On Spiderwebs and Perseverance

Over the past 6 years, the Lord’s been teaching me a lesson. Using spiderwebs. A couple weeks ago, I finally stopped to take a picture.

IMG_9191crop

Before Freedom owned the land where our buildings now sit, we traveled to the villages to do school. In batey Lima, we borrowed a small, hot, metal church building where our 30 preschoolers would kneel at wooden pews to learn their alphabet. In 2013, our numbers grew to 90. I worked with our 30 kindergarteners, and Toni taught the 60 preschool babes.

As a mom who had just moved to a foreign country with two young boys, I felt like our days were so very long. Every morning, we’d send missionaries out at dawn in their personal vehicles to prep our “classrooms”. They’d lug heavy benches out of the buildings, and they’d drag in totes full of workbooks, school supplies, laminated letters, chalkboards, and more. They’d screw together makeshift desks to prepare for a morning full of learning.

At the end of each 4-hour day, everything was taken apart. Desks and chairs were stacked and organized. Ropes and number lines were dismantled and packed away. Outhouses were cleaned. Around noon, we’d drop our students off in their villages. Then we’d eat our packed lunches on the back of a safari truck. By mid-afternoon, we were home and cleaned up. With the remaining hours til sunset, houses were cleaned, clothes were washed, and dinners were cooked. Some missionaries homeschooled their own children; others spent time prepping lessons and activities for school. This monotonous routine was our “normal”.

For me to get up at 6 am and head out to the villages on the back of an open-air truck – hanging on to my 3-year-old son so he wouldn’t bounce off the seat – was fairly draining. But even on those early, frigid mornings, God was an ever-present help and strength.

I had lots of time to think on those long truck rides. There were certain parts of the trip that were actually rather pleasant. I loved watching the world wake up. I started to notice certain aspects of the landscape. I knew when the really big bumps were coming on that washed-out, dirt road. I could soon close my eyes and tell you our location on the route based on the sounds, smells, and swerves. With each trip, I’d catch some new feature of my surroundings.

It was always fun riding through one particularly wooded area – it had a jungle feel to it. After being in that shadowy, foresty region for several minutes, the world opened up into a sunny, vast expanse of sugarcane. The fields stretched for miles. In the distance, one could barely make out the grayish, purple mountains.

One dewy morning, I remember looking out across the grassy fields, and I noticed something new. Spiderwebs. Hundreds and hundreds of translucent orbs. They were all around. Every few yards, there was another intricate structure that some tiny, eight-legged creature had spent her entire night working on. I could only imagine the amount of time it took to make those complex, interlacing works of art.

IMG_9195crop

Interestingly enough, by the time we boarded the truck for the afternoon ride home, the spiderwebs were gone. They no longer glistened in the sunlight, veiled in morning dew. I can only assume that the wind and rain of the day destroyed those fragile, beautiful masterpieces.

I started to compare our long hours to the time those little spiders spent creating their webs. Were we really so different from them, toiling day and night? We sure experienced “windy” times. For me, those days were mostly characterized by feelings of discouragement, exhaustion, and frustration as we worked with rowdy, raucous kids who rarely showed signs of change and growth.

As depressing as all this may sound, there is some beauty to the tale. Each afternoon the spiderwebs were gone. But every morning, they were back! In the night, the spiders had set to work again – spinning, spinning, spinning – until their condensation-covered creations were complete again.

Those spiders and their webs represented something to me. Perseverance. I often woke up thinking, Lord, I don’t know if I can do this again. It’s so early. I’m so tired. These kids don’t want to learnBut then I’d see those webs, and I’d think, Well, Jesus, if those little arachnids can get up to spin their webs, then I can too!

The miraculous thing? I don’t have to spin alone.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning!
– Psalm 30:5

 

Ang’s Jan ’19 Reads and QOTMs

81rzdofmxplThis was a phenomenal work of historical fiction! I learned about a part of WWII that I don’t ever remember focusing on. Very emotional to follow this displaced family who was forced to leave their precious Lithuania for cold and brutal Siberia. For me, its ending was abrupt, especially since I loved the characters so.

