Saturday, December 24, 2011

All Is Calm

I didn't think I would be writing again but here I am :) It's Christmas Eve and it just doesn't seem like Christmas this year. It's been difficult the past couple weeks-I avoid Facebook as much as possible so I don't cry seeing all the pictures of everyone with their families, preparing together, talking about what they will do together, etc. Usually I am not so depressed -the first Christmas without Marla was rough but thankfully we spent a couple days with Doug and Rose-hanging out in our sweats and watching movies together. It was a blast!!!
This is the first Christmas we will actually be all alone. Not that I don't love being with my husband, but I am the type that loves being with people during the holidays. Normally we invite people, but this year everyone is gone. Our adopted kids (Bethany and Lorenzo) are back in the states, people are busy with their own families and here we are. I know, I probably sound pathetic....but I can't help it. I am so sad!! Everyone says how Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus and I agree-but everyone loves being around their families too-it just makes Christmas more Christmasy.....ok I will try to get over it! My Marla will wake up in her apartment all alone....ok Margie..STOP!!!!! Poor girl has a bad ear infection and may not make it to the family get together tonight. Praying she feels well enough on Christmas to hang out with Sandy and family. At least we will get to skype and she can open her presents while we watch. Same thing with our grandchildren. We get to skype and they will open their presents from us. Praise the Lord for Skype!!!! It's such a blessing to us and many that we know.

The good thing is that I baked and baked. Every year I make baked goods for friends and my neighbor that lives downstairs. This year I decided to just bake for a bunch of my neighbors. I baked different cookies (gingersnaps, chocolate peppermint with white choc and crushed peppermint on top, Mexican wedding cookies, and sugar cookies). I also made a pretty tile for each of them to display in their homes. I used the scripture Numbers 6:24-26.
I made my way to each of their homes-they were shocked!!!
My downstairs neighbor is always thrilled when I bring them baked goods and they bring over some yummy goodness Napoli style for us.
Afterwards, I came home, tidied up the kitchen and started thinking about their responses. The Lord gave me a little bible study with each of them. I thought I would share it on here :)
One neighbor just kept telling me 'thank you' over and over again. The other-an older lady whose husband passed away a year ago didn't even look out the window-she thought I was a solicitor and said-no thanks. Then, I told her who I was and she came to the gate. She was in shock I tell you! She couldn't understand why I would make cookies for her. She got a little teary-eyed and asked how could she accept them when she has nothing to offer me.
Another neighbor wanted me to stay for coffee. Another one apologized to me for never stopping to talk to me. Her and her husband invited me in, wanted to chat for a bit and then made me promise I will come over often and practice my Italian with them.
When I was cleaning, I thought that these different responses are just perfect in how people respond to the Lord.
Some are just so thankful, don't have much more to say but Thank You so much!
Others feel they don't deserve Him or His love because they have nothing to offer Him. They aren't used to anything for free or without strings attached.
Others are sorry they didn't meet Him sooner-desiring a relationship now that they know Him a little better.
This was a great gift from the Lord. How often we say that when we step out and want to bless others, we ourselves become so blessed. A plate of cookies-it can do wonders. Honestly, I have lived here 3 years now and never felt as close to my neighbors as I did today. I told Jim that none of them will ever just walk by without a little chat from now on. It's like the walls came down. People think of Italians as very open and friendly. It's true in the South but in the North they can be much more reserved. People on my street are not outside much-they work and then close up the windows when they arrive home.
Now, we are excited and want to plan a Mexican dinner and invite the neighbors. Little by little-this is what everyone has been telling me since moving here. Noone usually responds to you for years. They want to trust you first. Well, I think God just opened the way. Let's just hope they enjoy the cookies :)
It's often in the little things that God blesses us and let's us know how much He loves and cares for us. If we weren't here, we wouldn't have been able to experience this joy today. I think this will become a new tradition in the neighborhood-the American girl bakes...oh you should have heard the one lady. She was so cute...Oh, Brava Margie-you made these, oh brava!! How can you not smile!!
I leave you with this beautiful song. There's something about listening to this song in so many languages over the years. Makes you realize that God indeed loved the whole world so much that He gave all of us Jesus, our perfect gift. Every tongue, every nation-we will praise Him!!!
Have a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy your time with your families. Pray for those who for whatever reason aren't able to be with their families this year. Pray for those whose loved ones are celebrating in Heaven for the first time and they are left here to mourn their loss. Pray for those in bunkers and fox holes on foreign soil.

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Soul Magnifies the Lord

This was the theme for the Baja, Hungary Ladie's Christmas Tea last week. It was a joy to be there with everyone again and see their faces, give lots of hugs and see the wonderful things the Lord is doing in the lives of the people there. I miss them so very much. I often say that if I could bring them all here to Italy with me, I would do it in a heartbeat!!!
The Lord had begun to stir my heart about this theme about a month after I knew I was going to be speaking at the Tea. He confirmed it through a message by Nancy Sylvester when we were in Austria this past summer for the Missions Conf. And, in case I didn't get the hint, He was faithful to reconfirm it. I was looking at some photos on FB from Vista and saw it was their theme a few years back!! Love it! I thought I would share a bit of it with you on the blog :)
I was so intrigued by Mary's life-her simplicity and her obedience. She faced fear of the unknown and probably had many questions about what was to be. Yet, she chose to obey God and to trust Him. She didn't need the story laid out before her and know every detail before she said yes-'behold the maidservant of the Lord, let it be according to Your Word'. Wow, what a response! It caused me to think about how I respond to things when God calls me to do something. Most times, I want to analyze like most of us women do. We tend to want to think it over, weigh the pros and cons, are there benefits, and wondering what the cost might be.
After meditating on these verses in Luke 1:46-55 (the Magnificat) you can really see Mary's heart. How much she loved the Lord, how well she knew her God. It showed me that that is what it comes down to in our lives, at least in my life. How well do I know Him, and how much do I really trust Him. Do I trust Him so much that I can abandon everything to Him, to believe without waivering that He will be faithful, that He will indeed work out every detail of the plan as I leave it to Him to do so. She praised the Lord in these verses from her heart, not just with her lips. Her worship wasn't based on how she felt at the time, or her circumstances. It was true worship from deep within her soul.

Another thing that really stuck with me in studying her life was what didn't happen. Here was Mary, soon to be married to Joseph. One might think that from this point on they would live spectacular lives and become wealthy. After all, they would be the earthly parents of the Messiah. Mary and Joseph didn't become wealthy materialistically. Joseph didn't have the biggest carpentry business in town or business cards made up with a fish on them and try to gain from the call on their life. Nothing was about them. They didn't seek to profit nor did they expect that God would suddenly make their lives easier. There weren't some rich guys in the synagogue running over to build them a house or offer them all kinds of neat things because Jesus was living with them.
It made me think about life as a Christian. Life as a servant of God. How many times we can (or at least I can) think that because we are being obedient to God's call our life will benefit. We can think that if we do what we ought, then God will be well pleased with us and He will make life a bit easier, He will suddenly change our financial status, our social status, and other things. I tend to fall in this rut at times. Thinking ok Lord, I am doing this and I know You are in it, I know You called me to this, and so everything is going to work out so well. I realized over the past months that this type of thinking can easily lead to bitterness. Bitterness towards the Lord because we had expected something more than He had promised. Bitterness because you said yes and you are struggling in your life and someone else said no and seems to be living the life of Reilly (who's Reilly anyway???) We need to protect our hearts and minds from thinking that God owes us something just because we obeyed the call. When these thoughts come to mind, I need to run to my Bible and read the accounts of those who said 'yes' and see how easy and pain free their lives were (not) while on this earth.
Mary's obedience cost her much! She would watch her Son be beaten and hung on a cross to die. She would endure listening to the loud, scruffy voices of the soldiers hurling insults at the Son she once held in her arms. She would hear a crowd of voices yelling out to crucify the little boy she watched grow into a Man.
I read this quote from Charles Spurgeon:
"Oh how we ought to rejoice in Him, whatever our union with Him may cost us. Mary did not know what that wondrous visitation would cost her-and it was to cost her much, as Simeon said to her-"Yes, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also," But even though the sword must go through her soul, it mattered not to her, for unto her a Child was to be born, unto her a Son was to be given, who was to be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Might God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
For me, I want the things the Lord showed me in studying for this, to stay with me and not just be forgotten in a month or two. I want to remember that I don't need to know how everything is going to work out, I don't have to be afraid. I can abandon my self to Him, to trust Him, to believe that yes, my God has everything under control. And then, not to just accept what He has for me-but to praise Him! I realized how easy it is to get to that point of acceptance but fail to get to the point of praise.
We do have reason to exalt His Name, to rejoice in our Savior! No matter what the circumstances of our lives are, no matter what or where He calls us to, we can magnify His Name!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A very special guest blog post

Today I have a guest blog poster. As most of you know, my daughter was on the mission field with us for five years until she graduated high school. Marla has unique insight not only as a missionary, but as one who turned 13 a month after leaving California.
The Lord put this on her heart and I asked her to write about it so I could share it with all of you blog readers.

