Sunday, December 13, 2015

Immanuel: God with Us

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel, which means 'God with us'."
Matthew 1:23

Time for bed. I walked around extinguishing the Christmas tree lights, the lamps, and weary wandered towards my bedroom. Taking one last look back, I saw. The only small light left on in the room, the tiny bulb silhouetting my childhood nativity. A gentle reminder of the season's hidden mystery. God with us.

I find myself in awe as I ponder, Immanuel. God become man, flesh, and trodding earth. To some, it is just too unbelievable. To some astonishing. To me, it is both. I find myself astonished and amazed that God would come near to us. The miracle of the virgin birth brought God near to us and near to all who believe. His Spirit is God with us. God living inside of us.
God dwelling near.

I often find myself overwhelmed by this world. The trials, the suffering that I see. Jesus warned us that we would have trouble in this world. We were never promised an easy life. I am almost daily bombarded with temptations to fear. Fear of disease, suffering, terrorism, and loss.

And yet, I find comfort in knowing Immanuel, God is with us. This season we celebrate the most unbelievable, miraculous gift of God joining us in our sorrows. In our struggle. Right now, I know that he is with my four year old niece in a little hospital in Kenya with pneumonia. He is in Little Rock with friends who are watching their son struggle for life. And he is with me, as I struggle to ward off anxiety.

God came near. Immanuel. God with us. Sit and ponder those beautiful words and the precious reality that He is with you and with me.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bah Humbug: a Grinchy Mom's Confession

In the past few days, I slowly have come to the startling and horrifying realization that.....

I don't adore Christmas.

This little revelation is not sitting well with me. I think I must be the only living breathing human being with a pulse who feels this way. And surely something is wrong with me because every normal mother cherishes the glitter of the season with her little darlings, right?

My kids wanted to get a tree for Christmas. Instead, I considered installing a festivus pole and promoting the airing of grievances. Honesty can be cleansing right? I'm still thinking about it. You think I kid...

We went to Walmart and I picked the least Christmas looking tree they had, the white winterberry tree. It looked great in the living room as you can see here.
Most of the children though it was "pretty." But oldest son's heart was broken and I couldn't leave it at that, he being our middle child and the "perfect one." Honestly, he never give us ANY trouble. He said he wakes up each morning at Christmas time and comes downstairs to see the tree and it takes his sadness away and he is just so happy and now this modern weird looking tree has ruined that." Of course, I couldn't do that to my son, so off we went to Walmart to get the $39 traditional green tree with white lights (I wouldn't spring for the colored lights, really I had to put my foot down somewhere!). We came home, set it up and decorated both trees. The cheap green one actually looked surprisingly spectacular and the kids slept under it that night as you can see here. Well, they aren't actually sleeping. I couldn't find that picture.

So why the not adoring, perhaps even "disliking" (GASP) of Christmas in my heart?

You'd think it was the shopping. But my husband announced to me tonight, that he had taken the kids Christmas lists and finished ordering all of their Christmas presents. Shopping is DONE! Talk about a good decision when I married that guy! If it were up to me, I cringe to think what my kid's Christmas might be like. Last year, on the night before Christmas, realizing I had not bought anything for the stockings, I stuffed them with canned goods. Green beans, Gravy, Rotel. Thankfully, my youngest loves diced tomatoes. I can't say that the other four were very pleased. "Mom, don't forget about the stockings this year...."

My excuse is it's hard for me when I've been across the globe and witnessed people living in poverty who are content and contrast that with the fact that we are living with our every need met and wanting so much more, I struggle to make peace with it. Trust me, I wish I could let go of that tension, but I CANNOT.

However, gift giving has also never been my love language. I prefer some quality time, an act of service, or especially some words of affirmation. I'll take that any day over a new laptop, which my husband tried to give me twice this past year, and I made him take them back. Of course, I am now typing on a new one he necessarily had to purchase when my old one finally kicked the bucket last month.

I'm not a very good gift giver or gift receiver, and that ,I think, is the problem with my grinchy Christmas outlook.