41+wlb5hwrl._sx331_bo1,204,203,200_I ran across this book while I was browsing Goodreads a few weeks ago and bought it on a whim. This issue of raising grateful children is one that’s been on my heart for the last few months. I want my three sweet kiddos to grow up really thankful for their many blessings – to exchange selfish attitudes for selfless mindsets and actions. Honestly, I feel like the writing was a bit haphazard. There weren’t any earth-shattering concepts in it. But I’m glad I read it, because it made me slow down and think more intentionally about what our family can do to combat this problem. One Amazon reviewer hit the nail on the head when he said, “The issue is real but the book needs polishing.”

A few of the quotes that impacted me this month:


“Twenty minutes,” the officer barked. He threw his burning cigarette onto our clean living room floor and ground it into the wood with his boot. We were about to become cigarettes. ¹

I pictured a rug being lifted and a huge Soviet broom sweeping us under it. ¹

I scanned the group. Faces spoke to their future. I saw courage, anger, fear, and confusion. Others were hopeless. They had already given up. Which was I? ¹

I felt as if I were riding a pendulum. Just as I would swing into the abyss of hopelessness, the pendulum would swing back with some small goodness. ¹

Anytime we step out of the mainstream and try to turn our lives (or homes) around and dare to go upstream, it’s hard. Some would say impossible. The journey is filled with obstacles, naysayers, and discouragers. And then there are the children…. Our kids are taught conformity–to be like everyone else, to follow rules and not misstep. It’s in our human makeup to want to fit in, to not stick out or be different, to blend in.²

As uncomfortable as it sounds, parents who want less-entitled kids have to be less entitled themselves, and parents who want to raise more grateful kids need to start by livnig more grateful lives. ²

Research proves there’s a direct link between low self-esteem and materialism. We give our kids more because we think it will make us all feel better, but it actually places a higher value on things than on relationships. And often our kids don’t need more stuff or more freedom; they just need more of us. ²

A child-centered home inhibits awareness of others. When we focus all our time and attention on our own needs, it’s really hard to see the needs of other people. ²

By Christian perfection,
I mean 1.) loving God with all our heart….
I mean 2.) a heart and life all devoted to God…
I mean 3.) regaining the whole image of God…
I mean 4.) having all the mind that was in Christ…
I mean 5.) walking uniformly as Christ walked. ³

Behold, what frailty we in man may see! His shadow is less given to change than he. ³


¹ Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys
² Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Kristen Welch
³ The Journal of John Wesley

Ang’s Oct/Nov/Dec ’18 Reads and QOTM’s

Wow, I fell off the monthly blogging wagon. Life has really taken me for a ride these past few months. So many things going on, but I was able to tackle a few books. Thankful for the awesome opportunity to be challenged and to learn new things even in the middle of the craziness.

41agtusbxpl._sx298_bo1,204,203,200_ In October, I worked through this must-read by Elisabeth Eliot. Tears as I walked this journey, this time imagining how I would’ve responded had it been me that lost my husband. These men and women had a contagious faith. Will always love this fast, easy, yet emotional read.

b1cbjntwjis._sl250_fmpng_I’ve been reading this Judy Moody spin-off series about Judy’s little brother, Stink, to my boys at night, and they are obsessed! These haven’t been my favorite stories in the world, but if my kids will sit and listen to a read-aloud, I’ll buy every single one! Noah and Leyton are learning tons of idioms and other English nuances, a huge plus for this self-proclaimed language nerd.

