Sunday, July 27, 2014

When Life Doesn't Turn Out How You Planned or Hoped

I have sat down to try and write this several times, but just couldn't. It has just been too fresh & overwhelming.

For those of you who don't know me personally, I am from a big family. I have 15 brothers & sisters. I am the oldest & have one biological brother. When I was 9 years old, my parents began to adopt other children. Lots of people have asked me what I thought about it, has it been hard, would I go back and change anything, etc. And I will answer that later.

Growing up in a family that big was definitely an experience with many fun times and many hard ones. As each child became part of our family, whether a baby or a teenager, boy or girl, my heart stretched a little bigger as love grew and I accepted each of them as a real brother or sister. There were many children that my parents were asked to take in that they had to say "No" to and yet others that the Lord led them to say "Yes" to. And I believe with all my heart that each of them were chosen specifically for our family. Over the next 12 years, 14 precious people were brought into our family.

Over the years, one question has been more common than all the others- "How did your parents do it?" I have wondered that myself actually. I really have wondered if they were the real Superman & Wonder Woman in disguise. What I do know is this. They got up ridiculously early in the morning to have time with Jesus & went to bed crazy late listening to everyone talk about their struggles.  I have watched them laugh, cry, triumph and be brought low. They have poured every ounce of everything they are into their children. They were Christ to us. They read us His word, taught us His ways, showed us how to live. They gave us all a chance at living a wonderful life for the Lord & gave us everything we needed to do it. They had wonderful plans for us & had every reason to believe that we would be mighty men & women for God. They gave up careers, friendships, money, comfort, sleep and countless other things for the sake of love. For after day.

But life hasn't gone as planned or as they hoped.

Almost all of my brothers and sisters have totally and completely walked away from Love. They chose to give into their desires & sin & are living lives completely apart from the Lord. They have broke my parents hearts. Said unimaginably horrible things, told lies about them, cursed them...the most recent one, within the last 6 weeks. A little girl that we got as a 1 year old baby. We have all loved her from Day 1. Now she is a beautiful 18 year old girl who walked out into the world and left my parents, family, & the Lord in the dust... Half of them, I don't even know where there are, how they are, if they have food or a place to sleep, if they are safe or hurts enough watching your brothers and sisters do this, but imagine being their mommy & daddy!

It is so incredibly hard for me to watch. WHY??? I do not understand. The very hardest thing for me through all of this is watching what it has done to my parents. Having their hearts broken over and over. Heart wrenching pain of betrayal, worry to the point that you're not sure you even want to go on. Dragging themselves out of bed day after day, keeping going, taking the next step, washing the next dish, preaching the next sermon, because that's all you know to do. The onslaught of pain hasn't stopped for years. It continues to this day. No rest. No pause. And still children in their home that they continue to pour out and love. They are the icon of faithfulness. As one leaves and they stand and watch their lives work walk away, they gather the ones still around in their arms and continue on in the calling God gave them so many years ago when a two little blond & red headed boys walked through our front door.

Their lives or the lives of their children have NOT turned out like they hoped or planned. We have had endless telephone conversations, tears & sobbing, feelings of failure. Hopelessness. The feeling of a life lived in vain..."Has anything we have done made a difference?"

But as I have told them many times, as I am sure many others have, our success in this life is not based on results. It is based on whether or not we are faithful & have obeyed what the Lord has called us to do. And, guess what? THEY HAVE! They continue to do so to this day. Day after day...

The Lord gave my mom a promise many years ago, that all her children would walk with the Lord. She clings to that promise and believes and knows that the Lord will keep it. Through tears, I have heard her remind me & herself of that promise, clinging onto His word for life!

What did I think about all the kids? Was it hard? Would I change anything? It was hard. There were times I didn't want to share my parents or my room or my stuff. There were times where I wished they wouldn't keep my parents' constantly occupied so I could talk to them too. But it was amazing too. We had so much fun together! As I said earlier, I believed the Lord chose each one of them so not accepting them just wasn't an option. I love each of them as my brothers & sisters and always will. And no, I wouldn't change it because I couldn't imagine life without them & God used them all in my life to make me who I am.

To my daddy and mommy, and the other daddies and mommies whose kids have gone astray-
YOU ARE A SUCCESS! You have obeyed. You have been faithful to what the Lord has called you to. You have given Christ to your children and given them a chance and all the tools the need to live a God-glorifying life. The results are HIS. Your lives have made a difference. There are people in the Philippines hearing about Christ & receiving Bibles in their language because you have been faithful. There are 3 precious little girls in Texas being raised for Jesus & their daddy & mommy living for Him in their community & church. There are thousands of people who have watched you walk through this pain & seen JESUS. You have shown them how to be faithful and there aren't many examples of that anymore. I love you both so very much. Your reward in heaven will be great!!!

