Friday, December 23, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Ok, so it is actually Friday but I had planned all day to write this yesterday. Meetings with friends and family kept us busy all day so it is just a day off. Nevertheless, I will keep with Ashley's title instead of trying to be creative and make my own.

Ashley is the writer of the family so please forgive any shortcomings I may have when measured up to her (of which I am sure there are plenty :)

Today, I want to share something that we have been discussing in detail here recently. It is something that we are extremely thankful for - Our Church.

Calvary has been our home church since we were very young. We really have experienced life together through our church. We met in the youth group when we were about 12 and it was through that youth group that we began going on mission trips with SCORE. We grew up there, were married there, I will be ordained there and we will be comissioned there. Although God has allowed for Calvary to build and add on to our physical buildings, it is not the church building that we are thankful for - it is the people. So many of our church family supported us on our first mission trips that made it possible for God to open our eyes to the need. Many of the same members have donated sacrificially so that we could go to Bible and Language school just a few years later. And yet many still have followed up and support the effort that God has called us to. This is a church that has developed us and prayed for us, led us and gave for us. They have always been our home church. This church has taught us the love that Christ displays through people to accomplish his mission. I am convinced that the church exists for worship - worship, not just with music and a choir but with word, actions, giving, sending, encouraging, counseling, praying and loving....after all the Bible does teach that the church is to edify the body of believers.
It was by members of Calvary that I was introduced to aviation after the Holy Spirit gave me the desire. It is from Calvary that we have learned that the church is NOT based on any man but on the eternal God of the universe. We have been through a lot but the ministry that is going out of the church is uncommon in the world today.
We hold fast to the Biblical Doctrine that is taught by our church. I tell people all the time that I don't stand firmly on being an Independent Baptist - after all, Christ nor any of his disciples did. I stand firm on Christ and His Gospel, the reason I am a part of this Church is because they do to. I am asked often if in my ministry I will plant an Independent Baptist church....the answer is yes/no. I will only seek to found churches that based in the inmovable, undeniable truths that are found in Gods word but I will not have a denomination name in it.....there are many reasons why , namely because denominations have done much damage in the region where we are working and the truth is, the people we are ministering to need to understand that it is ALL about Christ, not an organization associated with Him.

We are proud to be members of Calvary Baptist Church, we are in no way perfect but I do feel as if we are a church that seeks to reach others and make disciples. There are many different types of people in our church and it is encouraging to see that although everyone may not agree on what Paul would label, "doubtful issues" we can all come together and serve, worship and encourage each other at the feet of Christ.

We thank God for our Church and for their influence in our life and we pray for it daily!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thankful Thursday: A Beautiful Plan

I follow a lot of blogs. I don't read them all regularly, and I read some more than others, but I love to read blogs.

Perhaps it's an addiction, but it's one that often expands my mind and heart and challenges my soul.

I read stories of hope and life and self-sacrifice and giving and redemption and my heart is so often flooded with so many emotions that the only outlet is tears flooding my eyes. It's inspiring and motivating to see and hear all the things that God is doing around the world and how He's just using humble people to do it.

Today, I'm thankful that God has a beautiful plan. I love the analogy of the tapestry. God is working on a big, beautiful tapestry and sometimes we get frustrated, overwhelmed, discouraged, and confused because all we can see is the messy side with all the criss-crossing and interweaving and it looks like a disaster.

But on the other side is a beautiful picture that God is diligently working to create. It's a picture of beauty and grace and mercy and freedom and justice. And it means that God has a beauitful plan for every believer's life.

That beauty may not, and often does not, translate as easy or beautiful from an earthly perspective. It may be tiring and full of persecution. But it's beautiful because God is the one weaving it and He loves us so much more than our minds can imagine.

I'm so thankful today for God's beautiful plan, whatever that is. May I always be so thankful.

"For I know the plans I have for you" —[this is] the LORD's declaration—"plans for [your] welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. " Jeremiah 29.11 HCSB

Here are some great blogs that I follow. Maybe they'll encourage and challenge you, too.

kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com
http://servinghischildreninuganda.blogspot.com/
http://theresurgence.com/
http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/
http://medlinsinkenya.blogspot.com/
http://oatsvallteam.blogspot.com/
http://www.jenhatmaker.com/
http://discoveringthechristlife.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

So What or So That

I went to a women's conference last night with a new friend of mine from here at JAARS, the ministry Richard's training with.

The message title was "Sometimes He Whispers, Sometimes He Roars". I was particularly interested in this because my prayer life has been.... well.... lacking severely in recent days. I thought, "Maybe this will give me a much needed boost/perspective." I admit that as lame as it may be to "need" a reason to pray, sometimes that is the case for me. [Any one out there understand this??]

As the conference began I immediately got the impression that I wasn't going to get what I had come for.

But turns out that was totally fine because God had a little something else to say to me. You may have read my post about quote journaling, where I like to write down quotes that inspire me, encourage me, and challenge me so I can reference them later. Well, I left with only one written down:

"Your life can either be a "so what" or a "so that"."

At first I thought, "Hm. Interesting thought." Then the Holy Spirit said, "Listen to what I'm saying to you."

That usually gets my attention.

My life can either be a "so what" or a "so that". I can live in such a way that when the end comes around, whether that's tomorrow or when I'm 95, all that can be said is, "So what? She lived, she died. And eternity is no different because of it."

Or, I can live in such a way that all of my actions, both intentional and unintentional, are done "so that" God's Kingdom can be furthered. I could live in such a way that when the end comes, others can say, "She lived so that others may live."

Wow.

Pretty profound.

Going through my day today, I find myself asking, "Is what I'm doing a "so what" or a "so that"?" Whether it's browsing the web, cleaning my house, teaching my son, encouraging my husband, reading, writing, praying, listening, learning, loving, laughing..... is it something that really matters?

Guess God gave me the perspective I needed.

Are you living a "so what" or a "so that" life?


Monday, December 5, 2011

Honestly...

Honestly, sometimes I would rather read a book about God than actually read God's book.

I struggle with this a lot. I know it's a heart issue and it doesn't make sense in the big picture. But right now it's true and it's what I must confess and intentionally allow the Holy Spirit to change in me.

I look back at times in my life when the Bible was my source of life and strength. I longed to read it and soaked it in like a sponge. But not right now.

God, help me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

All I Want for Christmas

When we are here in the USA, I find it very easy to get distracted by everything around me, especially with Christmas right around the corner. Every store and website is bombarding us with all the things we "need" and convincing us that these things are sure to make us happier. Or if it's not that they will make us happier, then it's certainly something that we deserve. After all, times are tough and we've worked hard!

And if I let my guard down for just a minute or two, I suddenly find myself thinking of me and my needs and my wants and my desires or those of my family. If I'm not careful I justify those thoughts by telling myself things like, "Well, we have had a really busy year" or "Well, I don't usually buy things for myself" or "It would be nice..."

It is in that moment that I have to be intentional about taking every thought captive. The Apostle Paul says this:

"We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor 10:4b-6)

It is not that these "things" around me are bad in and of themselves. A lot of them are beautiful or useful or fun. It is that I allow my heart to desire them.

When I get into this mode where I am getting overwhelmed by my fleshly desires and wants, if I take a minute to stop and evaluate what it really is that I'm seeking, I always find that it's something of little value and something that I know will only bring momentary enjoyment.

