Friday, February 25, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes

This week, as I (Amy) worked one-on-one with a sweet little kindergarten girl in my Wednesday night church class, I asked her to recite a verse she had learned earlier in the year. This particular girl is from an unchurched family and has very little knowledge of the Bible. She also has some learning challenges that make memorization very difficult for her, but she quickly responded, "I remember John 3:16!"
"Great!" I said. "Can you say it for me?"
She stumbled through the first few words before it became apparent that she didn't really remember the verse.
Wanting her to feel successful, I said, "Let's play a game! I'll say the verse, but I'll leave out some words. You fill in the words I leave out."
She got a big smile on her face and said, "Okay!"

The game went a little something like this.

Me: "John 3:___."

Girl: "16!"

Me: "Good job! John 3:16. For God so____"

Girl: "Loved the world."

Me: "That He gave His one and only ____"

Girl: "Son!"

Me: "That whoever ______"

Girl: "Believes in Him"

Me: "Will not perish but have______"

Girl: "(long pause)"

Haha! Yeah.
I think I've got my work cut out for me.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

7 Questions--Mom's Turn

Those of you who have been faithfully reading our blog for a while may remember the 7 Questions posts I (Amy) put up earlier in the year. I never finished that series of posts, but I figure it's better late than never. Here are my mom's thoughts: Would you say that you are a morning person, a night owl, or something in between? Something in between, because I like to go to bed before 10, but I often find myself wishing that I could sleep in longer than I do. What is your favorite thing to do with Kyle and Ella, when they come for visits? I love reading to them and hearing how they talk about the pictures in the books. Also, I love praying with them when they get tucked in for their naps. What is your favorite chore to do at home? Why? I really like washing the dishes, because it was one of my grandmother's favorite things to do, and I often find myself thinking of her when I'm washing the dishes. What is your least favorite chore to do at home? Why? Scooping the dog doo-doo, because it's absolutely disgusting, and carrying the bucket around hurts my arms. Which Sunday School class are you taking this semester? I am in a class on the Book of Exodus. What's your favorite thing to do with our family? Why? I like it when we play badminton together, because we all seem to enjoy it and can just have fun being outside together. What's one thing that God's been teaching you lately? I have been learning to think about and say the name of Jesus more often, to get my focus back where it should be.

From Radom

Dear blogging friends, I (Julie) have so much to share with you. However, I will wait until I get home so that I can do it justice and put some pictures up with it. Today is our last day in Radom. In about 45 minutes, we will be leaving for church and the church has organized a potluck for us after the service. This afternoon, we will take a bus to Warsaw and spend the night in a hotel. I fly to Brussels around 9 tomorrow morning. I am so excited to see Marie again! I'm only going to be there one night, so we'll have to do a lot of talking in that time (a good night's rest will not be a priority, but then, it's not like that phrase has been in my vocabulary for the past two weeks, so what's one more night?) I fly out from Brussels at 10:30 on Tuesday and will get into Minneapolis around 6:30 Tuesday night. I can not tell you how good it will be to see my family again. And I promise, as soon as I get over jet lag and figure out which end it up again, I will give you the whole Megillah (if anyone has done the Beth Moore Bible study on Esther, you got that - for those of you who haven't, you should, and it means I'll tell you everything). Thank you again for all your prayers; believe me when I say we felt them everyday!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Lord Reigns!

A while back, my cousin Hannah sent me this beautiful picture she took of an Arizona sunset, and I wanted to share it. Our God is an incredible artist! Yesterday I was craving some time in the Word, so I sat down and flipped to some of my favorite Psalms. The following passage stuck out to me, and I urge you to read every word. Soak up this Truth, and praise the LORD with it today!
The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established;
it cannot be moved.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.
(Psalm 93: 1 & 2)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My, What Big Teeth You Have!

