Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Steadfast Love of the Lord

Today in my Bible reading, I came across several verses on the steadfast love of God. A few minutes later, as I was doing my daily browse of Facebook, I saw that a friend of mine had posted yet another verse on the steadfast love of God. 

The Lord clearly had a message for me this morning, and without going into a really long explanation of the details, let's suffice it to say that I needed to hear these words today. And of course, He knew that.

Reminders are good. 

God is faithful. 

I don't know where you all find yourself today, and it doesn't really matter, whether you're in a valley or enjoying the mountain peaks of life, God's steadfast love will never change. 

I pray that you all are as encouraged by these verses as I was today. 

Isaiah 54:8
"In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you" says the Lord, your redeemer.

Isaiah 54:10 (2 verses later) 
"For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed but my steadfast love shall not depart from you and my covenant of peace shall not be removed" says the Lord, who has compassion on you." 

Psalm 119:64 
"The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love, teach me your statutes." 

Psalm 119:41 
"Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promises." 

Psalm 63:3 
"Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you." 

Psalm 136:1 
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever." 

Psalm 25:10 
"All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies." 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Lies of the Rabble

One of my favorite things about reading and studying the Word of God, besides getting to know my Creator and Savior better, is the "coincidences" that so often seem to happen when you hear or read something in one place and than a day or two or maybe even a week later you read something similar to what the Lord was already speaking to you in a different place. Does that make any sense at all? 

I commend you all for trying to follow me through this maze I call a train of thought.  
Truly, you're all amazing! 

I digress. 

What I mean is, those times when you seem to hear a "random" scripture or nugget from the Lord and then a little while later you hear the same "random" verse or idea. It's creepy awesome and it's one of my favorite things about how the Lord works through His word. 

This happened to me recently. I was reading in Lauren Chandler's "Steadfast Love" and she referenced the story in Numbers 11 where the Israelites began complaining about eating manna and how they longed for meat. 

A few days later, I read the same portion of scripture in my Bible reading..... so I stopped, I said a little prayer and I started reading again. Slower this time. More intentionally. 

I encourage you to read the entire account. It's a truly remarkable story and one that, if we're honest with ourselves may expose a few blindspots in our hearts and lives. 

Numbers 11:4 "Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, 'Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing." 

According to Chandler, the rabble were those Egyptians who (going against God's will) were intermarried into the Israelite nation while they were still in Egypt. 

The Israelite's craving was about far more than just food - it was ultimately a desire for the pleasures (the choicest parts) and conveniences of Egypt

Egypt. The place of their greatest deepest bondage. The home of their slavery. 

How could anyone want to go back to that? 

It seems like such a ridiculous thing to say, and yet, it isn't all that different from what we do in our own lives. 
We all have a tendency to lie to ourselves about our past, especially when the present isn't what we think we want. We question God's goodness and believe lies about what He has set us free from. 

"The rabble" within us, is the part of us we've given over to things other than God. The part of us we "hold back" from complete surrender to Him. When we're honest, we all know we have our own form of "rabble" in the deep parts of our hearts. Our feeble attempts to keep the rabble under control rarely works, yet we continue to act like we control "it" and that it doesn't control us, but eventually the truth that the rabble is uncontrollable comes into full light when it rears its ugly head and demands its own way. 

In verse 10 we're told the people were literally standing in the doors of their tents, weeping.
An adult-sized, communal, temper-tantrum! 

While it may not look the same, I'm guilty of this same thing. Pitching my own version of a fit when life doesn't go my way. It may not always be verbal, but it's almost always obvious. 

The Lord ends up (for good reason) punishing the people (v. 18-23) and He tells them exactly why (v.20) "because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before Him saying 'Why did we come out of Egypt?'" 

"Because you have rejected the Lord."  

That's exactly what we're doing when we complain and grumble about the places God has brought us to and blessings that God has provided for us. 

The grass always seems greener. 

