Friday, December 31, 2010

New Christmas Traditions

Picture of the lake by our house...

Joel and I are always looking for new traditions to incorporate into our Christmas with the kids. This year we added two that we are really excited about and plan to continue for years to come.

Both of these were not our original ideas - one was in a Christian Magazine at our church and the other I got off

So the first was a change in the types and number of gifts we give our kids. First of all, you need to know that we have never really done a whole lot for Christmas partly due to finances but mostly because Christmas is not about us or our kids - it's Jesus' birthday and so we want our kids to know that it's all about HIM! We do big birthday celebrations for our kids and so Christmas is a big celebration about Jesus. However - in reading this article about 3 gifts for Christmas I was enthralled and thought that made so much sense! Jesus received 3 gifts - Gold, Frankensense and Myrh. The article went on to say how this couple decided to do the equivilent with their kids - 3 gifts with important meaning. The "gold" gift is something more expensive that your child has asked for. The "Frankensense" gift is something that helps them grow spiritually and the "Myrh" gift is something that they wear.

So - Christmas morning Joel went over the gifts that Jesus got and then explained the use of each, followed by telling the kids that they were getting the 3 gifts! It was so fun and we loved it!
The second tradition we are adding involves a unique way to teach your children to pray. We actually haven't started this one yet but will be this next week! You save all the Christmas cards that you get and put them in a basket on your dining room table. Then starting shortly after New Year's each night at dinner as the family is arround the table - you take a card out of the basket. As a family you talk about how you know that family, memories you may have with them, etc. and then you pray for that family together. I have always felt bad about just discarding all the beautiful cards that people send and just LOVED this unique idea! Don't worry if you didn't send us a card - we will pray for you anyway! LOL

So there are the two new traditions we have added this year. I would really like to hear about any traditions that your family may have so that perhaps we can add to ours and feel free to begin these with your family as well!

Christmas Re-cap

So, I can tell that we have jumped into the Christmas holidays as I haven't blogged since the kids got out of school! We have thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks we have had off though. It has been full of many many memories and special moments!

Perhaps the most special moment for me was Christmas Eve. We went to church for the service there which was beautiful and wonderful - so special to remember Christ's birth with our church family. Following that, we came home to a crock pot of chilli! This is definitely going to be a Christmas Eve tradition at least when we are home! Then we sat around as a family, just the 6 of us, and talked about what gifts we could give Jesus this next year. So precious to see my kids really ponder what they wanted to give Jesus in terms of their attitudes and service.

Christmas Day was filled with fun and laughter and kids getting us up at 4:45 in the morning to see what Santa brought! Wasn't too bad - once I woke up a bit! LOL.

The day after Christmas, we went to Pagosa after church to celebrate with Nana and Papa and Joel's sister and her family! I love having the cousins get together...even if it was really loud! Monday we went back to Pagosa for more fun with the cousins!!!

Wednesday - the cousins (and parents) came to our house!!! Yippee!!! We had been praying for them to get some snow to play in - we got some and more! From Wed morning to Thursday night - we got over 2 ft of snow at our house!!! The Texas crew was a little in awe I think but they jumped in with sledding, snowball fights and even helped shovel some!

Speaking of the snow - it has snowed so much and the roads are so bad, that they are staying an extra day and won't go home til tomorrow! So there is our Christmas week in a nutshell - here are a few pictures...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why Facebook?

I thought I would blog about why I am on Facebook and how the Lord is using FB in my own life. I get SO many questions or comments about the number of "friends" I have on FB - it's at 585 as of this morning. Some people think it's amazing that I know that many people, others think that perhaps I shouldn't have that many, and still others just wonder in general.

First of all, let me preface before going any farther - this is MY reasoning, and what the Lord has laid on MY heart. It is not for everyone, but I am praying that by sharing my "why" of FB the Lord may reveal some area or tool you are to be using.

Ok - I will be completely honest here. I FIRST got on FB to socialize with some youth in Arkansas and then started to see others I knew on there. My initial reason was to "connect" with our youth. However, it didn't take long for me to realize that FB could be dangerous! Yes - dangerous. I could partake in gossip, slander, being judgemental, complaining, etc. and I did/do at times if I am not careful.

One night, I was pondering FB and how it was a tool of the world so I began to pray about it and truly seek the face of God as to whether I should be on it or not and this is what I received:
"Ronnie, you can choose to use FB for my glory, or you can choose to just be another person on it. You can reach out to people or you can decide to use it to vent, complain, gossip, etc." This hit me hard! After much prayer and seeking I decided that I wanted to use FB for the glory of my King! I wanted to be a light in a dark world!!!

This has not come without cost - just as any time we choose to obey God and do what He has called us to do. I have had people criticize me for being on it, question me, I have seen lots of posts containing language that I don't appreciate and I am daily tempted to use it to whine and complain or gossip. Yet - I chose to obey God.

It has been my goal, no I don't always succeed, to daily post a scripture or spiritual truth on my FB status that will hopefully challenge or encourage someone on FB. I want to know that whoever "befriends" me will at least come across one scripture each day as they log on to FB. I want to be the light in the darkness and provide hope to those who are hurting. This is why I have 585 friends - I do not deny any request because I am not to decide who the Lord brings across my path on FB. There have been times in my flesh that I have gotten mad or hurt and deleted someone - however EVERY time the Lord has brought them back to my heart and I have added them back.

There are those that have deleted me for various reasons - yes it hurts at times. However, I have to remember that my identity is not found in who "friends" me on FB. My identity is found in my Lord and my King. He has called me, He has chosen me, and He loves me just the way I am.

For me, FB is also an evangelism tool. In my day to day life I honestly don't know very many who are lost (I'm working on this) but on FB - SO MANY are lost without Christ! I try to be relavent and yet bring Truth. Yes, I try to relate by posting things my kids do or say, or just little tidbits about my day so that people realize even though we are in ministry - we are normal just like them. It has been assumed that because the majority of my posts are "positive" we have a perfect life or we are not willing to admit that we struggle or that we are "too good", etc. This of course is not the case. The reason I try really hard to not post those things (and now that I am blogging this I have to be more accountable) is that FB is NOT ABOUT ME in my case. The Lord brought it into my path as a tool to be used for Him and His glory. He has challenged me with this and at the moment that I make it all about me - I need to delete it and get rid of it.

So this is why I am on FB, this is why there are verses at least once a day (or I try), this is why I have 585 friends. My challenge to you - what is the Lord calling YOU to do? What in your life can be used for His glory and His Kingdom? Find whatever it is and use it for HIM. Yes, you will be criticized, judged possibly, and even put down by other believers (I certainly have had my share of Christians tell me I shouldn't FB or even blog)- but be obedient to Him and step out there and do it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Some things just break a Mama's heart!

This has been a ROUGH week for my four kids...I can't remember ever having a week where all four of my children have struggled so much, I am ready for them to have the Christmas break for their sakes as much as anything!

Here is the "short" version:

Hannah - yesterday in her English class, one of the boys decided to change the time on the clock. Hannah, being the rule abiding good student that she is decided to get it and change it back before the teacher came back in. As a result, the other student called her "teacher's pet" and other names all day long and made a big deal about it all day. This really got to her and even though she knows that it was right to make the decision she did - it still hurt and doesn't take away the sting.

Malachi - has been having a fellow student say dirty nasty jokes to him constantly, call him bad names and even choke him in the hall. We did report it and the principal is taking action but just really rough on him and his tenderheart!

Kestra - hers is the longest story but basically she has been struggling in math since Sept and the teachers just decided to take action in December AFTER I mentioned it to them. She is a very social person and doesn't like to be "sepearated" out - of course not understanding the work is also frustrating as she LOVES to learn and do school! We have had conversations with all three teachers involved as well as the principal and are confident that we are on the way to getting Kestra the help and guidance that she needs in math when she returns in January.

Tyler - he has had some behavior issues that are partly just him and partly him trying to "fit in" among his peers when he has so many other issues to overcome. He is really sensative this week and seems to burst into either tears or a tantrum any time we discipline or correct him.

So - to say that we are READY for school to be out is an understatement! I have some really fun ideas for next week such as baking, movies, games and even a "playdate" at our house for any kids and moms that may want to join us! It should be fun and a chance for all 4 to just relax and regroup!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hannah Marie

From time to time I would like to blog about each one of my four precious children. I must admit that some of them definitely do more things that I find funny or I learn lessons from but each one is so special in their own unique way.

Today, I am choosing to blog about Ms. Hannah. Hannah is our oldest and I must say that in itself causes me to learn the most from her - she's our first experience with everything that involves parenting! Unfortunately for her, that isn't always a good thing but for the most part she does well with it.

Hannah has grown up to be such a beautiful young lady! It is so hard to believe that in less than a year she will begin her first year of High School. I can still remember her as a little toddler walking around singing "Diddle Deedle" or the times that she would look at us and point her finger and yell "No" and then grin! Now, she is almost 5' 7", on the school honor roll, plays volleyball and basketball and is a lovely young woman.

