Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Quite Possibly the PERFECT Day!

Okay, so everyone has one of THOSE days (and quite possibly many of them). You know, where whatever can go wrong does. But have you ever had a day where everything that could go right, does go right? I think I've just experienced one of those days myself...... in my very own family none the less. It goes like this..........

Sunday morning was upon us again. Our children simply love Sundays. It is the one day they get to see their best friends and run through the halls where we meet for church each week, chasing each other in reckless abandon, all the while mom and dad are too busy preparing for the gathering to stop them. This morning in particular, was special in my mind. Garrett was given the honor of preaching and his topic was adoption. I was going to give a short testimony and sing a solo that would help to emphasize his point. I had been feeling a bit apprehensive about singing a solo since the song Garrett chose required my full vocal strength and I could feel the cold I had gotten 2 weeks ago still lingering by a thread, but there none the less. Alright, enough about what we were going to do it was time to get ready to go do it.

We woke the kids, who all seemed to be in stellar moods. When asked by the youngest," Where will we go today?" and upon finding out it would be a church day, she threw her little arms around my neck and crooned loudly,"Ooooh, thank you." Like by some great power of my own, I had willed the day into existence. It made us all smile and there was a good feeling all around.

There was cooperation in our midst as we breezed through the getting ready to go process and loading ourselves into the car. A usual tantrum of one sort or another usually erupts and keeps the tension high, but not a whinny voice of rebellion broke the calm morning air this day, to the relief of all.

In the car we prayed through the A.C.T.S. prayer, as is now our custom on the way into town. Everyone went in their right order, one after the other without having to be reminded it was their turn and with each saying more than just one thing on the subjects of ,"You are.., Confess.., Thank You's..... and Pray for....." Even the youngest, who refuses to participate on a regular bases, had her heart set on praying this morning.

At church our focus changed from immediate family to our church family. Garrett and I warmed up and practiced with the worship team. We have been part of the worship team now for 3 months and are loving it. The practice went smoothly and a run through of my solo alleviated any lingering fears I had had that I might not have the vocal strength or nerves to sing the whole song the way Garrett had written it so many years ago.

During the service, worship went smoothly. None of our kids caused a commotion or tried to come up on stage as in weeks past. They sat unattended and payed attention. People seemed to be worshiping with us and not yawning from a previous late night out or an exhausting week of being over worked and underpaid.

Garrett preached on the Lord's adoption of us. Saul translated. The two worked like one on the stage. It is like poetry in motion to watch. There is not a lot of pausing for these two as when other people translate. Garrett spoke fluidly and so did Saul. Both were preaching at the same time so it seemed. I videotaped some of it. Then Garrett invited me up to share a bit about my adoption experience. I choked through most of it since I am still so raw with emotion right now and felt confident as I looked around at the congregation that God had touched some of them through my pain as I saw a few people dab at a tear or two in their eyes.

Near the end of the service I came up to share the song "Abba Father". Garrett played the guitar while I sang. Being a perfectionist I can say it was not the best I have done, but God is giving me the capacity to be okay with not being perfect and not feeling like a complete failure because I wasn't. We had the song translated on power point so people could understand the words and I know the message was brought forth and that is what we had intended to do. That being done, I went back to my seat to take my place by our boys. And to my complete delight and utter surprise, was greeted with comments from them that went like this," Was that you??? You're AMAZING!!!! That wasn't a recording was it, that was you singing? You sing soooo great! Why don't you do that more often?" Little did they know that I would ride on a cloud for weeks from those powerful words they spoke into my life. I think I will never need a complement again. These little rascals know me and have seen me at my worst and yet they poured forth words of kindness and awe that I could see came straight from their deepest parts. They were not holding anything back. They were not trying to make me feel good. They were really impressed. I have done so much to un-impress them by not being a good manager of my temper, that to have impressed my boys was truly an honor and privilege for me. My boys think I have an amazing voice:) I wonder if that is how God feels when we sing to him? It has helped to give me a whole new picture about worship and how God responds when we give it to him.

After church, we broke down the stage and purposefully headed home without a whole lot of socializing. This was the day we had set aside to get the house ready for Christmas. We were going to go into what the kids call "The Dark Forest" and chop down a Christmas tree. Our first time ever to chop one down. It felt so much like "Little House on the Prairie".

We have 3 forests. Two of them are mostly Elm trees. All their leaves have fallen to the ground. You can see all the way through the trees to the other side now by just standing at the forest's edge. The other one is full of Pine trees (evergreens) and they are so close together that they block out ALL of the sunlight. When the kids go exploring deeper into this forest midday, they have to take a flashlight with them. Thus the name, "the dark forest."

We had been scouting out the trees for a few weeks now as we would drive by them each day and thought we spotted one that would work near the edge of the forest just down our dirt road. We got all dressed in our winter gear, grabbed axes, saws and camera equipment, of course, and headed down the road to find our prize! It was a sight that delighted my heart as I brought up the rear. Our dog and his puppy joined us for the adventure and really made the picture complete. I was bursting inside for the unity of family it felt like this activity was bringing us. Everyone was excited to be together and get our tree.

After looking at some possibilities we finally settled on one in particular. It wasn't a perfect tree at all. Some of the branches went here and there and it looked like it had two tops, but it was the right size and we decided we rather liked its imperfections. It gave it character and we are a family with some characters of our own so we set to chopping it down. It was quickly discovered that the ax was not the way to go and the saw was. Everyone took their turn at sawing, but Ezra was made for the job and so he fell the tree with great enthusiasm and encouragement from us all.

Next was the job of carrying the tree back without dragging it through the mud on the way. The "men" took on this task while us "ladies" took our time bringing up the rear. Well, really Sonshyne did her best to help carry the tree and keep up with her brothers while Hevenlee and I scurried to keep up and document it all with pictures while I held her hand and tried to avoid the huge puddles from the nights previous down pour. But the first 2 sentences just sound better:) And since this is my "perfect day" story, we'll just stick with that. Choose what to remember right?

After we got the tree in the house, all trimmed up and in position, we got out the lights and ornaments. Now it was time for fun Christmas music! Traditional Kids music was the unanimous choice and we set about singing songs, like 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' sung by the "Gold and Silver Choir", while decorating our tree with the Lithuanian straw ornaments I found at a great price. Our kids were eager to help hang the ornaments, though I had to fight the temptation to redecorate the tree later so that it was more pleasing to the eye. Our tree still has no ornaments at the very top. I just smile when I look at it and think the kids won't remember the way the tree looked but they will remember that they got to be part of the experience and that is what is important here.

When the very last ornament was hung, we turned out all the lights and had the official lighting of the tree! It took Ezra a few moments in the dark to hit the switch, but when he did it was wonderful. It is always my favorite moment when the Christmas tree lights come on for the very first time after we have spent so much time getting the tree ready. It officially felt like Christmas!

We played the "Frosty the snowman" and "Rudolph" cartoons on the TV, while we cleaned up. They are the same cartoons Garrett and I grew up watching each year when we were little. We lounged around the rest of the evening and had popcorn and other finger foods for dinner. I think we even squeezed a card game in there somewhere.

Sitting in our living room together getting along, with a fire in the fireplace, all the candles lit and loving and enjoying each other reminded me of a Norman Rockwell painting. It was a day I will cherish for many, many years to come. It is a day where our family really bonded with each other and a few weeks later we are all still talking about it with fondness in our minds. It is a day that we are all longing to do again and thinking of ways to do it. God knew we needed a day like this day. It is a day like this day that will get us through many, many days, like the usual days. It is also a day like this day that will keep us thinking on how to make it happen again. I am looking forward to creating another day like this one soon.......

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Seasonal Depression and my Birthday

It has been an interesting month +. I have had little energy to do much more than exist and make it through each day. Then all of a sudden, a few days after my birthday, BAM! I have energy! It is weird how family issues can stay with you for so long. Here I am living a great life, but my son's birthday comes in November and my depression begins until my birthday in December is over. I just discovered this trend last year. I can see how it has been happening for most of my life but finally named it last year. It's name is George by the way;)

This year I gave myself permission to check out here and there when I knew I couldn't pretend any longer. I stayed home more and connected with people less. For me, being an extrovert and all, this was a good thing. If I struggled with depression on a regular basis I could see how isolating would be a bad thing, but for me, it is important to pull back at such an emotionally fragile period of time each year. I have a hard time being around people and often find it hard to be tactful in so many situations. It seems safer for my relationships if I am around less during this weird time. It is amazing how hard it is to explain this to people while it is happening. "I'm sorry, I can't be around you right now because I don't have it in me to be polite to you....." For some reason the "tact" goes right on out of my capeabilities.....

