Sunday, September 30, 2012

WORLD OF FUN

What a crazy, busy, blessed, fun past four days we've just experienced. We, geographically, only traveled to New Orleans, but with the places we went and food we ate, it was more like taking an international trip.

P9280382 Hong Kong Food Market New Orleans Elysa and Kids edited

Details will have to wait for later as a beautiful seventeen year old is patiently waiting to use the pc, but I'll give you a teaser or two or three....

Fried meal worms, African butterflies, and frozen duck heads.

Now aren't you just dying to know more?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

ALL ABOARD!

Today, I packed up a carry-on bag, bought a one-way ticket for 24 bucks, and headed down to New Orleans to see my girl.

P9260251

I'll be here for a couple of days --- taking Anna out to eat, buying her groceries, just being together. You probably won't see much online til I'm back in Jackson, but you know I'll share all the good details, and lots of photos, once I'm back to our House of Faith.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

IT IS FINISHED!

Hallelujah, hallelujah! The farm house sale and closing finished today and we're no longer home owners.

PicMonkey Collage Jim and Elysa House Closing

Praise you, God! One more step closer to living and serving in Swaziland.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

UPON YOUR BIRTHDAY

Happy Birthday to my Travis True, my adorable boy with eyes of blue.

P9250151 Travis and Elysa

I love your hugs, I love your kisses...big and little and all between.

You are a gift from God, truly you are the Traviest.

Monday, September 24, 2012

PRAYERS NEEDED FOR THIS PASTOR


Just received a text message about an hour ago requesting prayer for Pastor Marc Limbaugh.

Marc Limbaugh B&W

Pastor Limbaugh used to live in our area when he was the pastor of New Covenant Church in Harrisville, Mississippi. He is our pastor's pastor, the man that God used to bring our pastor to the Lord and then disciple him as a new believer. Pastor Limbaugh has preached for our congregation and is loved by many.

Our pastor, Freddie Brown, texted that Pastor Limbaugh fell from his roof and at the time of sending, was breathing but unresponsive. He was being sent to a hospital in Atlanta.

Please pray for God to provide miraculous healing and full recovery. Pray for his family and loved ones. And pray that through all of this, God will be glorified and many more will come to the Lord as a result of this situation. Pastor Limbaugh would want even this to be used by the Lord for His Kingdom. That's just the kind of man he is.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


This weekend is my daddy's 76th birthday. He's spending it in Florida with family from California so I know they're making sure he has had a great time but I couldn't let it pass without also celebrating him.

IMG_1606 Edward, Daddy, and Elysa framed

So Dad, I know you'll get this late, after you've returned to Mississippi, but know that I love you and was thinking of you lots today. Thanks for giving me such a blessed and happy childhood.

I hope this next year is a truly blessed one for you!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

IF I HADN'T BEEN WALKING


After the volunteer teams left We Will Go and the family had big ole sandwiches for lunch, I asked the mister to go on a walking date with me. I needed to pick up eggs, olive oil mayo, and pickle relish for tonight's cook-out here at the ministry. I figured, since McDade's is only half a mile from the house and this first-day-of-fall is a lovely one, that a stroll with my sweetheart was in order.

P9220073 Elysa Horse Apples Edit

On the way there, we went a new way and passed a couple of horse apple trees. Seeing those yellow-green, bumpy beauties sitting in the dark grass gave me the idea of picking a bunch and decorating Faith House with them. So while at the store, we asked for a couple of extra sacks, stopped and filled them up on our way home with the fallen fruit, and came home to fill up big bowls with this autumn offering.

A little bit later, I was sitting behind the house as Merry played in the backyard and I started thinking about those horse apples sitting now on my dining room and coffee tables. If we hadn't been walking, I would never noticed them. I would have been in the van concentrating on driving and getting where I was going.

I wonder how many other things I miss out on in life simply because I'm so intent on getting somewhere that I just don't have that unhurried, sidewalk perspective on what I'm passing?

Those free-for-the-picking-up horse apples reminded me today that sometimes some of the simplest yet sweetest blessings are the kind that we can only get when we take the time to slow down and look around, and in my case, take a walk with my sweetheart.

Friday, September 21, 2012

SET FREE....ONCE AGAIN


Since we moved to our new home at We Will Go ministries, I've never doubted that we're supposed to be here. I've not at all wished we were back in the country and we've been aware of God's provision and presence. For the most part, the kids have adjusted really well to all the changes and have been enjoying life here in the heart of Jackson. We've had some fun times and we've been building new friendships and traditions.

P9140044 Horizontal crop

But despite all this, I've still been pretty stressed. I have often feel overwhelmed and little things would just feel like too much.

Last night's Bible Study was one of those things weighing heavily on me.

On one hand, I knew it was an honor to get to share God's truth with the folks there. Many of them would be strong Christians who'd grown up knowing the Lord, but there'd be others who were brand new in the faith or don't even know God at all.

