Monday, June 30, 2008

A Summer Suprise

After dinner tonight I snuck outside to surprise the kids with this...

Water Balloons for the kids and me. Please excuse my poorly manicured toes.

Let the games begin

There is just something special about summer that brings out the kid in all of us, and I love it! Hope you are enjoying your summer as well.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Slain Lamb

Today at Church our pastor briefly mentioned the picture in Revelations that we are given that describes the entrance of The Slain Lamb and the worship that proceeds witnessing the Lamb. My version (NIV) specifically says

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne... Revelation 5:6

Did you realize that when we view the Lamb, even in heaven we will realize that He was slain. When we gaze upon Him we always remember the cross, the sacrifice He made for me. My husband took this picture while we were in Mexico.

It is an advertisement for an event they had at the church that the medical team was at one day. Trace pointed out what a stark contrast this picture is than the one we usually see, but don't you think this is a better illustration of what He went through. Evidently we are never to forget the suffering that was endured on our behalf, not even in heaven, for when we see Him He will appear as if He had been slain. Everything for all times rests upon the cross. It is important we remember.


Summer is flying by! That is especially sad for me because I will be sending my oldest baby boy off to school in the fall. I have never even sent my kids to full day preschool or anything of the such so this feels like too much time away. Regardless I know that the time is right and I know the Lord will be with him whether I am or not, so I try not to worry and I try not to be sad (the reality is that I do a little of both). Anyways, I got on here to post some pictures that I have been meaning to post for a while. We have enjoyed all the water fun this summer, including fun at a local sprayground, the slip n slide in the front yard, the pool, and the baby pool in our back yard. Here are some new pictures of the fun. Enjoy!

This boy loves the water and just crawls all over the place.

I love this open mouth shot.
The good 'ole slip n slide. Look at that action shot.
Little Miss Dainty (for a second)

This is the first time Andrew discovered this classic red car. He just loved it...if only his sister would get out of the way.
We just celebrated Lauren's 3rd Birthday. She is the one in the pink shirt, bored of all the pictures. This is the only attempt of a picture with all my kids and all my brothers kids.
Cousin Lynsey, Rebecca, and Aidan.
Happy, Happy Birthday Little Lauren. I was remembering coming to the hospital to see you with little Rebecca on my shoulder when you were born. It is amazing how time flies and life changes. You add to our family and we were happy to celebrate you! Happy Birthday!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Our Tree

I sat outside on my porch today for nearly an hour. I just sat their, still, quiet. I felt like the Lord was beckoning me to just stop and be for a while, so I grabbed a book (that I never even opened) and headed outside while the little kids napped and Aidan played on the computer. As I sat I noticed a tree that stands at least 50 feet tall. If you would have asked me about my yard I would have never mentioned that tree and if I did, I never would have given it a fair description.

Its funny that we have lived hear for over 3 years and I have never really even noticed that tree. We live a newer neighborhood, one of those where they clear the ground completely and start fresh. There aren't very many trees and the ones that are here are not very impressive. You would think I would have noticed a tree this size in my very own backyard, but I missed it. It is especially surprising since it is the very tree that has provided shade and protection from the sun for my kids as they play in their sandbox. It is the tree that has provided hours of entertainment with the limbs that it has dropped. Limbs that become impressive swords in the hands of a five year old boy. It is also the very tree that has caused that corner of our yard to remain void of grass because of the shade that it provides.

As I sat there, watching the wind gently blow through the leaves and I looked at the limbs that stretched upward I wondered how much more do I miss? How much of God do I fail to see in the busyness of life? How often do I fail to recognize the majesty of my maker? How long did He sit ready to be noticed, beckoning me with His gentle and not so gentle whispers to take note and look up? Now that I do know Him, now that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, how often do I fail to see His hand in my life? How much of Him do I miss because I don't take the time to stop and be still?

While I was outside there was this bird. It seemed to almost circle me as it jumped from tree to tree to tree. The bird had about 4-5 different tunes it could sing and it proudly chirped them all. I was awed by the Lord's creation. I sat still and I witnessed this bird singing praises to our Lord while this tree danced for God as the wind blew and I could do nothing else but join in with all of creation and praise my Father! And in that moment it was clear to me that I, as a Christian, am simply missing so much.