For many years I thought I was a big flake. I was always so energized for the beginning of the school year to start in September. I would get all involved in everything. I had the time, the enthusiasm and the energy to do it all too. Then a few months go by and we enter November and suddenly it is hard to make it to any of my commitments. Everything seems overwhelming and I begin to not care much about anything anymore. The pressure in November mounts until December comes. The three days before my birthday seem to be the biggest stress of all. Then my birthday.....which you think would be the worst day of all, but I guess I resign that it is happening and it does feel good to have people wish you a happy birthday all day, so the day turns out fine. Then a few days later BAM! energy back, problem is most of my commitments are now over because they usually involved programs or events that occured on or right around my birthday making everyone too busy to celebrate me much at all. They have to cut something out you know! (Yeah, I know, poor me! wah wah wah.) Christmas is exciting and New Years brings with it a whole new vitality. January, my favorite month of the year! A crazy cycle eh? It has only taken me 38 years to see it too!

This year was a little different. I decided to be aware of every little detail of this strange cycle. Only a week before my son's 13th birthday I felt the black cloud creep into my life. I don't know what the connection to my first born son's birthday is except that he represents my first child and as he gets older he gets closer and closer to leaving me. (Yes, this IS all about me). I think I mourn the loss of, "when he will move out", every year. I told my husband that I probably won't shed a tear the day he really moves out because I have cried about it every year already! Talk about gearing up! This is shear madness. There were a few days in there I thought,
" Maybe I'll need to get on some antidepressants", but then the black cloud drifted away and I began to find my rhythm again.

Along with this crazy cycle comes irrational and constant anger directed mostly at safe people ie; my husband and children. No one can do anything right and everything is wrong. I am certain that it is mainly because everything is wrong inside me, but my poor family suffers through it. And of course my children are powerless to stop it and by now my husband is afraid of me and just trying to make it through the day unscathed.

Seeing all this go on around me and being very aware that I am creating the insanity and damaging the relationships I long for with the ones I love, only feeds into my insecurity, intense feelings of being insignificant and self loathing. It reafirms, in my mind, that I truly don't deserve what I have. All this kaoss leaves me frazzelled and grasping for control. The result is masking it all with more anger. It is a viscious cycle that leaves me reelling out of control emotionally and grasping at anything to try and find some sort of grounding.

I wish I could say I chose to lay in the arms of Christ during this trying time, but I did the exact opposite and stayed under the covers longer and as often as possible throughout the day. I had been getting out of bed now for almost 2 years early in the morning to pray, but I had no energy, drive and definitely no desire. I decided to stop fighting it and cave in, knowing it would pass in a few weeks. God graciously allowed my children to get sick so I was forced to stay home with a few sick kids for about 2 weeks. I was almost sad to see the last of them recover and go back to school. Never before have I longed for a kid to be sick so I could have a reason not to go out and face the world. It is funny that I could not find it in me to give myself permission to stay home and take care of myself in such a way. I will make plans for next year I suppose. I will stop trying so hard to pretend I am okay. I will stop trying to make sure everyone else is okay and take some time out to let others take care of me for a change.

My birthday was on Monday this year, so the Friday before it I decided to send the kids to school, see Garrett off to work and stay home alone. While no one was around I was very productive. I got laundry folded, made a crockpot dinner and tried my hand at homemade bread (which turned our great). Then as soon as everyone got home I escaped to the safe haven of my room and ducked under the bed covers. When Garrett came in and layed next to me I began to cry. I just cried and cried and cried. I knew this was coming and thought I would have done this all morning, but I guess I needed my man by my side to be sweet and understanding. He was:) and so I was safe. He held me in his arms and I felt the gloom lifting as the tears flowed out. What a great thing God did when he gave us the ability to cry. I have determined to cry whenever I feel the need and not apologize for it ever again! It was a sweet release. A much needed cleansing. I could breath a breath of fresh air for the first time in a month when I was done. The mourning and loss were over...............the cloud was lifting.

I don't know what the point of all this is. I do know that I do not plan on living this way for the rest of my life. I know next year will be tough again, but I am determined that this is not going to rule my life. I will not give in to that. I can take the time right now to reflect on what helped and what did not and make those necessary changes for next year when I begin to see it coming again.

What helped? I got many personal letters about how our friendship matters. When you are fighting overwhelming feelings of insignificance it really helps to get notes and letters from friends telling me what I mean to them. It is especially important to get these from my family members who I care so much about. I can't tell you how often I began to cry over the simplest statements made by a sister or cousin during this time when they said they were proud of me and admired my decision to move overseas. All the rest of the year I know these things, but during this bad time I can't seem to recall it. The silence becomes deafening.

It also helped to limit my time away from the home. This year especially I was able to minimize my involvement in extra activities. I noticed when I was home for 2 weeks with a few sick kids at a time my anxiety level went down and I was much more comfortable in my skin. When I would go out and do activity after activity (which is customary around this time a year and often expected) I would begin to not be able to cope with the simplest of issues. The whining tired child who needed kind words and a loving touch would receive a threat of consequences instead. At home I am needed and I am significant and I can also rest. Also, someone else planning my birthday party was helpful. I know it is hard to plan for "the planner", but it was so nice to have a small celebration that I did not plan. It made me feel significant and special (thanks Sanna).

What didn't help? Asking friends to keep in touch extra through the month of November and not having them do it. It is really hard to put myself out there and ask for help because if I ask for help and expose the area of my weakness and then the need still goes unmet it just feeds right into my deep feelings of insignificance. If I don't ask and no one knows then at least I know why. The other thing that really rubs me raw are all the reasons why you "can't come" or "couldn't remember" around this time. I have heard them all, over the past 38 years, as to why this season is too busy for me to be remembered, but all I hear in there is that I wasn't important enough to be remembered. After all we do what we really want to do and we remember what we really want to remember (that is what repeats in my head). I guess some examples would be,"Sorry I forgot your birthday, I was so busy with such-n-such....." or 2 paragraphs detailing all the reasons why you were too busy these past weeks and couldn't possibly have found a way to send an email in this wired world we live in. I don't need an "oooops I forgot" birthday wish. You don't need to tell me you forgot, I already know that. It doesn't matter that it is 3 or 6 or 15 days late when you remember. A Happy Birthday is a Happy Birthday whenever it is remembered and no apology is necessary when you do remember after all! (there is no anger intended in this last paragraph, just raw facts and how they effect me during this time, sorry if the truth touches a nerve or two, I don't hold on to any of it after my birthday is over.....weird huh?)

Boy, am I glad this season is over for me. I hope to be better prepared next year so that it is not such a tough season to get through. Thanks to all those who prayed me through this season and for so many of you who sent emails. It meant the world to me!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Facinating thoughts about "Fasting"

Primary purpose of Fasting
Fasting must forever center on God. It must be God-initiated and God-ordained.
Secondary purpose of Fasting
More than any other discipline , fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear - if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is with in us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.
Fasting reminds us that we are sustained "by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt 4:4). Food does not sustain us; God sustains us. In Christ, "All things hold together" (Col.1:17). Therefore, in experiences of fasting we are not so much abstaining from food as we are feasting on the work of God.
Fasting helps us keep our balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them. Paul writes," 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be enslaved by anything" (1 Cor. 6:12). Our human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channels.
You are to be the master of your stomach, not its slave!
Where are the people today who will respond to the call of Christ? Have we become so accustomed to "cheap grace" that we instinctively shy away from more demanding calls to obedience? "Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross." Why has the giving of money, for example, been unquestionably recognized as an element in Christian devotion and fasting so disputed? Certainly we have as much, if not more, evidence from the Bible for fasting as we have for giving. Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money.

The Practice of Fasting
With all disciplines, a progression should be observed; it is wise to learn to walk well before we try to run. Begin with a partial fast of twenty-four hours' duration; many have found lunch to lunch to be the best time. This means that you would not eat 2 meals. Fresh fruit juices are excellent to drink during the fast. Attempt this once a week for several weeks. The most important thing to monitor is the inner attitude of your heart.
After 2 or 3 weeks you are prepared to attempt a normal fast of 24 hours. Drink only water but use healthy amounts of it. If the taste of water bothers you, add a teaspoon of lemon juice:)
(All the above are excerpts from Ch 4 in Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster)

I still think you should run out and buy a copy of this book:) I am so excited about what I am learning each week as I read a chapter a week and how it is challenging me in finding discipline in my own life and thus spilling out into the lives of my children:) Who would have though!
This book will have it's 30th anniversary in print in 2008. My cousin and I are going to Celebrate it's anniversary by declaring 2008 "The year of the Disciplines". We will have a chat room so we can share our discovery's of each discipline each month as a group! I hope you will plan to join us. You have a few months to think about it:)
This is what the year will look like:

The Inward Disciplines
January / Meditation Ch 2
February / Prayer Ch 3
March / Fasting Ch 4
April / Study Ch 5

The Outward Disciplines
May / Simplicity Ch 6
June / Solitude Ch 7
July / Submission Ch 8
August / Service Ch 9

The Corporate Disciplines
September / Confession Ch 10
October / Worship Ch 11
November / Guidance Ch 12
December / Celebration Ch 13

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's the little things........

Why is it so much easier to handle the big crises things in life? When Garrett was rushed to the hospital and I thought he might possibly die, I gave total control over to God's will. I knew he knew what I could handle and I just couldn't believe he would bring me all the way out to Lithuania to make me a widow, but that if he did he would use it somehow for his glory. That seems like such strength, but really I am not so sure......

