We have quite and extensive bedtime routine. We begin with baths and showers (Caleb and Noah now like to take showers!). Daddy is the bath man- since they were quite small he's been the one to give them their baths. Then the boys get in their pjs and we read our Bible story from The Jesus Storybook Bible. (On a side note, I seriously LOVE this Bible. Every story points us to Jesus. It is awesome.). Then we pray together as a family, each taking a turn praying aloud. We're trying to teach the boys about prayer. Usually Caleb prays for God to give him "No, no good dreams and no, no bad dreams. I don't like them." and then he thanks God for things in his life. And Noah usually just says "Thank you Jesus for...." and he lists off everyone he can think of! And he ends by shouting, "I love you God!" After our prayer time, Jack and I take turns tucking each boy into bed. Jack prays over them individually and I sing over them individually- they each have their own song. And finally, about 45 minutes after we started, the boys are all in bed. It is a long process, but a tradition I treasure (for a great read on traditions, check out Noel Piper's Treasuring God in Our Traditions). It is one I know is planting seeds in their hearts- foundations for faith. But is also a way invest in the lives of our boys each night and remind them how very much we love them.
The other night, I just had to take a few pictures of my sweet little blessings all dressed alike in their Lightning McQueen pjs. Enjoy!
With three (um, four) boys it is impossible to avoid Wrestlemania!
Two weekends ago we met my family at a pumpkin patch. Caleb was dying to see Hayden... I mean dying. And I am pretty sure the feeling was mutual! I love taking the boys to a pumpkin patch each fall, so it seemed a good weekend to meet in the middle at Uncle Shucks! We had a wonderful time together. And we got some cute pictures too!
My cutie pie boys!
Love this kid!
Owen and Josiah
The 5 cousins- Owen, Josiah, Hayden, Caleb and Noah (and there is another boy on the way--- no not me, Stacey is having a boy!)
This morning I woke up frustrated. I didn't sleep well and I woke up thinking of all the things I needed to accomplish today and how it seems so pointless- as soon as I finish picking up toys or cleaning the kitchen, it's time to do it all again because the boys have played or we've eaten another meal. Why bother? Why me? And then I went to my favorite blog. God always speaks to me through Ann. And today it was almost supernatural- here's why. I clicked the link to her blog in my google reader and this is the post that came up. I read it and I knew it was for me, that God was speaking to me. I wanted to share it with you, so I copied it. But then when I went back to find it again, it was gone! It wasn't today's post or yesterday's post..... I don't know where it is or when she wrote it, but it is not there. Seriously, it was there and I read it and I know it was God speaking to me, and then not one minute later when I tried to go back to it- it was gone. Even hitting refresh and the back button didn't bring it back up. Could it be that God really was the one speaking to me? Could it be that "accidentally" that post appeared on my screen just for me? I think so. It was there for me and then is was gone. And I am so grateful. So very, very grateful that God loves me enough to convict me, to challenge me, and to change me into the image of His Son. Praising Him today- that is what I will do.
Here is Ann's post that spoke to me in such a real way:
I don’t bother moving today because I already know I’ll lose.
I know I can’t get the laundry caught up this week and I know I can’t make deadlines. I know the bedrooms I tidied through last night will be dumped out by nightfall, the sink I left empty last night will be piled high by noon, the floors I washed yesterday will be tracked dirty by supper. I will definitely lose today, tomorrow, all week. I roll over, smother my face in the pillow.
How did my daily challenge to get up and “Work!” dissolve into this apathetic “Why?”
I think…. when I began to believe in the head that there’s no way through for the heart, when my inner world fell for the lie that nothing can change in my outer world. When the problems before you seem to loom larger than the Power behind you, the purpose in living falls right out from underneath of you.
And it’s only a half dozen children pounding in from the barn, looking for breakfast and Sunday morning clothes, that compel me to push the feet to the floor, faith to the fingers. Our greatest triumphs are always our most solitary ones and every great triumph begins with the decision to get out of bed.
I throw back the covers.
