Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dominican Republic 2012

We are in love again...  :)  With a country...with a climate...with a language...with an orphan boy... with our little ones in ministry...with each other in and out of our elements...with our mission team...with our awesome God.  Let me try to share with you the joys of this trip.  It has changed my life. :)

Grab your popcorn and a drink...this will be a long one! :)

Our trip began eventfully --Erin ran fever, Bodie puked in Joe's hands in Toby and Lisa's van on the way there, and then Bodie couldn't wait to go tee-tee on the way from the airport to the hotel so he went in the van in Erin's sippy cup.  It was then that we decided our trip would have to be put to a song. :)

So right off the bat, we added another lyric to the song when Joe showed his strength by shutting the van door and SHATTERING the window.  Our only casualty was Lisa's toe laceration and a nick on my knuckle.  :)   A 10-minute shop vac fix, blue vinyl, and some duct tape, and we rednecks were ready to go. ;)  We actually found another use for the duct tape -- Bodie managed to blow his shoe on day one of the trip. The entire sole came off! So we duct taped his shoe together for a semi-permanent fix. He was thrilled. :) 

So we began our ministry part of the week joining two missionary pastors at a church in La Espana in their first "youth rally." Missionary pastors Aby and Jeronimo, their families, and our small mission team organized to feed thirty-some chicos and chicas possibly their first and/or only meal for the day, the equivalent of a third of a 6-inch Subway sandwich.  Then, they shared the truth of the Word of God with them.  Erin was still running fever all day so she seemed a little out of sorts, but as we watched together as Pastor Jeronimo gave an invitation for the listeners to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins for the first time, and as we watched the hands raise all over the place, Erin commented, "Mom, God must speak Spanish, too!"  Her understanding of a bilingual God reminded me of just how BIG our God is.  Oh, to view life through the eyes of a child. :)  A beautiful rain ended our play time with the children, and we were introduced to Josiah's House, an orphange for boys.  The story behind Josiah's house is heart-warming and amazing.  They have partnered with SCORE and the house parents currently have 4 boys living there and are looking to expand to 8.  What an honorable call, to be "parents" to boys who would otherwise never have them.  Amazing.

The second day we enjoyed a joint English/Spanish (mostly Spanish) church service, and Joe got to preach and teach to the English speaking crowd. :) I think it was then that it hit -- how little Spanish we really knew.  As we sat and listened, the only way I know to describe us was that we were all "in a lull" and then suddenly we'd hear something in our language and immidiately we'd perk up! :) After church, We walked to the beach from SCORE and our team got our first glimpse of the Carribbean.  Bodie and Erin received a much more expensive than we had planned horseback ride from a man named Tomas and his horse Te.  We clued in to his pricing and quickly declined his offer of a drink of coconut milk. :)

Monday was an awesome day -- with a small love offering by our team, we were able to put together bags of food that fed every family in an entire villiage, possibly for a week.  We measured out portions and put the items in bags, and then delivered them to the villiage.  We were introduced to Eugene, a man who helps Dr. Bob, our SCORE missionary, with the optometry part of the medical clinic.  He drove us out to the villiage, and after a 45-minute rendition of red light green light and a small amount of whiplash, we glady exited the vehicle and met pastor Caesar who ministers in the villiage we were feeding.  I introduced our group and led a few songs, and then Joe told the Bible story about how Jesus fed 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish through our interpreter.  Caesar shared with the audience that the food we were giving them would last a very short time, but the gift of God through Jesus would last through eternity.  He preached with power and passion.  It was amazing.  After we began handing out food bags, Lisa spontaneosly shared her testimony with the group who had gathered.  We played with the little ones for a bit, delivered lots of goodies for Caesar to give out as the Lord led, and braced ourselves (with smiles of course) during the return adventure of red light green light.  We were oh-so-happy to have Bob back as our driver afterwards! :)

