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

Connecting


 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:
 
http://www.amazon.com/Through-Gates-Splendor-Elisabeth-Elliot/dp/0842371524/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448045680&sr=1-1&keywords=through+gates+of+splendor
 
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.