Feb 22, 2009

Home again....

I took my very first train ride this weekend. It was fabulous!  

Originally, the decision for taking the train was financially based.   I am so blessed that that was how God wanted me to get back home. I met some really interesting people, and had several opportunities to share about how the Lord is working and blessing my life.

I had some concerns about the trip home, mostly because I was allowing fear to control my thoughts.  Instead of trusting in God's plan and walking by faith and knowing that He is with me at all times. 
Thankfully, God showed me where I was headed with my thinking and as I prayed He gave me peace and reassurance. 

I arrived in Mt Pleasant a small town about 80 miles south of Cedar Rapids. This was the closest stop to Cedar Rapids. 

I thank God that Kathy was there to pick me up. I was exhausted and the thought of renting a car and driving home was not appealing.
Unfortunately, Kathy had to drive through a snowstorm to get me, but there she was! Sitting in the car, engine running....I was so excited to see her! 
Even better still, she had her grandson Ethan in the car. He is adorable and a perfect 'stand in' for my precious grandson Ben who lives in NY.

The drive home was full of catching up and laughter, it was such a blessing!
As we got closer to home, I was struck by how perfectly God's plan for my life has fallen into place as I walk by faith and allow Him to lead.

I am glad to be home....Cedar Rapids is home, at least for now. 
In a few weeks I will return to NY to visit family and friends...I will be returning to my first home.
Then in less than 3 months, Dondo Mozambique will be home, and how I long to return there and see the people who have become like family to me.

Home is where God places you and then blesses you with love, and a sense of belonging.
A sense of calm and peace.
It's good to be home....

Feb 20, 2009

Hellos and Goodbyes

Our last day at MTI has finally arrived.  
It is time once again to say more good byes. Is this ever going to get easier? Saying goodbye???

Why?  Why does God bless us with amazing people, allow us to love them, and then they are taken away? Why? 

Sometimes it's okay, you tell yourself, they were only casual acquaintances, or you knew going in that it would be only for a short time. You may not even allow yourself to 'get too close'.

 Yet sometimes, even when you knew they would only be in your life for 3 weeks, 5 weeks, you become so emotionally and spiritually connected that it physically hurts to say good bye.

The time here has been a wonderful mixture of emotions, relationships, people's stories, their lives shared, their love for Jesus and their willingness to die to self and serve our Lord. It is impossible to not fall in love with each one you meet.

It is with a very heavy heart that I will say good bye to my friends and wish them safe travel mercies, as well as praying that God will continue to bless each one of their ministries.

As I continue on my journey and walk in faith I will trust that the Lord does in fact have a perfect plan in place that includes each one of our hellos and goodbyes.

Proverbs 20:24  'The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way.'

Feb 16, 2009

Part of God's exact plan

Today has been one of those days you just don't want to see end!

As I wrap up my last week here at MTI, I was thinking it might be a rather lonely birthday.... okay so I can admit when I'm wrong....really wrong!

Actually, my Birthday celebration started yesterday as my friends from SPLICE arranged a surprise lunch after church at Famous Dave's...they have amazing barbeque! It was such a special thing for them to do for me. 

Little did I know what else they had planned....

From the moment I woke up to find my bedroom door strung with balloons and streamers, it has been simply the best!
Not a single person forgot to send me love and best wishes on my birthday.

My phone started ringing bright an early, text messages and emails came through out the day. I stopped checking during my break, there were too many! If I tried to read them all I would be late getting back to class!

Then my SPLICE sisters took me on a glorious road trip to Starbucks after lunch for some real  good coffee.  We got back just in time for class.

Just a quick trip to my room for my notebook....but no.... the guys had decided to 'WEB' my entire room!!!! there was string crisscrossing everywhere!!! What a riot!! I was feeling more like a college student than a grandmother!

Then at dinner, they come out with three large cheese cakes, everyone singing Happy Birthday!!! I was so touched by their many acts of love and friendship, I was thanking God and crying and blowing out candles, it wasn't a pretty site I'm sure.

