Friday, December 26, 2008

Home From Moldova...

As we checked in at our gate in Frankfurt, we learned that our flight was delayed by 3 hours due to a storm affecting O'Hare Airport in Chicago but we were mysteriously upgraded to 1st Class for the 7-8 hr. return flight!!! It was lovely!!! We arrived at O'Hare too late on Sunday to connect to San Antonio so we spent the night at a nearby hotel and had a mid-morning flight to TX the next day - courtesy of AA. We survived the -4 degree (-35 degree wind-chill) temperature in Chicago but it was pretty brutal for a couple of Texans. So we're home, glad to see husbands and adjusting to life after our Moldova experiences.

This is most of our team which became good friends as
we shared such incredible days for over a week.

The first day in Moldova was one of the coldest while we were there. We're bundled up for the Sunday afternoon loading of the trucks which would accompany each team for the next week carrying the boots and socks we would place on the feet of hundreds of orphaned children there. This truck with the large CERI (Children's Emergency Relief International) sign, was a thrill for children to see as it drove onto the grounds of each orphanage. What excitement and joy we experienced from the delighted children everywhere we went.

A number of the orphanages are for children with physical limitations. This girl was unable to get out of her wheel chair so I needed to kneel on the floor to fit her feet. I was afraid of hurting her as her foot was unable to bend but as I watched her face, she never winced but remained smiling as a new boot was found to fit her foot.

We were both joyful after new boots were keeping her feet warm and dry.

My thoughts often return to my days in Moldova. The opportunity to provide these few moments of attention and love as I gave new boots to many precious children has been a great gift to me. It has made my Christmas extremely meaningful and memorable.

Each participant in this Operation Knit Together trip was given a small card with a creatively composed appreciation message from the CERI Moldova team. I share it here as a word picture of how blessed I have been.

and be glad!!!
You brought good things
of great joy which will be
to all people here in Moldova!!!
We are grateful that on the Christmas
Eve you have put aside time, money and
your family, so that many orphans and poor kids
in Moldova would feel the joy of Christmas. Winter shoes
will keep our kids' feet warm. Your smiles and words of
encouragement will remind them about Jesus and His Birth.
"...and they will call him Immanuel - which means, God with us."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday in Moldova Dec. 20 - Last day to share...

It is 10:25pm. I and most of the team are nearly completely packed. We will leave the Team House at 6:30am tomorrow morning for the airport. Flight leaves for Frankfurt at 8:30am. Arrival there is 10:15am. Deanna and I will check in for Chicago and a flight that is scheduled to leave at 2:15pm. We are getting some reports of storms in the midwest and northeast so keep praying for safe travel.

This has been a sweet day. The great college group we have joyfully volunteered to head to the warehouse this morning to help with some cleaning and organization. That took 90 minutes. They returned about noon and we all headed to Andy's pizza for lunch and then shopping at the outdoor market and places near there. Temperature was about freezing - cloudy and slightly drizzly - so quite endurable.

We returned to the Team House shortly after 4pm. I got organized and ready to join a half doozen others for supper with Dorel and Olga until 7pm. That was sweet as we shared their lovely home which they completed building this year in order to move in during the spring. Little David continues to grow and be a sweet child who loves to have company. His mom said he couldn't take a nap as he was so excited about visitors coming.

At 7pm we had some team debriefing and preparation thoughts about returning home. Many are expressing that this trip has been life changing and that it won't be possible to view life in the same way as was done previously.

So following that some packed, some played games and some wrapped up other end of trip activities.

We are all pretty exhausted but we're so thankful that we've been here and that the huge task that was tackled has been accomplished. So many people have made it possible. There are those with the vision; others to implement the vision; people who give, pray and go. All the bases have been covered and we are about to head home. We leave here knowing that many little and not so little feet are warmer and more ready for winter than they were 3 weeks ago. Those who have been doing these trips for many years tell us that they see a big difference between conditions of the facilities and conditions of feet from what was the situation 9 years ago. There were no buildings without heat on this trip. 9 years ago many of the orphanages had no heat!!! There used to be signs of frost bite but those signs are nearly gone. There is more joy on the faces and regular food seems to be served so the children appear healthy. The work of CERI on behalf of orphans in Moldova is having a profound effect physically and we pray that spiritual growth will continue as well. It is a ministry in which God is honored and glorified. I consider it a huge privilege and blessing to have been part of Team Awesome for Operation Knit Together 2008.

This will be my last post from Moldova. We will head to the airport in 8 hours! Thanks for continued prayers - weather could be an issue as we travel.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday in Moldova Dec. 19th

It's 11:20pm but this house isn't yet ready to settle down for the night. The northern team has returned to join the 2 southern teams so friendships and stories are being shared. We reconnected at the Appreciation supper which was held at Bethel Baptist Church this evening from 6-8:30pm. The Moldova CERI staff hosted the traditional Moldovan meal and our teams shared small gifts with those whose support has made our ministry possible. It was such a sweet time as we celebrated together the love for Moldovan orphans which we all share with passion.

The 3 weeks of Operation Knit Together 2008 completed its task this afternoon at about 2pm!!! Dearing Garner reported that 11,500+ pair of boots and socks had successfully been placed on the feet of every orphan in this country. He was part of the northern team which worked late last night because of delays on icy roads. Some children had to be awakened as they fitted feet past 10:30pm.

Our team headed out today at 8am toward the border with Transnestria. We arrived at nearly 10am but were told to cross at a different check-point. Perhaps the paper work involved for our team and the contents of our truck was too daunting? The second border crossing was a ferry. We arrived about 10:20am and learned that the next crossing would be at 11:30. So we sat in our van, ate our sandwich lunch and waited. The ferry left the dock as scheduled and a "late" vehicle flew to the crossing only to see they'd just been left behind. The driver got out to wave the ferry to return for them and we did!!! But we finally got across and to our destination after that fairly brief delay. The last ferry of the day would leave at 3pm so we knew we had to leave our facility by 2pm in order to be in line for that ferry. We had 90 minutes to serve the 300 adults at this home for folks with mental illness. We unloaded our truck, divided into 3 teams as that's how many translators we had and loaded our arms with boxes of socks and the slippers we were giving these folks. We were led by a staff person at the home and went into each room to leave our gifts. This was a challenging task for many reasons but the delight of the folks we met made our efforts worth it.

