Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Meaningful and 'Reminding' Miracle

So, are you ready for a little story (with a personal lesson mixed in)? Yesterday, we hear a knock on our gate and the honk of a motor-cycle horn. Jeff goes out to the gate and comes back in with a manilla mailing envelope with a dear friend's return address in the corner. I open it and inside there is a pink bandana, a necklace/earring set and a little pack of cute notepads. It is a gift for me from this 'dear friend of mine'. I don't know when she sent it...but it did safely arrive yesterday.

The arrival of a package...especially one with jewelry in a miracle! What is even more amazing (and an AMAZING example of God's Love and Provision for not just our needs but our wants as well) is that just the day before, I said to Jeff that I regretted not keeping more of my jewelry....AND....I had thought to myself that same day that I wanted a bandana in which to pull back my hair.

I am continually amazed at how God provides for the little wants in my life. He is a great gift giver...eternally and in the mundane!

This lesson in provision is well-timed (go figure). As we prepare to set up our house next month, I am tempted to covet more than is necessary for a home, as well as, wanting all the perfect little touches to make our home environment perfect. However, the arrival of the bandana and jewelry reminded me that God knows me...He knows the 'wants' in my life and He is more than capable of providing those as He sees fit. It is up to me to receive them graciously which therefore affords HIM the glory.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Window Wednesday - Cropped

When I (Jeff) was a child, my grandfather bought me a subscription to World Magazine (National Geographic for kids). I enjoyed the back cover of the magazine that was entitled "What in the World". It had pictures of ordinary things (like a sunflower), but so tightly cropped, that it was hard to tell what it was. Of course, the answers were written upside-down on the bottom of the page. I have no idea how to do that, so you will have to just scroll down to see the answers. I apologize for the pixely appearance of some pictures, but that is what happens when you crop down 100X.

What in the World?

I am sure you can tell by now.

This little friend of ours wanted to take a shower with me one day. Always look before you step in the shower, and shake your shoes out before putting them on. Good advice...Good advice!

What in the World?

Hint: These feet bring good news. This is the foot of one of our friends.

Our friendly geckos are always welcome visitors because of the insects they eat. However they do surprise you every now and then when they fall on you, or you try to turn a light switch on in the dark, and the jump on your hand.

Oh, someone spilled some rice...probably Noah. "Noah, come here please...did you do this?"...

Oh, wait, that's not rice...

This desk drawer looked like a nice place for a nest.

What it the world?

Ohhh, it looks like a cute little mammal.

It is a cute little mammal, perched on the top of our mosquito net at 2a.m. The sound of it running up the net, with the cat in hot pursuit, woke Bethany up. Guess who got to carry him outside?

I am just now realizing, that if anyone was ever thinking of coming to visit us, they are porbably now reconsidering. Really it is not that bad, and remember from our post last year while in CIT, we name all of our home invaders, so really they are all just pets. We have a home full of pets!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Bit of "Real-ness" from This Clay Jar

I don't know if it has been the increase in beetles that have taken up residence in our home or the frustration over the time it takes to learn a second language...but I have found myself asking the Lord: "Um...Lord, why am I living here?" Everytime I ask, the Lord replies..."Because I asked you to." That usually resets that peace deep in my heart...because I know that there is JOY in obeying the Lord. Obedience and Faith go hand-in-hand. If I say I have faith but I don't obey than my faith is rather empty.

Yet, the fact remains that living here can be challenging. The cultural mistakes we make, the "very different" style of driving, the fact that we have to filter all the water we use, the lack of familiar things in the grocery store (and when we do find them...they are so over-priced that we can't justify buying it)...and a hundred other "little things" that accumulate into a moments of frustration when I find myself asking that "why" question.

That is when it is good to turn to Scripture and read this passage from 2 Corinthians 4:

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies

Yeah, I am "unable" to live here without God's Power. I am "pressed" by cultural differences...but I am not crushed. I am "perplexed" by the conjugation of the past tense verbs in Spanish but I don't need to be driven to despair. I am hunted down by thoughts of 'I can't!' or 'Why?' but God has not abandoned me. I do feel "knocked down" by exhaustion and frustration over learning to drive a stick-shift...but I am never destroyed. The fact that we are here is proof of God's great strength and plan to reconcile all people to Himself. I may be a fragile clay jar...but I do have His light shining in my heart that provides me the peace and strength to live as He has asked.