71anl5ebqkl

Worked through The Search for Significance over the last several months with some missionary ladies and interns. Many of the workbook questions really made me consider the perspectives from which I am operating: good reminders not to give in to Satan’s lies in the day-to-day. For me, it was vaguely reminiscent of Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

51au58ubjdl._sx330_bo1,204,203,200_Whew. Finished The Indifferent Stars Above in December. I’m glad I read this one, but I was equally as glad when it was over. I picked it up because I loved Boys in the Boat so much and because I’ve always been interested to know what exactly happened to the Donner party. I felt physically ill through a portion of this story. Pondered various life questions. What would I have done had it been my child starving on the side of a mountain? Brought up lots of “what if’s”. Definitely learned a ton.

Below is a (very long but not exhaustive) list of my favorite quotes and passages from my finished books from the last few months.


I would gladly give my life for that tribe if only to see an assembly of those proud, clever, smart people gathering around a table to honor the Son – gladly, gladly, gladly! What more could be given to a life? – Pete McCully ¹

When life’s flight is over, and we unload our cargo at the other end, the fellow who got rid of unnecessary weight will have the most valuable cargo to present to the Lord. – Nate Saint ¹

That night I was so keyed up I couldn’t sleep much. On the other hand, I realized that the whole thing was in the Lord’s hands. ¹

A missionary plods through the first year or two, thinking that things will be different when he speaks the language. He is baffled to find, frequently, that they are not. He is stripped of all that may be called “romance.” Life has fallen more or less into a pattern. Day follows day in unbroken succession; there are no crises, no mass conversions, sometimes not even one or two to whom he can point and say: “There is a transformed life. If I had not come, he would never have known Christ.” There will be those among the Indians who say that they accept Christ, but what of the forsaking of heathen custom and turning from sin to a life of holiness? The missionary watches, and longs, and his heart sickens. ¹

It is easy to see how the availabilty of even so simple a tool as the machete can profoundly alter a culture. ¹

“… They didn’t know what a great sin it was. They didn’t understand why the white men had come. Send some more messengers, and give the Aucas, instead of fierce hearts, soft hearts. Stick their hearts, Lord, as with a lance. They stuck our friends, but You can stick them with Your Word, so that they will listen, and believe.”

This is the context in which the story must be understood – as one incident in human history, an incident in certain ways and to certain people important, but only one incident. God is the God of human history, and he is at work continuously, mysteriously, accomplishing His eternal purposes in us, through us, for us, and in spite of us…

Bones have their secrets, but they tell no lies. ²

One by one, feathery flakes landed on cold blankets and buffalo robes, on sweat-slicked hair, on shoulders turned to the sky, on soft checks–each flake delicate and slight, but each lending its almost imperceptible weight to the horror of what was about to happen. ²

Modern disaster psychologists have found that bold, decisive leadership greatly improves any group’s ability to survive the early stages of an impending catastrophe. ²

Sitting in the casino, I wondered if the habit of taking chances and thus far surviving them had lulled them into a false sense of security, left them as mesmerized by the temptations of fortune and the hazards of chance as those sitting around me seemed to be as they watched the wheels spin before their faces. ²

Imagination can only take you so far out of your own world. But it occurred to me that any one of the sixteen-wheelers racing by the interstate could have carried all of the Donner party over the crest of the mountains in about seven minutes. ²

Led into the wilderness by a lie, led astray at times by their own dreams and ambitions, … they had found themselves blundering ever more blindly through terra incognita as they moved west. Here at Emigrant Gap, even the landscape itself had conspired to deceive them. And when the land they encountered did not conform to their expectations, they had continued to move forward as if it did, taking the easier route downhill. In the end, as a group they had exhibited precisely the opposite kind of behavior from the humility and open-eyed awareness that survivors always seem to demonstrate. ²

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10 ³

The only way we can overcome the fear of rejection is to value the constant approval of God over the conditional approval of people. ³

There is nothing more motivating, nothing more comforting, nothing else that compels us more to honor Christ, and nothing else that gives us as much compassion for others as the sacrificial payment of Christ that has rescued us from eternal condemnation. ³


¹ Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Eliot
² The Indifferent Stars Above, Daniel James Brown
³ The Search for Significance, Robert S. McGee

Ang’s September ’18 Reads and QOTM’s

41DN9Ld7m2L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

Another book finished. I had heard good things about Leadership Pain, but honestly, I wasn’t extremely impressed. Don’t get me wrong – there were great parts. I underlined a good bit. The concept of pain being an excellent teacher is a good one. But I feel like the writing was a little… redundant and all over the place. This book would’ve been a more effective read for me in about half the number of pages. I’m glad I read it, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to my friends.