I wonder sometimes how people can deny a God. How can they not see a God so majestic? How can they hear of Him and not worship Him? Today God showed's as simple as failing to notice the gigantic tree that your kids play under nearly everyday. In the busyness of life it is easy to never stop long enough to notice. I mean they may know He is there, they may even talk to Him or talk about Him on occasion, but do they know Him? Do they recognize how Big He is? I knew that tree was there, but I had never recognized the grandeur of it. I had never sat there, knowing my smallness and admiring its size.

Today, I wept. I wept for the person who may claim to know God, but because they don't understand how big and trustworthy God is and just how small and incapable they are, they miss freedom, they miss peace, they miss rest, and comfort, and true purpose. I wept for the person who has never even met God, who does not even realize that He really is there and He really is Good. And today I wept for myself. I wept because even though I know my Lord, so often I miss Him. I miss opportunities to worship Him. I get caught up in me, I get tired, and weary. I forget just who it is I know. I fail to realize just how big He is.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mexican Church and the Fiesta

Things in Mexico moved much slower and even though we were only there for a week I feel like I have been a step behind the American pace since we returned. We did without Cell Phones, computers, and TV for a week and it was such a gift. We were surrounded by beautiful faces and I never missed the modern conveniences...not even for a second. I have spent a little time wondering how to fit this blog, email, phone calls, and all the other busyness back into my life. One thing that I have realized for sure is that I often choose to make myself unavailable to my kids in different ways that may just be wrong. I mean in Mexico the times that I was unavailable to my children were times that I was involved in serving others or simply being with other people. I never said no, mommy really needs to send this email or spend time on the computer. I do not think that my kids need to get all their wants met immediately or that they need to be entertained all the time, but I have been challenged to really evaluate the messages I send when a computer screen is more of a priority than they are. All this to say that I have struggled to find time for blogging and so I apologize I have been slow to upload pictures from our trip.

I am going to try to work my way through part of our time in Mexico with the help of pictures. The first night that we were there was really just about getting set up for the week. We spent time exploring the Children's Home property and we played a bit with the kids that lived there. The minute that we arrived both Andrew and Rebecca were whisked away from Trace and I and carried around by some of the girls that lived at the Children's Home. Andrew was all smiles, Rebecca was a little surprised to be carried around and called baby. Eventually we rounded up our kids and unloaded our stuff. We found a corner in the girls side with 2 beds side by side and a place to put the playpen. I am not sure how excited my roommates were to have 2 small children right next to them, but they acted pleasant. Trace and Aidan also found a bunk over on the boys side and got situated.

On Sunday morning we woke up and had a small worship service of our own. We hung out most of the day, setting up the room for VBS, and setting up for the carnival. Three families that had never made the trip before got to go that evening to a small Mexican church. It was one of the churches that would host the medical team that week. This was one of the highlights of my trip. We followed the pastor to the church and he left us there, mentioning something about a translator. We waited at the church for about 30 minutes for the pastor to get back, not really sure what was going on. I spent that time looking around outside the church, wanting desperately to be able to speak to the small children I saw outside playing and the lady I saw hand washing clothes outside in a tub. I wanted to walk the streets and invite the people to join us for church (of course I couldn't since I speak no Spanish - hence the desire to learn Spanish).

This is the small blue church we were at and those of us who got to go.

This is a picture of the neighborhood where the church was at. This church was planted in this neighborhood to reach the people who live here.

There was something invigorating for me being out in the community with these people, being near their homes, wanting to know about their lives. This is one of the few times in my life that I can say I have really forgotten about me and wanted desperately to be a vessel of God's love. Wanted just to be with these people, for no gain to myself. I mean I go to church at home and for the most part that is not about me, but it so easy for me to switch into the mentality of wanting to meet the right people that will be a blessing to me in my life, that I can learn from or maybe even wanting to look right and impress someone. I don't go with a heart 100% desiring to serve others and be a vessel to be used by God. I don't even go 100% with a heart to worship God and allow Him to teach me. I mean that is a huge part and I do love to worship with other believers, but how quickly do my pure desires get infested with my own sin.

The Pastor returned and they sang a few songs and the pastor preached a short message on Psalm 91. It was such a privilege to get to hear the word of God spread in another language. It just put and exclamation point behind the idea of how small I am and how vast our God is. Not only is His name preached in Mexico and in Spanish but all over the world. What a mighty God we serve!

