Friday, July 27, 2012

Allergy shots and a last update from St. Vincent

OK, Andrea will be home tomorrow night, so this will probably be my last post.  I wanted to share a few more St. Vincent pictures with you and also share something that God talked to me about this week.

First the photos:

I haven't heard, yet, how last night went with presenting the Gospel to the parents, but I'm believing that God answered our prayers and that they had a great response!

I also wanted to talk a little about allergy shots. My son has pretty serious seasonal allergies.  He doesn’t struggle as much as some children that I know, but it impacts his life.  In the spring, he takes four different allergy medicines plus eye drops.  Some of the medicines that he needs affect his mood and make him more likely to cry.  So because of all that, we started allergy shots this past week.  And it’s been a lesson for me about God.  My son DOES NOT want to get shots.  So he tried to convince me that “he likes his allergies,” “he likes taking medicine,” “he is fine because he can breathe through his mouth.”  I told him that we are believing that God will use these shots to help him get better.  In 2-6 months, he should no longer need allergy medicine.  In 1-5 years, he won’t need the shots any longer and won’t be allergic to everything that grows outside (OK, an exaggeration, but not much).  He will be free from those allergies.  Able to go outside without worrying that he can’t breathe later or that we will have to ramp up his medicines because of the season of the year.  However, he can’t trust that the shots will help.  He does not want to endure the pain, which is relatively short term, for future freedom.  And God showed me how I don’t want to endure short term (in light of eternity) pain to be free.  I say that I want to be free to live the life that Jesus died to give me, but lots of times I complain about the pain that comes.  I ask God to take away the pain and say that I am happy like I was – spiritually weak – instead of letting God make me stronger.  Truthfully, it isn’t easy for me either to give my little boy shots that he hates.  Starting today, I do the shots myself, but God is using this situation, too, I’m sure!

Posted by Deana.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Today's Photos from St. Vincent

I haven't heard any actual updates from today, but I did get these pictures from Andrea.  It looks like all is well!

The team at Kingstown!

Posted by Deana.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Photos from St. Vincent

It sounds like VBS in St. Vincent is off to a good start. Here are a couple of photos from today.

These photos are from Andrea's cell phone, but I still think they look pretty good.  Keep praying for the folks in St. Vincent that will be reached for the Lord this week!

Posted by Deana.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Guest Post Number One

Hey!  I can’t figure out how to give myself access to log on to Andrea’s blog while she is gone, so I’m logged in as Andrea.  So today’s post says “posted by Andrea,” but my name is Deana.  Some of you might know me, but many of you may not.  Andrea asked me to post on her blog while she is gone. 

First of all, please be praying for Andrea in St. Vincent.  Our group from Bartow County arrived safely in St. Vincent and is doing fine.  Many of our folks didn’t have their luggage when they arrived and just received it today.  We still have a few folks down there with no luggage.  In addition to the inconvenience of not having their luggage, the VBS supplies for St. Vincent are packed in the bags.  Please don’t misunderstand me – God can provide anything they need even if their bags don’t arrive.  However, please be praying for their luggage to get in their hands.  Also, pray for the men, women, and children that will be reached with God’s Word this week.  Please pray, too, for the power and fruit of the Holy Spirit in our group.  Hopefully, we will start hearing good reports of their work in St. Vincent soon! 

If you know me, you know that I love to read.  Again, though, you may not know me at all.  One book that I read in the last year changed my perspective on spiritual warfare.  The book is called The Devil Goes to Church by David Butts.  In the introduction to the book, the author quotes another book called The Sacred Romance by John Eldredge and Brent Curtis.  The quote is below:

"Satan's desire is to keep us away from communion with God.  He doesn't care how he does it.  God's intention, on the other hand is to use spiritual warfare to draw us into deeper communion with himself.  Satan's device is to isolate us and wear us out obsessing about what he has done and what he will do next.  God desires to use the enemy's attacks to remove the obstacles between ourselves and him, to reestablish our dependency on him as sons and daughters in a much deeper way.  Once we understand that, the warfare we are in begins to feel totally different.  It is not really even about Satan anymore, but about communion with God and abiding in Jesus as the source of life.  The whole experience begins to feel more like a devotional. (p.120)"

I thought this was profound and it changes the way I think.  God lets Satan attack me so that He can force me to turn to Him.  To show me that He will fight my battles for me and that I am powerless on my own.  This perspective, though, makes me feel like it's an act of love - God drawing me to Him - instead of an attack when God doesn't seem to be paying attention.  This perspective is changing the way I go through my day. I love it!

I just wanted to share it with you. 

Posted by Deana.  : )

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Eve of Leaving...

I am leaving in just a few hours for my 2nd mission trip. 

