Monday, December 23, 2013

it's not too late...

If you have not celebrated Advent this's not too late.  Here are all four weeks of videos done by Ann Voskamp to help pave the way and prepare room in your heart for Him this Christmas.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

the heavens can't contain Him...

The heavens can't contain Him
Yet Mary held Him in her arms
Pondering the mystery in her heart.
He chose to come earth
In weakness and in strength
A living Sacrifice for you and me.

As I think about Mary and Joseph being able to hold Jesus in their arms, I am amazed.  Amazed that God allowed His son to come to earth to be our Savior.  Amazed that though the heavens couldn't contain Him, He was able to walk this earth.  He chose to be a Living Sacrifice for you and for me.  As the day of celebrating His birth draws near, I am in awe of Him and of who He really is and of what He has done for us.

The heavens couldn't hold Him
Yet, He lives within our hearts
Covering the whole earth with His love.
Without His hope as anchor 
I'd be lost on stormy seas.
His precious gift of life would not be mine.

Friday, December 13, 2013

holding hands in Paris....

Today we celebrate 32 years of marriage.  Thirty two years of joys and heartaches.  Thirty two years of memories. I am so grateful for the life we've shared...the good and the bad...the 'for better' and the 'for worse'. I wrote this poem one night after looking at photos from our travels this summer. It was such an incredible blessing to be able to celebrate our 50th birthdays holding hands and walking the streets of Paris.   

Holding Hands In Paris
I thought this day would never come
from house to home we've wandered far
Two hearts aglow with flame
Two hearts aglow with flame

You've always been there holding my love
safe in the palm of your hands.
Now side by side and heart to heart
We're holding hands in Paris.

I thought this day would never come
through stillborn love in the Kansas heat
Two hearts impaled with grief
Two hearts impaled with grief

You've always been there holding my love
safe in the palm of your hands.
Now side by side and heart to heart
We're holding hands in Paris.

I thought this day would never come
now here we stand now here we stay
Two hearts enthralled with joy
Two hearts enthralled with joy

You've always been there holding my love
safe in the palm of your hands.
Now side by side and heart to heart
We're holding hands in Paris.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

seeking, waiting, and hoping for joy

A gift born in a manger
A Bright and Morning Star
Joy came to the world that silent night
Enthroned in heavenly peace
Mercy wrapped in newborn clothes
Glory, Hallelujah, pure Joy is mine! 

Joy is deeper and more fulfilling than happiness.  Happiness depends upon circumstances or moods.  Joy, however, is able to sustain us through the darkest of  nights.  As we seek His face, as we wait on His touch, as we hope on His name...may His joy fill us, renew us, and restore us day after day.  May pure Joy be ours during this season of Advent and throughout the New Year.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

A friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook of this holiday treat.  It's a simple recipe in theory.  All you do is melt the chocolate and sprinkle crushed peppermints on top. I know, I didn't pulverize all the candy.  I left some of it in chunks...I liked it that way!!  

I had some white chocolate here at home I decided to give it go.  But, then I read about how difficult it is to melt white chocolate.  Since we don't own a microwave my first attempt at melting white chocolate had to be done using the double boiler method.  It seized up on me because some water got into the chocolate. Thankfully, Google helped me figure out what to do... so I followed the advice to add small amounts of butter until it was back to the right consistency.

I only made a small batch for my test run but it was too rich for Tom and I to finish it off in one sitting.  So it had to be stored in the fridge because the chocolate gets very soft if left at room temperature here in Belize. I will be trying this again.. it was very tasty!!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

a simple advent tree...

I do plan to have an actual Christmas tree...but for right now...I am keeping it simple.  

As the celebration of the Birth of Christ approaches, I am Seeking, Waiting, and Hoping.  I am seeking a deeper connection with the True Spirit and meaning of Christmas, I am eagerly waiting to see how that unfolds, and I am hoping for this season to teach me more about Him.  

In the Christmas carol, 'Joy to World', we find the words, "Let every heart prepare Him room".  O, how I long for Him to find that there is indeed room in my heart for Him.  As I seek, wait, and hope I am reading a couple of Christmas devotionals.  One of which is focused on Christmas carols and the other is focused more specifically on Advent using Ann Voskamp's latest book called, 'The Greatest Gift'.  These ornaments on my little tree came as a free download when I purchased Ann's book.  Each day there is a devotional thought, an ornament, and a verse to go with it.  

Living abroad and being so far from the rest of our family at Christmas time is hard.  As an empty-nester the holidays seem to magnify the absence of Nathan and Spencer all the more.  Mom and Dad (Tom's parents) will be coming to Belize to celebrate with us.  This will be our first Christmas with them since we left the states eight years ago. It thrills me a great deal to get to spend Christmas with family!  But, at the same time it will make Spencer and Nathan's absence all the more prominent as this will be our first Christmas with the grandparents without the grandkids being here as well.  

