Monday, February 28, 2011

Our Story. God’s Story: Part 9

Every Tuesday, I’ve been sharing a new part of Our Story with my regular readers and Jen’s amazing SDG Sisterhood.  Our Calling Story as we prepare to move long-term {back} to Hungary, Central/Eastern Europe.  I would love for you to join us if you haven’t already.  No need to catch up! Just JUMP RIGHT IN!

Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  ~ Romans 8 : 24 (ESV)


When I left you last in our story, we were finishing up that life-changing year that began the ministry of presence--ours and more importantly His, in the hands-on work in Hungary.

So far, I’ve shared the journey {briefly} of before my beloved and I met.  How He was aligning our hearts with His and healing us and stirring within us a passion to reach this generation…young people outside of the church without Gospel presence in their lives.

We lived this first {together} through encouraging believers in our local high school and youth group and as I sought to love and teach, in that same high school, the ones given to me.  Then, as our lives became one we got laid off jobs and found new ones to teach about faithfulness in the little things and we experienced delayed elements of grief from my mother’s homegoing.

We had the seed planted for ministry to public high schools and a generation very much outside of the Church in Hungary.  And after close to two years of further living and carrying this in our hearts He took us, miraculously and graciously to this very soil for the school year and summer of 2005-06. (Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8 in Hungary) When it was time to come home, we KNEW we wanted to come back to minister long-term, but we also wanted a family.

Rather than getting pregnant and having our first child overseas during a second STINT year {a thought I definitely had}, it was recommended by those we deeply trusted {our leaders Dan and Kelly} that we return to the U.S. join staff, raise support, train for a minimum of two years in a location in the U.S., hopefully begin our family and continue to give the Lord this desire to return and see what He did with it.

Talk about testing a call.  I want everything right away and despite the wisdom He and the sages of my life have sought to ingrain in me, I still GET WAY AHEAD OF GOD.  This all seemed so far away and as we began to walk this journey I just described, it became clear that we could only handle it one step at a time.  This is the lesson of {my} life, but isn’t it of all of ours?  We think we know what’s coming.  We plan and as those self-motivated, pull-ourselves-up-by-our-bootstraps American people we are, we strive towards THE GOAL. But, He is looking at our hearts and big or small, overseas or domestic, secular or church, He is calling us to walk with Him day by day and so glorify Him in the journey.

Well, this is what the 4.5 years have looked like, between when we returned from that first year in Hungary and now walking decidedly ahead in a long-term call back to this place; fully transitioning to {prayerfully} see that happen in a mere six months.  This will probably take two to three, to who-knows-with-me, more parts to share.Sarcastic smileRolling on the floor laughing

Picture 428

{I had to put this picture in so you could experience the craziness that is me…no digital altering and this was my facebook profile picture when I first joined…generated quite the buzz.

My awesome friend Brenda’s wedding shortly after we got back…which is the only way this fits in this story.Rolling on the floor laughing}


So, we return at the end of July 2006 and reunite for a family vacation at Camp-of-the-Woods in upstate New York.  If you have spent any time in another culture then you know that re-entry and the ensuing culture shock is almost always harder than the initial transition from this culture to the other.

We tell our students on Projects and are told ourselves, as well, that we need to be prepared with a five minute never-do-it-justice-but-is-what-it-is synopsis of our time for most of the people we will talk with and then we pray for those who will really want to listen and hear the story.  {those of you faithfully reading this story are that priceless blessing to me.}  We are grieving the loss of deep relationships and life together and struggle with those we love, our family, who has lived their lives…moving on, and as much as they love us, it is really hard for them--well, impossible really—to jump into our story as if they were actually with us.

So, after this vacation and the sweet yet difficult transition, we moved in with my husband’s parents RIGHT AFTER his older brother, wife and newborn son had moved out.  It was hard for all of us—they have had very short ‘empty nest’ times (even now) although their marriage is one that relishes that and their sons are in their thirtiesConfused smile.  We had been trying to get pregnant—something that didn’t happen until five months after we came home {almost a year of trying, BUT I know very short compared to many}.

My husband was able to get an interim job at the bank where he had worked before we left and I worked part-time as the administrative assistant at our church.  We knew two things.  We wanted to start a family and we wanted to join full-time Staff with Campus Crusade’s student ministry.  The application process was only a little additional work to our STINT application.

