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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Good-bye 2011, hello 2012!

Gosh, it's been a while since I've written. Sorry about that.
Since last time this is the super short condensed version of what I should have written about but didn't:
I turned 41, Alan turned 48.
We gave thanks in November but bypassed the traditional Thanksgiving dinner because we were living in Germany and well, yeah - we just didn't do anything! :)
Alan drove to England and Chloe and I flew (and had a rough time - I don't recommend flying alone with an infant)
We spent a week with Alans family celebrating Alans birthday and an early Christmas
While in England we went to two Christmas markets, visited a beach with a great lighthouse and enjoyed church at Hillside
We flew to Georgia and had another birthday celebration for Alan and me
Chloe had her 6 month birthday
Met sweet Emma for the first time and got reaquainted with Charlotte and Lily Kate
Went to meet Santa with Chloe for the first time
Chloe attended nursery at church for the first time and did great
We had the annual Abney Christmas party and 60 came. Great food, fellowship and fun introducing everyone to our daughter
Chloe said "mama" for the first time
Dad turned 68 and I made chicken pie for his birthday party
We celebrated Christmas "Abney" style with tons of wonderful, thoughtful presents and a great southern breakfast
We shopped so much at Kohl's I think they are going to literally cut us off but we saved a ton of money!!
Alan and I went to the lake twice so he could go fishing
We took Chloe swimming for the first time and we think we'll go ahead and enter her into the Olympics she was so awesome. Not scared a bit and just full of smiles. Yah!
Alan helped put down flooring in my sisters attic and helped build a kitchen window for her into her living room
Alan re-wired the barns electrical system at my parents house
Alan hung french doors for Emma's room at Christine's
We ate dinner at Brett's, Graze and Mirko's and my sister Lee Anne's
I spent the day with Mel and Jackson, Hannah and Luke at Gyro Wrap, Chuckie Cheese for games and Menchie's for frozen yogurt
We started recruiting GAP year students and team members for the WFBC missions trip to Germany next year
We saw the awesome movie Courageous - highly recommend it
I cooked fajitas for the family and Chloe swung on the new playset a lot
I worked out but not enough to burn off all the calories we ate!
And so much more but those are some of the highlights! :)

As we gear up for the close of 2011 and the start of 2012(in 43 minutes and counting) I look back on this last year and the one word that summarizes how I feel is "grateful". If you had asked me to summarize the year 3 weeks ago I probably would have said "discouraging" as Satan ran us through the wringer as we adjusted to our move to Germany but now that I've had time to really reflect and refresh, grateful is a much more appropriate word. Grateful for the opportunity friends, churches and families gave us to serve in Germany this year. Grateful the Lord provided a home, furnishings, a car for us to drive, computers for us to use to stay in touch with family and friends and food for us to eat. Grateful for the precious gift of life given to us on May 31 and every single day we've spent with her since. Grateful for a husband that loves Jesus far more than he loves anything else and for a husband that absolutely adores me and his daughter. Grateful for family that will always be home for us - both in England and America. Grateful for friendships that never change, despite the distance that separates us. Grateful for God's unending grace, forgiveness and love.

I approach 2012 knowing God is faithful to complete the work He started in us. Faithful to make all things work together for good and faithful to never leave us or forsake us. Happy New Year to you all. We love you.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A revision and Why I am a Christian

After writing my last blog a few nights ago I realize now there should have been at least seven categories rather than six.

This added category is the spiritually complacent, lukewarm, couldn't care less, willfully sinning and have no desire nor willingness to surrender that sin - Christian. Now - some may actually call those that fit in this category non-Christians (they were never really saved to begin with). I choose not to do that because that's up to God to decide and really only He knows. I know Jesus said we will know other believers by their fruit and so in a way you can make a judgment based on the way someone lives their lives as to whether they are a believer or not; however, that being said... I, like many other Christians willfully chose to walk away from the Lord when I was in college. Over the next fifteen years I made a series of terrible decisions that took me step by step away from God. In all those years though I never forgot my faith. I felt the Holy Spirit telling me what was right versus wrong and I ignored His voice. I felt the guilt associated with bad choices. I felt the consequences of bad choices. Nothing I accomplished, no matter the amount of money I made nor the position I rose to made any difference whatsoever. I remember feeling content and loved and knowing I had purpose back in High School. All of that I attributed to having a real relationship with Jesus - the, "I can hear His voice speaking directly into my life every day relationship" and I desperately wanted to feel that way again. I had an insatiable thirst for something that I thought the world could fill and I was miserable.


I don't want to state that too subtly because it's the reason I can tell you that I'm a Christian today. I inwardly LONGED to be in relationship with Christ again. Every day. I had however no clue whether that was possible and given every bad decision I had made - believed it was genuinely not going to happen. Some people say, "oh what a difference Christ made in my life when I became a Christian" and that may be true for some but there are others, like myself who grew up in Christian homes, were taught right from wrong very early on, were involved with everything in the church from the moment they could walk or speak and loved Jesus as a child. Then they gave their lives to the Lord and at some point later, walked away from their faith.

Why? Who knows really. For every person it's different I think.

I started to walk away from Jesus because I didn't like the legalism of the Christian University I was attending and thought that wasn't what Christianity was about. I still don't; however, Satan used those feelings, a guy I thought was cute that was a non-Christian, a church that was too big and very impersonal and a fellow believer who did her best to quench the fire within me to lead me down a path that I didn't even recognize was taking me away from Christ until I was so far away I couldn't find my way back if I tried. Fifteen years I was away.

I'm not a Christian because logically it made sense to me - although logically it does. I'm not a Christian because my parents and sisters are. I am a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ because of all the things I've pursued in the world, this is the one thing that challenges me, satisfies me, grips me. It gives me purpose and meaning. It helps me, comforts me and encourages me. It convincts and hopefully changes me. It gives me hope that this world is not all there is. It makes sense to me on every level - mind, heart, soul. Do I have all my questions answered? No but Christianity does offer solid answers to the primary questions of life and that is something I've not found to any satisfaction anywhere else.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Six Categories of People at your Church

It's 1:35am and I can't sleep so this is a warning before this blog begins! :)

I was sitting in bed and thinking to myself about the people I have met in the various churches I've attended over the years and I thought I would summarize in a blog what I was thinking. You may think differently and if so I'd love to know your thoughts...

At any given time I believe you will find six categories which people fall into at your church. Very rarely do any of us stay in one category but I'm sure there are exceptions. Like me, you've probably experienced times when you fell into each of them - sometimes you hurdle two or more. So what exactly are they?

The first category is the group I call the "socially elite"
The socially elite group is all about who's there, what they've accomplished in the week versus what someone else has accomplished, what folks are wearing, who has the brightest children or grandchildren, what their bank account or retirement account balance reads this week, what social functions they have lined up to enjoy next and who is attending with them, etc. With the socially elite group you never really know where you stand. The people in this group try so hard to impress eachother and to make their lives sound so much better (or worse!) than others that they rarely listen to what you have to say. They talk primarily about themselves and when you begin to talk about your life, they look to see who else they can talk to. This leads others to believe they care solely about themselves. I don't think this group is altogether bad but they do seem preoccupied with a lot of "stuff".

The second category is what I call the "wannabees"
This group goes around trying to impress the socially elite group but they don't quite measure up to the socially elites ever-changing standards. The wannabees have tremendous insecurities (not unlike the socially elite group) but they measure their spirituality by if the socially elite think they are ok. You see them constantly attempting to impress, "suck up to" or otherwise lavish attention on the socially elite. They do this so they can occassionally be invited to hang out with the socially elite or get a compliment or two. The socially elite love the wannabees if only for the attention they get from them that they so desire and require.

The third group are the "frustrated"
They've been around the block a time or two - they've seen the church play church and they may have even seen the church be truly on fire for God. They've seen what they view as people being hurt more than loved on, ignored more than included and condemned more than accepted. They see those that claim to be Christians but refuse to give up areas of their lives that are sinful because that area is off limits to God. This group wants to make a difference but they've forgotten how. They are consumed with others - the way they act, the way they are treated, whether the church is performing up to their standards, etc. They do a lot of comparision thinking - "oh my church back home was much better at...", "the last church I was at didn't do that", "we've heard this sermon before", "the band really sounded off this morning". Whatever. Those that are frustrated complain. Maybe not verbally but in their mind you better believe they are struggling. They believe things should be "fixed" but they either don't know where to begin, don't want to invest that amount of time in the church or they may even try to make an attempt but usually they leave God on the sidelines while doing so.