Tuesday we spent all day at the church in La Espana again, this time doing an all day medical clinic. Dr. Bob partnered with Pastor Aby and Pastor Jeronimo.  They transformed the church into a make shift medical office, where 165 patients were seen.  Before the clinic opened, the adults listened as the Gospel was shared.  During the clinic, we partnered with a group of youth and their leaders from North Carolina, and we entertained the children who were waiting to be seen in the clinic.  Pastor Jeronimo shared the Gospel, and many, many little ones displayed saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Such practical, hands-on ministry--a church opening its doors to its community to take care of physical needs and their spiritual needs.  It was like the Acts church was being lived out in front of our eyes.  Out of the 165 patients treated that day, approximately 100 of them had never been to that church before or might not have even known that church was there prior to the clinic.  Our hope is that now that they know it is there, they will continue to go and their lives will be transformed by the teaching and preaching of the Word of God.  While part of our team treated patients inside, a few of us also had the opportunity to go with the NC group and be a part of feeding a Hatian/Dominican villiage.  Again, physical needs met, and spiritual needs met with the preaching of the Gospel.  We heard the Gospel preached in both Spanish and Creole, and we saw hungry families gratefully and thankfully accepting a bag of food that would feed their family.  The girls flocked to Erin, who I had prepared in advance that they would want to touch her hair, and sure enough, they couldn't get enough of touching her long, straight hair.  And when they stopped touching it, she'd take a strand and give it to them again. :)  She held hands with them and practiced a few of the words she had learned from her Spanish teacher here, Pastor Gary.

On Wednesday morning, the girls and boys split up.  We girls spent the morning at a place called Lily House.  It is a place of refuge for Dominican women who have left a life of prostitution.  There, they are discipled in the Word of God, are given a respite home for themselves and their children, and are taught how to make jewelry and sew in order to provide an alternate living for themselves and their families.  I really sacrificed and volunteered to take our two kiddos and the residents' children to the beach while the others stayed behind and painted. I think it was a blessing to all of us. :)  The boys traveled with Bob to visit a nursing home and church in a small community, and the conditions of the nursing home are so sad. :(  If you have an inclination in your heart, they could sure use some donations.  And later in the afternoon, we regrouped  and joined a new driver, Javier, who spoke no English.  We blindly (or maybe I should say mutely) trusted him to drive us to a town an hour or so away...  Whew, we had some uncertain moments there, but the Lord was good to us and we ended up where we were supposed to be!  We cheered on a SCORE softball team to victory in San Luis as they played a Dominican team.  It was there that we met a little 9-year-old girl named Sam.  She was God-sent to us because she spoke very slowly.  We literally had a 3-hour conversation with her in Spanish, where much of the Spanish we had forgotten became familiar again!  One of the questions she had for us was since we were from Texas, did we have horses? :)  So cute.  Parting was sweet sorrow.  She wanted to go with us, and we wanted her to come with us, too.  I pray for her every day.  She said she was a believer in Jesus and she attends a church there in San Luis.  So if we don't see her again in this life, I look forward to reuniting in heaven.  And we'll understand each other perfectly there!  When we left, Javier took us to tour the new sports complex in Boca Chica called Tierra Alta, or the Highlands, and I promise, it has to be the most amazing construction on that island.  Unbelievable. :)  SCORE is really doing an amazing thing.

Then on Thursday, we went to a daycare center that was begun in a 2-room apartment by a woman who saw a need for children who were unable to attend school.  She opened her doors to the poorest of the poor, and with 50-60 kids in her itty bitty apartment, she moved into a larger apartment and accepted more kids.  As people began hearing about her, some donations began coming in, and she currently has a beautiful home and facility and school for the same population of kids -- those who cannot attend school otherwise and for the poorest of the poor.  We led the classes in songs and a Bible story and gave them gifts.  They supplied us with a sweet, young, unexperienced translator, who sort-of wilted and retreated into his shell when we began our story, so as our team looked at each other as to what to do, we were amazed at the Lord's power in our language struggles.  We made the decision to try to present the Gospel in Spanish ourselves.  It is amazing how the Lord gave us Sam the day before to help us remember the language, and then in that room He supplied just exactly what we needed to deliver an effective Bible story in a language we didn't know:  a sweet little girl in the classroom and the three of us who all remembered a few words.  It was awesome.  After we told the story, I swear I couldn't speak a lick of Spanish again the whole trip.  It was like the Lord gave us what we needed, right when when we needed it.  Not a minute late, not a minute early, and not for any longer than we needed it.  Amazing.  I have to confess, I am still pretty proud of us. :)  And afterward, our interpreter was talking all over the place in perfect English...  ???  :)

