November 30, 2014

Heart Surgery

Part of a Bolivian landscape on our wall ~ Artist: Tintaya

When I was eight years old I made a choice to follow Jesus. Through the twenty-one years since that choice was made God has faithfully been making changes in my heart. There have been times of great growth and times of maintenance. There have been times of struggle, doubt and frustration. There have been times of great joy, elation, and laughter. 

But nothing has compared to the past four years. 

There are many wonderful stories out there of great men and women who were made for the mission field. Excited and ready, they headed to another country. Not to say they didn’t have struggles. They did but ultimately their stories tell us that they knew where they were headed and gladly submitted to that calling on their life. And, they accomplished great things for God.

My missionary story doesn’t read that way. And I know I’m not alone. Before moving here I was excited and scared, nervous and submissive. I didn’t come kicking and screaming. I came willingly. 

But I didn’t know, not really, what we were entering into. 

Of course we had gone through training, Bible and cross-cultural. In the eyes of many, including ourselves, we were prepared. We boarded a plane with our three daughters and flew to a new country. 

I was not prepared.  

I was not prepared for the intense heart surgery I was going to start experiencing as God slowly started stripping my desires and so-called rights. And I began to fight. I began to kick and I began to scream, begging God for a change. 

I know much of the rollercoaster can be attributed to culture shock and the emotional changes that have to take place as someone gets acclimated to a foreign country but the spiritual battle taking place in my heart was also very real.

My lowest point came a year ago, that moment when a coworker advised us to not move into a village and that we might consider returning to the US. It was horrible and wonderful. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders and then it was replaced by questions, lots and lots of questions. 

In the past weeks I have finally admitted that much of my struggle has come because I don’t desire to fully deny myself. 

Today I stayed home from church. Nathan took the girls and gave me a morning at home. I jumped online and looked for a sermon, specifically looking for one on self denial in light of God’s will and found Eric Ludy’s “The Costly Gospel.”

Sharing from Acts 27, Eric Ludy, shares the story of Paul's shipwreck on his way to Rome and he relates this story to the lives of believers. As the storms of life start to batter against us we first throw away the nonessentials. Then it’s required that we let go of the replaceable things in our lives. The next thing to go is the lifeboat, the thing we are holding on to, that thing which has our confidence. Lastly, we lose everything and are filled with Christ. 

I need to let go of my lifeboat. I have slowly been letting go of the nonessentials and the replaceables but my lifeboat, a life in the good ole’ US of A, needs to be cut. I need to let that go. The not-so-secret hope that we will be able to return to the US. I need to let go of my language and my culture. Not that I can’t continue to use them, but they cannot be the focus of my life. They are at the heart of my frustration and they are impeding my growth and opportunities for ministry. 

When God has a commission on your life that lifeboat is an impediment because it is diminishing your confidence in God. ~Eric Ludy

I need to grow in the understanding that God can use me in my weaknesses, including my weakness in the Spanish language. He can use me when I feel out of place because He brought me here. 
Please pray for me as I cut the ties to my lifeboat, that I may be able to keep my eyes on Christ in the midst of the storms.

May 07, 2014

Knowing God is at Work

I love when I know God is working in my heart. When I can feel it in my core. When I have joy despite struggles.

In many ways I'm still processing, struggling, grasping and searching for the desire to be here in Bolivia. I know it's a choice that must be made but while making the choice to continue on here I'm still seeking desire.

I recently asked my husband, "Why me? Why do I have to be the one to give everything up? My country, my culture, my language, my family, my friends and my lifestyle? Why?" That question is at the heart of my soul right now and God is faithfully giving me glimpses into His truth.

In my Bible study this week I read through the book of Philippians and was caught on chapter 3, verses 8 through 11. Here it is in the New International Version:
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
To give you some context, Paul is talking about his "rights" as a Hebrew, born of the tribe of Benjamin and a Pharisee. In the eyes of the Jews he was the epitome of one with "rights." But Paul, with a great understanding of his salvation through faith, was giving up his "rights" according to men and taking confidence in his position through Christ.

Most of all, Paul's words "for whose sake I have lost all things," really struck me. Paul gave up his position. He gave up everything in the eyes of the Jews. To them Paul threw away his life. He was foolish. But Paul knew the truth. He knew that he was gaining so much more. He was gaining salvation and life in Christ. He was gaining Christ and choosing to "be found in him." Paul was growing closer to Christ, knowing him more and desiring to know even more: "to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead."

Ultimately, Jesus Christ gave up more than any of us can imagine. The choice to come to this sinful place was a choice to give up everything and the ultimate sacrifice came the day he was nailed to a cross. He literally gave it all.

Here I am. In the world's eyes I am foolish. I have chosen to move away from home to share something that many in the world see as nothing more than a good story (or a bad one!). In my struggles I find that my desires are rooted in the things of this world: a life of comfort and ease (in my own language and culture) and surrounded by family and friends (many who already know Christ personally or who have great access to truth). But there is so much more within my grasp.