So...when life doesn't turn out how you planned or hoped? You keep being faithful and obeying what the Lord has called you to because that IS success in God's eyes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Half A Decade of The Changeable & The Unchanging

July 2009
So today, July 8th, marks our 5 year anniversary of living in the Philippines. I think "half a decade" sounds better. Makes us sound more mature and wiser or something...(ha!)

When we said our goodbyes & tearfully walked away from our family, friends, & everything familiar, we boarded the airplane with high expectations & excitement as we moved halfway across the globe to a new world of jungles, islands, & oceans. Our babies were 4 and 2 years old. We experienced culture shock, a new language, and city life for the first year while we lived in the capital city of Manila to learn Tagalog. The view from our window changed from the rolling hills of a Texas ranch to the 9th floor of an apartment building in the one of the most crowded, smoggiest cities on earth. Instead of being in the majority, we suddenly stuck out like a sore thumb in a sea of beautiful, dark-skinned, dark eyed people.

July 2010
But slowly & surely, with the Lord who called us always there, "home," in our minds, became less and less the place we had left and became more and more our new island country in the Pacific. Our "normal" changed. The way we looked at things changed. Our expectations changed.

After a year in Manila, we packed up once again and moved to the island of Palawan which has been our home for the last 4 years. We have flown the airplane on hundreds of flights, bought cargo, flown in Bibles, visited the missionaries in the remote locations, learned the language of Tagalog, homeschooled our kids, had 3 people live with us, had lots of people over, & clung to the Lord with every ounce of our being.

July 2011
We have had glorious moments- witnessed people come to Christ, read His Word in their own language for the first time, attended baptisms & weddings, moved people into new villages, laughed & celebrated with friends, & seen the fruits of years of labor.

July 2012
We have had hard moments- gone through water shortages, power outages, been unappreciated & talked about, have dealt with hard news from home, seen people hurting, people die, devastation from typhoons, felt very lonely, and often lost our vision.

One day, you feel so encouraged & the next, so defeated. There is no stability or predictability in the life we live. It is always changing.
Our kids are now 9 and 7. They have lived more than half of their lives here. We have spent almost half of our married life here.

We have changed. I will always remember what someone said to me when we were home for our furlough- "You are not the same people as when you left." I like to think and hope to think that we have changed for the better- that we have changed to look more like Christ.  It is our hearts cry to be changed-to love like He does, to hate what He hates, to see like He sees.

July 2013
We have changed because Christ is The Unchanging One. He has been there & led us through every one of those glorious & hard moments. He mends & tears, pulls & holds, loves & allows pain. He shows us how love looks (very rarely what we think it looks like), how to be strong & resist the enemy (mostly by lying prostrate on the floor), & removes the blinders of judgment & lies (usually seen as conviction & godliness) from our eyes to see Truth about ourselves & others. We are no better than the next & we are here to show the world the glory of The Unchanging One by being changed.

We look forward to many more years of our missionary journey serving in the Philippines or wherever the Lord will lead. We look forward to more change (mostly) & are excited to see what all the Lord will do. We are so thankful for each of you who have been on this journey with us, by holding us up in prayer, giving to us financially, & being encouragers through the "half decade of change."

July 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Kids First Recital

Last Saturday, the kids had their first piano & voice recital. They did really well for only having 2 months of lessons! I think I was more nervous than they were! It was held at the little Baptist church in town that we have been attending. It was a great experience for the kids (complete with a power outage & all!) & music lessons has been a good opportunity to get them out and socializing with other kids. Since Josh & I both play the piano & love music, we are excited to see our kids love for music developing as well!

Here is a video of their performance. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What It's Like- Getting Around

For the first 6 months of living in the Philippines, we did not have our own car to get us used to using public transportation. Living in Manila, anytime you are on the road, in a vehicle or walking is an adventure to say the least! I had no idea that traffic, people, and vehicles could function in the way they do in Manila!!! Everytime we are in a vehicle, I audibly scream at least twice, usually many more times at our near chances with death! But I am proud to say,  I am one of the few missionary ladies who drives in Manila! (bragging I know) We must have talked quite a bit how dangerous it was, because I overheard our 2 year old (at the time) telling our 4 year old- "Bubba, you must hold onto Daddy & Mommy's hands tight when we are walking on the street or you will be squished by a jeepney and you will DIE!"

