Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Ten years ago, I celebrated Christmas six months pregnant with DeLaynie, our first born. The experience changed how I think about Christmas.

There's something truly bizarre about pregnancy. Inside of your body, there is a person growing. This person is intimately connected to you, yet you know very little about them. You know that the child will be a mixture of his or her parents, but that's all the information that you have.

Now add in the fact that Mary has been told that her son would be the Son of God. Would God use her DNA like He used the dust to form Adam, or would He make Jesus from scratch? What would the Son of God look like, feel like? What would His cry sound like? How could she be so incredibly close to Him and yet know so little about Him? How could the Son of God need her, a young girl who had so little life experience and wisdom to offer?

Yet He would. The Son of God would need Mary to feed Him, carry Him, change His diaper. The Son of God would wear a diaper! The Son of God would live in all of the weakness and neediness of a baby.

Honestly, it's too much to even think about! How could God allow His glorious Son to experience such humility, such humiliation? I know why, but the how befuddles me.

We're still expecting Jesus, and we still have questions. We don't know the exact order of things. We don't know who will be on earth when He comes. We're intimately near to Him, yet the information we have is limited. Just like a pregnant woman scouring through books for new moms, we try to put the information together, but it's abstract, hazy at best. We see most of the pieces, but we can't quite fit them into a coherent picture of what it will be like.

But we know one thing. When Jesus comes back, it will not be like the first time He came.

He will come in glory and power, not humility and weakness. (Revelation 19:11-16)
His coming will be noticed by all, not just a few shepherds. (Revelation 1:7)
He will not need anyone to care for His needs, but those who belong to Him will be cared for... forever! (Revelation 21:1-8)

As I think about baby Jesus this Christmas, I can't help but contemplate King Jesus as well. It isn't as sweet and comfortable as the meek little Jesus in the manger. King Jesus isn't nearly as safe and easy to handle. But He is good, so very good!

We're looking for Your return, Lord, and we can't wait to see how it all fits together!

Friday, December 18, 2015

How Prayer Works

I saw this meme on Facebook the other day that had a little girl who asked for "Frozen stuff" for Christmas, so her parents gave her frozen peas. She was not amused.

I think that it initially caught my attention because the little girl has red hair, and I automatically run to the aid of any red head under oppression.
But then it occurred to me that a lot of people think prayer works this way.
"What if I say the wrong thing?"
"Never pray for patience. You won't like how God answers."

"What if I tell God to do whatever He wants with my kids, and they end up getting hurt?"

"What if I tell God that I want His will, no matter what it is, and then I don't like it?"

It's not just young or immature Christians who think this way. When I was in high school, a speaker at a youth retreat told us, "I prayed for a wife for years, but then I heard on the radio that asking God for a wife means that I'm asking God to give me someone else's wife. I started praying for a woman to marry, and then I met my wife."

I wish I were kidding. Not only did he believe that God couldn't differentiate between his actual desire to get married and a sinful desire to have an affair with a married woman, he heard this explained on a Christian radio broadcast.

It really isn't just about prayer methods. How we pray reflects how we view God. If we see Him as our Father, our words and phrases take a back seat to honest conversation.

If you have a child or work with children, you know how hard it can be to understand what their little mouths are trying to tell you, and you know how hard any good parent, caregiver, or teacher is willing to work to understand them.

Today, a friend of mine re-posted this memory of a conversation that she had with her three year old foster son two years ago:
"I'm glad I can find the logic in a sentence like 'When my finger is broken and the toilet is harder hurt and I can't do like a diamond in the sky, what happens?'
The translation is: 'I smashed my finger in the toilet seat and think it's broken. You asked me to wiggle it (apparently like the motions to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) and it hurt.' He later added 'I will have to go to the big doctors house and you will come with me?'"

If my precious friend is willing and able to work that hard to understand her foster son, can't we believe that our heavenly Father is just as willing to hear our hearts, even when our words don't quite make sense?

 How does prayer work? Prayer, at its heart, is a matter of trusting that God is able to anything that He desires and that His desire is ultimately for His glory, which is our good.

Our God isn't waiting on us to figure out the correct terminology before He blesses us. He isn't holding out on giving us His good gifts until we get the wording just right. He wants us to talk to Him with love and respect, like a child would speak to a good Father. Because that's what He is, a Good Father.

Monday, December 14, 2015

What's Happening

Edwin has tremendously enjoyed having the opportunity to preach at a nearby church. It's also been fun for me to get listen to his preaching again. There's something glorious about watching how the godly pastor lives between sermons, and it only makes Sunday mornings more wonderful.

Edwin and Ella took a rapid trip to Alabama to see his mom. He doesn't have any vacation days at work yet, but he was able to arrange his days off to make the trip happen. He and Ella enjoyed their time with Granny Wina, even though it was very short. DeLaynie and I had a good time going to church, shopping, and enjoying each other's company. Individual time with each girl is always a treat!

We finished one part of the adoption process and are now moving forward with the dossier. This part of the adoption is very precise. We are getting more and more anxious to bring our little boy home, so please pray that our excitement fuels us to get the work done that is needed to get him here.

After speaking with another church planter who is planting "from scratch" (as opposed to starting a church with a core group from another local church), Edwin and I are beginning to develop a clearer picture for how God may continue His work in Jamestown. It was very, very helpful to speak with some people who have worked in this type of ministry for years.

We are going to send out a newsletter this week with more details about the strategy that God is giving us and how you can get involved. If you are interested, we would love for you to sign up to be a prayer partner by filling out the form on the right sidebar.