I (Amy) am blessed to have the opportunity to work with girls in kindergarten through second grade at our church's Wednesday night program. It has been so fun to watch them over the past few months as their reading skills have improved, their care for one another has increased, and their mouths have developed several new holes due to an abundance of lost teeth ;-).
Tonight one of my students came up to me with a huge smile on her face and said. "Look! That new girl and I are like twins!"
Struggling to see the resemblance between the two, I asked, "How are you like twins?" to which she promptly replied, "We both have really BIG, loooong teeth!" They both grinned, obviously quite proud of the size of their pearly whites.
Not one to be outdone, a friend of theirs chimed in and said, "Oh yeah? You should see my brother! His teeth are as long as a beaver's and his feet are HUGE!"
Nice mental picture, huh?
They keep me laughing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

You Make Me Smile

I don't know about you, but lately I (Amy) have been fighting an intermittent cabin fever along with an acute case of the winter blues. The sub-zero temperatures and cloudy skies haven't helped my mood in the least! But such is life in northern Minnesota, and I'm bound and determined not to let it get the better of me, or to drag down the people around me.

So tonight I'm thinking about the little things the Lord has placed in my life that help to chase away my blues. (Disclaimer: I did not take any of the pictures below. They're all from Wikimedia, but they captured my thoughts pretty well :-). In no particular order, these are a few things that make me smile:

  • being outside--camping, hiking, walking, biking, playing yard games, boating, fishing, hunting, etc.
  • singing and playing old hymns like "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "Rock of Ages," and "How Great Thou Art"

  • sunshine and sunsets
  • phone calls and emails from loved ones far away
  • summertime and butterflies
  • studying the Word with friends

  • the first snowfall of the season
  • each snowfall after that (up until about mid-January when winter starts feeling way too long ;-)
  • hot Russian tea in one hand and a good book in the other
  • asking and answering tough questions

  • flowers, vegetables, bees, and worms in the garden
  • babies and kids of all ages
  • the Selah song "Unredeemed"
  • surprises

  • going for coffee with friends
  • comments on our blog (hint, hint ;-)

Okay, I shared a few of mine. Now I'm curious. Am I the only one dealing with a mild, self-diagnosed case of S.A.D.? What makes you smile on these long winter days? What's been a blessing in your life lately?

Monday, February 7, 2011

How Do I Miss You? Let Me Count the Ways...

Jules, you've only been gone for three days now, but it feels like three years. Last year when you were in Poland, I wrote a post called "Top Ten Reasons I Miss My Big Sister," but this year I'm gonna go with the "Top Ten Times I've Wished (or Am Going to Wish) You Were Here." That's not a very good title for a post, so I went with something a bit more poetic in the title box, just 'cause I knew you'd appreciate it. After all, you're such a poetry fanatic. Haha! Anyway, here goes!
Oh, and I thought I should include a picture of us, but this was the most recent (good) picture I could find on my laptop. Kind of illustrates my point in number 10, though, so I stuck it on anyway :-).
10. I wished you were here on Mom's birthday, because you just have a way of making special days "specialer."
9. I wished you were here when I got lost on the way to our friend's house, because I knew it never would have happened if you were driving.
8. I wished you were here when I backed into the snowbank, because if you were driving, I wouldn't have had anything to be embarrased about ;-).
7. I wished you were here when I got lost again on the way back from the friend's house, because it's just way more fun to be lost together than it is to be lost alone.
6. I wished you were here when I had to decide what I'm going to do this summer, because I know you would have listened and understood.
5. I wished you were here to play Nerts with Katie and I last night. Okay, that might be stretching it a bit, because it was really fun to actually win for a change. But I'd rather lose to you than win without you any day.
4. I'm going to wish you were here on my birthday, but we can celebrate again when you get back :-).
3. I'm going to wish you were here to help decorate this Friday at church, because I just like working with you.
2. I'm going to wish you were here every night to compare daily happenings and laugh about stuff.
1. I wish you were here every day just to share life, and I can't wait to have you back!
That said, I'm thrilled that you got the opportunity to be back in Poland, and I am praying that God will use you to bless the people around you while you're there just like you bless our family when you're here! I love you!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mama!

