29 September 2007

Sharing Snakes With Friends

We had planned to spend yesterday morning working in our house . . . (we're still staining wainscoating, putting up baseboards, etc.). Robert went out to the garage to grab a board and found a snake - - IN the garage. He has a very strong disliking for snakes, and so I caught it with some tongs and we put it in a plastic container with lid for the kids to enjoy. We did a little research and discovered that it is a Texas Rat Snake. For a non-poisonous snake, it was very aggressive. It struck when I caught it and it would strike at the kids through the plastic. Great fun for all of us . . . but not much got done in the house.

We kept the snake all day to show to our friends who were coming over in the evening for popcorn and games. They are dear friends and are a family of 6 just like us . . . only God has grown half of their family through adoption and fostering. (A very beautiful story.) An evening with them was like a breath of fresh air, for us and for the kids. We really had a nice time visiting and watching our 8 children play.

It was hard to not tell our news of God calling us to long-term missions. We have received wise counsel both from my parents and the IMB to not share the news with friends from our church until after the candidate conference which should be in March.

Here's some pictures of the snake!

BTW, the snake will be let loose this afternoon (in our shed out back where we have a constant mouse problem!)

A Heart For Teens

Long before Robert was called to pastor he and I concentrated our ministry efforts to reach teenagers. Robert served as youth pastor at two different churches. And among current ministries to families, men, women, and children we still very much have a heart for teenagers. I don't think I'll ever lose my love for and yearning for teenagers to truly KNOW God. The obstacles they face in our culture along with the uncertainties that just come as a package deal with the teen years make them vulnerable to so many things.

GodTube (the Christian version of YouTube) has a skit on it that is geared for teenagers. It lasts about 5 minutes and has no dialogue. What a phenomenal tool for connecting with teens. My hope is that churches everywhere are inspired by such effort and attempt reaching this very endangered group of children in our society. They are certainly targeted by satan; they should be targeted by churches and Christians as well.

Here's the link: GodTube skit for teens

Pray for the teens of our American culture. Do not judge them, but love them. Connect with them. Share Christ with them. Open your lives your homes to them. Pray for them!

28 September 2007

When Is Going To The Dentist A Blessing?

When it is FREE!

We've submitted all of our medical questionnaires, along with immunization records for the six of us. We actually took a full day, Robert and I, and worked on nothing but. The next step is the Dental Health Questionnaire that must be filled out by a dentist including x-rays.

We don't have dental insurance . . . in fact, we never have had. I can't remember the last time I've been to a dentist, and none of the children have. But, along with God's blessing in this area and our being very thorough with brushing and flossing, we've had no need. Robert did have to undergo root canal, but that was in Lubbock, before we lived here.

So Robert called a dental office in the small town just north of us to get an estimate on an appointment. We are living very frugally right now and are focusing all the resources we can to the elimination of our debt. He was asked what the questionnaire was for. When Robert told the receptionist that it was for the IMB, she put him on hold, talked to the dentist and advised that it would all be free.

Through the good times, the bad times, and even through the ugly times God has always blessed us. How humbling it is that a God so great and so deserving of everything we have to give Him (and so much more) chooses to bless us again, and again, and again.

And just for fun . . . here's some pictures of teeth!

25 September 2007

Our Meeting Last Night

Our meeting last night went very well. I have both praises and information to share. Thanks to everyone who kept us in your thoughts and prayers.

First, I am happy to say that we have a new friend. Our consultant, Ken, is a very nice man who is both knowledgeable and helpful. He's also very genuine.

We arrived at the hotel in Tyler about 40 minutes early and started the meeting 30 minutes early. It lasted for 2 hours. He learned a lot about us and many of our questions were answered as well.

We reviewed necessary qualifications, the mission & vision statements of the IMB, expectations of missionaries, our calling, our plan for elimination of debt, details of all the steps in the process of becoming long-term missionaries, schooling options for our children, and the first 3-4 years of service in which we will be apprentices. Toward the end of our meeting we tentatively calendered out the rest of the process.

I know the most sought after information from loved ones at this point is the timeline. Let me remind first that it is tentative.

