Friday, December 31, 2010


2010 had a few of them for me!

  • I got to help a dear friend make a book of her life story and publish it for her family.  What an amazing experience - one I highly recommend if your parents or grandparents are still living.  Get the stories on video (or at least audio).  I wish I had done this while my mom was alive.  Be sure you don't have to say the same thing.
  • My daughter's engagement!  I'm getting a son!  We've already begun shopping for dresses and scouting locations - it's a surreal experience for me. 
    Because this was just the other day...

  • Studying God's word with a wonderful group of women.
  • A family vacation at the beach with all five of us (that doesn't happen too often any more).
  • Jeff got to spend three weeks in Ethiopia, which was a highlight for me because he'd been wanting to go ever since I went in 2008.  It made me so happy for him!
  • Yet another year of God's faithfulness - through unemployment, aging parents, physical pain, prayers yet to be answered, loss of our family dog and even menopause (did I really just type that?).
  • Helping 26 families and 34 children find each other through adoption from Ethiopia.  These families are some of my greatest heroes - because this process is not easy!  But their commitment to bring their children home, at great expense and through many months of waiting, means that those without a future or a hope will now be firmly rooted in loving families!  It's a picture of our own adoption into God's family.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 

Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 

Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own?
No one—for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself. 

Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?

Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 

As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”  

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 

No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
                                                             Romans 8:31-39

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Join me?

The place where most of my problems, issues and struggles take place is in my thought life. 

Worry.  Anxiety.  Expectations.  Unforgiveness.  Judgement.  Fear.

All of these play out most prominently in my mind.  I know what God says about each area but I find that I continually default to my old habits: 
  • Working out solutions on my own. 
  • Wondering how this or that will end up. 
  • Making up conversations in my head over relational issues.
  • Rehashing scenarios that can't be changed.
The mind of sinful man is death but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace!  Romans 8:6

I want life and peace.  So how do I get a mind that's controlled not by my old self but by the Spirit?

God's Word is the answer. 
My thoughts aren't reliable, aren't always true, aren't even consistent.
God's Word is all of those things.  It gives LIFE because it is alive - living and active.

So to meditate on His Word, to read it, to pray it and to hear it is crucial.
But one of the very best ways to change my thought life is to memorize it.

At the end of 2008, Beth Moore issued a challenge that I took to heart - to memorize two verses a month.  To write these verses in a little spiral notecard notebook and carry it with you in your purse so you can pull it out when you have five minutes of wait time at the dentist or while picking up your kids from soccer practice.  She encouraged us to do this with someone else - a good friend, a prayer partner or your small group bible study.  (I didn't do this part but I think it's a really excellent idea!)

Here is what Beth said about how memorizing the Word will affect how you pray...

Watch your prayer life change. Check out John 15:7-8. The more God’s Word abides in us, the more the mind of Christ is developed in us. The end result will be that we will pray more and more of God’s will and get more and more of what we’ve asked. Do not think for a moment that praying in the will of God narrows your requests. It blows them wide open! Ask Him in this Jesus-year to explode your effectiveness in prayer then watch it happen.

So, would anyone like to join me in 2011 in memorizing God's Word?  Here are some helpful directions if you'd like to be a part of the Siesta Scripture Memory Team over at Beth's blog:  LPM Blog

Get yourself a spiral of notecards - here's the one I used last time:

You can also order a 'fancy' one from Beth here:
I started asking God to give me the verses He knew I needed to have burned into my thinking and He gave me exactly the ones I needed.  It was a wonderful, wonderful experience that I wouldn't trade for anything!
This year, I am going to memorize Romans 8 - something I started several times over the last few years (some of you know this is true) but never finished.  Ugh.  So I'm excited that this is the year to get it done!  I can't wait.
Please leave a comment to let me know if you'd like to do this with me.  We can encourage each other and share in some victories over a few of those things I listed at the top of this post.
You will not regret it! 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day After

I battle a certain sadness each December 26th.  I know a lot of people are glad the whole season is finally over but not me. 

Even though my girls returned much of what I bought them.  Including these:

(shirts were too small)

Even though we might have had some coughs and sniffles.

Even though I accidentally gave the wrong gift to a dear woman who leads our bible study leaders and was so completely embarrassed when she opened a multi-set of little post earrings meant for my daughter that I was speechless as she very graciously thanked me for my beautiful gift when she probably only wears real diamonds not cubic zirconia that come in a three pack.  Cringe. 

