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Does “I Do” Even Matter?

We’ve had a great little ‘paper circus’ up on the wall, a visible discussion,  since about October.  As we talked about ‘what was next’, we knew God was calling us to the rural areas in the province of Loja to serve and minister there.  So we had our sticky notes, our circles, our lists up on the wall  as we walked through the Where, the What and the How of moving and the ministries we could be involved in.

They are still there, but only because nobody’s taken the time to take them all off the wall, because none of our paper circus even applies anymore.  You see, WE had it all figured out.  We were definitely praying,  and we kept walking in faith, but our search for our life-to-be in the province never seemed to bring the peace or excitement we were expecting.

And, at the same time interesting things were happening right here in Loja.  It seemed that on a regular basis our Spanish teacher Maria would bring up conversation themes and activity topics that pertained to relationships and marriages in this culture.  We became involved in helping someone go through a very difficult marriage challenge.   We were sharing about relationships at two different retreats.  A young woman I was mentoring got married….

We thought we had it all figured out, but then marriages, marriages, marriages became the constant theme, and sadly very rarely was it because they were good, healthy, flourishing, stable, God-honoring, or joy-filled.

In many cases, marriage doesn’t really matter here (or other places as well).  It is convenient, it offers stability, but it is often not a lifelong commitment, but rather a pretty shaky, come and go business partnership.   And, for many who believe in God or have a ‘religion’, for some reason, this religion doesn’t seem to apply to their marriages.  So many homes are broken.  So many women are abused.  So many affairs are happening….

And, it upset us. Both.  A lot.

Why should marriage be such a negative thing?  Yes, it is hard.  Very very hard.  But, in that hardness can also be fulfillment, joy, companionship, healthy families, security…and could you even believe LOVE???

And so, we realized that there is a great need here in Loja to encourage/strengthen/mentor  marriages.  We also realized that we have passionate hearts to see marriages and families functioning the way that God intended them to function.  And, we’ve begun to see how reaching people in their most intimate relationships might allow us to help them see their need for an even more intimate relationship with the One who created marriage.

And, so here we are still in Loja.  In Loja and understanding that God wants to keep us here to build a ministry around marriages.  In Loja and joyful in seeing that He is allowing us to continue to live the “life” we’ve been building here over the last 16 months.  In Loja and very excited to see how He will use this ministry to reach the hearts of more of our neighbours.  And, yes, a little nervous about how it will all go!

Our hope is to begin an 8 week series in March that will walk a small group of couples through God’s design for marriage while we work to give them tools to succeed as a loving and committed couple.

There is lots to plan, with lots of things that are still unknown.  But, it has been encouraging as we’ve mentioned to shopkeepers and taxi drivers and friends our intentions and there has been overwhelming interest.  Please pray that people will be interested and will attend and will allow their hearts to be changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Christmas….

Eek!  In all the posts I got up, I forgot to share about the three Messicks who participated in Christmas programs at the church this year!!

 

There was a spectacular angel  on a ladder  for the candlelight service one night….

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Another bell-ringing angel who was convinced at the last minute to be part of  the children’s program….

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And a (oops-I-need-a-costume-for-tonight-how-am-I-going-to-pull-this-off) sheep for the Christmas story!!!

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Great Questions!

The past two afternoons I have been surprised by some awesome conversation opening questions!

Yesterday I was at the local shop buying yogurt for dinner.  I have been feeling convicted to go deeper in my conversation with the shop keeper, and had hoped to yesterday, but when I got there, two other women as well as another customer were in the shop.

I figured I would stay a few minutes and small talk before JJ and I headed home for dinner.  The women were oohing and ahhing over JJ and his blonde hair, and then out of the blue one, asked “has he been baptized??”.

So we talked…all of us leaning on an ice-cream cooler…about baptism and how we will let JJ decide when he is ready to be baptized as a teen or as an adult.  Their response?  “That makes more sense because then the person is able to decide if they want to be baptized”.  I shared that for us as Christians, baptism is not something to get checked off on a to-do list in order to be saved, but rather a public declaration of our decision to follow Jesus as our savior.  Again, they both repeated that they thought it was a great idea to have people wait until they are ready.