Following the daycare, we drove to the orphanage in La Romana, where Joe and I had visited 7 or 8 years ago.  We were stunned at the difference.  When we were there before, there was a small facility and a small playground for the orphans living there.  Now, with donations being put to effective use, there is a beautiful courtyard, much improved facilities, a beautiful school, and an amazing chapel.  The children were in school for some of the time we were there, but after they were released, we had a chance to play with the kids.  Erin fell in love with an orphan named Jeffrey.  She will tell you the story if you ask her.  When he was born, his mom didn't want him, and she threw him away in a trash can.  He was found and given to the orphanage.  He is now 9.  He has cerebral palsy and has the most joyful smile that lights up a room.  I got to hold him for hours years ago when we visited before.  So awesome to see him now.  Then, we fell in love with a 10-year-old boy named Marcos.  He flashed a very handsome smile and tried out his English on us.  He played with Bodie, who is very particular, and with Erin, too.  A wouldn't you know it -- Marcos was teaching us how to say "beautiful smile" in Spanish and was flashing that smile as we took pictures of him, and he turned his beautiful smile right into the piece of cement Erin was holding.  He chipped his front tooth...  (shaking my head...)  He reassured me that it had been chipped before and that the dentist comes on Wednesdays.  Good thing they are well taken care of. :)  They don't allow adoption of the orphans there, but if they did, I am pretty sure we would have a Marcos living with us. I pray for him all the time...

Friday, we spent all day with Dr. Bob touring the historic city of Santo Domingo.  We handed out Gospel tracts and recognized that no one can say no to a little boy or girl handing them out ;) (Go, Bodie, Go, Erin!) and afterward swam in the Carribbean and ate pizza on the beach.  The Lord gave us a beautiful rainbow there, and it was a perfect ending for a great week.  Our travel back was much less eventful than our travel there, thank the Lord, and we gladly melted into our own beds when we arrived safely that night. :)
We are happy to be home.  So why is there an aching in my heart?  I think the only way to explain it is that when we left, a part of my heart stayed there.  I find myself constantly making plans for our return.  And Lord willing, we WILL.  I want to thank all the people who contritubed to our trip, financially, through prayer, and through so many donations of gifts and games for the children.  And I want to prepare you now!  If you are interested in being a part of a mission trip like this in the future, by either joining us or supporting us in another way, here's fair warning:  it will change your life if you allow it to.  I hope you'll consider joining us, or going on another mission trip where ever the Lord leads you.  And remember, too, you don't have to go on an oversees trip to do mission work.  The Lord calls all of us who are believers to be witnesses for Him right where we are!!!

Oh, and stay tuned!  Remember that song I said we were making with the highlights of our trip?  It's coming soon!  Just have to work on the vocals! :)

We've put many other pictures on Facebook if you want to take a peak!

Thanks for your interest in our lives!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

Well, apparently I've totally forgotten about blogging! :)  So I'll try to do a year in highlights, and make a resolution to be a better blogger in the new year!

Since summer, things have been fast and furious.  So let me try to do a quick recap for each of us!

Erin Jo turned 5 in August and received horseback riding lessons as her gift for her birthday, and along with her cute pair of pink boots and hat, she seems pretty at ease on a horse. :)  We are very grateful for a wonderful and patient instructor and friend in Laura who has been wonderful with her.  We started school in the Stepp home and have enjoyed many outings with other home school families.  She is dancing again this year, and she has really developed a LOVE for ballet, which makes me smile. :)  She has a warm and gentle spirit, a very tender heart, paired with her strong will.  I love her so much and delight in seeing her grow softer and softer to the Lord's work in her life.

Bodie-man is all braun.  We've made two (and should have made three!) emergency room visits with him since summer -- two times with broken feet and once with a completely split open upper lip.  But not much seems to slow the little guy down.  It gets comical in the midst of the seriousness of things when your little guy gets to the emergency room and says, "Hey, I came here when I broke my foot!"  He loves to wrestle and run and jump -- and hit and bite and yell and slap booties -- which I am trying to balance out with discernment, typical boy stuff, and lots and lots of training...  "Boy oh boy" is the correct description for him. 

