Monday, June 30, 2014

The Insanity of God


Following God in your darkest hour.
Trusting Jesus when life seems hopeless.
That is the message in Nik Ripken's book.

From Kentucky
to Kenya
to Somaliland
to Russia
to Ukraine
to Eastern Europe
to China.

Nik and Ruth Ripkin have seen things that many would never want to witness.
They have been places that many would never dare to go.

With deep conviction, they responded to the command of Christ to "go into all the world".
After suffering the loss of their sixteen year old son,
they would continue in their calling and press on to establish The Persecution Task Force.
That mission would take them to over 60 countries,
interviewing and listening to the stories of over 600 believers.

The stories of intense persecution under communism are convicting and inspiring.

My favorite story is about Stoyan in an unnamed former communist-bloc nation.
Stoyan was in his 60s in the 1990s at the time of the interview
His father, a Protestant pastor, suffered overt persecution during his 10 year imprisonment.
His story was painful to read, yet filled with great hope, as forgiveness abounded.

At the end of their time together, Stoyan said to Nik these words.
"I thank God and I take great joy in knowing that I was suffering in my country, so that you, Nik, could be free to share Jesus in Kentucky."
Nik, not wanting to receive the weight of those words protested, "That is a debt so large that I can never repay you."

Stoyan, filled with passion, declared, "I took great joy that I was suffering in my country, so that you could be free to witness in your country. 

    ... Don't ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution!  That is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!"

A convicting challenge.
One to which each of us must ask ourselves ...
Have we given up in freedom what Stoyan and others had refused to surrender under the worst forms of persecution?  We may never experience persecution even close to that in our lifetime ... and we have freedom!  We need to use our freedom wisely to further the kingdom of God.

May we be faithful to the command of Jesus to
"GO into all the world and PREACH the GOOD NEWS to ALL creation!"

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sedona


At last.
A much needed vacation.
Sedona, Arizona.
Swimming pools.
Putt-putt golf.
Board games.
Quilting.
Building a robot.
Big shade trees, to get out of the sun when it's too hot.

I am so very thankful for my parents and their generosity.
We wouldn't be here if it weren't for them.
Shawnie will join us on Wednesday.
And now that Steve has been in his job for nearly a year ...
this is a paid vacation for him!

Sedona is a quaint little town.
Red rock outcroppings.
A rugged, wooded canyon.
National forest.
Art galleries.

Thankful to be here.

-----

And just a side note ...
I love the name Sedona.
Had we ever had another girl, we were going to name her Sedona!
Maybe if we ever adopt a girl from Africa!  =)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Broken

I strongly believe that our stories are to be told.
They are to be used to build up and encourage others through the difficult parts of their stories.
The more I tell mine, the more others share theirs.
So many people are simply broken.
Much like broken glass, pieces are lying all around.


Naturally, we are broken simply because we are human.
The fall of man makes us broken the moment we take our first breath.

But the horror stories of life leave some people more broken than others.

Poverty
Oppression
Domestic Abuse
In fact, some are so shattered that it's almost impossible to find all the pieces,
let alone pick them up.


And yet, the Creator of the universe has written His story in our story.
He uses the good, the bad, and the ugly to reveal something about Himself.
He takes what is broken and makes it something beautiful

I love what Dan Allender says in his book, To Be Told.
     "Your story has power in your own life, and it has power and meaning to bring to others.  I want your story to stir me, to draw me to tears, compel me to ask hard questions.  I want to enter your heartache and join you in the hope of redemption.  But your story can't do these things if you can't tell it.  You can't tell your story until you know it.  And you can't truly know it without owning your part in writing it.  And you won't write a really glorious story until you've wrestled with the Author who has already written long chapters of your life, many of them not to your liking.
     We resist telling a story we don't like, and we don't like our own stories.  But consider this: if you don't like your story, then you must not like the Author.  Or conversely: if you love the Author, then you must love the story He has written in and for your life."