Upon our return to the Team House, our team had about 90 minutes before we were to leave for our evening dinner. It had been arranged that Deanna and I would get to meet the twin girls we sponsor along with another couple from our church. Elena and Valentina were waiting for us and we had a precious time of visiting, sharing gifts and taking photos. These gorgeous girls have a mother but she doesn't have employment that provides for the girls. Their father has not been part of their lives for many years. The girls lived at Internat 2 orphanage in Chisinau until this past summer when they graduated from 9th grade. They are now enrolled in a 3 year trade school which will prepare them to be "cookers". They are doing well in their courses. They live together in a "hostel" which must be a school dorm type facility. The girls are rather shy but expressed gratitude for all we're helping them with. Fortunately the Transitional Living program provides "Training" in spiritual matters and with issues of self esteem and life. It was a privilege to meet them and share a time of prayer before we hugged them good-bye.

Our dinner was delicious - abundant plates of traditional Moldovan food. We had appetizers of a couple fresh salads plus cold baked chicken with mushroom sauce. Then came platters of stuffed grape leaves and cooked cabbage served with sour cream sauce. I thought that was the entre but following that we were served "Mama Liga" - cooked corn meal served in a ball like mashed potatoes with shredded goat cheese and fried pork cubes. Dessert was a torte type cake served with hot tea or coffee. We were really full after all of that which had been beautifully served on a table set with Christmas candles and decorations. Those who shared during the "program" were Connie, Moldova CERI Director, The Moldova Baptist Bishop who will be the recipient of the over-run of boots and socks which will be used in Baptist benevolence and the CERI Social Worker who directs the Transitional Living program. We also heard the story of Olga, a young woman who has benefited from the CERI programs and has now finished advanced schooling to become a cosmetologist. The evening ended with lots of photos being taken and lots of hugs given.

Tomorrow will be a mostly "free" day - breakfast will be at 8:30am!!! Some volunteers will help organize the warehouse. There will be a souvenir's shopping trip at some point. We'll pack and about 5pm I will be joining some other team members for an evening with Dorel and Olga - past CERI leadership staff.

Our flight departs Chisinau at 8:30am Sunday. Our experience here has been truly a blessed experience but we're getting ready to return to family and friends for the celebration of Christmas USA version.

Your prayers continue to provide us with the strength we need and the safety we're experiencing. Thanks for keeping us wrapped in His care as we return.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday in Moldova Dec. 18th

It is 9:45pm and another lively game of Phase 10 is going on behind me but I'll try to summarize the day while I overhear the giggles and verbal jabs of the crew behind me.

We climbed into our van at 8am and headed to the Warehouse in order to load some additional sizes into our truck. By 9:30 we were on our way to our first stop which was a school/orphanage for physically handicapped children. Most were normal in intelligence but were coping with "not so severe" handicaps. We didn't have wheel chairs today but we did need to get onto the floor to fit some children who had deformities. We had very grateful, involved, professional faculty involved with the children - we've seen this quite universally at all of our stops. One teacher spoke quite a bit of English. I visited with her and learned that she had been to the United States to observe Elder care there. She attended an event that was held in Des Moines, IA and included a tour of part of the midwest including Chicago. She was very impressed by what she saw and knew that the level of care wasn't yet possible in Moldova but hoped for a way to incorporate some of the things she had seen being done in the states. She wondered if we had brought any pictures of the US - capitols, etc. - as she teaches history and would love to have some additional materials to use in her classroom. She had "won" her trip to the states by applying for the trip and being selected as 1 of 10 or 20 out of 150 applicants.

Next we went to another facility for handicapped children. This was a very clean, neat school. As we concluded, the administrator brought out a platter of a special bread for Christmas which was made in individual roll-sized pieces. They told us the school cafeteria had baked this treat for us. We ate it while there and it was similar to a breakfast bread with some raisins - we liked it. Again we were very profusely thanked for what we were doing.

Before leaving there to head to our 3rd stop, we recieved a call from Dearing Garner with the team in the north. He asked us to pray for them as they were on the side of the road with their drivers putting chains on their vehicles. A wind and dropping temperatures had blown in to cover everything with ice and they still had another facility to reach and serve before their day was finished. We have learned that they have had prayers answered for safety and the completion of their task. Great news!!!

Our 3rd stop was a baby hospital, day-care and orphanage combined in one facility. There are 70 children there under the age of about 3. Not all children were brought into a large room where we fitted them with little boots but quite a number were - probably about 30-40. They were so adorable and were so eager to have their feet fitted. They stuck out their feet and giggled gleefully as they had their turn to get new boots. There was a set of twin girls who were so sweet I could hardly resist packing them up to take home with me. We were not allowed to take pictures there so the memory will remain in our hearts.

Following that stop, we returned to the warehouse to unload all our unused boots and socks and reload with the 370 pair of slippers and 740 pair of socks we will use tomorrow.

We got home at about 7:30 which was our scheduled dinner time. The other team was here and we had lots of lively sharing about our day. The other team was at a facility today with just handicapped boys.

I haven't learned why so many handicapped children are in institutions here but the translators suggest families are unable to care for these children at home. We've also been told that a handicapped child is viewed as a disgrace so they are put in an institution or kept hidden at home. They also think it's possibly the result of Chernobl which happened in 1986 in the Ukraine - not that far away from here.

Kim has commented that she thinks the handicapped children have expressed the most thrill and gratitude for our gift of boots. Nikki M says the children alsways ask if we're Santa Claus. Nicky H says life in the states will be viewed much differently now that we've been here to see a different way of life.

