Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Front Line Ministry

This is Robert, the pastor of the church we attended in Tucson when we lived there. It was a very large church, so that while we met Robert once or twice, we didn't know him personally. But God used him in our lives, as well as his wife Lisa who died of cancer a little over a year ago. They were used in the same way The Lord is now using another pastor, Alistair Begg. Robert, Lisa, Alistair and many others teach Gods word faithfully. And through modern technology and podcasts I can still listen to their teachings and The Word speaks to me through them.


So it was interesting to me this weekend listening to Robert's teaching when he mentioned the difference between theologians and pastors. He said that theologians tend to be in their ivory towers of studying the Bible, while pastors are on the front lines, teaching it to their congregations. Of course he is right...there is such power in God's word and on the occasions that Gabe or I teach it to kids or Bible study groups we can feel the spiritual battle surrounding it. So I imagine it must be intense for those with the gift of preaching to larger audiences. 

But it got me thinking...is preaching the word the only kind of front line ministry? I don't think Pastor Robert would say so. What do we believe?( not what do we say, but what do we believe  shown by how we live?)

Ephesians 4:11-12 "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, "

What does front line ministry look like?




(Photos courtesy of Calvary Chapel Tucson)

For me right now, it looks like this:

(Anya's group one year ago)



Front line ministry is for us, my friends. Not just our pastors and teachers. They are the supply sergeants with our mission manuals and training regimen. They are there to train us up and send us out! Many pastors forget this in the work of caring for our brokenness day after day...they feel alone on the front lines and maybe miss the people in their churches they could be training up to minister better to each other. But that's not just on the pastors; it's ultimately on us! And don't kid yourself into thinking church attendance or even church event attendance and volunteer work are all there is to front line ministry.  The Bible tells us to go into all the world (or next door, or at your child's school or your workplace or wherever He puts you) and make disciples! 

What's really cool about joining the front lines is this: His word comes alive for you and your relationship with Him takes on a whole new dimension. I need it to be a lamp unto my feet every day on the path He has set out for me. I need to know I'm following Him, not my own ideas. I see His heart and His love for me as He loves others sacrificially through me.

Don't settle for anything less than the adventure He has for you. Get in the battle! It's infinitely with the cost.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Missing Mary


It's been 6 years since Gabe's mom left us for Heaven. Her body ravaged by cancer, her spirit bright and resilient, she clung to life and the people she loved with amazing tenacity. Her faith in Jesus is what really made her special though. It made her trust and love and pray and sacrifice and show kindness in a way I couldn't understand. I was an often ungrateful recipient of her love, and she loved me anyway. Only the Holy Spirit inside a person can do that. She showed Jesus to me by forgiving me when I had no right to expect it. She served us wanting to always stay in the background. She was an example and a friend to me as well as a mother in law. 


I know how much she would love hearing all about this trip. Maybe she even would have joined me! Once she finished setting Gabe and the kids straight trading off with my mom, of course. Mary was a homebody, but she would feel very comfortable in Ukraine. When I'm heating water on the stove for my bath because there's none in the building, I think of her. She did it just to save electricity! When I see the grandmas here with their chickens and enormous gardens, I could see her in them. Minus the headscarf and long skirts. When I go to the orphanage and am surrounded by kids needing love, I know she would be with me. And when Asher(or Anya!) needs a good dose of respect I know she would have my back!


I also know she would be here in my moments of doubt and loneliness and sadness and wondering if this is all nuts. She may have feared stepping out of her comfort zone, but she feared The Lord more. She would remind me who God is and what His word says. She would love Anya fiercely just like she did all her grandchildren. 

How do I know this? I'm married to her son.

"I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also." 2 Timothy 1:5

"Her children rise up and call her blessed" Proverbs 31:28

"All your children shall be taught by The Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children" Isaiah 54:13

Mary's faith in Christ and unconditional love are bearing fruit in our lives like you wouldn't believe. (She always did have a green thumb!) God took her home, but He continues to work far above and beyond every prayer she prayed over us. I can't wait it catch her up on all of it someday. Until then...We miss and love her. She left us an enduring heritage of faith.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

We are all orphans and God is our father

Psalm 84:5-7 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka(weeping),they make it a place of springs;the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength,till each appears before God in Zion. 