Not tooting my own horn at all.  I will only be gone a meager 8 days.  Not much of a sacrifice...really.

Many people answer God's call to give their entire lives to foreign missions.  I personally even know some folks that travel for months at a time to very dangerous places to plant the truth of God's love.

But this is a sacrifice for me.

And God knows just how much....

I haven't left yet and already home-sickness is plaguing me.  When I tucked my children in tonight I focused on every facet of their faces.  When I see them again they will have grown (ok not much, but some).  Zeke counted on his little 4 year old fingers the number of days I would be gone.  Ava and Caroline held me a little tighter as I did them.  I tucked my nose into the nape of their necks to somehow carry their sleepy scents with me.  But it will fade and pictures will have to do.

I am also resisting the urge to sneak one of Shep's undershirts into my luggage completely doused in his cologne.  Yes, seriously.  I love my man.  Like crazy.  He is my very best friend.  But I realize that this is just me wanting to carry them with me somehow.

Only I can't.

This is the hard part of the commission of God to "go into all the world and preach the gospel."  (Mark 16:15)

I won't be preaching.

I will be teaching, singing, encouraging, and sweating an awful lot.  But all in the name of the One who compels me to go.

Jesus is my joy.
He is my reason for living.
He is the giver of good gifts like hope, faith, peace, contentment, perseverance, kindness, and self-control. 
I trust Him.
I want to honor Him.
I want others to know Him too.

Going to another country to teach little ones about His lavish love is a privilege of the highest kind.  I am praying in advance for many to come to know about Jesus and his grace that saves.

It saved me.
I am excited to go.
I am sad to leave.

But Jesus trumps it all!  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Intercession (the sweaty way)

In just 3 short days I will leave on my 2nd ever out-of-the-country mission trip.  I explained in my last post many of the last minute preparations that I have to do this week. AND there are still lots of them.  But one specific way I got to prepare was this past Sunday night with this ragtag crew.

These are some of the dearest people on the face of the earth to me.  Best friends.  The sticking close kind.  The overlooking my faults kind.  The hanging in there kind.  The stubborn faith kind. For the better part of ten years I have had these two couples encouraging and challenging me. Not only are these ladies like my sisters but there husbands are like protective big brothers as well.

We share it all.  The good, the funny, the bad, and sometimes, the really ugly.

Our common thread is Jesus Christ.  He is the anchor that holds us and the light that leads our way.  We teach about Him, sing about Him, and try to live our lives in a manner that pleases and honors Him. back to Sunday night....

Two of the the six of us are leaving on Friday morning for our mission trip.  The other four circled us and prayed commissioning prayers and read the Word over us.

Let me set the scene lest you think it was picturesque and perfect.  We were on the back deck.  It was blazing hot.  We had a little wiener dog licking our bare feet and investigating with his nose.  We could hear some our kids laughing and playing in the back yard below. Some of the others were playing video games inside. Caroline sat close by in her wheel chair and observed it all while occasionally showing her disdain for the lack of attention directed at her.

In spite of the distractions this was the best preparation for this trip I have done so far.

The prayers prayed on that deck went ahead of us.  They will hem us in.  They will protect and equip.  They were filled with faith and I believe God was delighted to hear them.

Our prayer time took less than 15 minutes but it's impact may affect the lives of those we get to minister to forever....what an amazing God!

This intimate time would have been an easy thing not to do.  A blessing missed.  An opportunity wasted.  But I am so thrilled to have some folks who made the time and effort to do what is most important. 

I hope to bring back many stories and examples of God' provision, protection, and power displayed on our trip.  Prayer matters.  Prayer moves the heart of God.  Prayer makes us aware of our need of Him.  

2 Corinthians 1:11  "You must also help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lighten up!

I leave for my second (ever) mission trip next Friday, July 20th. I will be returning to the same church I got to minister to last year.  I am excited but there are other, more pressing, adjectives that describe my state of being at the moment.

Overwhelmed, frenzied, frantic, and obesessed top my is that for an "about to be missionary"?

There is just A LOT to do.  Not only do I need to prepare for our work in St. Vincent; I will be leaving my husband and children behind.  They will be in capable, caring and qualified hands.  They just won't be mine.  So I am trying to get the pantry stocked, clothes washed, bags packed, lists and reminders made and errands run before heading off to another country.

On top of all of that I will be gone on my birthday and yes, I am being quite the baby about it. 

I expect all who are near and dear to shower me with love on that day( my family totally set me up for this...birthday were always a BIG deal in our home).  Unfortunately, I will be thousands of miles away.... AND using my i-phone to get well wishes will have a consequence that my bank account won't want to pay.  So I am trying to deal, not freak out, and praise Jesus for the opportunity to serve Him inspite of the feelings that are mounting.  You know, where you are home-sick before you ever even leave?