If I take a moment and listen to the Holy Spirit whispering in my ear, above the noise of this world, I find Him saying, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you." (Matthew 6:33)

Then I smile and find that  these desires fade away. It's not that I have peace knowing God will give me all these earthly "things" that I think I want, because that's not it at all.

No, He's saying, "I'm enough. Seek me and you'll see that".

Suddenly I don't desire these earthly possessions anymore because I know that it is only God who can fulfill me. And that I don't deserve anything but by His grace and through His Son He has already given me everything.

And a new outfit or camera or i-gadget doesn't compare to that.

It's often in those moments I'm reminded of those times when we are in the Jung|e, and I look into the faces of these beautiful, naked kids and I see these women who just want to know true love and we hear the chants of the witchdoctors as they summon up the spirits again in a futile effort to make the lives of the natives better and I hear about that little baby who died from dehydration and I think about how spoiled I am and how unworthy I am.

And I can't find it in me to care about what's under the tree this year.
When we travel to these churches, no matter how big or small, and I meet fellow missionaries and believers who God is using in unconventional and incredible ways in Africa and Asia and the Middle East and Europe and all over Central and South America and right here in the USA, somehow I can't focus on anything else but how big our God is and how awesome and humbling it is that He would use us to do anything at all for Himself.

Suddenly my heart is saying, "What can I give?" and "How can I help?" and "I am so spoiled!"
All I can see is Christ and the Gospel and everything else seems to fade away. And I know that these aren't my thoughts at all. We already saw what my desires were apart from Him! But Paul teaches "for it is God who is working in us, [enabling us] both to will and to act for His good purpose." (Philippians 2.13)

Jesus said,  "Don't collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy
and where thieves break in and steal.
But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves
don't break in and steal."

By God's grace, that's all I want for Christmas.



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful Thursday: This Little Guy

I am so thankful for this. little. guy.


Some days, being a "stay at home" mom is tiring. Some days, I just want an itsy bitsy little break. Some days are monotonous. But every day, this little guy makes me laugh. And every day, I am thankful for him. And every day, I wouldn't trade this life God has given me for the world.

The days are long, but the years are short. Gotta enjoy 'em while they last!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mud Pies

I am the most discontent and selfish person that I know.

While this is devastating for me to be reminded of on a daily basis, it's so very necessary and I find myself grateful to the God of the Universe who calls me his child that He loves me enough to bring this to my mind.

I've found that the moment I forget how selfish and discontent I am is the moment I begin to think I am something. To think that somehow I've arrived at a better place and pride begins to slip right in, poised to destroy me. I may not admit it or see it that way at first, but that's exactly the problem.

C.S. Lewis said:

 I have never met the man I could despair of after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.

When my pride gets the best of me, that's when I begin to judge. That's when I begin to condemn. That's when I become self-righteous.

When my discontentment gets the best of me, that's when I begin to say in my heart that God is not enough for me. That I need more that what He has given me.

When my selfishness overtakes me, that's when I begin to think I am entitled. That somehow I deserve certain things. That I am worthy.

Hebrews 13.5b says:

Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.

When I am content in Christ, the fact that I have Him is more than enough to sustain me. And I can have no pride, no selfishness, and no discontentment because I realize that apart from Him, I am nothing.
C.S. Lewis again put it this way:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Lord, help me desire more than mud pies. Help me to desire You.

Quote Journaling

So, you know how you take notes during a sermon, but then don't ever look at them again? Don't go super spiritual on me now... you know you've done it. Or, maybe you've been talking with someone or reading a blog and hear a really great quote and you write it on a little piece of paper, only to lose it.

A friend of ours recently bought us these great journals and I wanted to use it for something unique. That's when I had an "Aha!" moment.

Instead of taking notes in a journal or on a scrap of paper, I decided to use my newly acquired journal to jot down quotes that inspire me and challenge me. It's fairly small, so I carry it with me everywhere so I don't miss something. I think it will be a big help to me on the field one day when I'm discouraged and I can just glance through and read some inspiring words (I like to write down verses that help me, too).

Check it out!



Sunday, November 27, 2011

From the Archives: God's Love Language

It's been interesting as we've traveled around the Southeast,  meeting people from every walk of life. Having been raised in a very conservative church my whole life, it was like culture shock for me when we stepped into our first Southern Baptist Church a couple of years ago. I wasn't accustomed to seeing blue jeans on the Pastor and a whole band on the platform, drums and all. It took me off guard when the Pastor opened his ESV to begin teaching the Word and we didn't sing the traditional hymns that I had heard all my life.

And the truth is, I loved it!

For me, it was like a breath of fresh air. Everyone seemed so at ease and connected. There was a certain passion in the room and an excitement about the Word. I loved the music and for what seemed like the first time I actually felt connected in worship. I felt at home and I was at least 600 miles from mine.

So what did this mean for me?

I have found myself with a lot of conflicting emotions over the last couple of years as I've met so many people that have enhanced my relationship with Christ. I've read books and heard sermons that have changed my worldview, broadened my mind, and opened my eyes to the fact that we serve a big... make that HUGE... God who doesn't fit inside the box that we've tried to fit him in.

In all of our travels I feel like my soul has been awakened, as cheesy as that may sound.

But what were the implications of this? Was the church that I was raised in not doing things right? Did the fact that they were hard-core KJV only, singing hymns from 1930, and it was suit and tie and dresses to church every service mean that they had somehow missed the mark? Or did the fact that I didn't feel connected with that atmosphere somehow imply that my heart was wrong for liking the contemporary worship songs and preferring pants over a skirt?

Fast forward to a month ago as we sit in the middle of the Jungle at an Indigenous church. The Pastor is speaking in two languages as he preaches from the front of a grass-roof hut. The people are all sitting on benches and the floor, though concrete, is covered in dirt. Women are breastfeeding with no regard for who is nearby and chickens and children are running all over the place. The music service is in the tribal language and the song leader and several women in the crowd are dancing.

I won't say this was culture shock for me, because a part of me felt right at home. But it was all new to me. Where I come from, dancing is off-limits and children are seen and not heard. If a woman needs to nurse, there is a special room designated for that and chickens are only seen on our plates after we go out for Sunday lunch.

Was this church getting it wrong too? After all, the pastor wasn't wearing a tie and he preached for an hour and a half straight... didn't he know that lunchtime is at noon? And was that the KJV version of their tribal Bible translation.........

So who was getting this right? Who was really glorifying God? Whose heart was really in the right place??

I think the answer is all of them. God was being and is being glorified in ways that we don't understand and it's all around us all the time.

God's love language is diversity.

He created the Indians in the Jungle who dance while they sing to the Almighty God. He created the 20-year-old who has a talent playing the drums and uses it to glorify his Savior. He created the 80-year-old man who wears his suit and tie in reverence to the creator of the Universe. He created the Pastor who wears jeans and the new mom nursing her infant and the mom who doesn't even own a pair of pants and young woman who hates skirts and the teenager who wears straight-legged jeans and dyes her hair pink and the little Indian who runs around naked and the man who sits in the back row because he's uncomfortable in social situations and the shut-in who faithfully listens over the airways and the music director who raises his hands in praise and the Indian lady who dances her traditional tribal dances and chants her tribal songs and the ex-drug addict who sits in the front row to soak in the Word that changed his life and the young married couple who got tattoos to commemorate the day that their lives were transformed by Christ and the missionary couple who gave up every earthly possession to follow Him and the business man who uses his wealth to further the Gospel and the stay at home mom who raises godly children and the Indian who fishes for his food every day and wears monkey teeth around his wrist and the elderly lady who weeps as she sings the hymns that have carried her through so many trials and.............................................