I am so proud of her and all that she has accomplished. This past year we observed her grow so much physically and spiritually. She showed great diligence in her athletic performance. Spiritually she is amazing me - she isn't afraid to ask the hard questions or to search the Bible for herself to find the answers. Most of all - she is so tenderhearted and merciful toward her friends at school. She is always thinking of them and what they need!

Of course, my relationship with Hannah isn't anywhere near perfect - in fact we actually clash quite a bit. She can exasperate me and bring out the worst in me - and if I am honest - I can do the same to her. However, I am so thankful for her and the fact that she challenges ME to live out my faith and beliefs! One thing that I have learned from Hannah is that sometimes we all need to take time away from others and process our thoughts and feelings. I am a "let's fix it now" type of person. I don't want to leave an argument or disagreement until it's finished - she is more of a "let me settle down first" type person. Nothing is wrong with either one but it is hard for both of us to understand the other!

I am most impressed by the talent that Hannah has in her writing. She simply amazes me!!! She can express herself and her feelings so well in the writing of a story or a poem. I pray that some day she will get one or more of her writing pieces published or at the very least she will allow me to blog one of them. :)

The Lord blessed me on May 19, 1997 with a beautiful baby girl - I am so proud of the woman she is becoming! The other day she sat beside me after her game and made this statement "Hey my mom, my best friend." She then went on to talk about her day and the game but my heart stayed with those words - I know that I still have to be her mom but I do pray that as she grows older we will be good friends as well. I am so thankful that for the most part Hannah talks to me about what is going on, her troubles, her feelings, etc and I pray that as she enters HS and college that will stay the case.

Friday, December 10, 2010


The past several weeks we have been really busy with both church and kid's activities. As I have come across different people we have been reminded that this time of year so many people are hurting and facing such heartbreaking situations or storms of life as I sometimes refer to them!

Yesterday morning, I was praying for a particular family and their heartbreaking situation. I found myself praying that the Lord would take them out of the storm and give them relief. As I prayed, the Lord laid this upon my heart and I put it as my Facebook status:

Sometimes God dissolves the storm before it comes and sometimes He calms the troubled waters BUT sometimes He allows us to be in the storm so we will feel His loving arms around us when all else is shaking around matter where you are, God is there and He is holding you!

All day, this was on my mind. Most of the time I pray and ask the Lord to calm the storm or even divert it - yet would I want to miss out on the blessing of God carrying me through it? The lesson that I learned from this was that God is THERE! He is there before and after the storm - and He is there DURING the storm.

So - my prayer this Christmas season is that no matter where you find yourself you too will know that He is there! Emmanuel - God with us...has come to be WITH us before, during and after all the storms we may face!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Becky Kelley - Where's the Line to See Jesus - OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO

Teachable Moment...

"Mom, I KNOW Santa is real!" smiling sweetly as I responded to Tyler "Oh really and how do you KNOW this?" "Because I read it on the internet!"

This simple comment that Tyler made to me this morning has stuck with me all day! Of course, Joel and I smiled and even chuckled a little at it but in reality - this is what many of our children believe. If I read it on the internet - it MUST be truth. While cute and over a very simple topic (in my opinion) I recognized this as a GREAT opportunity to teach Tyler about where our truth really does come from. I explained to him at the time, that not EVERYTHING on the internet is true and then proceeded to explain that Santa was a real person who died but we carry on his traditions, etc.

However, more important than this is that I teach my children where to look for ULTIMATE TRUTH....God's Word. So many things in this world scream at us and more importantly our children what truth is and without proper guidance and direction they can easily be sent in the wrong direction after something that is a lie and will ultimately lead to destruction.

"If you hold to my teaching, then you are really my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free" John 8:31-32 You see JESUS is the truth and we can trust Him. Tyler's comment this morning was simple and full of childhood anticipation and wanting to hold on to the magic of Santa. It truly was a innocent proclamation of saying - it's just GOT to be true because I want it to be and this proves it. Yet, it was a reality check and a wake up call to me - am I teaching them the true source of absolute and eternal truth? Not in the academic sense but in a spiritual sense.

I want my children to grow up knowing who is TRUTH and to learn to follow him. Today's conversation was an excellent reminder to emphasize t0 and teach my children to seek truth...

That being said - we did continue to explain to Tyler that it's ok to pretend there is a Santa and that gifts with "Santa" on them are simply gifts from someone who didn't want to be recognized!

I am so thankful to the Lord for bringing these "teachable moments"into my life - not only so I can teach my children but so my Father can teach me through them as well!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Only one more week....

of sports practices that is! I love sports and especially basketball but let me tell you, this mom is ready to not have something EVERY night of the week! With Hannah practicing or at games 5 nights a week, Kestra at tutoring 3 nights and choir one night a week, Malachi at practice once a week and the 3 younger and Joel and I at AWANA one night a week - it gets a little hectic to say the least! Thankfully, that will all slow down quite a bit next week as Hannah and Malachi will be done with basketball, Kestra will only have one week of tutoring left...ahhhh....

In January, things will slow down for the Arrington's A LOT and that will be a welcome respite! LOL...

Marriage Truths...

Truth # 7 - Communicate with your husband!
I can't tell you how many times I have been mad at Joel, stomped around, gave him the silent treatment, etc and yet he had NO IDEA what was bothering me because I didn't tell him. As women, I think we often expect our men to know what we need, how we are feeling, what we expect etc and although sometimes that is the case (more and more the longer we are married) there are times that we just need to tell them what the problem is and they would be more than happy to fix it! Let me give you an example from my own marriage: when we were first married Joel would literally spend HOURS on the computer at night...I would get so upset and mad because I wanted time with ME and yet he would go to the computer. The longer this went on, the madder and more upset I became. After about 2 years into our marriage (yes, I let it build that long!) I finally blew a gasket! I came unglued! I told him that some women are jealous of other women but I was jealous of a stupid computer. Joel was floored - I mean I REALLY let him have it. His response (with tears in his eyes) " I am so sorry, I never knew it bothered you or upset you. Why didn't you say anything?" For 2 years I carried a hurt that I had no reason to carry! So we have to communicate and we need to know how our husband communicates best.
I talked with a woman last night that said if she really wants her husband to understand something - she texts him a message on his phone. At first, I wanted to say but TALK to him. However - she continued to explain that if he sees the text, he can think and then better respond. You see she has figured out a way to communicate that works for him! What a novel idea.

These are simply the beginning and a starting point. I know that not all circumstances or issues are as simple as this and I know that there isn't always a "cut and dry" answer for every issue. I do believe, however, that if one or both persons in a marriage will take the time to apply these truths - they will see a difference in their marriage.

There are definitely things that are deserving of professional counseling or intervention: certain addictions, abuse, affairs, etc so please don't hesitate to seek outside help!

This series is just intended to be a building block for any marriage...our hearts are to help families grow stronger in the Lord and with each other. Like I said in the first post - we don't have all the answers, we are still growing ourselves but we want to help any and everyone we can along the way!

Marriage Truths Cont.

Truth #3-
Place your spouse above any other person. Notice I didn't just say "any other" - The Lord is to be your first and foremost relationship, however after the Lord there is NO OTHER more important than your spouse. As a mom, this was and at times is still hard for me but it is CRITICAL to your marriage that your man knows he is the #1 person in your life. We need to carve out spaces of our time, energy, prayers, etc specifically for our husbands that no one or nothing else can creep in and fill. Yes - I know the baby needs fed, diaper changed, homework needs completed, laundry, etc. Yet - if any of these things is more important than your spouse - you have just told him that he isn't your priority and he doesn't matter. So - set a date night each week - it can be as simple as a movie at home after the kids are tucked in, a chat by the fire, or you can find other parents and trade out babysitting - let them watch your kids at their house and then have a date at get the idea. Just know that hubby needs to have that place of priority!

Truth # 4
Eliminate ANYTHING that may be stealing your heart, time, money away from your marriage. This could be something like drugs, pornography, drinking or it may be something not so "big" such as reading books, being on the internet, a hobby, etc. This doesn't mean that you can't do these hobbies (things of a sinful nature MUST be eliminated!) BUT are they in a place more important than your marriage and time with your spouse? Where is your heart truly focused?

Truth #5
Pray not only FOR your spouse but pray WITH your spouse! There is nothing Joel and I have done together that compares to praying together. When we are kneeling before our King and seeking Him and His will together - it truly does unite us and strengthen our marriage! Make it a regular habit to PRAY TOGETHER!

Truth #6
The hard times will come - determine to face them TOGETHER not seperate! It is not a matter of if but when. However, making a decision before the hard times hit (or now if you are in them) that you are going to stand together and stay together through them will make all the difference. Joel and I made this decision before we ever said our vows that no matter what came our way there would be no other way to face it than together! We have faced numerous financial hardships (eviction, repossession of our car, etc), we have faced serious health issues with one of our children (see post on Tyler), we have faced numerous unexpected and unwanted moves, and yes these have been hard. They have put our marriage and our relationship with the Lord to the test but we went through them together. There was one time after a particularly hard time financially that I emotionally detached myself from my husband and I will tell you it took A LOT to get that back! I felt abandoned and alone and like I was drowning - fortunately through the love of our Lord and a very understanding husband - those wounds have been healed but not without some pain. So make the decision to do it together and remember to always go back to Truth #5!!!