It really is the little things that count. I once heard Chris Brown give a talk about how Satan knows he is not going to get you to do a full about face and follow him instead, but if he can just get you off course a little now, in the long run he has done his job to make you that much less effective for Christ. I believe the illustration he used was that of a ship getting off course by just a hair, but by the time they travel for days, they are miles off track. And how important the light house becomes because no matter how far off they are, the lighthouse light is steady and they will find safe haven if their keep their eyes on it. Isn't it just like the Lord. He is our light and he is steady for sure. When I have my eyes on him I am on the right path.

For some reason this illustration has stuck with me. It just makes so much since. My struggle is to keep my eyes focused on the Lord during the little things that start to get me down. I was able to trust God to rent my house and he came through, albiet the last 10 minutes we were in the country. But what matters is that I can trust him to get our visa's here, to get winter tires for our car, to keep us here by sending finaces. I have to force my attention on what I know about the Lord and not what I can see with my human eyes. I see the impossible because I know that I can not do it.

I am realizing as we have lived here now 2 months that the cost of living has increased since we were here last and we underestimated our budget, so now we are completely dependent on God to meet our expanded financial needs. One would think that is a great place to be! I on the other hand like to have a lot more control than that. I am truly a product of my American Society:)

What in the world and I doing on the mission field, isn't this the place where really strong spiritual people should be? All these little things make me want to pack up and come running home and quit! A complete failure. No wonder more people are not doing this, it is scary! This relying on God stuff is really tuff. It is funny too though how he has never failed me in anyway, but I still find it hard to trust him. He can send his son to earth to live as a man, but he may not be able to meet our financial needs........hhmmmmmm. There's some screwed up thinking here.......I guess I am not so worried about whether or not he CAN meet our needs. I know he can, but whether or not what I think our needs are and what he thinks our needs are, are one in the same. Now we're getting somewhere....... That is the real fear. I think we need more money! That will fix everything! What if God knows less money will make us stronger and more dependent on Him? Now that freaks me out.!! I am not sure I want to be that kind of "stronger" and "dependent". I will just have to keep meditating on the verse in Phillipians 4:5-7 "Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind. The Lord is coming soon. Do not worry about anything , but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. And God's peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." It doesn't say here that he will give me what I want, just that I will have peace. I could go for some peace right now:)

It is so funny how I live duel lives like this. The fight is agonizing. My flesh is crazy insane while my spirit is wholly devoted to the Lord. I feel schizophrenic. I know Paul touches on this in one of his many letters to his converts. I have been reading in the new testament lately and it has really touched me deeply. I have really been able to meditate on some smaller verses like the one I shared, that have helped me to keep a better focus. I am blown away at how much God loves us. US. I will never understand why. I know for me how many times I am ready to bail out and save myself. Only I know I wont' be saving myself at all. Sometimes this life sucks:) And yet isn't it soooo wonderful.
I feel really ready for God to come back now...............

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Discipline of Prayer

Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life. Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father. Meditation introduces us to the inner life,
fasting is an accompanying means,
study transforms our minds,
but it is the Discipline of prayer that brings us into the deepest and highest work of the human spirit. Real Prayer is life creating and life changing. "Prayer-secret, fervent, believing prayer---lies at the root of all personal godliness," writes William Carey.

To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ. William Blake tells us that our task in life is to learn to bear God's "beams of love." How often we fashion cloaks of evasion---beam-proof shelters---in order to elude our Eternal Lover. But when we pray, God slowly and graciously reveals to us our evasive actions and sets us free from them.

Intoduction to Chapter 3 of the "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster
This book is again rocking my world! I hope you will take the time to get it and read it as well! Believe it or not it is so encouraging and says that all these disciplines are a life long process! What a breath of fresh air!

Friday, October 12, 2007

What's your story?

As I was praying this morning for a couple I know who is desperate to have a baby and has not had one yet, I was wondering what God's decision was going to be about it. Was he eventually going to grant them the child they so longed for or would he allow them to continue to experience the deep deep pain and longing unfulfilled? What was their story going to be? And would they be able to stay strong in their faith through it all?

It got me thinking of course about all our stories. We spend so much time running from the turmoil of life, when it is through the turmoil that God really ministers to us. It is also these hard experiences in our life that God uses to give other people hope. What good are we to so many hurting people in this world without hope, if we have made it through life unscathed?

I ran from my story for many years. I was angry and bitter that God didn't let me stay with my birth mother and father. I imagined that life would have been so much easier if I had formed and kept the proper attachments as a young child. What I forgot was that I would not be who I am today if it were not for the experiences he allowed me to have back then and that he can use these hurts and broken things in my life to minister to others if I will let him. If I can find victory in my past then he can use me even more.

So.....what's your story?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

early morning prayer? Bite your tongue!

It was a long time ago when I was introduced to the idea of morning prayer. I was sure the only people that do prayer in the morning are those who are morning people and find it easy to rise out of bed and pray. I find prayer difficult. I am not very focused. I am not a morning person. It was nice when a speaker at some conference I had attended gave me permission not to get up in the morning and pray. He said I could pray anytime of the day. I immediately checked that one off my spiritual "To Do" list. I was quick to justify my need for 8-10 hours of sleep and that I could pray at night. It released me for a time in the morning hours, but I didn't really pray at night.
God got a hold of me a few years ago and I knew he was calling me to sacrifice some of that sleep I thought I so desperately needed and was a complete maniac if I didn't get. My drive for more sleep was a hard one to bring to the alter. I needed my sleep! But was sleep a crutch (or god) that was keeping me from fellowshipping with my maker? If he calls us to be a people of prayer is he not also capable of sustaining us through the day if we walk in obedience to his will? I was willing to test out that little theory......
Almost two years ago, I began getting up at least an hour and a half before the rest of my family. I knew this was going to be my new way of life and not just something I was testing out for a few weeks and then could quit.
I could not sit and pray yet, so I began to walk or go to the gym. I quickly learned that my thought life was running ramped and I was way out of shape. I couldn't stay focused to save my life and I was out of breath anyway. I needed some structure, so I chose to follow the A.C.T.S. prayer format to give me direction. I also walked a little slower at first and never referred to what I was doing as exercise or I'd quit for sure.
So A.C.T.S. goes like this, first, praise God for who he is, then confess sin, thank him for all he has done and begin praying for all the other things on my mind. If I took 5 minutes for each then I would have a 20 minute prayer walk. Not bad for a non-prayer / non-exerciser.
For a long time I walked around a fairly large block by my house and changed subjects at each corner. It helped me so much with the focus issue. I also walked with friends and was willing to travel to meet them! However, it was really discouraging when they would cancel in favor of sleeping in. I had to grapple with the reality that this was my personal conviction and not put it on anyone else to help me in this. I was sadly aware of just how little I knew my savior personally because I needed a partner to meet with him and I would get bored, loose my focus or just run out of things to say. This new way of life was going to pose some challenges.
I realized I was running out of praises for who God was because I didn't know him that well. I found I was saying the same thing over and over. God you are good, you are Lord, you reign on high, you are the alpha and omega, the bright and morning star........ hmmmmmmm............ Somewhere in there I would accidentally say a few lines from a familiar song and then I, of course, was lost in that song before coming to my senses and forcing myself to focus again. This was such a time of learning. Oh, did I sorely lack focus in my thought life. Eventually, I found a list of many of God's attributes and was able to use them for my praise time. It sure helped. ( I am aware there is an endless supply in the Bible:) One thing at a time!
Confessing my sin posed a big problem because I was confessing the same thing every day. Shallow and empty. I was getting bored and irritated with what I was confessing. It was getting old and monotonous. I imagined that God was probably getting tired of having to forgive me for the same things everyday as well. Especially when I seemed to be doing nothing to change my pattern of behavior. I began thinking," If I spent some time working on these areas then I wouldn't have to confess them anymore." What a novel idea eh? Besides my pride was being effected by it. So, being the perfectionist that I am, I determined to do away with some of these old sins patterns in my life. However, there really is never a shortage of sin to confess. It is hard though, to be honest about the details of sin I let myself indulge in. Now a year and a half into it, I have noticed that the more consistently I've prayed, the easier it is to hear the Holy Spirit's convicting voice and the deeper I can confess, be cleansed and move into a right relationship with God.
Thanksgiving is always easy. You can thank God for trees, grass, the sun......I think that is why, most of the time in prayer, I just skip right to this one. It is easy to focus on what God has done for ME. It keeps me feeling important. Praising God humbles me and confessing helps me see myself for who I really am when I don't let God lead. Thankfulness is refreshing. I don't have a tendency to run out of things to say here. It is a good reminder of all that I have even when I am feeling low and poor. It can be so lifting to list all the blessings God has bestowed upon me. Even just the fact that I can choose to get up in the morning to pray, and that I can walk while doing it. What a blessing.....
Once I get to the prayer request time, I often feel like some of the things I thought were so very urgent are now unimportant. I am now much more prepared to lift up concerns to Him. I have put myself in right relationship with God by acknowledging who he is. I have reminded myself of who I am not and remembered what God has done in my life. After this process, I see His strength and am more aware of His will in all things. This time begins to vanish quickly as the needs of so many, near and far, are impressed upon my heart. There is just so much that needs to be lifted up in prayer that 5 minutes a day is just scratching the surface. Yet, at first it seemed like it was monumental and insurmountable.
The effects this prayer time has had on my life has been revolutionary. I have been involved in spiritual growth activities for more than 30 years and nothing has changed me like my early morning prayer time! There has been a RADICAL transformation in my life! Amazingly I have felt calmer and more centered (go figure eh?). I have had the capacity to live outside myself and have truly begun caring for people and not just acting like I do. I have had more energy to use throughout the day then ever before and yet I am getting substantially less sleep. I went from 8-10+ hours a day to 5-7 max. I can see the difference, because on the weekends I choose to sleep in and I actually have had less energy and have felt more sluggish and empty on those days. Could God really be filling me with His supernatural power throughout the week?
This question was answered with a resounding "YES" when I chose to put my prayer time on the back burner while we transitioned to life in Lithuania. I got up less consistently and maybe only half an hour before the kids woke up to get a quickie prayer in. My reasoning seemed justified. It is hard to adjust to a new culture, a new school routine and I needed more sleep now that we were all getting up at 6:30 am. Again the god of sleep reigned in my life.
Problem was though, I was not adjusting. I was more and more impatient and discontent with everyone and everything, especially my family. It was contagious too. I could hear my irritating impatient tone mimicked in every one's voice in the house all the way down to the youngest. We were all biting at each other constantly. It was like wildfire the way it spread. No one was getting along and I was getting angrier and angrier about it. What was going on? My family was falling apart and I was out of control to stop it. I was actually perpetuating it! I felt like I was spinning out of control at an alarming rate. It was a downward spiral that was sucking me in and I felt helpless to fight against it.
Confessing that I had no control was hard. I finally realized that I had to start getting up an hour and a half before everyone else again. So 5am it was. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing........"too early! Way too early." This would be interesting..........especially now that I was out of the habit of getting up. Would I be able to get back into it again?
The first morning wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. The alarm went off and I felt very tired but ready to be obedient and meet with my Savior. It was a special morning, just He and I as we fellowshipped by the fire while I drank tea. Aaahhh, this was what my soul needed. I felt centered again, for the first time in weeks!
When the kids began to rise, I felt happy to see them. That felt so good! Throughout the day the kids bickered and fought, but I seemed to have the capacity to deal with it gently in spurts. Wow, what a turning point. My rage and anger seemed to have lost just a bit of their stronghold in my life, but I could see that this two-some wasn't going to give up easily. I had 5 family members reminding me of my past choices in their current behavior. It was going to take some consistency in my life and time to see a change in everyone.
As the week progressed and I kept faithfully getting up despite my strong desire to roll over and sleep some more, I could see the change it was making within me. I had energy like I hadn't experienced in years and yet I was loosing up to 3 hours of sleep a night. How could that be? But it was real and I had to come to grips that my fellowship with God first thing in the morning was the only thing getting me through each day with more than just a shred of sanity:) The household seemed to be settling as well and kindness began spreading from person to person. This was worth my time! It made no rational sense, but it was not hard to see the effect it was having on my whole family. There has been more peace, love and harmony in the past week, since I have again adopted this new routine, then there was when I was getting "enough" sleep and fellowshipping less often.
I won't miss my time with God in the morning anymore. Sleeping longer is simply not worth it to live on my own human strength throughout the day. Often I have to remind myself that my new motto is," Sleep is overrated!" (I'll just keep saying till I believe it:) thanks CR. Until then, I will choose to be obedient to God's personal call in my life and not listen to my flesh. It is good practice. I have never regretted getting up early and praying, but have often regretted sleeping in just a little bit longer:)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Pride, Control and Discontenment