We are nearing the end of the week but have a big day tomorrow. My team will be traveling to Transneistria to take slippers to 320 mentally handicapped adults there. We hope to be on the road at 8am. We'll conclude the day with a 6pm dinner with the support team we've had here at which time we'll give them some gifts.

A few team members will leave Sat. am and the rest of us will have a "free" day on Sat. Deanna and I will meet the twin girls we help sponsor who are in the Transitional Living program. I also hope to connect with some of the friends I have here who I've not seen yet this week. We'll have some souvenir shopping time and will get our packing done for an early Sun. morning trip to the airport on Sunday.

We know that prayers are being answered for our safety as we have observed several fairly serious accidents as we have been on the roads. Today has been cloudy, foggy, drippy and chilly but not below freezing here in the south where our 2 teams are serving. There are a number of drippy noses including mine so you can add a prayer for our health as well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wed. in Moldova Dec. 17th...

It is nearly midnight. I just spent 45 minutes typing a blog post and somehow accidently deleted it!!! So I'll attempt a repeat of today but it may be a shortened version.

Our teams were up and off at 8:30 this morning and our team returned at 9pm. We had stops today at 3 facilities which took us on a drive nearly to the Romanian border and a couple stops in between. Each place had lots of excited, lovable and grateful children. We always have great help from the oldest boys at each stop to unload and reload the large boxes of boots and socks.

Unfortunately, we have begun to run out of some sizes - especially the black boot we've been giving to the girls. Their only option now is to accept a pair of brown "boy" boots or take a size of black "girl" boots which is either too large or too small. Their choice seems to fall at about 50/50 when their option is explained. We are all grieved to have to disappoint some girls but we're at the end of 3 weeks of distribution and this can't be avoided. The boot order is carefully planned based on records of sizes and gender from past disttributions but shortages seem to be inevitable.

It begins to get dark by 4pm each afternoon so we drive in darkness part of our day. Today we had thick fog as we drove the final leg of our journey so that slowed our van and truck quite abit. We have a large truck that travels with us hauling the large boxes of boots. As we drove into our 3rd facility today, a front wheel of the truck dropped into a hole and was stuck. We were able to unload, however, and by the time we were ready to reload and leave, the driver had shoveled the wheel free and we were not delayed in our departure.

Many of our team felt that our 3rd stop today was their favorite place so far. They felt that the children were more demonstrably grateful and so there were quite a few minutes of clinging hugs. In our concluding devotional, we mentioned that Christmas was coming which is a time of celebration of the greatest gift which God has given to the world. That gift is Jesus who made salvation possible. We told them that our gift to them of new boots was symbolic of that greatest gift from God. We wanted them to think of God's gift each time they put on their new boots. As we neared the door to leave, little Maria had something she wanted to say. She chocked back tears which flowed freely as she concluded her effusive expressions of gratitude. She also promised that she would never forget us and that each time she put on her new boots, she would think about the greatest gift of Christmas which is Jesus. At that point, Maria was not the only one with tears in her eyes and gratitude in her heart.

Thanks for your continued prayers. We are staying strong physically and as a team. Tomorrow we will head to 3 more orphanages - closer in proximity to Chisinau so perhaps we will not be out quite so late tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday in Moldova Dec. 16

It is nearly 10pm and it is now my time for the computer. A group of 8 is behind me playing the game Phase 10 and at times it gets pretty lively so we'll see how long I can concentrate.

It has been another day of work, joy, emotion and exhaustion. Some of us have some sore muscles from lifting large boxes of shoes and/or being up and down while fitting boots.

My team headed off at 8am for a 2 hour drive SW of Chisinau to an orphanage with 198 children. The space for set-up was a little smaller than we had yesterday but there was heat in the building so we didn't get chilled as we worked. Again the facility seemed to be in good condition, the children were clean and sweet and faculty appeared to be caring and supportive of the children. The children almost always thank us for the new boots and seem pleased with the gift. A team member named Nicki did the student body closing devotional at each home where we were today. She is a foster single Mom in TX so has lots of experience with children similar to the ones we're seeing here. We concluded the first place about 1pm and the faculty invited us to their kitchen where they allowed us to eat our sandwich lunch along with the hot tea and cookies they served us. That was a nice place to enjoy refreshment before getting back on the road to another orphanage. The next stop was a large home for 300 girls with emotional illness. They were fitted by another team in the past couple weeks but there had been a shortage of boots so we were delivering the needed extras so that all girls would receive a pair.

From there we went to a facility for 100+ children who have some type of physical impairment. 1/3rd of the student body also have a learning disability. That was quite a challenging event. Quite a number of children were in wheel chairs; some had various deformities of feet and/or hands; and others had various weaknesses and disability. It took quite awhile to fit these children as many were unable to assist to any extent in getting the boots on. For the wheelchair children, we knelt on the floor and took care of their needs that way. I tried very hard to be gentle and caring even when removing the socks of a child whose foot was quite severely deformed. I struggled some to get socks and boots on those feet but I was imagining how painful it must be for the child to realize they were the cause of difficulty and delay. Without being able to express anything with words they understood if a translator was not nearby, I tried to take a few moments to rub and caress each foot with a smile on my face as I looked into their eyes which hopefully communicated that I wasn't repulsed by their body though inside I'm afraid there were many times that I was. I have been trying to pray silently for each child I care for as I ask God to somehow provide the needs which must be huge for children who are alone and separated from parents who can give all they need in a loving home. It is hopeful to see that there are many caring teachers in their schools and to see that they are quite healthy and adequately clothed.

As we concluded our time at that orphanage, I spoke with the administrator for a few minutes. She thanked us for what we had done for all their children. I thanked her for all she did every day for so many children with needs requiring help with everything. I asked about the length of each employee's shift and she told me that they work from 7am - 9pm each day. I'm assuming that's 5 days a week but I'm not sure. What devotion these folks have to work those hours and daily do what I did for only a couple of hours today.

