Ode to Dad

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From life’s first breath there you were,

For every giggle and every cry.

And as the years passed in a blur,

Everywhere you went I was close by.

Like a puppy dog who happily follows behind,

I shadowed every step you made.

You taught me to love that which was designed,

By the One who spoke and there it stayed.

A hammer, a joke, a Bible, my brain,

A jack, a wheel, and a call;

All things that brought me gain;

 You taught me to use them all.

As time came to leave the nest,

I flew as far as I thought I could go.

As you sat in the car, about to leave me out west,

I watched from the window, though you would never know.

Many moons ago I knew,

that next to you would never be the place I’d again be.

I knew it when I flew,

But I wondered if you’d see.

A kindred soul I met out west;

Who wanted to be mine forever.

He asked you and you said “yes,”

And now alone I will be never.

Then time came to go far away,

Not only one time, but two as well.

And it meant so much that “no” you did not say

But it could hurt I could tell.

It is hard to be so far away,

From the man who so much taught.

But the greatest of all  I would say,

Is to follow the One who by the cross I was bought.

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Love Them

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As a wrap-up to the series “How to Support Missionaries,” I decided to ask my friend Vince to write what it looks like to support missionaries from his perspective – the perspective of one who does it, not just talks about it. He and his wife Sharon love, care for, encourage, support, and pray for missionaries just about better than anyone I know. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy the very poignant words of Mr. Vince Rice.

As I came out of the church where my grandmother’s funeral was held, I was wiped out. It had been a whirlwind weekend; Mimi had passed away Thursday night, and it had been nonstop since then for all of the immediate family. There had been eulogies to write for the paper, a funeral to plan, contacts to be made for said funeral, and so on. If you’ve lost a loved one, you know all that’s involved. In addition to the small part I had in the above, I had ended up speaking at the funeral.1

Coming out of the doors, I had a discombobulated moment as I ran into almost the entire ministry staff from our church. My first thought was, “Wait, we’re at her church, what are they doing here?” In my addled state, I probably indelicately asked them the same thing (“What are you doing here?”), and a dear friend on staff said they’d been in staff meeting close to Mimi’s church and just decided to come on over.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that very simple gesture. It was completely unexpected, and therefore all the more meaningful. It was unannounced, and therefore all the more touching. It was unnecessary, and therefore all the more memorable. If it wasn’t the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me, it’s in the running.

Which brings us to missionaries.

MacKenzie has been writing a series on “How To Support Missionaries”, found here, here, and here, and she asked me to write a guest post from the other side of the fence, as someone who supports missionaries2. She has talked about supporting missionaries with your money, with your prayers, and with your time. Let me sum it up for you in a different way.

Love them.

American culture has had a horrible effect on our understanding of love. Rom com’s and bad pop songs and horrid teenage vampire novels have taught us that love is an emotion, that it comes and goes where it wills and we have no control over it, that when it comes to matters of the heart we have to ignore our head. Ironically, a great pop3 song reminds us of the reality — luv is a verb.

Remember what you learned about verbs back in middle school? They’re action words. If love (or luv) is a verb and a verb is an action word, the transitive property4 tells us love is an action word. Love isn’t feeling something, love is doing something.

So if your mental response to “We need to love them” was, “I do love them!” then my response is, “Great, what are you doing about it?”

“What can I do about it,” you ask? Well, MacKenzie’s already told you, but I’ll tell you again.

Send them money

Jesus told us a truth that is still overlooked, even (or especially) in churches. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That is, our heart follows our money, not the other way around. Do you want your heart to be somewhere? Send your money there. Do you want your heart to be with the poor and oppressed? Send your money to them, or to people helping them. Do you want your heart (or more of your heart) to be with your friends on the mission field? Send your money (or more of your money) there.

No excuses. “We don’t have…” Yes you do. “You haven’t seen…” Trust me, I have. And worse. Here’s something I’ve observed hundreds of times — if someone has a heart to give to others, God makes it possible for them to do so. Ask the Lord what you should give and then give it. Don’t do the math, He invented math and He can make two plus two equal eighteen if He wants to.