I have had to wrestle with my story and the parts that I don't like.
Choosing to like the unlikeable parts requires the power of the Holy Spirit.
I strongly believe that we not only have a story to tell, but we are a story.
The broken parts of our stories are a way to redemption.
As we find redemption, our lives boldly declare the Greater story of the Gospel.
We are a part of God's greater story

I want my story to declare His name.
I pray my story leads others to Christ.
I hope my story brings healing to the lives of others.

Painful as my story may be, God is taking all the broken parts of me
and placing them where He will.
Designing.
Creating.
Using them to
make something beautiful.


Since our stories reveal God, no story is ours alone.  All our stories are owned by God and reveal truth; therefore no one has the right to say of his story, "This is too weird, painful, boring, shameful, confusing, or dark; therefore I will bury it."  All our stories are meant to be available for the purpose of revealing God and connecting us to one another."  - Dan Allender

Monday, June 23, 2014

Exposing Darkness

.. at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them ... when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.
Ephesians 5:8-13

In my teens

Darkness.
In my teens, I often heard it said, "Nothing good happens after dark."
I know from having been at many clubs after dark, those words rang true.
But darkness doesn't necessarily mean night.
Darkness can exist in broad daylight, in secret.
"It is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret." (Eph 5:12)

Abuse victims often fall into the trap of self-hate.
The stripping away of innocence leaves one feeling an unwanted vulnerability.
That can lead to extreme insecurity.
Insecurity leads to self-hate.
Many deal with self-hate through addictive behaviors.

I fell into this trap.
Because of the abuse I suffered, I tried to find people who liked and affirmed me.
In high school, I struggled to fit in.
In my desire to be accepted, I made bad choices.
One bad choice led to another and to another.
I started going to dance clubs.
Soon I started smoking and drinking.
It wasn't long before those things became my crutch, my go-to when I needed relief.
If stress set in, or abuse happened at home, a cigarette or a drink would help.

But that momentary relief led to addictions which kept me in darkness.
Soon, I began hiding my addictive behaviors.
I didn't want my parents or friends at church to know.
I was one person in the darkness and another in the light.
My sin became a secret.

My grandfather and uncle were both alcoholics.
I don't doubt that my struggle is in my genetics.
Because of my battle with self-hate and addictive behaviors, I have to stay far, far away.
I can't even approach the door of darkness.
I can take NO part in the unfruitful works of darkness.

Instead, as I choose to expose the works of darkness that seek to destroy me,
I find greater freedom!
I can't recall how many times I broke a pack of cigarettes, only to go buy another one.
My marriage brought about a necessary accountability to help me find strength.
I haven't smoked a cigarette in over 17 years.

Until recently, a glass of wine, or 1/2 a beer with pizza was normal in our home.
Steve always knew when I was drinking alcohol.
But if I dared drink alone, in secret ...
because of my battle against the works of darkness ...
even one glass could lead to many, taking me down a road I did not want to go.

So, I choose to expose this battle.
I do not drink, not even one sip.
One sip can lead to one glass, and one glass can lead to one bottle.
Addiction is destructive.  Period.

No matter the hardships I face, it is to the cross I must go.
It's in my Father's lap I must find myself.
It is in the exposing of darkness that I can walk in the light.
As I walk in light, my life brings glory to the One who made me.

What is the chief end of man?
Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
This is not something that comes naturally.
Daily I must choose to glorify God
Daily I must choose to enjoy Him.
Daily I must choose to expose darkness.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Play Ball!

I married into sports.

Before meeting Steve, I was a Broncos fan, but that's it.
Sports never worked out for me in high school, tried as I did.
So, I found my love in the mountains -- biking, skiing, camping, and hiking.

Steve.  Well, he loves all things sports.
(yes, this difference between us brought much conflict our first years of marriage
    ... but I'll save that story for another day)
His dad bought season tickets to the Broncos.
When he was in college, he was at every Rockies game he could attend.
He went on mission trips with Athletes in Action.