Joe continues to minister to our church congregation and has been challenged in many areas of ministry in the last several months. He has a passion about his role and God's desire for him in leading our church possibly in different directions.  I just sort-of sit back and watch because the whole thing is a little surreal.  But I know the Lord is working and shaking things up a bit, and I am so glad that he has the will and determination to do things the Lord's way.  He was recently asked to coach a season of boys 5th and 6th grade basketball.  Kinda like dangling a carrot in front of a bunny...I am pretty sure it was irresistable to him. :)  So he is enjoying that and gets to coach his 6th grade nephew in his last season of little league.  Very cool. :)

I get to teach six hours of dance a week, which I completely adore, and I even get to co-teach Erin's dance class. :)  So fun!  Two days a week, as well, I lead Good News Clubs after school in the public schools, and we've had amazing opportunities to see many boys and girls come to know Jesus as their savior.  And, I took the plunge and began selling Premier Jewelry, which I have wanted to do and have prayed about for a couple of years.  I really, really like it so far and have loved the new people I get to meet in the process.  I sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed when my schedule gets a little crazy, because adding my role as mom and teacher in our home, as well as teaching Sunday School and helping with Wednesday night kids' class at church, plus being a wife, daughter, sister, etc...  I have to admit that a little break over Christmas has been wonderful.

Our family enjoyed a little "get-away" to San Antonio a month or so ago, and that was awesome.  :)  My mom is staying with us a little while after she had a knee replacement just before Christmas.  She is making steady and consistent progress, and I am so proud of her.  The kiddos sure enjoy her being here. :)

I'll post a few pics, and with that, I will close for today.  You'll have to hold me accountable to be a better blogger this year!  Thanks for sharing in our lives. :)


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Love

As I sit down to the computer to type a much needed update for our blog, and I am so filled with the knowledge and emotion of the Lord's presence in this place.  I hear the scratchy sound of our little man in the background strapping and unstrapping the velcro on his newest body attachment, his boot cast (more on that later). Add that to the bump, brush, bump, brush sound in between the scratches as he attempts to sweep up the kitchen floor once again after dumping the dog food all over the floor.  :)  In the other ear I hear the deep voice of a giant pickle teaching my daughter about why it is important not to lie.  And the click clack of our dog Peanut and my sister-in-law's dog Sassy competing with Bodie over the spilled dog food.  The sweet aroma of a ham cooking in the oven (for tomorrow) is making me hungry, and tonight's dinner, grilled veggies -- OH MY GOODNESS THE VEGGIES! I almost forgot them!!! -- are calling my name.  I love the feel of going outside into the HOT HOT HOT after being inside our air conditioned home.  And I love the feel of going inside after being in the HOT HOT HOT outside.  My toy-covered living room and messy kitchen remind me once again that I am so blessed to have a home that needs cleaning and that my children have an abundance of things to play.  Dear God, thank You for being in this place.

Bodie turned two at the end of May.  His vocabulary is blossoming and he has developed an amazing sense of humor.  He has a repertoire of phrases that he makes us laugh with every night as he repeats them over and over and over until our sides are splitting:  "Momma, are you mad?"  :)  "We need gas."  "It might rain."  and "Momma, your toenails are pretty."   He vascilates between having an extremely strong will and being the sweetest sweetheart on the planet. :)  He weighs 30 pounds, is 36 inches tall, and except for having my brown eyes and having blonde hair (who knows where that comes from!) he sure looks like his daddy.  :)  Acts like him, too.  I remember when I was in labor with Bodie, Joe's mom was encouraging me in the hospital when our family doctor came into the room to check on our progress.  She put her arm around him and he put his arm around her.  Angie asked him, "Rick, what do you think about us having another BOY?"  Dr. Rick didn't miss a beat.  He looked at her and smiled and said, "Well, we raised one (meaning Joe), and we'll just raise another."  Was he ever right.  Last week, we took our little guy to see Dr. Rick for his first x-ray and first broken bone.  I can't remember how many broken bones Joe had growing up -- six? seven?  Not sure, but I am afraid Bodie may give him some competition...

Joe keeps threatening to put a brick on Erin's head if she doesn't stop growing so much. :)  She is always measuring herself next to things and it cracks me up because she is so proud that she has hair on her legs!!! :)  She has a tender heart and we are seeing a bit of a prophet emerge as she develops more of an awareness of the Lord at work around her (she is more like her daddy than we ever knew!).  Things are very black and white to her, either completely right or completely wrong, either very good or very bad.  She told me the last time we had to chastise Bodie and her that she wished that we weren't born into sin.  Boy, so do I. :)  Thank the Lord for the precious blood of Jesus.  She performed in her second dance recital at the end of May, and I was so proud of her.  She begins Kindergarten (at home) in the Fall, and she and I both are so excited to begin!  And believe it or not, we had her first ortho consult -- who knew it started at age 4!? -- and feel so blessed to live in this community of professionals who love the Lord.