Some of my favorite quotes from my September reads are below!


Never trust a leader who doesn’t walk with a limp. – Dr. J. Robert Clinton ¹

Some leaders lose sight of pleasing God and, instead, live to please the next person who walks into their office… In our insecurity, we become chameleons, changing our attitudes, perspectives, and values to suit the person in front of us. Our life’s goal is gradually shifted from bringing glory to God to winning approval from others. ¹

Suffering so unbolts the door of the heart, that the Word hath easier entrance. – Richard Baxter ¹

By perseverance the snail reached the ark. – C.H. Spurgeon ¹

Shouldn’t we suppose that many of our most painful ordeals will look quite different a million years from now, as we recall them on the New Earth? What if one day we discover that God has wasted nothing in our life on earth? What if we see that every agony was part of giving birth to an eternal joy? – Randy Alcorn ¹

All the thrill of boyhood dreams came on me just now… I wanted to sail when I was in grammar school… Now I am actually at sea–as a passenger, of course, but at sea nevertheless–and bound for Ecuador. Strange–or is it?–that childish hopes should be answered in the will of God for this now? ²

The Lord has given me a hunger for righteousness and piety that can alone be of Himself. Such hungering He alone can satisfy, yet Satan would delude and cast up all sorts of other baubles, social life, a name renowned, a position of importance, scholastic attainment… Surely they can mean nothing to the soul who has seen the beauty of Jesus Christ…. ²

Would the New Testament answer the longing for the Quichua for freedom from fear, peace of heart, deliverance from evil spirits? The missionaries… felt themselves foreigners–felt they would always be foreigners. The Indian himself must be the answer…. ²

Jim, I’m taking the Lord at His word, and I’m trusting Him to prove His word. It’s kind of like putting all your eggs in one basket, but we’ve already put our trust in Him for salvation, so why not do it as far as our life is concerned? If there’s nothing to this business of eternal life, we might as well lose everything in one crack and throw our present life away with the one hereafter. But if there’s something to it, then everything else the Lord says must hold true likewise. ²

It’s hard to stay on top of it all, hard to keep rejoicing, hard to love those ungrateful Indians. It’s hard to keep our primary purpose in view when we get so swamped with secondary things. ²

“There’s glue in places that don’t need it…”
“It doesn’t bother me. The fabric will cover it.”
Franz’s father gave him a lesson. “Always do the right thing, even if no one sees it.”
“No one will know it’s there.”
“Fix it, because you’ll know it’s there.” ³

A Nazi was someone who chose to be a Nazi. ³

The more he read, the more Franz was bothered by the hypocrisy of the war he had joined – of people who believed in the same God, fighting one another. ³

As soldiers, we must kill or be killed. But once a person enjoys killing, he is lost.³


¹ Leadership Pain, Samuel Chand
² Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliot
³ A Higher Call, Adam Makos

July, August, September 2018 in Pictures

It’s such a privilege to be a part of God’s work here in the Dominican! Enjoy these pictures of our last few months at Freedom!

July

August

September

Ang’s August ’18 Reads and QOTM’s

August. Whew. That was a month. A busy, busy month. Didn’t get to finish a book this time around. Bummer. Oh well. You win some, you lose some, right? I was able to move forward in a few of the books I’m currently reading, though.

As always, my favorite quotes from this month are below. Enjoy!