And the list goes on. And who are we to say that we have found God's true love language? Who are we to say that this worship music is right and this kind is wrong? And who are we to say that you have to dress this way or that?

Who are we?

I'm thankful to serve a God who not only loves diversity, He created it.

May we not be so closed-minded to think otherwise.



"...For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7


"...and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." Revelation 5:9-10

Today, I Reflect

Today I reflect on who God is making me.


About two years ago, I began on a spiritual journey that hit both suddenly and powerfully. I can remember where I was standing when it hit me so profoundly that the God I have claimed to know and serve since I was a little girl is so very much bigger than my mind ever thought possible. It was like all of a sudden my eyes were opened, if only a crack, to see that He’s a big God. He’s a powerful God. But more than that, He’s a God who knows me better than I know myself. And loves me anyway.

It’s been an amazing journey of learning what grace is, what mercy is, and how the God of this Universe sees me.

It’s been a journey of climbing to the top of the mountain and being breathless from all that I see that God is and does. And it’s been a journey of walking in the desert, wondering where that God of the mountaintop is, only to realize He’s matching me step for step and teaching me more than the mountaintop ever could.

There have been tears and there have been “aha!” moments and there have been questions that I still don’t have the answers to and likely never will. But it’s in all of those things that I realize that I am so thankful that the God I serve can’t fully be understood. Because that means He’s a big God.

These last two years have helped me see through the tradition that clouded my eyes before. I’ve started to see past the “rules” and religious jargon that has hindered me in the past. And what I’ve discovered is that the God I’m learning to serve is a God of diversity. He’s a God who not only appreciates uniqueness, he created it. He’s a God who desires unity, not uniformity. He’s a God who looks straight past my outward and deep into my heart. He knows my imperfections and humbles me in my pride. He is patient when I think I can do it on my own and never makes me feel like a failure when I realize [once again] that I can’t after all.

He’s a God who has a beautiful purpose and plan for my life and it’s one that will bring glory to His name. He’s a God who doesn’t expect perfection, because He already found that in His Son who died for me. He’s a God who is holy and righteous and loving and patient and kind and all-powerful, and yet He thinks of me and calls me His daughter.

And when I think of the specific calling He has placed in my heart, I sometimes start to fear. I see my inadequacies. I see my incompetency. I see how I am afraid. But it’s at that moment that I realize that the beauty of it all is just that—God can take someone like me, a nobody from nowhere, and use me in spite of myself to accomplish His purposes. And that absolutely blows my mind.

When I acknowledge that I am incapable, that’s when God can use me. And that’s when I beg Him to please keep my humble. Please remind me every day that I am nothing apart from Him.

So, today I reflect on who God is making me.

And even though I can’t see the end result just yet, I pray it looks a lot like His Son.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Just Mindin' My Own Business

I was reading the story of Saul (1 Samuel 8-11). If you haven't heard the story, he didn't turn out to be the greatest guy ever. Nevertheless, God chose Him to be Israel's first King.

I guess I never noticed that when he was called to be king, he was searching for his [earthly] father's donkeys. Did you know that? Yeah. He was just out with a buddy trying to locate the wayward burros when someone told him to go find the "seer" (prophet) Samuel... maybe he could predict their location.

Little did he know, God had told Samuel the day before that Saul would be coming his way and to anoint him the first king of Israel.

Fast-forward a chapter or two and it's time for Saul to officially take the thrown and he's crouched down by the supplies, terrified of the calling he's been given.

I feel like that sometimes. I'm just walking through life, mindin' my own business, and little do I realize God is at work behind the scenes, preparing me to serve Him in a land far, far away. He didn't call me to be Queen of anything, but sometimes I still find myself wanting to hide in some inconspicuous location so that no one can find me and maybe I can slip through the cracks and take the easy road.

There have been a lot of lessons learned over the past three years, especially the last year. And the closer we get to our move, the more lessons He seems to be piling on. Lessons about forgiveness, humility, faith, and gratitude flood my life daily. While it can be overwhelming some days, as I look back I find myself filled with gratitude that He would allow me, a nobody, to do something for Him through the power of His Son.

That's what gives me the motivation to get up and accept the challenges that He gives me.

As David Livingston said:  “If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hearing the Whisper Above the Roar

I had someone ask me a question the other day that I get often.


Person: "How long will you be on the field?"
Me: "Oh, indefinitely. We will be there until God tells us to go elsewhere."
Person: *Look of shock and utter confusion* "Really?? Wow. That's amazing!"
Me: "Well, not really. I mean, our hearts are there. That's like home for us, so it's not really amazing. We'll come back to the States occasionally to see family and stuff."
Person: "So, this is really American to say, but, what will you do with all your stuff??"
Me: *Laughs* "We are selling it all. I mean, we'll keep our clothes and some memorabilia, but the rest is sold or we will sell it once our house sells."
Person: *Wide-eyed* "Wooooow."

I guess because this has been our desire and goal for so long, it doesn't seem strange to me at all. But that doesn't mean that satan doesn't like to jump on that bandwagon whenever conversations like that go down. He sees it as prime territory to get my eyes off the goal.

That's when he starts shouting at me:
"This IS a little crazy you know. Don't you remember how hot it is down there? And the bugs... there are a LOT of bugs. Besides, you know it's going to be really challenging to raise your kid(s) in the middle of the jung|e. There are so many dangers: illness, wild animals, iinjury. You think you get tired now. Just wait until you are living down there trying to raise a family, learn a new language and culture, help the sick and dying. You know you aren't very good at those things. And you've worked hard for what you have now. I mean, comparitively speaking, you don't have a lot so it can't REALLY be bad to live here."

It seems that as we get closer to our move and more people pose the questions like that one [very sweet] person did, satan screams all the louder. And if I let myself listen even for even just a moment I can almost feel the fear and doubt creeping into my mind as I begin to think of all the possibilities of things that could happen and before I know it I get carried away in the "what-ifs" of life.

But if I listen closely, I notice that below that roar of the enemy is a whisper. And it's saying, "Trust me. Be still, and trust me. I have good plans for you. Just trust me." And when I hone in on that whisper, the most overwhelming peace floods my heart. And the more I listen, the louder it gets and the quieter the chants of the enemy. And I find myself looking straight into the face of the One who called me and I have no more doubt and no more fear because I know this: Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.

And that is more than enough for me.



.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thankful Thursday: God's Wisdom

Today, I'm just thankful for God's wisdom. It's pure. It's honest. It never fails.

That's what I desire to have. God's wisdom. And He says He'll give it to us if we ask. So I've been asking a lot lately.

I haven't blogged a lot in a while. It's not because I don't have anything on my mind. It's actually just the opposite. I have a lot on my mind, but I don't know how to put it into words in a way that will be edifying to the Body of Christ and glorifying to God Himself.

So God, right now, has given me wisdom to just keep my mouth shut for a while. He's good like that.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

On Being Real

People like real people, but not many people like to be real.

