A Look Back….

download (1)It’s that time again… the last day of the year.

A time to reflect over 2014 and all the lessons learned.

As I look back, I truly stand amazed at the goodness of my God. Who has proved Himself time and time again as faithful and able.

The year began with us feeling we had no hope. Though we had been trying tirelessly to get back to the mission field. A year ago, this seemed an impossibility. In January, 2014, Eric took a trip to Uganda that showed us quickly that this was not the place, and ended our journey with our previous mission organization. It was quite the blow, and left us feeling very alone. We wondered where God was and why everything was so difficult. Yet, God was at work even in the midst of the difficult times. Though He was silent.. He was there with us and was working behind the scenes.

For in April, we received an email from Pastor Vijay in Nepal. The man we are now working with. We had met him on a trip to Nepal in the fall of 2013. He wrote to us in April,months after the last time we had spoken. He asked how we were doing and if we had been placed with our mission organization. Eric replied that we were doing well, but that we were no longer with this organization, and were still waiting on the Lord. Immediately we received a message back. Telling us to come to Nepal, just to come and trust God for the rest. Pastor believed and had believed all along we were suppose to be here.

After much prayer, we too realized that this had been the Lord’s plan all along. But now what, we knew where we were to go,but how were we to get there.

Thus began our journey to begin our own nonprofit organization, called Ambassadors For Truth, http://ambassadorsfortruth.org/home.aspx. Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that God would allow us to start a nonprofit. Yet He did and just weeks ago, we got the approval of the IRS, as an official 501c3. I’m telling you, our God is amazing.

But to top that all off, the end of May we began traveling about to raise the support we would need for Nepal. As with any organization, our board of directors wanted to see us fully funded before we left for the field, and Pastor Vijay wanted us here by August if possible. It seemed impossible…. but we knew anything was possible with God. 

In two months, God raised the support we needed for our first year and by the time we left in August, He had also raised the money we would need for start-up!! It was so amazing to watch the Lord provide and take care of all of our needs!

We arrived in Nepal the end of August and got settled into our home by the middle of September. It has been a whirlwind, but we are so blessed to be here doing what God has called us to do.

Our year however ended on a sad note, when just 4 days before Christmas, we got news that Eric’s mom had passed away. Which led us to finding Eric a plane ticket home so he could be there to do the funeral, and spend time with his brothers and dad.

Our Christmas was far from normal, but I’m realizing that nothing about our lives is really normal. But that is okay. For our God is there to meet our every need and to care for us each step of the way.

A dear friend wrote to me earlier expressing to me what a great example I was and how God was using me in such a great way. I was humbled as I read her words, for I know deep down, I am no one special.  This year I have truly learned that “When I am weak, He is strong.”

I have learned that His grace truly is sufficient!

I have learned that Our God truly is able to do far more than I could ever ask or imagine!

So as this year comes to a close, I rejoice as I look back at what God has done. I also look forward in great anticipation of what the coming year will bring!!

What great things has God done in your life? I’m sure if you take the time to reflect you will see His handprints scattered throughout your days!!

Happy New Years, from the Top of the World!!!

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One Imperfect Christmas

imperfect christmasI must say, this is the most un-normal Christmas I have ever had. In fact there isn’t much “normal” about it.

To begin, we are living on the other side of the world in a country which doesn’t celebrate Christmas. It is not at all cold outside, so it doesn’t feel like Christmas, and to top it all off. My husband had to fly back to the States for his mom’s funeral.

Today is Christmas Eve and to be honest, I have had a hard time getting motivated to do anything. Though I finished my shopping yesterday, getting the gifts wrapped was a chore.

For the kids it has been hard too. They miss their dad and in their minds, Christmas is supposed to be a certain way.

Just like I’m sure you do, we have certain traditions that we follow every year. No matter where we may live at the time.

And this year, though we are trying to keep to these traditions as best as possible, it just isn’t the same.

This morning after a meltdown with the kiddos, I shared with them, that I was sorry this wasn’t a perfect Christmas. I apologized that things hadn’t gone as we would have liked or even planned.

