Sunday, May 7, 2017

Becoming a Family of Four

A Reflection....On Parenthood

I was awake during the C-Section.  It seemed like the operation took forever.  I was dying to meet my new little boy and couldn't wait to feel him in my arms and express my love for him.

One of the joys of welcoming a new baby into the world is simply embracing him and pondering the miracle of his existence.

As I counted Evan's fingers and toes, examined his nose and the shape of his face, then determined the color of his eyes and hair, I considered how he was intentionally "knit together" by His Father in heaven and praised God that Evan was "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:13,14).

Holding my new son for the first time is a feeling that is so difficult to describe.  It's absolutely wonderful - like going home after being away for a long time, or like a meeting someone for the first time even though it seems like you've known him forever.

It has also been so much fun to watch Elliot interact with his little brother.  Elliot has been pretty interested.  He asks to hold him (which usually lasts for a few seconds), likes to help change diapers and is often concerned for Evan when he cries.

I don't think our experience is unique.  I'm sure these thoughts, feelings and experiences come up whenever a new life comes into the world.  But, they are new to us, and they sure are special!  

One of the challenges of becoming new parents again is recognizing the fragility of this little life that I hold in my hands and how completely he will depend on me to love him unconditionally, to provide for him and to teach him The Way to go.

I have found myself thinking so much lately about parenthood.  The first year or more of parenthood seemed to be mostly about loving and providing.

Now with Elliot, we are definitely into the teaching and character forming stage.  With this stage, things have gotten a little more challenging, and I suspect it will not get easier as the years go on.

In my reflections about parenthood, my thought pattern always ends with the same two things - nothing earth-shattering - but important reminders.
  1. Our words, actions and reactions, the decisions we make, and the example we set impact our children more than most of us want to recognize, and
  2. If I truly want to positively influence my children, I must be wholly dependent on and completely soaked in the grace and wisdom of God because this parenthood stuff is just not something I can ever do well on my own strength and knowledge - no matter how hard I try.  

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."  John 15:5

My Life Has Changed

Another thing that has been challenging for me since becoming a mother has been accepting the changes in my lifestyle.  Before kids, I loved the time I was able to devote to reading my Bible, reading, praying, reflecting and just being still in God's presence.  I never imagined that there would be a time in my life that I wouldn't get to do this every day.

I realize now that BK or "before kids" I didn't appreciate the fact that I could complete a whole list of things in a single day or how easy it was to get out and serve others in the community.  

I don't want to go into the details of how I spend my time now verses how I spent my time before kids, and make a list of complaints.  Most understand that caring for children and running a household takes a lot of time and energy.  When I didn't have kids, I was able to pour my time and energy into other things - things I wanted to do, when I wanted to do them.  Now, my time is not my own.  There are little ones who depend on me to help them meet their needs and desires.

Though it's been 2+ years since I've become a mother, it's still a challenge for me to joyfully accept this change in my lifestyle.  I'm an achiever, so it feels so good to me to be able to get lots of things done in a day.  In the same way, it's often discouraging when I don't seem to get anything done.

Again, none of this is rocket science.  Billions of mothers before me have had the same experience and mothers after me will also struggle with this change.  Though, this is where I am in the journey.

In a Bible study on joy that I did with a friend not too long ago, we read this quote from Oswald Chambers that really impacted me, "Beware of spending too much time looking back at what you once were when God wants you to become something you have never been." 

When I read this, I thought, "A mother is certainly something I have never been before!"  Perhaps through motherhood, God is teaching me and shaping me.  I have the privilege of knowing some women who overflow with the love of God.  Joy, peace and godly wisdom seem to spill out of them constantly.  They have an intimate relationship with Christ that only comes through years of pursuing Him, through trials and tears, trusting Him and experiencing His love and faithfulness over and over again, day in and day out.  These women truly are a treasure, but they did the hard work of holding on to Jesus through it all.

Maybe this is the "something you have never been" that God wants me to become.  Instead of looking back and reminiscing on the freedom I had when I was single, I need to pray for the grace to continue to seek Him and follow His ways in the ups and downs of daily life now as a mother.

It is an absolute delight to hear my son laugh and sing and count (even if he thinks he has 3 hands), and it is a privilege to spend my day teaching him to be kind to others, put on his shoes and catch a baseball.  I just find that I have to remind myself regularly that all this is ministry, too, and that these things I do as a mother (perhaps more importantly how I do these motherly things) matter too.

