God’s Vision for Me as a Mother

The first story I ever wrote about motherhood was titled, “My Children Aren’t Perfect.” It told about my original Glorious Vision of Motherhood. I believed that if I poured all my love and time and just the right bits of research, learning, and training into my children; they would be practically perfect. With each passing year the truth became more and more ruthless in wrestling my pride and ignorance. Finally I saw my Glorious Vision as what it truly was – a grotesque idol that must come toppling down.

                When the dust settled, all I had were broken pieces of my dream and a tentative hope – that God could make something beautiful with my imperfect mothering and messed up children.

                Now six years later I am confident that He is writing a masterpiece with my broken life!  Of course He can bring eternal glory out of my flawed motherhood.  Of course He can with yours!  That was His plan all along, and our imperfections are just interesting details that add conflict and excitement to His story. 

                During the drudgery of dirty diapers, emotional outbursts, and broken car doors when you are in a hurry to get somewhere; it is nice to set our sights on something lovely.  What does all our “day to day” hustle really mean?

                When I was feeling so sick with my 10th pregnancy, God began to show me His Glorious Vision for my Motherhood. I had been sitting on the sofa for about a month.  To pass the time I would try to read books.  Still I would have to stop every so often to put the book down, close my eyes and just breathe. 

                “I am fine.  This nausea will pass.  I will not feel wretched forever.  I just need to get through this day, this hour, this moment, this next chapter of my book.”

                Then I would continue to read, to try and escape how I felt, and to enter into another life more pleasant than my own.  Janette Oak books were always a good choice; interesting, sweet, and encouraging.  Perhaps you have read her famous book that began her famous series, Love Comes Softly.  I didn’t read the entire series, but I read one of the very last books, The Tender Years.

A scene at the beginning of the book captured my imagination.  The original heroine, Marty, was now in her 80s.  She was helping in the kitchen with all the daughters and granddaughters as they prepared a feast for a family reunion.  One of her daughters urged Marty to sit down and take a rest, and she did so gladly.  That gave her time to think about her many descendants that were all around her, romping in the yard, or in far-away places.  Marty knew each one by name.  She knew where they were and what they were doing.  She knew their infinite value, carried them in her heart, and constantly remembered them in her prayers.

I counted each name she listed (which included children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all of their spouses).  One Hundred and fifty!  That was the number of her progeny.  I was impressed and amazed!  She and her husband Clark had 5 children.  I had 10!  Marty began to fade out of my mind and I imagined myself at 80. I was vibrant and healthy, excited about having most of the family home to eat around our huge tables and play around our large country home. I could have more than 150 in my brood, and I began to get so excited! 

In the moment I was still feeling listless and weak.  But my spirit perked up as I realized that someday I would get my energy back. Someday I would enjoy playing and learning new things with my children again.  Someday even further down the road, it will no longer be me who is pregnant.  It will be my daughters and my daughters-in-law.  I will be able to help and encourage them! 

Someday I will help cook and clean for them.  I will snuggle newborns and chase after toddlers. I will babysit, read books, and do art projects.  I will encourage my children and grandchildren and pray for them by name. I will rejoice with every wedding and every new life! 

And while I am living my normal and mundane mom-life, my descendants will be slowly and surely taking over the world!

I closed my eyes and this is the vision that God gave me.  Chris and I had grown together to become the trunk of a mighty oak tree.  The more we press into God, the deeper our root system grows down into the fertile soil.  We have sprouted 9 strong, tall branches that will produce many branches of their own.  We also have a special branch that is smaller and more twisted than the others. Although she most likely won’t sprout any new branches, her life and her fruit are indispensable to our family. Together we are a magnificent tree, the kind that dominates the landscape and produces much fruit.  The kind that offers shade to the burnt-out, rest to the weary, and shelter to the storm-tossed.

Like it says in Is 61:3, “we will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

This vision of the mighty oak gives me strength and encouragement on the hard days.  I am living for the long term benefits, not immediate comfort.  Lots of crap happens in life.  Sometimes storms come and tear off the fruit.  Sometimes the branches are in danger of being cut off.  The floods come and threaten to wash us away.  The droughts come and jeopardize our green leaves. 

I know that as long as we press into God, our roots will always tap into His water, His life, His Holy Spirit just like in Jer 17:8 and Ps 1:3. Those roots are the anchor that keeps us steady and firm.

I got through that difficult pregnancy, got through the difficult labor, got through the difficult recovery and have begun to get my energy and enthusiasm back.  I have been able to enjoy my jewel of a baby girl while at the same time joyfully anticipate the future babies that my own children will have in the coming years.

God took this vision one step further for me recently at church. I had my eyes closed during worship and I was thinking about all the trials we had endured and were still enduring.  Then I saw our family as a mighty oak tree again – tall and strong and green.  I saw our roots go deeper and then deeper still with each hardship.  This continued until the roots hit molten lava. 

Photo by Phil Kallahar from Pexels

The lava traveled up the roots and soon the entire tree was ablaze.  Yet it wasn’t consumed as a normal tree would have been.  It was like Moses’ burning bush; still vibrant, still alive, yet on fire. What a sight to behold!

Then I remembered that I had been asking God to put fire in our hearts.  A fire for Him that would never be quenched. A fire which would burn away all other “gods”, which would give us zeal and energy to pursue Him to our dying breath. A fire that would continue and even increase down through the generations. 

It seemed like God was saying, “If everything that comes your way in this life causes you to go deeper with me, your prayer WILL be answered. It is happening even now.”

A fiery, flourishing, expansive tree reaching the whole earth with its branches heavy laden with fruit – that is God’s Glorious Vision for my Motherhood

It is a vision I consider worth living and dying for.  It is a vision that I know that I can’t accomplish.  I have very little control over who my children marry, how many children they have, or the length or quality of their lives.  I can’t anticipate the wrong choices, the tragedies, or the sorrows that may come.  Nor can I imagine the intensity of the triumphs and joys. 

Yet I know that God will accomplish His purpose for us.  It is HIS vision!  And if I am able to make it to 80 and take in with my own eyes the powerful world-changers I helped to bring forth; it will be all His doing!

Perhaps you don’t have as many children as I do.  Perhaps you have more. You might even have a beautiful menagerie of spiritual children, adopted children, God-children, or step-children…charming, amazing, and exasperating children!  Each family tree is unique and one of a kind.  Each has a special purpose.  Have you asked God to show you His Vision for YOUR Motherhood?  Go ahead…I dare you!

I bet it is GLORIOUS!

My Biggest Breakthrough: Part 2 – The Original Wound

Photo by Miriam Espacio from Pexels

Areli, Aria, and I had a wonderful time in Texas. When we returned home I was still living in the wonder of the love that God had shown me there.  I tried to process it, understand it, find scriptures to support it, make it part of my every thought, and believe it in my every cell. 

                A very curious thing had happened in Texas.  Aria had refused to nurse.  I thought that perhaps it was because I didn’t have my usual nursing pillow and everything around us was different.  I did get a few good nursing times with her in our hotel room…when she was totally asleep.  Surely she would resume nursing normally when we were back home.