Then we all sat around and sang praise and worship songs for over an hour! What better present could anyone ask for? I was in my glory! 
The only thing they couldn't do was arrange for family and friends to share in the love they were blessing me with.

Talk about a God filled day, and He had this day planned before any of us even existed.
Can you even fathom that? I can't.
God is so in love with us, He only asks that we acknowledge Him, and live our lives for Him.

Proverb 16: 9 We can make our plans but the Lord determines our steps. 

Taking a Sabbath

Sunday, I love Sundays.
I love singing songs of worship. I love hearing God's word explained by godly men.
I love that they are relaxed and slower days. Calm days with only one purpose, to allow for relaxation and restoration.

I didn't always love them. They used to be the day of the week when I would try to play 'catch up'. Get groceries for the week, catch up on the laundry, ironing, cleaning, plan meals for during the week. 
Rest would be somewhere in there and I would work hard to 'get a good attitude' as thoughts of Monday began to creep in.
 I would go to church to worship, but half the time my mind was thinking about ' as soon as church is done I have to....'

It's the truth, it's hard to actually talk about, but I thank God that He has already forgiven me for my bad attitude.

I say this because today was so unlike how I used to think and feel.
Today after a wonderful service, with great music and a powerful message referencing Plasm 95 about the 'engagement of worship' I was again reminded of how much my attitude has improved.

God has blessed me with an attitude of complete surrender to His will, His time frame, His plans, His 'to do list', not mine. Thank you God.

I pray that your Sundays will truly be a day of relaxation and restoration.

Feb 13, 2009

Depth of Faith

I remember when I first came to know the Lord as my personal savior, I thought now I have faith.  I  rested in it, I trusted that to be fact.
I did bible studies,  took discipleship classes, got baptized, read my bible everyday, I was growing my faith, right?
I was even more convinced that I had sufficient faith when Jimmy died. Because I know that my faith is the only thing that got me through that period in my life. 

Yet now as I look back, I question the depth of my faith. I wonder because in my heart I know I still doubted, I still worried. I didn't really and truly trust that God would or could take care of ALL my needs. 
I would say and do all the right things, but I also spent a lot of time trying to work things out on my own. Not totally trusting God's promises.
I guess I wasn't willing to accept the fact that I no longer had control over my life. I had agreed to give that control to my Lord. Yet I still felt compelled to 'help Him out' with the everyday stuff. 
 I spent a lot of unnecessary time and energy worrying about things I had absolutely no control over. I mean I really wasted some time! 
As God is daily showing me His mercy and grace, I am able to see with increasing clarity that faith is more than a word, or a thought. It's a way of living your life totally surrendered to the Lord's will. No matter what that might look like.

 I believe God increases our faith as we increase our unconditional love and trust in Him. As we walk in total faith and trust that He will provide for absolutely all of our needs.
Just this past week God has shown me, in multiple ways, how the depth of my faith is rewarded, by grace upon grace, blessing upon blessing.
I am so grateful that God was willing to wait until I could finally see that it's not at all about me, but it is totally and completely about Him.

Psalm 138 :1-3 'I give you thanks, O God, with all my heart, I will sing your praises before the gods. I bow before your holy temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed  by all the honor of your name. As soon as I pray, you answer me, you encourage me by giving me strength'.

Feb 10, 2009

Our Father's unconditional love

The past few weeks have been an incredible mix of emotions, prayers, questions, thoughts, ideas, and ultimately of calm reassurance.  As I look back over the last several months I can see where God has been setting me up for this season of growth.

Most of you know that I have experienced many changes in my life, but none as profound as the changes that have occurred internally...... my heart is changed.  

