Saturday, December 22, 2012

Intentions & Traditions

I love the holidays!  The pictures, the lights, the sounds, the smells, the songs, all of it!  However, there is always so much going on, that it is here and gone before you know it.  Maybe it was the cancer diagnosis, maybe I am just tired, but I have decided that I don't want to miss the "holiday spirit" and I want it to last all year long, so I am going to have to be intentional.  Now it's easy to have good "intentions" and still not get around to year's resolutions for example.  It is going to take implementing some family strategies and traditions to make it work.  This is what I have set my mind to do.

Everything we have been doing is good, but we realize that we can't do everything. :)  We began our "intentional journey" this fall by dropping several activities that I loved for the kids...piano lessons and choir.  It still makes me a little sad, but the girls are still taking an instrument for free in the band at school, and the freedom this has added to our schedules and the extra family time has been more than worth it.  We also went down to one sport for the year with all the kids.  We have chosen soccer because all the kids enjoy playing, their Daddy helps coach them, and we all go together!  I don'k know what next fall will look like, and there may be more cuts still to come in the near future, but we will see.

As far as family traditions go, the holiday season is the best for getting these started.  We have some that we already participate in and love, and some we have heard about this year that we have decided to implement in the coming year.  These are all things which are fun and thoughtful and I hope will make memories for us and our children for years to come!

  • Wrapping: A friend of ours has older children...high school age.  Since they do not believe in Santa anymore, she wraps the presents as she gets them and places them under the tree.  However, to keep some of the mystery alive and keep the kids guessing, she uses a different role of wrapping paper for each child.  Each child's gifts are wrapped in their own special paper.  There are no names on the presents and none of the children know which wrapping paper is theirs.  This keeps them guessing right up to Christmas morning!
  • Candle: Since my husband and his brother were children, my mother-in-law has always done a Christmas candle, and she continues the tradition today now with my children.  After the Christmas story is read, we pass around a lit candle, from youngest to oldest.  Each person, as they hold the candle, shares about some struggles or thanksgivings they have had from the year, and their hopes and prayers for the new year to come.
  • Cards and Photos: A tradition we have picked up from my mom involves the Christmas cards and photos we receive each year.  Mom would hang them all on the back of the front door and the wall.  After Christmas was over, and the decorations were taken down, all the cards and photos went into a basket by the living room couch.  Beginning with the new year, each night at family devotions or prayers, we would take turns drawing out a card or photo (one per night) and then we would say a special prayer for that family!  This should take you all the way through January and maybe into February, depending on how many cards and photos you receive!
  • Thankful Jar: This year I saw a photo on Pinterest and decided we are definitely going to do this.  You can make it your own as far as decorations, which holiday you use it for, etc.  We are going to start January 1st and go all year long.  As the year goes by, we will all write down miracles that happen to the family, special things we are thankful for, etc.  On New Year's Eve, 2013, while we are trying to stay up till midnight, we will pull out our "thankful jar" and take turns reading about God's goodness to our family during the previous year!  Then, we will keep all the slips of paper and store them in a ziploc bag in a decorative box or container labeled with the year!  Can't wait to try this one!
  • Gift Giving: My husband started a tradition when we were first married.  Every year, 12 days before Christmas, he would give me a candle for each day leading up to Christmas.  Now that we have children, we have transferred the 12 days to them.  Each day of the 12 days, we either give them a small gift, take them to a movie, make a craft at home, etc., or we make a gift or do something for someone else, like take cookies to a neighbor, rake their leaves, or something fun like that.  This is something the kids have really enjoyed and looked forward to.
  • Food and Story: I heard a Contemporary Christian music artist share a tradition of his on the radio this week.  He said when they woke up on Christmas morning their Mom had a huge breakfast cooked and they would sit around the table and eat together and listen as their Dad read the Christmas story.  Of course with all the decorated packages lying on the livingroom floor, he said the kids were dying to get in there to open presents.  However, now that he is older and has a family of his own, he said that those breakfasts and times around the table on Christmas morning are some of his fondest memories and he is so grateful to his parents for providing that time!
There are so many ways that we can live intentionally in our day to day lives.  That is my hope for you this coming year, and I would love to hear any ideas or traditions that you and your family share!