The more I have been reading the New Testament lately the more confused I have become. At the end of 1 Corinthians it talks about all these great gifts and how they should be used in the church to edify one another. I think, "How wonderful this would be if we could use all our gifts to glorify God and lift each other up." I begin to hope in my heart that God would grant ME the gift of prophecy since it is suggested by Paul to desire the greater gifts. Then just a few verses later it says that women should be quiet. What? How can you tell me to desire these gifts, get me all excited about using them, then tell me I must be quiet? Something I will think on and discuss with some scholars.....

As I read on in 2 Corinthians I am taken by a few verses in chapter 3:5 "We are not saying that we can do this work ourselves. It is God who makes us able to do all that we do." I think I read that yesterday, but for some reason it only sank in today when I read it again. I hadn't planned on reading it twice, but an elder in the church took me to get an alarm system installed in our new car. He needed to do some errands as well so I waited patiently in the car and began reading my Bible. It is a good thing I have begun carrying it with me. I was actually just trying to find where I left off. I really needed to reread it though. I am feeling like I can not do this. I know I can not do this new life in Lithuania on my own for sure. I am emotionally overwhelmed this week. We have put out a LOT of money we didn't anticipate and a few more surprises here and there have just been more than I feel like I can handle well. Even though it is nice to have our 'stuff' it is now EVERYWHERE and waiting for me to get to it. Like I needed one more thing......I started my period today. Aaaahhh the extreme emotions explained. Praise the Lord that in a few days I will go into hormonal balance and be strong again. What is that about?

Another few verses that comforted my weary soul today were 2 Cor. 4 :16-18 ," So we do not give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day. We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles. We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever." I know God has it under control. It is I who looses control and I am desperately grabbing at it let me tell you.....

Why is it that contentment with where you are is so hard to grasp. This week I have worried so much about money. "What happens if we dont' have enough?" "Are we doing enough ministry to warrant what people are giving us?" "What will we do if we need more than we have?" I even began to think irrationally about how to generate more money from what we now have. ' We could pull the kids out of school, that frees up 500 a month'.....But that is not rational. The kids are good where they are and we will have enough money! I am just trying to stay in control and not give this over to God.

I am finding it very difficult to live on so much less. In the States we were getting in one paycheck more than we get here in a month. It goes farther here, but there really isn't any room for extras. It is a big adjustment. One I knew we would have to make but hurts to make it. I am reminded now that I am the Rich Young ruler that Jesus speaks of in his parable. The ruler was living by all the laws, but the one thing he could not give up was his lavish lifestyle. I wouldn't even say I was living a lavish lifestyle by American standards, but I could go to a movie and coffee whenever I wanted to, that's for sure. I am understanding why so many people told me that they couldn't do it. It is not easy....and we have it good where we are too.

Reading on in 2 Cor. I found my memory verse and the verse I think we will begin learning as a family. We can say it each day after our prayer ride into town. 2 Cor. 6:6-10 "We show we are servants of God by our pure lives, our understanding, patience and kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by true love, by speaking the truth, and by God's power. (stop here for family, going on for me) We use our right living to defend ourselves against everything. Some people honor us, but others blame us. Some people say evil things about us, but others say good things. Some people say we are liars, but we speak the truth. We are not known but we are well known. We seem to be dying, but we continue to live. We are punished, but we are not killed. We have much sadness, but we are always rejoicing. We are poor, but we are making many people rich in faith. We have nothing, but really we have everything"