Who am I to question why I should give up, in reality, so little? I am so blessed and God continues to reassure me with His word that what we are doing here is worth so much. And so I am doing my best to listen, to grow and to rest in this promise:
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  --Matthew 19:29 
Some day I will have eternity to spend with my family and friends. Some day I will live at home, the place my heart truly yearns for. Some day culture and language will not affect my daily choices.

Some day. . .what a glorious day that will be! 

March 31, 2014

Salt and Green Beans

Heads bowed, a prayer said, and time to eat. . .salt.

To continue reading head on over to our ministry blog: Una Vida Para Cristo

February 28, 2014


What does comfort mean to you? How does it display itself in your life? How do you "get comfortable?"

Comfort to me is always something known. It can be tangible, a favorite pair of pants, or it can be emotional, a conversation with my husband. It can be visible, our home, and invisible, love. It doesn't take effort to live in comfort. It just is. Something that has always been around or maybe something that has grown comfortable.

As we made the decision to move to South America I knew I would be leaving my "comfort zone." I knew life would be different but I didn't really know how it would affect me physically, spiritually or emotionally.

As I grew up I often heard the phrase, "you need to get out of your comfort zone." Right. I do. But why? And what's that mean?

Well, ultimately, my understanding was this: if I'm in my comfort zone I can "do it all" on my own. It's usually routine, maybe a few changes throughout, but overall everything is well known physically, spiritually and emotionally. If I'm out of my comfort zone something is new, maybe a lot of things are new (like moving to a foreign country), and that means I need to trust God to get me through because I'm going to be taxed to the end of my abilities, the end of my strength and the end of my knowledge.

It has been interesting living here. I've realized recently how much longer it takes me to do new things. Inside my home I'm now comfortable. Things move at the right pace and I'm not stressed if I spend a day at home, in the house. But if I need to do something on campus (which requires me to use my Spanish) I have to put forth much more effort...and I'm out of my comfort zone. If we need to go shopping at the store...I'm out of my comfort zone. If we need to go to the market to buy fruits and veggies. . .I'm out of my comfort zone. If I get invited to go somewhere with someone...I'm out of my comfort zone.

Again, what's that mean? Well, for me, that means I am more fatigued mentally and physically. I'm crying out to God a lot more because I need help. I tend to say no a lot more to new things. I tend to be more introverted and hesitant. And things that wouldn't be too hard to do if I was in my comfort zone become much harder to do.

For example, we're planting a garden as a family. I don't have much experience. If we were in the US it would be a new thing but a rare new thing. Here it's added to an already lengthy list of things that are still not comfortable. So the garden plot has sat there. Someone pre-weeded it for us and it still sat there. Guess what? The weeds grew in. Finally, today, I pushed myself mentally, told my husband and girls what I was doing and thankfully they joined me. And it's ready. But there's another hurdle. Now I need to get it planted before the weeds grow in again. That's new. That takes effort. And you think, but it's just a garden. Yeah. Just a garden. Just one more thing out of my comfort zone. One more thing I have to put a lot of thought into.

So as you go about your work today. Think about all you are able to do without thinking. What are you facing that might be new? Anything? Is it easy to be in the day-to-day rhythm? Do you find yourself becoming passe in your interaction with God?

If I've learned nothing else since moving to Bolivia, I've learned that when I'm out of my comfort zone I need God. 

February 26, 2014

A Typical School Day

Normally I post photos of the girls doing something exciting, like painting or making cookies, but I definitely don't want you to get the impression I'm "super mom" and we do those kinds of things all the time. . .most definitely not! Those are the "exciting" times when I usually think to grab the camera. :) Today I thought of it as I was sitting there with all three girls busy with "normal" work. This is our typical school day.

A friend recently shared this post on Facebook: Why I'm No Homeschool Superstar. It made me smile because I am not a fan of glitter and painting happens only once every three or four months in this house. We're a sewing kind of family because the mess is minimal! 

February 23, 2014

A Tip for List Users

I love lists. I thrive on lists. They keep me going in the right direction, especially when I get so easily distracted. I have also learned that a list is just that, a list. So with my lists there is also a lot of grace and a lot of flexibility.

Last year I created a Daily To Do list and I was faithfully printing it out and filling it in. It was wonderful but I was going through a ton of paper. I am not a fan of digital lists. There's just something to seeing a list on paper on my desk. So this year I decided to tweak my list a bit (an update really) and then laminate it. I decided if I didn't like it in the end I would go back to printing but it wouldn't hurt to try.

So I am faithfully using my laminated To Do list with a set of trusty fine-point wet erase markers and it's going great. I find myself jotting the notes I need more long term on other pieces of paper but that too works great because it tends to condense the paper load (and my jotted notes are easier to find). I am not as faithful to fill out the bottom line "I am thankful for. . ." but I also have a Gratitude journal I fill out during my quiet time so I don't feel it's too big of a loss. Overall, I'm happy with my laminated list and some colorful wet erase markers.

