Real-life Soap Operas

I've never been one to watch the soaps.  I know that some soap operas have gone on for years and counting...and I would not be the one to tell you what they are called or even who the actors are.  The times I have seen clips, I was quite unimpressed with all the drama.  My attitude was: Why become emotionally invested in all the characters' problems, when they are not even real?  On a whim, when I was pregnant with Uriah, I began to watch a Mexican soap opera.  Mexican soaps are over the top- much more dramatic and exaggerated than anything you would see in the U.S.  For a number reasons, I found myself interested in the storyline of this particular soap, and continued to watch until the drama ended months later.  During my soap-stint, I learned that people's problems hurt me.  Real problems in real life, or contrived problems on a TV set, it made no difference.  My mind still began to work, taking on the task of finding solutions to the heart-wrenching problems that I saw on the television screen.  Thankfully, watching problems unfold in a soap is nothing like dealing with them in real life- and the solutions are quite easy to find.  In my opinion, the problems I was seeing on the soap were so unrealistic.  I was certain that there was no one out there really living through all the lies, deceit, and heartbreak that was being portrayed.  It took a little more living to find out just how wrong I was.

Neighbor #1:  A young woman that I have known for years is living out a life story that I only recently uncovered.  She lives with her boyfriend and they have several children.  The boyfriend does drugs.  Only one of their children is actually his- the others belong to another guy whom the woman is still seeing on a regular basis.  The boyfriend knows all about it, and happily allows the situation to continue.  Why?  Because the other guy is a member of the drug cartel, and he sends them a substantial sum of money every month to support his children.

Neighbor #2:  A woman and her husband are having marital problems.  It should be something very personal, but there's no such thing as a secret in a small town.  Everyone knows about it.  He hits her and then goes off and gets drunk.  While he's drunk, he is sleeping around with many other women.  The husband's family blames the wife for his problems- after all, if she were a better wife, he wouldn't have to get drunk.  Usually he only drinks for a day, and then goes back to work.  This time, 5 days have passed and he continues to drink.  His reason why?  Usually he goes and buys drugs to get high and stop drinking.  This time he can't get the drugs because the dealer is being watched too closely by the police and the military.

Neighbor #3:  A young, working, single man is trying to help his family out financially.  Times are tough, at least economically speaking, and sometimes there is only so much you can obtain through honest work.  Unfortunately, other ways to get money are too easy to come by, and one of the easiest here is by prostitution- especially homosexual prostitution.  Most of the time, this young man would never give it a thought- but he never counted on the fact that he would be propositioned 3 times just this week.  He has friends that have already done it, and they are telling him how easy it is, how it is worth it for the money. 

Neighbor #4:  A young mother has 3 children and is fleeing her abusive, alcoholic husband.  She doesn't have any family nearby, but thankfully she is able to rent a room in a small town.  She is thankful, but her children are scared, and not too impressed with their new living quarters.  You wouldn't be impressed either- one room, concrete floor, one light bulb, and the bare minimum for furniture, if you can even call it that. She has to work full-time and leave her children in the care of another neighbor.  Unfortunately, her husband has now found them, and is threatening her to try to get her to come back to him.

These are real-life soaps.  They have not been invented or embellished.  They are the realities that real people are living with everyday.  The saddest part is that it was not hard to find these stories.  There were many more to choose from, and all of these stories could apply to several different families.  My emotions are involved, and my mind is working constantly to find ways that we can help.  A personal relationship with Christ is an obvious missing ingredient in all of these cases, but there are also so many needs to be met on a practical level that at times it's hard to know where to start.  My husband and I just look at each other, oftentimes not knowing what to do next.  We weep and pray, and weep and pray some more, for this town, this nation, for all of us.  We ask God for wisdom, we speak words of encouragement when given the opportunity, we buy groceries, offer to babysit...and then we weep and pray once again.  If we didn't have hope in Christ, believing that there is no situation that is impossible for him to handle, it would seem like a futile battle.  After all, problems in real life don't get wrapped up in a neat little package like they do for the soap opera finale.

Pray.  Pray for Mexico.  Pray for the United States.  Pray for whichever nation you are living in, whichever nation God puts on your heart.  Pray for your neighbors who could be living out stories much darker and more painful than you could've ever imagined.  Give water to the thirsty, food to the hungry.  Visit the sick, the criminals.  Do it all as unto Him.  We may never be able to resolve the problems, and we may never see the hurting accept the solution that Christ offers, but we can be ministers.  We can show His love.  His compassion.  His mercy.  His grace.  Him.


Mission Trip!!! (Part 7- The Finale)

Well, today's story isn't really continued from yesterday, but I promised that I would let you in on what we learned in Belize, so here goes.  I wish you could hear it all from each person, in their own words, but I will try to paraphrase and summarize the best that I can!

1)  We learned that raising money for the kingdom of God is the best investment a person could ever make!  When we realized months ago that we were talking about raising over $6,000 US dollars to take our team to Belize, it sounded like an impossible sum of money.  I assured everyone that God would provide, and we went to work selling food and just about anything else we could get our hands on.  God provided every cent...and everyone on the team said that it was all worth it.  We don't feel like we spent money on the trip- rather, we invested it into something with eternal value.

2)  We learned that when we are willing, God equips us to get the job done!  This trip was filled with "firsts" for all of us.  For many it was the first time on an airplane, the first time travelling out of the country, and even the first time seeing the ocean.  For others it was the first time sharing a personal testimony in church, the first time doing a drama, and the first time teaching a VBS.  Although we tried to prepare the best that we could before arriving in Belize, there are some things that are impossible to prepare for (things like homesickness and "stage"-fright).  In preparation for the trip, Noe and I reminded everyone several times that the work we would do in Belize would be God working through us.  You can't do something you don't know how to do in your own strength, and thankfully that leaves room for God to do His work in you.  We could have allowed fear of the unknown to rob all these experiences from us- but instead we moved forward in faith, believing that when the moment came, God would carry us through.  He did!

3)  We learned a new appreciation for all the comforts we have.  The Mexican members of the missions team were struck by the poverty they saw in Belize.  There were so many things that they "missed" while we were in Belize, and it helped us all to gain a new perspective on the daily blessings that God gives us, which we so often take for granted.   May God help us to always be thankful!

4)  We learned that so many ministries need HELP.  There are so many projects to be done all over the world (Bible schools, churches, orphanages, hosptials,etc.), but so often there is a shortage of help and/or financing.  In just a few days we were able to help finish the bathroom, the driveway, and some of the landscaping at the Bible school in Belmopan.  We all wish that we could've done so much more.  Everyone on our team is now more aware of the work that is necessary to make things happen, and we are all ready to serve more, whether it be locally or internationally.  And everyone has already commented that the next time we go on a mission trip, we should take more things along with us, or at least more money, so that we can help out even more!

5)  We learned that MISSION and fulfilling the Great Commission is daily life.  God commissioned us to reach the lost- to be His hands and feet on the earth.  Meeting practical needs, loving people, lending a helping hand, encouraging others with our personal testimony are just some things that we can live out no matter where we are.  The interesting thing is that Jesus Christ told us all to, "GO!"   Some of us stay, and many of us will spend more time here than there, but all of us learned the importance of GOing.  There's a lot of truth to not being a prophet in your hometown- and it seems that a special missionary annointing is released when you get out of your comfort zone and trust God to lead you to an unknown destination.  I think of Abram, and how he left his homeland just because God told him to.  He didn't know where he was going, but he trusted God to get him there.  I used to think, "Wow, that would be really scary.  Abraham must've had a lot of faith."  Now, I think, "Wow, that really is the only way to live.  Abraham knew something that most of us never figure out."  Allowing God to lead you through and to the unknown can be a little scary...but it is always worth it.  Living by God's leading is the most incredible adventure ever!

I could keep going on, but I will leave you with these last thoughts.  The mission trip to Belize was not just my dream or my husband's dream- it was God's dream.  God dreamed it, and He brought it to pass in His perfect time.  It was more amazing than we could've ever expected, and we learned more than we ever imagined that we would.  Most importantly, this trip opened our eyes to the great spiritual and physical needs of people- in Belize, in Mexico, and all over the world.  We returned home from Belize with greater compassion, more love, and a stirring passion to do more to reach those who are hurting and in need around us.  We have already been brainstorming several ministry opportunities here in Michoacan as a follow-up to all we learned in Belize.  However, now we are no longer content to stay in Michoacan.  We are eager to GO wherever God leads...even to the ends of the earth!

P.S.  This blog series on our 2011 mission trip to Belize is done...but be assured that there are greater things still to come!


Mission Trip!!! (Part 6)

The story continued from yesterday:
When we got to Cancun I was feeling nauseous from the pain (of a kidney stone), and I could hardly walk, but God gave me the strength I needed. I was able to lead our team to yet another bus which took us to within a half a block to our hotel. We were definitely ready to rest, but I was a little worried. I was feeling so awful...