I know. It's deep.
But why is that?! I have a theory and it goes a little something like this:

1. It scares us to be real.
It not only scares us when other people are real, it scares us when we start to be real. It scares us to go against the norm. That's part of the reason we have such a superficial Christianity in America. It's a Christianity that looks pretty. It wears a suit and tie and even makes a squeaky noise when you rub it, it's so clean. It fits neatly inside a little box and encourages you to do the same. So, naturally it's scary to actually be yourself and be real with others.

2. It's uncomfortable to be real.
It's uncomfortable to stand out. It makes us squirm to think that maybe, just maybe, not everyone will like who we really are. After all, we have flaws and issues that we are certain others don't have. We have ideas and thoughts that don't necessarily fit inside of the box. We have preferences and likes that everyone may not agree with.

3. It's difficult to be real.
It's easy to follow a checklist. It's easy to conform. After all, we are raised to conform to the world around us. Some of it is cultural and some of it is peer pressure, but regardless, we are raised in a society that encourages conformity. So naturally it is difficult to be yourself, whatever that is, when it's not necessarily socially acceptable.

But I've determined that for me, even though sometimes it's scary, uncomfortable, and difficult, I'm just gonna be real. I'm going to be open about where I am in Christ. The things I struggle with, the emotions I have, the fears and doubts. I'm going to just be myself in every aspect of my life because quite frankly that's the only person I know how to be.

I think people want that. I think the church needs that. And I think that's exactly what Christ wants us to be.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Books I Recommend

First off, if you don't have a Kindle App (or an actual Kindle), you should get one. The app is free and it's so convenient to carry so many books with you. Just sayin'.

Anywho, here are some recent reads that I really enjoyed/am enjoying.

Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne
If you read Radical, it's along the same lines except maybe a little more "hippy-esc". It's sort of Shane's story of applying the concepts you read about in the days of the early church. To say it's challenging spiritually would be, well, an understatement.


Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff
If you want a really good laugh, check out this book. FUNNY stuff.


When Godly People Do Ungodly Things by Beth Moore
I started reading this book in response to a recent happening in our lives that left me with a lot of emotions that I didn't even know where to begin processing them.

I'll probably blog more about this later, but I'll just suffice it to say that this book has been very eye-opening for me about just how important it is to be ready to stand against the attacks of satan and to drench our leaders in prayer. I'm ashamed to admit I have done a pitiful job of praying for satan's prime targets.

Read. This. Book.


How Do You Tuck In a Super Hero? by Rachel Balducci
If you are a mom of boys, this is a fun book to read and you'll no doubt be able to relate to a lot of the stories that Rachel tells. It's really lighthearted and funny and helped me appreciate even more the ambitious, rambunctious boy that I have as well as realize the huge part I play in his life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How Beautiful Are the Feet...

Richard had the privilege to speak at CenterPointe Church in Chula Vista, CA this past Sunday (8/21/11).

Here's the podcast if you're interested! (Click sermon from 8/21)

http://www.smcchurch.com/index.cfm?page=24

Please pray for CenterPointe as they work to reach the community of Chula Vista for Christ!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Overwhelmed.

Sometimes, when we're sharing about the ministry that God has called us to, I get overwhelmed. Like, really, really overwhelmed.

I get overwhelmed when people say we're amazing, because we're not at all, God is.

I get overwhelmed when people say they want to give to the ministry, because we're being entrusted with so much.

I get overwhelemd when a church decides to be a part of the work, because we've been given so much responsibility.

I get overwhelmed when I look at our support account and see that ever since we took that step of faith to live off support, God has provided above and beyond so that we can give to others above and beyond, because you just can't outgive God.

I get overwhelmed when we share the stories of how God has brought us here and provided every step of the way, because He is so good and we are so unworthy.

But most of all, I get overwhelmed that the God of the Universe loves us so much that He would count us worthy of the call for the sake of His glory.

That is overwhelming.

And I ask God--no, I beg God--to keep us humble and to keep our eyes on Him. I see the effects of pride on ministry and it must break God's heart to see us take credit for something that is in no way ours to take credit for, because it breaks mine. May we never be found guilty of stealing from God in that way.

Only His is worthy.

Then I get overwhelmed because it's truly all I desire--to serve God where He's called us. I want nothing more than to be next to the ladies, doing laundry in the river while Elliott plays with the kids, and Richard disciples the men. I long for the day when I wake up and it's hot and humid and we get to host the locals in our home and I make them coffee and we just pour out the love of Christ on them. I yearn for the day when I can wrap the wounds of a small child and tell her it's going to be ok as we load her into the helicopter.

And I get overwhelmed because only God can create a desire like that.

Sometimes, I just get overwhelmed.

Friday, August 12, 2011

That Was Kinda Nice

The other day, I was reading this really great (random) book that I found called How Do You Tuck In a Superhero? The author, Rachel Balducci, is the mom of 5 boys (and one girl now) and tells story after story of life with boys.

When I was done with the book (which I finished in just 2 days), I found myself teary-eyed and praying.

That's when it happened. I asked God for something in faith and I realized that I just don't do that very often. Usually, my prayers are pitiful little cries to "please do this" or "please don't do that". But this time was different.

This time, I straight up asked God to give me something. And it felt good to do it. That's when it hit me: that's how God wants us to pray. He wants us to trust Him and love Him enough to shoot straight with Him. And what's even more, He wants us to ask Him for the desires of our heart because if we're seeking Him, those desires will be from Him and it will please Him to answer them. (Got that?)

So I asked God for this: to give me the joy and the privilege to raise our family in the Jung|e. Where it's "dangerous" and "unpredictable". Where it's hot and tiring and lonely at times. Where we'll be learning new languages our home will be open to whomever, whenever. Where we'll no doubt have sickness and injuries. But where our joy will be full and our lives will be spent healing and teaching and serving.

And suddenly that's all I wanted and I found myself in tears asking God to find me worthy of such a great calling as to raise Elliott and whatever other children He may bless us with in the Jung|e so that they could grow up to see that we serve a BIG God who loves the |ndians just as much as us.

I sing a song with Elliott, you probably know it, called "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands".

I adapt the verses to say different things and one is: He's Got the Indians in the Jungle in His Hands.

My earnest prayer is that God will equip Richard and myself with the humility and servant hearts that are necessary to raise our children to know that we are all equal in God's eyes.... and that's a beautiful thing.
.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Friends

Today, I am thankful for the amazing friends that God has put in my life. I am truly, truly blessed.

Elliott and I drove (ok, I drove, but Elliott was with me) up to Elkhart, IN and spent the past week with three of my best girl friends. (Richard is in the Dominican Republic so it was the perfect opportunity and possibly the last before we move to the field full-time.) I met them all through my time at Word of Life Argentina (05'-06') which just further proves that that year of my life was one of the most growing and shaping times and I am forever grateful that God allowed Richard and I to spend that year abroad learning more about
Him and meeting so many great people.

Here are some photos of our time in Elkhart :)


Steph and I went to this great little ice cream shop. It was delicious... can you see the excitement on our faces? :)

Rachel, Cambri, me, and Elliott

Elliott was super sweet with little Cambri....

 ...but not so much with Abigail! We have a long way to go with the sharing principle......

 Me and Jenna at the beach in Michigan

This boy loves the beach and was covered from head to toe with sand by the time we left!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Best Friend

Today, I'm thankful for my best friend who I have been married to for 4 amazing years now!!

Who knew that we would be where we are today when we started dating in July of 2003? I am so thankful for the life God has given us together and look forward to what He has in store in the future.


