Thursday, January 11, 2018

Joni & Ken

An Untold Love Story

by Ken & Joni Eareckson Tada

There it is, right out in the open, the question of suffering.

I sit in a chair by the fireplace at my parents' house as I read. I hear my mom tell a little boy, "Put your jacket on." My mom runs a small preschool out of her home and it's time for recess. The little boy comes wandering up to me - I am nowhere near the jackets - and asks, "What are you doing?" I do not answer his question, but respond with, "What are you supposed to be doing? Go put your jacket on."

Romans 8:17 NLT
And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

When I suffer (which has no comparison to what Joni has been through!), I am like a little child wandering in to the throne room and asking God, "Are you still doing your job?" Instead of doing what I'm supposed to be doing, I try to look over God's shoulder and see what He's doing. I want to make sure that He is, in fact, doing something and has not forgotten about me. Sometimes, God pulls me up on His lap and lets me take a peek. Other times, He gently but firmly points me back to what I'm supposed to be doing.

God is quite up front about never promising us that bad things won't happen. In fact, He repeatedly shows and tells us about suffering and persecution and troubles. He did not even spare His own son. He often does not answer the why, not to Job nor to Gideon nor to me, but he reassures all of us that He is here. He is close and caring. All of our troubles have an end date and there is nothing that is beyond His grace. We do not go through hard things because He has forsaken us or does not care or has accidentally misplaced us for a season. He does not say, "Now where did I put Becky? Ah yes, Wishkah. Left her there a bit too long. Oops. Better do something about that." Although that is what I have thought a time or two, waiting for this current assignment in my life to make sense. While I wait, back to the book.

I faced my fears that it would be too much for my heart to bear, hearing her story, and finished the book this morning. It was very sweet to read of the renewed love in their marriage after her cancer diagnosis. My husband and I went through something similar after I had a physical/mental/spiritual breakdown in April 2016, almost two years ago now. I thought it would be the last straw for our marriage, but my husband was tender and sweet, and as Joni says, the presence of Christ in my life (for a time, we have had fights since then, ha ha).

Even though I cannot explain the why, my theory about suffering is, "The harder the trial, the bigger the reward." As an earthly parent, if I know my child has to go through something hard, like being brave for shots, I promise them something good in return. How much more our Heavenly Father, both in this life and in the life to come. I was speaking to a pastor's wife one day, and we were both trying to put into words how the sorrows we have endured have somehow scooped out more space for joy. I certainly hope this is true in Joni's life and I pray for blessing upon blessing in her and Ken's life.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I Am Number 8

Overlooked and Undervalued but Not Forgotten by God

by John W. Gray III

My life is a strange combination of knowledge and ignorance. In high school, I never knew that my classmates and I were ranked by GPA until I found out at the end of my senior year that I was salutatorian. I am secretly competitive, and if I had known that there was a list somewhere (and a monetary prize!), I would have worked hard to be first. But I did not know, and so I ended up second only by the grace of God. A few more semesters of PE or higher math and I probably wouldn't have even made the top ten.

That same surprise is what I felt when I first heard Pastor John Gray preach. I grew up in a Christian family and I love God and I thought that going to church and trying to do my best and sacrificing everything was just what was expected of me until the sweet by and by. I was marching along, doing things as best I could, and then all of a sudden I find out that there is more. Wait, what?

I felt like a laborer painting a wall. When a brush or color ran out, more would show up, but only enough for the next little bit. The wall seemed endless and time ground on. Then a voice says, "Come and see." The painter stands back amazed, staring at a giant mural. All those pieces were part of a final picture, one unified whole. My reaction, reading this book and listening to his sermons, has been a series of Oh! moments in my mind and heart.

"You do know that God never wastes pain?"*

"Give them a divine revelation of everything they've been through."

"From what's your name again? to we've been expecting you." (Like that moment in a Barbie movie when she walks up to a castle, dirty and tired, just hoping to be let in for a little shelter, when the servant opens the door and says, "We've been waiting for you. You're the one. All of this is yours.")