All I can say to wrap up yesterday's story, is that God is greater.  I was not feeling well at all, and when everyone except for my husband went out to get dinner without me, I was desperate to feel better.  I began to just talk with God, and then I talked with the kidney stone, telling it that my God is bigger and He was going to take care of me.  For some reason, I thought a hot shower might help with the nausea, and as soon as I stepped under the hot water, the nausea left.  When I got out of the shower, I realized that all the pain was gone as well.  Again I say, God is greater!  Enough said. :)

We didn't check into the hotel until almost 9pm on Wednesday night, so everyone just ate and went to sleep.  I had been a little nervous about the hotel, as I made the reservation months earlier going by the reviews on the Internet, but again God was looking out for us.  The hotel was a steal- we only paid $38 US dollars per night, per room (and each room had 4 occupants), and it was clean, comfortable, and perfect for our needs.  On Thursday we woke up to the free breakfast (well, the kids had to pay, which I still don't really understand, but it was still worth it), and then set out to find the nearest public beach, Playa Tortuga (Turtle Beach).  It was an easy 15 minute walk, and we had fun seeing huge iguanas alongside the road.  We spent most of the day at the beach, and it was a beautiful, relaxing day.

Thursday evening, Noe and I went to downtown Cancun to try to find a place that would change our Belizean dollars back into Mexican pesos (you will remember that we didn't change the money at the border because the bus had left us behind, and we were in a bit of a rush to find the rest of our team).  I was so sure that we would be able to find an exhange place- after all, Cancun is a pretty international city.  I was amazed when we went to 5 exchange places, and NONE of them would exchange Belizean dollars.  We finally found one place that would do it, but they would only give us 2 pesos for every dollar (each Belizean dollar is supposed to be worth 7 pesos)!  After going to about 10 money exchange businesses, we finally found one that would give us 3 pesos for each dollar.  We exchanged some of it, taking a huge loss of course, but at least we had enough left over to get home!  Lesson learned: ALWAYS exchange money at the border.  Although, I must admit, if the same thing happened all over again, I would probably still be more worried about finding our team than exchanging our money!

Thursday night we had our last official team meeting.  It was bittersweet for me- after meeting together once a week since January, and then spending 11 days, full of adventure, together, it was a little hard to believe it was coming to an end.  It felt very surreal- thinking of all the prayers and planning that had gone into the trip, at times doubting that our dreams would ever become a reality, and knowing that it all exceeded our expectations and was now almost over.  Yet, it was a beautiful meeting.  I held my breath as I asked our team members if it had been worth it all.  Every single one answered with a resounding YES, accompanied by tears in their eyes, and asking if we would ever be able to go back to Belize.  I had a huge smile in my heart- and on my face.  This is what it feels like when your dreams, or rather God's dreams for you come true!

Friday, the 29th, was a beautiful day.  We took it easy, played with the kids in the pool, and then repacked all of our things once again.  We left the hotel before 1pm, and must have been quite the sight as we walked down the main street of Cancun's hotel zone with all of our luggage, in search of the bus stop.  We got on our bus, which took us to the main bus station,. and there bought tickets for a bus that would take us to the airport.  Our flight left Cancun just before 4pm, and thankfully it was uneventful.  We arrived in Guadalajara, where the same vans that had left us there almost 2 weeks earlier were now waiting to pick us up.  The drive home took almost 2 hours- and we were home just after 10pm.  We were all so tired...but so at rest.  God is good.  All the time.

If you think this is the end of the story...you are wrong!  The trip was over- but in some ways, it was just beginning.  At home now, we had time to process everything- and share what we had learned with everyone around us.  If you want to listen-in on what we learned on our mission trip to Belize, stay tuned for tomorrow's blog post...

P.S. I made a video with the pictures from our Belize trip.  It's sort of long, but for those of you who have been reading along and have heard the full story of our trip, I think you would enjoy seeing it.  The link to the video on youtube is:


Mission Trip!!! (Part 5)

The story continued from yesterday:
 We were scheduled to leave the house at 5am- Craig would drive us to Belmopan, and we would go the rest of the way in public transportation. I reminded everyone that night that the adventure wasn't over yet- but I had no idea just how true those words would prove to be...

We ended up leaving the Fritzler's home just a couple minutes before 5:00, and we were at the bus station in Belmopan about 15 minutes later.  The first bus to Belize City was scheduled to leave at 6am, but we were pleasantly surprised when it showed up before 5:30am.  It is a blessing to be on the bus that early...it was still pretty cool, since the sun wasn't out in full force yet.  The bus trip to Belize City only took about an hour, but as the bus accumulated passengers and became packed, we were all thinking how grateful we were that we spent the extra money on a taxi on our way to Belize the week before.  I cannot even imagine how horrible that bus trip would've been at noon, with the sun beating down, the bus so full there was only standing room, and all the kids crying because they were so tired.  Outrageous price for the taxi or not, it was DEFINITELY worth it!

At 7:00am we left Belize City on a bus for the border, and that ended up being a very interesting 4-hour trip.  It was getting hotter, the bus was crowding...and we were all thirsty.  However, there were no bathrooms on that particular bus, and neither were there opportunities to stop and use a bathroom.  So we were all trying not to drink too much, which was especially a challenge for the kids.  Somewhere around 2 1/2 hours into the trip, the bus broke down (I think it was over-heating), so we had to change buses as fast as possible.  That was a little crazy, considering we had to switch all our luggage to the new bus as well.  We all lost our relatively comfortable seats, and had to do some shuffling, and the kids were beginning to get very anxious.  We kept telling them that we would arrive in Chetumal soon, although arriving in Chetumal turned into it's own adventure.

We arrived at the Belize Immigration building where all the adults had to pay an exit fee before leaving the country (in Belize, they charge you as you leave as opposed to when you arrive in the country).  We all paid, and went to the next counter together as a team so they could stamp our passports and be on our way.  However, something happened that we hadn't counted on- the Immigration officers discovered that they had neglected to stamp Noe's and Aislynn's passports when we had ENTERED Belize the week before.  They accused Noe and Aislynn of being in Belize illegally, and detained us while the rest of the team was allowed to go.  Many thoughts ran through my head as they took us from one office to another- I was wondering what would happen to us if they threw us in jail, and what would happen to the team seeing as I had all the money to return home, and I was the only one who had the hotel and flight information.  We explained to the officials that we had all entered the country at the same time on the same day, and we had presented all of our passports at the same time.  I told the lady that they had run all the passports through their computer system...but she yelled at me and said I was lying.  We could only pray- and finally they decided that maybe they should check the computer to see if what we were saying was true.  Surprise, surprise, the computer didn't lie...and they allowed us to leave the country!  We were relieved, to say the least...but there was another problem...

Since we had taken so long in Immigration, the bus was no longer outside waiting for us, and our team was gone as well.  We were planning on changing all our Belizean money back to Mexcian pesos right there, but when we realized the bus had already left us behind, there was no time to lose.  Noe was carrying Aislynn and Matthias, and I had the backpack and I was holding Uriah's and Keyli's hands.  We began walking as fast as possible to the Mexico-side of the border, hoping we would find our luggage and our team at the other side.  It was a good walk, and it was hot, so all the kids started crying.  When we finally made it to Mexican Immigration, they told us to go through the short line.  When we got up to the counter, the man saw that everyone was Mexican except for me, and he said we would have to go through the line for foreigners together.  So, we had to go to the back of the long line and wait.  When we finally got through the line and out of the Immigration building, we were very happy to find our team and all of our luggage on the side of the road.  The bus had left us all behind...but we were back in Mexico.  We weren't going to let a little setback get us down!

We caught another bus and then a taxi to the Chetumal bus station, and there we had a half an hour to eat before boarding the air conditioned bus that would take us to Cancun.  Finally, a bus with air conditioning and a bathroom!  The airconditioning felt heavenly, and the bathroom meant we could finally start to drink- unfortunately it was a little too late for me.  I have been battling kidney stones over the last few months, and everytime I don't drink as much water as I should, I deal with another stone.  I was praying harder than ever, and I started drinking as much water as possible.  When we got to Cancun I was feeling nauseous from the pain, and I could hardly walk, but God gave me the strength I needed.  I was able to lead our team to yet another bus which took us to within a half a block to our hotel.  We were definitely ready to rest, but I was a little worried.  I was feeling so awful...


Mission Trip!!! (Part 4)

The story continued from yesterday:
We chose to embrace the differences, to learn from them, and to allow God to use the new experiences to make us into who He wants us to be...

Our only Sunday in Belize was full of new experiences for us. In the morning, we attended an English-speaking church service with many Spanish-speaking attendees. The Spanish-speaking group sat together on the veranda of the church, and listened as Jadine, the missionary we were staying with, simultaneously translated the English sermon into Spanish. It was a unique experience, and opened our eyes to the the need for Spanish ministry to the Spanish-speaking community in Belize. Because Belize is officially an English-speaking nation, most of the missionaries there speak English- leaving few people able to effectively minister to the Spanish-speaking immigrants.

After the morning church service, our missionary hosts took us to eat lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Chinese restaurants are very popular in Belize, unlike Mexico, so for many people in our group, it was their first time tasting Chinese cuisine. It was a delicious meal, and everyone enjoyed it. After lunch, we stopped by a local supermarket to buy more candy and marshmellows for VBS, which was scheduled to start in Las Flores at 2 o'clock.