Even though it's lots of work to bake and decorate and clean and wrap.

I love Christmas!

So we'll recycle and eventually put the gifts we got away. 

But I'm going to enjoy this last week of the holiday season.  You too?

Here are a few things I found worth sharing:

Some pretty sobering findings about the Church in 2010

Made any lately?

How would I want to be treated?

On being a people-pleaser

A shopping trip and a cleansed perspective

Giftmas or Christmas or Both?
Good things to ponder

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Because I didn't even get an e-card out this year, I'm posting here to let you know how thankful I am to you, my blog readers.  I am a poor excuse for a blogger yet you have stuck with me.  A few of you have even left a comment or two - thank you!

I realize that if you stacked this blog up against most any other out there, it would be the Charlie Brown tree on the lot.  But you, by faithfully clicking on this link, have been the ones to wave your elbow-less arms and have turned it into a beautiful full green tree!  Let's all gather in a circle and sing "Loo loo loo loo loo..."

I may have gotten carried away with that analogy.

Around our house this week...

And a few of these...

We're looking forward to Amy's arrival later tonight and our candlelight service!

For Christmas Eve, Grandma and Grandpa come over, as well as all the cousins (two of them - see above) and we spend the afternoon eating fingerfoods, clam chowder and sourdough.  The girls will open one gift. 

How about you?  What are your traditions?

Whatever you do, enjoy these days together and give thanks for all we have. 

God's unfailing, pursuing love.
A peace that passes understanding.
Mercies that are new every single morning.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

To fulfill what He's said

Do you spend time in December reading through the Christmas story? 

This verse in Matthew has been in bold font in my mind...

"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said..." 
          Matthew 1:22

Everything will take place to fulfill God's purposes.

To say it another way, nothing will prevent His plans from happening.

God intended from before time to become flesh and blood to redeem all who will receive Him.

Not one thing could stop that plan from being fulfilled.  The number of Old Testament prophesies fulfilled in Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection tell me He is absolutely faithful to do exactly what He says.

Does that mean all of those things were happy, joyful circumstances? 
Giving birth in a barn.
Fleeing to Egypt to escape the murder of their son.
A life of rejection, betrayal and being misunderstood.
A death on a cross.

No, not good at all from my perspective.  But all were used to fulfill God's ultimate purpose.

Do I believe that for me?

Do I know that God is using every circumstance in my life - arranging people and situations - to conform to His plan for me?   

My circumstances absolutely have to conform to His plan.  Even the unfair, hurtful, confusing ones.

God doesn't look at anything surrounding my life (like I might do) and think, "Now that has wrecked My whole plan for you."

He takes the things that come as a result of sin or of living in a broken world and He makes them conform to His purpose. 

I don't know what circumstance you might be dealing with right now that seems impossible to reconcile in your head and heart with God's perfect plan.  But you and I can know He is making that thing work for our good.

Has He not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part?  2 Samuel 23:5

Friday, December 10, 2010

Right on the lips

Today I went to lunch with my dad and his sister.  Actually I took them to lunch as neither are driving any more.  Well, they took me to lunch because they paid.  Anyway...

Aren't they cute?
(Please don't tell my dad I called them cute.)

They're one year apart - 89 and 88 years old.

Today when I woke up I decided I wanted to take something to my Aunt Elva.  Last year at Christmas I took her a pointsettia but this year I wanted to bake something.  First, a little background...

Norm and Elva's mom (my grandma) owned a bakery in Liverpool, England and some of my most vivid memories of Isabelle are sitting at her lace-covered table while she served us 'tea.'  Every afternoon she had tea and something sweet, as is the tradition of every good Brit.  She always served in a beautiful tea pot with a crocheted tea cozy - loose tea was added to the boiling water and then poured into china cups through a sieve.  Then we always added gobs of sugar and milk.  Yes, milk.   

But it was her baked goods that I remember most fondly.  She made little tarts filled with lemon curd and homemade jam.  Many kinds of cookies.  And shortbread.  Thick, buttery, rich shortbread.  It was round with scalloped edges and so big you could hardly eat a whole piece. 