We were deciding between college ministry and high school ministry. Dan had suggested our considering college ministry as there are many more options for a really good training environment than with Student Venture.  However, the Student Venture ministry asked us to come to OrlandoSmile for a Vision Trip.  It was my first time in this beautiful place I now call ‘home’. {never went there as a child…never had a vacation until I was a teenager? farming—it’s 24/7, 365 days a year} Well, they won us over and we decided to continue our application for staff through Student Venture.  Before we left that trip, they told us we had been accepted!Open-mouthed smile

3-22-07 062On December 20th, 2006, the fourth anniversary of when my beloved proposed, I found out I was pregnant! All of my sisters found that out BEFORE my hubby, oops…I waited until I picked him up from work and we had a special date at Longwood Gardens.  Then, we held it all five days until Christmas from his family {not easy—we were living with them} and I told them through an epilogue to a digital scrapbook I had made for his parents.

A week later, I had just started to feel sickSick smileand we made our first of {now} many trips from Pennsylvanian to Florida.  We stayed at the well-known within Crusade, El Caribe, {pronounced El Car-eeb, not the Spanish pronunciation as I have been told it just doesn’t fit} at Daytona Beach--which almost immediately took on a terrible smell that would cause me to run down the hall coming back from class directly into our suite and its bathroom to throw up {note: this is because of that insane sense of smell that comes with pregnancy…others said they didn’t notice a smell…you can see below, it’s beautiful!}.  I can still smell that place!

NST group 4final

{we’re towards the back…I’ll be flabbergasted if you can find us!}

Aside from being quite pregnancy sick, we absolutely loved our training time.  It is six full-time weeks.  The first two are spent taking classes! Yeah! This was so exciting!  I was able to T.A. for the theology class that I had been exempted from because of my time at seminary.  It was good to be busy.  We also had a Bible Study Methods class that was just so much fun too!  It was fun to compare our grades for this class—never losing my competitive streak, I definitely wanted to get the higher score.  Oh my, seeing as my heart was in exactly the right place, however, it didn’t bug me in the least when he scored higherConfused smile.

We also heard from many of the leaders in all of Campus Crusade’s ministry and went through excellent {I think, the best there is} training in, what others call ‘support raising’ but we call Ministry Partner Development (MPD).  We had our expectations adjusted about EVERYTHING, especially when we received our monthly goal.  We were at 3% towards it through those that remained monthly partners from our STINT time.  But, we were inspired and truly came to see that when we invite others to ‘partner’ with us in the ministry we are called to, we are providing a necessary challenge in the lives of believers and the Church.  God calls RAW_0332everyone to be a part of what He is doing around the world—some going, some sending—ALL playing a part.

So many special friendships happen here—and it is known as your ‘training class’.  We still feel close to many of our friends from there. 

Now, back home.  I am starting to feel a little better as I am 12 weeks along.  I went back to work at our church which was enough to pay the few bills we had while living with my husband’s parents.  And my husband bore the burden of a journey that would test our faith and take us much, much deeper into dependence upon our faithful God.

From the time we began until we finished, our support-raising process took fifteen months. {I realize now, this is relatively short as we were raising for a whole family.  Several of the families that trained with us, didn’t make it to their goal and subsequently left staff.}  We faced times of deep discouragement and feeling like we couldn’t take another step and we flew high on miracles that only He can do.  My husband, who I already loved and respected in so many ways, became my hero.  He faced this great challenge with perseverance and a determination to step out in faith, face many rejections, and all the while be wrapped in the Great Love of God for him {us} as we believed He had called us and He is faithful.

Campus Crusade has no central funding as it is an inter-denominational para-church ministry.  We are often asked why we aren’t doing this ‘through a church’.  Well, we are supported by the Church.   For some in our ministry, they do receive a large amount of support through a home ‘sending’ church.  We have been a part of many churches and the closest we have to a ‘home’ church is small.  We are generously supported by many within the church and loved and prayed for diligently, but our ‘support team’ is made up of many different churches and individuals that we didn’t even know when we began the process! (this is quite common…the head of MPD development that trained us came to Christ from Judaism and he raised support, working from the basement of his parent’s house…they didn’t want any part of this. so pretty much ALL of his supporters were people he didn’t know previously)

Having said all of this, we wouldn’t change or wish for ‘easy’ as far as funding for the ministry goes. We have grown to see that this is truly a ‘refiner’s fire’ that prepares us for the often cutting edge, initiative ministry that we fully immerse in when we report to our assignment.  It might be hard to understand, but it really is a microcosm of our lives as Christ-followers.  The things that challenge our faith are preparing us for the greater blessing of more of Him and the life we have in Him; ultimately Heaven and LIFE FOREVER FACE-TO-FACE.Party smile

Well, I will close this portion with the glorious arrival of our firstborn, a son, right in the middle of this MPD faith journey.  He was named for his father and grandfather and was {in my unbiased opinion} the most beautiful baby ever born. 

BabyJJ 016BabyJJ 018

OH HAPPY DAY!!!!!!!!!!                  My twin…she’s pregnant (and sick) here with her twins!