Our first date was to a high school basketball game.

When we started having kids - and God blessed us with two boys ...
I knew "Sports Mom" would be on my resume.
My oldest, Landon, has played t-ball, basketball, and soccer.
But baseball has become his love.


When you play with the Rec Center league, you take your chances on a coach.
But at 9 years old, that's just fine with us.
So last year, his coach gave Landon the privilege of playing outfield and sitting on the bench.
And being on the losing team made it painful for me to even watch the games.

This year, he got THE coach all the parents want their kid to get.
This guy is good!  He treats each kid like he is the best player on the team.
And here's a novel idea, all the boys rotate positions!  Wow!
Landon primarily plays 1st and 2nd base - and has even tried his hand at pitching.
He's had a great year and has improved significantly.



Not only do we go to 2 practices and 1 game per week ...
but this year, we are also taking Sawyer to t-ball.
Steve is coaching his team.
They practice 1 day and play 1 game per week.
So, if you add all that up, we spend 4 days per week doing baseball!
That's a lot of baseball.

Come to my house almost any day, and you'll find Sawyer with a glove on his hand.
He loves, loves, loves baseball.
Before I've even finished my morning coffee, he wants me to play catch.


This boy is serious!
He'll pitch the ball for an hour.
After doing so one day, I asked him, "Sawyer, aren't you tired?"
"Not from pitching!" he declared.

And so, with 3 boys in my life who love the game of baseball ...
I too have become a lover of this sport.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cherished

Lisa - 7 years old

What little girl doesn't long to feel cherished?
We long to hear the words, "You are beautiful!"
We love to feel special and worthy of love.

From the time we are young, we dress like princesses.
We look to our Daddy to tell us we are his little princess.
We hope for the day that our Prince Charming will whisk us away.

From the beginning of creation, God looked upon man and said, 
"It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him."
And the man's response to this woman God created?
"This at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh."
He cherished her.
He loved her.
God created her to fill his loneliness.
And man was satisfied.

Some know my story, but many do not.
I have never written about it publicly but have told it privately.
I am a victim of sexual abuse.
I was only about 5 years old when it started.

Shawn (about 4) -- and Lisa (about 5)

My own grandfather, who should have protected and cherished me, instead destroyed me.
His own fleshly desires led to violation.
Trust broken.
Shame gave way to insecurity.
Insecurity gave way to self-hate.

Try as I may to tell myself that I am beautiful and cherished, simply because I am a child of the King, at times, those words fall flat.
Insecurity takes over.
I look to the men in my life to tell me that I am beautiful, that I am a princess.
When those men fail, the lies creep in, and Satan fills my mind with his voice of destruction.
"You are worthless.  You will never succeed.  You are a failure."

It's a daily battle.
A battle against the deceiver of the whole universe.
A battle against the very gates of hell.

I know I can stand on the very words that King David penned of God.

"For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them."
Psalm 139:13-16

And yet, instead of looking to God and His deep love for me,
I look to the men in my life, especially my husband, to cherish me.
I look to people around me to tell me I'm wonderful.
And when they fail to do so, it wrecks me.
I start listening to the lies all over again.
I'm worthless.
No one will ever cherish me.

I often ask myself how I expect my husband to show that he cherishes me.
I'd be lying to say I don't have expectations.
Flowers.
Date nights.
Romantic get-aways.
Telling me, daily, that I'm beautiful.

Even though my expectations may not be out of line,
they still put pressure on Steve to perform in a specific way.
Then when he does not.  Boom.
I'm crushed.  I'm devastated.
I feel unloved.

I'm certain that I'm not alone in this vicious cycle.
Yet I don't know how to stop it.
I can get off for a bit, only to find myself right back on again.

I have to hold tight to the words Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
... So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

Although the struggles I deal with do not feel like a "momentary affliction" I know they are.
And I must hold on to the conviction that one day ... all will be made new.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Change

Sixteen years ago, I was a ..
short-haired
boxer-wearing
backward baseball cap donning
legs unshaven
never gonna let a man tell me what to do
not sure if I wanted kids to slow down my ministry calling
I'm going to be a missionary forever
kind of girl.