I let it be at that for the night, but might have to make a trip over sooner than later to keep talking?

Then this afternoon, I sat down to try and get some office work done…(the administrative part of missions takes some time and there isn’t always quiet to work on it).  My phone started to ding with a Whatsapp message.  A friend who has been drifting from the church lately wanting to ask a question.  Her question?  “With the things we were talking about at Bible Study last week, does that mean I shouldn’t be going to the novenas or celebrations for the Holy Child?”.

How exciting are these conversations!!!!

So we chatted on our phones about when Jesus served, when Jesus performed miracles, when Jesus died.  All as an adult.  That he was born as a baby in order to be completely human, but that God didn’t call him to teach or perform miracles or die until he was an adult.  And that the Jesus we follow is Jesus whom God used during his adulthood.  She’s feeling much less in love with the Holy Child than she was a year ago, but for some reason is struggling with the topic right now.  We’ll see how the conversation progresses!

The opportunity to engage in these conversations is super exciting…and at times a little scary…my desire is to be able to answer in ways that help people draw nearer to the Lord and strip off the layers of religion that keep them from seeing the truth!

Please pray that I would be faithful, wise and courageous when these questions come up.  And that we would always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)

 

 

 

Time for What….

Time is so very tricky.  It seems to slip by each day faster than I could ever imagine…While I am busy trying to plan what I’ll get done, the day keeps on running and sometimes nothing gets accomplished the way I hope (or even need).

We are definitely a house-full. And, all my homeschooling mama friends will agree with me that schooling kiddos takes up a lot of time (and my non-homeschooling mama friends will probably also agree that all the things that kids in the school system need done in a day also takes up a lot of time!)

Some days though balancing this time thing can be discouraging for me…

Should I spend some time answering emails that people have sent to check-in on us, to encourage us, or business emails?

or

Should I work on getting things ready for school (ie lesson planning) to cut down on the times I have to ‘wing it’?

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Should I catch up on some of the blogs?   I appreciate so much the notes that people send to let us know they enjoy the blog, and I know it is an important means of letting you know a little more about what is going on here…

or

Should I get some exercise to help my body stay strong and healthy amidst the stress?

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Should I write some more thank-you’s to the wonderful people God has called to support us each month?  We are thankful for your support and definitely want you to know it…

or

Should I cultivate the relationships we have growing with non-believers here in town.  Dropping in to visit the shop-keeper and invest in her life so that there will be more opportunities to share the gospel?

or

Should I get to reading the books on marriage and ministry that would be so very helpful as we begin to prepare for the months ahead?  We don’t want to or need to re-invent the wheel, there are so many wonderful resources….

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Should I catch up on the financial pieces we need to submit each month?

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Should I sit face to face with Matt so we can put some more plans down on paper?

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Should I work on marking the kids schoolwork and recording their logs?

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Should I sit down to pray and think about how we can find a few new supporters to make up our shortfall each month?

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Should I take 15 minutes and play dolls with Taylah?  She’s asked three days running now….

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Should I start preparing for the Bible Study I am doing with a friend?

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Should I run to the grocery store?  …there is no bread or milk or any fruit for snacks…

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Should I fold the laundry up so we can get into our bed tonight?

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Should I grab a short time of rest to recharge my heart and mind before the meetings tonight so that I can be fully there?

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Should I go wash the mountain of dishes?….oh those can wait!

There are only so many hours in a day.  And, there are only so many that I can be awake and totally functional for…

It is always a give or take.

If we do one thing (because it is definitely a team of two with Matt and I), we can’t do the other.  Some things get done, others have to wait, and sometimes others things fall completely through the cracks.  If we focus on ministry and building relationships which takes time, and our partners feel like we’re not thanking them enough, perhaps they’ll stop their support.  If we spend too much time working on administrative pieces and aren’t in the community, perhaps we’ll miss the opportunity to be there for a friend when they are most ready to hear the Good News.

Our choices won’t always please everyone.  Our choices sometimes don’t even please ourselves.  But, choices we have to make, every day.