I pray it ministers to your heart as it did mine.

I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here I am. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

I have read this passage so many times. Today, it has almost become a theme verse for missionaries all over the world. As I read it, Isaiah’s willingness stands out to me. He calls out willingly and eagerly: SEND ME! Millions of missionaries have been sent out worldwide to answer the call of the Lord, with this same eagerness to serve and, along with that, remarkable willingness to sacrifice so very much.

As a former missionary, I find myself in an awkward position. I have experienced how difficult it is to be a missionary-but the longer I am in the States, the more I lose that understanding. Because of that, I want to use my unique experience to help other people see through a little window into the life of a missionary.

As a missionary, life is hard. When you are called to missionary life, there are things you know you will have to give up. A fresh reminder of this comes during the holidays. Christmas seems to be a time when you are reminded of everything you sacrificed. I remember my first Christmas in Hungary, trying to adjust to all the differences, but still getting the family updates and pictures. It may seem small but to someone far from home it is a sign that people still remember-especially as a child far from home your fear becomes that over time you will be forgotten. That is why the small things are important, the little reminders that “we remember and we love you”.

It was from these experiences that I came up with the idea of Mail for Missions. It is a non-denominational ministry that gathers the names and addresses for missionaries all over the world. The plan would be to work with churches and missions pastors all over and develop a system where you can pick a missionary by postage amount, country, or family. The card would be addressed and all the person would do is write a message and take it to the post office. The cost of postage would be their donation. In the economic state of California right now, this is a way for people of all financial standings to minister to others.

That was my idea that I wanted to share with you. I am working on implementing it in the church I am working at now and by next year will be contacting the churches of San Diego County.

Although this is in its planning stage, you can still do something this year. Contact your church and see who the missionaries are and send them a card in the mail this year. Try to get it in the mail asap as delivery time can be anywhere from 10 days to a few weeks depending on where it is going. Get your friends involved. If the missionary family has any children, have your children write a little note to them. It means more than you know! Also, please keep Marla in prayer as she works on this ministry.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

September Update 2011

Greetings dear friends!!
It's a beautiful time of year here in Italy! The temperatures have dropped to the high 70's, mid 80's without humidity, leaves are turning beautiful colors and the vineyards are full and fragrant.
I think it has become our favorite season here.
It's a season of harvest-all the hard work throughout the year is ready for the pickin'. It is interesting how after you live in agricultural areas for 10 yrs you automatically are keen to weather and temperatures and the effects on the crops. We had such a dry season here in Padova. Most of the summer without any drops of rain which is unusual for us. We watched corn fields dry up and other crops completely die because there was nothing more the farmer could do. And yet, you get in your car and drive about an hour and you see lush fields, fragrant bushes and row after row of beautiful vegetation. You ask yourself what the difference is-months ago, you watched as both farmers plowed, prepared soil, and planted away. Both worked so hard, early mornings and late into the evening they sweat as they poured themselves into their work. And yet, not all had fruit to show in the end for their labor. Did one do something wrong? Did God favor one farmer over the other?
This is perhaps an illustration of how our own year has gone. Praying, praying and praying. Reaching out, praying some more. Seeking the Lord for CC Padova and seemingly coming up with one disappointment after the other. We sought the Lord for pure hearts, for His heart for the city He called us to minister to and yet everything seemed to be stagnate. We would drive an hour in one direction or another and see fruit-others vineyards were now bearing fruit and we would rejoice for them but sorrow in our own heart wondering why we weren't seeing the same in Padova.
And yet, God was working. He is working. It is in the little answers to prayer-the fleeces we found ourselves laying out before Him to know if He was indeed in this place. Many times I would find myself seeing a small glimpse of His glory and yet say "Yes, but...." Yes, Lord, you did that, but what about this?" Spending time looking at what isn't happening rather than rejoicing for what is! What a good lesson!!

We heard back from the Commune yesterday. For now, they will let us use the building and will charge us 5 euro an hour to use it. They think it is a good idea for us to arrange some concerts at Christmas and Easter, perhaps in the summer also. Please continue to pray that perhaps more opportunities to serve the community will come about.

This past summer was an answer to many prayers. As many of you know about and came along side of us in prayer for the concerts Jim and his band played in. The place in Padova has really been a blessing for us. Jim has been meeting with the manager of the park there each week since July. Lino is a little older than Jim and loves music, plays guitar and also does sound for different gospel choirs in the area. He is not a believer (yet) but has a great liking for Jim. He is starting to open up to him about difficulties in his own life. This past week he asked Jim to stay and have dinner with him. There is also a security guy there who Jim has talked with previously. He is the one who said he actually hated the church and religion. Well, this past week as Jim was leaving, he called out to him to talk. He said 'well Jim, it's just different here in Italy-it's like a state church-not like what you are talking about." We believe he is open to chat some more. He told Jim he talked to his Mom about the things he and Jim talked about!!

Jim is teaching Hebrews at the Bible College this semester. He has a great group of students and loves pouring into their lives. Please keep him and the students in your prayers.
I will be helping out with a couple of the Girls Discipleship classes. One of the topics I will be sharing on is Femininity. It's a subject dear to my heart and I pray God gives us a great message! I so long for God's heart on this topic.

We are in the planning stages of the Italian Ladies Christmas Tea in Dec. Last year was such a blessing and we look forward to it once again. Sue Long will be coming over from Siegen Germany to share the message of Jesus with us. Last years Tea hosted close to 80 women and this year we are expecting more as we are encouraging the women to invite their family and friends. Please be praying for Sue and all the details of the Tea.

There is an Int'l Ladies group here in Padova that hosts different outings and get-togethers. Every year it seems there is something that gets in the way of me getting together with these ladies. It is something I would like to do this year-hopefully that will work out. I would like to host some coffees/luncheons at my house as well as organize some craft workshops at our house. Please pray this will work out. I also met a lady through a scrapbook group and we are going to start getting together once a month. She is Italian which will be great for me to keep practicing the language!!

And so we see, God is indeed at work here in the place He has called us. It has been in the waiting hours, weeks, months and even years that we see He has been preparing us, teaching us, drawing us to Himself. We are reminded from His Word that the rich and the poor, God has made them both. That it rains on the just and the unjust. Sometimes there aren't cut and dry answers to why things happen as they do. Why does one farmer labor just as much as the other and yet his crop is destroyed. We don't always know the answer. What we do know is that after the harvest, both farmers go out again and plow and prepare for the next year. Perhaps they learn something from the year before, perhaps there was nothing they could do differently. But, they press on, they forget what was behind them and look ahead to the new season. And so it is with us. We press on, we look ahead as we are led by the One who has called us, the One who is faithful and the One who promised that He also will do it!

Thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Being American

I had hoped to write this post last week but became too busy with other things. We went to Austria this past weekend with CC Treviso. Jim was teaching 3 sessions and I was doing the program for the children-Armor of God-lots of fun and spent the week mostly cutting out different pieces of the armor from cardboard. Praise God for pizza boxes :)
It was a joy for me this weekend. Lots of good fellowship and relaxing time spent having a coffee and sitting down and talking with girls!! Oh how I miss that so much! It is the little things in life that become huge when you can't do it often. I treasure the moments spent like that!
Last week I also spent time watching You Tube and finally watched the entire broadcast news about the events of September 11, 2001. In all these years, I have never watched it in its entirety-only bits and pieces. It was quite amazing to watch and truly an event that forever changed our country.
I thought about it as I watched the reports and remembered back to when we found out about it.
It was a Tuesday in Hungary, we still had no phone lines (since July) no television, no internet and I didn't have a cell phone. Jim had one, but he was in Budapest that day for a weekly get together with some other pastors. He would leave our house around 6am to take the train and return around 8:30pm. Marla and I were at home doing whatever it was that we do....maybe schoolwork. I will never forget when Jim arrived home. He came into the house and said "Get your stuff, we are leaving....they are bombing America." What? I barely had time to process what he was saying to me. He said "They even bombed the Pentagon". Still, I had no idea what he was talking about. All I could think was, no way, noone bombs America! Then I started to panic a bit. Being an American in a foreign country I had no idea what all of this meant. I couldn't figure out if he meant we were going back to America right now or what. A few minutes later, I realized he meant that we were going to someone's flat to watch the news on their TV.
I watched in horror and disbelief. How in the world could that have happened.
The next day I went to the church office and tried to go online and watch whatever news I could. Internet news wasn't so available 10 yrs ago as it is today. It was crazy! Trying to read the articles and make sense out of something that was so insensible. I read that a girl from my hometown of Attleboro had died on one of the planes. Another death was Barbara Olsen who I had listened to so many times on the news when we lived in the states. It was still surreal. There was anger, fear and stress inside of me all at the same time. There was this sense that I should be home in the states-I wanted to be with the people in my country so desperately and mourn with them. I didn't feel as though I could mourn where I was.
As an American in a foreign land I felt so strange at that moment. People were looking at us, asking us things we had no answers to. Some were frightened that we were going to go to war. " Of course we are going to war" I said, ''we will hunt them and kill them for what they did". It was as though people didn't want us to retaliate-somehow maybe we could just talk it out. No, sorry, there would be no talking-there will be war!
I remember being at church and everyone was talking about it and one guy told me that we deserved it because of the way we Americans portray ourselves. Really????? Oh my goodness, I hadn't punched anyone since about 4th grade (yes, I got suspended for that) and I was about to punch this guy!!! It had to have been the Holy Spirit's power inside to hold me back and hold my tongue from saying anything back to him. Oh man, I remember it like it was yesterday.
We couldn't talk to anyone at home because communication wasn't like it was today-no chat, no skype. I think AOL chat was the only thing available and we didn't even have internet at the time. It was hard to digest all of this being so far away from home.
What news we could watch was showing the US coming together, people coming to the aid of one another and an overwhelming out pour of love and service. Again, it felt so strange not to be a part of that.
From that day, I started to really be afraid of living abroad. Some months past and in Feb, my daughter and I went to a homeschooling conference in Budapest. It was a week long conference and a lot of fun for Marla to be around kids her own age who were also on the mission field.
We were at the train station in Budapest to head back to Baja Friday afternoon. There was a crowd of people lined up all around the station and noone was able to go inside. The policeman made an announcement shortly afterwards but I had no clue what he said because it was in Hungarian. I kept asking around until someone could tell me in English what he said. There was a bomb threat at the train station and trains would be delayed until further notice. Well, I freaked out! I looked at Marla, told her not to speak at all because I thought someone would target us as Americans. The blond in me sort of got the best of me because I had a carry on suitcase with the brand name "American Tourister" on it so I ripped that off my luggage. I was so afraid of being recognized as an American.
Finally after hours and hours of waiting, they told us we can get on the train. Then, they told us there was a bomb threat possibly on the tracks. Well, I had a cell phone and this time called Jim and told him no way was I getting on the train with Marla. We called our friend Jackie, and between Jim and her talking to me a bit, Marla and I finally got on the train. Funny side note-none of us on the train could get a ticket since noone was allowed inside the station-the wonderful train guys charged all of us the penalty price for not having our tickets before getting on the train!!! I think they should have let us all ride for free that day!
We finally take off and are headed back home. I am still anxious inside-poor Marla is the brave one reassuring me that everything is going to be ok. Well, we were about an hour away from home and the train made its stop. Marla and I had the seats right near the exit door. The train stopped briefly, started to go again and all of a sudden this loud bang occured. I grabbed Marla's head and pulled both of us to the ground! There was a smell so awful and for sure I thought it was a bomb! Come to find out, there were still a bunch of people who needed to get off the train at the previous stop and someone broke the glass for the emergency brake. Oh my goodness...poor Marla-she probably still has whiplash from that day! It's good that we laugh about it now-I think it is one of those events that we will forever remember and laugh about!
As an American living abroad, we also get emails from the US Embassy periodically. Whenever there are threats, we receive the emails telling us to change up our daily routine, where we walk, where we go, in case we are being watched. Nothing has ever happened to anyone I know, and I am sure these emails are more for security and not really expecting anything to happen. But, it does make me aware that just being American is a threat on foreign soil.
Where we live now there are tons of people that when I walk by them, you will not hear a word of English come out of my mouth. Some think I am crazy, including Jim at times. But, I do not trust some people and would rather be safe. When I walk around with just girls, I will never let them speak English if we are approaching certain people. There is still a fear in me that there are people who hate us just because we are American and would not blink to see something bad happen to us.
I don't live paranoid, but because of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, it has changed the way I think as I live overseas. I am not as trusting as I might have been before that day. I am more aware of my surroundings. Some days I even think I should lose my blond hair because it seems like a dead giveaway that I am American. Doubt that will happen though :) I trust the Lord with my life in all things, but I do believe in caution. Jim has a good laugh at my cautiousness sometimes :)
People think we as Americans are prideful, bullies, dishonest, and more. Well, maybe some are-but so are the people in other countries. While we are still on this earth, there will be dishonesty, pride, rebellion, and all kinds of other things. There is no perfect country. I always find it sad when people put down my country. We are not allowed to say anything negative about their countries, but they sure can ramble on and on about what is wrong with America. Sorry, doesn't fly with me. Can we as a nation grow and improve and learn from past mistakes? Of course we can, just like everyone else.
So, all this to say that this is just another aspect of living life on foreign soil. Something we don't often think about until something comes about to change the course of life.
Praising God that one day, there will be a time when we will have no more fear, no more pain, no more suffering. All the evil in this world will be rid of and the Lion will lay down with the Lamb. Can you imgaine? Oh the pure joy of knowing that there is a place that Jesus has prepared for us that is safe-free from hate, free from anger and pride. My heart rejoices knowing that we have that hope!
I added some more pictures from our years in Baja, Hungary. Hope you enjoy them. I also added a great song by Jeremy Camp that always brings me back to reality and what is to come!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The 'help' mate

Do I still have a blog? My oh my the days and weeks have past and not post from lil ole me. I am certain that millions of people all over the globe are in deep despair and depression, hanging onto a thread, waiting with baded breath (by the way, what exactly is baded breath?) to see if there has been a new post LOL!!!!
May I begin by saying that it is HOT!!! The only thing to do is sit in the house, shutters closed, windows closed, fans on, bucket of water for my feet and wet washcloth near by so I can soak my face and neck every 5 minutes or so. No relief in site for a few days either. I now understand why the elderly die in this weather. If they are alone, it is hard to move, you get nauseated, headaches, etc. Please pray for them as you read this!
So, I had to read the last post to see where we left off in our 'Foreign Soil' series. I suppose I should have titled it "How Not To Be A Missionary Mom'. Fear not, today I will talk about 'How Not To Be A Pastor's Wife'. There are wonderful books in every Christian bookstore and they talk about people's experiences in ministry, give advice, etc. If I were to write a book it would probably have a title similar to what not to do. I have thought about making my own TV show. They have What Not To Wear and all these reality shows. I pictured a series starring me of course, in different situations in the ministry. Running your household, parenting, wifery, women's ministry, counseling, etc...different scenarios throughout the day and I would be doing and saying what I do and say and then along comes the "princess pastor's wife" and she waves her little magic wand and everything stops in mid air, and she rewinds and makes it like it should be. How would that sound!!!

As we know, real life doesn't have the princess fairy so we do, we pray, we ask forgiveness, we seek guidance and we start all over again. I thought of how we perceive different things in life. The word 'perspective' has been on my mind lately. I have been listening to teachings in 1Peter and the titles have been about Perspective. We were at the Missions Conference and that word kept coming up a lot. I think it is something the Lord wants me to be aware of. He has a way of getting my attention----repetition!! I don't always get it the first 100 times!

Backtracking a little bit, here I was in CA a wife, Mom, involved in women's ministry, lots of good friends and we are called to move to Hungary. Pastor's Wife? Me? What in the world, why in the world, me???? I wasn't dainty, can't sing or play guitar, cannot tell a story, my voice is the worst of most I have ever heard (and others like to tell me too) I can't even pray with a sweet voice. I am loud, clumsy, stubborn, opinionated and probably other adjectives I can't think of at the moment. How in life am I to be a Pastor's wife??? I don't even cry!!! No, I am not making fun of anyone-in all seriousness, I am just trying to say what my perspective of a pastor's wife was and the qualifications I thought you had to have! Call my husband as a pastor-that is ok. He has a kind heart, loves Jesus, loves to study the Word of God, but oh, can't you give him another wife for this position please....well, not really another wife, but you get my point :)

If you have ever church planted, you may have experienced some of the same things I did. If you didn't, you could make it up and say you did so I don't feel dreadfully alone! In most churches, there is a staff of guys, assistant pastors, a board, and people you talk to, get ideas from, pray with, counsel with and other things pastors do. Church planting, mission field life is different. Often times you have only the pastor and his family. There are no deacons, no elders, no nobody. It can be really hard for the pastor to not have anyone to turn to for advice, prayer and even to have accountability.