Friday, November 9, 2012


I guess it's fitting that this morning as I go to my blog to post about an earthquake in Guatemala, I find that my last post from a couple of months ago was about my trip there this summer.  As you read this post, I would just like to request you to say a prayer for the families and children in these communities that were affected by the earthquake.

In June, Hallie and I were in this very spot, San Marcos, where the epicenter of the earthquake happened.  Aside from being a little freaked out about the fact that it could have happened while we were there, I am heartbroken for the people and families we met there who are experiencing the devastation right now.

While there, we walked the streets of San Marcos in a parade, we worshiped in a church service there, we visited the homes of some of the children, we had lunch with the Mayor at his home!  To see the devastation now is so surreal.  We have heard from Compassion, that so far as they know, none of the CDSP children were killed, although quite a few of their homes were damaged.

I am so grateful once again for the work of Compassion and the fact that they are already there in place to care for these children and their families when a tragedy like this occurs.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Guatemala - Part 3, Maribel

This is Maribel, the young girl we sponsor in Guatemala through Compassion International!

We have been sponsors for years through Compassion.   We have sent our money, written faithfully, and enjoyed hearing from our sponsored children.  Compassion has always encouraged sponsors to visit their children, but until now, the "why" did not seem so important.

When you meet your sponsored child, you naturally expect there to be a level of joy, but we were unprepared for the love we would feel immidiately for her and her family.  The first day meeting, we were able to attend a church service with Maribel and I just sat and smiled, overwhelmed with the fact that I was sitting there with my daughter on one side and her on the other.  Our second day together was spent at a local water park.  The girls got to swim, we all (Maribel came with her sister) ate lunch together and then got ice-cream, we exchanged gifts, chatted about life and had a marvelous time!  The love, joy and thankfulness that they showered back on us was indescribable.  It was a day and an experience that I, and hopefully my daughter, will never forget!  The hugs, the smiles, the timid speech back and forth with translation in between, the prayer of blessing over her family, and the tears goodbye.

After meeting Maribel, I can honestly say that our letter writing will definitely be much more personal!  I have seen first-hand the incredible bond that is formed between child and sponsor.  It is much more than money.  The children appreciate the care and opportunities your sponsorship provides them at the centers, but the relationship with and letters from their sponsors are their prize possessions!  As a Compassion Advocate, if there was one message I could convey it would be to write, write, write your child and begin saving now to go meet them some time in the near future!  It will change your life and theirs!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Guatemala - Part 2, The People

I can sum up my view of the people we met in Guatemala in one sentence...They were fabulous!  We were overwhelmed by the beauty of the children, love they showed us, the gratitude and blessings they bestowed on us, their obvious love for the Lord, and their pride and joy for Compassion and the hope it offers them!  We were a little disconcerted in the beginning, by their show of gratitude to us.  We were so grateful to them for sharing part of their lives with us and felt we had not done anything deserving of the honor they were showing us.  When we asked our "Guatemala Queen," Sandra (aka trip leader), she shared with us why.  Because of Compassion, the children here in San Marcos have hope for a future.  You are the face of Compassion and the face of their sponsors.  This is a way for them to show their gratitude for what the Lord, Compassion, and the finanacial and emotional support of their sponsors has given them!  You especially represent their sponsors.  To them, their sponsor is a member of their family!

Needless to say, the time spent with the children in Guatemala was priceless!  The morning we walked into our first center, they welcomed us with applause, and song!  Outside waited a band made up of children from the 11 different centers in the San Marcos area.  What followed was a parade through the streets, leading to the town center and the start of their 2-day sporting games!  We thoroughly enjoyed walking in the parade and were overwhelmed when they played our national anthem and displayed our American flag at their opening ceremonies for the first time ever!  We had a blast participating in and watching the 2-day sports spectacular!  The children played so hard, were such good sports, and had a blast!  We even got to try and teach some of them some Ultimate Frisbee and American football! :)

At the second center, we got to work in their bakery (a small room on the street with a table and a stove), where they are teaching the children some life skills for their future.  We also got to visit some homes of the children from the center, worship with them in a church service, and participate in a talent show that showcased singing, drama, musical instruments, mime, etc, all performed by children from the various centers!  We even performed a little interpretive movement ourselves!  It is something we will never forget!