One of the joys of motherhood is realizing that though it may look and feel very different than it did "before kids," God can and will still use me to impact others for Christ, starting with my kids.

Family Ministry Opportunities 

A friend of mine, who was a missionary for many years in Africa, wrote to me when he learned we were expecting another child.  He said that some of their most powerful ministry in Africa happened through relationships they formed because of their kids.

I have been praying lately that God would use us - our family of four - and the way we live and love each other, to bless others and point them to Christ.

When I look around, it doesn't take long to notice how much hurt there is here in the Dominican Republic in large part due to a breakdown in the family system.  Note: I'm not judging those who have divorced or given up their children to adoption.  Life is complex.  I'm simply observing that when these things happen, people - mother, father and children - experience deep hurt, while God's intention for us in these relationships was for us to experience deep unconditional love.   In this country it is difficult to find a man who has been married to only one woman or children who have grown up with both of their parents in the home.  Even in the church, pastors can count on one hand the number of entire families who attend church together on a Sunday - mother, father and children.  All of this makes for many hurting people.

This is significant because hurt people often hurt others, continuing the cycle of hurt down through the generations.  There are thousands and thousands of people living and dying and never experiencing the incredible love God has for them.  Christ can bring healing, restoration and hope, and can stop this cycle.  Instead of hurt, people can experience joy and freedom in Christ.

We as a family have an opportunity here to be an example in our neighborhood, to the youth with whom we are working and to many others in this country who are watching us.  I pray that by God's grace our family will love each other and others well through the joys and struggles of life, so that those who are watching would see something different in us -- Christ's unconditional love.  I hope that seeing this love will cause them to enter into a relationship with God where they can experience the love and acceptance that perhaps they have been looking for in all the wrong places.

This sounds nice, right?!  It's a great plan - but for it to actually happen will take intentionality, lots of grace, forgiveness, love, patience and help from God -- every single day.  Your prayers are a key ingredient, too.  Thank you so much for praying.  God bless!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

CBSI graduation - pictures

Community Bible Study International - A graduation ceremony

On December 13th, we gathered to recognize those who have completed these CBS studies of Nehemiah, Ephesians, Acts and Daniel from the church: Iglesia Misionera de Cristo in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.


Sharing their understanding

There were representatives from each class who stood up and spoke about something they learned in the class that was really helpful to them in their relationship with God.





There was a special dance group that led us in worship at the ceremony as well.
 
I was asked to be the speaker for the event. 

 Certificates



The Men's Class

Women's Class #1

Women's Class #2

Children's Class

They even presented a plaque to Joselo and I, thanking us for the work we
do in the Dominican Republic!
What a treat!
It was a rainy day, so we didn't have a perfect turn out, but it was great to see all of the people who are learning and growing through God's word.

Christmas Retreat - pictures

A Christmas Retreat 

A friendly game of soccer -- only a few people got hurt!
Oh, how they laughed!

Evaluating our work in 2016 - Sharing ideas and setting goals for 2017






The Gala


















Back to work on day 2


Belkis gave an inspiring reflection reminding us how important it is that we stay connected
and "filled up" if we want to be able to pour into others.  




Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Opening a New Site for Children's Ministry

On October 1st 2016, the ministry J√≥venes Educando con la Verdad opened a new site for ministry at the church in El Seybo.  The ministry now works in six communities every week.  Praise God!



With the addition of the El Seybo ministry, we also adopted four new youth to the team and 50+ children attended class the first day.  It was a great turn out especially considering the rain that day.



Pictured above are the four new members of the ministry team.  These youth live in El Seybo and are leaders in their church.  We will be sending two members of our team to El Seybo each week to support them, coach them and take them through the discipleship class called Foundations written by Vince Vaughan.






I don't see the classes every week now that I live in Santo Domingo, but I had the opportunity to be present for the opening of this new site.  I was blown away by the growth of the current ministry leaders -- they have grown so much!  They delivered a dynamic lesson that included props and action and energy.  The students were so engaged and excited to be learning.  I was very proud of them!





They also had a craft prepared that was appropriate for all ages and well-prepared.  The students couldn't wait to get their hands working and the leaders were kind and patient.


Praise God for opening the door for us to minister to another group of children.  This is 50+ kids who will have the opportunity to hear the gospel every week, learn more about Jesus, build relationships with Christian role models and get extra practice with their reading and writing skills.  Alleluia!!