Where Would You Like To Go?

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

We are celebrating Christmas Day 9 hours sooner than we ever have before!  Most of you are still wrapping up your Christmas Eve festivites and we are waking up getting ready for Church.  Rest assured Santa found Ryleigh all the way over here in Mada and we will have pictures up soon.  But for today, we wanted to leave you with one of our all time favorite songs.  Take a minute to listen to it today, share it with your family & friends that you may be visiting with, and dwell on the question "How Many Kings?" 
Know we are hoping you are having a wonderful day worshipping the King who has given His life for you.

December 22, 2011

A Father's Love

Our little Ryleigh is SUCH a daddy's girl. She searches for him when she enters a room and cries when he leaves. I simply adore watching the love of my life be a daddy. There are many things I find attractive about my husband and him loving on Ryleigh just might be in the top 5. It's such a sweet thing to watch him play with her, sing to her, read to her, and be protective of her
You know, I've been learning something about our Father's love by watching Ryleigh's earthly daddy.  Sometimes I can get caught up in the routine.  The daily quiet times, the worship with a body of believers, remembering what I'm not supposed to do, doing what I'm supposed to do...and I forget to just be His child.  Do you know what I'm talking about?  I mean, Steve is a dad...he has to tell Ryleigh "no mam" sometimes, he has to be firm, there has to be consequences, and believe it or not there are times when Ryleigh does indeed cry (shocker - I know).  But, you know what he spends the majority of his time doing?  Playing with her, talking to her, listening to her...just being with her.  Of course, he's here to protect her, guide her, instruct her, discipline her...but all of that is out of the overwhelming love he has for her.
How much more so does our Heavenly Father?!?!  He is LOVE.  I've had to stop and think about this.  I've had to ask myself...
When was the last time that I just wanted to be with my Daddy? 
When's the last time I've spent simply basking in His love? 
When's the last time nothing was on the agenda except to just sit and chat with Him? 
When's the last time I remembered that while He is lots of things (Savior, Rock, Prince of Peace, Creator) He is also my Father...my Daddy? 
When those times happen - they are my absolute favorite...if you know the times I'm talking about you know personally how they turn into a worship time.  How can you spend time with our Daddy and not worship?  Such. Sweet. Time.

I am prayerfully confident that the smiles that light up her face when Ryleigh sees Steve will one day be a small glimpse at the joy that surrounds her when she is daily walking hand in hand with her Heavenly Father.
.

December 20, 2011

Give Me Faith

Heard this song for the 1st time just this week via my beautiful (inside & out) friend, Sam Jones' blog...you can check it out the song & her blog here.  Anyway, the bridge is quite a reminder of my Savior's promises...I hope it serves as a prayer/reminder for you today as well.

I may be weak
Your spirit is strong in me
My flesh may fail
My God you never will

from "Give Me Faith" by Elevation Worship

December 19, 2011

To Do List

I am queen of "to do" lists.  There is something extremely satisfying about checking things off for me.  I've also been known to put things on a list that I've already done...simply because I know I can check them off.  It's okay you can think I'm lame, I won't hold it against you.  However, as I've been listening to Christmas songs, I've thought about the "to do" list that comes in the form of the lyrics of many of the songs.  I know you've probably officially thought that I've lost my mind now but bear with me.
Have you stopped and listened to what you have been singing or atleast hearing as you are going along with your December routine? 
How are you doing on your "Christmas Song To Do List?"
~Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace, Hail the Son of Righteousness
~Let every heart prepare Him room
~Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our Heavenly Lord
~Repeat the sounding Joy
~Pray for peace, people everywhere
Oh and my personal favorite? 
Seriously, can not hear these words and not desire to fall to my knees in worship...
~Fall on your knees...Oh,hear the angels' voices!!

Wishing you and your family a Merry CHRISTmas and praying that you are indeed well on your way to checking off everything on this to do list!!

December 16, 2011

THANK YOU!!