I lay out bowls. Clatter out spoons. Cunch across stale remnants of last night’s dinner still under the table. I’m mumbling how I can never get anything right, and how come I can never get caught up on all my lists, work, projects, and what in the world is wrong with me that is right with everyone else, when the Farmer comes in quiet from morning chores. I can hear him at the back sink, washing up those thick hands.
I cringe still.
Has he heard me muttering ugly?
“Annnnn…..” I hear his voice gentle at the tap, his love running over me like water.
I close my eyes. He’s heard me. And I know how he feels about bad self-sermons.
Boys wrestle in the bedroom. Floors shake.
Then there it is, his hand on my shoulder.
He asks it soft, “Been a long time since I’ve heard you talking like that.” His hand finds the nape of my neck, strokes me kind. “You just fallen sick with perfectionism again?”
I don’t open my eyes…. To my dust and my smudges and my grime and my love-smeared mess. Why can’t I remember: the state of my space doesn’t reflect the state of my soul.
I ring the dinner bell for boys to tumble to the table. This morning, even the cast iron bell in the hand feels like a millstone around the neck.
I eat breakfast in silence and I don’t know how I am going to get dressed for church, rustle up a meal for 10 when we get home from church, make it through Latin and spelling and the early Renaissance and piano scales and fractions and the three meals a day for eight people this week and the 4 loads of laundry a day and all the prayers between now and church again next Sunday.
“Thank you, Lord, for water to wash off counters and that the dust bunnies around here haven’t yet grown into monsters and that the jam stuck sticky all over everything really does just wash off, and for this husband that treats me tender when I’m stuck.”
Can I feel the stirrings… the lifting?
One foot in front of the other and one murmured thanks after another and underneath the everlasting arms will hold. I wear a plain black dress to church. With a long chain, a black cross pendant. I finger the cross all through the service. I hold on. And I stand with Dianne Goodkey and Deanna Musgrove and Tom Shore and Lyle Bender and the whole congregation to sing, “A Mighty Fortress is our God” and Raymond Peterson leads us in choral worship and the windows all tremble glory. The Farmer’s thick, worn hands squeezes mine, and I squeeze back strong.
And when I am home and over the stove, stirring up dinner, apron over my black church dress, black cross still hanging down, The Farmer slips up behind me, slides his arm around my waist and whispers, “You’ve gotten over that nasty spell of perfectionism?” I’m surprised too.
“I guess it’s just coming to realize…” I lean back into him and I didn’t know the words until they slipped out true, “God doesn’t ask me to be perfect; He asks me to praise.”
I don’t have to have smudgeless windows and empty laundry baskets and gleamy toilet bowls! I don’t have to have a perfect life, all problems solved! I think I hear the Hallelujah chorus!
I simply need have a grateful heart to give Him glory.
Gratitude in all things is the only thing God asks.
Can I take each seeming problem and turn it back to praise?
That alone is the one thing that is needful.
The pot on the stove bubbles over and with a quiet half smile, I wipe it clean.
And the clouds out the window drifting east, all chariots glinting silver.
161. dirty hands and faces
162. he speaks
165. truth louder than the lies
167. a handmade card
168. a child's i love you
169. the sound of little footsteps upstairs
170. high as the sky
It's been too long! I truly want to make this journey to 1,000 gifts just a part of my life. I want to live a life of gratitude and gratefulness, a life that overflows with those things. I have so much in my life to be grateful for, so much I don't deserve. This journey has taught me so much already. The hard days are much easier when you have a habit of counting all of the gifts. My attitude on those hard days is different when I focus on the gifts- no matter how small they are. There are so many... so, so many. I'm going to get back on this journey again with more consistency. I am a better wife, a better mother and a more Godly woman when I pause and thank Him for the countless gifts.
