Where Would You Like To Go?

June 30, 2014

We Can Come!

One of the coolest stories of how God is moving in Mahafaly land (to me) happened while Steve was attending the fandevana a few weeks ago in Kilimary.  After Steve told me what happened, I knew I had to share it with you!


Towards the end of the fandevana, Steve was getting ready to leave.  He started talking with Etsifihezy, the church leader in Kilimary, about leaving.  An older gentleman from a nearby village, came up and started talking to Etsifihezy.  This man wanted to know who the vazaha was, how did Kilimary get him to come to their village, and what project he was working on, all the while unaware that Steve could understand everything he was saying.  The gentleman wanted the vazaha to come to his village and do whatever project he was doing in Kilimary.  He was from Besely, a village about 8km from Kilimary and one with over 2000 people.

Etsifihezy started explaining that Steve was not there because of a project but because of the gospel.  He said that Kilimary now had a Baptist church and they had a group of believers that met every Sunday.  The man from Besely, said that was good and Steve needed to come to their village because they needed a church there.

Etsifihezy then said, "No, we can come!  We can teach you the gospel."  He went on to explain that the group of believers from Kilimary had been going to another village (Andohasatra) and had been preaching there.  He told the inquiring gentleman that they did not need the vazaha to come there, that he (Etsifihezy) could share the gospel with the village of Besely.


Please keep praying for the church in Kilimary.  How awesome that they know that their strength and boldness comes from the Lord and not man!  Praising Him for the spread of His word among the Mahafaly!

June 28, 2014

Common Days

Taking things day by day is not really how I function.  However, it was one of the things suggested during my counseling sessions though and honestly - it's pretty effective.

- I know some of you may balk at the thought of "counseling sessions" but I'm going with that the Lord must think counseling is pretty important since He gave us The Counselor to be with us at all times.  I was so amazed at the gift that I had in my counselor and am grateful to know that although we may never see one another again here on Earth, we will spend eternity together.  She was awesome. -

Anyway, I'm a planner - as in a "drive everyone else crazy with planning" - kind of planner.  So, while I may not always be guilty of "worrying about tomorrow",  I'm usually pretty thankful to know what tomorrow holds.  Ha.

Before we left for Mada, while we were still in training, is the first time I remember James 4:15 sticking out to me.  It says: "Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."  Which always makes me remeber Proverbs 16:9 "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."
Taking things "day by day", sure seems to line up with Scripture - and more than one at that.

Seems to me that my sweet counselor knew something that she has learned from The Counselor.  I've read these verses many times but this truly may be the first time that it's all starting to sink in.  
Plans aren't evil...they can actually be very helpful.  
However, when I wake up each morning the only plan that should not change as the day progresses is to bring God glory.  On any given day that can look very different from what I had originally planned.  Living our lives with no pressure of what tomorrow may or may not hold provides such freedom.  Adapting and being flexible even when things come up that are nowhere on our agenda.
Bringing Him glory can look so very ordinary...
folding laundry
spending time with a friend
solitude time
buying groceries
reading books
worshipping among nationals without leading
making time to exercise
cooking a meal
teaching at church
playing doll house
rocking a sick baby
Living out His best for us isn't always glamorus, high profile, book worthy, or even appreciated by others...but it doesn't change that it's His best.  He works through the common days through very common people.  It's His story He's sharing with us.  He's allowing us to play a part...and I'm grateful to be a part of all of the majestic uncommon works He does.

His way is best.
His gifts unprecendented.
Praising Him for common days.




June 27, 2014

Five Minute Friday: LOST

Now, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.
Five Minute Friday1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking. (On your own blog or in the comments here).
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..



Lost...and found.
It's the first thing that comes to mind.

There's the big lost - as in, what we're born into.  Lost and unable to find our way to salvation.  Lost and wandering without a clue as to how to bring glory to His name.  Lost and unaware that we need to be found.

Miraculously, He calls us.  He leads us.  He shows us the way.
He provides the Sacrifice needed for salvation.

Once we're found, once we know Salvation - we're not lost anymore.

However, that leads me to the other lost.

The lost feeling that still happens.

The lost feeling that can be darker than anything we have ever known before.

The lost feeling that is scary and frightening.

The lost feeling that makes us feel like we don't know up from down.