Here are some more pictures from our time at the church:

This is a picture of one of the families at the church. The boy the father is holding was brought in a wheel chair because he cannot walk. They returned later in the week to the medical clinic and learned some exercises to help the boy with his stiffness. The picture above is of their baby and Rebecca. The mother was fascinated with her and her blonde hair and asked to have a picture with her and the baby. They also wanted a picture of Rebecca with their family. I am going to attempt to get these pictures to this family.
This is the pastor greeting this family. It was such a privilege to get to meet such a servant of the Lord. He does the evangelism work for 40 churches in Mexico and preaches here. He quit his job as a radio DJ and occasionally picks up shifts to make ends meet. He is truly in love with our Lord.

After church we returned to the Casa Hogar to the carnival that was already in process. Our kids had a great time at the carnival and Andrew was given his very first sucker by Shannon and Stacy (they were so sweet to watch Andrew for us while we went to church). I think he is a little fond of them now. It was fun to watch the kids run around and enjoy themselves and ask for many pictures. It is so cute how they enjoy having there picture made and then looking back at the screen. Here are a few highlights from the carnival.
See the smile and the sucker in his hand...I think he liked it!

Well, I was hoping to cover more than two days, but I think the rest of the week may be easier to complete. I will try to get to it soon.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

About Casa Hogar

Casa Hogar is the Children's Home that we stayed at in Mexico. I hope that this post along with a few pictures gives you a feel for Casa Hogar. It is full of small "homes" that the children stay in. They have a boys side and a girls side complete with a play area for the girls and one for the boys. Each home has a set of house parents. Some of the kids that are at Casa Hogar are sent by their family and pay as much as they can, because that is the best way they can provide for their kids. Many of the kids are sent there by the state for various reasons, including living on the streets and being in dangerous situations. This is an amazing place and God has blessed this ministry. I was so impressed with how polite the children were, especially the older boys and girls who had been around for a while and really learned the ropes. The children's home is run by Dr. Comacho and his wife Maria.

Both Dr. Comacho and Maria grew up at Casa Hogar. After completing the program they decided to get married and Dr. Comacho went on to medical school. They later returned because they had a heart for this place. They have three children of there own and live daily with the 180 children that are at Casa Hogar. They live out love, grace, and hope. They live in one of the small homes just like the children. They exude light and kindness. I was so touched by this story. I was so touched to know that the Lord placed Dr. Comacho in this place to raise him to be a leader for Him and to point these children to Jesus Christ and Dr. and Mrs. Comacho are faithful to do this. These kids are learning the word of God. His truth is being planted in their hearts. I may get this number wrong, but I was told that 40% of the children who complete their time at Casa Hogar and graduate will go into the ministry. Many others go on to receive secondary education. The children's Home partners with local churches to spread the name of Jesus Christ to those who live around them. It is a powerful ministry and it was a privilege to get to see it up close.

This is Casa Hogar when you first enter. It is wonderfully maintained, has lots of space and is really a safe haven for the kids here and those who visit.
This is a picture from the girl's side of Casa Hogar. The yellow buildings you see are some of the houses and they surround a courtyard/play area.
This is the girls play set.
And who can forget the pigpen. Some of the boys help take care of pigs to help raise funds for the children's home.
And this is one of the scary, huge pigs that eagerly greets you when you enter the pigpen.
Did I forget to mention the chicken coop?

And I just love this picture. It shows the new, large cafeteria that also serves as a meeting hall and a place to hold church. It is nice, but don't be is still very hot in here. Central heat and air is not a luxury they have. We Americans sweated it out during our movie night and dinner that we had here. The large field you see is where many of the boys spend much of there free time guessed it, Soccer.
And I wanted to let you know that I was looking around on the website for Casa Hogar today and I found places and info about how you can help. They do have a program that allows people to sponsor children and support this ministry in various ways. Check it out!
I will post some other more fun pictures of the kids in the days to come and give you a better idea of what our days were like. A little at a time, but I will get to it. And just in case you want more info and don't feel like waiting go check out Shannon's blog and see what she has had to say so far. She gave a brief day by day recap of our trip.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why Speak Spanish?