As a wife, wanting the best for my husband, I wanted to look out for him. Since he was new at pastoring I felt that as a good wife, it was my job to be the one to look after him. I was there for him when he needed someone to talk to, to pray with, to be his cheerleader. Those were the qualities he loves about me. But, being the good, supportive wife that I am, I decided that wasn't enough. I would also be his Nathan. Yep, just call me Nathana! After all, someone had to be there to tell him the things he was doing "wrong" "We need to do this, we should be doing that, why can't you do this, how come you said that, you should talk to so and so, you shouldn't be talking to them, you better not this, blah blah blah!!!" Oh can you imagine he still loves me and calls me his wife?!! Yes, friends, I was like that to him. It wasn't enough that I struggled with me trying to please everyone else in the church-I wanted him to please everyone too. Now, if you know us, you know that we are beyond opposite in this area. Jim is the type that honestly looks to please the Lord before anyone else. Not that he doesn't make mistakes, but he desires to please God, he has an amazing confidence in his relationship with the Lord and who he is in Christ that you rarely find him worrying about what everybody else thinks of him. It's not arrogance, if you know him, you know that! If you don't know him, well, you are missing out :)
Sometimes in the church people don't go to the husband-especially when your church is mostly women. They decide it is best to go to the wife, in this case, me and give all of their advice. Well, I am not one that handles this kind of stuff too well, I am so much better at it now, but in the begining, if someone made a 'suggestion' to me in the church, I would tell it to Jim and practically try to convince him to obey it. He would often times tell me 'No, or that he would pray about about it'. I couldn't understand what there was to pray about-these were good ideas! How was he ever going to be a great pastor if he didn't give in to the 'suggestions' of the congregation, brought so lovingly to him by his wife! Oh the things I have learned through the years! Thankfully, I didn't have the habit of responding to the 'suggestors' other than, "oh, ok, I will speak to him about this". As time went on, and I started understanding what Jim already knew, I began to just direct them to Jim and have them bypass me. If something was that important to them, they could speak to him about it without channeling it through me.
I went through a really rough stage of 'critiquing his sermons'. By critiquing, I don't mean anything of the spiritual kind. How he dressed, how he stood as he spoke, how he delivered the sermon, did he smile enough, was his voice too loud, too soft, you get the picture. I would scan the congregation (all 10 of them at the time) with my eyes while he was teaching. Do they look tired, are they slouching, at what time did they actually slouch-perhaps the sermon was a bit long-better shorten it for next time dear....and of course ...I can't believe you wore that shirt-I told you it doesn't flatter you!!
Oh the joys! In wanting to do well, it is so easy to do what is wrong! It is so easy for me to fall in the 'if only' trap. If only Jim this, if only Jim that, if only, if only....never living for what is and enjoying all that God has for the moment, rather drifting off into a place that isn't reality. I was putting pressure on my husband without really wanting to. In my heart, I really thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was helping him see things he wasn't seeing or getting him in tune to things he wasn't in tune with. Yes, God uses we wives mightily in our husband's lives but we have to make sure it is actually the Lord and not ourselves! We can bless them, but we can also tear them down. Jim isn't a mincer of words and at one point, he did hint to me that he is hearing my voice more than the voice of the Holy Spirit. Yeah, that went over well :)

Don't get me wrong-we do talk out stuff, we pray, we do go over things together, he loves to ask me my opinion on things-I have just learned not to always offer my thoughts or the thoughts of others on what he should or shouldn't do. I have learned to pray for him and seek the Lord on his behalf. It is amazing the times when there are things on the tip of my tongue, times I have played out to the tee in my head everything I will be saying to him, and then that nudge comes...'Margie, pray'. "oh ok I will" And then, miraculously, my mouth is closed and nothing comes out!! That dear friends, is a miracle!!!! I rejoice in those times because I know it could only be an act of God that kept me from advising my husband once more.

Here's a link to Nancy Leigh DeMoss's site. She has these 30 day challenges and there are some to pray for your husband, pastor, pastor's wife, etc. I think these are great and often we don't know what or how to pray for others and this is a good start.

Being a pastor's wife is not about how sweet our voices are, how talented we are, how many friends we have. Over the past 10 years I realize my most important role as Pastor's wife is that I am a wife to my pastor. He is to be my first ministry, my loyalty is to him, he is the one I desire to please after the Lord. The rest of descriptions come from whatever the Lord has in addition to this. Sunday School teacher, Women's Ministry teacher, counselor, janitor, whatever else you do, make being the wife to your pastor the number one thing! Your marriage will be blessed because of it.
10 years has passed and I still have a squeaky voice, I cannot play an instrument, I cry more than ever in my life, and I love what God has called me to. I love the opportunities He has given me to learn, to grow, to fall on my face and lift me back up again. Most of all, I love being married to my pastor :)
Loving our husbands, respecting our husbands-it is one of the best and most important things the women in our church can learn from us.
Onward Christian soldiers :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

On Foreign Soil

Well, here we are again. Going down memory lane remembering all God has done in the past 10 years. It's interesting because so often in Bible, mostly the OT David and others are reminiscing about what God had done. Even in the NT Paul recollects his encounter with Jesus-always retelling the story. It is a good practice. In the OT, we read much of the good and the bad when it comes to the children of Israel. Right now in the OYB we are reading through Chronicles and that is what the book is about-chronological order of events, kings, leaders, battles, etc. Oh and on a side note, I was once again amazed at how people have such a difficult time believing that women can be evil. Athelia (don't think I spelled her name correctly) was so wicked, so evil, just like her mother! I suppose that subject can be a whole different blog post one day lol!!

If you have read the past couple blog posts, you know I am writing about our call and move to Hungary and then later on to Italy. It's good for me to actually be recalling all of these things and have them down in writing for when I am old and can't remember anything anymore !!! Who knows, I may not even know what country or language I am speaking!

We are at moving day! Moving away from beautiful, sunny CA and a group of friends and my parents are there to say good-bye. Funny side-story. My friend Sandy was going back east to a family reunion so she came over earlier in the week to say good-bye. For some reason we started talking about how rough the toilet paper was in Hungary-see I told you I thought about weird things! Well, we decided to go to Vons around 10pm and get a couple big ole packs of comfy toilet paper and packed it in the big moving truck. I will say that it was quite a nice site when the truck finally arrived in Sept!!!

We arrived at the airport and the airlines had now decided to do something differently with seating. Just a couple months before if you booked your ticket with another person you automatically sat next to each other. Well, imagine our dismay and shock when we checked in and all three of us were sitting separately. It was awful!!! We got on the plane, I am stuck in the middle seat with 'guys' on either side, Marla is a few rows ahead of me and Jim a few rows back. Up until this point, I was still in excitement, is it really happening, mode. It was once the plane took off that the tears began to fall. What made it worse was I had to try to contain them because I was next to strangers. All I could think of at that moment was "what in the world are we doing?" The stewardess asked several people if they would change seats so we can all sit together and noone agreed-finally one person did so atleast Marla and I could sit next to each other. We arrived after umpteen hours in France with a 4 hour layover. I say that because it was the longest layover in life. Finally, we arrive in Budapest and a friend Steve came to pick us up. After all that, we had to go to the church service that night-I remember sitting in the back, Lloyd Pulley was guest speaker and nodding off -not because of Lloyd lol! Oh the exhaustion.
The next day we arrive in Baja-late in the evening and our new landlady was not pleased with us. She expected we would be there earlier and showed her disapproval!! Welcome to Hungary!!

It seemed that once we actually arrived in Hungary, all the emotions that I had pushed aside in my mind and heart were now starting to come out. The fears, the feelings of inadaquecy, already missing those we left in the states-all these things started to make their way to the surface. Our truck wouldn't arrive until Sept so that meant wearing whatever it was we packed into our suitcases when we left. No pots, pans, utensils, no coffeepot!!! No iron or ironing board-not that it should matter, but now that Jim was pastoring the church I had to be sure he had a nice, crisply ironed shirt to wear each week.

I was determined at this point, after hearing so many people put down Americans and how we acted, how inconsistent we are, how selfish, lazy, blah blah blah we are, that I would be the best example of an American missionary Hungary or any other country for that matter would ever know of. My family would become Hungarian. Never would I forget my country, my fellow countrymen, but by golly, this girl was out to become Hungarian. Never mind that Hungarian is the 2nd or 3rd most difficult language to learn, nevermind that I had just turned 40 that past November-I would prove them all wrong!! My daughter, my husband and me-we would be Hungarian. I wanted so much that they would approve of us, like us, want to be friends with us. I wanted them to know that we were going to give everything we had to them and then some. Morning, noon, night-weekdays, weekends, we would be there for them. We would eat what they ate, go where they went, attempt to speak as they speak. Whatever they wanted us to be I wanted us to be that too.