When will we learn it is better to be in the dessert eating manna with the presence of God, than filling our "bellies" with the "choicest" foods the world has to offer all the while living in bondage? 

We have to refuse to hear and believe the lies. The lies that tell us bondage is worth it, that the sin and compromise "cost nothing"! That we deserve whatever we want even when it's not what we need. 

Rejecting God is the opposite of trusting Him.

If He's brought you to the dessert He has a good reason, trust Him to provide for you to get you through. 

The dessert isn't easy, it isn't always pretty, but God is there, and He's speaking (maybe for the first time in nearly 400 years) He's providing, He's leading. Your job is to trust, to be grateful and to follow. 

In my Bible reading this morning, I was brought to Psalm 66, I think it applies beautifully to what we've been seeing in Numbers, it says in verses 8-12

"Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of His praise be heard,
who has kept our soul among the living 
and has not let your feet slip. 
For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water; 
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance." 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Currently On My Nightstand

I love books. 
I mean love. 

I'm pretty sure I love books even more than reading if that's even possible, because I love reading, too. I am typically reading multiple books at any one time. 

Since returning from Haiti, I've been reading even more than normal. 

I feel like this is a safe place and that I can be honest with you all: there's much (MUCH) I don't know. 

I have always had a constant desire to know more and to do more with what I do know. It's one of the reasons this blog was started in the first place, it was basically a place for me to "talk" about what I was learning. 

I love hearing from people who have been there and done that and studied in ways that I haven't (or can't). I like to read different perspectives on the same topic to get a full picture. I like to evaluate multiple sides. 

I find that sort of thing fun. And very energizing. 

Anyhow, I was recently looking at the many piles of books all over our house and thought back to a time when I used to blog about what I was reading (seems so so so long ago now), but I really enjoyed it. So.... I'm going to do it again. This may just be for me, and if it is, I'm good with that. Or maybe a few of you might find a book you may enjoy and be encouraged by.
So here is goes: 

My Currently-Reading List: 

Adopted for Life by Russel Moore 
Fantastic book!! I am learning so much about the theology of adoption, the Biblical definition of adoption, heart issues surrounding adoption, information about orphans and most importantly I am seeing a glimpse of the heart of God towards us, his adopted children. This book is not just for those interested in adoption or supporting those who are - it's for EVERYONE. If you want to better understand your salvation and God's heart towards you, I would recommend this book. 

Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler 
Quickly moving to one of my favorite reads. Of all time. I have always loved Pastor Matt Chandler and have been listening to him since.... forever, and now I love his wife Lauren just as much! This book is all about placing our security and hope in the Lord rather than the many idols we find all around us. It has been one of the most effective books I have read on helping me work through some of my anxieties and fears. It's been a little bit of a slow read for me only because it's one that I've had to process through bit by bit. 

No Longer a Slumdog by K.P. Yohnannon 
I got this book (for free) at least a year ago and had forgotten about it until recently when I happened to catch a glimpse of it as I was walking by our bookshelf and decided to picked it up. An hour later, I was still reading. Technically speaking it's an easy read. Content wise.... I have cried through most of it. Focused primarily on the terrible living conditions of millions of people leaving in India, it forces you to come face to face with the fact that there is so much work to be done and that God has called us to be a part of it. Someway. Somehow. This book has driven me to my knees to pray for the people in India, and to find out if God has a part for me to play in bringing glory to His name in that place. 

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett 
I haven't actually started this book, but have skimmed and picked at passages here and there. As Tim and I pray about where the Lord wants to use us, our heart continues to grow for missions and for those less fortunate that we are. However, we want to be wise with our resources and time and we want to learn from those who know more on the best and most effective ways to not only help, but to always bring the most amount of glory to God possible. 

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung 
Such. A. Good. Book. A must read for any Christian. Any where. The disconnect in our hearts and minds regarding the holiness of God, our sin and our purpose is (in most cases) HuGe. We need to pray and ask God to soften our hearts to seeing the severity of our sin and start taking the necessary self-disciplines seriously. DeYoung does a great job at biblically walking us through this, while reminding us of God's amazing grace. 