Our family just returned from an amazing vacation to the East Coast.  We spent several days in Greenville, SC (highly recommended, by the way), spent wonderful time with some wonderful friends we've not seen in five or six years, enjoyed the beautiful wedding of a precious couple, Nancy and Daniel Goodnight, and spent several days on the "crystal coast" near Emerald Isle with my best NC friend Cheryl and her family Stacey, Kaitlyn, and David Asato.  Bodie loved the "big sandbox" and "big water," and Erin loved jumping the waves in the salty water, catching fish with Stacey, riding the boat, and she came home with two hermit crabs, Rapunzel and Russell. :)  Shakespear's words, "Parting is such sweet sorrow," resonates in our ears.  David's descriptor of our trip seems the most appropriate -- "bittersweet."  So sweet to be together with friends.  So hard to leave.  I can't wait to see them again.

We are gearing up for three weeks of awesome ministry -- two 5-day bible clubs in local parks and a week at camp teaching children about Jesus.  I am so excited. :)

And now to enjoy a vegetarian feast -- corn on the cobb that my sweet sister-in-law gave to us before they left for their vacation and "shish bob" squash, zucchini, "may-mays" (tomatoes), red onions, potatoes, asparagus, and bell peppers.  Don't worry, vegetarian friends, you'll never convert us -- we will have a meat-filled diet tomorrow. :)

Love and blessings to you and yours and happy summer! :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Been awhile! :)

Well, it's been awhile. :)

The teachers in this home were able to be students again in the last several months. :) Joe and I have been busy taking a Child Evangelism class called Teaching Children Effectively, taught by an amazing woman of God and a fabulous mentor for this ministry.  It has truly rejuvenated my passion for teaching children about Jesus and it has made my walk with the Lord more intimate.  I am so grateful for Tina for investing her time in us.  As part of our practicums for the class, we helped her with two "Good News Clubs" at the public schools here and in Booker and were thrilled and privileged to see many children come to receive our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Next year, our church has committed to do the Good News Clubs in the public schools, and we are very, very excited about it.  If you've ever felt insecure about how to talk to children about Jesus, or if you are uncertain about how to answer a child's questions about God, you should really consider taking this class.  When you sense the Spirit of God drawing a child's heart to Himself, it is the most incredibly peaceful and joyful experience.

Our little Erin has reaped some benefits from us taking the class as well. She can present all aspects of the Gospel to anyone at any time. :)  She understands that she is a sinner and needs Jesus and responds just about every time an "invitation" to receive Jesus is given.  But at four, her faith is evident but not quite clear enough that we would consider that she turned her life over to Christ yet.  But He's drawing her, and some day in the near future, we know we will be met with rejoicing for her salvation.  Several days ago I overheard her telling her brother her own version of the wordless book in the bathtub, and it absolutely melted my heart.  It went something like this: 
Erin --  What's your name? ... Say Bodie. 
Bodie -- Bodie
E -- Have you every been punished? ...  Say yes.
B -- Yes.
E -- Well did you know that there is an even greater punishment than that?  Because we sin, we will go to a terrible place forever...  Say sin.
B -- Sin
E -- But Jesus can make you white...Say white.
B -- White
E -- C'mon, let's get you white! (she gets the soap and begins to wash his little body!)
B -- Scream!!!

Speaking of sowing and reaping, I am so excited that we planted our garden this weekend.  We have beautiful flowers in the front and our favorite vegetables out back.  We aired up the kids' swimming pool and filled it up yesterday, and we are really enjoying the warm, summery weather.  Good thing the kids got my skin color because we've really enjoyed soaking up the sun, and no sunburns :)  As my sweet little niece Josie told me the other day, she, Erin, Bodie, and I all inherited the same disease -- we get brown in the sun. :)  But her momma only gets brown from the machine. :)  This is my favorite time of the year.

I posted one of our pics from Easter this year.  It's silly, I know, but I have this thing where we all have to match at Easter. :)  We really liked how the picture turned out, though.

Thanks for checking in on us!  Love to all of you from the four of us! :)

Friday, February 11, 2011


This week, my entire philosophy of parenting has been challenged by the actions of a five-year-old.  If you know me at all, you know that when it comes to my husband and our children, I am fiercely protective, ready to strike at anyone or anything that even remotely comes close to harming them or hurting their feelings.  That's my instinct.  You probably have it, too.  I fight it almost every day and with much help from the Lord, I usually manage to release it to Him and keep my tongue at bay.  My thoughts, on the other hand, aren't always as bridled.  (That, by the way, is sin in my life, help me, Jesus.)