I can tell you as a Mom, I blew it big time! As I look back on it now, I can weep thinking about how many mistakes I made. How my daughter turned out sane is only by the grace of God! I not only put the pressure upon myself to be Hungarian, to be pleasing to the people there no matter what cost, but I put the pressure upon her. I think of all the eye looks I gave know them if you are a Mom-out of the corner, lips pursing, trying to convey everything you want to say to them without actually speaking. My daughter was not going to be one of these spoiled American kids that some in the church would often speak about-nope, Marla was going to be "Miss All Around American Missionary to Hungary child:" Imagine a sash with that title on it!! What a burdensome title to have to wear! If someone wanted her to come to their home, I would tell her she had to go. When cleaning or other things needed done in the church, I would make sure she was doing it. If I saw her sitting, I would want her to stand, if I saw her looking sad, I would tell her to smile. All the pressure I put not only upon myself, but sadly upon her too so that we could become what I thought we needed to become in order to get the approval of the people there.

There is a balance when we have children on the mission field. It is easy to write about it and give advice after you have gone through it and made all the mistakes. Our children are called when we are called. God has a plan for them also-but it is His plan. In wanting to do well, we can sometimes put unnecessary pressure and guilt upon our children. This isn't just on the mission field. I think anyone in ministry has to deal with such things. We have all heard of the stories of pastors' kids and missionary kids-put them both together and wow-you can sometimes feel double the pressure. If someone else's child acts one way-they are going through a stage, if our child acts the same way, they are just a 'spoiled pk or mk'. In all fairness, I do believe there are children in these categories that are spoiled and misbehaved, but not all are and that is true of ministry or not in ministry. Noone knows what the families go through when noone is looking. Ministry isn't a 9-5 job, or at least it shouldn't be. Here we were in a small church and our phone rang at all hours, people wanted to speak to us before 9 and after 5. You can be in the middle of something and then something urgent comes up and you have to attend to that need. I cannot imagine how it must be for those in bigger congregations. Well, I got a bit off track here, but you get the point.

As I look back, I think in the first few months, even year or so, I wanted so much to be whoever the congregation wanted me to be, I wanted that for Jim and Marla too and in the process, it was easy to put the church's thoughts above the Lord's. I was serving Him, I prayed, I read my bible, I did all the right things. However; in trying to please others, I learned I could never really please them. If you pleased one, you ticked off another. Back and forth until before long everyone would be upset with you for one reason or another.
I am not trying to paint a horrid picture where nothing went right! Of course there were laughs and fun things going on-but today as I typed, these are the things that came . Perhaps it will help someone to know my weaknesses and the things I did wrong so that you don't have to do it that way. You cannot please man-you never will! We must hear from the Lord moment by moment. It is His voice that matters, His voice that we need to allow to guide and direct our every move. He is the One who sticks closer to a brother and will never ever leave us nor forsake us. Sadly, the ones we so desperately try to please are usually the ones who end up leaving us and forsaking us!

As women, we tend to be people pleasers. We desire to make everything right and we think that there is just one ingredient missing and if we get that ingredient then everything will be perfect. The problem is that that one ingredient is Jesus-the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts and yet He is often the One we can put to the side without realizing it. We as women are good at making things happen. We are go-getters, problem solvers, and achievers. We want to see things work as they should-or at least as we think they should. It's not usually that simple. Sadly, we can find ourselves putting out so much effort and then not getting the results we expected. We find ourselves disillusioned, saddened, heart-broken and even despairing at times. It is then we fall on our knees and on our face before the Lord and we find ourselves asking Him what we did wrong. Often times for me, His answers was the same-'you spent so much time trying to be good, so much time trying to please everyone else, that you forgot to ask Me what I wanted you to be'. Don't put undue pressure upon yourself or your family!! There are many days I wish I had those times back to do them all over again. Thankfully, God is merciful, full of grace and never giving up on us. His grace covers our mistakes and I am forever thankful for that!

So.....who knows what will be next. I had planned a whole different post for today so maybe that will be next :) I will try to put up a few pictures from the past 10 years throught the posts. I started to make a scrapbook and eventually will finish....yes I will!!!! :)
To God be the glory!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pt 2 Packing Up