The last couple of weeks have been more challenging. Although the girls seem to be more settled each day, the Christmas season has emphasized the loneliness of moving for us grown-ups. It seems like our enemy has taken notice of our weakness and thrown a few extra attacks our way.

Please pray for us, that we'll respond to challenges with love and faith instead of fear or self-pity. Pray that God will further His work in Jamestown and that nothing will keep us from being faithful to His calling on our lives.

Friday, December 4, 2015

ReDefine: Love

My favorite book, possibly of all time, is a book written by a spinster named Corrie ten Boom who lived in Holland during World War II. The Hiding Place tells the story of how she grew up in a Christian family, hid Jewish people in her home to protect them from the Nazis, endured Nazi concentration camps, and found Christ at work in the midst of it all. She was a very normal woman who would have lived and died unknown, had God not written her such an incredible story and opened doors for her to tell it. Her writing and speaking career came at an exorbitantly high cost.
Her story is a story of bravery. Her story is a story of sacrifice. Her story is a story of grace.
But as I read each page, what punctured through everything else was that her story is a story of remarkable love.
This week brought some challenges into my world. It was nothing extraordinary, just normal pain in a broken world. They were circumstances that challenged me to love when I really didn't want to.
The scene that remains most powerfully with me was a moment shared between Corrie and her father after Corrie's heart is broken by a man that she loved. In a book describing grotesque crimes against humanity, it was a normal, everyday hurt that spoke to me the loudest. Even after surviving the torturous circumstances of a concentration, Corrie still gave weight to the hurt that she experienced in a typical situation. That in itself is encouraging.
Her father's answer to her hurt was inspired. As she lay in her bed, she dreaded the pat answers that most people offer in such situations, but that isn't what she received from him. Instead, he gave her a gift that would enable her to love the man who broke her heart as well as the men who would break her body and her spirit.
(Thank you, Mr. ten Boom, for making every bit of my parental advice look pretty pathetic.)
The answer that Casper ten Boom offered to his daughter has been the same answer that God has offered me as I have struggled to love people who don't seem to care about me.
I don't need for the pain to disappear. I need another way to love them, a way that doesn't depend on them loving me in return. I need the kind of love that God has for me.
That's the kind of love that can get us through the everyday hurts of this life, and it's the kind of love that got Corrie through the torture of a concentration camp.
As Corrie and her sister Betsie, went through the humiliation of medical inspection, Corrie had a sudden realization. For the two unmarried, middle-aged women, being stripped of their clothing and marched through chilly hospital corridors in front of male guards was agony. That was when Corrie realized that Jesus had also been stripped of His clothing, jeered at by crowds of people.
She whispered to her sister,"'Betsie, they took His clothes too.'
Ahead of me I heard a little gasp. 'Oh, Corrie. And I never thanked Him.'" (The Hiding Place, page 195)
Imagine it! In the midst of dehumanizing pain, Corrie and Betsie discovered Christ's sacrificial love for them! Instead of being angry at God for allowing their pain, they were grateful to Christ for experiencing pain for their benefit. As I struggled with own, minor hurts this week, these truths slowly worked on me, giving me new perspective and reminding me of the power of the cross.
Is there any hurt that Christ hasn't experienced on our behalf? He was betrayed, beaten, stripped, humiliated, tortured, and killed, all for us. In the midst of our suffering, we can find Him there, waiting for us to join Him.
Is there anything more wonderful than knowing that every attempt to separate us from God's love can be used to bring us a deeper, more intimate understanding of His sacrificial love for us?
Reprogramming my thinking isn't as fast of a process as I would like. My first reaction to hurt wasn't, "Thank You, Lord for the privilege of knowing You better." Instead it was, "God, why would You do this now?"
 Lord, keep teaching me these lessons, no matter how great the cost. I believe that knowing You is worth suffering every loss. Help me to believe it more each day.
To order Corrie's book, The Hiding Place from Amazon, click here

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

O Come Emmanuel!

Edwin and I recently had the joy of going on an over-night date. It was a tremendously good opportunity to spend time with Edwin. With his weird work schedule, we don't get much quality time together. With the girls with my parents', we made the short trek to Buffalo. We went out to a movie, and there, next to the theater, was a Hobby Lobby! I didn't even know that there were Hobby Lobby stores in New York, so I obviously needed to spend at least 90 minutes walking through the thoroughly decked-out store.

Walking through a balanced mix of Scriptural Christmas decorations and snowmen, I suddenly experienced a rush of gratitude.
How am I so blessed that I get to know this Jesus?
How am I so incredibly lavished by grace that the baby in the manger is my dearest friend?
How can the Perfect One become so weak and frail, all for the sake of people who broke His heart?
Why was I born in a time and place where I could know the One for whom Israel waited for generations?
What kind of grace could hatch such an awesome plan as this: that God would become a baby, live among us, die for us, and be raised to bring us into new life?
The remnant of Israel waited for generations to see the Messiah. Many of them died long before He came, never seeing His promised One in the land of the living. You and I are incredibly blessed to live in a time when all who trust in Christ can have a personal, intimate relationship with the Most High God! We can know Jesus! Yet I find myself easily distracted by sad attempts to maintain the fading glory of earthly holiday trappings.
As I walked through the craft store, completely overwhelmed by God's grace to me, I begged Him to keep me from getting lost in all of the diversions that could pull me away from Him. I prayed that He would be my greatest joy this Christmas.
I pray the same for you.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Normal Kind of Weird

Today I heard my husband preach for the first time since we moved. He is serving as a short-term interim preaching pastor at a relatively nearby church, and today he preached his first sermon there. I sat on the front row with one girl on each side. DeLaynie and Ella behaved well, but of course Ella needed to go to the bathroom half-way through the service. It felt very normal.