Care packages are always awesome but coming at Christmas time pretty much rocks!  This past week we have been so blessed by so many!
Jack & Tedder - Ryleigh thinks you'd enjoy playing in the boxes with her!
Park Place Ladies Sunday School thank you again for such a sweet box filled with goodies!  Ryleigh has already been intently watching her BabyFaith DVD Jana!
Vansant Baptist - where do we even start?  We've decided to call your boxes "treasure chests" since they really couldn't just be labled "boxes"!! As you can see Ryleigh was anxious to see what was for her :)
Yah for beach towels from Grangran & Grandma (how did we forget to crate those?!?!)
Oh and mom/dad & Jana....Steve's a little concerned about Ryleigh's facination with HIS poptarts...
Thanks to each of you - friends and family - you have made sure that this season, that can be a little more prone to homesickness than usual,quite full of joy.
We look forward to seeing some of your faces over here in Mada soon!

December 14, 2011

Enough

What's enough?
I'd say that most people in the world today are looking for whatever "enough" is.  Sadly, this includes most Christians.  They want to know what God expects...what is enough for Him?
Going to church on the holdiays?
Going to church every Sunday?
Teaching a class at church?
Passing out tracks?
Going on a mission trip?
Chaperoning a youth trip?
Giving to missions?
Going overseas?
Surrendering to full time ministry?
Making sure to pray before every meal?

Are any of these things good enough?   Are they "enough"?

None of the above mentioned things are "enough", we will always fall short of Him.  Nothing we do will ever be good enough to deserve His love and nothing we do will ever be bad enough to keep Him from loving us. 

Moving to a 3rd world country does not make the Lord love me more than someone who never leaves the street they live on - we are each called to walk with Him - wherever that may lead! Moving here is not "enough". I can be just as much of a sinner in Mada as I can be in the States.

Thankfully, His forgiveness and grace are unending and know no boundaries.

Thankfully, it's not up to us to figure out...He spells it out pretty simply for us in Micah 6:8
"And what does the LORD require of you; but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"

It's not up to me...I just have walk with Him...He'll take care of everything else.

December 12, 2011

Silent Night

I absolutely love Christmas music...I'd definitely listen to it year round if my husband approved!  We've come to an agreement that I can play it in the car as soon as Thanksgiving Day ends and it's something I definitely look forward to!  So, needless to say when we had our monthly evening English worship with the other M's here in Antsirabe, I was delighted when one suggested we  sing a Christmas song.  Probably one of the more popular ones was chosen and it's definitely a personal favorite - Silent Night.  No matter when this song comes into my head (even in June!) it calms my soul.  The words are beautiful and I feel like the Lord uses them to make me stop- to be still and be silent - simply dwelling in Who He is and what He has done.
However, that particular Sunday night, God used it to convict my heart.  With no disrespect to the song or the author of the lyrics, I totally get the song...I do - BUT this is what God was saying to my heart...

"A silent night...how does that make you feel?  Should the world have been silent as my Son was born?  Well, if you think not - then why are you so often silent?  How should you be reacting to the fact that I did indeed send my Son for you?  What's stopping you?  Fear? Pride? Apathy? Rise up my beloved!  Go forth and proclaim this Great News that I have given to you!  Stop focusing on the past today is a new day, forget the mistakes for they have been forgiven, my Son is alive today!  Reach out to those who are literally dying every day.  Go forth and tell!  Do not be SILENT!"

Hmmm...perhaps that's why since I was a little girl, my all time favorite has been "Go Tell it on the Mountain" :)

Those were His words not mine...how is He speaking to you during this special time of year?


December 10, 2011

Barriers

As we drove the 13 hours down to Tulear, my heart could not help but be overwhelmed with the vast lostness that surrounded us.  Literally hundreds of thousands of people who have never even heard the name of Jesus...how can that not break your heart?  We would drive through these gorgeous plains that would suddenly have a majestic mountain in the backdrop and all I wanted to do was climb the mountain and shout out for all to hear that Jesus Christ is Lord and that He desires to have a personal relationship with them.  However, so much is stopping me from doing that right now.  There are numerous language and cultural barriers here.  We know this is where we are called to and we are anxious to share about what the Lord has done in our lives with those around us.  But no matter how passionate I may be about wanting to share - I'm so very limited.  Even after months of language study, I still fall short of being able to effectively communicate the gospel. 


This line of thinking made me think about the past 26 years I have spent in the States.  Did I have this same passion to tell others about Him?  What stopped me?  Were there cultural barriers? Perhaps in certain situations.  Were there language barriers?  More than likely not.  So what was it?  I don't know that I have the answers, minus the fact that we have a powerful enemy who does everything in his power to keep the Truth from being spread.