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin 
This is a very practical and applicable book for women on how to read and study and use the Word of God. We are sadly living during in a time in the church when books like this one are not read and applied often enough. I will be reading this book again. 

The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler 
A book on marriage, written for both marrieds and singles, using the Song of Solomon as a guide. 
Powerful. Good. 
Haven't actually picked it up in a while because I've started more books than I should have, and I may have actually forgotten about this one (~disappointing~). But now that I'm looking at it again, I remember how great it is, and I plan on finishing it. 

Recently Finished 
Orphanology by Tony Merida and Rick Morton
Another book I cried through parts of. Not just for those considering adoption. Definitely for those who call themselves Christian and take following the word of God seriously. We are commanded to defend and take care of widows and orphans and that can look very different in every family. There is an orphan epidemic in the world, we don't have the luxury of closing our eyes to this problem. This book provides chapter-after-chapter of practical ways individuals and churches can work towards living out James 1:27 --- please, take the time to read this book. 

Screens and Teens by Kathy Koch 
This book is not one that I needed so much for my kids (yet) but for myself. Sometimes I don't realize how attached to my phone I am and one day, I'll have certain expectations of my children, and I want to set a good example now. It's title suggest it's heard for parents of teens, but it's not necessarily. It's really applicable to anyone with a cell-phone or computer. 
This book does a good job of not simply bashing technology but showing the need for moderation and control - she talks a lot about tech-free times and areas to protect that which is sacred in our lives. 
The book goes through common lies that technology causes/encourages us to believe. I tend to be an overly-logical person so there were times that I was a bit put-out only because I was like "Teenagers (and all people) have always believed that lie." However, that's me being nit-picky because regardless of the cause the lie still exists and technology absolutely does play into the common lies we've all always believed. 
There wasn't anything particularly eye-opening or mind-blowing about the book, but it did remind me of some of the things I tend to ignore or overlook. 

*** Disclosure: There are affiliate links throughout this post, which means if you click on the link and choose to purchase the book, I may receive a small compensation. This by no means affects my review or reflections on the books. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Haiti 2016 - Day 7 & 8

Tuesday morning we all woke up with gratitude in our hearts!! The playset had finally arrived!! The men were up and at the site by 5:30 (I think, I only woke up briefly as Tim kissed me goodbye). 

Once us ladies got up and got ready, we ate breakfast just the 4 of us. Marie was in bed sick most of the day, due to the heat and a cold that she was fighting off. Lavaud made plans to bring the guys breakfast to eat at the park. The ladies decided to head on over and help out any way that we could at the park. 

Once we arrived, we set up breakfast. At around 8 o'clock and the kids were making their way towards school, and the crowds were starting to gather. 

The ladies had scheduled to meet with the students in the sponsorship program that are not yet sponsored to update their pictures and profiles. We also had dresses and t-shirts for each of them as well as goodie bags and Bibles. 

(The first group of unsponsored students) 

We were able to make contact with 24 of the 30 unsponsored students. 

After the unsponsored party, it didn't take us long to realized that we needed to put up the temporary fencing in order to keep the kids out of the work area. 

The women decided to take that project on while the guys continued to set up the equipment. 

It was breath-taking to watch the play set be put up in one day the way that it was. The men worked tirelessly, and the Lord certainly blessed their labors. Lavaud had hired several local men to help, plus they had Zoko, Wilson, and the older gentlemen from the orphanage (his name escapes me right now). 

It was a team effort.

The men continued their work throughout the afternoon while the ladies hosted our second sponsorship party at the school. 

The second party was slightly larger than the first but everything still went smoothly. It was a great success!! 

In the end we were able to make contact with 38 out of the 42 sponsored students!

And while we were there we added 3 new students to the program:

Tim and I ended up sponsoring Dienaylo've. 

Monica & Dan sponsored a little girl.

and Lynn picked out a new sponsor girl for her brother after we learned that his old sponsor student had moved to Port-au-Prince. 