The lost feeling that comes from Evil himself.

It is only a feeling.

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus.

Once you are found...you can not be lost.


No one can pluck you from His hand.


Yet, feelings can paralyze.


Get up, take your mat, and walk...your sins have been forgiven

Be paralyzed no longer.

the Sacrifice that saved us, cleansed us, forgave us, found us

still does and always will

we can be eternally found

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.


June 25, 2014

Fandevena

If you have missed Steve's first two posts regarding the funeral ceremony in Kilimary, feel free to click here and here to catch up!

On Friday morning, I showed up in Kilimary for the Fandevena or burial.  The first thing I noticed was that there were not nearly as many people around the big tree as the day before.  The visiting families were all still there because they stay the night in and around the village.  Each family finds a big tree to sleep under for the night.  Most were finishing up breakfast and were still tired from the long night of partying.  I walked up to the village leader's house and was greeted by a few of the believers.  I was thankful to see that they were all sober.  I was taken back to where they had me sit yesterday on the mat under the tree.  This morning there were only 10 older men present but by noon the number had grown to over 100 under this one tree.
I sat under the big tree with the older men for over three hours, listening to the band and watching all that was going on.  The smells on the 2nd day were quite different than those that I smelled the day before.  On Thursday, gun powder filled the air with the scent of burnt goat or sheep as people prepared meals.  Today, the strongest smell was of alcohol.  Most were drunk from the night before.  The custom is to fill up three buckets of locally made alcohol for everyone to drink from as they walked by...I declined this gracious offer.
One of the older men sitting near me, started sharing with me about the two day ceremony.  He said that funerals bring the Mahafaly people together.  Funerals are something the Mahafaly actually look forward to every year.  It gives them a reason to come together and throw a big party.  Many of the aspects associated with the burial, including the cows that are sacrificed, are associated with their beliefs about their ancestors and their worship.  It was an ever present reminder of how important it is to be sharing the gospel with these people.  It was also such a huge blessing to see the believers of Kilimary figuring out how to participate in an important cultural cermony without compromising their beliefs.

Pray for the family of the deceased.  Pray for the believers as they minister to their unbelieving relatives.

June 24, 2014

Fanenga Omby

If you missed Steve's first post about the funeral he attended last week check it out here.

Now, here is his look in to the actual ceremony.

Fanenga Omby is what the funeral cermony is called.  It means to give a cow.  However, many are not able to give cows due to lack of finances, so they simply give whatever they can.  I saw people give gifts such as money from $1 to $90, cloths or "lambas" which were used to wrap the casket, bowls, blankets, and one family actually gave three cows.  When a big group would come in, they would dance down the middle of the group and hold their gifts high in the air for all to see what they had brought.  The entire gift giving was a huge spectacle.  While I was there two different groups brought in cows.  The first group was five guys and they gave one younger cow.  This was very special.  I don't know that I realized quite how special until after my ears were already ringing.  Basi Mena is another custom among the Mahafaly.  If a really great gift is brought in (like a cow) then the men will fire off a blank in their shotgun.  Unfortunately for me these shotguns were being held by men who were a few feet away from me.  Who knew that a blank shot out of a shotgun was louder than a regular bullet?
The men then led the cow in front of the group, and the men would go over to the band and dance.  After about 5 minutes of dancing, they came to get the cow and delivered it to the family on the mat.  A little while later, another group of about 10 men came in with 3 cows.  I'll let you imagine what kind of spectacle that was and how many shots were fired with that gift.  Let's just say that next time I'm taking ear plugs.
The family hires three guys to come and be the band for the 2 day ceremony.  These guys play a type of southwestern Madagascar music, called "Tsapike".  It's played continually for the entire two days.  While it got old to me, really fast, the Mahafaly love it and really enjoy dancing to it.
Dancing is a big part of their custom during these cermonies.  They danced in front of the family & the widow to cheer her up and make her smile.  Anyone could get up at any time and dance, not just when someone was giving a gift, and everyone does.  The dancers ranged from toddlers all the way to great grandparents.  The Mahafaly have a very distinctive dance - they quickly shake their whole body, especially the hips & shoulders up and down, all the while they are moving side to side...and the faster the better.  Needless to say there were sometimes during the day that this became very comical to me as I watched 50 year olds + participating in this custom.
The giving of gifts continues for the entire first day of the funeral ceremony.  The second day is the Fandevena which is the burial.  Check back tomorrow for a look into what day 2 was like!

