Archives for November 2014

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room {Advent} {Just Say No to Busy}

It’s almost December.  The month in which we sing…

Joy to the World!  The Lord has come, let Earth receive her King!  Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing…

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But if most of us are honest…it’s also a stressful month:  tree decorating, present wrapping, gift giving, cookie baking, family visiting, party going, people pleasing, schedule stressing….

You know what I mean?

This season inherently creates stress.  We feel pressure to attend the parties, bake the cookies, buy the presents, light the candles… because have you seen Facebook and Pinterest?  And do you know how my family does it?  And have you been to the bookstore?  And have you seen the commercials? There is a LOT to do!

That’s the way Christmas is for many.  I can’t buy groceries without seeing all the baking, wrapping, decorating, and doing options.

But.

(And this isn’t meant to sound trite or to belittle the way you celebrate Christmas.)

What if ….

This year, you celebrate as YOU think Christmas should be celebrated?

You love baking?  Then bake away – and smile big – and share some with me;)

You love gift giving?  Then shop and give – and bless many!

You love holiday parties? Then attend and smile and hug and light up the room.

But, what if not? What if your baking skills are at best ok, and you don’t like it much anyway?  What if your funds for gift giving are sparse?  What if holiday parties make you break into hives?

Then…don’t.

Take a deep breath and decide:  This season will be different.  I will not rush and spend and bake  – unless I love it.  Unless I can.  Unless I feel compelled.  Unless it feels like a gift of this season and not a burden.

This year, I find myself a single mom.  I can’t do it all.  I don’t even want to do it all. What I want is for my sweet kiddos to embrace this season for what it truly is…

A time to celebrate our King – the One we worship.  A time to acknowledge He came and is coming.  When their voices sing “Joy to the World!” I want them to mean it.  To mean, HE is the joy to the world. He is the reason for our joy.

Not the latest and greatest gift.  Not the perfectly iced cookies.  Not even the running to and fro to parties.

He alone is the reason for and gift of this season.

A season that I LOVE – I am Christmas’ biggest fan.  I love my Christmas tree.  I bake because my Hannah loves it.  I love shopping to find the PERFECT gift and watching eyes light up on Christmas morning when the wrapping is undone.

Yet.

I do not want to get lost in my to-do list this year.  (As has happened most years.)

I want to make memories today and tomorrow –and throughout this season  – that someday we will look back on and say…remember when?  Not remember when I got the new eye shadow palette from Urban Decay or the new Skylanders game, but remember when we had a Jesse tree?  Remember when we read and prayed each night?

Because the truth is…I can’t tell you what I got for Christmas a few years ago.  But, I remember making candy with my family and giving it to everyone we knew. I remember losing the directions for our artificial tree and my dad drilling new holes to fit the branches.  I remember Christmas Eves at my aunt and uncle’s home and Christmas mornings at home.

And most of all…I remember Advent.

The weekly lighting of the candle at the churches of my youth.  I can see my little self sitting on the wooden pew – not older than 6 or 7  – as the acolytes lit the candle in the wreath on the table near the altar.

So, this year, Advent will be intentional for Hannah, Owen, and me.  We will sing Joy to the World, taking the directive for every heart to prepare Him room seriously.

If you’re not familiar with Advent, the word means “coming.”  And the celebration of Advent focuses on anticipating, longing for, His coming – both His birth and His second coming.

Because this baby born in a manger on Christmas Day died for me and you just 33 short years after His birth.  And after three days in the tomb, he rose again, promising us that he’s conquered death and will return again, allowing those who follow Him to live with Him for eternity.

That’s the meaning of Advent  – of this season – a time set aside to focus on Him and His coming.

If you’d like to join us in preparing Him room, we are using a few resources.

Our family: Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.  This is a beautiful book  I purchased at a local bookstore for $12.  Each day includes a scripture reading, Bible story reading, thoughts to discuss, and family activities.