But as I have thought on this, I have been reminded that the first Christmas was far from perfect either. In fact it was pretty rough for Mary and Joseph.

Though Jesus could have been born in a palace, surrounded by the very best of everything. He was born in a stable, laid in a manger.

Though I’m sure Mary would have prefered a better place to give birth, all she had was a bed of straw.

As I have thought on this, I have been reminded that Christmas is not about tradition. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Christmas is indeed all about Jesus.

And though I wish things were different. It is still Christmas, with or without tradition.

Today, the kids and I delivered gifts to the children at Compassion house, and baked bread for the ladies. What a complete joy it was to watch as they opened and received these things.

This is what Christmas is all about… giving, just as God gave His only begotten son, so that one day He might die for our sins.

So though this will be the most unusual Christmas ever. Though it will be far from perfect.

I take comfort in the fact that, the first Christmas, was far from perfect either.

And yet it was because of this imperfect Christmas, that we have hope eternal today.

How about you? Are things rushed, are you feeling irritated that everything isn’t going your way.

Then I want to remind you as the Lord has reminded me…. this is not what Christmas is all about!

And I want to encourage you to let it go.

Let go of the idea of having everything perfect and settle for your own imperfect Christmas which is focused instead on Jesus.

Immanuel: God With US

immanuelI have enjoyed listening to Nancy Leigh Demos podcast this Christmas as she has taught through the Christmas passages. Recently she spoke of our Immanuel.

And I was reminded that at the close of the Old Testament period, it was dark. The people had turned away from God, they had refused HIM, and gone their own way.

For years, it has been silent. No prophets prophesying, no word of God.

That is until that SILENT NIGHT, when the WORD BECAME FLESH and dwelt among us.

Jesus came to be our Immanuel.

Taking on flesh, to dwell and live among us… God with us.

As I was pondering this amazing truth today, and singing carols as I cleaned.

This thought crossed my mind. This is why missions is important!!

You see, it is good and needed to send money.

It is great to do short-term trips, to dig wells, to teach, to build orphanages, and do back yard Bible clubs.

All of these things are needed and important.

But those who come and live among the people are just as vital.

For they have come to dwell among the people. Just as Christ came to dwell among us.

Oh this doesn’t make them super spiritual. But it does make them needed to bring forth the Gospel into foreign lands.

I was once listening to a podcast by David Platt and he told a story about how once he traveled to the Sudan. When he was there, a man came to him and said. Now I know this message, this Gospel is truth, because you have come here to tell me.

Likewise, the pastor we are working with in Central Asia tells a similar story of his salvation. Growing us, his mother became a Christian first and sought to lead him to the Lord. But he had no interest. His interest was in making money and securing a comfortable future. That is until one day he met a medical missionary. He could not believe it nor understand why a doctor who could make lots of money, living comfortably in his own country would come to his country to serve his people. A people who could not afford to pay him. This doctor had given up his comforts, his family, his job security to come to serve. It was due to this, that the Lord opened his heart to his need of Jesus.

Jesus came and lived among us. He took on flesh. He humbled Himself in obedience to the Father. Even obedience unto death.

That He might set for us the perfect example.

This Christmas we are living far from family and friends. We are having to do our Christmas different from before.

But the Lord reminded me, that this is why we have come.

We have come to live among the people here. We have come to serve them.

That they might see the truth of the Gospel in our lives.

That we might shine as cities on a hill, pointing them to the One True God.

So though it is different, we rejoice.

And there will be much rejoicing in Heaven over just one lost sheep who calls upon the Lord!

How grateful we are that Jesus came to be Our Immanuel.

How thankful to know, no matter where we go, God is with us!

Is there room for Christ in your Christmas?

christmas 1The night of Jesus birth was pretty intense for Mary.

I mean can you imagine? She has never been with a man. She is a young girl who is miserably pregnant (for we all know what that last month is like) and she has to go with Joseph to Bethlehem to be counted.

If that wasn’t bad enough, when they finally arrive after the long journey, tired and weary. Just longing for a place to rest, they come to find that there is “no room” for them.

