

My hopes would have included "sunburn AND injury free" but we've already had a call...on the first day.  I didn't expect to hear from them at all, considering it is a "tech free trip."

Hours after they left though, with a lump in my throat, I answered the incoming call from their youth leader to hear my son's voice on the other end.  Playing Ninja in the lodge, he apparently stumped his toe.

This is the "before" picture...

Thankfully it wasn't too badly hurt and hasn't seemed to slow him down, so say the responses I've received from my worried-Momma check-in texts.  But leave it to my son to get hurt doing something that has nothing to do with camp!

Enough about the kiddos though....this is about being home alone.  Without them.

Last night Tim and I took advantage of some restaurant meals he'd won on the radio and drove to a neighboring town.  The words "Free" and "Fish" are guaranteed to excite my man.

We headed back home at my favorite time of evening, right where the sun and moon greet each other in the sky.  The soft glow of twilight beckoned us to slow down and take in the summer scenery.

Windows down, we took the back roads home.
Reminiscing down memory lane....

We shared fond stories of growing up on these grassy hills and pathways.  
Favorite childhood moments.
Of dates together and young love.
Early years as a family.
Houses Tim has saved from firefighting days.
Houses we used to share our days in.
People we remember and miss.
Up and around the corners of our past.

We paused over creeks and watched deer feeding in the fields nearby.
Until twilight met starlight...

Hands held, we soaked up the sweet summer evening, 
simple as it was, 
and were thankful for the time just to be...
the two of us.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Faithful Friday: 21 on 21

Twenty one years ago on June 21st, Tim and I said, "I do."

Every anniversary I look back and think about how far we've come and how long we've been together.  In some ways, it seems unreal; but mostly it feels perfectly right.  Like this is how it has always been - and should be.

After so many years, we are comfortable, though our marriage is anything but a boring routine.

Instead, we just fit.

Tim begins my day every morning, as I kiss him goodbye.  His random "I love you" texts bring a smile to me while we're apart.  In the evening, seeing his reflection in the microwave, as he enters the house, settles well within my bones.  When we are together, all is good in the world.  And at night. when we curl and nestle into each other at night's end, I'm in my most favorite place of all.

Twenty one years and he still makes my heart flutter.

To say every year has been rosy would not be true.  Yes, we've had ups and downs just like any couple. We've had storms that would crush many marriages.  And some days we've both been hard to love.

The glue that has held us together has only come from one source...


Even though God hasn't always been priority in our marriage, He has been in the midst of it.  
And even when we haven't been, He has always remained faithful.  
Thankfully, He's granted us a lot of mercy and grace.
Which, to be honest, are the two key ingredients to any successful marriage.

When those two youthful faces joined hands and promised our futures in that small country church, 
neither of us could guess the roads the next 21 years would take us.

Some of those journeys were blessed, some more difficult than we could ever imagine.
Many travels were every day frustrating, most others every day ordinary.

No matter the roads we've ventured, we went them together, with grace, and with God.

Looking forward to 21 more...
and wherever life may take us.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Faithful Friday: Father's Day Reflections

Yesterday, I passed a lady with a broken windshield.  I cried the rest of the way home.

Unexpected washes of emotions passed over me, a mixture of sadness, in missing Austin, and gratefulness, in knowing how much we've healed the past five years.

Early in our grief, I wrote that our family was like a cracked windshield. It still functions; and to an unknown observer may look the same, even normal.  But, through the eyes of the family, there are pieces, fragments of what once remained.  You can't do anything without seeing and feeling the loss.  At points you feel as if your family is floating, forever paused in the pain and chaos, and yet everyone else goes on.

The windshield yesterday was severely damaged with huge cracks and fractures all across it.  For so long I remember how we felt that way, even though we managed to still function most days.  People would comment about how strong we were, but they didn't see the pain that ravaged us on the inside.

Slowly, as time progressed, we began to heal.
One by one.  Day by Day.

But just like a tiny chip in a windshield, it didn't take much pressure for us to break again.  Our family has replaced the "protective glass" many times during this grief journey.

Or rather, God has....

There was a point in the depths of our grief I felt the view above 
was all I'd ever see again.  I prayed without ceasing for my family, especially my husband.