This picture was taken in Costa Rica in 2004. This is the trip we both surrendered to be full-time missionaries.

Living the good life in the Andes Mountains in Argentina during our time at Word of Life (05'-06').


Posing by the "Getaway Car" at our wedding, August 4, 2007.

On the "slow boat" on our first trip to Brazi|, April 2009. It was here that God confirmed the calling in our hearts.

On March 29, 2010, our family grew by two feet when Elliott Tabor was born. We don't remember life without him now!

Sharing with a Witchdoctor on our most recent trip, December 2010.

So ridiculously and abundantly blessed beyond all reason by our awesome God.
To Him be the glory!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dear God, I Guess It's Over,

Dear God,

Tonight, they gave up. I'll be honest, that's hard for me to swallow.

I had started to have hope. I had started to believe that at least he was going to make those hard decisions. But she was like that deceitful woman in Proverbs that You told us about... and he was no match.

So, it's over now. And I don't know how I feel about that.

Part of me is relieved. That means no more late night phone calls. No more long hours of counseling and mentoring. No more money being spent. No more back and forth, up and down.

Part of me is angry. We spent a lot of money, time, energy, and missed a lot of sleep and time as a family, sacrificing this so that they could hopefully see You. And they threw it all away.

Part of me is heart broken. I'm heart broken for what could have been. I'm heart broken that they couldn't see it and they didn't think it was worth it to follow You. I'm heart broken that they threw it all away.

And part of me is confused. I know we did all that You said we should do. We didn't hold back. We loved unconditionally. We sacrificed willingly [ok, maybe it wasn't always willingly....] We literally poured ourselves out.

And tonight they break our trust and do what they promised not to do and then have the nerve to call and tell us that they don't ever want to talk to us again and we don't need to bother coming by in the morning. Tonight they will sleep the last night in the hotel room that we paid for. They will eat the food that we paid for. Tomorrow he will put on the shoes that Richard gave him and they will use the bags that we gave them to pack up their things and go out on the streets because they literally have nowhere else to go.

And I just cling to Your promise that You gave in Isaiah 55.11 "so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."

I don't really know what that means. I don't know what Your purpose is for this. I don't know what You will have for them or why You brought them into our lives. I just don't know.

But I do know that You are good. And You are true to Your Word.

I also know that I'm a different person now than I was two weeks ago. And if that's all You were trying to accomplish, well, thank You. Thank You for being sovereign. Thank You for knowing us better than we know ourselves. Thank You for loving us enough to teach us.

1 Peter 1.6-7 says, "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

If all of this results in glory for Your name, then it was worth it all.

So, I guess it's over on our end. But I know You're still up to something. Because You're just good like that.

May Your Name Be Glorified,
Ashley

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dear God, You Saw That, Right?

Dear God,

"It's not fair that you're going to help him and not me."

That's the text message I got from the girl I have poured my life into for the past two weeks after she walked away and said by her actions that she didn't need us anymore.

I guess You saw that, right?

Today, I want to give up. I want to give up on this young couple that You put in our lives. And, if I'm being honest, this isn't the first time I've felt this way about them.

It want to give up and say, "I know I'm supposed to love you unconditionally. I know I'm supposed to forgive unconditionally. I know I'm supposed to love you like Christ does. I know! But I can't!"

I want to say that at 3am when they are calling again. I want to say that as our gas tank approaches empty again. I want to say that when we are trying to to enjoy time as a family and they call again. I want to say that when I get text messages about how we are wrong and we haven't done enough.

But I can't say that. Because when I try to say that, Your Spirit softly whispers Philippians 4:13 where You promise that we can do all things through Christ.

And that makes me angry because I don't want to hear that. I want to hear that it's ok to give up because I'm not God. I can't do all the things I'm supposed to do. I can't love like I'm supposed to. I don't have the will power. After all, that's what people keep telling me. Christians, even.

And I am selfish. I am so very selfish that I disgust myself. When You whisper to me, I want to block You out, but that's just it. You don't give up. You don't walk away when I push You out.

I tell You I want to be poured out for You. I want to sacrifice to show my love for You. I want to put myself last. So You are faithful and give me the opportunity to do just that and I complain because it's uncomfortable. It's frustrating and it's exhausting. And You listen to me as I tell You all the reasons why I want to give up--all my selfish reasons.

And once again You prove You are faithful.

And I say, "But we have no more resources. But I already don't get to see Richard much and now we have to be apart more as we pour our lives into this couple. But they have spit in our faces too many times!"

And You say, "But I have all the resources, and you have Me. But I created You for this, to demostrate my love. But You have spit in my face. Yet, I don't give up on You. I forgive You every time."

I look back over the last two weeks and I see what You've taught me. You've opened my eyes to the reality of so many things that I never understood before. Things about me. Things about ministry. Things about You.

And as I sit here on the couch alone because Richard is once again meeting with the young man, trying to pour his life out for Your glory, I want to give up.

But I won't. I won't because You haven't.

And on top of that, I thank You. I thank You for this couple that You have entrusted to us for Your name's glory. Please help me to be all that You require of me.

Feeling a Bit Like Jonah,
Ashley

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dear God, That Was an Expensive Gallon of Milk,

Dear God,

Remember the Satuday before last when I went up to the gas station to get a gallon of milk? It was about 8:30 at night and we were getting home late and Elliott was ready for bed but, alas, no milk. I decided to just drive up to the gas station and pick up a gallon. And that's when you introduced me to this couple with so many needs my mind begins to swim when I think of it.

Well, I just want to say that that was the most expensive gallon of milk I've ever purchased.

You see, that short little trip for leche was the start of an adventure that has been very stretching, growing, and even painful at times. In the last week we've spent a lot of ourselves and our resources and our lives on them..... and we are just now seeing a little glimmer of light at the end of this long tunnel.

I'll just be honest with You. On more than one occasion I've looked back and thought to myself, "If I could've just bought milk earlier or if I could have just waited until the morning...."
The human side of me wants this lesson You're teaching us to be over. I don't want to spend hours driving around and making phone calls and listening and counseling and mentoring. I don't want Richard to be taking him to interviews all afternoon and I don't want to have to leave my son with the grandparents a little longer to resolve one more issue.

I want to focus on me and my family. I want to spend time with my husband who will be gone for two straight weeks soon. I want to spend time with my little boy as he discovers new things. Besides, we're trying to get our house sold and get our stuff sold and downsize everything so it will be easier one day when we move to the....... mission field.

That's when Your spirit takes over and suddenly I'm choked on my own words. When we move to the mission field? There is no such thing. Sure, You've called us to Brazil. You've called us to another land and another culture to be Your hands and feet.

But I'm on the mission field right now. And I only had to go a half mile down the road for You to require me to pour out my life for someone else.

And who do I think I am that I will suddenly be ready to do all that You will require of us in the Jungle one day if I can't even do it in the comfort of my own city? Do I think that the lack of communication, the lack of daily conveniences, the heat, the language barrier, the exhaustion, the illness, the bugs, and the demands of ministry will somehow be easier than this?

No, this is all just a big display of Your mercy, not only in their lives as they slowly begin to learn what it is to live a life that honors You. This is a display of Your mercy in our lives as we learn what it truly means to be poured out for You... before we get to the Jungle and things are much more difficult.

