Jesse Weekend

Once upon a time, a new couple visited our church. They were on their way toward the door when I stopped them to greet them. The chat wasn’t that significant – just asking their names, if they were church hunting, if they had kids, etc.

I remember thinking they were nice, but I didn’t think they would be back.

Little did I know, they had moved back to Michigan from Ohio about a year before, and the wife (named Jesse) was feeling lonely and disconnected without a solid church family or group of close friends. I’m so thankful that God orchestrated my steps that morning as I caught them before their quick exit.

Because they did come back. And Jesse became a very dear friend.

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We spent lots of time together – letting our kids play, celebrating our 100th day of kindergarten for Grace (see pic above – with our “100” glasses), playing at the park, gathering sap for her maple syrup, digging in her pond for polywogs, and lots of talking, laughter, and fun.

She was baptized at our church, and she and her husband Jared officially became members.

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And then, about a year after our friendship began, her husband got the call. He was being promoted, and they were moving again. Back to Ohio.

It was hard for all of us to say goodbye. But God was shaping Jesse into a woman who not only gracefully submitted to her husband’s decisions, but learned to trust God no matter where He takes her.

This weekend I was SO blessed to be a part of our 4th annual “Jesse” weekend. Each fall, a group of friends and I have visited her in Ohio. This year, we met at a beautiful cottage in Michigan.

I’m so blessed to have a friend who I can just pick up with where we left off. Who loves Jesus with all of her heart and exudes His joy. Who loves to talk about God’s Word when we get together, and encourages me to be a more godly woman.

It was a very refreshing weekend, full of (LOTS OF) talking, laughter, food, and homemade spa treatments. If you’ve never done a Fancy Nancy Ooh-La-La spa day with your friends, you’re missing out. (Tee hee.)

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I’m starting this Thanksgiving week with a very grateful heart.

Book Review: Dirty Faith by David Z. Nowell

“I can say without any reservation that the happiest, most content people I know are those who have taken seriously our Lord’s command to minister to the least of these.” -Page 47 of Dirty Faith

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David Nowell is the president of Hope Unlimited for Children, a Christian nonprofit that ministers to sex-trafficked children, street orphans, and child prisoners. It is from this background that he writes this book, from a heart of compassion toward those who are “the least of these,” children who have been abandoned, mistreated, and who need a Rescuer.

So what are we doing to get our hands dirty with those Jesus called “the least of these?”

Do I sit in my suburban house, enjoying the fireplace and my chai latte, forgetting that anyone out there is cold, hungry, dirty, and yearning for love?

Yep. I do. More often than I want to admit.

Do our churches spend more time looking inward, ministering only to ourselves, or do we have an outward focus? How much of our church budget is spent on facilities, salaries, and programs…and how much is spent on evangelism?

I’ll be honest. I should have posted this review a long time ago. It took me a long time to get into this book. Maybe it was because the need is simply overwhelming. Or because I’m not one of those people he references who are marginally committed to Christianity and the church. I am all in. I’m not anywhere near perfect, but I’m completely committed.

Once I got past all of that, it is a well-written book, challenging the status quo of the American church and our individual lives and asking hard questions. There are plenty of heart-rending true stories – stories of kids prostituted by their relatives, or selling themselves because it’s the only way they know how to survive, or kids in prison who have committed heinous acts but want another chance at life…And all of these are loved by God and we are called to love them, too.

He talks about caring for the orphans:
“Caring for the orphan is not just something we are commanded to do; it is the essence of our identity. We accept because we are accepted. We love without reference to merit because we receive unmerited love. We adopt because we are adopted. Hear this again and again: As we stand before God, there is no qualitative difference between us and the most desperate child of the street.”

It makes me think of my friend Dana. After completing her nursing degree and working in a hospital, she spent years in South Africa, working with orphans there. She fell in love with one in particular and adopted her. When God called her back to the US, her ministry to orphans did not stop. She spends her days as a mama to medically fragile foster kiddos, another one of whom she adopted.