Then I met Steve and was smitten.
He was tall, handsome, clean-cut, settled ... and more traditional than I.
Even though we were in our late 20s, we were young and in love.

Our first year of marriage was challenging at best.
We fought constantly as we tried to figure out ...
who was going to do the cooking and cleaning
who was going to balance the check book
who was going to make the final decision if it came down to that.

God began a painful work in my heart as marriage forced me to learn about submission.
As far as I was concerned, it was a 4-letter word.
But over the years, God has changed me from deep within Himself.
He rooted out my old ways of thinking.
He gave me a desire to be a Mom.
He gave me a Biblical view of marriage and parenting.
Today, I am nothing like that girl I was 16 years ago.

Change is not easy and is often extremely painful.
But although the process sucks, the outcome is worth the pain of getting there.
My constant prayer is that God would make me into the person that HE wants me to be.
More often than I want, He puts circumstances or people in my life to bring about change.

-----------

Although I can open myself to the Holy Spirit bringing about change in my life,
try as I may to open others to the same process, I often learn the hard way
that change is not something I can impose on another.
I cannot change my husband or my kids ... or anyone else for that matter.
I can ask them to change.
I can beg and plead.
I can scream and yell.
But change has to come from the power of the Holy Spirit and a willingness in the heart of each individual.
Change never comes from my frustration.
In fact, my frustration often brings about an opposition to change.

There are certainly days that I try to be the Holy Spirit.
I try to lovingly push them along toward change.
Unfortunately, that often ends in --- disappointment!

It's not easy to live with people who sin against me and hurt me.
It's not easy to accept the reality that it's not up to me to change them.
It's not easy to be patient with them while they refuse to change.

It's easy to take up an offense and be angry by the way they treat me (or don't treat me).
Some days, the only constant is the lack of change in those who are closest to me and end up hurting me the most.

I've also found that change in me does not necessarily bring about change in them...
despite the fact that at times I hope that my willingness to embrace change is setting an example for others to follow.

But as God is long-suffering with me, I am to be the same with them.
Wow.  That's so incredibly hard to do!
I have to embrace the fact that they may or may not change.
Ever.
And then I have to ask myself.
How do I accept that and live with it?
Daily, I have to invite the Spirit to help me.
Help me endure.
and love.
and extend grace.
and forgive.
and forgive.
and forgive.

One day, God will make all things new.
Most days, I need to simply fix my eyes on Jesus, and be filled with joy and peace as I patiently await, in hopeful expectation, for the day that He wipes away all my tears and comes to take me home!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

All By Myself


This week, the kids are at VBS.
I didn't volunteer myself to help this year.
So - I have THREE WHOLE days to myself.

I'm thankful for a bit of time to do some of the things I love
... all by myself!

11



My baby is 11.
It seems like yesterday that I was lying upside down on a board on my couch trying to get her to flip from the breech position in which she had settled.  And those first contractions on a Saturday night felt like real labor, but then again, I wasn't sure.

After a Sunday morning trip to the hospital, and a quick exam at the midwifery office, which revealed that I was only 50% effaced and 3cm, we went back home to wait out the night.
Finally, at noon on Monday, we checked into the hospital.  After 2 hours of pushing, she was born about 3:30pm on June 16th.  She was absolutely perfect.  Ignorant of the pain and suffering this world would bring.

Now, 11 years later, she is fully in touch with that pain and suffering.
My daily prayer for this beautiful girl of mine is that she would know and experience the deep love of her Father.  I pray that her heart would be captivated by His and her will would be devoted to His.

I pray that she would know His unrelenting pursuit, unwavering mercy, and uncontrollable passion for her.  

As she enters a new season of life, growing into womanhood, experiencing all the hormones that accompany that change, I pray that she can always find her center and know who she is.  I pray that she will not compromise or surrender herself to anything that would steal her innocence.  