Today, I won't see Richard until later this evening because he's driving them to the grocery store to use their food stamps, but I'll fall asleep next to him tonight. Today, the air conditioning went out in one of our cars and the heat is oppressive, but we take the other car. Today, I will pour out my heart to her and Richard will continue to break down walls with him and we'll take another step. Today, we will listen to their stories and hear their fears and encourage them with Your truth. Today, Your grace is sufficient.

And one day, Richard will fly into a village and I may not see him for days. One day, we will be working to keep an infant alive who has been given bad water. One day, we will have malaria and we won't have an escape from the heat. One day, we will be homesick and won't have a computer to Skype back home. One day, it will be much harder. And on that day, Your grace will be sufficient.

So, I want You to know that this was an expensive gallon of milk and it looks like we'll be paying on it for a while. But I know that You have called us to be Your Son to this couple. You have commanded us to pour out ourselves and die to ourselves daily so that Your name can be famous. And in Your grace You have given us this small dose of what it means to sacrifice so that one day we can truly be ready for the sacrifices You will require of us in the Jungle.

And I thank You for that.

Your Stubborn Learner,
Ashley

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dear God, I Don't Think I Get It,

Dear God,

Sometimes in life we have beautiful stories to tell. Stories of redemption and faith and renewed hearts. Stories of eyes opened and wounds healed.

Today is not one of those days for us. A week ago last night, you brought a young couple into our lives that we had high hopes for. We knew You had brought them into our lives for a purpose and prayed without ceasing that we would be faithful to complete the calling You gave us to show them Your love.

We gave without hesitation of our time, money, and energy. We mentored them one on one for hours. We drove them for miles. We gave them food. We gave them a place to sleep. We talked to them on the phone for hours until late into the night as they asked for help. We shared of Your love and redeeming power and told them that it was because of those things that we love them with an unselfish love.

And a week later, to the day, they told us we had ruined their lives. Told us that we were "supposed to do more". Blamed us for their situation and cussed at us for not solving their problems.

They said they didn't need us and that they could do it on their own, overlooking the fact that the food they ate and the shelter they had were from us. Overlooking the fact that the potential job opportunities were because of our phone calls. Overlooking the fact that they literally have no one else in the world that cares about them.

And everything in me wanted to shout, "Fine! Do it yourselves! Be ungrateful and selfish and try to figure it all out on your own. We've poured out our lives for the past week, and for what? Nothing! So good luck and don't call us when you hit rock bottom!"

But Your spirit sustained me. And we told them we love them and we are here anytime they change their minds.

So after just one short week, I come to You and say, "I don't get it."

I don't get Your unfailing love. I don't understand how Your mercies are new every morning and You are faithful to answer when we call. I don't know how You can give us chance after chance as we tell You, "No, we've got this one."

Don't You want to say, "Fine! Do it yourself! Be ungrateful and selfish and try to figure it all out on your own. I've poured out my Son's blood for you and for what? Nothing! So good luck and don't call Me when you hit rock bottom!"?

Isn't that what we deserve? Isn't that what is right and just?

But You are faithful and Your love is so pure that You will let us try it all on our own if that is what we choose. But when we fail and come to our end, You are always there with new mercy to pick us back up and love us just the same as the day You created us. You see us as clean through the blood of Your Son.

And I just don't get it.

I don't get it, but I thank You for it. I thank You that it's Your Spirit that works in and through me, because I don't have the strength or the desire on my own to show such mercy and grace. It is only You in me.

Thank You for this experience and thank You that even when I don't get it, I can trust that Your ways are now my ways and that You are indeed up to something much bigger than what my eyes can see.

Trusting Your Hand,
Ashley

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Dear God, Thank You

Dear God,

Today, all I can say is thank You. And I'm so glad that I can cling to Romans 8.26.

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."


Humbled at Your Holiness,
Ashley

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I guess I Didn't Consider That

I guess I didn't consider the weirdest aspect of selling everything: that obnoxious in between phase. That part where we are still living here, but it's no longer our home.

I looking around our house and it looks so.... empty.

I'll be honest. I've stopped taking decor down once or twice and thought, "Well, we can just wait. I mean it's not like we're moving tomorrow...."

But I know that's just putting it off to a time that we will be busier (though that's hard to even imagine at the moment). I know the best thing is to sell it all now, before we are traveling almost every week. Before Richard begins helicopter training. Before we get our house on the market. Before it gets really crazy around here.

It's still weird though.

Dear God, I Think I get it

Dear God,

It's me again.

Today, Richard was cussed out by the blessing [in disguise?] that you have put in our lives.

We have sacrificed our time and resources to help them. We have given above and beyond what we thought we could give. We've spent money, gas (and that's not cheap if you haven't noticed...), time, and energy to do everything we possibly can to help them in their desperate time of need. I've driven many miles, waited in waiting rooms for many hours, sacrificed time with my family, answered 100 phone calls and made just as many, stood in the heat for more than an hour because my car wouldn't start but I needed to get to the next place of help before they closed. I've given and given and asked others to give. Literally all of our focus has gone to them over the last 72 hours because we know that that is what you require of us. That is what your love tells us to do.

Their response? Doubting. Hateful words. Lack of effort. Ungratefulness. Selfishness. Greediness. And more hateful words.

And to top it all off, we finally come up with a solution that will help them out in the long run. It's uncomfortable now. It's not what they want now, but it will have the most long term good, and they tell us it's not good enough. That it's unfair.

Me? I sit here exhausted. My mind is tired. My body is tired. And my heart is heavy.

And I get it. I get at least one small part of what You are teaching me.

You have given it all for me. You have listened and held me and comforted me. You wrote an entire book for me. You promised to always be with me and to love me unconditionally. You said I didn't need to ever worry because You are in control. You said You have a beautiful plan for my life. And You went so far as to sacrifice Your only Son to prove that.

My response? I doubt You. I say faithless things to You. I'm selfish and greedy. I'm ungrateful and I don't trust You.

But at the end of the day, You still love me. You still listen to my complaining and never turn Your back on me. You keep your promises and always forgive me when I wrong You.

So tomorrow I will follow your example. I'm going to wake up and spend the day loving them in the same way that You have loved me. I'm going to spend more time and money and gas. I'm going to spend more time away from my family. I'm likely going to spend hours doing things that are inconvenient and uncomfortable for me.

I'm going to do that because no matter how much I sacrifice, it pales in comparison to your unending mercy and grace in my life. And demonstrating Your love to others is the very least that I can do

Thank You for trusting me with Your name like that.

'Til the Work is Done,
Ashley

(Disclaimer: To those of you who know the full story, only one half of the couple was as described above. The other half was very grateful and is working hard to better the situation.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dear God, That Was Unexpected

Dear God,

Remember the other day when I asked You to send someone our way that we could be a blessing to? And remember how not long ago I asked You to take me out of my comfort zone? And remember how a little while back I had asked You to teach me a little bit about what it meant to serve You and it actually cost me something?

Ok, well, I guess I didn't expect You to answer all three of those, like, at the same time.

For real, though. I wasn't expecting that.

But, since You have, and since You are sovereign and all knowing and never make mistakes, I'm now asking you for a little bit a lot of wisdom. And by a lot I mean A LOT. Like, the biggest dose You can give me without my brain exploding.

And, also, since You were so quick to answer those three requests I mentioned above, could You also answer this one really quickly?

You're awesome. Seriously. I am literally in awe of You and who You are.

