Tag Archives: Family

Always Under Construction…

“Partnering with Jesus to advance his kingdom is often difficult and unpleasant, but there are some unexpected upsides.  It is never boring.” – Chris Travis, Insignificant

As is often the case when embarking into an unknown area, we venture out on highways that we have not yet traveled.  We find ourselves leaning forward as we wonder what will be around the next bend.  The anticipation of a new landscape, a breathtaking view, the wonders of majestic mountains coupled with patchwork quilts of farmland never grows old.  Every journey contains a choice – will I eagerly look to what is coming, or dread the unknown?

Image result for cartoon people on bus about choice

A few weeks ago, we were able to venture out of the city on a long weekend to visit Quilotoa, a crater lake located high in the Andes Mountains.  As is our custom, we grabbed a mattress and a blanket, threw the kids in the back (once we were outside city limits), and proceeded on our adventure.  We traveled a bit and then veered off the main highway to the winding road which would take us deep into the mountains.  Once we found a quiet little pullout, we unpacked our picnic lunch and enjoyed the solitude of rolling hills and puffy clouds.

 

We are always amazed at these spaces and God’s creative handiwork.  We continued to wind around bend after bend, switchback after switchback, particularly thankful that the truck continues to be a faithful and trustworthy companion on our journeys.  Of course, we consider how awful it would be to have a breakdown so far from a main road, yet remain grateful for the many miles we have traveled together without significant incident. As we continue on our way, we eventually happen past a much needed gas station, and, while standing at our pump out in the middle of rural Ecuador, greet a gentleman on a motorcycle who arrived the previous night from Kansas City.  He has been in country less than twelve hours and, with his limited Spanish, is making his way to the coast, stopping at the crater along the way.  Among other things, we discuss with him the beauty of the surroundings and the amazing upkeep of the road we have been on.  It has been lined with flowers in the town, and seemed somewhat new.  We wish him well and pull out ahead of him, eager to continue our journey but marveling at the coincidence of meeting a lone English speaking tourist at a random gas stop in the middle of the mountains of Ecuador.

As the kilometers tick away, I’m not sure why we continue to be surprised when we meet unexpected obstacles, but our North American roots run deep – we often expect the way something is done in the US of A to be the same regardless of where we are.  In this case, our previous musings on the newness of the road bounces up against our unexpected reality that maybe, just maybe, they hadn’t quite finished the project. We must have somehow missed the “construction ahead” signs (there weren’t any) and we had suddenly ventured into some serious change of roadbed.

No flag men, no pilot car, no detour signs; the inconveniences we dread seeing in the States when we are in a hurry to arrive at our destination were nowhere to be found, and, in actuality, nonexistent.

Road under some SERIOUS construction.

Imagine the immediate conversation in the car: “Which lane are we supposed to take?”

“Are we even on the right road?”

“Truck ahead! Can you get around him?”

“Do we try to go forward, or should we turn around and go back?”

“We’ve come this far…there is no way we can change our investment of time and energy at this point!”

After all is said and done and I reflect on this trip from the safety and comfort of my living room chair, I can’t help but notice the parallels of our life journey right now.  We are currently at the crossroads of some major decisions.  Our time here at Alliance Academy International is drawing to a close, and we have been working through the immense emotions and changes that come with a decision such as this.  Many different roads stretch out before us – great choices and opportunities – but the fearful part of me is concerned we will choose the wrong one.  In some ways, certain actions can be interpreted as barriers and discernment is needed to determine if it is simply a detour, a roadblock, or a closed road.  Many people have valid opinions and insight and we must continue to weed through godly counsel as well as personal preferences.  This road is bumpy, winding, and we can’t really see very far in front of us at this point.  To be completely forthright, there are many days where I question everything about what we are doing and where we are going.  Unfortunately, working through all of these thoughts means a whole lot of uncomfortable introspection and a spotlight on my own shortcomings.

