Our eyes are on You

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Israel80“…we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You” 2 Chronicles 20:12b

The above verse is the very last sentence of a prayer offered up by an Old Testament king named Jehoshaphat. I’ve loved this story- and this snippet of his prayer ever since I read it many years ago.

The story is about a king of Judah who obediently follows God. He declares God’s law, so that the people hear it and obey it. He tears down all idol worship. He seeks God’s counsel before going to battle.

One day, he is in Jerusalem, and he gets terrible news. Three nations, Moab and Ammon and Mt. Seir have amassed an enormous army and together are headed toward Jerusalem to attack.

In fact, when he gets this news, this enormous army is camped at En Gedi, an oasis in the desert that we visited when in Israel. The picture above was taken there. It is also where David caught King Saul in a cave and cut a tassel off his robe.

King Jehoshaphat immediately prays. You can find his prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:6-12, and it ends with this: “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

After he prays, God speaks through a prophet to say: This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s…. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”

They go to meet this army, but before they get there, the army ends up turning on itself and completely destroying each other. When Jehoshephat and his army “came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.”

There are so many incredible examples of God’s provision in the Bible. I’m not sure what makes this one stick in my mind so firmly- except for that prayer. I have so many moments in my life when I turn my eyes from something hard and seemingly hopeless and say the words: “Lord- I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you.”

When we visited En Gedi, this story was told, and this prayer was quoted. I couldn’t help but smile when it was read. I’ve made it my own. It has been my cry to God in so many things over the years. There are so many times when I simply don’t know what to do. The problem is bigger than I can handle. It looks hopeless. I feel small. But I remember that God is big. He gives hope to the hopeless. He handles the seemingly impossible without any hesitation.

There is something about saying these words out loud. Deciding to stand firm. Telling God that we are watching for Him to move on our behalf. Trusting that He will.

Earlier this week, I read Psalm 5 and it again reminded me to EXPECT God to move. Not to just ask and sit around worrying about what will happen- or to ask and resign myself to nothing changing– but to ask with expectation.

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

I’ve been praying with expectation this week. Not expectation that God will provide in the ways I see as best, but expectation that he will indeed move in each thing I pray for- and that he will move in ways that will bring life and hope and healing to each person involved.

Join me as I pray for:

  • Financial provision for all 135 of our American, Canadian and European interns before May 1st.
  • A movement of God- beginning tonight and all through the weekend- for SoulBlast– a huge youth retreat led by my friend John up in Michigan.
  • Full support to come in quickly for my friend Ricky as he seeks to serve in Slovakia with JV next fall.
  • For those in my life (and yours) who are trying to fill the emptiness inside with anything other than Christ.

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While I am consumed with preparations for sending interns overseas in just a few short weeks, God is moving in powerful ways across the countries of Josiah Venture.

The above picture was taken in Slovakia last week at KPM (konferencia pracovníkov s mládežou)- a training conference for youth workers. Almost 700 young people attended! If you’d like to read a little about it, visit this blog written by Connie Patty- she captures all the beauty of it well. Events like this take place in several JV countries. SO exciting to see God moving!!!

Next week is the annual Fusiondary event with JV. It is taking place in the Czech Republic (recently re-named Czechia?!?) April 29- May 1. It is a music festival for all the music ministries of JV. Seven countries and more than 700 people will participate in concerts, seminars and lots of fellowship. Please be praying for this!

JV Spring Conference will take place May 4-8. All staff are invited to come and be refreshed by teachings and time together. Pray that this will be an encouragement to staff that have been working hard all year in Eastern and Central Europe.

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I’ve enjoyed seeing many of you in recent weeks as I’ve visited your churches! I still have Avalon Missionary (this Saturday and Sunday) and Battle Creek Friends (next Saturday and Sunday). Hope to see you then!!!

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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7

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He could have left.

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Israel68“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:8-11

One of the unexpected things I loved about visiting Israel was the impact that geography has on the story of the Bible.