When we arrived at the Community Center in Las Flores around 1:30, there were already kids waiting for us. We quickly set up our puppet stage and all our props while some of the guys made balloon animals and went to the streets to remind the kids to come to the VBS. We did VBS in Las Flores Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, at the same time each day, and were very surprised by the turnout. Over the course of the 3 days, we had the chance to share the Gospel with between 80 and 90 children. The theme of our VBS was a pirate/sailor theme called "Looking for Treasure." Each day our kids (Uriel, Claudio, Uriah, Keyli, and Aislynn) dressed up like clowns to do their skit, sing "Jesus is My Superhero", and help us lead the ever-popular "Sailor Dance." After the songs, we did a daily object lesson (which involved plastic bottles, a candle, popping balloons, and a surprise box) followed by a fun game (Chubby Bunny and the Limbo). After the game, I would tell the Bible story and teach the memory verse, which was reinforced by a puppet show and a funny skit with Holly the Pirate and Noe the sailor. At the end of each class, we taught a song that went along with the daily theme, and before the children would leave, we would give out candy, balloon animals, and do face painting. They were 3 very fun days! The kids enjoyed it, and many of them prayed to ask Jesus into their hearts. We hope and pray that the seeds that were sown will continue to grow!

The greatest blessing we received while in Las Flores was the chance to invest into an ongoing children's ministry at one of the local Christian churches. We met a lady named Ruth, and through talking with her, learned that she and her husband Alfredo work with the children at the church. They have a very hard time getting teaching material in Belize, so our team felt led to give her almost everything we had brought with us. We were able to leave the balloons and face paints with her, as well as the puppets, pirate costume and props, and the scripts for all the puppet shows and pirate skits. We wish we could have given her so much more, but we know that God will bless and multiply the little that we were able to give. Ruth and Alfredo are planning a special event for the children of Las Flores for the end of September, and I know our whole team will be praying for them as they continue to plant and water seeds in the hearts of those precious children!

When VBS ended on Tuesday, we knew our time in Belize was also coming to a close. Everyone felt a little sad, and several people said they wished that they could stay longer. Tuesday evening was spent de-briefing with our hosts, saying thank you and goodbye to our new friends, and getting our things packed and ready to go. We were scheduled to leave the house at 5am- Craig would drive us to Belmopan, and we would go the rest of the way in public transportation. I reminded everyone that night that the adventure wasn't over yet- but I had no idea just how true those words would prove to be...


Mission Trip!!! (Part 3)

The story continued from yesterday:
 Only 4 full days in Belize, and we were already falling in love with the places and the people...

After just a few days among the Belizean people, we all began to realize how many things we take for granted in our daily lives.  So often we complain about our problems instead of realizing just how very blessed we are.  It was a refreshing experience to be there, living life, and truly depending on God.  In comfort it's very easy to depend on our own abilities.  In unknown territory, when you don't understand the language, the money, the food- you find yourself turning to God much more frequently.  When we turn to God, the things that He does in and through us are amazing.  He not only takes care of all our needs, but He surprises us with extra special blessings a long the way.

One of those extra special blessings for me happened on the Saturday we were in Belize.  The morning we spent preparing for our VBS that would start the next day, but in the afternoon, Craig Fritzler took us to see the ruins at Xunantunich.  I was excited at the chance to see something so important to Belizean culture and history- and it was beautiful.  We were all a little amazed by the beauty- even the kids were quite impressed.  Suddenly, Noe said, "Look!  There are monkeys up in that tree!"  Now, anyone who knows me will know that I have always loved monkeys (I used to collect stuffed monkeys when I was young), and I have long dreamed of seeing monkeys in the wild.  I probably had mentioned that I hoped to see some, and my girls kept asking if we would see monkeys while we were in Belize.  After talking with the missionaries, I realized our hopes of seeing monkeys were slim- in 5 years, the missionaries had only seen monkeys 2 or 3 times.  So Saturday morning when Keyli asked me once again if we would get to see monkeys, I tried to tell her not to get her hopes up- it wasn't very likely.  Imagine my surprise when Noe saw the monkeys in the trees above!  It was a special treat for me and the kids.  We watched several howler monkeys playing in the trees for probably 20 minutes, and we even got to hear one howl (sounds like a jaguar or some other big cat).  The kids were so excited, and it was a highlight for all of us.  I think it was one of God's many extra special blessings for us!

That afternoon, after leaving Xunantunich, we stopped by the outdoor market in San Ignacio.  After browsing for a bit, we all ended up at the other end of the market by the river.  We were all drawn to the water, probably because we were so hot and sweaty, and as we got closer, we saw many children and families bathing and swimming.  Our kids almost immediately began peeling off socks and shoes, and the little ones stripped right down to their underwear to wade in the water.  The clear-looking water was irresistible, and before long, we all went in.  Some of us got soaked, and others just waded in to our knees, but we all had fun.  It was a refreshing, very Belizean experience!

Have you ever felt like there's a certain moment in your life that defines you, that provokes you to become all you were meant to be?  I think we all have many moments like that over the course of our lives...and this mission trip to Belize was one of those moments, for our whole team.  There's something really unique about being in a different culture, surrounded by the unknown.  You begin to compare life as you know it to the new way of life your are experiencing for the first time- and it takes your breath away.  Living, even for a few days, in new conditions, opens your eyes to a whole lifestyle that has always existed, but one that you never knew about.  As you breathe it in, you have the choice to either reject it or embrace it.  Looking at the Belizean people, hearing their laughter and seeing their tears, sweating in the humidity, eating their food and shopping in their stores, we realized that though Belize is completely different from Mexico, we are all the same.  We all need love, we all need compassion.  We all NEED a personal relationship with God to experience true joy and happiness.  We chose to embrace the differences, to learn from them, and to allow God to use the new experiences to make us into who He wants us to be...


Mission Trip!!! (Part 2)

The story continued from yesterday:
The price he (the taxi driver) asked for was OUTRAGEOUS...but we were SO tired of travelling...

I will be straight to the point: we took the taxi!  The price the guy was asking was crazy, so we did manage to haggle down the price a little bit.  Still, we paid too much, but I think we were tired enough that it was well worth it.  Just an hour later we were in Belmopan, meeting our missionary hosts Craig and Jadine Fritzler.  In all , it had been a 32-hour trip from Michoacan to Belmopan- and everyone did fabulous.  Even the kids did so much better than we had expected- God was definitely pouring out mercy and patience all over us.  We opted to shower before eating (which speaks volumes for how dirty we felt, considering that we hadn't eaten all day),and then went with Craig to Spanish Lookout, right in the heart of the Mennonite community, for pizza, burgers, and ice cream.  Our 16-year old Vicky was feeling homesick, and 4 of the 6 kids had eye infections, but ice cream can work miracles. We suddenly felt refreshed, and were ready for work to begin the next day.

The next 3 days we went to work at Belize Bible Center, the Bible school where classes are scheduled to begin on September 6th.  The whole team went ready to work- the guys taking care of the carpentery and the plumbing, and the ladies doing various jobs including spreading gravel for the driveway, transplanting plants from the Bible school land to the front entrance, and cleaning the church in Belmopan.  We wished we could've done so much more, but we worked hard and saw results.  The most impressive accomplishment: the guys were able to completely finish the bathroom of the Bible school- very neccessary considering the classes will be starting there in a few more weeks!  We are thankful that no one was injured or dehydrated while working.  In fact, the only out of the ordinary incident occured when a tarantula was spotted- one of the girls took off running and slipped on the new gravel driveway (thankfully, she was not hurt).

Wednesday and Friday evening we had the chance to minister to some of the local people.  On Wednesday evening, we had a special service for the Spanish-speaking people at Step of Faith Church in Belmopan.  Criag and Jadine pretty much let us take over the service, and we had the chance to share some of the things we had prepared especially for the trip.  We started out with some worship songs- I played the keyboard and sang and 10-year old Uriel accompanied me on the drums.  Then the kids (Uriel, 10; Uriah, 6; Claudio, 4; and Keyli, 4), dressed in their clown outfits and wigs performed their skit and the song "Jesus Is My Superhero" in Spanish.  After the song Kary, Vicky, and Pablo shared their personal testimonies with the group.  Going along with the theme of the testimonies, all the adults in the team performed a drama about God's great love for us.  Noe preached the sermon of his life, and I think that everyone was touched.  During the prayer time, prophetic words were given, and it was a beautiful time with our fellow believers.  We count it a privilege to have met each and every one of these people.  Their culture is so different but OUR God is the same!

On Friday afternoon, Jadine took all of the ladies (the men were still working at the Bible school) to another village to minister.  Once there, Kary "set up shop" and began to give free haircuts to all comers.  Everyone was a little shy at first, so I went with Vicky and a young Belizean woman named Celeste to invite more people to come.  In all, Kary did about 25 haircuts in a few hours- the most memorable for me was a little 4 or 5-year old girl who wanted her hair cut like Dora the Explorer.  When she saw her new haircut in the mirror, her smile lit up her whole face!  While Kary cut, the rest of talked and played with the kids, and talked with the women who were waiting in line.  It was an unconventional way to minister, but we connected with the people and had a great time just loving them.  Only 4 full days in Belize, and we were already falling in love with the places and the people...