It's been just over three weeks since I arrived in Ukraine. First and foremost to complete Anya's adoption, but The Lord has much to teach me here. And since I have a lot of time between orphanage visits and official appointments, I am trying it take in all He has to show me. Here's a sampling so far:

The first week: crazy long flight with husband and toddler, hard goodbye to kids at home, nerves, looking for opportunities even on the plane to share God's love. Our first flight, the short hop from Seattle to Portland, there was a lady openly crying behind us. The flight attendants were comforting her. I am guessing she was facing tragedy. I felt a tugging in my spirit to go speak to her, maybe give her the little gospel of John I was carrying. I didn't. I smiled kindly and she actually smiled back. Then I saw her again at the airport in line for coffee. Still felt the tugging. Still didn't go there and talk to her. I think I missed an opportunity to see God work through me there. I'm sure He comforted her through someone else, but He was offering to use me. I'm sorry I missed out.

Then on to our big flight to Amsterdam. People traveling all over the workd from that flight, which was fun to hear about. A guy sitting near us had business in a Kiev in renewable energy, and was fascinated with our story about Anya. We were able to share quite a bit with him, then actually ran into him in the city that night. I forget his name, but he was in our path for some reason!

The first week was kind of a blur, stressful and jet lagged alternating with adventurous and fun. I honestly don't know what I would have done without Gabe that first week. Between Asher's needs, lost luggage, travel, and just someone to hold me and pray with me, he was the best partner ever. He wasn't feeling well for most of the week with digestive issues and I know he wanted to be "stronger" for me. But I saw the servant heart of Jesus in my husband in a whole new way that week. 

I also feel like it was Huge that he got to be there to see Anya and officially tell her we want to adopt her! She has a little idea what Mom is, no clue about Dad. So she got to see a little of how much he loves her. He also had time to play with kids at the orphanage and see her world. 




It was hard letting him go back home, but our other kids needed him and classes were resuming. They did great with Grandma, I'm told. I expected to be kind if freaked out and weepy when he left, but I was actually filled with an incredible peace. Praise God! The same was true this last week when my translator/facilitator/friend Julia had to leave me for a few days; I am actually not afraid but totally ok.
That has to be God!

Since then I have moved from the hotel to a 5th floor apartment (no elevator) that is a total blessing. Inexpensive, toys and a playground for Asher, and I can cook! Our taxi driver (also a blessing!) had if a friend not using her apartment for a few months, a single mom who I am glad to help out. She has been wonderful to me so far.

The apartment is in a big gray block building just like the other three buildings encircling our courtyard. Laundry can be hung outside or over the bathtub on a nifty gadget. People plant flowers and there are trees and grass outside. It's a less groomed beauty than the US, but I like it.

I am getting along okay walking around town shopping in local markets. There are little supermarkets, but also lots of little neighborhood stores; some just produce, some meat and dairy, etc. I have a local coffee lady and a few friendly neighbors in the courtyard who attempt English...my Ukranian is really limited to "hello", "goodbye" and "thank you" although I'm trying to pick up a little more.

People are friendly, so I do wish I were conversant! One of the many things God is showing me about cross cultural missions...be diligent to learn the language!

I visit the orphanage every other day. I was a little overwhelmed initially, as was Asher, with all the kids craving attention. But now we just enthusiastically give them the hugs they long for and play with them and love on them. Anya seems okay sharing us with her friends. I have never been around such loving kids as ones who have been deeply wounded, yet still have hearts open enough to offer and receive love from a stranger. It makes them precious and vulnerable. I so want to see them in families before the world hardens them. Not many of them are even available for adoption...but they all need love. There is a wonderful group of young missionaries working with the kids at this orphanage and after they graduate to trade schools called Open Arms Ukraine(openarmsukraine.org). I am so thankful for them and all the love they show these kids who are now in my heart too. Also the charity and hosting organization that first brought Anya to us; Marina's Kids (marinaskids.org). Just in case you are touched by this story and want to find out more, donate, host a child, or come to Ukraine on a mission trip! 