So this morning I decided I would make Dad and Elva some shortbread, which would conjure sweet memories of their mother's baking!  I had all three ingredients: butter, sugar and flour.  Well, not quite enough butter but I added some spreadable butter from the tub to make up the difference.  And of course my grandmother would never have mixed it with an electric mixer - she used her hands for all her baking.  And I may not have had the right cookie cutter:
So I pressed the dough in a 9x9 glass pan, made some tree-shaped fork pokes and baked it until the edges were just starting to turn golden.  When it cooled, I sliced it into squares and arranged them on two little plates with some Christmas candies.  I didn't take a picture because, well, it didn't really look all that great.

So, it didn't taste quite like Grandma's.  But Elva and Norm were very nice about it and told me they tasted good.  No one shed a tear in happy remembrance of their dear mother.  But I think they appreciated the effort anyway.

So we went to lunch at Applebees, our go-to lunch place.  I always ask them lots of questions about their growing up years because it's fun to hear them tell things from two very different perspectives.  There may even be some arguing about whether Santa left 2 pennies or two nickels in the toes of their stockings. 

I told them what I remembered about Christmas when our families used to always get together - and neither one could remember that at all.  Every Christmas we went to dinner at either our house or theirs.  I liked going there because my aunt always had one of those silver aluminum trees with a revolving light shining on it to make it turn blue and green and red and yellow.  I know - pretty tacky but when I was six, I was fascinated by it.  I thought they must be so rich!  Elva told me today she couldn't imagine ever having a silver tree!

So after we finished our Pick'N Pair lunch combos (clam chowder today!), we drove back to Elva's and had to go in for a few minutes to see her gas fireplace and hear about her latest great-grandbaby (#8!).  Then, it was time to head back across the river to go home. 

And that's when it happened.  Like it's always happened.  Elva cupped her hands around my face and gave me a big kiss - right on the lips.  Just the way she always has.  Because although my family never gave kisses (until my mom started kissing us later in life), you never left my aunt and uncles without one.  And I loved it! 

So here is my Christmas suggestion for you: 

Give lots of hugs and kisses this season.  And every season.   
They won't be forgotten.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Loose Change to Loosen Chains

Do you remember making these in grade school to decorate your classroom at Christmas?  They've probably been around for as long as there has been construction paper!

Today I taught 4th grade and there was a different twist on the Christmas paper chain.

Black paper chains. 

This Christmas, Mrs. Porter's class has decided to give to a cause they've been learning about:  human trafficking.  They've heard speakers from the International Justice Mission tell them that for $500, one child can be set free from this horrible life sentence. 

So, on Monday of this week they started bringing in "spare change."  As of today (two days later), here is what they've collected:

In three days, they're almost halfway there!  They couldn't be more excited.  I'm really impressed that they chose this cause, which must be hard for their nine-year-old brains to comprehend.  One day I hope they get to meet someone who was rescued.  Mostly I hope they are learning the joy of sacrificial giving.  

After we counted the change brought in today, we tore off more links of the black chain on the ceiling (one link for every $5).

Then we moved on to Science.  The excretory system.  Sweat.  Oil.  And you know.  

There's wasn't a 4th grader in the room who who didn't think that was absolutely hysterical.   

Monday, November 29, 2010


There are so many things that I love about this season...
about Christmas.

I love the music of Christmas
It is an invitation to worship!
It's the only time you'll hear people everywhere singing Jesus' name. 
I wonder if that's a good thing or if it's something that grieves God.  I think of how many times I've sung the familiar words of a Christmas hymn without thinking about what I'm singing at all.
I'm always a little shocked to hear pop singers belting out "Oh come let us adore Him!"  I imagine that one day even that will be gone from our airwaves, along with that once common greeting "Merry Christmas!"
The music of Christmas is a daily reminder to me to worship.

I love the lights of Christmas
They are warm and welcoming and good.  Light is good. 
I've always loved knowing that light conquers darkness.
The Light of the world has called me to be a light where I live and shop and interact with people!

I also love the message of Christmas.
It's full of paradox.
Strength in weakness.
Love in rejection.
Hope in desperation.
Peace in turmoil.
God with us!

May we spend this month ahead looking for ways to give ourselves to Him!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Africa Through Jeff's Lens - Part 3

As usually happens when you're the photographer, you don't end up in too many photos.  Knowing this is true, I asked Jeff to please be sure he was in at least a couple of pictures.  Here he is at the Widows and Orphans Home in Adama, showing two brothers some of the photos on the camera.