The fourth group are the "hurting"
They come to church in pain. They are desperate for someone to listen to them, put their arm around them and say things are going to be ok. They look for someone to pray for them and to promise to continue to pray until things improve. They're going through a difficult time at home or in their workplace. They are struggling financially or they are sick. They have loved ones they are losing or they are depressed from trying for so long without seeing results. They come to church looking for answers, encouragement, love and a touch from Jesus. Whether they get those things or not depends on the church and the people that make up that church. They want to open up and share but are usually drowned out by the problems of others. This group is the one you find that overlaps with all the others at at least one point or another. The socially elite hurt, the wannabees hurt, the frustrated group hurts, etc.

The fifth group of people are the "disciples"
This group remains usually very low key. They always have a kind word for you. When they say they'll pray, you know they will. When they raise their hands to worship God it's not because the pastor told them to - it's because it's a genuine outflowing from their hearts. You often see them kneeling in church - humbleness and love epitomize who they are. Rarely if ever are they invited to be a part of the socially elite group as their very presence is convicting. You know this group is sincere. They will never say an unkind word about anyone and they won't hang around others that do. They love and give expecting nothing in return and they come to church truly to be in the presence of their savior. This group is the true Romans 12:1,2 group. They have been transformed by Jesus and want to be more like Him and only Him, every day.

The last and final group are the seekers
The seekers are for the most part, non-christians. They come to your church once - occassionally more to check things out. They are looking for the fifth group of people as they've heard they exist but more than likely they've only been around the first four groups their whole lives. If they are fortunate enough to meet someone in the fifth group, chances of them returning go up - unless they meet too many others in groups one through four and think to themselves that this church is no different than any others. They might be skeptical or hurting, frustrated or just truly investigating their options but your chance to reach them is usually limited to that day - that 1.5 hours, those 3 minutes of "meet and greet your neighbor" time in the service.

Maybe you will disagree with me - call the groups by different titles, add a category or two or disregard everything I've said as complete rubbish(! :))but this was on my heart and I thought I'd share it. I will say I have fallen into every category at one time or another. Our pastors wife said it, "spiritually complacent". All too often I am spiritually complacent. I get frustrated too easily, I try to impress others. I exclude and try to fit in. I complain in my heart and I don't forgive as quickly as I should. I get angry at stupid things and at terrible times. My quiet times become rituals I must complete rather than something that transforms my life each day.

I, like most in the church, am a work in progress. If we are truly Christians - God will reveal to us our shortcomings in His gentle, loving ways and He will discipline us to make the changes He needs to make in our lives. He is tough on His children but it is always for our good and for the good of the church. He wants us to be truly transformed by the Holy Spirit - to reflect Him when others look at us. I have a long way to go and I pray He never gives up on me. My sins are always in front of me staring me in the face. I can't run far.

The church is not perfect but Christ died for the church and He is the true head - no matter how much we love our pastors, they are just people like the rest of us. One day God will put an end to all that divides us and we will see how truly far we were from what He called us to be. Until that time I pray God will continue the work in you (and me) that He started and that we will be ever filled with His presence, peace and love.

Verses that came to mind for each of the groups if you're interested in reading further:

Socially Elite: Romans 12:2, "Don't copy the customs and behavior of the world" and Phil 2:3 "Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others."

Wannabees: John 12:43, "For they loved the praise from men more than from God" and Galations 1:10 "For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God?"

Frustrated: Matthew 7:2 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged" and James 5:16 "Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another than you may be healed."

Hurting: Matthew 11:28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" and Romans 8:18 "For I am confident that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us."

Disciples: James 1:22 "But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only" and James 5:16 "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much"

Seekers: John 1:12 "But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God"

Sunday, 13 November 2011

My 40th year in a nutshell

Gosh, 40 seemed to go quick. Now with only four days left of my 40th year I'll try to highlight the last year with some of my fondest memories. Maybe in my next blog post I'll talk about our struggles and then the one after that I hope to share our goals for 2012 and what we hope God will accomplish through us.

So, let's see - last November 17th I was in Georgia. Alan and I came home in early November to raise our final support for our first year in Germany and fun memories from that trip were going to a GA game with Alan, my dad and Uncle Ron, picking Charlotte up from school and she was dressed like a Pilgrim (sooo cute!), going hiking in South Carolina, seeing Lily Kate be dedicated at church and our wonderful Thanksgiving trip to Walt Disney World with the family.
In December we got to hang out with some old friends at Christine's open house at Madison markets (Joe, Leigh, KB, Katie, Matt, Mel). My Uncle Ed also came for a visit which was great. I love this man and his sweet family so much. I only wish they lived closer!!

My dad was trying to sell his boat that month I remember and Alan had a battle with a duck for fishing rights on the dock of the condo. Christmas was great, as usual. Announcing that Christine and I were both having girls and Chloe Lee was to be the name of our baby was special for me and my parents I think. Fun memories.

In January we moved to Germany and started getting everything setup for our ministry here with Pioneers. In February we went on a retreat to Garmisch with our church called Victory International. March and April were all about learning German at the Vochochschule and the many friends we made in the process from all OVER the world!

May was about Chloe and June and July and well every month pretty much since! :) Late July though we got to go to England to see Alans family and our church family there. That was neat. In September it was back to school for Mary and Alan kept plugging away helping to renovate the buildingsat the CVJM. He also got involved ministering to young German school children with a couple of ladies from the CVJM. He plays music and plays with the children and He really enjoys the experience.
October was about starting a new college ministry at our church called Worldviews and handing out flyers with gummy bears attached to students at the University of Heidelberg. We had completed a survey analyzing spiritual needs a few months prior and the results of that survey are in a blog post from October I believe.

And now it's November. Work at the CVJM continues. We go to church there every other Sunday night which although 100% in German, is a blessing to us. Work with University students is also going well. We just had a hamburger social at our house and had a great time. I just love throwing parties and investing in the lives of young people. We have quite a few in the 18-30 age group at Victory so getting to know them better through monthly socials is the plan for now and then we'll see where God leads after that.

Looking forward, Alan and I continue to make plans for missions teams to come and work alongside us next summer. We hope to welcome students from the US, the UK and Croatia. Wouldn't that be awesome if it worked out? But God is in control so whatever He wants is just fine by us.

Well that's about it! My 40th year in a nutshell. Not too bad when I think about it. We moved to a new country, started a new ministry, had our first daughter and spent wonderful quality time with family and friends, Christian brothers and sisters and people representing every worldview imaginable. God did a lot through us and in us and although it was one of the most difficult and challenging years of our lives, it was definitely worth it. Praise God for His eternal faithfulness and love.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

What physical pain teaches us

So for the last several months I have experienced more physical pain than I ever remember experiencing. Between being pregnant with Chloe and the pains associated with that to having a c-section and feeling as if my guts had been ripped open (which they literally had) to heel spurs which I acquired after stupidly deciding to walk for miles on end one particular week in July in my flip-flops to the horrible back pain that got steadily worse. It's just been a difficult year physically.

Now that all of my pains have momentarily subsided I'm taking a look at what they taught me.

First: That after age 40 lots of things physically just go awry with your body. My sister warned me this happened to her but I sort'of laughed it off until it happened to me too.

Second: That if you follow a doctors advice things will get better... eventually. I'm not sure I called my dad every day when my back was hurting so bad but if not, it was pretty close to every day. He said things like, "don't stop taking the anti-inflammatories, even if they make you nauseus. Take a nausea pill." He said to stop exercising. He said to be very careful lifting Chloe. The orthopedic told me to put heat on my back and recommended a shot of cortisone. All of these things I tried and low and behold my back started feeling better. I know it sounds silly but when you are going through pain you get lots of thoughts like, "I may never get better!" Or is that just me?

Third: That I need to lose weight and keep it off to avoid lots of future pains. Since the pains let on I've lost 9lbs and developed some good meal tracking habits that I hope to not walk away from again. I feel healthier and more in control and that's a very good thing to me.

Fourth: That prayer works. I asked tons of people to pray and I got better. Sure God worked through the doctors and their advice but I believe He also reached down and touched me and for that I am very grateful.

