10 December 2016

waiting and thanking

These last few days have been so very full that I'm going to spread this post out a few days!

Our God is a good God to wait upon.

How often have I wondered if this would be the time...if perhaps this would be the time that I would be waiting for God to meet me, to know me, to answer me, to draw close...and perhaps He would not.

That time is not coming.

My heavens, are there long seasons of waiting, even to the point of being unsure that we can hang in there.

But God evens helps us then...helps us wait for Him, His way, His time.

So thankful for His thick-presence these past few days and for how God meets us through His children...how He chooses to use us for each other, for His glory.

Just what we have needed, He has provided these last few days.

If you're waiting...wondering...keep on.
Friday morning I was in the middle of grading exams when a few second year students asked me to come to the library for a moment.  I was as confused as the other professors when we found each other in the library, along with all of the first and second year class.

The classes had a program printed out and a whole service prepared.
It was such a joy to hear their insights on the semester, to have them share what it is they love about Bill's teaching style, about FanFan's approach to Hebrew, about the way Belony is always quick to pray with them, about how Jodenel helps them not only keep their account with the school clear, but helps them with their personal and church finances, as well.  
It was a joy to sit for a few moments and to hear what was on their hearts, to see them celebrate the men and women who are pouring into them, to hear them echo all the elements of family and faith they have found at Emmaus.
This has never happened before, and we were all just so touched and encouraged.


Then, there was a time for drinks and snacks, all that the classes had purchased and more jokes and stand-up.
Finally, the students asked all of the professors to stand in a circle in the middle, and they stood all around us to pray for us.
Praying in Haiti always begins with singing, and His presence was so thick in this precious time of lifting our voices in prayer and praise.

Then all the students prayed for us, in the traditional way of all praying, out loud, at the same time.

Have you ever just NEEDED good and prayed for?  Not just knowing it, but hearing it? Feeling it? Seeing it?  I've been needing it, and it was with such a full-full heart that He meets us through the honor of our brother and sisters prayers.  
So thankful for this group and the sweet gesture of their gratitude...even when they are tired, even when they're doing final exams, even when they are busy.


Wait on the Lord...and then keep waiting.   He will be found.

Thank someone today, overkill. 

Pray for someone today...out loud, hand on their shoulder, for them to hear,

drawing near with boldness to the throne of sweet grace.


09 December 2016

Merry Christmas from Emmaus!

I sent out this update for EBS today, and wanted to share it with you, too, from today:

Long before the sun had it's chance this morning, powerful songs of praiseradiating from the chapel woke our family.

At first I was confused, and then remembered that on the last day of everysemester, deliberate times of thanksgiving start the day.

Why?

Because it is no small deal.

It is said that between 40-60% of children in Haiti will never attend school, at all.
Of those who do, 60% won't have the opportunity to finish 6th grade.
Imagine how many young men and women get to finish high school!
And it is said that only 1% of high school graduates are able to ever continue their education.

Add in all the many struggles of daily life, need, sickness and natural disasters...?
This image of a full cafeteria from our Christmas party a few days ago is a 
Big. Deal.

God has been faithful in the lives of very many men and women, through very many days, through a very challenging time in the country...and this morning He woke us up at the other end, and no one wants to let that miracle pass by unnoticed.

God has been faithful and made it possible, and so have YOU--
your giving and your prayers.  

We thank God for using you so faithfully this Christmas.

Keep on lifting us up, and we continue to remember you in our prayers and praise, with a thrill of hope this Christmas.

Merry Christmas, God with us!

07 December 2016

drowning in an ocean of Good Tidings

Maybe it's just me.

But this time of year it feels almost completely and totally impossible to keep my head above water...much less to peacefully dwell in the peace and joy of the manger, like I always envision doing.

I am burning the candle of best-intention at both ends.  Drowning in an ocean of good tidings.  Scurrying in rat races of pursuing peace and joy.

And this seems to be a dark dark time for so many, from dear friends here and dear friends there.

Let me tell you the one and only thing I'm telling myself today.

Draw near.

I have so many papers to grade and parties to finalize and clothes to wash and emails to send that it feels almost totally irresponsible.

And don't get me wrong, it's still going to be a busy season.

But I just REFUSE to let these days go by without sweet time of seeking Him, without dwelling in His mighty presence.

