Friday, November 28, 2014

Advent Bible Study: Keeping Our Hearts Focused on Jesus

This holiday season I'm doing something I've never done before: an advent Bible study. I didn't even realize there was such a thing online until last year, when I saw about halfway through December a post by Mrs. T of Across My Kitchen Table. She was participating in an email list Bible study, and it roused my curiosity. But it was already half over, so I decided to wait till this year to investigate it.

This week I came upon a link to the Women Living Well study for this year, Keeping Our Hearts Focused on Jesus. This study is free, and it's in ebook form, which you download onto your computer or tablet, and you can even print it out. I downloaded mine onto my iPad mini and opened it in my Kindle app, where I can easily read it every day. I think I'll print out the actual study pages, but not the activities included, and put my study in a notebook. It would be just as easy to type in my answers as notes in my Kindle.

The study is four weeks long and includes some holiday recipes, a weekly devotional, daily family activities, and a daily (Monday - Friday) Scripture passage with study prompts to help you dig a little deeper into the Word. And that is what I like about it: you do the digging and you get the benefit of studying God's Word yourself! The study prompts are in the form of the SOAP method of Bible study (please note I have not investigated this link; I've only given you the page that explains the method. Please give me the benefit of the doubt if you dig deeper there and find something that is doctrinally wrong): Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer, with no commentary - just your words on the paper.

I plan to do this study with a friend, comparing our findings each day, beginning on Monday, December 1, to help sharpen each other. She is not married and I have no children at home, so neither of us will be doing the "family" type things. And - this is a bummer - I probably won't make any of the yummy-looking recipes either, since I really shouldn't eat things like cinnamon rolls. But that's ok! We will use it to dig deeper into the Bible and turn our focus on the Lord at this special time of year! Although I won't share every day with you here on the blog, I will occasionally share some things I'm learning throughout the month. And just so you know, I won't be sharing my friend's  thoughts with you - her study is only shared with me!

Have you ever done an advent Bible study? Want to join my friend and me on this one? Leave a comment!

Note: I am in no way affiliated with Women Living Well or Good Morning Girls. I simply found this study online, thought it would be good, and wanted to share it with you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Let It Snow!

Hello, sweet readers! I hope you're all doing well today!

First, I want to thank you all sincerely for your outpouring of encouraging words and prayer after my post on Saturday about all the things that are overwhelming me right now. This whole year has been like that! And that's how life is, a series of cycles: smooth sailing for a while, then some rough waters, then smooth again. It's been such a busy year that I'm enjoying this season of relative rest. We're not going anywhere (that I know of!) till May, when Beth graduates from college, and there are just the usual events planned for church and family between now and then. So thank you, thank you for your kind words and thoughts the past few days! I'm doing much better, praise the Lord!

One of the big events of this year was our move out into the country, about 15 minutes outside of our town of Kelowna, BC. We absolutely love living in the woods where it's quiet and peaceful. Our house is old enough to be a little quirky but new enough that we have running water and electricity and all that!

Although our new home is only 15 minutes from town, that short drive is all uphill, and by the time you reach our house, the elevation has risen about 1,000 feet. And that higher elevation makes a little difference in the weather up here. For instance, in the summer it's a few degrees cooler up here. We get more rain, too. And something we get here that residents in town don't always get is . . . snow!

Last night, we had snow. A whole foot of it in one night! For this southern girl, that's exciting! I think there have only been a couple of times in my entire life I've seen this much snow at once at my very own house! Here are some scenes from my windows early this morning:

Looking across the neighbours' pasture from our back door

From my sewing room, which faces the front of the house. You can see the snow piled on the roof of the porch and Wes's tracks when he left the house this morning.

Another view from my sewing room, this time on the side of the house, facing a small creek in the woods

From the sewing room, back into the woods

This is where the deer come down out of the woods to get to the little stream beside the house. You can see some tracks in the snow. I love this view!

Another view of our front yard. See the road down at the end of the driveway?

From one of my kitchen windows

That is not a snowman! It's a little birdbath/fountain!

From the window over my sink. This is my view as I wash dishes. See the horse corrals back there on the left? Our neighbours have 3 horses.

Our deck. Those tall lumps in the back corner are flower pots that I didn't put away. They look like they belong in Whoville!
So how's the weather where you are? Do you have snow? Do you enjoy the snow, or would you rather do without it? Leave a comment and tell me what's going on in your neck of the woods!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm A Mess!

Hello, my sweet readers! Thank you for your patience these past four weeks since we returned home from our trip of a lifetime. I still plan to get posts written and pictures posted of that trip, but I just have to be honest with you.

The past month, and the past two weeks especially, have been emotionally exhausting for me.