This is what I need to know by heart. This is the truth about my situation. I am a rich woman! What I get to do is help others live rich in their faith. I know what is going on is a spiritual battle. It is an old one. pride/ control/discontentment. It is alive and well and tries to visit as often as I will let it. Drenching my mind with the truth of God's word is the only remedy. Believing what I read and reading what I believe is a must for all of us.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Wow, what excitement is generated by the first day of school. Many schools had their first day on Saturday because it is September 1st, when school must start. Our first day was on Monday the 3rd. We did not have to be there till 11am and we stayed only a few hours. We stopped at the IKI (super market) to select our long stemmed flowers to give to each of their teachers. Hevenlee was devistated not to be carrying a flower today, but she would have to start in a few days, after her Doctor's appointment. I tried to explain this to her but she would not be consoled as usual.
We arrived at the school with plenty of time for me (mom) to take the usual allotment of "first day" photos. By the building, by the garden and in front of the school etc etc. Boaz is sure he is too old for such photos which is evident by the way he has his face set it each picture. It is funny. But this is the one time I will use my motherly status to get what I want......memories! (Plus photos for the blog. I am beginning to get teased by Pastor Saul about posting everything on the is funny.)
All the children and their parents began to merge upon the school and in time we had a rather large crowd just outside the school building, waiting for the big first day ceremony to begin. All the administration (all woman) looked lovely in their new hair dues and fresh clothes with vibrant smiles on their faces as they welcomed us all to school and got things rolling.
First we sang the School Hymn as a couple of boys brought in the School Flag. It was lovely and I tried my best to keep up with the Lithuanian words and learn the song. They had past out a song sheet. After the song, we heard from a few speakers. A pastor, shared briefly, a few things and a passage of scripture. An older woman, who seemed to be of some importance to the school also shared briefly. The odd thing about the woman was, she presented a gift of 3 jars of jam to the school. She had made them from her own garden and canned them herself. I was wondering how in the world the whole school was going to get to have some of that, but I know the thought was nice and it was received well. Each speaker was in turn given a gift of a framed piece of artwork done by a students at this very school.
All of a sudden there was a bit of looking around and my translator, Algina, told me they were looking for the teachers. They had been in the crowd only moments ago and now were gone! As a group we cried out for the teachers. The young ones were totally into it, but the older kids, 7th and 8th were being silly and saying things like," keep the teachers we don't need them." Not much of a difference in culture there don't you know? After a few more cries, the teacher's emurged tied up and being led by a Pirate (the only male teacher). He dragged them in behind him and yelled, "I won't let your teacher's go unless you can prove to me you want them!" Or something like that. I have no idea what he really said, but you start to just make up stuff that seems like it would fit when you don't understand the language:) He proceeded to make each class answer questions to get their teachers back and after all the classes had answered their question correctly they were told to come up and get their teacher if they wanted her. Sonshyne went right up and grabbed her teacher. She had no problem getting right in there and participating. Her face was alight with excitement!
The funny thing about this Pirate was that he had a gun in his waistband and kept waving it at the kids and yelling something at them in Lithuanian. I couldn't help but make the comparison that he would have been arrested for this display in any of our schools in Southern California. I laughed to think of such things. I laugh a lot when I compare this world to the one I used to live in.
After all the teacher's were back in the crowd, the first grade class was especially welcomed. (Kindergarden is not really school here, it is like preschool) The older 8th grade class (the oldest) was instructed to take the 1st grade class (the youngest) and lead them in the ceremonial march around the whole school while ringing a hand bell at the lead and into the school building to their classes! How exciting it was....and a little kaotic as well.
Boaz went off to his class. He is participating in the 6th grade class. They did not have room for him in the 7th and 8th grade. The 6th grade class is a good class. Only 10. 6 boys and 4 girls. He made the observation that," there are not enough girls to go around, so 2 boys would be out." I am quite certain he doesn't think he will be one of them;)
One girl in his class speaks English quite well and did much translating for him. He knew her from the school he attended last time we lived here. She pushed all the kids to speak English so Boaz would understand when introductions were happening. Imagine that , all English for one kid. That is unthinkable in the Southern Cal!
Boaz is really getting into school. I went into the class to check his work the other day and all 4 girls were standing around his desk. Poor baby, taken away from his home country to be surrounded by all these cuties. Yeah, don't be feeling sorry for him!
Ezra sat quietly in his class. He is in the 4th grade here. (His regular grade) His teacher is nice, but knows no English and not many kids know English in his class. It usually takes him a bit longer to make friends, but when he does he has deep friendships. He has good things to say about school each day so we are glad. There are 10 kids in his class as well. Only this class is 6 girls and 4 boys.
Sonshyne loves school. She has been ready for school for a year now. She is so enthusiastic and is learning colors, numbers and foods in Lithuanian. The teacher is really pleased with her involvement. I have had the priviledge to sit in on a few hours each day of class and am learning as well. I do seem to elicit giggles out of the teacher quite frequently though. Sonshyne had to have a Psychologial Evaluation in order to attend this school. The Psychologist was surprised at how advanced she was and gave her possitive recommendations to start immediately. I guess kids don't start Kindergarden until 6 years of age.
There are several teachers at the school that help Sonshyne and I understand what is going on in broken English. The school has been super nice to accomidate us all so well. It feel like we are home here as well.
Hevenlee got to get here flower on Wednesday and go to school. She was so excited but I was sure she would change her mind as soon as she got through the doors. I had planned this week to stay with her till lunch each day. They have a nap after lunch till 3pm. Very nice. I got her slippers on and we entered the classroom. The teacher took me back out the door and down the hall to put Hevenlee's stuff in her locker. I put it all in quickly anticipating a stressed out, door hugging child would be waiting for me to get back to her. I walked quickly into the classroom and scanned all around the other door hugging kids who were still mourning the loss of their parents recent departure and could not spot my child. I broadened the search to include the whole room (a rather large room) until my eyes caught sight of her on the other side, already engaged in play with anther child by the baby doll toys. Okay, this was my moment. I departed and ran off to join the Kindergarden with Sonshyne for the day. I picked Hevenlee up after nap time at 3 and it seemed as if she was just fine after all.
What a fantastic First week of school. The kids are all a-buzz about their new friends and the words they have learned each day. It feels like we are home! It is good to be home!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wee Funnies

The other day I was trying to get out of the full sized van we are borrowing. I had climbed in the back to put Hevenlee's shoes back on her feet. When I went to step out onto the edge of the van with my left foot, the strap from the bag of toys the kids had on the floor tangled up my right foot and I lost my balance and went tumbling out the door and to the ground. Don't worry, there were no cars coming along that narrow road and I only suffered a little soreness in my muscles from the fall. It wasn't until later when I retold the story that Hevenlee said," When I grow up and am a Dad, I will catch you and pet you." It still makes me laugh to think about it.

Sonshyne came upstairs in the house and said," I need that thing, I need that small thing, that 'fire bottle'." "Fire bottle?", I say," Is Dad outside making a fire and needs the lighter?" To which she say," Is that what it's called?" We now call the lighter a 'fire bottle' for sure. What a clever girl.

Ezra is in charge of chopping up the dog bones each night with an Axe. I went out and there were brick bits all around the ground by the chopping block. I looked up the wall and low and behold there was a medium sized chunk out of one of the bricks on the corner of our house. I could see that there were 3 intentional chop marks. I asked Ezra," Did you chop the house?" To which he stands perfectly still and replies,"NO!" I say," Then how did this hole get here?" He says," I just stood up with the Axe and that happened." Wow, now that is one strong Axe. He finally confessed and lost his Axe priviledges for a while. As if there is not enough to chop on our 26 acres of forest that he has to see if he can chop the house down too.......

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Not My Day....

Have you ever had one of those days when the only thing you can get right is the vegetable soup for dinner? No one can mess up vegetable soup. I got a blister cutting up veggies with a dull knife..... Today is just not my day.
I feel so emotionally out of control. I started my day right! I got Garrett up for a wonderful prayer/ walk in the bright new morning sun. It was a gorgeous, glorious sunrise by the way. Then Garrett left for work and my work began. Everyone seemed happy as they cascaded, one by one, down the steep, steep stairs. I am constantly trying not to worry that a kid will eventually forget how to climb down carefully and plummet to the landing. Thank God there is a landing before the bottom. I feel so full of fear these last few days. Every thump leaves me waiting for the wailing that will send us to the hospital. It reminds me that it has been almost 2 full years since my bus accident here in this country and I am still jumpy when I hear loud thumps. When will that go away?
My day began a downward spiral as the girls decided to battle it out over every little thing. Who gets to pick the movie that will babysit them for a few hours. Which of course makes me feel like an even better mom. "Start your day with a little TV".
The boys got busy on their computers doing their school work. We started school a few weeks early to work out all the bugs. Only, I am finding the bugs might all be in my boys. They zoom through a lesson in minutes only to turn in failing grades. Over and over I return the same work and receive back less and less effort. I feel like I will scream. Oh wait, I have been screaming at the boys all day. It doesn't seem to be working though. I can see the confidence drain away from them. That is not what I want for my precious, darling children. I want to build them up and edify them. Yet, I can't seem to change the pattern. They do crappy work and I get all worked up. When will I leave my ugly self in the death that happend when I turned my life over to Christ?
I read today in Romans so much wonderful news! Romans 15:14 "My brothers and sisters, I am sure that you are full of goodness. I know that you have all the knowledge you need and that you are able to teach each other." That sounds so nice doesn't it. I have to confess that I do have the knowledge to teach my children but feel I fail in teaching them so many times. What I seem to be teaching them is how to sound irritated with each other and to bite back when they don't like something that was said. I know I am not a miserable failure, but today I feel like one.
We have company coming for dinner tonight. I think," How will I act when they get here?" Certainly I am not going show this ugly side when they get here. What do my kids think when they see such transformation? It is a horrible reality that I try harder to please those whom are outside of my family. Is that true with you?
There's another wonderful message from God I read today in Romans 12 ," I beg of you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship. Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect." The problem I face here is that each time I step outside the bounds of this knowledge I am deeply convicted. I feel such conviction today. It would be lovely just to surround myself with people who will say , "Hey, give yourself a break, you moved your whole family to another country." That is nice and all, but when do you stop giving yourself an excuse to behave badly and not just do what it takes to make a change. I think I have a lot more ability than I give myself credit for. It is time to make this my day. So I better sign off. I have to go let a naughty little girl out of her room. The yelling has stopped though so I am quite certain she is asleep. Which will of course make for an impossible bed time later tonight. I also need to do a few one on one's with each of the boys before company comes and apologize for the area of my failure in parenting yet again. I imagine it gets quite old having your mom screw up time and time again. It is quite humbling to have to apologize to your children for sure. Have you tried it lately? I have found it to be the hardest thing to do...... The weather is looking nice outside, maybe it is time we all went for a walk.......