We spent an entire afternoon hiking in the Wadi Qelt. This is a deep canyon that runs between Jericho (at about 800 ft below sea level) and Jerusalem (at about 2500 ft above sea level). It’s a deep canyon with just a narrow trail, and it was a hot, dry hike. We hiked down toward Jericho, and I cannot imagine hiking it up to Jerusalem! Along the way, we stopped and learned that this was likely the wilderness of Jesus’ temptation, the setting for the Good Samaritan parable, and almost certainly the path that Jesus would have taken with his family to Jerusalem, and with his disciples on that last trek toward his death and resurrection.

Israel71It was so interesting to experience the heat and the steep drop-offs and the dry desert air and to imagine all of these Biblical moments here.

Even more interesting, was when we arrived in Jerusalem two days later and our guide pointed the canyon out from the top of the Mount of Olives. You could see all the way down to the Dead Sea- past Jericho. The entire path through the wilderness from here to there.

Naturally, our tour involved a visit to the garden of Gethsemane, and while we were there, we were reminded that this garden sits outside of Jerusalem- on the east side- right on the side of the Mount of Olives. Right on the way out of town. It would have been incredibly easy, on his last agonizing night here, for Jesus to just slip out of the garden, onto the path, out into the wilderness and escape this certain death.

He could have left…

Again, my biblical imagination had failed me in this. I always thought of Jesus in a position where he had no choice. He was the Son of God. He had come to die. There was no other option. I never thought about the temptation of leaving. The disciples were asleep, Jesus had asked them to stay awake and pray, but they couldn’t. He knew what was coming. He knew how awful it would be.

But he stayed.

He pleaded with God to take this cup from him- begged God to find another way. He was in such distress that he sweat drops of blood.

But he stayed.

He fought the biggest battle ever fought by a man in this quiet garden away from the view of the world. He set his face toward obedience and said the words, “Not my will, but thine be done.”

He stayed out of obedience- and he stayed out of love.

As I sat in this garden, and looked up through the olive branches into the blue sky, the intensity of that love hit me. He stayed for me. He stayed for you. He knew that if he left we would face the penalty of eternal death ourselves- so he stayed.

Israel113He was arrested, severely beaten, taunted, and spit upon. He had thorns crushed onto his head and then he was nailed to a cross and died.  Because he loves us.

Being loved like this changes us. It shows us that we are treasured by God- we are incredibly valuable. We are worth rescuing. We are worth dying for. We have purpose.

We can find rest in this love. It means we are never alone. It means we never (ever!) will be alone. If we choose to accept this love, we will have it from this moment all the way into eternity. It means we are accepted. We are adopted as children of God. We can run to him any time and find his great love waiting for us.

I love the picture of God that Zephaniah paints in 3:17

“God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Isn’t that beautiful? When life gets confusing and hard- when I feel like I’m terrible at everything- when I fail miserably at doing the right thing- when I’m tired and discouraged—

There he is, rejoicing over me, taking delight in how he created me, singing his songs of joy and hope over me- and my heart is quieted by this overwhelming, unbelievable love that I don’t deserve.

How can I recognize this love and fail to respond? How could I not offer my life to him in return? Why would I ever choose to live apart from him? Why would you?

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure

That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away

As wounds which mar the chosen One bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross- my sin upon His shoulders, 

Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished

His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything- no gifts, no power, no wisdom

But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.

Why should I gain from His reward? 

I cannot give an answer

But this I know with all my heart- His wounds have paid my ransom.

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Small things

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Israel3On the second day of this month, my plane landed in Tel Aviv, Israel. I hopped on a tour bus and then climbed to the summit of a mountain in Galilee and saw my first glimpse of the Lake of Galilee.

My very first thought was: It’s so small!!!

I’ve been imagining the Sea of Galilee for my whole life.

Peter, James and John in a sailboat- out on the rolling sea… Jesus calming the storm… Jesus walking on water and Peter trying to join him….