And I pray that God will give me His wisdom and insight to parent her well, to train her to make wise choices, and to impart to her a zeal for the Word of God.  

Happy Birthday, Shiloh Joy.
You are a joy and a delight to our family.
I thank God, daily, that He has blessed me with the gift of being your Mom.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Education is Discipleship

Last week, I wrote this post about education in developing nations.
In it, I shared that,
We as a family have chosen to homeschool for a number of reasons.
But for me, the primary reason is that I want to disciple my children through their education.
I homeschool so I can have ample opportunity to disciple my kids through science and writing and math and history.


The last two days, we have been at the CHEC homeschool conference.
Voddie Baucham has been amazing!
He alone was worth the price of the conference.
He has said again and again that education IS discipleship.

He believes, with strong conviction, that it is laid out clearly in Scripture that all Christian parents should give their children a Christian education.
He is whole heartily opposed to the public school system.
He says that schools are, by government mandate, anti-Christian and anti-Biblical.
He would go so far as to ask, "Why would we, as Christians, want the enemy (an anti-Christian institution) to disciple our children?"
I couldn't agree more.

I'm so thankful for speakers like Voddie who not only challenge my thinking but also encourage me in my journey of life.
His words have spoken life to my soul.
They have given me courage to press on in my convictions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Legalist or Conservative?

When we attended Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Mark Driscoll was our pastor and I still listen to him online.
Mark is one of those pastors who is either deeply loved or seriously disliked.
He has been called names and accused of being someone that he is not or holding a view that he does not.  He's a big name.  
And as appalling as it is, the Christians who dislike him will do more to destroy him than non-Christians.

Since moving to Colorado, I have been introduced to Voddie Baucham.
I love listening to him.
He recently finished a series on Revelation.
He's a big name pastor, with an a-millennial view.  
He does an excellent job teaching this view clearly.
Because we share the same end time view, he has become one of my favorite pastors.

This week is the CHEC homeschool conference.

And - Voddie is the keynote speaker!!!
He's a homeschool father of nine, seven of whom came to them through adoption.

Now, I'm starting to hear the accusations against Voddie too!

He's ben labeled "hard core" (re: homeschooling) and legalistic.

I picked up his book, Family Driven Faith.




Yesterday, I read the first half - and it is excellent!!!
Personally, I do not think there is a trace of legalism in there.
And this particular quote, although not directly addressing that accusation, stood out to me.


“Sometimes we fall into the trap of substituting legalism for a biblical worldview.  For example, we set hard and fast rules for what our children wear, watch, see, and hear but never take the time to develop the kind of thinking that would guide them in such decisions.  Don’t get me wrong.  I believe wholeheartedly that parents must diligently protect their children from ungodly influences.  I also believe that limits must be set and rules must be established.  I am simply suggesting that limits and rules are insufficient in and of themselves. 

If all I give my children is limits and rules, they will do what I tell them as long as I am around.  But once they leave my home, they will live in accordance with their worldview, not my rules.  Thus I must spend as much time shaping and molding their thinking as I do making rules.  Legalism simply sets up external, extra-biblical standards that take the place of biblical thinking.”

Quite often, it seems that conservatives get labeled legalists.
But they really aren't the same thing.
From a liberal standpoint, conservatives can appear legalistic.
Among some of my favorite conservative pastors, teachers, and authors are Wayne Grudem, John Piper, and Tim Keller.

So despite the nay-sayers, I respect Voddie (and the other conservative thinkers) and am excited to hear him speak this week!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Radio Show


I met Rebecca Vahle at the Passion for Orphans retreat.
Jaynee Hodgkins suggested that I ask her to be a breakout session speaker.
She's a remarkable lady.

A few weeks ago, she asked me if I could fill in for a cancellation on her radio program.
She is the host of Adoption Perspectives Radio Show.
The show is sponsored by Parker Adventist Hospital.
She primarily discusses adoption, as the hospital does many infant adoptions.
Knowing that I'm a non-adoptive mom with a passion to care for orphans ...
she asked me to share about Mavuno Market and the P4O retreat.