  • We are in phase 2 of the process which will begin today with medical questionnaires (somewhere between 400-500 questions each). This will be followed by dental clearances, personality inventories and then educational & developmental evaluations of our children. After medical clearance (which takes 6-8 weeks), Robert and I will each have several writing projects to complete: a life sketch, statement of beliefs, and autobiography. Background checks are done and we will submit names for references (of which we will need 12 detailed references each.) After this we will submit college and seminary transcripts, have an in-depth interview with our consultant and reserve a specific job assignment (at which time we'll know where we are going). Phase 2 is the most time intensive.

  • Phase 3, which is set for March 4-9 will be when we attend Candidate Conference. This will take place in Richmond, VA. Here we will meet a lot of IMB staff, undergo detailed medical examinations, meet in small groups with others, have personal interviews, do detailed researching of our job assignment, attend a wellness workshop and home schooling seminar. We will not be able to have our children with us.

  • Phase 4, which is set for March 25, will consist of finalizing written materials, getting reference questionnaires in the hands of those who will make references for us, and final medical clearance for the entire family. Then on May 20 our candidate consultant will go before the Personnel Subcommittee of the Trustees on our behalf to seek their approval.

  • Phase 5, which is set for June 21-25, will be our Appointment Week. At this time we will meet with trustees and other staff, and attend a number of meetings briefing us on our particular missionary service and orientation. Again, we will not be able to have our children with us. Our actual Appointment Service will be very shortly thereafter and will most likely be held in Oklahoma. Our children will certainly be with us for this and anyone reading this is invited to come as well!

  • Phase 6, which is August 4-October 2, will be our Orientation at the Learning Center in Rockville, VA. Our children will live with us in a quad in a village and will be schooled in their regular studies as well as cultural training for the area that we will be going to. We've done extensive checking on this and are so pleased by all we've found.

  • Phase 7 is our deployment. We don't have a date on this as yet. There are variables depending on where we are going. It will be 2 weeks or less following the end of orientation as spending more time in the U.S. culture can be a detriment.

We do covet your prayers . . . that God will be glorified through this process and that all things will point to Him, that our children flourish through all the changes, that we make wise choices in the elimination of our debt and the selling of our assets, and that God would very clearly show us where in the world He wants us to go!

21 September 2007

Friends With Frogs

No, this doesn't mean that I have personal friendships with frogs (although I do understand that there is a wine loving bullfrog named Jeremiah who has befriended humans in the past!) It means that we are blessed.

We are blessed first and foremost to have a loving, faithful, holy, righteous, just, merciful God who is worthy of all our praise and worship . . . worth living every moment for. Robert and I are blessed as a family to have each other and to have 4 wonderful children that God has entrusted to our care. We are blessed to have parents on both sides who are alive, well and have loved God all our lives. We are also blessed in our friendships.

Last evening we dropped by some friends house to see their frogs. Every evening, at dusk, during this time of year, the frogs and toads come out in droves all around their house. Knowing that our children would be thrilled by the watching, chasing and catching of frogs, we received an open invitation to come by. It was a blast . . . not only for the kids, but for Robert and I as well. Our children and theirs together caught 15 of them (most of them toads). The frivolity ended with a great toad race! (I wish I had brought my camera.)

John 10:10 says “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” Our God is a God of abundance . . . in every aspect of life. The dearest of friendships in this life are just a small part of it. He overflows our hearts and gives us purpose for living. He provides for all our needs and then adds blessings. He is a God of abundance! (You can see more about this in my next blog.)

Tonight I'm thankful for the abundance of my God in the friendships that He's given us. Friends who have frogs, friends who garden, friends who paint, friends who are computer geeks, friends who camp, friends who are wild and crazy, friends who love foster children, friends who are retired, friends who enjoy caring for animals, friends from long ago who encourage our hearts in their following God. We are blessed with an abundance of friends who, just like us, are living their lives striving to please God.

So whether it's a great toad race or just an email, make the most of the friendships God has blessed you with, remembering that as iron sharpens iron, so friends sharpen one another. God not only blesses us with friendships, but they can be one of the many ways in which He shapes us.

And in addition to all of that . . . you learn new things through your friends. I never knew until last night that an Aggie could change a light bulb. I had always heard it took two. Gig 'em Aggies!