Fifth: I wouldn't trade my daughter and the opportunity to pick her up 1000 times a day for any amount of physical pain I will ever experience. I read a story this week about a woman who was diagnosed with throat and head cancer and she could have had chemotherapy to extend her life but she had been trying for a baby and had gotten pregnant at age 41 and was not about to put her unborn daughter at risk so she didn't do the chemo. She lived three days after her daughter was born but she was able to hold her and smile at her before she died. She's my hero. Especially in this world of women that "choose" to end the lives of their precious little unborn children on a whim. It's sickening and I will always oppose it.

Lastly: That feeling better feels a whole lot better than feeling worse and I am so empathetic to my friends that live with chronic pain (you know who you are) and those that have recently been in the hospital because of pain (you know who you are too) and those that feel bad quite a lot but have no hope that when they pass from this life to the next that all pain and all tears will be a thing of the past that they will never experience again. What amazing grace provides that for all those willing to accept it.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Losing weight for a lifetime...

Tons of us want to lose weight. We enjoy food too much, exercise too little and pay for it in increased pounds that seem to multiply over the years. An extra 100 calories a day that we don't burn and we gain 10 pounds in a year. An extra 100 calories is one slice of bread, one domino size piece of cheese, an 8 oz bottle of coca cola, one cup of orange juice, one banana, less than 1/2 of a regular sized snicker bar. Ok now I'm getting depressed!

No, not really. I say all this to say that I've been concerned about my weight - well, for my entire life lol. If I wasn't concerned about it my mother was so technically it's been forever.

About ten years ago I was putting on an extra 10-15 pounds a year and before I knew it I didn't recognize myself - at ALL! I had gained 112 pounds in seven years - just a little at a time with little to no exercise. The more I gained the worse I felt which led to stress and strain and more eating. I had little to no self control and I hated myself for it. Ugh, yeah it was bad.

It was during this time that I worked for Microsoft and fortunately for me they had this great program with a health club next door called 20/20 where you could work with a dietician, a personal trainer, a support group and a doctor to learn everything there was to learn about food, exercise, everything.

I remember them bringing soft drinks up onto a table during our orientation and in front of each soft drink was the equivalent number of sugar packets in each drink. I remember looking at a 7/11 slushy and thinking there was no possible way there could be as much sugar in that drink as they said, but I was wrong. Mountain Dew was worse. The sugar packets glued together end to end reached to the floor - for ONE 12 ounce can. It was disgusting.

For the next 32 weeks I worked out three times a week with a personal trainer who basically kicked my butt and twice more a week by myself. Fortunately for me I fell in love with working out so that made it easier. Over those 32 weeks I lost over 60 pounds.

Then came the hard part - figuring out how to keep losing on my own without the constant accountability. It was tough but over the next four years I lost another 45 pounds. Still not at my goal weight but much happier and much, much healthier I met Alan, we married and I moved to Europe.

Slowly the pounds crept back on as I adjusted to not having a health club or foods I was used to and also trying to adjust to the stress of a new marriage, new country, being away from friends and family, etc. It was hard and I gained 25 pounds in two years but I was DETERMINED to get this weight off. I knew I needed to join a health club and get working out again and I knew I needed to do the one primary thing I learned in 20/20 which was to meal track. Basically counting calories but on steroids. You track it all, every drink, every nut, every snack, every meal. Everything that goes into your mouth you research the calories and write down.

Then I got pregnant.

Miracle of miracles and wouldn't trade it for the world. Fortunately I didn't gain the amount of weight I was afraid I would gain. I thought like others I would gain forty or fifty pounds but in the end I gained 29 and 24 of those pounds came off immediately after Chloe was born. Unfortunately I had to have a c-section and so it was a slow recovery. My sister came to see us right around the five week mark and I made the fatally stupid decision to walk all over Heidelberg with her in flip-flops. BIG mistake.

The next week my feet absolutely ached. So much so I had to go to the doctor. He said I had heel spurs and he gave me insoles for my shoes for better support. My mom and sister had had similar problems with their feet and they offered their advice but suddenly I realized that I had a daughter now and I had to get in shape for her because the pains I was starting to feel all over my body were ridiculous.

I know they say that at 40 your body falls apart but mine really did! I now am experiencing chronic back pain, ankle pain, heel spurs, occassional knee pain and other little kinks from time to time. Pain is N O T fun.

So there I was two weeks ago and saying, "ok. Back to basics." I needed to figure out how many calories I was burning every day so I could accurately track how much I was supposed to be losing. I looked online and they gave a formula for you to figure this out. Basically you take your age and height and weight and you determine your BMR (basic metabolic rate) and then this number is multipled by a certain multiplier which is determined by your activity level to show how many calories a day you burn. Mine ended up being right around 2600 at the age, weight, height and activity level I am now. Then I said ok one pound is 3500 calories and everyone knows that the key to losing weight is to take in fewer calories than you burn so with a combination of exercise and calories from eating less I needed to combine for 3500 calories to lose one pound a week, 5250 for a pound and a half and 7000 for two pounds.

Really for me, at least at first, it was actually trying to determine whether 2600 calories was correct or not. So I tracked everything. After a few days it was no big deal. I kept it in notepad on my computer, added to it every time I thought of it and at the end of the day came up with my food and drink total. I then added in exercise and came up with a calories saved total number for the day. As an example, let's say all my calories ended up being 2000 for the day. So I've saved 600 in food/drink. Let's say I also exercised that day and according to the eliptical, treadmill or bike burned 600 calories. Well, that's 1200 calories toward my weight loss goal. After week one I had lost nearly two pounds and that's exactly what my meal tracking said I should have lost. I had saved 6310 calories that week through eating and exercise. Week two I lost another pound and a half - 6640 calories to be exact. Add those two together and you have 12950. 14000 and I'll be at four pounds lost.

Remarkably this does really work. It's not fast and it's not a fad. I eat anything I want as long as I write it all down. Oh yeah and store up enough saved calories for my weight loss goal - which right now is 1.5 pounds a week. It gives me a great idea of what I'm actually putting in my mouth and yes I still need to eat more fruits and vegetables (who doesn't) but at least I know.

I've tried every other diet in the world (pretty much) but this is something that actually makes sense. So many calories are hidden in things and sometimes we just eat without thinking. The weight piles on and we have no clue why. Well, now I know. I know drinking a frozen slushy is going to cost me 400 calories - about 45 minutes on the eliptical. Is it worth it? Yeah, sometimes it is.

For me it's about two things. The first I already mentioned... Chloe. I am 40 years old with my first baby who I absolutely adore and I am crazy enough to want more children at this old age! :) For that I need to be healthy and fit and I need to lose weight. The pains associated with not being smaller are too much for me.

The second thing it's about is self control. II Peter talks about self control leading to Godliness and I can really see that. I can also see how Satan uses a lack of self control to get us off the track to Godliness. I've experienced both and much prefer getting closer to God from making the right decisions than consistently making bad ones.

I'm writing this blog to help encourage others that struggle with their weight like I do but also so I can hold myself accountable to keep pressing on and doing that which is difficult in the short-term to attain something great in the long-term - Health, an active and fun life with my husband and daughter and character building things like self control and Godliness. I am grateful God allowed these pains into my life to show me my need for more discipline and self-control. Please pray for me and if you need prayer I promise to reciprocate. Happy tracking! :)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Living victorious lives

I was listening to Ravi Zacharias last week and he was talking about a time shortly after his converstion to Christianity when he was talking to two friends in their dorm room. One friend had converted to Christianity around the same time as Ravi and the other friend was still an unbeliever. They debated the finer points of the Christian worldview with this unbelieving friend and after they had talked for several hours this friend said, (and I'm paraphrasing) - "Let's say you are right in that the Judeo/Christian worldview is in fact the one true way and you can convince me of my need for Christ. I still have one question. Why is it that if it is a work of the Holy Spirit and not due to man's efforts that people are saved - that I see such little transforming work done in the lives of Christians today." Ravi said this was a question that has haunted him for decades.

I would say many times in the past I have had to repent for not being more joyful or peaceful on a Sunday morning. We get to church usually flustered from getting ready, feeding and dressing Chloe, walking Webster, eating breakfast, etc. No matter what time we get up we always seem to run late. I hate being late and arguing about who's fault it was this week doesn't help either.

During the service I try to take my mind off the morning or off the week and put it onto God - to worship Him as He deserves to be worshipped. Instead, my mind is all over the place. Maybe it's wrong but I refuse to act one way outwardly when I'm feeling something else on the inside.