151. pillow forts
152. wobbly first steps
153. a trip to the pumpkin patch
154. boys fighting over mommy hugs
155. lessons from africa
157. a brave boy sharing his scripture memory with the whole church
158. pretend play
159. a big vocabulary out of a little boy
160. a child's delight
Tuesday we ministered again in Arsi-Negele. This morning Jack and I were a part of the baseball team in the morning. We dropped the school team off at the church and drove the bus to the stadium. Taylor decided that in order to better teach the game we'd choose two teams of 9 players to play. The two teams were made up of boys of several ages- from older children, to teens, to young adults. As we played the game, it was so much fun to watch as they began to really understand the sport. A crown quickly formed. It was so fun watching as the teams cheered for their players, encouraged them to run or to stay on base, and to watch the crowd cheer. I exclaimed to Jonathan several times, "This is so fun!" I can't express how much fun it was watching them play baseball. The childlike excitement and joy on their faces really was awesome. And the last inning was the best as the home team was down when they got the chance to bat last. We told them they had to score 3 runs to win the game and then we also told the crowd. And sure enough they scored three runs! It was so exciting watching them cheer as the third run was scored. I know I've said, "fun" a lot, but it really was! Our time at the stadium was almost up, so as the game ended Jack gathered the crowd together and shared the Gospel with the around 200 people who were gathered there. It was again incredible and many, many made decisions for Christ. As the game ended we were approached by a city official who was the head of sports and recreation. He asked us if we would host a tournament the next day with prizes. What an awesome opportunity! To be invited by the city to host a baseball tournament. Of course we agreed... tune in tomorrow for more about the tournament!
We loaded the bus and went back to the church for lunch. We met the school team who also had a very successful morning at the school. Unfortunately right after lunch it rained again, so we were unable to return to the stadium to do more baseball and evangelism. But the rain stopped in time for Jack to give out a few Proclaimers. Proclaimers are audio recordings of the entire New Testament spoken by a native in the native language. They are quite simply amazing, especially in an illiterate culture with little or no access to the Gospel. They are part of the ministry of the people at Faith Comes By Hearing. We took 10 proclaimers with us to Ethiopia- 5 in Amharic and 5 in Oromo (the other language spoken in Ethiopia). On Tuesday, Jack gave two proclaimers to two church leaders from a very rural church. The church leaders had to walk for 3 hours to get to Arsi-Negele to receive their proclaimers. They were incredibly excited and grateful for them. The plan was for them to set up listening groups in their village. The groups would listen to a portion of the scripture each week and then discuss it. What an awesome way for the Gospel to reach some unreached peoples! It was such an honor to be a part of providing these wonderful tools for the sake of the Kingdom.
After that, it was time for our children's ministry. We had more than 50 kids show up. We decided to keep them in one large group and just rotate teachers. Because it was so wet outside, we did the children's ministry inside the church. It was a little tough because there was no electricity but also no windows in the church, so it was a bit dark. But it actually went really well. Sandy and I taught the children the English words for parts of our bodies and then taught them from Psalm 139 about God's creation of our bodies and His plan for us in Christ. We did this with puppets that we named Angelo and Carlo. They were very interested in the puppets, and thought they were quite funny. Then Michelle took over for songs and games. We sang "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes". Then we played Simon Says, except we were worried that might be confusing... so we changed the game to "Michelle Says." Let me tell you, it was a huge hit! The kids caught on quickly and they loved it! Finally, Cheryl took over to facilitate the craft. We had spent time on Monday night preparing the craft as we waited for dinner. We wrote "God Made Me" in English on the top of paper plates and then our translators and Pastor Dembi wrote it in Amharic on the bottom of the plates. And for the craft we painted the children's hands and put their handprints in the middle of the plates. It was also a huge success. The kids loved it. I really felt like we planted some great seeds in their hearts. They were really honed in during the story/lesson time and they really had a good time with the games, songs and crafts. It was really great to watch God move through such simple things. We were really hoping for more children to come in the days ahead as these kids went home and shared with their friends.
We ended the evening worshiping again with our brothers and sisters at the church in Arsi and were privileged again to see several give their hearts to Christ. Another amazing day of ministry in Ethiopia! Here are some pictures from our day:
Two kids at the baseball game
Jack preaching to the crowd at the baseball game.
These are the two guys who walked for 3 hours to get the proclaimers.
Jack with Dembi, the church planter, the pastor of the church in Arsi and the two church leaders from the rural areas with their proclaimers.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we ministered in the village of Arsi-Negele. In the mornings we had a team in the school teaching English while the rest of the team was in the town "stadium" doing sports evangelism through baseball. Then we had lunch and after lunch we planned to do more baseball and then the children's ministry at the church. And in the evening we worshiped with the church. We ended our long day with dinner back at the hotel at around 8:00 pm.