There have been many videos taken & documentaries done on Manila driving, but here are a few of my favorites!

This is a friend of ours driving to work on his motorcycle.

This is me driving through a flooded street in Manila.

Here's an English bus driver driving in Manila on "Toughest Places To Be A Bus Driver."

Island driving is much slower paced, but still pretty crazy. We have our own car & motorcycle & I am practicing to get my motorcycle license!

The two most common vehicles of transportation are jeepney & tricycle (trike). They are very colorfully decorated & there seems to be an unofficial contest to see who can trick theirs out the most.

It is amazing to me how many people they can pack on these things. They aren't just people movers either. They carry a crazy amount of cargo too!


How much it costs depends on how far you are going & sometimes on the driver. A basic fare on a jeepney in Manila is P8/$.18 to go 2.5 miles/4 km. Here, in Palawan, I can hire a tricycle for P50/$1.15 to take me to the grocery store or I can share a trike with other passengers & it only costs P12/$.28. You hail a jeep or trike pretty much the same as you hail a taxi. The jeeps have designated routes, so you just find the one that has the route you wish to travel written on the side & wave it down. You jump on, squeeze your backside or sometimes half your backside onto the vinyl seat & hang on. You pass your fare up to the driver and say, "Bayad po." (Fare, sir.) When you come close to your destination, you shout, "Para, po" (Stop, sir) or knock on the ceiling of the jeep. For a tricycle, you flag one down & tell the driver where you want to go. He can accept or refuse and if there is a lot of traffic, may ask for a higher price. If her refuses or you don't like the price, it can take quite a while to find a trike to take you where you want to go.

Public transport is pretty cheap & convenient. My kids love riding on jeeps & trikes!
Buses are also common for long distances, taxis are popular in the city, with personally owned motorcycles & cars being the least common.

Driving & getting around has definitely been one of our biggest adjustments to living here & I don't realize until someone visits just how used to it we have gotten! My mom flipped out when she visited us because of how everyone drove. It is definitely a shock if it is not something you are used to.

I will end with this video that we made while living in Manila on the many ways of transportation.
We love the Philippines!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Vapor Life

"Live every moment like it was your last." You see the quote everywhere. To be honest, it makes me exhausted just reading it.  There are days I feel like I am fighting just to be able to get through the day and do the basic things...Is it even possible?

I have been reminded several times in the last few days of the brevity, the complete and total shortness & quickness of this life.

"How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog--it's here a little while, then it's gone." -James 4:14

A lady with 5 other children went into labor yesterday morning- no complications, just like every other pregnancy. By the afternoon, she had a new baby boy, but was suffering from severe hemorrhaging. When we got the call to bring the plane in to fly her out, Josh & I scrambled to get the little bit of medical gear together that we had, oxygen, bandages, & meds. As we were getting him out to the car, we received another call informing us that it was too late. She had died.

Heartsick & helplessness just overwhelmed me. Why had they waited so long to call? If we had just known sooner. What if? If only? WHY?

I talked to my sweet Papa on the phone this morning and he told me about a dear friend of his. He was fit and happy in his 80's with no aches & pains to speak of. Less than a month later, he was dead. Cancer covered his whole body and he didn't even know. My Papa will be a pallbearer at his funeral in a few days.

Life is SO SHORT & you never know when it will end for you or someone you love. I understand the heart behind living every moment as if it were your last. But, it can easily become motivated by fear. Fear that this will be the last moment. In my life, this would be lived out in every moment filled with tears, holding my children, spending time with my husband, never moving beyond my comfort zone, & letting the rest of the world go to waste. For you it may look totally different. Now, don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with throwing all else to the wind on focusing in on your family in comfort. But is this all that God has called us to? Living every moment in fear that it's our last or someone else's last?

Live every moment with hope. Hope that the Lord is in control. When you clean your house instead of playing with your kids. When you played with your kids all day & you left your house a mess. When you met with a friend in need instead of going to the gym. When you don't meet with a friend because God has someone else in mind. Hear His voice. He will guide your days & your every decision.

Life is short. Too short to second guess your every decision & take upon your shoulders the responsibility of the outcome of every decision. Live every moment at the feet of Jesus, hearing His voice, full of hope.

Our loving, serving, & doing must flow out of hope from our place at His feet.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

He Comes

Sometimes it is really hard to put into words the thoughts and feelings that build up inside. I have been struggling with so many things lately that seem so big and important. Never-ending. I am so focused on them that it seems that is all I see. silence...alone.

I want to know for sure that He hears. That He sees. I'm waiting for a booming voice, a shaking, fiery revelation.