But on the other hand, I just felt totally inadequate and filled with dread. I'd been reading through Galatians, the book that I was assigned to teach out of, and had even listened to a related teaching online by Steve Brown. I'd asked people for prayer and done some praying myself. But over all, I felt like I was never getting any real time to focus on getting deep with my preparation. Life around here is just very, very busy and there was always something else going on and by the end of the days, I'm just wiped out usually.

So yesterday I woke up, and my first thought, before I even get out of the bed, is that I wished it was already bedtime again. I was worn out before I'd even opened my eyes and the day had started.

My friend Karen was due to come back over and help me unpack and organize our school room which was a big relief. We've still got lots and lots of unpacking that needs doing and this is another aspect that had been weighing heavy on me. I'm pretty stinky at organizing stuff and so I just look at the boxes, don't know where to put the stuff, and I feel that suffocating, overwhelming feeling sinking in.

Well, Karen arrived and we ended up not even touching the school room. We chatted, we laughed, Karen cut everyone's hair, and before we knew it, 3:00 had come around and it was time for me and the teenaged boys to head next door for canned goods ministry.

I spent the next two hours hanging out on the Love House porch. I helped give out food, met neighbors and did a lot of talking, introduced one of our ministry friends to Karen who was back at the house hanging out with the kids, and before I knew it, the time had come for me to throw some supper on the table and then head to the clothing ministry that happens just before Bible Study.

Yes, the stress and dread about Bible Study was constantly present in me by this time. I had been asking the Lord about it, but over all, I was still just feeling really not qualified for the task. I mean, after all, I'd not led an adult Bible study in years and years. I couldn't even remember the last time I'd led one. Back in my college and young adult years, I had led them on a pretty regular basis. But now? Now, I was a mom with a lot of kids who felt primarily called to minister to kids. Ask me to teach Vacation Bible School or Children's Church and I am perfectly at ease. But an adult class? Adults expect you to be smart and wise and organized and know stuff. You're supposed to know stuff they don't know and be all deep and everything.

And this group would have the added complexity of being a very diverse group. I'd be teaching a roomful of folks ranging in age from seven up to retirement age. Some would be church people but others might be prostitutes, addicts, alcoholics, transients, whatever.

I'd been attending Bible studies at We Will Go long before we moved here. All of the other teachers just seemed so different from me. I just didn't think I could do it the way they'd done it.

Slowly, I started getting the idea that I didn't have to do it the way they'd done it. I even asked one of the other missionaries, Sean, about how to do a certain aspect and he said I could do it the way I wanted to.

Not knowing the results of yesterday's events, I can only believe that it was God who was speaking to me and directing me because before I really even knew what I was doing, I was calling my kids --- and poor husband --- up to the front of the room and we were dancing and singing an African song and teaching it to the group. Singing and dancing to Siya Hamba (a song about walking in God's light) broke something loose in me. As the study began, I shared my story with the group. Tonight's Bible passage was on the subject that it is God's goodness and our faith in Christ that makes us right with Him, not our following of the law and our goodness. This is so much a part of my testimony. Growing up in church and knowing God from an early age, I'd lived the first twenty-five years of my Christian life being wrapped up in self-righteousness and always seeking to be seen as perfect.

As the study progressed, folks interacted, asked questions, and shared from their hearts. By the time it ended, I'd not only survived the dreaded leading-of-the-Bible-study, but folks seemed to have been ministered to.

Then I threw the kids in the van and we raced out to Swirly Treats where our daughter Betsie works and our church was holding a fund raiser.

Embracing my friends, taking pictures, and just chatting, I sensed that the burden was gone. I felt happy and free. The kids and I did a brisk walk down the long length of the shopping center and back. I enjoyed laughing and running and being loud and singing and taking pictures.

This morning, I woke up and I was fine. My first thought wasn't "oh, I already wish the day was over". I didn't mind getting up. The physical sensation of being burdened was gone.

I knew something had happened. I'd turned a corner spiritually and emotionally and started asking why things were different.

Yes, as the mom, I've had a lot of demands put on me over the last few weeks. Jim's been crazy busy with work. We've hit the road running with ministry activities. The kids still need to be schooled. Money has been incredibly tight, even nearly non-existent. And often, my best laid plans to unpack or work on a project, have gotten interrupted or even made impossible due to unexpected things coming up.

But I've had lots of demands put on me over the years. In fact, there have been harder and more intense times, like when I had four kids five years old and younger.

This time was different. And it wasn't until last night's Bible study was over and I felt the sweetness of freedom that I began to understand part of the root of the stress, a honking big root.

I was once again falling into the people-pleasing trap that I used to live in before I got set free in my early thirties. It wasn't that others were pushing me to that place, I was doing it to myself.

I was looking at me and comparing myself to others in the We Will Go family. For the most part, the way they pray and interact with others is just very different than who I am and the way I pray and interact with folks. And since I am a mom of seven kids, I also don't have the same freedom and flexibility with my time that many of the others do.

So as I looked ahead to leading the Bible study, I was feeling that I had to do it just like I'd seen the others do it and that freaked me out.

But when I led the group in a rousing rendition of Siya Hamba and then just told my story and did the Bible study in a way I was comfortable with, including teaching from The Message version of the Bible, it was okay.