I can truely say we fell in love with these people!  They have such a heart for the Gospel and for the children and families in their communities.  The pastors and directors of these 11 centers have crossed cultural divides and joined together for the benefit of the children and they are seeing amazing results!  One comment that really struck me and that I heard a couple of times during our week, was..."You can tell a Compassion kid just by looking at them.  It's in their eyes, their behavior, and the way they carry themselves."  What an amazing testimony to the work of Compassion and these local churches and centers who are fighting this battle over poverty and lost souls and standing in the gap!  Their passion and sacrifice inspires me!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Guatemala - Part 1, The Country

Well, I made it home safely!  May was a tricky month for me.  I was getting ready to go to Guatemala, but that is the last place where I wanted to be.  Maybe it was some spiritual warfare (I felt very much like I did while in India), maybe it was some "Mommy not wanting to leave her children."  I believe it was a little of both.  However, after much praying from friends and family, and me letting God know that I was going to follow His calling in spite of my fears, I, along with my eldest daughter, and 12 friends from our church, set off for Guatemala with Compassion International!  I have been home a week and I am still processing our trip.  I think I can express it more clearly if I break it up into sections, so here goes Part 1, The Country!

I could not adequately describe the beauty of the country we saw while traveling through Guatemala.  My pictures hopefully capture just a glimpse.  It is a country of 39 volcanoes, most of those still active!  We even saw one belching was fabulous!  The country was lush and green, and everywhere (and I mean everywhere...hillsides, the shoulder of the road, etc.) we saw the people growing corn and sugar cane.  The variety and amount of greenery was overwhelming.  The best reference I can give is that I felt like we had just been planted right down in the middle of the set for Jurassic Park...minus the dinosaurs!  We did not even see the coast, or the famous lakes, but still I was overwhelmed by the beauty of God's creation.  The beauty of this fallen creation, created in 7 days.  I cannot imagine what Heaven will be like since He has been working on it for 2000 years!

We were there at the start of Guatemala's winter and their rainy season.  I expected to be drenched every day.  However, before we left, a friend of mine prayed for me and our team.  She prayed that the Lord would cover us with a canopy of protection while we were there.  And He did!  Physically and spiritually, we were sheltered from the storm.  Each day it would rain maybe in the morning while we were at breakfast or in the evening while we slept.  During some of the afternoons it would literally begin to pour when we would go inside for lunch and then as we began to clean up our dishes, it would stop!  I never even took my poncho out of its case the entire week!  God also protected us physically and spiritually in miraculous ways that I will never forget!  I am so grateful to Him for that canopy and for those of you who prayed for us while we were away from home in beautiful Guatemala!

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Hard Place

Last night at my son's school program, I ran into a sweet lady that I have always admired...Mrs. B. She is an older mom, adopting 2 children through domestic adoption, she is a foster mom, and highly involved in our kids school. She gives hugs to everyone she meets and seems to always have a word of encouragement to offer. We were just able to speak briefly last night, but in that short time, I found out that she is struggling with her son acting out (issues related to his life before adoption) and she also has found out that she has a disorder (I forget the name) where the skull did not fully close and the brain begins to drop down into the opening. This creates the very real possibility as the condition worsens for a fatal bloodclot or stroke. Her only option is surgery, which is always scary. In our conversation, she commented, "I know God doesn't give us more than we can bear." With a half smile, it seemed like she might not feel exactly sure about that.

As I lay in bed last night, thinking about my struggle with Alopecia, my sister's debilitating struggle with excema on her hands, another sister's desire to marry and start a family, my mother-in-law's years of chronic migraines, my sister-in-law's mother being treated for her 4th bout with cancer, I wept. Why has God allowed these things in our lives, with no apparent reason, and no ready answer after years of praying?

It is no coincidence that this morning, in my reading, I came across the following in a book called "Kisses from Katie." It is an exerpt from her journal.