Our team climbed wearily onto our van in deep thought; knowing that we are tremendously blessed - to have had the opportunity to serve others for a few hours today and to trust God to care for all needs whether inward or outward.

The other team stayed in or near Chisinau today for their orphanage stops. At one of the places, they were joined by the United States Ambassador to Moldova and his wife who arrived to help fit a few children as they were interviewed and filmed by a media crew. Supposedly the group was to be featured on the evening TV news but we missed seeing it.

The drive in the countryside was a nice outing for our team today. We observed a number of horse drawn carts hauling people and things around villages. There is still no snow and today was a little warmer outside so we were pretty cozy most of the time. The game behind me is ending and I could use some sleep so will sign off for today.

We're all being well fed and cared for at the Team House and by our CERI support team - translators and van drivers.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday in Moldova Dec. 15th...

Our team has returned from a full day but the other team staying at the Team House with us hasn't returned yet so dinner is an hour away. I think my team members have decided to rest for awhile.

We were on the road at 8am toward the border with Transnestia. For the last half of the drive, there were some snow flurries which gave a coating of white to the landscape and caused the road to be slippery. Boris drove our van more slowly so we did not have any problems. At noon as we were transferring to our second orphanage,we passed an accident in which a car had flipped over just off the highway. We do not know if there were injuries or not.

We arrived close to 940 am at the community center in a small community near the border. 178 children had been transported there from their facility in a village outside of Tiraspol. They were unloading as we arrived. A number of the teachers were there with them. The set-up guys for our team, Trey, Don and Patrick from Houston, moved quickly to decide how the room could be arranged for our task. The oldest boys came to help carry boxes into the building and it wasn't long before we were ready to start fitting children with their new boots and socks. We stocked each "fitter" with socks so that they could concentrate on the child and have socks handy. We have 4 translators and they are "fitters" also and are seated between the Americans to assist with the limited conversations we are able to have with the children. Deanna and I worked as "fitters" along with keeping the sock supply available. The community center was not heated so we kept our coats on and some of the team still were pretty chilly. We were all impressed with how healthy, clean, well-dressed, beautiful and sweet the children were. We removed their socks and put on new socks but most children were wearing 1 or 2 pair of socks. They were full of smiles and seemed very excited and appreciative of the new items. Each child was given a Bible story booklet, a couple pieces of chocolate candy, a second pair of socks and their old footwear in a bag as they left their personal fitting session. The 2 hours it took for this group seemed to fly by and went quite smoothly. We had plenty of boots in all sizes so every need was met. Before the children loaded their buses to return, our team leader did a short devotional time with them. We left with gratitude for the joy we'd experienced during the morning.

Lilia, the Team House cook, had prepared a sandwich lunch for us. We drove toward our second facility and pulled over along the road in a pull-off area out of the traffic. We stayed in the van and passed around our lunch items. We had some debriefing sharing as we ate and decided to adjust the sock access for the next stop. One gal volunteered to "issue" 2 pair of socks to each child as they were assessed for boot size. This seemed to work better so we will probably take turns filling that role at our future sites.

The second facility had about 148 children. These children were perhaps even a little more out-going but they seemed a little needier than the first group. Most socks had holes that we took off so the new socks were a real hit. Again it was a sweet experience for our team. After the closing devotional, the children sang us a song and hung around to help load the truck or engage in conversation and get pictures taken.

It has been a great but exhausting day. We will spend time at 2 orphanages again tomorrow, 3 on each day Wed. and Thurs and a large, adult facility on Fri.

The other team has just arrived and food is being brought to the table so I better sign off for now. Thanks again for remembering us in prayer.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday in Moldova...

Our day started pretty early - about 5:30am for my room - and it's nearly 10pm and most have gone to their rooms for the night but I'm hearing giggles from our college gals who are enjoying making new friends and being used by God to serve in new ways and the week is just beginning. Everyone reported sleeping well last night which helped a bunch with the tasks of today.

Breakfast at 7, orientation for the day at 7:30, load the vans at 8:30 so that we were at Jesus Savior Baptist Church before 9am. Eight team members had to have all their luggage in their van so that they could be taken to Balti (Beltz) when their truck load of boots, socks, gospel booklets, hats and scarfs was loaded this afternoon.

It was a very special day at Jesus Savior BC this morning and we are all grateful we were here to experience the joyful worship service. It was a day when 25 +/- adults were baptized. As we arrived, this group was seated, all dressed in white, in the choir loft for a picture. Then they moved to front pews until the time in the service came for the baptism. We knew there was going to be the baptism and communion during the service so it was anticipated that it would be a 3 hour service instead of the usual 2 hours. Our leader decided we would find it difficult to complete our other required tasks for the day if we stayed for all 3 hours so we stayed only 2 hours and left after the baptism and before communion. Our leaders asked us to sit in the balcony so we could leave without making too much commotion. The balcony was already nearly full when we arrived so half of us had to sit in the back rows on the main level. By 9 am, the church was overflowing - extra chairs brought in for the center aisle, people standing all around the back and sides of the sanctuary and filling the foyer to only partially be able to see and hear. I was told this was more than the usual morning congregation due to many extra family members and friends of those being baptized. The service included the usual outstanding choir, congregational singing, prayer times when people spontaneously offer prayers throughout the sanctuary, the sermon and a special music group consisting of 3 trumpeters and some orchestration. There were a couple singing groups who sang as well. Ina, the translator I had in August, was in the service and was able to translate much of the service for me. She translated the pastor's sermon which was primarily directed to those being baptized. Many of those folks were young people. He started his sermon by telling about the incident a number of years ago at Colunbine, CO. He told of a young woman there who had been asked if she believed in God. When she answered, "Yes", the pastor told everyone that she gave her life for her commitment to God. He also told about Paul and Silas who were imprisoned for their faith. It was touching to be reminded of the truth about what could happen as a result of commitment to Christ. During the service it was reported that the baptismal group had been asked 3 questions; then just prior to their baptism, these questions were asked of them again:
* 1. Have you made this decision by yourself without coercion from anyone else?
* 2. Have you repented and committed your life to Christ?
* 3. Do you promise to faithfully live committed to Christ for the rest of your life?

