Where Would You Like To Go?

April 30, 2014

So Much

there is SO MUCH to be thankful for...at all times
i can't help but be in awe of who He is when i am thanking Him for His gifts

thankfulness stomps out the negative thoughts
thankfulness creates smiles when there was an inevitable sigh
thankfulness precedes worship

i think that thankfulness takes awareness, breathing deep, living life slowly...and sometimes that's difficult.
life sometimes feels like a sprint. 
life creates blinders that are easy to wear all the time. 
life is busy.
life is hard.

but the moments i choose to take the time to breathe a prayer of thanks for...
the crying at 2am that means I have a baby who is able to live at home with me
the never ending dishes in the sink that means we enjoyed a meal together
the toy that I just sat on that means I have a 3 year old who loves using her imagination
the dirty clothes in the basket that means we have been outside enjoying the sunshine
the whining for something to eat & drink that means she knows she is loved & will be taken care of 
the list could go on and on - if I take the time to see it that way...then life is abundant and that's what He said He came for...

taking those thoughts captive...
one
at
a
time

April 28, 2014

Deep Breath

It's odd being away from Mada for so long.  I know we're here for a good reason and that I'm getting better but it's still hard.  It's strange to be in yet another "home" that isn't really our home.  Our mission family here has been fantastic.  They are gracious and generous people who love the Lord and have in turn loved on us...but we miss Tulear.  Our hearts ache to be back even while we are throughly enjoying the cold weather!  

Today I am grateful for His calling.  I am overwhelmed with the magnificence of His plan and that He desires to use each of us to fulfill it.  I am in awe that His message is the same for each of us and that it will never change. 

We are loved.
We have hope.
His mercy will never end.
No matter what we have done.
We are LOVED.

My heart is overflowing and it just seems that this chicka has a song for everything I've been feeling these past few weeks...check it out.

April 26, 2014

Immanuel

never again do I desire to be content or satisfied - apart from His unfailing love.

will every day be either a mountain top or a valley?  absolutely not...but everyday can be and is a part of the journey - the key is in recognizing it.  the journey to be more like Christ - the dark days, the bright days, the dimly lit days, and the fun disco ball days - they all play a part if we let them...if we are looking for the Truths He is trying to teach us.  He's done the seeking, He has sought us out to be His children and we have so much to learn...every moment.

there is a scariness that comes with knowing you are in a valley, in a pit, in a not so pleasant place - but i'm learning that it's also quite an amazing place to be - because you become desperate.  
i'm desperate in a way that i haven't quite known before.
i have a hunger for His truth in a new way and i don't want that hunger to ever become satisfied again.
living inside of every moment - trying to breathe deeply and see the gift that He gives us in the ordinary, every day, routineness of our lives...that is living fully.  slowing down has a way of expanding the time we have...making sure that we are grateful for it...making sure we see His glory in it.  Being aware that I desperately need His salvation to walk through each & every day is a truly incredible thing and it's something that I am praying that I now never lose sight of.

I desire to see Him in all that He has created...all that He has given.

He is Immanuel - God with us.  He. is. here.

the joy in hearing a new book read aloud
the tears that fall for no explainable reason
the tiny hands grasping for a strand of hair to hold
the lyrics to a new song being sung
the shrieks of happiness as she rides on his shoulders
the sorrow that comes from recognizing a loss
the chasing after bubbles being blown
the way the sunlight glints between the trees
the mourning of the way we imagined things would be
the delightful smile sandwiched between two dirt streaked cheeks

the swinging on a swing higher and higher
the way he holds my hand as we walk
the roses that are in full bloom
the color that is rich in the world around us

He is Immanuel - God with us.  He. is. here.







April 25, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Friend

I've learned a lot recently how important friends are.  Thankfully, I have a few close friends...the ones that we've laughed until we've cried, shared life together, stayed up late talking, been accountable to, challenged each other and just been there for one another.  The Lord has graciously given me a fantastic friend to go through each big season of life with.  Gratefully no matter what season He brought us to one another in, we can still pick up right where we left off no matter how long it might be between talks/emails.

I desire for Ryleigh & Lyllian to be great friends to people one day...I pray over the people the Lord will bring into their lives.  I pray for deep & rich friendships that are based on the common ground of being sisters in Christ.

We were built for community...for family...for friends...for relationships.