I didn’t imagine I’d be able to see all sides of it at once. How in the world did they have storms on this little lake that were big enough to scare anyone?

Our guide, Andre, gave us a birds-eye tour around the lake (since we could almost see all of it)…

Right below us- Magdela- where Mary Magdalene was from and then Geresene. Then Capernaum- where Jesus spent a good portion of his 3 years of ministry. As Andre made his way around the lake, I squinted down at the rolling hills and farm land. Tiny little towns and villages. Probably tinier when Jesus lived here.

I’m not sure why I always picture Jesus completely swarmed with masses of people, but as I looked out at the green hillsides before me, it struck me that the whole world as we now know it was changed… from here. Little towns on a fairly small lake in the rolling hills of Galilee. A spark was lit here that would be fanned into flame across the entire globe and even I would hear of the events that transpired here- in a little Sunday School room in Battle Creek Michigan.

Israel42I was lost in thought for the rest of the day. I imagined what ministry was like here for Jesus. Poor (but incredibly beautiful!) fishing villages, smelly fishermen, rowdy children, grumpy old men, sad people, hurting people. People that all knew each other because they were from a small town. Gossips, troublemakers, but also kind and generous people.

My biblical imagination had failed to flesh these details out. The disciples, and people Jesus lived alongside, were fairly vague shadow-figures in my mind with just a few sharp personality points- Thomas doubted… Peter was impulsive…. But I’d never imagined what day-to-day  life was like for all of them.

Seeing the smallness of this place and realizing the enormity of what God accomplished here gave me such a jolt of excitement that it surprised me.

Because if God can use such a little place and such insignificant people to change the world…then it could happen in Indiana. It could happen with us. 

As my week in Israel unfolded I was reminded over and over of how small things can be powerful in the hands of God.

Only a day later, as I was thinking through these things, Dave shared a lesson in Sepphora about this very thing- about how Jesus came from such a tiny, insignificant town. His take-away for us was: “Small things have big significance when they are a part of God’s redemptive plan.” He explained, “Whenever we step into what God is doing, we step from our small story into God’s big story with huge significance.”

Later that day, Andre pointed out mustard plants to us. They were blooming- we were very fortunate to be in Israel during spring- and the bright yellow flowers were everywhere. I thought about how Jesus used this plant in parables and lessons.

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Matthew 13: 31-33 “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Tiny things…result in things of great size and significance…and in the very next verse:

“He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.’”

Tiny bits of yeast transform the entire bowl of dough….

Or how about this story, that I thought about as I had a chance to hold a Mina, or a widow’s mite from Jesus’ time in my hand:

Mark 12:41-44  “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

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Little is much in God’s economy….

So I’ve spent some time this past week thinking about what God is already doing around me. In Josiah Venture and in Fort Wayne. I’ve been asking God to show me where I can join His story more fully- where I can give all of the little bits I have into His hands for His use and glory.

And I guess I am sharing this with all of you to encourage you to do the same,  hoping you will catch the excitement of stepping into the great eternal story of God. Hoping we all will allow him to take our small stories, and tiny towns, and weave them into his Big Story- the one that continues to change the entire world with grace!

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through out all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Breathless

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1391671_10151736119582513_78608553_nHave you ever read or seen Lord of the Rings? Maybe Chronicles of Narnia?

My favorite books and movies involve epic battles between the forces of good and evil. They pit the worst case scenario against things that seemingly have no real-world power. Things like love, friendship, honesty, and sacrifice. Things that from outward appearances hold no weight against weapons, money, strength, numbers, or power.

One of my favorite scenes in LOTR happens at the battle of Helms Deep. The greatest evil ever known by this fictional land has erupted, and grown to a point where it is literally unstoppable. The people of the land have taken refuge in a place called Helms Deep, and they are confident that they will be able to defend it.

But they aren’t able to.

Evil arrives in such great numbers- in such a vast army- that they are helpless. Defeat is inevitable. They are all going to die. The main characters decide to die fighting and they ride out into this vast army- a tiny spot of hope in the vast blackness of evil.