BabyJJ 035BabyJJ 041BabyJJ 060

Stay tuned next week for our first return to Hungary since we left STINT before we moved to Florida.  Our first year of ministry in Florida and probably more sickness and our second child.


and joining Laura’s really fun meme: Playdates with God



Sunday, February 27, 2011

I want to see!

bloom book club

Chapter 6: what do you want? the place of seeing God of Ann Voskamp’s beautiful book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are is the topic of today’s post.  (I’m one chapter behind, Chapter 7 discussed today at Bloom Book Club)

This chapter begins with Ann’s husband’s tender plea to see something special.  Dinner is very late and she is trying to serve the eight in her house and she really fights not taking two steps to the window.  But, she does and there. there is the exquisite gift of harvest moon. 

After an almost rhetorical question asking her husband if he would stay and serve dinner so she couldwalking in sunset and moon 033 go…go to the moon, she leaves the house with her apron still on and ‘hunts the moon’ quickly being drawn back to the summer after the tragic death of her sister, Aimee, when she and her brother ran across the fields to touch the setting sun. Now she runs for this moon…

‘Dusk and all the arching dome and the field and the great-bellied moon, it all heaves, heavy with the glory. I heave to breathe: The whole earth is full of His glory. Sky, land, and sea, heavy and saturated with God—why do I always forget?’ ~p.106

What do you want?

Isn’t that the sole question we all need to circle back to, over and over again. And who knows the answer?

I feel it in my chest first, before any answer of layer of answer finds shape in image, walking in sunset and moon 030words…My body knows it, the way tension drains from shoulders and a heart unknots.  I loosen, breathe long… ~p. 107

This kingdom laden with glory, this, this pearl of great price, the field I’d sell everything to possess. 

The only place we have to come before we die is the place of seeing God.

This is what I’m famished for: more of the God-glory.

I whisper with the blind beggar, “Lord, I want to see” (Luke 18:41) ~p.108

stephanie and thanksgiving 175 - CopyThis was my favorite chapter.  The one that fanned the flame deep within and cried out full and hungering with Ann. ‘Yes, Lord, I want to see!’

It is hard to say that I definitively pick a favorite chapter, because, well, you know, it is all so beautiful and I want you all to read it, but more, experience this.  this God-glory.  this free-to-live-run-seek-love unreservedly, this free to be His.  simply His. and know in the deepest places that you are living what you were made to live. to seek. to desire. to worship.  Him. Simply Him. 

And yet, beyond-imagining or containing, Him.  Forever Him.  Heaven come down.  Eternity beginning now.  A life that in the moments transcends and also, in great mystery, is necessarily truly living before a watching world.  This is not the road to nirvana; that state of absorption; nothingness.  But, the road to deeper and deeper clarity and seeing Him.  A Savior who lived and laughed and loved and gave IT ALL for us.  Not simply the moments on the cross, but all that led to it—All of Him given for ALL OF US.  The WHOLE WORLD and our whole, best selves.

I want this for you because I want it for me.  And as we see Him, we behold His glory, we are made like Him and more of His Glory fills this world.

It is the life I have tasted and embraced and squandered and lost and forgotten.  It is the life that is stirring in me again…the Life that cannot be contained.

Here’s a bit of that story:

This chapter was a hinge of sorts opening up the door into my past.

I can say with honesty that I have lived many chasing-the-moon moments.  I have lived as a crazy, beautiful free woman that opened herself up wide and embraced Life as He means it to be lived.  I have run after His Beauty for a long, long time and screamed psalms (in pact with an accountability group in college called ‘the Screaming Psalmists’) on hills overlooking Barcelona, Spain; and the Blackstone Valley in Massachusetts and in my own backyard when He gave the gift of glorious sunsets daily behind a run-down house that was my parents’ home and in third world countries and sweating heat and loving it all to bear His love. His Gospel.

But in my giving-it-all and running to Him, I have also run from Him.  The Wholly Jealous One that calls me His Own.  Beloved and Beautiful.  I have given the best of my expressions of love for Him in words and passion and life to someone unworthy.  I have shared the deepest moments of intimacy with Him, meant only for loving, safe community, with this same one.  And I have been reckless with all of these gifts.  And in the end this one left my life and ultimately left Him; stealing away a part of me with his departure—or so I thought…

…my heart broken and learning one of the hugest life lessons. 

His are the only Arms that will never let go.  He is the Only One Worthy of seeing into the deep places and it is only in the glorious covenant of marriage that I am free to share these deep places as I had so foolishly with one unworthy.

