Monday, July 29, 2013

When Daddy's away...

Camp... 15 years ago, the words: hot, little sleep, nonstop energy, life-changing decisions, and camp food would have come to mind. Now, for me, it means lack of routine, lack of sleep, single parenting, extra sugar, and TV... 

Every summer, my youth-pastor husband takes our students to a missions camp for a week.  This has been life changing for many of our students and leaders.  But it breaks my heart to hear of another youth pastor, his wife, and unborn child as well as another leader who died in a bus accident returning home from a church camp. They were only a mile from their home church.  Our church vans were returning home that same day.  Why?  My intentions in writing seem trivial now.  My husband is home, alive and well.  Yet, I want to complain about hearing my title "mommy" one too many times over the past week. 

There are so many things in life that I will never understand.  Why a young couple on fire for the Lord must be taken away from their two year old son?  Why teenagers must see a scene that will haunt them forever?  Why a young father must endure cancer in excruciating pain, unable to hold his baby girl because of the radiation within his body?  Why a young woman must lose baby after baby with no medical explanations?

Yet, I know... God is good.  He loves us with an everlasting love and gives us His Word, the lens through which we view every aspect of life.  If we look at the world, at circumstances, at tragedy in any other way, but through His lens, then our vision will be blurred and nothing will seem clear.  

To be honest with you, this past week wasn't nearly as difficult as I had anticipated in being alone with the girls.  Much of that is thanks to my sweet husband, who as usual, wrote notes and left little gifts (which he allowed the girls to pick out themselves this year).  He left me my two favorites:  Starbucks and dark chocolate.  But what seemed to help the most was getting away.  He booked a cabin for the girls and I (and one of my sisters & nephew) to stay at for a few days.  The anticipation for surprising our girls helped me so much!  I was also blessed to visit with my youngest sister and mom earlier in the week and get some extra time with my niece, Ava.  

With the craziness of packing for these few days, I forgot my phone charger though.  This seemed like a big deal considering my car charger only worked when the car was running.  What I thought was going to be a stressful situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  After making sure my phone was fully charged on the drive up to Virginia, I was forced to not use it as I normally did.  No Facebook, no Instagram, etc.  What this allowed me to do was REALLY get away.  

I was able to capture the seriousness of my girls playing games, the thrill of a new playground, and a walk to visit the horses.  

The joy in their faces as they splashed in the fountains and jumped again and again into the pool.  

To see my sweet nephew, Ezra, as he literally loved a moth to its death (unknown to him).  

The imaginations of my girls as they built a fort outside of our cabin and tried so hard to make fire.  

The adventure of putt-putt with three girls (Ha!) being cut short by a three year old in need of the potty.

I am blessed!  This week, as hard as it seemed at times, was a great week!  Did I miss my hubbie?  Oh my, yes!  But I feel content knowing he was able to do the work God has for him, while I was home (and in Virginia) doing the work God has called for me to do.  One of the reasons that I love taking pictures with my big camera and not just my phone is because it forces me to slow down, to look for the details, to click again and again and again.  But I must also be looking through another lens...

For "without God's Word as a lens, the world warps.  Who deserves any grace?  When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt but I who am in His great debt, then doesn't all become gift?" - Ann Voskamp

Friday, July 19, 2013

In the Moment...

It's been over two weeks since returning from Ecuador.  Much has returned to normal, but other things have not.  My heart has not...  Have no fear, my heart is right here in little Fuquay Varina, North Carolina with my wonderful husband and three precious girls, but my heart has changed.

One of the greatest lessons I learned while we were away concerns "living in the moment."  On our first full day in Ecuador, the missionary told us that Ecuadorians are different from Americans in many ways, but in one way in particular.  They live fully in each moment.  In conversations, they will give their undivided attention to whom they are speaking with.  They won't be thinking about who they will speak with next or what they are having for supper.  They won't be concerned with what time it is and how much of it they have to give.  Do we as Americans ever do that?  I don't.  

In the book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan says "The essence of a Sabbath heart:  paying attention.  It is being fully present, wholly awake, in each moment.

People in the grocery store, at church, in the neighborhood are forever telling me, "Enjoy them now!  Time will fly.  Don't wish the time away."  It's true.  (But sometimes I just have to smile and nod as my three year old throws a fit for not getting a "little buggie" on a Wednesday afternoon at Trader Joes.  I know it's true, but it still doesn't help in the moment.)  But these moments add up...  Each one counts for something, some pure God-moments, others only covered by grace (still all God!).  