I've been mulling this over. I realized something. Even though I don't LOVE Christmas, one thing I do know is, at the CORE OF MY BEING....I LOVE JESUS.

The ultimate gift was Jesus. He gave us HIMSELF. Completely lavished upon us a gift so undeserved, so priceless, so precious. So PERFECT.

And even though Jesus didn't tell us to celebrate his birth with gift giving, or to celebrate his birth at all. He DID ask us to GIVE.

He said to give to the poor. He said to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to serve one another, to make disciples, to lose our lives to him.

Despite my grinchy feelings, my reservations about the amount of stuff we really need or give, or my lack of "giftedness" in giving, I DO want to be like Jesus. And just as Jesus gave us himself, so I will choose to give of myself to those closest to me this Christmas and to those in need afar. By spending quality time, giving a listening ear, a sensitive heart, a comforting touch, an affirming word, and yes, even some actual green and red paper wrapped presents.

My husband (who at this point is basically Santa Claus) had the wonderful idea to give each of our five children one hundred dollars for Christmas that they could give away. My son, Micah, the green traditional tree lover, picked up a catalog from World Vision and asked to buy a goat, and medicine, and warm blankets before he even knew about the hundred dollars. My other two boys packed Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes online with some of their money. My girls are still thinking (hopefully they don't inherit any scroogeness from me!) I'm joyfully anticipating to see what each of my children will choose to give towards.

These are the gifts I cherish nurturing in my children. With all of the wonder and magic, anticipation, lights and celebration, let me throw off the grinchy scroogy feelings that so easily entangle like all of those lights in last year's boxes, and fix my eyes on the perfect one, the perfect gift and giver.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Did Jesus ask for too much?

The rich man calls him good teacher. "What must I do?" he implors. Seems rational and sane for a seeker of eternal life. "Keep the commandments" the teacher's reply. A checklist! I get it now. Because clearly, if we check everything off with God, then we hurry our reservation, prove our worth, and ensure our future.

Don't murder, Don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't bear false witness, honor your parents....and the rich man, who must certainly have experienced some amnesia, replies, "All these I have kept since I was a boy." Not to come down too hard on the rich man, but really?

Then a pause. Jesus looks at him and the book of Mark tells us Jesus "loved him." Then, the God-man turns all of the self-righteousness and rule seeking on it's head, and as if he has looked straight into the very personal heart of this seeker, he turns the rich man's question from "what must I do?" to "Who do you love?" Jesus asks the man to give up every. thing. he. has.

"One thing you lack, sell everything you have and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." A personal invitation to walk alongside the real, living Jesus, to come and to follow. But the rich man heard Jesus asking for too much. He went away sad. He could not possibly imagine such sacrifice for a Savior he ultimately did not love.

The greatest commandment, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, is quickly followed by loving your neighbor as yourself but the second cannot authentically happen without the motivation of the first. And all the do-gooding in the world cannot make up for a lack of love.

The questions we need to ask ourselves is not so much, "what must I do?" but "who do I love?"

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Red Coat for Fashionrut Funday!

Last year on my blog, I gave away a sweet Aztec print Roxy coat, to the first reader who chose to sponsor a child at My Father's House in Uganda. So naturally, this year I needed a new coat! I found this cherry red one for $20 at Plato's Closet, an awesome resale clothing store in Fayetteville, AR.  

These perfect yellow-brown suede boots were even less!

Could I have gone out and spent $100 on a new coat this year? Sure, but instead I have a different goal in mind. I've been researching extreme poverty in the world. Did you know that in the last generation, because of the hard work of charitable organizations like Compassion International, the amount of people living in extreme poverty has been CUT IN HALF! This means the amount of people starving every day and dying of easily preventable diseases has been CUT IN HALF! Isn't that amazing? What will this new generation accomplish? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could eradicate extreme poverty in the world?   

