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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Wilderness

"Thank you for the wilderness
Where I learned to thirst for your presence...
If I'd never known that place
How could I have known You better?"

This song comes from Elevation Worship called "Great Things" (Worth it All). 

I am in the wilderness right now. Not knowing or understanding the road He has me on. I am in new territory.

He is answering a prayer I have been praying for a long time... for my Jesus, my Lord and Savior to be the center of my marriage. My husband, Bob and I have been on separate paths on our journey with our Savior, and now our paths are merging together. While this has been a prayer of my heart for a long time... Merging our walks is hard. It is painful. It is so uncomfortable and I know super uncomfortable for Bob. 

My husband is going through uncharted waters. The Lord is revealing things in Bob that he never thought was an issue, and as he has been wrestling with this storm that has come and rattled him to the core... Bob has turned to the Lord... truly seeking God like he never has before sought after something. Let me tell you satan has taken notice and the evil one has made his presence known. So as Bob is learning to lean on the Lord through these new emotions and feeling... he has also been fighting the deceiver.

"For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush satan under your feet. The grace of your Lord Jesus Christ be with you." Romans 16:19-20

I started writing this blog in the middle of this life-changing event and I stopped... I stopped writing because this change I have been praying for for so long was starting to involve me more than I ever thought it would. I didn't realize the prayer I was praying for my husband ultimately included me. LOL! But I guess when you are married and you become one in flesh then of course it will involve the other half. 

All different kinds of emotions took over one day. I was mad, I was sad, I was distraught over what was going on with my marriage that I thought was good... I literally cried, sobbed out to my Father that I needed Him. I wasn't literally on my face, but I was in an uncomfortable place... A place where I had never cried out to my Father before... I was in the arms of my husband. Right then and there our Father in Heaven met me... He met me right in the middle of the unknown, the ugly tears, and the hardened heart... And He said "I am here...". This most amazing ginormous amounts of peace and comfort flooded over me and He took it! He took the anger, the sadness, and the feeling of not being able to go any farther... He took it and He lifted me.

Ever since that day the Lord has been so evident and alive in our marriage... In a way He never has before. My family is being transformed, because of the desire for His closeness and through our obedience. I have prayed for my husband for  about 8 years... And now... His faithfulness floods in like water after a dam breaks... And we are overwhelmed by His presence. Completely transformed (not perfect) because of His presence.

I feel myself drawn to Him more and more seeking the Lord in everything... knowing and believe He can accomplish anything that is in accordance to His plan. I know He can conquer anything, because I have seen a transformation and I have prayed and I have seen a prayer answered and a miracle that no human could have performed on their own.

Saturday, Bob and Hailee were both baptized. The Lord moved in Hailee's heart this summer during VBS and she decided she was going to follow Jesus no matter what and was ready to tell the whole world. Then Bob, through all the crazy changes and searching he decided it was time to recommit his life to Christ. So, Bob and Hailee took the plunge together and what a beautiful memory that will be for both of them forever! I will say satan has tried many things to keep Bob far far far away from getting closer to Jesus and he is still trying to intervene, but Bob knows and experienced the power of Jesus first hand and wants nothing more than for Jesus... nothing more than the power of our living Savior to conquer and to heal the many emotions and feelings he is struggling with. To God be the glory and the power forever and ever.

Pastor Jon just got done baptizing Bob. Bob came up with the biggest grin.
From Bob: I am so thankful that Sterling and my paths are merging. Satan really took hold of me quickly and without warning. Thankfully I didn't have to face this alone. I turned to the Word, leaned on Sterling, and sought help from my Pastor at our church. This is a whole new bright world and I am loving it!

Psalm 42
"As the deer longs for streams of water,
    so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
    When can I go and stand before him?
Day and night I have only tears for food,
    while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
    “Where is this God of yours?”

My heart is breaking
    as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
    leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
    amid the sound of a great celebration!
Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged,
    but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
    from the land of Mount Mizar.
I hear the tumult of the raging seas
    as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
    and through each night I sing his songs,
    praying to God who gives me life.
“O God my rock,” I cry,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
    oppressed by my enemies?”
Their taunts break my bones.
    They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”
Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!"
 
 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Day 7 Peacefulness

"Peace that transcends all understanding." Philippians 4:7

Today I met the most peaceful man. A man, who would throw his life in front of yours if it was threatened. I man, who does not see violence as the answer. A man, who wants to be reunited with Syria, his country and his family. This man we met today is Muslim and we sat in his house hearing about how he would treat us if he was home or had the money to afford an elaborate meal. He is a fancy man, who was dressed very nice in his kefia (head dress) and a galabeya (robe). 

