Summing it up.....

I can’t believe it has been nearly a year. What a year it has been for us! Nothing we could have predicted, expected or planned for. God has a plan; He has His reasons, and the events unfolded in a way that has at times left us scratching our heads more than nodding with certainty. I was 8 months pregnant, and one cold Sunday afternoon in January Ryan came home after a meeting with our pastor and chairman of elders with a document in his hand. As we sat down together at the dining room table, he shared with me the details of that meeting. Ryan had been asked to resign his position as worship pastor effective immediately. Thankfully he was provided with a severance package through March, but little did we know what would unfold in the months to follow. We welcomed our sweet baby Chloe in March, so thankful for a healthy pregnancy and delivery in spite of the stressful circumstances we were dealing with. In the days and weeks that followed Chloe’s arrival, we would be shoved into the reality of what life is like for the unemployed and underemployed. We agonized and found ourselves extremely frustrated as we watched door after door close for Ryan, applying for any and every job opening he could find. Finally this fall after several temporary job situations, an opening presented itself with a large truck manufacturing company here in Brazil. Ryan has been working night shift with the company now for a couple of months and although it is extremely demanding physical work, we are thankful God opened the door to something in the form of reliable, steady income for him. We are still walking in some very challenging days, the hard work we have before us can be very exhausting mentally, physically, spiritually every single day. Somehow God’s peace and strength gives us the ability to put one foot in front of the other, to keep moving forward even though we are not happy with our current situation. God knows our hearts, and in spite of how difficult it is to wait, He has a purpose for us even right here where we are.
What have we learned this year? If you are expecting me to answer that with patience, sorry to disappoint you. Patience is something we all are likely to be working on for the entirety of our lives. I will admit to you in spite of how it may appear, I spend more of my prayer time asking God, “Why? When? How?” than I do telling Him, “You know, I get it, You are absolutely right on! I am happy to wait on You, Lord!” I suppose it is somehow strengthening, maturing for my faith to still communicate with the Lord even if it feels like I complain more than I praise Him. I think I’ve learned to hold on to the truth, the hope that He is good at all times, even when what He’s allowed to occur doesn’t make any sense to me. That He has purpose for me, every single moment of every single day, right where I am. That He will not fail me-ever! He will provide for me always! Let me just take a moment to boast about what the Lord has done---friends, family, sweet family of God, you have amazed us and you have blessed us so abundantly because you have listened to God’s prompting in your hearts! Do you know how God has used you to lighten our load? I have prayed daily, throughout my days, even in the depths of my struggle to understand God’s hand in all of this----blessings, abundant blessings on every single one of you for being so generous, so selfless, so giving of yourselves for our family. You didn’t have to do it, but because you did, I know God will richly and wonderfully bless you! We are so thankful for your constant prayer, encouraging words by mail, email and in person, so I hope you know what a treasure you are to us. We cannot say thank you enough, words are simply not adequate to express fully how grateful we are.
There is still work to do for the Kingdom, and we know God has something amazing, extraordinary for us and it will come about in His perfect timing. As we close out this difficult year, we realize in spite of the challenges, we are so blessed. I was reminded by a quote once again the other day, of what really matters. I will make the choice daily to thank God for loving me in spite of myself, focusing on what we do have rather than what we don’t have, and ultimately recognizing that nothing is wasted. God has purpose for each one of us, every single moment of every single day. I have to share with you what my Dad said to me in an email the other day because it is so good.

“After years of learning and experiencing the grace of God I have come to believe that the majority of life's experiences are not predetermined by God ... that these earthly days are part of the larger world, with all its complexities and the corruption of sin ... and we are certainly not excused from the rest of the world. BUT I believe very strongly that our trust in God and how we choose to live every day makes all the difference in whether we live as "victims" or whether we learn and grow into what God intends us to become. When Roman's 8:28 refers to "all things work together for good" for us I believe that God is declaring that nothing can circumvent the will of God and our part in that unfolding will. God is not some kind of fairy-god-mother who swoops in and magically changes everything. God continues to fulfill his purpose no matter what the obstacles, which is powerfully displayed in the horrendous suffering of Christ. The life and cross of Christ show us the unequalled power of God against all the tragedies of this world and even the considerable power of satan. Because we live with the limitations of the physical world and time, we cannot fully understand how God works in our lives, but we know He does. All that to say that God's love is never failing ... God's purpose will be accomplished for us and for those around us ... that we find our greatest hope in the cross and resurrection.
And God understands when we are frustrated, heartbroken, and have trouble holding on. He knew from day one we are not perfect and He does not expect us to be. That is grace!”