That is all I can type for now - hopefully I will conclude this series later today or tomorrow! Know you are prayed for!!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A heartbreaking trend...

The past several months Joel and I have had heavy hearts as we have seen more and more marriages either falling apart or ending. It is heartbreaking to observe so many we know hurting and experiencing the crumbling of their marriage.

As we have seen this and walked alongside some, we couldn't help but ask ourselves what is happening and what can we do to stop it? It seems to be that divorce, separation, or living in the same house with no real love or joy are now becoming the norm and it is frightening to say the least. What is even more alerting is the fact that these are not marriages among those who don't know the Lord but they are Christian marriages, marriages where God was the center at one point but He has been removed or put on the outskirts.

Although we don't have the all the answers and we are certainly continuing to learn in our own marriage - we do feel that God in His Word has a LOT to say about marriage and we have learned some lessons in our own marriage that have strengthed it and we believe have helped us withstand the storms of life.

My heart in particular has been so heavy with the hurt that I have seen women go through and so I would like to just share with you all some truths that I have seen work in my own marriage. I am hoping to do this through a series of posts within the next week...

Truth # 1:
In order for marriage to truly work, it must be based with God in the center. I have seen no better illustration of this than the picture of a triangle. As you look at a triangle each of the two sides reach toward the top or the peak. Replace the sides with a man and woman and God at the peak. As a man and a wife grow and become closer to God, then they will become closer to one another. It is inevitable. Unfortunately, what we often do is stay at the base and expect our husband or wife to come to us. We focus on what WE need and what WE want and forget to focus on the Lord. As you invest and grow in your relationship with God, He will help you to love your spouse more and more.

Truth # 2:
Closely related to Truth # 1 - Truth #2 is this - Marriage is NOT ABOUT YOU. When we realize that marriage is about our husband's needs and wants first then we can show them the love that Jesus gave us. When God gave His only son - it was not Himself that He was focused on - it was OUR NEED for a Savior. In marriage - we need to esteem our spouse more highly than ourselves. We need to learn to put his needs above our own and in doing so - we will experience a love like no other.

I am going to leave you with those two truths for now. My prayer is that no matter where your marriage is - whether strong and firm or whether falling apart - you will take the time to pray about these truths and what God wants to show you through them. Please feel free to either e-mail me or post a comment about how Joel and I can pray for your marriage specifically and know this - you are not alone. Every marriage goes through hard times, every person hurts - it is what we do when these times come that makes the difference. Will you turn your marriage, your hurts, your pain, your life over to the ONE who can heal and restore?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Firefighter's Wife: Grace Mothering

A Firefighter's Wife: Grace Mothering: "Dear Mothers, I have to tell you how thankful I am that my mothering is covered by the Blood of Jesus. So many days, I have the best inten..."

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Wonderful Week!

It has been such a blessed and wonderful week as we have had a much needed "staycation" at home! Joel took the week off and we were able to just enjoy being together as a family.

There was board games, watching movies, shopping, decorating for Christmas and even preparing Thanksgiving food. I do enjoy our life and all the activities we are in. However - there are times that we just need a "break" and rest and this past week was exactly that!

Even the kids mentioned how much they liked it and for the most part - they really got along well. I am so thankful for a husband that values and appreciates these times in our life.

In addition to much needed family time - I have also had much time to reflect and pray about where God is leading me. I love the freedom I have to be involved with the kids now that I am not working and I have also had many opportunities for ministry over the past 2 years since being home. However, there is still that "business" part of me that misses having a career and a job - specifically in Human Resources. Of course, there is also the financial advantage to me working as well. I have been working for my Dad some but at the time being it seems his business is shifting gears which is GOOD but also not as much work for me - totally okay with that though because it is a great thing for him and also as much as I enjoy the flexibility working for him provides - it is not my passion. I have subbed some and that is good as well but still not my ultimate passion - I am not a teacher!

What I truly desire to do is help people and to specifically help them find jobs and careers that suit them. So, no I have not found a job and am not going back to work full-time at least not yet! However, I am praying and seeking the Lord as to where, when and if He is calling me back to the work force. I have toyed with the idea of going back to school on-line to work on my Masters in Human Resources but have decided that one parent in college full-time is all this family can handle for the time being so I have put that on hold for now.

Another thing that the Lord has brought to my mind this week is how to proceed in terms of ministry. I have been seeking some clarity and definition as to specific areas that the Lord is leading me to. Some of this has been clouded - mostly by me not keeping focused and so I am beginning to see where the Lord is working and how I can join him there! Please be in prayer for me as I pursue this because some of the areas I feel that perhaps I am being led to - are not AT ALL in my comfort zone and I feel SO inadequate and unqualified for. However, I do know that like the Lord provided Aaron to speak for Moses - he will provide me with exactly the tools I need to serve Him in the way He is leading.

Finally, one decision that I have made this week is to be more intentional about weight loss. I am not setting a specific goal but rather just taking steps to lose weight in general. I am not even going to use a specific "plan" or "diet" as I have tried those and they just end up failing. Instead, I am choosing to be wise in eating choices and to excercise regularly. I don't do diets but I can make good choices in eating and excercises.

This is a rather random blog and believe me there are more "topical" postings that I am working/praying through but wasn't quite ready to post those yet as I am trying to do some research and study in those areas. The topics I hope to blog about soon include: friendship, marriage, and parenting! Ha ha - very general I know!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kestra Nichole...Princess Pea!

It is so hard to believe all that has transpired the past 11 years! When I think back, I am just so thankful for the many blessings the Lord has given us....most of all I am thankful that 11 years ago tomorrow (Nov. 22) God gave us the gift of a beautiful baby girl - Kestra Nichole!

Kestra keeps us laughing, she lights up any room she enters and she has a heart for her friends and classmates. The thing I enjoy the most about Kestra is that she loves life and lives it to the fullest. Whatever she does, she does 100%!

I am not going to lie, when I first found out we were expecting her I was a little stressed. We had two babies already and Kestra would only be 16 months younger than her brother. We were in the process of changing jobs and looking at moving. We were pretty much broke and very stressed out. However - it wasn't long into the pregnancy that I felt pure love and joy about the idea of another baby to love and raise!

Kestra is our "girlie girl"! She loves pink and frills, clothes, shoes, nail polish, make-up, and jewelry. She enjoys shopping and socializing and is always looking for the next party or celebration! At the same time she is athletic, tough and outgoing. She enjoys competing and annoying her younger brother!

As I reflect on that day 11 years ago - many things come to mind. First there was the fact that we got to the hospital at 6:00 in the morning and had to wait until 7:00 that night to have the c-section simply because I drank half a glass of water - and no I didn't get any food that whole time! Second there is the fact that Joel's Aunt Patsy got to be at the hospital for Kestra's arrival - special since she doesn't have any grandkids of her own. Next is the memory of her sister and brother meeting her. Most of all - is the wonderful memory that I got to take her home on Thanksgiving day! What a way to celebrate Thanksgiving!

So - this year we rejoice and praise the Lord for our little bundle of joy who keeps us laughing and on our toes - Kestra Nichole Arrington...WE LOVE YOU!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Heart for those with Special Needs

We are SO blessed by a wonderful woman named Ann King or "Ms.King" to Tyler. She is really incredible. Ms. King is Tyler's Special Education teacher and the person that works with him approximately 60% of his day at school. She began working with Tyler two years ago when he was in first grade and continues to do an GREAT job!

To fully understand the impact that she has made on Tyler - you really have to know a little of Tyler's history. Tyler was born with some pretty major health issues, had trouble gaining weight, was constantly sick and was even thought to have had cystic fibrosis - he had all the symptoms and specialists were sure that was the case. We believe that he did have it and through the prayers of God's people he was healed! Anyway - as a toddler and preschooler Tyler had some major behavior issues that we now know were attributed to hearing loss and being in his own world but at the time we didn't know why. In preschool, Tyler would literally become so irritable and mad that he could tear apart a classroom - bookshelves over, tables thrown, toys everywhere, etc. At age 4 he was FINALLY diagnosed with Moderate to Severe hearing loss and we were able to begin helping him with hearing aids and different learning styles.

However, when you have gone through 4 years of living in your own world and learning how to deal on your own in a sense - it takes a lot to break those habits; not to mention the fact that he then had to learn sounds, words, etc. When we moved to Bayfield Tyler was just starting Kindergarten and it was ROUGH! Now not only were we in an unfamiliar town and home but he had two teachers (they team taught) that had not had a child with hearing loss in their class. We laugh because Tyler was actually suspended for a day in Kindergarten for biting the teacher - I mean hello!!!

So - this is the child that Ms. King received 2 years ago. A child that would decide he didn't want to work and either tear up a classroom or crawl under a desk or maybe just attempt to leave the room all together. It wasn't always easy, he wasn't an easy kid to like much less work with at times....yet Ms. King saw through that and saw what Tyler COULD be. She learned to speak his "language" and show him that she wouldn't tolerate his behavior.