It also felt pretty weird. It was our first time in the church, and we didn't know anyone yet. The church members were extremely welcoming and kind, but it was our first time to speak with any of them.

Tonight we were finally able to join with a small group with the local church here. The associate pastor who leads the group is masterful with creating a comfortable, familial atmosphere. We have started getting to know him, but he was the only person in the room we knew- again, it was a normal kind of weird. Biblical discussion (normal) with people we don't really know (weird).

That's not a complaint. We're grateful for the level of normality that we were able to experience, and I'm grateful that we're getting to experience church through the eyes of a new church-attender. We've never walked into a church as strangers. We're usually introduced as "the pastor and his family," which lends a strange sort of instant familiarity. It's a good thing to get to know the experience that a nervous, new family would have as we really are a nervous, new family. It's a good experience to take with us into planting a church that will likely serve nervous, new families.

We have gotten more done on the paperwork and bookkeeping for the new church this week. Our sponsor church, Amherst Baptist Church near Buffalo, officially took over the financials for the church plant. They sent a few people down to winterize the building to save money on the church building this winter. They will be handling income and expenses for the church plant. We are extremely grateful for their partnership.

But as for the first Bible study for the church plant, we still have a way to go. We need your prayers that we would meet the right people at the right time that would be open to being a part of our first Bible study here. If it is God's will, we still want to start the Bible study by the end of the year or sometime in January of 2016 at the latest. We are also praying that God may lead a family or two that we already know from outside of Jamestown to move here and help us with this Kingdom work. Pray that God would direct the hearts of those that He wants here. We are starting to get a tiny glimpse of the massive spiritual need here and the joyous challenge of starting this church.

I'll send out our first prayer partner newsletter this week. Make sure that you sign up using the form in the right side bar. Again, Edwin and I can't thank you enough for your prayer support!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Why I Don't Homeschool (and why I think it's awesome if you do)

There are few issues that get Christian moms more riled up than the topic of schooling options. When it comes to raising our children, we moms can get very intense.
My husband and I have chosen to send our children to public school from the beginning. Until now there were no private schools close to us, so our options were homeschool or public school. We did consider homeschooling the girls last year, but God led us away from that option. We intentionally chose public school for several reasons. Laziness and inability were not among the reasons. (Though, I'll be honest, it does seem really hard. Hats off to you, homeschool moms!)
I think that public school is what's best for my children at this time. That could change. There may come a day when God reveals that it is time to put one or all of my children into a private school. There may come a day when God calls me to homeschool my children.

But for right now, I'm grateful for the challenges, opportunities, joys, and struggles that attending a public school offers my children. I love the emails to teachers that give me the chance to explain that I love how God designed both of my children and why I feel no shame over a certain diagnosis. I love the parent-teacher conferences in which I get to hear that my daughter would rather help a struggling child than earn extra credits in a computer game. I love praying with my daughter for a child that annoys her. I love reminding my girls that they have very important jobs at school: to glorify Christ and share the Gospel. I love helping them think through ways to do that job well. I love helping them understand their studies through a biblical world view. I love teaching them to dig deeper on the subjects that they're studying in school. I love using the 8 waking hours that I have with my children to help them understand the 6.5 hours that they're at school. I actually love raising children who attend public school.
But if you don't, we're still on the same team. I still want homeschool or private school to be a blessing to you and your children. I still want you to do well and to succeed. I want you to love the life that God has given you because it's His gift to you, and I think that's wonderful!
I've been reading 1 Corinthians during my Bible time lately. I was struck by the similarities between the American church's debate over schooling options and the Corinthian church's debate over food offered to idols. One group judged those who ate the food. Another group judged those who didn't. Paul tells them that they are free to make their own choice. There's no guilt in either decision, but there was guilt in offending a brother or sister in Christ. Then he makes a beautiful command:

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

What if Paul was speaking to the American church about schooling options? What if he said, "So, whether you homeschool, private school, or public school your children, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God"? Would we treat parents who choose another schooling option differently? Would we be kinder, more loving toward people who choose to parent their children differently than we do?
 In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul goes on to describe love. It's another thoroughly convicting passage in regard to the American church's debate on education.

Love doesn't boast.
Love isn't arrogant.
Love isn't rude.
Love doesn't insist on its own way.
How loving are our attitudes toward those who educate their children differently? Are these conversations (or passive aggressive Facebook posts) defined by love? Or are they motivated by fear, insecurity, superiority, arrogance, or a need to believe that the choice I make must be better than the choices that other people make?
If our goal isn't to lovingly build up our brothers and sisters, our actions are sinful (Ephesians 4:29). Sure, sometimes we have to help others break down their sinful patterns to help build them up. But in regard to this issue, are we really so convinced that our way of doing things is what's best for them?
Personally, I'm very grateful to know parents who do things differently than I do. There are times when I feel the need to prove my worth by arguing for the superiority of my own decisions, but I'm wrong to do so. When I slip into that bad attitude, I'm robbing myself of learning opportunities, and I'm dishonoring the name of Christ by the way that I interact with another part of His Body.
Thank you for being obedient to God's calling on your life. Keep at it, dear friend!
I need you to be you.
And thank you for letting me be me.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