(Thanks to the staff at C.I.T. for 'making me' memorize this passage of Scripture.)

posted by Bethany

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Window Wednesday

It is officially "winter" here in Nica. Winter is synonymous with "rainy season." The offical first day of winter is May 15. The rain started on May 14th...and will continue into October. Today, just as the kids needed to leave for school, it started pouring! We must be adjusting to the laid back nature of the culture (academically known as a "non-crisis oriented society") because we didn't have raincoats for the kids and only one umbrella. Tomorrow we have plans to search for rain ponchos for the kids. The roads become rivers and at least for this first week of rain--the flying ants take flight! On Sunday, after it had rained...the flying ants created the effect of a snow flurry while we drove to church. Definitely different.

Enjoy a few shots from the rain this morning.

Hanging clothes inside to avoid a second rinse cycle.

The wing from one of the infamous flying ants.

It it is amazing to watch the plants and landscape turn "green" over night!

Tropical Rain

The sun trying to peek through during the downpour.

Thirsty flowers...beautiful in the rain!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Know the Plans

Jeff and I both have several half written, never posted blog 'embryos'. I know, for me personally, I feel a bit maxed out on learning. Perhaps I need to apply previous lessons to current circumstances. However that puts me at a place where I can't effectively communicate in a succinct blog post. But, I'll give it a try....

This past weekend the sermon was on the topic of "purpose". There was one point out of the five that were discussed that resonated with me, in part because it somewhat echoed a line in a favorite song of mine. The point that was made was: God's call and purpose will take me beyond my natural experiences or plans. God's purpose and plan for me personally is quite different than the plans I made for myself long ago before I walked intimately with the Lord. His plans, while at the moment, require a lot of work, are infinitely better than any of the plans I made for myself. I know from Jeremiah 29:11 that God has 'plans for me, plans to prosper me and not harm me, plans that give me a hope and a future.'

The evidence and fact that God, the Creator of the Universe, who holds all things together...made plans and purpose for me....yeah, I'm pretty sure His plans are better.

The song that I mentioned is:
I'm Letting Go by Francesca Basistelli
I’m letting go
Of the life I planned for me
And my dreams
I’m losing control
Of my destiny
It feels like I’m falling and that’s what it’s like to believe

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Window Wednesday

A couple of weeks ago, we met up with a friend from our sending church (Ogletown Baptist Church) who was passing through Central America. We met him in the city of Granada. Granada is rumored to be one of the oldest cities in the Western Hempishere. The city sits on the shore of Lake Nicaragua. Lake Nicaragua is rumored to have 400 lb. bull sharks living in it. The lake is also home to a few volcanos and over 300 islands. It is a beautiful city with brightly colored buildings and cathedrals. Enjoy the glimpes through the photos!

"Sea glass" can be found on the shore...Ella enjoyed looking for and collecting the sea glass.

Some local Nicaraguans swimming in the lake...swimming with the possibility of meeting a shark is not high on our list.

The kids on the shore of Lake Nicaragua.

One of the cathedrals in the plaza of Granada.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Evaporative Cooling

Evaporative cooling: The heat lost by an object by the evaporation of a liquid covering said (Jeff's) loose definition.

Evaporative cooling is a wonderful design. I don´t know about you, but I carry my evaporative cooler with me wherever I go, especially in this heat. However it wasn't working yesterday and I found out why after some troubleshooting.

Yesterday, it was the typical 97 degrees by 7:00am, so naturally I broke out into a sweat from the over-exertion of putting on my shoes. But alas, no cooling occurred with the sweat. I was worried. Maybe my evaporative cooler was broken. I had a brilliant idea...I turned on the floor fan right in front of my face...this should make it work (note, it wouldn't have helped anyways today because the electricity was out during the heat of the day). But alas, my cooler still did not work, even with the fan on high...there was no evaporation occurring!

What do you do when an appliance is broken? Just like you, I Google it. So, I Googled: brokenevaporativecoolerdespitefan. In 0.12 seconds Google found 314,578 possible reasons. The #1 guessed it, Relative Humidity. At 97 degrees with a relative humidity between 70-80%, the heat index is around 115 degrees. There are no evaporative coolers that work in these conditions...I know because after Googling it, I tried to buy one on ... there were none for sale, and if Amazon doesn't have them, then they don't exist.