Actually, it was more than okay. It was good. Jim, whom I consider to be one of the very best Bible teachers around, even told me that I did a stellar job --- that the weaving of my personal testimony with the teaching of Galations 3 was a very effective way of covering the subject matter.

See, what God did was get me to minister the way He has created me to minister.

God's the one who has made me this way. He's the one who has called me to absolutely love kids, enjoy silly songs, and be able to make conversation with just about anyone I meet. He's the one whose given me a bouncy personality, an easy-to-please attitude, and a desire to believe the best about most folks. I love God immensely but it is pretty simple most of the time.

P9010604 Elysa and Kids Edited

I rarely feel deep or complex. He speaks to me through song lyrics, popular movies, and everyday happenings. I still love VeggieTales videos and Donut Man songs.

And that's okay.

Just before we moved here, a group of missionaries from Iris Ministries in Mozambique was visiting We Will Go. One or two of them prayed over us and spoke on this subject where I was related. They said that God wanted to use me at We Will Go just as I was. That I didn't have to be someone else. I just needed to let Him use me and my unique personality, callings, and giftings.

I forgot that.

Somewhere along the way, I started feeling inadequate because I couldn't or didn't do things the way that others were doing things. I was feeling guilty and inferior because I was me and not them.

I know...it sounds ridiculous now that I type it out, but that's the truth.

I am inadequate, but not because I'm different from others, but because we are all inadequate apart from God. If I try to do anything on my own strength, especially things related to minsitry, then I'm going to be a failure. A stressed out failure at that.

But when I rest in who He has created me to be and then allow Him to flow through me, empower me, strengthen me, then I am adequate.

Actually, I'm more than adequate.

I'm awesome.

Awesomely His and awesomely used for His Kingdom in ways that He has prepared for me and my uniqueness.

And that, my friends, is intoxicating.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

JUST PRAISE HIM!

P9200052 Laura and Merry edited

Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy house of worship,
praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
praise with a blast on the trumpet,
praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
Hallelujah!

Psalm 150

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

HELP ME HELP THEM

As anyone who has ever sold a house knows, even though you're usually making money when you actually sell it, the getting it ready for sell process can be expensive. Then you add on to that all the other financial demands that just happen in life (van breaks down, homeschool books need to be bought, etc, etc.) and before you know it, you're broke. Ka-put. Finished. Breathing fumes. Eating lots and lots of beans and rice.

That's where we stand right now. Due to issues related to Hurricane Isaac and new government laws where home loans are concerned, we've still not finished selling our house and we're still sitting on empty. But we still have financial obligations to keep.

One of those commitments is to our Children's HopeChest sponsored girls in Swaziland. To raise the money I need to cover their needs --- food, education, and carepoint support amonng others --- I am selling two t-shirts.

They are both brand new. They are also hard to come by.

The first one, this Timbali Craft shirt, was bought in Swaziland and, as far as I know, can't be bought here in the States yet. I have one size large for sale. It is a female cut shirt. I'm wearing an identical one in the photo so you can get an idea on how it fits.

PB090047 GOOD shot of Elysa in Timbali Shirt

Timbali Crafts is a ministry of Adventures in Missions. It gives women in Swaziland an opportunity to sew purses and other items to provide financially for their families.

The second one is a lime green shirt like the mission team took to all the kids at the Bheveni Carepoint last year.

Bheveni Carepoint boys in shirts


These are also no longer available so the fact that I have a brand new size large means that you're getting something very special. I especially love the back of this shirt, as you can see in this photo of DeNise Cason visiting Bheveni.

Bheveni Carepoint DeNise Cason T-shirt orphans Swaziland

You can feel good about buying these shirts knowing that you're not only looking good, you're also helping me to provide for some precious girls in Swaziland.

101_0050 Sponsored Girls resize and cropped

Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 1:17


If you want to buy a shirt, I am selling them each at $20.  Just leave me a comment and the first person who responds for each shirt is the one who gets it. Just make sure you let me know if you want the green or blue shirt and give me a way of contacting you for shipping information.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

WHICH DREAM?


As most of y'all know, my oldest daughter Anna is a freshman in college this year majoring in Applied Behavioral Sciences with an emphasis in Criminology. Because of this, she takes classes such as psychology and sociology.

Anna edited and resized

Well, she related this little quip today on her facebook status and it tickled me so much, I just had to share it:

My psychology teacher told me I could be a profiler or hostage negotiator and to "pursue my dream"...little does he know I dream of being the Black Widow.

HA! Nothing profound, just funny. And sometimes, just a good laugh really is what we profoundly need.

Monday, September 17, 2012

FREE and CAPTURED

Personally knowing prostitutes, homeless folks, and addicts changes the way you think about them. Slowly, I'm learning to see them the way Father God does and it is both heart breaking and freeing.

P9110045 posterized

I am no longer as afraid of the kind of people that a few years ago I would have been nervous around or crossed the street to avoid. That part is freeing me from the shackles of fear. But I also hurt for them as I hear their stories and know the hurts they have in their lives that brought them to the places that they are. That part is capturing my heart and making it impossible for me to just look away.