Honestly, once in a while, occasionally, sometimes, frequently I want to do things my own way, with my own best interests in mind.   I want to pick my path, what is best for me.  I want to be selfish and choose myself first. I want to not feel bad about the way I treat my husband, or how I speak in anger or frustration towards my kids.  Keeping the best interests of myself in the forefront means I have the right to hang on to past hurts because it is justified to feel this way.  Sure, I may cast my cares down at the feet of the Lord, but pride makes me pick them back up, time and time again.  And, when choices are on an even bigger scale, involving the future and where we will live next, where we will serve in our next phase of life, certainly I have the right to pick and choose based on how I feel and what I will get out of it, right?

In the minds of the world, everything I wrote in the paragraph above would not only be accepted, but perhaps even honored.  It’s understood that I should “get mine”!  But, I have learned over the recent years that my way, although it is self-serving and may sound or feel satisfying in the short-term, is by no means the best way.

Thank the Lord that He has drawn me to himself and called me to be His own!  He chose me, and, each and every day, my choice, despite how much I fail or fall short, is to follow Christ, no matter what.

I don’t have to do anything because he has done it all, through his sacrifice for me.  But, my response, due to my thankfulness for this gift, is to serve him with all that I have and all that I am.  I strive to become more and more like him every day – I want to be more Christ-like today than I was yesterday.  Granted, it is definitely not easy and I fail miserably all the time (see paragraph about selfish tendencies listed above!) but, blessedly, I am forgiven for my shortcomings, so I get up and try to be obedient in letting him lead my life again and again.

The beauty of all this (there’s actually a lot but I’m picking this one today…) is that His plan for me is promised to be SOOOOO much better than my plan for me.

It is promised in John 10:10 and I can claim and trust that promise for my life!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (ESV)

Or, if you read it in the NLT version, it shows how it is beyond what I can comprehend…

A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

This life of a Christian is never boring, and it is full of adventure when Jesus IS the pilot car.  I am immensely thankful that I don’t have to venture out alone as we have the gift of the Holy Spirit leading us along.  We know by seeking Him and aligning our hearts with his, he will auto-correct us if we are veering off course.  By  immersing ourselves in his Word while strengthening our relationship through prayer and communication with Him, we can be assured that we are traveling His road, in His time, for His glory. He alone can provide the assurance in each step, each decision, because we trust in his leading, even if we are unclear where it is taking us at any given moment.

Despite the twists and turns and actual obstacles in the road (once again, our truck proved herself to be true as she cleared water pouring over the road and easily bounced over boulders), we eventually reached Quilotoa and were immensely rewarded by the wonder and beauty of God’s creation. Surrounded by snow capped mountains, the lake reflected the ever-changing hues of the sky.  The journey was well worth it due to the destination.  In this case, we were able to see the end product of our journey in just a matter of hours.

 

Thankfully, as Christians, we also know the ultimate destination at the end of our time here on earth.  We have the assurance of heaven due to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection for each and every one of us. So, we trust in Him to continue to guide us as we follow wherever he leads.

Things are changing for us…including our location and calling. The new chapter is becoming more clear each and every day. Today, we choose joy in the opportunities coming into focus and continue to experience a peace beyond all understanding as we travel the unknown road into tomorrow.

This is what the Lord says – Your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.  Oh, that you had listened to my commands!  Then you would have peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.” Isaiah 48:17-18 (NLT)

Thankful to be a small part of this amazing adventure ~

Sarah

PS.  As I have been writing this over the past days, a news story was developing about a tragic accident along the very road we had traveled a few weeks prior.  The excessive rains we have experienced lately were a key factor.  Once again, we are overwhelmed with thankfulness for our safety and protection in this country, and our hearts are heavy for those who are victims of this sad event.  May we ever be mindful of how fleeting life is, and how the urgency to share Christ with others should be our first thought and action in whatever our circumstance.

El bus cayó a un barranco debido a que el puente del lugar colapsó. Tres personas resultaron heridas una de las cuales falleció. Foto: cortesía Bomberos de Pujilí

Photo credit: El Comercio

Snapshots of Summer

*At the most recent meeting of NBA (Neglectful Bloggers Anonymous)…*

Hi.  I’m Sarah and it’s been six months since my last blog post.

“Hi, Sarah”

What???