I am hoping that I can convince one of my best pals on this earth to blog for me while I am gone.  She went with me on this trip last year.  We served, laughed, cried, worked, walked, prayed, and sweated our way through a fabulous week.  God did not release her to go this year.  We are both a bit sad about it.  The bonds shared and memories made from this kind of life-changing trip are strong and lasting.  The truth is~ you yearn to experience it again.  So, because I know she will be bummed....I want her to write on my blog in my absence.  Small thing to ask, right?!?

Anyway, amidst my current circumstances God has been telling me to "lighten up". 

I tend to gravitate toward the serious side of life on my own.  But I think His nudging for some lightness is timely and important.  Truthfully, even if I leave here with things in a mess and unorganized.  IT WILL BE OK.  Not my preference, of course, but still OK.

The enemy does not want me to go and experience a deeper need and passion for Christ.  He doen't want lives to be changed forever because of Jesus.  He doens't want us to depend upon Christ for everything in a poor country.  He doesn't want us to see miraculous provisions that God has in store.  He wants to thwart and stop any effort to bring glory to Jesus...the One he hates.

So here is how God used humor in my life to lighten me up this week. 

My husband and I were in the car headed to lunch.  While sitting at a red light, I heard the bing of my phone telling me that I had a text message. 

I pulled it up and saw that my dear friend Caroline had sent me one of her encouraging texts.  It said, "I am behind you, girl."

This is just like sweet friend of 20 years.  She knows I am stressed.  She knows I am busy and preparing. I figured she just wanted to just offer her support for my trip or maybe a recent blog entry.

So I texted back, "Thanks.  Is this in reference to something specific?" 

My phone pings again and her text says, "No.  Literally.  I am behind you.  Are you at the red light?"

Oh my word.

See what I mean? 

Entirely too serious....and in need of some major lightening up!!

Turns out she was headed to the same place we were going to eat.  We laughed and laughed at my unhealthy knack for looking past the obvious. 

So for the next week I hope to lighten up somewhat and prepare my heart for what lies ahead....

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When He answers my secret prayers...

There is a line in a song I love.  It personifies God as our Secret Keeper.

Is He yours?

He is mine.

He knows the habits I wish I didn't have.
He knows the lies I tell myself and sometimes others.
He knows each insecurity by name.
He knows the list of people who irk me.
He knows those I have yet to forgive.
He knows the secret longings....of this fragile, stubborn, purposed, and wayward heart.

I am not one of those people who is bothered to pray out loud in front of others.  But those listening will never hear some of the secret things I pray to just Him. 

For the past couple of weeks I have had some recurring themes in my prayers.  They are not necessarily bad, but probably not fueled by a merciful heart.  More like, "Ok Lord...get on with it.  Show these people that we really have heard from you.  Do your thing.  I am parched and dry.  I am not letting go here but could You throw in a little retribution for those who mock and doubt?"

See I told you. Not very spiritual.

I really thought this was just me spouting off some of my hot air.  Getting it off of my chest so to speak.

But then He speaks....

Secret words that you have spoken quietly, albeit firmly, in places where no one was sure to hear.

But He heard.  Every strained word.  Every desperate plea.

This was the scripture He spoke back to me.  It comes from Isaiah 35: 1-6.

"The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Kike the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts, 'Be strong, do not fear,
your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.'
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then the lame will leap like a deer, 
and the mute tongue shout for joy.  
Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the dessert.

I have highlighted a few words that I have dared to utter to the Almighty on my own secret, of course. 

My chill bumps reappear every time I tell it.  My heart swells with appreciation and gratitude.  His kindness toward us is incomprehensible.  He does this to me over and over.  Reminds.  Reaffirms.  Re-speaks the same promise.

I am undone.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Short Leash

Shep and I often laugh about God keeping us on "a short leash". 

Let me help you with an example.  Have you ever been out in a public place and seen a family with a toddler on a leash?  That almost sounds inhumane.  However, marketing experts have dressed it up in cute colors and made it a trunk harness instead of a collar.  But the purpose of this harness with a cord is to keep the toddler from getting too far away from their parents.  It isn't meant to deprive the toddler, only protect him or her.

If you have children of your own then you know which kid of yours would need such a thing.  Some kids come wired in a way that keeps them close by without having to be reminded.  Other kids come ready to tackle the world and explore unknown places.  These are the ones who usually need the leash...and they usually can't afford to have much slack in the rope.

Well, this is the kind of thing Shep and I laugh about.

In our 14 years of marriage we have had one situation after another to keep us close in.  I suppose if we had a rebellious bent we would run head-long away from God.  But we know better...He can find you always.  His Word tells us we can't ever go where He is not.