Today - he is a TOTALLY different kid! He works hard and LOVES school. He still has times where he gets mad or frusterated but she has taught him to take "personal time-outs" and regroup. He went from not wanting to do anything with a pencil and paper to now reading, writing, doing math, telling time, etc. Many had told us that the only way Tyler would ever "settle down" and learn would be through medication - to this day Tyler has not had one ounce of medicine for behavior alteration!

I know that Ms. King isn't "Super Woman" (although she's pretty close) but I can tell you this - she loves these kids with special needs and she has a heart to see them succeed! She isn't all work either - she plans fun things like skiing, bowling, track and field days, etc where they can have fun. In a school district that is tight on funds, she applies for grants and discounts for these kids!!!

Yesterday was Special Olympic bowling and my heart melted to not only see Tyler laughing and having fun but to see ALL these precious faces truly enjoying themselves and succeeding!!! I must say that I am so thankful to the Lord for placing Ms. King in our lives!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Practicing Hospitality

"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." I Peter 4:9
"Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality" Romans 12:13

Recently, I have been reading about hospitality on a blog that I follow. I must say - hospitality is NOT one of the spiritual gifts that I have. However, as I read and learn more about hospitality I am discovering that it isn't "optional" or something we are to do only when it is "convenient" or "fits into our schedule." As the two verses above suggest - it is a command, we are to practice it and to do it without grumbling.

The Lord has really been stretching me and convicting me about this issue the past couple weeks. I am fine with inviting people I am close to over when I feel like it - but what about people I don't know well or don't really click with and what about at times when I am busy or would rather do other things? What am I to do at those times? I am to PRACTICE HOSPITALITY...

So, then comes the question of what does hospitality look like? I can't say that I have done extensive research or anything - I am only going to share what the Lord has been revealing TO ME in the area of hospitality:

1. Open your home! I must say with 4 kids, a busy schedule, ministry, etc my home has become my "retreat" or place where I can get away. I also must confess that I hesitate to invite people over because that would mean that I would actually have to cook and clean - two things of which I do NOT enjoy! Yet - God has been calling me to this - to invite others over regardless of the mood in which I may be in, regardless of my insecurity and lack of enjoyment in cooking.

2. Reach out to those who you normally wouldn't socialize with. There are many that I see on Sunday morning or around town that I don't think about inviting over. Yet, these are the ones that God has laid on my heart to invite over to my home.

3. Give of the resources I have been given in regards to food. This one is hard for me! I don't enjoy cooking for myself much less for anyone else. However, within the past two months the Lord has called me to not only organize meals for new moms - He has had me PREPARE meals for them! It hasn't been on my time table either (since when do babies come on our time table). Yet I have felt led to stretch myself in this area.

4. Look for opportunities to serve others through hospitality. Normally, this would not be an area in which I would look to serve others - again God is calling me to this regardless of my comfort in it. So, I have talked to Joel and shared all this with him and told him that we will be inviting people over more just because God is calling me to do this!

I am not blogging about this to say that it is something anyone but myself needs to work on. I am sharing it in a way in which I can ask for prayer and accountability in. Of course, I am HOPING that I am not alone in struggling in this area. Perhaps there are others like me who have fallen into the trap of only practicing hospitality when it is convenient - if so, I pray that you will find encouragement in knowing you aren't alone and we can grow in this area together!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Praises and Blessings!

Remember this from a few posts ago?

Well yesterday our prayers were answered above and beyond our requests! Our wonderful Father chose to bless us more abundantly than we could have even imagined. I had told you that we this hearing aid was Tyler's only one since he had lost the other one. We were in the process of applying for grants for the lost hearing aid when this one was so nicely chewed by said dog! Well - we had thought that we were going to have to replace this one through applying for more grants or saving....God had BIGGER and BETTER plans for us!

Last week - Tyler's audiologist called and said that the hearing aid company was going to replace the lost hearing aid for free, we just needed to pay the $200 for the ear molds. So, the appointment to get that hearing aid and molds was yesterday. In the meantime, Joel had told the audiologist that about the demise of the chewed hearing aid but told her we would need some time to get the funding to replace it.

When I got to the appointment yesterday - God had a present in store for Tyler and me! Not one but BOTH hearing aids had been donated by the hearing aid company....We still had to pay for the molds BUT the hearing aids were there....

BUT WAIT - THERE'S MORE! Last night the Bayfield Lions Club met - they were one of the organizations that we had applied for help from. They voted last night to help us by donating $250 to the hearing aids - which was a little more than the $216 that I had to pay for the molds and batteries yesterday! SO - now Tyler is up and running with two new hearing aids and two new molds!!!

I just love how are Heavenly Father knows just when to bless us beyond our wildest imagination! I must admit the past few weeks have been hard! I have struggled emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. I have been worn out, grumpy, tired and stressed. Just like our earthly parents know when we need a little "one on one time" or a special gift to lift our spirits - our Heavenly Father knows exactly when we need to know that He is still there walking alongside us, or carrying us and providing for us!

Today the enemy tried to pull me back down from that blessing that happened yesterday, I almost allowed him to do it. Instead, I am choosing to praise Him and thank Him. There are still other issues that I am concerned about but I know that my Redeemer Lives and that He is there and He will carry us through! In the meantime - today I am SO very thankful for God leading us to an audiologist that cared enough about my little boy's ability to hear that she took it upon herself to look for help in paying for the hearing aids. It is a wonderful thing to see Tyler being able to hear all that's happening around him without having to ask for it to be repeated!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In the midst of it all.....lessons are learned!

WOW! It seems as though since November 1 we have literally hit the ground running non-stop and have yet to slow down. It has been a month of ups and downs so far and it is only November 11!!!

On the up - Hannah is off to a great basketball season! She made B team which was HUGE for her and really boosted her self-esteem. She is playing post (of course being almost 5'7") and is doing very well!

Malachi is playing basketball with the parks and rec and although not as into it as Hannah - he is having fun!

Kestra is in choir and loves it and is also getting some tutoring after school 3 days a week. She loves school and works SO hard at it!

Tyler is amazing me on a daily basis! He is READING!!!! Huge step and milestone, He is also able to do basic math which is another HUGE step!!! I am so blessed by his wonderful Special education teacher that works so hard and faithful with him.

Joel is plugging along in school and is really learning a lot!

On the down: We have had our share of financial challenges. The dog chewed Tyler's $1500 hearing aid, the car needed tires - and the heater broke - and the four wheel drive is going out - and the shocks are gone ... In addition to this, there have been minor challenges in ministry with some complacency issues and just overall "blah" attitudes.

However - more than the ups or the downs there are the lessons that the Lord is teaching me each and every day!

* Trust Him for EVERYTHING! He provided unexpected money for the tires, one hearing aid was donated by the hearing aid company, and Joel has the opportunity to drive a route full time for the school district again which is added income!

* Be Still and KNOW that he is God! I am learning to take advantage of the quiet moments that come my way. He is God and He is ABLE!

* Focus on RELATIONSHIPS not circumstances! God is teaching me that I need to just love people the way they are and where they are and not focus on the circumstances around them or myself.

* Cherish and Love my family! During these busy times I am becoming more and more aware of the need to enjoy and cherish the times with my husband and kids! We are in fact planning on a "staycation" the week of Thanksgiving and just spending time with EACH OTHER!

So - yes it's been a hard month thus far but I have SO much to be thankful for and to appreciate! I am determined to focus on the many BLESSINGS and Praise my Lord for them!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chris Tomlin - How Great It Our God & How Great Thou Art [LIVE]

Remembering Her...

Some years, November 3 is almost just another day and I can smile and laugh as I think about my wonderful sister and the life and memories I have of her; and then some years November 3 is a painful and sad day as I realize how much of my life she has missed and how much I miss her in it. Most years however - it is a day of reflection and thanksgiving as I ponder on where she is and how one day I will see her there.

I must say that this year has been a little harder for whatever reason. It started over a week ago really. Our pastor also leads the worship in our services and he did a mix with "How Great is Our God" and "How Great thou Art" that was just BEAUTIFUL! I wish that I had it to play here. As I sang - I envisioned her, sitting at the throne of God and for a moment I was just in awe as I saw her there, but to be honest I was also sad because in my selfishness I want her HERE! I want to show her all her neices and nephews, I want to go hunting with her, or camping, or anything! Then - Christ brought me back to the evil and ugliness of this world and asked "Really? You would really wish that she leave the throne of God and return to this?" No - I can't say that I would...

I wouldn't want her to leave that, but today my heart misses her. Hannah has had two basketball games within the past week and those have made me miss her. If you knew Sherri at all - you knew that she LOVED the game of basketball! She played well, she played hard and she played with her all. It didn't matter that she was injured - she played. It didn't matter that she was sick - she played. It didn't matter if her team was down - she played. So, to see Hannah out there playing made me SO wish that Sherri could be here to see her and coach her and help her. A basketball player I am not but Sherri did try to make me one! I have told my kids stories and even last night I told Hannah how her Aunt Sherri would have been proud of the "mean Hannah" under the basket. I think Hannah has a tad bit of her Aunt in her - she's competitive in a BIG way and Sherri was as well.