Apparently I'm not alone.

I look around when we're singing and I think, gosh - so many in our congregation seem unhappy, down or tired. I know some are suffering from long-term health issues while others are dealing with marital problems or with lifestyles they are unwilling to yield to God. Some don't trust God will provide for them and question whether life will get any better. Others are trying for babies, are newly pregnant or are just about to give birth which is a whole other set of stresses. Some have been Christians for years and still don't know Gods plan for their lives while others are new Christians and are struggling with the usual questions new Christians ask like, "why doesn't God heal my family member or friend when I have prayed and have faith they will be healed?" And these are just some of the ones I know about. There are lots more I know nothing about.

So why is the joy of the Lord not our strength? Why do we not come to Him when we're tired and heavy-laden so He can give us rest? Why are our hearts troubled when God says He gives us peace? Do we believe we'll find Him when we seek him with all our heart? Are we truly saved? Are we truly filled with the Holy Spirit? If so, shouldn't we always live victorious lives? Lives that are TRULY transformed that the world can see and be attracted to?

Why don't we believe the Bible at face value or if we do, why do we forget so quickly what it says? I am guilty of asking myself these questions often - too often. I think other christians might say, "well you just need to read the bible and pray more often" and that is undoubtedly true. I've often felt one quiet time a day (like one meal a day) is not enough. Maybe I struggle because I see so many others struggling. I've wondered that. If I were the only one I would think it were merely something God was trying to teach me or that I was in the valley so to speak and just need to keep plodding along but this is something more - something more pervasive across the church in Europe it seems and America is clearly next.

So what is it?

Yes, this world is not our home. Yes we are at war. Yes Jesus said we would face trouble in this world. James says we should consider it all joy when we encounter various trials knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. I Peter says we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials and these have come to prove the genuiness of our faith. Still... there has to be something more. Something we're missing. Some reason we're not more victorious, joyful, peaceful, trusting, loving, kind, good.

This is my thinking and many may completely disagree with me. My fear is that for a time, and maybe for this time in which we live, God has turned His back on Europe and the Holy Spirit simply does not move here the way He once did because of the stubbornness of mens hearts. Decade after decade of secularism and man setting himself up as His own god. Romans talks about Gods wrath on unrighteouness.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,7 in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

So could God turn His back on Europe to display his wrath on unrighteousness without the Christians living in the continent being affected in some way? I don't think so and I believe that is why we in large numbers struggle the way we do. My conclusion? We need more of the Holy Spirit - more and more and more. Like the old hymm says:

I need thee every hour
Most gracious Lord
No tender voice like thine
Can peace afford

I need thee, oh, I need thee
Every hour I need thee
O bless me now, my Saviour
I come to thee

I need thee every hour
In joy or pain
Come quickly and abide
Or life is in vain

I need thee, oh, I need thee
Every hour I need thee
O bless me now, my Saviour
I come to thee

I need thee every hour - not every year, not every month, not once a week on Sundays, not even every day but every hour. "Come quickly and abide or life is in vain." How true are these lyrics.

May the Holy Spirit return to Europe and may we all be filled again to overflowing so that we can live victorious lives and win souls for Christ.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Survey Findings

Last week Alan and I had our pastoral staff over to talk about the complete survey findings of the questions asked to the University of Heidelberg Students. I thought our blog readers might enjoy seeing them as well.

Here were the questions with corresponding results:

What is your spiritual background?
Protestant - parents only - 33% **
Catholic - parents only - 25% **
Protestant/Christian/Lutheran somewhat engaged - 18%
Agnostic - 4%
Atheist - 4%
Catholic/Christian somewhat engaged - 2%
Orthodox - 2%
Buddhist - 2%
Muslim - 2%
None - 2%
Students claiming NO spiritual affiliation currently = 68%

What three words would you use to describe your religious experience to date?
Hope x3
What Saved me
A Business
Close minded
Love x4
Belief x3
Life Help
Unbelievable x2
Not present
Far away
Irrelevant x3
Holy Spirit
Unsecure Knowledge
Useful Sometimes
Strength x2
Old-Fashioned x2
Tolerance x3
Agnosticism x2
Eternal Life
Less Freedom

If you could ask God one question, what would you ask Him?
How did you create the universe?
Why did you make us the way he did?
Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?
Why was I born in this country and believe in Christianity instead of in another country believing in something else?
How did you create such a wonderful world?
Why are there so many differences amongst people?
What's the purpose of nasty things in life like insects?
Why are we here? (multiple)
What's His plan for us and the world? (multiple)
What is the purpose of life? (multiple)
Is this what life is supposed to be like?
Why did you make war?
Why don't you always give me good things?
What does the future hold? (multiple)
Why do we die?
What happens when we die?
Will we realize peace one day?
Was there a Jesus?
What do you think about?
Why doesn't God show himself if He's there?
What does God think of Humans?

If God asked you why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?
Because he or she is a good person 38%
Every human should be allowed to go because there is something good in everyone 12%
Because of Jesus 10%
Believes in God 10%
It depends on the qualifications for Heaven 4%
He should choose as He wishes 4%
He/she knows they are too secular to qualify 4%
There is no heaven 4%
Because he's human 2%
Because she's interested in seeing what's there 2%
Will have done something good by then to change Gods mind 2%
Heaven would not be complete without Him 2%

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your goodness?
10 – 0%
9 – 2%
8 - 25%
7 - 38%
6 - 8%
5 - 16%
below 5 - 2%
3 would not answer due to not having, knowing or recognizing a standard of goodness

A good person, better than most
Helps others
She sometimes lies and thinks it’s not ok to lie
Has a dark side
Not a criminal
No one’s perfect
Not selfish
Could do more
Not very bad but not trying to be good
She’s human
Would rate higher but doesn’t want to appear pompous
Goal to be like Christ, motivation is different than it was
Tries to put others first
Keeps Gods commandments

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Ugh - in the top five worst things to ever happen to me...

Yesterday Alan and I decided to have a day of prayer and fasting to pray over our ministry here and our friends/family/supporters, etc. I was heading downtown to the University to spend the day talking to students while he watched Chloe at home but first I had to go to the health club I was joining and sign the contracts.

While there I decided (since drinks were ok on our day of fasting) that I would buy a protein shake to have on the bus downtown. I chose the strattiatella (sp?) which is basically like chocolate chip but instead of mixing it with ice they just use straight skim milk and this whey protein powder.

As most people that know me know, I love to have things really cold so I thought the best thing to do would be just to drink it fast so it wouldn't get hot. Mind you it was like a 16oz protein shake - huge! Still it tasted alright and I went down to the University to meet with the students.

About two hours later I became overwhelmingly tired - like I literally thought about climbing up on the table and falling asleep.

Then I felt like I was starving to death.

I called Alan and told him what was going on and I asked him to pray for me that I would not be so tired or so hungry and that I could continue to meet with students and share my faith with them, survey them about their beliefs, etc.

The night before I had felt an incredible amount of depression-like feelings, anger toward my husband for absolutely nothing and major, major homesickness. Alan and I agreed that it was spiritual attacks and that we should pray against them and sure enough after we prayed I felt a ton better.

Then this happened. Overwhelmingly tired, then starving like I hadn't eaten in weeks. About 10 minutes later I got this feeling that I was going to be sick. I just knew within the next 30 seconds I was going to throw up. Well the bathroom was about 500 yards away from where I was sitting and I still had to pack up my laptop and all my junk but for whatever reason it simply wouldn't go into my backpack and zip up so by the time I finally did get it all packed away I knew I wasn't going to make it to the bathroom.

I saw a set of double doors nearby leading out back and I ran for them but as I approached the first set of double doors I just projectile vomited all over them. All 16 ounces of that protein shake came out of me. I pushed through the double doors trying to get outside but the second set was locked so I ended up throwing up in my hands and all over my clothes, hair everything. WORST.MOMENT.EVER!!!!

Ugh, at this point I ran back to the bathroom and fortunately didn't pass too many people and was able to get myself cleaned up (relatively) and then I made my best attempt at cleaning the glass doors that I had destroyed. Unfortunately I think I only made it worse.

Smelling and tasting like puke is probably not the best way to continue to talk to students so I bought a pack of gum, got on the bus then then tram and then drove the 45 minutes home.