Following Mary's example of pondering things in her heart I am choosing not to meditate on my losses but on the blessings in these life lessons.  Our children are supposed to grow up and find their own places in the world.  When they get married they are supposed to leave and cleave to their spouses. And we have not been abandoned here... God brought us to this country for a reason.  He has blessed our efforts here in Belize.  We have a home, we have a church family, we have a growing ministry, and we have each other.  And along with the Birth of our Savior these are things worth ruminating on and celebrating!  

Monday, December 02, 2013

HOPE under construction...

Bethel Disciples International Church

not all of the outside walls are finished but the doors are beautiful!

There is a cross in the front of the church and at the back...

Jeremy and Jose setting up a makeshift screen for powerpoint...

It takes all of us to get things set up for the service...

just had time to take a photo of one side before the service started!

Our pastor is still out of the country but members of the congregation stepped up to fill in while he was away.  We were blessed by a word from our brother, Lemuel, yesterday!

The first candle of Advent is Hope.  We felt the Hope of this season as our church gathered for Sunday worship in this unfinished building. The church is just a shell right now and there is much to do before we move in to the space permanently.  A short term mission team is here from the states to do some work on this project and it was a blessing to have them in the service with us.  

During this season of preparing room in our hearts for the coming of Christ may we each seek eagerly after Him.  I trust that this Christmas won't be all about the gifts or lack thereof under you tree because no matter how much or how little you have He is the reason we celebrate!!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A very Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!

What are you grateful for today?!

If you're blessed to be with family today add that to your list.  For those of us living abroad these holidays separated from family can be hard.  We miss our sons, our parents, and our siblings but are so grateful to have a community of American friends that we can celebrate the US holidays with. Have a Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Psalm 107:1

Monday, November 25, 2013

End of Semester work...

Tom is grading homework and final exams! 

We had 35 students finish the semester.  It is exciting to see the changes in the students over the past six weeks.  And to hear about lessons that they've learned in class being implemented at their churches, organizations, and in their personal lives. 

The next semester begins in February...if you're here in Belize come on out and join us!
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

following hard after Him...

I read this verse earlier this week as part of a Thanksgiving devotional.  I'm still sorting out what it means for me to "follow hard".  Matthew Henry's commentary says that it speaks of "a very earnest desire and a serious vigorous endeavor to keep up communion with God".  And Charles Spurgeon says "we follow close at the Lord's heels, because we are one with Him."

My desire is to follow Him wholeheartedly, unreservedly, with determination

I want to be filled and saturated by Him.  

I want to worship Him with my whole being.

I want to follow hard after Him.  

My word for this year has been "Embrace".  Across the months my greatest lessons have been the most private and painful.  I've had to let go and grieve and I've had to embrace and accept. I suppose this is all a part of following hard.

As this year is winding down and I look ahead to the year that is coming I am setting new goals.  One of the things that I am looking forward to the most scares me and yet fills me with joy.  This too must be a part of following hard after Him.  I am learning that intimate communion with Him is the only thing that will carry me through each challenge that I am called to face.

Following hard is a calling.  
Following hard is a way of life.    
Following hard is a daily commitment.  

I know that I cannot accept this calling, embrace this way of life, or keep this daily commitment in my own strength.

The last part of verse 8 says "Your right hand upholds me".  Matthew Henry says "those that follow hard after God would soon fail and faint if God's right hand did not uphold them."  Isn't it a comfort to know that the divine power of God will hold us up and strengthen us as we determine to cling closely to Him and follow Him passionately?! 

May we experience the grace-filled strength of His right hand supporting us each step of the way!




Monday, November 18, 2013

Thanksgiving decor...


Had a burst of creativity this weekend while playing around with different fonts on my computer!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Our Thanksgiving Tree...

I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 9:1

 Years ago in the little church I grew up in we would be asked to give a testimony about what God had done in our lives over the past week. People would stand up and give a praise or sometimes they would sit and just shout them out.  But each week I heard something about God's goodness poured out on someone. This tree of ours is kind of like those testimonies.  We are giving praise to God for the big and the small things He is doing in our lives for the month of November.  

The tree is not fancy.  Just a branch cut from one of the trees in our yard.
I used the same branch for Easter.  (just click the highlighted words to see the Easter Tree.)

Some of the leaves are bigger than others but that is just so that I have room to write more when I need it. I made a template and then printed them out on various fall colors of construction paper.  Each day Tom and I talk about what we are thankful for. It's been a blessing to share with one another a bit each day and not save it all up for the holiday. And each time I look at the tree I am reminded of how good God is!