When my husband and I first married, we pastored a small church in Arkansas. The people were wonderful, but it was quite the experience for us fresh seminary grads. But I still remember that Christmas like it was yesterday.

You see, my uncle was a member of this church and earlier that summer, he had been diagnosed with cancer. He tried all the medicines and did all the doctors said, but in the end the Lord called him home. Our church was having its Christmas party at a dear couple’s home. When in the midst of the celebration, the phone rang. Quickly the mood turned from joy to grief. As we were confronted with the news that my uncle had passed away.

That Christmas was unique in that in the midst of celebrating the “birth” of Christ, we were also mourning the “death” of my uncle. Though the funeral home was decorated for Christmas and carols were sung, it was still a grievous time.

Yet, that Christmas my husband preached a message I never soon forgot. He preached on the birth of Christ and whether we had made room for Christ in our lives, our homes, our Christmas.

Now many years later, we are serving in Central Asia as missionaries. And even without all the hustle and bustle “American Christmas” brings, it is really easy to squeeze Christ out. To forget or be so busy with other things, that Christ has no room.

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind, and now Christmas is only 11 days away. And to be honest it feels nothing like Christmas. There are no lights to drive around to see, no caroling, and no supplies to do the “Christmas baking” I usually do with my mom.

If I’m not careful, I can quickly push Jesus out and fill my days with other things, not making time or room for His presence.

That Christmas long ago, we knew and experienced Christ presence as we made room for Him in the midst of tragedy. See, we knew that my uncle was no longer in pain. We knew He was with the Lord and we could celebrate.

The night of Jesus birth, though long and weary for Mary and Joseph. Was a night in which Mary pondered for many years to come. Though a young, virgin girl, she had been chosen to give birth to Jesus. And though there seemed to be no room for Him that night, He was welcomed by the voices of angels. Greeted by the shepherds and His star led the wise men to find Him.

So I want to challenge you as the Lord has challenged me, “Make sure you make room for Christ this Christmas.”

Though there is much to do, stop and remember why you do these things.

Though you are making your list and checking them twice, stop and sing the carols as you do.

Though life is busier this time of year than any other, stop and make sure you worship Jesus.

I’m learning that unless this is intentional. Unless you make the time, focus on the Christ Child, then all the hustle and bustle can win.

And suddenly Christmas has come and gone.

Do you have room for Christ in your life this year? Do you have room for Christ in your family? In your Christmas?

As you look to the New Year, have you vowed to make Christ your aim? To live for Him?

Let us be intentional.

Let us focus on Jesus.

May He not only find room in our homes, families, marriages, Christmas, New Year’s… May He be Preeminent in all the above and more.

The Shepherds Visit

shepherdsI’m sure it was just like any other night. The shepherds were in the field keeping watch over their flock. I wonder if they all stayed awake or took turns watching. I wonder what they did to pass the time?

Yet here they were. Poor lowly shepherds. Whose only job was to look after the sheep.

Night after night, they watched the sheep. Nothing exciting. That is until one night, alone out in the field.

Suddenly, the sky was filled with the glory of God and angels appeared.

The shepherds were shocked and afraid. But the angels said

 Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 210-14)

I’m always a little stunned as I read this passage. For the shepherds were no one special. They were nobodies. Yet, it was these shepherds that the Father chose to reveal the great news of Jesus birth to. Had He revealed it to Kings and Queens, would they have cared? If He had reveled it to others, would they have believed. Yet, He chose to reveal it to the Shepherds.

For the Shepherds believed. The Bible says that at once they said to one another, let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing, which the Lord has made known to us.

Now you have to understand Shepherds. They did not leave their sheep unattended. This was their job, their livelihood. If a sheep were to go missing, it could cost them their job. Yet, none of this seemed to matter to them on that night. For they came in “haste” and found Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus , just as the angels had said.

But this was not all, for after seeing the Christ, they hurried and told everyone they met about Jesus. And when they had returned they glorified and praised the Lord.

Many the Bible tells us wondered at this news the shepherds had shard with them. I’m sure many though what do they know? Who are they to tell us anything?

Yet once again, God had chosen the foolish, the weak, the lowly, the despised... so that He might receive all the glory. So that He might get all the praise.