                Within a few weeks of returning home, Aria stopped nursing completely.  I couldn’t coax her, though I tried and tried.  It was totally fine of course!  She was 15 months and eating all kinds of wonderful food.

 I just thought I had more time, time for her to be a baby, time for her to need me, time for us to snuggle.  All of a sudden my time was up.

                A week went by and my nursing pillows were still out, my bedroom was still in disarray with pillows stacked on the loveseat in the just the right way for nursing.

                “I need to put the nursing pillows away up in the attic.  Now is my chance to make my room pretty again and get rid of all these random pillows.” I thought.

                The thought made me want to cry.  I didn’t want to be done nursing!  The sorrow hung with me and it was stronger than when my other babies had weaned.  Perhaps it was because with the other babies, I knew in my heart that God had more babies to give me.  This time I do not have that assurance.  I could be done nursing…forever.

                I really did feel that the timing of this was from God, that He wanted me to go deeper with Him.  So I allowed myself to feel the pain, to explore the pain, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  I realized that I was only eating for one again.  It didn’t feel important anymore what I ate.  Do I really deserve the best food and supplements?  Just me?  I am not as important as Aria.  In fact, if I am severed from my children, am I valuable at all? 

                I realized with sadness that I was not, at least not in my own estimation.  Being a mother of many children was never my aspiration growing up.  Being a mother at all was sometime I had given very little thought to.  But after I married Chris, we both realized we loved children and we thought would like to have six.  God blessed us with more children than we had imagined, and I grew to love this destiny that God had for me.  I had found my meaning and value in it.

                Then all of a sudden I saw a picture of myself in my mind.  It was just me, just Anne, floating in an empty universe.  No husband, no children, no past, no future, no accomplishments, no good works.  Just Anne.

                “Did Jesus really die for just me?  Does He love just me?” I wondered.                                                  

                My resounding answer was, “NO! How could that be?!”

                Of course I knew that theologically He loved just me.  Plus He had personally shown me His love!  So why was it so hard for me to believe it?  I went through the next two days pondering this question, filling with self-hatred, teetering on the edge of despair and depression.

                I realize now that I should have taken the focus off my own feelings and my unworthiness.  I should have been praising God, trusting Him, and speaking out the words He had spoken, even if I didn’t feel as though I believed them. 

                Again God led me to the empty universe.  There I was. Just me.  Again the question, “Did Jesus die for just me?  Does He love just me?”

                “No, I am so unworthy!” I answered.  The emotions that surfaced were so deep, so raw. It was as though they had been buried for a long, long time.  They reached back to a time in my life of which I have no conscience memory, yet stemmed from an event that I have recently became aware of.  Compared to the sorrow I was now feeling, all my previous emotions had been superficial.  Finally God had reached down to the root of the matter, the original wound to my spirit, the original lie that I believed. 

He had gently pulled off all the band aids that I had so clumsily put on just to keep living.  Old and infected scabs were being scrapped away and the wound was fresh and bleeding.

                “I am not worthy!  I should not even be here.  I do not deserve your love.” I told Jesus.

Jesus answered back.

Always Jesus answers me this way, but I do not always hear.

Always Jesus answers YOU this way, whether you can hear Him or not.

Can we open our ears and try to hear?

Jesus answers;

I love you.

I love YOU!

I have always loved you.

Before you existed, I loved you.

I have loved you for every moment of your life.

I will ALWAYS love you.

You cannot change that.

You cannot cancel out my love with your disbelief.

My love is always right here.

Will you receive it?

My Biggest Breakthrough

“Take me from where I’ve been into something new.

I’m giving up control.

I need a breakthrough.”

This chorus from the song by Chris McClarney kept playing through my mind, over and over.  Pretty soon I was singing the song to God as I was getting ready in my hotel room. I was preparing for the second day of my amazing, miracle trip to Texas.  A few months earlier my daughter Areli had invited me to the YWAM base in Tyler, TX to attend her graduation ceremony. She was graduating from the Discipleship Training School, the same school I had graduated from 25 years earlier.

My first reaction to her invitation was to laugh!  How could I leave my family and spend the money for plane tickets to travel to Texas for a weekend?  It just wasn’t economical or logical.  Yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea.  I would need to take Aria who was still nursing and too little to be without her mama.  I would need to find someone to provide personal care for my special needs teenager before school and before bedtime each day.  I would need to make sure the rest of the children were taken care of and make sure they had meals to eat. I would need to find an amazing deal on a plane ticket.  God would need to provide a miracle of extra money! 

I didn’t say anything to Chris at first because I thought he would shoot me down.  He works long hours and I hated to ask him to handle things at home while I was gone.  I just couldn’t stop thinking about this trip!

When I told Chris about it the following day, he was more excited about the opportunity than I was!

“You should go!  It would be so special for you to return to your alma mater!  I think you should go,” he said.

I was so surprised!  What an amazing husband I have! I started praying that God would put all the pieces together.  Areli started praying.  Areli’s friends and leaders started praying. Within a month and a half God had worked it all out.  Aria and I were going to fly to Texas on Thursday and return home on Sunday.  We were even able to change Areli’s return flight home to be the same as ours.

I was astounded that God would do this for me!  I had never traveled without Chris since we had gotten married.  I also had never traveled with a baby by myself before.  I was nervous but so excited! I felt that God wanted to speak to me on this trip. I got some friends to pray for me, that God would encounter me and Aria and Areli.

Now it was Friday, and I was in Texas.  The two flights the day before had gone better than I had expected.  Aria was much easier than I had hoped for!  I had gotten a bigger and better hotel room than I was supposed to have. The weather was gorgeous! I was meeting such wonderful people.

“Take me from where I’ve been into something new.

I’m giving up control.

I need a breakthrough.”

I continued to sing this chorus.  I was trying to worship God while I prepared myself and Aria to attend the base worship service that morning.  I was feeling so thankful and so happy, yet I became aware of another nagging feeling.  What was it exactly? Guilt? Anxiety?

I realized that I wanted to do everything right on this trip, to make the most of this short time.  I really wanted to be an encouragement to every person I met and to share with the students my perspective of the school 25 years later.  I didn’t feel like I had done that at all. 

I was about to walk out the door to head to the Paris Fellowship Center for worship when I heard God say, “You don’t HAVE to do ANYTHING. Just rest and enjoy.”

It was startling how those simple words changed my outlook.  All of a sudden I felt at peace and ready to enjoy my vacation.

The worship was so simple. Just two women singing, one of whom was playing a guitar.  The spirit was sweet and I felt God’s presence.  I was also aware of a familiar feeling.  The sensation I used to have when I attended base worship 25 years ago.  A self-consciousness that wondered how others would judge me when they saw me.  Was I being too demonstrative in worship? Was I being too reserved? Did I look like a tired, out of shape, middle aged mom? Or maybe someone would think I looked young enough to be Areli’s sister? These thoughts caused a low-grade stress that was so distracting yet so normal.  I thought I had left this type of insecurity behind years ago, but it was still with me.

I just wanted to worship God with my whole heart, without thinking about myself.  All of a sudden I felt as though the space above me opened and I could feel the love of God pouring over me without blockages, without filters.  I had never before felt His love this strongly, this purely.