Shane Claiborne said in his book IRRESISTIBLE REVOLUTION:

" I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”

I have seen in my own life that it wasn't that I was stone cold where the poor, and the prostitutes, and the addicts, and the homeless were concerned, I just didn't know them personally. They were nameless faces I passed at stoplights. They were caricatures on movies and tv programs. They were profiles written about in books and magazines. They were not real people.

Well, they were real....just not to me.

But now they are.

I personally know the prostitute who is daily reminded of the man who sexually abused her as a child because she told me about it.

I personally know the alcoholic homeless man who frequently comes to our worship services drunk, but bearing flowers for his favorite missionaries, including me.

I personally know the prostitute who carries around a baby picture of herself because she has shown it to me.

I personally know the older man who used to live in a dog house when his life was ruled by his addiction to crack but now does landscaping and is my youngest daughter's special friend.

I know them and I am learning to love them the way the Father loves them. I still do it quite imperfectly. I still sometimes allow fear and selfishness and prejudice to keep me from loving as I should. I still allow "me" to get in the way of God moving through me as He wants to move though me.

But bit by bit, God's changing me.

And it all started when I made the decision to step out and get to know the "least and lost" --- the poor, the prostitutes, the homeless, the addict --- as real people.

Because that's what they are...real people.

Just like you.

Just like me.

All of us in need of love and God's presence making us new.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

OFFICIALLY FEELS LIKE HOME


After hosting our first supper-party tonight, Faith house completely and officially feels like home.

P9140050 Black and White
Happy to host Levi and Sarah.
P9140055 square black and white
I love her smiling Irish eyes.


P9140062 square
Crazy about Sean.


P9140069 black and white
Wildness MacStyle

After all, anyone that knows us well knows that a MacHouse just isn't a MacHouse if there's not a been big, loud, crazy party held.


P9140068 dirty plates

Now there's definitely been one! Jim grilled burgers out behind the back porches this evening and we had a bunch of the We Will Go folks over to welcome a new intern, Levi, and a visitor from Ireland, Sarah. With the burgers, we served all the fixings, bbq beans, and chips (including Cajun CrawTaters and Who Dat ones). Others provided cole slaw, veggies and dip, cheesecake brownies, and strawberry cake. African children's music played in the background. The only thing missing? A messy, soda spill.

Life in the 'hood is good and I love my We Will Go family.

Friday, September 14, 2012

EVEN MISSIONARIES...

...have to do laundry sometimes.

P9130015 Edited Laundry Merry David Travis Laura

And as you can tell, they are excited about the whole procedure.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

WON'T NEED TO EXERCISE


A few days ago, Betsie had taken Laura to a nearby park and Laura had come home telling of its wonders, especially all about the mice that lived there and she had been begging and begging to go back. So I decided to be a fun mom today and take the kids on an outing.

P9110033 Kids Capitol Edited

We, along with one of the Lancaster girls, walked the few blocks to Smith Park and while the teenaged girls went on to a coffee shop a little bit further on, the rest of us hung out at the park. We saw some of our neighbors who come to We Will Go regularly, got a tour of the mouse hole entrances, took lots of pictures, jumped on concrete rocks that must have been a part of a fountain system at one point, and took more pictures. We also enjoyed hearing the nearby church bells peal on the hour.

After a while, it was time to head back home to the Faith House.

Now I gotta be honest and tell you, I'd been experiencing a lot of stress. I had been letting all the changes and issues start getting to me so I was determined that I was really going to just have fun with the kids. I knew I had a million boxes still waiting to be unpacked, not to mention errands that needed to be run, but I wanted to be the kind of mama that my kids enjoy being with, not the rabid-psycho-time-bomb that inside I felt like.

P9110058 Elysa and David smiles edited

So anyway, on the way home, I just let the kid in me come out, including, but not limited to, running across green, grassy areas.

Yes, in downtown Jackson, surrounded by politicians and lawyers in business suits, office workers in their khakis and button downs, and a random homeless person or two, I was careening up the capitol grounds' hills and down the grassy plaze next to the Supreme Court Building.

We made it home only to discover that my cell phone was missing. Last I'd remembered using it was back at Smith Park while sitting on the park bench. So after determining that it wasn't at the house, my 15 year old and I jumped in the van and drove back to Smith Park. One of our neighbors was there and he helped David look. When it couldn't be found, he promised to keep an eye out for it. David said he'd walk home the way we'd gone and look for it and I drove on home. When he couldn't find it, I headed back out, retracing our steps as best I could.

I walked past the Supreme Court, again. I diligently searched the State Capitol grounds and talked to landscape workers and security guards alike. And then I went yet again to the grassy mall across the street that abuts the Supreme Court. I had been praying but I really kicked up the praying. I really did not want to have to spend money on a new phone.

I started going in back and forth lines across the grass looking for that bit of blue. And what did I see? My lipstick! Perched atop some blades of grass was my tube of lipstick.

Ah ha! This gave me motivation to keep looking. If my lipstick had bounced out of my purse while I was chasing my kids, then it was a good bet that my phone had done the same thing.

