The little girl’s wild, wavy hair danced with the wind as she sat quietly on the sandbank. The gold in her locks glistened against the brilliance of the sun. A few feet away, the waves crashed, crawled slowly onto the land, and then retreated.
“Daddy?” Bluer-than-sea eyes turned towards her father. The girl looked up at the strong, wise man who seemed to always be there. To always know.
He knelt down beside her and gently tousled the unruly ringlets that surrounded her angelic face. “What is it, my dear?”
With a furrowed brow, she shook her head and looked down at her fist. Sand was spewing from both sides of her dimpled hand and from between each of her chubby fingers.
“Daddy, I don’t understand. Why can’t I keep this sand in my hand? I’m holding it as tightly as I can. But it just keeps falling away faster and faster.”
A rumble of laughter left the father’s wrinkled, smiling mouth as he watched his daughter do her best to clutch her little handful of treasure.
“That’s just it, darling. You’re trying too hard to keep it close.
The father reached beneath his daughter’s tightened fist. He cupped his two weathered palms together and carefully caught the glistening specks of dust that fell from her hand.
“You see? The more you try to control, to constrict, to constrain, the more you’ll lose. Instead, open up your hands like this. And keep them open. It’s the only way.”
The only way.
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
We’ve been in the DR almost 9 years. In the beginning, our days were so very full. We were learning a new culture and a new language. We were teaching in the villages. We were fixing up a house and welcoming a teenager into our home. And we were trying to keep our own 2-year-old and 5-month-old alive. I’m genuinely thankful for that busy stage, but one of the things I felt like I had to sacrifice was reading.
As we enter another busy season with new roles here at Freedom, I’ve found that the reading time I crave just isn’t as available. I’m fighting for it, for sure. But I’m also trying to remember that my personal wants and desires aren’t king. I’m a bit behind in meeting my 24 book goal, but here are my finished reads so far in 2021.
One year ago, I purchased The Splendid and the Vile on my Kindle but didn’t open it til last fall. As I finished it up just this March, I couldn’t help but think of the countless hours Erik Larson put into researching journals, intelligence documents, and other sources in order to produce this fantastic historical work. I so enjoyed this look at Churchill, his family, and his work during his first year as Prime Minister. I wonder if we’ll have world leaders like him again someday: tenacious, hopeful, convincing, and focused on the goal: preserving freedom at all costs.
I was recommended Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. This quick read really focuses in on studying the Bible with intentionality and purpose. I appreciated Wilkin’s point about our culture’s desire for instant gratification. We easily run to study Bibles and commentaries instead of first wrestling with the text. In my own life, I’ve found that working through my questions and concerns before I look to other sources has always aided me in the learning process. I’m much more apt to recall and apply a concept if I spend the time to slowly uncover the treasure that’s hidden there in God’s Word.
I loved these thoughts from my some of my reading over the last few months:
He [Hitler] believed that even Churchill, at some point, would have to acknowledge the folly of continuing to oppose him.... “Britain’s position is hopeless,” he told his head of Army High Command, General Franz Halder. “The war is won by us...” So confident was Hitler that England would negotiate, he demobilized forty Wehrmacht divisions—25 percent of his army.1
This new surge in morale had nothing to do with Churchill’s speech and everything to do with his gift for understanding how simple gestures could generate huge effects.1
“When I look back on the perils which have been overcome, upon the great mountain waves in which the gallant ship has driven, when I remember all that has gone wrong, and remember also all that has gone right, I feel sure we have no need to fear the tempest. Let it roar, and let it rage. We shall come through.”1
One of his key men wanted to quit and join the army. “Everyone wants to go to the front,” Goebbels wrote, “but who is going to do the work here?”1
Do you know that the word disciple means “learner”? As a disciple of Christ, you and I are called to learn, and learning requires effort.2
... the heart cannot love what the mind does not know. This is the message of Romans 12:2-3 - not that the mind alone affects transformation, but that the path to transformation runs from the mind to the heart, and not the other way around.2
There are really only two possibilities in this life: be conformed to the image of God or be conformed to the pattern of this world. No doubt, you want the former. But be warned: The Word is living and active. It will conform you by dividing you. And in the dividing, miracle of miracles, it will render you whole. We become what we behold.2
Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart.3
But when something is important to us, we make room for it. Prayer is simply not important to many Christians because Jesus is already an add-on.3