Today the 138 million people who claim to be Christians living in the United States of America make a combined income of 2.5 trillion dollars a year. If we could all choose to be just 1% more generous towards the helping the poor with our money, think of the impact! That 1% alone would add up to 25 Billion dollars! That's 25 billion dollars a year! 

So today, I'm posting a picture of me in my cherry red coat and suede boots, and asking you to spend less and choose generosity! 

There is now a new banner on the sidebar of my blog that will take you directly to Compassion International's sponsorship page, and if you sponsor a child from the link in my banner or from here, Compassion will give my own sponsored child, Gabriel in the Dominican Republic, a gift! Isn't that marvelous?! If you sponsor a child, not only will they be released from poverty, they will also have the opportunity to meet Jesus! 

Watch this short powerful video below for a glimpse into the life-changing message of Compassion and be inspired to release a child from poverty in Jesus' name!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

20 Tips for 20 Years of Marriage

1. Love God more than your spouse: God is love and He has shown us how to love by giving his son for us. When we love God in return, he enables us to love supernaturally and our desire to please Him gives us strength we need to love our spouse even in difficult times.

2. Love your spouse: Love is sacrifice, hard work, commitment, intentionality, not just emotion. Love with your hands and feet. Your emotions will follow. 

3. Laugh: Laugh often and much, don't take yourself too seriously or be easily offended.

4. Forgive: living and loving in marriage comes with greater opportunity for hurt as well. Forgive easily and often. Keep no record of wrongs. 

5. Ask forgiveness: admitting where you went wrong is an exercise in humility and repentance. Say "I'm sorry" without defending yourself. 

6. Commit: Commitment starts on day one, when marriage vows are taken and the phrase "til death do us part" is wholeheartedly embraced with no "exit sign" in your mind for the rest of your life. 

7. Initiate Intimacy: Sex is cement, bonding us emotionally, physically, and beautifully together. Make it a habit to not turn down your partner for sex. There is maintenance sex, and gourmet sex. Both are needed.  If you need to turn down your partner, make it your aim to be the initiator the next time, and preferably within the next few days. 

8. Spend less than you make: Money issues are one of the top reasons for divorce and can be the biggest stress in marriage. Live frugally and within your means. 

9. Communicate: This takes carving out adequate time. Communicate every day, but spend additional time weekly to share feelings and thoughts more intentionally and intimately. 

10. Extend simple courtesy: rudeness or lack of simple courtesy devalues and harms your spouse. Simple courtesy builds appreciation and love. 

11. Time away together: take a vacation together yearly even if just one night away from the kids. Make this time for just the two of you a priority. 

12. Multiply: embrace the Biblical view of children as a blessing from God and seek his blessing. Children add tremendous joy, excitement, and opportunity for stretching and growth for parents. Multiplication also happens when couples intentionally invest together in the lives of others. 

13. Honor your spouse in public: make it a practice to never criticize or put down your spouse in front of others. If you feel the need to do so, these are private issues you should make time to discuss carefully with your spouse.

14. Fellowship with believers: Church involvement and fellowship with other believers provides needed accountability and encouragement in marriage.

15. Encourage your spouse's individuality: respect differences and give your spouse freedom and encouragement to pursue their God-given gifts and callings.

16. Guard your heart: your heart belongs to your spouse. Where the mind dwells, the emotions with follow. Don't give your heart away to a job, a "friend", or a fantasy.

17. Speak the truth in love: learn to phrase your words well and exercise a kind tone of voice when speaking truths that are hard.

18. Don't compare: don't compare your spouse to another or your marriage to another. Be content with your spouse.

19. Pick one thing: when the going gets rough, and if you've gotten on a negative path with a view towards your spouse, pick one thing. Find just one thing about them that you admire and appreciate. Focus and dwell on that one thing, thanking and appreciating them for it. Over time, your list will grow.

20. There is Grace: In this fallen world, we are all broken in need of grace. It is only by His grace that we are forgiven, and hearts are healed and empowered to live for more than ourselves. It is by his grace, that marriages last.  Even if you've been broken and hurt by divorce, he will not abandon you. His graces reaches out to you offering hope, healing, love and compassion.