But then… (this is my favorite part)

Gandalf arrives with the break of day- he rides over the edge of a ridge followed by an army much greater than the evil. He arrives with blinding light that renders the army of darkness useless.

And suddenly there is hope. The battle is easily won. Good conquers evil in the face of insurmountable odds.

There’s a song by Mercy Me that reminds me of this scene every time I hear it. It’s called Flawless, and one part of the song describes Christ in this way:

“Then like a hero who takes the stage when we’re on the edge of our seats saying ‘It’s too late’- well let me introduce you to amazing grace”

Because that is, in fact, what Christ did. In an epic story (the most incredible story I’ve ever read) the greatest evil, and the darkest dark is defeated by a man who laid his life down for mankind.  The son of God died a horrible, horrible death and was buried. And it looked like the dark had won. Evil had been victorious. Plenty of people said, “It’s too late. The story is over.”

But then…(again, my favorite part)

A pair of eyes opened. What was once thought lost was reborn in life. A savior walked out of his tomb in the early morning light and astonished the women who had come to tend to him. Love conquered death. Good conquered evil. Light overcame the dark.

But the best part?  This wasn’t just a story. It didn’t take place in Middle Earth or Narnia. It actually happened. And it changed everything on this planet- for every single person- including you.

I have a hard time living day-to-day with this realization because it literally takes my breath away. Yesterday at church we sang the words, “You’re a good, good Father- it’s who you are… and I’m loved by You- it’s who I am.” (Chris Tomlin)

I felt my identity click into place. Because I am a part of this epic story- and so are you. We are loved by the one who gave his life away. In fact, we are the reason he did it. When the armies of darkness were so thick around us that we couldn’t even see, he stepped on the stage of time- the hero of all heroes- and rescued us. I am, more than any other part of my identity, a girl who is loved by Him. A girl who has been undeservedly rescued by Him.

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I have friends who went to New Zealand to see where the LOTR movies were made- they took a tour of the various sites where parts of the movies were filmed. They talked about how amazing it was to walk the land where the movie was created.

Josiah Venture is sending all of it’s single missionaries on a retreat (our 1st one ever!) to Israel. I leave tomorrow. The Bible is my very favorite story, and to see the land in which this story took place is something I thought I’d never have the opportunity to do. A friend asked me yesterday how I was feeling about the trip coming up so soon. I told her I was having a hard time putting it into words.

It takes my breath away. To visit, not a movie set, but the place where the One who rescued us for all eternity walked and taught and died and resurrected.

Please pray for our group this week. We will be led, as we travel, through the book of Luke; searching for truths about Jesus in ministry and discipleship.

  • Pray that our hearts would be open to learning and growing in the uniquely single lives God has granted each of us.
  • Pray that this would be a time of refreshment, growth, strengthening and encouragement- especially for these missionaries living far from home so that young lives in Eastern and Central Europe can be reached with this very story of God’s great love.
  • Pray for safety and health for our entire group

Thank you dear friends!!!!!

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All along the way

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IMG_5754I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook’s new memory feature. For those of you not on Facebook, it’s a reminder every day of what you were doing last year- 2 years ago- 4 years ago on this day. Sometimes it reminds me of sad days- or of fun memories with mom that still sting a bit. Mostly, it makes me smile though- it reminds me that this life is a journey and that God is at work transforming those of us who are following closely after Him.

It’s good to be transformed by God. That means that the flaws and hangups we see in ourselves today don’t have to predict our future. When we allow him to, he will gradually teach us and shape us and sift out the things that are in our way of being more like him.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

In the day-to-day living of life, the disciplines of renewing our mind in God’s word and in prayer don’t seem to add up to very dramatic transformation. Standing firm in the face of what the world calls “good” and God calls “evil” doesn’t seem to make much difference in the day-to-day.

