Where Would You Like To Go?

December 10, 2013

While She Sleeps

Her energy seems to be boundless during the day.  Her imagination runs wild and free...I sit and watch and wonder fills me. She is curious about everything and the connections she makes between Bible stories, Disney Jr shows, Malagasy words, and Bible verses would surely bring a smile to anyone's face. I think about what I whisper to her as much as I can remember to..."God's plans for you are perfect Ryleigh, He desires to do amazing things through your life."  I wonder what those plans will entail for this bright eyed & always giggling toddler.

A normal day of that much energy has it's fair share of seeing the things she "gets" from her momma - the emotional breakdowns, the tantrums over seemingly insignificant things, and that stubborn pride that holds fast to what she thinks is right even in the midst of being told she's wrong.  Its when those moments start piling up that I start counting down to her nap time or bed time...waiting out the hours or minutes that are left until there will be a certain stillness in our home again.  That time where the questions of "why momma?" will be silenced at least for a little while.

The funny thing is that once she's asleep, I miss her.  No matter how much I wanted her to be in bed thirty minutes before, I miss knowing what's going on in that little brain of hers.  I miss the constant hugs, kisses, and "I love yous" or in her case it is always "I miss yous".  I am filled with the memory of how she runs to me and buries her head into my side telling me how much she has missed me even if I was only out of the room for a moment.

While she sleeps, I tend to reflect over my shortcomings inside that particular day.  I wonder about if it really matters if I pick her up or not while I'm pregnant and that maybe I should have said "yes" just that one time.  I think about the times that I disciplined her out of my own frustrations and lack of patience instead of out of Mercy & Grace.  I wonder what any other mom would think if they saw what she ate for lunch that day.  I think back to the words & tone of voice I used when talking to her daddy - wonder if I'm showing her what our marriage is supposed to be a reflection of.

That reflection time is often turned into cries of prayer out to my Father - that He would grant me His wisdom in raising that peaceful sleeping girl.  I pray for forgiveness of when I point her away from His cross and towards the world.  I beg for my insecurities and my misguided words to all be put through His holy sifter before reaching her ears and her eyes.  I ask that He be glorified through me and that He be glorified through her.

It's pretty amazing how rested I can feel when she wakes - almost as if I have forgotten how tiring it all can be...it may not take long to remember but gratefully, thankfully, I have His ever equipping Spirit right there inside of me.

December 8, 2013

Love Came Down

 The Advent season has looked differently throughout my life.  Growing up, there were times that my church would do specific things on Sundays, reflections, lighting of candles...my family had various things throughout the years that we did to focus on the Christ story of Christmas...and now that I have a family of my own, I've been ever seeking how to incorporate the Gift of Christmas into our everyday lives - even with a 2 year old.

This year, I found Truth in the Tinsel via a Facebook link and we are loving it.  It's short, simple, to the point, and fun to do.  I believe it's something we can do for several years because it would be easier to go deeper as Ryleigh gets older.

While I obviously want to raise Ryleigh to understand the Gospel in all of it's entirety and desire to use every opportunity to point her towards Christ...I too desire to understand the Gospel in all of it's entirety and to know that I am seeking Him in a daily walk and not just in certain seasons.  As an early Christmas gift, my parents gave me the book "The Greatest Gift" by Ann Voscamp.  If you read my blog you've seen her name pop up on here once or twice...or thirty times.  The gift the Lord has given her in putting thoughts down on paper is simply that...a gift.

As I have been reading through this daily devotional for the days leading up to the celebration of Christ's birth - I have been humbled, stilled, and overwhelmed.  His story truly is magnificent - isn't it?  For the plan to have begun, to have been put into motion with the creation of everything we see...it is beautiful.  His story that is interwoven through every letter of the Old Testament...realizing that, taking it all in - how can you hurry through it?  How can you not stop and be still to take in the enormity that is Christ?

Love itself came down to us - on a night in Bethlehem...however Love itself is't to be celebrated or recognized on one day a year - or even on one day every week.  He is bigger than that - even as a babe...He is Love.  He is God.  He's more than a duty to read through the Christmas story before digging into the gifts, He's more than saying "Remember the Reason for the Season", He's more than fighting all those "Happy Holidays" people and saying "Merry Christmas" back to them with an exasperated look in your eye.  He is Jesus.  He was the long awaited Savior of an entire people who didn't even realize He would be the Savior of the entire world.