My deepest apologies.  It probably has seemed like we have, more or less, dropped off the face of the earth.  Rest assured, we haven’t.  Life has continued on as it always does and blog posts sometimes just don’t make the cut when prioritizing how to spend our days. While the road is paved with good intentions, the internet and computer access seem to be constantly under construction.

While the last few months have been a bit of a settling in period for getting used to “daily life without Josh” (more on that transition in an upcoming post), we had a wonderful summer filled with tons of time around family and friends.  Through graduation parties and baseball games, we crossed paths with many people who made a huge effort to make us feel welcome and loved in our respite months of summer. Here’s a sampling of some of the memories…

lake-2016-058 lake-2016-056 lake-2016-028 lake-2016-020summer-2016-333 summer-2016-244summer-2016-300 summer-2016-316 summer-2016-230 summer-2016-099summer-2016-173 summer-2016-166summer-2016-147 summer-2016-121summer-2016-113 summer-2016-164 summer-2016-087 summer-2016-080summer-2016-019img_20160612_174917 img_20160805_134113img_20160724_150144076
As we reflect back on all the people we were able to see, we see how blessed we are to have such a diverse group of people who share in our ministry and support us in so many ways. We are thankful for each and every one of you…pictured or not!

Stay tuned for future posts about some other summer activities, updates about Josh and our family, and what is happening here at Alliance Academy International.  I promise it won’t be six months until the next communication. Until then…

Sarah

I Will Follow

2012-07-03_06-51-01_376Easter has always been a time filled with memories for me.  My dad, who died of a brain tumor at the age of 37, passed away during Holy Week thirty-five years ago. IMG_8961 I was twelve at the time, and remember vividly how dad had hoped to celebrate Easter in heaven that year.  God granted him this desire and goodness knows, all heaven rejoiced as another believer was called home to the fold.  Every year in this season, I am drawn backward in time to his celebration of life, with strains of “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” playing through my head as I vividly see our family walking to the front of the church where the casket holding my dad’s body was waiting.  I see myself in my new Easter dress a whole day early, and I wish I could recollect who sewed it for me, because my mom had been busy making funeral plans.

Unable to stop myself, I go further back to 1976, sitting in my Shawn Cassidy postered room, as my mom and dad told me that dad had a brain tumor.

I remembered that I laughed.

I was all of nine and had no idea how to handle that kind of news.

IMG_8963I have a mixture of garbled memories from the time of his illness…him choking on his food when I was home alone with him, the hospital bed moved into the piano room, mascara running down my Aunt Ruth’s face when dad would have such severe headaches that he couldn’t sit up…a small glimpse at some of the tough ones when you deal with cancer.  Cancer sucks the life right out of you and wreaks havoc on those near and dear.

But, thankfully, shining even more vividly are peaceful moments from the last days.  When a bible was placed in his hands, Dad, who had lost his sight because of the tumor, would “read” Scripture to us as eloquently as if truly seeing the words.  The power of God’s word, memorized, sprung forth and made an eternal impression on me.  I was able to see how biblical truth, stored and treasured in my dad’s heart, poured out to comfort and overflow into our lives.

When I discovered your words, I devoured them.
    They are my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
    O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.  Jeremiah 15:16 (NLT)

Later, after weeks of being unable to talk due to the tumor progression, miraculously, Dad was able to speak the Lord’s Prayer with us during family devotion time.  Furthermore, he raised his hands and pronounced the blessing on his family:

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NLT)

He died that night.  The knock on the door, the whispered “daddy’s gone”, the long look at the still body but absolutely certain you can still see his chest moving, the coroner arriving despite the late hour, burned into memory.

The funeral was held the day before Easter – but Sunday was coming.

I’d like to say that my faith had never wavered, that I had never gone astray.  I’d like to say that the impact my dad and mom had on my life was instilled so deep that I never once questioned the love of Christ.  Dad was death #2 in a list of six in seven years.  I was going to get awfully good at this grief thing…and I figured out auto-pilot pretty quickly.IMG_8041

But, thankfully, Sunday was coming.  In fact, Sunday came and stayed.  It was there day in and day out.  Sometimes I saw glimpses of it, sometimes I was overwhelmed by it.  I heard it in my Uncle Kenny singing “Jesus Loves Me” loud and strong at my six year old cousin Heidi’s funeral, just a month after my daddy died.  Years later, at Heidi’s brother Matt’s funeral, Uncle Kenny is behind me in the church, singing hymns with passion and conviction that can only come from a faith tested, but refined.