The shepherds believed God and went. They saw and they told. They risked their jobs to obey what the angels told them.

Yet, what they did that night has been passed down through the ages. What they did was recorded in the Scriptures.

You never know what little things you may do, that bring great glory and honor to the Lord.

You may think you are no one in the eyes of the Lord, but You are His beloved. He knows everything about you and loves you all the same. He knows the number of hairs on your head and His thoughts of you outnumber the grains of sands on the shores.

I’m sure the shepherds weren’t treated that great by all. I’m sure they often dreaded going into the field night after night to watch the sheep. I’m sure they often felt forgotten and may have wondered at the ways of God.

But, they were not forgotten. They were not unloved.

And at just the right time, the Lord spoke to them the greatest news ever recorded in all of history.

 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.(Luke 2:11)

Joseph’s Response

josephSo often when we think of Christmas, all of the focus is upon Jesus and rightly so. Next in line is Mary, but very few take much notice of Joseph.

As I was reading through Mathew 1, however, I realized what a difficult situation Joseph, too, was placed in. As I stated in Mary’s Song, I’m sure that life after the news was anything but easy. And I’m sure the gossip spread like wildfire.

Can you imagine what Joseph must have thought when he heard that Mary was with child? He must have been disappointed, afraid and maybe a bit angry. For the Bible tells us that he had in mind to put her away.

Now to better understand the culture, we must take a look at the significance of a betrothal. Most likely this was an arranged marriage. I’m almost positive Joseph was older than Mary, and they knew very little about one another other than what their parents may have told them. Once a couple was betrothed in the Bible times, this betrothal would usually last for about one year. During this time, the husband would work to build and establish a home. While the bride to be would work to prepare the things that would go into the home. At the end of the year, the groom would come for his bride. The bride had to be ready and waiting for her groom to appear.

Yet, for Mary and Joseph, none of this turned out as they planned. While Joseph was busy working to prepare the home, an angel comes to him to tell him that Mary is with child. Now,remember, Joseph probably knew very little bout Mary. So now he is supposed to believe that this child is from God. Yet, the Bible tells us that this is exactly what he did. He believed.

He didn’t put her away, he took her as his bride and remained separate from her until Jesus was born. Though I’m sure many speculated on their marriage and the baby. Though they probably were doubted and questioned by many including their family and friends. They believed God.

Suddenly, Ceaser issues a decree that everyone had to be counted. Now, Joseph must take his pregnant wife to Bethlehem. I’m sure this was not in his plans. But, they went. When they arrive, Joseph searched everywhere to find a room for him and his wife. He knew how tired she was and how uncomfortable. Yet, he could find nothing. Hanging his head, he brought his wife to a stable, because there was no room for them in the inn.

After Jesus was born, Joseph had another dream, warning him to go home a different way because King Herod wanted Jesus dead. So Joseph and Mary settled and lived in Nazareth.

As I read through the Christmas story with Joseph in mind, I was struck by his unfailing trust and belief in the Lord. Though he could have questioned, could have doubted. He did not. Instead He just believed. He walked so close with the Lord, that He knew what he must do.

The Scriptures tell us very little about Joseph after the birth of Christ. We know he was a Carpenter and we know that he and Mary went on to have many other children. Yet, Joseph is not mentioned any further. By the time of the crucifixion, we know that Joseph has passed away. For it was only Mary who stood and watched as Jesus died for our sins.

It seems the life of Joseph was obscure. He is not exalted as being anyone special. Yet, I believe He was special in the eyes of the Lord. For just as Mary was chosen of God to be the mother of Jesus. Joseph was chosen to walk with and raise Jesus up.

Though the Bible tells us very little about Joseph, we know He was a man of great faith. For He trusted and believed God. He walked with the Lord and enjoyed fellowship with him.

Somedays it is easy to think that our lives don’t count. That we aren’t anyone special. We get stuck in the mundane and feel insignificant.

Yet the truth is, we are special in the eyes of the Lord. He sees and knows everything we do. Nothing we do is insignificant. For when we live for and do all things as unto the Lord, He is pleased. When we trust and believe him, though others question us and though we don’t understand, He is honored as Lord.

