Sunday, March 24, 2013

Giving Thanks

I get up another morning facing another day of sitting at home. Fighting discouragement for a short while as everyone gets ready to go to church to hear Ashley speak. It tries to creep in that I sit at home while everyone goes to do everything. Satan wants me to feel left out, discouraged. He does that to me ever so often. Luring me to feel down, sorry for myself, which leads to doubting and to focus on all I can't do, focus on self, all I'm missing, all I long to do. I have been teetering here for a few days.

Last Wed. I made the choice to go to Lowe's to look at cabinets and floors to replace where we had the flood in Nov. The concrete and 1/2 old vinyl tile~1/2 wood floor really doesn't bother me too much, but I was having a few "good" days, so I thought I'd tackle it. It tacked me. Thursday was a completely horrid day. Horrid. Worse than a very long time. Not just physically....and it was indeed horrid physically...but emotionally and spiritually as well. At the end of the day, I collapsed in the floor, sobbing, and said, "I just want to live through this." Right that second, I wasn't sure if I could. No strength to go on; to fight. 

But God in His goodness whispers to me.
He holds me. He reminds me. He provides for me. He encourages me. He is my strength. If I am focused on Him, not myself; His promises and His character, not how things look; then I have every reason to be thankful, to praise Him. If I look to myself or to anything else, it is hopeless, and at that point, I probably can't live through it! But, I serve a God who shows me the good, who gives me glimpses of Himself and what He is doing, who whispers to me in the dark places just how much He loves me, who died for me! That alone makes Him worthy of my praise no matter how dark the battle may seem. 

But, guess what! Just because the battle is dark, doesn't mean I have to live in the dark.  "My eyes are continually toward the Lord, For He will pluck my feet out of the net." (Psalm 25:15) and He promises that His grace is sufficient for me...and you! He is fighting for us!

As I focus on Him, this stops being a season of asking or wondering why. It becomes a season of asking Him to show me Himself. To show me "great and mighty things which I do not know." Does that make every day easy? No. And, some days are down right hard. But, it makes every day worth living for, every day worthy of praising Him, every day worthy of giving thanks, because when I focus on knowing Him, everything else dims. My losses, my needs, my desires are in His hands...trustworthy, capable, loving hands. And, guess what! I am inscirbed there. (Isaiah 49:16)

A trial is called a trial because it's HARD. I know there will be more. More to test and strengthen my faith, but I can face them knowing that He is all powerful, He loves me, He works for my good, and He will not leave me. There is much to praise and thank Him for even at our lowest points. Even when we don't know how we will live through it. 

This morning I posted an article on my facebook page about suffering, and this is a quote from it~
"Suffering often gives us the drive we need to press into God to help us get through the ordeal. It causes us to press into Him and in the process we can soar with Him above the storms of life. Instead of being upset or angry at God, ask Him what He’s trying to teach you or work out of you."
In His kindness, the Lord gave me a glimpse last week of how he has wiped our slate clean in many places and that He is going to build something new. He even gave us an almost hint at what it pertains to. :) Almost. Just a wee bit. That really was kind. It was encouragement, it was hope, it was confirmation (and MORE!) of what we have believed and hoped for all along. We have no clue really what it will be, what it will take to get there, and how far away that is, but it is another thing to thank and praise Him for. 
 Quite honestly, my flesh and my emotions are tired of this battle. If I begin to wonder how much longer it will go on, I become defeated. I can't fathom another year of this. But, God in His mercy will carry me through as I praise Him for all He is and all He does, and as my focus stays on being conformed to His image instead of my own matter how long it takes.
What else can I praise and thank Him for?
~most Lyme sufferers have much pain. I've had only a little at times
~now being Lyme free and the hope of complete healing
~God set into motion long before for James to be at home working and he can take care of me and the girls.
~James...working to do it all for us, and doing so alone. His unending support and encouragement.
~Ashley, who has been home part of this time and been able to give James some breaks in cooking at times. Who has been here to be a friend, to talk about nothing, to share her heart, and to just hang out with sometimes. Who has taken her sisters clothes shopping every season (except she couldn't rescue James from swimsuit shopping! ;) )
~Briana, who lets me text her and say, "I'm getting in the shower", and who replies, "I'm praying!!", because she knows how exhausted it can make me. She texts and we chat and she keeps me company and cheers me.  Who (along with her sweet husband) comes to visit me and give me extra hugs. Oh, let's not forget, who lets me email and text pictures of kitchen cabinets and floors, and whine, "I don't know!!!", then gives me her feedback. 
~Marissa and Daniella~ hugs, smiles, laughs, bringing me things when I can't get up to get them or just to help me conserve energy, helping with housework, playing games with me, chatting, joy!     
~a God-given, God-favored trip to Disney and the beach  that I could never have fathomed
~insurance to pay for a new kitchen I've wanted for years...even if I can't figure out what I want!
~online friends, especially when I can't be out and feel alone

~a piece of dark chocolate every day!