She became a part of our (relatively small) church family when she returned permanently to the States. And she has singlehandedly changed the culture of our church body. Adoption isn’t “different” anymore. To date, four families in the church have adopted foster children that she has cared for. Another family has adopted overseas. And another is in the process of adopting an older child. I will be shocked if God does not provide more families to adopt in the future.

Nowell doesn’t insist that everyone has to go out and get a foster care license or adopt a child. He doesn’t say everyone has to go visit people in jail. But he does insist that we DO SOMETHING.

So what are you going to do? What am I going to do?

Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of review. All opinions are mine, and I was not compensated monetarily for the review.

The Silent Blogger

I’ve started and stopped so many blog posts in the last months, both in my head and in type.

I won’t call it writer’s block. But there are reasons I can’t seem to have a consistent presence here.

#1: Too much noise

I’m an introvert. I’m not really shy, and I love people. But at the end of the day, I need some quiet alone time to rejuvinate.

I’m also a homeschooling mom of four young children. Four active children. At times, loud children.

Doing math with Jaden by the fire

Doing math with Jaden by the fire

There are so many things I adore about homeschooling (seeing the lightbulb go on when they grasp a concept, learning about things together that I didn’t retain from my schooling, spending lots and lots of quality time together, teaching every subject with a worldview that begins with Jesus Christ, etc, etc). But the flip side of spending lots and lots of quality time together is that WE SPEND LOTS AND LOTS OF QUALITY TIME TOGETHER!!!

This means, that while my stay-at-home mom friends with kids in school have a few moments of quiet between school drop-off and school pick-up, I don’t.

It’s totally worth it. But my days aren’t quiet.

And I have a hard time writing when there is too much noise in my life. That’s the biggest reason.

#2: Silence looks wise

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 17:28

I’m learning the discipline of shutting my mouth. Ask my darling husband and he could attest – I’m too opinionated at times. It’s taken me a long time to come to the conclusion that it often is truly better to be silent, even if I’m sure my opinion is right.

Don’t get me wrong. when I speak (or type), I want to only tell the truth. But I need to choose humility over making sure everyone hears me.

So, in practicing the discipline of holding my tongue, I’ve had a bit of a hard time knowing what to say on this piece of forever-archived internet. And so I’ve chosen to say very little.

#3: Prioritizing the urgent

If I was a more early-to-bed, early-to-rise, disciplined person, maybe this wouldn’t be an issue for me. But in this stage of life, with four school-aged, homeschooled children, and a very fun, attractive husband…I have many other things to do than composing blog posts. As I sit here now, the entire house needs to have a quick pick-up, the laundry needs some attention, our shower needs to be scrubbed, and I don’t even want to talk about how long it’s been since I dusted. Not to mention that I love DIY projects (crafts / sewing), and have a long to-do list for Christmas gifts.

The state of our school / sewing room last week

The state of our school / sewing room last week

I can’t seem to keep up with household chores and grocery shopping.

I most certainly can’t keep up with blogging.

However, I don’t want the blog to die.

We’ve been studying the life of Moses at Bible Study Fellowship this year, and our group has talked often about remembering what God has done in our lives. I am such a forgetful person in many ways. I need to write things down, or I certainly won’t remember them later.

May our lives be a testimony to God’s goodness and grace. May even my silence glorify Him, and when I open my mouth, may it bring Him praise!

Cute Little Monsters

Jaden turned 5 way back in May, and in honor of that great event, we threw a friend party!

I told Luke that I would not go all Pinterest crazy with this party, since we had other things on our plate, too. (Luke was gone on a business trip the whole week leading up to the party, and I was in the throes of writing our Base Camp curriculum.) But when I started making little monsters, it was just SO FUN! It was hard to stop! :-)

I spent part of that week up north at my parents’ house, so my little sis Alonna helped dream up the monsters’ faces on the treat bags and plushies…especially the eyebrows and mouths. They’re so cute, they make me squeal!

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Then my awesome friend Amber drew the chalkboard sign for the front porch. She is totally hired for all of my kids’ future parties.