Mission Trip!!! (Part 1)

So, I have been really lousy about blogging lately...in large part because these last few months have been filled with details and planning in preparation for leading our very first team on a foreign mission trip.  I know I have written about this before, but just to refresh, this was a long-awaited dream-come-true for me and my husband.  Part of our vision for our ministry here in Mexico has always been to awaken, teach and lead a mission-minded revolution- eventually we hope to see this area of Mexico involved in Praying, Giving, Sending, and Going where missions, both local and worldwide, is concerned.

We began to plan this mission trip more than 2 years ago.  A missionary family to Belize was sharing with us about how many Spanish-speaking people are in Belize and how little ministry they receive, being that Belize is technically an English-speaking nation.  Belize receives many missionaries each year, both long-term and short-term, but very few of these speak Spanish.  The Fritzler family invited us to come with a team of Spanish-speakers and minister to the Spanish speaking community in and around Belmopan (the Belizean capital).  After months of praying, fundraising, and having people sign up for the trip only to later back out, our team of 13, 7 adults and 6 children (representing 4 different churches), was confirmed in January of this year.  Since the middle of January, we began to meet together weekly to pray, plan, prepare, and minister.  Monday, July 18th, was the first day of the trip that would change our way of looking at life, and consequently change our lives forever.

Today I'll probably only have time to talk about our trip from Michoacan to Belize (it took 32 hours!), but I will continue blogging this week to share the highlights of our trip with you, as well as the many things we learned on the journey.  Some of the details will be boring, but I know some people who wanted to hear all about the trip, so feel free to read as much or as little as you want!

Monday, July 18th, we all met at the church at 7:30am.  We left at 8:00am sharp, in two different vehicles, for Guadalajara.  During the two-hour trip, one of the vehicles had some problems running, but thankfully, we all made it to the airport in a timely fashion.  Everyone was pretty nervous- we were all double- and triple-checking to make sure we had all our papers (passports, IDs, etc.), and the adults were concerned with the inevitable flight to Cancun.  Besides my family, only one of the adults had ever flown before, so everyone else was pretty overwhelmed when we walked into the Guadalajara International Airport and the check-in process began.  The line was LONG, and when we finally got up to the counter, I was amazed when they didn't ask for ANY identification for anyone in the group (must be a Mexico-thing).  However, we made it through check-in and security with no problems.  Before we boarded the plane I made sure that everyone had taken their Dramamine, and then it was time to fly!  I saw several of the adults hanging on quite tightly to their seats during take-off and landing, but we had a smooth flight, and everyone was quite proud of themselves for having survived their first plane ride.

We landed in Cancun around 4:00pm, and the fun began.  Navigating a large airport while taking along 9 suitcases, several backpacks and purses, and 6 children (5 of whom are under the age of 7) can be quite interesting- especially when it is hot and humid.  Aislynn lost her shoe (which was later recovered), and Keyli and Claudio (both 4) were crying because they didn't want to walk so far.  It was a little daunting, but we managed to make it through the airport to the bus terminal, and on a bus headed for Cancun's main bus station.  Upon arriving at the bus station we bought our tickets for the bus trip that night, left our luggage, and walked across the street to McDonald's.  There we enjoyed the air conditioning while we ate dinner and let the kids play for a few hours.  When we returned to the bus station we still had several hours to wait for our 12:30am bus.  It was SO hot (no air conditioning in the bus station), and we were all so tired.  We played with the kids as much as we could (with balloons and card games), and I even took my kids to the bathroom for a sink-bath to help cool us off and to pass the time.

At 12:30am we left on the bus that would take us to Chetumal, the city on the border of Mexico and Belize.  We were able to sleep a bit on the bus (it was air conditioned...yay!) and we arrived in Chetumal at 6am.  At 7am we were all able to squeeze in the same van that would take us to Belize City.  We went through Immigration on the Mexican side of the border, and once again in Belize.  As we were riding the van through Belize, I was struck once again by it's beauty.  Belize is a beautiful, tropical country, and being there with our group, after waiting so long for this, felt very surreal.

Upon arriving in Belize City, the plan was to take the local bus the rest of the way to Belmopan.  However we never counted on just how confusing it would be to be in Belize City.  I was trying to figure out how to get a taxi to the bus station, and all the Belizeans began speaking to me in English.  I responded in English of course, but then our Mexican team would ask me what was going on...and I continued to speak in English.  It took awhile to make my brain speak Spanish to our team and English to the Belzean people!  We had to change our pesos to Belzean dollars near the taxis, and though I had a ballpark figure of the exchange rate, I was so tired that I could hardly think.  I wasn't sure if we were getting robbed or not (thankfully, when I reflected later on the monies we were given, they were very honest with us)!  Suddenly a big guy appeared and said he would take us all to Belmopan in his van (his taxi) so that we wouldn't have to take the bus again.  The price he asked for was OUTRAGEOUS...but we were SO tired of travelling...


What I Learned at Kids' Camp

Wow, there is so much to write...I hardly know where to start.  But I do know one thing.  If I don't write now, I may never write again!

So, it's been a long time since I've posted regularly on this blog.  I've missed sharing with you, but what can I say?  Doing 8 ministry events in 7 weeks leaves little time for much else...so blogging had to rest along with the piles of clean laundry that I was neglecting to fold (and the only reason there was any clean laundry in the first place was because my husband did it)!  Today we finally had a break.  With the help of my amazing family we actually managed to get that laundry folded and put away...and something about the new, uncluttered feel to my bedroom inspired me to blog tonight.  I guess I will try to recap, a blog at a time, some of the things that have transpired since I last wrote.

We held a 24-hour Kids' Camp at the church at the end of April.  It was crazy- 30 kids to 2 adults- but we were determined to make it happen, and it was so much fun!  The theme of the camp was "Conquering the Land" based on the book of Joshua and the story of the Israelites conquering the Promised Land.  The first story that I taught was a story that I had heard many times before...the story of the 12 spies that Moses sent into the Promised Land the first time around.  The people of Israel were ready to enter the land that God had promised to them, but Moses sent 12 spies to investigate first.  When the spies returned to the Israelite camp, 2 of them were confident that God was with them and would give them the land that He had promised.  An overwhelming 10 of the spies were actually scared.  All they saw were a powerful people with strong, fortified cities, and they forgot that God was ever with them.  Because the people of Israel chose to listen to the opinion of the 10 spies instead of listening to the 2 that were trusting in God, God told the Israelites that they would wander in the desert for another 40 years.  This story has always resounded strongly to me for several reasons, but tonight I will just mention one.  The power of the majority.  Peer-pressure.  It's a little amazing and at times scary how we can be persuaded to do something that we know is wrong and justify it by saying, "Everyone else is doing it!"  We allow popular opinion convince us to adopt new philosophies and ideals instead of following the Word of God.  The voice of the two spies is drowned out by the 10, the voice of Truth is dulled by the roar for pleasure and convenience.  The message works for anyone, any age, any job.  The kids at the camp heard it and were challenged to be among the 2 spies...often the minority, yet the ones who will be able to look at the circumstances and still say, "God is GREATER, and He is with me."  I was challenged once again not to be swayed by popular opinion, or to allow other people's concerns dictate my actions.  The majority isn't always correct.

Apply this truth to your life.  No matter the circumstances, God is GREATER.  People will try to tell you that there is no hope.  That you don't have any other choice under the circumstances.  The general consensus seems to be that we are in control of our own destiny.  If it makes you happy, if you want it, do it.  Go for it.  There's nothing more important that your happiness.  Your convenience.  Your desires.  Instead of believing that you are IT, the you are the be-all and end-all to everything, that the only things you can accomplish are because of your talents and abilities, believe that God is GREATER and that He is with you.  Allow God's Word to challenge your thinking, and believe that the impossible to you is possible with Him.  I'm sure the Israelites felt just sick when they realized that their unbelief was the reason they were wandering the desert for another 40 years instead of in the beautiful land that God had prepared for them.  What kind of blessings could my unbelief be keeping me from experiencing?  I would much rather be reveling in God's blessings than wandering the desert.  God, please help me to be among the 2 spies...to believe that you are GREATER and that you are with me, no matter the circumstances!


What Not to "Wear"

Tonight we had a meeting at the church...a rather frustrating meeting which seemed to revolve around a "dress-code" for those ministering in the church.  All I could think was, "I can't believe how important this is to some people!"  To me, as long as no one is dressing provocatively, or in a way that draws unnecessary attention to their body, there is no problem.  I grew up with very conservative dress standards, and I went to school at a private school that had a dress code.  When I moved to Mexico, I lived for two years on a ministry campus with a skirts-only dress code.  I believe that dress code has it's place...and it's not in the church.