So closed the space of four years of memories in my life…of seeing Him and living in His love wild and full …because they made me think of the other one.  The unworthy one.  The Enemy’s lies are insidious; subtly woven in the midst of sharing good things (Scripture; life callings; books and how they stir our hearts) too often and too much and then to have them rejected coldly, suddenly, fully. Though I have so desperately wanted to find this wild, abandoned me again, I have not known how.

And so when I wrote about God restoring the years that the locusts have eaten—it was in part about these four years and the hurt that followed and His amazing, pursuing love that has used Ann’s journey to draw me back to Him and knowing Him, truly seeing Him in the deepest places of my heart.  To remind me that these spaces and places were always His.  He’s created and formed the deep in me and it links me to all of this image-bearing world’s heart and His heart…your heart; my beloved gift of grace of a husband’s heart. 

This is what it is to embrace a community of love that is real and safe and a gift.

‘Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God’ (A.W. Tozer) that Ann highlights in this chapter, is just one small reminder of His restoring those years.  Past the voice of another, is His voice reminding me that He was the One who touched my heart and stirred it.  Though my view lay blocked too often in that time…all real and true woven in the tapestry of my life was through His unrelenting gaze upon me and my return of that One gaze.

The things He gives are never lost—He holds them all and, as He heals and makes whole, tucks them like precious jewels tenderly, soothingly placed into our revived and renewed and restored heart of hearts.

Thank You Lord, the Great Healer, Who sees us in our deepest pain and Who calls us to see You, Your Glory in all things:

  • for restoring these years
  • for writing this post
  • for sharing with my husband what you are teaching me
  • for how you heal as we open our wounds to you
  • for Your Grace with utter foolishness
  • for all that has come in beautiful love since that broken heart
  • for a faithful-beyond-words man who loves this wounded me
  • for how he makes me want to be a better wife—to love him better
  • for saving me from a huge mistake, in ripping the unworthy out of my life
  • for Your being a jealous God
  • for how You love enough to smash our idols
  • for purifying my worship
  • for humbling me and writing my story; Your story
  • for the glorious, little
    • for a son who acts out his frustration in his Cars’ and Thomas trains…lightning mcqueen, Chick Hicks, the King, and Thomas, James and many more
    • for tender affection between a mother and son
    • for a sweet girl who hams it up with sunglasses
    • for her love of hats and beads
    • for toddling steps
    • for glorious weather! (COME VISIT!)
    • for breezes and a porch
    • for an afternoon at the beach
    • for tactile therapy for my son rolling in the sand
    • for chasing waves
    • for cool, refreshing water
    • for Your Beauty…free to behold…called to behold
    • for amazing friends to behold together
    • for little friends who run wild at the ocean
    • for baby girl’s undeterred delight in the crashing waves
    • for sand to exfoliate while sitting with daughter
    • for chattering lips THAT REFUSE TO LEAVE THE JOY OF THE WAVES
    • for snuggling in towels
    • for enough fear of ocean to want to be held
    • for van keys that quickly distract from the tears of leaving
    • for son who accepts and says ‘bye ocean, I’ll see you soon!’ with a wave and many reminders to the ocean by repeating over and over
  • for twin’s mother-in-love trusting you in cancer; the same as our mom’s
  • for twin’s heart of faith and beauty in the midst
  • for it being too hard and deep to talk about even with her twin—b/c You see
  • for KELLY’S amazing news of no cancer cells in lymph nodes!
  • for a short course of treatment and return to Hungary in April!
  • for always and ever the BEST yet to COME!

#821-863 of the One Thousand Gifts of the endless list of gifts…ways/places of seeing Him!



Friday, February 25, 2011

Five Minute Friday Prompt: Five Years Ago

Here’s the prompt taken directly from Lisa-Jo, The Gypsy Mama’s Blog

On Fridays around these parts we have a little tradition. We throw caution (editing, revising, and worrying) to the winds and just write.

For five minutes flat.

You’re welcome to play along. The rules are easy.

1. Write your heart out for five minutes and then show us what you’ve got.
2. Tell your readers you’re linking up here and invite them to play along.
3. And most importantly, go visit, read, and encourage the fellow five-minuter who linked up right before you.

Easy peasy.

Oh and there’s often a little fun something-something in it for one five minute artist.

OK, here we go – give me your best five minutes on life five years ago.


Budapest 039Budapest 056


Five years ago I was in an amazing city loving on high school kids with my husband

An amazing city across the ocean.

I was in the throws of second semester ministry in Budapest, Hungary.

Each day I’d walk a few blocks, past the hundreds year old Reformed Church a block away and by Moricz Square.

I’d grab a tram or bus to head to a school or for an appointment with a student.  I’d sometimes stay at the Meki (McDonald’s) and talk to students as it was winter until late in march, so no parks then.