I'll tell you just a bit about the past two weeks. On Thursday, November 6th, a friend and I set off for Spokane, WA, to attend the Inland Northwest Ladies' Gala. We had a great time there, seeing friends we may only see that one time a year and listening to my favourite conference speaker, Mrs. Francie Taylor. Although I'd just come home from a long trip - which meant lots of relaxation time - I still felt in my spirit that I needed revival. I got that during that ladies' conference, and I came home refreshed spiritually, but worn out emotionally, for personal reasons.

The day I returned home, November 8th, was my dad's 70th birthday. My family and I posted on Facebook, praising my dad and telling how much he means to us. In one posting my mother made, she mentioned that Daddy wasn't feeling well, after running a fever all week. I had talked to him earlier in the week, so I knew about the fever, and I was surprised it was still present. So that weighed on my mind. Mother said he would go to the doctor on Monday if the fever wasn't gone.

Then, my uncle (my birth mother's brother) commented to wish my dad a happy birthday, and mentioned that his brother, my Uncle Bob, was in the hospital and starting chemo the next day. Chemo?! What was that about???

So now I have two men I love who are sick - and I don't know what's wrong with either of them!

On Sunday afternoon, my mom texted that she was taking my dad to the emergency room. His fever had risen, and the nurse at the doctor's office said take him right away to the hospital. At first the doctors could find no infection, but in the course of running tests, they found a blood clot near his spleen. A blood clot? I had just lost a childhood friend the month before to a blood clot! You see how these things preyed on my mind? One thing after another.

Long story short about my dad, they put him on IV antibiotics and blood thinners, and on Friday of that week he was able to go home, feeling much better and well on his way to recovery. Praise the Lord! He is still fine, and scheduled to resume his normal activities next week.

Last Monday, I was thinking I needed to call my uncle to find out what was wrong with my Uncle Bob and see how he was doing. I made a note to call him that evening. Late that afternoon, though, my cousin (Uncle Bob's son) called me on my cell phone. I knew immediately that this was not good news, because Jeff never calls me. And I was right. This was not good news. My Uncle Bob had passed away just a few minutes before. For the first time, I learned that my uncle had been diagnosed with leukaemia just ten days earlier. Doctors had tried chemo, but it was not working at all, so they had sent him home to make him comfortable. He'd had several good days, but on Monday, he woke up very ill and became progressively worse during the day.

This was such a shock to me! I hadn't seen this coming, and I felt like I'd been slammed against a brick wall! Honestly, all week I've found tears just running down my face. I've seen my uncle's face a thousand times in memories, and I've remembered things that were forgotten years ago.

Today, Saturday, was Uncle Bob's funeral. My dad and mom went, and I'm so thankful they could do that. It made me feel that a part of me was there with my family. But my heart still hurts that he is gone. Already. Way too soon.

I'm just trying to be honest with you. I am zapped. I need to get over this hurdle. I will get back here and post those pictures, but I just haven't been able to put my heart into it. Thank you so much for your patience.

Please pray for me if the Lord brings me to your mind. Thank you!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Trip of a Lifetime: South Africa

Over the next few days - or weeks - I will be posting pictures and reports about our trip to South Africa and Europe. It truly was the trip of a lifetime for us! I still can't believe that I've been to these countries! Hopefully my posts won't be too long or boring, because when I get started talking about them, I can't seem to stop, especially about South Africa. Our hearts were touched deeply by the people we met and saw, as well as by the work our missionaries are doing there. I hope you'll enjoy the pictures and get just a taste of what is happening there.

English countryside near London, from the plane
Our trip started with two days of travel across nine time zones. We left Vancouver, BC, at about 8:00 on Tuesday night and flew nine hours to London, overnight. This was our first time to ever leave North America, and our first overnight flight. When we arrived in London, it was about 1:00 in the afternoon locally, but to us, it was 4:00 in the morning! We had a six-hour layover, though, so we had plenty of time to stretch our legs, get something to eat, and catch a quick cat nap. Then we boarded the biggest plane out there for Johannesburg, South Africa!

My tiny little diet Coke! I was watching a TV documentary about dogs.
This flight was eleven hours, slightly southeasterly as we flew almost the entire length of the continent of Africa. We were able to sleep on the plane some, which was almost unavoidable, being our second night flying. We left London at about 7:00 pm. The nice thing about these long international flights is that there is a TV in the back of every seat. You plug in your headphones and watch TV, a movie, listen to music, or watch your flight progress in real time complete with a map. I wouldn't suggest that last one be your only entertainment on an eleven-hour trip, but it was informative and fun to see where we were, how far we'd come, and (groan) how much farther we had to go. I watched some TV shows, tried to watch about four different movies, and kept track of our progress for a few hours, then slept a couple, then woke up and couldn't go back to sleep at about 2:30 am, in whatever time zone - I have no clue! I just knew we still had about five hours of the flight left and couldn't sleep!

