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
’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.
Our November in 30 photos!
Excited for December festivities and the ability to celebrate the promise of Hope that came to Bethlehem so long ago!
See ya at the end of 2020!
The start of any new school year always seems to throw off my groove. Survival becomes the name of the game. For the last couple of years, I haven’t found my footing again until close to Christmas. Even with the craziness of COVID and the lack of students here at school, the months have been beyond busy. Honestly, I was nervous for a bit about reaching my “20 Books in 2020” goal, but it looks like I’m gaining some balance as the year finishes off. Here are the books I was able to finish between August and November!
I finally wrapped up Churchill: The Power of Words, which I’ve been wading through for.ev.er. This compilation by Martin Gilbert takes a look at dynamic snippets of Churchill’s speeches/writings that he shared over the course of his political career. It took me awhile to get interested, but when the war hit, things obviously took off. The man had such a compelling way of inspiring his countrymen (and much of the world) to hold on in the face of adversity. I’ve recently been wondering what he’d have to say about the world’s current events if he were alive today…
Together, we ladies here at Freedom are working through The Beautiful Fight by Gary Thomas. I went ahead and finished early. Gary’s big point is the importance of living an “incarnational” life. What difference does Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension actually make for me today? Am I resisting the urge for complacency in my daily walk with the Lord? While this fight is a difficult one, it’s so completely worth it – it’s beautiful, in fact!
My wonderful Grandma Vi suggested a favorite series of hers, the first book being At Home in Mitford. A couple of my Goodreads friends rated this one highly as well. This long but pleasant read is based on the happenings of small-town characters who live in cozy, little Mitford. Much of the book focused in on the life of Father Tim, the bachelor rector of a small, country church. It took me awhile to really get invested, but by the end, I’d fallen in love with each individual’s quirky personality.
Orphan Train was part of my birthday haul this past January. (Yes, I read slowly, and yes, I was gifted a lot of books last year!) I loved learning about this little piece of history from the early 1900’s. Apparently, a social experiment called the Orphan Train Movement was started with the intention to help homeless children find new families. I’m sure there are some other cool historical reads out there that cover this topic, but this particular book was full of a ton of foul language. From that standpoint, I don’t recommend this read.
I’ll leave just a few good quotes I gleaned from my reading this fall. Enjoy!
It is only by studying the past that we can foresee, however dimly, the future.1 Among our Socialist opponents there is great confusion. Some of them regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is – the strong and willing horse that pulls the whole cart along.1 We apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments… into the Reality — from Christian apologetics into Christ himself.2 If we allow the world to steal our hearts, we have all but lost the battle.2 When I refuse to face the pain of transformation, eventually I must endure the misery of my immaturity.2 Never yet was there a laborer in God’s vineyard who was not overpaid.2 In the brilliant words of Dallas Willard, grace is opposed to earning, not effort. Indeed, Peter tells us to “make every effort” (2 Peter 1:5). Some people mistake “letting go and letting God” as a call to simply stop trying. But grace doesn’t remove human effort; it focuses and empowers it.2 We have to remember that the Beautiful Fight is not eternal; one glorious moment, it will all come to an end. And in that instant, we will be fully like Jesus, our hearts’ delight. The moment of that rest is different for each one of us, but it is as certain as anything can be.2
1Churchill: The Power of Words, edited by Martin Gilbert
2The Beautiful Fight, Gary Thomas
This year has simultaneously felt like the longest and the shortest year ever. With this “pause” to my “normal”, it’s as if I’ve been experiencing a strange alternate reality where everything is in slow-mo. On the other hand, November is upon us. What?!
While circumstances are offbeat, God continues to faithfully care for us and our students. Check out our October by looking back at these 31 pictures!
I’ve been pondering much on the fact that we’ve only got so many days on this earth. Oh, how I want to “make the most of every opportunity.” I pray I can always maintain a sense of urgency when sharing the wonderful, sweet Good News with those around me!
Days quickly turn into weeks which quickly turn into months… How can September be over already?! Thirty photos from our home to yours!
Truly thankful for each day the Lord allows us to share in His work in this broken and hurting world. Bring on October!