After numerous zig-zag sweeps, I saw the sun glistening on my blue phone. Praise the Lord!

God had helped me find my little phone in the midst of a bajillion blades of grass in a big ole city.

I guess the whole situation has had a couple of positive results.

First, I need to remember that God cares about what's going on. He knows that the sale on our house hasn't been finalized, that our van just had to be fixed for over a thousand dollars, that my husband has been working long hours and facing extra demands, that I still have a thousand and one boxes to unpack, and that I'm struggling with figuring out how to be a mom of a million kids living at an inner-city ministry.

He'll not give me more than I can handle with HIS strength and provision. He wants me to walk in His peace, strength, wisdom, and joy. He wants to help me if only I'll not freak out and just run around like a chicken with my head chopped off.

And Second? Thanks to my wayward phone, I got lots of walking in today.  As a result, now that I'm exhausted after a full day, I won't need to exercise.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

PERKS OF OUR NEW LIFE

We've been living in our new inner-city Jackson home for almost two weeks now. It hasn't been a completely easy transition. We've had our tears and stresses, but overall, it has been a very positive experience. We continue to feel honored that God has entrusted us with this call despite the challenges that sometimes seem overwhelming.

I thought it would be a good time to share some of the perks of living in the heart of our state's capital city.

P9100092 Merry and Jim

*We live close enough to Jim's office that he can walk to work and we can take him a lunch on the days that he can't get away from the office.

*Merry and Laura now have the chance to take ballet at the nearby First Baptist Church. David and I walk them over there and then work on the weight machines while they are in their classes.

*It is easy for friends to just drop by when they are on their lunch break or in the city running errands.

*We get to see our neighbors all day long which means plenty of opportunities to love on people, pray for them, laugh and talk, just be community.

*The grocery store, library, and numerous restaurants (including Pizza Shack, Keifer's, and Two Sister's) are all within walking distance of our home. And other places, such as the post office and the whole foods place, are less than 10 minutes away.

*We no longer have to commute to minister at We Will Go but instead, just walk next door to give away canned goods, help folks "shop" in the clothes ministry, serve during the Sunday service, or if we walk three blocks over, work in the community garden.

*The big, strawberry cake that a sweet lady from Crossgates Baptist church brought all the missionaries to enjoy.

*Folks are often visiting We Will Go from churches, ministries, schools, etc. They come here on mission trips or to do a few hours of service. It is fun meeting them and hearing their stories. It is especially exciting when we see God move in their lives. They come to help change our city and often find their own heart changed.

*We're definitely saving a whole lot on gas money and that means we can help Anna out with her college expenses.

*My kids are growing up in a very diverse neighborhood where they know personally folks from many different racial backgrounds, economic groups, etc. They are getting to see that good things can happen in bad places. They are also seeing that drugs, gangs,and prostitution aren't the glamorous lifestyle that our American movies and music often make them out to be.

*And it really is just a very lovely area with hidden jewels. Yes, there are lots of abandoned crack houses and burnt out buildings, but even in the really devastated areas, there are reminders of God and His goodness such as the fall flowers peaking thru the junk or the gorgeous trees sheltering a hole-ridden street.

God is good. I am being stretched and often fail to allow Him to work His power, peace, and love through me, but still He's good. He's good to me, He's good to my family, and He wants our unbelieving, hurting, angry neighbors to see that He's good to them, too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

LEARNING HOW TO DIE

This past summer, my oldest daughter spent two months as part of an Adventures in Missions Expedition team. Over that period of time, they served in three countries --- Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.  Thank you for all who supported her.  God used this trip in truly incredible ways. She wrote this blog post one week after returning to America:

Anna in Africa

She said, “Friend,
All along-

Thought I was learning how to take

How to bend not how to break

How to live not how to cry

But really

I’ve been learning how to die”

When I signed up for this trip, I knew I was getting in over my head. I knew I would be changed and challenged. Though I had no idea how much I would be changed. How much God would break me.

I had an idea of some changes I anticipated in myself. And those things did change, but God changed so much more that I was prepared for. Going into this trip, even after having five other missions trips under my belt and years of being a Christian and participating in a multitude of ministries, my heart was so hard. Or at least, so hard compared to how vulnerable and open God wants it to be.

I went on this trip with big aspirations of how awesome it would be. How much fun. What an adventure. And it was all of those things. But it was also one of the most painful things I’ve ever been through in my life.

Like the girl in the song, I thought I’d just be getting knowledge to use in the future. A chance to stretch and bend a little before reverting back to basically the same. A time to really live it up before settling down to school in the fall. But I wasn’t stretched and bent. I did recieve a lot of wisdom and truth I’ll carry with me through my whole life. But it wasn’t any wisdom or truth I expected. I wasn’t stretched and bent, I was ripped and broken until a new person emerged. And I learned that to live life to its fullest, I had to learn to die. Die to my flesh. Die to my desires. Die to who I had thought I should be. And be willing to die daily for Christ, His Call, and his people.