Yet even though there is sadness today, I want to be able to say "It is well, with my soul" and this I can say because I know that one GLORIOUS day we will stand before the throne of our Savior as a family and sing "HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD" I don't know when that day will be but it will be!

Sherri loved life, she loved living, she loved running, she loved helping, she loved working, she loved basketball, and yes despite what I may have thought - she loved me! Today is not a day to be sad and think of all that I did not have with her - today is a day to be thankful for what I DID have with her. To know that I have a sister waiting to greet me with a smile and a "smack" on the head when I reach Heaven.

Many have asked if it gets easier with time. To that, all I can say is that each year is different - some (like this one) are harder than others but all the time she is with us in our hearts and we can know that we were loved by and able to love a wonderful person known as Sherri Sue Ashcraft!

With that in mind, I am going to make the choice to reflect and be thankful for the 19 years I had with my amazing sister!!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day

Wow! This must be a record...blogging three days in a row. However - I wanted to record a few thoughts about our nation on this November morning!

The right and privilege to vote is one that we take forgranted I think. We know that we can but do we truly understand the significance or the importance of it? Do we understand that not only is it a privilege it is a RESPONSIBILITY that God has called us as Christians to. God has called us forth to be the voice of righteousness and light in a land full of evil and darkness. It is our calling to vote and take a stand for Him.

I don't want to tell people how to vote or who to vote for. Many may wonder why not but it is summed up in this: if we are living and honoring the Lord then the choices are clear. They will be choices that bring honor and glory to God, they will stand for righteousness and truth, they will reflect HIS CHOICES. To me, there is no gray in God's Word - He is clear in what he values and holds true and thus we can vote accordingly!

I DO wish that we as Christians would take the time to be informed and do our research into the issues and candidates. Take the time to find out which candidates truly do value righteousness and do wish to honor Christ. I have heard it said that there is no "honest" politician - I beg to differ! I believe that there ARE those Christians in politics who wish to serve the Lord in political positions - BUT we may have to look harder for them, we may have to vote for those that aren't so prominent in the media or have as much publicity. However - through prayer and intense petition to the Lord we can have Godly men and women in positions of authority.

So, on that note- I am off to shower and get ready to go into town to VOTE for righteousness! I encourage you all to take time and make voting a priority today!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Be still..."

Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't enjoy being still or being quiet. I like to be on the go, I like to be with people, and I enjoy being busy. It's just who I am and what I like. I hear many women say 'if I only had a whole day by myself that would be wonderful"! When I hear this, I find myself thinking - why would that be fun? Sounds boring to me! Now, a day without kids or housework, or responsibilities - THAT I could do...However, I just like being with people.

Last week in my discipleship meeting with a young lady I disciple on Tuesday morning we were talking about the verse that says "Be still and know that I am God." I was very honest with her and let her know this is NOT easy for me. I don't like to be still and I don't like quiet, yet God has taught me through the years that I need this "quiet time" with him in order to fulfill the calling he has on my life. I also told her that I needed to work o more quiet time with my God!

Careful what you ask for!!! Joel and I have been really busy lately between work, kids, church, friends, etc. We have found ourselves going going and going. However - God has a way of making us stop when it is time to stop.

Saturday afternoon Tyler and I went to the District Volleyball Game. I noticed during the game that Tyler was sort of lethargic and tired but chalked it up to being busy and needing some sleep. I was wrong - by the time we got home Tyler was running a fever and one sick little man. Thus began about 60 hours of sickness in our home. I was home with Tyler all Saturday night and all day Sunday. By Sunday night, Malachi and I were both sick leaving us home all day today recovering! Thankfully - as I type this both of us are feeling quite a bit better and back on our feet.

I made the statement to Joel when he came home from lunch that I am not a good sick person - I don't "do" still very well. He laughed and said "I know you don't but you need to!" I laughed and joked about it but this afternoon I was reminded of last week's conversation about being still and knowing that God is God! I then began a time of prayer and quiet with my Lord, what a wonderful time it has been! I think that there are times when we won't heed his word and obey that God uses circumstances to bring us to obedience!

I can honestly say that I am thankful for being sick because it forced me to be still! However - I will be just as thankful tomorrow to be up and around and yes OUT OF THE HOUSE since I have been here for 60 hours!!!

Josh Wilson - Before The Morning (Official Music Video)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A lesson in trust and provision

This weekend has been a little rough to say the least! I have been reminded again and again that Jesus promised to provide exactly what we need at the time we need it. I have also been reminded that stress and worry DO NOT come from above - they are from the enemy and he will attempt to use them to distract us from our focus of rejoicing in the Lord always. Notice that I said "attempt", you see he cannot MAKE us be distracted or discouraged - those are things that WE allow to happen.

Since early Friday morning we have discovered that our Expedition needs a tire replaced, our Taurus is not working at all (more than likely a thermostat or water pump issue) and our son's hearing aid was chewed up by the dog. Any one of these alone would be enough to make me stress and freak out - having them all hit on one day, that was almost more than this mom could take! At first, I was mad and angry that the Lord would allow this to come right now. However, as the day progressed, I realized that I was not seeking my Lord at all - in fact I was having a pity party! So I made a concious decision to rejoice in my Lord and NOT be discouraged by circumstances and setbacks.

Obviously, this has not made any of these situations go away or disappear. In fact, none of them have been taken care of yet. What has happened is that my fear and discouragement has been replaced with confidence in my Savior's provision and rejoicing in the knowledge that I belong to the King of Kings!

I am continuing to pray and trust God to provide for each of these - He has already blessed us with a gift from some dear friends in ministry. I know that he will continue to take care of the rest because I know in whom I have believed and He is able!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just a mini-family update

With all my posts about Africa and the lessons God has been teaching me - I thought it time to do a quick update about the family and let you know what is going on with them.

Hannah is well into her last year of Jr. High. She has finished a great volleyball season where we saw her grow and improve immensely! She is now on to basketball which she says she enjoys more than volleyball even though she likes both. She made the B team in Basketball and is excited about that. Their first game is Thursday against Pagosa - she can't wait to beat them and rub it in with her mom! HA HA. She made the honor roll this first quarter with a 3.85 GPA - we continue to be so proud of her and how well she does academically.

Malachi is enjoying his first year of Jr. High and has just been "taking it all in". He has just started basketball through the Parks and Rec program and says he likes it. He has many friends at school and just likes hanging with whomever. He also made the honor roll this first quarter with a 3.5. We are VERY proud of how hard he is working now that he is in Jr. High.

Kestra is in 5th grade and continues to be our little social butterfly! She is always looking for a party to go to or a party to plan. She loves her teacher and pretty much everyone is her friend! Joel recently said he has gone from "Mr. A" to "Kestra's Dad". So funny! She is everything girl but loves sports as well - especially soccer!

Tyler is in 3rd grade and keeps us laughing and on our toes. He always has something witty to say. He is doing great in school as well - he continues to spend a good portion of the day with his Special Education Teacher Ms. King who he really likes and relates well to. We are so proud of his progress. Tyler also has a servant's heart - he loves to help anyone do anything. What a blessing to have in a son!

Joel is keeping busy not only at the church but also as a substitute bus driver for the school district. He enjoys the interaction with both students and staff. Joel is also continuing to work on his Bachelor's degree through Liberty University. If all goes as planned, he will graduate in Dec. 2011.

I am keeping busy helping Joel, working for my Dad, subbing in schools, and keeping the homefront. It has been an awesome and wonderful time.

Our church was able to move into our new sanctuary the first part of August and have been so blessed by this facility! We are looking forward to seeing how God continues to work and move through the use of this new building!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Boudaries and Space

It is so funny to me that as children, we wanted to push the boundaries as far as we could. Just a little bit more here and just a little more there - maybe mom and dad won't notice! Then as teens we not only wanted to test the boundaries - we wanted more space to ourselves. We longed for our parents to back off and give us room.

I am realizing that as an adult - things really haven't changed all that much. We still push the boundaries that God has placed on us and we still long for space. Boundaries are a good thing in every aspect of life and in every relationship I think and yet like anything, they can work for our good or for our harm. If we place appropriate boundaries then we are protecting ourselves from things that may harm us; yet if we place too many boundaries then we may miss out on the blessings that lay beyond.

As for space, yes we all need space at times. We need others to just back off and give us some room and not smother us and yet again, if we don't allow others close to us at times we miss the blessing of close relationships. What a hard balance this is!

Today, I find myself longing for some space and needing to find a way to set some healthy boundaries on some relationships in my life. Yet, I am fearful of puhing those away that I truly do need close to me. I need and desire to find that healthy balance of what is appropriate and good for all involved. Thankfully, I have a Heavenly Father who totally understands.

When I look at Jesus' life here on Earth I have to just stand in awe at how well he managed this balance of boundaries and space. Here was a person who was almost constantly surrounded by people that both loved and hated him. Everywhere he went - people followed and yet he was SO good to get away for time to himself at the feet of his Father. He was also great at limiting those that were with him at the hard times in his life. This is the balance that I am praying to find - time for those closest to me and yet time for myself.