Well, I did it! I just signed up for my online Spanish class and I am so excited. I really think that it is amazing that I am taking this class. I took 2 years of Spanish in HS and I cheated much of the way through it. I picked up a little of it but never learned much. I have always thought that people who come to America need to learn our language and so I have never really sympathized with people who can't speak English. I have never been to Mexico before last week and I never really cared if I ever went. This was my attitude, so why the change of heart?

I was thinking about this and the only answer I have is that the Lord intervened. Over the past years the Lord has been working on the hearts of my husband and me. He has been making us more sensitive the work He is doing around the world. It started with a desire to financially support a missionary family and it has grown from there. Trace took a class called Perspectives on World Missions last fall simply because he would be able to get graduate credit for the class and he has desired to go to seminary for several years so he thought this was the perfect way to get his feet wet. Credit was the sole motivation and he was recently accepted to seminary to study cross-cultural studies. Isn't that the way the Lord works...he changes our hearts and changes our desires.

Trace and I decided to attend a meeting that the church was having about short term missions. We were interested in going on a trip, but did not really have any specific ideas about what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go, or if it was even feasible. We went to the meeting and the mission trip we just went on was not even mentioned. We asked someone about a family mission trip and a couple who went on the trip 2 years ago overheard us. They gave us a little information, encouraged us that it was possible with small children, and told us how to get in touch with the people heading the trip up. The next thing I knew we were heading to Mexico.

Then in the months to come we had some minor repairs that we needed to have done to our car. The dealership has a driver that they allowed to run me home so that I did not have to wait at the dealership for the car. I got to talking to this extremely kind man as he ran me home and then came back to pick me up. He has been in the States for 30 years and still speaks very choppy English. He talked about how hard it has been for him to learn English, he talked about his family, and then he eventually shared a little with me about his faith. He is a Jehovah’s Witness. I asked if he was before coming here and he told me no. I thought about that a lot. I wondered why that may be true. Jehovah’s witnesses go door to door sharing their faith. They take evangelism seriously. I thought how lonely it must be to be in a new place and not be able to speak the language. I thought about how comforting it might be to have someone come to your door and share concern for you and express kindness. This man also told me that they have a Spanish speaking service as well as an English service. They offer him some comfort. They accept him as he is, as a Spanish speaking person. This man is really likable and just being around him and hearing a little of his story began to change my heart and change my attitude.

Then, the first night that we were in Mexico I layed in bed and cried, praising God for opening my eyes and putting me in that spot. Earlier that evening we had gone out to walk to the store at the children's home. There was a group of girls jumping on the trampoline and they began yelling for Rebecca to come over to them. We walked over and Aidan and Rebecca jumped with them. There was such joy on their faces. They exhibited such beauty and I was overwhelmed by the fact they were God's handiwork, that they were God's children, and that He had hand selected these kids and placed them in this children’s home, where they would hear the word of God boldly proclaimed. I felt like I was getting a chance to look into the eyes of my Father as I looked at these kids. I immediately felt bonded to them and love for them.

God granted me greater love in that moment. I was able to see and experience and hopefully communicate love in a new way. These children were not suffering children in a 3rd world country, they were children of God, blessed to be chosen and called to such a place to hear the word of God taught. So as I spent the next 5 days struggling to communicate with these children and other adults who crossed my path I understood that they were valuable, to me and to the Lord. I wanted so badly to hear there stories, ask about their families, and tell them they were precious to me and the Lord. I was limited in how much I could do that. I am determined to be better at it next year. I am determined to show the driver at the dealership that he is valuable and to try to put him at ease by attempting to communicate with him in his first language. I am determined to share the love of Jesus with any other Spanish speaking people that the Lord chooses to bless my path with. This is so new and different for me that I know this must come from the Lord, who is bigger than all. Who reaches down across languages and works to redeem all peoples! In seeing my limitations, I am able to better see His sovereignty and to love His people. And for me, part of loving His people is valuing them enough to learn a little better how to communicate with them.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Back Home

We made it back to the good ole US of A late Friday night after a wonderful week in Mexico! The trip was fantastic! The kids have already asked to go back to Mexico. I have so much to process and so much I want to share with you all. I have at least 250 pictures to sort through and as I get more time I will eagerly share some of my favorites. The Lord was so faithful and we had no problems crossing the border and a safe trip. The entire team meshed well together and it was a wonderful opportunity to get know a few other families. We even met a family that literally lives blocks from our house. Our family stayed healthy other than some minor car sickness for Rebecca and the kids slept fabulously! Both Aidan and Rebecca made friends with older American kiddos who were able to help keep an eye on them for us.