A few weeks ago, in Montana, we’re in church the Sunday morning before Steve’s memorial service, and I’m singing with the hope that can only come from a God who loves us. Overwhelmed, I stop.  Brad leans over and whispers, “You thinking of Uncle Kenny?”

Oh, to keep singing when the storm is rolling in.

Sundays are here to stay.  Because of this, we can sing with abandon, with hope, and with purpose.  Because the Sunday of all Sundays, where memories rest heavy, points us to the empty tomb and the cross.

As Brad shared with the AAI community at the Easter assembly just last week:

Because of Easter, the cross is transformed from an ugly symbol of
pain, suffering, 
and death into a
beautiful promise of victory, hope, and celebration.

We cling because we know where we place our trust.  We place our trust in the one who has risen from the dead, who has conquered sin and death, and who has left us with the Holy Spirit alive and in us until he comes again.

3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this
Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead,
we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for,
including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!
God is keeping careful watch over us and the future.
The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up
with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold
put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith
put through this suffering comes out proved genuine.
When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that
God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him,
yet you trust him—with laughter and singing.
Because you kept on believing,you’ll get what you’re
looking forward to: total salvation. 1 Peter 1:3-9 (MSG)

This Easter, I know it to be true.  This past Sunday, as we sang “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Maher to close the service, I look over to my dear husband, who just weeks ago lost his brother, and his hand is outstretched in praise and adoration to the One who holds our future.

Once again, Easter is further etched in my mind as hope and joy despite circumstances.

Through the calm and through the storm, we know and trust the power of the empty grave. And, because of this power, we will continue to follow Him, obedient to His call, wherever it leads – all while singing like Uncle Kenny, because we know our future is safe and secure in the arms of Christ.

When the sea is calm and all is right
When I feel Your favor flood my life
Even in the good, I’ll follow You
Even in the good, I’ll follow You

When the boat is tossed upon the waves
When I wonder if You’ll keep me safe
Even in the storms, I’ll follow You
Even in the storms, I’ll follow You

I believe everything that You say You are
I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart
In the good things and in the hardest part
I believe and I will follow You
I believe and I will follow You

When I see the wicked prospering
When I feel I have no voice to sing
Even in the want, I’ll follow You
Even in the want, I’ll follow You

When I find myself so far from home
And You lead me somewhere I don’t wanna go
Even in my death, I’ll follow You
Even in my death, I’ll follow You

When I come to end this race I’ve run
And I receive the prize that Christ has won
I will be with You in Paradise
I will be with You in Paradise

© 2013 Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing / HBC Worship Music / Jingram Music (ASCAP) / Sony/ATV Tree Publishing / Harvest Worship Songs / Ingram Designee (BMI) All rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing, HBC Worship Music, Jingram Music, Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, Harvest Worship Songs and Ingram Designee administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

Blessed to be His and praying that you are as well,

Sarah

Snapshots of hope

After the events of the past two weeks, the first follow-up blog post seems so monumental…so important…especially in light of literally thousands of people who have visited this page to learn more about Steve.

To be honest, we have a multitude of things we want to say – but we’re still processing how to say them.

We are trying to figure out how to explain the depth and breadth of how we have been loved and cared for as a family.

How do you say thank you to people who cared for your kids when you were over two thousand miles away?

How do you put into words what you have learned, how you already know the areas you want to improve in your own life, how you can take away hope from something so tragic?

How can you have so many thoughts in your head while having none at all when you sit at the keyboard?

There are moments we want to share, glimpses of the hand of God at work, stories of the hands and feet of Jesus all waiting to be put to words.

But, for now, we will share pictures with the thought that, for starters, you will see how hope shines through in the form of God’s creation, the generosity in the sharing of housing, food, flowers, and fellowship, and the love of family and friends, both near and far.

