Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve

We don't have any plans for tonight.
We're just going to chill out at home and watch Ragamuffin.

Tomorrow, Steve has graciously said he would take the kids to Cuchara.
I get to stay home for 48 hours !!
A quiet house.
And some much need time alone.

We spent the day with the Davidson's yesterday.
Andie is such a gift.
I've had such a rough couple of weeks.
I've let my anger get the best of me ...
and my intolerance with the kids has consumed me.

It helped to talk to Andie - she had tremendous insight.
She suggested a sermon series for me to listen to.
Being a mom of 8, she has more experience and wisdom.
I need some time to process.
More than anything - I need Jesus to meet me.
I need a change of heart and perspective.

So, for now, Happy New Year!

Friday, December 26, 2014


It was a day filled with presents!
The kids got everything they could have dreamed.

Hello Kitty.
Minnie Mouse.
Hats. Gloves. Slippers.
Baseball bags.

We enjoyed our annual cinnamon rolls and bacon egg muffins.

Then we were off to the parents.
The kids were buried in more presents!
Mom made a fabulous ham dinner.

Although the day didn't start out well ...
in the end, it was all the kids could have hoped or imagined.

Frozen puzzles


Frozen hats

Baseball bags & bats

Daddy & his girl

A castle ... complete with Frozen characters

An iPod Touch

Richie and Aunt Shawn

Daddy's boy


The last few days have been exceedingly difficult.
Landon has been pushing the limits ... and ALL of my buttons.
He knows just how to get at me.
Talk back.
Questioning every command.
Refusing to obey.
Most days, I am able to respond in love and not get angry.
But some days, I snap.
This week I snapped.
Not just one day, but all week.
Christmas week.
It was the most challenging Christmas week I can remember.
And I failed.

Then I think every insecurity I have ever battled rose to the surface.
It was Christmas Eve.
Steve got home from work about 3pm.
I was in sweatpants and was decked out in rollers.
The kids dressed in their best church clothes for the Christmas Eve service.
They all trotted off to Kings get Sterno for our fondue.

I went upstairs to dress myself up.
After trying on 4 different outfits, because the first few are never quite right ...
I chose a dress from a long gone era.
Long.  Burgundy.  Sequins.
If I hold any bragging rights, I thought I looked beautiful.
Amazing.  Stunning.
But in Steve's usual way, I went unnoticed.
I swear, sometimes he doesn't even see me.
Not so much as a, "Wow, you're wearing a dress."
I didn't do well hiding my disappointment.
It was all I could do to not allow my hurt to ruin the candle light service.
At last, after we were home, and I was back in my fleece pants and sweatshirt,
came the words, "You looked nice tonight."
And, "The fondue was excellent.  Thank you."

After opening a few presents, and stuffing the stockings ... off to bed we went.
I knew that the boys would be in our room at 6am and I would need to be ready.
I awoke a little after 7:30am.
The room was quiet.  Steve was gone.
I could hear the kids chattering and squealing.
What?  No one climbed in bed with me?
No one woke me up?
I flew out of bed, dressed, and brushed my teeth.
All the while, I was trying to figure out what was going on.
Why was I left all alone?

Al last, I started down the stairs ... only to find ...
all of the kids sitting on the floor, opening their stockings!!!!!!!
WHAT? ?@?#?$?%?^?^?$?$#??*?&?&
The fire was going.
Steve was sipping coffee.
The kids were opening their stockings.
I couldn't believe my eyes.
Never in my entire life have I awoken to my family opening stockings without me.
Not once as a child.
Not once since becoming a mom.
I was horrified.
I was devastated.

With tear-filled eyes, I turned around and went back upstairs.
"I wanted to let you sleep," Steve declared.
On Christmas Day?
On the most anticipated day of the year?
24 days of counting down.
Many more days of planning, shopping, and creating traditions that will be long remembered.
"I wanted to let you sleep."

Every insecurity surfaced.
All feelings of rejection and dislike unearth.
Why would they start Christmas without me?

We've had some bad Christmases.
There was the one year, 2007, when we were living in Albuquerque.
I mean ... we were living in hell.
I was pregnant with Sawyer.
I felt more alone and isolated than I can recall.
Prior to moving there, I told Steve that I was going to need him to take care of us.
I was going to need him to be intentional to not neglect our relationship.
And yet, that was the year Steve didn't buy me a Christmas present.
To this day, I still don't know why.
Something about not knowing what to get me.
Or maybe it was the fact that we were poor college students.

