Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless HIS HOLY NAME.

Monday, November 17, 2014

We Are Held In His Hands

Two weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, my husband walked outside, and when he came around the corner of the house, he saw a hummingbird fly into the wall and fall to the ground.  There was a flock of crows chasing her, and when she fell, they all flew down, wickedly hovering over her.  My husband moved toward her, and the crows scattered.  He picked up the feeble bird and laid it in his hand.  She lay very still. In her long beak was a bit of cotton.  My husband figured she was building a nest, and thinks the crows wanted her spot. 

We watched as she lay there, so still, so unlike a hummingbird!  We marveled at her beautiful green feathers, shining in the sunlight.

After 15 minutes of lying so still in my husband's hand, she gained strength and stood, perched on her feet.  She then stood, looking around.  She didn't seem frightened at all.  Once, she tried to flutter her beautiful wings, but was unable to fly away.

About 15 minutes leter, as someone else approached my husband, she fluttered her wings at an amazing speed, and flew about three inches above my husband's hand, testing her wings.  Ten seconds later, she flew up onto the roof.  She stayed on the roof another five minutes, or so, and then flew away, fully recovered from her fall.

As I watched that helpless bird in the palm of my husband's hand, I thought of how we are held in our Heavenly Father's hand.  He picks us up so tenderly and holds us.  And those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall mount up with wings as eagles.  He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.  I was reminded that not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father seeing.

I think God that put my husband right there to shoo the bad crows away from that Mama hummingbird, and to pick her up and to sustain her until she had the strength to fly away.  And doesn't He do the same for us?  He often puts people in our path to help us get back up, to shoo away the discouragement and depression.  Don't doubt it for one minutes.  He sees you today, no matter what you're going through. 

Isn't that a blessed thought for today?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

His Eye Is On The Sparrow (A Guest Post from a Missionary Wife)

"Anna, come here and listen to this."

Mom called me to her office one evening when we were at her house in mid June and read to me an email that my brother-in-law, Ulises Martínez had written to her.  He wrote that the roads that lead to the small village in which they live had been blocked off on all sides.  They had not had food nor water for a couple of weeks; there was no money in the banks; the shelves in the grocery stores were not being stocked with more food.  They were literally living from meal to meal.  The water supply had been cut off to the village.  "Please pray for us," was his earnest plea.

My heart sank, and I prayed, "Oh, Lord, please be with my sister and her family!  Provide for them, comfort them, and help them to feel Your presence!"

The days following, Ulises and my sister, Elizabeth, were not off my mind.  I woke up during the night and prayed for them.  I wrote to my friends and family and asked them to please be praying.

Knowing they had no food, we wanted to drive down the mountain to take them some; but we were told there was a danger that they would confiscate any vehicles that were even driven to the edge of the village.  Feeling so helpless (as we certainly are as humans!), we placed them in our Heavenly Father's hands and trusted Him to take care of them.

In early July, I was able to visit with my sister, Elizabeth, for the first time since their traumatic experience.  We stayed up talking until the wee hours of the morning, and I couldn't hold back the tears as she told me about what she had lived and seen and felt during those weeks they were "taken hostage" in their little village.

I was so touched by her account of what she told me that she and her family went through, and I thought that others might be encouraged to take heart when the going gets rough.  I asked Elizabeth if she would write about her experience, so I could share it on my blog.  I appreciate her taking time to write to me the following, so that I could share this with you.

So, with a prayer on my heart that the Lord will take this and use it for His honor and glory, and that someone's heart somewhere might be encouraged, I share with you the following that she wrote to me.

Ulises and Elizabeth have three children, Sophia Grace (10), Paul Laymon (8), and Emily Ruth (2)

"Thank you, Anna, for letting me share with you what God has taught me these past few months. When you asked me to write what God has taught me, I could not find a place to start, because God has done so much!  I think, then, the most simple and brief way is for me to write small excerpts from my journal.  I pray this will bring God honor and glory.  I pray this will be an encouragement to some weary, struggling missionary lady.  Yes!  It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!