It was a simple conversation, and probably much more innocent than I've made it out to be, but my sweet little four-year-old simply asked a question to her five-year-old friend:  "Do you like my pretty sweater?"  The little girl's response -- nothing but a sneer.  This little girl in all likelihood meant nothing condescending, and probably was only doing to our Erin what had been done to her by another or what she had seen an adult in her life do.  She really does have a sweet heart and is a well-behaved child.  So why did this interaction cause me to examine my entire philosophy for our family?  Well, that's complicated, but I'll try to explain.

Erin's sweater was a hand-me-down, as are most of the items in her, Bodie's, and my wardrobes.  My precious daughter happily and proudly donned her "new" hand-me-down sweater (which we are very grateful for and WAS very cute) and was met with the condescending glance of her friend.  And even though my little girl doesn't have the understanding now of what happened, some day she will.  I experienced it as a kid.  You probably did too.  And sometimes the greatest fights we face as parents is that desire to protect our children from the hurts we experienced growing up. 

See, Joe and I have made very deliberate decisions regarding our careers in relation to the upbringing of our children, and it is clear that our children will have to live with the decisions we make as parents and in turn possibly face the condemnation of others because of them.  Who knew it would start at age four?  As I've re-evaluated our philosophy for our family, the Lord has ministered to my heart and has reconciled a huge struggle and insecurity within me, and this is what I've discovered.  It's not about me.  It's not about Erin.  It's not about an outfit.  If my genuine desire for our family is that one day our children will live in obedience and surrender to the Lords call on their lives, we can't raise them to experience that people or stuff will make them happy.  If Joe and I desire children who appreciate a good, hard day's work and who are sensitive to try to meet the needs of others, it's not our job to fill their lives with the false securities of worldy acceptance and financial gluttony.  As parents we have to be prepared that for our children to truly live godly lives in Christ Jesus, they will suffer persecution.  It's not my job to shield them from hurt feelings if it means sacrificing a lifelong lesson that God is their provider, comforter, and sustainer.   It is my responsibility to teach our children about eternity rather than gushing over their bling-bling. And when it all comes right down to it, I would rather minister to a child whose clothes were rejected than to try to retrain the heart of the child who rejected another because of her clothes.

The Bible tells us that He is able to do for us exceedingly, abundantly more than we can even ask or think in Christ Jesus (Eph. 3:20).  That's what I want our children to see in us!  That's the kind of faith I want them some day to live out themselves!  That just doesn't jive with getting my needs met by giving my kids "stuff" or my daughter's outfit being complimented.  Rather, it is to appreciate that real treasure is found when our children find treasure in the Father and when they recognize that every good gift is from Above (James 1:17). 

Thank You, Jesus, for Your provision in our lives.  Thank You for our children.  Help us to raise them to know Your love and to love You because You first loved them.  Help us to raise our children to be content solely by Your side.  And thank You, Lord, today especially, for hand-me-downs;  You've taught me so much through them.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

First post for the New Year... Really?

Erin and her BIG kitten Boo. :)

 Coloring a tomato for letter T.

 E and B building a Tower. :)

 We had a small snow day, and Bodie's reaction to laying in the snow to make a
Snow Angel was this look, and one word: "COLD." :)

 Love this one. :)  His hands were getting cold, too. :)

 Making "Toothy smiles" for letter T.

Finished product. :)

I honestly cannot believe this is our first post this year!  Where has the month gone?!  I am not sure where even to start!  Right now, as one of our favorite children's books says, we have "the coughs and the sniffles and the sneeze, AH CHOO!"  Both kiddos made a trip to see our favorite Dr. Rick this week, and thankfully our ailment is only viral.  At the doctor's office, we submitted all our new insurance information (with me included, THANK YOU, LORD!) and I noticed we needed to change our emergency contact information...  Funny how the little things hit you so hard.  For the last five and a half years, I've listed Joe's mom as our emergency contact.  A flood of precious memories poured over me as I gratefully penned Joe's sister's name on the emergency contact line.  Thank the Lord we have her here if something were to happen.  Thank the Lord we had five and a half years here with Angie.  After visiting with our favorite Dr. Rick about having "the crud," I visited with the Great Physician about my once again broken heart...  I sure miss her...