Montana 001 Montana 014 Montana 018 Montana 019 Montana 020 Montana 022 Montana 025 Montana 023 Steve 028 Steve 024  Steve 033 Steve 030Steve 029  Steve 034Steve 133  Steve 131FullSizeRender FullSizeRender (6)FullSizeRender (5) FullSizeRender (3)FullSizeRender (1) FullSizeRender (2)

FullSizeRender (4)Steve 035 Steve 174Steve 038 Steve 077   Steve 204

Steve

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15: 13 

Grateful for each and every one of you….

Brad and Sarah, Josh, jacob, and Tessa

Blest Be the Tie that Binds – An Overview

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Boy, this post is long overdue.

<insert all our excuses here>

Where to start?  The hymn above came to my mind this morning as I was looking through pictures from the past few months.  This past summer was certainly a new experience for us.  How do you “do” travel back to the United States when you no longer have a home, a vehicle, or anything to really call your own?  How do you do it “well”?

DSC_0066And, how do you get used to paying this
<—–when you are used to paying $1.03 for diesel or $1.48 for regular??

While we reflect back on what went right and what we could improve on, I find I have one big regret from our summer in the US…I’m sad that I didn’t take more pictures of each and every sharing time we had with friends and family.  I would have loved to now look back and see every person we were blessed to come in contact with.   But, we did have a summer of strengthening relationships and intentional fellowship which was a gift in itself.  Our time was filled with binding our hearts with others, and, now, as we are back in Ecuador, I cherish the memories and time of encouragement we experienced even more.

DSC_0051  DSC_0042 (3) DSC_0033 (3)  DSC_0013 (2) DSC_0006 (3)  DSC_0069 (2)DSC_0028  DSC_0054 (3)Family photo  familylast days  DSC_0230

 

The kids were able to connect with friends and cousins…it’s pretty much a dream summer when you have the “yes” parents who let you see all your friends as much as you possibly can.  Josh and Tess were welcomed into the families of their friends, and Jacob rejoined his baseball team, with team parents who graciously shared hotel rooms and their cars to help us out when we couldn’t attend tournaments and games.  They also had the opportunity to speak to their youth group about what has been happening in Ecuador and how they each have been finding a way to use their gifts to serve others.

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Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts, and our cares.

Probably about eight years ago, Brad was asked to take a position as deacon of our church.  His first impulse was to say no, feeling totally unqualified and certainly too busy to take on this role.  Interestingly enough, through a lot of prayer and searching, “no” became “yes” through obedience and Brad stepping out in faith.  His only condition was that he would never have to stand in front of church and lead a service or speak.  So, of course, as God would have it, Brad was asked to share the message at our home church one Sunday over the summer.  He did a fabulous job of sharing how God is faithful and we only need to cling to the Rocks and the Roots – his promises!  Take a listen…(you may need to allow time for it to buffer and feel free to click on the HD in the bottom right corner to reduce the quality slightly to allow it to load faster)

I was also blessed to be able to be a part of a special women’s retreat put on by my home church, held just days before we left to return to Ecuador.  I can’t describe the feeling of standing before these ladies who have been such a vital and important part of my life for the past years.  While the theme of the event was Invisible: When Only God Sees, I can tell you that these special people are seen by me.  I see women who have been hurt, wounded, stretched, bound, persecuted…but know and trust they have been released and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.   What an encouragement for me to be with these godly women and challenge them to exercise gratitude on a daily basis to change their life and to affect the lives of those around them.  My soul was plumb filled up to venture forth for another year without them.  We serve in different places, but we serve the same Master.

retreat

We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

Over the course of this past year, we had been praying for so many people from our family, our friends, our church…while we were home, we once again were able to celebrate joys and share in the sorrows of those we love.  Our dear friends were finally able to bring home their twins from Haiti after delays, heartache, and obstacles.  In God’s perfect timing, we were able to share in the special homecoming and rejoice with the arrival of Judah and Elijah.