Jaynee is a dear friend, and a kindred spirit.
We both have a deep love for Africa and its orphans.
She too was interviewed, sharing about her heart for Uganda through True Impact
and her local ministry through brain integration therapy for adoptive families.

We had so much fun recording the show on Tuesday!
It airs today at 11am MST on 670AM KLTT in Colorado
and online at 670kltt.com


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Education


Since spring 2012, I have had the privilege of traveling to 4 countries.
Rwanda, Tanzania, Haiti, and India.

4 countries and 3 continents in 2 years

At Mavuno Market, we are forever asking the questions ...
How can we best help?
What is truly sustainable?
Are the things we are currently doing the best way to help orphans, widows, and families?
How can we best combat the orphan crisis?

India truly rocked my world.
I shared much about our time there in other posts.
I also shared, a bit too harshly, about our experience with an existing partnership.
I have since re-written that post, which you can read here.

The one thing that most impressed me in India was Dalit Freedom Network's vision to help Dalits in their plight ... through education.
By learning to read and write and speak english, Dalits have the hope of rising out of poverty.
In a country that I felt was quite hopeless, giving hope in any way is critical!

Education gives hope and is the key to success in any country.
Educating children so they are not illiterate is critical to their future.

We as a family have chosen to homeschool for a number of reasons.
But for me, the primary reason is that I want to disciple my children through their education.
I homeschool so I can have ample opportunity to disciple my kids through science and writing and math and history.

When I returned from India, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the needs.
I know that Mavuno Market cannot create enough jobs or buy and sell enough product to truly change lives and help people out of poverty.
We have often discussed how we can create sustainable jobs in-country.
Farming, hand crafted goods that will sell in their villages, trade work, and more.

Steve asked me upon my return from India what I thought would really help people.
After 2 years of traveling to 3 continents, and Steve helping me process through my experiences ... my answer is education!!!
Educate the children.
Teach them to read and write and speak english.
Educate the parents.
Teach them a trade that will give them a way to make money in their own countries.

Mavuno Market was started as a desire to help, and partner with, Mavuno Village in Tanzania.


A family style orphan village.  200 acres of land.  A vision to have 30 homes, each one filled with Christian parents and 10 orphans, who become their children.
A medical clinic.  Farming and agriculture.  Self-sustainability for the families.
Fathers teaching their sons to farm.
Mothers teaching their daughters to make bread.
A family model that is combatting the Tanzania orphan crisis at it's core.
Christ-centric, parent-directed, community-driven, real life change that leads to hope for the future.

When the Tanners came to visit back in March - we talked about a school.
They have a vision to start a school.
An English Medium school on the campus.
A trade school.
Just the vision breaths life into my soul.
When?  It could take some time.
How?  I don't know what our role might look like.
BUT we want to be a part of starting a school with the Tanners.
Education is key!

And with that, the vision of Mavuno Market is going through transition.
We will continue to buy and sell product ... but we will be shifting our focus toward education.
Education as a means to combat poverty.
Education as a means to disciple children and families.
Education as a means to share the hope of Christ.
Education as a means to give glory to the One who created this world in which we live.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Camping

We went on our first camping trip of the year.
Aunt Shawn joined in on the fun!
It was also our first church camping trip ... ever!
18 families from our church made the weekend extra fun.

We went to Mueller State Park.
The group camping loop was all ours.
With a paved road all the way around ... the kids ran and biked to their hearts content.

Homemade ice cream!
Hobo stew
A dear friend, Melissa VanDellen
Steve, David VanDellen, Estelle & Chad Mathis, Jon Norby
The State Park offered an outdoor skills day complete with 
archery, target shooting with 22's, pellet guns and shotguns.





We ended the weekend with a family hike.
Some of our favorite friends, the VanDellens and the Mathis' went with us.