February 07, 2014

2013-2014 Homeschooling Curriculum

The girls in our classroom: today's craft
Without further ado, I'm going to share our current curriculum. The easiest way for me to do that is to share a day in the classroom with you. This year I am teaching a first grader (7 year old), an official preschooler (5 year old) and an "unofficial" preschooler (3 year old). This is what a typical "perfect" day looks like in our classroom (with the focus on 1st grade):

The girls are so good to hold me accountable to our opening prayer and song time. The school day hasn't officially started without those!

Our prayer time varies throughout the week. Some days I pray to get the ball rolling (especially on our groggy days). Other days the girls think of things and/or people they would like to pray for and so they start. We also use a "prayer cube" that came free with our Sonlight read alouds (from Scripture Goods). On each side it has an idea for prayer: Shepherds, Leaders, Hurting, Unsaved, Family and Free Prayer. The girls like rolling it and it gives us a bit of direction some mornings.

During our song time we sing three songs each day. Every week I try to increase the girls' repertoire by adding a new hymn, praise song or familiar children's song. They love this time and it's a good time to get the energy flowing.

Bible time is next and I am using Sonlight's direction this year with "Leading Little Ones to God" and some of Catherine Vos's "The Child's Story Bible" mixed in. This time also includes our verse memorization. We are memorizing from the English Standard Version.

A gifted "Abeka" planner that I have made work for me. I've designed my own for next year.
Reading aloud comes next with Sonlight's Core B: found here. The girls are expected to pay attention with the picture books but when I begin reading the chapter books they can find a puzzle, game or something to draw on while I read. So far I'm happy with Sonlight's choices. I've skipped a couple of the stories in "Missionary Stories with the Millers" for personal reasons but other than that the girls have enjoyed their book choices and so have I.

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we do Math. We are continuing with Math U See this year so our oldest is doing Alpha. She does great with most of the concepts and enjoys math because it goes quickly for her. She definitely does better with practice over theory.

On Tuesday and Thursday we do Science. We are enjoying Apologia's Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. God has provided a few "in home" experiences with two different birds' nests falling down our chimney. It has been a good lesson in life and death as well because neither time have the baby birds lived. We did what we could but Mama Bird obviously didn't find them either time. :( (My husband hopes to find a fix for the chimney so we won't have that happening again.) For the benefit of the younger two I just started reading a few pages of our Animal Encyclopedia before we start our Zoology lesson.

A fledgling that fell down our chimney.
Our next subject of the day is reading and writing with Spell to Write and Read and Cursive First. I am very pleased with how this is going this year (last year was the first year and it was tough). I'm definitely seeing improvement and so much more understanding in Anne this year and I'm so thankful. I know I've improved in my teaching as I'm grasping more of the teaching style required for the program as well (it's very hands on for the teacher). She's not taken off on her reading like I thought she might but she's doing well for her age and is getting spelling with hardly any mistakes. I'm proud of her! We follow this up each day with reading from First Readers we have in our home library.

Some days, many days, our school day ends there. Usually our Science days, Tuesday and Thursday take a bit longer so it will be time to finish up. On our shorter days I will usually try to get in some Spanish or a craft of some kind.

For Spanish I'm using my own knowledge and a website, Duolingo, as a jumping board. I wouldn't recommend Duolingo for your typical 1st grader but as a bilingual speaker it helps me get our study started and then I use my knowledge of the Total Physical Response (TPR) method to language learning to go from there. We also have a Spanish verb of the week. The flash cards I am using for that are great from a TPR perspective but not so great if you don't have a basic understanding of Spanish (there are no English translations on the cards).

So that's our curriculum for the year. We are usually done with our day in the morning which works great for our family right now. I know that as the other two get older and more involved we'll be breaking into the afternoon hours but right now I'm thankful to be done by lunchtime. Of course, after lunch we get in the classes of "real life": laundry, cleaning, food prep, setting the table, sewing, reading library books, etc.

January 15, 2014

A Book for Missionary Women

During the past year, as I was struggling, a friend in the Philippines recommended an excellent book, Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission by Sue Eenigenburg and Robynn Bliss. It was exactly what I needed to read at just the right time. It shed light on some of the issues I was dealing with, encouraged me in other areas and, overall, gave me a sense of great peace and grace in our work as missionaries. Of course it didn't fix me or my problems but it really helped me think through many of the issues at hand.

I was most encouraged by the following quote:
Remember your personal value to your Heavenly Father. If you left your missionary journey right now, if you threw in the towel, if you checked out, hung up your apron and walked away--He would embrace you and love you. He would gather you up and wipe the tears from your face. He would whisper reassurances to your soul. He would say it doesn't matter. He loves you deeply and that love is connected to what you do. It's who you are. You are His precious little girl, His beloved child. He is so completely committed to you--just because He is! He loves you. 
I had placed myself in a box that didn't allow for much room to move or much grace. It required that I move forward because there was NO other option. I HAD to do this and, really, I was failing miserably. These words spoke grace to my heart. They opened up the possibility that God doesn't really care what my job is but how I live and it gave me freedom. 

This review has been shared purely because I want to share it. I was truly encouraged by this book. :) 

December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

From our cozy home (93*) to yours, we wish you a very, merry Christmas!

May you be richly blessed during this time of reflection on our Savior's birth.
All glory to God!