I confess that I am terribly bad at rushing off on my own thoughts about what needs to be done instead of putting it all before the Lord.  Perhaps that is why it is so overwhelming at times…

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

~Proverbs 3:6

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

~Proverbs 16:9

Perhaps it is time to shift my focus from the insane to-do list to instead ask the Lord “what do I do today?”.   To make sure my focus is on glorifying Him alone and not trying to make sure everyone else is pleased. And, to learn to have more grace with myself…there are only so many hours in a day, period.

Who is driving your to-do list?  You? Others? Or the hand of the creator of time himself?

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve

While we were pretty well organized for all the Christmas activities, I somehow kept thinking that after Christmas there would be time to prepare for New Years….but wow that week went fast!

So, the afternoon of New Year’s eve, we were trying to figure out how to make a monigote (the “doll” that gets burnt and jumped over), and what we were going to eat for a ‘special’ dinner.

And, somehow we pulled it all together…a doll with a Yoda mask and all.

The kids stayed up until about 10, and surprisingly, Matt and I made it until after midnight.  There are lots and lots of fireworks that go off at midnight, so we figured we might as well wait until after those to go to bed.  But, thankfully by 12:45, everything had quieted down and we were off to bed!

Here’s a little peek at our jumping-through-the-fire fun New Year’s Eve…

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Christmas Crafts in Sauces

It was hard to believe that the last time we did crafts with the women in Sauces was February 2015.  Somehow the year flew by!  But, we weren’t letting December slip away without some sort of activity for the women, so Narcissa and I set to dreaming about what we could do.

We decided to make snowflakes out of toilet paper rolls…they are beautiful and the cost is super affordable!!

Narcissa and I had met once to plan who would do what at the event and then got together one morning to make a ‘model’ and to cut the toilet paper rolls.

 

We were super excited with how it turned out!

The day of the event, there were 8 women.  Some I had never met.

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We shared in a time of worship

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And then started off the activities with a game that quickly broke the ice (this might be one of my favourite parts of these events is seeing the women relax and laugh!)

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A finished Christmas scene…a decorated tree with a fire and stocking, gifts, a star….Explains the laughs!

I shared a short devotional about the uniqueness of snowflakes, the uniqueness of Jesus as our savior, and the unique path there is to eternal life.

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Then we got to work…

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Things were coming together beautifully until the lights went out!

Viche was there and his phone offered enough light until we could find some candles…

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A generator had blown down the street and the power wasn’t coming on anytime soon.  This meant the glue guns weren’t working either so we had to stop…Well, after we had these empanadas that Narcissa made…

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The ‘regular Tuesday night Bible Study’ group met at Viche and Narcissa’s house and just spent some time in fellowship before the lights came back on.

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The women met the next afternoon to finish off their snowflakes…sadly, I couldn’t be there for the second day, but they turned out beautifully!  Again, I am so thankful for the craft supplies we do have here and how it helps us to minister in special ways to some of the women here!

We continue to try to plant seeds in the community of Sauces, as we support the work that Viche and Narcissa are doing.  And, we hope that in time God will bring a great harvest!

Looking forward to what God has planned for Sauces this new year!

 

Christmas Craftiness

2015: The year the house was unpacked all in one place and I knew where the craft supplies were (especially since my husband made me ultra-amazing storage shelves for everything)

And so, 2015 also was the year that we made Christmas crafts.  And, it was so fun!  (not to mention such a wonderful reminder for my transition-weary heart that we are not in transition!) Funny, the things I kept saying “once we’re settled we can do….” And, this year we did!!

We even managed to make something for Thanksgiving

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We tried to work different crafty things into school

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The big boys made me a spectacular wreath

 

We decided to make these really neat Christmas trees to share as gifts with people who have been a part of our lives this year…

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I even got to do crafty baking and make a sheep costume (another post)

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This was a special time of getting ‘ready for Christmas’ fun.  It’s been many years that we’ve told the kids “not this year, there just isn’t time”  or” We won’t be back in time to do that”  or “everything is already packed”.  It’s hard to explain how much fun it was to be able to plan (a bit…I am not so great at the planning piece), and to spend some hours around the table making fun things!

Thankful is just the right word.

 

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