Happy 20th Anniversary to the love of my life, Mr. Tom Graney! Thank you for 20 adventure-filled years!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What's so great about New Life?

Last night after dinner, intending to get some exercise, I slipped on my running shoes and headed down the trail from our house that leads to the main part of camp. Even though we've lived here for over 12 years, I sometimes still can't believe that I get to live at the camp I grew up coming to as a child. Camp seemed quiet and almost empty. Saturday mornings, the campers go home and the grounds rest and become peaceful. I took these pics on my phone. Enjoy a little tour of the sights I get to see on a regular basis on my walks! 
The waterfront is one of my favorite places at New Life Ranch.
The silver bullet (slide) has been around since I was a camper in the mid 80's. Just don't forget to plug your nose when you go down, or you'll experience what it would be like to snort a fire hydrant! There's also a trapeze with rings, a trolley, blob, funky bars, wet willie, and jumping board. The only thing missing from my camper days are the old tire inner tubes! 

My normal walking circuit through the top pasture to the west forty, down into bambi's forest, and finally Micah's trail, leads me right past this refreshing beautiful spillway near the edge of camp. 

It's sad to say that none of the original cabins from when I was a camper in the 80's still exist, but this cute little cabin on the creek edge is adorable. I mean, who wouldn't want their son or daughter to stay here for a week of camp?

This is the original chapel. Lots of memories here of candlelight testimony services on Friday nights. Maybe I was a bit nerdy, but I loved singing and chapel was my absolute favorite part of summer camp as a kid. The nurse and theme banners are just there for check-ins on Sunday. 
Sunday night cookouts by the waterfront here are DA BEST! At least on weeks when it isn't 100 degrees outside!
Fire pit area in front of our new conference center. If you look real close,  you can see the chapel in the distance, which gives you an idea of the size of the grassy ballfield out there that I didn't get a good picture of. 
I didn't take this yesterday, but here's Westwoods cabins from the island at night. 

Our mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and equip believers for ministry. I can't think of a better place to do that. And lest you think that NLR is as quiet as pictured in the above photos, watch this little video here: 

For a brief and powerful history of New Life Ranch, there's also this. It will make you cry. Speaking of crying, I love books, videos, and articles that make me cry, don't you? 

Friday, June 26, 2015

shabby chic dress

It's been a while since I've posted a fashion find, so I figure it is about time! If you're new to the blog, you might not know this whole thing started out as a fashion blog! I was stuck in a rut, as a mom of five kids, and wearing jeans and t-shirts every day. So I created this little blog and attempted to post what I was wearing every day in an effort to change my ways! Along the way, it became about living frugally, not supporting sweat shops, and shopping resale shops, consignment stores, and wait for it...wait for it....the Goodwill! Here's a cute blue and red flowered dress I found at the Goodwill in our little town. I wore it to a spring wedding, and I often wear it just out and about around our camp. I'm wearing it tonight to our camp's candlelight testimony service. It's been well worth the $3 I paid for it. Living frugally allows us to give more generously and THAT is where it's AT friends!

Sitting on the grass leaning against a tree. I do this all the time. It is SO natural right?
 I've clearly run out of ideas for camera poses! 

And just to show that everything looks better with a filter and in black and white, here you go!
No crows feet around my eyes at all here ladies! :)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Thanking God for Depression

I’m not a doctor. I’m not a counselor or psychologist. I’m just a wife and mother who grieved thru two years of depression, and emerged on the other side….thankful. I will explain why, but first I need to define depression for the purpose of this article. Depression is the inability to find real joy. For whatever reason, be it chemical, spiritual, emotional, or circumstantial, depression settles like a heavy blanket making any hope of finding real joy in life seem completely foreign and unattainable.

