Thursday, October 28, 2010

Exciting Day

After the hard night last night and time before the Lord this morning (see previous post), there was such a peace. Perfect rest in the good and powerful God who is in control of our lives. And it was a good day.

First of all, while we were doing our morning devotions with the kids we were talking about how important our work here in Croata is, so that we can tell others about Jesus, so they may learn to live like Christians and go to heaven to. And Sammy said without any promptin by us, "I want to be a Christian." Wow, we've been praying for awhile for him to understand. We'd ask him what it means and he would say, "Being good" or something like that.

Over the last several weeks we've been reading "The Lamb" for our Sunday School time. (By the way, I would highly recommend it for giving a clear presentation of the Gospel that any child can understand. And it's beautifully illustrated.) The last couple lessons have explained about the Old Testament system of placing the man's hands on the head of the perfect lamb, thereby a picture of transfering your sin on something else, and then killing the lamb, the one paying for the sin of the man.

We've talked quite extensively over the last few weeks that Jesus is the Lamb of God who took the sins of the world and died in our place. He paid for our sin so that we can be forgiven and live with Him. Only perfect people can live with a perfect God in His perfect home. So we have to accept Jesus sacrifice and He will make us clean, so we can go to heaven.

Well, Sammy was able to explain that today, and He asked Jesus to come take his sins away, and forgive Him, so He can go to heaven if he died today. He told Jesus thank you for dying on the cross for his sins. It was beautiful! And he asked God to help him be good and serve God always.

Just this morning, I surrendered to the Lord and released control of my children's lives, and He brings my son to saving faith that same day. What an awesome Lord! My children are in His hands, for certain! Not that I doubted it, but the Lord really confirmed it in my heart!

Here's the link for "The Lamb". Look under resources, ages 4 and up. This is the same Bible study we went through with Michaela when she was 4 and she clearly understood the Gospel while going through it. We're also using the Portuguese version with our Bible clubs right now.

Giving it all to the Lord

Last night I had a nightmare, the kind where you wake up crying. I don't remember exactly what it was, but it was awful and I woke up with this horrible fear of losing my children. I don't know where it came from, but I couldn't sleep and I was sobbing. Todd didn't know how to help me. I just prayed and prayed and God helped me get back to sleep. But then I woke up really early crying again, with this horrible fear.

I prayed on my knees, crying, and the Lord led me to confess so many things to Him, personal thing, weaknesses and sins, fears and worries, all which led me to realize that I needed to give it all the things I was trying to hold onto, to control, to the Lord. I needed to give him my children and husband, their lives, my abilities to serve them, to serve here in Croata, and my fears and inadequacies. I need to surrender to the Lord, remembering who He is, the GREAT and MIGHTY GOD, Creator of the Universe, and that He is sovereign. But not just that, but that He loves me, and He loves my children more than I do. That if He decided to take them, I would have to be reminded not only that they would be so much happier in heaven, but also that God would only allow it if it were for my good, for a purpose greater than me. I'm still grappling with it.

Ever since they were little, we've always talked about heaven with wonder and anticipation of going there. Excited to be with God. And the kids have always said, "Oh, I wish I could be in heaven right now." Or, "Why can't we go to heaven today, Mommy?" Those are wonderful things to hear, their desire to be with God and experience His joys, but also heart wrenching because of the fear of loss. I've always had this paralyzing fear of losing them and Todd. And I begged for mercy for God to spare me. I'm not strong enough. I couldn't handle it.

But I've been reading Job. God had a plan for his suffering. I realize that God doesn't always spare the very righteous like Job who suffered not because of his sinfulness. He didn't need to be punished. But me, a sinner, struggling and not resisting sin so often, I deserve anything as punishment and how dare I beg for mercy. But the Bible does say that God is our God, who is compassionate and gracious, full of lovingkindness and compassion, ready to forgive and show mercy. So I cling to Him, for forgiveness, for mercy and compassion and for help to overcome sin and trust him in all things. And that leads me to say, "I trust you Lord. You are my Sovereign. My life and the lives of those I love are in Your hands. Please protect us all from Satan's schemes. Place a hedge of protection around us. Use us, as you choose; do with us, as you please. For you are my good, gracious and loving God."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fun with Strawberries

Wow! We found strawberries! When I grew up here, that was absolutely impossible! And now, we found a whole box of them (about 4 pints) for R$10 , which is about $7.50. When we came home, I wanted so much to keep them from spoiling that I washed and processed them immediately.

Here, we have to wash all our fruits and vegetables and let them soak before we eat them. There's no limit to the yucky stuff you can find in/on your veggies and fruits. So, I soaked them in bleach water for 15 minutes after rinsing them under running water. Then I processed them, while saving the prettiest ones for something special.

I had attempted homemade yogurt (like I remember my mom making) at the end of last week and had a little of that left over (by the way it worked great!), so I mixed some strawberries with that. We had strawberries on pancakes with homemade whipped cream (from the cream from our milk). And tonight was the big treat. I melted some chocolate and used those perfect strawberries and made chocolate covered strawberries for all of us! What a treat! The kids were jumping up and down and it was a real joy to see them enjoying a treat, "just like the States", Mickey said. Todd really enjoyed it too! :)

I've saved two little tupperwares full of the strawberries cut up with sugar to use on some other special occasion. I don't know how often we can find them or afford them, but it has sure been special!