DSC_0125         DSC_0128 DSC_0108

We continue to pray for our brother-in-law, Gary, who lost his best friend to an aneurysm while we were together over the 4th of July.  We were blessed to have met Matt Stefan on many occasions and know he had an eternal impact on those around him.  Once again, the shortness of life brings our focus back to the urgency of sharing the gospel and living for Jesus.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

Coming back to Ecuador felt a bit different this year than last.  While we were excited to return, the excitement of the unknown had diminished and we knew more of what we’d be facing.  We had the whirlwind summer of being with friends and family, deepening relationships that would be now again separated by time and distance.  As the hymn states, it gives us inward pain, but we have the assurance of being united again, if not physically, then in heaven.  This is the promise we cling to and we claim.

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We’ll share more in the upcoming days on what has changed, our challenges, our hopes, and how we are trying to continue to be intentional with sharing the gospel.  There are may exciting changes and challenges ahead, but we are looking to the One who is faithful to guide and direct our paths.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV

 

Special words

I had the privilege of growing up in a large extended family (on both sides!), with plenty of same-age cousins to hang out with, and play childhood games like Seven Steps Around the House, and Colored Eggs.  My aunts and uncles were stable figures in our lives when my dad was fighting cancer,as both sides of the family would step in, often taking us into their homes and letting us, for instance, “work” on the farm while dad was getting chemo and radiation treatments.  Through losing grandparents, uncles, cousins, and my father, all in a short time frame, my childhood memories are wrapped up in an intertwining of joy and sorrow as my extended family experienced life and death together.  Some fought and clawed our way to understanding and peace while others provided a firm foundation of faith that we could look to and know that, someday, God would give us enough answers to move forward with a strength and a faith that was refined by the fires we had been through.

When you walk through grief with people, you have a respect for them that goes beyond words.  They are a part of your soul, as you know they understand and feel deeply with you.  You are connected in a way that bonds you for life.  In a nutshell, the opinions and thoughts of the people closest to you matter the most.  Now, throw in a curve ball like moving to Ecuador…

This path of moving to Ecuador was so bathed in prayer and confirmation that Brad and I had a peace about God’s leading like none we had ever experienced in our life.  We knew the risks, but knew God had a plan.  Our only choice was obedience to his calling.  To take a quote from Kisses from Katie:

People often ask if I think my life is dangerous, if I am afraid.  I am much more afraid of remaining comfortable…But I am living in the midst of the uncertainty and risk, amid things that can and do bring physical destruction, because I am running from things that can destroy my soul: complacency, comfort, and ignorance.  I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of any illness or tragedy.  – Katie Davis, pg XIX

Brad and I had reached this point in the decision to move and be more intentional about having God as the primary focus of our life, and the life of our family.  When faced with the uncertainty of our future, we knew our stability was in eternal things, not in those of earthly fortune.  While nothing we were doing made sense from an earthly standard, it was God’s call on our lives to “get mobile” and leave behind the worldly possessions that were tying us down and keeping us from the best of things.

We were now getting closer to leaving for Ecuador.  Tessa and I were at our family reunion on my mom’s side, a wonderful event that is held every year.  I knew this would be the last time I would see these precious cousins, aunts, and uncles, for months and maybe years to come.  I knew they would be coming with me in spirit, because I know they would be some of the strongest pillars of faith who would be covering us with prayer.  But, it was also one of the few times that I would be able to sit face to face and tell these special people why we were walking this path.  Why we were walking away from life as we knew it.  Why we were leaving FAMILY.  These were people who mattered to me.  People who probably wondered what the heck we were doing, but were going to support us anyway.  People who loved us deep and wide.

Martha and me

So far in this process, I was able to guard my heart.   But, as I stepped up to my Uncle Steve for the last goodbye, and he enveloped me into a giant hug, he said something to me that will forever be a balm for my soul:

“Your dad would be so proud of you.”

My eyes overflowed with tears and I think I may have managed a  “thank you”.  All I know is, for the next two hours as I drove home, I cherished and pondered those words.  I didn’t realize how much I had needed to hear that precious thought.  Uncle Steve was an instrument of God that day, confirming yet again how God works mightily when we need it most through the people around us.  That simple sentence showed me the importance of a father’s love and acceptance, even when someone is 40+ years old.  It showed that, even though I had a void in my life from losing my father at the tender age of twelve, I am surrounded with people who love and accept me, and they have stood in the gap.  God is faithful through the years.  He always provides exactly what we need because he loves us with a depth we cannot even begin to understand.