There is always something to be thankful for...
What are you grateful for today??

Monday, November 11, 2013

In honor of all who've served...

To my father and all the men and women who serve or have served in the United States Armed Forces.

I am so grateful for your service to our country and for all that you have sacrificed for our freedom!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Worship is...

This past weekend I watched this beautiful young Belizean woman worship God through praise dancing. There are so many ways to worship Him.  We can worship through dance, through song, through our giving, through the sacrifice of our time, through loving the unlovely, and so on.  Our lives can be lived out daily in a worshipful way. However God leads you to worship Him, do that.  

God put His breath into us and brought us to life. 
May we give Him back that breath in worship and adoration of Him.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Week 3 Course 1


 As I looked around the room while Tom was teaching all I could think of was how precious each one of these people are in His sight.  Age, race, religion, are all things that could segregate us from one another. However, dysfunction knows no boundaries and does not play favorites with one group or another.  How exciting it is that those called to be people helpers in this class come from various ethnic groups, cover a wide range of ages, and represent various churches found here in Belize.  What a joy it is to see such a such diverse group come together from around the country with the common goal of bringing hope and healing to others!

Please continue to keep Tom and these students in your prayers!!

Friday, November 01, 2013

Memories of St. Basil's Cathedral

In honor of All Saints Day I found these old photos from our trip to Moscow in 2007. 

I am still amazed at the places God has taken us over the past eight years.  Standing in Red Square that day I was overwhelmed.  As a child whenever I saw Russia on TV it was usually on the news.  And in black and white.  The vivid colors of Saint Basil's Cathedral are breathtaking in person.  And I feel so blessed to have been able to tour the inside that day with Spencer and his friend Andrew.   

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

balancing the ring...

Have you ever tried taking a photo like this?  For some reason I thought it would be easy.  I grabbed my Bible, took off my ring, and was ready to focus my camera.  It took me several tries to get this shot.  As I struggled to figure out how to make the ring stand up long enough to get the photo it reminded me of the importance of balance.

Relationships get out of balance at times.  You know what I person is doing all the work and the other seems to be checked out.  Or one person is ill and the other acts as caregiver. Or perhaps, it's the stage where kids are little and couple time is scarce.  We also get off kilter as careers are being built or as ministries are being established. It takes two people actively working to make a relationship successful. We've been spending time with couples lately.  From young couples preparing for marriage to mature couples struggling through a life trauma, the need for balance is fundamental.

I think the key to balance in marriage is found in the last part of Ecclesiastes 4:12
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  

God needs to be the third strand in the cord of our relationships.  Couples need His hand on the scale from time to time to stay in balance.  His intervention and grace can keep a marriage together when all seems lost.  

May we seek out balance in our homes, in our marriages, and in our lives.  May we look for ways to strengthen our bonds and put them into practice.  And may we keep God at the center of all our endeavors. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 2 Course 1

A few students from last week were missing but 5 new ones showed up.  That means 41 students are enrolled and we are busting out the seams of the classroom!  Tom taught on the development of Trust and it was such a great morning.  I loved seeing all the acronyms the students came up with for TRUST.  

My favorite was "Taking Relationships Under Serious/Spiritual Testing

We were also blessed this week by a Pathlight student who will be doing the video taping for the rest of the semester.  It is exciting to see different ministries coming together to help with the classes.  And we are thrilled that at least 11 different churches are now represented among the students.  Can you imagine what that means for the churches in Belize?! We pray that counselors are raised up that will help meet the needs of the church body and reach out into the surrounding communities as well.

Please pray with us that the students finish out the next four weeks strong.  Pray for Tom to be refreshed and renewed for each lesson.  Pray for each of the churches and ministries represented among the students. And pray for Belize Bible Center and all of the students attending courses there this fall. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

memories from a market in Kiev...

I vividly remember the day we were in this market.  I never got the nerve up to purchase meat from outdoor vendors.  I like to tell myself that meat comes from a supermarket already cleaned and nicely packaged!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

standing on the Rock...

He set my feet on a rock and gave me a safe place to stand. 
Psalm 40:2

There are days when I feel safe, secure, and stable in His hands.  And of course, there are days when I struggle.  I took this photo at the top of a 100 stair climb above a Hindu temple in Pune, India.  

While the rock itself was stable some of the steps were uneven.  Just as we began our ascent it lightly and briefly rained; causing the rock to feel slippery.  Upon entering the temple everyone had to take off their shoes. Which meant the only traction we had on those stairs were the soles of our bare feet.  With my head down I focused on firmly placing each foot squarely on the next stair persevering onward to reach the uppermost step. My reward was a panoramic view of the city; along with a sense of personal accomplishment for hanging in there to reach the top.