I’d bundle up and speak slowly in English so others could understand.

I’d sometimes see my husband having gone a different direction that day on the street, across the street, running to a tram.  It made me smile everywhere and I thought it was like if I’d have seen him in high school or college across the lawn as we never experienced that.

I’d love Jesus with my life and though I longed to start a family and experienced pain as it didn’t happen right away while we were in Hungary that year, I didn’t want to miss what God was doing in not allowing me to get pregnant and sick.  He wanted me healthy and whole to give a year to high school students overseas in the place He is calling us back to long-term. 


It was so fun for me to realize that Lisa-Jo was in Kiev, Ukraine at the same time I was in Budapest, Hungary.  Not so close, but both Eastern Europe.  Both before we had kids…Lisa-Jo’s expecting her third and I have a 3.5 and 1.5 year-old…wonder what the next 5 years will bring?! I’m sure it will be incredibly exciting.  This Great Adventure called life, His Life in Me, always isSmile


Thursday, February 24, 2011

on the road home

I am sharing at Amy’s today, the one who so honestly shares her own family’s journey towards gracious giving, about how God has been working on my heart in the area of being generous. 

I struggle.  Oh, how I struggle.

When I am stressed about finances (being full supported missionaries *can* do that, at times, though, it is definitely not His desire…for any of us) I close my fists TIGHT around what I have.

My husband?  I have never seen him have a closed hand towards…anyone.  I really can’t think of a time that he wasn’t ready to give to someone in need.  He’s quite tight with personal spending, but when it comes to others…the floodgates open and pour. cheerfully.

And so, the Lord has been graciously teaching me as I have meditated upon Psalm 37 since our return from Hungary last August and amidst many other wonderful things there are these verses about what we have and what we are to give:

16 Better the little that the righteous have
   than the wealth of many wicked;

18The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
   and their heritage will remain forever;
19they are not put to shame in evil times;
   in the days of famine they have abundance.

21The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
   but the righteous is generous and gives;

25I have been young, and now am old,
   yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
   or his children begging for bread.
26He is ever lending generously,
   and his children become a blessing.

So, when you ask the Lord to teach you about generosity, He will.  At Amy’s today, I share about how He did that during a 1000+ mile road trip home.

And, if you can, take a further look at Amy’s place—she always makes me smile and often laugh out loud with her honesty and tongue-in-cheek wit—she is a great friend and a huge bright spot in my blogging worldSmile

When Home is Lost and Gospel Found at a Gas Station

Please, join me.

(Since this story is filled with (my) imperfection, I am also sharing it with Emily’s Imperfect Prose)

Imperfect Prose[3]


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

the hard eucharisteo

bloom book club

I am a little behind, so I’ll talk today about Chapter 5 (Sunday’s discussion) of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp and on Friday? about Chapter 6—both are being discussed at the Bloom Book Club with video discussions with Ann.

Chapter 5: what in the world, in all the world, is grace? Digs very deep into the hard, angry, ugly Why’s of the pain of this fallen world that make death and decay intertwined with life.  In this chapter Ann weaves the story of the morning she found out that her son had put his hand through the fan and the same day finding out that a thirteen year-old neighbor boy was killed in a farming accident.

‘Why in the world, everywhere I turn, every page, always death?’ p. 82

But Ann also finds as this all occurs after her One Thousand Gifts list is complete, that giving thanks for the seemingly insignificant, little things prepares her for ‘the hard eucharisteo’ that must be given in these moments that make no (earthly) sense…the ones that break our heart.

But what perspective sees good in dead farm boys, good in a little girl crushed under tires of a truck right in front of her mother’s eyes, good in a brother-in-law who buries his first two sons in the space of nineteen months—and all the heinous crimes and all the weeping agony and all the scalding burn of this world?…

…I won’t shield God from my anguish by claiming He’s not involved in the ache of this world and Satan prowls but he’s a lion on a leash and the God who governs all can be shouted at when I bruise, and I can cry and I can howl and He embraces the David-hearts who pound hard on His heart with their grief and I can moan deep that He did this—and He did…

And I can hear Him soothe soft, “Are your ways My ways, child? Can you eat My manna, sustain on My mystery? Can you believe that I tenderly, tirelessly work all for the best good of the whole world—because My flame of love for you can never, ever be quenched?”

There was such a part of me that was ready for this chapter. Maybe it’s the gold refined of a strong Reformed upbringing, but something in me is angry with a world that asks all convenient and without pain of God and He isn’t thanked but suddenly He’s the one to blame when anything goes wrong?? But I know He has everlasting patience with this…as I have lived the same so often.