June 23, 2014

The Vazaha & the Fanenga

I always love when Steve shares what's going on in Mahafaly Land - grateful for the chance today to get to hear him tell the story of his first full funeral here in Madagascar.

This past week, I had the opportunity to spend two days with the believers in Kilimary as the village held a funeral for an 80 year old man who passed away back in January.  I have been able to attend parts of a funeral service before but never the entire event.  I have to admit I was a little nervous about what may happen due to some stories that I had heard.  I knew two were never alike, because they differ according to the village they are held in.

On Thursday they held the Fanenga ceremony - this is a time when all the guests from other villages arrive and bring a gift to the family of the deceased person.  I arrived just after noon and was quite overwhelmed by the number of people that were present.  I waited by my truck until I saw a familiar face...soon I saw the village leader heading my way.  After our greetings, he asked me if I had brought a gift, which is a custom here.  I told him that I had brought some money.  He then asked me how much, which I thought was a bit odd.  Did it really matter how much?  Wouldn't they be grateful for any amount?  But I realized he was serious, so I told him.  He then asked me to follow him.  We walked past a massive crowd of Malagasy people, there were at least 800 people.  The looks on their faces reminded me of how uncommon it must be for a vazaha - foreigner - to be at a fanenga.
The village leader took me straight to the brother of the man who had died.  The brother was sitting under a tree with about 30 other older men.  There was a group of younger men in front of the brother recieving each gift and announcing what was given and how much.  Next to them, were three more youth who were writing all of the gifts down in a notebook.  The brother recognized me and called me to the mat to give my gift.  I then realized that the massive crowd I had passed were all waiting their turn to give their gifts to the brother.  After the leader and brother exchanged words, the leader turns and announces loudly that I had come to be with them for the funeral and how much money I had given.  I guess giving privately doesn't really exisit here.
I was then invited to join the older men on the mat as they recieved gifts.  It was quite enertaining to watch the people who were giving.  Most didn't realize I was there until they had come up to the mat to give their gift...it took them quite off guard to realize a vazaha was sitting on the mat!  By the end of the day, I had been the topic of many conversations as well as had had quite a few fingers pointed my way with loud whispers about the vazaha who had come to the fanenga.
Be sure and check back tomorrow for a glimpse into the Fanenga ceremony.

June 21, 2014

Blogging

"Because maybe you, more than anyone else, will be surprised by what you read, by the story that the Word is writing in you, through you, for you.
His story. As lived by you." 
 Lisa Jo Baker


I honestly don't think I could have said it better myself.  When I'm writing/typing, I can process in a way that I can't otherwise.  Thank you for letting me process "outloud" so to speak.  I am grateful for your faithful reading and continued encouragement.  HUGS!

June 20, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Release

It’s Friday. The day we write together for five shared and sacred minutes. The prompt this week is RELEASE. The details for how to participate are over here. And the post today? It’s why I think you need to keep writing no matter how many voices in your head and your life tell you that you’re not a “real” writer because your audience is invisibly small, or because you haven’t written a book or because you aren’t invited to speaking events or because no one reads you outside of your family. Read on below and then just. keep. writing.  - Lisa Jo



Release - 

One of the first things she learned to do was grab, grasp, hold tight...

Coincidental that it's one of the first things we do in our sinful nature...I don't think so.  
But we continue on as we grow up...
holding tight to the toys that we don't want to share
clinging on to mom/dad that we don't want to leave
grasping at friends who will stay by our side
storing up possessions that we "need"
grabbing at the best position, the newest promotion

and what's the Lord saying?  
let it go
raise your hands
surrender it all
release it to Me
ask and you shall receive

How can we receive any of those good and perfect gifts if we have our hands raised and clenched tight??  
We must have them open, palms up, everything offered to Him who owns all things


June 18, 2014

Back Home Update

I never want to be guilty of not praising my Savior.  I deeply desire for all glory to continually go to Him...and one way of doing that is to make sure you know how we have been since returning to Tulear.

God is good.