I did struggle a little with the fact that I was not able to help out all that much with some of the general duties. Having such small kids meant that at most of the cleaning and meal prep times I was busy with them and so I could not help out. Plus I had to ask for help when Trace was not around so I could do some of the fun things like, oh, I don't know... take a shower, use the bathroom, you know those type of things. It was a bit of an adjustment to me to have to accept help like that and be able to offer so little. Being independent and self sufficient has been ingrained in my being and that is a hard thing to change, but it was good for me to be stretched this way, I was just a little surprised by it.

I also left Mexico with a strong desire to learn how to speak Spanish. I have never wanted to learn a foreign language, I just never considered myself to be that cultured. But there is a strong possibility that we will go back to Mexico next year and I am determined to be able to communicate better with the kids and adults that cross my path. I found an online class through a local community college that starts Wednesday and I am seriously thinking about enrolling.

Well, I just wanted to check in and let you know how much I appreciate all the prayer over the past few weeks. The Lord was so faithful and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I think the thing that surprised me the most is how refreshing the week was. I expected to come home exhausted and beaten down, but I did not have that experience. I feel rested. I feel so much more energized by this trip than I ever have from any vacation. I was truly blessed to get to be a part of this trip. I will update you on the details in the near future.

***And on a totally unrelated note I have to share that there is this amazing pizza place out here that just opened. It has a huge indoor play place and a game room. We went out for BBQ tonight at the small family owned place out here and it was closed because they are on vacation (see what I mean by small family owned place) so we went across the street to Texas Pizza. The pizza was good and they serve salad, lasagna, chk spaghetti, and buffalo wings on the buffet also. There isn't much out this way that is better than what you can get in town, but I think this may just be the best Pizza place in the area. Come check it out and let us know when you do...we'll meet you for dinner.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Loaded and Ready!!!

Just one final post before we leave to say goodbye. We plan to do without phones and Internet for the trip so I won't be updating, but I will let you know how it goes when we get back in a little over a week. Please keep us in your prayers!

Survival Equipment

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Final (pre-trip) Mexico Monday

OK, I know that it is Tuesday, but how can I not post (even if it is late)? Our family is leaving early Thursday morning. We will spend a day and half in South Padre at the beach before we meet up with our team to cross the border into Mexico on Saturday and we will head back the following Friday morning. We will be in Matamoros at an orphanage called Matamoros Children's Home. Trace is going to help lead the recreational part of VBS and I will be working with the 3-7 year olds teaching a small group for VBS. We will also have a medical team that works in the community and we hope to both get to go out at least once and help there also (that all depends on the kiddos though). The final part of the trip will be a construction team that will be building some type of pig pen.

I cannot express the level of excitement that I have in regards to this trip. These weeks of preparation and prayer have left me with a sense of eager expectation as I wait to see what the Lord desires to do on and through this trip...not simply for the Mexican citizens that we get to love on, but for all the Americans that make the trip, for my kids, for my husband, and for myself. I just found this verse and it is a perfect expression of what I am feeling. Here are some of the requests I desire to lay before the Lord:

1. Safety for all families as we make the long drive and cross the border. Also, please pray for health and REST (translates to sleep for the kids and parents) for the entire team while we are there.
2. That the team would mesh perfectly and that everyone will see their role. Pray for true christian community and fellowship for our team. Pray also for our family that we will be brought closer together during this time. Pray that we will be able to remain flexible and laid back.
3. Connection with the VBS kids and translators. That the Lord would work in each of their hearts. Pray also that all 3 of my kids and the other kids on the trip will see that they are valuable and can be used by the Lord. Pray for friendships with the Mexican children and lots and lots of laughter!!!
4. That we see the Lords hand clearly and that we return from our trip boldly praising Him for all He is going to do.
5. Please pray for Trace's work. Pray that he is able to reach a stopping point before we leave and is able to get away without leaving loose ends. Pray also for him when he returns. This is an extremely busy time and we will be gone for a week and a half. Pray that he can make a smooth return to work after our trip.

I know some of these are repetitive from previous weeks, but these are the things that are heavy on my heart at this time. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your prayers! I will be so excited to let you know how the Lord answered them when we get back.