I know because I walked the ugliness and pain of depression. About five years ago, seemingly out of nowhere, a dark cloud descended over me. I was blessed with a faithful husband, five beautiful children, and living at a summer camp (the greatest spot on earth), yet years of neglecting my spiritual life, and struggles with doubt, led me to face darkness in my heart I never knew existed. I was burned out and tired and it was a stressful time in life. I gave up trying. I stayed in bed for days at a time. I self-medicated. I escaped online. I was bitter. I was angry. I was selfish. I wasn’t suicidal, but I certainly understood how someone would rather end life, than continue on living that way.

In the middle of my depression, I read something that said, depression is caused by wanting something we cannot have. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” I wanted my own way, my own glory. I know as human beings, we can want lots of things we don’t have: a more satisfying job, a perfect spouse, a nicer house, children, a prettier face, greater intelligence, greater prestige, a more exciting life, acceptance from certain people, physical healing of an ailment, restoration of loss of loved ones and relationships. Some of the time, I didn’t know what I wanted. I just knew I wanted to feel better.

I speculate that the woman at the well struggled with depression. This woman had experienced 5 different husbands. Certainly hope was deferred for her, as she went from one man to the next trying to find joy. But Jesus told her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  Jesus pointed the woman at the well to the only true source of joy in life: himself.

I’m thankful for my depression because through it I learned to find joy in Him alone. In the midst of depression, I ceased to find joy in my earthly life. I no longer felt joy in watching my children play. I lost joy in my marriage. Every source of joy in my life seemed to be taken away from me. I spent two years, struggling and as I began falling flat on my face at the feet of Jesus, He slowly began to reveal Himself to me. Lewis Sperry Chafer, in He that is Spiritual, explains that when we are seeking God, we do not get more of God, he gets more of us. As I sought him, I relinquished more and more pieces of myself that He wanted. I wrote in my journal, “The Lord uses our struggles to empty us of ourselves. When we realize we cannot overcome it on our own, we must die, and He must live in us. How do I practically do this? The only thing I know of is hours spent seeking Him, renewing my heart, mind, and thoughts.”

Here I am…emerged on the other side of the dark, lonely valley of depression. I gave up. I handed Jesus my bruised, broken heart. I said, “This is it Lord. It’s all I have, it’s not very pretty, but it’s yours.” He performed a miracle. He transformed it to be whole again. I have peace. I have hope. I find myself now in a completely different place, incredibly thankful for the great blessings of my life, my husband and children. Because I learned joy in Him, I am even greater able to rejoice in them. Whereas before, my family was my greatest source of joy, my greatest joy now is Christ. I am forgiven, free, and healed and I feel incredibly privileged to be called his child.

Please don’t misunderstand and think that I am claiming that depression is only a spiritual issue, or always a spiritual issue. I know, for me, it was a combination of things. A doctor discovered I was severely anemic (almost hospitalization level) during this time. Lack of iron in the blood certainly depletes one of energy! I also think there were hormonal things at work for me. If you struggle with depression, please don't neglect getting help from professionals. But also, whatever the cause, depression can still be the catalyst that points us towards a deeper relationship with Christ. I love the Psalmist’s cry, “My eyes are ever on the Lord. For only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish.” (Psalm 25:15-16) Because of my depression, I learned to cling to Jesus. There are days, I actually miss the way I needed him in those moments when my depression was crushing. I look back and see that He was good and faithful through it all and I give thanks…even for depression.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Why I quit homeschooling

I never thought it would happen to me. I’m not a quitter. But, after six years of homeschooling, I found myself at the spring curriculum fair, walking through aisle after aisle thinking “Where is the booth for people who JUST WANT TO QUIT homeschooling?” Since I couldn't find one, instead I bought my entire curriculum for the next year, packed it in my car, and drove home. We started the fall semester and by January, we enrolled my four school-aged children in our local public school. It was like sending everyone to Kindergarten on the EXACT SAME DAY. I drove straight to a moms-in-touch group, and cried silently through the entire prayer time.