This coming week - this is my goal: to carve out not only time for my Lord but to also look and make sure that I am setting appropriate and good boundaries and giving myself space while at the same time not neglecting relationships and people. The hard part about this will be that I may have to tell people no and I may have to stand firm! However - "I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength." Phil 4:13.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I truly enjoy fall in Colorado. The leaves changing, the weather getting cooler, warm chilli, fire in the fireplace, etc. What a beautiful and fun time of year...

Fall reminds me of the changes that Christ has made in our spiritual lives as well. He comes in and makes us new and changes the colors in our hearts! Sometimes, the changes are painful but in the end they make us better and stronger.

Lately, I have had this sense of change coming in my life and although it makes me nervous in a way I am excited to see what exactly this change is! I have no clear idea or direction - I am just trusting that the Lord knows and it will be for our good. It is so refreshing to know that I can rest in the arms of my Heavenly Father and know He wants only things for my good!

This is sort of a random post but thought I would just toss it out there!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Just a Thought: Storyline: Jochebed

Just a Thought: Storyline: Jochebed: "By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of t..."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Last Journal Entry 9/27

Monday Sept 27

I can hardly believe that I am on the way home! In some ways, my life in Bayfield seems like a total other life time and in some ways Africa seems like a dream.

The flight from Joberg to Atlanta was LONG - 16 hrs! We left in the dark and arrived in Atlanta while it was still dark. I had planned on sleeping this flight but was just unable to.

We landed in Atlanta at 6:30 a.m. Getting through customs, security, and re-checking our bags was time consuming but went smoothly.

A DEFINITE highlight today was being able to talk to Joel and all 4 kids before they went to school. I didn't realize how much I missed sending them on their way each day! I am so ready to hug and kiss each one of my 4 kids!

I had thought our team was through illness - not the case. Cynthia and Judy both had a bit of an upset stomach on the Joberg-Atlanta flight. Cynthia could hardly function but made it until we were able to find a gate and camp out for the day. Judy wasn't near that bad but didn't feel great either!

This was another long layover - Almost 8 hrs as our flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake was delayed. It was SO hard just sitting around ready to be on the next leg of our journey home. However, after some down time and phone calls in the morning - we all began to perk up some!

I have to say - phone calls from both my sister and my sister-in-law as well as Facebook posts made me feel so loved and appreciated! I am so blessed to have so many who love, care, and pray for me. I do not take that forgranted at all.

Flight # 2 boarded late at 2:30 Atlanta time. Compared to the 16 hr flight from Joberg - this flight should be short. I am very tired after two long days with very little sleep and certainly no quality sleep but am working hard to stay awake so I can get my body re-trained to Colorado time. I am not sure how those who travel abroad all the time manage!

Cynthia is feeling much better - I am praying that continues. Judy wasn't feeling great so praying she will feel better soon!

I know there will be memories, thoughts, and lessons to post from Africa in the future and I will write them here in my journal. However, in all honesty, today my mind is one tracked - seeing the one whom my Father created to be the love of my life - Joel! I simply am so anxious to see him - I am praying he has a safe and uneventful drive to Grand Junction this afternoon!

We made it to Salt Lake a little late which worked out ok for us since we had a long layover. The 48 straight hours of traveling is catching up with everyone - some are quiet and reserved, others are just talkative, and others are giddy, giggly, and goofy (this would be me)! We have laughed so hard at the silliest things: sleeping in the deet, taking shirts off, going in the elevator, etc. However, I am thankful for this as the alternative would be to break down in tears over the anxiousness to see Joel!

We are finally on the LAST flight home! In just an hour I will be with Joel after 15 LONG days! I have a renewed admiration for those with spouses in military or jobs where they travel - I am not sure I would handle that well at all! I love my man and love seeing him everyday!

This is the last day of our journey but I will continue to journal as things come to mind. I am so thankful for this opportunity and experience. I know I have grown and been stretched in ways I never could imagine. Most of all, I am changed because of the work the Lord did in me this past two weeks!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Journal Entry 9/26

Tim said to tell Joel hi today...can't wait! Woke up this morning a little sick to my stomach. I am thinking it was the water at the resort so I switched to my filtered water bottle. After breakfast and some medicine I felt some better.

Today we start home! It has been such a wonderful time and experience but I am ready to be home with my man and kids!

I laid down on the bus on the way to the market and all I could think about was Joel and hugging him! They say absence makes the heart grow fonder - I can't agree more! I know this time has strengthened my love for Joel in ways I could never imagine!

The market was on interesting experience. They are very pushy and hard to bargain with but I feel I got ok deals on everything. It really made me anxious to get home to the kids after I bought their gifts. However, I am really glad that Joel and I are staying in Grand Junction tomorrow night. It will be nice to share my experiences with him before the chaos begins at home!

As I write, we are on the bus to the airport - it is hard to write but I wanted to do some journaling. I am so anxious to be on the plane to the US - the time here has changed me but my heart remains in doing ministry alongside my husband in Bayfield.

We are pulling ino Johannsburg South Africa and I have to say I am very sad to be leaving Taps and Edden. It feels like they are just a part of the team and they should be going to Atlanta with us! I am really going to miss those two!

We arrived at the airport AFTER going back to the Baptist house. Tim had left his pillow there the first night and he was quite comical about getting it back! He had had the pillow for 30 years and had to get used to traveling without it!

Once we were at the airport we checked in and had to go through customs and get our passports stamped and all. Leaving Taps and Edden was hard - most of us were either crying or had tears in our eyes. It is amazing how quickly you become close to people. I do not know if I will see them on this Earth but I KNOW we will worship together in Heaven!!!

Journal Entry 9/25

Woke up early this morning praying that we see a lion making getting up at 5:00 a.m. worth it.

I really really miss my family today. I can't wait to see Joel and the kids. I am so excited to watch Hannah play volleyball, brush Kestra's hair, tell Tyler "I love your heart" and hug my Malachi. It is amazing that it is the simple, little things in life that I miss the most. I miss helping with homework ad AWANA verses, I miss holding my husband's hand and talking about our day. The two weeks with people who truly don't know you is beginning to wear on me a bit. Don't get me wrong, we have a GREAT team and I have come to love each of them dearly. However, I am ready to be HOME!

The game drive this morning was so fun! We saw a lot of rhinos and impalas, wildabeasts, giraffes fighting and LIONS! Granted, the lions were bedded down for the day, but I was still able to get some great shots.

Tonight we are having a debriefing session to talk about our experiences, thoughts, etc. I am trying to piece together everything and my mind is overwhelmed. So, I am just going to write out what comes to mind and then go from there.

The biggest challenge that comes to mind for me is just being away from Joel this long and literally not talking to him for the better part of two weeks. I knew going into the trip it would be tough but I didn't realize the magnitude of it and what it would teach me. I have learned that there is NOTHING like total and absolute reliance on my Father. In reality, He is the only one with me no matter where I go or what I do. This trip has strengthened my dependence upon Him and I have a better understanding of the relationship that He longs to have with me.

Along with that, I have a clearer picture of how divine and perfect my God is. He knows us in a way like no other because He created us. Because God knows me, He knows the perfect mate for me. He molded and crafted Joel uniquely for me to be the one who would love and cherish me! Spending 2 weeks with other men on this trip has defined this clearer for me. There have been so many things that have caused me to think "Joel wouldn't do or say that." Joel is so amazing and tenderhearted. I love that he is who he is whether in public, at home, at church, etc. He is a man full of integrity, compassion and kindness. The Lord in all His knowledge, knew thatI would never do well with someone who barked out orders or was full of sarcasim. He knew that I don't do well with grumpy attitudes that question my decisions or comments. That I don't tolerate complaining etc. I know that there are thse out there who thrive with type A personalities but I do not, I love Joel's laid back personality and tender-heart!

Second thing that God showed me was his infinite love for all man-kind. I have learned this not only through the Shona people but through myself! God has showed me his love in that despite my weaknesses and failures, despite my lack of gratitude and lack of contentment - He hand chose me to serve Him - the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Third, I now have proof for what I have felt for some time. America is spoiled, whiny, ungrateful, prideful, arrogant, haughty and full of themselves! We really are! We think that we are so much better than "third world countries" but we are so much less. We complain about the price of milk or gas and are not grateful that we live in a house that is insulated, bug free and not made of mud. These people know what it is to want, they know starvation and illness and yet they have joy and happiness. They live under a dictator who doesn't have to leave power until he wants to, they live under the constant threat of war and they have seen their entire economy collapse - yet they are smiling. They don't complain, they just live life praising their Savior! Because, of this trip, I am not sure I will ever be able to complain about how I live again - if I do, it is my prayer that God will bring me back to this journal and remind me. I think of Habakkuk - though I have nothing I will praise the Lord!

This trip has also taught me about true evangelism. In America, we come up with a million reasons not to share the Good News. Here, we go out without hesitation. I am truly brokenhearted that I can be so bold here and yet there are those at home who are going to hell and I do not tell them of Jesus, I do not tell them about their need for a Savior. I am a fool if I say I care about and love them but don't tell them about the need for Jesus. My desire is to go home and to be bold in proclaiming Jesus. To let people know about the One true God who loves them so much his son died for them.