On Monday, I was a part of the school team, along with Jack, Sandy, Michelle and our translator, Belay. Our lesson was on colors. We were not able to evangelize during our time at the school, but we did invite the kids to the church after school where we would be doing more fun stuff. We went into a first grade english class. They knew a little bit of english and their teacher spoke it pretty well. He loved having us there. We used large flash cards to teach the colors and we played a color game. We also read the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle and then the kids were able to color a picture with the characters from the book. We used markers to color and even the teacher did not know what they were! It was their first time using markers! We had a great time. The school room was small and dark. There was no electricity, no books, handmade wooden desks and about 40 children. They were incredibly appreciative, especially the teacher who kept having the children say, "God Bless America" "We love America" "Jesus Bless America". We had a great time.
Meanwhile at the baseball stadium, things also went incredibly well. The team just started playing a game and almost immediately a crowd appeared. There were around 200 by the end watching and playing baseball. Several team members were able to share the Gospel through a translator and around 30 gave their hearts to Christ!
We had lunch at the church- PB&J, oranges, bananas, granola bars, etc- and then we went back to the stadium to do more sports evangelism. Unfortunately, just about as soon as we started playing the sky opened up and it started raining. One member of our team, Cheryl, was in a conversation with an Ethiopian who spoke English. He inquired as to our reason for being there and Cheryl was able to share the Gospel with him. She stood out in the rain and shared with him. This inspired all of us hunkered down on the bus and we all got off and wouldn't you know it, but the rain stopped. And then I did one of the coolest things I've ever done. The evangecube is an evangelism tool about the size of a rubix cube that you can move and manipulate into different pictures that tell the story of the Gospel. Well, before we left for Ethiopia we found a big cube- big enough to use in a crowd. I used the evangecube and one of our translators and shared the Gospel with about 80 people! It was really cool and scary and awesome! And in the end around 20 of them gave their hearts to Christ. It was seriously one of the coolest things I've ever done. And another cool thing was that while I was sharing with my group, Cheryl was still sharing with hers and Taylor was sharing with another. It was really an amazing thing to see our team faithful to share the truth and watch as people responded to it.
We left the stadium after a little while and went to the church for the Children's Ministry. As we were setting up, Tekele, one of our translators, told us that while we were out at the stadium a Christian brother asked him why we were all wearing witchcraft bracelets. Apparently, in that region, the people who practice witchcraft wear bracelets made from the same materials as our salvation bracelets. And guess what our craft was for that day.... yep, salvation bracelets. We asked the pastor about it and he thought we should not do the bracelets since it my be confusing and a hindrance to the message. So now we had to come up with something else quickly as the kids would be arriving any minute. This is where it is so great that my mom has everything you could ever need to teach a lesson and gave me more than I asked for. Before we left I asked if I could borrow her copy of Brown Bear, Brown Bear. She sent me her copy of the book along with the coloring sheets (that we ended up using at the school) and also a large piece of felt and the characters made of felt so you could act out the story.... At the time I kind of snickered that she sent so much (sorry Mom!) but we took everything with us just in case... so thankfully the craft time during the children's ministry was the felt board! Whew! Thanks Mom!! We had around 50 children there. We divided them into three groups to rotate through three stations- songs & games, story/lesson and craft (felt board!). But we only got to see two of the three groups as it started raining again before we got to the last rotation and many of the kids left to get home before the rain got bad. But we were able to give out candy to the ones who remained and invited them back for the next day. All in all, we survived the first day of children's ministry and it went pretty well.
And then we worshipped with the church again. Jack preached and several were saved. It was a great day, a challenging day, and a learning day.... Tuesday would be even better! Here are some pictures from our Monday.
Teaching in the school
Playing a color match game
She was very proud of her coloring- and so cute!
The class with their colored sheets
Cheryl shares the Gospel in the rain
Taylor sharing the Gospel
Me sharing the Gospel with the big cube.... can you see me?
This girl prayed to receive Christ!
Day 1 Children's Ministry at the Story/Lesson station