Alan was waiting for me and I was able to shower and sleep the rest of the day off and on and today I feel much better but talk about embarassing and such a horrible, horrible experience.

Do I think the physical things I went through yesterday were also spiritual attack? Yes I actually do. There's no doubt in my mind that my enemy does not want me sharing the hope that Jesus brings with the sweet atheist, catholic and buddhist I talked to yesterday nor the many atheists, agnostics, catholics, humanists, etc. that I've talked to in the last few weeks.

Still, Alan and I had a great prayer time together yesterday once I woke up from my nap and I felt God blessing me for going through it. Would I rather that not EVER, EVER happen again? Uhhh I think you can guess the answer to that. ICKY! :)

Friday, 12 August 2011

Riots, Looting, Stock Market Crashes and Grace

This last week has been one where worldly securities have vaporized. Families in the UK have lost their homes and their livelihoods when disturbed youths decided to riot, loot and rampage their communities. Alan and I watched in awe as teenagers and young adults swarmed and looted a Debenham's in downtown London while police watched from a short distance away. I actually found myself yelling at the tv - "why don't they DO something?!" Alan said, "like what?" "Arrest them! I said. "Throw them in police vans! Don't just sit there watching criminal activity taking place!" It was clear who was in control from seeing the pictures and at least on day's 1, 2 and 3 -- it wasn't the police.

So why did they do it?

In all honesty no one really knows. David Cameron says they are all vigilantes that need a strong hand and stiffer punishment and that it has nothing to do with his policy changes and budget cuts. Others say it's a combination of things. In my opinion, being poor and underprivileged gives you no right to ruin the livelihood or physically harm someones property or even worse, their person. Peaceful demonstration - I'm all for it. But not this mess. This to me shows a generation of youths that are selfish, spoiled, lazy and have no sense of shame. They need their benefit checks revoked and they need to be required to find a job which they are then motivated to work hard to keep. Only when they are effective contributors to a society will they realize the value of what they've destroyed in the last week.

All this was going on in England while the stock market was falling like mad in the United States and around the world. I began to think we might start seeing stock brokers and ordinary people throwing themselves from the roofs of buildings as their fortunes disappeared but fortunately (at least this time) it didn't get that bad. It was however, a roller coaster week.

So what was learned?

Hopefully, that putting your trust in anything besides Jesus Christ is simply the biggest waste of time imaginable. My mom said my dad was stressed about it and I said, "the way I see it we should all be looking at our stock accounts as if tomorrow they could just evaporate and disappear. Those antiques you plan to hand down to your children may have to be sold one day to buy bread!" My mom chuckled - "yeah or be burned so we can keep warm". We laughed about it but there has never been a time in history (with the exception of the day after 9/11) that has felt more like the start of the end times for me.

It's not just the riots and the looting and the stock market crashing. It's everything. It's the natural disasters and the global warming that is affecting our weather systems like never before. It's the fact that the US owes 1,200,000,000 to China. It's the persecution of christians around the globe and the spread of Islam like wildfire. It's the rise of false prophets (or pastors of mega-churches in America that advocate a different gospel to what Christ preached). It's even seen in an organization like Pioneers that is committed to taking the gospel to every people group on the planet and has nearly accomplished it.

What is interesting to me is the fact that the bible did foretell and forewarn ALL of this.

Take a look and see if you don't agree. Matthew chapter 24 starting in verse six says, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. 9 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

Did you catch yourself saying - check, check, check like a list of to do's although this is a list of "will happen's"? Ugh. On the one hand I want Jesus to come back and to put a final end to suffering worldwide and to judge those that have done evil things like the man who raped the two year old little girl outside a day care in North Carolina this week. Heaven help that man and if it was my little girl? Oh I can't even think about it without going nuts.

Of all the students I interviewed at the University of Heidelberg when I asked them what one question was they would ask God if they could ask, the majority said, "why is there so much suffering and bad stuff that happens?". Well, Jesus had an answer for that. First, he knows the meaning of suffering because He suffered far worse than we suffer and he was completely innocent of the charges brought against Him. Secondly He promises justice will be done in the final judgment. There will come a day (and it looks to be very soon) where he will judge all those that caused suffering or pain here on earth. I am so grateful that when God sees MY sin that He sees Christ who voluntarily takes my place because I accepted His free gift of grace.

In this world of uncertainty, have you accepted His grace for the evil that resides in you? Nevermind the evil in the world around you. God will deal with that. What do you do with the evil that lives within you? No matter how much of a better person you may think you are than Joe Schmo down the street, Jesus said the only way to heaven was through Him. If you died tonight can you rest assured you would spend eternity in Heaven? If not, you can be. Ask Jesus to forgive you for your sins and come into your life. The bible says, "if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Message me if you want to know more. I'd love to talk to you.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

What I spend my days thinking about..

If there is a God, which the majority of people who have lived believe that there is and if there is sin that every person commits which we all know is true and if God is perfect and has never sinned which would have to be true for us to have a standard of goodness we could depend on and if our sin made it impossible for us to have fellowship with a perfect God then basically every day we're alienating ourselves more and more from this God and are (as C.S. Lewis so rightly puts it) no likely to do any better tomorrow.

If that is all true and our purpose here on earth wasn't to make money or to create a wonderful life for ourselves but to discover this truth because this life isn't all there is - if in fact we are all going to live forever but where you live is determined by whether you are reconciled to God or not then suddenly things get very interesting.

We must find a way to be reconciled to a perfect God so Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and even Catholics say we should do a lot of good stuff to a bunch of people and this will lead to a happy ending when we die but Christians say something else entirely. They say that you can't possibly be perfect. You can't stop sinning even if you want to stop sinning. It's impossible. The only way we could be reconciled to a perfect God is if the God we have wronged by sinning made a way for us himself and this is what we find has happened.

God had a son who took the form of a man, lived a sinless life while on earth and became a perfect sacrifice to bear all our sins when He was put to death. The bible called him Jesus and non- biblical sources confirmed his life and death and thousands of eye witnesses confirmed his resurrection. This Jesus offers us forgiveness for every sin we've ever committed or ever will commit if we will accept it but only if we accept it.

We can do it our own way and try to be nice or give a bunch to charities but if the God we've offended says that that won't cut it then it's utter foolishness to keep trying a way that will never work. In the end if we truly want to know why we are here and what it's going to take to spend eternity reconciled to God in a place called heaven rather than separated from God in a place called hell then we must get the rules from the one that set them in place. That's the gospel and it's what God and Jesus have told those that have accepted this forgiveness to proclaim.

Do the research, question, examine everything that's out there, think. Don't just live blindly believing you have no purpose and that you return to dust when you die or worse still you get to come back to try harder in another life. Christianity doesn't have all the answers but it is not self contradictory and it has stood the test of time.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Survey says... (what the University of Heidelberg students have to say about God)

As you may have read in our latest newsletter, our plans for the fall in part entail starting a college ministry out of our local church, Victory International. I was so encouraged when I worked with the college ministry at our sending church Watkinsville First Baptist in the two years before moving to England and wanted to do something similar here. Vic Doss runs a great program there centered around Jesus, loving the students and just giving time to them - to hang out, disciple, encourage and challenge. On any given Sunday he'll have 80-100 students that come to fellowship, hear a short preach/teach/testimony and then he has small group table leaders that ask a group of 6-8 students sitting at their table a series of questions to generate discussion. At the end, there's a time of group Q/A usually and a time of prayer.

In addition to this Vic hangs out with students over coffee several times a week, has monthly get togethers of one variety or another, has a weekly program for guys called Fight Club and a weekly program for girls run by our pastors wife Carla. Vic also encourages student adoption by the families in the church where mentors are created and students are just loved on (and fed of course!). What I love about Vic is that he and his wife Cynthia are just super passionate about Jesus. And Vic is a mans man - he wants to encourage guys to be strong in their faith, to follow after Jesus' example and to just be everything they were called to be. Men being men - who would have thought it?? Likewise Carla loves on, encourages through her life and testimonty and opens her house to 40-50 college students every week. I had the priviledge of working with Carla and helping with this bible study and I tell you it's as encouraging for the ones that help out as it is for the students that attend. Just girl stuff and it's awesome.

Which leads me to Germany and a different bread of student...