Losing Austin changed all of us - forever - but I worried most about the changes in Tim.  There were days the loss was quite visible on him, as I'd watch the grief jacket cling to his body.  It was a part of him, something he couldn't remove and the cloud followed everywhere he went.

I prayed for our marriage, for the light in his eyes to return.  I prayed for his relationship with Noah, as I sometimes felt Tim distancing himself, surely afraid and counting Noah's every breath.  I begged God to return the Dad he was and the one I knew he could be...

Being a father was something Tim was made for, as every quality a Dad could have God gave him. Years and years ago, I prayed for a husband but I was blessed with a father beyond my dreams for my boys.

Austin was wrapped around Tim's finger from the very beginning.  
And a great big piece of his heart went to Heaven when our son passed.

While that void will never be filled, Tim still manages to be an amazing, loving father.  Both to our son, Noah, and even to our niece, Tina.  And he keeps getting better and better, growing more with time, as he furthers and deepens his walk with God.

There's so much love in his heart.  He's the funny Dad who makes you laugh, sometimes because of what he says and often because of what he does.  He's a busy Dad, the kind that never likes to sit around. So the kids get to explore, learn, and do with him.  He's the Dad who would give you anything and everything, like his time - or the last piece of pie.  He's the kind of Dad that has many "don't tell Mom" stories.  He’s a rough and tumble Dad, who loves nothing more than to wrestle in the floor or chase you around the yard.  

But most of all, He’s a man-of-God Dad, who shows his kids that being strong isn’t in how tall you stand but how often you kneel.

He's the kind of Dad you'll always look up too, even after you've grown taller than him.

And he's the kind of father that leads by example 
and makes memories in every day moments.

He's all kinds of everything good in a father and most certainly
 a one of a kind Dad.

Lifting prayers up for a peaceful, pain free Father's Day weekend for Tim.
One filled with fishing, food, and family.
He's earned it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Faithful Friday: Summer Jobs

Summer break officially began this week for the kiddos.
I'm sure they had visions of lazy days sleeping in and vegging out.

But this momma had other plans...

Enter the handy chore chart.  

After a few minutes on Pinterest, I found one easy enough to tailor for growing teens.  Now, chores are nothing new for these two, as they both have a small daily set they do during the school year.  But with all the extra hours that summer provides, I thought we could bulk it up a little.

No, I'm not creating a tiny sweat shop but, after working all day, the last thing I want to do is come home to a messy house and empty frig.  And by the end of summer, I want them to feel as if it were productive and that they learned something along the way.  My hope is that within these two months we're instilling work ethics that will last a lifetime.  They are, after all, on the cusp of adulthood.

On Monday, I decided to let nature take it's course and see what I came home to.  As expected, the house was trashed, nothing had been done, and the kids weren't hungry for dinner because they slept in and snacked all afternoon.  That evening Tim and I presented my beautiful creation.

"You want us to exercise and read every day?!"

Yeah, this wasn't your average chore chart.

Aside from their normal chores, we added a few weekly needs to keep the house in order.  But in addition, I typed in things like reading a book and moving their bodies at least faster than a zombie shuffle once a day. They can read anything and do any activity they want - just use your brain and move your booty!  And I put in goals like eating more fruits and veggies, tackling their closets, and (gasp) cleaning out from under their bed!
original source:

Each day/task has a small box where they can check it off as they complete.  At the end of the week, there will be incentives for how many and how enthusiastically they were accomplished.  Treats like unique fruits brought in for snacking, trips to the library, and small gift cards for their "allowance" in helping out.

We'd looked into doing prepaid credit cards so they could store up their savings, but so far I haven't found any that don't charge a monthly fee.

By the second day, I saw marked improvement just by my lunchtime visit.

Noah met me at the door, "I read for 45 minutes this morning!"

"I tried yoga today and it wasn't bad," Tina shares.

And each day this week, progress has been made.  Every time I pass the chart on the frig, I smile at the cute little checks they are marking off.

Yesterday, I came home to a surprise of Tina having thoroughly cleaned our master bathroom.  And Noah has regained his love of reading, having nearly completed a small novel this week.

Time will only tell how they'll continue but they're off to a great start.

This week's bonus treat will be a trip to the Drive-In.  Popcorn under the stars.  Barefoot in the grass. Honeysuckle drifting through the air.  Ah, sweet summertime...

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