It has taken me longer than planned to get this next post written. We had some great things going on here with ministry and concerts and time flew by. I was also eaten alive inside as I started to think back in my mind about the past 10 years. Why is it that so many amazing things can happen in life and yet we are prone to remember the negative! The negative that just eats alive at your very core and wants to render you useless, helpless, causing you to doubt your calling, your effectiveness. To keep our eyes on Jesus, to cite Philippians 4:8 over and over again until those thoughts just flee. I hate them-I really do because Satan would desire to rob, kill and destroy all that God has done and so often I found myself entertaining his thoughts rather than those of my Heavenly Father. Oh how we need you Lord Jesus!
It's interesting how when you think back on things what you actually remember. In July 2000, we were on vacation at our favorite place for a couple weeks-Capistrano Beach. We rented a house right on the beach for a few summers and it was the best!!! I remember one day my Mom was visiting and I don't know why or what we were talking about but she asked me 'would you want to give up all this?' We were doing the bible study at our house that summer Living Water and Mom was coming to it so maybe we were discussing something from the study. It is interesting to me now because at that time of my life I had no desire to move or no thought that Jim would ever go into full time ministry. We were completely content in the ministries we were serving in. I remember telling my Mom that 'yes, we would give it up if that is what the Lord wanted'. Again, I am curious to remember what it was and why we talked about such things!
I do find it amazing that we can answer questions like that when we don't necessarily see being asked to actually do those things in the future.
That same summer, in August, we were travelling to San Francisco. We were dropping Marla off to spend some time with her sisters and Jim and I were going to do some sightseeing since I had not been to that part of CA before. We were also going to pick up some checks from contractors for jobs that Jim was doing. I remember driving and chatting about how after 5 or so years of working so hard that it was finally paying off. We were now going to be completely in the black-no more red. Jim did things honestly and ethically and as you know, in construction, it is hard to get ahead when wanting to do things the right way. That weekend was one I will always remember. We also went to a small Calvary Chapel in Livermore. Jim had attended there a couple times while he was working up that way. I was so impressed with how the pastor and his wife were so hands on-the wife did the childcare, the people seemed to be pretty in need there. It wasn't a big church, didn't even look like there was a lot of extra money to spare.
We went out to dinner and I remember talking about how so many people would want to be a pastor of a huge church and not many would want to be like this pastor and his wife who pretty much had to do everything. Again, thinking back on it, it was interesting what stood out to me.
In my mind, it was just conversation. I wasn't ever imagining that Jim would be a pastor one day. He was asked to take some classes with Pastor Rob on pastoring, but to me it was just to equip him in the ministries he was already doing-never thinking that he would pastor a church one day.
In Jim's heart, now that the business was going to be on its feet, he wanted to spend even more time helping out at church. He would tell me he would just go janitor, help out with the school, if that is what they needed. That is the heart of my husband. Honestly, he would take the lowest position somewhere and he would never think twice about it. Sorry to boast, but so many people see him as this big burly guy and don't bother to know the heart of this man as I do. He has never been the type to want to make a name for himself. To me, he is a description of a humble servant. Ok, back to topic :)
Here we are in Sept and suddenly one, two and then three contractors bail on us!! Bankruptcy, unethical, and some other things-all the same result though....none of them were paying the money they owed us. We are talking about government buildings involving lots and lots of money. Materials already bought, roofs already put on, payroll to meet, office bldg rents to pay, etc. What we one month ago thought was the begining of the good times was now a time of horror and great disappointment.
In the meantime, in Oct, our landlord of 7 yrs or so informed us that his son and daughter in law were getting divorced so he needed our house. Ok-sure, we will move!!! Our world was crumbling before our very eyes. How could we move, where would we move? One thing on top of another and inside I was so confused.
We ended up buying a home-that's a whole different story... but atleast we had a roof over our heads. I was content, happy with the possibilities of what we could do with our new home and we had a great yard. Jim was away a lot, working on the jobs himself since he had to lay people off. During that time, our good friend Chris stayed on and became an even closer friend-he really stuck by Jim and that was amazing! I was at home trying to pretty up the place, my Dad would come over and plant some cactus bushes for us, we entertained a lot at the new place. Work was still a problem but we just trusted God to work it all out.
On to Feb when Pastor Rob asked Jim to pray about that we have a background on what was going on in our lives prior to being asked to move. Could it be that the Lord was allowing all this business stuff to go on to prepare us to let go and move on to a different call?
Rob wanted us to go to Hungary with him and Howard to meet the church and to pray. I didn't really feel it necessary to go because if Jim would know to move there then of course I would move too right???!!!! I also was afraid that I would hinder him if I was there. I had no clue what to expect in Hungary-the buildings, bathrooms, food, people, etc. There was a fear in me that those things would bother me and I would ruin the trip for him. Rob told me I needed to go since I would be living there too and he thought it would be good for me so I did.
The scariest thing was before we left for the visit, we filled out a form which was sort of a will but mainly to have someone watch over Marla in case something happened to us. We sat down with our friends and asked them if they would be her guardians should anything happen-that was really difficult! Thankfully, nothing happened :)
It was April 2001 and we headed to Hungary with Pastor Rob and Howard. Not knowing what to expect, all I could do was pray. It sounds funny, but I prayed about the toilets, the showers and the coffee. I suppose they are my priorities!!! Yes, I prayed for the trip as a whole, but just that those things wouldn't bother me. They proved to be doable-I had packed my little creamers so even if the coffee was bad, the creamers disguised the taste.
We arrived in Hungary-I now understood what the word jetlag meant. We went to Vajta, Kaposvar and then to Baja. In Baja, we met the congregation, Jim taught that Thurs night and again on Sunday. I had not remembered in my life a time of being looked over by so many people :) Sunday night Jim was asked if he was going to move there and he still didn't know. I think some were getting restless at that point. Monday morning, Howard and I walked around the town so he could get some souvenirs for Lucia and the girls and we left Jim alone in the hotel. When we got back, there were tears in Jim's eyes and I knew that meant 'yes, we are moving to Hungary'. Psalm 45 was the one the Lord used to speak to Jim at the Sugovica Hotel. That night was prayer at the church in Baja and he made the announcement to those who were there. I think I was in such a blur-I tried looking at the faces of these people, taking it all in, realizing that they were now my new brothers and sisters in the Lord. This church building I was sitting in would soon be my new church. The city I walked around in would soon be our new home.
Of course with all this going on, there was Marla back in CA. Imagine being 12, and in a few months turning 13 and hearing that you are going to be uprooted and moved to another country! Wow!! I could write about it, but perhaps it would be best told by her one day to get the full effect of what was going on with her. If you ever want to feel like the worst Mom in the world, take your daughter away from family and friends for her teenaged years!!! I do have to say she was amazing through it all. Yes, normal teenage drama and stuff, but we were completely blessed by Marla's attitude (most of the time lol)
We flew back to CA with the news to share with everyone. It was May and we were to move in July! We had two months to pack up our belongings and prepare to move to Hungary! My oh my. Pastor Rob asked Jim to make a two year committment. We knew in our hearts that we were going to be committed to however long God would have us there.
Looking back, I believe the Lord couldn't have given us any more time because it would have been too much time to think about what we were doing and it wouldn't have made any sense to me. Had I had more time, I would probably not have wanted to move. This way, there was no real time to think about it. My focus had to be on packing up the house, preparing things to move away. We were blessed to be able to have all our things shipped over to Hungary. Having an 40ft trailer at our house for a week while trying to decide what to keep and what to give away, boxes suddenly taking over every square inch of our house and still the day to day work, what to do with the house while we are gone, etc.
There was an excitement within me. Perhaps it was the unknown, perhaps it was that the Lord would actually turn our world upside down like this. We all know ourselves, we know our weaknesses, our pasts, our struggles and to know that despite these things, God Himself desires to use us. To me, it was beyond amazing. That thought carried me through the next couple of months of getting ready to move. There was no real time to sit and ponder what was actually going on. No time to grasp the fact that we would kiss friends and family good-bye and not know when we would see them again. There was also the fact that some dear and close friends would be going to Hungary in Aug for the family camp so I would see them soon. Our daughter Christina would also be coming out in Aug so it wasn't quite like having to completely say good-bye. We would be able to prolong some of the good-byes for a bit.
A friend of mine was on the mission field in Scotland at the time. The were home for a visit and came to our going away party. She reminded me that at their going away party I came to her after everyone had left and said 'I don't know how you can do this, I could never move away from CA' Isn't it just like God to take what we think of as an impossibility and make it a reality. Even though I was born on the east coast, I was a CA girl!! I think inside I was born to be a CA girl :) The beach, the smells, I don't know what it is, but it is me! Does that sound funny? I couldn't fathom living anywhere else.....but God!!!
Next post we can talk about arriving in Hungary.....
I leave you with a song-one that people might think is a bit cheesy, but I still love the song. I recently read something someone wrote that Americans aren't very good at being friends-well, they must have the wrong kind of friends. I have been blessed beyond blessed with the friends I have had. Some say they lose friends when they move to the mission field. For whatever reason-only God's grace, I gain friends through the years. Not only aquaintances, but true, loving, we are here for you, type of friends! I love all of you!!!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

An Ordinary Sunday

Yesterday marked 10 yrs that we have been on the mission field in Europe! It's hard to imagine that 10 yrs ago we left all we knew and loved behind to embark on a journey-one that we had no idea how long it would last or what to expect along the way. We only knew that God had called and Jim answered the call.
In remembrance of this, I thought to write a few different blog posts about the last 10 yrs. Not sure if it will get written in a week, a month, or what-I do however want to write down about the past years. What God has done, the high points, low points, what was learned, the heartaches and the blessings, the trials and the triumphs. If you know me, you know I will share from the heart.
Today I will share with you about the call.
Have you ever noticed in reading your bible the settings in which certain things take place. Samuel went to annoint David to be the future king while David was out taking care of the sheep. The disciples were fishing like any other day when Jesus called and told them to put down their nets and follow Him. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably cleaning house or preparing things for her wedding to be when the angel Gabriel came to speak to her. Often times we find it is in the ordinary business of our day that the Lord will speak to us too. Perhaps doing dishes, driving, taking care of our children-God will use those moments to teach us something or to speak something to our hearts.
Feb. 11, 2001 was one such day for Jim and me. We always took our separate cars to church because he would either be helping in worship or at the Senior Center doing worship and I would be teaching Sunday School to the 4 & 5 yr old class. We would meet up at 3rd service. This particular Sunday, the children were learning about God's call to Abram-to leave his land and go to a place that God would show him. One of the great things about living in So. Cal was the weather. Here it was Feb and we were able to go outside to act out our lesson. I lined the children up and we we walked around the church building pretending that we were going on a journey. We walked slowly, pulling our cows and carrying all our luggage with us. It was quite fun. The memory verse for the day was from Deuteronomy 31:6. Nothing to it right-just another fun time with the 4 and 5 yr olds.
After class, I ran into Pastor Rob and he asked me if Jim was around-I told him he would be here shortly (he was at the Sr Center that morning) Pastor Rob asked me to have Jim talk to him after 3rd service. I thought nothing of it-it was quite normal for Jim and Rob to chat. Jim owned a Sheet Metal company at the time and also helped out with the Drug and Alcohol Ministry at church. Often he would hire some of these guys who were out on their luck or Rob would hear about a guy needing a job and ask Jim if he had any openings. To me, it was just about another guy needing a job.
I told Jim and after 3rd service, Marla and I went home. My phone rang and it was my friend Irene. She had heard Pastor Rob ask to speak to Jim and wanted to know what it was about-I had no clue, but she made me promise to call her as soon as I knew. To me, I just didn't see the big deal in the two of them talking.
Well, Jim came home about an hour later. I didn't even ask him what it was about-because again, I thought nothing of it. He looked at me and said- "well, you will never believe what Rob asked me" I don't remember my exact response but knowing me it was probably something like "Who needs a job now?" He told me how they talked about his business and how it seemed to be taking a weird turn at the moment. He then told me that Rob talked to him about this church in Baja, Hungary that was in need of a Pastor and would Jim pray about moving over and pastoring the church. Again, me being the wonderfully sweet and supportive wife said something to the effect of "yeah right, quit lying." I must have glanced at his face and saw the seriousness of it and realized....whoa....this is for real!! What in the world is he talking about? Where in the world is Hungary and why would anyone even think we would consider moving there!! We chatted a bit and he filled me in on the details of their conversations (well, details as far as a guy is concerned!!!!) and that he agreed to pray about it.
Being the scholar that I am (insert laughter) I went to the computer and looked up on a map where Hungary was. I had only heard about it-but never knew where it was or anything much about the place. To my dismay, I looked on the map-now mind you, I am not good at map skills either but I did know that if there was an ocean or body of water there would be blue on the edge.....NO BLUE!!! "nope, we are not moving, there is no ocean" I couldn't imagine being land-locked somewhere!!!!
Within an hour or so we drove over to Chris and Shelly's to share the news with them. I think we swore them to secrecy because we didn't want the news to get out. I called Irene later on and told her and swore her to secrecy too. I think in all we told about 5-10 people we knew we could trust to keep it private and more importantly be praying for us.
So, there you have it. An ordinary Sunday, doing our ordinary service when unexpectedly God shakes our world.
And isn't it just like the I am teaching the children that Sunday morning about Abraham and how difficult it must have been to leave his country, to go some place that would be strange to him. The memory verse from Deuteronomy never ceases to amaze me. Who would have thought that I would be afraid of anybody-especially Christians!!! Oh the things that God would teach me over the next 10 yrs. The many times that verse was a joy and comfort to me. I marked it in my bible that Sunday after Jim told me the news. Honestly, I felt it a bit strange to read the verse at the time and to even date it, but praise the Lord that He gave me that verse not only that day, but so many days in the future!!! He always knows what we will need in our lives!
In the next post I will share about our visit to Hungary, what was going on business wise and whatever else the Lord will bring to my memory.
Be's often in the ordinary-in the simplest of things that we do that God will bring about something that will change our lives. As Christians, we are to pray, to meditate upon His Word, and we are also to be occupied til He comes. Doing whatever He has put in front of us to do. Nothing is ordinary to Him. And just think, as we are going about our everyday routine, God knows when He is going to shake things up a bit.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Song In Our Heart