20 September 2007

Only 4 More Days

Robert and I are so excited about our meeting with our IMB Consultant. It's going to be this coming Monday (the 24th). At this meeting (which is technically an initial interview) we are going to be able to timeline out the entire process of all the steps to becoming long-term missionaries. In addition, we'll get to ask any questions we have. To learn more about the application process and the necessary steps for long-term missionaries, go here: http://going.imb.org/longterm/application.asp

This initial meeting with our consultant was scheduled over a month ago, but it seems that time has crept by. I think we're just excited to see where exactly God is sending us. As my husband has said, “When you know what God wants you to do in your life, you want the rest of your life to start right now.”

However, in the waiting period (of which there will be many through this process) things have been going very well. My days here of homeschooling our kiddos has been fun . . . for them and for me. We've had fun times with family and friends. We've begun a Saturday night service at our church. I guess the worst of the recent things that have happened was my meat loaf the other night. I'm thinking of writing a book entitled “What Not To Do With Ground Beef!”

18 September 2007

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today my dad is 69! (Just kidding dad!) He's really 68. Robert and I, and the kids will celebrate with him tonight. I don't know how can I do justice to who he is and the dad he has been to me with only words. So I will just share some things I appreciate about my dad on this special day of his (which should have been declared a national holiday by now!).

My dad knows God

My dad has spent time in God's Word . . . studying it, teaching it, delving into the richest, deepest truths of it. The importance of being in God's Word, of knowing it, is weaved throughout his life.

My dad has lived his life following God. He has the tenderest heart for the lost and has made sharing the love of Christ with the lost of this world paramount.

My dad taught me about the steadfast love of my Heavenly Father by being the dad he has been to me. When I've made the worst of choices his love has always been unwavering. His acceptance of me through whatever successes or failures has been unshakable. His discipline throughout my entire life has been unquestionably from a heart of love. I have known those who have questioned the truth of an unconditional love of our Lord. I've never had to struggle with this . . . in part, because of my dad.

My dad is fun!

He's been fun his whole life. I remember jokes he would make up on the spot. I remember jigs he would dance for us. I remember pitter-pats and hunk-a-chaws. This is a dad who would get down on the floor with us and wrestle.

My dad is gracious and accepting

Throughout my life . . . of a little girl who loved dolls and dresses, to an older little girl who abandoned them all for love of horses, the outdoors and all things tomboy, to the teenage daughter who insisted on making her own mistakes, to the single adult who thought she knew so much and wanted independence, to the wife and mother of 4, and now soon to be overseas missionary. My dad has always been accepting of who I am and encouraging in every part of life.

My dad is father-in-law and “Pop” extraordinaire

He is loved and respected by my husband and completely adored by my children.

This list is certainly not exhaustive. There is much more than I can put into words about this man that I am blessed to call my dad. We've got cause for much celebration today. I love you, dad, and look forward to seeing you tonight!

15 September 2007

"What Makes Prayer Work?"

What Makes Prayer Work?” Does the title just hack you off? It sure did me. The Christian community is so full of consumers these days. You want to know why the Christian book stores are full of self-help books? All the how-to's of prayer and living the Christian life? Because that's what sells. Christians in America are self-centered. There are numerous books on prayer whose focus is what you can do to get God to perform. If you know God at ALL, the premise behind these books is nauseating.

So I pulled down my live bookmark to Focus On The Family today and I read the above title. I'll tell you that I was angry before I even followed the link. But I was delighted by what I found. Click on the title below:

What Makes Prayer Work?

Now while it seems a little one-sided toward prayer (I mean, come on, that's what the article is about) don't forget that God's Word is the means by which we know God. Read it, memorize it, talk about it, think about it, teach it, allude to it, submerge yourself in it . . . you can never exhaust it. Have God's Word open in your home . . . buy it on cd and have it in your car . . . put it on your computer (www.e-sword.net offers a free download of the entire Bible with all the translations you want, concordance, commentaries (always be careful with these), maps, searches, lists, etc.). Time in God's Word is how we develop the intimate relationship with Him. The practice of (or more accurately, the privilege of) prayer flows naturally out of it.

14 September 2007


A balanced life . . . what a concept! The idea of it is taught, counseled, and sometimes (quite unfortunately) even preached. Balance in life is sought after by so many. But is "balance" really something to be strived for?

Jerry Dingmore was my pastor after I married Robert and moved to Wichita Falls, TX. Robert served as youth minister under his leadership. He now pastors Piedmont Church in Macon, GA. His most recent blog is about "balance". I'm putting a link for you to read it. It is very good.