“You could do everything wrong for the rest of your life and my love for you wouldn’t change. I created you because it made me happy.  I delight in you!”

I felt free of stress, worry, and all pressure to perform. A weight had been lifted from my shoulders that I never knew was there.  For the first time in my life, I felt fully FREE, fully LOVED!!

This was the answer to ALL my problems!  This was what I had always strived to achieve but never knew I already had!!  It was hard for me to believe because it went against my ingrained thought patterns. 

I felt the open heaven close slightly. 

“Oh no!  God, help me to hold on to this! Don’t let me lose this awareness of your love!” I prayed as worship came to a close.

I still felt His love more than I ever had. I remained peaceful in the freedom He had just given me.  I enjoyed the rest of the trip in the afterglow of this experience.  There were certain things I knew were true about me.

I was a dream in God’s heart before He made the world. (Eph 1:4, Rom 8:29)

He brought me into this life because He wanted me. I made Him so happy! (James 1:19)

I brought Him delight before I knew right from wrong, before I ever tried to please Him.

Jesus died for me.  He won the victory for me. He won every victory. It is already done! (1 Cor 15:57, John 19:30)

The redemption of God is stronger and bigger than me.  Bigger than anyone.  Bigger than the world and bigger than the devil.  Bigger than my mistakes. (Is 65:17-25, Col 1:20)

I will spend eternity with God in joy and joy and more joy.(PS 16:11)

I can rejoice now! (Phil 4:4)

I don’t need to worry about anything, ever!  (1 Peter 5:7)

His love is unwavering. (Jer 31:3)

I knew that believing all these truths was the key to actually being able to accomplish my purpose on this earth and love others.  I could never do it by trying hard. The work of God is this, to BELIEVE! (John 6:29)

While I was in Texas this seemed easy to believe. 

“God has answered my prayers and has given me my biggest breakthrough!  To simply live in His love!” I thought.  I was excited to return home and live in this revelation that I had known before in my head but now understood in my spirit. Living in His unconditional acceptance would finally slay the fear of man and insecurity that had always been my close companions.

However, you can’t live on the mountaintop forever.  Eventually you have to keep going and encounter a valley.  And with any new revelation there is always a test.  Why do I forget that there is always a test? 

Heaven and hell both press in to demand an answer to this question, “Do you truly believe what God has just told you?”

I wish I could say that I passed the test, but that was not the case.  I found that my biggest breakthrough could also lead to the darkest valley I had yet encountered…

To be continued…

Nepal: The Hardest Best Thing I Have Ever Done! by Areli

                 When I first heard I was going to Nepal for my DTS outreach, I was so excited. Some of my excitement waned as we started doing research on the nation. We found that Nepal is mostly Hindu with only a small Christian population. Laws are in place that do not allow for public preaching of the gospel. This made me think that we would not be very welcome in Nepal, and I did not expect to meet many Christians.

                As we continued to meet and prepare as a team, God started to speak to my heart. I knew we were supposed to go.  I decided to trust that God would keep us safe and provide ministry opportunities.

                After over 30 hours of travel, we arrived in Kathmandu. Everything was so different! The streets were full of vehicles, people and animals. Rising over the noise of traffic was the sound of the Nepali language. The smell of car exhaust and street food filled our noses. There was so much to look at.

                Our first week was spent in Kathmandu. We went to prayer meetings, performed our skit, shared testimonies, did prayer walks, and helped tear down a brick wall. The entire week was full of new experiences and getting stretched in different areas. One of the ways that happened for me was when I gave my testimony in front of Seminary students. I went up to explain our skit and what it meant to me.

I was super nervous and wondered what I could give that the students did not already have. I simply prayed for God to speak through me, and He did!

                Our second week was to be spent in a smaller town many hours from Katmandu. We got all of our stuff onto the roof of a van and started our long journey. Only 1 hour into the trip, the van started to make disheartening sounds. I looked up at the front and saw the driver pounding on the dashboard. This could not be good. Finally the van came to a complete stop and would not be coaxed any further. The driver finally told us that we would have to wait for a new van, which would take a few hours. This was the perfect opportunity for us to get discouraged, and I was tempted.

However, God used this situation to show us how He can turn situations around. We got to take a mini hiking trip and saw a beautiful view of Nepal. We happened to stop on the mountain top and could see for miles. The view was the mixture of jungle and flowing rice fields. Not only that but when the van finally did arrive, it was larger and newer then the original!

The next day we were served breakfast by our host family. They watched us eat with expectant faces. I had never experienced this before, and I almost felt uncomfortable. However, I forgot this feeling as I ate the delicious food that had been carefully made for us.

The place where we slept was a long building made of bricks. Outside was a place to wash dishes, a shower (made of sticks and blankets), and two squatty pottys. None of us were used to this way of living, and it was not easy. I had never felt this dirty in my entire life.

Every person that I encountered in Nepal had so little (compared to the normal American family), but they always gave generously and with a smile on their face. This inspired me to live with more gratitude.

While we stayed in the smaller town, we visited many local believers. Every house would be full of people, excited to meet the team from America. The greeted us warmly and served us drinks. Selected members from my team would give a message, testimony, or Bible story. After sharing we would pray with those who expressed a need.

I loved every part of home visits.  I especially enjoyed getting to hold and love on the children. Through every little moment, God showed me that He loves the Nepali people more than I could ever know.

In Chitwan we got to stay 3 days at an orphanage. This orphanage is home to around 200 children ages two to tenth grade. When we came into view of the gates of the property, we could see the faces of the children gathered to welcome us. As soon as the van came to a stop, we were surrounded. They greeted us with the smiles and hugs. They then took our hands and led us to where we were to stay. A sign that said “Welcome Texas YWAM” was hung over the door.

At 7 o’clock we went to their daily worship time with the children. I loved watching as every single child worshiped Jesus with their whole hearts. One of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. Before heading to bed, my team and I got to give all two hundred children a goodnight hug.

The next day started at 5am with worship with the founders. The founders then shared with us about how they started the orphanage. It was not an easy road and they encountered many trials. Many things came to destroy what they were doing and to hurt the children.  Despite all of that, God had protected and blessed them. As they spoke I was amazed at their bravery and endurance.

The rest of the day was spent doing a program we had prepared for the children. We started with everyone together so we could perform some of the clown skits we had prepared.  There was lots of giggling and clapping.

We split the children into two groups: youth and elementary. I was put with the youth. We shared a testimony, a Bible story, and played a game. What impressed me was the sportsmanship and joy they had towards each other.

After lunch we had the youth do intercession with us. Intercession is when you ask God for what to pray for and wait for Him to speak. He can speak in words, pictures, or even a Bible verse. I explained this to my group, and we then waited for a few minutes.  When I asked my group if anyone got anything, I received blank stares. I was a bit discouraged, but I decided to do something else. I asked if they would like to pray for their country. They seemed to perk up at this suggestion. I started praying and then was joined by a few other voices. We still had some time, so I asked if they had any questions for me. They asked me about my family and life back in America. They seemed very surprised and delighted by my answers.