"Remember, God will never give you more than you can handle." People repeat this frequently; I heard it when I was growing up and I hear it now. It is meant to be a source of encouragement, and it would be if I believed it were true. But I don't. I believe that God totally, absolutely, intentionally gives us more than we can handle. Because this is when we surrender to Him and He takes over, proving Himself by doing the impossible in our lives. I have learned to accept it, even ask for it, this "more than I can handle." Because in these times, God shows Himself victorious. He reminds me that all of this life requires more of Him and less of me. God does give us more than we can handle. Not maliciously, but intentionally, in love, that His glory may be displayed, that we may have no doubt of who is in control, that people may see His grace and faithfulness shining through our lives. And as I surrender these situations to Him, watch Him take over and do the impossible, I am filled with joy and peace--so much more than I can handle.

Today, I am trying to relinquish and yearning for joy and peace, for myself and for those I love who are also struggling with the unclear, "why?"

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Secret Church

Last night I was able to participate in my 2nd "Secret Church!" Ok, it's not so secret anymore, since 50,000 people around the world were participating alongside David Platt, and The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL, through simalcasts! However, somehow, there is still something intimate about knowing you are studying the same scriptures with brothers and sisters around the globe at the same time. It seems hard to believe, unless you have experienced it, but six hours of Bible Study mixed with times of prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ around the world is energizing, not exhausting. I can't imagine spending Good Friday any other way. And the topic last night...suffering and the Cross.

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
C.S. Lewis

It is not possible for me to share here what I learned about suffering last night in our study from Genesis to Revelation. But this I know...God is sovereign; All suffering should lead us to the Cross where He suffered in our place; Our sufferings will be redeemed for His glory! Praise be to God!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Great News!

Surgery is done. Lump is removed. Biopsy is complete. Results are negative for cancer! Continued gratefulness to the Lord for this answer to prayer and a huge relief off my shoulders wondering if I was going to have to repeat the last two years of treatment.

So, I am done with surgeries and treatment. I can handle going back for bloodwork every 6 months. There is something comforting in knowing that someone is helping to keep a lookout on my body. I will continue to walk in the Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society and I will continue to count up the years that I am "cancer free!"

I am still processing life-lessons learned, and the steps my faith-journey has taken. Who knows? In the future you may see a "life symbol" that will become a permanent reminder to me and to others of what the Lord has done in my life through this experience!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Traveling Through

I have been reminded this month that we are just "traveling through" this life on a journey to our true home. I have been juggling a roller-coaster of emotion this month and each time I sat down to write, I could not.

The first week of March, my Granddad went to be with Jesus. Three weeks later (this weekend) my Grandpa went home to be with Jesus too. The floodgates of emotion have overwhelmed me as I remember back to my childhood and the wonderful times spent with my grandparents. I will miss my seeing my Granddad and Grandpa when I go for visits, but I also rejoice that they are home with their heavenly Father and no longer sick.

At the same time this month, I have been quietly fighting the possibility that my cancer has returned and been almost emotionally paralized at the thought that just as I finish my 2 year cancer journey, it could be beginning again. After finding a lump (in the same place where my previous one was), and after an ultrasound and initial spot biopsy, the results have come back negative for cancer! I have been praising the Lord all the while, but now I have been able to exhale and breath a little more freely. We are still uncertain as to what the lump is exactly, so Monday I am having it removed. Maybe after a full biopsy, I will have my definitive answer and know for sure that there is nothing else going on.

I think that this year, Easter will be an especially powerful reminder to me that God has conqueered death and the grave! I have thought about something my Dad used to say as a pastor who has done hundreds of funerals, "We all have a terminal illness. It's called being human. Some of us just get to say goodbye."

"So, we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens!"
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Today is Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent. I have never celebrated Lent. In middle school and high school, I had friends who did, but I never really thought about it or new what it was for. People even participate in Lent for different reasons...some religious, some social, some both. Last year my husband joined a challenge at Active Water and gave up drinking anything but water (except on Sundays) for the 40 days of Lent. This was a challege to remember that much of the world today does not have access to clean drinking water and it was a great reminder to us. So, this year we have decided to participate in Lent as a family!