Both the child and the cynic walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The cynic focuses on the darkness; the child focuses on the Shepherd.3
When Jesus prays at Gethsemane “take this cup from me,” he is being real; Christians rush to “not my will, but yours be done” without first expressing their hearts (Luke 22:42, NIV). They submit so quickly that they disappear.3
Jesus, knowing that there was both doubt and belief in the room, was about to commission this group of fearful believers to carry the gospel of resurrection life to the world.... I likely would’ve thought, They’re not ready, it’s just too soon. They need to know so much more.... They need time to mature. But in the middle of the most amazing, confusing, and gloriously mind-bending moment in history, Jesus did not hesitate; he simply said, “Go.”4
Human beings are achievers, meant to build and rebuild, to grow and expand, to uproot and to plant, to tear down and to build, to dream and to achieve dreams. But every ambition and every achievement must bow to the lordship and the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.4
In ministry, success and failure are not a matter of results but are defined by faithfulness. Faithfulness is what God asks of us; the rest is entirely up to his sovereignty and the power of his grace.4
1The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, Erik Larson 2 Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin 3A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, Paul Miller 4Lead: 12 Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church, Paul David Tripp
March has come to an end. Sometimes I wonder what types of pictures merit a spot in these photo blogs. They often showcase some fairly mundane moments in my life. But, you know, I’m finding that there’s a certain beauty in the simple, “unimportant” parts of our days.
Today, I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness. For my precious family. For the work which the Lord has given me. For my Savior’s sacrifice. And for His sweet presence each day. Happy Easter!
We hear our stateside friends and family experienced some chilly weather last month. For the record, I am not at all jealous. In fact, you can come our direction if you’d like – we’re willing to share the sun and surf with you anytime! 🙂 Until then, here are 28 February pictures for you!
January was a tough month in a lot of ways, but God sustained us through each day. Lots of happy moments with friends, family, coworkers, and Freedom students. Here are 30 pictures from month #1 of 2021!
I can unequivocally say that the last few weeks have been the most difficult of my life. I’ve experienced trials that I never imagined it would be possible to withstand. And yet, God has been so near. He has allowed me to face some of my biggest fears and personal weaknesses: things like dealing with conflict, struggling with being a people-pleaser, making (and owning) decisions, and caring way too much about others’ opinions. Never once has He left me alone!
When we first moved to the mission field, I ran across this little poem that William Cowper wrote many moons ago. In fact, I wrote it out and memorized several stanzas because the Scripture-saturated truths kept me looking upward and not at the storms around me.
When struggles come, we as Christians often pray for the Lord to remove trials from our lives. Yet, it looks like Cowper had learned something about his burdens. Through his difficulties, he was getting more of Jesus. While I’m not going to go asking for more pain, I continue to learn that there is a sweet rest in taking my heartaches to Him.
‘Tis My Happiness Below William Cowper 1773
’Tis my happiness below Not to live without the cross; But the Savior’s pow’r to know Sanctifying every loss.
Trials must and will befall; But with humble faith to see Love inscribed upon them all— This is happiness to me.
Did I meet no trials here, No chastisement by the way, Might I not with reason fear I should prove a castaway?
Trials make the promise sweet; Trials give new life to prayer; Bring me to my Savior’s feet, Lay me low and keep me there.
Isn’t it funny how certain memories stick with you over the years? Often, the seemingly insignificant moments are the ones that resonate with me the most.
Growing up, I remember sitting in church three times a week listening to my dad preach. As a little girl, I was most interested in the illustrations he’d tell between the points in his sermon outline. One of Dad’s stories has continued to impact me throughout the years, and I draw on its principle often. It goes something like this:
A farmer was visiting his friend one afternoon, but he happened to stay at his friend’s house til after dark. As the farmer prepared to walk home, his friend gave him a lantern so he could find his way. The farmer stepped outside, but he quickly returned. He told his friend, “This lantern isn’t any good. I can only see far enough to make it one step.” The wise friend said, “That’s OK – take that one step and you’ll be able to see far enough to make the next one. Keep doing that, and pretty soon, you’ll make it home.”
This simple story has grounded me in the midst of uncertainty over the years.
Oswald Chambers once said something similar: “When you don’t know what to do, trust God and do the next thing.” What sage advice from a man of God who experienced life on several different continents during such a pivotal point in history.