We are looking ahead to the New Year with hope, not in anything this world presents, but in everything that God presents! He has given us Jesus, and with that we have the greatest reason of all to live life fully, shining His love for all to see-- the hurt, the lonely, the broken, the helpless. Will you choose to shine in this dark world for them?
Blessings to you for a wonderful Christmas and an amazing New Year!

Wisdom in the Waiting

My study time the other night took me to Galatians 6, chapter about reaping what we plant. Verse 9 has stuck with me for several days now.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.’ (Galatians 6:9 NLT)

I hope in these days to keep a positive outlook on life, be mindful of the blessings God has given me, and share all that He has given me with others. I pray daily to be an example as I walk out each day in faith, hope and love. I want others to see beyond me to what God has given me, that His love and goodness shines through. Some days this is a greater task to accomplish than others. I find I may not have as much interest, motivation, confidence, desire to do just what God calls me to do every single day no matter where we are, what we are doing with our lives: love others as He loves me. It is not too much to ask and it is required of me! I must reach beyond myself and grasp the supernatural strength of the Holy Spirit to do this. Why is it some days that so much of what I am experiencing in my heart, my soul can cloud my ability to grasp that?
Nearly a year after Ryan was asked to resign our situation has not improved dramatically, it is a slow process. We are thankful for what we have today, for this new job he started nearly two months ago. The down side to it is how physically demanding the work is. An immediate result of the work he is doing has caused him to develop carpal tunnel in his hands and arms, so he is experiencing some tingling, numbness and discomfort for which there is no immediate cure. Over the counter medications and hand braces/gloves have helped some, but it continues to be very uncomfortable. As you can imagine it makes playing his guitar even more difficult. We are not sure how long God intends for him to do this, but we are not going to give up because it is the best job option he has had. We continue to wait and pray, wait and pray, wait and pray as the Lord works toward a new worship ministry position for Ryan. The headlines daily tell us that life is not getting any easier any time soon for the majority of us. We need to be thankful for the jobs we have today, because there are many who are still looking for work and do not have even the basic things that we can say that we have today.
We are taking it one day at a time. We are thankful when a bill arrives, and we can pay it. We are thankful we have food on our table, a roof over our heads and a warm bed to sleep in at night. We are not through the woods yet. Ryan is still in his first 90 days at his new job which means no holiday pay. God has already answered our prayers and provided so much! We will continue to trust and obey Him, knowing that He sees our needs and He will provide at just the right time.
Our situation is not one that could have been predicted, and it is not one that can be fixed overnight. As much as I’d like to pray, “God, end this today please!” I catch myself with this thought in mind: He has His reasons for allowing these events to unfold exactly as they have. I read this today, and it made me stop. I found myself reading it over and over again, trying to lock it in my mind for safe keeping as we continue to walk through these difficult days.

A wise man in trial will be patient and calm, prayerful and hopeful, resigned and humble, and will be more concerned to have the trial made a blessing, than to have it removed.’ (James Smith, Cheltenham, NY, 1869)

This thing, this monstrous trial we are going through seems so big, but the truth is…God is so much bigger! Somehow, some way we will continue to walk out each day in faith, live out our faith and exercise our faith as God calls us to. We have not sung our last song by any means, the music is still there but for whatever reason God has given us this time to enjoy the melodies in a different setting.
Please continue to pray for Ryan and I as we pray without ceasing, wait with great anticipation and expectation, and trust God to handle it all. His promises, His purpose, His protection for us will continue to be our strength and our comfort. We know and we believe that He is certainly not finished with us yet. The best is yet to come. We are so thankful for each and every one of you, and for how God continues to bless us so abundantly.

my Ebenezer...

“…Thus far the Lord has helped us.”-1 Samuel 7:12 There are moments in my life when I look back and can see how God in His perfect yet my...