The story that keeps coming to mind is in the book of 1Samuel...the annointing of David as the future king of Israel.  David seemed the most unlikely of all his brothers to become the next king...and I think the prophet Samuel was very surprised by God's choice.  Yet God made himself very clear to Samuel in that passage: "I don't look at the same things people look at.  People look at what is on the outside, at the appearance, and I look at the inside.  I look at what is inside the heart."  I don't think that God cares all too much about what we look like on the outside, or even so much about how we dress.  He cares about the condition of our heart.  He wants to know that we desire Him, that we are seeking after Him, that we want to love Him above all else.  If our heart condition is straying from those things, He pursues us and draws us to Himself, wanting our love above all else.  Whether we ladies wear pants or a skirt, our dress will not hide the attitudes that are inside of us.  When I see a guy wearing a athletic shirt that proclaims the name of a certain sports team, I do not automatically judge him as idolizing that team.  We can wear the holiest-looking clothes (I'm not exactly sure which clothes would be considered "holy"...maybe a long skirt and a buttoned-to-the-collar shirt) and have very unholy attitudes in our heart.  Or we can wear sweats and t-shirts (the "uniform" around the house for busy moms like me) and be actively pursuing an intimate relationship with our Savior.  The clothes...well, they are just clothes.  They are just an "appearance"...not at all the real thing.

I will not contend with anyone who has different ideas for how Christians should dress.  I respect other ideas and viewpoints...but I do think that it just distracts us from the real issue at hand.  If my goal as a believer is to share the good news of the Gospel with everyone that I can, I must admit that I will be much more concerned with their hearts than with their outward appearances!  If it ever came down to telling someone what NOT to "wear", I think I would advise against things like unforgiveness, judgemental attitudes, untruthfulness, or gossipping tongues way before I would think about the clothes.  After all, clothes wear themselves out with time...but heart issues can have an eternal effect.


Listen to Truth

These last weeks have been so busy, and when I get this busy I tend to make mistakes, especially in my thought life.  In all the busyness, my focus starts to sway...and instead of keeping my eyes on the Author and Finisher of my faith, I start to look at me.  It's not always a nice picture- I can see all my inadequacies and shortcomings, my failures and my errors in judgement.  I start to look at myself and my own capabilities to get things done, instead of relying on His perfect strength and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  It all seems to begin in my thoughts...I allow little thoughts to creep in, sometimes subconsciously, without even realizing it.  Things like, "I can't do this anymore," or "This is too difficult, " or "Why me?" can start a pity-party in my heart that is anything but fun.  It is then that I realize I have a choice.  I can choose to stop the thoughts that go against what God says about me according to Scripture...or I can continue to listen to lies that go against Scripture and allow them to fester and grow within my mind and heart.

Last weekend, I was unfortunately choosing the latter over the former...and I was in a foul mood.  We were getting ready to help out at a Kids' Camp, and quite frankly my attitude was anything but saintly.  I was tired and wasn't afraid to mention that fact, several times, to anyone who was willing to listen.  Suddenly it dawned on me (actually it would be more accurate to say that the Holy Spirit was trying to get my attention) the huge mistake I was making.  I was choosing to listen to the negative thoughts that the enemy was throwing at me instead of taking a deep breath and listening to what God wanted to say to me.  When I took the time to listen to God's voice, He reminded me that His grace is enough, and His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  He reminded me that what we were doing wasn't just another event, but it was another opportunity to share the love of Christ and the good news of the Gospel.  He reminded me that He had plans for the camp that were greater then the plans that I had.  I couldn't very well argue with the things that He was speaking to me, so I confessed my sour attitude and asked for Him to fill me.  I asked for more of His strength, more of His patience, and more of His love.  I asked Him to help me to close my ears to the lies, and to open them to the Truth.  He did it all...and guess what?  Kids' Camp was amazing!  It was fun, refreshing, and all of the children that attended heard about God's great love for them.  It was a blessing to my life...and I almost missed out on it because I was listening to lies instead of the Truth.

So, what is the Truth that we should be listening to?  Here are just some examples:

  • Colossians 1:13-14 I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
    For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

  • Hebrews 4:14-16 I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.
    Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

  • Romans 8:31-39 I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.
    What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died more than that, who was raised to life is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughter"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    • 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
    • Philippians 1:6 I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.
      being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
    • 2 Timothy 1:7 I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
      For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
    • John 15:16 I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
      You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
    • 1 Corinthians 3:16 I am God's temple.
      Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?
    • Ephesians 2:6 I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
      And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
    • Ephesians 2:10 I am God's workmanship.
      For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
    • Ephesians 3:12 I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
      In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
    • Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
      I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
    When I have thoughts that are contrary to what the Word of God says, I need to realize that I am listening to the wrong thing, and begin once again to listen to Truth!


    Eye Drops

    I don't like eye drops very much.  Not that I've ever had to put any in my own eyes, that I can remember.  But I have 4 kiddos who all had conjunctivitis in the last week, so eye drops became a routine for us.  Not a fun routine, but a routine nonetheless.  I dreaded it almost as much as my kids did...it's not always easy to watch your child scream, kick, and cry (yes, the eye drops allowed their very worst to come out), even when you know that the eye drops will benefit them by getting rid of all infection.

    I'm pretty sure you all understand where I am going with this...it's such a simple lesson, but worth repeating.  The things in life that are the best, the things that will benefit us the most, are not always the easiest.  Sometimes they are hard and even painful...but in the end, they will bring about the best result.  I was recently using this eye-drop example with one of our youth at the church.  There are things in life that we don't necessarily like or want to do- things that are difficult to accomplish or require a huge investment and a lot of effort.  It can be hard to do what needs to be done when we only look at the circumstances.  Have you ever thought, at the end of a big project or accomplishment, "Wow, that whole process would have been a lot easier if I had known at the beginning what it would feel like at the end!"  I know I have, and it's true.  If we can focus on the end result, on the benefit of it all, it tends to be easier to get the job done.  If the goal is in mind, if we understand why we do what we do, we can plow ahead, our eyes on the prize, remembering that our work and effort will be worth it in the end.

    It's important to be reminded of this truth, because there are times when we all become side-tracked.  There are distractions and detours.  We can become lost on the way and even stumble and fall.  There moments, in all our lives, when we forget the end result.  We forget to look at the goal, at the huge benefit that we are working towards.  So, if you are like me, and you sometimes forget, let this blog remind you, let God remind you what you have been called to.  I believe that God created each one of us with a unique purpose, a unique mission to fulfill.  But there are many things that are universal, that speak to all of us as believers in the Word of God and followers of Christ Jesus, as we follow the conditions they require.  If you are living in a time full of detours or in a "lost" moment, let the Word speak to you...and remind you that it will be worth it in the end.

    "And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after awhile we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't get discouraged and give up."  Galatians 6:9 TLB

    "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers."  Psalm 1 NIV

    "Finally, all of you should be of one mind, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.  Don't repay evil for evil.  Don't retaliate when people say unkind things about you.  Instead, pay them back with a blessing.  That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it."  1 Peter 3:8-9 NLT

    "If you humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in his good time he will lift you up.  Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you."    1 Peter 5:6-7 TLB

    "Pride ends in destruction; humility ends in honor."  Proverbs 18:12 TLB

    "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30

    "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"  Psalm 27:1

    "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete."  John 15:11

    "When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come.  But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.  So you have your pain now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."  John 16:21-22

    "But all who humble themselves before the Lord shall be given every blessing, and shall have wonderful peace."  Psalm 37:11 TLB

    "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."  Psalm 30:5 KJV


    "They Worship Idols!"

    In Mexico, we are surrounded by people who are very religious.  Even though many no longer attend services at a church, most hold very tightly to the things they have been taught.  It is not uncommon to hear people talking about God, and phrases like "God bless you," "If God wills," and "Thank God!" are heard on a daily basis.  So when Uriah began to ask things like, "Why doesn't Emmanuel's mom let him play with me anymore?" I had to explain that some people feel afraid because we believe differently than they do.  "But, Mom," he said, "They talk about God too."  I told him that what he said was true, that in fact, we believe in a lot of the same things.  The biggest difference is that we only worship God, and they worship many different idols.  After that ensued a conversation about why other people worship statues and dolls instead of the one true God.  I explained it all as well as I could, wanting him to understand why we are in Mexico and why we work with the people we do.  His understanding of the subject was summed up in his declaration, "Oh!  They worship idols!"  That led to another conversation...which in turn led to a heart examination.

    Although we most often think of idols as being statues that people worship, there are other things in our lives that are or can become idols.  Idols are anyone and anything that we give more importance to than the Maker of Heaven and earth.  Idols can be anything that we worship by giving our time, attention, our love and our trust.  Anytime that we substitute God with something or someone else, we open the door to idolotry in our heart.  We may not bow down to or even sing to a doll or a statue, but if we are putting our faith in something else or looking for comfort, hope, or love in other places, we begin to give our worship to things that are not worthy.  We begin to replace God with other gods...we replace the Eternal One who holds everything for weak imitations that only seem to fulfill temporal needs.  No matter who we are or where we are, routine heart check-ups are good things.  Even when we think we are following God wholeheartedly, there can be subtle things that creep into our lives and interfere with our relationship with God and the worship that only He is worthy of.   Just as a computer virus can sneak into a system and destroy it little by little, there are things that come into our lives, sometimes unnoticed, yet if they are left there, they begin to grow and harm our reltionship with our Savior. 

    Now, when Uriah sees a parade in the street with people singing to a statue, or when he sees a friend in town that turns his head without saying "hi", he says, "It's because they worship idols."  Everytime he says it we have a chat...and do a heart check-up...to make sure the "they" is they and not we.  To make sure that we are giving our worship to the Only One who is worthy.