Joseph like Mary was no one special. He was not some grand king or from a great family line. He was a simple carpenter. Who worked with his hands and sought to daily provide for his growing family. I’m sure there were many days he wondered at God’s plans and purposes for Him. Yet, in the eyes of the Lord, he was significant.

And in the same way, we too are significant.

This Christmas, let us not lose sight of the little things. Christ could have been born in a grand palace. He could have been born into a royal family. But he was not. He was born in a stable and placed in a manger. It was mere shepherds who were told of his birth and visited him at the stable. (Yes, sorry the wise men were not there, they came to his house probably a year or so later).

Yet, in the eyes of God, this was the night that changed the course of history. The night when God took on flesh and dwelled among us. Setting into action the plans for redemption that God had established from the foundation of the world.

Just a little night in Bethlehem… Just a simple young girl…. Just a Carpenter…. Just a few shepherds…

By no means, though simple and seemingly obscure, all of these things brought forth the Savior of the World.

I’m learning that Christmas is not about the fanfare. It isn’t about the lights, presents, food, family or songs. It is about Jesus and enjoying Him in the little things.

For He is there in the laughter of your child, the twinkle in your husband’s eyes. He’s there in the simple, daily task we must face each day.

Let us not miss Jesus this Christmas!!!

Mary’s Song

mary's songI love Christmas. The lights, the songs, the silly movies…

But I love reading the stories of Christmas as well.

And Mary’s song in response to the angels visitation is amazing.

She has just been confronted with some astounding news. Though she is young, is not married, and is a virgin. An angel of the Lord has just told her that she will have a baby. And not just any baby, the Son of God. Whose name she is to call, JESUS.

I can’t begin to imagine what  I would have thought. The questions, fears, concerns I would have felt. I’m sure I would have been full of unbelief. I would have worried what my betrothed would think. What my family would think. What the people in town would believe.

Yet, we see none of this in Mary. The Scriptures don’t tell us what life was like for Mary in the months leading up to the Saviors birth. But, I have a hard time believing it was smooth sailing. I’m sure there was much gossip concerning Mary’s “vision.” Many who probably said unkind things.

However, all Mary could say was, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said!”

Wow!!! Here is a young girl, confronted with news that will forever change her life, and her only response is to proclaim that she is the Lord’s servant.

Many times when we are hit with difficult news, we fight and resist it.

Not stopping to think that, this situation, this news is from the Lord. That this circumstance is part of the Father’s plan.

Instead we doubt, we question, we worry and fret. While all along, the Lord is right there with us, seeking to grow us and change us into the image of His beloved Son.

Mary wasn’t done. For after the angel had left, Mary hurried into town to see her aunt Elizabeth. If the angel’s visit wasn’t enough, seeing her barren aunt pregnant  I’m sure confirmed all the angel had said.

And Mary broke into song, proclaiming

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in 

God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of

his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me- holy is his name….(Luke 1:46-49)

Though Mary could have been angry at the sudden interruption of her life. Though she could have been frustrated with the Lord and His plans. She was not.

Instead she rejoiced in what the Lord had done. Rejoiced that she, a simple peasant girl was chosen of God to bear the Savior of the World. She recognized that the Lord had done great things through her and blessed His name.

Many times we don’t understand the ways of God. We can’t grasp the plans of God or understand His ways. But, I’m convinced that if we could just see things the way Mary did, we’d rejoice.

For from the creation of time, the Lord was mindful of our sinful state.

From the beginning, He knew He would have Jesus come born of a virgin, only to die for our sins.

Every day the Lord is mindful of us, though we deserve nothing. He is there meeting our needs and working in our lives for His good purposes.

Just the fact that the God of the Universe is mindful of us, is amazing.

But just as the Lord did great things through His servant Mary, He too can do great things through us. As we yield our lives to Him.

May our response be like that of Mary. May we recognize that we are merely servants of the Lord. Acknowledging that the Lord, He is God.

That we might see “life” through His eyes. Grasping His great love for us, and recognizing the great things He does and is doing in and through us.