But this year tops that one.
This year will go down in my memory as one of the worst Christmases ever.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


... the tongue is a small fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. .. no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things must not be so.
James 3:6-10

The tongue.
It is a restless evil.
Full of deadly poison.

It's incredibly discouraging just how words can bring such pain.
I'm always amazed how much love I can have in my heart ...
yet my words spew forth like daggers.
Oh for shame.

Hurts surface and my defenses rise.
One offense is all it takes.
Then regret follows close behind.

Oh to find myself in His presence.
The place where forgiveness abounds.
The only place where peace reigns.
Without going there first ... sin reigns.

May I find myself in the place that love abounds, forgiveness reigns
... and kind, loving words dominate.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Great Red Dragon

The fall of Satan.

As early as I can remember, I was taught about the fall of Satan.
You know ...
* he was a great archangel
* he grew proud
* he was cast out of heaven with 1/3 of the angels
In every church I have ever attended, I have been taught this story about Satan.

In my 20s, I was attending the School of Biblical Studies with Youth With A Mission.
For 9 months, we poured over the Scripture, book by book, verse by verse.
I remember specific passages that stood out, and forced me to question Satan's origin.
By the end of my studies, I was no longer convinced of the old tale I had been told.
Instead, I was unsure of how he became evil.
As I studied, I found that the view I had been taught is a story compiled from
a patchwork of unrelated passages taken out of context.

I want to take a short walk through these passages.
Isaiah 14: 12-14
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; 
above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; 
I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; 
I will make myself like the Most High.'"

This is a passage which many claim is an account of the fall of satan, or Lucifer.
It seems that these verses are ripped out of context.
They fall in the middle of a series of judgments against a wide variety of nations.
This particular passage begins with,
"you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:"
Just 2 verses after this passage, in verse 16, it says,
"Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you:
'Is this the MAN who made the earth tremble?"

These verses are talking about a man, the king of Babylon, who will fall.
For these verses to also refer to the fall of satan, it would require a double fulfillment
I'll be honest, I don't know much about double fulfillments, but when applied, scholars seem to be selective which passages they attribute this ... and usually to make a point.

The next passage isn't much different.
Ezekiel 28:12-17
"You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfection in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering,
... You were an anointed guardian cherub.  I placed you, you were on the holy mountain of God;
... You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created,
till unrighteousness was found in you.
... so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, 
O guardian cherub ... your heart was proud because of your beauty;
... I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings."

Again, this passage is taken out of a series of prophecies against nations...
Ammon, Moab & Seir, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, and then the prince of Tyre ...
and Ezekiel keeps going ... Sidon then Egypt ...
These few verses are unique, no doubt.
"Eden ... anointed cherub ... mountain of God ..."
But to they really refer to Satan and his fall?
I don't claim to be a Biblical scholar, but I'm just not convinced.

For further reading, here are 2 interesting blog posts.
I do not agree with everything this writer has to say about Satan, but these posts are worth a read.
Isaiah 14 - and - Ezekiel 28

Then there's the verse in Luke 10 - "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."
Jesus said this to the 72 after they returned from being sent out 2x2 into every town.
They were rejoicing that demons were subject to them in the name of Jesus!

But my favorite passage, and the one I read every Christmas season ... Revelation 12.
"And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.  And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.  His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth.  And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it ... but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon.  And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world - he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."

I love that this passage portrays the dragon (satan) as being incredibly powerful.
1/3 of the stars are swept down with just his tail.
(This is where we get the idea that he took 1/3 of the angels with him.)
He sought to devour a woman and her baby ... but was unable to do so.
A mighty, powerful dragon was defeated!

Then, after the child (Jesus) was caught up to God and to his throne ...
then Michael is fighting against this same dragon - and his "angels."
This is not a picture of a mighty, glorious angelic being, consumed with pride.
This is a DRAGON who is thrown down ... and his angels with him.
He was in heaven, but was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
They were thrown down!!!!!