Two pastors participated in the water as they baptized 2 people at a time. The pastors placed a hand on each head as the person went straight down into the water and back up. As soon as they came up, the choir sang a short song. This happened for each group baptized. Lots of people were taking pictures so hopefully I will be able to include a glimpse of the service in the future. (This computer doesn't seem to allow adding photos.) It was a very joyful and worshipful service. It is always a great blessing for me to share in worship at this Baptist Church whice seats 2000 +. The people are very friendly and welcoming.

Following the service, we headed to McDonald's for lunch - pretty traditional food there.

We had been instructed to attend church in "work" clothes as we would not return to the team house until we had sorted and loaded all the supplies needed for the week for 3 separate teams who will distribute 5-6000 pairs of boots to children - Lord willing. We arrived at the warehouse about !;30pm. It was a large corrugated steel building with electricity but no heat! The temperature both inside and outside of the building was in the 20's - pretty chilly for the mostly Texan crew we have on this team. I haven't forgotten life "in the north" so I was able to be bundled for the occasion and stayed warm all afternoon. We completed our task about 5:30pm and many were chilled but no one was complaining nor flagging from the work.

I was put in charge of socks and I immediately designated a co-chair for the project so Deanna came on board without a whimper. We soon realized the task was huge and we needed additional help which came as Christi and Kim joined our ranks. We had the numbers for all the orphanages we will be serving and each child will be given boots and 2 pair of socks. We divided the socks into S, M and L. We had the total # each team needed. The socks were "mostly" in boxes which had come from a company in North Carolina (I believe) and from Buckner Ministries. "Some" of the labels on the boxes were accurate but we had to open most boxes to determine sizes and quantity. We stayed on task all afternoon and managed to have each team's amount ready to load by the time the boots were loaded. We handled 12,000 pairs of socks!!!

We are being told this would probably be our coldest day and the most physically difficult as we won't be working in unheated buildings for the rest of the week though we have been informed that some of the orphanages may have no heat.

All 26 of us worked with energy and endurance. Thank goodness for leaders who have been doing this since 1999 and for the youngsters who aren't prima donas. We were all ready for supper by 6:30 and then for sharing afterward related to plans for tomorrow.

We'll again have breakfast at 7am and load our vans at 8 to head off to orphanages. The team we're on is heading toward Transneitria to deliver boots to children from Tirospol. The boots cannot be transported across the border so we'll be met in the buffer zone by buses bringing children to us there. We will go to another facility before returning in the evening.

I'll try to bring a post about that tomorrow evening. It's 11pm and the house is now quiet so I better head to bed also.

Your prayers and comments mean a lot to us so keep them coming. There will be travel tomorrow plus our first opportunity to spend time with the children we've come to serve. I'm really looking forward to the day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Safe Arrival in Moldova Dec. 13, 2008

It is 9pm in Chisinau, Moldova and 26 team members have just completed supper and our first team orientation meeting.

It has been an incredible trip here for Deanna and me. At every juncture we had provision for everything and all went extremely smoothly. Our departure from O'Hare was delayed by about an hour while a fan was changed on the plane but that time was made up in flight and we arrived in Frankfurt at about the same time as we were scheduled. We had no problem getting our luggage and getting checked in at Air Moldova. No extra fee was assessed for any of our bags as we had anticipated. The lines going through security were long but no bags were ever opened. A few questions were asked about contents but we were always cleared to proceed. We felt and knew that specific prayers were being answered for that process. Thanks so much.

The team members we were meeting in Frankfurt arrived at the gate after we got there but it was nice to begin to meet the people we will be spending the week with. Many are students at TX universities and all are excited as we are about what we will be doing.

All flights have been smooth and we slept fairly well on the 8 hr overnight flight. All luggage for all team members arrived with us.

There is no snow here but it is quite cold. Our coats felt good as we arrived.

Some team members are busy unpacking supplies before heading to bed. We will have breakfast at 7am; continued orientation, devotions and at 8:30 we'll head to Jesus Savior Baptist Church. Lunch will be at McDonalds and then we'll head to the warehouse where all the boots are waiting. We will load 3 trucks with the 5000 pair still to be distributed. There's no heat in the warehouse so we've been told to prepare for that.

Deanna and I will be part of a team of 8 that stays in Chisinau for the week but we don't know more than that about our schedule. Another team of 8 will stay in the same Team House here but they will go to different facilities.

We know God has already been blessing us during these days of travel. We are pretty tired but are so grateful that the week has begun with such grace.

In the airport at O'Hare, I met a young woman named Barbara. She had just said good-bye to a special boyfriend and was returning to Germany. Her eyes were red and swollen from crying. As I heard some of her story, I learned that she's facing difficult choices with a conflict between her head and her heart. It was a time of sharing some things related to the most important gift of Christmas and what it means for all humanity. She was a good listener and I knew God was speaking to her through me. As you think of her, ask God to help her have the courage she needs to make the right decision for her future.

The computer is working so hopefully there will be more time in the days to come to send some updates.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Final Preparation for OKT in Moldova...

Operation Knit Together 2008 started Nov. 28th and continues for another week. Eight teams will have fanned out to cover all Moldovan orphanages - 12,000 children - to individually put new boots and socks on their feet. I will be part of the 3rd week in which this takes place. I'll be on a team of 8 who stay in the capitol city, Chisinau, and move out from the IMB Team House there. Watch this video to get an idea of what happens with this project.

Another gal will travel with me from our homes in Kerrville, TX. We're very excited and can't wait for the fun to begin.