But finances, desperation, depression, hopelessness, close calls, and troubling situations have been allowed to stay as fixtures in our lives.  We laugh because it just always seems to be "something" harnessing us, holding us under His protective watch and guidance even when our feet would beg to go another way.

But there is also an amazing thing that happens with this close kind of proximity with God.  Faith blossoms, hope endures, peace overrides, grace oozes, courage come alive, mercy triumphs, and love is lavish.  As much as Shep and I want to fight the very things that keep us close to His will for us we can't deny the things that have been born and grown during the last 14 years.  Just when you think you have been struggling through making it day after day...God will surprise you with what He has been doing in the process.

This was shown to me at the beach in a beautiful picture.

I mentioned in my previous post that we were dealing with a tropical storm and a dim outlook for our week.

I just couldn't stand it and I felt like God was telling us to believe Him to calm this storm.  (I mean He does have this kind of situation pegged in His resume', right?)

So, Shep and I left the beach house and went out into the gusting wind and rain.  We ran out and stood on the beach and surveyed the gloom with our eyes.  Not behind glass windows but with our bodies feeling the sheer force of it.  And we both knew what to do....pray.

Shep and I (short leash crew that we are) turned toward one another on that dreary beach and cried out to the One who can calm the sea.  Shep prayed out loud for God to stop this storm, move it away and redeem our remaining time at the beach.  Nothing was held back.  We prayed with passion and purpose because God tells us to.  It felt so the most natural thing in the world to do.

But...most folks I know wouldn't do that....and probably think we were crazy to do it ourselves.

However, this short leash gives us confidence.  Instead of just hemming us in, it holds us close to the One most powerful to help His children.  We know we are protected and, therefore, enabled to do the crazy...You see when God keeps you in close you learn some things about Him.  You see how he cares about you.  You see how he cares about big things like storms and little things like vacations.

Did God move the storm away because of our prayers?  I can't say for sure, but what I can say is that He moved the storm.  It turned from its track and we awoke the next day to beautiful blue sky and calm seas.  And the other thing I know for sure is that He loves us enough to do such a thing.

And the reason I know...
I've been hanging out real close to Him for oh, the last fourteen years or so.

Monday, July 2, 2012

When it rains...

 It pours.  In our case it rained and poured 20 inches of rain in a 2 day period.  We were finally on our long-awaited heavily anticipated vacation.  We started the tradition of going with two other families who happen to be some of our best friends.  Unfortunately, tropical storm Debbie decided to crash our vacation party.  We arrived in Carrabelle, Florida on Saturday to overcast skies and a gloomy forecast.  Within twenty-four hours we were smack dab in the middle of flooding rains, stormy seas, and 50 to 60 mph wind gusts.  To make things even more fun...we lost power...for about 16 hours.  It felt longer with six adults and seven kids piled into a beach house.  Even thinking about it makes me start to have an uncontrollable tick.
 By God's grace and some good humor we managed to make it through and not kill each other.  We were determined to believe God to roll the storm on through and give us a glorious ending in exchange for the gloomy start.  He did not disappoint.  You saw the ocean before the storm....
 This was the picture of complete peace just 48 short hours later.  Didn't I tell you?  Glorious.  That is what my God can do.  He is the Master of the Sea and He still calms storms.  We are fresh off of one and we had a front row seat to watch Him work.  Each day we would look at the forecast just for fun.  The storm lasted all day on Sunday and Monday but we felt strongly that God would grant us good weather.  So we believed Him to do just that.  The forecast still predicted rain for the whole week until Friday.  But God showed a different forecast.  We couldn't find a cloud in the sky....
 We spent Tuesday through Saturday swimming, laughing, eating, playing, and enjoying every ray of sunshine that God graciously gave us.  We did not take one moment of it for granted.  Shep got to kayak and fish.  Caroline got to ride waves and work on her tan.
 Ava led us on walks down the beach to our little hideaway island.  We love it because it is virtually secluded and, at low tide, it houses hundreds of hermit crabs.
 Zeke entertained us with hundreds of questions and endless chatter.  I love this picture because he and his friend were battling it out with water guns.
Part of the fun of vacation is having daddy with us all day every day.  This man exudes optimism.  His resolve and jovial nature kept us all cool during the raging storm.  Anyone that knows my man can't help but love him.  He sells me on himself over and over again without even trying.  We have our ups and downs as all couples do...but, dang, I sure am crazy about him!  We made pretty incredible memories and learned some valuable lessons on this particular trip.  I look forward to hearing this master story-teller relive them with his words for years to come.
 Me and my little man being silly....
 Me and my girls...
Our family....