June 3:  I got up at 4:40.  Ulises went to men's prayer meeting.  I drove up to town with Hermana Elvira to the mission to ladies' prayer meeting. Hermana Pili gave a sweet devotional on Ecclesiastes 3, a time for everything.  As we drove back home, I noticed a lot of Indian men on the sides of the highway. Any time there is a big group of Indians on the side of the highway, it can't be anything good.  Fog covered the mountains.  I marveled at the beautiful sunrise, and forgot about the trouble I knew was coming.  Ulises came home from men's prayer meeting.  He told me the awful news...the roads are blocked.  About noon, the day turned cold and rainy.  I gave the children their school.  Faithful few walked down the mountain through road block to church.  Thank you, Lord, for these precious, faithful people.
Indians put up banners with their demands.  They want fertilizer.

June 4:  Roads still blocked.  We do not have food.  Precious folks walked around the road block.  They brought us our food, so lovingly.  Yes, I ate (cow) stomach and feet soup today.  The kids didn't seem to mind.  Thank you, Lord, for lemons and jalapeños to cover up the taste and smell.

June 5:  Herds of rats and mice.  One ran into the house.  Ulises and Hermano Emanuel killed it in the kitchen. It is hard to cook; I can't keep the flies off the food.  They swarm in through the opening in the roof.  Men keep sending Ulises messages, telling him not to go out, to stay inside with doors locked.  Things in town are not good.  Indians are protesting.  They did not get all the fertilizer the government promised them.

June 6:  Ulises and Hermano Jorge walked up the mountain around road block.  The roof at the mission leaks, and there are worms falling through the holes.  They cleaned it...Ulises didn't have an appetite at dinner.  I was sick today.  My stomach hurt, headache.  Ulises and children took care of Emily.

June 7:  Cold and rainy.  Roads still blocked.  Our roof is leaking.  Our bedding is damp and cold.  When we get in bed at night, it takes a while for us to go to is so cold.  I sense the children are scared.  A thief came in, stole Sophie's beautiful black dog.  I feel unsafe.  Ulises gets up a lot during the night to look out the windows.

June 8:  No money.  Ran out of water, gas, diapers.  When Ulises and I walked over to church, there was a sparrow that had fallen from its nest. It took my breath away, my eyes filled with tears.  Yes, Lord, you saw when he fell from his nest.  You see me, you see the danger we are in.  Thank you, Lord, for the delicious papaya from the tree in front of the church!  That was our dinner today.  Thank you, Lord, for the faithful people who came to church today, in spite of the rain and road blocks.
Papaya Tree outside the church

June 10: Roads blocked.  Thank you, Lord, for Bro. Manuel bringing us fresh cow milk for Emily.  I am still learning how to keep my floors clean.  Sprinkle it with water and dip the broom in a bucket.  Seems to keep the dust and cement at a minimum.  Sarah and Jason's family have Typhoid. Emily woke up from her nap with fever.  Thank you, Lord, for the Motrin I had!  Ulises and I sat up after the children were in bed, listening to gun shots, men shouting.  Those people are getting tired of sitting out in the rain day and night, demanding their fertilizer.  They are getting restless, bored, and violent.  I am learning the power and sweet relief of prayer.

Fresh cow milk every morning

June 11:  Paul's wheezing is getting worse, I am sure because of the damp walls next to his bed.  Girls and I stayed home while Ulises and Paul walked up mountain around road block in their rain coats.  Ulises preached at the mission.  Sophie and I had a devotional. I did my best to listen to her sweet devotional she worked so hard to prepare, but I was uneasy.  Indian men were running back and forth on the highway, shouting.  How wonderful to see the men's flashlights as they came down the mountain.  Paul told me how he fearlessly walked by the cliff around the road block. Thank you, Father, for letting us be together again.

The blessing of rain boots!

June 12:  Roads still blocked.  No water. The Indians have taken over the town's water supply.  Thank you, Lord, for the rain you sent.  We put buckets along the edge of the roof outside, gathering rain water.  We all put on our rain coats and mud boots.  Walked up the mountain to the mission.  I carried Bibles and flashlight.  Ulises carried Emily.  As our family was singing a song, I was holding Emily, and she would give everyone thumbs up.  "Aren't we singing so pretty?!"  I got tickled and couldn't sing.  God gives joy and laughter in the midst of fear and trials.  We walked back down the mountain in the dark.  Thank you, Lord, for the moon light and my Mother's prayers.  Made it home safely.  I am praying for curtains.  I felt we were being watched as we ate supper.

The invaluable gift of water!

June 13:  Roads still blocked.  God sent us water!  As I was bathing Paul, I said, "Raise your arms."  He said, "Please don't shoot!"  He hasn't lost his sense of humor.  Washed all our clothes!  Ulises went soulwinning.  I stayed home with the children.  I was very uneasy.  Kept children busy with a drawing contest; they both won.  Hid their prizes and had them hunt for them.  So very thankful to see Ulises' flashlight as he walked down the mountain.