We hear the story and wonder how the people back then didn't "get it".  How could they have missed the greatest birth in all of history?  How could they not connect all the prophesies to have seen Him for Who He is - Love come down??  I wonder how much we fall into the same delusions.  Just a baby.  Not enough time.  The Saving Grace doesn't look quite like what we pictured.  Dutiful. Law abiding. Church attending. Carol singing. Love missing...don't miss out this year.  Don't let these beautiful days leading up to the celebration be filled with anything but the anticipation of our Savior being born.  Celebrate daily, rejoice every moment, seek out the Gift of today, and share it with those who He has placed around you.

Praise Him that Love. Came. Down.

November 27, 2013

Gratitude in the Ugly Beautiful

Monday was my last guest post for this month on Mississippi Women Bloggers...it actually completely slipped my mind.  The Lord brought it to my mind today and I went over to check it out.  As I was reading what I had written several months ago, tears flooded my eyes with His faithfulness.

Today has been a rough day.  I've been emotional, sick, and did I mention emotional?  Yet, here He was reminding me to find Gratitude in the Ugly Beautiful...maybe you need that reminder today too.  Just click on the link and read what He has been teaching me about the ugly beautiful things.

November 22, 2013

Five Minute Friday: FLY

In our backyard growing up, on the playground at school...wherever there was a swing set, I loved being in it - I guess I still do (although I may feel a little silly as the years have gone on).  Pushing up and swinging as high as I could go, closing my eyes and for a moment almost feeling like I was flying.  Flying above it all - gaining a perspective that I couldn't quite imagine but knew I'd enjoy.

There have been other times in my life that I have that urge - looking out over the Grand Canyon, standing with my toes in the water on a beach, being in the Space Needle in Seattle, standing in the mild of a wide open pasture that seems to have no end...just the desire to close my eyes and be lifted up - to fly out over it all.

Those silly questionnaires or journal entries we'd have in school - "what animal would you most like to be?"  How could anyone have any other answer besides some type of bird?  To have the ability to fly, to soar, to just run and lift off...not exactly to escape anything but more so to have a wider view of it all - to be able to take it all in a bit more clearly.

It wasn't just a desire - it was a feeling - something my heart felt when I imagined flying above it all - my heart seemed to take off even when my feet were solidly on the ground.

I love how He grants us the desires of our heart when our heart lines up with His and in spite of all the times that it doesn't.  He has allowed me that feeling of my heart flying more times than I can count.

Having a man who seeks after Him more than anything else in this world, look at me the way that he does even when I'm 31 weeks along and miserably hot - it makes my heart fly.  Opening my arms to a toddler who runs at me with full abandon while laughing hysterically - it makes my heart fly.  Sitting on our front steps and taking in the African sky - it makes my heart fly.

thankful for His reminders of His grace and His love and His faithfulness...that He can always make my heart fly.

November 21, 2013

Thankful Thursdays

Although I haven't done a Thankful Thursday post in a few weeks...I have still been very thankful and keeping up with my "Thankful Journal".  This week has been a much better week health wise for me so I thought I'd play a little catch up!

#472 - Internet shopping (Amazon, Etsy, etc) it just makes life overseas easier when it comes to birthday & Christmas gifts!

#475 - Ryleigh saying "Ooooohhhh I musta forgot" when being corrected/disciplined about a rule she already knows - it's really quite funny

#478 - Ryleigh's excitement over sleeping in her "tent" aka her mosquito net

#484 - grilled pizza crusts - my friend Jodie introduced me to these a few weeks back and they. are. awesome.

#489 - safety during the elections

#495 - milkshakes - laugh if you want but after days of severe acid reflux and keeping no food down - they can become your best friend

#503 - Team meeting days - I do love hanging out with our team and updating the calendar!

#505 - learning how to best show respect to Steve in our marriage

#508 - Hiding His word in my heart...and hearing Ryleigh do the same

#515 - Settlers of Catan

November 13, 2013

Seeds of Hope

I'd like to send you over to our co-workers blog here, so that you can read about the Seeds of Hope project that happened on their last bush trip.  It really is a pretty awesome project and we need you praying that He continues to move in the lives of the villagers as our team continues to follow up in the weeks to come!

November 12, 2013

Tuesday Tidbits

This blog world is a funny place.  It sometimes makes me forget that I'm not best friends with certain people because I feel like I know so much about their life and their walk with the Lord.  Some of these people would make you laugh to think that they would even know who I am but there is one who I constantly wonder why we weren't friends when we lived in the same town - attended the same college...that it took us being on the other side of the globe to connect via blogs.  She shares her heart so eloquently and I love her for it.  The Lord has used her words in ways she'll never know to teach me, remind me, mold me after Him.  This past week she shared a quote from Elizabeth Elliot that I absolutely loved...