I'm hoping to add to this blog from Moldova. If the house computer is up and running, I'll post updates throughout the week.

More information is also available at

  • "Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance." Ps. 2:8a

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Summarizing a couple of weeks...

Our time in Richmond, VA flew by with every moment spent maximizing family time and collecting memories to savor long after the aircraft door closed and our jet taxied to the runway. With 4 children between the ages of 5-10, our son and his wife have little time to be inert. It's a mighty peppy foursome with energy measured by the ton. But I had treasured moments with each one and feel privileged to be needed and wanted by each grandchild - sports with the boys, baking with the girls and games with all. The boys - ages 9 and 10 - still like to sit in my lap for bedtime stories. We almost made it through a SUGAR CREEK GANG book which my mother had read to me and I had read to my children. The girls were in the midst of a PRAIRIE PRINCESS book. I love these ages - love reading to children - love having family opening their home to other family.

A highlight Sat. morning after Thanksgiving was to attend a performance by the Christian Children's Theatre of THE CHRISTMAS CAROL. I was very impressed by the well-done show we attended. And I was very grateful for the play's message: A person can change; you don't have to remain a Scrooge forever, you don't have to be alone if you have family because they love you and will welcome you whenever you are willing to walk up to their door... It was a great message for the holiday and I'm glad our family attended.

Since returning to TX, my attention has been consumed by preparation for my trip to Moldova which starts on Friday. Interspersed with the mundane, however, has been the enjoyable side of Christmas and birthdays - 2 in our family this month - mine and our daughter's. So I've attended 3 Christmas parties, a couple birthday celebrations and participated in something our church does each year which is called "The Edgewater Boutique."

The boutique event is a time for residents of Edgewater Nursing Home to "shop" for Christmas gifts. Items they or members of their family might enjoy are donated. That collection of things is put on display where residents can view and make their choices. If they want their selection wrapped, we provide that service. For folks who cannot get out to shop elsewhere, this event is greatly anticipated and enjoyed.

It was at Edgewater, a nursing home in our community, that I met Betty N. She needed help with the event because she had limited vision and was in a wheelchair. We almost immediately bonded. She was excited about the event and was a fun-loving person. She found a lovely crocheted sweater and wanted to put it on. I helped her with that and she decided to "buy" it. I told her it was a gift and required no payment. After that, she was ready for coffee and a cookie so we moved to a table where those were being served. We had plenty of "helpers" for this event, so I decided to linger in conversation with Betty. She shared much of her life story with me. We had some things in common and great differences in other things. She grew up with her wants and needs easily provided for - not the same for me. But we both had/have loving, kind and capable mothers. After hearing about Betty's life, I decided to ask her about the future - specifically the time when her life in this world would end. I asked what she thought would happen then. She said, "I hope I go to heaven." That statement led to a conversation in which I was able to share with her about things of faith which she said she found very interesting. She told me she had never before heard the things I was telling her and she remained actively engaged as long as I talked. She kept thanking me for spending so much time with her and for telling her about such wonderful things. I told her she could have a spiritual birth and become one of God's children. She said she'd have to think about it. I told her it was possible to pray and become a child of God right then if she'd like that. She immediately replied that she wanted to. I told her I would pray and she could repeat my words. She spoke clearly and exactly every word I said. When we finished praying, she beamed and continued to thank me for taking time with her that morning. I took her to her room after that and as we passed another person helping with the event, he spoke to her and said, "Have a wonderful day!" Her sincere reply was, "I've already had a wonderful day. It can't get any more wonderful than it's already been!."

My heart was soaring. As I drove to Edgewater that morning, I had been thinking of the time when Jesus told his disciples that "the fields are white for harvest." I told him that I believed that was true so I prayed that He would show me someone that morning who may be ready for His harvest. And that prayer was answered in an amazing way!!! Betty was waiting to be told God's truth. When she heard it, she responded with eager, trusting faith and I shared the joy I knew that angels were expressing as they welcomed another sheep whose name had just been entered into the Lamb's Book of Life.

Tomorrow I will complete my packing, have lunch with some girlfriends, mail some packages and take a couple of pictures to Betty at Edgewater. I told her I would come back to see her and I can't wait! I will also make a big pot of chicken soup for a friend who had surgery on Monday and is now home. I know it will be a good day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Waking up in Richmond...

All went smoothly yesterday as we flew through the clouds to Richmond, Va. Our day started at 3:30 am for a very early flight but the beautiful faces of 4 adorable cherubs welcoming us at the airport was worth any loss of sleep I experienced. We've had some basketball court battles and several rounds of UNO - it's a grandmother's dream come true!!!

I'm introducing my grandchildren to my blog and perhaps we'll have a guest author in the near future. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Heading to Richmond, VA

Over the Rivers and Through the Clouds,
to Grandchildren's house we go...

This grandmother will spend this Thanksgiving holiday with all four grandchildren at their home in Richmond, VA. Our son lives there where he is the owner/operator of Tuckernuck Plaza Chick-fil-A. We'll spend a week and have lots of fun I'm sure. Our daughter will join us from Florida as she gets a short break from teaching 8th grade English. Our other son is on tour with his wife whose schedule can be seen at

This picture was taken in December 2007 when our son and his family visited us in TX. My mother was spending a couple of months with us as well. The four generation picture is a treasure. My mother will be enjoying Thanksgiving in WI with other family who live near her there.
I'm giving thanks for many things but especially for my family this year.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Thanksgiving Memory...

For much of my married life, I have lived physically far from family. Because of this, I often have been unable to celebrate special holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and birthdays with those most special to me.

My husband was a pastor at three different churches in our early years of marriage. Our first church was in Loomis, NE. Loomis was 700 miles from our parental homes in WI so we traveled "home" only during the summer when we had some vacation time.