We weren't sitting where we could get a picture of the sunrise, but this picture is very much how I remember it!
The sun was just rising as we landed in Johannesburg, and it was beautiful! Our first African sunrise! Our missionary host, Bro. Jeremy Johnson, was waiting for us at the airport at 7:30 on Thursday morning. We retrieved our luggage - all ten pieces of it - after only losing one piece, which was easily found at the airport luggage-handling counter. Someone had picked up one of our pieces by accident, and fortunately had realized it before they left the airport. We had lots of gifts from our church family for the Johnsons, especially because there's a new baby girl coming after three little boys!

Our Ford Explorer full of luggage as we were leaving home. There are 10 suitcases piled in back there!
The Johnsons live a little over an hour from Johannesburg, and I managed to stay awake all the way there. I was humbled by my first sight of a housing extension just outside Johannesburg. These extensions are where the native black people were forced to live during apartheid, and where a majority of them still live. The houses we saw were 10'x20', two rooms with outer walls of tin sheets, and a tin roof. Most of them had electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing, but some didn't. There were thousands of houses in each extension.

When we arrived at the Johnsons' home, we were greeted by Rebekah and their three little boys. We arrived about 10:00, and by 10:30 we had both had showers and were taking a nap. Wes set the clock on his phone to wake us up in a couple of hours, but he forgot to turn on the alarm, so we slept for four hours instead! We woke up in mid-afternoon and forced ourselves to get up and get ready for supper. The church there has its mid-week service on Thursday, so we went to church and began meeting people our first evening there! We sang with them in English, and then tried to sing along in Zulu also! The pastor spoke English, but I must admit I had a very hard time keeping up - I was still exhausted. I've never had such a hard time staying awake in church! We were able to get into bed by about 9:00 that night, slept great all night, and felt almost like ourselves again Friday morning. We still had to go to bed early Friday night, but by Saturday we were able to keep going all day and begin to learn about Bro. Johnson's ministry in Clewer and Witbank, South Africa.

Let me add here that I was going to share a couple more pictures, thinking I had access to some of the pictures Wes took in South Africa. I didn't take any there because he was using our big camera (instead of a phone or iPad). We have enabled photo sharing between our computers, but I suppose he only shared pictures from Europe to this point. I'm really running behind on getting these posts ready, so I'm going to publish this one and try to get some South Africa pictures to share. Thanks for your patience this week. My computer has had issues all week on top of trying to learn this "sharing" thing!

Next: Pictures from the Johnsons' ministry!

Photo credit for picture of the African sunrise:  photo credit: rod amaru  via photopin cc

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mentoring the Next Generation

As most of you know, our son, Andrew, finished college last year and is still living and working in Lancaster, CA, where he went to school. During his last couple of years of college, he worked in the bus ministry at Lancaster Baptist Church, and there he met a young fellow named DayDay (that's a nickname; I'm not quite sure how to spell his real name!). Andrew got involved in DayDay's life, and as one thing lead to another, Andrew has become quite a "big brother" to DayDay.

Andrew's motivation runs deep: he wants to be different and make a difference in one child's life. So often, Christians complain about how inner-city kids are turning out. They turn to drugs and alcohol and immorality, and we shake our heads and do nothing. Andrew took action, and continues to be an integral part of DayDay's life, three years later.

Andrew doesn't want to just talk about doing something to help kids; he is doing something.

Something that has meant sacrifice for him.

Today I want to share with you Andrew's heart concerning DayDay, and invite you to help out if you can and want to.

Here's the story in Andrew's words:

"A few years ago I had the awesome opportunity of meeting DayDay and his family, and was able to begin tutoring him in some of his classes. The public education he was receiving seemed to be subpar. So last year I had the privilege of placing DayDay in a private, Christian school, and it went great!

Exceeding expectations, DayDay went from lackluster grades in his public school to impressive academic improvements in his first year of a private school environment. There have been bumps in the road along the way, but DayDay is continuing to grow socially, spiritually, and academically.

This year DayDay is back in his second year of private school, and the overall costs for a year of this education come in between $4,000-$5,000. These costs exclude clothing, after school care, and the occasional cheeseburger...

With only a single income, friends and family have encouraged me to start a fund-raising page for anyone who would like to be involved in helping offset the costs of this year's tuition. This is an opportunity to be involved in helping a kid receive a high quality education. Please consider being a part!"


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