When you think about Muslims you might feel anxiety, fear, maybe emotions you can't describe... But if you have any ill feelings about Muslims he would change your worldview. It is not Muslims who are evil it is the teaching of the violence in Islam. Don't get me wrong... that man of peace is Muslim, but he does not practice the evil. Does that make sense?


I have been think a lot about peace and the lack of it in the states. I can't explain to you the feeling of most of the homes we visited here in Jordan that filled a room with the very presence of peace. I can only think of a few homes in the states that truly have this peaceful feeling. These Iraqi and Syrian families have been forced to leave their homes leaving all possessions behind... And after so much turmoil they still exuberate this peaceful aroma. The only way I can explain this perfect peace is because of Jesus... This peace that transcends all understanding.


The Lord has been teaching me a lot on this trip and he has been widening my peripheral vision to show me things I never noticed before. I have been asking Him to teach me and show me everything He has revealed and how to apply it and live it out when I get home. I want my jar of alabaster perfume to be broken and spilt, so the only thing people will see and smell is Jesus. I want the biggest thing people remember about me is the way I carry my cross, the way I serve, and the way I permeate Jesus through my life.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Day 6 Can You Imagine?

 
 
Can you imagine being happy, having a nice normal home with your family. You have a good business that takes care of all of your families needs. You have friends and family surrounding you. One day you hear about horrible people in a nearby city threatening innocent people with guns and they take all the innocent wives and young girls to do whatever they want with them and sell them for 100 dollars. You hear this and begin to become scared for your lives and your families lives. You consider leaving, but you hear from the military that you should not leave and that you will be safe. So you trust them and believe what they say. Then you begin to hear more stories of what these horrible people are doing and you hear they are moving closer to your city. You decide to leave in the middle of the night when none of the military will know and you plan an exit strategy with other families and the whole town is deciding to do the same thing. You leave in the middle of the night and there are about 40,000 people in the streets fleeing just like you. 40,000 people! Kids, the elderly, some disabled, women, men all trying to seek safety. You have to sneak and be very quiet, because if you are heard you could get shot and killed! All you want is to get your family to the city of safety ASAP! Children and women are crying, but you have to be quiet. You get to safety and you have to leave all your possessions outside the security gates and you go in to find a place to rest your head and there are people everywhere! You end up finding a spot for your family on the street, so you lay down the few blankets you brought in to the city. You sleep outside in the cold nights for one whole month! One whole month of sleeping outside when you were just sleeping in a nice house with a roof over your head and a warm bed to snuggle up in. You are devastated and still fear ISIS will attack! You finally get placed in Jordan, your temporary home for who knows how long... With nothing! The shirt on your back and maybe a couple of pictures or whatever you could carry in a bag. That's it! Now you wait... And wait... And wait... And wait... And wait... You are waiting to hear from the United Nations... Waiting to find out where your new permanent home will be. But as you wait you can not work. There is nothing to do while you wait... Not enough food to eat or snack on... You worry about EVERYTHING! How will I pay my rent? How will I buy the next meal? How will I pay for that doctor visit? How will I pay for that surgery? Will my family and I ever have peace again? Will my family and I ever be happy again? Etc.


This is it, friends! Over 4 million refugees have experienced everything I just had you imagine or worse! Over 4 million people are feeling this type of pain that can not be described into words and everytime I walk into one of these families homes the Lord allows me to feel a tiny bit of their pain. And just by that tiny bit of pain I cry, because I could never imagine that type of pain in a whole.

This trip has been emotionally hard on me. It has shaken me to a new level. A type of sadness and grief I ever never experienced. But you wanna know the amazing part that makes me fall to my knees and give praise to the God of the Universe... He has brought them to safety, protected them, and He is more alive in their lives and ever present, because of their devotion and belief and faith that their Jesus would bring them through the storm. It may not be perfect and they are still grieving and sad, but they know they are not alone in this and God is fighting for their lives. For me their is nothing greater!


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Day 5 Sanctity of Life

I will be honest... Before the Lord started sending me abroad I didn't have any clue on the importance of human life... I mean I did, but I didn't. I had no clue of the enormous lack of dignity for the human life around the world. As I have traveled I have learned many things new every trip. This time my horizons have been broadened even more.

I am simply blown away by ISIS! (not in a good way) I know we have all heard stuff on the news and we have our own views on it all, but I (we) have heard the pain from the very lips of the victims. ISIS somehow has no sense of humanity and that I can not wrap my mind around!