By the way, if you've noticed, I'm trying to find uses for homemade dairy products, how to make yogurt, whipped cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, etc. The yogurt worked and was super easy! The whipped cream as well. If I can get enough cream, I'll try to make butter. I tried cottage cheese and it didn't work, I think I must have missed a step. And the cream cheese recipes I've found are made from the yogurt, so I'll try to get that recipe down first before I try the cream cheese. It's lots of fun trying stuff I never thought about making in the States!

Just thinking

I've had so many people write me over the last several weeks in response to my blog and it has been an incredible encouragement to me. I've really need you, my friends! Thank you! I do feel though, that I have been too "down" but through your encouraging words the Lord has reminded me of several things.
This first thing is so cool and so easy to miss and several of you mentioned it to me. The first thing is that if I weren't struggling with my walk, then it would show that I wasn't really a child of God. When we are believers we realize we are sinning; we should be disgusted with our sin, attempting to have victory over our sin, and in the end wanting to grow in grace, grow as children of God who want to be just like Him. What a reminder, my friends. So often I think I must be a terrible Christian because I'm struggling with this or that, or I just can't seem to find victory over this sin or that, particulary complaining or self-control! But the Lord has comforted my heart through your reminders that because I hate my sin and am not satisfied with my sinfulness, that He is working in me and will help me through! What hope and peace that provides!
The second thing that God has helped me see is how easy it is to fall or trip when we lack fellowship and teaching. There is very little accountability here and I was appalled to realize that I hadn't spent dedicated time with the Lord in several days. I hate to admit it, even, but it's true. The days flew by, on homeschooling, working the with kid's program, researching homeschooling curriculum for next year, etc., and I've been staying up late on the computer and waking up late just in time to make breakfast and start school. I didn't even realize I was doing it, until the Lord brought me to the conviction of it. Wow! How awful. There is nothing that weakens our walk, like not walking at all--not spending time abiding in Christ, walking beside my Savior having sweet conversations and holding hands with Him. If I'm not in His Word and not bringing it into my life, not spending time in deep conversation with Him, than how in the World can I overcome sin, anyway! Like the kid's song--Don't read your Bible, don't pray every day and you'll shrink, shrink, shrink!
So we're going to church more often (even though it's so far, we need to do it! and we miss it!), and I'm returning to fellowship with my Savior. Isn't that what conviction is all about, I wish I didn't have to slip up to realize it, but it's just true, whether I had put it on this blog or not. I know some may not know me this well, but it's who I am, and perhaps through my stumbling and the Lord picking me up, you will be encouraged somehow. There's a verse somewhere about being honest with yourself, not having pretensions, and that's, I think, something I have done for far too long.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


During our Spiritual Retreat last week, we had our Pastor-to-Missionaries and his wife come to share and fellowship with us. It was so wonderful to see them. We were able to know them through a few visits with them before we came to Brazil, and really appreciate them. Both of them have gone through very difficult trials with the crisis in their daughter's health. You can see more of her testimony through this link. Charity and her husband were preparing to become missionaries with Avant, when she started feeling very sick. Within a week (more or less) she had lost most of her ability to walk, speak, eat. This was three years ago and the journey has been very difficult. We've prayed with them along this excruciating journey from the beginning and have followed their pain and progress. But this time, they were able to share with us about their way of dealing with the pain, of their understanding of God through this trial.

It was a blessing and a challenge to me. They spoke of many things that touched my heart, including their purposefulness in holding onto God and remembering His promises and His character in the face of trials. But one of the biggest things that stuck out to me was their definition of joy--contentment not happiness. I've always known about it not being happiness, but had never been able to figure out what it really was.

I've been writing about how I believe the Lord wants me to grow in joy and not really knowing how. When we came back from Fortaleza on Thursday night, we found the house taken over by birds. There was bird-poop, nest makings and feathers on every surface, besides a dust-storm load of dirt and debris. They'd even broken through the concrete Todd put up on top of the walls to block their access to the inside of the house. Here are some pictures of what we came home to.
Our living room floor and couch
The bird-nest fixings that fell out
This was what I swept up from inside the house!
It was down-right infuriating and discouraging. I've already struggled with living with the dirt in a house that has no ceiling, but this was too much. If I could have moved that very minute, I would have. But we can't. We're committed, at least for several more months to live here--no contract, just financially and with the constraints of circumstances.
So, I come back to the fact that God wants me to learn to live with this trial, to learn to be content even in a very difficult living situation. I keep thinking that all the women around us live like this their whole lives, what's wrong with me that I can't seem to deal with it at all. Even the other missionaries on our field have done it before and seem to think it's something you just get used to. But I've cried more in the last 2 months, than the whole rest of the time we've been in Brazil. It's not just the dirt, but also a feeling of isolation, feeling stuck or locked into my home, not having the freedom I'm used to because I can't drive and there's really very few places to go.

So, I've asked the Lord to supernaturally give me contentment and joy in these circumstances. I'm empty of it, but I know it is a fruit of the Spirit, He is the One that puts that fruit in us, but I must learn to exercise it and use it. So that's what I'm asking the Lord to do. Fill me with His Spirit, help me to grow in Him, and give me the joy and contentment that He wants for me. And in the process, I need to stop complaining and look around me. I need to find ways of dealing with the dirt, with the feeling of being closed in and locked up, and reach out to the people He's called us to and not focus on myself. Most importantly, I need to focus on my relationships-- with the Lord,my daily walk with devotions and prayer; with my husband, conversation and partnership; and with my children, loving and teaching them, spending lots of quantity time with them.