He just is.  There is nothing that can change it.  He is good.
While our time in Joburg was long to us - it was just right in accordance with His plans.  He healed me to the point of where I needed to before returning to Mada.  Upon arriving back in Tulear, I don't know what to say except that His grace is present.

The cooler tempertures...His grace.
The beautiful days...His grace.
Being emotionally stable...His grace.
Outlook on our day to day...His grace.
School with Ryleigh...His grace.
Purposeful one on one time with each girl...His grace.
A stregthened marriage...His grace.
Time to exercise...His grace.
Intentional family time...His grace.
Flourishing relationship with Luxia...His grace.
Open arms at the ESL class...His grace.
Great days even when Steve is in the bush...His grace.
Health...His grace.

His grace has been and will always be enough.
I am still in awe, even as I write this, about the journey He has me on...the lessons in being still, in being dependant, in rest, in activity, in life...they have been abundant.  (Smile) hmmm that is indeed what He came to this world for isn't it?  Abundant Life.  

Our life upon returning here has indeed been abundant.  
His love is beautiful.  
His grace is amazing.  
His mercy - new every single morning.

Thank YOU...each and every one...for praying.  The prayers of the righteous availath much - grateful today that He makes each of us righteous, that are His children, and thankful that you as a righteous child of His take the time to interceed on our behalf.  That my sweet friends, is not taken for granted. HUGS.

June 16, 2014

Because I Love You

Can you lay down with me for one minute, because I love you?
Will you brush my hair, because I love you?
You can throw away my trash, because I love you.
Will you play outside with me, because I love you?
We are doing school, because I love you?
You are laughing, because I love you?
I'm picking out this book, because I love you.

"Because I love you" has become the most frequently used phrase around our house as of late.  Ryleigh tags it on to almost every statement/question/exclamation.  I'm not sure what started it but I'm pretty confident I never want it to end...it's absolutely adorable.

It has made me start thinking though...how often is love a motivator for my actions?
Do I listen/obey/worship/ God because I love Him?  Is there another motive?  What if I started tagging that phrase on to every statement/question/exclamation that I said?

I am spending time with You, because I love You.
I will listen, because I love You.
I will obey, because I love You.
I will praise Your name, because I love You.
I will give sacrificially, because I love You.
I will act to further Your Glory, because I love You.
I love, because I love You.

My favorite part of this current line of thinking is how much it directly points back to our Father.  Being able to take the opportunity to explain that it is indeed why He does everything.  
Because He loves us.

I created the world, because I love you.
I sacrificed my Son, because I love you.
I forgive sin, because I love you.
I created a way for you to have eternal life, because I love you.
I give, because I love you.
I take away, because I love you.
You know love, because I love you.

June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to the best that I know!


"The man of integrity walks securely..." Proverbs 10:9

"A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered" Proverbs 17:17


"A discerning man keeps wisdom in view..." Proverbs 17:24


"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4

To My Daddy

Daddy,
   I love that I know that you're probably already teared up and you haven't even started reading this yet.  I definitely get my tears honestly - don't I?
It's something we joke about but I love that you have always taught me that there is nothing wrong with a man who cries.  Nothing odd about a man who shows sympathy to others and also knows how to make everyone laugh.  Actually, it just means that they are more in tune with the way the Lord created them to be.  The men in the Bible are some of the most emotional you'll ever find - but somehow it's gotten a bad rep in our culture.  Thank you for being in this world but not of it.
 From my earliest memories I knew you were proud of me and you loved me - because of your actions AND your words.  Thank you for that.  Thank you for teaching me that all of my emotions (and goodness knows I have a LOT) were okay and that I could talk to you about any of them.  Thank you for also always showing me the way to my Heavenly Father and showing me an earthly example of unconditional Love.
Thank you for being exceptional - for going to work early and staying late - all so that you could take longer breaks when needed during the day so that you wouldn't miss anything.  You came to awards days, pagents, Bible Drills, and coached summer league.  You were always one of my biggest encouragers and could usually make me laugh when there were no words that could make my lack of atheltic ability any better.
You have always gone above and beyond - when I was younger, I took it for granted...not realizing that not every daddy was like my daddy.  But now I know.  Now, I am eternally grateful.  
Even now, when I'm thousands of miles away, you take the time to email, skype, FaceTime, and save up just to spend it all on plane tickets and suitcases to come and spend time with me.  (Yes, I know that the granddaughters may be part of the reason too!)  Your encouragement and support means more than you could ever possibly know.
There have been tears & misunderstandings - but with those always came open arms and forgiveness.  I have never struggled with understanding the love and forgiveness of my Father because of the example you have set here on the earth. 
Thank you for never settling.  For always believing that you can become more like Him and striving with all that you are to do just that.  There will never be enough words that are adequate enough to express how grateful I am to be your daughter.  I love you.