And then HE comes.

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 
-1 Kings 19:11-13

What am I doing here? In a cave of whining & complaining, doubt & fear. And then HE comes & I can feel Him. I can see Him. I can hear Him.

HE came in a long awaited email.
HE came in a gentle reprimand from a loved one.
HE came in a conversation with a friend.
HE came in a picture of a little girl's baptism.
HE came just now in a little coffee shop on a island in the Pacific where I sit with my computer & my eyes full of tears. 
HE came in a gentle whisper.
HE came. HE comes. HE's coming.

I just had to shut my whiny mouth & listen. 
"I'm here, my beloved child. Come, sit at my feet. Rest in my embrace. You are mine. I care. I hear. I see. I come."

The Lord always puts a song on my heart, no matter what I am walking through, and hears the latest one- I Can Feel You- Bethel Tides

So, be encouraged. The radio silence will end. He always comes!

Thank you to all of you who pray for & encourage me!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Radio Silent

You know on the superhero-spy movies, when someone goes "radio silent?" Radios are regular part of my life & so I feel kind of connected to them. They speak my language. Radio silent- off the grid- going dark. That's how I would describe my life lately. Radio silent. I've gone dark. I've retreated into my "safe house." 

Many of you have probably noticed less Facebook posts, short-replies to texts, unreturned emails. To be perfectly honest, I'm having trouble dealing with life which equals social radio silence. A big reason is sometimes it seems like God has "gone dark."

It feels like I'm screaming into the wind & He doesn't hear. I read His Word and it doesn't jump off the page like I long for it to. I desire more than anything else to glorify God with my life & earnestly seek Him with all that I am. To revel in His love. But it's hard when you just don't feel it...the world can be so overwhelming at times. And sometimes the places I am so sure that He is, He isn't. Where is He?

Seeing others pain- a friend whose baby met Jesus before he met his mommy. Struggling family members looking for a fresh start. Pain of my own- people not treating my husband with the respect I feel he deserves, disobedient kids, unanswered questions, unknown questions & the biggest one for me- not feeling needed. It seems like the people who should be "for me," aren't. And comparison. Such a joy-stealer. Ugh.

People ask how I am. "Fine!" I'm all for being honest, but how do you be honest when you can't even put into words what's going on in your heart? So I stick with the safe answer.

The past few months have been a hard time of doubt. Doubt is pretty fast runner & seems like no matter how hard I try, I can't manage to stay ahead. "Who am I, really?" "What has God called me to?" "I don't even know what my gifts are."  "Are we really where we're supposed to be?" Funny how the last question usually comes when things aren't going the way we hoped. And doubt quickly transforms to lies. "I am a nobody. I don't have a calling. No one cares. I can't do anything for God." Nasty lies, so destructive. And the battle goes on and on in my heart & mind.

It is during these times that I have to hold on for all I am worth to the truth. The glorious truth that isn't based on what I feel or on what is going on.

A Steven Curtis Chapman song has kept coming in my mind that expresses it perfectly-
Sometimes He Comes in the Clouds.


So hold onto hope, friends.  HE IS IN THE DARK. HE IS IN THE SILENCE.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

My Words For The Year- Sink & Fail

I have been seeing all these blogs of women sharing the "word" God gave them for this year. Abandon. Hope. Simple. Good words. Well, I wanted a God word. So I started praying for one. Didn't quite get what I expected.

I go through phases or seasons in my life when I start to question things. I start asking "why" questions. I start doubting. "Am I missing something? Is this really what God called me to?" When nothing that I do seems to matter & I get sucked up in what seems like a never ending race. A race to get ahead. Ahead of what's coming next. I want to be prepared. I want to know what's coming. I don't like surprises. I want to be on top of things. No laundry backed up, no school projects left undone. I strive & strive, but at the end of the day, as I climb into bed, I wonder what in the world I did that day.

I am exhausted by the thoughts of being & doing all I think I am "called" to. Being the attractive, gorgeous, appealing, & understanding wife my husband wants. Raising godly, well-educated, world-impacting kids. Feeding my family healthy, organic food. Winning souls for Christ & impacting the world for The Lord. Being a sensitive friend who keeps up with my 1,000 Facebook friends on an intimate & personal basis. Being an example of patience, goodness, & gratefulness in EVERY situation. Filling my mind with wholesome knowledge by hours of extensive reading & study. DOING GREAT THINGS FOR GOD'S KINGDOM! (These are a few of the people I like to imagine myself as.)        
Beth Moore
Elisabeth Elliott
I'm tired just after writing that. And it is kind of ridiculous when you write it all out. The things we expect of ourselves are utterly crazy, but we expect it and want it all the same. And you know? None of these things are bad or sinful. They are all godly & Biblical desires even. But are they what God has called me to or what I have called myself to?