June 14:  Roads still blocked.  Used the last of our gas baking two cakes for Father's Day.  All stores in Ixtapa closed.  Store owners threatened with being ransacked if they opened or sold to anyone.  Heard gun shots.  Hermano Emanuel brought us a jug of drinking water.  He told Ulises to stay in the house.  Sarah called.  Anna and Mom sent messages; several churches in the States are praying for us.  Our dear friends in Decatur are praying. How comforting to know we are not forgotten by our friends!

June 15:  Father's Day.  Men enjoyed chocolate cakes.  Hermano Ramón licked the plate.  He said he had never tasted chocolate cake before.  It was worth using the last of our gas!  Anna called me today.  Thank you, Lord, for my dear, precious sister. We walked up the mountain to the mission.  Lightening and rain.  Tin roof on mission leaks.

June 16:  Stayed home all day (...duh.)  Ulises worked on our water supply.  Joel called with wonderful news: someone sent us a love offering.  But we have no way to get it.  We are held hostage, 3 road blocks toward Bochil, 4 road blocks toward Cañitas.  And even if we had money, there are no stores open.  During the night I sat up in bed.  I heard a truck driving long has it been since I have heard a car drive past on the highway?!  Can it be, Lord?  The roads might be opened!

June 17:  ROADS OPENED!!!!  What a feeling of freedom!  And we got water!  The sun shined today for the first time in so many days, and it didn't rain.  Jumping up and down, embracing, someone knocked on the door.  Hermana Elvira brought delicious breakfast, and homemade tortillas.  We had, perhaps, the sweetest family devotions we have ever had.  we each wept as we gave testimony of God's protection, faithfulness and goodness.  Thank you, Lord, for letting my children really SEE you.

Since that day, we continue to see God's miracles, His protection, His blessings!  We now have running water in our home!  I could write many more stories!  About the children saved during Bible School, and the families that have been added to the church because of Bible School.  Our trips to Soyalo, the blind Indian man and the old widow lady who attend the mission there.  The people God brings to our door for us to witness to.  Sicknesses.  Earthquakes.  Rain and wind storms under a tin roof.  Our house flooding.  I could write about Bro. Beltran and Aurora, the loss of their baby, and his ordination as pastor.  I could write about Angelita, Susana and Sany's salvation.

His blessings are endless!  Just when I think I could not love Him more, my Precious Lord does more miracles and I fall in love with Him again!

If I could resume all I have learned into one phrase, it would be this:  Serving Jesus is a privilege.  There is no higher calling.  No sacrifice is too great.  No burden is too heavy.  This light affliction works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!  And all I could possibly go through, at the end all I will be able to say is, 'We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.'"

Will you please take time to pray for this missionary family? 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

For People Like Martha

Last Saturday, Mom and I and a lady in our church made a very meaningful visit. We went to visit Martha, our dear (nearly) 80-year-old friend who was saved in 2012 at our Annual Christmas Banquet. The following year, she was diagnosed with cancer, and began receiving treatments. (You can read another post about Martha here.)

When we went to her house on Saturday, we were so pleased to see Martha looking so well!  Her beautiful hair was fixed so nicely; she was dressed very elegantly, and she seemed so full of energy.  She busied herself in the kitchen, and served us coffee and pastries.

As she told us about the experiences she has lived concerning her treatments and with the doctors, there was one main message that she conveyed: God is my Healer, and I trust in Him for my life.  Her sweet attitude and positive spirit were so refreshing!

I couldn't help but thank God for this sweet old lady, who lived so many years without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She married, raised children, and lived her whole life with no understanding of what God did for her, and of  His desire to save her.  Yet, God brought this dear lady to a banquet where she heard the Gospel preached, and she accepted Christ as her Saviour.  Now, she is being a testimony for her Lord.  She testifies to her doctors that it is God Who is working in her.

Martha is the lady in the lime green, standing next to her sister, Beatriz, on her right.
Martha and Beatriz are daughters of a former mayor of our city, who served in the 1940s.

As we prepare for the upcoming banquet, to be held on November 21, I thank the Lord for allowing me to be a part of this ministry.  We have had hard struggles and deep heartache this year as the devil has fought his hardest to destroy this ministry.  But I think of what Gamaliel said in Acts, concerning the work of Peter and of the apostles:  "And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."