Today, tomorrow, the next day...spend an hour in the Word...Christmas stories or not.  Spend an hour praying and listening and drawing near.  Put on some music, light a candle, get a cup of coffee, sit in the middle of what may-well-LOOK like a stable of papers and dishes and children and to-dos and STOP.

I am committing with you that no matter what, an hour a day will be spent at His feet...even if it feels like it's going to make everything else worse.

Because you know what?

He gives us our days, He gives us our times, and WE TRUST HIM.

So don't we trust Him to help us do and be what He truly desires we do and be?  Don't we trust Him enough that if we prioritize seeking Him each day, laying down our precious time, that He will bless that, grow that, sustain? Be enough?

We do!  We trust Him.  We just forget.

We WANT Him, this season, today.  We just forget.

So let me remind us.  An hour might feel like a lot...but it might just be enough to transform this entire season.  

Don't know where to start?

It doesn't have to be perfect. It's not always going to feel natural.  But I can testify to you that when I seek Him, when I lay down all the rest and pursue Him, whatever that looks like,  HE. MEETS. ME.

I personally spend about five minutes praying, asking God to calm my heart and spirit and help me to dwell at His feet.  Then I read through "My Utmost for His Highest" for the day, then spend about 30 minutes reading the corresponding Scripture and today's advent reading (this year I'm using THIS), and then I spend the rest of my time lifting up the people and needs God brings to my mind and heart, and finish with listening.  Asking God to move, to speak.  Resting for that still small voice.  Asking for His voice, asking Him to show me Himself, His truth, what to do, how to believe, how to dwell, how He loves and is leading.

That's just me...what do YOU do?  How do you love to spend your time with Him?

If you want a reading plan this Christmas, here are a few of my favorites....

This is a great daily advent reading plan, 90% scripture, 10% insight: http://shereadstruth.com/plan/advent-2016-christ-was-born-for-this/

Here is a printable daily advent reading plan, great for you AND family : http://www.notconsumed.com/printable-advent-reading-plan/

Here is Bible Gateway's daily reading plan: https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/voice-advent/next

If you have the Jesus Storybook Bible (and LOVE it, like we do) here's an Advent Reading Plan using it: http://i0.wp.com/adrielbooker.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Jesus-Storybook-Bible-An-Advent-reading-plan.png

This year with the girls, I'm using the same reading plan I'm reading, reading them the Scriptures out loud while they act it out with their Little People Nativity Set.  I have been lacking the everything to do daily ornaments or crafts this year, but they are LOVING this, and I keep catching them acting out all the prophecies and stories on their own throughout the day, even letting Nora play along with her favorite wise-woman, whom she relentlessly calls "Gertha".

I love you. God loves you. Put Him to the test this season, committing your time and heart and days to Him, and let's see how He meets us.  I'm promising He will.




05 December 2016

good things

It's been an exciting couple of days...both full of activity and health struggles and lots of good things.

Antibiotics, Emergen-C and trying to rest has finally defeated my strep throat, and I am so thankful to finally be feeling myself again.  Nora's bad cold finally seems to be alleviating, but she's developed some kind virus with open sores on her little body, which may also now be a secondary infection like chicken pox or something.  I don't know.  Very thankful for help from a continually gracious doctor trying to get all this sorted and treated through email.

Last Wednesday was the annual end-of-the year staff vs. students basketball game...both fun and beautiful...what a setting!
Friday was our end of the year Christmas party for the students, which is always so much fun, and this year included singing competitions, basketball and soccer matches, relay races, and stand up comedy.  I had NO idea Matt was down for joke telling, but he expertly transformed one of his favorite jokes about men golfing around God's precious ducks in Heaven into a soccer and chickens joke, and had us all in tears.  This man is a jack of all trades, folks.
baby Joel was entirely un-phased by all of the laughter and loud music
I really have grown to love Emmaus parties.  Appreciating them takes a large amount of cultural appreciation, but there is nothing better than to relish the great fun the staff and students have...in a country where "fun" is often so very unattainable.