Today, this world seems to be spinning right off its slanted, little axis. To look at the circumstances – in my home country and in my own community here in the DR – is unbelievably overwhelming. How do I respond?
I must remember: my sovereign God has a perfect plan that He’s allowed me to be a part of. And then I must take that next step and do the next thing.
Just like that, 2020 is in the books! (Heh. See what I did there?)
This month, I enjoyed reading the first installment in Priscilla Shirer’s adventure series, The Prince Warriors. This book had elements reminiscent of classics like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series, or Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness. However, Shirer’s debut into fiction is much more “manageable” for young readers who might struggle with archaic vocabulary. The premise: four young kids journey to a mysterious world they’ve only read about in a book. There in the strange land, Ahoratos, the children essentially live out the invisible struggle with the spiritual realm. Lots of references to passages in Ephesians. If you don’t mind reading a book that’s targeted to engage elementary students, I’d say it’s worth picking it up!
Below – some good quotes I ran across in December!
"Oh, this is a real battle, Evan. There's a sneaky, malicious enemy that you are always in a battle with--even now.... Someone who wants to remain hidden so that you'll forget he's even there. He'll do everything he can to make you feel like you will never win.1
"She must come through on her own," Ruwach said calmly. "Others can call her, and I can make it accessible to her, but she must make the choice on her own."1
"This Book is different from any other. It cannot simply be read. It must be revealed. You may not understand the revelation at first, but if you keep it close, you will soon see its meaning."1
The speech set a pattern that he would follow throughout the war, offering a sober appraisal of facts, tempered with reason for optimism. “It would be foolish to disguise the gravity of the hour,” he said. “It would be still more foolish to lose heart and courage.”2
“We shall go on to the end,” he said, in a crescendo of ferocity and confidence. “We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender—” As the House roared its approval, Churchill muttered to a colleague, “And…we will fight them with the butt end of broken bottles, because that’s bloody well all we’ve got.”2
Churchill affirmed that the only path was indeed attack [on the French fleet], and began to weep.2
1The Prince Warriors #1, Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler 2The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, Erik Larson
Wow! That was some year, wasn’t it? No one would have expected all the events of the last twelve months. Many are saying “Good riddance” to this doozy of a year. Looking at it all from one side of the coin, I can understand those sentiments.
On the other hand, it’d be crazy to think that 2021 won’t bring its own challenges. January 1 isn’t some magical date that will make all our troubles disappear. COVID isn’t gone. For us personally, our students haven’t returned to Freedom. I’m sure there will be plenty of other unexpected trials.
For that reason, it’s important for me to take these momentary pauses each month to dwell on the blessings. Yes, there are difficulties. But God is so very good. Here are just 31 photo evidences of how He took care of our family and this ministry in December!
The Bible doesn’t promise a life without pain, but I’m looking forward to a new year of trusting the Lord with whatever He’s got planned – and perhaps low-key praying that a global pandemic isn’t a huge part of it all again. 🙂
Looking out across the great chasm that is the Grand Canyon. Following an overgrown, forgotten path through the woods. Walking across battlefields of wars gone by. Listening to waves crash against centuries-old rocks. God has graciously allowed me to take in many treasured moments like these over the years.
Traveling delights my little soul. To visit a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, to experience some new aspect of a different culture, to learn another piece of history – there is a certain elation that comes with each new adventure. But as thrilling as it is to wander this wonderful world, there’s always a point when it’s time to return from the vacation spot. The experiences become precious memories to look back on, photos on the camera reel of my mind.
For me, there’s something so special about coming home. Walking into the familiar, safe, known spaces of my house always feels like a breath of fresh air. I live for the sweet dreams that overtake me the first night I can sleep in my own bed again.
Since moving to the DR more than 8 years ago, the sense of having somewhere to call home has more or less been stripped away. Yes, we have a beautiful apartment here that is “ours”. But living in a foreign country brings to light the fact that other signs of home are missing. Family, friends and the familiar are more than a car ride away. This missing aspect of home has been one of the tougher pills to swallow as we’ve purposefully chosen this way of life.
Yet Jesus continues to teach me something so sweet.
The idea of home is not in a location. Instead, home is found in a Person. Jesus Himself is my Home. He is the rest my soul craves, the safe haven I need when I’m scared or tired or lonely. In Him, I find everything I need.
I want those around me to see how much He wants to be their Home, too.