So, with our eyes on Jesus, and in hope of the blessing of God upon this ministry, we look forward to seeing just what God will do for us and through us.  If just one more Martha would be saved, it will have been worth it all.

And with this prayer on my lips, I press toward the mark:  "And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it."  Psalms 90:17

Would you please be praying for us as we work hard the following four weeks toward the banquet? (If you want a specific prayer list, please get in touch with me, and I will be happy to provide that for you.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Birthday Girl and A Poem

"Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right."
Proverbs 20:11

Our Precious Debbie Jolene turned nine years old last month.  I know that every mother feels this way, but I'm going to say it: "I just cannot believe how quickly time is passing!"  And she really (REALLY) grew a lot this year!

I have so enjoyed watching her grow and mature this year, though.  That is one of the joys of motherhood, is it not?  To be able to watch our children grow and mature and to see them begin to develop their talents and watch them learn new things.

God gave our Debbie-Girl a special love for animals.  She told me, "Mommy, do you know what I want to do?  I want to take in stray, hurt dogs and fix them up and help them get well."  It just absolutely amazes me to see with what love and tenderness she cares for animals. This past year she had a cute little Lab puppy (which she named Chelsea) and she learned responsibility in caring for her puppy.  She has had rabbits and chickens as well this year.  The thing she desires to have the most is her own horse.  She told me, "Mommy, it just seems that I will never, ever get a horse of my own."  I told her, "I really do believe that the Lord is going to give you a horse.  But we have to wait on His timing."  I told her, "Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."  (Isn't it such a comforting thing to be able to raise our children on the certainty of God's Word, and know that He will keep His word?  I just love that!)

And the thing that blesses my heart the most about our Debbie-Girl is seeing her rise early in the morning, while the house is still quiet, and sit and read her Bible and write in her notebook the things that she has read that morning.  I know there is no greater joy than to see that our children choose to walk in truth.  My heart over-flows with gratitude every time I see her bending her little head over, reading her Bible by the light of her lamp.  I tell her over and over what a blessing that is to her mother!

So, to my Little Debbie-Girl: my prayer to my Lord for you is that God would use your life to bring honor and glory to His name, and that He will use you for the exact purpose for which you were created.  I can hardly wait to see how He uses you!  But while I wait, I pray that I will enjoy every moment with you.  You are a delight and a joy to me.  Daddy and I love you so very much!!!

This year, Debbie's cousins were here with her and helped her celebrate.  She had a very fun day and received many special gifts.  Her Uncle Jason picked out a purple flannel vest that she loves; her brother Andrew gave her a jewelry box and a tea set; and her Uncle Lanny and cousin Rebecca bought her a Barbie with a horse which she LOVES!  And her Mimi gave her a special card with a poem written especially for her; oh, and there was a $200-peso bill in the card, too!!

I really do enjoy reading the poems that Mom writes for our birthdays.  The one she wrote to Debbie this year is just as special, and I want to share it with you.

"Your Birthday comes in three more days,
But we just couldn't wait!
So this is what we'll do today:
We're gonna celebrate!
We'll thank the Lord for sending you to us nine years ago!
And with this money in your card,
A-shopping you can go!"

How loved you are, my Debbie-Jolene, by your Mommy and Daddy, by your brothers, your cousins, uncles and aunts and your grandmothers, and by Jesus, too!  Live to please Him...that's what really counts in this life!!!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Freedom of Forgiveness

When my oldest son was only about two years old, a sweet lady in our church invited my husband and me to her home to eat supper.  We had a good time of fellowship.  After we had eaten, she told me and my husband, "I want to talk to you about your son.  He misbehaves in the nursery, and I think you should know."  She lovingly and compassionately continued to give us advice and pointers as to how we could help our young son.

My husband graciously thanked her for the interest she had in our son, and told her that he was going to try to work with our baby on the matter.  Although I smiled at her as my husband was talking, my proud mother-heart was not smiling at all!  On the inside I was thinking, "How dare she?!  My precious little angel-boy wouldn't hit other children in the nursery!"  My thoughts were not kind at all.

Then, I felt completely ashamed and let my guard down.  I thought, "Now, Anna, you know that your little Andrew is not an angel. Listen to what she has to say."

This dear lady was the lady who held my little Andrew the first time I went to church after he had been born.  As he grew, she had a special love for him.  I knew that she loved him.  She would never say or do anything to hurt him! I listened to her as she told me what SHE did when her little boys (who were then young men) acted up in the nursery.