Me:  I purchased the Advent book from She Reads Truth.  And while there’s not time to get this book, I highly recommend the She Reads Truth app for your smart phone.  Each study costs either $0.99 or $1.99, and they are worth every penny.  For Advent, you can purchase O Come, Let Us Adore Him for $1.99.  Each day includes scripture, a short devotional, and comments from other readers.

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If you’d like to know more about Advent, I love these resources too:

Advent:  for the ones who know longing by Sarah Bessey

Advent 01: Hope from Ann Voskamp

Favorite Advent Resources from Tsh Oxenreider

The Season of Advent (and printable guide) from The Village Church

While I never know how much time I will have to write, I pray I am able to share what our family learns as we progress through this season of miracles.

Let every heart prepare Him room!

Watching God Work {from Michigan to WV to Honduras} {Amazing}

I am that lady.

And with those words, a widow connected to a missionary who had worked to continue the legacy her late husband.

The widow had never met the missionary – only communicated with her when the missionary sent her an email on the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death, describing a house she planned to build in her husband’s honor to continue his legacy.

This story of Veronica and Jen began in that meeting (you can read about that beginning here).

And it continues today.

I am sitting outside the worship room in Valley of the Angels.  The doors are open – my feet propped on the threshold.  Veronica is at the front, sitting alone, singing…

This is my desire to honor you, Lord with all my heart, I worship you.

She’s in Honduras for the first time with her new husband, Steve – a gentle soul with a quick wit who loves and listens well.  And on Wednesday, Veronica and Steve joined our Women of Purpose team to build a house in honor of her late husband, Jeremy.

And this is a story only God – Creator of the Universe – could have written.

Here’s the short version…

Jeremy died suddenly at the age of 31 from a heart attack.  His widow, Veronica, began blogging to process her grief. Jen, a missionary in Honduras, read her blog upon recommendation from a friend.  God prompted Jen to build houses – in Jeremy’s honor – for men who are committed to raising Godly families.

Men who need a hand up, not a hand out.

Jen called it King’s Quarters – after Jeremy King and our King Jesus.

Three years ago, Jen and a short-term mission team built the first King’s Quarter for Freddy Moncada and his family.  And after connecting with Veronica in person (she and Steve recently moved to West Virginia from Michigan), we invited her to come along with us to Honduras to meet Freddy and see the first house built in Jeremy’s honor.

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Freddy with Veronica and Steve

When we arrived, Freddy was delighted to see us and remembered Jen immediately.  He also remembered Jeremy’s story and was anxious to tell us how he had stewarded his gift well by expanding his original house, making a woodworking shop in the home.

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Freddy and a man from his church, building cabinets

 

Veronica and Steve talked with Freddy, and it was so sweet to see him explain to them that he is continuing Jeremy’s legacy.  Freddy has become a successful cabinet and furniture maker, which provides for his family.

Veronica and Steve also came with us to build the second King’s Quarters for Arlin, Kenia, and baby Ismari.

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Veronica and Steve digging the post hole for the house

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Veronica pounding nails as wall one goes up

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The Women of Purpose team building the second King’s Quarters with the help of Mark and Lori Connell

Standing in the finished house, dedicating it to God, explaining we built it to honor Jeremy, commissioning Arlin to love and serve his family well….it’s really impossible to convey.

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Dedicating the house to God

 

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Jen explaining Veronica and Jeremy’s story to Arlin, impressing upon him the importance of continuing Jeremy’s legacy of faithfulness to God. A tearful Arlin accepted this mission with excitement, asking us to pray for him – that he would stay close to God and raise his children in a Godly home.

 

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Arlin, Kenia, and Ismari with their new home!

 

I can’t begin to communicate all the “coincidences” that had to occur in order for Jen to hear of Veronica and Veronica to meet Jen and for Veronica to join us in Honduras.  The in-betweens?   The ways our sovereign God wove and connected these moments – these lives…

Veronica.  Jeremy,  Jen.  Freddy.  Arlin.  Kenia.  Isamari.  Steve.  Our team.