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Good Morning Lord....

I went to bed late last night because I was so interested in all my emails and wanted to get something posted before you loose interest in what is going on with us:)
This morning, way too early, I just woke up. It was one of those times where you know if you try hard enough that you could just go back to sleep. I thought about it for a moment then realized that it was a good time to have some personal prayer time with just me and God. Ah, he had woken me up. I recognize this. This seems to be one way God communicates with me. It was almost as if [someone] taps me and says,"Hey, you want to go for a walk?". No one else in the house was up so it wasn't the restling around that brought my eyes open. How could I refuse. I guess we do it all the time though don't we. However, 2 years ago I adopted a saying,"Sleep is over rated." Which means to me that if God wants to commune with me in the early morning then sacrificing a little sleep is the least I can do. And I really mean least here. After all he did die for me.
I walked for a "bit" (the way they say,"awhile") outside. It was overcast and a bit chilly this morning, but nothing a hoody couldn't handle. I will have to invest in a coat soon though, it is only going to get colder......yikes. It was such a great time with God. I love to be the only one out in the morning. It seems that everyone here is always on the streets walking around until late at night, so it was refreshing to see hardly any people. People here will be outside as often as possible for the few months that it is very warm because there are so many months we will have to stay inside to keep warm. As I was walking I began the way I always begin. A.C.T.S. Praise Him, Confess to Him, Thank Him and Lay down my burdens. I have found this to be an amazing way to communicate with God. I have only been a consistent prayer for 1 and half years now so I still live by guidelines to keep me focused. I look forward to the day where fellowshipping with the Lord comes easily and boundary free! I know that this will come as I continue to walk with him in the morning and get to know him so well that fellowshipping with Him comes naturally.
Today was one of the more natural days I've experienced while talking with God. My mind was flooded with praises to our Lord. He is so good, so holy, so in charge. He is faithful, trustworthy and kind. His mercy flows over and His love is abundant. He wants me to be whole and He longs for all His children to live in peace and find their hope in Him. It is all true.
As I was working my way through confession and thanksgiving I had the chance to observe and elderly woman. She was thin with white hair, held back by a scarf. She was walking slowly and shakily across the street. I assumed she was walking home. Her every step seemed cautious and thought out, but not slow. My heart went out to her immediately and I felt the desire to escort her. Immediately I chased that though away! What if that made her mad and she rejected my attempt to help. Or what if I offend her. Is God giving me this direction or is this me just wanting to be helpful. I decided that I would rather error on the side of following God's leading, if in fact it was his leading, then to miss an opportunity to obey just because I let doubt creep in. Besides, isn't any act of kindness from the Lord. Without God's example are we not left to our own selfish lustful demise . Anything we do outside ourselves is all God.
My step quickened and I caught up to her easily. As I was approaching her from behind, I entertained the idea of chickening out and just continuing to walk straight. This is not a culture that communicates with "hello's" on the street so she would be none the wiser if I just walked right on by.......I greeted her. "Labas Ritas"/Good Morning and offered her my arm. She actually took it. She spoke a bit of Lithuanian to me and I said the other phrase I know "Nesuprante Lituvishque" (spelled horribly wrong) "I don't understand Lithuanian". She kindly continued chattering away not seeming to care that I had no comprehension as to what she was saying. Which I've noticed the older folks tend to do. She spoke quietly with kindness in her voice and showed me the small plastic bag she was carrying that looked to have food in it. We walked down the street and I wondered which building we were going to, then we stopped in front of the public trashcans and she bid me goodbye. I uncomfortably walked away realizing that she must have gotten up early to rummage through the trash before anyone else was out on the street.
I felt unsettled as I walked down the street alone leaving her behind to dig for what she might find to eat that had been discarded by others the night before. I felt a wave of sadness as God allowed me to feel his compassion for his creation and the injustices they face. No elderly person should have to live in such a way. Was there no one to right this terrible wrong? What had brought this woman to these ends? Was it the fall of communism that left her with no skills and no promised care? I wept like I had needed to weep for some time now. Only it was for the right reason. My heart broke for God's children who desperately need to know that he exists. I realized that by walking this woman just barely a block, God could show me so much about his compassion for his creation, his heart for his people and his longing for us to burn for the same things as he does. My longing to learn the language well, so that I could communicate in these situations, became a driving force within me.
God is amazing and I am always surprise, though I don't know why, when he teaches me something "hands on". He has so much more to teach us and he is so patient to wait until we are ready for the next step. Isn't it weird how we can spend so many years living in the balance of that next step?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On the move again!

Today felt like we got something done! We moved all our luggage to our new home. Many have checked out the photos of our new home on this sight
It was funny to hear some of the responses and the surprise that this country actually has something so nice to live in. It is hard to convince anyone who has not been here already that this is not a 3rd world country. I couldn't believe it myself before we got here a year ago and took a pre trip to see what we would need since we had such young children. Even in one year there has been so much progress. Last time we were here I said goodbye to my love for refried beans. When I went to the store today, there on the shelf were REFRIED BEANS. I shouted out loud for joy, in English of course, eliciting some strange looks. This is not a culture that shouts out loud for anything. Hopefully my beans will taste delicious! Before we moved here the first time I also wondered," will they have disposable diapers?" My goodness, they have huggies and pampers sure enough.
So we move into our house tomorrow. Sonshyne will celabrate her fifth birthday tomorrow with the Pastor's son who turns 5 three days before her. It will be a Princess/Pirate Party! What fun!
We may be out of touch for a few days as they get our internet started at our new house. All the unforseen glitches and everything you know! We are super excited to get going in our own home again.
If you have seen the photos,, you know there is plenty of room for you to come visit! No more excuses now! Just go for it!

Monday, August 13, 2007

On the Mend!

Garrett was release from the Hospital late this afternoon. (I think I am posting this in the wee hours so it will look like a day later maybe) Monday, our time, Sunday your time. The kids greeted him with such enthusiasm that it nearly made me burst into tears. I wonder when the reality of all this will finally hit. I feel like I am in such denial of it all happening. Anyway, Garrett is doing GREAT. We are all really making him take it easy. He doesn't have much energy and went to lay down soon after dinner. I promise to make him lay around all day tomorrow as well, just so you know!
Thanks to all the emails and prayers this might have been a lonely unbearable situation. Thanks so much for being part of this team. It was a strong lesson in how we can and do work together. We are here, but you are such a part of what we are doing here. This will not be possible without you! Thank you , Thank you , Thank you!
Due to the volume of emails I sent out it wouldn't let me send anymore today. I guess hotmail only lets you send out a certain amount in a 24 hour period and I definitely exceeded that and I wasn't even done. I am thinking of changing email addresses. I will let you know soon!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Day After

Today has definitely been a bit more mellow. I got up this morning at 10am feeling guilty that I had gotten some sleep when I should have been at the hospital all night making sure Garrett was well taken care of. The rational part of me said I would be no good to anyone without getting some rest. So I gave my husband into God's hands and relaxed into sleep for a few hours. I didn't get to bed till 3am. Hevenlee is still sleeping restlessly so I had to get up with her once or twice around 5am. Finally from 6-10am I slept deeply. The other 3 kids seem to be on a regular sleeping schedule now and have moved into this time zone! Praise God! I still don't know what time zone I am in:)
I checked my email to see if anyone had any insights and was delighted to see so many suggestions! I know we hate how people give their opinions so liberally in the states, but here we are practically hanging on them, so keep them coming. I am now pretty much the Doctor of the family! I want as much education as I can get, so we will not be caught by surprise next time! I didn't like not knowing what to do! That was probably the most frustrating thing of all.
Before heading to the hospital this morning, I headed to the store to get bananas. It didn't dawn on me until then that I had a cell phone now and could call Garrett directly! I called and he answered! He sounded tired and groggy but so much more coherent! "He was ALIVE!" was all I could think. That helped my mind rest more at ease! This terrible thought kept trying to creep into my mind all night that I might go to the hospital in the morning and find his bed empty! Then they would have to give me the bad news that he had died in the night while I had gotten some sleep! I had to work extra hard to chase such useless thoughts away. No use worrying about things unknown right? So needless to say it was good to talk to him.
When Saul and I got to the hospital Garrett greeted us warmly. I gave him the bananas, salt and toast (thanks everyone). He ate a banana right away. The nurse was getting ready to start him on another IV. So before she could we helped him to the restroom so he could give a urine sample. The nurse said he had taken in at least 2 liters of solution (I think that is half a gallon) and had not peed yet. The pee was way too dark, so they determined to keep him there a few more days. Bad news for Garrett. He will miss our first day at church. I know he is bummed.
When we got back from the bathroom with Garrett, who was walking by himself just fine. A little slow but on his own. The nurse hooked him up to the IV again. When she was done the metal post that held the solution leaned sadly over to the right. It was in desperate need of being replaced. It is like, this hospital has all the things we would throw away in the States.
The interesting thing here is that the hospitals in Lithuania or overly cautious and will keep you several days longer than necessary. If you were to go to the hospital for a cold they would actually check you into a room for a week. When you hit your due date for pregnancy you check into the hospital and wait it out! Yikes! I get the feeling that even the Lithuanians avoid going to the hospitals even though the government pays for it.
The conditions at the hospitals are horrible! It feels very dirty. You can tell they are lacking in sterilization in a big way! One of the nurses that dealt with Garrett last night, put on rubber gloves to help him and then stuck them back into her pocket when she was done. I am sure, to reuse them later. I was trying really hard not to go germaphobic while we were there.
The halls and the rooms are old and concrete with old paint. At least it didn't smell musty. Or maybe my smeller just doesn't work so well. The place looks like something out of an old movie that you just know couldn't possibly exist anymore. And yet....
This evening Garrett asked if I would bring him a dvd player so he could watch some movies tomorrow. Now I know he is feeling better. He even called me a few hours ago to see how things were going. Thanks for all your prayers! He is doing rather well!
Okay, one funny thing: Last night I left the hospital to go get Garrett some clothes. He was talking but still a bit dazed. Saul stayed behind so he could get the blow by blow from the Doctor (no one spoke any English this whole time). While I was gone Garrett looks out the window from his bed and says to Saul ," Do you see that?" Saul says no. Garrett goes on to say,"It's Sophi, she can't get back in." Saul looks out the window and says that it was not me. It wasn't till today when we were at the hospital and retelling him that funny story that we realized that Garrett didn't know that he was on the 7th floor.....The look on his face was priceless. It was really funny. But how nice of him huh? Worrying about his wife....
Well we are anticipating that things will only get better from here. The kids are very much anticipating the return of their father. The boys are realizing just how fragile life is, that God answers our prayers and that you better watch what you say and how you act because you may not get a chance to apologize for it later. A good lesson don't you think.
I learned that Garrett and I are in a good place. With the unknown last night and thinking he could quite possibly die, I realized that I have no regrets with him and that I was proud of the relationship we have between us and that I was ready to accept whatever God had in store for me/us. I am so glad that death was not something we would have to face at this time. I pray we are as ready to accept his decision though when the time does come.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope it has something encouraging to offer you!