Well, hopefully not entirely. What I've found so far in surveying the students at the University of Heidelberg is very little spiritual background whatsoever. Their parents may have been catholic or protestant but they never went to church. They aren't interested, don't think it's necessary for their lives (although they could see how it might be interesting for others) and marginalize God almost entirely out of their day to day thinking. I've met students who are humanist agnostics, atheists, evolutionists and students that didn't classify themselves as anything but so far I've only met one christian who was raised in a Lutheran church and whose life was so busy he didn't have time for anything except attending church on Sunday mornings.

The students are however very nice. They are very considerate especially since my German is far from perfect and they seem to genuinely like the questions asked of them. For reference, these are the same questions Vic and his group of volunteers asked the students at the University of Georgia. Namely:

1) What is your spiritual background?
2) In three words describe your religious experience to date
3) If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
4) If God asked you why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?
5) On a scale of 1-10, rate your goodness

The answers I've gotten to the third question interested me the most. So far answers have ranged from:
Why did God choose me for this life and this time?
Why did you make war?
Why do we die?
Why are there so many differences between people?
What is the purpose of the nasty things in life - like certain insects or animals (ticks, rats, etc)
Why do so many bad things happen to people?
Why are Africans born into such poverty and Germans born into such wealth?
Does the fantasy world of elves and dwarves and fairies really exist? (yes He was deadly serious!)

Most have questioned whether there was a God, was a Heaven and if there was whether they could trust Him or whether they even wanted to go to Heaven in the first place. Some I've met have been majoring in Philosophy and dismissed God on this account (doesn't Philosophy translate into a lover of wisdom and if so, wouldn't God be the greatest Philosopher that ever lived??). Some were biologists and dismissed God and creationism on this basis. All seemed intelligent and willing to share their ideas but I refrained from debate and simply asked the questions and listened this time. Fascinating. That's how I walked away, being fascinated by each and every student I met and also wondering whether I was going to have to modify the questions a bit for this audience.

Alan will tell you one of the things that fascinates me the most in life is Apologetics - the defense of the christian faith. I love learning. Probably because I feel so dumb when I talk to my dad which is why our conversations are often limited to, "How are you? How's your day going? How's your health? How's Chloe?" Then it's always a quick, "well your mom's not here but I'll tell her you called." lol - He's probably the greatest apologetic mind in Athens (or very close to it) and He's my dad. Those that know him know what I'm talking about so I'll just leave it at that.

I listen to Ravi Zacharias and his team at RZIM as regularly as I can. Ravi for example says there are four questions every person is going to have to answer in the course of their lifetimes. Somehow I want to merge these questions in with the ones from Vic... they are:
A question of origin: "How did I come into being?
A question of morality: "How can I determine what is right or wrong?"
A question of meaning: "What is the purpose of life itself?"
A question of destiny: "What happens to a human being when he or she dies?"

The problem I have found is people just simply don't ask the questions. They don't even consider them or if they do they don't think about the answers long enough to make them do the slightest bit of intelligent research or discovery. Probably the devil just distracts them right as they are thinking to themselves, "yeah what will happen to me when I die?" with the buzzer on the dryer signaling the clothes are ready to comes out or with a phone call from a friend or with the thought that it's cold and I should put on a sweater. He'll do whatever it takes to distract and to keep people from the truth. At least when I'm talking to the students and asking these questions they are forced to sit and think about the answer and maybe just that the Holy Spirit will use to plant a seed in their minds that can be watered and fed. That's my prayer at least. In the fall we'll have cards printed for the college ministry that we can give them so they can give us a try if for no other reason than to meet folks and to enjoy some free food.

Back to Apologetics...

I would pay big bucks to be able to attend the RZIM Oxford apologetic conference this next week in Oxford. Ravi, Stuart McAllister, Michael Ramsden and many others will be speaking and when they talk intelligently about christianity and why it just makes sense and it's not a self contradicting religion like Islam and Hinduism or Naturalism I just get excited. I wish I didn't jumble all my words and had the ability to speak to folks like these guys do. They inspire me. Quotes this week were, "The problem we have today is not that we don't have anything to be grateful for but that we don't have anyone to be grateful to." -Michael Ramsden or "If you are a christian you are commanded to give an apologetic (a defense for the reason you believe). It is a command to the church. The only question is whether you are living in disobedience to that command."-Michael Ramsden. "Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever; and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow."-Ravi quoting Augustine.

Anyway, this is getting long so I'll write again in a few days but it's just a few things on my mind and what I'm studying and up to for those that care. Thanks for continuing to keep us in your prayers and for supporting us here. And if you don't pray for us maybe you'll take the time today and become part of what we're trying to do here for Jesus in Germany.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Taking the good with the things you wish you could change

I was going to title this "Taking the good with the Bad" but really the bad things aren't bad so to speak - only things I wish I could change. An example might help...

I love looking over to see my husband watching after Chloe, getting her setup on the sofa on her play mat, turning on Radio Mozart on his laptop so she can listen to classical music and hearing him comment about her smile. What I wish I could change is how long it takes me to tidy up after my darling husband and child every day just so I can find the things I need to work on and make sense of my day. I used to ask Alan to put his shaving cream away, put down the toilet seat, hang up his robe, close the doors to the wardrobe or the dresser and to wipe down the counters and the stove when he cleans the kitchen instead of just doing the dishes. Now, I just do it myself. Now don't get me wrong he does do a lot of amazing things that really help us as a family. He walks webster twice a day, vaccuums when it's desperately needed, he manages all the maintenance for the house and he has good intentions about keeping the car working. He also loves on me and encourages me, spends a lot of time with the Lord, genuinely wants to help and volunteers to serve others frequently and he loves our daughter to bits.

My point?? You've got to take the good with the things you wish you could change. Pray about those things that bug you but in the end - if you're the only one they bug, then just do them yourself. No matter what, fighting or arguing or letting the little stuff ruin your day or worse yet, your relationship, is NOT worth it. So often I see girls I used to work with get so uptight and angry over their boyfriends, fiance's or husbands not behaving as they would have them behave and who is the one that suffers the most? Usually, the girl. So, my advice? Give it up - take the good with the things you wish you could change and lighten up a little. So what if you spend a bit longer every day getting things tidy or you spend an evening alone while your better half goes out with his friends. In the end, what you have is worth so much more than losing it, isn't it?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Being a mom and our monthly update...

Well I have discovered a new found respect for all mothers out there after only two weeks of being one myself...

Being a momma is HARD! :) It is also incredibly rewarding though. Every day when Chloe looks up at me and smiles when I feed her or this morning when I woke her up saying, "Good morning sweetheart" and she just smiled away before opening her eyes... these are the greatest rewards going - better than any promotion or raise around. When she looks at me in desperation as if to say, "I am going to have a nervous breakdown unless you feed me", it shows me how much she is relying on us as parents to provide and care for her. Yes I am completely in love with and absolutely addicted to this little 9lb wonderful miracle of God. Alan and I were discussing it the other night and I just can't imagine how anyone could harm one of these precious children - inside the womb or out. It's simply inconceivable to me.

Yesterday Chloe was two weeks old. I am recovering ok from the c-section surgery but I will be the first to say it is NOT minor surgery - it's major and after 2 weeks I'm still trying to deal with the pain around my incision and terrible backaches. Chloe has done well. The midwife says she is growing and is a very strong baby which is good. She's had a bit of breathing difficulty but supposedly it's normal and she may be experiencing some reflux but hopefully that will pass. Tonight our sweet church is throwing Chloe a welcome party at our pastors house and we're looking forward to that. Alan worked for the first time since Chloe was born at the CVJM today. He said he really felt blessed by the Lord for doing the work and said it was as if God told him that even doing a days work by himself while everyone else was on holiday, would bring Him glory so that makes him feel good.

In the next week or so I have to focus on sending out our next newsletter for Pioneers and updating our supporters and friends on our progress here. Right now we're running into a bit of a deficit with our budget as half a dozen friends who committed to giving haven't followed through as of yet and the vocational income we hoped to earn hasn't been allowed due to health insurance costs and issues. We also had the unanticipated difficulty with our car blowing up on the autobahn and the associated expense of getting another.

Alan asks me occassionally if I'm worried about finances and in reality I'm really not. I figure if God is the one that has called us here to Germany then He will find people that will support us and be blessed by doing it. It's just a question of trusting Him, doing the work He's called us to do and prayer I think.