 A couple of weeks ago, some precious friends from our previous church made the 6.5 hour trek to come and visit. It was such a sweet, refreshing, and restful time. I don't quite understand it, but not knowing anyone in town is tiring. There may have been a time in my life when I would appreciate the lack of demands, but now I find it challenging.
We were able to meet with the pastors of the church that we're attending. They know Jamestown well, and they know the challenges and joys of church planting better than we do. We were also able to have dinner with a couple who are very active ministry leaders at the church. It was a joy to speak with them and receive encouragement from them.
This time of adjustment has only strengthened my love for church. Church is so much more than a service or an organization. It's a family, a safe place. It is the Body of Christ! It's also been strange in that I rarely enter a church without a title. Usually people know our names before we actually meet them. It's uncomfortable, but very good, to enter a church as a visitor.
Edwin will be preaching at a church that's located about 45 minutes from here. The pastor recently left, and it is possible that Edwin will be preaching there regularly until the church plant here has launched. Please be in prayer for him. He is very busy with a full time job, church planting, adoption work, and now sermon preparation.
My parents are on their way to spend Thanksgiving with us! I can't tell you how excited I am to see them and spend some time with them. Plus, Edwin and I are going to blow this popsicle stand and go out on our first date in months! Seriously, I'm so excited!
We now have 39 people who have signed up to join us in ministry as prayer partners! This is awesome, and we are so grateful for the support we've received. If you would like to be a part of our ministry team by praying for us at least once a week, please consider signing up by filling out the form at the top of the right sidebar. Thank you so much!
Have a terrific Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

ReDefine: Success

As research for the book that God has led me to write, I've read several books that tell the stories of faithful Christians, most of whom have already entered into glory. I want to share a few things that God has taught me from these books because they have been absolutely life changing. I don't say that flippantly or proudly. I've been humbled by the power of God at work in my brothers and sisters, and I want to share that with you. Many of these are books that you may have already read, and I wish I had read them earlier. On the other hand, the timing was all God's because they really have hit me at the moment when they could do the most good in me.
I saw the above quote for the first time while I was at a doctor's appointment. My doctor was a strong believer, and she wanted to share this beautiful truth with her patients. I knew Jim and Elisabeth Elliot's story, and I had heard her speak, but I'd never read her account of what took place in the jungle of Ecuador. Recently, a friend recommended that I read Through Gates of Splendor, so I ordered it that day.
Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, and Ed McCully went to Ecuador to serve as missionaries. They took their families to the primitive jungle to share the love of Jesus with people belonging to tribes who were notoriously dangerous to foreigners. Not only that, they eventually set their sites on the single most deadly tribe in the area, the people of the Auca tribe. For these men, a successful life was one of total obedience and sacrifice.
This definition completely flies in the face of the American ideal. While scrolling through Facebook, I saw that a mom had posted an article titled "Girls With Nagging Moms Grow Up to Be More Successful". Before reading the article, I knew what the standards for success were in the study. Sure enough, higher grades and higher wages were the defined requirements for success cited by the article. It makes sense that girls who never feel that they're good enough for their mother's approval would work hard to satisfy her constant nagging in the back of their minds, but is that really success?
These five families did not buy in to that definition. They had a different concept of success for their lives. They left opportunities for higher paying jobs in the comfortable United States to live in huts that they built themselves. They used their honed linguistic skills to study languages that were only used by a few thousand people in order to translate the Bible for tribespeople who didn't have the ability or desire to read at the time. They left the safety of suburbia for harsh weather, rough travel, and constant danger.
God laid the Auca on their hearts, and they began tirelessly working to reach these people with the glorious Gospel. My favorite quote was from Pete Fleming.
Honestly, I can't keep from crying as I re-read those words. These men did give their lives. Their children grew up with only stories of their fathers. Their wives raised their children as widows until they remarried. The men were killed by the very people for whom they sacrificed everything. They never saw a single convert from the Auca tribe during their earthly lives. From every quantifiable standard, they died as failures.
Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint (sister of Nate Saint) went back to the same people who killed their husband and brother. They continued the work that these five men began, and they saw the fruit that Jim, Roger, Nate, Ed, and Pete weren't able to see on this earth.
But Pete received the answer to his prayer as he is now sitting around a table with brothers and sisters who know Christ because of his life and his death, and they are worshipping the Son together in a place without death and without pain.
The Auca tribe has a new name. Instead of being called by a word meaning "naked" or "savage", they are now called the Waorani, and in that tribe there is a growing and fruitful church that reaches out to the other tribes around them, occasionally giving their lives so that others may come to faith in the same God that Pete, Jim, Roger, Ed, and Nate worshipped.
To live for the same purpose that Christ lived, and to die for the glory of the One who died for us, that's success.
"What more could be given to a life?"
For more:
Click here to purchase Through Gates of Splendor from Amazon.

Click here to purchase End of the Spear by Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint from Amazon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Glimpses of Grace: Week 7

We've come to our final week together. We will turn our attention to the promise of Christ that we discover in the Old Testament Law during our last week of study. This is an extremely important part of this study. There's no part of Scripture that isn't about Jesus Christ's work of redemption, and that includes the Law!
Imagine, hidden in all of those laws, there's a promise hidden for Israel and for us, the New Israel. Let's make sure that we don't miss it!

Click here to download this week's study.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hopeful in the Waiting

Edwin and I keep talking about how it seems like each week has ended before it's even begun. Trying to plan a single day feels like trying hold on to water. It's just... gone.

Although very busy and a little overwhelming (okay, maybe more than "a little"), we are very hopeful about the things that God is doing.