This world is NOT our home.  Every ache we experience reminds us that we long for a Heavenly city.  And He is not the first in the line of a genealogy of fallen-ness.  He is the Last Adam, the One come to give all the potential to be redeemed, as He is seen in the midst of all things.

I think of one of the most beautiful conversations that I have ever had with anyone.  It was with my cousin late last fall.  His life knows great pain, much where he was an innocent victim.  He has lived his life angry, running, falling.  But not now.  He shares his story and the God who has picked him up and step by step, choice by choice and grace upon grace is giving him freedom from his past.  He is touching many young people and offering hope.

One of the many things he shared was when God really began to pursue Him in this season of in many ways first time walking truly with God.  It was the day another of our cousins was killed in a car crash.  He was with our aunt and uncle, our cousin’s brothers, sister, niece, wife and kids.  Late in this same day he remembers our uncle praying and ‘thanking God for this day.’  His first reaction was anger. How can you thank God when your son is dead?

As he began to open Himself up to God and entered community, the Lord wove together men like my uncle and my dad who have lived before him as men that praise God in all things.  He is Worthy.  He is God.  His ways are higher…they are NOT our ways.  He is in the darkness, as He was on the Cross at the darkest hour of all time, to carry us through it and touch it with Himself.  All things redeemed…for our good.  Mystery. Manna. His. Mine.

Linking with Tiffini and her Word Women Wednesday.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Sweet Interlude


27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery,

which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Colossians 1:27-29

I am making this week an interlude of praise in the midst of

Our Calling Story


Because if I don’t, the rocks will cry out.

I am just home from a long weekend in a beautiful place.  But the beauty of the world around is nothing compared to the beauty of Him.  Lifted high in the midst of 200 middle and high school students from public schools in Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida.  He is All the Glory and to Him Alone Be All the Glory Forever and Ever, Amen.

I give you a tiny peek into the small glimpse I had in the midst of partnering in this work through mothering and caring and being a family who loves and supports Daddy.  And a friend to a beautiful one, so dear to my heart, who had the courage to share her own story in front of 100 or so young women.

24711_379248040946_515400946_4225149_6459515_nHe, my beloved husband, enters late at night.  He’s closed the evening with five guys from the basketball team at the school where we’ve been ministering.  These five sharing till nearly 1am about what God is doing in their lives.  Hunger for Him.  Experiencing the reality of community for the first time. 

One who my husband convinced his dad it was where he needed to be…having been (rightly) disciplined by losing the privilege of this weekend away.  But he trusted us as we believed that God would work deeply and He did.  He soaked up the truth of what it is to live for He Who is Worthy and to live purely in a world wrecked—saturated with impurity.  Giving my hubby a bear hug of thanks when the weekend was done…so full.

Two trusting Christ for the first time!  Arrested by the truth of the Gospel in the context of community.  Overpowered by the passion of those around to live for this One Thing Worth Living and Dying For!  As others rejoice at what God has done.

Another, bold in using his gift of rapping for Jesus to bless others. 

And the last, I don’t recognize because he’s grown so much since I saw him at last year’s end-of-the-year basketball banquet.  Wrapping me in hugs (the others too)—loving our family.  our children.  Calling us family.  He is growing so strong spiritually as his muscles bulge and smile widens.  From freshmen to leader with the potential of impacting his generation being brought to fruition.

Then there are the ones who spent all last year in Bible Study at our house. Giving hugs and smiles and Florida-Georgia game, etc 088sweet son running to all for high fives and fist pounds and they go out and share their faith boldly.  The afternoon when all of these 200 young people go out into the world to engage in spiritual conversation on beaches, at flea markets, in malls, on street corners…these two giving strength and courage to others.  They’ve begun to multiply their faith into those coming behind them.  They have committed with energy and passion to spend afternoons at their own school campus intentionally sharing the good news with fellow students.  They both sense a calling to return to their own high school as volunteers with this same ministry that has changed them as they begin college next year.  They are blessed to be a blessing.

I am able to encourage dear gift-of-a-friend as we live life together this weekend.  She has been preparing for a special Girls’ Only time that happens at each conference.  Laboring in the weeks and months prior in prayer and logistics.  She waits on the Lord and walks in faithful obedience to share the insecurities of her life. her past.  All that she gave away looking for love and how He picked her up and made her whole.

Baby JJ 6-15 Myrtle Beach and Father's Day 047She invites others to join her.  Four beautiful women who share what it has been to be set free from self-destructive behavior and dark, dark hidden places.  I am overwhelmed by the power of story.  One who shares years and years of sexual addiction that she promised in the dark would be shared with no one.  And then He found her through the courage of another’s story.  And He set her free.  She walks in His power and the strength to be an Overcomer.  Through her story many others are on the path to freedom.