Well, hopefully I'll get back into the swing of keeping this blog updated now that Chloe is here and we're getting more settled. I was encouraged to include a copy of the first email I sent to her a few days ago. I saw this done on a commercial and thought it was such a good idea. I hope to write to her every chance I get so that when she's older she has a record of her life. Especially since you can attach pictures and videos to the emails. :) I won't share all of these emails on my blog but since this tells the details of her birth I thought I would include it.

Being a momma is the greatest gift I've ever received but it's not for the cowardly or weak at heart. God has to give you a special kind of love and energy to be a momma but oh it's soooo worth it! :)

Here is Chloe's first email from her momma... If you want to send Chloe an email you can write to her at I'm sure she'd love to hear from you! :)

Hey sweet Chloe,
It's your mom here... just wanted you to know what a joy you are to your dad and me. We couldn't love you any more than we do. We got this idea from a commercial we saw online of a dad who wrote to his daughter via email as she was growing up. I hope to read these to you one day so you'll know just how precious you have always been to us. Here are the things we remember from your first two weeks with us...

You were scheduled for a c-section two weeks early because the doctor thought you would be too big to wait until your due date and also because at the time you were lying traverse inside me and the doctor didn't think you would turn the right way for delivery. At first you were breech for a very long time but we asked our housegroup at Victory International Church in Heidelberg to pray for you and they did and low and behold the day before your c-section you turned the right way and the doctor let us leave the hospital to go home to wait for you to come naturally.

Well two weeks passed and your original due date - May 26th passed as well and still you hadn't arrived. Your gamma and gampa from Georgia arrived on the morning of the 27th but they too had to wait like us to see what you would do. At this point we were going to the doctor every two days to check on your heartrate and make sure everything was ok. On Saturday your heartrate was a little fast so the doctor on duty told us we needed to come back on Sunday to be measured again and she also called Dr. Hanke (your doctor) who said he wanted to induce me on Monday if you hadn't come naturally by then.

Monday came and we checked into the hospital and they started the inducing procedures but still you didn't want to come out just yet so the doctor said he thought it was best to deliver you by c-section on Tuesday. At this point we agreed with him because we wanted you to be delivered the very safest way and we prepared ourselves to welcome you!

Mommy tried to have spinal anesthesia but it didn't work properly so I had to have general anesthesia which was ok but it left me very tired and groggy after the surgery -- plus I couldn't see you right away but daddy and gamma and gampa were with you to take care of you so that was ok. Your grandma Margaret from England and your auntie Christine from Wales flew down to meet you a few days after you were born and they thought you were adorable!

We left the hospital four days later with our little miracle - YOU! Mommy was still in lots of pain but I wanted the house to be nice and perfect for you when you got home. Here are some pictures of your first nursery... Your daddy put together your crib and your dresser and bed and wardrobe. He loves you sooooo much!!

It's been almost two weeks now since you were born and daddy and I are adjusting to getting up with you every night to feed and change you and to cuddle. You are so loving and sweet we could just stare at you all day long and never get bored. Daddy and I wonder what your first word will be - I thought "milk" but daddy hopes it's "love". We sure tell you we love you a lot through the day so maybe he'll be right. We also wonder what color your eyes will be. Your hair is just like your mommy's - autumn and already thick in the back. Your eyes are blue now but they are darker than your daddies. I think you'll have your moms hair and your daddies eyes but no matter what you will be loved, loved, loved.

You are our precious answer to prayer - our gift from Jesus and we will love you and protect you always...

Mommy and Daddy :)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Chloe, new connections and the CVJM

I wanted to update our blog as to what else we're up to other than waiting for our little girl (Chloe) to arrive. I will talk briefly about Chloe at the end but wanted to give you some more ideas as to what Alan has been up to while I've been preparing to give birth. :)

As we stated a few posts earlier, we stopped our German class in April in anticipation of Chloe's birth. We met so many great people. Even our teachers were really nice so I miss being there. I love meeting people from different cultures and getting to know them better. God was good to introduce us to so many in just the two short months we were there. Hopefully we can return to class soon although I'm not sure they allow babies in tow?

I guess it was about 6 weeks ago now when Alan decided to organize a mens night with the church. He wanted a curry night and so five of them ended up going to the Indian Palace in Heidelberg for dinner. It was a smaller turnout than we had hoped but in a way it was good because that's where he got to know a man by the name of Peter who is a doctor, living in Heidelberg with his wife and three children. He isn't practicing right now but instead he is traveling around and advising different countries on health practices. Anyway, Alan and he got to talking and Alan discovered that Peter and his wife Karen had been missionaries in the past and that they had a lot of good connections in the Heidelberg area so Alan decided to volunteer to help Peter with some work he was doing around his house for a few weeks. The work ended up being landscaping and some brick laying work for a nice patio and I think it was good for Alan to be able to have the time to "get his hands dirty" again. He was getting antsy and God brought the opportunity at the right time.

Also from this work Alan was given contact information for the CVJM, Heidelberg's YMCA. He was interested primarily because he heard it was much more christian focused than the YMCA in England or the US and that they even held a monthly youth service and a weekly Sunday service. He decided he would go by and check things out and see about volunteering in some way and when he did he was welcomed with open arms. We were invited to attend their monthly youth service about 3 weeks ago on a Saturday night and it was awesome. So many young people, in the age range we want to work with, just worshipping and praising God. Mind you it was primarily in German which made it difficult to understand but the worship was great. Afterwards we got a tour of their facility and we got really excited about everything they have going on. Alan decided to go and volunteer the next week and so he went a couple of days and helped with laying a tile patio (similar to the work he'd just done for Peter and his family). He loved it. He came home every night just glowing, loving doing work for the Lord and loving getting to know the young people and trying to practice his German.

It was that week that we went to the doctor and discovered that Chloe was still traverse (at 37 weeks) and that she would need to come by c-section and that because she was already approaching 8.5lbs that the doctor wanted to schedule a c-section for 9 days away. We were floored by this, thinking we had at least 3 weeks still to go but we trusted the doctors wisdom and started making plans.

Well, that c-section was supposed to have happened this morning but instead our "precious little girl to be" decided to turn into the proper position for giving birth naturally. It was funny because we cleaned the house like mad, checked webster into a kennel, packed our belongings for five days at the hospital and went to check-in. We had to do a ton of paperwork, we met with the anesthesiologist, viewed the maternity ward, chose our room and had the babies heartbeat monitored by the midwife. We then had a scan to check Chloe's position and low and behold she had turned. I told the midwife that the doctor didn't think she would turn and that's why we were having the c-section but that we had prayed she would and wanted to have a natural birth if at all possible. She said she would call the doctor to see what he wanted to do. He said we needed to come over to his office so he could examine Chloe and when we did he just felt between my pelvis bone and said, "yup, there's her head and you wanted a natural birth so you're free to go and come back and see me in a week!". We couldn't believe it. Alan was so made up but I had mixed feelings because I had prayed a ton and gotten so much good advice from my sister and others that had had c-sections that I was now pretty much prepared to have one. Chloe would then be here and out of me in less than 24hours. Still, we went back to the kennel and picked webster back up, come home and unpacked and then called our families to let them know the news. I was exhausted but we're excited to be trusting God about what's ahead.

Awesome housegroup tonight. We just love the people in the church and how God uses them in our lives. There was a precious missionary couple there serving in the middle east with YWAM and we really loved getting to know them. What a powerful ministry they have in a country where christians are persecuted regularly for their faith. Please lift them up in prayer as the reason they have been here these last two weeks is because he was diagnosed with cancer and they have been awaiting results of their tests. They now have to go to Brazil for treatment but we're just praying God will wipe the cancer out completely so that when they show up the doctors are amazed that God has cured him and there is no longer any need for the chemo.

Anyway, we'll update again once Chloe is here. We are so thankful for friends and family that stand by us, support us, pray for us and genuinely just love Jesus and want to serve Him the best way they know how. We pray God will bless each of you and we ask that if you have anything we could pray for on your behalf that you will not be shy but that you will send us an email or a facebook message letting us know. Praise God for his continued faithfulness to us all.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Five purposes for your life and key concepts from the book...