Send them prayers

This is another area where America has done Christandom a huge disservice. All of us Type-A’s5 are task-oriented. Praying’s not a task to us. Praying’s what we do when we don’t have any other tasks to do. Praying is the last resort. Praying is what happens in our down time. Praying is what the women do while the men are making things happen.

Praying is none of that. Prayer is the work. Without prayer, all the money doesn’t matter. “Apart from Me, you can do most anything.” “Apart from Me, you can do what you can raise money to do.” “Apart from Me, you can do what the committee allows you to do.”

Apart from Me, you can do N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

In addition to that, prayer works kind of like our money. We will care about the things we pray about. Want to care more about your missionary friends? Pray for them. Pray for the things they’re praying for. Pray for the people they’re praying for. You’ll find yourself communicating with them more often — you want to know what’s happening with the things you’re praying about. And they’ll feel more refreshed and more energized and more empowered.

Send them yourself

Go visit them. Get off your … derriere … and go see them. Get some first-hand experience of what their life looks like now. You’re never going to understand from letters and skypes and texts and photographs and blog posts. You think those give you understanding, but they don’t.

We don’t understand what it’s like to live life where a big church service is twenty people. We don’t understand what it’s like to live life where we have the language skills of a third-grader. We don’t understand what it’s like to live with unfamiliar food, with unfamiliar customs, with unfamiliar people. We don’t understand what it means to live every day as a complete outsider. Reading about it and hearing about it simply isn’t enough. We need to experience it, with them.

Trust me, I know first-hand how much you will learn that you would never have learned otherwise, things unsaid by them, things too overwhelming for words for them, things sometimes unknown by them. Go. Listen. Learn.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side… And together we’ll spread the news that God is in their land

But this isn’t all about the missionaries.6 There’s something in it for you, too. Joy. Wonder. Excitement. A greatly expanded world view. A deeper awareness of how God is at work everywhere. The opportunity to be involved in God’s kingdom expanding not just where you are, but where they are.

Ten years ago, my wife and I had never been on a short-term mission trip. Today, we’ve been on over a dozen between us. In addition, we’ve visited various of our “kids” in Italy and Cambodia and South Carolina, and hope to get hip in Portland in the not too distant future. We get updates from those kids and other missionary friends from literally around the world, including places I can’t tell you or I’d have to kill you. Reading those newsletters and blogs, videoing7 with them, praying for them — it brings an ineffable sense of … well, joy and wonder and excitement. And community. One of the miracles of the Interwebs is that we can be in community with someone on the other side of the world.

Back to them. I told you the story about Mimi’s funeral because that’s the feeling a missionary gets when they receive an unexpected letter, or a visit from a friend, or a series of prayers over an extended period of time. They remember it. They take courage from it. Their faith, and spirit, is enlarged by it. And that translates directly to their effectiveness in doing what God has called them to do.

There are two cliches about distant relationships: absence makes the heart grow fonder, and out of sight, out of mind. My experience is that the former is a cliche but the latter is true. 100% of the missionaries I know have experienced the latter, even by their closest friends and family.

Love them.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.


  1. I’m not completely clear on how that happened. After I had volunteered the fifteenth thing while her pastor was talking to the family to prepare what he would share at the funeral, I suspect he thought asking me to speak there might shut me up in the short term. It worked, as far as I remember. 
  2. My wife and I have ten “kids” on the mission field, which include Paul and MacKenzie. We also know another half-dozen or so other singles/families on mission in various places around the world. 
  3. Rock? Hip-hop? All of the above? 
  4. Wow, english and math in one paragraph. And you thought all that schooling was wasted. 
  5. You think it’s a coincidence America starts with an A? 
  6. It is, but let’s pretend it’s not for a moment. 
  7. That’s a generic term, can include facetiming, skyping, etc. 

The End of School

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I am done. Like stick a fork in me I’m overcooked kinda done. Truth be told I was done about a month ago.

