- So we've made it - we're in Virginia...and a whole lot more than just the timezone is different!
We're overwhelmed to say the least. Overwhelmed in the best possible way. Our days are jam packed with invaluable teaching sessions from some pretty amazing servants of the Lord. Anytime we're not in class we're busy trying to balance - family time/hanging out with people we'll be near on the field/ministry teams/homework assignments/probably some other things I'm currently forgetting - !! From about 8 - 3 every day Ryleigh is in class/nursery with 4 precious ladies. She is adapting so well to all the changes going on around her (thank you for all the prayers!!) I'm handling it all pretty well because she's happy being in the nursery AND she still gives me a smile when I come in. I couldn't ask for a better reaction!
Here's Ryleigh on her way to class Tuesday morning
One of the greatest things so far - is that everyone here is on the same page. We're all about to leave our friends and family for a long term assignment overseas. The leaders here have all been in our shoes at some point and time too. While there is PLENTY to cover about life and ministry overseas - it has been made quite clear that NOTHING is more important than our time spent with the Lord. Today, we studied Mark 3:14, "He appointed twelve, that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach..." Did you catch the 1st thing mentioned for why Jesus appointed them? "that they might BE with Him"...could it get any better? That the reason the Lord appoints us is first and foremost to be with Him. This particular Bible study could not have come at a more providental time in my life. I've found myself living my life around Ryleigh's schedule. Don't get me wrong, I love her...so very very much - however, when I allow her schedule to conflict with spending my time with the Lord then I am no good to anyone! The past 2 days my heart has been burdened with being purposeful about my walk with the Lord. I desire to spend intentional personal time with Him. Only through that relationship, am I able to function correctly! What peace flooded my heart today when reading that verse. First and foremost, I am called to simply be with the Lord - to rest in Him, to learn from Him, to strive to be like Him. I am called to share the good news. I am called to be a wife. I am called to be a mother. I am called to do good works for His glory. BUT - 1st - I am called to be a daughter of the King of Kings. Praise Him for His grace and forgiveness of all the times that I fall short. I'm finding myself thankful for His mercy and His 2nd (3rd,4th,5th...)chances to follow Him on this journey.
We enjoyed spending our last week in MS in my hometown, Meridian. Sunday we found ourselves at First Baptist Collinsville - home church of one of my best friends, Natalie. She loves any opportunity to hold Ryleigh!
Monday, we spent the day at my Nanna's house...Ryleigh enjoyed being passed around and loved on!
Ryleigh's great Aunt Laura
cousins - Kennedy and Kary (and Rosy the Unicorn)
Pop spent the afternoon frying chicken and it was YUMMY!
Tuesday, we went out to my mamaw and papaw's house in Causeyville, MS.
Aunt Patricia babysat Ryleigh while Steve and I rode 4 wheelers for a little while! The views were beautiful.
My great aunt necie was in town, so Ryleigh was able to meet a great-great-aunt!
On Friday, Aunt Chesney and Casey came in from MC. Wish they could have spent the whole past week with us, but we were glad to see them when they came!
Ryleigh loves hanging out with Aunt Chesney!!
We're having Easter at my mom and dad's house on Saturday night, so we've spent the rest of the time getting ready for that - almost the whole family is coming, so it'll be fun! My mom and nanna have spent lots of time cooking up all of my favorites before we leave. There's nothing quite like home cooked meals and getting to eat with those you love!! Ryleigh is growing like crazy and has been doing new things that we of course think are the most amazing ever. She's rolling over and holding up her head. Her "talking" gets more diverse and more often every day. We are loving every moment! Actually, there's quite a few people who are loving it :)
Just in case anyone is wondering...our child is loved ;)
In just 3 short weeks, our favorite senior is graduating high school. I love my sister more than words can express and how proud I am of her...well, words are lacking in that area too. She is about to graduate from West Lauderdale (where both me and my sister Chesney graduated from) and then is headed to Mississippi College (where once again Chesney and I both attended - hey Steve did too!). I think Ryleigh must have inherited my love for her...she adores her Aunt Alanna!
As we share at different churches in the area - we do mostly the same thing...our testimony, info about Madagascar, information about the Mahafaly (our people group), and then how the congregation can join us as prayer partners in this ministry the Lord has led us to. We were speaking at a church in Collinsville this past Sunday night and as I was listening to my husband sharing about the Mahafaly - something stirred in my heart.
Steve was sharing how our people are so focused on pleasing their ancestors and worshipping the spirits around them, that their lives revolve around what they can and can't do. The taboos and rules they follow seem bizzare and extreme to us. Freedom is something that is foreign to them. These facts have continually broken my heart. I long to be there to share about what Christ has done in my life and the freedom that comes from His salvation.
However, this past Sunday night, these facts struck me differently. The Lord started speaking to me about how many are in churches today or at least live in the “Bible Belt” and still have no idea what freedom is. There are people all around us that believe that is all Christianity is – a list of do’s and don’ts. That it’s just a lot of rules to follow. My heart has been in a state of brokenness over the Mahafaly and these thoughts further broke my heart for the lost around me right now. Furthermore, it broke my heart thinking of those who do know Christ who are choosing not to live in the abundance of life He promises to us ( John 10:10).
The next day, I received a text from my sister, Chesney. She was thinking along the same lines as I had been based on some verses she had studied. John 4:22, “...you worship what you do not know, we worship what we know..." So many people think they know God and that they are worshipping Him but in reality are still thirsty for the Living Water.
Often, I believe even Christians can get caught up in other things that hinders us from embracing the freedom of Christ. I'm reminded of Isaiah 29:13 "The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men."
My prayer is that the Lord forgives me of the foolishness of my heart and head - when I trap myself into being distracted by Satan's lies and decietfulness. That He would remind me of the freedom that comes in knowing Christ intimately. I also pray that this would be evident in my daily walk with Him. For how will they (the lost around us, the Mahafaly) know Him, unless someone tells them? Unless someone lives it out among them?
We left out bright and early Sunday morning to drive to Austin, TX. We were able to add in an unexpected stop in Commerce - to meet a family we'll be serving alongside once we're in Madagascar. We're looking forward to seeing them again once we're in Mada (they'll be arriving for language school in October)! Here's a picture of all the girls with Ryleigh - looks like she'll have lots of "girl time" even in Mada!
15 hours later we arrived in Austin. It was a long drive but well worth it to spend some time with Aunt Maria and Uncle Skip! Of course it was also good to finally put Ryleigh's "cowgirl" outfit to appropriate use! :)
The weather was GORGEOUS and we took full advantage of it!
We also made a visit to the Salt Lick - yummy!! The best BBQ you can find!!
Oh...and Aunt Maria made sure that Ryleigh understood she has to be a Longhorn fan ;)