It has been a long time since I've blogged. I plan to go back and add in the life moments:
Brianna and Erik's visit
Odiorne Point trip with Ronnie and family
day at the Bay
But now I need to record something more personal; something that God has been working on in my own life.
I recently heard this phrase, "not head knowledge, but life abandonment."
I have lots of head knowledge. I don't remember the first time I heard about Jesus. I'm sure I heard about Him before I understood words. I do remember the time I gave my life to Him though- that was 39 years ago. And since then I have devoted my life to getting to know Him more and to live a life that is pleasing to Him.
But it hasn't always (or even mostly) been easy! And there have been times that doubt has crept in. The Enemy trying to sway me, telling me it's too hard, it's not real, it's not worth it. No one knows how many times I felt like giving in.
Over the last few months God has been planting seeds in my heart that would grow to be the strongest desire I've ever had to hold on to Him for dear life.
It began with us as a HFK staff deciding to write a missionary story and put it in flashcard form to tell to the city kids as part of our summer ministry. Jeremiah found the story of Awoyo. Our theme was going to be Fearless and this seemed to fit right in. Jeb was actually put in contact with the missionaries that went to that tribe and we discovered that it was Indonesia and the tribe was the Moi people. We had a lot of contact through email with the Crocketts who were the ones that first went to the Moi. Turns out that only 20 years ago no one in the world knew the Moi existed and the Moi didn't know anything at all about the outside world. We learned that Stephen Crockett, in an act of faith and obedience to God (life abandonment) jumped out of a helicopter onto the land of this newly discovered tribe, with the desire to befriend them, learn their language, share the Gospel with them, and translate the Bible into their language. Stephen and Carolyn brought their family there and for the last 17 years have been faithful in sharing Jesus with the Moi. The Moi have turned to God and are now enjoying much of the Bible in their own language! But the sacrifice on the part of the Crocketts is incredible. No running water or electricity. No access to doctors or grocery stores or internet or familiarities. No cozy white Christmases, Thanksgiving turkeys, or Fourth of July fireworks. Serious injuries, malaria, and more. They sacrificed for the One who sacrificed His own life for them.
The next thing happened at church. I saw a new family in the children's wing and when I went to introduce myself discovered that they were a missionary family home on furlough- our church was their sending church. They are missionaries to Indonesia! They have 2 kids Leah and Micah's age and it was our privilege to have them over for a meal and talk with them. They are sacrificing. A lot. For what? For Jesus- because they know that Jesus loves the tribe they are serving and He wants them to know Him personally. They know they are His body- His hands, feet, and voice.
Fast forward to ICT. During a class I was teaching, I shared with the group the story about a girl, Dorie, who many years ago was abandoned by her mother, lived in an orphanage (where she heard about God's love for her!), and then in many abusive foster homes. It had been a while since I read her story, so after one of our group asked me more about her, I looked her up. As an adult, she was a missionary to Indonesia! In reading more about Dorie, I discovered the name of woman whose speaking at a church allowed Dorie to meet this woman's parents and become "adopted" by them. I was intrigued by this woman and found her name to be Darlene Rose and learned she had written a book. I requested it from my library and was amazed to see that Darlene had been a missionary to Indonesia!
So now, I was on to my 4th "random" Indonesia mention. I read the book by Darlene Rose in one day. And it was on reading it that God really pulled everything together for me and got me to the point where I am now. Darlene and her new husband went to Indonesia as missionaries. Not long after they were there, World War II began and the Japanese invaded the Dutch Indies (what Indonesia used to be called). They took both Darlene and her husband to separate camps as prisoners of war. Darlene shares what happened to her while she was imprisoned and it includes hunger, sickness, torture, and even the news that her husband died. Why was this book so encouraging to me? Because Darlene was sustained by her relationship with God and the Scriptures she had memorized. The details are incredible. God's presence. HE was enough. At one point in her imprisonment she was in a cell all alone. She was taken out periodically and beaten, she was sick with dysentery, cerebral malaria, and beriberi, she had only a jagged tin can to use as a toilet. This is what she says,I knew that they could not lock my Lord out of that cell, even when they locked me in. I don’t know if you’ll understand it, but that little cell became a sanctuary to me because my God was there with me.