And there is so much more…so many more who begin relationship with Christ, are freed from dark pasts of violence and addiction through confession and bringing it into the light of community formed in Christ.  He shines His light and they are not afraid anymore.  Lies are seen for the grotesque forms that they are and He is seen in His beauty beyond compare.

…And this is bittersweet.  This interlude to Our Story is also a real time interlude as this weekend is our ending point in ministry here and the beginning of full-fledged transition to move overseas.  And I fight the pangs of sadness that threaten to have final say.  The sadness and grief are good for we have lived and worked with our lives invested and we would have been content to stay and love on these beautiful ones for a long, long time more.

But He Alone Receives the Glory.  Though the leaving is hard, how can it but keep our hearts humble?  It is His work entirely.  He has loved and pursued these young people and we have had the awesome privilege to witness.  And with every bit of me I claim this verse that says

‘He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it UNTIL THE DAY OF CHRIST JESUS.’ ~Philippians 1:6 (emphasis mine)

It does not say, ‘as long as WE, the current tenders of this soil, are called to remain.’  It does not say ‘WE who have reached out to them began the work’.  It does not say ‘WE are perfectly faithful’ in this work.  But it is He who begins.  He who is faithful.  He who completes.

And so I end this interlude in the only fitting way…with praise and thanksgiving:

Good, Faithful, Loving, Amazing, Living, Almighty, Omniscient Abba Father God,

Thank You!!!

  • for loving and seeking each and every one of these students
  • for the way You pour out Your Spirit
  • for how You lifted up many to pray for this weekend
  • for all 18 who came from UHS
  • for the many who came to know You, Jesus, in a saving way
  • for the reality that their eternities are changed
  • for the power of community
  • for the power of story
  • for the girls who came
  • for these beautiful women with the courage to share
  • for freeing many from self-destructive behaviors
  • for the hundreds even thousands of angels in heaven rejoicing
  • for a girl who you are drawing away from sexual addiction
  • for renewed understanding of purity
  • for this shelter of a weekend to the ones who do live for you
  • for how they long for this refreshment
  • for the reality that they are in the world
  • for their deep longing to be light in it
  • for the hunger in this generation
  • for how  YOU ALONE SATISFY
  • for the undeserving observers we are
  • for a prophetic night many years ago when You spoke to my heart that I would ‘be a part of something so special’
  • for the myriad of times since we joined this ministry that I have remembered that night
  • for the calling to leave
  • for the breaking of our heart in it
  • for the humility that heals
  • for one who had the courage to confess a dark, violent element in his life
  • for how you are going to use it for his good even if there are deep consequences
  • for the heart of Christ…a gift freely given
  • for how you give us YOUR PASSION to labor in prayer and life
  • for the little blessings in this weekend
    • for a little buddy for our son
    • for his miracle adoption story…and how he grows in love
    • for their wild, running fun during meals
    • for daughter’s wild, delighted pursuit of life
    • for wobbly, determined steps
    • for the wonder of balloons
    • for superhero Son to hunt down and pop bubbles
    • for two year-old word lisps
    • for stuffed doggies that daughter entertains herself with
    • for noise machines that help sleep while traveling
    • for glorious weather
    • for breezes that refresh amidst sun’s warmth
    • for fire ants BECAUSE they remind me of THE BEST YET TO COME!
    • for baby orajel when daughter is cutting her last molar
    • for her chubby point to baby tylenol to help her pain
    • for tub fun
    • for little-miss-daring who wants to jump into the pool
    • for her quick learning when I let her go under for an instant
  • for how sweet Emily was there
  • for how dear she is through the journey and overseas project TOGETHER
  • for her to come on STINT in a few yearsWinking smile
  • for all that lies ahead in this GREAT ADVENTURE
  • for a message from Nikki on fb saying how she misses
  • for her reply to me that it will be her ‘best day’ when we move to Hungary (I want to remind that the best day is the day SHE trusted Christ at Speakout and now loves YOU so and leads so well)
  • for dear Michelle’s cancer surgery going well
  • for how she blesses all in US Student Venture ministry
  • for Kelly’s cancer surgery going well
  • for how she blesses all in student ministry in Hungary
  • for the promise You will be with them in the follow-up treatment coming
  • for Bible Gateway that allows me to provide links for all of these verses! and where I can look up the ones I don’t remember
  • for how You increase our hunger and make us long, long, long, long for Home

#756-820 of the One Thousand Gifts of the Endless list of Gifts to Whom is All the Glory…


and sharing with Jen and the SDG Sisterhood that I absolutely love…


and with Laura’s really fun, joy-giving Playdates with God



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bubbles of Time

bloom book clubChapter 4: A Sanctuary of Time of the wonderful, completely-recommend-it beautiful book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

Bubbles. Picture those delightful things blown into open air for children by those who love them as an analogy for single moments of time.  What it is when the sun catches a solitary bubble and reflects a rainbow full of colors.  This is the metaphor for moments where time can become sanctuary that Ann shares exquisitely in this chapter.

florida winter reprised 028‘They say time is money, but that’s not true.  Time is life.  And if I want the fullest life, I need to find fullest time. I wipe a water spot of the tap; there is a reflection of me.  Oh yes, I know you, the busyness of your life leaving little room for the source of your life.  I’m the face grieving.