But looking back (thank you Facebook…), I see God transforming me. I see God transforming you. He is changing us into the faith-filled, forward-looking, firmly-rooted children that He wants us to be. Makes me smile.

I guess I say all of this to encourage you (and me!) to continue in faithfulness and discipline this year.

My memory alert yesterday contained a status from 2 years ago:
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Yes, my decimal was off- it was 1,608.3 miles- I didn’t drive to the moon… 🙂

Only 2 years ago I was starting my time in the desert of Arizona. I love thinking about all that God has taught me in these past two years. All that he has changed in me. Some of the lessons have been painful- but he has been faithful all along the way. My witness of that faithfulness, that “I’m always here- you are never going to face life alone- you have access to my strength” kind of faithfulness has given me so much peace. It has also put a fire in my heart to show others the great love and faithfulness of God.

I’m being transformed- and if you are following along after Christ- so are you! Praise God!!

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I haven’t blogged in such a long time. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Interns!!! I am hiring and starting to prepare so many interns for this coming summer. We are up over 80 of them hired now- which is GREAT! Our application deadline is January 31, so every day is busier than the last with questions and paperwork and accounts to set up and issue. I love it! I have so many stories of how God is putting the puzzle pieces together to create His team of interns for this summer- it it an honor to have a front row seat to watch him move!!! Look at how many new faces we have in just 6 weeks! Please continue to pray for these dear young people as they prepare to serve overseas this summer.
  2. Interns 2016I’m spending 3 weeks with dad in Florida. I work from home, so when I’m caught up with work, I don’t spend my time writing- I spend it with dad 🙂 We are having mini-adventures exploring the areas around his new home. This part of Florida is jam-packed with springs and rivers, and we have gone (with Casper in tow!) to hike the trails surrounding these beautiful places. We’ve found yummy restaurants that allow pups to dine with you- we even found a cupcake shop close by 🙂

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I will be back in Indiana this Thursday, and although I will miss dad, it will be good to dive back in to life in Indiana!

Thanks for listening to my ramblings… I pray that this week you have a sense of God’s faithfulness leading you forward and transforming you into his image!

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

 

He restores my soul

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The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul

Psalm 23: 1-3a

I spent this week on the Navajo Nation, and it was perfect.

Life has been so busy and upside down for me this year. Nothing fits where it used to, and I keep thinking- who am I in this new life? Where do I fit- in my family- in Josiah Venture- in my church- with my friends. So many people have ideas about how I should fit, what I should be doing, how I should be prioritizing things. Start this, organize that, connect with these people, be more like this, talk about that, share this but don’t share that…

As I made my way up to the reservation from Phoenix, I settled in to the quiet views of wide open skies. I watched the cactus turn into the red rock of Sedona and then to the tall aspens and mountains of Flagstaff.

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I stopped to see Meteor Crater- a sight I wanted to see when I lived in AZ and never got around to. I stood in the cold wind and wondered about the day God sent a meteor from space crashing into earth, creating this enormous crater. I touched a cold chunk of the meteor and thought about where it came from- how vast and inexplicable the space surrounding our little planet is….

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Leaving Flagstaff, I came up over the edge of the mountains and smiled at the plains dotted with mesas and carved deep with canyons. Almost there.

Very little had changed since I was last in Rough Rock. The tumbleweed was taller- they had a lot of rain this summer. The little blue-roofed house I lived in had sprung a leak in the ceiling of the dining room that Sonny was trying to repair. The kids were taller, the babies walking and talking. But mostly, things felt the same, and I was reminded of all the slow, quiet days of visiting and teaching, of weaving Navajo rugs with Pauline and making frybread with Lula.

I was reminded of my many-months-ago dependance on God for the future. I didn’t know the next steps that summer, but I fully trusted that He did- and I rested there. I had peace.

So in the quiet of long drives and sunlit walks with friends my soul was restored by God.