Back when my first child reached preschool age, I could hardly wait to crack open the complete preschool curriculum package my husband had given me as a present for my 30th birthday. My daughter and I spent precious hours every afternoon as the babies were sleeping, snuggled together on her bed, reading out of children’s book treasuries, the Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit, The Lion Storyteller Book, then working on writing her letters, numbers, and learning the sounds. I loved opening up the world through stories and giving her a Biblical world view. I wanted her to see Christ in history, science, and literature. I wanted to open her eyes to God’s incredible creation through studying seasons, and stars, and butterflies. We read about brave missionaries’ incredible adventures of faith around the world. I delighted as each of my children became school age, and we could all sit and read together. It thrilled me to see after weeks and months of monotonous sounding out of words, they finally began reading independently and fluently. I wanted to be there for every minute of learning, and to give them the same passion for life and learning that God gave to me. We stayed up late to chart the phases of the moon. We dressed up as pilgrims and snuck to a “secret church” through the woods at night. I wanted family closeness that happens when you share day to day life together. I wanted AWE and WONDER and creativity and exploration outside.

While it was beautiful, it was also sometimes hard. Days when the kids fought too much, days when they didn't listen, days when our schedule flopped, and not enough math happened. Days when homeschooling didn't look like my ideal. But if it were just these things, I think I could have pressed on. But there was more. In the midst of all my DOING, I forgot about sitting. SITTING AT THE FEET OF JESUS. Knowing Him and letting Him guide me. Because I drifted away from him, I wasn't close to him, and I couldn't feel him, I began to doubt his very existence, FOR YEARS. Doubt gave way to anxiety, and depression, and then just ugly selfishness. While everything looked okay on the outside, I became inside someone I hardly recognized. I sometimes stayed in bed all day, neglecting responsibilities, and escaping my stressful life. Finally, I had to admit to myself what my husband had already seen: I needed to heal, and to facilitate that, we decided the kids needed to be in school. As my husband put it: I needed a sabbatical.

While I’d love to be able to say that the semester my four children attended school was the semester God reached down and healed my heart, I can’t. He did. Eventually. But that part came later. But I can say that we learned some incredible things when the kids went to school. A friend asked me to evaluate what I was teaching my children by sending them to school. "Besides that fact that their mom is a failure?" I asked. But this dear friend helped me to realize the positive side. Were they not learning to face their fears? Having never been to school before, my older two daughters were slightly terrified. I hate to admit it, but we actually bribed them with new backpacks to get them to agree to go. To face new challenges? My oldest daughter, who very timidly stepped onto the green grass headed towards her classroom in the back of the school emerged triumphant as six girls crowded around her after school. To interact with other children from so very different backgrounds? My other daughter, whose classmates used foul language and stole from each other. To be brave? To show love to classmates who may never have heard the story of Jesus? We talked each night and we prayed for protection, for learning, and for classmates and teachers. Being in the school allowed us to interact with our community, one of the poorest in our state. My girls saw for the first time, how blessed and privileged they are to have the things we do, and to have parents who care, and love and engage. One year we had the opportunity to bring a classmate of our daughters into our home for four months, caring and walking thru difficult things with her while her mother was in jail. It gave our family an avenue to focus a little more outward where before we were mainly focused towards ourselves.

At the end of that first semester, two of my children really wanted to homeschool again. I missed homeschooling terribly. I missed having my children at home with me. My teacher’s heart isn’t satisfied unless I am passing along nuggets of truth and wisdom to the next generation. I long to work on Deuteronomy’s command to “impress them (God’s commands) upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” While parents of children at home or in school can do this, maybe because I am lazy I just found for me it is easier to have all day to work on it!  And so now we are what I call a “blended family.” Currently two are in school and the other three I teach at home. It is a good balance for me and while I think that my heart will always be with homeschooling, but I have also seen the benefits of sending them out. Sometimes, it isn't either homeschooling, or public school. God has called our family to both right now.