After my group was dismissed one of the staff at the orphanage (he had helped me with translation) told me a bit about Nepali culture. He said that it is unusual in Nepal to share things in a group setting. That was why the children did not want to share during intercession.

This made me realize that I had no reason to be discouraged. Their culture is just different than mine.

That night we had one more worship night with the children. The children had prepared dances for us. We hugged the children extra-long at bedtime because, we knew we were leaving the next morning.

When morning did come, all the children surrounded us as we made our way to the van. As we passed each child, they gave us a hug and a homemade card. The children followed the van. As we left the property, the children ran along the top of the wall. We all cried as we watched the orphanage fade into the distance. The children had loved us like family, and we did not feel we deserved any of it.

It was very hard to leave. As we rode to our next destination, we read every letter we received. I loved reading the sweet messages writing in broken English. I would never forget the wonderful kids that welcomed us with open arms.

Our leaders told us that the next two days would be for resting and team building. We would be doing that by trekking the Himalayan Mountains.

 Slowly we started to ascend the mountain in the rain. We encountered steep stone stairs that had become slick. By this point, my shoes were soaked through and I could hear them squish with every step. A little further up I heard someone cry out in alarm. One of my teammates had encountered a leech. This was even more terrifying then the possibility of falling down stone stairs. I made sure to check myself every couple of minutes for those little creatures.

After going about one third of the way, we stopped to rest. I was very thankful because I felt like my legs were going to turn into mush. I looked up and noticed my teammates were looking behind us. I followed their gaze and was pleasantly surprised. I could not believe how far we had come. You could see the little village we had started, and miles beyond. The rain made it that much more magical. We all forgot our wet shoes and tired bodies, if only for just a moment.

Finally we had to continue on our journey upward. The stairs continued and got steeper. It felt like was hours before we reached the top. Finally we saw where we would be spending the night. It was a cute collection of little cabins and a central restaurant. We changed out of our wet clothes and joined everyone in the restaurant for dinner. The building was very simple and had a traditional woodstove in the middle to keep it warm.

 I got up very early the next morning to see the sunrise. I put on my sweatshirt and went outside to see if anyone else had decided to brave the cold. As I walked toward the grassy clearing, I was surprised to see most of my team already waiting. It was still pretty dark so we all huddled together and waited for the sun. It slowly started to peak over the tips of the mountains. 

I had seen some very beautiful views, but this topped them all.

The sky turned from grey to yellow to orange. The colors illuminated the clouds clustered around the Annapurna Range. It was beautiful, and the mountains seemed so far away. Once the sun was mostly up I heard someone exclaim in excitement. I turned, and then I saw it! The Mardi Himal Mountain clear as day. I could see every detail of the snowy peak. This huge mountain had been behind our cabins the entire time. It had been too dark and rainy for us to see it when we arrived.

After we descended the mountain, we headed to our next destination in Pokhara, a guesthouse called Beth-Eden. It was a cute little compound full of charming little gardens. There was even a tree house! We spent the rest of the day resting.

The next day we headed out to help build a local church. We learned our first task would be to move a pile dirt to a new location. We were given old rice sacks to carry the dirt and got right to business. As the hours wore on, the new pile of dirt got bigger and the ceiling beams were almost fully covered in paint. The sun was beating down and sweat was starting to drip into my eyes.

The next day we came to finish what we had started. What we found out was that most of what they had for us to do, we had finished the day before. We decided to stay and help with whatever else we could. We finished painting the windows, clearing the floor, and putting up the ceiling beams.

We were able to come back the next day and take part in their service. I was able to share the story of the women who Jesus healed from bleeding. I then explained that the women was healed because of her trust in Jesus and His love for her. Then Emma (one of my teammates) came up and gave her message on trusting God. Everything seemed to come together so perfectly, and it seemed to be what that church needed. They were very encouraged.

                The next week we ran an English camp, children in the morning and youth in the afternoon. I enjoyed preforming as a clown and hearing the giggles and squeals fill the room!

                 The third night all of us got invited to stay at different homes. Some of the youth had invited us and we gladly accepted. Kena (One of my teammates) and I stayed with a family that had all of their children in our camp (all the daughters were on the red team with Kena and me).

                The house we stayed at was a simple three room house made of brick and mud. The main room housed the stove and eating area. We were greeted warmly by the parents and given the seats of honor. As we sat watching the mother cook, some other relatives came to see who the new visitors were. A few of them asked for prayer. After we finished our prayers, we were served our dinner. We were given plates with a generous helping of rice, chicken, soup, and cucumbers. The food was delicious and I knew that lots of care was put into the preparation. I ate until I could not eat anymore. I asked if I could help with cleaning. I was kindly refused and shown into one of the bedrooms. There Kena and I watched TV with the family until it was time for bed. The bed that Kena and I shared was a raised board covered with a thin cushion. All the children slept on one bed so that we could have somewhere to sleep.

This family did not have anything fancy, but they were more than willing to give up their bed so that we would be comfortable.  

Our last two evenings of the camp we went with some of the youth to pray over their houses. They had requested that we come and bless them and their families. This made me so happy because many of the youth were the only Christians in their families.

We were warmly welcomed into each home. Many of the family members came up to us requesting personal prayer. We prayed for peace, strength, and even healing.

One of my team members prayed over a man’s eyes and they were healed!

Overall doing the English camp was an eye opening experience. It was not easy, and we were not experts at teaching children. None of that mattered because all we had to do was to simply be, and let God work through us. That was one of the many things that God taught me while in Nepal. I don’t have to make things happen or know everything. When I completely trust and give up control, that is when people are impacted.

 Nepal seemed dark from a distance, but got brighter the closer I looked. I believe that Nepal will turn into a light for the Nations!

A note from Anne: This experience has been transformational for Areli, stoking the fire of God’s love for the entire world in her heart. She is asking God to provide the funds for her to be able to return to Youth With a Mission in January to continue her training. Would you like to be part of this miracle for Areli? You can contribute at Give Send Go. Thank you!

A Return Trip to my Alma Mater, YWAM Tyler

When my firstborn daughter, Areli, invited me to her graduation, my first thought was, “There is no way I am going to be able to leave my family and fly all the way to Texas!”

Talking with Areli on the phone during her Discipleship Training School had reminded me of the raw faith I had when I did my DTS, 25 years ago. Areli had the faith that God could get me to Texas, why shouldn’t I?

I had not taken such a trip without my husband since I had gotten married.  Yet Chris, really wanted me to go.  He felt that to visit my Alma Mater would be such a special time for me. Boy, was he right!  God orchestrated a delightful and refreshing getaway!

My one year old daughter Aria and I traveled for about 8 hours before we arrived in Tyler, but the trip had gone better than I had hoped. One of the YWAM staff picked us up at the airport, and she was beyond friendly, carrying all the bags and taking us to the grocery store.  She dropped us off at the base hotel, and we found the loveliest accommodations waiting for us.  I had been given a small apartment with a living room/kitchenette and a king-sized bedroom.  It was just perfect for Aria and I!

Soon came a rap on my door.  I opened it and there stood Areli, my beautiful daughter that I hadn’t seen in person for 5 months!  Such joy!