The next five days Gingernut and Lil’ Paul go to school can’t come and go fast enough.

Gingernut is going to school with…hmmmm….maybe half of her school supplies every day. And that’s on a good day. She might have a pen, perhaps two, but one is probably one she found on the floor or that a friend let her borrow. She has a handful of colored pencils that look like the worse end of something a beaver has been gnawing on. I’m pretty sure I only saw about three markers floating around during homework time today. And a pencil sharpener…that thing was probably lost weeks ago, people. And don’t get me started on glue. I could have put this kid through a year of college with all the money I spent on pens and glue alone.

Snack? What snack? Are teachers still expecting us to send a snack? Honestly, I throw a pack of crackers in that snack box and call it done. And I even pat myself on the back for having something to put in there so they don’t starve between drop off and lunch.

And homework? Why are we still doing homework with a week left of school? I just can’t even.

So as the year is wrapping up, I am reflecting on the year. Not only was it the first full year of school but it was the first year in a foreign school. And as I reflect, I realize I have many different emotions and feelings and sentiments.

Accomplishment.  We did it. And I while I know it was the kids actually going to school, Paul and I might as well have been in that classroom with Gingernut. I have learned new ways to write in cursive and add and subtract. I mean, who knew there was more than one way to write a cursive “a”?? We all learned so much, and we are all alive to tell the tale, which is an accomplishment in itself. We have successfully accomplished completing the first year of Italian school. Gold star for all of us.

Relief. Relief that this first, and I hope, most difficult year is almost past us. I’m almost ready to breath that heavy sigh of relief. I can see the finish line of this marathon approaching. It is so close. One down, only about 13 more to go.

Pride. I was so nervous last September. I was sending my kids into an environment in which they could barely ask to go to the bathroom. But it was necessary. Necessary for them to learn the language and the culture, to begin making friends and hopefully to feel like they “fit in”. And our kids did it.  You guys, they DID IT. It’s crazy to think how much language they have learned this year. And while there were some battles, they did remarkably well. They did something that was hard – especially Gingernut – and persevered. I don’t even know that “pride” is a strong enough word to convey what I feel when I think about this.

Thankful. I am so thankful to my God who heard every cry, of all our hearts, on those hard days. Who stayed close not only to the kids but to Paul and I as well when all we wanted to do was keep them home instead of leaving them crying at school. On those days, I clung to dear Jesus with everything in me. I had to. Only He was going to get us all four through it. And I am so thankful he did.

Happy. I am happy to have Gingernut and Lil’ Paul home for 100 or so days. I am eagerly awaiting the first day we aren’t rushing to get out the door. I am excited to play and read and picnic and nap together. Especially the nap together. I realize that these are all fuzzy, warm dreams that may or may not realize themselves and by August I’ll be counting the days down to the start of school, but right now, I am just going to happily look forward to picture perfect lazy days of summer…and hopefully make it through the last days of school.

Understanding. Gingernut had a so many ups and downs this year. And while I am sad she had to go through so many hard things I am glad that I had the opportunity to speak the Gospel into those hard things and that I now understand more about the way she is wired, which in turn helps me to parent her better. I also understand better how to advocate for her because of all the trials that she faced this year.

Encouraged. We made it through the first year with everybody still somewhat mentally intact, which has given me encouragement that we can succeed at school and language learning. All of us. But beyond the school aspect, I am encouraged as I talk to Gingernut and Lil’ Paul about things of Jesus. They have grown in their understanding of him and are learning how to depend on him as their source of help and hope, especially Gingernut.  I am encouraged that they will one day see him as the Savior to save them, the Shepherd to guide them, the Protector to take away their fears, the Father who loves them unconditionally.

These end-of-school days mark a significant accomplishment for our family. It is one that I think I will always remember. How through tears, tantrums, and endless hugs and kisses goodbye at classroom doors we all persevered and made it through the first year with love and grace and  more understanding of Italian and one another.