Along with other powerful words of testimony, Darlene shares how she was never alone and having her God with her was what allowed her to be a leader among the women prisoners, to find favor with the notoriously cruel commander, and to have peace throughout the most horrific of circumstances.
So, two things.
After studying, reading, hearing about the lives of these faithful missionaries, I realized I don't even know sacrifice. So I "sacrifice" time to reach inner city kids who don't know Jesus. I "sacrifice" some material things- as money is scarce in our line of work. But the common denominator in the stories of these missionaries is that they truly believe that their sacrifice (which I think is HUGE) is nothing compared to what Jesus sacrificed for them. And sharing Jesus with people who need Him is the greatest cause and worth any sacrifice.
And through the sacrifices, it is God's presence that sustains, strengthens, validates, and gives peace.
I don't want to be a baby when things don't go my way. I don't want to feel sorry for myself when I don't get things that I want. I don't want to think I am a martyr for giving up "so much". I want to memorize more scripture, sacrifice more, spend more time with God and hold on to Him for dear life.
A couple of days ago, I commented to my younger brother that now that that his kids are 7, 5, and 3 things are getting easier. But when I got off the phone I had to rethink that! Is it really easier the older your kids get?
I guess it's all about context. In the context of, for example, family vacation, yes, the older the kids get the easier it gets. You don't have to pack playpens, strollers, bottles, diapers.... You don't have to constantly slather on sunblock, take kids to the bathroom, or get up at the crack of dawn (if you've even slept at all!).
I also guess it's about your goals. Because depending on the goals you have in child rearing, the potential is there for things to get increasingly harder! When kids are little, for the most part they believe everything you say. If you tell them Jesus loves them, they believe it. If you tell them that purity in dating is what God wants, they believe you. If you tell them that God wants them to obey you they believe it. If you tell them it is bad to listen to certain music they believe you. But, as God designed it, the older they get the more they think on their own. They are supposed to! And their ideas are based on many things. Not the least of which is what they have been exposed to outside of their parents. Movies, commercials, friends, books.... All very influential. So even though their mom and dad have told them all of their life that God wants them to obey you, if that is not reinforced by what they are seeing around them they have to sort it out in their mind and make a decision in their own hearts. Purity in dating is definitely not normal in our culture- especially depending on your definition of purity! So are mom and dad right or is everyone else?
The process that kids go through as they get older to make their own decisions is NOT. EASY. (To the point that it makes the toddler days seem like a breeze!) Well, not easy if you want to be involved in the process and point them to truth. See, there was a time when I was involved in this process with one of the older kids. We did not agree on whether a particular thing was right or wrong. My first instinct was to say, "It doesn't matter what you think. You are not going to.....". But I remember exactly where I was when God convicted me of something. I have obedient children. I really wasn't concerned too much that this child would disobey and do the thing I was convinced was wrong and had told them they couldn't do. But I realized that they still did not believe that it was wrong. They had made the decision in their heart that they would obey me, but that I was not giving accurate information and that what they wanted to do was not wrong.
Easy would be to leave it at, I laid down the law and there now will be none of THAT going on! But what was going on in their heart? I do not control their heart. But God did not give me the job of mothering this child simply to control their actions. So that is where the difficulty got even more difficult!
First, I had to pray way more. I prayed so hard that God would change ME if I was wrong, but if I was right, that God would change THEIR heart so they could see and know the truth.
Second, I had to have long, stressful conversations with this child. I had to listen, ask questions, and gently point them to the truth- God's Word. It even caused me to look at myself and determine if I had been a hypocrite in any way.
Then, I had to love unconditionally. It is hard when someone flat out disagrees with you and will not change their heart.
I also had to be patient, because over time and practicing those three things, I DID see a change of heart in that particular instance.