Then and there, I prayed in my heart, "Lord, show us what to do.  Give us humility to accept this advice, and give us wisdom to do what we can to try to correct this behavior problem in our son."

That was on a Saturday night.  The following morning, I put a new prayer request on my prayer list and began to pray for our little Andrew.  It became a blessing for me to pray specifically for this in my baby's life, and led me to pray from then on for very small things in his life, as well as in the life of my other baby, Deborah.

As I look back on that night, I can only thank the Lord for my friend, who cared enough for our Little Andrew and for us as parents to talk to us. And I thank the Lord for "knocking me up-side the head" and helping me to see that if I could accept this advice from an older, wiser lady, this would help us.

To this day, I pray that my son (who is 10 years old) will be a blessing to his teachers and that he will listen and receive a blessing in his Sunday School class.

And about 4 years ago, a dear and precious friend of mine said something negative about my children.  Although I did not show it at that moment, it broke my heart, and later I cried and cried!  As the days following passed, I could feel anger and bitterness trying to take root in my heart.  "I'll never let my children around her, and I'll show her.  She'll be sorry she EVER said anything about my children."  I think that when something hurtful is said or done to our children, it is WORSE than if it is said or done to us, isn't that so?

I remember one Sunday morning about one month later, I was struggling with this horrible and ugly tug-of-war in my heart.  I knew with all of my heart that I had come to a point in my life where I had to make a decision:  to let this anger and hurt continue in my heart; or to forgive and let go of that ugly comment that had been made. The bitterness that was beginning to take root in my heart was going to hurt me and my children one thousand times more than the comment that had been made.

I had lost my joy over one thoughtless comment.

Thanks be to my God, He gave me the power to forgive.  He helped me to choose forgiveness.

Almost immediately, a tremendously heavy burden was lifted from my heart, and my joy was returned to my spirit.  God lifted me out of that pit of unforgiveness and bitterness.

Did God deal with the lady about what she had said?  I do not know, but that is not my business.  What I do know is that God loves me enough to have dealt with ME, and I am so, so thankful!

4 years later, I can say that the sweet lady who caused my grief  (in a time when perhaps she was tired, moody, or frustrated) has become one of the greatest sources of encouragement and joy to me.  She has blessed me a hundred times over since then.  I am so thankful that I forgave and let go.

What are you holding on to?  Did someone do or say something hurtful to you, and you just can't seem to forgive and forget?  You cannot; but God will give you the grace and the strength to do so, if you will allow Him.  You see, forgiveness is a choice.  You make the choice, and God gives the ability.

Experience the freedom today that comes through forgiveness!

Friday, August 8, 2014

From My Kitchen Window

From the spot where I work the most (my kitchen), I can look out my window onto the street where cars and people are constantly passing. I see men walking to work and young people going to school early in the morning. Then I hear (before I see) the water truck and the gas truck passing; I see Mommies walking their children to kindergarten. I must admit that I have become familiar with the routines of people in my neighborhood, including the new couple who just moved in across the street. There are certain people, though, whom God has laid upon my heart specifically, for whom I pray almost daily. In a way, I feel they've become my friends, although I don't know their names and neither do I know where they live. But I see them pass, and I pray for their salvation.

One is a young man, probably in his early 20s. He pushed a tricycle (a yellow one with a carrier on the front). Every morning, at 9:00, he rides the tricycle down the hill past my window. I see he sells cold "horchata" (a sweet rice drink) and cold "jamaica" (a hibiscus drink); and he also sells tacos. I imagine that he goes down to the square in town and sells. I have seen him ride by on a motorcycle and big blocks of ice are strapped into a crate-type container. I assume he delivers ice to someone. I am under the impression that he's a very hard worker. Not too long ago, our family returned from town in our car, and I saw this young man walking on our street with a young lady. They appeared to be more than just friends. But I thought: if she marries him, I'm sure she'll be getting a hard-working husband.

And every time he passes my window, I pray for God to save him.

I also see a deformed and crippled lady who passes every so often. She always seems to be so jolly and happy. I don't know her name, but I pray for her salvation.

And I see a little old Indian woman who passes my window nearly every day. She actually comes very near to my kitchen window. There is something that grows outside that window that she comes and me, they're just weeds, but to her, they might be medicine or special seasonings. I don't know. But when I see her, I ask God to save her, and to provide for her needs.