Unbelievable.  Amazing.  Heartbreaking. Hopeful.  Humbling.

Veronica said it best: “One of the coolest moments in life is when you see God putting the puzzle pieces together right before your eyes.”

Jen reading Veronica’s blog.  Veronica speaking at Women of Purpose and mentioning Honduras.  Veronica and Steve joining our team.  Visiting Freddy.  Building a home for Arlin.  All puzzle pieces connected and placed right before our eyes over the past few months.

The pieces made and placed by a God who knew us before we were born.   A creator who knit each of us in our mother’s womb.  The One who goes before us and stands behind.  The God who spoke this world and each of us into being.

He knew.  He planned.  He sees the entire puzzle – even if we can only see one piece.

And I believe He’s smiling as Arlin and Kenia make a home.  As Veronica and Steve build a marriage and a family.  As Jen continues serving the people of Honduras, loving them well.  As the Women of Purpose team comes to Honduras year after year to pour into missionaries.

He smiles and resides at the center of it all.  Thank you, Jesus.

Please continue to pray for our time at Revive – and for Veronica.  She will be here, loving and serving missionaries this Sunday, which is also the four-year anniversary of Jeremy’s death.

Another piece of the puzzle.

He SEES You {at Sisterhood Revive in Honduras}

Thank you…when I think of you, I am reminded of New Testament writers like Paul, Timothy, and Peter.  They wrote letters to and visited churches  – then wrote more letters and went back to check on those following Jesus.  That’s what you do for us.  You come – you share and love us, and then you come back year after year and check on us – you check on our families and our ministries.  We are missionaries, but so are you.  So, thank you – thank you.  There are no words for how much your coming means to us.

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These are the (paraphrased) words of a sweet missionary sister this evening at Revive – a four-day retreat for missionaries living and serving in Honduras.  As our team stood in front of the missionaries at the retreat’s opening, she thanked us for coming, for loving, for caring.

My chest swelled with emotion as I listened to her words seep through her choked-back tears.

It’s hard to accept a thank you when you feel so inadequate.  You feel you’re here on mission- answering His call.  And isn’t that the least you can do?  Answer the call of and follow the one who died for you on a cross?  To receive thanks for following is humbling- and overwhelming.

I think I speak for our entire team when I say that our time in Honduras is a privilege – an honor. We come because we love God and these women who serve him daily in Honduras.  We consider walking alongside these women for four days thanks enough.

And, if you’re a woman in the states who sponsored a missionary to be here this weekend, we say thanks – and we know thanks aren’t adequate.  We know you make this possible. We consider you, too, ones who keep coming back and checking in on your sisters.  Loving them.  Praying for them.  Caring about their work here.

Because…

Don’t we all simply want THAT?  To know we are appreciated and loved. To know someone sees and appreciates what we do.  To know someone cares about you while you serve either in a third-world country or in your living room.

To know someone sees past your talents – past your gifts – past your title of missionary or mother or sister or wife and friend.

To you. 

To who you are.

Not the one who writes or the one who serves in Honduras or the mom of so and so, but the one who is His daughter.  The one who loves well and lives for the kingdom.

To know someone sees your heart.

The heart that wants more than anything to follow Jesus and love others.

Tonight, as we worship with our sisters in Honduras, I am reminded that He revives us; He is our Cornerstone and Anchor.  He alone can save.  And He is the NOTICER.

He sees me and you, sister.

He sees you serving in Honduras.  He sees you serving your family dinner.  He sees you loving your neighbor.  He sees you leading the Bible study.  He sees you loving your husband.  He sees you teaching students and wiping noses.  He sees you up in the middle of night with a crying baby – a sick child.

He sees YOU.  And he LOVES you.

Psalm 139: 1-18

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me,O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!

Take these promises – this  knowledge  – with you, sister, knowing you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and He sees you.

I am looking forward to an amazing weekend in Honduras!  Please join me in praying for revival.