I have a lot of time to pray and walk(since that, taxi, or bus are my modes of transportation!) It occurred to me today that there is no gospel-teaching church in this town that I know of. I am one of very few born-again believers in Jesus here, maybe the only one. (Well I think there are some orphanage kids and several teachers who know Him:) ) I've never been in a place where that was the case before. It's kind of a scary thought. Yet what can I do? I am burdened to pray for this little town, that missionaries would come or rise up among them and bring people the truth about freedom in Christ. People live simple, empty lives pursuing possessions, political freedom, careers, and for some, religion.  They lack the joy knowing that God created them for a purpose to know Him! They don't know that the emptiness they feel is the separation their sin causes from a holy God. And how He longs to restore them to a loving relationship to Him. I think the orphans get this...they know they don't bring much to the table, so they have to depend on grace and unconditional love. And it makes them beautiful. God sees us the same way. 

May you know Him better every day with me!

Love,

Bonnie

Friday, August 15, 2014

Contentment


What image does the word "contentment" bring to mind? Floating on a lake under a blue sky, a perfect summers day when all's right with the world? Family all around the dinner table? A Sunday afternoon nap? All these things are wonderful blessings, but this isn't the kind of contentment The Lord has been teaching us this summer.

Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

This contentment is an entirely different thing from the kind described above. The first kind is dependent on circumstances, available when we have most of our needs met and/or no major crises or unresolved issues. If we're honest, we live our lives in pursuit of this kind of "contentment" and peace. We make decisions based on achieving this goal. When life interrupts us with suffering and inconvenience, we chafe and cry and question God and are irritable with everyone around us.

Or maybe that's just me!

The Apostle Paul didn't live this way. Come to think of it, neither did Jesus. And I say I want to follow after Him. 

Luke 9:23-24 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 

That doesn't sound like I will always have my physical and emotional needs met on my timeline. Who would sign up for this?

Mark 10:21, 28-31 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” 

All this to say, it has been a challenging summer. 

In June our minivan's transmission went out. This required time and prayer and wisdom to decide whether to fix or replace it, finally decided on replacement, and then the time and expense of the replacement...$3400. Gabe needs the other car every day for school so the kids and I biked, walked, and took the bus a few times. We stayed much closer to home than I normally would...and I think that was the Lord's design. Having a car was a convenience I am so thankful for now! But I don't know that I quite "learned contentment" on that one.


We were hoping I would be travelling to Ukraine for Anya's adoption this summer, but through divine delays, we weren't able to get our dossier paperwork submitted in time. We had made the decision not to bring her here for hosting this summer based on that hope...then realized too late that she would be in Ukraine for the summer without us. We are still planning to surprise her with the news of the adoption when we get there....so the knowledge that she is sad and feeling rejected right now breaks our hearts. But praise God, we have recently been able to Skype with her through the kindness of a family who are currently at her orphanage adopting two boys from there and who are loving on her for us.
We are also still working through the surprising difficulty of transitioning into a new church body while grieving changed relationships and missing the familiar of what God clearly led us out of. It's been lonely and I think has given us empathy for Anya as we have felt a bit like "church orphans"...longing for a place to belong but having difficulty attaching due to past hurts. Trying to balance wisdom with loving His church wherever we are. It's easy to try to cover all that with Bible verses and platitudes, but the truth is we are wretchedly human and weak and can be hurt and have a hard time getting over it. However, in the midst of that He has blessed us with some beautiful friendships and strengthened family bonds and has made us treasure them and invest in them more intentionally. He's showing us what unconditional love really looks like, and how He loves us even when there's nothing in it for Him...other than that He loves us.

He is just...SO GOOD.



It hasn't been all suffering however…we have had some fun summer adventures that I will get the techie to help me find pictures of! Thank you for your love and prayers!

Blessings,

Bonnie
Adding a small garden this Spring

Sam's got one his dad has never done!


Somebody get some pants on the boy!

Backpacking with the "men"!


Heading to Whidbey Island with friends for July 4


Tacoma Splash Parks were a big hit this Summer!

Is Ocean Shores always this gloomy?

Fort Nisqually




Free bowling, courtesy the library's Summer reading programs

Clear Lake with friends



Wallace Falls State Park (Spring Vacation)
Upper Wallace Falls



Thursday, June 5, 2014

βαπτίζω

Sam and Ciara circa spring 2009 Sabino Canyon, AZ


Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:2-4

A crazy thing happened last weekend. Jesus and I made it official. I got baptized!("baptizo" or "immersed" in Greek, above).