    For Who He Is

    A question that has come to my mind often in the last several weeks is, "Why do we praise God?"  I've been pondering how I would answer that question, wondering how the people that we are ministering to here in Mexico would answer that question.  I think a common response would be that we praise Him because of all He does for us.  That's a good, solid answer...after all, He does some incredible things for us.  Besides the love He showed us by saving us, He still shows us mercy and grace on a daily basis.  He helps us through problems, protects us from danger, and performs miracles that amaze us.  Praising God for what He does is a way of showing Him that we are grateful, that we love Him in return.

    However, even though we serve a God that is bigger than life, we all know that we don't always feel that He is near to us.  Sometimes we just have to believe by faith, but we don't necessarily feel His presence with us.  After all, the Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust.  Life happens to all of us.  We face problems and difficulties, heartache and heartbreak, danger and trauma, sickness and loss.  Often, it seems very accurate to say that, "When it rains, it pours."  Problems tend to come at us several at once, not one at a time.  If we have only learned to praise God for the beautiful things He gives us, I'm afraid we might be at a loss when we feel like we are drowning in trials and tribulation.  Which is exactly why I have been pondering this question and examining my own heart when it comes to worship: "Why do I praise God?"

    I want to learn to praise Him, not only for what He does, but simply for who He is.  Our circumstances change from good to bad, from bad to worse, but He never changes.  He remains constant, true to His Word, faithful to His promises.  I want to KNOW, in the very core of who I am, that even when I can't see Him, He is there- with me, every step of the way.  I want to be convinced that even when I don't understand the "why's" and "wherefore's" of the situation, that He has it all in His hands.  He is never taken by surprise or taken off guard.  Everything that happens is in His control.  When I hurt and ache, He never leaves me.  He is Beginning and End, King of kings and Lord of lords.  He is Prince of Peace, the Mighty God, my fortress and strong tower.  He is my Savior, the lover of my soul- the one who pursues me and loves me so faithfully and tenderly.  He is worthy of all my praise, even in the midst of the worst storms of life.

    This is a link to a video of one of my favorite songs.  It's not new, but I only heard it for the first time a few months ago, and I've adopted it.  I want to words of this song to be my heart attitude: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji2rLXr3cEU


    True Humility

    I am learning humility.  I find it's easy to preach, but it's a hard thing to actually live.  When it comes down to it, we are all quite selfish beings.  It is hard to admit when we are at fault...and often instead of an apology, we make an excuse or some justification for our behavior.  When we know that we had no fault whatsoever in the situation, it can be even harder to mend relationships.  After all, why should we fix it when we did nothing wrong in the first place?

    The biblical definition of humility is so different from our own human definition...and it's a lot harder to comply with in my estimation.  In Matthew it says (and this is my paraphrase), "If someone was mean or rude to you, or did you wrong or offended you in some way, then go to that person.  Leave church, leave your own private devotional time, leave work or whatever else is important to you, and fix things with that person FIRST."  Every time I read that passage, it hits me in the gut.  "What????  Why should I have to fix something that I didn't do?  I'd rather just leave things alone.  I won't even be upset or hold a grudge against the person that offended me.  But, confront the problem?  That's the last thing I want to do!"  That's my reaction...but I am so glad that the Holy Spirit doesn't let me rest at that.  It's not easy, and it's not always fun, but the Lord has been teaching me to "leave my offering at the altar" and go talk with the people that are unhappy with something I've done or said.  Sometimes, I know I did nothing wrong.  Sometimes it's all about a misunderstanding.  Sometimes talking with the person doesn't even fix it.  All I know is, I need to leave my pride at the door.  It doesn't matter if I was right all along.  I need to obey the Spirit within me.  I need to obey the Word, even when I want to kick and scream and say, "It wasn't my fault!"  I can't always make things right, but at least I can know that I tried.

    The ultimate example of humility?  Jesus Christ.  His example blows me away every time I think about it.  In the Scriptures that talk about the life of Jesus and the crucifixion, we see so many examples of people that were so angry with Him...so many that were so offended because He challenged their religion and their traditions.  How did he respond?  He healed them.  He cried for them.  He prayed for them.  He taught them.  He never defended himself, not even when they spit on Him and mocked Him.  He, who had every reason to shout from the cross, "But I'm right!!!!  I never did anything wrong!!!" remained silent, living out the Truth He knew, his heart breaking for those who couldn't see or understand.  Even in his last moments on the cross, His only thought was for them, for us.  "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  He who had every right to be offended, continued to love beyond our understanding.  And he left the ultimate sacrifice at the altar to "fix" everything.  For you.  For me.

    I want to learn from the Lord's example.  I'm sure I will never know what it's like to make such a complete, humble sacrifice for people who don't even like me, but I want to begin to experience it in the small things, in my everyday life.  I want to love the people who have hurt me, and I want to speak words of life to them.  I don't want my pride to get in the way of ministering to broken and wounded hearts.  My husband has used a definition of a clear conscience for years that I love, and I'll end this post with that.  "A clear conscience allows me to look directly into the eyes of everyone around me knowing that no one can say to me, "You hurt me and never tried to fix the damage."  God, let it be so in me.


    God's Story

    We are beginning to see the unfolding of a beautiful story.  God is writing it, and we certainly don't know how it will end, but are so excited about being a part of it.

    Two years ago we were asked to step in and pastor a church in a small town.  The long-time pastor had stepped down due to a personal issue, and he was ready to close the church, when God led him to us.  When he asked us to help keep the church going, we were surprised and very uncertain.  We hadn't planned on pastoring, especially not pastoring a church that, according to all the other pastors in the area, was spiritually dead.  However, God's plans are not our plans, and through a series of events, we knew that He was leading us to that small town.  We didn't know why...but we knew we had to obey.

    It's been two years, and the progress has been SLOW.  The church was spiritually dead when we arrived, and we were at a loss as how to wake people up.  We did everything we knew to do- we prayed, fasted, preached, taught, and prayed and fasted some more.  We held events, retreats, crusades.  People came, some people came to know Christ, but the spiritual atmosphere remained the same: apathetic.  We were seeking God more than ever, but seeing so few results.  Then last year, we had a breakthrough when several of the women went to a retreat and were filled with the Holy Spirit.  The change in them was huge, and there was no doubt that something supernatural had taken place within them when I suggested prayer meetings 4 mornings a week, and they said "YES!"

    So, we began to pray.  My husband was to pray with the men at 6am and I was to pray with the women at 10am.  The women were excited and we began to intercede together.  Unfortunately, my husband was left to pray alone as none of the men wanted to pray before going to their jobs.  The women kept praying, for the nation, for the town, for the church, and especially for their husbands.  They prayed fervently, at times sowing in tears, that God would raise up their men to be true men after God's heart.  As trials and tribulations came and went, some of the women dwindled, but the women that remained were falling in love with the Lord more each day.  They began to share with their husbands...and we all kept praying.

    Last weekend, we held our very first men's retreat.  It was hard to get the men to attend, and several backed out at the last moment, but for the ones who attended, it was an eye-opening experience.  They experienced aspects of God's character that they had never experienced before...and some of them were truly transformed.  They shared testimonies with the church on Sunday, and some of them have even approached us about getting more involved in ministry...very exciting, yet the real transformation was this: this morning, my husband wasn't praying alone.  Today, when my husband arrived at church at 6am, there were 2 men waiting for him!  They prayed and interceded together, and when the women heard the news in their prayer meeting, they rejoiced!

    Some might say, "Two men at prayer meeting isn't a big deal.  It was only one day.  They might not even be there tomorrow."  It's true that we don't know if they will show up tomorrow.  Even if they don't, no one can take away what we are learning from this whole experience.  We are watching God write a story here, in this town and with these people.  It has been a long, slow process for us, but He hasn't given up on any of them.  He is still working and still moving...and prayer really works!  We are seeing prayers answered...things that seemed impossible to us are now happening because ALL things are possible with Him.  The church that everyone wrote off as "spiritually dead" has a flame that is burning brighter every day.  God is breathing new life into His people, and He is awaking within us a new hunger for Him.  The beginning may be small, but it is still a beginning...and He is not finished yet!  Greater things are yet to come...


    Follow God's Lead

    I have been dwelling on last night's post, especially some of the last lines.  "He sees.  What you can't.  Rest in Him."  I began to think of just how true that is...all the many times in my life when I was worried or felt inadequate, only to learn that He knew what He was doing all along.  In hindsight it seems so clear, so obvious, but when you are in the moment and you can't see what the outcome will be, it can be a little hard to swallow.  Sometimes, I wish life had a fast-forward button, so you could see the end result before you made the decision.  However, if it did, we would never have to learn to REST in Him or trust that He knows best.  In my experince, trusting Him to lead you to the right place makes for an incredibly exciting adventure!