Later Areli took me to supper in the new Paris Fellowship Center.  Such a lovely facility.  Such friendly people everywhere I turned.  During my 4 days at YWAM Tyler, I got to meet the students and leaders of Areli’s DTS in addition to students of many other schools.

Each day we took a long walk around the base.  It looked so much the same as it did 25 years ago.  Wide open spaces, beautiful and peaceful. We enjoyed the warm sunshine and the mild weather. 

We visited the charming chapel and the playground by the lake.  We always stopped by the lake to eat a snack.  One day we visited the new SST Village. 

Another day we visited Ag Tech.  I loved it!  What a brilliant way to raise vegetables and eggs for the base.  New and better farming practices and prototypes were being developed, and then taken out to the mission field. What a practical way to bring God’s love to needy places.

We went to the Base Worship on Friday morning. It was a simple affair with voices and a guitar.  The spirit was sweet and God’s presence was transformational.  God gave me a breakthrough in my thinking, perhaps the biggest breakthrough of my life.  I will write more about that in a later article, but it felt almost as if I had been born-again…again!

That evening Aria and I were welcomed into the girls’ dorm to participate in a pre-Love Feast nail-painting party.  It was so fun to be among such sweet ladies.  I got to see the bunk that had been mine in DTS. 

I remembered the good times I had spent in that room with the five other girls, three of whom became my best friends. 

Sue, Charlene, and Maddy above. Charlene, Maddy, and I below.

A year after DTS I traveled to be in Maddy’s wedding, and a year after that she was in mine.  I am still good friends with her and one other roommate, Sue. What a blessing they have been to me over the years.

Saturday was the big day!  There was a Friends and Family Reception where the leaders talked about YWAM, DTS, and SOE.  Leland Paris spoke with his kind and powerful voice, so much the same as he had spoken to my school 25 years ago. 

“We have been serving Jesus together, what could be better than that!” Fran Paris said about their 50+ years of marriage.

I was impressed with the fire and maturity of the leaders.  Areli’s DTS had been very much like my own: same themes; many of the same speakers; same structure with work duties, one on one discipleship, small groups, and intercession groups.  Yet it seemed like the details had been honed to perfection, and the training held the depth of wisdom gained through experience. I was so very pleased that Areli had chosen to come!  I was thrilled that she planned to come back for the SOE!

Next we all chose seats at the eloquently decorated tables.  We were served a lovely dinner by the new students.  Areli told me that the base chef had been working on the meal for days, and it was exquisite!

After the Love Feast, there was worship, and Aria began to do the cutest baby, butt-wiggle dance.  She looked at the young man standing beside her and decided to raise her hands like he did.

We returned to our seats and listened to stories from the Family DTS.  It was the first DTS of its kind at this base, and it was amazing!  Entire families were learning and ministering together.  One of the families I had known from back home.  I was so amazed at how they had sold everything and came when God called them.  The father and son testifed about how the son had heard God’s voice and prayed for a man, and that man had received healing in his eyes!

Then Areli’s DTS took the stage.  I heard a girl talk about hearing God’s voice for the first time.  I heard a young man tell about God’s creative way of showing him how to let go of his anger. I heard another guy tell of when he witnesses a healing after he prayed. The evening wrapped up with the SOE telling their stories, and each student received a diploma. Everyone was overflowing with an awareness of God’s goodness!

Sunday morning we had time to take one last walk around the loop.  I hated to leave this special place. I was reminded of the many walks I had taken with God on this path.

“There was the exact spot that God told me that I was going to marry Daddy,” I told Areli and two of her friends.

Where we stopped for a snack at the water’s edge was where I heard God speak to me so clearly as I prayed about finances for outreach and my future.  He gave me this scripture:

“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer 17:8

I still remember this scripture and think of it often.  I am not a missionary depending on monthly support, or traveling to strange and exotic locations.  But I do have 10 children, which sometimes requires a leap of faith to just get out of bed each morning!

I recalled all that I had learned here on this base and how it changed the course of my life. My expectation for DTS and SOE was that I would learn about how to evangelize and about how to be a foreign missionary.  Yet almost every speaker who came to our school, every book that I read, every encounter I had with new friends taught me about something different.  Something I desperately needed to know but didn’t know that I needed to know.  Something that would prepare me for the future that God had planned, a future I had never even guessed at 25 years ago.

God taught me about marriage, raising children, homeschool, and His heart for families. I hadn’t thought much about these subjects previously.  I had been focused on getting good grades in order to get into a good college so I could become a teacher.  Once I began my YWAM journey, I fell in love with it!  I continued with SOE and at the end of it, I pictured myself as a missionary with everything I owned strapped to my back.  I was excited to go anywhere.  I prayed about the next step, and all I heard God say was, “Go Home.”

I didn’t understand it at all.  Yet I obeyed.  A month later I was engaged to my high school sweet heart.  A year later we were married.  25 years later we have 10 children. I am living my destiny, and I love it!

Now I can see that God had perfectly prepared me.  YWAM was a huge part of that! I can also see that all my mistakes and missteps along the way just brought me closer to Him. What would I say to the new DTS and SOE graduates?

“God is using everything in your life to prepare you for your purpose.  It is ok if you don’t have a full picture of that purpose, God does!  Whatever you are picturing, it will be totally different anyway! It is usually harder but better!  All your experiences give you something important, even the painful ones, even the ones that seem like mistakes or failures.  Make the most of your YWAM experience!  The time set aside to seek God is sacred and will bring great rewards in the future.”

As we walked back to get ready to leave, I felt so thankful for my Alma Mater.  I felt thankful that Areli was experiencing it too!  Perhaps there was a deposit in little Aria’s spirit that would bring her back here for her own adventure, to this extraordinary place that has brought generations to the feet of Jesus!

The PA Grand Canyon, Family History, and Bald Eagles: 2019 Family Vacation

It was that time of year again. Family vacation time!  This year I had rented a place for an entire week plus a day.  We hadn’t been able to do that since 2011.  I spent months searching for the perfect house, making lists and comparing pros and cons.  I interviewed each child and found that they didn’t care as much about the house as they did about the land. 

They wanted to be far enough away from other people that they could shoot BB guns and have camp fires.

                We finally settled on a farmhouse in Liberty, PA.  It had 6 bedrooms and 130 acres.  I was hoping it would provide the perfect peaceful retreat.

                The week preceding our vacation, Chris had transferred to a new building at work.  He is a UPS driver, and they had moved a lot of the routes to this new building.  His 10 minute commute became 30.  Not too bad especially since he had gotten his own regular route for the first time since he started 4 years ago.  However, the days proved to be much longer, threatening to overtake his 14 hour limit.

                “Did I tell you I saw an eagle at work the other day?” he asked me at the end of the very long week. “It was right there, flying over the Target parking lot.”

                I marveled at that!  Chris had gotten a very busy route in the heart of retail businesses.  Not a place you would expect to see an eagle.  Eagle sightings had become a sign of God encounters to me.  I have written about it in many articles starting with A Hawk, a Vulture, and an Eagle and continuing with Part 2, This is a New Season, and A Surprise Visit from my Marine.  Wow! I really have seen a lot of eagles! I took this fresh eagle sighting as a sign that this new position for Chris was part of God’s plan. 