We had moved to NE in early September, 1972. Our only child at that time was 15 months old. As Thanksgiving neared, my thoughts turned to family and I longed to be able to spend the holidays with them. I wanted our son to be hugged, kissed and pampered by the special people who were so fond of him. But we had a new "family" and now our responsibility and privilege was to experience the holidays with these friends.

Though I would have dearly loved being with my own family, we had been very warmly welcomed by the congregation in Loomis and I looked forward to memorable moments with them also. But would there be an invitation to join someone's family for Thanksgiving or would we be alone for the day?

The answer to that question came soon because of a special woman named Alice Dahlstedt. Alice, who had never married, was old enough to be my grandmother. More importantly, she was wise and loving enough to shine God's grace all around Loomis and especially into the home of the new minister and his family. By Thanksgiving, Alice was already smitten with our 15 month old son and her generous gifts of time had often lifted my mothering load.

Alice and I had a discussion in early November about Thanksgiving. She diplomatically inquired about our family's plans. I told her I didn't know what we would do but I had been thinking that since we didn't have family nearby, we'd like to share the day with others who may be in the same situaion for the holiday. Alice's face lit up and to this day I can see her joy as she said, "I'll provide the food if you provide the home!" That was a magnificent idea. She knew the people who would be alone so together we invited about 10 individuals all of whom were delighted to accept our invitation.

It was a lovely day. Our son napped in his own crib while we prepared the food and when he awakened all the guests showered him with hugs, kisses and pampering which filled him with exuberance we could hardly harness. The sincere gratitude and joy expressed by each person is a memory I still treasure.

We stayed in Loomis for three years and most Thanksgivings and Christmas's were spent hosting a group of people who might otherwise have been lonely except that Alice cared about them and taught me through her generous thoughtfulness to care for the lonesome and marginalized as well.

From Loomis we moved to Brooklyn, NY. Again we were too far from family to celebrate the holidays with them. Alice wasn't with us but we had her example and training so Thanksgiving 1976 was opened to those who would have been alone without our invitation. We included Richard that year. Richard was reluctant to come as he carried the scars of inner wounds we could only glimpse through his troubled demeanor. He frequently dismissed himself from the table to be alone in our basement. We did our best to share our lives with Richard that day and in the days that followed. In time, Richard was ready to embrace the God we sought to serve, share, honor and glorify. His letter of gratitude years later mentioned the life changing invitation to join our family for Thanksgiving in 1976.

With these treasured memories resurfacing in 2008, I am thankful for Alice who loved my family in ways that allowed me to learn the privilege of caring for lonely people who need the touch of a friend. And I'm thankful to God who is the only friend whose touch is the eternal cure for loneliness.

I am participating in a Thanksgiving Celebration as described in the
following invitation which is extended to you as well.

You are cordially invited by L.L. Barkat to join a Thanksgiving Celebration. Just post about a Thanksgiving memory, something you are thankful for this year, a special family Thanksgiving tradition, your favorite "thanksgiving" bible verse, or anything else you can dream up. Be serious, spiritual, creative, beautiful, humorous, whatever... it's a celebration and good celebrations welcome all kinds of expression!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Play the Game You Know How to Play!

Most mornings I take a 2-3 mile walk around my neighborhood as I start my day. It is a wonderful time for me to breathe deeply, listen to birds, get my heart rate up, notice my neighbors and pray. I walk the same route everyday and it's never boring to me. I like that version because I know exactly how many miles I walk and because I can ponder other things instead of needing to notice and wonder about a new route.

A month or so ago, my thoughts while I walked began centering on a question I sometimes ask myself. That inner articulated question was, "Am I doing what God wants me to do or are there other things I should be involved in along with or instead of what I'm doing now?" And while this question swirled in my thoughts, I began to list possible options to answer the question. Should I look for added employment, should I have greater income to add to our home, should I take on more volunteer work, should I sign up to take a class offered in Community Education, should I teach a class through Community Education, should I... And the list went on and on.

But a half mile into my walk, I "happened" to walk past a parked car. This car was parked in front of the home of people I do not know. I assume they have 2 school age children because I see the names of 2 children on Spirit Placards from local schools which are posted in their front yard. As I neared the car, I could see that a teen aged girl was leaning through the passenger side window engaged in conversation with the driver. I assume the driver was a Mom driving the school carpool that day and was waiting for the other child to come out of the house. The teen aged girl was wearing what I think was the uniform of the local girls' volleyball team. It must be that she was going to play in a game later that day. I say that because of the one brief sentence I heard as I walked past that car that morning. The driver Mom was saying, "Play the game you know how to play!"

I walked on without even hesitating but the short clip of conversation I had just heard shot like an arrow into my earlier stream of thoughts. It was as though God himself had spoken with the utmost clarity a message he wanted delivered to my life. I walked on repeating over and over again those words and gained joyfulness as I claimed that message for myself and my questioning thought life.

Sometimes I get so distracted by the "Shoulds" being shouted into my life that I forget what I know absolutely when I sort through the sometimes upsetting, off-course byways into which my mind wanders. But that early morning walk and its timely word to me has given me affirmation to "Play the game I know how to play" and accept relief from all the times and ways in which I beat myself up mentally for not "doing" enough. It has been liberating!

Another benefit from that "magic moment" along my walking trail is what it reminds me of about God and his extensive creativity and capability. If he will orchestrate my morning walk to be strategically timed so that he can give me a 3 second message delivered precisely as I pass the open window of a parked car, won't he also do that for other children he has? Often times we think we might be God's only voice for some of the people in our lives - family, friends, neighbors... We might worry that if we don't warn them about their wayward ways they won't have any other way to hear what God may want them to be told. But that is such a limiting idea of what God is capable of. And my morning walk is a clear demonstration of that. I can trust him to communicate his message in very creative ways. Until my walk a month or so ago, I would not have listed my "moment" as one of his ways of communicating to his people but now I know better. And his message to others will be just as compelling and creative.