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As I write this, it is Easter Saturday.  I have been reflecting on the unbelievable sacrifice Jesus Christ has made for me.  It is beyond my scope of comprehension, and I truly don’t think I will ever grasp the amazingness of it all.  But, I do know that I am eternally grateful and I want him to use me for his glory.  My desire continues to have him guide our life and we pray we can be ambassadors for Him through all we do and say.

And, I pray, as he welcomes me into heaven someday, and envelopes me in a giant hug, he will say something that will forever be a balm for my soul:

“Your Father is so proud of you.”

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You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.  Psalm 16:11 HCSB

Our dinner table will never look the same…

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38 -41

This post has been bouncing around in my head for the past few weeks, and I’m still not sure how to put it into words.  I’ve opened the computer multiple times to start the post, but I can’t seem to get past the first line.

Over the past 9 months or so, as we were preparing to transition to God’s new plan for our life, Brad and I reflected often on how we had done little to cultivate relationships in our lives.  We were saddened that it took us getting ready to leave to become more intentional with those we cared about.  Sure, we shared many great times with friends…we had great fellowship with other believers…we loved those around us deep and wide.  But, were we truly doing what God had instructed us to do?

We often fell back on the excuse of our “family time”.  We felt strongly that we had to preserve time just to grow together as a tiny family unit.  We occasionally would include extended family members here and there, when it was convenient for us, but our dinner table would often times look generic…day in and day out, the definition of “family” would be those who we were blood related to and no one else.

Ecuador has changed that definition.  In three short weeks.

I haven’t put my finger on it exactly yet – whether it is the sub-culture of gringos in a foreign land, yet still united within a Christian community.  Perhaps it is because of the transitional mentality that people have due to the steady flux of people coming and going as God calls them away or to this place of mission.  Maybe it is the underlying need to lean on others as we are all strangers in a foreign land, united in purpose but unable to carry the load solely on our own.  Whatever it is, it works here.  Family is beyond the small unit that we claim as our own.  Family are those around you, and, because of this place, my dinner table will never look the same.

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I was so self-centered.  Looking inwardly to what I wanted my family to look like, how I wanted to control our evenings, our weekends.  Being crazy busy was an excuse…we filled our lives with good things, but we may have missed the best of things.  The very thing I was doing to preserve our family unit was directly in opposition to God’s call to reach out, seek out, and minister to others.  There are people in every church, neighborhood, village, community, town, and city that need to be loved, accepted, cared for in various ways.  That is what the body of Christ is CALLED to do.  We were failing miserably, and, as a result, we were teaching our children the pattern of exclusiveness.   We stayed in the world of comfortable, and we missed opportunities to show and demonstrate God’s love to those around us.

Our eyes have seen things differently in the past few weeks.  We have been recipients of fellowship beyond what we could imagine.  We have been shown what it means to give freely, to give of yourself, and to lose yourself for the gain of others.  We saw this within our family and friendship circles back in America, but we didn’t appreciate it to the depths we do now.  Many of our friends and family did relationship well…but we have a lot to learn.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be a four course meal…it’s the fellowship around the table.  It doesn’t have to be a huge letter with flowery statements…it’s the heartfelt words that matter.  It doesn’t have to be hours of time together…it’s a hug to say you care.  It doesn’t have to be an entire day of help…it’s an hour or two of purposeful time that makes a difference.   It doesn’t have to be grand…it just has to be intentional.

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We are so caught up in our own lives that we fail to see the lives of those around us.

It’s never too late to see those around you, and reach out to love them.  If you do hospitality well, may God continue to open your eyes to see even more clearly the people that need to be loved.  But, if you feel too busy, too stressed, too tired, too whatever, just take a step and open your heart and your home to those around you.  Strive to be Mary, and choose what is better.  Your dinner table will never be the same, and neither will you.

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Blessed to be His,

Sarah