I looked up the definition of "awe" and it means: "an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like"

That's basically a perfect description of how I feel right now.

But also, I feel overwhelmed by my inadequacy. I'm overwhelmed by my lack of faith, my selfishness, my helplessness, and my overall inability to go more than five minutes without once again relying on myself rather than You.

So thanks for being all that You are and never giving up on me and for loving me enough to stretch me and grow me. You're so good like that.

Love Your Modern Day Doubting Thomas,
Ashley

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Confessions of a Missionary Part Dos: I have a [real] tattoo.

Whew! I've wanted to say that for a long time.

To some of you, this is a shock. Maybe I even just dropped a few notches in your book.
To some of you, you wonder what the big deal is. You have twelve tattoos and you're getting another one tomorrow.
And some of you just don't care. This is petty to you. [If this is you, don't feel obligated to keep reading.]

Regardless, this is a relief for me to say. Why?
Because it's on my ankle and I've been trying to hide it for 2.5 years, that's why. That's not an easy task for goodness sake. Imagine: summertime = shorts + trying to hide a very obvious tattoo that is clearly [and permanently] etched into your ankle = very difficult

Why have I tried to hide it? After all, I was the one who consciously got the thing! It's a long story. So, if you're up for it, take a few minutes to read a little bit of my story...

I come from a very conservative background and I'm--wait for it-- a missionary. If you can relate to either of those, you understand the taboo-ness of tattoos in this realm. They are right up there with going to movies and reading from modern translations of the Bible. Unacceptable! Sinful even.

If you don't, however, come from a conservative background and/or you're not a missionary then you have no clue what I'm talking about. As a matter of fact, you may have several tats that are clearly visible and you proudly display them. Maybe you and your Pastor have matching tattoos. I don't know. But regardless, you don't see what the big deal is.

Allow me to explain.

When I was about 11 years old I developed a religious form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). (Google it. It's not uncommon.) I had been taught, whether purposefully or not, a checklist Christianity.

Read your Bible. Check.
Pray. Check.
Tell people about Jesus. Check.
Don't cuss. Check.
Don't drink. Check.
Don't smoke. Check.
Don't get tattoos. Check.
And Jesus will be happy with you. Check... right? Or did I miss something? I don't want Jesus mad at me. Let me try this again..... Read your Bible. Check. Pray. Check.........and so commences the OCD.

[I'm being transparent here. I hope it doesn't make you too uncomfortable... or maybe it should.]

I was obsessed, but not with Jesus Himself. Not with knowing God. Not with loving Him and humbly serving Him. I was obsessed with the motions. I wanted to "do the right things" so I could somehow be in favor with God. I wanted to be a "good person", not one of those "bad people" who did do all these things that I didn't do. Sinners.

I distinctly remember some of my thought processes. I would pray using the "right words" (Heavenly Father, Lord, in Jesus name, Amen, etc.), on my knees, hands folded. At one point I remember being afraid that I wasn't saying "Amen" correctly. I had heard it pronounced "Ah-men" and I had heard it pronounced "A-men". Which was right? Which did God want to hear? I'd use both, just in case.

I would carry tracts around with me and place them in random places. I would become anxious as I tried to decide if I should leave it under the windshield wiper or in the door handle. What would Jesus do? Should I leave two tracts? Maybe three?

I would read my Bible but I found myself reading the same verses over and over. What if I was missing what God was saying to me? I would read the genealogies word for word. Gotta read every jot and tittle. Right? Don't want to displease God.

I had to be at church every time the doors were opened. Every. Time. That meant every youth activity, every Old-Fashioned Revival, every prayer meeting, e-v-e-r-y-t-i-m-e. And I was sure to wear a dress or a skirt. That's what Christian girls do.

I had the t-shirts. I had the devotional books. I did my "Quiet Time" and had the points to show for it every Wednesday night at small group check[list]-in. I brought my KJV Bible. I took notes.  I had preachers sign my Bible. I brought my Bible with me to my public school. I went to See You At The Pole. I even did a report once on Billy Graham (again at my public school). I wore panty hose in the winter.

I was doing all the right things. I was a "good Christian girl". I was a "good spiritual example". I was pleasing God.

Right?? I was pleasing Him, wasn't I?

Wait, did I pray the "salvation prayer right"? Did I mean it with all my heart? What if I only meant it with some of my heart? Did I know "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that I would go to Heaven? How much doubt is that, exactly?

This went on for years.
On the outside, I was a "good Christian girl".  
On the inside, I was empty and stifled. 
I was suffocating in well-intended Religion.

I had crammed myself into the "Christian mold". I did all the right things. I followed the checklist obsessively because I was taught to do all of the things to be a "good Christian". That was what Christ looks for: obedience to these rules. You know you love God when you do these things.

I never stopped to question it. That would be wrong. Oh, so very wrong.

Fast-forward a bit. It was 2008 and I was 22 years old. I had finished Bible school (check), married to my high school sweetheart, working at a ministry (check) and was just accepted as a missionary to begin raising support to go to the foreign field full time (check)... and I was so cramped inside the Christian mold after 11 years of living by the checklist, I was ready to throw all of Christianity away.

If this was what it was all about, no thank you.

And I was frustrated. Maybe even angry. I had done ALL the right things. I went to church. I stayed pure for marriage. I went to Bible school. I did all these things. I couldn't be holier if I had been born on a church pew.

But I was empty. I was walking this walk that I was told was in the right direction but I felt so out of place.

Somewhere along the way, while checking off my list, I had overlooked the fact that God looks on the heart. All my efforts? Useless. All my attempts to please God? Worthless. Why? Because they weren't from the heart. They were in an effort to make myself somehow worthy of God's love.

So there I was in the midst of a spiritual identity crisis. I believed that Christ as the only way to Heaven.  I genuinely wanted to serve Him. But I was disconnected. I didn't "feel it".

And I was determined. I was determined to break out of this Christian mold once and for all. I was tired of being seen as a "good Christian girl" on the outside and wanted to prove that you could indeed love Jesus and not obey all of these man-made rules of modern Christianity.

What better way than a tattoo? It was edgy. It was unexpected. And it was permanent.

So that's what I did. I got a tattoo (see pic below). But what's funny, looking back, is I was in some way still enslaved to the checklist good-girl mentality because I got a tattoo of the Hebrew word "to have faith". At least it was a "good tattoo".

"So there!" I thought, "Maybe I'm not such a good girl after all. Boo-ya!"

Um. So. Now what? I found myself even more conflicted after this. Now I had this permanent fixture on my ankle and I still felt trapped.
There was still an emptiness in my heart.

And I suddenly felt the need to hide it. What would everyone think?? Ashley got a tattoo! She's gone off the deep end. She's rebellious. She'll never be a good missionary now. How can she lead another culture to Christ with a tattoo? Oh, not Ashley!

So I hid it. For 2.5 years I've hidden it.

But then through a series of events, I began a journey about a year and a half ago that has transformed me. I began studying for myself. I began being myself. I began to feel alive. And it has absolutely positively nothing to do with reading my Bible. It doesn't even have to do with praying or being good or moral. I didn't even have to get a tattoo to figure it out.

It's like God took a razor blade to that box I was in and revealed to me that He doesn't fit in there after all.

My life was transformed when I realized that it's just not all about me after all. It's not about what I do. It's not about what I say. It's not about who I appeal to.