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4

Here's what's crazy about it. I was baptized as a teenager….twice. Once when I was 12 when I started to realize I was a sinner and that was a problem. Again when I was 14 and I was realizing that I really did believe what the Bible said about things and that I still had a sin problem. And that was it. I thought that took care of things between me and God. He was definitely revealing Himself to me, opening my eyes to things. And I didn't want to be in trouble with Him. So I thought I was good.

I went to a Christian college, I spoke like a Christian, I even went to work my first summer off from college at a Christian camp. And then I got a Christian boyfriend. I prayed when I was really lonely. I knew God had a plan for me, somehow. My boyfriend Gabe who loved me so much, even from across the country was an answered prayer. God was taking care of me. But I didn't offer much to Him.

I had a lot of sin in my life, especially in that relationship with my boyfriend, then fiancé, now husband of 16 years! He was convicted over parts of our relationship that were impure. I wasn't. I figured since we were getting married it was fine. Life went on, eventually we came back to church when we became parents and hearing the Word preached and being in worship more often started to have an effect in me. I started to pray. I started to wonder when I took communion if I was okay. But I was caught even deeper in sin: alcohol abuse and then adultery. I betrayed friends. I treated my husband very poorly. And the natural consequences of those choices eventually caught up with me. 

God in His mercy kept me from them for a few years and gave me a good job and a wonderful nanny and friend and well as caring co workers as I walked through a necessary separation from Gabe. When He brought us back together, we went back to church again. Then He saw us through losing Gabe's mom to cancer. I was in Bible studies, had Christian friends, and put the kids in Christian school. I thought I really had it figured out. Except that I still couldn't give up drinking and I had some not so little habitual sins of gossip, slander, and unkindness and selfishness that I didn't feel much conviction over. The people who knew me through all this time would probably say I was a nice person and a good friend…or even a strong Christian….but I was carefully concealing my sinful side. God was not fooled, however.

Sabino Canyon, Catalina Mountains, AZ


So through His ultimate grace, in the spring of 2011 before the crazy journey that led us here, I picked up a little book called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Almost as if He was leading me, I found myself going on a solitary hike into Sabino Canyon outside Tucson while the kids were at school. I sat down by a river and I think I read the book straight through. Several things pierced my heart that day:  


  • from chapter 4 "Profile of the Lukewarm": "Do not assume you are good soil." What? Of course I'm good soil! I go to church, I do all the right Christian things, I believe all the right doctrine. How could I not be good soil? Chan goes on: "Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God's kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money and thought on the things of this world?"  ouch!
  • there's more: "Are you satisfied being 'godly enough' to get yourself to heaven, or to look good in comparison to others? Or can you say with Paul that you 'want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death' (Philippians 3:10)?
  • and finally: "Would you describe yourself as totally in love with Jesus Christ? Or do the words halfhearted, lukewarm, and partially committed fit better?"
I finally saw myself for what I was. I was a "seeker" of God, but I had not trusted in Him for salvation. I trusted in myself and my church attendance and good works. Even in the light of the sin He had redeemed me from and the sin still remaining in my life, I thought up to that point that I was good enough. The problem came, however, when He asked me for sacrifice. When Gabe quit his job to answer the call to missions, nothing in me wanted to come. I wanted to be the person who would want to come, but I didn't have it in me. God knew that. So He changed me. I died, you see, and my life is hidden with Him in Christ. The life I live now isn't mine, but His. He did that and I didn't even know I needed it. But in His great mercy, He called me in order to save me for 
Himself.

I don't know if I was born again that day in the Canyon or shortly afterward, but I have come to realize just recently! that the spring/summer of 2011 was when I became His. And according to His word, once you belong to Him, he wants you to make an official, public statement through baptism. You identify with Him in His death as you go into the water and His resurrection and power to wipe away your sins and redeem you in coming up. It's kind of like a wedding…you are gladly committing your life publicly to another forever. 

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.(Acts 2:36-39).

So last Sunday they were having a baptism at church. Only two people were scheduled, but as our pastor preached on it, he encouraged all whom the Spirit was moving in to be baptized. Well, I was done for. Never mind the embarrassment of being 37 years old and not realizing I had only come to know Him truly a few years ago. All that mattered was that I obey. It was amazing! I can't even describe the joy and peace I've had this week as I walk with Him in a new beginning. Feels kind of like a honeymoon! And how precious to bring it into the week Gabe and I celebrate our 16th anniversary.