Edwin and I have planted ourselves in a Bible-believing church plant that is about three years old. We hope to meet with the pastors soon and get a grasp on how we can serve the church without being a threat to the amazing things that God is already doing there. The church has several small groups, and we're hoping to join in with one of them soon. Our biggest struggle lately has been loneliness and a lack of fellowship, so we are very excited to take this church and our Father up on this offer! Although we will only be a part of this church until God builds Renovation, it is a wonderful privilege to worship with these brothers and sisters until that time. We hope to be a blessing to them as well.

God opened the door for Edwin to have a wonderful, meaningful conversation with a couple who are currently seeking meaning in their lives. They seemed eager to be a part of a Bible study, so please pray that God continues to work on their hearts as we work to set up a time to meet with them. Pray for more conversations like this one.
One of the reasons that we find ourselves so busy is that we are working very hard to complete our home study and move forward with our adoption. Moving forced us to press pause on the process, but we are very anxious to get our little boy home. Please pray that God clears all obstacles that may stand between us and Li. Also pray that God prepares his precious heart to leave the ayis (nannies) and the children that have been his family for his entire life. He has been blessed to live in an amazing foster home, so he will be leaving some wonderful people behind. Pray for this little boy and for us, that God will provide financially, logistically, and spiritually to build us into a family like only He can.

Lastly, we still need prayer partners! We now have a sign-up form on the right side bar. We will send our prayer partners updates monthly. We ask that everyone who is willing to commit to being a prayer partner prays for us at least once a week. We don't need to know you personally to need your prayers desperately! Please join us in what God is doing.

Join our team of prayer partners!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Glimpses of Grace: Week 6

We only have two weeks left in this study! My prayer is that you are continuing to see just how personal these laws are and just how applicable they are to New Testament believers.

This week we are going to turn our focus onto the laws that govern interpersonal relationships. Many of them are impossible to apply directly today, but that doesn't mean that they don't speak volumes to our lives. We're going to discover all of the riches contained in these precious words.

When you're ready, click here to download this week's study.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Renovation is Just Beginning

I waited an extra day to post an update so I could share something awesome with you!

I mentioned that First Baptist, Tallassee graciously came an invested their time and money in helping to install new siding on the church, but they couldn't quite finish. They were so dedicated that they sent a professional from the church to come and finish the work.

Here's what the church building looked like before:
And here is what the building looks like now:
The installation team did an incredible job and worked very hard to invest in God's Kingdom. We are extremely grateful.
Why did it need to change? The log exterior was very pretty, after all.
First of all, Jamestown isn't really a "log cabin" type of town. If the church were located just South or just North of the town, it would fit better, but that look doesn't fit the actual city of Jamestown very well.
But the need wasn't just about making the church's physical appearance fit the area better. It was also a matter of starting fresh. The name of the church is going to be Renovation Baptist Church because that's what the city of Jamestown is desperate for: change! The people here know that something has to give, but they don't know what that something is yet. We know that "something" isn't a thing at all, but a Who. The best way to introduce change to the city was with a little change. Thanks to the kindness and generosity of First Baptist, we're one step further in our mission!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Three Things I'm Learning from Raising a "Different" Child

My oldest daughter was diagnosed as borderline on the Autism Spectrum when she was three years old. Honestly, there are a lot of things about her that don't match up with her diagnosis, but we are sure that she doesn't develop typically. She is well ahead in critical thinking and reading, but delayed in emotional maturity, memory, and motor skills.

Being different has its struggles, and they're more pronounced since we moved to a different school district. Her weaknesses are more obvious to her now than they have ever been. Her strengths are a little more hidden than they have been because she's afraid of being embarrassed. But she's persevered through the hardest spells, and she's starting to find her place.

Being DeLaynie's mom has taught me more about myself and more about people than I've learned through counseling courses, studying, and books.

Here are the three lessons that have made the biggest difference in my life so far:

  1. Life is not a competitive sport.

    I'm a competitive person by nature, which is why there are a lot of things that I opt out of. If I'm not good at it, I just don't do it. I ask you, if it's a competitive game, and I can't compete, where's the fun? The list of things in this category is extensive, and it includes bowling, putt-putt, volleyball, and softball. (I'm not athletic. Can you tell? I do, however, watch football better than any chick I know. Just sayin'.)

    That means that having a daughter who is equally as athletically challenged as her mom and who isn't going to break any developmental charts came with a bit of a learning curve for me.

    DeLaynie, on the other hand, doesn't mind a bit. Apparently, no one told her that she's supposed to compete with everyone around her. No one informed her that this life is a competition and she must win at any cost. Either that, or she simply doesn't buy it.

    Can I tell you the truth? It's a huge blessing that I can't use my daughter as a pawn in my attempts to prove my worth to the people around me. I would certainly be tempted to if I could. Instead, I just get to love my daughters. I don't have to defend their achievements to a braggy mom. I don't have to feel ashamed when they don't behave the way that "normal" children do. I just get to enjoy being their mom.

    There's something else that comes with that gift. I get to enjoy being myself, too.  Although I haven't learned this lesson completely, DeLaynie is teaching me how to take imperfections and failures in stride without pressuring myself to be someone God didn't create. I'll never enjoy bowling or putt-putt, but I'm learning to enjoy being me without those things. De and I will be fine reading next to each other, thank you.
  2. Extroversion and love are not synonymous.

    I've always felt guilty for the fact that I am not what some would call a "people person". In the Christian world, it sure seems like it's a given that loving others means being around other people at every possible opportunity. If you don't enjoy meeting new people or mingling with a group of people you don't know, you must not love them, right?