So today, I want to ask you - are there barriers in your life that are keeping you from sharing who Christ is to those around you?  What's keeping you from making sure that He gets all of the glory He deserves?  Our Lord is worthy of every single person proclaming Him alone as God.  Are you doing your part?

December 8, 2011

Christmas Traffic

If I remember correctly, around this time of year, traffic seems to get a little out of control :)

I thought I'd give you a glimpse of your transportation options here in Madagascar...



and of course, if it won't crank then you can still push!

December 6, 2011

Living Water

Back in November during our 1/2 trip out to the bush, we crossed this bridge...
After I got over the shock of that there was such a nice bridge out in the middle of nowhere, my next thoughts were about how dry the riverbed was.  It seemed silly to cross a bridge when there was absolutely no water!  However, as I continued to dwell on this thought, the Holy Spirit started speaking to my heart.

We, as children of God, have the Holy Spirit in us.  We should have the Living Water flowing out of us at all times.  How often do I look like that dry riverbed?  How about when I encounter someone who doesn't know Christ...do they see a difference?  Is it enought to even get their feet wet?  Is that all that I desire?  For someone to just see enough Living Water in me to get their feet wet?  Honestly? Absolutely not.  I want to have the Living Water rushing out of me and sweeping people off their feet.  I desire for others to get so lost that they have no more control...only the River of Life is controlling them.  I pray the same for myself.  Why should I ever look like the riverbed pictured above? 
I have access to the Stream of Abundant Life...oh Lord, flow through me!!

December 4, 2011

11 months of JOY!

Miss Ryleigh Elizabeth...what joy you bring to our lives! Today you weigh 19 lbs and are 28 3/4 inches long!
This past month included lots of 1sts, some of which include...trip to the ocean, trying ice cream, playing in sand, tasting coke,giving a high five, and making us love you even more with your sweet kisses!
You also have gotten more adventurous with your walking. You love cruising around your room holding onto the furniture. You rarely play in the living room floor anymore because you're too busy walking around holding onto the furniture.  Going to church has become much more of an adventure now that you love walking around. You are anxious to see every person on every pew (and of course checking out those cool bugs on the floor!)!!
The rainy season has definitely started and you are a fan...it's like splashing in the pool every afternoon!
You eat all the time and love finger foods no matter if they are veggies or Graham cracker sticks. You are also more than willing to share your food! Speaking of sharing, you break out into a grin if you pass us a toy you may be playing with BUT you also ALWAYS expect to get it back immediately or that grin may disappear!!
Perhaps our favorite thing from this past month is how you have started singing with us and on your own. You make the sweetest little sounds in a different tone than when you're "talking". It melts our hearts every time!
and on top of all of this it was probably 90 degrees during this photo shoot so needless to say...you were quite happy when we took this next one!
You are loved baby girl!!

December 3, 2011

Still Learning

So, I guess I could have just told you why we didn't go out to the bush as planned but I decided to let you in on what was/is going on in my heart too.  My hope is that this may serve as an ever present reminder of how desperately we need you to be lifting us in prayer :)


Like I mentioned in my previous post, I've dreamt/thought/desired/wished/prayed/etc for this trip to happen for SO long.  2 days later, I'm still tearing up when I think about that we didn't make it out there.  That drive back to Tulear on Tuesday was one filled with extremely conflicting emotions. 

There are days since arriving here that are harder than others.  We know we are called to be right here but we do miss our family.  We miss things that we never knew we would miss, items that made life easier.  But, in many ways we were prepared for that part - we expected it.  We handle it through His strength. 

The thing that caught me most off guard Tuesday was what seemed like a conflict of interest.  The Lord has clearly called me to be a mom and He has just as clearly called me to work with the Mahafaly people.  An unreached people group that live in isolated & not easily accessible areas.  The village we were traveling to is the closest one to Tulear.  We made it halfway.  Halfway.  Perhaps, we shouldn't have even gone that far - maybe I'm a horrible mom for asking my baby girl to endure it that far.  I don't know.

How can I be called to work among this people & tell them of His love if I can't even make it out there with my daughter whom I'm also called to work with and tell of His love?  It was a tough day.  My heart knew all the right answers.  My heart was resounding and overflowing with Scripture that He has written there..."I know the plans I have for you"..."He will give him perfect peace, who trusts in the Lord"..."He will give you the desires of your heart"..."Be strong and courageous, do not fear"...and on and on.  However, my heart was having a very difficult time communicating with my head (and my eyes which were pouring buckets of water).  I wish I could tell you now that everything is okay and that it is all resolved - but it's not.  I don't know the answers to all of the questions that ran through my head on Tuesday, but I know the One who does. 