Fifth, I have seen and learned true worship! I am not talking about expresions of worship - I have been taught about raising hands as you feel led or dancing. No, here I have experienced worship of the heart. Worshipping no matter the circumstances or environment. The people here who are believers worship with all their being! They worship 24/7. I have learned that I need to worship and to truly worship my King in EVERYTHING I do!

The sixth thing I have learned is simply that I can do mission trips like this. I guess in the back of my mind I have always wondered or doubted that I was able. This trip has shown me that not only can I do thi - but I can do it with a group of people that I virtually do not know. I can reach beyond my comfort level and go beyond my experience to share my Lord!

The rest and down time this afternoon has been tremendous and much needed! I have had much time to myself and didn't realize how much I truly needed this until now. I am a people person but being with the same 8 people pretty much constantly for the past two weeks has gotten old and I was ready for a break! So glad that tomorrow we begin the journey HOME!

Tonight we had a debriefing session. It was great to hear what the Lord did for each of us and how we grew. The most meaningful part of tonight was that Edden and Taps shared. It doesn't seem like they are just our guides - they have truly been a part of our team!

After dinner, us girls just had down time in our room. We did hair, massages, and just visited - this is our last night together besides the flight home. I do miss my family but I know I will miss these girls as well!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Journal Entries 9/22 ;9/23; 9/24

Wednesday Sept 22, 2010

Ok - I am SO SICK of bugs! They are annoying, pesky, and UGH! As much as I have loved being here among the people, I am really glad tonight is our last night camping in a tent. Tomorrow we will head to Pilansburg Game Park. I will get a BED,SHOWER, NO BUGS!

I hope some day to come here with Joel and Dani. I do not feel called here on a permanent basis but I do hope to return for short term trips. However, that is in the Lord's hands!

Today's task for the ladies was to share with each class at the secondary school about the Gospel and abstinence. It was so wonderful! Katie, Tab, Cynthia and Sara shared testimonies and the plan of salvation through the evanga-scarf. Judy gave them the opportunity to accept Christ and then I shared about God's plan for sex and marriage. I must say after being out of my comfort zone so much - it was refreshing to be back in my element!

The kids had some great questions and it was so great to share with them and encourage them to make good choices that will change them personally and their country. I will pray for their committments!

So today was the first time I was really irritated at part of our team. I know it was mostly due to being tired and the end of the trip but GRR!!! I am thankful for Judy on this trip. She has helped me keep things in perspective but even she was upset!

Tonight was another great night with the Jesus film. I am ready to go home but it would also be exciting to be at the service on Sunday.

Thursday Sept 23, 2010

Today we head to Pilansburg! The formal part of our ministry is done and we get to relax a few days! Yeah - except we have to drive 10 hrs in Big Blue!

Long day....we drove and drove and drove some more. Instead of 10 hours it was actually 14 hours before we made it to Pilansburg.

At first the trip was okay but as we went on, we all got more and more tired and therefore more and more irritable. Tab got sick today - nothing major and I think it was mostly exhaustion but could have been something else. She took some medicine on the bus which made her feel better.

We pulled into the resort at about 7:00 p.m. It was confusion but eventually we all met up at dinner. Tab then got sick again - Judy and I had to help her to the challet and to bed.

I really wanted to talk to Joel tonight and Judy really wanted to talk to Joe, her husband. However the phones wouldn't take our credit cards so we will have to wait until tomorrow!

SHOWER! A shower has never felt so good! I could not believe how dirty I was! This was the first REAL shower since Atlanta. I had showered once in camp and done sponge baths every night - it is so nice to be really clean!!!

Friday Sept 24, 2010

I'm really not gonna lie - a good night's sleep in a real bed was AMAZING! I have loved the time here but I was also ready for civilization, shower, bed, etc.

The plan today is to be low key and as much as I want to go home I am glad! We walked around the resort, took naps, visited and just relaxed. A game drive is on the agenda for tonight.

The game drive was fun for the first hour but then it grew dark and it was harder to see. We did see giraffes, wart hogs, impala, wildabeasts, rhinos, and elephants. Seeing these animals in their natural habitat was wonderful. It was a reminder of how marvelous and creative our God is!

After the game drive we had dinner and then it was off to bed. We are going on our own unguided drive tomorrow morning. Our hope is to see lions!!!

Journal Entry 9/21

Tuesday Sept 21, 2010

This was our first morning at our new camp. The morning began with Dorothy having a tick on her - EW! That is my one paranoia - getting sick from ticks or mosquitos.

After breakfast, we walked over to the school. The plan was to divide into teams and go out hut to hut inviting people to the Jesus film and sharing the Gospel.

Tab and I were paired with 3 guys and 1 girl from the churches in the area. I can't pronounce much less spell 3 of their names but our main translator was George. We had to walk quite a ways before reaching the first hut that had people. The whole formality of visiting people is very different than in the states. First, you call out a greeting at the gate to the yard, once invited in you then shake hands and greet everyone. Following that, the family will find chairs for the men and if there are extras they will then offer the women chairs but most times the women will just sit on a scarf or blanket on the ground.

At the first hut, we decided I would share the Gospel first. I was nervous at first but eventually I got so excited about it! After using the evanga-scarf to share, I asked them if they wanted to ask Jesus into their hearts. As it turned out, they were believers so we prayed with them and encouraged them in their walk.

At the second hut, we were excited and surprised to find that the Dad spoke English. Again, I was asked to share. However this experience was different because he knew about Jesus but he didn't know for sure what he believed. I spent some time explaining to him that we only ask Jesus into our hearts once and he is there forever. At this time, the man didn't make a decision but said he would bring his family tonight.

The next hut, Tab shared. It was an amazing experience! She shared the Gospel and the whole family became believers. They are so open and so receptive. Unlike in America - their yes is yes! When they say it, they mean it! What a blessing.

At the final hut for the morning I shared again. This was another amazing experience. I am not sure I can put it into words but I will try. This family was made up of a man with a couple wives and some teens as well as a toddler. After the formal introductions, I asked if they knew about Jesus. I was expecting that they would say they had heard of him like the other families had. However this family was different - they had not heard of Jesus. I can't explain my excitement but it was incredible! I have led many to the Lord but I have NEVER shared with someone who hadn't at least heard of Jesus. I was thrilled to start with creation, set the stage for the need for a Savior and then talk of Jesus! This family decided to ask Jesus in as well! Words can't describe this experience as I process it more, I will write more.

After this, it was time to come back for lunch. Although I wanted to share more it was REALLY hot and physically I was drained. On the way back to camp, we ran into Dorothy and Dave's group. They had an amazing morning as well. One lady they met was deaf and they told her I could sign tonight for her - YIKES!

However, as I sit here writing during our down time - I am getting very excited! I have a heart for those hard of hearing because I can relate to them! So, I am praying for guidance. I don't know formal sign language but I can make things up enough to communicate!

Well tonight was incredible! The deaf lady either didn't come or they didn't let us know but either way I didn't sign to her. Perhaps she will come tomorrow night.

The thing that absolutely made my night was Elliot came! Elliot was the man from the second hut we visited that had not made a decision. Immediately he came up to me and told me he had things right. After we had left his hut, he went and found a friend who was a deputy marshall and also a Christian. The friend told him more about Jesus and Elliot decided to lead his family in following Jesus. As I looked into his face I KNEW that his familywould forever be changed! After the movie, Tim gave an incredible message of the Gospel. Elliott was the first to stand and proclaim he had asked Jesus into his heart!

There were approximately 350 at the Jesus film tonight. I have no idea how many made professions but it was A LOT! The cool thing is, these people will be the first members of a brand new church here this coming Sunday - what an amazing thing!

When we returned to camp, I could not wind down! I was just so incredibly excited about all that Jesus had done today! Holy Cow - what an experience. In America, we have a hard time driving to church and yet these people WALK miles to hear the Word of God - oh where are OUR priorities?

Journal Entry 9/20

Monday Sept 20, 2010

This is our last day here by the orphanage. We will be moving about an hour down the road to the high school we were at on Friday.

Apparently, that is a lost and unreached area. It is not where we were originally going but is where there is a field ripe for the harvest. Many important officials were at the ceremony on Friday and are planning on coming to the Jesus film tonight. I am anxious to see God work and move there.

I didn't sleep well at all last night because my back was hurting. I am SO glad only 3 more nights in a tent - not going to lie about that! However, God has been so good and my energy has been up so far. I will have lots to say about the benefits of MAX when I get back - Dad will love it!

Today has been frusterating. Tim and Tobey left to get water with some pastors and Taps. They planned on being gone 2 and half hours but were gone 5! The rest of us were left sitting at camp - very restless and bored!

Finally, after lunch we loaded up and drove to Neshuro - very eye opening! We got out and looked at the shops - there are a lot of supplies but there is no money to buy them. The economy and state of this nation are so sad and depressing it is no wonder that they see the need for a Savior. We in America have a hard time with the need issue.