Thank you for being that to me - for being a part of my community...whether we've never met, been acquaintances, co-workers, friends, best friends, or family - I am grateful that our paths have crossed.  I hope that our lives can look more like Christ's because how we have seen Him work in one another.

April 23, 2014

Why Not

Eyes full of disbelief and wonder look up at me, "Really momma? I can eat it with my fingers?"  The delight in her giggle makes me smile, "Of course...why not?"  We laugh together as we both pick up a green bean and enjoy it - all without the use of a fork...sometimes it's the little things - right?

I wonder how many times I could have said "why not" but instead I chose "no" even when it wasn't necessary.

There's grace to be found in the "why nots"
There's messiness to be found in the "why nots"
There's delight to be found in the "why nots"
There's ordinary extraordinary in the "why nots"

I tend to be reflective and while it's not a bad thing - I can't change the past but I can learn from it.

My desire is to slow down, notice the "why not" moments, breathe deeply, and enjoy this day that He has given us.  You know I love Ann Voscamp's book and in it she reminds us that "life is not an emergency", what a wonderful gift it is to be able to remember and live life in the truth of that phrase.

So, if we're enjoying a meal together when we come stateside this Fall, I'm asking for grace and maybe even a giggle when our greenbeans are eaten in a less than proper way.


April 22, 2014

Songs of Deliverance

Worship is a mysteriously beautiful thing - isn't it?  Worship transports me to His throne room like little else.  Songs - new and old, the Psalms, reading Scripture, and prayer...are all ways that I enjoy worshipping my Savior.

I got to a point in my depression that worship created a sense of panic inside of me.  I seriously struggled with how I was able to worship and sing songs to the Lord when I was fighting this overwhelming sadness and seemingly loss of joy...I felt like I didn't have a right to worship.

I don't know if you've ever been there but the Lord just poured Himself out on me.  He sang and rejoiced over me - just as He promises in Zephaniah 3.  He reminded me that He is light in the darkness...and that I can stand in Him & His righteousness.

"...dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne...when the darkness seems to hide His face, I rest in His unchanging grace, my anchor holds within the veil...on Christ the solid rock I stand...all other ground is sinking sand...all other ground is sinking sand."

A new friend recently shared "breakthroughs seldom happen without breakdowns" and friends, that's where I am.

I am broken-down, in ways I never have been before...and I'm continually reminded that "broken" is exactly how I need to be.  Brokeness creates desperation.  And desperation for the One True God is indeed the perfect state to be in.  He asks for that to be our sacrifice to Him...a broken spirit; a broken & contrite heart...

"For you do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Psalms 57:16-17

I truly feel that in the midst of this breakdown I am having a breakthrough - that He is delivering me.  The main breakthrough is realizing just that.  He is ALL that I need.  His intentions are never shaken.  He sings song of deliverance over me - even in the middle of the breakdowns.  His mercy does not end.  Worship is a must.  What else can I do?  It's quite telling of the cry of my heart to know that when I can't put two words together without weeping that my heart can still sing...it can still worship.  It's what I was created for.


April 21, 2014

The Wilderness

The Lord introduced me to a new friend this month and she shared some Scripture with me that is definitely one I am holding on to...

Hosea 2:14-15
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
    and bring her into the wilderness,
    and speak tenderly to her.
15 And there I will give her her vineyards
    and make the Valley of Achor[a] a door of hope."

What's interesting to me is that the vineyards are going to grow...in the wilderness!  And the Valley of Achor (meaning trouble) is going to become a door of hope!  What a gift!  What grace!!

I'm learning the wilderness can indeed be a beautiful place.
A hard place - but definitely beautiful.
I'm learning more than I ever have that I am a sinner.
I'm learning more than I ever have before about dependency upon Him.
I'm learning more than I ever have about how desperately I need His grace.

He's showing me that vulnerability/transparency/honesty equals more glory for Him to recieve.

April 18, 2014

The Valley

This song...with this season in my life...such a grace gift.

So thankful that Chesney pointed me towards Ellie Holcomb - what a ministry has her music been to my soul as of late.  If you've never heard her, do yourself a favor and check her out!

"Come and find me in the darkest night of my soul, in the shadow of the valley, I'm dying for you to make me whole"

April 17, 2014

The Whispered Word

I've stared at the blinking cursor on my screen for as long as I can.  Having some words on this page seems to help me over the initial fear of sharing this...of being transparent...of being vulnerable.