It's all about Christ. It's all about Him. He died so I could be free. He died so I didn't have to have religion. He died so I could love Him. He died so I could love my brothers and sisters. He died so I could LIVE.

And the ironic thing about it all? Now I want to know Him. I want to read His Word. I want to pray and talk to Him. I want to share Him with others because He is just so good.

And I don't have to do anything at all but love Him. The rest just starts to come naturally.

So I threw my checklist away so to speak. And I'm free. I'm free to tell you unashamedly that I have a tattoo. And Christ doesn't love me any less for it. It's part of my story and who I am.

[Before you go all Leviticus 19:28 on me, stop for a minute. Go back a couple of verses to Leviticus 19:19 and make sure you aren't wearing clothing made of mixed materials. Yeah. Exactly.]


So take a minute and ask yourself:

Have you been living a checklist Christianity?
Have you been believing things because it's what you've always believed?
Have you been holding standards for other people that aren't even in the Bible?

Are you in love with Christ or your checklist?

Are you serving the true Christ or a Christ that's been manufactured by modern Christianity?



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The American [Bad] Dream

We are "living the American dream". [By we, I mean Richard and me.]

We have what people work for and dream of. We have what people leave other countries and move here to pursue. We own our home [or at least we're buying it from the bank]. We have a beautiful, healthy baby boy. We have an awesome boxer dog. We have two vehicles and a [semi] fenced in back yard with a big front porch. Our family lives close and we see them often. We enjoy our jobs and make enough money to do the things we like at least occasionally. We are debt free and have traveled extensively in our short 24 years of existence.

But it's not enough.

If this was all we had to look forward to, if all we hoped for was a raise so that we could take a better vacation next summer, if we were striving for a bigger house, a newer car, a nice retirement.... I'd be depressed. Like, prescribe me some meds because I'd be perpetually down in the dumps.

Why? Because the American Dream is a lie from the devil himself. And it's a powerful lie that is permeating the church and burying itself deep into modern Christian culture until it's even become a part of doctrine among some believers. We teach it, sometimes unknowingly, to our children and from the pulpit on Sunday morning. We diminish missions to a program and pat ourselves on the back for "exposing" people to missions. And it's wrong.

And satan smiles.

We buy our children toys and games and movies and cell phones and electronics and the latest gadget that starts with a lower case "i" and cars and prestigious education and the list goes on.

We build our churches with massive steeples and fancy buildings and cushioned pews and the latest in sound and video technology and our toilets flush themselves and the list goes on.

And then we encourage our kids to put a quarter in the Salvation Army pail at Christmas time and to fill a little shoe box with cheap toys from the dollar tree for a poor child in Africa and we pat ourselves on the back.

And we take up an offering and give it to missionaries and if we're really bold we go on a mission trip where we stay in air conditioned hotels and come back and have presentations to talk about the "great" work  we did and we have mission "conferences" to display the missionaries that we support and we say things like "Wow, I could never do that!" and we laugh and return to our comfortable, easy, complacent lives.

And Jesus did none of those things.

We tell our children to be thankful that our parents work so hard to give them nice things.
Jesus said you must hate your mother and father to follow me. (Luke 14:26)

We say that we are blessed to live in such a great nation.
God says not to be prideful about our "riches".(1 Timothy 6.17)

We want well-rounded children and smart children and healthy children and children who have opportunities that we don't. Meanwhile thousands of children die everyday of starvation while we save up for our children's education and "opportunities".

And satan smiles. He smiles because that's exactly where he wants us: comfortable and self-absorbed.

As we prepare to sell all that we have to move to a far away place, my heart is very full of many different emotions.

I look back on the journey that has brought us to this point and it's been a lot of things that I didn't expect. It's been challenging and growing and stretching and even painful at times. But it's been so very, very good as we learn to release control of our lives to God and watch as He orchestrates a beautiful picture of His love for all mankind. And to think that we can be a small part of that picture... well, that's true joy.

Two years ago I thought we were ready to go. I thought we could pack up everything and head to this foreign place, but God in all His wisdom knew we weren't ready. So we've waited, and we continue to wait. We wait on His timing because we know it's perfect.

We've visited dozens of churches and shared the vision that God has given us about the uncontacted and lost and dying and most of the time it's fallen on deaf ears. But it's those few seeds that have taken root that put us on our knees in humility before God, thanking Him for putting together the team He has. Thanking Him that only He can take the credit for the literally hundreds of stories of His provision and direction in our lives.

It's God that has brought us to this place where the American Dream is more like a bad dream. It's God who has taken off the blinders and revealed to us that there is so much more to this life than our comforts and our dreams and our goals and our needs and that the eternity of billions is at stake. And that we will have no excuse before God one day when we had the resources and time and money and health and breath to do something about it.

And so we pray. We pray that God will continue to take the blinders off the millions of Christians that are still believing the lie that God wants us to be comfortable and happy. God wants to give us joy unspeakable, but it doesn't come from what this world has to offer. It comes for surrendering all to Him, whatever that may look like.

And we pray that He will keep our hearts and minds focused on Him. We know that there will be distractions and "voices of reason" telling us to find an easier way, to look for something a little "safer". But that's just it: this is the safest place we could possibly be.

And we pray that in all that we do and all that we pursue, our lives will bring glory to His name.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thankful Thursday/Journal Entry Combo

It's been, well, Thursday. I have been trying to decide all day what I want my Thankful Thursday post to be about. It's not that I don't have anything to be thankful for. I have a ridiculous amount of things to be thankful for. I'm just in a bit of a slump. You've been there, right??

Anywho, I decided to go back through some of my journal entries from our December-January Trip and, well, it seemed to fit right into what I needed today.

December 20, 2010

It's really cool to serve the God of the weather. Today's been a lonely day. I was on the boat all day alone with Elliott, Ian, Vivi, and Jesse. That meant if a storm were to pop up, it would be up to me to handle it.

Well, a storm popped up. It was huge in the distance and at first I was freaking out on the inside. We closed all the flaps and even started up the engine (which I had no idea how to turn off, but that's another story.) That storm subsided though so I had the kids go ahead to their rooms for nap time. I went up top and watched as an even bigger storm seemed eminent. So I did all I knew to do--pray. I asked God for wisdom and I asked Him to break up the storm. Then I just sat down and watched as the storm got closer and closer. But the funny thing was that there was this little break in the clouds right over where I was sitting on the front of the boat. It stayed there until the storm broke up and blew right past me. I think I even got a little tan. I smiled. It's really cool to serve the God of the weather.

[Evening]
Things really seem a lot more exotic when you aren't there. I'm lying here on the back flap of a house boat on the  River looking up at the full moon peeking through the clouds and listening to the frogs and crickets as they sing their songs. It's beautiful and spectacular as I see the lightening in the distant storm. But my mind is still fretting. That's the story of my life, isn't it? I'm always living in the future. I don't really struggle with the past except sometimes the immediate past when someone has upset me. I'm instead always looking at the future: worrying, fretting, anticipating. Yet, what happens is, I get to that distant point and I'm disappointed because it's not what I thought and then I'm right back anticipating the next event. When will I learn? Will I learn? I think one thing God is trying to demonstrate to me is living here and now. Enjoying life and loving the little pleasures He allows. Things like Elliott's smile, Richard's amibition, the sights and sounds around me.

Life's about the journey, not the destination.
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