I let go of all the thoughts and plans and expectations- real and imagined- that I feel heaped over me. I was reminded that the only voice I have to listen to, and obey is God’s- and that HE knows the way through change and busy and new. I remembered again that I have an audience of one to please. All I need to do is follow closely after my Shepherd, and all will be well.

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Updates on Rough Rock:

Navajo14Lavina’s family is growing up! Shenoah (the youngest) is walking and talking up a storm! We went trick-or treating together in Chinle, and I loved sharing a greasy Pizza Edge pizza with them all in the van beforehand and singing along to the radio at the top of our lungs. They were worn out before they even got to the door-to-door quest for candy!

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Lavina has a new job at the hospital that she loves and the kids are all doing great in school. Next year Donovan will leave for boarding school in Farmington, which will be a big change for them.

Navajo9Delbert and Lula are doing well too- Delbert’s cancer hasn’t returned and he has his final checkup later this fall. Goodness, I love this family. We had so much fun together this week.

Navajo8We played SO many games of Yahtzee!!!  One of the mission teams that came brought this game along and gave it to the Marianito kids last summer, and it was a hit! We played all afternoon and into the evening. “Heads Up” on my cell phone was a huge hit too and we laughed so hard that my stomach still hurts a little! I saved a few of the videos and you can watch one by clicking here.

Lula made fry bread and Navajo tacos for dinner one night…be jealous…they were soooooo good!!!!!

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Lula also made me a Navajo Rug from the extra yarn I’d given her before I left last fall…such a sweet gift…!

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All the other people from Rough Rock Friends are doing well- Sonny’s family has grown by one grandchild, and little Mika is almost done with her chemo treatments in Phoenix. She has tolerated them well, and they say that the tumors have shrunk, but they ask we would all keep praying for her. Sonny’s grandson Drey was out trick-or-treating when I snapped this photo…so sweet!

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The whole Rough Rock crew was there on Sunday- plus it was 1st Sunday and all the other churches from up on the mesa came to worship together and share a November Thanksgiving dinner. The church is doing well- but I was a little disappointed that they weren’t growing. The head of Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting came for a visit that Sunday and he specifically shared with them that his hope is for them to not just sustain the people there, but to begin reaching out into the community.

Please pray for this. Please pray that God will continue to raise them up into the leaders of the church that are needed here.

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I’m writing this blog at the kitchen table of dear friends- the Armstrongs. I will be here for the weekend and I’m looking forward to joining their family for a few days of football games, soccer practices, keep-away with their giant dog Toby and lots of laughter, joy and wisdom from the people who first convinced me that I actually could walk away from medicine and work full-time in ministry.

It feels like I’ve come full-circle this week, back to the place where I 1st realized that my “I could never” had turned into a “maybe I actually can”.  It makes me so thankful that God keeps after us until we listen and follow him to the places he needs us to be.

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Seasons

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Fall1I recently had a very nice “First day of New”.

That’s the name coined by my sister-in-law Steph for days when you experience a new set of circumstances for the 1st time. You know- the days when the routine you’ve always had, or people you’ve always known, are gone and you have to adjust? I’ve had a lot of those in the past few years.

The 1st BIG day of New in recent memory was the day I changed churches after attending the same one for over 15 years. I accidentally drove to the old church- instead of the new- because I had practically lived there for those years of my life. That new day was the 1st of many incredible days spent with this new family of believers. I can see now what I couldn’t see then- that God had a plan in this change.

There were First days of New when our lab closed and all my dear friends and coworkers went in different directions.

There was the day I first woke up to the silence of the Navajo Nation and wondered how I’d gotten there from where I thought I was headed.

There was the day I woke up after mom’s surgery last fall and listened for her in the kitchen making coffee, and then remembered.

The day we went (in January) for our traditional family Christmas celebration at Schuler’s without mom.

The day I started a job with Josiah Venture and met all the dear people I would be working with.

The day I woke up in dad’s house in Florida and thought, “This is new. This is where my family lives now. Not 282 Keathley Drive. My family lives on a cul-de-sac in Florida.”