 

How to Support Missionaries, Part 3: Investing

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I recently had the opportunity to go to a women’s retreat in northern Italy with about 11 other women from a different organization but most of whom I know. This was the second year I have been invited to go, and it could not have come at a better time.

I was becoming weary and worn.

I needed rest.

I needed to be with friends without any obligations or responsibilities.

I needed a break. From cooking and cleaning and school. From life.

And as I walked through the lush, green fields with the sun shining warm on my face or sat with a friend talking about marriages and children while sipping a steaming cup of coffee or played games in a cozy living room with a fire roaring inside and a storm howling outside, I rested. Deep in my bones rested.

That weekend was made possible through the efforts of several, but the no cooking and gifts from America (think lots of Bath and Body Work!) were made possible because three ladies from a church in Fayetteville, Tennessee, came to serve us. They prepared all our meals and cleaned up afterwards. They brought us notes from other women in their church who are praying for us. They brought American “goodies” that we do not get to indulge ourselves in here (I mentioned the Bath and Body Works, right?). They served us. And in serving us, breathed energy and rest and peace into our weary souls.

One of these women, Mrs. Sherry, organizes all of the food and notes and gifts and treats. This was her third time to come. She has invested in the women serving here and their families. She knows about our families and our lives. And we know about hers. She cares about us. She loves us. She prays for us.

In serving us, they are serving our families and our ministries. I came home rested and ready to go. And though I didn’t knowit at the time, I was going to need to be rested for what awaited me when I got back home.

When you invest in the lives of missionaries, you make a lasting impact not only in their lives but in their ministries. You are helping keep them sustained.

There are not many ministering to the missionary, who are constantly pouring out. Being able to “fill your tank” yourself is an important skill missionaries have but sometimes you need someone to fill it for you. When the tank gets low and all that is keeping you going is fumes, there is a need for being filled up. I am not saying that people take the place of God. I am saying that this is an aspect of “missions” that is overlooked by the majority of churches. I have seen so many friends who are just burnt out. They are tired and worn and weary. Spiritual warfare is real and if you don’t believe it then you haven’t been overseas. And when you are in that atmosphere day in and day out, you get beat down. This is when having people who are invested in you is so important. You can reread a letter, or look up an old text, or even eat a spoonful of something delicious from home and have the feeling that somebody is in the fight with you, going before you to the LORD on your behalf.

Choose to invest in missionaries. Because this is a big task, it’s advisable to prayerfully consider in how many you can truly invest. Whether it’s one or ten, I guarantee that you will benefit from it as much as the missionaries.

So what could this possibly look like??

Here are some ideas:

Send them and their children letters and packages. Sometimes a hand-written note or a favorite snack will keep that missionary going strong for another 3 months. I have cried over Welch’s Fruit Snacks that were sent to the kids…and I may have cried into a few packs as well. They just taste so stinkin’ good. Thanks Welch’s.

Call them. Set up Skype or Facetime appointments. IT’S FREE.

Send them a text. There are many free texting apps. We use WhatsApp.

Go visit them in their host country in order to serve them. Ask them before you go how you can do this. But some examples of things you might consider offeringare the following: babysitting their kids for a weekend so mom and dad can get away (F.Y.I. babysitters don’t exist for most of us, especially if we have no teammates); offer a guys or gals weekend for a group of missionaries where you show up and do everything and the missionaries relax; offer to do childcare for a team retreat; if you are a counselor, offer to do some counseling (this can also be done via the interwebs); for couples, clean their house and cook so BOTH parents can give their children undivided attention; for folks with kids, show up and play with the kids.

Making the conscience choice to invest in missionaries helps keep them encouraged, makes them feel loved, and gives them the knowledge that they are prayed for by specific people…and in doing this it helps further the kingdom.

And who knows, you might just get a return on that invest one day.

How to Support Missionaries, Part 2: Prayer

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Part one of how to support missionaries is all about financial support, and in case you are interested and missed it, you can read about it here.

This post is about the most important thing way you can support missionaries, or anybody for that matter – by praying for them and the people they are living among.