Here's a morning cup of Ethiopian coffee -
dark, strong and oh-so-good!

Jeff said he ate and enjoyed the local cuisine.  What is pictured below is a bit of a delicacy - most Ethiopians don't get meat often, if at all. 

It's called "tibs" and is beef cooked over a coal fire. You can also see the rolled up injera and a dish of chopped chilis and salt for dipping.

There are two villages in Ethiopia where Adoption Ministry has sponsored children.  One is the village of T'ede.  It is a 90 minute drive south from Addis Ababa.  There's always something to see along the road.

As the team arrived in the village, lots of children spotted the van full of white faces and came to smile and stare.

Here, Pastor Zerihun lives and ministers to many widowed women and their children. 

Pastor Zerihun at his pulpit

The parsonage

The church in T'ede

Adoption Ministry has sponsored nine children in T'ede and when one of our teams goes to Ethiopia, they get to deliver gifts from the sponsors to these children.  I thought it was so sweet how each child bowed as they received their gifts of new clothes and toys.

Next was a visit to the village of Gutumuma.  This remote area has seen over one hundred families convert to Christianity in the last year, thanks to the work of several evangelists.  They are pictured below, praying with the team.

**Very cool side story:  The young man pictured above with the glasses is one of our adopting dads who was in Ethiopia with his wife Jackie to meet their baby daughter for the first time and attend their court date.  His dad, Ron Sanchez, was a pastor on staff with Jeff at a church in Redmond, WA back in the late 80's/early 90's.  Jason was a little kid then but we both remember those days with great fondness and we're still all shaking our heads over how God brought us together again -
via Ethiopia!

The government gave a beautiful piece of land to these people and Adoption Ministry has been able to raise support for water to be brought in, a fence to be built to surround the compound and found sponsors for twenty children there.  A little school has been started, playground equipment supplied and the children get lunch - an egg, a chunk of bread and a cup of milk.  For most it is their only 'meal' of the day.

Jeff and I sponsor a little girl in this village. 
Her name is Kuftu.
She is one of eight children and her father is a pastor.

This is the picture we have on our refrigerator.

Jeff got to meet Kuftu and though he's sure she didn't understand who he was, I'm not so sure.  It was a highlight for him, I know!

You know how often you hear that a trip like this changes you forever?  Well, my husband is the type who avoids any hint of exaggeration or cliché so he hasn't been saying that he has a whole new outlook on everything.  But after seeing what he saw and meeting the people he did, there is certainly conviction and renewed desire to be asking God how he should respond.  As we've talked, we both feel that the thing that makes the biggest impression on you is the people there who are serving Christ.  They live in leper colonies, in tiny mud huts or in homes where the widowed and desititute are taken in and taken care of.  They are joyfully determined to live out God's word.

So we ask ourselves, "Are we?"

You can read Part 1 and Part 2 as well!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Africa Through Jeff's Lens - Part 2

Toward the end of Jeff's trip to Ethiopia, he and Mark went to visit the leper colony and the neighborhood by the dump in Addis Ababa.  Almost all of this huge city is marked with extreme poverty but this area is the most destitute.  Mark has served there in the past and has become friends with a pastor who ministers to the people who live on the ragged edges of society.

These are difficult photos.  This isn't the beautiful African savannah.  It's not even the happy-ending result of a lot of relief work.  This is reality for hundreds of thousands of people in one corner of the world.  And here, some faithful Christians are living and ministering to the very 'least of these' in Jesus' name.

The church at the leper colony.

The sanctuary with the burlap floor.

Mark Wolbert with a man who has lost both legs to leprosy.

This woman has AIDS and lives day to day in a mud-walled hovel.
Jeff asked if he could take her picture.
I know how hard it is to walk around with a camera in places like this.  But it's so important to bring these images home.

Another resident of this neighborhood cooking her family's meal.

One of many 'homes' with trash from the nearby dump that is burned for cooking fuel.

A women let them peek inside her home.
Many people live here.

This mother and her daughter know the pastor and also showed them inside their home.
Just look at that beaming face!

Jeff was captivated by this beautiful girl in her red frilly dress.

She was so happy to have her picture taken.

There were so many beautiful faces in that dark place...

It is so good, on this Thanksgiving Day, to remember these precious people who God loves and to ask what He wants me to do in response. 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  Isaiah 61:1-3 

Part 3 Gifts delivered to two villages
Part 1 
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