Thursday Elisa and Deb arrived, and Friday evening I hosted 14 other missionary women from the area for dinner and then Elisa and Deb kicked off our women's art therapy weekend by taking about some of the ways God uses art and music and creativity to draw us to Himself.  We worked through a project together that evening, and then Saturday morning all spent the day at the beach with Deb and Elisa leading a devotional time that led into using art to search out God in this season and place in our lives.  It was all just a great (and incredibly RARE) time of community, sharing, resting and searching and counsel...very thankful.
I'm also thankful that we had Deb and Elisa for Sunday, for a day of Sabbath and to enjoy their friendship before they leave today :(

This week is finals week, along with afternoon Indiana Wesleyan's master's program taking place.  Lots of testing, lots of grading, lots of wrapping up and finalizing, and today Matt will preach the last chapel service of the year...how can that be?

Sickness always throws me all off, but I am taking every small and quiet space and finding His grace...very thankful.


03 December 2016

grace

There are two really fantastic and greatly influential-in-my-life women here right now, both licensed  counselors, doing some women's art therapy devotional type stuff this weekend for 13-14 area missionary women, which I am so grateful for.

One of them is my long-time best friend Elisa, whose friendship and guidance and experience and  help and prayers have been my member-care-therapy-counseling for a life-time of things, helping me be as healthy and free as a dear and godly friend ever could.

The other is her dear mama, who is a praying woman and an insightful friend, full of wisdom and experience and always at work at healing and healthy, even when you're just hanging out.

I am SO thankful they are here.  It is the end of the semester, I have been incredibly sick this week (like, in bed, and you know that doesn't happen easily :) , this is an intense season of life, and godly, long-time, wise counsel, transparent friends are needed!

Being counselors, they are always both using all that good therapy vocabulary, which if you've ever received good therapy, mostly includes a lot of really good questions.  Why do you think that is? and Do you think that is something you are responsible for? and Why do you think you respond that way? 

But the other night Deb asked me a question I'd never heard before, and God's brought it to mind many times.

She was talking about transition, and shared times from throughout her life when she knew it was time for a change because some task or ministry she had been excited about she realized she had now "lost her grace" for...she wasn't passionate about it anymore, no longer had the energy to do it, etc.

Have you lost your grace? 

Has the passion moved on? Has the fire extinguished? Has the well run dry? Has the vision changed?

And I know it wasn't what Deb intended, but all I keep picturing is Jesus, born that night.

Friends, awe with me.  From the dawn of time, we have been HIS grace.

And BY His grace, after countless years of men following after their own ways and ignoring their Grace, God did NOT give up...having NOT LOST His Grace.  By Grace, He sent His most precious and perfect Son.  A baby, a dark and cold night.

And they sought Him, and grace was found.

To this moment, God has not lost His grace on us.  We people have never stopped being his passion.  His fire has not extinguished, His well has not run dry, His vision has not changed: We are His creation, made in His image, and He wants us, dearly, for His own.  Do we remember that? You, family, ARE His Grace.

He has held His grace, and even sent it...He has manifested His grace and still freely gives it.

I have been searching for Christmas this year and I have found it.

Have we "lost our grace" for the very thing God's grace is FOR?  May it never be!

May He kindle in our hearts this season His GRACE...from the creation to the cradle to the cross, and may He rekindle in our lives His great grace for the lost.

May it never be said that we have lost our grace as His children.

And if maybe we have...I pray that as we seek Him this Christmas, that we will find our grace.


01 December 2016

Daniella

Josie-dear went into labor at the hospital last night and gave birth to a perfect little girl.

They held her and named her Daniella, for "just as Daniel overcame many struggles before he was lifted up, it was our thought that Daniella overcame many struggles before she was.  We thought it would be a good name for her life. But maybe it is a good name for her death."

Her little heart was good as gold, but there is nothing available here for a baby so young, with lungs so underdeveloped.  Maybe there isn't anywhere, I don't know.   The doctors took her and told them there was no hope, and sent Josie home.

Just a few days ago, a well known co-worker at OMS was rushing his 40 week pregnant wife to the hospital when she wasn't feeling quite right, and she never made it to the hospital.  And it was too late when they did get there for the baby.

Joab, on the rim of meeting his daughter, instead is now alone.  He is on all of our hearts, but I know his great loss was pressing heavy on Claudin.

"I thank the Lord that my wife is ok, I'm thankful she's home, I'm thankful she is alive." Claudin said.