For some, Lent is giving up something that is important to them for 40 days. This could be a food, an activity, etc. For others, it is a time to help others, and a time to grow closer to God through prayer, Bible study and fasting. The 40 days represents the 40 days that Christ wandered and was tempted in the wilderness before He began His public minstry. This challenge of giving something up reminds us of the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf when He gave up everything and came to the earth to give His very life for us on the cross. 40 seems to be a significant number and an optimal amount of time for life-change to take place. Moses spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai and 40 years in the wilderness, Noah spent 40 days and nights floating on the water, etc. Sundays, are a day of feasting and remembering the beauty and blessings of God. The sacrifices of things that have become a "love" for us should naturally re-open our eyes to the greatness of God and lead us back to a spirit of thanksgiving!

So what does this look like for us this year...our first Lent? First, we are foregoing carbonated beverages. For those of you who know me, I am addicted to Pepsi, so this is going to be a big one for me. I know it will be beneficial healthwise for all of us, but it won't be easy. :) We are also going to try to give up junk food/sweets and eat healthier in the evenings when we are all home. This also means no fast-food! Day 1 and my eyes have already been opened to my lack of self-control. That is another thing Lent is good for. I am realizing areas in my life that need some changing! :) We are going to try to incorporate some meals with rice, beans, and tortillas...some things that our sponsored children in India and Africa might be having for supper. This will be a great reminder for us to pray for them and write them. Another great suggestion by Chris Seay is to take the money you would have spent on eating out during the 40 days of Lent and give it to a ministry that works with those in poverty, or help a family in need!

This leads me to the last thing we are doing this year and I invite you all to check it out at Chris's web site. He has a book called "A Place at the Table - 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor," and it gives 40 devotionals and prayers requests for children in countries all over the world. This is designed to help you during the days of Lent to recapture a glimpse of our Saviour and His story of rescue and redemption. What an awesome way to prepare our hearts as we head into the Easter season!

Friday, January 13, 2012

2 Years Cancer Free!

Today I am "2 Years Cancer Free"! Although my official bloodwork is not until next week, today is exactly 2 years from my first surgery to remove the cancer! This is a big one for me. Because of the particular aggressive nature of the type of cancer that I had, (love saying HAD), the highest rate of return is within the first 2 years. Reaching this milestone gives me hope that I will reach my 5 year mark, the next big goal, and still be able to say "cancer free!"

This week 2 sweet friends of mine, Sherry and Jenny, brought me the Willow Tree figurine, "Grateful." It is a perfect gift for me this week! Not only did it remind me that I am loved, but it will continue to remind me to live in gratitude to my Heavenly Father! I am not only grateful to reach my 2 year mark, but looking back over the last 2 years, I have so many blessings and mercies to be grateful for!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

And God Speaks

Last night I had every intention of starting my morning...and the rest of the mornings this year, with prayer and Bible Study. As many good intentions do, mine did not happen. It was my plan to take the 30 minutes I have after my middle schooler leaves for school and before I have to wake my elementary 2, to read and pray. However, I was tired (I'm always tired nowdays) and I justified, as I so easlily can, and chose to lay down for those 30 minutes. Of course, by the time my alarm went off, I had not fallen asleep, so I felt worse. After getting my next 2 off to school, I lay back down and 15 minutes later my 3 year old wakes up. By now, I'm very cranky (big shock) and I'm getting a headache from trying to sleep. After his breakfast, I unfairly wrestle him down and make him lie down again while I try to sleep. We both finally fall asleep for a short while.

Now this is definitely NOT how I wanted to start my day. I have gotten nothing accomplished, I'm in a bad mood, I still did not have a quiet time with the Lord, and now I have a slight headache! I decided sit down at the computer while I ate my lunch and read some of the blogs I follow, but have not gotten to check for the last couple of weeks over the holidays. Can you imagine my surprise when I pull up the first one by Mark Batterson and read this...

The 21-Day Prayer Challenge begins today!

I believe that your destiny is determined in the early daylight hours. How you start the day will determine what the rest of the day is like. That is why praying and reading Scripture in the morning is so important. It sets the tone. Like turning the dial on your radio, it’s the way you tune into God’s frequency. And that daily discipline will ultimately determine your destiny.

He also included the verse found in Psalms 5:3 "In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation." Wow. I felt like my Heavenly Father had just sat down to lunch with me and shared with me His desires for my year ahead! I'm also thinking my little justification of "being tired" is not going to cut it in the morning! :) So, although it is afternoon, I am going to try to "begin again" and see if I can salvage what is left of this day that the Lord has made for me!