"But everything in this scene is the King's business, which he looks on in loving sympathy and understanding, for, as Baron Von Hugel said, "The chain of cause and effect which makes up human life, is bisected at every point by a vertical line relating us and all we do to God." This is what He has given us to do, this task here on earth, not the task we aspired to do, but this one.  The absurdities involved cut us down to size.  The great discrepancy between what we envisioned and what we've got force us to be real. And God is our great Reality, more real than the realest of earthly conditions, an unchanging Reality. It is His providence that has put us where we are.  It's where we belong.  It is for us to receive it - all of it - humbly, quietly, thankfully."  (p.228) 
from Keep a Quiet Heart by Elizabeth Elliot

Thank you Laura for sharing what He is teaching you ever so transparently...it makes a difference!

November 11, 2013

A Lifestyle of Gratitude

Would love to have you join me over at MS Women Bloggers today as I guest post on "A Lifestyle of Gratitude" - see you there!

November 9, 2013

Fall Festival

This post is a little late...I had every intention but was simply sidetracked...anyhow, we got together with our Tulear team and had a Fall Festival of sorts for the kiddos - it was fun and an added bonus that we had our new CSL family in for a visit!  All of our hubbies were present - they were manning the grill throughout most of the photos and the hamburgers were delicious!   Here's a peek into our evening...

November 8, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Truth

It's that time again - if you want to link up go here.



I hear it when I speak to her.  It pours from somewhere deep inside me like an unending fountain.  I take pause because it often surprises me when I hear what I'm saying. 

So grateful.

Thankful that He allows His truth to pour from me - overflowing into her beautiful, on purpose, specially planned life.  that even when my life is far from reflecting Him, He's faithful to use me to speak to her...that joy filled toddler that radiates the Truth of His goodness, of His life, of His faithfulness. 

It's after the noise has stopped from the day that those truths often come back to me.

The truth that she is beautiful.  That she is wonderfully & perfectly created.  That He has the most amazing plans for her.  That she is loved even when she leaves messes, or forgets to go in the potty, or intentionally disobeys.  The truths that we discipline her out of unconditional love.  The truth that often needs no words and just arms wrapped around her so tightly, when she can't quite put words to her almost 3 year old emotions.  The truth of how lovely her songs to the Lord are even when they are made up - just cries from her tiny heart.

It's after she's gone to bed and I'm still awake that He whispers those truths on repeat to me.  That His truths don't change between age 3 and age 28.  they are consistent.  He is consistent.  Truth never changes.  What a beautiful and soothing song to fall asleep to in His arms.  



November 4, 2013

Guest Blogger

This month I am guest blogging every Monday over at Mississippi Women Bloggers...hop on over here to check it out!  Today, was more of an introduction day but I'll be sharing what God has been teaching me about having a thankful heart and an attitude of gratitude! Thanks!

November 1, 2013

Five Minute Friday

Won't you join in today?  Write, speak from the heart, blog without over thinking - link up with the 5 minute Friday here.



It's such a simple word...almost deceiving in the easy way it is to pronounce, to sing, to put in a sentence.  A beautiful word with a breathtaking meaning...yet "grace" - TRUE grace...it's hard.  difficult.  the accepting of it that is...to truly wrap my head around the definition of receiving something I don't deserve.  that i haven't worked for. that there is no checklist or prerequisites for.  there's no file folder to file it in.  my brain isn't wired to fully grasp it.  not in my sin state.  not in my humanness.  

on the other hand it seems easy enough to give to others - they seem more worthy somehow...or maybe it's just because it makes me feel good to give grace.  does it always go back to selfish motives?  maybe that's why it's hard for me to accept it.  to view it as a free gift.  isn't there always an ulterior motive rooted down deep?  down deep beneath the masks and facades that we walk though this life with? the fear that ultimately He - the Grace Giver - will hold up a mirror showing my true self and how unworthy of it I am? 

so i sit with my tear stained face too humbled to even look up to heaven because in the midst of every question, every doubt, every fear...His Grace is there.  It's covering up and erasing all of the question marks that seem to wrap themselves around my heart.

His Grace is ENOUGH.
it. is. enough.  