"I guess," he said with simple faith "That if it was God's will for us have Daniella, then even if she was born at 28 weeks, she would have lived.  Even if everything had gone wrong, she would still be here with us. If she was what God had for us, then we would have her.  And since we don't, I can only believe that that was NOT what God had, and so we'll praise the Lord all the same, for doing and allowing what He saw as best.  So, this was still a victory."

YES, that is what he just told me. TODAY.  IN the moment.

Thank you so incredibly much for praying for and helping this little family of faith with us.  I continue to be deeply moved and inspired by their unwavering faith, and have great hope for the day when all these struggles are overcome.

So we wait, and we trust, and we pray.


30 November 2016

move over, Fido!

Check out our EBS challenge here!


Also, Josie is back in the hospital, leaking amniotic fluid and back on IVs.  Please be praying for she and the baby (it's a girl!) as the risk for infection is high and dangerous.  Praying for a miracle, the Master of the Storm, praying for a miracle.

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice.
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.
The Lord is near.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving,
let your request be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7

28 November 2016

just a couple of kids

We've had a couple of kids here with us the past few days, visiting.

They heard Matt preach at Houghton College just a few weeks ago, and felt like maybe they heard God's voice in it.  Matt told them if they were interested in moving to Haiti, first they should come on down for a few days, meet the team, feel it out, ask God to put some skin on the call.

So they did, missing Thanksgiving with their families to spend a long weekend checking out Haiti and Emmaus.

And you know what?  All I could think about the whole time was: they. are. so. young.

They're not even married yet, for heavens sakes, haven't even graduated.  Do they understand all the challenges? Do they know all that's involved? Do they really have ANY idea?  

Of course they don't.  

And as soon as all those crotchety old-person thoughts, bordering on cynicism, started swirling around in my mind, God brought an image of the hand-painted Haiti magnets we gave out as favors at our wedding...I'm sure one of you out there still has one of those on their fridges!

When we were 20. A year before we graduated.

You know what I want to say?

Many of you were there. We worked our tail-feathers off all week for over a year to pay off college-debt and travelled every weekend to come to your church. And we blinked in the lights and tried to articulate calling and passion and plans, we shook your hands and answered the question Just how old ARE you guys? over and over and over. You sat through presentations we probably stumbled through, let Matt preach sermons that were probably far from powerful or coherent, listened to our schpeal about Haiti and Emmaus probably way too many times.
We. Were. YOUNG.

And we had NO IDEA, no idea all the challenges.  We had NO CLUE of what all would be involved. We had absolutely no. idea.

But you listened, and you shook our hands, and you kissed our cheeks, and you gave your counsel, and you prayed for us, and you GAVE.

You crazy people.  You laid down all your wisdom and experience, you gave us $25 dollars a month before we were ever even in Haiti...some of you still do, after all these years. You believed in His call and supported Matt and I before we could speak a word of Creole, before we knew one name of one student.  
You KNEW we were young.  You knew we had NO idea.  Maybe you even thought we would never actually get to Haiti.

But I suppose you saw something in us of passion.  Of conviction of His calling.  Our desire to be obedient, our desire to lay down our ridiculously young lives as best we could, however we could.  Or maybe God simply told you to, so you trusted Him.
the day we moved to Haiti
And you invested in Christ-in-us...long before there was ever any powerful testimony to assure you, long before there was ever any success story, long before you probably "should" have.

Man alive, I look around today and I am so deeply grateful for you...all these years, investing in the Gospel in us then, investing in us now.  

I watched Matt preach this morning in a dark tiny church alongside four of our selfless and dedicated students, and I experienced God use him, heard the student-pastors sharing with their congregation about the role Matt plays in their forming and filling.  
I watched him sweat, translating for the youngster couple as quickly as I could, listened to his animated and powerful sermon of Mary's story of suffering, though the King of the Universe was very literally with her--shared with stories and drama and testimonies, like any good Haitian preacher. 

And you were there.  

And that same God that was with us so many years ago as we started raising funds and prayers to move to Haiti--the same God who DID know, that same God has been with us ever since.

Somewhere around year five, I wasn't sure if our marriage was going to make it.  Somewhere around year ONE, we weren't sure we were going to make it in Haiti.  We've got lots of horror stories we could share with our new young friends, lots of ugliness, lots of struggles, lots of dark dark nights and lots of tears.