Being "on the ground" (so to speak) watching the sponsor student program in action really ignited something in my heart for the program. 

It is an amazing opportunity to become involved in the work in Haiti as well as forming a relationship (across the miles) with a child. There are still students available to be sponsored! The funds that are sent help pay the teachers at the school, provide uniforms, school supplies and other school costs (like seating, blackboards, maintenance, etc.) The more kids that are sponsored the more the program grows, the more funds the school has to grow and to maintain a healthy educating atmosphere!

I challenge each of you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child. The cost is $25 a month (or $300 a year). Voice of Compassion has worked hard at keeping administration costs very low, in fact most everyone who works with VOC does so as a volunteer, over 95% of the funds coming in go directly to the school, and the majority of the other 5% actually goes to pay those in Haiti who help administratively on that end.

If the Lord leads you to partner with Voice of Compassion through the student sponsorship program to make a difference in the lives of the children in Haiti, please contact me and I can get you the information you need. 

The guys did decide to head back to the compound for lunch to get a good meal and lots of fluids. 

They headed back to the playground right away though and worked until dinner time. 

By the end of the day most of the playground system was assembled and in the ground in the concrete! May all the glory go to God for what He was able to accomplish in His own timing, and His own way! 

Our flight was scheduled to leave Wednesday afternoon around 4 (I think), so we had a little time Wednesday morning to head back over to the playground. The guys were already there by the time the ladies got there (I'm not sure what work needed to be finished that morning), as we pulled up we could see the large crowd of children surrounding the play area. 

Dienaylo've was by my side as soon as I hopped down out of the truck. I grabbed her hand and started walking around taking pictures. She handed me a note written in creole, I couldn't read it but I tried to tell her I would have a translator read it for me. 

She wasn't her normal smiley self, so I just grabbed her hand and kept her close to me. I went to tell her I would be leaving today. She knew. A tear filled up in one of her eyes, which she quickly blinked away. I was not so lucky. 

Not long after we got there Lavaud led us all in a dedication. We sang "How Great Thou Art" and part of another song I didn't recognize, he prayed and then spoke (mostly in Creole). 

Afterward, he let a few children play on the equipment for about 10 minutes (it still wasn't completely dried) these few short moments standing in the middle of a play ground system, that 2 days prior we weren't even sure would get completed, watching the kids play and scream and laugh.... it was amazing and I will never forget it. 

God isn't God because He made everything work out and got the play system up. God is God because He knew all along the timing and what needed to happen and how it needed to happen when we didn't. 
In this situation it all "worked out" from our point of view, but even if it wouldn't have, God would still be God and He would still be good, and He would most certainly have been in control of the situation. 

I am so grateful and humbled to have been a part of this trip with this group of people. I learned so much. I was stretched for sure. 

Everyone was able to use their unique God-given gifts and talents for the glory of God. We relied on one another. We grew together and we worked together.
I praise God for all He did - for the things seen and unseen.

By the time the dedication was over we needed to head back to the compound to eat lunch.

This was the moment we had to say good bye to Dienaylo've....

It was one of the hardest moments I can recall in my life. 
I felt as though I were leaving a piece of myself with this little girl and as though I were letting her down. 
I had never meant to become so attached. I had never intended for her to become so attached. I wanted to bring her home with me. I don't speak much creole but I told her over and over how much I loved her, and how much Jesus loved her. I cried over her. I prayed over her. I pleaded with the Lord to bring her peace and for me to actually have the strength to walk away.

I have no way of knowing what the Lord has in store for Dienaylo've or for our family.  But I do know that she is forever a part of our hearts and our family. I know the Lord brought us in each others lives for a reason. Tim & I continue to pray for her daily and we will continue our sponsorship of her for as long as needed. 

Tim & I plan on going back to Haiti. We have committed, Lord willing, to going every year to work with the sponsored students, updating the profiles and making contact with the sponsored family's and students. I look forward to seeing all the familiar faces again and to see what new things the Lord has for the people of Haiti. 