The Lord has blessed us with a month of great joys.  Our Bodie-Man is a mostly big boy now!  I say mostly because he potty trained this month -- YAY!! -- but I can't seem to wean him from his pacifier!  The plan was to take it away this week, but I just can't do it when he's sick and pitiful.  :(  So that will have to come another week. :)  Erin and I began "school" again this month, and I am excited simply because she is so excited!  She is at that precious stage that I wish I could freeze forever, where she wants to marry her Daddy when she grows up and wants her Momma to be her teacher forever.  Last night she asked me if I would be her teacher when she was in high school, and I said I hoped so.  She said that that would be good because someday she wanted her job to be like mine.  I asked her what exactly she thought my job was (because it's not that glamorous most days!) and she said simply, "Us."

As one of our friends says, we are finding our "new normal."  And that's good.  This is the first time we've really "home schooled" at home since we had been helping care for Angie and taking our school stuff with us over there.  I really, really, really love being in our "classroom" and spending focused learning time with E and B each day.  Erin is reading, and Bodie is talking like crazy.  Erin is learning to tie her shoes and Bodie is learning "rhe, seh, go," and "one, two, free..."  :)   I think I have our house and school stuff all back in order now -- if only I could track down the centimeter cubes -- and am getting back in the routine of exercising, spending quiet time with the Lord, keeping our home, planning and cooking healthy meals for our family, teaching and training our children, helping Joe with his ministry, and organizing all the To Do's of the weeks.   I've had the great joy of substitute teaching for Erin's dance teacher this month after she had her second son at the end of December.  Oh, I have loved dancing again...  I am not sure how I am going to convince her to let me stay awhile after she returns, but my wheels are spinning in my mind with a plan. :)

Joe has had a little extra time now to reach out to loved ones in our congregation since Angie's homecoming, and ministering to them has been tremendously healing for him.  He has begun a few "new" ministries as well, and we've enjoyed a few evenings "just us," which has been nice.  He's gotten on board with our potty training and is quite the pro at scooping up a bare-bottomed Bodie after he says he needs to go "tee-tee" and before the mess is made.  So proud of him...both hims... ;)

Through a month of joys, my heart has also been heavy for many of our loved ones this month as well.  My precious mom (Linda) has still not fully recovered since having anaphylactic shock several months ago.  I hope she doesn't mind me sharing, but she is still very weak and needs our prayers.  She is anticipating several surgeries this year, and she needs to be strong going into them.  Her eyes are very dry after her cataract surgeries, and if you've ever experienced that, you'll sympathize because it is just miserable.  I am so hopeful that this year will bring great healing and joy to her, and it would mean so much to me if you would pray with me for her.  Also, dear friends of ours, the Peoples family, recently confirmed that one of their sons has some "special" needs, and though they are very strong in the Lord and fully trust in His plan, as you can imagine, this is quite an adjustment, if nothing else, in their thoughts and plans.  I can think of no better parents for this little guy, and he is in good hands.  I will never forget something they said to Joe and me when they announced they were expecting this little guy:  as it goes with most of us, when you make the announcement that you are expecting, people are sensitive to commit to pray for you and your pregnancy and encourage you with something like, "we're praying for a healthy baby..."  Their response was, "We are praying for our baby.  We don't care if it's a boy or a girl;  we don't care if he's healthy or not.  We are just excited God gave us this baby."  At the time, I remember thinking those were brave words and I admired them for speaking them.  Now, I admire them even more because it is clear that they were following the Lord's leading in their prayers for him. Pray for them now as they adjust and find great joy in this special call for their lives.  Also, we have other sweet friends who are so very close to finally holding their son in their arms "forever" through adoption from Ethiopia.  There are a few additional obstacles standing between them and that dream, and though they've met their precious son in person now, it seems from her blog posts that the days of waiting are only harder now that they've held him in their arms.  Pray for the sweetness of the Holy Spirit to minister to the Mullins in these last few months of "wait."  And finally, pray for my dear, dear friend Audrey and her husband Brian who announced recently that they are expecting a son in June.  To be sensitive to their circumstances, I don't want to offer any other details than this, but they need prayer in a most sincere way.  It would mean so much to me if you would pray for them.