    DeLaynie, on the other hand, loves alone time. She needs it, actually. Living in a world that plays by different rules is exhausting! It's like living in a foreign country 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. There's no stateside. It's all foreign. So of course, that means that it is difficult, trying, and unpleasant a large portion of the time. She doesn't enjoy socializing as much as staying at home with her Legos.

    Though not to the same degree, I share her struggles. Our world doesn't seem to play by rules that I can get my head around. In addition to the normal rules of engagement that come from being an American human, I also get to live this life as a woman, which means that I'm expected to have friends that are women. I'm not sure if you realize it, but women just don't make much sense. I have a few wonderful women in my life that I love dearly. They're worth figuring out, but that doesn't mean that I always understand them. I'm not saying that I'm the exception, by the way. Bless my husband's heart. It's a good thing he's so patient!

    But watching DeLaynie, I can tell you that it is very possible for an introvert to be extremely loving. She's the most generous child I've ever encountered. She is the first to volunteer her McDonald's toy if someone else wants it, even if she was very excited about it. When she goes to the store to buy herself something with her own money, she almost always buys something for her sister as well. The other night we were at a fall festival where they were giving fish away as prizes, and DeLaynie almost cried when she didn't win one for her sister. She wanted one as well, but her main concern was winning it for Ella.

    Just because a person is more comfortable alone, that doesn't mean that they are selfish or snobby. Love is about giving yourself for others. It may be a much bigger sacrifice for an introvert to invest in someone than it is for an extrovert, which only makes it a greater act of love.
  3. People who require extra work are worth the effort.

    I've been listening to the audiobook version of NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman. In this book, the author describes the history of autism and the importance of allowing people who are different to use their skills in an environment that doesn't shame them for their differences. It has been a very helpful read.

    It's amazing how many technological, social, and cultural advancements have been produced by people who were rejected by the society that they served. It's also amazing what lengths some people who go to in order to get to know people who were nothing like themselves. One great scientist was unable to hold a face to face conversation, but he was so brilliant that other scientists desperately wanted to get to know him better and understand his take on their work. Some of them realized that if they spoke to each other about the things that they wanted his thoughts on, he would "think out loud" his responses. As long as they never turned to look at him, this conversation could go on for quite a while.

    There are so many times that I watch DeLaynie and think, "If someone is willing to put in the time, they'll have an amazing friend." Ella is a great example. Although having a sister who doesn't fit the mold has its drawbacks, they both benefit immensely from the relationship. Because of DeLaynie's influence, Ella, who was born a perfectionist, has managed to make peace with her imperfections. Because of DeLaynie's influence, Ella is incredibly patient with kids that annoy other people. We hear that same comment every year in parent-teacher conferences.

    Of course, DeLaynie benefits from Ella as well. It requires work for DeLaynie to spend time with her sister, but when she puts in the effort, she learns how to understand the people around her better. She learns how to use her strengths to help those who don't think the same way. She is constantly growing in patience and communication, thanks to her little sister.

    For this introvert, that's an important lesson. I can be tempted to say, "It's just not worth the effort." Then I look at De and realize that what I'm really saying is "That person just isn't worth the effort." I don't want anyone to say that about her, so I don't want to say it about someone else.

There's some extra work involved in parenting a child that doesn't quite fit in, but there are a whole lot of benefits, too. I'll keep the kids God gave me because, as it turns out, He knew exactly who I needed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Glimpses of Grace: Week 5

After last week's study, I think we're all left with an awareness of our impurity. Imagine the Israelites' reaction. They didn't have the advantage of the cross!
But God didn't leave them without hope. Even before Christ, God desired for the Law to bring His people into relationship with Him. The Law made this possible through the offerings that God described. Through these sacrifices, the priests could atone for the sins of the people, enabling them to enjoy His presence and power at work in their nation.

God carefully detailed the requirements for these sacrifices, so His people could know exactly what it took to receive forgiveness and to have their cleanness restored. In a world of mystical religion and mystery, this was an incredible gift to His people!
As New Testament believers, these laws have even more to say to us. If you're ready to discover these things for yourselves, join me in this week's study by clicking here.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Hopes, Happenings, and How You Can Join Us From Where You Are!

Things are starting to move along. Edwin is doing a great job at his non-ministry job, which means that his company is happy with him, and he's meeting lots of locals. The work that began in our house before we moved in is almost done. That is going to free up some serious time for ministry work! First Baptist, Tallassee sent a professional siding installer from their church to complete the work that was halted when they left. Thankfully, the church building won't sit half-complete over the winter. That's awesome, and we are so grateful!

Edwin and I are praying that we can start a couple of small groups before Christmas. Please join us in this prayer. I'm going to speak with someone who works with the students at the local community college. Hopefully there is an opportunity for me to work with the young ladies who attend. Edwin is going to promote a coffee group for the men in the neighborhood around the church. We'll see where this goes, but pray, please pray, that it leads to an awakening in the hearts of the people of Jamestown, NY!

We have landed on a name for the church! This local expression of Christ's Body (a phrase that I heard from Hal Miller III, and I love!) is going to be known as Renovation Baptist Church. We're working on a logo, after which we'll get a website and marketing materials like business cards put together.

We plan to make our first promo video tomorrow. Please pray that this comes to pass! We keep getting bogged down in the urgency of other things, but we know that this is very important in getting prayer partners.

Speaking of prayer partners, we need you! We are currently trying to get at least 200 people who are willing to commit to praying for us weekly. We'll send you sensitive requests when we can't share certain concerns publicly as well as monthly updates. We really do need your help! Please fill out the form in the right side bar to join our team of prayer partners and become a major part of God's work in Jamestown.