Prayer is the greatest weapon we have at our disposal. Think about it. What is prayer? Prayer is coming before God with our requests, petitions, supplications. We can read that and keep on going along our merry way or we can stop and let it sink in to our bones. We have the privilege, given to us by God’s good grace through Christ, to come before the LORD God , requesting Him to move, to act, to answer not just on our behalf but on the behalf of others. There is no god that man worships that when they call on his/her name responds, except Yahweh.

While, money helps missionaries stay “on the field” and do the work, prayer is what gets the work done. Prayers for the Holy Spirit to work, awaken, move, cultivate, sanctify are what make the difference, in my humble opinion, between the Gospel being spread and received like seeds that are sown on good soil versus the Gospel falling on deaf or unwilling ears, like seeds that are sown on the side of the road or among the thorns. We can preach, teach, share, disciple all day but unless the Holy Spirit moves in a person there will be no life change. These are the prayers missionaries are praying – it’s what we plead with Him to do – to change peoples’ lives.

The apostle Paul understood the importance of prayer and wrote much about it.

To the Romans, he wrote:

Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints;  so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company.”*  Romans 15:30-32

Paul urged the Ephesian church to pray for all the “saints” and also for him, that he might speak the gospel with boldness:

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel….”* Ephesians 6:18-19

He again asked the church in Philippi to pray for deliverance:

“…for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ….”*Philippians 1:19

He asked for  prayer for an open door to preach the gospel from the Colossians church:

“…praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned….”* Colossians 4:3

The writer of Hebrews asked for prayers on his and others behalf that they might be honorable in all their conduct.

“Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.”* Hebrews 13:18

Perhaps our greatest example of praying for others can be found in John 17 as the Son prays to the Father on the behalf of the disciples and all who would believe in Him because of the words the disciples preached.

I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth….I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”* John 17

There are days when you feel the prayers of others. It covers you like a warm blanket. I love getting messages from people that let me know they are praying for me that day. It encourages me, lifts me, and reminds me to pray for others.

Prayer is what keeps us going, keeps us sustained.

There is just nothing more powerful than people fighting the fight with you through prayer.

So stay on your knees. Life change depends on it.


*italics added

Making disciples at home

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“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19

I think this might be the mantra of every mission-sending organization on our planet. It’s a good mantra to have. I’ve spent the last 9 years trying to understand how to live out the Great Commission, but lately I have been reflecting on who I am ministering to and who am I living out the Gospel in front of the most?

The answer is my kids.

I forget all too often that during this period, Paul and I are their disciplers. Recently, while sharing a meal with our teammates, I was reminded of it. My job as their mother is to point them to Jesus.

The most important thing I will do is send Gingernut and Lil’ Paul out into the world as adults who follow Jesus with their whole hearts, who understand what it means to pick up their cross and follow him. This is a great responsibility, one that I don’t take lightly, but one that I sometimes forget to make the focus of my mothering. I too often allow the stresses of life, the tantrums and fits, the disobedience, the lack of energy and sometimes want I feel to overshadow it. God forgive me.

When my children leave “the nest” I want them to go into the world seeing it through the lens of the Gospel. I don’t want them to have an American worldview or an Italian worldview but a Gospel worldview.

This is my great task…to prepare, teach, show and encourage them in the ways of Christ. If they are the only two people I disciple over the next 14-plus years, then I will count the time well-spent. I could reach all of Salerno, but if I fail to show and teach my children what it means to be a follower of Jesus, what have I really accomplished?

God gave two children – two of His children – to raise not in a religious household, but in a household that lifts up and makes much of His name. This responsibility, this great task, has driven me to my knees in prayer – prayers that He works and moves despite my weaknesses and sin, prayers for discernment and wisdom as I teach my children, prayers for learning how to rest in Him when the days are long and my patience in short, prayers for the ability to do everything in love even when I don’t want to.