If I can encourage you, friend, do not fear examining your heart before the Lord Jesus. He wants an authentic, open, fully surrendered heart from you. Don't try to hide behind good deeds or church attendance or long-held beliefs or what others think of you. Read His word and search your heart for yourself. He will speak. He came first to save the nation of Israel, religious people who didn't even know they were lost. Like me. I am so thankful He did!

*See updated prayer requests!

In His love,

Bonnie





Thursday, April 24, 2014

If I were an unbeliever, I would have no interest in church

This is one of those blog posts that I wonder if I will ever publish.

It seems obvious; unbelievers aren't interested in church because they're, well, unbelievers. The tragedy is that they have no interest in Jesus, who is very interested in them! So we sigh sadly about the hardness of their hearts, we pray, and resign ourselves to continuing on in our church activities,thankful for our own salvation. We wish we knew how to reach them.

We design specific church activities as "outreach" and bravely invite our unsaved friends and family members. Easter is the prime example of this, but it can also be vacation bible school, family-oriented activities like movie nights, Mother's Day banquets or father-daughter dances. Marriage conferences will often attract even an unbelieving spouse, because who doesn't want a better marriage?

Yet as long as I have been in the church, I see no great harvest of souls from this. It seems we get them in the door, but they don't fall for the sales pitch. They must know it's coming too..."here comes the 'gospel' of 'Jesus died on the cross for your sins' etc." They politely sit through it, but it has no effect on them. Really I admire their courage to enter the unfamiliarity of a church culture where they don't belong out of love for the friend who brought them. 

Do we venture out so bravely into their world? The birthday party or weekend camping trip where we are the only believers? Do we invite them into our homes and lives? Or are we too busy with our church commitments to have time for friendships? Sadly, do we even have time for friendships with our fellow believers?

The Lord has been convicting me of a lot of these things lately. He has allowed us to not have a church home for the last few months, and in that, has opened our eyes to what it's like to be outside of church culture. It's been a difficult and lonely time. Gabe and I both grew up in church and have been "church attenders" for most of our lives, aside from a few years' hiatus in our twenties. Now we are desiring to be followers of Jesus, not just those who go to church. And He designed us to follow Him both individually and in community. So the loss of community leaves a huge emptiness in our lives. But it has been strangely difficult for "church" as we find it in our culture to fill that hole.

We've been faithful to "attend" each week, earnestly seeking to find the place where He would plant us. We try to stay open to new relationships, varieties of worship styles and teaching styles. We listen carefully for solid Biblical truth and turn quickly from anything else. Our kids have to greet a new Children's Ministry program every few weeks and miss their old friends. They have had good Bible teachers in church in the past and are discerning of those who are not. It's hard for them too. We look for the Holy Spirit to meet us wherever God's people are gathered. And He does. I cry a lot in worship, begging Him to fill me up for another week, another day.

But if I were an unbeliever just checking the God thing out, I'd have given up on church a long time ago. It would feel awkward and empty. I'd rather work in the garden or sleep in on Sunday. The Holy Spirit and our pursuit of Jesus is all that keeps us pursuing fellowship with His bride. Somehow, it shouldn't be this hard. We are pursuing the church, but it doesn't feel like it is pursuing us. Honestly it seems the church thinks it us just fine without a few more crazy Jesus followers with a lot of baggage. Except isn't that who the church us made up of? 

Here's a scary thought: Does the unbelieving world feel the same way? Do they feel like the church had no real interest in them or their lives? If they aren't ready to fit into our "Jesus culture" why would a seeker keep coming to our churches? They wouldn't. Or, another scary thought, they try to fit in out of a longing for community or a desire to please a spouse or parent. But they never commit their lives to Jesus and know Him. And we think they're okay because they attend our churches and maybe even volunteer for stuff. But when it gets hard, they fall away. And again, we sigh sadly about their hardness of heart. 

But did we ever show them what following Jesus really is? Because when you know that, when you want nothing more than to be close to Him, you can't leave it.

This time has drawn all of us closer to Him and deeper into His Word and personal/family worship than ever before. It has given us time for friends who we would have been too busy for when our lives were filled with church commitments. It is a blessing but a hard one. It seems we can't hold onto our ideas of what we think we need and open our hands to receive what God has for us at the same time.

All I know is, He is faithful. And I trust that someday we will see exactly the purpose of this valley we are in. I hope my unbelieving friends, new and old, will see that He is very real to us, no matter what.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

We're Pregnant!