A New School Year

2 weeks ago the deaf class started meeting again and in a new (and bigger) classroom!  Hasina has 19 students this year and we have already enjoyed meeting the new children.  The students are between 6 years and 20 years old - all in one classroom!  Our first week, Ryleigh and I went to check out their schedule for the year and to make sure we could still do our weekly Bible stories & crafts.  Thankful that Hasina said yes - it's such a blessing to have that open door!  We took a small gift to welcome them back - finger puppets made by the GAs at my home church in MS.  The children loved them!!
Last week, I took a felt board (also from the GAs at my home church) that was a gift for the class and told the creation story.  The students loved recreating the story on the felt board and are looking forward to the next story this upcoming week!
I am so thankful for this ministry and that the Lord continues to give me opportunities with patient people (Hasina) that help me with my language!  Praising Him for the gift of telling His stories to these precious children that have definitely had my heart since the beginning.

October 30, 2013

Sisterly Encouragement

Encouragement from sisters of whom we may never meet on this side of heaven...that's what running this race together means...right?!?

"Kingdom business. Jesus work. This shaping of souls. This raising tiny humans.
There are those that say that this is ordinary. Don’t buy that for a second.
Mighty. You are mighty, because you mother."

You need to go and check out the rest of this MIGHTY post by Lisa Jo.

October 29, 2013

Tuesday Tidbits

A look into our world this past week...

Ryleigh found 2 dolls made by churches in the States that were leftover from a trip last year to a nearby orphanage.  She immediately thought they were both hers.  After some explaining that they were dolls for other little girls, we decided to take a pousse ride to find a little girl to give one to.  Ryleigh spotted this little girl and climbed out of the pousse to give it to her.  Grateful for opportunities to share His love and teach Ryleigh about giving!

After almost a month, things are finally in their place in our new house - here's a picture of Ryleigh's "big girl" room!  Oh and Ryleigh picked out the paint for her room - but I'm a huge fan!

Steve had a small garden at our first home but it was mostly in random pots just to see what would grow.  After a good bit of success, he had room at this house to build a bigger garden...Ryleigh calls it hers though - guess we'll see how that goes!

And on the other side of the world, my Papaw - since March - has been in the hospital, hospice, and now an assisted living facility.  He even got to travel with my parents to a family reunion this past weekend!  My dad sent me a picture of Papaw sporting my Dad's sunglasses - it made me smile and I am overjoyed with how well he is doing!

October 24, 2013

Thankful Thursdays

#449 - Parents & inlaws who go out of their way to show their love to us

#452 - pousse rides with Ryleigh

#456 - muddy princess

 #459 - a week with no long electricity cuts

#461 - making music wherever we go

#462 - quality conversations with Steve about our God, our love, our life

#466 - worship

 #470 - learning how to give joyfully

October 22, 2013

Tuesday Thoughts

It will come as no surprise to most of you that I have been sick for a large portion of this 27 weeks of pregnancy.  As far as compared to my first pregnancy the two have been radically different.  There have been many jokes made about how "easy" my being pregnant with Ryleigh was and I was within walking distance of fantastic doctors & an easy car ride to a 1st world hospital vs now being so sick and living in a 3rd world country.  Slightly ironic...don't ya think?

There have been countless prayers lifted up for our health and for wisdom.  He has been gracious & faithful to provide over & over for all that we need.  We are grateful...but, I feel the need to be honest with you - transparent as I can, though we live 1/2 a world away from most of you.  I have been - and sometimes still am - frustrated.

I'm not a "bed rest" kinda gal.  I like doing...I enjoy productivity...I feel a sense of accomplishment in checking things off the proverbial "to do" list.  When these things don't happen, I don't quite feel like myself.  I feel shame, guilt, and like I am being a hinderance to everyone in my life.  No matter how it may sound at this point, it's truly not in a "pity party" type of way...it's in a  "I truly want to get off the couch/bed and DO something."  And don't think for a moment that there weren't days during the 1st trimester "all day sickness" and this 2nd trimester when I tried, when I pushed myself to do far more than I should have been doing.  My body (and Lyllian's) would be quick to remind me that I simply couldn't & needed to stop.  Enter more frustration.

This morning, I woke up feeling queasy.  I literally sighed and pushed myself out of bed, refusing to stay in a moment longer.  I came to the living room & "Revelation Song" was the first one playing as I turned on my computer.  "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, worthy, worthy is He."  His peace was flowing but I was hesitant.  I just wanted to feel healthy.  I longed to spend a day of keeping up with our active toddler and not telling her that we could pick one thing to do & then I'd need to rest.
And then my eyes read these words..."Intellectually you rejoice in My sovereignty, without which the world would be a terrifying place. But when My sovereign will encroaches on your little domain of control, you often react with telltale resentment." - Jesus Calling, Sarah Young.   I sat up a little straighter...this was it.