I have seen pictures and heard stories of people... Men, women, babies getting blown up or being shot point blank, because they have different ideas or thoughts about things, different religion, or simply ISIS wants what the other person has and they shoot them point blank. Can you imagine having a gun pointed and pressed into your forehead while being yelled at? I simply cannot.

This is the kind of people we have met this trip. This is the kind of stories we have heard over and over and over. And you wanna know something... It kills me everytime!


This man, Peter use to work for the United States Army as a translator when the U.S. were stationed in Iraq. Peter is very proud of the work he did along side the U.S., but once we left he had to find a new job to pay for all his bills. He started working for himself and making BBQ food. The police came to him and said he was Christian and he could not work and feed Muslims, so they ruined his business and they destroyed everything. Peter picked up his destroyed BBQ stand and repaired it and started again working and selling BBQ. The police found him again and began to ruin him... They beat the living life out of him... They broke his hand, arm, teeth, face, etc. he then decided he must leave Iraq. If you ever get the privilege to meet this guy he is the sweetest kindest gentlest man. 

The other day he was leaving our compound and I said "I'll see you tomorrow!" and said probably not, but two days passed and he was here waiting for us when we returned home last night. He longed to be reunited with us and it was our desire to see him as well. Last night a group of us went on a walk I asked Peter to come along and he did. He showed me a picture that was on his phone and it was a picture of a man. I said to Peter "He is very nice looking." (I know odd and random but I usually say what I am thinking) Peter said "Yes, he is. He died yesterday. ISIS killed him." I was shocked and sad for Peter, because I knew this hit him deep. He said "He was a good man." I asked why they killed him and he said "Because he fought against ISIS." I tried to come up with words, but I couldn't. I told Peter I was so so sorry several times. I mean what do you say? He was sad, but maybe numb. 

My heart is aching, because this is what every Iraqi and Syrian refugee are going through (and other refugee ethnicities).  I just don't have words for this pain and sadness I feel for my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Day 4 Full of His Goodness




Last night was a little crazy... Not for me or Omar... But for everyone else... They were up late! LOL! It is 7:27am and I have been the only one up for the last 45 minutes. LOL! And I didn't even go to bed early... I turned the lights off a little past midnight. 


The Lord has been ever so faithful in connecting hearts and personalities. And to this sweet gift I am thankful. If you are reading this and have a child here in Jordan or know one or two or more of these kids with the team... They are beautiful! They are compassionate. They are loving. They are funny. They are precious. They are getting it!


I wasn't sure when I signed up for this trip how the chaperoning part would go, but it has been a blessing. They have been referring to me as the mom of the group and even though I am way to young for that crazy talk... I have taken it as a compliment and grateful they see me that way. I love these kids... I know when this trip is over we will be bonded forever.

The Lord is good and ever so faithful.


Today was fun! We headed to Moab and saw The Greek Orthodox Church of St. George that dated back to the 6th century. The church had a beautiful mosaic map of the Holy Land, Jordan, and Egypt excavated in 1880's. We got to do a little shopping today as well!


We then went to The House of Ruth where we ate lunch and had some fellowship. The House of Ruth provides English classes, sewing classes, and computer classes for refugees in the community. This kind of ministry brings so much joy to my heart as they are given skills and something to keep their mind busy. The House of Ruth is such a beautiful place! 


Then we headed to Mt. Nebo. Mt. Nebo is where God told Moses he would not be able to enter into Israel with the Israelites, but God allowed Moses to see the Promise Land. It was beautiful! Standing on this mountain you could see the Dead Sea, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, the Jordan River, and so much more. 


After our visit to Mt. Nebo we went to visit 2 families... One was a Syrian Refugee family, who is Muslim (starting to love Jesus) and the other was an Iraqi Refugee family, who is Christian. Such pain and death has completely destroyed the hearts of the families, but the most awesome thing is God loves ALL of us... Terrorists, Muslims, Palestinians, ISIS, Christians, and the list goes on. He is moving amongst the ones that have felt and experienced unfathomable pain. The Lord God almighty is bringing healing, peace, comfort, and justice.
 