He is referred to as the "ancient serpent" and the "deceiver of the whole world."
I do not see this great, grand glorious angel who is filled with pride and thrown down.
No, I see a dragon, a defeated dragon.

I believe the passage in John 8:42-46 is a more accurate telling of Satan's history.
Verse 44 says, "... He (the devil) was a murder FROM THE BEGINNING, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is NO truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

This Christmas season, I find great comfort in knowing that Satan was defeated at the coming of Jesus, when He was born as a baby in that manger in Bethlehem.
A mighty dragon, powerful enough to sweep down 1/3 of the stars ...
intending to devour a baby ... was unable to do so.
Instead he was defeated and thrown down!

Christmas is a celebration of great triumph!
The Savior of the world defeated the one who seeks to destroy our souls.
The one who wants to devour us no longer has any power, because of the baby born in Bethlehem.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

This Week

It's hard to believe that Christmas is this week!
The kids won't let me forget how many days ...
now it's only 3, "not including today," as I'm often told.

We haven't written a Christmas letter yet.
When I do, this family picture will accompany them.
But I do have all my Christmas shopping done.
I had such a fun time this year buying unique gifts for the kids.

Steve only works a 1/2 day on Wednesday, then has a 4 day weekend.
Next week, is the same.
So, we'll head to Cuchara for the New Year.

Amidst all the Christmas planning and anticipation,
we've also been working on our bank proposal.
Mom and Steve met with 6 bankers last week.
One more appointment is set for this week.
Then, it's wait and see.
January 31st is the deadline to have a loan confirmation.
We are hopeful ... and anxious all at the same time.

With Christmas and New Years, we will be forced to rest and relax.
Patience must set in and faith that if this is what God would have for us,
He will orchestrate all the details.
This is a great opportunity for me to grow in trust and patience.
I am a driver, a go-getter, who likes everything done now.
Some things I cannot control, and this is one.
It's a true exercise in rest.

While I wait, I'll enjoy this Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Do you wanna build a snowman?

After snow on Sunday ...
and 45 degrees today ...
the snow was perfect for building a snowman!!!

When asked, "Liberty, why did you put a hat on your snowman?"
She answered, "So he won't melt, of course!"

Friday, December 12, 2014


Steve is home!
After a 24 hour layover in Ethiopia due to a re-routing of his flight ...
and much grumpiness.  =(
He got home on Tuesday afternoon.
Although he was completely exhausted, he stayed awake long enough to show us video footage.
Oh how it made me miss Tanzania.

It was fun to see how much building they have done ...
and to see the water tower being constructed ...
and the foundation for the 4th house.

It seems that they had a good time.
David really seemed to enjoy it and said he's love to go back!
Steve talked of how beautiful it is ... and green.

Here's a few snippets from the emails he sent us.

November 30th - Church was interesting.  Didn't understand a word of it, but they worshipped and danced and Dan read from the Swahili Bible.  They took offering and there is a cloth covering the offering basket so people cant see what others are giving.

December 1st - I am SO tired!  Today, we got up at 630, had a quick breakfast and then David and I had to move 200 big cinder-block bricks… put them on a trailer, drive the trailer about one mile, then unload them – but the unload spot was about 20 feet from where we could park the trailer.  And by then my fingers were all sore from grabbing them so I carried them one at a time on my forearms – which got all scraped up.  I was totally exhausted by 10 in the morning!  Then, we took a short break and I was told to cut holes in a sheet of metal with an electric saw – only two thankfully.  Then, Dan really didn’t have anything for us to do and he had to repair a water pump, so he looked around and says…. “go help those guys carry wet sand/cement up that big hill in buckets”.   I was like “are you kidding? Im 44 and Im exhausted!”  but I couldn’t really say no, so up I went.  By the time I made it up the hill 4 times I thought I was about to die of a heart-attack. I was covered in dirt and sweat – easily the worst job  I’ve ever had to do.  David is in better shape than me, so he went up the hill like 8 times.

Then we had lunch and God had mercy on me by having Dan send us with a Tanzanian guide to a private school nearby.  It was good, but all the staff and little black kids were looking at David and I like: what the HECK are you doing in our school??!?!  So we left. 

One thing that is hard for me is having to have bug spray on all time.  I feel sticky all over…yuk!  But it is better than getting malaria, I guess.