So- last Sunday was another First Day of New. I wanted to see Steph, and I got up early and went to Battle Creek Friends. I went to the first service and to dad’s (not dad’s now) Sunday school class. I’ve attended this church since I was 2 years old and as I walked out of Sunday School into the crisp fall afternoon I automatically thought- what a perfect day to go back to mom and dad’s to nap in front of the football game! But, for the 1st time – ever- my parents do not live in Michigan!

Steph and I went to lunch, wandered around Target, took a long walk and talked about a million little things. We stopped and sat in silence on a bridge overlooking a pond. It was where I stopped with mom 2 years ago and got this picture of her.

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It was a perfect afternoon and a good reminder to me that all of life is filled with seasons. Seasons of rest, seasons of work, seasons of plenty, seasons of need, seasons of joy, seasons of sorrow…

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Just yesterday I took Casper to the vet for his checkup and shots. He wasn’t too happy about the shots, but I paid the bill and was carrying his little wiggling self outside to the car and I noticed a woman doubled over crying. I put Casper in the car and went to ask her if I could help. She explained that she had to put her dog down and she couldn’t bear the thought of it. She gestured over toward a little grey pup sitting in the grass. I asked her if I could pray for her and both of us cried. As I drove home with my (fairly grouchy but healthy) pup I thought of how different her life would be that next day without her dog. It didn’t seem fair that I got to go home with a healthy pup and she had to put hers down.

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There’s a family in my parent’s old neighborhood who have been friends of our family for a long time. Their son, LB, has a heart condition that is worsening and he was recently put on the heart donor list. We were praying God would provide. Shortly after he was put on this list, another friend of mine from high school requested prayers for one of her son’s friends who had been in a car accident and was in critical condition. I was praying for both situations, when we got news that the young man in the car accident had died. Within a short time, we got a praise: LB had a heart and would be going to surgery shortly.

I suspected the two were connected and that was later confirmed. LB is home now and doing GREAT. The other family is thankful that their son’s death had meaning- at least 5 people were saved because he donated his organs- but they are mourning the loss of him.

Two families, two totally different seasons. Yet one God sustains them in each.

As I’ve thought about the various people God has placed in my life- each in a season all their own- and of God’s faithful provision through all of my First days of New, I was reminded of a verse oft quoted by one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Elliott.

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deut 33:27″

I think I like her writing so much because she walked through such a wide variety of seasons in her life with such grace. I’m positive her strength came from her understanding that God was her refuge and that under it all- the joys and the hurts- were His everlasting arms. He is able to hold us up through all that life brings. Every season.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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In other news…

My apologies for not blogging more regularly. I can tell you one of the reasons: God is blessing Josiah Venture with a bumper crop of interns so far this fall! I am praying (along with so many others) that God will bring just the right young lives alongside our ministries in Eastern and Central Europe. I am so humbled by the young people I am meeting who are stepping out in great faith and signing up to serve next summer. God is answering our prayers!

Please continue to pray for this beautiful work of God to continue.

Right now, across the entire US, there are JV staff and missionaries visiting college groups, churches and universities, sharing about Josiah Venture and inviting young people to join us in 2016. My newsfeeds on Facebook and Instagram are full of fun pictures of God moving in young people’s hearts- stirring them to follow Him! My friend Mike shared this photo last night of a bonfire held for Wheaton and Moody Bible students interested in learning more about JV. It makes me smile.

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Please pray for God to use these visits to make divine connections with just the right students!

On Thursday of this week, I will be leaving to visit my dear Navajo friends in Rough Rock! I am SO excited to see them and I can’t wait to see how God is moving among them and maturing the church there. Please pray for my time with them to be fruitful and honoring to God. I know many of you have read this little blog from the beginning and you have grown to love these dear people along with me– I will be sure to update you on how they all are doing in my next post! 🙂

Thank you for your prayers and support~ I am really excited to see God at work!!!

Hugs! ~r

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There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…

Ecc 3:1-4