This is from the Purpose Driven Life, a book written by Rick Warren and the book our church in Heidelberg has been going through for Lent. It was a challenging book and I loved it but there was so much to take in that I really needed to summarize it in some way so I could digest it better over the next forty days and beyond. Maybe you will find these notes from the book useful:

Purpose Driven Life
Key Concepts

 Focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose
 You were made by God and for God and until you understand that, life will never make sense
 It’s not about me
 Long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God.
 I am not an accident
 Nothing matters more than knowing God’s purpose for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them.
 If you want your life to have impact, focus it!
 You weren’t put on earth to be remembered. You were put here to prepare for eternity.
 Living on purpose is the path to peace.
 This life is preparation for the next.
 When you live in light of eternity, your values change
 There is more to life than just here and now
 Character is both developed and revealed by tests, and all of life is a test
 The more God gives you, the more responsible he expects you to be
 Life is a test and a trust
 Your identity is in eternity, and your homeland is heaven
 Earth is not our final home; we were created for something much better
 Living for God’s glory is the greatest achievement we can accomplish with our lives
 When anything in creation fulfills its purpose, it brings glory to God
 Jesus will give you everything you need to live for him
 It’s all for him
 Anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship
 I was planned for God’s pleasure
 What God wants most from you is a relationship
 Trusting God completely means having faith that he knows what’s best for your life.
 God enjoys watching every detail of your life
 God smiles when I trust him
 Offering yourself to God is what worship is all about
 Surrender is best demonstrated in obedience and trust
 Surrender is not the best way to live; it is the only way to live. Nothing else works.
 The heart of worship is surrender
 Knowing and loving God is our greatest privilege, and being known and loved is God’s greatest pleasure
 Everything you do can be “spending time with God” if he is invited to be a part of it and you stay aware of his presence
 God wants to be my best friend
 God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but he does insist on complete honesty
 Bitterness is the greatest barrier to friendship with God
 The more you become God’s friend, the more you will care about the things he cares about
 I’m as close to God as I choose to be
 God-pleasing worship is deeply emotional and deeply doctrinal. We use both our hearts and our heads.
 The best style of worship is the one that most authentically represents your love for God.
 Real worship is rooted in the Word.
 God wants all of me
 God admits that sometimes he hides his face from us
 The most common mistake Christians make in worship today is seeking an experience rather than seeking God
 When you feel abandoned by God yet continue to trust him, you worship him in the deepest way.
 God is real, no matter how I feel
 Your spiritual family is even more important than your physical family because it will last forever.
 Being included in God’s family is the highest honor and the greatest privilege you will ever receive
 I was formed for Gods family
 Relationships are what life is all about
 The greatest gift you can give someone is your time
 Live is all about love
 We discover our role in life through our relationships with others
 The church will outlive this universe, and so will your role in it
 Jesus has not promised to build your ministry; he has promised to build his church.
 I am called to belong, not just believe.
 Real fellowship happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives
 Every time you understand and affirm someone’s feelings, you build fellowship
 I need others in my life
 When conflict is handled correctly, we grow closer to each other
 Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less
 The fellowship of the church is more important than any individual
 Community requires commitment
 God expects you to make the first move
 In resolving conflict, how you say it is as important as what you say
 Reconciliation focuses on the relationship while resolution focuses on the problem
 Relationships are always worth restoring
 Nothing on earth is more valuable to God than his church
 We must passionately love the church in spite of its imperfections
 We protect the fellowship when we honor those who serve us by leading
 It is my responsibility to protect the unity of my church
 Gods ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort; but character development
 Your character is essentially the sum of your habits
 God is far more interested in what you are than in what you do
 I was created to become like Christ
 We become whatever we are committed to
 The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel influences the way you act
 It is never too late to start growing
 The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God
 Many who claim to believe the Bible “from cover to cover” have never read it from cover to cover”
 The truth will set you free, but first it may make you miserable!
 The truth transforms me
 Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days
 Everything that happens to you has spiritual significance
 What happens outwardly in your life is not as important as what happens inside you.
 There is purpose behind every problem
 God develops the fruit of the Spirit by allowing you to experience circumstances in which you’re tempted to express the exact opposite quality!
 We think temptation lies around us, but God says it begins within us
 Temptation is a sign that Satan hates you, not a sign of weakness or worldliness
 Every temptation is an opportunity to do good
 The battle for sin is won or lost in your mind. Whatever gets your attention will get you
 The truth is, whatever you can’t talk about is already out of control in your life
 Don’t ever try to argue with the Devil. He’s better at arguing than you are, having had thousands of years to practice
 There is always a way out
 While we worry about how fast we grow, God is concerned about how strong we grow.
 There is no growth without chance, no change without fear or loss and no loss without pain
 God is never in a hurry, but he is always on time.
 There are no shortcuts to maturity
 If I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, I should question whether Christ is really in my life
 Spiritual maturity is never an end in itself. We grow up in order to give out
 Service is the pathway to real significance
 Service is not optional
 God never wastes anything
 An unopened gift is worthless
 When you are doing what you love to do, no one has to motivate you
 I was shaped for serving God
 What I’m able to do, God wants me to do
 It feels good to do what God made you to do
 For God to use your painful experiences, you must be willing to share them.
 Nobody else can be me
 You will never know what you’re good at until you try
 God wants you to enjoy using the shape he has given you
 God deserves my best
 Your shape reveals your ministry, but your servant’s heart will reveal your maturity
 Great opportunities often disguise themselves in small tasks
 I serve God by serving others
 Real servants don’t try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for his purposes.
 The close you get to Jesus, the less you need to promote yourself
 To be a servant I must think like a servant
 If God only used perfect people, nothing would ever get done
 Your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts
 God works best when I admit my weakness
 Jesus calls us not only to come to him but to go for him
 The Great Commission was given to every follower of Jesus
 It is easy to get distracted because Satan would rather have you do anything besides sharing your faith
 I was made for a mission
 Shared stories build a relational bridge that Jesus can walk across from your heart to others.
 While it is wise to learn from experience, it is wiser still to learn from the experience of others
 God wants to say something to the world through me.
 It has never been easier in history to fulfill your commission to go to the whole world
 People may refuse our love or reject our message, but they are defenseless against our prayers
 “You can’t take it with you” – but the Bible says you can send it on ahead by investing in people who are going there!
 The Great Commission is my commission
 A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will make you a great Christian
 You owe it to future generations to preserve the testimony of how God helped you fulfill his purposes on earth.
 Blessed are the balanced
 When God’s at the center of your life, you worship. When he’s not, you worry
 Before most unbelievers accept the Bible as credible they want to know that we are credible
 You can start living on purpose today
 Living on purpose is the only way to really live

The Five Purposes with key points that really spoke to me:

1. “Love God with all your heart”: You were planned for God’s pleasure, so your purpose is to love God through worship
 What God wants most from you is a relationship
 Trusting God completely means having faith that he knows what’s best for your life
 Anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship
 Surrender is best demonstrated in obedience and trust
 The heart of worship is surrender
 The best style of worship is the one that most authentically represents your love for God
 When you feel abandoned by God yet continue to trust him, you worship him in the deepest way

2. “Love your neighbor as yourself”: You were shaped for serving, so your purpose is to show love for others through ministry
 If I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, I should question whether Christ is really in my life
 An unopened gift is worthless
 When you are doing what you love to do, no one has to motivate you
 Your shape reveals your ministry, but your servant’s heart will reveal your maturity
 Great opportunities often disguise themselves in small tasks
 I serve God by serving others

3. “Go and make disciples”: You were made for a mission, so your purpose is to share God’s message through evangelism.
 The Great Commission was given to every follower of Jesus
 It is easy to get distracted because Satan would rather have you do anything besides sharing your faith
 God wants to say something to the world through me.
 It has never been easier in history to fulfill your commission to go to the whole world
 Your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts
 People may refuse our love or reject our message, but they are defenseless against our prayers

4. “baptize them into…”: You were formed for God’s family, so your purpose is to identify with his church through fellowship.
 Real fellowship happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives
 Every time you understand and affirm someone’s feelings, you build fellowship
 When conflict is handled correctly, we grow closer to each other
 Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less
 Reconciliation focuses on the relationship while resolution focuses on the problem

5. “teach them to do all things…”: You were created to become like Christ, so your purpose is to grow to maturity through discipleship.
 God is far more interested in what you are than in what you do
 Gods ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort; but character development
 Everything that happens to you has spiritual significance
 What happens outwardly in your life is not as important as what happens inside you.
 God develops the fruit of the Spirit by allowing you to experience circumstances in which you’re tempted to express the exact opposite quality!
 Temptation is a sign that Satan hates you, not a sign of weakness or worldliness