I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God. – Elisabeth Eliot ¹

… Basil of Caesarea’s faith was called “ambidextrous” because he held God’s blessings in his right hand and life’s difficulties in his left, trusting God to use both to accomplish his divine purposes in and through him. All of us need ambidextrous faith. ¹

How many naysayers does it take to steal your joy, erode your enthusiasm, and consume your time so that you lose your focus on your God-inspired vision? That number is the limit of your growth… ¹

‘To do good is noble; to teach others to do good is nobler, and no trouble.’ ²

‘Few,’ it is written, ‘and evil are the days of man.’ Soon, very soon, our brief lives will be lived. Soon, very soon, we and our affairs will have passed away. Uncounted generations will trample heedlessly upon our tombs. What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble cause and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? ²

… But why are these cases out of their sphere? Because they know not God. It follows, no man be a thorough physician without being an experienced Christian. ³

What marvel the devil does not love field preaching? Neither do I: I love a commodious room, a soft cushion, a handsome pulpit. But where is my zeal if I do not trample all these under foot in order to save one more soul? ³

Lord, thou hast power over Thine own clay! ³

… preaching like an apostle, without joining together those that are awakened and training them up in the ways of God, is only begetting children for the murderer… No regular societies, no discipline, no order of connection; and the consequence is that nine in ten of the once-awakened are now faster asleep than ever. ³

¹ Leadership Pain, Samuel Chand
² Churchill: The Power of Words, selected and edited by Martin Gilbert
³ The Journal of John Wesley

Ang’s July ’18 Reads and QOTM’s

Book WhispererThe Book Whisperer was so great. Something that has been on my heart for awhile – figuring out how to motivate our students to become life-long readers. I picked this book up since I’ll soon be working a bit more closely with new Dominican teachers. I’m hoping that they, too, will desire to read more and instill that love of reading in their kiddos. It starts with them!

Below are a good number of quotes and ideas that stood out to me this month!


I know from personal experience that readers lead richer lives, more lives, than those who don’t read. ¹

No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance. -Atwood H. Townsend ¹

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. -Harper Lee ¹

The purpose of school should not be to prepare students for more school. We should be seeking to have fully engaged students right now. ¹

—–

… the killing began; and thereafter each man saw the world along his lance, under his guard, or through the backsight of his pistol; and each has his own strange tale to tell. ²

(Reflecting on the sight of the battlefield after a victory.) One man had reached [the water’s edge] and lay exhausted but content, on the bank. Another had attained the water and had died at its brim. Let us hope he had his drink first. ²

The Dervish host was scattered and destroyed. Their end, however, only anticipates that of the victors; for Time … will in due course contemptuously brush both combatants away. ²

Revenge may be sweet, but it is also most expensive. ²

Beware of driving men to desperation: even a cornered rat is dangerous. ²

—-

Still I have not recovered my whole voice or strength, perhaps I never may; but let me use what I have. ³

“[Twelve years ago] you preached on God’s raising the dry bones, and from that time I could never rest till God was pleased to breathe on me and raise my dead soul.” ³

Is anything too small for the providence of Him by whom our very hairs are numbered? ³

Mr. Whitefield called upon me. Disputings are now no more; we love one another and join hand in hand to promote the cause of our common Master. ³

… such a faintness and weariness seized me that it was with great difficulty I got home. I could not but think how happy it would be (suppose we were ready for the Bridegroom) to sink down and steal away at once, without any of the hurry and pomp of dying! Yet it is happier still to glorify God in our death, as well as our life. ³

I was in the robe-chamber, adjoining the House of Lords, when the King put on his robes. His brow was much furrowed with age and quite clouded with care. And is this all the world can give even to a king? all the grandeur it can afford? A blanket of ermine round his shoulders, so heavy and cumbersome he can scarcely move under it! A heap of borrowed hair, with a few plates of gold and glittering stones upon his head! Alas, what a bauble is human greatness! And even this will not endure. ³


¹ The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller
² Churchill: The Power of Words, selected and edited by Martin Gilbert
³ The Journal of John Wesley