Jerry's blog

11 September 2007

We Love to Camp!

Here's some pictures from our last camping trip in Arkansas.

This one is our Katherine lying in a creek that leads to Lake Catherine, AR.

Hiking turned in to opportunity to get wet. Pictured (left to right) Joseph, Cousin Whitney, Katherine & Elizabeth.

Grandparents with picture-taking cell phones!

Robert with his dad!

Grandmother and Joseph on a pontoon boat.

Robert, Uncle Bill, Aunt Shirley,
Joseph, Katherine, Elizabeth,
Cousin Whitney, Granddad, Grandmother,
Samuel and me.

Ahh! Camping is the life. Now could someone please bring me my bottle?

Spaghetti Night and Wasps!

Tonight we had spaghetti! There's not a clean face at the table. Take a look!

Dinner time is a fun time!

As for the wasps . . . I was stung by two this afternoon on my head while mowing the lawn. Luckily Robert was home at the time. I had an allergic reaction and felt very bad the remainder of the afternoon/evening. Katherine was with me when it happened and made a card that says "I am sad that you have gotin (gotten) stog (stung)." Inside the card our sweet artist drew a picture of me running from a wasp yelling "ahhh" and a picture of her standing by saying "Oh no". The best is the picture of the wasp. Then on the back is a drawing of her and I sitting on the couch. I have an ice pack on my head and we're holding hands! Her second drawing was of "a beautiful butterfly who saw the whole thing and then attacked the wasp when we went in". She is so fun and so creative.

Joseph, who doesn't even like the idea of coloring drew a picture of me. The first was of me smiling ("This is before you got stung."). The second was of me frowning ("This is you right now while you're hurting"). The third was another of me smiling ("This is how you'll look when you feel better").

Elizabeth drew pictures also . . . one of me and one of her.

They all drew pictures to help me feel better. So sweet!

09 September 2007

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A little history on us: We moved to north Texas in Jan. of 2001 where my husband began pastoring his first church, First Baptist Church of Anna, TX. That place was a MESS! It was a deacon run church, and as far as modern day organized religion, it was baptism by fire, no doubt. There were threats made to Robert that he would need to do things the way they wanted them done or he would be out. Robert, committed to doing things God's way (a whole new concept to some), continued to follow God. We were attacked in ways you would not believe. It all finally culminated in a "meeting" in which long time voting members (many of whom we had never met or seen) tried to vote Robert out. However, Robert resigned. One of the accusations raised against him was that he knew the Bible too well and always referred to it, which would then end all discussion. We lived in a parsonage at the time and had literally 3 days to find another place to live.

God, of course, who is so faithful brought us through all of it. And, as Joseph could say to his brothers, what they intended for harm, God intended for good. It is beautiful that God glorifies Himself in all things . . . no matter the motives . . . no matter if it is good, bad or ugly. His glorification is sometimes immediate . . . sometimes delayed. But make no mistake: God is ultimately glorified through all of it. My favorite phrase in all of life is this: “God is God and we are not.” Only He could take something so awful and turn it into something so good.

God confirmed to us that He wanted us to stay in Anna, TX (much to our displeasure, of course). But God has accomplished great things here. Robert started Pin Oaks Christian Fellowship in 2002. It is a spiritually vibrant, healthy church. It's success is in no way credited to Robert . . . but to God, who has allowed us to be a part of it. Once again, He is God and we are not.

On our side of things, we had to choose to forgive and to not be bitter. Bitterness paralyzes. It infects our thinking. It breeds hate and resentment . . . things that are opposite of who God is. And the choice to not be bitter, to forgive rather than resent, was more than a choice. It was a process; and a difficult one at that. Forgiving enemies who would never seek forgiveness is not an act of the human heart. Only God can accomplish this, and He has. There is no trace of bitterness in my heart. In fact, I think that if there were bitterness in either one of us, God would not have called us to "go" for Him. All praise to Him again . . . He is God and we are not!