My ministry is in my home. Between home-schooling, cooking, cleaning, caring for a baby, training children, and being the help meet for my precious husband, I feel that I don't have much time for ministries outside the home. I ask God to give me a special ministry. And I feel that He has. I can pray for the many people who pass my kitchen window. As I see them pass, the Holy Spirit reminds me that my neighborhood is a mission field. They are my ministry. "Pray for them. I'll prepare their hearts, and when the time comes, I'll give you an opportunity to speak to them about Me."

What a special ministry we have in praying for others, for only God knows the hearts, and only He can prepare them to accept the saving Gospel.

Will you take time to pray with me for my neighbors who pass my kitchen window?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Child's Art

I have always loved my children's drawings and art work. Since they were very small, I have collected and saved back their finest masterpieces.

Their pictures and drawings give me an idea of what is in their little minds and hearts, and it allows me to know what they are thinking. This has always been so important to me!

The things my children say and the way they say them are a signal to me of their attitudes and their innermost feelings.  And their attitude is the light that shines on what is in their souls. 

"The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly."  Proverbs 20:27

--If you can read this one and figure it out, you'll get quite a laugh!--

There have been times that I have paid special attention to some things my children have said and the way in which they were said; and sure enough, there was an "unsettled bit of business" in their little minds and hearts. A bit of talking to, encouragement to talk to Mama, some tears shed, reading Scriptures pertaining to the subject; a word of prayer with my child, and it was all taken care of.  He's back to his old happy self, and Mama feels relief and gratefulness in her heart. "Thank You, Lord!"

May God help us parents to really look into our children's eyes, to see their expressions and to see the attitudes and meanings behind the words they say. Look at their drawings and ask them what it means and what they're expressing.  Don't be too busy with life's less important, sometimes demanding things. Make your children a priority. 

Taking 3-4 minutes to look at her picture and to talk about it with her may save you heartache down the road in her life. Mommy sees and appreciates my work; she takes the time to ask me about it and makes sure she understands what I'm conveying through my pictures.

Then she hangs it on the fridge and shows Daddy when he comes home. This makes me feel appreciated. I am special, and I am loved. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

How Does She Do It?

Have you ever watched one of your Mommy friends and asked that question?  "How does she do it?"

I have.  On a day when the kids are lagging behind in their school work; when you just can't get around to cleaning the bathroom (the last 3 days); the laundry is piling up because it has been raining  and the laundry can't be hung outside; you look out the window and see the neighbor walking by to take her children to school, and she has her hair done up so nicely and she looks so fresh so early in the morning.  Or you feel like you're really "on the ball" this morning and everything seems to be under control, only to're not sure what you will fix for lunch and the children are hungry.

Have you ever had a day like that, or am I the only one?  And you're standing over a sink of dirty dishes, and another Mommy friend comes to your mind, and in frustration you think:  "How does she do it?  She has seven children and her house always seems to be in perfect order; the children's school work is done; her laundry doesn't ever seem to be piled up; she always looks like she stepped out of a fashion magazine."

I've had days like that, and the devil perches himself right up onto my shoulder and begins his accusations, and discouraging darts strike right through my mind and heart.  If I let myself, I can get pretty low, and be really hard on myself.  "You got up at 6:30.  What do you have to show for it?!"

If I can make myself reason correctly, and let the Holy Spirit speak to me instead of paying attention to the devil, I realize several things:

1)  Comparison is the thief of joy and contentment

II Corinthians 10:12 says that "...but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."

I must realize that I will never be like my sister, Sarah.  She is the sweet and patient mother of six beautiful children.  She has the gift of being able to just sit down in the midst of a messy living room and relax and enjoy watching her children play.  She is not worried about cleaning up the living room before sitting to relax.

My sister-in-law, Jolene, is the perfect example of organization and being able to stick to a job until it is done.  Her beautiful daughter is always (ALWAYS) dressed in doll dresses, with her hair done up in the cutest styles.  In my mind, she is the ideal mommy.  But I am not her, and I will never be just like her!

My friend, Colleen, always makes time for tea parties with her girls and has time to sew such lovely things, and makes (yes, I said MAKES) dolls for her girls for Christmas.  What an ideal Mommy! But I am not her, and I must realize I do not have the gift of sewing or making lovely crafts.  I can't be just like her!