"Then God said, "Put the oil on him."" (David, somewhere in one of the Samuels)

"What does He want to do with you?"

Oh! God is doing something. Hang on. Don't give up, not today. It's not all labor and toil and heartache. There is reward, too. These words fell into my dry spirit and breathed new life into me. None of it is in vain. God sees it all. He cares and He is about to make all things right again.

Favorite Quotes from the book:

If you are someone who has felt like your life carries no intrinsic, inherent value, this book is for you. In truth, this book is for all of us. ... God's about to reveal to you a purpose so necessary, so critical, so essential that he had to hide it behind pain, grief, and misunderstanding in order to protect it until this very moment.

The oil didn't flow until he arrived. Why is this significant? Because you should know that as a number 8, you are not in competition with anyone else. ... The anointing we carry as number 8s, the significant specific enablement of God for our calling, is so unique that we are not in competition with anyone else. ... They all complement one another. So we are not in competition with anyone; we are in concert with everyone. ... There is only one heaven." *

"I've learned that the best books are lived before they are written. ...until I had lived the chapters, they couldn't come together correctly."

*The italics are excerpts from his sermon on April 19, 2017, at Lakewood Church in Houston, TX.

A few more of my favorite quotes from His sermon by the same title are below:

"When I think about His goodness my hands go up, and then they stay there, and then they stay there, and then they stay there."

"Pump your fist in the air like you're knocking down a wall."

"Keep knocking until you get your book."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Book Notes: The Happiness of Pursuit

by Chris Guillebeau

First I would like to say that it has been a long time - LONG time - since I have read a 283 page book. In high school I read 250 pages a WEEK, but those days are no more. I felt every one of these 283 pages as my children and life swirled around me. But it was my quest to finish, and I did it.

My favorite quote from this whole book the author says about his own quest to visit every country in the world, "Just like that. It was done."

"Once you start done the road to an adventure, you don't always know where you'll end up. Coming to the end of a quest brings lessons too. The story doesn't always tie up well." In my experience, sometimes it just ends, and confusion sets in for a time until time a Heavenly hand gives perspective.

"The path to the summit consists of repetitive movements, but it is precisely the arduousness of the task that makes the accomplishment an epic one."

"The lesson is to know your own motivations. That way, you'll keep going even if no one else cares."

"Why produce the largest symphony of all time? You do it for the same reason John F. Kennedy offered for visiting the moon - not because it's easy, but because it's hard."

"...the creative team (at Pixar) embraces mistakes and failure, with an emphasis on making the mistakes as quickly as possible. As soon as they identify the mistakes, they're then able to fix them - but the point is to not shy away from the initial failure." ("Be Wrong As Fast As You Can," New York Times Magazine, January 6, 2013.

"We overestimate what can be done in a day and underestimate what can be done in a year." (my paraphrase)

Quotes in the book by other people:

"Every one of our films was the worst motion picture ever made at one time or another."
- John Lasseter, one of the founders of Pixar

"It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn't matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over."
- Paulo Coelho
"This is my story. No one can take it from me."
- Alicia Ostarello (dating quest in 50 States)

The quote that haunts me the most is this one...

"It's better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don't."
- Steven Kellogg

My Thoughts

When I finished this book, I felt like my brain was full. There is a deep longing in my heart to reach the end of my life and look back, knowing that my pursuits have mattered to the kingdom of heaven and made a difference here on earth.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Most Fun Kid Fort in the World

My sister and I make awesome forts. Especially in case of monster attacks. There's a door included, with a rope holding on to it to pull it closed and a sign that says, "Go away monsters. Come in kids."

It's a little secret hideout.

It's a spin area for kids. Another kid can spin them from inside the closet.

The bed is for jumping.

Guest post by Raccoon.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Word of the Year 2017

Having just ended some tumultuous elections in the U.S. between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, I have an election of a different sort on my mind. What will be my next Word of the Year?