I've gone over in my head & my heart the reasons for this post and the fact is I'm not typing it for you as much as I'm typing it for Him...for me.  I've been convicted over and over again about always proclaiming His name and doing whatever I can for His glory - and I do believe He can & will be glorified through this...no matter how painful it may be for me to share it or admit to.

Some of you have hinted around & others have asked about why we are still in Joburg and not back in Madagascar...

We're here because I'm struggling with depression.

I still hold my breath when typing that word.
I am literally fighting the urge to use my backspace button.

Those 10 letters - depression - carry so much weight.  It has always been a word that I've whispered, that I've only associated with bad and horrible things, and that I've heard could never be said of any Christian.  I've only known two people who have ever vocalized to me that they were dealing with depression - and honestly I had no idea what to say to them.  I didn't understand what was involved.

I knew something was "off" when we were getting settled back into Tulear in Feburary.  There were moments that turned into days that I felt I had to literally fight for joy.  At times it seemed that I was outside of myself looking in on the world in which I lived.  I knew all the right Bible answers and I knew that He was indeed my Joy/Hope/Peace, but yet, I couldn't seem to cross over this ocean of sadness in my mind & heart.

One afternoon, in the middle of a panic attack, I had verses swirling in my head about "do not be anxious"...and yet there I was literally drowning in anxiety.

None of it made sense to me.  I was finally back "home" after being in South Africa for maternity leave.  I had an amazingly supportive & loving husband PLUS two beautiful girls whom I am able to be "mommy" to.  Where was this sadness coming from?  Why couldn't I just "fix" it?  Why wasn't He just "fixing" it?  I felt as if I were grieving when I knew I should be celebrating...which only piled on more guilt & shame for feeling the way that I was.

Thankfully, we work for an organization who takes these types of things seriously.  We were already coming to South Africa for a meeting and they said we'd need to stay until we could get things worked out.  I don't know what my plan was for what I would tell people as to why we were staying here so long...definitely not the truth.

The truth was big, scary, looming, and I was ashamed.

But a few weeks later, here I am - in the middle of a post - announcing to anyone who reads - exactly what I am dealing with, what my family is dealing with...the experts here say it's "reactional depression" and that it was triggered by the birth of Lyllian - that somewhere in my subconscious her birth triggered a grieving time for the miscarriage we had in 2012.  That grieving time coupled with the complicated hardness of life in Tulear resulted in a chemical imbalance that was changing my day to day pretty drastically.

That's a lot of words for saying that I didn't choose depression.  I ignored it the best that I could and fought against it with everything I had...but He still is walking me down this path to healing.  He's doing it differently than I prayed for - but His ways are perfect...are they not?

So, why share?  Because I am a Christian.  Because I was ashamed.  Because I had literally never heard someone talk about going through depression openly.

Because I thought I was the only one.

Here's the thing - I'm not.

But if I was, it doesn't change the fact that I am struggling with it.
I am getting better.
I do still have hard days.
It doesn't change the fact that I serve the God who is healing me.

Some will say this means I'm not a Christian.  They're wrong but it's not up to me to prove that to them.

Some will say it means that I'm not a strong Christian or that I don't have a "good walk" with the Lord.
You know what? They're right.

I'm learning how weak I am.  I'm seeing that I desperately need Him in every area of my life - every single moment.  I pray that I will never again be pulled into the desire to be a "good Christian".  There's nothing good about me apart from Him.  I want to hopelessly & passionately pursue a relationship with the Forgiver of my sins.  I want to publically acknowledge that I fall short and the only thing I am deserving of is hell.  I also want for everyone to know that my Savior...my good, perfect, holy, just, and loving Savior desired a love relationship with me - just as I am.  He desires to transform me so that I do not stay the same...not just a one time transformation but a daily, hourly, minute by minute transformation to look more like His Son Jesus Christ.

I am earnestly praying that He is ever so glorified through it and that there might be even one person which one day we will cross paths, and I can hold their hand, and look them in the eye and tell them "I've been there and here's what the Lord did in my life".