Though it seemed that it would require endurance and long hours, God would meet him there.

                I was also fully expecting God to encounter us on our vacation, and I was not disappointed!

Saturday

                It sure took a long time to get 10 people packed up and ready to go.  We filled a rental trailer with all of our essentials.  Half of it was food!  By the time we were ready for the long drive, the rain had cleared away.  The journey toward northern Pennsylvania was beautiful, the golden sun playing on the autumn leaves, weaving in and out of the rolling hills.  We listened to the CDs I had checked out of the library, The Penderwicks in Spring. It was the fourth book in the series that we had come to adore, and it seemed just perfect for our family right now.  The oldest girl was away at college (just as our oldest daughter is away at missionary school), the neighbor boy was away in the army (as our oldest boy is away in the Marines) and the other Penderwicks were of many different ages, just as our children are.

                We finally arrived!  It was quite remote and the land was beautiful.  The house was very interesting with an old, quirky charm.  Everyone got unpacked in their new rooms.  Then we cooked hotdogs and s’mores over the fire outside. Such a lovely evening.

Sunday

                Chris drove most of the children to the PA Lumber Museum and they enjoyed the antique vendors, the demonstrations, and the exhibits. 

Chris purchased a book published in 1901 titled The Life of William McKinely.  Many times in the next week I would see Cadin enjoying the solitude of his own room and reading this book. 

Since the Lumber Museum wasn’t handicap accessible, I stayed home with Ashlyn and Aria.  They were so sweet and we spent a happy morning outside in the sunshine.

                That evening Chris grilled hamburgers and we all ate outside.  It was cold!  Chris decided to zip Aria into his jacket.  He still was able pass the football with his boys.

I wanted to hold these family moments forever in my memory!

Monday

                We drove to the Lenard Harrison State Park.  They had a beautiful overlook to view the PA Grand Canyon. 

Soon however, we encountered stairs and Ashlyn could go no further.  We found an employee who showed us on a map the two Handicap Accessible trails.  We stopped for lunch first at the playground.

                Then we drove to the Pine Creek Trail which was at the bottom of the canyon.  The path was wide and flat, good for bikers and horses.  It was gorgeous!  We saw a covered wagon tour pass by.

                We continued the adventure by driving to the other side of the gorge to access the Barbour Rock Trail.  Most of the children were tired of walking and just wanted to stay in the van. 

                “We came this far, I am going to walk to the vista!” I announced.

                Chris came with me along with three of the children.  Chai stayed with the rest in the van.  It was only .7 miles to the Vista and what a lovely walk.  All of a sudden we came upon the vista and it was breath taking. 

I wanted to linger there just a little longer than the boys would have liked.  My patience was rewarded as Chris and I got to see a large bird circling over the gorge.  When the sunlight flashed on the white tail feathers, I knew we had seen a bald eagle! 

Oh to be an eagle and to soar over such a sight!

                The entire day felt like a gift from a loving Father.

Tuesday

                We took the morning and drove to Mansfield, my father’s hometown.  First we visited the house where he had grown up.

The last time I had been there was for my father’s internment in 2013.  The home had looked small and barren, stripped of the magic it had possessed when I was a child.  The current owners must have poured a lot of love into the property, because it looked so charming again.  What relief that brought me!

                Right down the street was Oakwood Cemetery.  I couldn’t remember where the family grave-site was, so we just got out and started looking.  After a few minutes I caught sight of two stones decorated with flowers and birds, the prettiest in the cemetery.  They belonged to my Grandmother and Grandfather! 

And right behind them was my Dad’s and a stone for my mom, ready for her but not yet needed (thank goodness!)  As a child, I had always been very bored when my relatives took me to pay respects in a cemetery.  Now it was a very meaningful part of my family history.

                We drove to the History Center on Main St. and were greeted by the woman who runs it.  She talked to us and showed us around. 

She showed me a picture of my Dad in her Mansfield High School display.  She remembered him!  She said that if I donated something of his, she would put it in her display.  I loved seeing the history of the small town and felt honored that my Dad had been a part of it.  The children mostly just loved the little dog Amos who considered the museum his home away from home.

                We ate lunch at a park that had a swing just perfect for Ashlyn.  It sat in the shadow of Mansfield University where my grandfather had been a professor.  Grandmother and Grandfather had passed away when I was still in elementary school.  Before they died, we would travel to Mansfield only once or twice a year.  We always came for Thanksgiving, and it was always cold, wet, and dreary. 

But on this sunny fall day as I watched my children play at the park, my view of Mansfield was being redeemed.  It was a gorgeous little town!  I felt the sunshine make its way into my memories and brighten up my view of my father’s side of the family.

Wednesday

                Being the first rainy day, we decided to stay at the farmhouse.  There were so many books and games in the library and a large collection of toys and coloring materials in the loft room. 

As Chris was reading about the nearby Penn Wells hotel, he decided that he should take me there on a date that night.  I was actually hoping to return, since it had been the place that my grandparents would take us for Thanksgiving once Grandmother decided that she was too old to cook.

                We drove through the hills and low lying clouds to get to the charming town of Wellsboro.  I recognized so much about the Penn Wells, and I enjoyed being there again.  Memories of my grandparents warmed my heart; Grandmother asking me to sit by her at the meal because she wanted to get to know me better, Grandfather insisting that I turn in the $2.75 in quarters that I had found in one of the payphones in the lobby. 

                After we finished the meal, we walked up and down the main street and took in the display windows of all the little shops.  Dark had fallen and nothing was open, but it was still fun!

Thursday

                The children were so anxious to get out of the house and use some of their spending money, that Chris took most of them to Wellsboro that morning.  I stayed home again with the girls and enjoyed the relative quiet of the house.

                That evening we took a walk and gathered wild flowers for the table.  We listened to Frank Sinatra on the CD player while we made supper.

Friday

                The children had taken every opportunity this week to play outside and explore the woods, the fields, and the 5 tree stands.  They had conducted target practice with BB guns. They had honed their skill with the bow and arrows.  They waged laser tag battles.  This day they decided to craft a tepee/ wigwam!

Saturday

                The week had come to an end.  We had to get packed up and set all things back in their proper places; no small feat with many small hands constantly grabbing and relocating!  We pulled away at 11 am and told the children that we had two surprises for them.  The first came after an hour of driving.  We stopped at the Country Cupboard to partake of their lunch buffet. This was a special place because we had spent two Thanksgivings there.  I groaned inwardly when I saw that most of my children’s idea of enjoying an all-you-can-eat-buffet meant getting a plate of rolls and mac and cheese followed by two plates of dessert.  Finally we issued the proclamation: a meat and a vegetable must be eaten before dessert is consumed.

                After the meal we had fun walking around their large greenhouse and gift shop. The second surprise was just 20 minutes away. We drove along the river to find our way to the Joseph Priestley House.  I looked up and saw two large birds circling directly above the street. 

A pair of bald eagles!   