One thing that is good is how beautiful it is here and that Dan and Bethany want to give kids a good Christian home.  I hope we can help them.

December 3rd - I so wish you could have been with me yesterday on the safari into Serengeti!  It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life!  We woke up early to drive in the dark so we could be at the entrance for sunrise.   We right away saw wildebeest, zebra, baboons and monkeys.  Then, the driver took us down by a river!  Right there was a big family of hippos!  And then we saw……………….huge crockodiles!  I could not believe my eyes they were so big.  I was glad they were on the other side of the river or I would have run back to the car!  Then we drove and drove some more (we were in the car for 16 hours total that day) and all of a sudden, Mr VanDellen yelled “elephant”!  and WOW there was a group of big, amazing elephants!  We drove and drove…. More wildebeest and so many zebras I could not count them…baboons everywhere and then we saw wharthogs with their babies and I wanted to take a cute little baby home with me!  They were everywhere too.  Drove and drove a loooooong way and we saw…..a leopard sleeping in a tree….then a cheetah eating a dead animal right in front of the car!  Drove some more and saw two different groups of….lions!  so beautiful and majestic!  Then we came across a couple hippos walking by the car…the driver said it is very rare to see hippos out of the water….then we came across a huge group of giraffes- like a family of 25!!! The driver took pictures because he had never seen so many giraffes in one place at one time!  Driving back some more….at least 30 elephants right by the road!  One of the mamas didn’t like the car being so close to her baby and turned at our car like she was going to charge!!!  We were so scared that the driver stopped and backed up the car!  It was so thrilling my heart was racing!  Can you tell how excited I was?  Im trying to express my excitement by using a lot of exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Can you now see how exciting it was??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! 
I so wish you were all with me, so I took a lot of video to share with you.  However, my battery ran out by noon, so mr vandellen has some video of the cheetah and lions from is smartphone he will share with me.

We took two Africans with us who Mr Tanner is trying to minister to and they were really funny.  We were cracking jokes and having them teach us Swahili words and phrases…like the phrase for “silly American” and then they really laughed!  J our car broke down outside of the Serengeti and for time I did not think we would make it to mavuno village!  It was sort of nerve-wracking.  But, one of the Africans had Mr. Tanners phone number so we called him and he came to pick us up.  We got back so late I could not call you last night.  It was quite an adventure and one of the most memorable days of my entire life!  And I have some really awesome days!  While we were driving along, I just could not believe that I was on safari in the Serengeti!  Words really do not suffice. 

As hard as Monday was, Tuesday 1,000 times better and more wonderful!  Today is Wednesday and we got up, had a cuppa coffee and started working.  It is lunch time now and I am just flat exhausted.  It is so humid here it feels like working with a 100 pound weight around your neck.  I really am amazed that people get used to the heat and humidity.  I think it would take me like 3 years to get used to it.  Ugh.  We are helping mr tanner build a water holding tank up on a big hill – there are 5 African guys up there making a wall out of rocks and cement …in their flip-flops!  We had to pump water up there for the mixing of the concrete…a lot of work indeed. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

St. Nicholas

After a long day away yesterday ... the kids arrived at home to find ...
Saint Nicholas had visited.
Footie pajamas awaited each one.

And this year, just to embrace the true meaning of the season,
I bought a new advent book to read to the kids.

I have LOVED Ann's The Greatest Gift.

I'm on my 4th reading of it.
I started reading it to the kids, but it's just about their reading level.
I REALLY LOVE her new book - perfect for kids.
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.
It is truly an experiential reading.

I pray that the words she has written grab a hold of my kids hearts.
I pray that the power of the Holy Spirt speaks to their spirits in a special way this year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

O Christmas Tree

Although Cuchara was INCREDIBLY windy ...
we set out to find a tree, without Steve.
Mom, dad, and Shawnie were with us.
After our first stop was unsuccessful, we went to our usual spot.
We started our search right as the plowing came to an end and we were forced to stop.

Shawnie was the one to find this beauty.
Being out in the forest, I wasn't sure just how tall it was ...
but it is about 14 feet tall!
And one of the best trees we've cut, if I do say so myself!!!
And with our new floors and remodeled living room, it's just perfect.

Let the Christmas season begin!!