.....with a 14 year old girl. Who lives in Ukraine. Who we believe God is placing in our family.  "A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows. Is God is His holy habitation. GOD sets the solitary in families. He brings out those who are bound into prosperity." Psalm 68:5-6


We've had the growing realization since she first came to us last summer that she would always be a part of our lives. Deciding whether or not to re-host her for Christmas was a big deal, because we knew it was a step closer to a decision...are we her forever family? And we didn't want to keep hosting her but never be her true family. We didn't want her always hoping, never able to trust when we said "I love you" that there was no limit to that. 

I don't think she has ever known that love before.

God slowly opened our eyes to see that if we could do something to care for her, how could we refuse? And just like our move to WA and pursuing missions, He gently but clearly told us "it's not a sin if you don't do this, but I will abundantly bless it if you do". So, terrified, we step out in faith.

It's so crazy, because adoption has never been on our radar (neither was missionary work, go figure....). But God knows the plans He has for us! And for her. And He is big enough that is just might be possible that He had her born on the other side of the world 14 years ago while we were ready to selfishly quit on our marriage because it didn't make us happy. 10 years ago God interrupted that selfishness with our amazing son Sammy. 8 years ago Anya was in an orphanage and we were separated, having truly given up. It looked like Sam would be an only child. 7 years ago, God healed our marriage quite miraculously and gave us our first beautiful daughter. 3 years ago He called us to live more fully for a Him than we ever had. And gave us our "bonus baby" Asher! And 9 months ago, He brought us Anya. The plans He has for her are just beginning to unfold before us.


So we are in "step 1" of the adoption process: completing our Homestudy. So far it has been joyous, only minor hassle. Our social worker is great and it has been kind of amazing to look over our lives and see how faithful God has been and all the ways He has prepared us for this. "Step 2" is submitting everything to U.S. Customs and Immigration, "Step 3" is submitting it all to Ukraine in a dossier, and "Step 4" is traveling to Ukraine to adopt her! Hopefully by September.

So many thing can and will change as we go down this road, we know. It could even be that He has another family for her and He wanted our obedience and love. That's ok. Because we have already been blessed beyond measure.

So many challenges ahead when we get her home...it's not as if her life has been without trauma. And we will just have to lean hard on our Savior.

Please pray....for her that she would grow in her relationship with Jesus. And for us and Sam, Ciara and Asher as we prepare to welcome her home.







Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Easy


In a previous post, Bonnie told you about the kids that we hosted this Summer, Anya and Tymofiy. It might be easy to believe from Bonnie's good-natured tone that while hosting had its ups and downs, it was mostly a positive ride down the Good-Deeds Trail. 

It wasn't.

It was stinkin' difficult. It was trying, and testing, and stretching, and exhausting. It sometimes brought out the worst in our own kids. We weren't exactly saints, either.

It was perfect.

If it had been easy, we could have done it on our own. And we would have missed the point. 

When we are "rugged individuals", "strong" enough to go through life's trials without God, not only do we miss the point of the trial, but it doesn't make us more noble or worthy. In fact, it detracts from our character. 

Paul says in Romans 5 "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…and not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

Now, I don't know if we built all the character God intended for us in this tribulation, but I do know He produced in us "hope." As we cried out to God during various trials, He answered. His character became more clear. That was the beauty of it all. 

And that's the beauty of the Gospel. When we realize Who God is, our Creator, holy, perfect, unchanging, living in unapproachable light…when His character becomes clear, we realize how impossible it is for us in our natural, sinful state to be joined with Him. Then we see His love - holy, perfect, unchanging, sacrificial, redeeming, rescuing…and His character again draws us to Him. 

We can't make ourselves more noble, more deserving of the grace of God. If we could, it would no longer be grace. It would be wages - something earned. And we know the only thing our trying to live apart from God has earned us: "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23).  

But the free gift isn't like the offense. It isn't earned. We are saved at our weakest - while we are still sinners. Being saved by grace, let's not think that we now need to earn it by perfecting ourselves ("Having begun the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?" Gal 3:3). Let's let God do the perfecting in us.