    One of my favorite stories from the Bible is the story of David, especially the beginning of the story.  I love the fact that he was a shepherd who seemed quite content to stay a shepherd.  He was not famous or noteworthy....just doing his job, day in and day out, and obviously using his time at work to worship God.  He trusted the Lord, and saw evidence of his power working when predators came near his sheep.  His confidence was in the Lord, and I think he was pretty happy with that.  I imagine that he didn't have lofty aspirations or thoughts of grandeur- he knew what his job was, and he did it.  What he didn't know was that God was using all his experiences to shape him into someone that he never imagined he could be.  God saw his heart and promoted him...and not just to head sheep herder either.  God had David in mind for a much bigger job.  Famous warrior, beloved king of Israel, a man after God's heart.  Reading about David's adventures and escapades, I am always drawn back to the beginning of his story.  The prophet Samuel, looking for the next king.  Meeting all of David's tall, handsome brothers, and God reminding Samuel that, "Hey, to me, what's on the outside doesn't matter at all.  I look for what's inside, what's in the heart."  When Samuel saw David, he probably thought, maybe for just a moment, that God was making a mistake.  If David was at all like the rest of us, he probably thought, "Who, me???  Old Samuel here is making a huge mistake!"  Yet God made David into all he could be because He saw what David couldn't...and David followed his lead and experienced all that God had for him!

    Fast forward a few thousand years to my story.  I was the shy, quiet girl who was quite content to stay in Wisconsin for her entire life.  I didn't have lofty aspirations, and I certainly never thought that I would do anything "exciting."  God must have seen something in me that I didn't know was there.  I don't think He saw anything special in me...He saw the potential that He put in me to do His work here on earth, the same potential He has put in all of us.  I was apprehensive and scared, but I was willing.  I decided that I wanted to find out what it was that He was seeing for me...and am I ever glad that I did!  Now, I am not famous like David, and I am certainly not queen of anything, but my life has become an amazing adventure of finding out what God has for me around every bend and turn.  He has turned my life into something wild, crazy, and beautiful, and I am loving every moment!  All of our stories are different, but one thing is the same...the things God dreams for us, the things He sees, are always greater, bigger, and much more exciting than anything we could imagine for ourselves.  When we don't understand the circumstances or feel confused, we can choose to follow God's lead...and eventually see the amazing things that He already does!


    Rest in Him

    Rest in Him.

    Rest in His love for you,
    which is so great that you can't even imagine
    the depths of it.

    Rest in knowing that
    there is nothing that can surprise Him.
    He holds it all in His hands.

    Rest in His mercy,
    His tender care of you and all your desires,
    all your needs.

    Rest in His incredible grace,
    which makes us worthy even though
    we are not.

    Rest in the fact that
    He alone is God and there is no other.
    Beginning and end.

    When we have doubts,
    unanswered questions and cloudy horizons,
    He remains.

    King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

    He knows
    the unknown future and present heartache,
    and He is not afraid.

    His plan for you
    is on the path He set out long before
    you knew Him.

    He is working,
    all things according to His perfect,
    unique purpose.

    Only He knows
    the end result, the final materpiece,
    and it makes Him smile.

    He sees.
    What you can't.

    Rest in Him.


    Good Intentions...Wrong Perspective

    I was watching Judge Judy the other day, and I have to admit, I love that show.  I love the way justice in her courtroom is so clear-cut, so black and white.  It doesn't matter to her if you were the right thing or were just trying to be nice- if you can't prove your position from a legal perspective, there's nothing she will do to help you.  Whether she's right about every single case or not is beside the point.  Judge Judy has legal integrity- she doesn't play favorites, and she looks at everything through her perspective, a legal perspective.  There are a lot of really eccentric, unwise people that are on her show.  There are also many others that tell a story that sounds totally truthful.  Many of them were taken advantage of and were even victims of betryal.  Judge Judy at times shows sympathy (ok, so not very often) before telling them exactly what they don't want to hear: if they have no legal proof they will not win the case.

    I began to think how similar I am at times to all those people who wasted time and money on that show just because they were looking at it through the wrong perspective.  They maybe told the truth, but they had no legal proof- and from a legal persepctive that's all that matters.  How many times do we do things with great intentions, but coming from a totally wrong perspective...especially in our spiritual lives?  We pray for sick people to get well instead of worrying about their spiritual condition (don't get me wrong here, there is nothing wrong with praying for the sick.  It's a wonderful thing to do, especially because we know God heals!)- we are often more concerned with physical health instead of spiritual health.  Shouldn't we be more concerned with seeing a soul saved than a body healed?  How often do we pray for blessing and protection for ourselves, without even thinking about the plans that God has laid out for us?  Again, there is nothing wrong with asking for blessing or protection.  Nothing at all.  But so often our prayers revolve around our comfort.  We pray for things that make us feel good in the moment...and feelings can change in the blink of an eye.  I want to change in this area in my life.  I want the good intentions and the right perspective.  Instead of praying for my personal comfort, I want to pray for the things that will drive me to the Lord's presence.  I want to desire intimacy with the Father more than I want a happy, comfortable here and now.  I want what He wants for me, more than what I want for myself.  I want to receive the blessings with joy and the trials with joy...because those are the things that keep me running into His arms.


    Mexico is...Different

    Whenever I am in the States, people question me about what our life is like in Mexico.  Things that I no longer give a second thought to are often things that amaze and intrigue people in the U.S.A.  So, in an effort to let you into my world and experience life through my eyes, I am going to start this post tonight, and I will add to it whenever I think of something about my life that might be different from yours.  Feel free to laugh, cry, be surprised, or ask questions...

    #1-  Here all the houses are built "stuck" together- in other words, we share walls with our neighbors.  Living so close to your neighbors can have disadvantages...lots of disadvantages, in fact.  The neighbor to our right likes to play LOUD music.  There are days when he likes to play it all day long, but he especially likes to play it at night...like right around the time the kids are trying to go to sleep.  It's especially hard when it's summer and the windows HAVE to be open all night, or when he plays music that talks about "666" and dancing with the devil.  Not exactly what I want my kids listening to, or what I want to be listening to, for that matter!  The same neighbor washes his dishes (loudly, I might add) EVERY night around midnight, right outside of our bedroom window (we can set our clocks by him...lol).  At least 3 or 4 nights a week, he and his mom have a screaming match while he is washing the dishes.  It's almost impossible not to eavesdrop, but we try our best not to...too many things are said that we don't want to hear!  With our neighbors to the left, there lives an old man (the grandfather of the family) that likes to stare at all the women as they walk by.  We try not to venture outside when he is there, but whenever we come home from church, he is standing right outside our door.  What he is watching out for while we are gone, I have no idea, but we have nicknamed him the "neighborhood cop."  He doesn't like us very well because we are Christians, and he likes to put screws and nails in our parking space...probably trying to pop the tires on our van.  Our side of the relationship with him?  Friendly, yet distant.  So, there are disadvantages to sharing walls with the neighbors...but it can also be fun.  We have a good relationship with the family on the left (all except for the grandpa) and we often have conversations with them through the windows or through the rickety back fence.  We have also developed a rough code for communication with the neighbor boy by tapping on the walls.  The lightest of taps can be heard loudly on the other side, and quite honestly, it's hilarious!  We have tons of fun with it...and you would too (:

    #2-  I was startled awake last night at 3:30 am by the sound of someone banging on the front door.  Our door is metal, so when someone bangs on it, it is LOUD!  I woke up Noe, a little scared and wondering who in the world would be knocking at such an hour.  He went downstairs to peek out the window over the door, only to see a man stumbling away in the dark.  In his hand was a bottle of alcohol...he was probably very drunk.  Once I realized there was no danger and I could breathe again, I was saddened by the situation of the man.  Even when the knocking scared the heck out of me, I knew I wasn't alone...I was sure that God was with me and everything would be alright.  Poor man, drunk out of his mind and walking in the night, must feel so alone.

    #3-  The "siesta" is not respected all over Mexico, but here it is.  Almost all stores and businesses in the nearby cities close between 2pm and 4pm, and often they tend to close a little earlier and open a little later.  Definitely an inconvenience at times, but you get used to it and learn to live around it.  Here in the small town where we live, you need to learn the personal schedules of all business owners in order to know if they are open or not at any given moment.  For example, the lady that runs the store across the street, always opens in the morning, around 10am for about a half and hour.  Then she reopens around 12pm and remains open until around 1:45pm, when she has to take her son to kindergarten.  She returns to open the store around 2:30 and is there until 4:45 when she has to go pick her son up.  The store is open from 5:30pm until around 8:30pm, and then the whole process starts all over again the next day.  Almost every other business here runs by the same rule: and the rule is that there aren't any rules.  If you are planning a meal or party and planning on getting anything from a local store, you learn to plan in advance...and if planning in advance is impossible, you learn to ALWAYS have a Plan B.  If you don't, you definitely run the risk of being left "high and dry."