But I am still in the thick of it! Although I've passed on the baton so to speak with my oldest, I still have a lot of kids at home! Sometimes I want to quit. Fine- do whatever you want, think whatever you want to think..... It's way too hard! But I KNOW that God does not want me to do that!
Thankfully, I am not in this alone and Matt and I are in total agreement. We are committed to working hard together and not giving up.
But back to my first statement about it getting easier the older they get...... Nope. Only physically. Raising children is not for the faint of heart. It's hard and doesn't get easier. (I have no way to know if it gets easier once they are all on their own with their own families. Check back in 20 years- maybe I'll have the answer then :)
This Memorial Day weekend Cameron, Alissa, Caleb, and Andrew all went to NH. Cam needed to fix his brakes and my dad said he'd help him. Of course there was the Memorial Day parade in Epping and all the goings on afterwards at the church and the kids were all excited about all of it.
That left Matt and I home with just Leah and Micah. At one point Matt said, "This is like it was when it was just Brianna and Cameron!" But he quickly realized that wasn't true. When Brianna was Leah's age we had 5 kids- not just 2 :) Either way, it was very different (and quiet!) for us.
On Sunday after the big kids left we went to the park.
After the park we went to a graduation party at church. It was extra special because Leah and Micah's new friends were there and they loved hanging out with them! Their friends are missionaries to Indonesia and are home on furlough. It so happens that Leah and Nadia are one month apart in age and Micah and Quinn are 4 months apart.
The next day, we began the day working in the garden. We didn't have access to a rototiller this year so my amazing husband worked an area for me where we could plant cucumbers, snap peas, and onions. That was the hardest spot to work. Leah, Micah, and I worked on preparing a place for potatoes. We are keeping it a lot smaller this year! I had saved potatoes for planting, already had snap pea seeds, and so all we had to do was buy some cucumber and onion plants.
Even though it was on the chilly side, drizzly, and overall gloomy, we had a really nice day! It was strangely quiet though and my mother's heart felt much better when the big kids got home :)
I sometimes get doubts in my head about prayer. I question if it "works". Thankfully, God always reassures me and also reminds me that there is SO much more to prayer than just yes answers.
Last night I couldn't sleep. (I should never have taken sudafed before bed!) As I was just lying in bed with my eyes wide open I prayed for people. I have friends who are going through some really hard things and I was lifting them to the Lord in prayer. Subtly, that little thought crept into my mind- does God even hear you? Is He even going to answer?
Just as quickly as my flesh or the enemy brought that thought, the Holy Spirit brought another one. This was a story. My story.
When I was around 8 years old, my family needed a new car. Dad couldn't keep the old one running safely any longer. I decided to pray. First, I asked my Uncle Dean (whom I adored!) what his favorite color was. He told me it was brown. (I don't remember how I felt about that at the time, but I wonder if I was disappointed it was such a boring color!) Anyway, after he told me that, I immediately began to pray for a brown 4-door car. We had a 2-door hatch back at that point and I wished so bad for a car where I could open my door myself! Within days, my dad came home saying he had found and bought a new (to us) car. It was a brown 4-door!
Even at that age I knew God had answered my prayer. My dad knew nothing of my wish and since he was paying cash for the car he couldn't be too picky! That God cared about the desires of an 8 year old girl made an impact on me that I have never forgotten.
So last night I kept praying. I know God heard and I know He will answer!
(I don't have any idea what kind of car we got- but this picture is what I remember it looking like.)
Cameron and Jeremiah drove straight through the night to visit Brianna and Erik in Virginia. Although Brianna had a medical issue while they were there that required a trip to the ER, they had a great time!
On the way home Cam and Jeb witnessed an accident on the highway. A car was clipped by another car that was changing lanes and flipped. Cameron was able to get to the scene and talk to the guy who was trapped in his vehicle. While waiting for the ambulance, Cameron held the man's bloody hand which was shaking uncontrollably and gave the guy the Gospel! Cam told me he realized the guy wasn't going anywhere, and God had allowed him to be there, so he took the opportunity to share Christ with him. What a boy I have :)