God gives us time. And who has time for God?

Which makes no sense.

In Christ don’t we have everlasting existence?  Don’t Christians have all the time in eternity, life everlasting? If Christians run out of time—wouldn’t we lose our very own existence?  If anyone should have time, isn’t it the Christ-followers?’ ~p.64

Does she have your attention?  I know I am rapt.  She is speaking right into what I believe is THE NUMBER ONE deterrent of the work of the Spirit in our culture; perhaps our world?  Time that rushes and rages unrelentingly demanding us to do more…fill our time with more.  Keep up with the Joneses in the stuff of the things we do; the activities we join; the important work we engage in.

‘This is where God is.

In the present. I AM—His very name. I want to take shoes off. I AM, so full of the weight of the present, that time’s river slows to a still…and God Himself is timeless.’ ~p.69

‘Here is the only place I can love Him.’ ~p.70

Sometime I will have to share a numbers mix that my Mathematical brain plays with all of this time stuff.  It fits all that Ann is saying.  That He is saying.  Perfect rest comes in holding a moment soft and tender which is to caress it with thanks.  Even if we don’t say the words out loud, by the act of slowing we are thanking; believing in faith that He is real and here and good…come what may, we stand in THIS moment, full in Him.

‘That in Christ, urgent means slow.

That in Christ, the most urgent necessitates a slow and steady reverence…

…Life at its fullest is this sensitive, detonating sphere, and it can be carried only in the hands of the unhurried and reverential—a bubble held in awe.’ ~p.74

I finished Beth Moore’s ‘Loving Well’ study, which I highly recommend, this week with my small group.  In the last week’s reflection questions I was asked how I experience God’s love?  Immediately, my heart went to eucharisteo; giving thanks.  Thanks is how I am knowing His love so beautifully in these days. 

Like the bubbles that my daughter is loving, as we blow them soft and I slow and lazily sit on blankets with her and her brother, moments of pure thanks are winning my heart for Him.  I continue to miss so much, but these rainbow spheres tenderly touched and lifted to the skies in praise, are feeding my soul and simultaneously increasing its hunger for more.  More time.  More love.  More Him.

To read the entire series of reflections corresponding with Bloom Book Club’s discussion of Ann’s book: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are  click below:

Chapter 1          Chapter 2         Chapter 3 

Sharing with mama’s at Erin’s for her wonderful meme, Mama’s Heart 


And with Bonnie’s Faith Barista Jam



heavenly hues


around home, osceola fair 022

Tomorrows held high in His hands

Gray clouds cover; dance in expectation

And as I drive I click. and click.

Through wooing lace He pulls me into wonder.

around home, osceola fair 023

And mystery meets, marvels, melts.

around home, osceola fair 024

I ask for eyes to see pattern’s peace.

Windows’ open spaces to receive

And faith sky blue clear; calling.

Watching woven unwinding; celestial clothes.

around home, osceola fair 025

And I savor, soft spirit sweetly sighs.

around home, osceola fair 026

Now in the drawing down dropping,

Achromatic ache alters all around.

I yank gaze away from what’s high

And walk happy towards deepest loves.

around home, osceola fair 027

And I trust till touching tints time.

around home, osceola fair 057around home, osceola fair 058

In the living, laughing, loving

Eating fair food, memories sweet;

Dazzled and dazed in the deference

Sunset swirls, seeking, singing.

around home, osceola fair 059

And Heavenly hues hover; highlight Him.

around home, osceola fair 061

I amaze that all has not stopped.

Staring still as I am frozen, locked.

Fleeting Glory passes before the world

All but to behold and believe.

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And Love lavishes; long loud lingers.

around home, osceola fair 062

And Heavenly hues hover; highlight Him.

And I trust till touching tints time.

And I savor, soft spirit sweetly sighs.

And mystery meets. marvels. melts.

AWA 2/16/2011

Sharing with friends at Emily’s…trusting this is a giftSmile

Imperfect Prose[3]

And with One Stop Poetry’s One Shot Wednesday

And On, In, and Around Mondays at Seedlings in Stone


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