"I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hands of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt. We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant." Psalm 123


I know and continue to learn that it is our duty to live as Christ has shown us. He has shown us through teaching and leading His disciples on what He expects and He very openly and plainly put it out there. Go and serve! Don't wait for God to speak to you on a yes or no, but simply serve and trust in His guidance as you say YES! He will ever so faithful shut that door if His answer is no. Without trust in God and the faith that is indescribable, my brothers and sisters in Christ her in Jordan would not be getting to know these families, who so desperately need peace and comfort. That's what it is all about... I really doubt God would say no to love and compassion that is an overwhelming need for His precious beloved that He longs for.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Day 3 was the Day of Babies


Oh my y'all... I had the best sleep last night since beginning this adventure! Yes, I had some help from my friendly sleep-aid, but it was good! Praise the Lord for rest, a cool room, comfortable bed and comfortable comforter, and a shower.
My thoughts this morning have instantly gone to Janan, who we meet yesterday. I am thinking of the pain in her heart and asking the Lord over and over to heal it and to take it from her. She has a disability... Physically and mentally. She does not need or deserve this pain. I believe He can overcome this pain and I expect it.

"At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth. He unleashing his lightning beneath the whole heavens and sends it to the whole earth. After that comes the sound of his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice. When His voice resounds, he holds nothing back. God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding."Job 37:1-5


I was devastated this morning. Completely surrounded by grief. My heart was so very heavy! But the Lord is good and brought me comfort and peace through babies. Babies were surrounding me all day... Life was surrounding me. The Lord reminded me of His goodness and provision for the Iraqi families we have met this far. He brought them out of their Christian city called Mosul... To safety in many different ways. For example... The older lady and her blind daughter that I shared with you yesterday left their home before ISIS came... This women had this desire to leave (in fear of her life and she could not convert to Islam), because she loved Jesus and she would not deny Him. She knew it was probably impossible, because she was old and her daughter couldn't walk, but she trusted her Lord and Savior.  He provided an exit through a man driving a big truck and he hoisted them up in the truck and took them to safety in a cemetery, where they would stay for 2 months under a brush arbor... Then a Priest came and provided a way for them to Jordan. I mean... If that isn't God then I don't know what is! There are so many stories of fear as they fled for their lives and then God coming to the rescue and pulling them out of the pit with His right hand. 


Then he reminded me of life through babies. Usually babies stare at me and don't come over and play with me, but they did today. I took this as a gift. A gift to heal the hurt I was experiencing, so I am going to leave you with pictures and the joy I experienced.









After lunch we went back to Miriam (old ladies house) and Janan's house to bring them food, chocolate (for Janan), and an ace bandage and a boot for Miriam's broken foot. It was a blessing visit as we got to love on them and help with some needs.
 








Finally I end with the fun of the night.








Thursday, July 9, 2015

Day 2 was the Hardest I Have Ever Faced

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not blow snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope." Isaiah 42:1-4


I have started a Bible study called "Everyday Servant" that my good friend, Jackie Hooks wrote and it is good! I have been thinking about how I serve and how I don't serve that well. LOL! But through my travels I have learned by example of what a true servants heart looks like. I have seen wives putting there husbands before themselves and loving them in the way a husband feels respected and loved, I have seen young women serving her mother-in-law, father-in-law, husband, children, and guests in a way of graciousness and humbleness, and I have seen such obedience through faithfulness in Jesus Christ that it pours out of the person as they serve like Christ. This is who I want to be more and more like... To lower myself in such a way to put others above me. To make every person I come in contact with to feel important and that I see them as the life they were created to be.


Our first home we visited to day was amazing! This older man, who had this amazing surrounding nature of peace greeted us outside and led us to his house. He lives with his wife, 2 boys, and daughter. Back in Iraq he had a plumbing business that his 2 boys worked a long side of him, he had 2 homes (one he lived in and the other he rented out for extra income), and he had land that he grew crops on. All of this ripped away from him! But this man has Jesus. He has Jesus in such a way that we as Americans can't even comprehend. He fled for his life and saved his family before the torment of ISIS came upon them. I can't get over this peace him and his family had... It was so beautiful. 



The second family we visited were a Muslim family, who just lost their 5 year old daughter. The daughter died from brain cancer. The mom was sitting on a mat on the floor, in full burka, wrapped in a blank, and as sad as could be... I could feel her sadness and mourning as soon as we waked into the room. She sobbed and says she asks God to remove the thoughts of her daughter from her memory. I cried with her, because I can't even imagine the anguish her heart is going through. I told her that I know I cannot even know the pain she is feeling, but I do know how much she is loved and how precious her life is... I told her not to give up, because she has so much more life left. The ladies in our group all laid hands on this sweet lady and just prayed over her.