I struggle sometimes with God's calling us to full time mission work. The timing of it (when things here are growing and so good), and then just the uncertainties of living in a whole other culture away from so many that we love so much. But it is a step of faith that God has asked us to take and so we are taking it. And based on who He is and His faithfulness, my questioning of it loses all potency. Sometimes I do feel a little “Gideon”esque (a great man of God, by the way) . . . I keep wanting to put the wool out to get affirmation of what God's wanting us to do. He's already confirmed it to both of us. I guess it's just the emotional side of going so far away from family and people we love and causing them hardship as well in our leaving. Please pray for me in my weakness.

The awesome part of it all . . . He's allowing us to be part of something else that He is doing. We don't know what it is exactly; we don't know what degree of sacrifice might be involved. But He is God and we are not. He is the author and finisher of our faith. It is our job to know Him and to follow; and then to relish in the privilege it is to be His possession.

01 September 2007

"The Lord Is Special"

Today is Saturday . . . and I'm remembering 'Saturday week' (my husbands way of saying last Saturday). After dinner we had discovered ants. Now for you non-Texas people let me clarify: I'm not meaning the relatively harmless, hard-working black ant. I'm talking fire ants . . . and I mean well over 100 of them. Some in the dining room, but most in our room (the master).

Needless to say, all adult activity was abandoned, Robert brought in the special mix of fire ant poison he keeps in the garage, and the battle began. I escorted children upstairs and instructed them to put on pajamas, brush teeth and clean the upstairs (which, in their minds, means putting all toys & clothes away and cleaning the sink and counter top in the bathroom). They did the first two in record time. But then they began to play. I ran back up the stairs and reminded them of what they needed to be doing. I added that mom & dad needed their help, gave an update on the fire ant situation downstairs and their opportunity to show mom & dad how very responsible they can be. They expressed their eagerness to do this. To help them grasp the whole idea of it, I told them what specific things needed to be done.

Half an hour later, with Robert still discovering more sects of fire ants to fight, the upstairs was 2X worse than it was to begin with. I was quite angry to say the least. I sat the children down on the futon in the playroom and explained how disappointed I was in them. I went downstairs and returned with a large black trash bag. The children now had to pick up their toys and put them into the bag, with instruction that they would only receive the toys back when they could prove themselves responsible. Katherine & Elizabeth cried, and Joseph was just disappointed. (Of course Samuel, who is just 1, was oblivious to the whole event.)

The large drum-size bag was full. Mind you, these are not just any toys . . . but the favorites. When I returned back upstairs the atmosphere had completely changed. My 5 year old son (Joseph) was leading the girls in a chant and marching parade around the playroom. As they marched they all were saying “The Lord is Special” over and over again. (Picture this, because it is just sweet.) Throughout the chant Joseph would occasionally add more: “The toys are gone but the Lord is special”; “We made a bad choice but the Lord is special” and the one I got the most tickled over - “Mom is angry but the Lord is special”.

Katherine then explained to me that they realized that obeying mom is more important than having toys. She had shared this with the other two while I was downstairs and that they were all sorry (not for losing the toys, she added, but for not cleaning up.) And then they once again began marching with jubilation . . . chanting once again that "The Lord Is Special!"

Well, there we are - - teachable moment extraordinaire! We made a quick huddle and I asked them if they knew that the Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). My 5 and 6 year old knew this but weren't sure what it meant. I explained to them that they had just lost all of their favorite toys, and yet they were acting happy and praising the Lord. When I talked about the joy that we have in our hearts just from knowing God and being His and knowing that He loves us, my son beamed. “I know exactly what you're meaning mom.” His eyes were just lit up with love for his Lord.

We talked some more about pleasing the Lord and they soon began another march around the room, this time chanting “Obey your parents in the Lord for this is right!” (Ephesians 6:1) over and over again.

We've since had some great talks about obedience and the joy that is ours . . . that is, the joy of the Lord that He gives us. We've especially enjoyed talking about Paul and Silas and the joy they had in the jail (Acts 16). The joy which has the Lord for its object, and comes from Him, is the cause of renewing spiritual strength, so as to run and not be weary, walk and not faint, in the ways of God. (Gill)

What a blessing parenthood is. And just amazing that God allows us to be stewards over HIS children . . . that we get to lead them to Him and teach them and raise them. And what a responsibility. Sometimes I feel very unqualified. But I've decided my feeling this way is a good thing. It makes me seek Him, and, in turn, our children learn to seek Him too. What's more important than that?

The Lord is Special!!!!