Not long ago, I threw up my hands in frustration and thought, "I will never be patient like Sarah!  I will never be organized like Jolene!  I will never be creative like Colleen."  Then I thought, "I am not them!  I will never be them!  I am myself and God made me who I am!"

There is a danger in comparing yourself to people whom you THINK are smart, organized, patient, creative, and just always "on the ball."  Comparison is the thief of contentment and can steal your joy.

2) You are who God made you to be

I can lament not being all that I want to be.  Or I can say, "Hey, I am NOT Jolene or Sarah or Colleen.  I am MYSELF!"  My mother said something recently that just really blessed my heart.  She was speaking on "The Ministry of a Mother," and she said, "God placed your child in YOUR womb because He knew that your child needed YOU for his mother."  You can say, " poor children will NEVER have a perfect mother!"  Or you can say, "I am the mother God chose for my children!"

God knows me.  He knows my failures and He knows my frustrations and He sees me when my house is a mess and my day isn't going as planned.  And yet, He gave these children to ME.  He chose ME to be the wife to that wonderful man who is my husband.  I love reflecting on the thought that, in spite of the fact that He knew what my faults would be, He still entrusted these precious children into my care.

I like observing Sarah and Jolene and Colleen (and others) and I try to let them encourage me and inspire me to do better.  But I can't compare myself to them because I am NOT them!

3) Enjoy what God has given to YOU

When you let comparison rob you of your joy, you are missing out on great blessings every day.  I remind myself that, although I am not perfect and my children aren't either, they are so precious, and there is no greater earthly treasure I have than them.  I live in a comfortable house, and it fulfills the needs of our family.  Our house will sometimes be a mess, the furniture will sometimes be dusty, dinner will sometimes be a little late, the laundry will sometimes get piled up; and although I like to get my chores done in the early hours of the day, it is OKAY if it doesn't all get done.  Life can still be sweet and fun when things are a little messy.

What do I want my children to remember when they look back on their childhood?  Do I really want them to remember a Mommy who was always stressed out because she just couldn't get it all done?  Or do I want them to remember a peaceful and joyful Mommy who conveyed an "it's okay, I will eventually get it done" attitude?

4) Let Jesus be your example

God is so compassionate. He made you.  He knows you. He doesn't expect you to be like anyone else.

"But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth."  Psalm 86:15

I thank the Lord that He knows me and loves me as I am.  He sees my struggles, yet He encourages me and gives me hope.  The devil tries to get me to see only the negative, but the Lord helps me to see that I can do all things through Christ.  He is my strength.

So determine that you are going to enjoy being YOU the way that YOU do things, and don't forget to do all that you do for the glory of God!

Have a beautiful day with Jesus! You and He make a great team!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Marvel of a New Road

We pulled off the main highway and my husband drove down the new dirt road.  We were on our way to a jungle village which we had visited many times in the past twelve years.  "I hope the rains have not washed out any parts of the road," my husband said with a bit of worry in his voice.  "If it has, we will turn around and go in the other way."

"The other way" was the way he had always come in.  It was another hour's drive on the main highway, down an extremely bumpy road for another 25 minutes; then we'd have to cross the swinging bridge hanging at least 25-30 meters high; walk through corn fields and cow pastures for another 30 minutes until reaching the foot of the mountain that we'd have to climb.

I had made that walk and climbed that mountain (up and down, mind you!) pregnant (twice), carrying a baby and a backpack countless times; we had made that walk in the dark, in the rain, walked in knee-deep mud, many times hoping the cows in the pasture didn't charge at you as you passed them at arm's length.  Children see everything as an adventure, especially when you can ride a horse!  We have surely made a lot of memories on the old trail, for sure!

But quite contrary to my husband's fears, the road to the village was just lovely, and our vehicle made it through the "back way" with not a single problem.  The view was beautiful, and I got to see the other side of this majestic mountainside.  It was absolutely breath-taking.  And to listen to my husband exclaim over and over what a miracle it was to have a road back to this village was priceless.  He relived the days when he was just a very young boy, walking with his Daddy and Mama down a small path over this same territory.  "I just can't believe it!" he said over and over.

In a short time, we were riding down the gravel road that we had walked over countless times, to his sisters' homes.  The last time I had walked down this road, I was jumping from rock to rock to avoid stepping in mud.  The rocks were huge.  One had to be careful not to slip!  So many times I had held tightly to my children's hands so they wouldn't slip and fall on this very same path.