(One last motorcycle ride for Monica and I) 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Haiti 2016 - Day 6

(Random: A closer picture of one of the kites the boys from the orphanage had made and use)

Day 6 in Haiti, Monday.

Monday morning the ladies and a few of the men continued with our home visits in the Rhode area. We were able to make another 8 (or maybe 9) visits. We handed out dresses, underwear, family bags, Bibles, peanut butter, reusable feminine bags and candy

As enjoyable as the home visits were, and they were, they could also get a little stressful when you were trying to figure out who belonged where, which kids go with which families. The children would follow you around regardless of whether you had already visited their home, some of them were easy to remember that you had already seen, and others weren't as easy.

Being a hard-core "rule-follower" it is sometimes hard for me to not insist on fairness and justice at all times. I would find myself getting worked up over things that in the end didn't matter as much as I thought they did at the time. I realized the more home visits we did that I was just going to have to trust in the Lord regarding who got what, even when it wasn't always "fair".

(Our translator, Jimmy, explaining the word-less gospel bracelets. The women really enjoyed these and many of them asked for extras with the cards so that they could share them with their friends. I loved the idea of giving the women something pretty & special with an eternal message that would hopefully change their heart.)

I know that I've gone on about the dresses before, but they were truly a blessing to the people there in a way that I never expected. The people there really have so little that something as nice as a dress is worth more than you may expect. They were always grateful for the dresses. I look forward to the next time I go and I hope to come up with something more for the boys too.

It was really nice to have some of the guys join us on the home visits, not just for "protection" but also for being our pack mules :) They did a great job of lugging the heaviest bags around that were full of feminine products, dresses and underwear.

(Tim snapped this picture as we were walking through Rhode on our home visits, of a new house being built. They're obviously at the beginning stages but I think the picture speaks for itself)

Monday afternoon, the ladies put on our first student sponsorship party. There were 40 students that were sponsored. We decided to break them into two groups of about 20 each and host two smaller parties than one bigger party. Looking back, this was a great idea.

Monday's party was primarily of students who had been sent gifts from their sponsors, which we knew would take a little more time.

Lynn had put a form together and had it translated into Creole for the students to answer for their sponsors. Things like their favorite colors, things they enjoy doing, their favorite subject in school, etc.

After the kids filled out their sheets and took updated photos, we had them go into one of the classrooms where we put on a puppet show (in creole) about the wordless book and the gospel message.

The party was for the sponsored students, but they were also allowed to bring their parents (and there were a few siblings there as well). Lynn shared with the parents about the sponsorship program and why the sponsors do what they do, and the reason is because of the gospel and what Jesus has done in their lives. The sponsor's relationship with Jesus and their hope for the sponsored students to hear the gospel continually is what motivates them to sponsor the students.

We centered the entire party around the good news of what Jesus has done and the good news of the gospel. We also made sure to promote Lavaud's church so that those families who do not currently attend the church would have a place to go to learn more.

After the puppet show we split them up and had some of the students make paper bag puppets and the other group make wordless gospel bracelets.

Then the groups switched, so that all the kids were able to do both activities.

Towards the end of the party each student was given a backpack with goodies and a few small toys. We also had a dress for every girl and a tshirt for every boy.

At the first party, we also handed out the bags and gifts from the sponsors for their specific students, including the three goats that were purchased. Many of the gifts included letters, so we would have the translators read the letters that were sent.

We were hopeful that the playset might make it out of customs sometime on Monday. The plan was to have a truck there first thing in the morning. The guys after taking a closer look at the big truck began to realize that it wasn't in prime condition to make the trip. Lavaud started looking into, and eventually went with having the play set delivered by a trucking company.

The playset did eventually make it, but it didn't actually arrive until 12:30am Tuesday morning. The guys stayed up and went over to unload the truck.

You could feel the excitement! Such a great feeling to finally get the set there!!