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It takes a village, friends.

The photos will speak louder than my words, so I will stop talking and start uploading…

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The "Make a funny monster face!" station

The “Make a funny monster face!” station

The boys with their funny monster faces

The boys with their funny monster faces

The "Draw a monster!" station

The “Draw a monster!” station

You guessed it - the "Decorate a monster cookie!" station, with sugar cookies, frosting, eyes, lips, etc.

You guessed it – the “Decorate a monster cookie!” station, with sugar cookies, frosting, eyes, lips, etc.

D with his monster cookie

D with his monster cookie

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The "Adopt a Monster" station, with monster plushies that I created with felt

The “Adopt a Monster” station, with monster plushies that I created with felt

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Alonna gets the credit for the awesome hair on this guy.

Alonna gets the credit for the awesome hair on this guy.

Party balloons!

Party balloons!

Monstrous fruit!

Monstrous fruit!

Monster eyes (i.e. chocolate-covered marshmallows)

Monster eyes (i.e. chocolate-covered marshmallows)

Monster cake!

Monster cake!

The Birthday Boy!

The Birthday Boy!

Outdoor games made the day complete!

Outdoor games made the day complete!

We are thankful for our 5-year-old boy, who makes us laugh often. He’s a delightful part of our family.

Can you tell?

Happy birthday, Lil' Mario!

Happy birthday, Lil’ Mario!

Budapest or bust!

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Luke and I have been so very blessed to have the opportunity to participate in two overseas missions trips together: Greece/Italy in 2010 and Bulgaria in 2012. We have been so blown away by the financial and prayer support our family and friends have provided in the past. We’re thankful to serve a God who owns the cattle on 1,000 hills (and the hills themselves). :-)

In less than 6 weeks, we’ll be returning to Europe for a third time, to once again serve ABWE’s CEEMed team. (That stands for Association of Baptists for World Evangelism’s Central and Eastern European and the Mediterranean team. A mouthful for sure!) We will be attending their enrichment conference, where the missionaries from all over the region will gather to be refreshed and rejuvenated for the work that God has given them.

If you have been on Facebook, glanced at a newspaper in the grocery store line, scrolled past the 11 o’clock news on the TV…you probably realize how volatile things are in Central Europe right now, especially in Ukraine.

We will have the great privilege of encouraging the missionaries from Ukraine and other countries (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, etc, etc) to keep fighting the good fight. We are officially there to play worship music, but we also love to get to know the missionaries, to hear their stories and their struggles, to pray with them, and to watch their kiddos for a couple of hours one evening so they can have some free time.

Because this will be our third trip, we have already made relationships with many of these families, and we look forward to having a bit of a reunion with them. What an amazing thing it is to be a part of the family of God, where Jesus binds us all together.

So what can you do? As always, there are two big needs.

The first is always prayer.

We need the hand of God on this trip more than we need our next breath. He is the One who sustains us, watches over us, leads us, and orchestrates the events of our lives to bring Himself glory. Please pray that He will allow us to be a great encouragement to these faithful warriors who are on the front lines of ministry every single day.

The second is financial support.

We just found out last week that we will need to supply around $1700 for this trip. That total is lower than in the past because our awesome church family has already taken an offering to cover some expenses, including airfare and extra baggage costs. (You can imagine how much baggage we have to take, with instruments and sound equipment!)

You can help by donating as much or as little as you feel led to do. We are not salespeople. We will not pressure you into donating, nor will we make you feel guilty for not donating. We are just confident that you will be blessed by putting your oar in the water for this adventure! We’d love for you to get a piece of the joy that we can all experience from serving our great God!

I will have my techie husband put up a PDF of the donation slip Oh look, techie husband has put up the PDF donation slip (to be mailed to our church) and the Paypal donation link (for instant donating, but not tax-deductible). Thanks in advance to anyone who is willing to help in this way!

We look forward to coming back from Budapest with joy in our hearts and a story to tell of the great things God does! We are so happy to serve Him in this way! Thanks for being a part of it!

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