Friday, April 3, 2015

The Secret Life of Grandma Smitty

Grandma and Grandpa in their first house in the tribe in Ojitlan, Mexico. 
          As I write this, my dear sweet grandmother is facing her last days. Three weeks ago on her 91st birthday, she had what we first thought was a mini stroke. But as the days in the hospital passed, grandma’s body grew weaker and weaker and she became less and less alert. Today, she was moved out of the hospital into a hospice facility and we all are painfully aware that the time she has left on this earth is very short, though the impact she will leave is far from small. Allow me the privilege of sharing with you about this pioneer missionary woman’s fascinating life and commitment to God’s heart for the world. She and my grandfather, probably more than any other people in this world have given me a picture and a legacy of what a heart for the world looks like.
           My grandparents met in their mid-twenties at a Wycliffe Bible Translators Conference. She was planning to head to Peru as a single missionary, and he was headed for Mexico. Grandma remembers a fellow with a crew cut and heavy dark rimmed glasses who was wearing Mexican Huarache sandals that squeaked with every step as he walked about the back of the room. She wondered, “What is wrong with that guy? Can’t he just sit still and listen?” Little did she know that after just a few conversations with Paul, she would then receive a letter after the conference from him proposing marriage! My dear adventurous grandmother agreed to let Paul come up from Texas to Arkansas for a visit where they could discuss their possible future together. Little did she, or her mother know, that Paul had packed his suitcase and intended to move in until he received an answer! She said yes, and just two months later they were married, and less than a month later they entered Mexico headed to one of the most difficult tribes in the jungles of Mexico for Bible translation work!
There they built a small dirt floored house, and later carried their two twin babies through the rugged  jungle trails to live in that house. A dresser drawer served as a baby bed and the babies were hung in little hammocks in the house during the day. Translation work in Mexico continued while grandma kept having babies, 6 in all! They opened their lives and their home to the Chinantec, even welcoming an additional child into their home for a while who was dying of tuberculosis. Grandpa also served as an official Wycliffe photographer during these years, travelling throughout Central and South American and Vietnam taking pictures and video for the organization. I think of grandma holding down the fort with six little children in Mexico while grandpa went on all of his adventures! What a capable and brave woman she was! Finally, my grandparents finished their translation project in 15 years without the aid of computers!
Grandma with Elena, who died of Tuberculosis.
        Leaving the tribe, my grandparents saw that though they had translated the Bible for the tribe; very few people could actually read it. So, they began recording Scriptures on cassette tape so that listeners could hear the gospel. They founded Bible Translations on Tape, and these recordings were made in many different languages and were sent all around the world. When Grandpa realized that batteries for cassette players were expensive and a hindrance to spreading these tapes, he determined to solve this problem as well and in 1974 invented the crank cassette player. At one time, Grandpa literally travelled around the world promoting the Bible translations on Tape and the crank cassette, leaving from the East coast of Florida, travelling to Ghana, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, and landing on the West coast in California.
Now, I’ve heard the stories, and I have read my grandparents biography, but you see, I didn’t know them when they were the young adventurous missionary travelers that they were. I knew them simply as Grandma and Grandpa, who lived in a small 1,200 square foot home in Cedar Hill, Texas. Grandma liked to garden, while Grandpa took a few pictures here and there, and introduced me to the Narnia books. Their life was simple and frugal. In the 36 years, I visited them in that house, the dining room table with metal chairs covered in pleather never changed. We would cram all 19 family visitors into their little house and around the table for grandma’s always famous chicken tortilla casserole. Grandma kept a little plastic bucket next to her sink where all the vegetable peels and scraps went and were later dumped out into the garden as compost. Right on the prominent wall where the dining table was, there hung a humongous map of the world, the kind nobody would think of hanging in a home, a church maybe, but not smack dab in the middle of the dining area. Nobody but my grandparents. It was covered in missionary pictures that were tacked onto the countries where they lived. It was prominent in their home, and prominent in their hearts. Conversation around the dinner table often revolved around God’s work around the world, current events and future prophesy, missions work and the gospel. There was no mistaking it, this was my grandparent’s heart, and I and my siblings saw it so clearly. When the Cowboys weren’t playing, world news broadcasts were almost continually on the television, as my grandparents watched the happenings of the world from their little living room, anxious to see God’s plan for world time events unfolding. Even after my grandfather died, and my grandmother moved in with my parents, my children told me, “Grandma loves world news, Mom.”
My grandfather passed away almost 5 years ago. He fought Parksinson’s disease for years, and when he finally ended up in the hospital hooked up to a few machines, at one point he woke up enough to know what was going on. He insisted the machines be removed. He wasn’t afraid to die, and confident that we are living in the last days, as he told the pastor and family present goodbye, he also told them he knew he would see us all “real soon.”
As Grandma struggles now in her hospital bed, I hate to see her suffering there. It is almost Easter. My grandmother loved Easter egg hunts. I remember that whenever we visited around Easter, Grandma always made sure her grandkids had a proper Easter egg hunt. I always thought it a bit funny for someone so “spiritual” to be so consistent in making sure the Easter egg hunt was a success. She was hiding plastic colorful and real dyed Easter eggs for us even when we were teenagers, and just a bit too old for it. But I wasn’t going to tell her that! It makes me smile. I know she firmly believes the promise of the resurrection, and that gives me hope.
When I went to see her a few days after her initial stroke, she was unable to eat, unable to move very much and barely able to awaken. I sat beside her on the bed, and told her, “Grandma, I had a dream last night that you were jumping up and down and laughing on the bed!” She opened her eyes at me and whispered, “I just might surprise you.” Oh, my ever witty grandma, how I love you! I hope that this Easter, you will be jumping up and down for joy in the presence of Jesus! Thank you for passing your heart along. We will ever remember and be grateful.