One thing that never crossed my mind was coming home...I'm confident that He will see all things to completion that He has started.  I don't question His soverignity, even when I can't see the big picture. 

I also don't question the importance of your prayers - thank you for being faithful.

 If I knew all the answers, there wouldn't be any need for faith. 
If it wasn't difficult, then pride would take over and I would think I could do it in my own power. 
If there wasn't a way, He would not have designed it. 
Thankful that I serve a God who looks at me with all of my sin, questions, doubts, & fears - and still sees one who is able to be used for His glory.  Praise the Lord.

December 2, 2011

the bush trip that wasn't

Monday night it was hard to sleep...partly because Ryleigh has started some sort of seperation anxiety that only seems to occur at nighttime and partly because the next morning we were driving out to the bush.  If you ask my parents, they'll say they don't really remember a time that I didn't talk about going to a village in Africa to live & tell people about Jesus.  So this day was a day I had dreamed about for at least the past 20ish years.  Considering I'm only 26 that's saying something!  Tuesday morning we got up & dressed for the trip out to Besatra (Mahafaly village).  It was a bit surreal for me because I couldn't really wrap my mind around that this was really happening...it was even more amazing to me b/c I got to share this experience with my husband and daughter. 
The trip takes about 4 hours and we had been told that it would be a rough ride.  Ryleigh was strapped in her carseat when we hit the 1st bump (not really sure these could be classified as just bumps) and she didn't know quite what to think about it.  After about 5 minutes of the worst "road" I've ever been on (and this includes all the times I've been mud riding & 4 wheeler riding), it was obvious Ryleigh would be safer & more comfortable sitting in my lap.  We were only going about 20kmph so we figured it would be fine.  Over the next hour or so, Ryleigh would drift off to sleep until we would come to a really bad spot and she'd wake up screaming.  It was breaking our hearts to see the fear in her eyes.  She didn't understand why we were bouncing around so much or why we might suddenly have to slam on the brakes...
So 2 hours into the trip, we decided that this trip wasn't going to be able to happen.  No one in the IMB that we're aware of had ever tried to take a baby out to this village and it appeared that we weren't going to be the 1st.  We turned our car around and headed back down the rock & hole filled "road" to Tulear.  We went even slower going back to try and have as nice of a ride as possible.  Therefore, we even got in a few photos of Ryleigh's (and our) 1st 1/2 trip out to the bush :)

So that's the story of what happened on Tuesday...the next blog will be a more in depth look of how this mom actually handled it :)

December 1, 2011

Tsara Fantatro

Tsara = Good 
Fantatro = to know

We 1st heard this song the night before we flew out of MS to head to Madagascar. 
 It's easily in our top 5 favorite songs and I often listen to it just to remind myself of what I already know. 
We are never alone.
Mississippi - Madagascar or anywhere in between
Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are going through...
You are not alone.

November 30, 2011

Ifaty

Our SW Mada team had our prayer retreat in a town that's about an hour outside of Tulear.  We had such a great time doing team challenges, sharing our testimonies, discussing strategies for reaching the people groups, and spending some time in prayer for each other and the Malagasy people.  The Hailes family are also a part of our SW team but they were unable to join us due to language classes - we sure missed you guys!  Here's a few pictures from our time there - it was BEAUTIFUL!!

Family pic at lunch one day
The view from where we did most of our meetings
Ryleigh and Titus hanging out
Enjoying some R&R in the pool
Ryleigh's new favorite food :)
SW Mada Team Pic (minus the Hailes!)
Ryleigh wants YOU to come visit!!

November 29, 2011

Thanks Jericho!

Thank you so much for our package full of Christmas goodies!  The gift cards are perfect for updating our music collection and Kindle books via Amazon.  Ryleigh already saw the toy and is loving it - so we thought it was okay for it to be an early Christmas gift.  You ladies are so sweet to think of us!  Oh, and we recieved the package on Thanksgiving, therefore deciding Rotel needed to be a new Thanksgiving dish!  It was delicious!  Thanks again for the package but most importantly your prayers!!