One picture I took today has special meaning - A picture of footprints in the sand. This will forever remind me of the wealth I have - I and my kids have shoes, clean clothes, we are blessed! Those precious feet that made those prints need the hope of a Savior!

The enemy was out in force today. Tim and Tobey were almost in a car accident, the rest of us were grumpy and bored. When we reached camp it was dark so once again, it was setting up camp in the dark. The sound equipment was having issues, tempers were short. However, over adn over I was reminded to "Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS".

The night ended in much laughter with Tab and I. The Lord knew it was exactly what I needed!

Journal Entry 9/19

Sunday Sept 19, 2010

The mornings in Zimbabwe are sunny and noisy! We woke up this morning to dogs barking, roosters crowing, and music blaring. There is definitely nothing quiet about these people - my family would fit right in!

After breakfast, us ladies went over to join their ladies for a service. We thought they had a speaker but as it turned out - they wanted Judy to speak. She did great at improv! She spoke on Psalm 121 and how big our God is!

There was a short break between that and the regular service. Tab, Cynthia, and I had some of the ladies teach us to dance - I think they got a great comedy show! After dancing many times we were all tired so we showed the kids how to brush our hair - THEY LOVED IT! So precious!

The Sunday worship service was by far the best yet! After removing the enemy spirit from the night before - there was a new found freedom in the Shongon people. They sang and danced with absolute praise! I joined them some until my attention and heart was captured by "Moses".

Moses is my name for this boy. He was about 3 yrs old and bow legged. He was dancing right beside me and the bigger kids kept knocking into him. I kneeled down and picked him up. At first he was stiff and hesitant but then, he relaxed. I danced with him for quite awhile both holding him and putting him down. I began to notice him rubbing his eyes - so I picked him up and showed him how to lay his head on my shoulder. It didn't take long before he was sound asleep snuggled with me and my heart was gone! As he slept and I held him, I said a very specific prayer for him. I prayed that he would be one who would lead his people to the promised land of eternity in Heaven - thus my name for him - MOSES.

The services here are 3 hrs minimum and most of that is on a long hard bench. There were so many here that it was VERY hot and crowded. By the time the service was over I just knew I needed space so I slipped out and came back to camp - most of our team did the same!

The afternoon was AWESOME! We just relaxed and had down time all afternoon. A few of the pastors came and said goodbye and one even brought hand made things for us to buy. I bought a lepord and a preacher. It was so nice for all of us to let loose and joke around with one another. I was especially glad to see Tobey relaxed - this was a first of the trip so far.

I decided to go to my tent right after dinner for some "me" time. I love the team I am with but there are some I am struggling with and can only take so much of. I am praying about that thoug.

Things I have learned this first week:
1.) Unconditional love: These people love despite circumstances.

2.) True joy and happiness: They are always happy. They live in a land of hardship, famine, poverty, and yet they smile!

3.) Reliance on my God: I have a great relationship with God but I have also had Joel, my parents, my sister, and my friends to rely on on. Here, I am trusting God for everything - even companionship!

4.) Peace: God has given me peace here despite how much I miss my family.

5.) That I know more scripture than I think I do. I have been amazed at how verses just come to mind at exactly the times I need them.

6.) America is SPOILED! We are spoiled materially, physically, and even spiritually. We have no idea how to love and trust God for EVERYTHING!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Journal Entry 9/18

Saturday Sept 18, 2010

Woke up to the sounds of Taps cooking. This morning, I am not quite a 100% but not terrible either. My leg is very sore from Katie sitting on it in the car yesterday and I have quite a bit of drainage which is making me nauseous but will be fine I think.

I must say that today I am beginning to miss American comforts. A hot shower and Dr. Pepper would be AMAZING. There is no doubt in my mind, the next few days will be the hardest. We are settled in camp, have experienced the culture and the newness is beginning to wear off - however, I am still excited as I haven't really had the chance to share with the people yet. Judy and I hope to meet with the Pastors wives today and teach some evangelism.

My prayers this morning are for physical strength, energy and discernment. So far none are sick to our stomache and I am praying that continues. Dorothy hurt her back yesterday and I know Dave has struggled on and off and not feeling great - so praying today is better for them.

After breakfast and an amazing devotional about worship; Judy, Tab, Cynthia and I decided to take a hike up the mountain by the camp. Such a fun time and the view was BEAUTIFUL. We serve an amazing and creative God!

We returned to camp and after a break; Tim, Tab, Judy, Katie, Cynthia and I went to see the boar hole and the river. At the boar hole, we some kids doing laundry - HARD work!

The river was a sobering. Very recently, a girl from the orphanage was killed by a crocodile at the river. As I sat there I prayed for her friends and the workers at the orphanage.

Another great and wonderful thing happened on the walk to the river was a conversation between Katie and I. Katie has been a hard to connect with. She is very closed minded and naive. On the way, the verse in Deutoronomy about speaking of God on the road. So I began to talk to her about her why of coming. This led into a conversation about the blessing of obedience to God. I truly believe that this conversation was my divine appointment for today! My goal this next week is to reach out to her more and more.

This afternoon, was another service and convention reports. The thing that struck me during this service was the report on youth ministry. It was so cool to see their desire to reach young people. One need they have are Bibles for teens. I plan on talking to Joel about our youth working on sponsoring some Bibles for them.

After a break for another wonderful dinner prepared by Taps - we went back for another worship service.

This service was held outside. There are no words to describe the feeling of truly worshipping with brothers and sisters in Christ who speak an entirely different language than you. The ability to understand that we are worshipping ONE God is just awesome!

Shortly before Tobey was to give the sermon - a lady began shouting out. At first, I thought she was praying or speaking praise. Quickly we realized that wasn't the case. I was sitting next to Tobey and he leaned over and said, "Get ready and PRAY!" That was all I needed to hear. I prayed and praised Jesus with all my heart. As I continued to speak the name of Jesus many came from their seats and surrounded her. They also began praying and laid hands on her. Finally, they were able to move her away from the service and Tobey stood up. I continued to pray. I also prayed that the people would hear and understand Tobey's message despite distraction. They were using a VERY old sound system with people who didn't know how to use it. So I prayed that God would speak to hearts.

This experience revealed a few things to me. First of all, PRAYER WORKS! Obviously I know the importance of prayer but to see it first hand overcome true spiritual warfare was awesome! I also was reminded of who I serve. I serve the God of the Universe who is ABLE. The Great I AM. Our God is stronger, our God is Greater! If He is for us, who can be against us?

I am not totally sure how the rest of the team took the service. I know Tab wanted to go pray with the woman but Tobey asked us to stay where we were and to let the people handle it. Even in this, I learned an important lesson. Yes, there are times God calls us to lay hands and pray over someone BUT we are not limited to that. The power of Christians praying can withstand any distance. I prayed from where I was and I saw the Mighty Force of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords move.

We left the service early and came back to camp. I am sort of glad we did - they worshipped ALL NIGHT!

Journal Entry 9/17

After a wonderful breakfastof raisin oatmeal prepared by Taps, we walked over to the orphanage to meet up with Choigoi and others.

Funny thing, Tobey got on a motorcycle that was WAY small for him and rode through the camp! LOL.

Then, all 9 of us piled in a forerunner to head to a secondary school that the government was handing over to Pastor Choigoi. Tobey decided to drive - SCARY! I was in the back with Cynthia and Tab and Katie was laying across us - sitting mostly on my lap! Had I known that we were a good 45 min from the school, I would have positioned myself differently, but as it was my leg became VERY sore!

Arriving at the school, you would have thought we were royalty! They had students assigned as ushers to show us around and tell us about the school and life. The three girls and I had Josephine as our guide. She is 17 and in Form 4 (our Senior). Her goal is to be an airline stewardess. At the school, they had a beautiful garden. Talking with one of the teachers, he explained they are hoping to teach the kids how to grow a garden to feed their families.

Following the tour, was a LONG 3 hr ceremony presenting the school. It was in Shona but basically the government recognizes that Pastor Choigoi can run and provide for the school better so they placed it in his care and supervision. He will be free to witness and teach about God there.

After the ceremony, LUNCH! This was our first experience with traditional food. We were served a meal of beef liver, rice with sauce, and cabbage salad. YUCK! I did manage a small piece of liver and the rice but didn't eat the salad not knowing how the produce was washed. They do not use silverware there but use their hands - the rice wasn't too bad.

After lunch, which was actually at 2:00 we came back to camp. However, this time Judy, Cynthia and I rode with 3 pastors and another lady. The pastor that drove was very nice . He said since we were very important people he was driving slow - welcome change after Tobey's driving!

Back at camp, we had a little down time. I decided to try a shower. Taps and Edden have set up a tarp area for a shower with a bucket hanging from a tree - you pull a lever to get water. It was cool but I did wash my hair so it was refreshing! Not sure I will use the actual shower again as the wind shook it a lot and well - that was SCARY!

We have figured out how to wash our hair in buckets - MUCH easier!

There was another church service this evening, This was the opening of the Zimbabwe Southern Baptist Convention. Again - very moving. One thing that hit me during this service was how in Heaven, we will worship together, people of all Nations and speak one language! It was hard to stay awake as it had been a long day but so fun to worship!