While reminiscing over photos from our time abroad this summer the above photo jumped out at me.  I was caught up in contemplating the journey onward and upward in Him. The path through the Refiner's fire has tricky spots to navigate.  Despite the fact that He is the firm foundation of our faith...there will be times when we struggle.  In these moments we need the Word to remind us that He is still there, watching over us, guiding us, directing us, even when we cannot see the whole picture.  

May we look to Him for the strength to take the next indicated step on the path.
And may we rest in the knowledge that He is indeed the Rock on which we stand.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 1 of Course 1...

On Saturday the Christian Counseling Course at Belize Bible Center started up again.  This class marks the beginning of the second group to start the two year program.  A handful of students were returning to pick up classes they missed during the first two years.  But the majority of them are brand new.  They represent different churches and different ethnic groups here in Belize.  Teachers, pastors, missionaries, homemakers, youth leaders, grandmothers, managers, children's workers, all came together because they want to grow and help others to grow and find healing as well. 

 36 students plus Tom and I were packed into the classroom of Belize Bible Center!

 Tom was excited to be teaching again!

And we are grateful for the provision of a camera so that we can now record the sessions...

It was great to see the small group participation and hear the lively discussions!

Pray with us that God will strengthen these students over the next six semesters and help them to finish out the entire course.  We look forward to seeing transformation in each of them and are excited for the future of Belize as each one reaches out to others in their various communities with the knowledge and insight they will gain! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

You know you're in Bangkok when...

I was going through my photos from my brief time in Bangkok with Spencer and I came across this gem:

The little figures on the sign cracked me up when I realized what they were for!!  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

behind the makeup...

Behind the makeup and the smile what is really there?  There are days when I have a smile on face but my heart is heavy.  Proverbs 13:14 assures me that I am not the only one who does this.

We are currently in the midst of a seminar on Aftercare for Survivors of Human Trafficking.  One of the myths about those who are being prostituted is that "they enjoy it or they wouldn't do it".  I cannot imagine anyone who would take delight in being used, violated, and demeaned day after day.  A woman being sexually exploited may be the one smiling and laughing to court her customers but that doesn't mean that she is not torn up and grieving her situation in life.

Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and rejoicing may end in grief. 
Proverbs 13:14

The clown in the photo is standing in front of the Eiffel Tower.  She seemed to be happy.  I sure was happy and absolutely filled with gratitude for each and every moment of our time in Paris.  I didn't ask this street performer if she was genuinely happy.  But, never again will I assume that a smile and a laugh are sign of a joy-filled life.  

May we let go of whatever mask we are wearing...
and may we find wholeness and compassion in Him.
And may those being exploited discover a way of escape
and find safety and comfort in His loving arms.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

from righteous anger to action!

Today Tom and I participated in Day 1 of a Three Day seminar on Aftercare for Survivors of Human Trafficking.  Our brains are filled and our hearts are motivated to glean from the expertise of others so that we might be more effective here in Belize.  

We are so grateful for all who feel called to learn and grow and help others as well.  It definitely takes a village working together to provide support and stability to those in need.  Keep us all in your prayers...we have two more long days ahead!!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

the power of friendship in marriage...

Good friendships are hard to find.
Good marriages seem even more rare these days.  

The word friendship makes me think of trust, mutual respect, and shared experiences.  A friend is someone you can be vulnerable with, someone who will tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear, and a friend is someone who will be there to support you when needed.  How many of us can say these things about our spouse?  I am so grateful that I can raise my hand and say, "yes" to that question.  

Tom and I found each other first as friends back in high school.  And second to our faith in God it has been our friendship that has carried us through some of the most difficult times in our relationship. Many times over the years though I was frustrated with Tom as husband; I still wanted to talk it over with Tom as my friend.  

Our 31 years of marital experience has led me to believe that a shared faith in God and a genuine friendship form the strongest foundation for marriage.  We've all seen couples who just don't even seem to like each other.  It is obvious by the way they speak to and/or about one another that they don't value each other as human beings.  Those types of couples are so difficult to be around.  But, a couple who truly values each other is a strong magnet that draws others towards them.  Those are the couples I want to learn from and spend time with.  

Becoming best friends in marriage is something that must be done intentionally. Wishing and hoping doesn't change the quality of a relationship but hard work does.  Perseverance, sacrifice, and prayer can all lay the ground work for a priceless friendship with your spouse.  I've heard about soul mates, twin flames, and such.  But to me, the most romantic, passionate, and endearing of all to be said about a married that they are best friends.