The third family we visited with the husband just had kidney laser surgery yesterday. They shared the struggle of finances and the struggle of the life here. Our translator shared with us that the mom/grandmother was angry with God. She is angry that He has let all these horrible things happen to them... People who trust and faith in the Lord God almighty. I shared my story on how the Lord provided and transformed me when I was diagnosed with Skin Cancer and Omar shared a story about a lady who hid Jews back in WWII. I hope it brought them some comfort. So after some talking they showed us this thing the grandmother made out of a rice bag... She made a back washing loofah thingy. They were actually snazzy, so we all bought one and paid her... She did not want the money, because I think she was giving it to us as a gift... But if you work and do something shouldn't you get paid for it?


This was a hard morning/afternoon... We came back to base and ate lunch. This is the time we all try to comprehend what happened and how do we even wrap our minds around what we just heard and learned.


After a little break it was time to go back out and visit precious people. We were on our way to the next family when we went around a round-a-bout our driver waved at a man driving a delivery truck to follow him. I didn't realize what was going on and Rami, our driver kept saying this is special family and I can't even tell you about them... You will have to see for yourself. We get out of the car and the delivery truck was behind us... Rami was having a refrigerator delivered. We walked in the house and an old woman greets us... Then we walked into a room and a woman is sitting on the bed, whose name is Janana. She was blind with brain damage and couldn't walk... She sits all day in one spot bored out of her mind. Her mother is the older lady, who is 70+ years old and cares for her daughter. Just the other day she lifted her daughter up to take her to the shower to bath her and the mom slipped and broke her foot. (Side note- mom and daughter are both heavy) They both cried and cried and cried about the grief and pain they have gone through. Janana would just start crying out of no where thinking of the pain and turmoil she has gone through all through her disability. My heart is extremely hurt by their pain. I cry for them, but I know He sees and hears every single tear and prayer. Brande (one of my team members) and I prayed over this mom and daughter while everyone else worked on getting the fridge set up. It was an amazing Holy Spirit moment... As we were all sobbing I felt His warmth and presence. I can still think of Janana and start crying... My heart will forever be connected to them.


One more thing before I sign off... Iraqi people are very kissy! Everytime you walk into the house and leave the house you will shake the woman's hand and kiss 4 times on the cheeks (2 times on both cheeks). So my favorite kissing was with Janana! We were saying goodbye and I leaned down to hug and kiss... Janana grabbed me hugged me and kissed the heck out of one of my cheeks and I was smiling and laughing which made her smile and laugh... So we left each other laughing. Priceless end to a hard day!


"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Day 1 of the Beginning in Jordan

Morning blessings: hot water, A/C, pleasant attitudes, Spark (coffee for my fellow friends), breakfast, Wifi, 4 a.m. call to prayer, thankful to be here, safety on travels, same calling for everybody to be here.


Today is the beginning of Ramadan. A month long Muslim holiday. They fast from 4am to 8pm... Well we found out today that it is disrespectful to eat or drink in public and more than that it is a law to not eat in public during 4am-8pm. So it has been hard today as we have been out in public and not able to drink or eat. With the heat here and in and out of some warm houses we really need to drink, but we are restricted and our eating is all off schedule as well, because lunch wasn't until 2:30pm today and dinner won't be until 8:30pm tonight... So I will tell ya I was feeling a little shaky while we were out visiting families. But God was faithful and provided us with tea and water at homes.

Before we left this morning we packed the bags we would take to the refugees and in the bags were 3 cans of beans, 1 large can of chicken spam, 3 packages of spaghetti noodles, 1 package powder milk, 2 tomato paste cartons, sugar, tea, 2 ramen like noodles, grains, lentils, tub of cheese, dry beans, olive oil, and rice. We ended up packing 150 bags that we will distribute to families these next 10 days. 

So we packed the bags, then we went out into 4 teams and visited 2 homes before lunch. Let me just say we can't even relate. There is nothing we can do. We sit and listen to the heart break of what ISIS has done... To steal, kill, and destroy. The first family we went to visit had 3 different families living in this home and they all had separate stories on how ISIS took and destroyed their lives. I can't even re-tell their stories (or any of the stories I heard today), because I can't describe to you the emotion that was shared and felt. Families have had everything taken from them such as a home that they finally had enough money to actually buy (and not rent anymore)... Ripped from them, families being torn a part through death... Actual death caught in pictures of the brutality, beatings that happen simply because who ISIS was looking for was not there, heart ache of a man who has had his dignity stolen from him. This is just to name a few... And through all this these families demonstrate an unfathomable kind of joy. The kind of joy only found through the power of the cross.... The hope and protection of Jesus Christ. They cried and laughed all in the same breath... How do you even describe that?

The pain is indescribable. I can't even go through the 3 other encounters/families we met. So I will end with a few pictures...