Happy Father's Day!


June 14, 2014

Lyllian Abigail - 6 months

Happy Half Birthday My Beautiful One!
Six months has come upon us so quickly!  The days with you are filled with giggles and grins - you add so much fun to our days!  If we laugh, you laugh back at us.  You only sleep on your tummy but as soon as you wake up, you roll over to your back.  When you hear your door open in the mornings, you let out a giggle and we'll find you kicking your legs in the air with a big smile on your face.
We started solid foods this month.  Your favorites are avocado, banannas, & rice cereal.  You're not such a big fan of oatmeal or apples.  Although, you firmly believe they all taste better if your thumb is in your mouth while you are eating.  You have been eating well though - this month you gained over a pound!  You are 15lbs 14oz (39%) and 26.7 inches long (69%). 
 Have I mentioned that you are SUCH a laid back baby?
The Wallers are letting us borrow their exersaucer and you really enjoy playing in it...or eating all the toys on it is probably more accurate.  The same goes for your playmat...you'd rather eat the animals on it than look in the mirror this past month.  Your favorite toy is a butterfly.  The wings make "crinkly" sounds and you love that you can make the sounds all by yourself.
You are more of a Ryleigh's girl than a momma's or daddy's girl - she can always bring a smile to your face and your eyes follow her wherever she goes.  If she isn't paying attention to you - you will just sit and stare at her. You have also started reaching out for your toys and sometimes even for mom or dad.  
One of your favorite parts of the day is when we have book time.  You love sitting with mommy & Ryleigh while we read a bunch of her favorites.  This month she has started picking out some baby books for you too.  Your thumb is still a constant - left or right - you don't seem to have a preference!
You have gotten your two bottom teeth this month!  They actually both came in during the same week.  Your new teeth have definitely been a bother to you but as long as you have Sophie to chew on you are usually happy.  
We love that our family is now a family of four - you are adored sweet girl!  I love you!

June 13, 2014

A Trip to Disney - Tulear Style

A playground has been in the works over the past few months here in Tulear.  On Sunday, we noticed a sign had been added...
They even had something for Lyllian...although the sun was a little bright!
Ryleigh could have stayed there all day...
She just jumped from one activity to the next...
They even had tables set up with little puzzles to work...
needless to say - slightly different than what I think of when I hear the word "disney" but it was a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon!


June 12, 2014

A Majestic Tuesday

Tuesday morning the rest of the gals went on a hike, while Lyllian & I stayed at the lodge.  The weather was gorgeous, the view out our back tent flap was breathtaking, and the wooden chairs on the back porch were calling my name.  
I breathed a grateful prayer that our sweet 5 month old was so laid back & that she loved being outside.  I spread a quilt out on the porch and she was content to look at all of His creation with me.
  
I thought I would spend my time reading His word, but once I sat down - I realized there was nothing I could do aside from just sit in awe.  The stillness was inspiring and the quietness was holy.  He was there.  Where two or more are gathered...my baby girl was there in His presence with me.  It was an unforgetable moment of simply being.  Eventually, the words that had been stirring in my heart started coming from my mouth...
"Majesty, worship His Majesty, unto Jesus be all glory, honor, & praise.
Majesty, kingdom authority, flow from His throne unto His own, His anthems raise.
So exalt, lift up on high, the name of Jesus.
Magnify, come glorify, Christ Jesus the King!"
Lyllian joined with me in this new (to her) song and shortly there after fell asleep.  Romans was beckoning and I'm here to say that there are very few things that are more wonderful than reading His word in the quiet & stillness of His majestic creation.  No distractions, no other sounds, no other people...just Him and me.  It was a beautiful morning.
Thankful for His presence,  His quiet places, His perfect Word, His Holy Spirit, His peace, His joy...and that is not confined to any one place or any certain time...grateful.



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