Postscript: I went to see my grandmother yesterday; I thanked her for her incredible life and example, and told her that I loved her. I don’t think I knew it was possible until last night to shed tears of both joy and sadness at the same time when I heard she went to be with Jesus. She is seeing her Savior face to face and I am so happy for her.  

Grandma just after she spoke to me.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

About Me

Hi, I'm April. 

Wife, mother, child of the King!

I've been blessed beyond imagination. As a child, I experienced the love of Jesus in a little valley in the foothills of the Ozark mountains at a summer camp called New Life Ranch. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would be living there with my husband and five children. While life is often crazy and loud, some of my favorite times have been sitting on my little back porch in the woods sinking into Scripture and talking with Jesus. I fought a 6 year battle with doubt, anxiety, and depression. Those time on the back porch were crucial. And through it I learned to love my Savior more than I ever dreamed possible. The mission of our camp is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and equip believers for ministry. I can think of no greater personal mission for myself as well. 
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I love writing. I've wanted to be a writer since I was a child and created my own little neighborhood newspaper and charged 5 cents a copy for it. Some seasons in life are busier than others, and while I was having babies every other year, and changing diapers for 10 years straight, not a lot of writing got done! But my children are getting older, and don't stick their hands in the toilet or dump out all the sugar when I am not watching anymore, so I've been given the gift of a little bit more time to put to writing all the things the Lord has been teaching me over the years. 

I love to laugh. When I married my husband, people said to me, "Life sure won't ever be boring for you!" He actually likes to count the times he makes me laugh in a day. My kids make me laugh too, when I am not getting caught up too much in the laundry, or fixing meals or telling them to clean their rooms. 

I like running, sort of, not really. But it makes me seem a little more cool, so I'll put that one down here. Actually, one of my best friends in high school and I always went out for the first day of track at school and then quit every year. At least I learned something from it when the coach told me to keep my head straight instead of swinging it back and forth while I ran! He probably should have told me not to swing my arms as well, but you know, one thing at a time!  I'm proud to say that I've run a grand total of 6 5k's in the last few years, so I'm pretty happy about that. 

Well, that's probably enough about me for now. If you are reading all the way to the end of this, I'm hugely impressed! Yay! Welcome to my blog! Let's be friends.