So, next summer, when we are back in the U.S. and you ask me how I spent my time, I’ll certainly tell you about the Italians I know and what I do at the church, but mostly I tell you about my children.

 

 

 

How to Support Missionaries, Part I

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There are so many ways to support missionaries. This is the first of several posts on all the different ways that can look. When thinking about what to write about first, I decided to go with the one that might be among some people, the least popular. Why? Because it involves you giving something away that we Americans work really hard to attain.

Your money.

Let’s talk about the why…why is it important to give some of your hard-earned money away?

  1. It provides the missionaries the means to be able to do the work they set out to do. In Philippians 4:15-19, Paul commends a church that supported him financially when he was overseas:

When I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

2. We give because everything we have is from God.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.  It is His. We are just stewards of it.” James 1:17

My friend Vince says, “Show me your checkbook and I’ll show you what you believe about God.” Do you give to things with an eternal value or things that “moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal”?

How does your giving financially help missionaries?

  1. As mentioned above, it allows them to do the work they were sent to do. It takes money to live and it takes money to do ministry/run a church.
  2. It provides peace of mind. There is a lot of stress that goes along with living overseas: language learning, the never ending paperwork, cultural adaptations, persecution, limited ministry resources, little or no community, difficult living environments,  for some raising a family. Financially supporting missionaries helps take one stress away. To not have to worry about if you have the money to get your paperwork done or to go to the doctor or to buy groceries gives security. Don’t you feel secure when you know where your next paycheck is coming from and what the exact amount of that paycheck will be? The opposite is true as well. When you see support drop, it can create panic, worry, and stress.
  3. Long-term giving keeps missionaries on the field for longer periods of time before they have to go back to their home country to fund-raise. Time is crucial for ministry. It takes time to cultivate relationships. It takes time to have the Bible translated. It takes time to disciple someone. And while meeting with donors/potential donors is important, it doesn’t need to consume the majority of our time.

What are ways to give to missionaries?

  1. One time/once a year gifts. These gifts are so greatly appreciated. They provide for big expenses that missionaries have, such as moving expenses, flights to and from their home country, paperwork expenses, etc.
  2. Monthly gifts. These gifts are the bread and water for missionaries. It is what gets us from day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year. It is vital to what missionaries do.

How to give to missionaries?

We have people we have known for years supporting us. We also have people we have meet once or twice supporting us. I think it’s important to make wise, prayerful decisions about where your money goes. But after you decide on a missionary to support, they will be able to direct you to how you can give and what their specific needs are. If you aren’t currently supporting us but are interested in doing so you can click here for more information.

There are a few things to remember when giving financially.

  1. Remember to do it. This is especially true for monthly donors. Help yourself remember by a)setting a reminder on your phone, b)writing it in your planner, c)set up an automatic transfer, d)if you pay by check and receive a reminder donor slip in the mail every month, write the check the day the donor slip comes in the mail.
  2. If something changes with your giving, let the missionary know. They have a budget too and any increase or decrease will effect it.
  3. Never for a minute think that the missionaries are ungrateful for what you do.
  4. Be gracious if you haven’t had an update from them in a while. We know it is so very important to keep you connected what is going on, but sometimes life gets messy and busy and there just isn’t time to sit down to write a newsletter that month.

Thank you so much to all those reading this who financially support missionaries. None of us could be doing what we do without you.

MacKenzie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Leads Me

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A few months ago the online workout group I am a part of (project momsanity) challenged its members to memorize Psalm 23 while doing wall sits, which I joined in on due to the fabulous prizes that could be won at the end of the month.*

While walking home from dropping the kids off at school one day that month, I was going over the psalm…just saying it over and over and reflecting on each part. As I got to “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” part, I stopped in my tracks, realizing that part is not separate from the first part. The Holy Spirit has been guiding me as I have been flushing out what this means for me on a day to day basis.

I have been taught that sheep are about as smart as a bag of rocks, as sharp as a marble, not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier….But in doing some research on them, I found a study from  University of Illinois reporting sheep “to be just below pigs and on par with cattle in IQ. Sheep can recognize individual human and ovine faces, and remember them for years…If worked with patiently, sheep may learn their names….”