I wanted to give some kind of blogging closure to this trip. This isn’t to say I have closure on this trip. There’s children I met and stories I heard that will probably follow me for the rest of my life. There’s things I learned, and people I met, that I’m only beginning to understand the purpose of in my life. There’s a country I visited that I’m by no means done with. But I wanted to wrap this trip up on this blog at least.

I’m gonna keep learning how to break, cry and die. And you know it’s a God-thing, because I’m thrilled to learn more about those things and then walk it out. That’s right. I’m thrilled at the opportunities I’ll get to be broken. To be vulnerable and love and cry. And to die in all the ways I listed and more.

All along-
Thought I was learning how to take

How to bend not how to break

How to live not how to cry

But really

I’ve been learning how to die

Monday, September 10, 2012

BASKING IN THE BLESSING

For the last several days, we've really been praying about the food ministry situation at We Will Go. We normally have big grocery bags of canned goods to hand out to our neighbors in need, but lately, donations have been slim, needs have been rising, and our shelves had gotten woefully bare.

P9100082 Bare shelves food hungry We Will Go

But God provides and so often does it through His people who love Him. People like my friend Janet.


P9100081 Elysa and Janet

Janet and I have known each other since we were freshmen living in Callaway Dorm at Mississippi University for Women. A couple of months ago, she told me that her company, Gentiva Home Health and Hospice, has a food drive every year to benefit some ministry or charity and that We Will Go had been selected as the benefiary this year. Fast forward to today. She and her co-worker Jeffrey showed up with over 450 pounds of non-perishable items.

P9100079 Ashley Mulder and Merry We Will Go cropped

We've been telling our neighbors when they'd come asking for help and we'd have to give them just a small amount, to be praying for God's provision. Now we'll get to share with them the story of his blessing. Not only did Gentiva donate bags and bags of food, but a friend and her sons came on Friday with cans of meaty pastas (a favorite) and another group brought a few bags on Saturday. One of our missionaries even donated a couple of cans of green beans that she had and asked God to multiply them.

P9100084 Nancy Flowers We Will Go food ministry

And that's what God has done. As you can see from Nancy's face, it is a true joy to watch how the Lord cares for those He loves because we know that those cans of ravioli and chili and soups don't just represent someone getting to eat a meal, they represent a chance for us to build relationships and share the love of Jesus with those who need to be reminded that God cares about them.  For most of our neighbors, their need to be loved and valued is a whole lot bigger than their need for some chicken and dumplings. 

In that way, they're not so different than the rest of us.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

THIS IS MY MAN

This is my man and I am so proud of him. He takes care of his family, loves his wife (yay for me!), is loyal to his friends, works hard at any task given him, and is a faithful servant of the Lord. The past week and a half he's been working relentlessly on a troubled dam down in South Mississippi, a dam dangerously weakened by Hurricane Isaac. He's used all his training, knowledge, experience, and God-given wisdom in the process. He's worked day after day, and sometimes even around the clock, to do what is needed to help down-river homes from being destroyed.

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Yeah, I'm kinda crazy about him.

Okay, a whole lot crazy about him.

Today, he'll be sharing about another kind of crisis. A spiritual one.

At the We Will Go Sunday afternoon worship service, he'll be sharing the story of how and why God has moved our family from our idyllic, peaceful, farm life to a house situated on a busy street corner in an inner-city neighborhood infamous for drugs, crime, intense poverty, gangs, and prostitution. And once again, I'm reminded of why he's my hero. Over the next 14 or so months of living here, Jim will be using all his training, knowledge, experience, and God-given wisdom to also help homes and lives from being destroyed. But this time, it won't be knowledge, skills, and wisdom related to breach analysis or water sheds, it will be those things God has taught him about living the life of a strong Christian man.

He's not perfect. He fails and falters. He doubts and gets dismayed.

But, he keeps on going.

He keeps on this path that the Lord has set before him despite the trials, despite the temptations, despite the hurts, despite it all.

Jim didn't grow up knowing the Lord. His life, as he describes it, was very "pagan". His choices had him on a path headed straight to death and destruction.

And then he met Jesus.

He truly became a new man. He was totally transformed. Even his mother commented once, after we'd been married a few years and had a couple of kids, that she didn't even recognize him because he was so completely changed. She was amazed at the kind of father and husband he was, knowing that he'd not grown up with good role models of either.

That's what he has to share today and in this season of life in Jackson.

Yes, his life before Jesus wasn't spent as an alcoholic homeless man caving in some abandoned crack house in an inner-city neighborhood. Neither was his life pre-Jesus spent as a drug lord with deadly authority over numerous drug dealers or a young run-away turned to prostitution out of desperation.

Yet, his sins were just as destructive, they just looked different. But they were all eating away at his soul and they were ultimately leading to death. They were keeping him far away from His Heavenly Father who had created him and wanted to bless him with a life more abundant than anything this world had to offer.

I praise God for transforming my husband's life 25 years ago. I met him when he was a brand new baby Christian. Though we didn't date til nearly three years later, as his friend, I had the blessing of watching him grab hold of this Jesus-way and going full force after a new and better way of living. I saw him quickly move from baby steps to giant leaps in the faith. He was hungry to know God and let God change every area of his life that wasn't in life with God's plan for him. He truly became a new creation.