April 16, 2014

The Broken Beautiful

what does it mean to be a 
"good wife"?
"good mother"?
 "good Christian"?

is there even such a person?

days are often filled not with feelings of success but of 
failure, 
of lacking, 
of not being good enough...

these are lies from the enemy - desperately trying to attack & destroy

i wonder about His faithfulness sometimes
not whether it will be
but why does it continue

i am... 
broken
spent
humbled
insufficient

i am a treasure in the eyes of Christ.
He makes me beautiful.
He makes my lacking attempts perfection through His strength
He has taken my fear & my shame and completely drenched them in His grace

i will never be good enough but
HE IS.

April 15, 2014

Gethsemane

"Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the "joy that was set before him".  
The. Joy.
What was the joy?  
What one thing did He gain through the cross that He didn't have before?  
YOU."

"He was forsaken so we would never be."

"You've got to preach the gospel to yourself.  When you feel abandoned, know that you are NOT."

"We do not honor God with small requests...we honor Him when we come before Him with great expectations."

"Do the size of our prayers mirror the size of His sacrifice?"


such a powerful word from the Word - take a listen

April 14, 2014

Lyllian - 4 months

Miss Lyllian, 
4 months old already?  Time is flying by so fast!  You are such a happy and laid back baby girl.  This past month you have grown up so much.  You can find your thumb now and love to suck on it or anything else near your mouth - except a pacifier!  
We have found a schedule together that seems to work quite well.  You are eating every 3 - 3 1/2 hours during the day and are consistently taking 1 1/2 - 2 hour naps each cycle.  Your routine at night has been a bit different than your sister's was but we are figuring it out!  This past month you eat at 7, are asleep by 7:30 and wake up only once to eat in the night around 3:30am, then it's sleeping again until 7 in the morning.  Being on a schedule has made our days & nights much more enjoyable!!
You enjoy being propped up, playing on your playmat, talking to anyone, being talked to, and have recently decided you like looking at books.  You love when your sister sings to you and your eyes light up when you hear our voices.  You are an excellent traveler and do well in your car seat.  You are an expert at kicking your socks off and you are happiest when we help you "stand" up.
You weigh 13lbs 6oz and are 24 3/4 in long!  Your acid reflux has calmed down a good bit this month and for that we are thankful!  The small hole in your heart has closed up but the cardiologist did find a small PDA at your last appointment.  He said that we just need to monitor it and we'll check on it again when we go to the States in the Fall.
Ryleigh has started calling you "boogie boo" and always asks to kiss you.  She loves it when you come with me to wake her up in the mornings or after nap time.  When you are crying, Ryleigh says, "let me talk to her, I can make her happy" and most of the time she is right.
Lyllian Abigail, I so love our cuddle times together and am so grateful for the opportunity to be your momma.  I love you so!

April 12, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Paint

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.
Unscripted. Unedited. Real.
It started because I’d (Lisa Jo Baker) been thinking about writing and how often our perfectionism gets in the way of our words. And I figured, why not take 5 minutes and see what comes out: not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing.
So now on Fridays a group of people who love to throw caution to the wind and just write without worrying if it’s just right gather to share what five minutes buys them. Just five minutes.

Go...

"We can paint today?"
It's usually more of a statement than a question...like who am I to possibly tell her "no" when she wants to paint.  I'm not sure why it's more intriguing than crayons...which I'd prefer any hour of the day...but it is.
It doesn't even matter what kind - finger painting, sponge painting, string painting, water painting (a personal favorite), paint brush painting...and I'm sure we'll have more to add to the list before too long.
She listens for a little while - about the importance of washing the brush/sponge/finger off before dipping it into another color...but eventually toddlerhood wins out.  It's just more fun to have paint everywhere and see all of her favorite colors on the brush at the same time.  
At first I grimaced when this would happen...and then firmly removed the painting object from her hand to clean it up...after a few times of doing this, me & my type A personality just had to let go of it.  There was so much joy and freedom that came out through her laugh and her eyes when I simply allowed her to have fun with it - to just be a painter.  
The thing is, her masterpieces turn out quite beautifully and the fun we had making the mess is totally worth it.  It's quite amazing what you can learn from being messy like how combining colors makes a new color...makes me wonder what I miss out on learning, for fear of it being too messy...

Joy is found in the ordinary things.  
Joy is found in the messiness of life.  
Joy can even be found in paint.

STOP

April 10, 2014

God of the Nations

He is the God of the nations.  He offers salvation to everyone who believes in His son Jesus Christ and admits that they are a sinner.  He GIVES it - FREELY.