I think Jesus knew this before the research was done. He talks about sheep a good bit in his teachings.

“The sheep hear [the gatekeeper’s] voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice…I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10: 3-4, 14-16

As followers of Christ, we know his voice. We know the leading of the Holy Spirit when he guides us. And because we know his voice we can walk through the valleys, trusting God is with us because He has already been leading us…leading us beside still waters, in paths of his righteousness and us to lie down in green pastures.

There is something to be said that when the rockiness of life hits there is a river of steadiness through it. There is something that can hold us firm on the path. And its God. Even though life at times is murky and we can’t see, we can have a steadfast faith, a faith that endures. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I won’t fear. Why? Because God is with me. And I can trust that God is  with me and leads me to the still waters because He has proven Himself many times before. I just have to remember how He has lead me before. Then I can believe He will lead me now.

But it is in the valley that sanctification happens.So when we are in that valley we have a choice. We can choose to see the darkness of the shadow or we can choose to turn away from the shadow and face the light. We can be like sheep and follow the shepherd or we can be like a goat: stubborn, obstinate, refusing to listen or be guided by anyone but ourselves and remain in the dark valley.  And where has that gotten anybody but into deeper darkness. (My friend Lindsey wrote an incredible post on sheep and goats that you should read.)

When we turn and follow the light, we walk through it and eventually we climb out of it  not because of anything we have done in our own strength but because of what HE has done for us, in us, through us, ahead of us. And in those valleys we can have peace and rest because we trust. Because we have a good shepherd who we know is leading us in the paths of his righteousness by the still waters, making us lie down in green pastures. As we go through the valley and become more sanctified, we trust him more, we cling to him so we can climb the hill with clean and holy hands lifted high and with a pure heart.

I more times than not, have forgotten that Jesus has led me before. That He has never been unfaithful. But I as am walking through some valleys in my life at the moment, I want to rest beside those still waters. I want to lie down in that soft, green meadow. I want to turn from the shadow that the mountains are casting around me and walk in the light that is shining down in the valley from above those mountains, being led on the path of His righteousness. All for His name’s sake.

 

*I did not win any prizes, but I can hold a wall sit for at least a minute now.

**Kendrick, Keith; da Costa AP; Leigh AE; Hinton MR; Peirce JW (November 2001). “Sheep don’t forget a face”. Nature 414 (6860): 165–6. doi:10.1038/35102669PMID 11700543. 11700543.

The People You Miss

Living overseas you always miss things from your home country. I have a list a mile long…

The start of college football.

The first day of turkey season.

Chick-Fil-A .

Walking into my grandmother’s house.

The smell of gardenia coming from my neighbor’s yard.

The ease of finding and buying almost anything.

Laying in soft, green grass at night looking at a sky full of stars that are too numerous to dare count.

Good Mexican food – but this has been missed since I left Texas.

The smell of bacon frying.

The privacy of my backyard.

A dryer on rainy days.

Central heat and air.

A large shower…or at least a shower big enough so that I don’t look like some Picasso painting when I shave my legs. I ain’t twenty and bendy anymore.

Good candy and cereal.

But all the things pale in comparison to the people that you miss.

It doesn’t matter how “at home” I feel in my host country or how many new friends I make, I will always long for those people closest to me in my home country.

That’s why when one of those people does something special for me or our family, it sends me into ugly cry mode immediately.

For my birthday, my friend Jess sent me the most special gift. I opened my email to find a movie of friends sending me birthday greetings. Some were sung, some were spoken, all were cherished. And as soon as it started I had ugly cry face all the way to the end. And I felt loved and cared for. I felt connected to people that I have loved for over five years. I felt remembered.

Thank you to everyone who contributed. It was the best gift I received…barely beating Downton Abbey Season 6. 😉

 

 

35 and counting

Well make me a cake and put a big ole 3 and 5 on top, ’cause today is my 35th birthday!