Garrett in the ER

Garrett had gotten the flu on the airplane. Vomiting, diareah and fever. He pushed through though and got us to our destination. He slept off and on to recover from the flu and jet lag. It happens to be rather warm this week and the apartment we are staying in had been warm during the day, but none of us has felt any motivation to venture outside much.
Today we went shopping at the IKI (supermarket). Walked in the hot sun and carried our groceries back. I noticed Garrett was stopping to take a break more than usual. He had seemed rather unsettled today as well. Sanna and I had taken off for about an hour around dinner time and when we came back we wisked everyone off to the beach. Garrett came along and later confessed that he really wasn't feeling all that well, but was trying to be a good sport. Because he was feeling crummy he opted not to get into the water. Even I got in the water so you know it was nice and warm outside. Even at 6pm the sun is still pretty high in the sky. On our way back he carried Sonshyne up the hill to keep her from getting bit by mosquitos. I carried Hevenlee and was well winded by the time we reached the top.
We got in the car to drive back and as Garrett was driving I noticed he was not all there. I asked if he was okay and he said he was seeing white spots. We switched drivers immediately. As I began driving I could tell that he did not look so good and was not paying attention to what I was saying. He said he was so thirsty and that no matter how much water he drank he could not quench his thirst. I said I could run to the store on the way home and get water if he wanted. That is when he glazed over, hunched forward a bit and his right hand made a fist and curled up to his chest. He was not responsive at all, but had his eyes open. I kept waiting for a seizure to take hold of him but it never came. We were in a line of traffic and Saul and Sanna were a several cars ahead. I pulled into the grassy area to the right of the 2 lane road and drove up to their car yelling to them that " Something's wrong with Garrett!" I must have sounded convincing because both the boys burst in the tearful sobs of, " Oh no, dear God, don't let our daddy die!" I hollered at them to start praying for their daddy! Saul took the lead in his car and I followed behind him on the grassy side area until one car could not stand that I was cutting in line and blocked my way with his car. Well I guess he was going to show me. Little did he know that he was potentially playing with the life of my husband. Saul could see what was happening and ran back to get behind the wheel of our car and let Sanna drive theirs. By the way, he did have time to give that blocking car a "what for" on his way to us. I believe he said something like," You fool, you have no idea what you are doing!"
Now the action began! Saul wiped out into on coming traffic to get to the end of the line so we could get on the main road. I have never prayed so hard in my life! Boaz and Ezra were now up front and I was standing behind Garrett holding his head and praying into his ear. The three of us poured out our souls to the Lord as Saul swerved to get around cars and get through lights. We pulled up to the Hospital only to find that it was not the one we should have gone to. They were not very nice either. They scolded Saul and told him, he should have called an ambulance! He convinced them to do it and we had to get Garrett onto the gurny. He was dead weight and had bubbly saliva dripping down his chin on the right side. They sure didn't seem to be in much hurry to help. I stayed in the car with the kids. Sonshyne had fallen to sleep, thank goodness, and Hevenlee kept asking," Where's my dad, I want to see my dad!" When I told her that he was sick and had to see the doctor, she just kept saying, " My dad is sick, My dad is sick," The boys wept and prayed and hugged me. I kept telling them that it would be okay, that our God is a big God and that he has it all under control. Sanna arrived and took the kids.
Saul and I went back into the hospital to sit with Garrett who was still not real responsive. He mumbled, but mostly moaned in pain. He said his head hurt and his stomach. The hospital staff feared it could have been an ambolism and said so. I am so glad you are not allowed to do that in the States. We waiting forever it seemed. And really it was a long time, just sitting and waiting while no one is doing a thing, not even an IV. hello! The Ambulance finally got there and when we went into the hallway to move Garrett from one bed to the other, Saul and I were put to work! There was no sheet under him so we had to really lift him. Okay, not an easy thing to do with dead weight in a bathing suit and T-shirt. They couldn't do it so well so we ended up flipping him onto his stomach. It looked very uncomfortable. They pushed him to the ambulance at the top of a hill and my mind was trying not to envision them accidentally loosing their grip and letting him go rolling down the hill. The incompatence was alarming. It would have been rather comical if it hadn't been so serious. We rushed off to get into our car and follow expecting to have to try and keep up. We nearly passed the Ambulance getting to the hospital. They did not seem to be a bit in a hurry.
We got to the other hospital which happened to be the one on call for emergencies this night! Who knew? They wheeled him in and again moved him to another gurny. Yes, we were recruited to help. This bed was fitted with what looked like a long, blue, trash bag. It was pulled out of shape here and there from obvious use by many others. When I leaned over to whisper in Garrett's ear I notice what looked like a bit of someone else's blood still on the edge. Yuck! It was too bizarre to be reality and yet.......
So here is Garrett in all this pain and not really able to speak. He was so hot that he sweat a pool of sweat and everyone thought he peed his pants. Then he was so cold that he asked for a blanket four or five times before he eventually got one.
A very young man walked through the door. He was wearing a long white jacket with open toed sandles. I kept thinking," does your daddy know you are out this late? and uh, could you go get the doctor?" Oh yes, he was an intern. And it just keeps getting better!
They wanted to rule out the brain first so a brain scan was up. Finally, they are doing something after a few hours! Now I am thinking it's probably not the heart or he'd be dead by now! Saul and I help push him down the hall and again we lift him to a new bed. My goodness!
They inform us soon after that the scan shows normal. Hurray! The blood test shows that he is twice the level of sugar in the blood and his blood pressure is extremely low. Not good.
The real doctor, probably the interns dad, comes in and asks questions. Saul is now on the 4th time telling what happened and answers all the same questions again. He does this 5 or 6 times in total. The Doctor pokes around Garrett's abdomen eliciting much reaction on the sides and right under the sternum. Garrett says his head hurts and his whole body hurts especially his stomach. He feels nausious so we get him a bowl. They decide to check him in for the night. This ought to be interesting.
The nurse comes in.....yep, you guessed it, a new bed. Just Saul and I and the nurse this time. As she is preparing Garrett finally throws up. Whew did it smell but it was brown. The color of dinner (Taco night will never be the same!) So the nurse decides that Garrett must not have the clothes on he his wearing and strips him down naked. Nothing like feeling like you might die with a side of humiliation to go with it! By now Garrett is a bit more coherant (unfortunate for him) and helps us help him into bed. But that was about it for him. He was actually talking a bit more when we asked him questions as well and not as much moaning either.
We went down a hallway to a very old "lift" elevator. We get up to the 7th floor, nurse gets out and looks like maybe she is lost, but then decides that this is in fact the right floor. I understood her disorientation when we got out ourselves. It was completely dark, like the whole floor was shut down. We pushed through the dark wing of the hospital to the light at the end where we entered what would be his room for the night. He would be sharing a room with 2 others and an empty bed. No curtain to separate them, just all out there and all very under dressed. One man made no bones about his interest in us. He openly sat up on one elbow and took in all the action. I think he even introduced himself to Saul. Now we waited some more before another Doctor Lady came in and pushed around on Garrett's stomach. I was still vying for an IV, which they finally put in when I had left to go get him some clothes and water. We had been there 4 hours and Garrett had only one very small cup of water before he threw up.
As it stands now, I am home and Garrett it in the hospital. He has his phone to call me if he needs to and we will rush in to see him in the morning.
Please keep us in your prayers. We are praying that it was just a bad case of dehydration! Pray for the boys as well. They are very concerned of course I just don't want them to worry too much. I am confident that God is in control of this one too!