~homeschooling and flexibility 
And, many, many more....

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Alaska Bound! Update on Ashley

I sometimes forget that there are a couple of people who read this blog who are not on facebook, and I have been asked to update about my children. On my old blog, I talked about them all the time, but that has been a few years. I'll start with a post on Ashley.

Ashley left her job at Camp Ba Yo Ca (a big, scary step) in May last year. She spent June serving in a few different churches at VBS, and in July went back to be a camp counselor for a week~ a job she hadn't done in a couple of years, since she's been on staff. Mid July, she left for Kenya for 14 days, working again with The Orbit Village Project, mostly with the children and young women in the orphanages. She flew directly from Kenya to Bod, Romania, where she spent another 10 days doing children's ministry with Operation Mobilization. She had an amazing, awesome, growing summer, and made lots of new friends from all over the world. The mission team in Romania was comprised of people of all ages, though mostly young adults, from Romania, Switzerland, Poland, UK, and Holland. The fall was difficult for her, not knowing where God was leading her next, but in addition to going to a Christian Camp conference in San Diego, being on a 2 person interim worship team for a church in Knoxville, and doing a couple of retreat weekends at camp, she has also been a tremendous help to her Daddy and me while I am still sick, especially the last couple of months.

Her big announcement came about 3 weeks ago when she accepted a camp staff position and is moving to Alaska in April for 5 1/2 to 6 months. It started at 5 months, and keeps increasing!! She will be working at Echo Ranch Bible Camp about 40 min. from Juneau. ...out in the middle of nowhere! :) They drive to the end of the road, then hike for 2 miles into the camp. When I searched for images of the area online, up popped one of hunters with a ginormous grizzly bear whose paw was much bigger than the man's head. Okay. I'll stop looking. :) Thankfully, they don't have bears in camp...that they've told me. She will have no cell phone service, and only have internet "sometimes". It's not very dependable. However, I'm more optimistic about hearing from her via internet now than I was a couple of weeks ago. It does sound like she will have SOME, at least. Yay, for mom and dad!! ...and daughter, too, I think. ;) 

This is a great opportunity for Ashley, and we have watched God work it out step by step. It is, for sure, a step of faith for her. She will be a fully self/other supported missionary, and being a short term position, she struggled with feeling a responsibility to get a long term "job". But, she continued to feel a call here, and God has opened up the doors and given her the answered prayers, connections, and peace. We will miss her terribly, but we are so excited for her.

Ashley will meet up with 2 other Echo Ranch staff members in Ohio the week of April 7th. On April 15th, they will fly out to Alaska, getting to spend a full day in Seattle on their 21 hour layover. They're all excited about that. The first week they are in Alaska, they will spend traveling to the outlying communities to connect with the children in those areas. This is something new for even her immediate boss (Program Director) and should be really cool. The rest of April will be spent cleaning and preparing the grounds. May and Sept. will be full of group retreats, and rumor is that Ashley may be on kitchen staff for those retreats. When you work at camp, you learn to be flexible and work whatever job you're needed in, no matter what your title is. :) Ashley has cleaned many a toilet, even as office manager.

June-Aug is actual summer camp time, and she has several jobs that she is excited about. All of those jobs will be on program staff and that will involve helping the program director with activites, programs, games, etc. with the kids. She loves working directly with the children. She has also been asked to help lead worship and campfire songs with her guitar. One guy has had to do it alone in the past, so they will split it to give him a break. Ashley has also been asked to be prepared to write devotionals for some of the weeks, which is one of her gifts. And, probably not lastly :), she will be one of 2 girls' Counselor Advisors. These 2 will be the ones that all the girls' counselors report to and come to with any needs, concerns, or advice. If the counselor is having a rough day or is burnt out, Ashley may step in for an hour or 2, or a night, to give the counselor a break. She will also assist them if needed with their cabin devotions. 

It will be a very full and stretching, but I know very awesome, 6 months for her. Summer camp staff and counselors work from sun up to sun down...or in the case of Alaska, sun up to ...sun up? Actually, they work from sun up to sometimes 11 or midnight. It is not easy work! It is one of the most exhausting jobs there is, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Think 3 month mission trip, going non stop.

In this area, 50%-75% of the children are from unchurched homes. It is a great mission field, as these children take what they have heard back into their homes. Last year around 850 children came to Echo Ranch. Please pray that these children and these families are reached for Christ, and that God will have His hand on Ashley, and the rest of the staff and counselors, as they serve, renewing their energy in all areas each day.