Please make it a cake without icing – preferably a buttermilk pound cake with a chocolate glaze. But I’d be happy with anything…as long as it is made in a bundt pan and comes with a chocolate glaze. Thanks.

Thirty-five has been looming in the darkness, just around the corner creeping ever closer, rearing its head and laughing at me every time I celebrated someone else who it had attacked.

Getting older is scary stuff. Wrinkles, cellulite, grandma hands, not being able to look at bread without gaining 5 pounds, and just the knowledge that I am getting older…it all scared me.

But that was then and this is now and I am not so scared anymore.

I’ve learned something in the last year. With age comes maturity, wisdom, not being defined by the world, and knowing who I am. I hope these things will increase with every year I gain.

I’ve been reflected on my life at different stages and how much I have changed…

The 5 year-old MacKenzie was a care-free kindergartener who spent her free time playing hide-and-seek and hanging from trees. She pestered her brother and spied on her older sister. She spent every Friday night with her grandparents watching TGIF and Baywatch and Miami Vice (apparently her grandparents left the room at some point). She loved being outside playing with her imaginary friends under the gumball tree pretending she had run away from home and “driving” the tractor with her dad. Her dad was her hero. Her mom was the most beautiful person she knew. She really had no worries in life.

The 15 year-old MacKenzie was painfully introverted. She had no idea who she was or where she belonged. She loved learning, especially science and English. She played in the band and took piano lessons. She skipped school the first day of turkey season to hunt with her dad in the morning, plant the garden after lunch and then hunt in the afternoon.  She fancied herself an athlete, although she wasn’t super great at it.She wanted to be part of the “crowd”, to fit in, although she never felt like she did, but she had a close group of friends whom she felt comfortable around. Her dad was still her hero even though she didn’t like all the rules that were handed out. She had no idea how patient her mom was with her through the painfully awkward teenage years.

The 25 year-old MacKenzie had moved away from home and was living in Texas. She was an almost seminary graduate who had fallen in love with the dreamiest guy she’d ever met and would be engaged to him a month later. She had friends who taught her many things ranging from it’s not a great idea to ride Six Flags roller coasters when you are sick to how to confront someone in loving manner. She was part of a church and small group that she loved and that changed her for the better. She had figured started figuring out who she was and began liking what she saw looking back at her in the mirror. However, she was still filled with insecurity. Her introverted ways held her back in many ways and from many things. Her tendency to think she had to be perfect led her to beat herself up every time she hurt someone, made a mistake, or failed to live up to an expectation. She was fiercely independent. Learning to dependent on her future husband would prove a challenge her first year of marriage. Learning to depend on her Savior would prove to be something she would have to learn over and over. She had begun to appreciate her parents in the way that you only can after you have grown up and entered adulthood yourself. Her father still hung the moon. Her mother began the woman she could only dare dream of being.

The 35 year-old MacKenzie has seen more of the world and is still married to the dreamiest guy she’s ever met and has two beautiful children by him. She’s learned the value of having deep, growing, mature friendships. Friendships that last. Friendships that push each other towards Christ. She has embraced her introvertness but has learned not to allow it to be an excuse not to push herself to do hard or uncomfortable things. She has found her identity in the One who gave it to her. She knows what she wants to be when she “grows up” and finally has the confidence to go for it. She has learned the value in having people in her life who don’t think like her in order to learn from them. She is learning perfection is not the goal but leaning in to Jesus is. She had learned that she doesn’t know everything and it’s ok to admit it. She appreciates all the sacrifices her father made that she doesn’t even know about. She is still trying to learn from the example her mother has set before her.

Getting older…no it does not bother me one bit. I welcome the wrinkles – it means I’ve laughed a lot and hopefully that there is some wisdom behind the lines. Grandma hands will mean I’ve worked hard and, I hope, have grandchildren to hold in them. Knowing I’m getting older means I know I’m that much closer to seeing Jesus.

But I can do without the gaining 5 pounds by just looking at bread….