This was my problem...my sin.  I forgot that I am not in control.  I forgot that His sovereignty transcends everything - even the day to day things.  "Remember that all good things—your possessions, your family and friends, your health and abilities, your time—are gifts from Me. Instead of feeling entitled to all these blessings, respond to them with gratitude. Be prepared to let go of anything I take from you, but never let go of My hand!" - Jesus Calling, Sarah Young.

Everything in this life is a gift.  The breaths we take, the opening/closing of our eyes, the beat of our heart...none of those things do we deserve but so often I just expect them.  I expect good health.  I expect for our daughter to run (and talk) full speed ahead every day.  I expect Steve to come home safely from the bush. If I live my life this way, what happens the day I wake up to find things different from how I expected?  It's not pretty - that's for sure.  However, if I remember to find His gifts, His grace in each of the day to day "normal" things then I will be ever reminded of His faithfulness & sovereignty. He can enable me to wake up to an abnormal day, and have praise on my lips...perhaps with tears in my eyes but praise nonetheless. He has chosen at this moment to bless me with the gift of rest, the gift of a growing baby girl in my tummy, the gift of a toddler who has boundless energy, and the gift of a husband who has returned home safely from the bush...but at any moment that He sees fit those gifts could change.

For who am I to know what the moments that lie ahead hold?  As Job says "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away...BLESSED be His name".  

October 21, 2013

Pastor Toria

We've mentioned Pastor Toria before in our blog...most recently he is one of the pastors who helped lead the Lay Leadership Training in the bush.  Please read Steve's account of his most recent visit with Toria...

This past week during our bush trip to Mahafaly land we decided to go by and visit Pastor Toria in Beheloka.  Like always, we did our formal greetings with him and his family and asked him what was new there.  He proceeded to tell us that he was glad that we had come by because he did not know if we would have seen him again if his family had moved.  We were confused and asked for more explanation because we did not know they were looking to move.  He told us that they were in the process of making a decision as to whether or not to stay in Beheloka and continue to do ministry.  
While fighting back tears he began to share how hard life was there for him and his family in Beheloka.  They have been there eight years now and for the first four years there, they slept in the kitchen of a church member's house; yes, not an extra bedroom, but the kitchen.  After that time, they were able to build a tiny house that barely fit their entire family.  He and his wife have four kids and they have adopted one more.  Two years ago they built a little bigger house, but still small, next to the tiny one where he and his wife slept with the baby.  The older kids slept in the tiny house until it burned down last year and they were left with one house again.  
Also, for the past eight years they have struggled to get fresh water since Beheloka is a coastal town and all the water is salty.  Food is another thing that has been hard on them.  The town they live in does not have a huge market with tons of vegetables and many days they can only find cassava to eat.  For the first seven years there, Toria would go out daily and catch fish to be able to provide meat for his family, but it was hard on him to do that and be a pastor.  Earlier this year he decided to give up fishing and focus more on his ministry at the church and his three nearby preaching points.  That put a huge burden on his family with food as well.  
Please understand that I am talking about a rural bush village that he lives in.  There is no electricity or running water.  The name of the town literally means "Big Sin."  He is the only pastor that lives in that town.  The Catholic and Lutheran priests just stop in occasionally.  He also goes out into three other nearby villages and preaches the gospel, some of which take an hour to get to on foot.  He has been a catalyst in starting a church in one town just south of Beheloka in the past year that already has a building and has 50 to 60 meeting there each Sunday morning. 
Some of their recent struggles have been sickness.  His whole family got really sick back in July and they have been battling sickness ever since.  More recently, his wife had to be brought into Tulear to receive treatment.  She has a serious and painful medical issue, the doctor sent her home to Beheloka with medicine, but she now needs to come back to Tulear for more treatment and meds.  This provides another stress on their family in a financial way.
I have written all of this information here about this great, Godly man for you to be able to lift him and his family up in your prayers.  We learned yesterday that his decision as of now is to stay in Beheloka.  He traveled up to Tulear to talk to his supervisor yesterday and other pastors along his route encouraged him.  While here in Tulear, he also learned that if he leaves his town, that the church in Tulear will probably not be able to find another pastor that would be willing to live in Beheloka because they know how hard it is to live there. 
Please join us in praying for Toria, his family, and his ministry in Beheloka.