(update-we put the song on youtube because some browsers weren't allowing it to be shown-thanks for listening to it-it's at the end of the post)
If we are friends on FB then you can probably see that life has been a bit busy lately. It was such a blessing to go to Hungary and Portugal for some women's conferences. Lots of preparation and prayer, and the Lord truly blessed our times together. Praise Him for His faithfulness.

The topic was the same for both conferences 'Let us not grow weary in doing good for in due season we will reap if we faint not' Galatians 6:9. It was really a labor of prayer for the right verse. For quite some time I was struggling with different themes like "How Does Your Garden Grow" etc, but we knew it had to be a scripture and not just a title. The verse in Galatians was perfect. Once again, I am convinced that God only chooses to use me to do such things because it is the only way I will study what He wants to teach me. Inside I knew that I was at the point of fainting but kept trying on the outside to stand up straight. We used an image for the conference that was quite depictive of how many of us were feeling.

She has that look about her that is all too familiar. Faced with a field to plow and sometimes feeling like she has to plow it all by herself can easily make you exhausted.

God taught me a lot through these conferences. In Hungary, I taught on Preparing the Soil and then Reaping the Harvest. My friend Leona came from SB and taught on Planting the Seed. In Portugal, Maria taught on Preparing the Soil, Leona taught Planting the Seed and I taught Reaping the Harvest.
It was challenging to prepare for 2 studies but the things I learned from it were so good. I enjoyed all I learned about plowing and soil and how it applies to the work we are doing here in Padova. The Harvest teaching was challenging in some ways because at first I thought to talk only about the benefits of reaping-the joy of reaping and how all the hard work pays off. But, as the Lord often does, He takes us in a direction that is needed not only for those listening, but for those doing the studying. We did talk about the joys of harvest time, but we spent a good amount of time being encouraged that often times we do plow properly, we work hard planting, watering and tending and yet the harvest is not seen. How storms come and destroy the crop, how easily it is to want to faint-to give up because there is nothing to show for all the hard work. One interesting thing the Lord showed me is how we can go about hearing and saying things in our Christian life that simply isn't in the Bible. How many times I have heard in the past years that there is going to be a big revival before Jesus returns. Actually, in the Bible it says that people will turn away from the truth, they will turn away from the pure Word of God and head to places where their ears can be itched. As sad as this is, and it is very sad indeed, we are so shocked to find this turning away of the truth. We put pressure on ourselves to get more people into the church and yet we cannot say with one breath that we are in the last days and yet with another that we expect many to come to saving faith. Yes, with God all things are possible and yes, we desire that many more will be saved-but there is no guarantee. Peoples' hearts are growing colder and colder. Even those we once ministered with have chosen to go astray and enjoy their new found "liberties". So much compromise goes on nowadays and it is very grieving to watch. Let us remember that Jesus never watered down the truth-He never compromised the truth. I love the passage of Jesus talking to the rich young ruler-I use this example a lot. He told the man what he needed to do to be saved and the man walked away. The truth wasn't changed or compromised because Jesus felt sad for the man. We need to keep our sentiments in check.

What is due season? It is God's season-His timing. We must hold fast to knowing and trusting that He sees, He knows all that we do in His Name. I was reminded that a new fruit tree doesn't bear fruit in the first couple years. But that doesn't mean that something isn't being produced in the tree. The same is true in building the church. It takes time and it's not usually our timetable.

For the past six months or so we have been so frustrated, sad, and exasperated. We had our new building and just figured that the people who didn't like Saturday nights would be thrilled to come back and join us Sunday mornings. What a let down!! What an enormous let down! We had really placed our hope in that. I can't even explain in words what was going through our minds at the time. We felt like complete failures and that is not an exaggeration.

God has been the lifter of our heads. He has brought some sweet people into our lives and into the church. We are so thankful for the young couples who are now coming along side the work here and have gifts of worship, evangelism and other things. They were the answer to a fleece that Jim had put out before the Lord a year ago. God is faithful to answer us even when we sense the need to be like Gideon and put out the fleece.

We are not hip, we don't have any flair about us and we have nothing but Jesus to offer people. Preach the pure Word, be an example, hold fast to what you have learned, don't compromise for the sake of getting people in the door. Remember the church of Ephesus. It was a thriving church at one time....there is no church in Ephesus any more. The apostle Paul himself pastored there!!! Do I want to sound depressing? Absolutely not!!!! Do we just throw our hands up and say 'oh well'? Of course not!! We remain steadfast in prayer, praying always for the lost, for people to come to a saving knowledge of Christ, seeing how to best use the gifts and resources God has provided. But, there is a reality in all of this. There is a sad reality that hearts will grow colder and colder as we draw nearer and nearer to the last days. Let us not be shocked by this! Grieved yes, shocked no!! Sadly, this is the truth!!! Therefore, we must encourage one another to stay true to the course. Will we start to lose friends? I imagine so-but we will gain more and more of Christ and after all, isn't that what it is all about?

In the midst of trials and questions, God puts a song in our heart. Not too long ago I was singing a chorus of praise to the Lord and decided to share it with Jim. We put the words down on paper and he added to the words and put a sweet melody to it. The verse in Habakkuk is one of my favorites for ministry. For me it is about trusting God when nothing seems to be happening. The second verse is meaningful for Jim as it was the verses God gave him in his very early Christian days when all he loved at the time had walked out on him. The third verse is the hope we all have. We have the brokeness, the sacrifice and the eternal hope of glory. This my friends we must never lose sight of. If there is nothing else we can do, we must encourage one another in this truth.

This is just the real rough draft of the song so bear with us :) Jim is still working on some things and we want to have some of the gals we know join in with their beautiful voices. It's a bit long so hang on-he's still working on speeding it up a bit.

Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

He does remember

As you may have noticed I have not blogged in ages!! Been busy with lots of different things.
Tomorrow is Mother's Day and this morning I thought about all the women for whom tomorrow will bring sorrow. For some, their Mom has passed away and they won't be able to share the day with them. For others, it is a day they would rather not be reminded of because it brings pain. As I considered whether or not to write about this subject today, I went to read my OYB and sure enough the story of Hannah is the OT reading today. I took it as from the Lord to go ahead and share. I wept as I read it and yet rejoiced in how the Lord answered her prayer. I wept because for some, they read Hannah's story and there is still no "Eli". There is still no "and the Lord remembered her. How many hurting women are there who think the Lord has forgotten them and has not heard their pleas and their cries for a baby.
Growing up, the only thing I ever wanted was to be married and have children. I did go through a stage of wanting to be an airline stewardess (sure wish I was at times) but nothing ever mattered to me except to have a family. I wanted to be a wife and a mom so badly. Before I was married I ended up having about 7 surgeries for ovarian cysts. Cysts that burst and bled into my body causing problems which resulted in having to have them surgically removed. Some were so infected that it resulted in gang green which almost killed me at one point. A month after we were married I had another cyst and this time the doctor told me that everything needed to go. My insides were too messed up and there was no alternative. My heart sunk! I couldn't believe that he was telling me this. Up until that point, I still held out hope to bear a child. This was the worse news I could have heard. The night before the surgery, I remember reading from James about praying when you are sick and your prayer will be heard and you can be healed. My understanding of God's Word was not that great at the time, but to me, this was pretty black and white. I went into the operating room with the thought that they would open me up and a miracle was to take place and nothing would be wrong. The surgery was quite long and in the recovery room, the doctor said 'everything is good, the surgery was a success-some other things too, but by that time my mind stopped. At that moment I turned my thoughts against the Lord. I felt as though He had let me down and forgotten me. He was God and if He wanted, He could have done a miracle and He didn't. Someone from the church came to visit me-she worked with women who had difficult pregnancies. I didn't want to be near her, I didn't want to hear anything she had to say.
As the enemy would have it, my ears and eyes were in tune to every story of child abuse-every article about a drug addicted mother abusing her child, a parent murdering their child or abandoning their baby-I read them all, saw all those news stories. I grew more bitter by the moment. My thoughts towards the Lord were not good. I remember thinking how cruel it was that He let those people give birth and He knew what kind of parents they would be but He couldn't let me have a baby! Yes, I was that far gone in my thoughts!!
My sister-in-law asked me to please go to women's study with her some months later. I went and sure enough we passed around prayer requests. Wouldn't you know that I received one from a gal who wanted prayer for a 'healthy pregnancy'. Ashamed to say, but I ripped it up in the parking lot and that was the last time I went to women's study for quite some time.
Thankfully, the Lord never ever gave up on me. I can't imagine someone having these thoughts of such anger and bitterness towards me and then just forgiving them as He forgave me. It's truly amazing!
The Lord had another plan for our life. He blessed us with an amazing little girl. My life would not be the same without her. She never would be my daughter if I could give birth to a child and the Lord knew that way before time! It's not just that she needed a family, it is that we needed her. There is no way that I would change anything about God's plan. His ways are most definitely better than my ways, and His plans oh so much better than mine!
A couple years later, my sister in law called and asked if I would consider helping out in childcare for the women's ministry. I did and wouldn't you know the age group I had for 2 years was newborns!! It was a joy and I am thankful God gave me the opportunity.
My heart goes out to all the women who long to have a child. God remembered Hannah, He remembers you. I realize too that for some, you may never bear a child, you may never adopt a child. But, you have a role in a child's life. In the lives of nieces, nephews, kids at church-there are so many children out there who need love and hugs.
There aren't always the answers to questions we have. God never told Job why things happened in his life as they did. In the past I have found myself saying 'when I get to Heaven, I am going to ask God....." I am begining to think that when I get to Heaven I will be so amazed to be in the sight of the One who loves me and forgives me, who takes each tear and bottles it up-I won't really care about the answer anymore.
I pray also for anyone who has bitterness-a lot or even a little right now, that you hand it over to the Lord. He really does want what is best for His children. He doesn't withhold anything good from us even if we think at times He does. Don't look for Him to answer your prayer the way you have in mind-He might have a different plan. May God comfort you and bring a song to your heart that only He can!
Wishing everyone a blessed and Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

While the husband is away...

Well, Jim went to Hungary for a few days. Our car is still registered there and the motor inspection was due to be renewed. He loves going there and seeing all the people in Baja and it's a treat for him to be able to teach on Sunday while he is there. Baja will always have a special place in his heart. As for me, well, finding myself with no schedule and two cats, I was planning out what to do. That usually means furniture will be moved around and surprises await him when he gets home. Of course bruising and cuts and a few "I know I should have waited for you to do it because you are so much stronger than me but I couldn't help it". Sad to say, but the last time Jim was gone I decided to put together a wardrobe someone gave us...shall we say the whole thing collapsed on my legs and left swollen sores that took atleast a month to heal! I think I learned my lesson. The small guest/craft room really needs a going through. Stuff is all over the place-on the bed, on the floor, etc, etc. Empty jars and cans that I decided to save because-well, ya never know, I might need to use them for something find themselves sprawled in various spots of dressers and desks. It was a project I thought I would tackle this weekend......until.....I started looking online for ideas on how to organize the room. HA HA....and then I found myself in dreamland with all the options there are to this thing called organizing. I was tickled pink to find an idea for putting all your little odds and ends in-buttons, clips, etc. I had been using the jars, but this idea is even better. Take an old spice rack (which I happened to have in the cupboard) and clean out all the jars, pain the lids and glue cute little things on top of the lids: TADA: This was so much more fun than cleaning. I do think I should get some credit though because it is sort of organizing and all these jars are nicely arranged. The cool thing is that it swivels too :)

After patting myself on the back I decided I was in much too much of a creative mood to have to be dragged down with organizing and putting things away! That my friends will be saved for another day. Instead I wanted to make Spring come into my house. We have wanted to get some kind of entry table for the entryway. When you walk up the steps to our flat there is a big piece of wall there. We had a small bookshelf there but it never looked right. Well, in Jan, Jim was at a Pastor's Conf so I did a little more creating. I had two bottoms of a desk that were my sister's and mine when we were younger!!

Oh notice the sanded part-yeah, that was done when we lived in Vista and I had the idea that I was going to sand them and restain in another color. Ten years later guess what??!! I had the same idea! Put side by side these would make a great entry table. Jim even decided he liked the idea. Better than spending money on something new right now. Well, I waited and waited for the enthusiasm to overwhelm him and go to the paint store to get some stain and it just wasn't happening. A lightbulb went off in my head (yes that does happen every now and then) and I tore into the linen closet to find something to cover it. I found about 3yds of burgandy damask material I bought years ago at Walmart at their $1.00 a yard section and draped it over and pinned the excess to the back. It was very elegant looking, but too elegant for Spring. Today I found a light green tablecloth that either Sandy or Leona gave me a few years back and decided it would be perfect for now. "Is that all?" you may be asking yourself...of course not! I wanted to find things to put on the Springy table but was having a hard time finding the right things. Down to the garage I went....Oh my...what's that??? Pieces of wood and parts of cupboards tucked behind other pieces of things I have no clue what they are. Alas, I contourted my body in ways I never knew I could to reach these newly discovered jewels and smiled all the way up the stairs as I thought of how I could use them. This is what I came up with:

There were two little holes where the hinges or whatever would go so I thread some ribbon through it and put a flower in the center. I really like it!! Rose is going to bring some chalkboard paint for me so I am going to paint the inside part with that and write a verse on it. It's cool because with chalk we can erase it and put up new ones any time we want. I then found some clear vases and a candy jar and put them on the table-I want to go to the market and get some flowers next week and fill them with fresh ones. I found this wire frame a few months ago-just added some yellow ribbon to fit in with the decor. There are a few brown cupboards like this and I want to put one in our kitchen above the coffee area and hang a few cups on the end. I think it would also be neat to put a piece of cork in the middle and put pictures too....oh the possibilites are endless. If you went to the hardware store you can get pretty metal door pulls, put one on each side and you have a nice serving tray!!! Here's the finished look for now. I am not thrilled about it but it's much more inviting than before:

I attached some paper flowers to some sticks to spruce up the spare room too. It's our red, white and blue room. We have to keep our patriotism you know!! It's neat how just a little something can make a difference:

The sticks have been in the room since the holidays. I had it decorated for Christmas and then just decided to keep the white lights on it. I like sticks-they are free and you can do a lot with them!!

It was a little difficult at first as I was trying to think about moving things around and changing things to look like Spring. I realized I miss Ross soooooo much!!! Target too! I got a wee bit depressed as I looked around at my furniture I was a bit sad seeing that most everything is dented, scratched and mis-matched. I remember finding some things at Ikea in the 'slightly damaged' section and bringing them home. I sat there with all these pieces on the floor, instructions that might as well have been in Greek, and something that is supposed to be a screwdriver, a wrench or whatever you want to call it. So many people love Ikea!! It is a great store, but at the moment I just wanted to cry. All that came to my mind was that at 50 yrs old I didn't ever dream that I would be putting together my furniture in pieces. I never thought I would have mis-matched furniture or even live in an apartment, having to be careful that we don't make too much noise as to disturb the downstairs neighbors. Nope, that wasn't the life I had planned out for myself. But God knew what He had planned for us and it is oh so much better than I would have picked for myself. So, I don't have Ross or Target-but He has given me so much more. The people I have met, the lives that have touched mine and hopefully in return I have made a difference in others, the places God has allowed me to see-way beyond my wildest dreams. My parents have a timeshare and they would let us kids use it at times. When it was our turn I remember looking through the book of places to choose and didn't dare look at Europe because to me that was only a place where 'rich people' traveled. Oh how wrong I was!!! I remember watching The Sound of Music and never dreamed it possible that I would frolic those same hills..(do you like that word frolic lol) as the Van Trapp kids. What a privilege it is to be a child of God and live in the life He has planned out for us-all the while knowing that this place is not our permanent home-it's only temporary. And with that, I poured a glass of diet pepsi, went over to the computer, listened to this song and had a good cry. All better now :)