And now, we were in an air-conditioned vehicle, driving down this same road.  You would have had to experience the many things I experienced in this same place to truly appreciate the wonder of the new road.  I hope I have adequately described it to you.

As I stepped out of our car, I realized that I had forgotten just how hot it got back there.  We had arrived at the home of one of my three sisters-in-law who live there with their sweet families.  They immediately ushered us into the little kitchen, where a short, tin roof made it feel as if you were sitting in an oven.  Off to the side, an open fire burned as they prepared their dinner.  We were served cold watermelon.  How refreshing!

My sweet mother-in-law, recovering from an awful case of Shingles, was staying with her daughters as she rested and regained her strength.  Everyone was so happy to see us and welcomed us warmly.  They always give us the very best that they have. 

Feeling as if I were going to suffocate from the intense humidity, I walked outside and sat in the hammock with Baby Tommy.  It felt maybe 3 degrees cooler outside.  At a short distance I could see the chickens and turkeys in the pen.  Off to the side was the simple wash area.  Then just past that a beautiful view of the river flowing down beneath.

I had forgotten a few things, I realized as the days passed.  The rocky walk to the outhouse.  The big bullfrogs that hide in the outhouse at night.  The constant struggle to keep my ready-to-walk-but-still-crawling-around 14-month-old baby off the dirty floors.  The crows that land on the tin roof early in the morning and make enough noise to wake a sleeping baby boy.

Too often, we tend to allow the inconveniences or discomforts of life to overshadow the amazing, fun things we are to enjoy and cherish in life.  The fellowship that we always enjoy with my husband's family; the retreat from a busy life in  the modern city; the beautiful sounds and smells of nature; watching the children enjoy the thrill of riding a horse and laughing with cousins; the beautiful Ch'ol dialect spoken by these dear people...I didn't want to take this for granted.  The discomfort would last only for a few days, but the sweet memories we were making were going to last forever.

I look at my husband, his heart full of laughter, relaxed completely as he jokes with one of his brothers-in-law.  He is so happy here.  I enjoy seeing him this way.

Debbie came close to me and whispered, "Mommy, I am so hot!"  I took her hand and led her to the wash area.  I had her lean over the wash area and poured water over her head, down her neck, and got her clothes wet.  She looks up at me and grinned.  "This is fun!"   'That's the spirit!' I thought.  That became our routine...about every 2 hours.  It kept her cool and happy, and she told me, "Mommy, this is SO MUCH FUN!"  Amazing, the simple pleasures in life.

That first night, when we finally got to bed, my baby boy sleeping beside me, I closed my weary eyes and thanked the Lord for a safe place to sleep.  I opened my eyes once more to look at my husband.  He was just staring at me.  He smiled and said, "Anna, who would have ever thought?!  I just can't believe we rode in our car all the way here!"  I wouldn't have missed that moment for anything in this whole world!

We did enjoy 4 days of sweet fellowship with the dear family members, fellow-believers.  The last night we were there, my husband took his guitar and our electric keyboard out of the trunk of our car and hooked up the keyboard.  We realized the electric power was not quite enough for the keyboard.  So my husband strung an extension cord out to our car, started the engine, and plugged in an electrical strip to the cigarette lighter.  As my husband's family listened, our family sang for them..."Until Then," "Mansion Over The Hilltop," "On The Jericho Road," "One Day At A Time," and other songs.  There is hardly a better way to make a family reunion complete than to have a little singing.  What a joyous time it was!

It was a sad good-bye the next day as we drove off.  How my mother-in-law wept!  (I believe that the older one gets,  the harder good-byes become.)  As we waved good-bye, I couldn't help but be thankful in my heart for the time we were able to spend there.  Before we made the trip, part of me was dreading the trip, knowing it would be hard going back with a baby.  I prepared my heart days before the trip, praying the Lord would help me to "rough it" with a good attitude.  (I realize now that Satan tried his best to steal this opportunity from me, and I'm so glad I didn't let him have his way.  It was an experience of a lifetime!)

And you know what?  The Lord helped me!  Dread turned to happiness.  Fear turned to thrill and excitement! Nothing could take the place of the thrill of riding beside my husband and watching him enjoy the wonder of a modern road back to the place that seemed so remote and far, far away!

I hope that this little adventure that I share with you will encourage you to enjoy the ride of life that the Lord takes you on.  Comfort is really not important if you can cultivate the right attitude in life.  I was reminded of that once again on this trip.  The first of many to come, I hope!