Friday, August 10, 2007


Please really be praying for a car for us. We have been graciously loaned a car by one of the church members that fits all of us in it. And as nice of him as it was this car has not been able to pass the check (kind of like the smog test) and is not legal and sometimes sounds as if it will fall apart while we are driving it. We are trying to drive it as little as possible. Those of you who know me (sophi) know what a freak I am about obeying the law, so I am trying really hard not to freak out. I am so afraid each time we drive it that we will be pulled over and ticketed. Yikes. My control issues rise and I know we could go out today and buy a new car off the lot and have this little problem solved. We are waiting though to see what God will do to meet our needs once again. Pray for patience for us to not rush for a solution. If we take the house we are looking at we will need a reliable mode of transportation. We have talked about getting a new car purely because the weather gets so severe around here that buying used isn't always a good idea. They have no Lemon Laws around here so you could really wind up paying a lot more to fix a bad car in the end as we have seen with the car we purchased a few years ago.
Okay prayer warriers, please join up once again! And thanks in advance!

The Journey Begins!

I have never been on a trip where it seems everything goes right, but this one was one of those!
We got to the airport in plenty of time. We waiting in a very long line where people who found out what we were doing joyfully spread the news down the line as if we were going off to live in Uganda or something. We got pulled out of line midway because we have kids and Aer Lingus Airlines checks their kids in a different line (a shorter one). Also, we had expected to pay an extra baggage charge only to be waved on. Thanks Rita for helping me keep each bag under weight! Because none of the bags were over, they allowed us to take and extra one for free! This trip we only had 8 duffle bags, 6 carry ons, 2 car seats and 1 guitar. That feels like traveling light since that last time it was 12 oversized bags, 6 carry ons, 2 car seats, 2 guitars and a stroller and 2 small children in tow. Boy were we a sight! And how everyone stopped to stare! This time even the girls could help carry stuff and didn't have to be carried themselves.
Our wait for boarding was just enough time to eat. When we got on the plane we found that every seat had a built in TV screen. This was so much joy for me that I announced to the whole plane that I in fact felt like God's favorite child today! eliciting strange looks of course.
The kids settled in and were quite content for the 10 hour flight! We were all able to watch different movies on our moniters so we were all entertained! Midway through the flight Garrett started to look a little greenish! I said," you got it don't you?" He got the flu that had swept through the house as we stayed with the Myers our last week. (Sorry Kim and Doug). The strange thing was that he was the one the week earlier who stayed up with the kids while they barfed. I guess by the 4th kid his immune system was compromised. So he spent the rest of the flight running back and forth to the bathroom! (no "mile high club" this trip Rita!)
We had grand plans to check out Dublin, Ireland during our layover in Ireland but we opted for resting in the airport instead. It was a good choice, all 6 of us go a few hours of sleep and that was important. We are all getting so good at sleeping where ever we can.
On the next flight we got to spread out because it was not full. Garrett had his own row and sacked out for the entire trip. Hevenlee and I had a row and knocked out soon for the rest of the flight while Boaz, Ezra and Sonshyne watched movies and dosed. It was a smooth uneventful flight. Much needed.
We flew into Vilnius late (the capital city of Lithuania, sounds like vil-nas). It was wonderful to see Saul's (the pastor we will stay with) friendly face! We were all excited that we were finally here! What a journey. Now for the 3 hour drive to Klaipeda (where we will live). It was a long night and we didn't arrive to Saul and Susanna's house until 3am! Sophi had no problem talking Saul's ear off to keep him awake the whole drive. There were so many details to discuss that couldn't happen until now.
So we are here and resting up from jet lag. There are not many plans for the first few days because we are just needing to hang around and sleep when we need to!
Thanks for your prayers. We will spend the next few days deciding on housing and transportation. Saul has informed us that the car we had when we were here last time has just had the engine blow and has been a pain in the rear with repairs. We felt bad for giving it them. But needless to say that ups the date and need for us to get our own car sooner than we expected. We may live out of the city and will have to have a car. We were going to use this one until we could afford to buy our own. Now.....we pray! so if you could join us in this prayer we would appreciate it!
We can really feel your prayers! Thanks for helping us through this transition and being right with us! You are amazing.
Please Pray:
Housing decisions, we are in negotiations with one already
A Car: We have about half of what we need to get a reliable car, I know God can get us into one that will work for us. I dream of a large car to carry many people, but the reality is that our money will only afford us the minimum of our family right now. That is a sacrifice we are willing to make not to go into debt to get a car a larger car. If our timeshare would sell, we would have no problem buying the car. Human thoughts of course.
Continued Health: Garrett is feeling much better and no one looks like they are getting it!

The House Story!

So here it is........
Sunday August 5th, Garrett's Aunt has a vision of us praying in front of the house, so we go over to the house after lunch and pray over it and give it to God. Almost making us late to the commissioning service of course. Garrett's Aunt Barbara prays about someone renting our house. My (Sophi) only thought is, "Yeah right, we just took the property off the rental market, like that is going to happen, our only hope now is to sell it." Such faith I have eh?
Monday morning was all about final packing and weighing. I (Sophi) couldn't sleep anymore so I was up and on the move. I have now become a type A personality to get us out of here on time. 11:00 is what we are shooting for. It was between 9 and 10 when I looked at my phone and noticed a missed call. Reception up by the mountains was not so good for the cell phone. I listened to the message and it was an inquiry from a friend about the house we had for rent. My first inclination was to not call back. I was getting tired of the same reaction every time I told people how much our mortgage was and wasn't in the mood to get my hopes up just to have them shattered again. I decided to call back anyway. I was shocked to find that this house was exactly what she was looking for and could afford! She was even willing to pay 6 months rent in advance and would come right over to give me a check. Having known her and her family the whole time we have been at Pomona First Baptist we were very confident that this was a very good situation. Only one God could provide. She arrived 10 minutes before we left for the airport! God rented our house only minutes before we were to fly away. As I was going over all the details in my mind I realized that this was the only day that something like this could have happened. It would be the only day that we were not under any contract to any company, rental or sales and were free from any obligation. We were free agents and could rent for as much as we owed. At any other time if we would have rented the house it would have cost us several hundred dollars out of our pocket each month and more if something needed to be fixed. The idea of that really put the stress on keeping our house! With this family in our home they are willing to pay the mortgage each month and fix anything that goes wrong themselves. This is quite possibly the best missionary support we have yet!
I had told several of you that it really felt like God was just saying ,"No" to all our attempts at renting and selling and that I was having a hard time trying to figure out just what he was going to do since we could see his hand so evidently in all other areas of our lives as we prepared to move to Lithuania. We know from experience that all the details of our live are important to him, but his timing is always his own.
The 12 steps I have learned over the past few years from Celebrate Recovery were really helpful in giving over my anxiety one day at a time and sometimes every moment of the day! Satan really tried to conquer us on this issue, but we continued to trust that God was in control. Even though humanly it was difficult some days! OFTEN it was a matter of obedience and a force of the will to focus on the promises of God and not get caught up on what only our human eyes could see. We realize that if God would have worked things out in our time we would be so much worse off right now. Either we would be hurting for money each month and worrying about expenses in the states or we would have sold our home and made no money on it. God squashed our attempts at both of these because he had better plans for us. He wanted us to keep the house and not have any worries attached to it. What a better plan eh? It is so easy to look back now and see the waste of time it was to worry even for one minute and not trust completely that God can and will manage ALL the details of life and has the best plans in place if we can only wait on his timing and not rush into action on our own because satan has convinced us that God no longer cares about us. Yes, I have to admit, I was ready to bite into the apple. It is humbling to realize how human we truelly are. And how little faith we really have. God is good, all the time. I hope this is an encouragement to you in your time of waiting on the Lord to answer your prayers! My input on this would be to really wait. If we would have taken care of this situation by ourselves we would have missed out on what God was going to do and would have cheated ourselves out of seeing his hand and provision for our needs and would once again feel like we were self sufficient and didn't need God after all! This experience has prepared us for much bigger trust issues I know we will face in the coming years. I am so glad that we did not run from this time but sat in it and learned how to give it to him daily as he allowed our character to be better developed! Don't get me wrong, this was not an easy test at all and we did not pass with flying colors. We were both willing to throw in the towel at one point or another. But we were confident that God was teaching us a lesson that we both needed to learn! It is awesome to know who is in control of our lives even when we fight it!
So that is the story! Hope it was worth waiting for!