                We arrived at the lovely house built in the 1700s.  A tour guide was just starting the tour, and we learned all about Joseph Priestley.  He is famous now for discovering oxygen.  He also discovered many other gases and created carbonated water.  First and foremost he was a man of faith and believed that science both confirmed and validated his faith.

                After we departed the historic site, all that was left to do was drive home.  Such a stunning drive!  I pondered why God had allowed me to see three eagles on this trip. What was His message to me?  I think I simply saw them because I was always watching for them.  I expected to see them.  Most of the rest of the family hadn’t spotted them because they just weren’t looking. 

I think that God encounters are around us all the time, we just need the eyes to recognize them! 

And of course, God is just so very, very GOOD!

The Glorious Now

It was a lovely Sunday in August.  A perfect day!  It felt like the kind of day that would be wasted if not spent out of doors.  We decided to be spontaneous and head out for a picnic at Gifford Pinchot State Park rather than go to church. 

It is so hard to be spontaneous with 8 children!  We had to think about clothes and swim suits and towels, diaper bags and nursing pillows and bibs, strollers and chairs and food.  The children were all excited to help, so the preparations went quickly.  Probably the biggest hurdle was myself.  My very non-spontaneous self.  I fretted about this and that, what I would wear that I wouldn’t feel ugly in at the “beach”, what I would feed the baby, how much of the day we had already wasted by sleeping in and taking our time. 

Chris took me and looked me in the eyes, “You don’t need to stress.  Just enjoy this day.”

I was determined to put all worries out of my mind and sincerely try.

The drive felt incredibly long because of closed roads, a crying baby, and a screaming teenage girl (who acts more like a three year old with her special needs).  Chris and I decided to laugh through it, hoping it wasn’t an indication of what to expect on this outing.

The park was beautiful!  We found a half circle of picnic tables under a tree and staked our claim.  Then we went down to the lake to watch the children swim in the murky water.  They had a wonderful time!  I stuck my feet in but didn’t relish the slimy feeling of the bottom.  We took a break and ate our lunch.  Everyone was still happy, so we went back to the water. This time we took camping chairs and sat under the shade of a tree.

I looked out on the lake, full of joyful children. The sounds of laughter and splashing floated through the air. The sky was blue. The sun was shining. The trees surrounding the lake were beautiful. 

A cool breeze kissed my face, and I felt the presence of God.

“He is right here, right now,” I thought to myself. “He is filling me, surrounding me.”

Then it struck me – THIS IS IT! 

This is what I had been longing for all spring and summer.  I had hoped for a getaway to the ocean.  True, this was no ocean with pounding waves and sandy beaches. There was only a small cement embankment to separate the grass from the water. But it was perfect! 

THIS WAS IT!

This was the rest.

This was the vacation I had been envisioning, praying for, hoping would come.  I didn’t have to wait for a perfect moment in the future.  I had my heart’s desire RIGHT NOW! I wanted to just sit in the peace, to enjoy it as long as I could. I sent up a quick prayer that none of my children would get hurt and come running to me with shrieks and bloody appendages.  A few more minutes passed and the peace remained.  The park was crowded with people on such a lovely day, but everyone was friendly and having fun.

Then a new group arrived and set up a very large speaker which began blasting hip-hop music.  “No big deal, it is still a perfect day,” I tried to tell myself even as my annoyance grew.

“Why do these people think that everyone here wants to listen to their music,” I thought to myself. “I would be so embarrassed to intrude on everyone’s gorgeous day like that!”

Just then a new sound came through the speaker. A ukulele.  The sweet and soothing ukulele version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” which had always been a favorite of mine.  It brings the joy of dreaming and the contentment of dreams come true.  In a season of broken dreams, I had avoided the song, as it had become very melancholy to me. 

But today it was the finishing touch on this “dream come true moment” that God had orchestrated for me.

No, I wasn’t at the beach.  I didn’t have all my goals accomplished or all of my concerns taken care of.  It was simply…

THE GLORIOUS NOW!

I was present.

I was content.

I was deeply blessed.

He Will Satisfy My Desires with Good Things

I looked up from cooking in the kitchen and caught a glimpse of something that made my heart swell with an unfamiliar joy.  What was I feeling?  A thrill? A wave of delight?  It happened a few more times that day as I gazed across my home to see the view past the dining room, past the sitting room, and through the large front window to the porch. This strange sensation reminded me of Is 60:5 (NIV), “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy…”

                What was causing this unexpected joy?  I could see four hanging baskets overflowing with pink and yellow flowers on my porch.  MY PORCH!! I had dreamed of having hanging baskets for as long as we had had a porch.  Every spring I thought, “This might just be the year!”  Then every spring reality hit.  Food was more important that hanging baskets, which at their cheapest were $20 a pop.  Yet now I was beholding them in all their horticultural glory, and they made me so happy!

                It seemed rather silly to get so excited about plants. I had just seen them at Sharp Shopper, a little past their prime and disheveled.  I got the lot of them for $24.  Once we hung them up outside, they had bloomed all over again.  It almost felt like a miracle. 

Then I remembered something I had written in my journal last year.  I looked it up and found an entry from 2/2/18.  I had been feeling horrible for about a month and a half with my pregnancy.  It had been just long enough to convince me that I would always feel this way and would never enjoy life again.  I would sit on the sofa trying to be still, taking peaceful cleansing breaths to keep the nausea away.  I found that it helped to close my eyes and picture things that made me happy.  I pictured Chris and me on a Baby-moon to Cape May, sun on our faces, and sand in our toes. 

I also pictured our front yard, landscaped and beautiful.  There would be a raised bed in front of the porch where I could plant veggies and herbs.  There would be planters overflowing with flowers on the concrete blocks next to the steps up to the porch. More planters would grace either side of our lovely front door.  Most importantly there would be hanging baskets all around the porch.  Just thinking of springtime and the beauty and aroma of flowers made me feel better. In fact, I drew a picture of it in my journal and wrote, “Flowers are a sign of prosperity to me, to have the extra time and money to have flowers.” I didn’t expect to see this dream realized for a few years yet.  But it helped me to imagine.

                That is why I felt my heart thrill and rejoice when I saw those flowers hanging outside.  It was a desired fulfilled, a dream realized, a sign of God’s faithfulness to bring prosperity into my life before I thought that He would.

After coming out of a season of disappointment, over and over again disappointment, the thrill that went through my heart felt foreign. I almost wanted to dismiss it as unimportant.  No need to get crazy and all bent out of shape over flowers!  I didn’t want to rush in and think that all my desires would be fulfilled.  I didn’t want to really start to dream very much again.

                Thankfully God showed me scriptures that allowed me to savor this joy, rather than toss it aside. One had been up on my mirror for months.

Ps 103:5 “…who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Others He gave me in the next week.

Pr. 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desired fulfilled is a tree of life.

Pr. 13:19 A desire realized is sweet to the soul…

                I sat down and wrote down all my desires that had been fulfilled lately. I came up with 14 of them.  Things I had been thinking about, researching, longing for, and praying for. 

                FOURTEEN OF MY DESIRES HAD BEEN FULFILLED!