During my training at SPLICE,  we were assigned into small groups. I was one of six ladies in my group. Although each one was younger than I ( Kellie only by 4 days!) they all brought a gifting and a wisdom to the group.  I will never forget the powerful impact that their words and prayers had on my life.  God so blessed me with their love and support. Most especially He used them to show me that His love is unconditional.  
Thanks to their wisdom, I now see my Father in heaven as a loving and forgiving God. One who expects (and already knows) that I will mess up, but still wants me to sit at His feet and hear His words of affirmation.

The Lord has shown me who He wants me to be in Him. He has allowed me to understand with my heart as well as my head that His word is true, that He is ever faithful, that He will never let me go, no matter how often I fail.

It's always neat the way the Lord will bring a particular bible verse into your life, at just the right time.  As I have been processing all that He has been showing me, He was busy using the ladies in my small group to help me understand His unconditional love. 
Jenni, one of the women in my small group gave me this verse....

Psalm 62: 5-7  'Let all that I am wait quietly before God for my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone, He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me'.

I pray that each of you can wait quietly before God, and know that He is all you will ever need.

Feb 9, 2009

Diversion verses Necessity

I found myself here at MTI  all alone on Saturday. The SPLICE program ended on Friday, only  7 people  were staying over for PILAT, and they all had plans for the day. It was very weird, after living in community with so many people for 3 weeks, to then find myself completely alone. 

 As I talked with God and asked Him to keep me company this day, I felt His presence. It was then that I realized the date, it was February 7th, it would have been mine and Jimmy's 10th wedding anniversary. I wondered why God had allowed these exact circumstances for today...

It was then that my daughter Katie skyped me, and I shared with her what day it was. She asked 'how are you with that ?' I could answer 'it's really okay'. God was keeping me company today and I felt His peace and presence in my heart. Thank you Jesus.

It was another beautiful day in Colorado, and the trail behind MTI which is several miles long with an exquisite view of the Rockies was calling. So it was decided, I would take the trail and head towards town. There is a grocery store there, and I needed to pick up some fruit and stamps. Now I had a plan and I knew it would take most of the morning to accomplish.

As I walked the trail I noticed that the dirt reminded me of the roads in Mozambique, dry, sandy dirt. I started to think about the women of Mozambique, this trek that I was on today would be nothing to them. I started praying to God and asking that He would help me to appreciate all He has given me. 
I began to hear each step I was taking, with my hiking boots. I had sufficient clothing to protect me, sunglasses and a comfortable backpack to carry my supplies home in. Once again all of my needs were met. I had prayed for a diversion this day and God provided.

I started to cry when He brought the ladies of Mozambique to mind again. They walk this far everyday, sometimes twice a day, not 'for something to do' but because the need to survive. They need to feed and take care of their families.   

I pray Lord that each day You will help me to be thankful for all that You provide. 

Feb 8, 2009

My Travels

Hi friends, I pray that you will be patient with me as I begin to blog.
This has been on my heart to do since I was in Mozambique last summer. It seems like an efficient way to keep those of you who are interest in my life, up to date.

So let me give you a brief review. Most all of you know that the day after Thanksgiving I relocated to Cedar Rapids Iowa. I took my car with my clothes and drove across New York, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. That alone was quite a feat for me. Fortunately the kids had talked me into buying a GPS. I call her Ester, she goes everywhere with me:)
 I have been sharing housing and expenses with my friend Kathy. You know her as the lady who got malaria. She and I shared housing in Mozambique and became dear friends.  Little did we know that while living life in Dondo, we were being prepared to live life in Iowa  as well.  So as we have been living, learning and stretching these past few months God has shown Himself to be ever faithful.

In January we did a bit of traveling first to Texas for the annual CRI board and staff meeting, then we turned around and headed to Colorado Springs. This is where Mission Training International is located. We just completed 3 weeks of cross cultural studies. This included stuff like conflict management, communication skills, and the multiple differences  between cultures. It was an intense 3 weeks that had a huge impact, not only mentally and physically but spiritually.
I am still in Colorado Springs, I have another 2 weeks of Language Acquisition Studies. This means that the trainers are going to teach me 'how to learn' to speak Portuguese.  
We shall see....