The God that changed my husband from an arrogant yet deeply wounded, party-hard paratrooper is the same God that wants to transform addicts, prostitutes, gang bangers, drug lords, alcoholics, and dead-inside religious folks.

He's the same God that wants to transform me and you. No matter where we are on this spiritual journey, an enemy of God or someone who has loved him our whole life, He is powerful and able to keep turning our losses into wins, our defeats into victories, our struggles into strength, and our brokenness into beauty...if we'll only say "yes".

Today, my husband will stand before the group at We Will Go as an example of where saying "yes" to God over and over again can lead you. Not to someone who never fails, never doubts, never stumbles, but someone whose life is being used in beautiful and incredible ways for the kingdom.

Just like God wants to use you.

If you'd like to join us today at the We Will Go service and hear Jim share his story and our family's story, we'd love to see you! The service starts at 3:00 and lasts til around 4:45 or 5:00. After the service, you are welcome to stay for the fellowship meal. This is a chance to sit down with our neighbors plus our friends from area churches and just get to know each other. It is a beautiful opportunity to minister and be ministered to. The worship pavilion at We Will Go is located on the corner of North Congress and Barksdale. That's exactly one block north of Two Sisters restaurant and one block south of the Manship House. You'll see the signs on our ministry houses. For more information, you can visit our ministry website: 

http://www.wewillgo.org/main.html

Saturday, September 08, 2012

THOSE ARE YOUR FRIENDS


I am great at throwing a party, staying in touch with old friends, cooking up a veritable feast, and making up silly songs for little kids. I am a rock star with putting together a unit study, making my world famous popcorn, remembering facts about new people I meet, and doing read-aloud stories with funny voices and animal noises.  And don't forget about my winning ways with lipstick and big hair.

But give me a house full of boxes to unpack and organize???

PicMonkey Collage Karen Faith House Collage

Aye-yi-yi. That's where my friends come in, because so many of them are not only gifted where this sort of thing is concerned, they actually like it.

My friend Karen McGivney has come already three times this week to our new home and has done incredible things, mostly in my kitchen. She's spray painted some items a groovy green, arranged and rearranged my spices, hung fun stuff on the walls, and even put together the food in my small fridge like, as she said, "puzzle pieces" to take advantage of the limited space. And she did this all with a cast on her foot.

Yes, you read this correctly.

A cast.

On her foot.

While she's in pain.

Yet, Karen said as she was leaving that she'd be back after a day or two of resting up because she was not only having fun, but feeling like she was actually doing something good and useful.

"You meet people who forget you. You forget people you meet.
But sometimes you meet those people you can't forget.
Those are your friends.”
Mark Twain

I'll never forget Karen or all the others who have come through for us during this time of need. Moving a family this size is never an easy task, but moving a family this size when the husband is out-of-town working with a failing dam is particularly daunting and at times, downright tear inducing.

With God's provision of good friends, we're getting it done. In fact, I have faith that we'll get it all organized and cozy with even some time to spare before its time to start packing up and moving to Swaziland.

*Wish you could see me winking and grinning over that last sentence right now*

Friday, September 07, 2012

ONE WEEK ANNIVERSARY


One week ago this Friday night, we were spending our first night in our new home in the heart of Jackson at We Will Go Ministries.

P9060667 Travis Ben Sam Faith House






















Over the last week, Faith House has become home. We've put in lots of hours unpacking, organizing, and hanging pictures. More importantly, we've had lots of friends over (like Ben and Sam pictured above with Travis), helped numerous neighbors who came to our door in need, spent time in the Word and praying as a family, eaten my world famous popcorn and pizza, cuddled on the couch over Bible stories, started a new job book, and re-instituted afternoon quiet times.

Do we miss any aspects of our old life?

Of course.

But I can honestly say that we are loving our new life at Faith House and would love for you to come by and see it for yourself if you've not visited yet.

Because in all honesty, what makes home really home for us is when it is filled with love, laughter, sharing, and banter...and friends added to the mix only make all that so much better.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT

Best friends and God care about even the little things. Last night, I was at Kroger and really, really wanted to buy a magazine. When things are crazy, a book is a commitment but a magazine is just something you can stroll thru. I didn't give in to the temptation, though, because we're already spending so much money on eating out while the kitchen gets unpacked, buying stuff for the new house, various moving expenses, etc.

PicMonkey Collage Rhonda and Elysa

Fast forward to this morning and in walks my friend Rhonda to help me unpack and with her she brings not one, not two, but THREE beautiful magazines AND dark chocolate. I love this woman and I love my God.

Because EVERY GOOD and PERFECT gift comes down from The Father and today she is one of those gifts.

P.S.  Hope you appreciate the green sponge roller and my not-yet-brushed-out hairdo.  Only for you dear readers would I trust with this look!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

LOVING THIS KIND OF MATH

For the past three days, I've been going back to our farm to clean the house in preparation for the new owners moving in. I've never much cared for math, but today, I discovered the kind of math I actually like.