As I have been struggling with these things the past few weeks, I've had a nice, wake-up-call, slap across the face. You know the feeling? You need it, but it doesn't necessarily feel good?

There is a verse I have on my bedroom wall, one we are all familiar with. 

"Be still & know that I am God." -Psalm 46:10 (NLT) or 
"Cease striving & know that I am God." (NASB)

The word used for "be still & cease striving" is the hebrew word- raphah. The original way it is read is a verb that means "sink." And the short definition means "fail." What? "Sink and fail and know that I am God." When I am in the water, the last thing I want to do is sink. I fight with everything in me not to. And fail? But isn't that what the list of my "called tos" above equals? But I don't like failing. Failing is bad right? Not when I am failing in my own unrealistic expectations & giving in, sinking into what God has for me. 

I'm going to have every good intention of getting up & curling my hair & looking cute for my husband, but after being up with a kid all night, with my puffy eyes & yoga pants, I know He is God because He loves me just the way I am (And my husband does too for that matter!) I'm going to try my very hardest & fail at being an awesome Mom & never losing patience & then I'll know He is God & my hardest isn't good enough. I'll train & teach & pour into my kids today only to have the same attitudes to deal with tomorrow & I know He is God because He's the only one who changes hearts. I will be kind & soft spoken most of the day, but will blow the whole thing when I'm just fed up with the person & I will know He is God because He works so wonderfully in spite of me. 

This has been a hard one to wrap my mind around & I am in no way saying that we as women shouldn't have expectations or dreams. But make sure they are God's, not yours.

So, be still, my friends. Cease Striving. Sink. Know that He is God.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Typhoon Haiyan Relief Video

We were so blessed to be a part of the relief efforts during Typhoon Haiyan. We are so thankful to all of you who made it possible for these people to receive food, shelter, & the love of Christ!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

After Typhoon Haiyan

Please visit our ministry website to read about all the ways God has provided to enable us & others to help in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan!

Five Loaves & Two Fish

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What It's Like- Food (Pagkain)

And the answers to last week's food pictures are-

Dinuguan is a Filipino savory stew of meat and/or offal simmered in a rich, spicy dark gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili, and vinegar. The term dinuguan comes from the Filipino word dugo meaning "blood". Not one of my favorites...I've only got up the nerve to eat it once.

A tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia. The name rambutan is derived from the Malay/Indonesian word rambutan, meaning "hairy." The fruit flesh is translucent, whitish or very pale pink, with a sweet, mildly acidic flavor very reminiscent of grapes. My kids especially love this fruit & will eat as much as I let them.

We quickly learned within the first few days of moving to the Philippines that the main staple is rice. Rice for breakfast, lunch, & dinner. Like many countries in Asia, the livelihood of the Philippines is on growing & eating rice. There are actually several words for rice in the Tagalog language, depending upon what state the rice is in (uncooked, cooked, still growing, etc.). 

Little Josh's favorite restaurant, "Mang Inasal," serves a ball of rice wrapped in banana leaves. This is when he was 4 years old. He has since learned that the only way to eat at "Mang Inasal" is with your hands. (The reason it's his favorite.)

Trying my hand at rice harvesting. (All done by hand.)

If you have money to buy more than rice, then you have "ulam" which is basically anything that goes with rice. Some of the most common are dried fish, a variety of vegetables, meat, or eggs.
We have several favorite "ulams." I will share a few links to recipes if you would like to try them!

One of my very favorite things about living in the Philippines is the abundance of fresh fruit! 
Mangoes, pineapples, papayas, rambutan, bananas...there are actually 5 different kinds of bananas!
We have 2 mango trees as well as a banana tree in our yard. My personal favorite is a tiny citrus fruit called calamansi. It is similar to a key lime/lemon. It makes amazing juice & shakes & is great for seasoning as well. 


Our meals vary greatly depending upon what ingredients are available. We have a young Filipino couple who lives with us, so we usually have one Filipino meal & one American meal a day. 

Living on an island also equals lots of seafood!!! One of our favorites is fried shrimp, complete with heads, skins. & tails that you peel off to eat, & the kids' favorite- clam soup. 

Fresh shrimp

King Crabs
One big fish!

And here are a few links to our favorite ulam!

Thanks for reading my "foody" article! 
Next week is on shopping & getting around!
Ever ride one of these?