On a more personal note, I've started work on a book that I am very excited about. I know that God will use the product however He wants, and I pray that it is a blessing to His people. The process of writing it, however, has been a tremendous blessing to me. It's one of very few projects that I've started where I know that it's God's calling for me in the moment, and not my own desire to make something happen. To be very honest, I want to change the world so badly that I sometimes get ahead of God's plan for me. I don't think that's what's happening with this book, however, and that's a relief. In the process of writing it, I've been reading books by His saints. It's really beautiful that these books can act as a doorway into the larger Church, the Church that isn't limited by time or location. I can sit in the pew next to Corrie Ten Boom or C.S. Lewis or Joni Eareckson Tada, and we can all soak in God's grace together! It's truly a miraculous privilege! Please pray that I'll keep learning in this process, and that God will build His Church through my life however He chooses.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Glimpses of Grace: Week 4

Do you feel rested? I hope so. I hope that you discovered a new understanding of biblical rest through your time in week 3, just as I did.

This week's study is going to focus on holiness. Most American Christians understand this demand better than the biblical requirement to rest, yet we still struggle to actually be holy.
In fact, many people have a negative view of holiness. We may not say it out loud, but most of us assume that anyone who is truly holy is useless in society. We seem to be afraid of "too much holiness". 
God's Law draws a totally different picture of holiness. So let's get down to it, and see what true holiness looks like.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ministry Update: 10.25.15

Although busy, this week was a little more routine. We feel like we're starting to settle into life, which allows us more time and mental energy for strategizing and planning for the church planting process.

Edwin is doing very well with his new job at Time Warner Cable. He is able to speak with a lot of people on a daily basis. Because he's also new to town, potential customers are always eager to give advice about the culture and opportunities available. This has been very helpful for us personally as well as beneficial as we seek to understand the people to whom God has assigned us.

Edwin spoke to a church planter in another part of the state who has been very encouraging and helpful, and they plan to speak again. This was refreshing since Edwin and I are completely new to this whole church planting thing. I hope to talk to his wife some time this week. She was very proactive in talking to me, for which I am very grateful!

We have several goals for this week to begin reaching out to our community more strategically and effectively. I'm going to begin to develop a website for the ministry, and we're hoping to get some conversation groups going in November. Edwin and I are still discussing how we want to promote these groups, but we're very excited to get them up and running.

We have visited several churches in Jamestown and one in Lakewood, a nearby town. God is doing great things through His Body here, but there is still much to do.

Please pray:
  • For our final home visit to complete our home study. This will take place on Tuesday afternoon.
    • Pray also for Li, our son, who is currently living in a good foster home in China. He is so precious to us, and we just can't wait to bring him home! Pray that he knows he's loved until then.
  • For wisdom as we begin to advertise and reach out to the community to promote small group discussion geared toward non-believers.
    • Pray that God will prepare the hearts of those who need Him and that they'll begin to see that they are needy.
    • Pray that we will know how to promote these groups as non-judgmental discussion without allowing for aimless conversation.
  • For opportunities to have meaningful conversations with our neighbors. We have interacted with the kids from the multi-unit home next door a great deal, but their parents are a little more difficult to engage.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ministry Update: 10.21.15

I'm sorry that I missed my Sunday night deadline. I never announced it as such, but I try to get a ministry update in every weekend.

The mission team left on Friday. They got a ton of work done, and their presence was extremely encouraging. The weather did not cooperate with them in siding the church. God knew what He was doing, and we're anxious to see what His plans are for completing the work that His people have begun. The project is half complete at this point.
We are so thankful for their time, hard work, and financial investment in coming to help! Please join me in thanking God for their faithfulness and sacrifice.

Edwin and I are now trying to settle into a groove. Since we arrived, it seems like we were always getting ready for something that was coming up. We're now trying to think through our strategy for the coming months in regard to relationship building for the church plant. We still have some work to do in the house where we're living, but we're trying to take it slowly because we're pretty exhausted.

Our summer was a whirl wind, and the busy-ness of moving, preparing for a conference, and hosting a mission team hasn't allowed us to really experience the changes that have taken place or find some sort of "new normal". The girls are doing well, but DeLaynie is still struggling with leaving our previous home. Although she enjoys being here, it's hard to let go of the place that she loved.

Prayer Requests for this week:
  • Peace for all four of us as we continue to adjust to life in a new place with new schedules.
  • Wisdom for Edwin and I as we decide what needs to be done next and when we don't need to do anything for a bit.
  • For our house to sell. This is more than a financial concern, though it definitely is that. It would be very helpful to us emotionally to have our whole lives in one place. Although we'll never stop loving the people in the North Country, and we plan to continue to enjoy our relationships with our friends there, it would be helpful to DeLaynie if there was no home to go back to in her mind.
  • Our home study. Because we moved, we have to have a second home visit as a part of the adoption process. A social worker will make a long trip to Jamestown next week to complete this final step. Please pray that all goes smoothly!
Thank you so much for your prayer support!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Glimpses of Grace: Week 3

I have to tell you, something clicked with me when I read about the priestly garments last winter. I'm not sure why, but it suddenly hit me that I was a priest! I have a job to do, and it's incredibly important.
Representing God to others and others to God is an overwhelming job at times. We're taking the message of Christ to people who don't want it. We're bearing the weight of their sin on our shoulders as we go to God in prayer, begging Him to break down every wall that prevents them from coming to God with their whole hearts. We're often disappointed, and it isn't uncommon for us to care more about the spiritual welfare of others than they do themselves!
It is a glorious burden, for sure. If you're starting to buckle under the weight, this week is for you!
This week we're going to understand God's design for rest.
Rest isn't as easy as it sounds, is it? We have to fight for it, make it happen. Rest is intentional, and our ability to find true rest reveals a lot about what's going on inside of our hearts. Are you ready to get a glimpse of pause?