But I'm not going to.  Because you.  You believed in Christ-in-us with your love and prayers and money...many of you still do--and that has made ALL the difference--not just in our lives, but in the lives of countless others.  You've given us to Jesus over and over, and He has not changed.

So very unexplainably thankful for your help and prayers, then and now and forever will be.  
our first house
Your testimony has encouraged us to pour into countless lives of many others--none perfect, all of us often lacking in understanding of what in the world we are getting into--and all in the hands of a capable and powerful God...praise the Lord.

We praise the Lord for you.

26 November 2016

catching up over coffee

I have been taken out for coffee for my birthday in spirit many, many times...a few of you even bought me a whole pot of the good stuff...THANK YOU.

Your generosity energizes me as much as the coffee would have, knowing your prayers are attached, and it has been bringing me such joy to be able to help Claudin and Josie the way they need it, the way we want to.  Thank you.
Nora and Christie
Friday evening, the hospital sent Josie home...and she is now bedridden, but very happy to be home.  We spent some time with them today, and I wish all of you could have sat on that bed with me.  
It was so dark in her room, and she's flat on her back, all day and night.  While Matt and Claudin caught up and the kids played, she started back through her story from these last weeks and months, speaking more than I have EVER heard her speak, so happy for some company and so bored.

It was by far the most inspiring hour of my week, her sharing trial after trial after trial, calling each, "another chance to grow in our faith," calling our God "the Master of the storm", explaining to me person after person who have suggested God should be questioned, suggesting they try a voodoo approach, suggested they turn away from God.  
She told me how God has always been faithful.  Told me how she always will be.  Told me how God is the only one who can give them this baby, can hold this miracle...but that even if He doesn't, she will trust Him.  Praise Him.  Follow Him.

As she articulated her faith, it gave her courage...

She told me again and again that our prayers have been as heavy to her as things she could hold in her hands, and I left her the Father she trusts so unwaveringly with such a full heart, heavy with prayer and inspired by her spirit of praise.
When Claudin planted this church as a student, with many new converts, he and Josie felt strongly that they must live in the same community where the church was, so that they could serve the church well and live in community with it's people.  Today, that means they live away from both of their families (very uncommon here), and yet pour out their lives in an incredibly poor area where there is one and only church.

I was thankful, today, walking away through the village, my heart being pulled all over the place, that his family is a faithful light in this community, not outside of struggle, but in it, through it.     
  
Please keep praying for Josie and for her baby, a little girl...these are long days and she's still far from the due date with much risk as she lies.
Though it is raining again now, today was the first sunny day in so very long...beautiful.
The "roads" could use the drying out!
A few pictures from the last days...
Thursday evening we had Friendsgiving, thanks to a beautiful turkey that Bubba brought us all the way from Canada!!

Nora's bestie Joel...he's six months younger, but it won't be long now before she can't keep up with him physically :)
This is the part where Nora decided to show everyone her belly :)
Nora's birthday hugs!
Nora's happy if she's in the middle, and Sofie's happy if she's not wearing pants :)  Love coming home to happy kiddos.
Swiss Family Robinson, their very favorite.
My third year students giving English presentations on common health issues, symptoms and treatments.
And lots of little sweet moments throughout...
Nora seems to be working on a being a leftie...
and adored the little kitten given to us as a thank you present last week (and then given back a week later...one cat is ENOUGH!)
Rain or shine, Louzan, Paulcine, Myolene, Granny, MaCodo are outside/inside cooking for 100+ people...so thankful for these ladies, so thankful for food for all.
We're always finding Sam's little animals everywhere, but this one on the way to chapel was cracking me up the other day.
My family, altogether for Thanksgiving this year in Ohio...my dad, sister, brother-in-law, my mom's mom and my mom's sister.  Grateful for them and grateful they could be together...
To finish, the girls were playing with their secret decoder kit the other day, and got apparently invisible ink tattooed all over their little sister...ever the willing subject :)  

There may be a lot of chaos in our home, but it's all disguised as fun.

Both Nora and Sofie are quite sick...these last few days have been rough, Sofie sent home from school with fever and Nora mostly unconsolable with runny nose and fever...thank you for your prayers for healing and patience.