That's why we're here right?  I don't mean just my family being in Madagascar - I mean all of us.  That's why we're on this earth...to glorify Him and to make disciples of all nations...that's including America by the way.  We are each in the place He has called us to - to make His name known.
I can get really caught up in how much the Mahafaly need Him.  They need to know.  They need His salvation.  They need His love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, redemption, and the list could go on.  My heart could almost burst out of the passion I have to tell them, to let them know about the Creator who created all of the many things they worship/serve/have allegiance to.

There's nothing wrong with that, per say...however, I have moments (days/weeks) where I can easily forget how much I NEED Him.  How much I NEED His salvation, His love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, redemption...
That the God of the nations is my God.  I belong to Him.  I am a reason He sent His son to die.  Just because I have been gifted with the grace to know Him personally for 24 years...
I still need Him daily.  
I'm in a season right now where He is reminding me of this in brand new ways.  He's showing me, albeit painfully, that I am in desperate need of Him to live every single day.  I can not do it on my own.  I need His mercies to be new every single morning and He graciously provides them.  

Without my Rock, I can not stand.  
Without my Anchor, I drift in the storms.  
Without my Joy, I lose sight of the gifts.  
Without my Peace, I am restless.
Glory be to Him that I am never truly "without" Him.  He will not leave or forsake me...but I can lose focus.  I can have a prideful heart.  I can be so deep in sin that I can not even hear His Spirit clearly.  I can also have Bible verse after Bible verse written on my heart but it still be so easy to believe the lies of the Enemy.  This life is hard.  There are difficult times.  There are wildernesses we walk through...however, He says to "take heart and be of good courage".  
Praising Him in the midst of trials and in the midst of joys - be encouraged today no matter where you are in your walk.  
Remember that He WILL be glorified.  
He already has the victory - and if you are His child, we will too.


April 9, 2014

Apes, Lemurs, & Meerkats

The day started off quite beautifully.  It was cool and cloudy - a fantastic day to spend with some of our best friends at the zoo.  We were quite excited about the day because although we live day in & day out with the Wallers - it was our first time for our families to spend an entire day doing something "1st world" together.  The kiddos were super pumped about being there and were talking non stop.  
 
After about 30 minutes of making our way through the monkeys, we came up on the meerkat exhibit. There were rocks all around about chest high on Ryleigh, but there was also a small step to stand on to see better.  She grabbed the rock ledge and pulled herself up so she could have a better view.  As soon as she did, the meerkat thought her fingers were going to be his breakfast.  A quick chomp on her pointer finger and our day took a different turn than we had anticipated.  
Steve found first aid and we soon realized we'd need to get to the ER because of how deep the cut was & to wash it out well.  Our family loaded up and headed that way.  We were grateful for English speaking docters who knew what to do and how to do it quickly.  5 stitches later, we grabbed some antibiotics and pain meds and were on our way.
She is doing well, and we'll return to the hospital to remove the stitches next week.  We are praising the Lord that the meerkats were up to date on all of their vaccinations and so was Ryleigh!
Ryleigh says that she still wants to go back to the zoo to see the zebras, giraffees, & elephants but she is only going to wave at the meerkats!

April 4, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Writer


Now, it’s time to write.
We call it Five Minute Friday. Where everyone writes for five, unedited minutes all on the same prompt. This week, that prompt is the challenge itself, the dare, the calling, the passion.
This week’s prompt is “WRITER.”


GO...
follower of Jesus.
wife.
mother.
daughter.
sister.
teacher.
worship lover.

all descriptors of me.  all things i enjoy being and am proud to identify myself as such.  i long for "writer" to make the list...to make the cut.  for these words that literally pour from my heart to be able to pour into someone else's.  for Him to use them to glorify Himself.  for this story that He is the Author of to make it onto pages that will lead others to the foot of the cross. 
                               
to write with abandon and vulnerability...to accept the messiness of wadded up pages and typos in everyday life.  to show everyone that writer or not we're all a part of the same Story and so often we are or have been on exactly the same page.  it's scary to think we're sometimes on a page that no one else has been on and that no one else may ever know that it even exisits.  it's comforting to know that each word, each paragraph, each page...they can all be compiled into something magnificent - something beyond our comprehension.  so i'll keep on typing.  i'll keep on sharing.  i'll keep on focusing my eyes on Him - taking His lead on what my story will be and hopefully encouraging others to remember to do the same.


STOP.

There was an error in this gadget