No surprise, I am dripping sweat as I write this at 10:00pm...and all the readers said "Ewwhh".

Happy evaporative cooling, glistening, sweating, or whatever you want to call it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is not celebrated here in Nicaragua for a few more weeks but naturally, I found myself (Jeff) thinking about and appreciating my mom today. This morning, as I was thinking about my mother, I found myself appreciating a particular value that she holds, and has passed on to me: Obey God, even if it looks harder than disobedience. I was thinking through this lens as I read Joshua 5:14 this morning..."I am at your command." Joshua said (to the Lord). "What do you want your servant to do?"

Growing up, my mother modeled this character trait of "sold out" obedience to the Lord. Without being fully conscience of it, I pursued this same value in my wife. When I describe what I appreciate most about Bethany, this is #1. Bethany will do whatever God asks of her with faith-filled, joyful obedience (this is different than happy-happy-yay-yay obedience, but that is a different blog).

Naturally, this is having an impact on our children. On our morning drive to school, we use the time to "walk" through the stories of the Old Testament. This week we were discussing the poor decisions of some of the kings of Israel, and in particular, their marriages to women that distracted them from obeying God. I was able to quickly point out what their grandmother had taught me...and how I had been attracted to this in their mother...and now I was encouraging them to live this way as well...and to seek spouses with the same value...and to pass it on to their kids...

Do you see here, how my mother is affecting her grandchildren and has the hope of affecting her great grandchildren as well? So, I would encourage you to appreciate those who have been good examples to you, and especially if you are a parent, to be intentional about modeling this type of Godly obedience for your kids as well.

Thank you mom! I love you! Happy Mother's Day

Enjoy a 1970's picture of my mom.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Window Wednesday: It's Raining, It's Pouring....Well Almost.

Rainy season or "winter" is almost upon us here in Nica! By the way...let's define "winter": winter is 95 degrees and raining; as opposed to "summer" which is 95 degrees and not raining. And, actually today we learned a phrase, analogous to "it's raining cats and dogs". It is: "llueven sapos y culebras" (which translated means: It's raining toads and snakes).

Last week, we had an "early" episode of rain and in the city, it even hailed. There was also 2 earthquakes after the freak thunderstorm (we didn't feel the tremors or see the hail, other than the newspaper photos...but we did feel the rain!) Noah enjoyed dancing in the rain. Here are the photos...

The First (that we've seen) Tropical Thundercloud of the Season

Tasting the Rain

Our Gate: Raindrops dripping down...proof that it is indeed raining!

Dancing in the Rain

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I Think I Can...I Think I Can...I KNOW I Can in Christ

Learning is becoming a lifestyle. Sometimes the lessons feel impossible...yet we know there is hope. Here are some examples of the practical application of the hope we find in the verse: "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." (Phil. 4:13)
I (Bethany) drove our vehicle, non-automatic, stick shift vehicle, without Jeff in the car giving me "when to shift" instructions. Okay, so I did take Andrew with me so that I wouldn't be tempted to stop the car, cry and refuse to drive another inch. I made it to my destination and back without stalling and even managed to do a K-turn on a road the size of a grocery store aisle.

When a tree caught fire in the plot of land next to where we are living (due to the practice of slash-and-burn), the neighbors asked Jeff to call the "bomberos" (fire dept.). Why the Spanish-speaking neighbors didn't make the call is still a mystery to us...but now we know we are capable of calling the fire department. Jeff gave them the directions in Spanish. Keep in mind, there are no addresses or street names here. The firefighters did show up to the correct location, put most of the fire out, and came surprisingly quickly!

(by the way...the tree is still smouldering...that's dry season for you!)

Jeff learned that it is possible to set up a surgery suite in the living room. The "nursing staff" is still lacking...but it is possible to remove tumors and other parts without a laser and the other nifty tools that existed in his O.R. in the States.

I did attempt waffles again. It was deliciously successful. It is more fun to make waffles when I can wear the super-cute apron that my friend Shawna made for me.

Yes, there are many things that we feel like we "can't do"...but when you follow God into the place He has called you to be...He equips you to do things that you need to do even when they are new, strange, different and difficult.