P9030650 Betsie square


Scrubbing Bubbles + Windex + countless paper towels + mops + broooms + 2 homeschool moms + a few children = a (finally) clean farm house.

Now to get down to the business of unpacking and making this home feel truly like ours.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

NEW LIFE UPDATE



Things have been even more crazy than usual around here but I wanted to post a quick news update.

P8270505 Merry Posterized

After not having internet at our new house since we moved in last Friday, it is nice to now have wifi access set up. My sweet husband came through for us again. Home temporarily from dam emergency work, he took time out to set up all the tech stuff for us. I sure do love that man.

Please keep praying for him as he is now involved with other dam situations that are a result of Hurricane Isaac.

We are still in the throes of unpacking at the new house as well as cleaning and taking care of stuff at the old house. Jim being gone with the various dam situations has delayed some of the things we'd intended to do and, in fact, our closing date has had to be postponed for more than one reason.

This is another area we need prayer concerning. Pray that everything that needs to happen related to the closing will happen soon and smoothly. Pray that we'll get the help we need with cleaning and taking care of things around the farm. Pray that I won't feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Pray that we'll get the help we could really use. We still have so much to do. Uh, oh. Guess that goes back to the praying for me so I won't feel overwhelmed and discouraged.

I'll be honest, I'm just really ready to be finished with the old house so I can start making our new house feel like home. Even though we started sleeping at the new place on Friday, I've been back working at the farm every day since we moved (except for Sunday) and I've not had one day to just stay here and work on unpacking or cook a meal. I'm a mom who loves to cook and really values family meals, so I really want to be able to make good food for the family and not rely on take-out and cold cereal.

Okay, enough of that. Honesty can start sounding whiny, and as a mom of seven, I really do not like whiny.

Over all, things are going really well. We're sleeping peacefully at night. We are already having many opportunities to serve our neighbors. And the kids have never once said that they want to move back. I know we're in a bit of a honeymoon stage, but it does bless my mama heart to see how happy the kids are to be here.

God is good, even when it doesn't always turn out the way I would have planned it.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

THIS POST AIN'T PRETTY

This post won't be my prettiest. It doesn't have pretty photos or poetical prose. But we have moved to We Will Go and I wanted to give a quick update.

We still don't have internet at our house,I'm using my college daughter's laptop that's picking up a nearby wifi signal, and things have been really, really busy.

But we've gotten completely moved out of our farm house, we've spent the last two nights at Faith House, our new home, and we're all really glad to be here. Well, except for Jim who has had to spend the last few days working a dam emergency compliments of Hurricane Isaac.

I have to keep this fairly free of details for now just due to time restraints so let me give you some prayer requests:

*We are overall very glad to be moved but there are still some sad emotions and stresses related to moving, Jim being gone, saying goodbye to the cats, etc. Pray for us to have the peace of Jesus, mercy and grace with each other, and that we'll constantly remember that Jesus and the people He's sending us to serve are worth it all.

*Pray we'll have the help we need to finish cleaning up our farm, move all the farm stuff not in the house, and then get unpacked and organized at Faith House.

*We are settling into a new life very, very different from our quiet, country life. Pray for us as we make this transition. Pray especially that I'll know how to juggle all the regular things, such as homeschooling, with new ministry demands.

*Please continue to pray for Jim and his staff as they work the dam emergency at Percy Quin State park.

*Pray for Anna as she travels back tomorrow to New Orleans. At this point, she still doesn't have electricity restored to her apartment but needs to get back because she hopes classes will resume on Tuesday.

Thanks for your love and support during this time. If you're in the area, stop by and see us. One of the fun things about city living is it is a whole lot easier for folks to just drop by for a visit. And that make this people-loving-person very happy.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

GOODBYE and HELLO

This weekend we are saying lots of goodbyes while at the same time saying even more hellos.

We'll be saying goodbye to the home where we've lived longer than any of us have ever lived before. It isn't just a house we're saying goodbye to, but a way of life. While here, our kids have had woods to play in, horses to ride, a creek to wade in, and country roads to bike down. They've picked blueberries, climbed trees, shot off fireworks, and eaten eggs layed by our very own chickens.

P4080364 Our house resized

What we're saying hello to is about as different as you can get and still be in the same state. We'll be living in an apartment house built in the 1920's. We won't have any pets but the kids will be sure to love on any strays that come our way. In Jackson at We Will Go, daily my kids will have the chance to minister to homeless friends, live within several yards of scores of neighbors, and get to eat lunch most days with their daddy whose office is only two blocks away. They will get to walk to the store and library, hang out with the other missionaries, and meet people from all sorts of different backgrounds who come to We Will Go to serve and learn.

P7220243 resized

I expect some tears to fall this weekend, after all, God has blessed these last 13 years with wonderful experiences too many to count. I've brought home 3 newborns to this home and we've celebrated numerous birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones.

But despite the tears, there is also joy and excitement. Because we're not just moving to a new house, we're going where God is leading us and that more than makes up for what we're leaving behind.

I love you, God. Thank you for giving me this life --- the life we've lived, and the life we'll be living. You are so good to me and mine. Better than I could ever deserve.