Then click here for this week's study and get started!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Glimpses of Grace: Week 2

In the midst of the measurements and specifications for the tabernacle, I hope that you encountered the life changing truth that we are the dwelling place of God's presence on earth. It's truly a momentous discovery, made all the more meaningful by the countless requirements for such an honor. My prayer is that we, the Universal Bride of Christ, will become a more and more glorious dwelling place for God's presence on earth!
This week we will study what the Law describes as our purpose. Like the presence of God peeking out from behind the tabernacle curtains, God's purpose for our lives is waiting to be discovered behind the biblical description of the priest. I can't wait to share this with you!

Click here to dive into Week 2!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ministry update: 10.11.15- A Mission Team's A-Coming!

This week we will host our first mission team. My home church (First Baptist Church, Tallassee, Al) is sending an all-star mission team to install new siding on the church building that will eventually house the church body that God will plant here. They will also (graciously) do some work on the parsonage where we live.
We are so very grateful for their willingness and sacrifice to come and serve. We are also very grateful for the opportunity to see some of our extended church family.
Here are some ways that you can be in prayer for this team:
  • Pray for their safety as they travel the long distance from Alabama to New York and back.
  • Pray for their safety as they serve.
  • Pray for good weather that is conducive to the work that they will be doing.
  • Pray that God will knit a burden for the lost people of Jamestown into their hearts.
  • Pray that they will be encouraged by their time here, and that God will speak to each of them personally.
Thank you for your continued prayers!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Glimpses of Grace: Study of the Old Testament Law

This past spring, I worked through a study on the Old Testament Law with a wonderful small group of ladies. It was a great time of deeper understanding of this mysterious part of the Bible. I don't want this study to just sit on my hard drive, so I thought that I would share it with you. I hope that you can use this study in a group setting or as an individual.
This blog will serve as a wrap-up and introduction space. I'll wrap up the material from the previous week while introducing the next week. I am looking forward to all of the amazing things that God will do through our time together!

Introduction To Glimpses of Grace

How often do you go to the Old Testament Law for encouragement and wisdom? How do you typically read passages about dietary laws or ceremonial cleansing for someone suffering from leprosy? Or do you read those passages at all? Although all Christians believe that the Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are Scripture (and therefore important), they are books that we rarely use and almost never turn to in our regular quiet times.
For Israelites, the laws were meant to have memories attached to them. They would see the priests lay their hands on the bull on the Day of Atonement. They would smell the burning of sacrifices. They would tell sick relatives goodbye after the priest declared them unclean, knowing that they may never see them again. They would hear crowds gathering to stone an adulterer and his mistress. They would feel hunger pangs when they couldn’t eat the only animal that they had trapped, simply because it was considered unclean. We read the Law, but it wasn’t meant to be understood as mere words on a page. The Law was intended to be lived.
 You’ve probably read Psalm 19:7-11 before, but have you ever read it specifically applying it to the Old Testament Law? This is what David was describing when he said:
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
C’mon, admit it. When you read those verses, dietary restrictions and laws for handling household mold are not the particular verses that come to mind. Like me, you probably think about the Gospels or the epistles as sweet and true, but the Law? Really? I don’t typically experience the kind of feelings that David describes when I read the Law, but apparently, it is possible.
Just because we are no longer bound to keep the Old Testament Law, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t continue to offer amazing truths! Let’s step into the original hearers’ shoes and try to mine out some of the wonderful things that God has to offer us in these hard-to-understand passages. The Law is certainly not an exception when Paul tells Timothy:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training for righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Do you believe that? Do you believe that the Old Testament Law has something (many things, really) to say to you? Do you believe that God is still speaking through His Word, all of it?
Every passage of Scripture fits into the story of God’s plan to redeem His people forever. The Law is no different. It will be very important that we understand the law in relation to the incredible story of God’s plan to redeem His people. Honestly, this is not going to be easy. For many people, this is a very new way to understand Scripture. But you are going to love it by the time this study is over!
Here is our format for this study:
·        On the first day, we will read the passage for the week. After reading the passage, we are going to take some time to be honest about our preconceptions and assumptions when we read the particular law. We all bring cultural and familial beliefs to our quiet times, but when we’re honest about them, they lose some of their power and we are freed to hear the truth.
·        On the second day, we’re going to start to put ourselves in the original hearer’s shoes. We’ll look at some of the historical realities that the original hearers may have taken for granted. We’ll consider what that law would cost the hearers for them to apply them. How would obeying this law change their lives for the better or the worse? What would this law do to impact the hearers’ everyday lives.
·        On the third day of each week, we’ll begin to see how the passage that we’re studying relates to the Scripture that came before it. How does this passage graciously answer the problems created by sin?
·        On the fourth day, we’ll turn our attention to how this passage relates to the rest of the Old Testament. How does this gift of grace develop through Israel’s history?
·        On the fifth day, we’re going to see how this gift of grace surfaces in the New Testament. How does Christ give us the same gift that we got a glimpse of from reading the Law?
·        During our group time each week, we will spend some time experiencing the passage personally. We will discover the amazing applications that the passage has to offer once we have a better, more thorough understanding of its meaning and importance. It’s going to be so much fun when we truly get a glimpse of God’s grace to us!
 In this study we will look at seven gifts that God gives through the Old Testament Law:
It won't be easy, but it will be so good! Please join me!