I'll try harder to post a little more frequently.  Maybe monthly will be our "new normal," though...  Anyway, thanks for reading;  I look forward to writing and reading with you about all the joys and blessings, the trials and sorrows, and the God-willed and God-filled days that await us in 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas :)

Yes, this is your Christmas card this year! ;)  I'll hopefully do better next year and get some cards sent, but I hope you'll be forgiving this year.  We've had a few things going on... :)

We are doing well.  For those of  you reading our blog for the first time, and for those of you who have been following us since I began the blog a few months ago, we want to thank you for reading and caring about us, especially since Joe's mom Angie went to be with Jesus last month.  It is hard to believe it's been almost a whole month since we said goodbye.  Her death has put eternity into a new perspective for us, and we love the Lord even more than ever after walking with her for as long as we could on her journey to eternity.

Angie was a Christian.  She was "born again," as we say in our church circles.  But you don't have to be in a church circle to understand what "born again" means.  In the Bible in John chapter 3, it talks about a man named Nicodemus who was a pharisee living 2000 or so years ago.  He had the incredible opportunity to be a Jew during the time Jesus lived and ministered on Earth, and his conversation with Jesus is documented here.  He spoke with Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, our Savior...face to face...and received the most incredible answer from the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.  If you were face to face with Jesus and could ask Him anything, just as Nicodemus did, have you ever thought about what would you ask Him?  His answer would be as it was for Nicodemus:  one of TRUTH, one leading to ETERNAL LIFE, and one showing you the WAY to attain that.  Through all of our lives' biggest questions, the real answers lie in the bigger picture and lead us to God's true intent for us:  fellowship with our Creator God and His Son Jesus Christ, and eternal fellowship with Him in Eternity.  Nicodemus' question for Jesus was basically, "Who are you?"  And, Jesus got right to the point.  He said that unless a person is "born again" he or she will not know the Kingdom of God and went on to explain one of the verses that is most memorized in all the Bible:  "For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."  (John 3:16)  When you look at what He said, it blows your mind!  And, kinda blows those other theories out of the water...  The idea that when we die, that's it, there is nothing else...  Or that everyone when they die will go to heaven...  Or that there is a holding tank until our loved ones pray us to eternal life...  Or that we will be our own gods...  The TRUTH told Nicodemus the truth and pointed him (and us) to these facts about eternity:  there is one...there are two choices -- eternal perishing or eternal LIFE...only through the Son of God can we receive LIFE in eternity...we cannot receive it unless we've been born again...and it's an invitation given to all of us.

In this world of fierce independence, it is sobering to realize that this is one thing I cannot do on my own.  In a world of codependence, it is terrifying to realize that no one can do this for me.  In a world of "rose colored glasses," it is awakening to realize that I can't just wait until tomorrow and everything will be okay.  In a world of pessimism, it is enlightening to realize that even in my criticisms it is still true.  It is true that our Creator God is Holy and perfect, and because we are not - the Bible says we've all sinned and fallen short of His glory - we cannot be in the presence of God. Our sin separates us ETERNALLY from God, and since there are two choices in eternity, life or perishing, that means we all perish.

Then enters Jesus.  He never sinned -- never lied, never cheated on the job, never lusted after a woman, never talked about someone behind their back, never envied what others had, never took the Lord's name in vain, never did anything selfishly, never made excuses, never became apathetic... He was sinless, holy, and perfect, and he was HUMAN LIKE US, tempted in all the same ways we are, the Bible says.  Which gave him full access to Eternal Life and the earned right to be there.  But He gave it up.  You know why?  Because He knew we couldn't do it on our own.  So He gave His right to us.  He died (through crucifixion), fulfilled every Old Testament prophesy on the books, and extended an invitation then and now:  be born again.

Put off your old self, and put on a new self.  One that is forgiven.  One that is "clothed in white."  One that has full access to a Holy God and Eternal Life.  One that accepts God's gift to you through Jesus Christ.

As we journeyed with Angie in her final days on earth, she was never alone.  The Lord sent Jesus to greet her.  He allowed her glimpses of where she was going.  She saw loved ones who had "crossed the river," as the Psalm says, before her.  And we experienced her experiencing unexplainable, unadulterated JOY.  For Angie to not experience sadness or grief or guilt over leaving the family she felt enormous responsibility and fierce, zealous love and protection for, she must have seen and known something way greater than I can explain.  But she didn't.

You can know that kind of peace and joy, too.  We have much to celebrate in the Birth of Christ.  He was and is the answer to everything.

Merry Christmas. :)