Don't try to be "strong enough" to make it through life's trials. It is when we are weak in the flesh that we see God more clearly. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sacrifice, Being Humbled, and Joy


Romans 12:1-3

12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

As I sit here on another gray, drizzly Pacific NW winter day, it struck me that I have become a native! Midway through our third winter here, I am finally not fazed by the yucky weather but just go out and about the same as if the sun was shining.  Instead of hiding inside, I actually go for walks and bike rides and outings(as long as its not really pouring…so maybe I'm a pseudo-native?). The gray skies don't bother me like they used to. I trust that the sun is back there whether I see it blazing in front of me AZ-style or not.

I knew I was a desert-rat southern AZ pseudo-native when I would go out in 100 degree weather…to go back and forth to the pool or AC! Tourists are crazy and think they can brave it!

Anyway, how does that relate to the verse above? I've been thinking about sacrifice a lot lately.

The Lord has recently asked a tough one of our family. He has asked us to lay down our ministry; all the works and activities we are "doing for Him" and allow Him to prune some away and change the direction of others. Being pruned away: being part of Veritas Christian Fellowship, the church plant in Tacoma we've been blessed to serve in for the last 8 months. Also pruning away Saturday mornings ministering at the women's prison.

This has been so, so hard. A few years ago the idea of God even wanting to use a couple selfish people like us in ministry was something we just avoided. And now that we are trying to surrender our selfishness and let Him have the controls, we are discovering what that really means. He calls the shots. Not us. That includes and especially means the work we desire to do to build His kingdom.

I thought giving up a steady income, nice house, etc two and a half years ago was a major sacrifice. Then last Dec when He changed Gabe's course in education from Trinity Aviation Academy to THE UNKNOWN for a few months…that was hard. The Lord had Clover Park Technical College in mind all along, but the several months of waiting on Him and praying were full of doubts and regrets as well as faith and hope. I watched Gabe grow closer to the Lord through it all. So we have faith that this will grow us closer to Him too, as we are seeing already.

We were busy and "fruitful" in ministry, and the Lord said "Enough. Time to move on." He called us away from the church plant and all the things we thought He had us involved in there. Teaching Sunday school. Sound ministry. Prayer groups. Bible studies. Vacation Bible school. Church dinners. Eight months of hard work, prayer, growth, laughter, tears, fellowships, disappointments and dreams. All of which came from the Lord's generous hand and all of which He has all the rights to remove and replace(or not) as he sees fit.

Look what Job's reaction was when God took all his "good things" from his life:

Job 1:20-22

20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

How I wish this could be said of me! We have prayed, cried out to God, loved til it hurt and then loved some more, come before Him flat on our faces in tears from repeated attacks from the Enemy, been exhausted, talked it to death, and finally are coming to a place of peace.

But it still hurts. Ministry isn't just work, it's teamwork. It involves people who you love and grow attached to and spend a lot of time with. When God takes you in different directions, it hurts. And when we are hurt, we are more prone to sin. We misjudge, speak when we shouldn't, stay silent when we should speak, and fail to believe the best in people. We withhold forgiveness and hold onto our pain like a blanket. Until His Holy Spirit convicts us and we humble ourselves and realize we are all made of the same dust. Then we apologize for the hurt and receive repentance and forgiveness. It helps. It begins to heal, but its a process.

In all this, I am so thankful for the grace of God. Thankful for how He knits our hearts together, mends wounds, and tells us how LOVE covers a multitude of sins. Then He fills me with His love and grace when I have none for myself or others.

He is also teaching me that He can't love me any more than He already does just because I was busy with a lot of activity for Him. He worked through me in some of the activity….other parts of it were just my own idea. My husband loves it when I cook him a good dinner or take the time to do a project that helps him. But he is a lot happier when we just spend time together! I think God is a lot like this too. He gives us work to do for His kingdom that we might see His heart and grow in compassion for others and confidence in Him. But our service to Him can never replace our relationship with Him!

So pray for us! Pray that our hearts will mend, that we will allow the Lord to continue to direct our paths towards missions if that is His will, that we will find a new place in our former church body at South Hill Calvary Chapel. Pray for our kids who have been troupers through all of it. And pray for me as I suddenly have an open schedule…that I would also have a open heart for whatever the Lord wants to fill it and me with!

Love,

Bonnie

A few recent photos:

Christmas with Anya went by way too fast!

  Looking for butterflies at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle

Gabe with Anya's friend Yulia at the Tacoma Glass Bridge


Sam off to join the business world as a CFO for UPS for a day!

Princess Ciara

Little Man