Just to look at them all in a list lifted my spirit and caused me to praise God.  I was no longer in a season of disappointment. 

I was in a season of desires and promises being fulfilled.

                Yet I almost MISSED IT!  I was so used to being disappointed that it was easy to continue to be.  If I thought of all the challenges that lay ahead, all the prayers that had not yet been answered, I would feel like a victim.  If I thought of my dream journal sitting up in my closet for over 4 years, untouched because I didn’t want to open old wounds, I felt tired and washed out.  Dreaming like that was for the young who have extra time and energy to invest in their dreams. I need to just be happy with my lot and make it through the day.

                NO WAIT! God said that He is satisfying my desires so that my youth is being renewed!

                I am not a victim!

                I am not in a season of disappointment!

                I can look at my world with eyes wide open.  When I see the flowers overflowing – I can let my heart thrill!

                When I see the butterflies and the hummingbirds flock to the beauty – I can be radiant!

I know that God cares about what we care about.  I know that He loves beauty. I know He delights to see His children rejoice because they have received their heart’s desire. I love it when I can give my children a gift that awakens wonder and excitement in them. How much more does God feel that way?

                If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He WILL give us the desires of our hearts.  He is doing it right now, every day.  Let’s open our eyes and notice it.  Let’s make a big fuss over it! Let’s put a smile on our Father’s face when we realize how very good He is!

A Master Bedroom Makeover

This picture was taken in December of 2016.

That is when I thought that a master bedroom makeover was imminent. We had moved into our lovely older home in October of 2007. We had 6 children, the youngest being 6 weeks old. We just put together our master bedroom with whatever we had. It definitely wasn’t the decor that I would have chosen. It really wasn’t even a master bedroom. It was one of the smaller rooms in the house, but we chose it because it had a balcony. We didn’t want any of the children to accidentally get out onto the balcony…EVER!

I would day dream about how we would make our room a peaceful oasis. It wouldn’t cost very much money, and it would be so much fun. Month after month, year after year, other things would take up our time, money, and creative energy. We had two more baby boys, both born in this bedroom. We shared the small space with a collection of bassinets and cribs.

In 2015 we had a baby girl. Eventually she moved out of our room and into a room with her brothers. Our master bedroom was cribless! I began to dream of redecorating again. By December of 2016, we thought we were ready! The light blue paint had almost faded to grey, and it was peeling off the walls. Upon closer inspection, Chris noticed that there was quite a bit of water damage on one of the walls. The wall had an outside wall on the other side. It turns out the the chimney was leaking water into our house and we needed to get a chimney liner.

A Chimney liner: the most unsatisfying home improvement expense ever!!!

I had to wait a bit longer for my master bedroom makeover. Slowly over the next two years we found other items to put into our room like a beautiful dresser from Craigslist. My daughter made me gorgeous canvases from photos taken on her trip to Australia.

I was able to get some new bedspreads. A lighter one for the summer months and a duvet cover for our down comforter. Chris likes our room as frigid as possible, but I don’t mind in the winter, as long as I am snuggled under the down comforter.

I also brought a small love seat into our room. Friends of ours gave it to us when they were moving our of state. (Thank you Wander family!) It had been in the boys room, in the loft and then finally in the basement. I thought it was a goner when the furnace pipes started spurting water everywhere and it got completely soaked. Yet it dried out and still had the pleasant smell of dill emanating from it. I think it is a miracle love seat, perfect for quiet times with Jesus and nursing times with babies. All it needed was a blue slip cover!

In 2018 we had another baby girl. There was another bassinet in our room, but it was a joy! Chris and I needed a new mattress badly. We found ourselves rolling into the center of the bed and waking up terribly sore. Finally by February of 2019 we were able to trade in our 22 year mattress for a new king-sized one.

A new King-Sized Mattress: one of the most satisfying home improvement expenses ever!

Chris decided that he couldn’t put a new bed into our room with the awful paint. So he asked me to pick a paint color and soon, “Sunny Veranda” was gracing our walls.

A few months later Chris took an original door from our garage and crafted a headboard for me.

I love it more than any headboard I have ever seen!

I feel like I have an official bedroom now!

I wanted to decorate our room in a beach theme because God had spoken to me so clearly about the Sky and the Ocean before, during, and after our 21st honeymoon at the beach. The beach is where I am reminded to surrender to the God of the wind and waves so He can carry me.

There are pictures from Areli’s trip to Australia,

Areli’s trip to Cyprus,

and our trip to Ocean City Maryland.

I love each little detail because it means something to me. This old box came with our house and is a perfect place for my books. Now I just need to find one for Chris’ side of the bed.

The shells belong to Areli, which I gave to her, which my Grammy gave to me, which Grammy got when her mom and step-dad lived in Florida.

Whenever I lay in this bed and look up at the lovely white ceiling fan, I feel like I am on vacation. I am surrounded by sunny weather and beaches.

What could be more relaxing than that!

And God is telling me to dream again.

To look into my future with His vision and see the endless possibilities.

To tell disappointment that “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD!”

To hold my dreams dearly but not tightly.

To dream but not make dreams my master.

To dream while praising the Author of my dreams.

What better place to do all of those things than in my new Master Bedroom?!

Thank you Chris for making my oasis possible! I am looking forward to relaxing at the beach with you!

Her Room Looks Empty

Her room looks empty.  Her dresser is bare.  Her bags are packed.

This is happening.  My firstborn is leaving home.  It isn’t her first adventure, but it is her longest so far.  Seeking God and helping others is her mission, taking photos along the way.

                How can I say goodbye to my right arm, the joy of my heart, and my best girlfriend?  I fear I will be overcome with testosterone and daily tasks without her.

  But I know that it is her time to fly. 

God’s timing is perfect, and His grace is sufficient for me.  She graduated two years ago, an amazing student.  She stayed to save money and help me through my hardest pregnancy and recovery yet. 

                She is a second mother to the others.  She diapered them, fed them, washed them, dressed them, educated them, had fun with them, and loved them.  They are the children they are today because of her.  I am a sane and happy mother of 10 because of her. She had a job and was a leader at youth group.  Many have been blessed by her! 

                “What will we ever do without her?”  my heart keeps asking.  “How will I bare the emptiness?”

                The truth is, we are not becoming smaller as a family, we are expanding.

We are not losing Areli, we are going to be seeing a whole new world through her eyes.  Her room won’t be empty!  Two little girls will being filling the space with feminine joy and enthusiasm soon.  And what a good change it will be.  Four year old Annalise is still in a crib in her brother’s room.  10 month old Aria will be a wonderful roommate now that she sleeps like an angel.

All the children will take a step up and grow in maturity. They will learn new skills and take on new jobs.

                Areli will be going to the same missionary school that I attended just a brief 25 years ago.

  25 means double grace, and there is double grace on her life.

To live…to love…to learn…to grow…to embrace each moment!  Our hearts are going with her, and our prayers are surrounding her. 

 One of her walls looked awfully bare. So I pinned up some photos of Areli and the family. Aria will be able to lay on her new changing table and see that beautiful smile everyday. 

We are so proud of you Areli!  It won’t be long until we are all together again.