I want to be fully present as water balloons are squirted between sisters, giggles falling like drops.  I want to laugh at the jokes, some funny for real, others funny because of the jokester.  I want to notice the freckles so perfectly placed on my sweet girl's face.  I don't want to be so busy that these things pass me by unnoticed.  

"What if instead of discounting the current moment, the uncontrollable, the simple given - what if I counted it - and on the God who controls it all?

It is only the present moment alone that holds the possibility of coming into the presence of God.  Look around, breathe deep, enter into this one moment."    
- Ann Voskamp

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Glimpse of Ecuador...

Our first meal in Ecuador - hot dogs & eggs, bread, hot chocolate & some kind of juice

My first glimpse of Ecuador in daylight

Days have now passed since returning to my homeland and my precious girls.  The experience of stepping foot in the country claiming the center most point of the earth will forever leave an imprint on my life.  Ecuador...  My first recollection of this country involves the true story of Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, and the other missionaries who gave their lives many years ago to the Indians of Ecuador who later gave their lives to Christ through the missionaries sacrifice. 

As I've tried to process the past week, being away from my girls, struggling with the language barrier, and breathing through the high altitude, the words have come as waves, some crashing down with fury and force, while others leave no impact at all... just bubbles popping on the shore.  

I cannot lie by saying this was the most amazing week of my life.  I can say that I regret nothing, I believe that God was in control, and that He was and will continue to be glorified through our trip to Ecuador.  He did some amazing things in the lives of our group!

The youth group at our church in Calderon

One of my favorite moments - same verses, different languages

The writing of His Word in different languages

What I thought was a hairbow at first - centipede in the girls room

Ant infestation - removed all belongings to clean the girls room

Mr. Scorpion - alive!

Popcorn soup!  My favorite meal!

Katie & I on our way to our site

VBS - Coloring/craft time

VBS - singing Jesus Loves Me!

Watching this dear woman become my sister in Christ!

This sweet girl reading a spanish tract before accepting Christ

Katie and another new sister in Christ

Some of the highlights of my week included: 

  • traveling alongside my husband to another country
  • assisting him in leadership of our group (a privilege, but way out of my comfort zone)
  • being in the presence of American and Ecuadorian youth reading God's word side by side in their own languages
  • the privilege of sharing the greatest story ever told to many in the market place 
  • being a part of leading five individuals to the Lord!  
  • Giving away a bilingual copy of the Jesus Storybook Bible to a young boy who made a life-changing decision, right outside of a bakery in Quito.
  • Sharing my family photo album as a conversation starter (Thanks to Ansley for translating!)
  • Hearing the stories of our team and how God used them throughout the week.  Our nightly meetings often gave me the strength of continuing the next day.  
  • Getting up early to watch the sunrise lay its colors along one of the Ecuador mountains with my honey
  • Meeting some amazing translators who without, we would have accomplished very little...
  • such precious, tear-jerker notes from my girls

Face painting three year old, Jada

Me & Rute (Ruth)

Sunrise with my honey

Marketplace within walking distance of our church

Two of our translators - Salome & Josue


Our last day - at a volcano

Groups from around the US with one common purpose

Some of the "interesting" points of the week:

  • Ecuadorian time...
  • traffic in Ecuador (pedestrians do not have the right of way)
  • encounters with a giant centipede, ant infestation, and a scorpion
  • children of all ages riding in the front seats of cars, hanging out the windows, not wearing seat belts (a mother's nightmare)
  • popcorn soup (oh yeah!), chocolate bread (30 cents each), and cooked guinea pig (yes, I know it's meat.)
  • expecting 30 to 80 children for our VBS and only having 10 to 20 depending on the day
  • the inability to flush toilet paper 
  • a broken alarm clock and the changing of sheets
  • the fear of drinking the water even while brushing teeth

Guinea Pig - tastes like chicken

Once again, I claim no regrets (even the guinea pig).  I am filled with such gratitude in being allowed to travel to Ecuador and for my parents for caring for our girls.  There is still much to process concerning all that the Lord did and is still doing in my life through this experience, but I'm not in a hurry.  

"Living radical isn't about where you live - it's about how you love.  It's about realizing - Love doesn't happen when you arrive in a certain place.  It happens when your heart arrives in a certain place - wherever you are, right where you are, dirt road Africa (or Ecuador) or side street America." - Ann Voskamp