November 28, 2011

1st Beach Trip

After this view greeting us as we arrived in Tulear on Thursday, we couldn't wait to check out the beach the next day with the Waller family!
The wind was blowing a little more than usual so water was pretty muddy looking but Ryleigh didn't mind.  She loved every moment of it. 
She even discovered a new favorite finger food...SAND!!
Steve decided to walk around a little bit and found another place for us to check out.  This area was perfect for our kiddos.  The first 200 yards or so was completely calm and about ankle deep.  The water was clear and the bottom was all sand - no rocks!  Ryleigh had the best time crawling around and splashing in the water.  She will definitely be a beach bum! 
Looking forward to moving here in February!!

November 26, 2011

Beautiful Drive

Where in the world can you start off with scenes like this...
after a few hours, enter a rainforest...
only to be followed by this...
and then have your view change to this...
see a sunset like this...
and then end your day looking at this??

Only in Madagascar!!  What a gorgeous place the Lord has called us to serve Him in!  We were filled with a sense of wonder as we saw His splendor as we topped every hill with a new and gorgeous view.  At the same time our hearts could not help but be broken over all of those who see these breathtaking creations every day and still have not heard of the One who created them.  Please remember to lift up all of the people who live here who have never heard the name of Jesus.

November 25, 2011

Adopt A Village

We hope you each had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Ours did not go quite as planned, since we had to cut our trip to Tulear short, but we serve a gracious & loving God who takes care of us no matter what our plans might be!! 
I wanted to take a moment to talk to you about our SW Mada team site - Madabout Stories - I encourage you to take a few minutes to go and check it out.  It's full of info on our team, the SW Mada people groups, prayer requests, ministry updates, & the Adopt A Village info.  The latter is what I'd like to tell you more about today. 

As most of you know we had our SW Mada prayer retreat this past weekend (blog updates are coming soon with more info on our trip).  One thing we talked about was how incredibly God was moving among some of the villages of the Mahafaly (our people group).  A huge reason behind this is because of all the prayer coverage that has happened over the past 2-3 years.  Our supervisiors, the Waller family (check out their blog here), saw what a big part prayer played in reaching the Mahafaly and designed the Adopt A Village prayer ministry. 
By going here you can read all about it and sign up to adopt a village yourself!  There are currently 13 Mahafaly villages to adopt and we encourage you to read a little on each of them and see where the Lord directs you.  Our hope is that your Sunday School class, Bible Study group, GAs/RAs/Awanas, congregation, homeschool group, etc. will adopt one!  The length of time to adopt is up to you.  Once you have adopted a group to pray for you will be able to recieve updates/pictures/prayer requests as the SW team travels out to these villages.  Obviously some villages have more info than others right now due to where the villages are located.  Prayer is the greatest gift you can give to our team and we each value it SO much!  If you have any questions feel free to send us an email, comment on this blog, or email us through the MadaboutStories website.  We look forward to seeing which village your group chooses to adopt!

November 24, 2011

Thankful

Every good and perfect gift comes from our Father above...thankful today for parents who always taught me that this was true.  Thankful for parents who raised me to know that I should be thankful every day of the year for the gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ alone.  I could never be more thankful for anything else than for the sacrifice that He gave to save me.  Because of this gift, of being a child of the Creator of the world, I have quite a few other things to also be thankful for this year.  I'd just like to take some time today to share a few of those with you...

4 days after the start of 2011 our most precious blessing of the year arrived...
thankful for a healthy baby girl.
The next months were filled with sweet memories of spending time with the best families anyone could ask for...
thankful for the love that is shared
In May, Ryleigh and I were able to see this beautiful girl graduate high school...
thankful for how the Lord works out all the details
May 19th, we celebrated 4 years of marriage...
thankful for the love of my best friend and opportunities to serve our Father together.
July was full of many new things, but one was being able to see this beautiful woman go on her 1st ever international mission trip...
thankful for her heart of service.
We arrived safely in Madagascar...
thankful for protection and a God who fulfills the desires He places in our hearts.
Our SWMada team (as of July) finally all got to be in the same place at the same time...
thankful for 3 new units that have now been added to this team!
The past 11 months have been full of memories, emotions, and most of all thankfulness...words can not express how thankful we are for all of our friends, prayer churches, prayer partners, the IMB, and every single Sunday School/VBS/GA/DT teacher along the way - you have each played an intricate role in our lives and for that we give Him all the glory!  We are thankful for you! Love you!
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