    #4-  Here there aren't too many rules that you actually have to follow.  We live in a really small town and pretty much anything goes.  For instance, we can drive on any side of the street we want, or even right down the middle.  There are no stop signs, just many speed bumps to slow you down along the way.  I have to admit, it took me a long time to actually get used to driving on the "wrong side" of the street, even when only for a short distance.  But I finally learned!   Another thing that can happen here in town: there often are parades, funeral processions, religious ceremonies, and goat or cow crossings that can occur at any moment.  I personally have been held up by all three of those things many times.  No longer do I get frustrated...I'm just thankful I have a car with A/C to wait in.   In that same category, I suppose I can add that people can block off their street if they are having a party or anything that involves a large group of people.  We have had to take many a detour when finding that the street has been closed due to a birthday party or a wedding!  One more thing that isn't unusual here...we have neighbors that spread fertilizer (aka: manure) as part of their job, and they like to park their truck full of manure right down the street all night long.  When it's hot we HAVE to have our windows open, but the smell penetrates the house and it's unbearable at times.  No rules can have its advantages at times...but it can also have VERY significant disadvantages.  I would prefer rules any day...but it's all part of living in small-town Mexico! :)

    #5-  We don't have running water 24 hours a day.  They intermittently turn our water off and on throughout the day on a rough kind of schedule.  Usually we have water from 7am to around noon.  Then the water is turned off and it usually comes back on between 3 and 5pm.  It is shut off again around 6, and then it is turned on again from around 8pm until 10pm.  The water is turned off all night long.  Living here, we get used to the schedule, and learn to plan our dish washings and loads of laundry accordingly.  However, it is a "rough" schedule, so we have all had the water turned off right in the middle of a load of laundry or in the middle of washing dishes.  When the water is off and we need to flush the toilet we have to "bucket-flush" or pour a bucket of water from one of our reserves (we all have storage tanks) into the toilet bowl so that it flushes.  The worst is when we are in the middle of a shower, all soaped and shampooed-up, and then the water suddenly disappears!  Sometimes people here don't pay their water bill, and as a motivation (or a punishment) the town shuts off the water for everyone.  We have had the water off for up to almost 2 weeks- not fun at all!  We learn to live with it, but running water is something we no longer take for granted.  Water really is impossible to live without!

    #6-  Adventures with wildlife!  Here, in our little, rural town, it's not at all unusual to have run-ins with 4-legged, 6-legged, and 8-legged creatures of all sorts.  The 4-legged ones I don't mind too much, although on occasion the kids have been scared by overly friendly dogs tackling them.  Cows, horses, goats...they are all a part of this life.  The 6-legged ones include cockroaches which are all over, especially during the hottest part of the year (which is right now).  The other night, Uriah and I were running all over the bedroom trying to kill two cockroaches with our sandals...those things are fast little buggers!  We've also had several encounters with scorpions, which are never fun and usually include running to the clinic as fast as possible for an anti-venom shot.  The 8-legged creatures are the scariest for me...I HATE spiders.  Although there are black widows here, we've thankfully never been bit by one.  But there are spiders here, big and black that sit flat against the wall.  They can jump from the wall to the floor in front of you, which scares me everytime!  The other day I had an interesting encounter with a 2-legged creature.  I was at church, and during the sermon Matthias was getting hungry, so as usual I took him out to the minivan to feed him.  It's really hot here right now, so I left one of the sliding doors opened halfway so that we could get a little air moving.  After a couple minutes, I thought I was hearing noises up near the front seat.  I thought it was my imagination, but just as I was laying Matthias down in the back to change his diaper, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.  Lo and behold there was a CHICKEN in the front seat!  Now, chickens do not usually evoke scary images, but for those of you who don't know, my dad used to raise chickens, and one of my jobs for awhile was to feed and water them.  The chickens were mean, the roosters were agressive, and I developed a huge aversion to them.  I was pecked, bitten, and spurred enough times to actually feel a little fear.  In my shock, I left Matthias in the back and ran to the front passenger door, thinking that if I opened the door, the bird would come out.  Wrong!  When the door opened, the bird got scared, and ran towards the back.  Oh no, I thought as images of the crazy bird pecking at my son flashed through my mind.  I ran toward the back of the van, and the opening of that door scared the chicken back up to the driver's seat.  I grabbed Matthias, and with him safe in my arms, I tried to figure out what to do next.  I figured Noe wouldn't be all too thrilled if I interrupted his sermon to ask him to get the chicken out of our van.  My next thought was to just leave the chicken inside and run to safety (ha, ha), but I had a feeling that the chicken could do a lot of damage in a short time.  I decided to try one more time to get it out myself, so I situated Matthias so he was facing away, and I opened the driver's side door.  The chicken flew up at my face and I almost fell over, but it was finally out of my car!  I was so relieved...and then I noticed that the neighbors were all laughing at me.  I hadn't even realized they were there, but quite obviously they had been watching the whole debacle and were sharing a laugh at my expense.  Not that I blame them...I've had quite a few laughs over the whole thing since then, too!


    The Right Treasures

    There are more stories than I can count that have to do with some kind of buried treasure.  One of my personal favorites is the story of Treasure Island, particularly the Muppets Treasure Island film (what can I say, I am a fan of the Muppets) .  In the movie, the sailors overcome many obstacles on their way to find buried treasure, only to be overcome by pirates who try to steal the treasure.  When the pirates arrive to the place that was marked on the map with an "X", they discover that the treasure is gone...it was already taken by someone else!  The treasure that they spent so much time pursuing wasn't even there in the end- definitely the kind of treasure we don't want to be stuck with.  A treasure not there is a wrong kind of treasure.  Another of my favorite movies is "The Count of Monte Cristo."  In that movie, Edmond Dantes finds the treasure that the old, imprisoned priest told him about.  That treasure was very real, and it helped turn Dantes into the Count and spin his revenge on his friend-turned-enemy, Fernand Mondego.  This treasure is different from the first treasure.  The first treasure was just an illusion, something they thought was there but it wasn't.  The second treasure was there and it was real- but it was used for the wrong purposes.  The treasure led to sorrow and death...not things that people usually would like to accomplish with a treasure, and another example of a wrong kind of treasure.

    In life, we are all busy looking for treasure.  It may not be buried treasure, like in the movies, and we may not be so naive to believe in pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but we still search for treasure, for worth, for value in the things we do every day.  Most of us live our lives around the things we think are most important, the things that we value most.  A lot of the things that are "treasure" to us are good things.  Most of us would probably put a lot of value on our relationship with God, our family, and maybe even virtues like honesty, patience, and kindness.  On a daily basis, we would probably start to list other things that we value- a clean house, a good meal, a steady job, a neatly organized, independent life.  We often spend the majority of our lives trying to reach professional or social goals, none of which are necessarily bad, but they can often end up being the wrong kinds of treasure.

    The things we can accomplish and the things we can attain here in this life are not eternal.  We can feel successful because of the big, beautiful home we have, or the job promotion we worked so hard for.  Those things are fine, even nice to have, but they are not the things that last.  Sometimes they are illusions like treasure #1- things to attain that will get us to where we want to be, but when we get there, we are right back where we started, wanting more. Sometimes they really are treasures like treasure #2, but we use them in the wrong way and they end up being more of a curse than a blessing.  They often are things that we work really hard for and we think they will make us happy, but in the end they just bring bills or stress or unhappiness or all of the above.

    The point I am trying to make is not that these things are bad.  They're not.  In fact, the Bible says that every good gift comes from the Father...they are blessings meant to be enjoyed.  The mistake comes when we try to build our lives around those things...and they don't last.  People lose homes in the blink of an eye to fires or natural disasters.  Cars are totaled in accidents.  Beauty is lost with age.  Companies lay off  faithful employees.  Family members and friends move away and even die.  Relationships that we thought we could count on end.  None of it lasts forever.  It's nice while we have it...but if those things are the treasure we are building our life around, we may wake up one day to find it all gone and ourselves left with nothing.

    Are there any treasures that can last forever?  Of course there are.  God lasts.  Christ's love and mercy are for everyone.  The Gospel message can touch people...and those people will live forever in God's presence because they accepted God's grace.  Telling someone about the salvation that Christ offers each one of us, and seeing them accept that gift, is an eternal treasure.  It's something that can never be lost or taken away.  Investing in your children spiritually and teaching them to have a personal relationship with Christ is eternal.  Not only will they spend eternity with Christ, but until their "eternity" begins, they can share the Gospel message with many others.  Those treasures, the ones that are eternal, are the ones I want to reach for.  I enjoy the temporary blessings, but I want to build my life around the eternal things 

    We have been criticized a lot recently over having "so many kids" or for going on mission trips instead of trying to build our house.  We always are open to advice and we respect others' opinions, but when it comes down to it, this is my answer to the criticism.  Our goal as a marriage, a family, and a ministry is to store up the right kind of treasures...the kind that last forever.  We may not have all the things that others have, we may not have a nice house, we may not be able to do all the things we want to.  Our job is usually without promotion, and there's no provision for retirement...in fact, we probably will never retire.  That doesn't worry us.  Life isn't a guarantee.  We just want to spend the time we have doing things that will last beyond our own lives.  We want to love each other and enjoy spending time together.  We want to build relationships with others, caring for them and ministering to their needs, showing Christ's love to the people we meet.  The things we have in our possession now won't be with us forever.  We won't take our house, our car, or our titles with us to heaven.  But we want to take as much with us as we can.  Our kids.  Our extended family.  Other believers.  We want to be rich with the right treasures.  We want to arrive in the presence of our Father to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

    "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

    God, please help us to store up the right treasures...the eternal kind.  We want our love for you to be the driving force, the motivation behind everything we do.