And the candidates are:


That's it so far. Rare for me to be short of words. Ha ha.

Stretch myself to finish my book and have it ready for outside eyes.
Stretch myself to try new things.
Stretch myself for a possible new phase in our ministry.
Stretch my children as we perhaps travel more and experience new things.
And it wouldn't kill me to be a little more active physically too. :)

I thought of GROW, but so far, STRETCH is ahead in the polls.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday is my favorite day of the week, except this morning I woke up tired from yesterday's party. I teach Sunday School, and the Lord had some extra grace for me today because my two littlest ones were absent. Teaching a class of almost 2 to 11 year olds can be a bit challenging, but today was a breeze. Everyone sat in their chair. No one fought. No one hit their neighbor. No one cried. It was nice. And we started planning our Christmas party, which was great fun.

Here is Byron's next sermon, enjoy!

Saturday, November 12, 2016


Today we were invited to the special 15th birthday party for the daughter of a friend. Byron led the ceremony and gave the blessing for the girl turned young lady. Kitty was enraptured as soon as we walked in because everything was PINK. Raccoon wanted to know why guys don't get a special party when they turn 15.

It was fun getting all dressed up, and I was so proud of the kids. The invitation said the party started at 3 pm, so we were there at 2:45. An hour and a half later, the party started. But I have not lived here for 20 years in vain, so I was well prepared with snacks and games. Once the party started, there was a ceremony with symbolic items such as shoes, a ring, a crown, and a Bible.

After all the blessings and prayers and words of good will towards the birthday girl, came the kids' favorite part - mariachis! They are a small band dressed in traditional Mexican clothing that sing ballads and old dancing songs. Kitty loved all the bling on the girl's skirt, and she played the trumpet! Racoon liked the bass (huge guitar?). I enjoyed experimenting some of Ecuador's culture with the kids. And the fact that a few years ago, the kids would not have had the patience to make it through a 4 hour party. They're growing up!

The first guests to arrive!

The symbolic items to be given to the birthday girl

Kitty was overcome with delight when she saw this cake.

Dancing to pass the time

Her favorite pink dress, an Easter gift from Grama

Posing with the birthday girl

The Mariachis!

Raccoon danced with a friend of Byron's. 

Time to go home!

Friday, November 11, 2016

This Man

... has been by my side for the last 15 years. After some rough years in the middle, praise be to God that I can now say that our life together is sweeter than ever. Except... when did we get to be so old!

Raccoon took the picture at the party (see tomorrow's post) so it's a little blurry, but he did it with much enthusiasm since he is now the proud owner of his very own camera!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Family Portrait

We actually took this picture on Saturday (two days in the future), but I am backdating my posts to have one a day for Nablopomo. My blog, my rules. :)

The picture was taken by a 10 year old, which is why my expression is so anxious. Trying to smile in between saying, "Push the button harder," is not easy. Ha ha. It took so long to take the pictures that mostly our expression say, "Did you take the picture yet?" Of course in the stress of trying to get the perfect picture, they are anything but that. They do, however, prove that we are all dressed up and clean at the same time. :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dream Houses

The other day my mom wrote about different houses that had caught her fancy over the years. This house is one that caught mine.

If you see my post from yesterday, that is what most of Quito looks like, cement as far as the eye can see. But El Carmen is an old hacienda (ranch) right in the middle of the city. We pass it each time we drive to South Quito. Although much of it has been destroyed or vandalized, it still holds some of its Spanish charm. I have daydreamed about being able to buy it some day and leave it as is, an oasis of green in a gray world.

The day I took this picture, I found out that the land is owned by the city, and an underground metro station is already underway just to the right of the arch. But all is not lost. The city intends to turn the original buildings into a museum, so at least it will be preserved. Someday when they are done, perhaps the kids and I will take a leisurely stroll around the grounds. From now, we can only look in from outside.