It's almost the end of your special day, but I wanted to wish you a happy birthday one more time. I am so glad you are my mom. I know I don't tell you often enough, but I am grateful for your sacrificial love and the way you delight in serving others. Thanks for the years of love, laughter, and encouragement you have given to each of us. We are blessed to be your daughters.
Love you forever,

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Powered by Grace

Tonight, as I (Amy) was driving away from a double birthday party for two dear friends and heading to Saturday night Bible study, I got stuck. Really stuck. Backed right into a snowbank. In the dark. Not fun! I tried everything I could think of to get out. I put the van in drive, then reverse, then drive again. But it was no use. Slightly embarrassed, I trudged back to the house. Thankfully, there were five strong men inside who kindly came out into the cold to push the van out of the snow and guide me down the driveway. (Thanks guys!) Within minutes, I was on my way, thinking about Bible study and getting excited to learn more from Charles Colson's series "The Faith." About 50 feet down the road, I got stuck AGAIN. By this time, I was beyond embarrassed as I watched the guys coming to my rescue in the rearview mirror. Whoever said "chivalry is dead" needs to get stuck in snowbanks more often ;-). To make a long story short, I did eventually make it to Bible study. (Okay, so I may have gotten lost once and stuck for yet a THIRD time on my way there, but that's another story for another time.) At Bible study, we talked about how grace empowers us to live apart from the bondage of sin. Before surrendering my life to Christ, I found myself being constantly sucked into foolishness and despair. I couldn't live the way God wanted me to, because I was clinging to my sin. When I gave up my selfish will and asked the Lord to be my leader, He began pouring grace into my life. That grace not only separated me from the captivity of my sin, but gave me the power to live righteously. Sometimes I still find myself getting stuck in my old patterns of sin. But by God's grace I don't have to stay stuck anymore. It's a lot like my little snowbank adventures tonight. When I realize I'm stuck in the snow (or in sin), and that there's nothing I can do to escape on my own, I call on someone (or Someone :-) stronger than me for help. But my goal isn't just to get out of the snow (or sin). It's to move past it and to travel toward my destination (or to do the good works that Christ has planned for me). Grace isn't just about erasing. It's about empowering. This week, let's ask ourselves, "Am I stuck in sin? What do I need to confess to the Lord and turn away from?" Thank God that when we repent, He is faithful to help us out of our sin and guide us in paths of righteousness! Because of His love, we truly can be powered by grace!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Heading Out

After 6 months of planning, I (Julie) am two days away from leaving for Poland again! I am still amazed that God has given me this opportunity to go back. The ministry will be the same format as last year, but we know that God is going to surprise us in many ways. He's always got something new to show us! Andrew's parents are going to drive the two of us down to the cities on Friday morning. We will fly from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, and then from Amsterdam to Warsaw. In preparation for this trip, God has been teaching me a lot about brokenness. Not what our culture labels brokenness, though. Our culture would call someone stricken by grief, depression, addiction, or a myriad of other sins to the point of not being able to function as their normal self, broken. This kind of brokenness leads to self-absorption and ineffectiveness. But the brokenness that God esteems (isn't that a wonderful thought, God esteeming something?) is the kind that leads to total surrender and trust. It is being totally aware that our sin separates us from our holy God, but that He sent His only sinless, beloved Son to take the punishment we deserve and reconcile us to our loving God. It is humility, but not self-hate. It is knowing who God has made us to be and knowing that we can't be that person without His presence and power in our lives. It is clinging so closely to Him that we go where He goes. The dangerous thing about going again to the same place and doing the same ministry as last year is that it is easy for it to become safe, to think we've got everything under control. My prayer is that our team would come, each and every one of us, with a broken and humble heart, willing to do whatever God leads us to do, and not let ourselves get in the way. I will probably have some down time while I am there, at least the first week, to be on my computer, so I'll try to update once or twice. It will probably be more on Facebook than on the blog, so if we aren't friends yet and you would like to keep up with what we're doing, send me a friend request. If you don't know me outside of this blog, send me a message along with the friend request, because I probably won't friend you if I don't know you! This is going to be such an adventure - I'm holding my breath to see what God's going to do! (Well, not really, because I'm partial to breathing as a daily habit, but you know what I mean.)