So one of the "Games" I think I know how to play is my writing. I am getting better about believing its something God wants me to do. The experience on my walking trail is one more element causing the spark to burn brighter calling forth my writing gift. I'll close these thoughts with some affirming, energizing words sent to me yesterday in an email from a dear friend after she read one of my recent blogs.
"Thank you so much for sharing your "self", your soul, your fears and your truths because I believe they speak to many and especially to me. I have always thought that you exemplify God's words through your actions and the way you communicate with people - it's truly a special gift from God and I hope you don't stop!"

There's excitement for me as I continue to live in light of "Play the game you know how to play" - a message specially timed and tailored for me from an ingenious, loving, patient creator.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Connection to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

I have been doing some cleaning in our garage within the past week. It is a detestable job but I have made some progress. In a box of items we inherited from a distant cousin of my husband, I found a newspaper clipping of interest. I will explain.

The distant cousin's name was Eylene Worden Sherman. She grew up in Hillsboro, WI and married a local boy, O.W. Sherman. He became a radiologist and practiced at the VA hospital in Temple, TX as his career closed. Both Eylene and O. W. were only children in their family's of origin and they had no children. My husband and I moved to TX a few years before Eylene passed away. He was one of her few living relatives and nearly the only relative close enough to Temple to drive there to receive items from her estate that only family would want. We were able to purchase some of her treasures and were given the things not suitable for an estate sale. So Eylene's boxes of memorabilia have been stored in our garage since we received them in late 1989. I decided this fall it was time to tackle those boxes and make some decisions. Since I'm not in the bloodline of this family, I decided I needed my husband's advice about things in the boxes. There have been all sorts of interruptions in our life making it nearly impossible to get to the task - other more urgent boxes, an out of town business trip for hubby for a week, election responsibilities, life... I'm sure you all understand the difficulty of putting a 20 year old box full of non-strategic things at the top of anybody's priority list. So the box made it to the table where it was scheduled for attention but it has now been put back on the shelf from where it came until after Jan. 1, 2009 because life has gotten in the way. But before closing the box and reshelving it, I pulled one item out and have it in front of me.

This item is a 5x7 frame with a newspaper clipping from the Madison, WI Capital Times of Oct. 1941. The short article has the heading, HAD FAMOUS COUSIN. The article begins with these words, "O. W. Sherman,... tells us that he is a third cousin of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, famous leader of the 'March from Atlanta to the Sea' in Civil war days." The article gives the connection of O. W's father and Gen. Sherman and more accurate bio information about the Gen. which I confirmed by doing some web searches today.

I give this information only as a preface, however, to the closing paragraph of the article which has prompted some reflection on my part. That paragraph is this:
"Gen. Sherman had an individual code of religion which, expressed in his own words, was:
'I believe that if people only act half as well as they know how, God will forgive the balance.'"

So what are my thoughts in response to this Code of Religion?
  1. What is the biblical chapter and verse for this statement?
  2. When will I find out if God decides that half of my acts are good so that I qualify for forgiveness of the other half?
  3. What if my goodness is only 49%?
  4. If there is a God, which this statement assumes, has he made this policy clear in the book where his other teaching is located?
I assume that these words are Gen. Sherman's code for how God will decide whether or not the Gen. will make it into heaven upon his death. Through the Bible Study I'm currently doing with women at my church, THE VISION OF HIS GLORY; Finding Hope Through the Revelation of Jesus Christ by Anne Graham Lotz, I have focused on scripture in Rev. 21 this week stating a different "code": v. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it (heaven), nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will qualify to go to heaven. And fortunately, God forgives 100% of all sin of any sinner when that sinner repents, opens the door of their heart to God's knock (Rev. 3: 20) and invites him in. I'm not sure I would qualify for even half of my choices being good and I certainly don't want to run the risk of finding out at heaven's door that I came short of the cut-off by a fraction or any amount for that matter.

I'm grateful for Gen. Sherman's service to our country but my hope is that he had opportunity to find the way to make certain his name was written in the Lamb's book of life before he died.

I haven't exhausted possible responses to Gen. Sherman's code. If you have comments to add to this discussion, please add them to this blog. I appreciate your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bible Study in the Book of Revelation #3...

Today's sharing relates to Rev. 21:26-27 which is part of Seminar 5 of THE VISION OF HIS GLORY: Finding Hope Through the Revelation of Jesus Christ by Anne Graham Lotz. Prior to these two verses in Revelation 21, there is a vivid description of Heaven. Scripture paints a glorious word picture of this place which is being prepared for those who will go there. The verses I'm focusing on say:
26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it[heaven].
27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
I'm not a theologian but when I read that the "glory and honor of the nations" will be brought into heaven, I think that is a reference to the Great Multitude mentioned in Rev. 7:9 "there...was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb." The multitude are believers - i.e. the glory and honor - of all nations. Verse 27 tells us that no one who is shameful or deceitful will enter heaven but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. This verse confronts me again with the truth that not all humanity will enter heaven - some will and some won't. It's imperative that one's name be in the Lamb's book of life in order to enter heaven. Pondering these verses has reminded me of the importance of communicating God's truth about these matters to those in my realm of relationships and contacts.

I know that is my assignment from God but often I neglect it. Recently I was confronted by a friend with a harsh accusation which has caused me to reflect seriously on her words. I had known of something which was painful for her when she learned about it. She then accused me of being a "coward and not telling the truth". I have weighed those words heavily in my mind. She is right. But not because I didn't divulge a confidence someone else had entrusted to me, but because I have been her friend for many years without sharing God's truth with her in a winsome way. I have asked myself, "How come you are afraid of speaking to others about Christ?" I have some answers:
  1. I'm easily intimidated; especially by very vocal people. I have a
  • fear of failure
  • fear of not knowing what to say
  • fear of stumbling over my words
  • fear of alienating friends
  • fear of offending others
  • fear of ...
My friend spoke to my fears. I have been a coward. I have not told God's truth. And so I have faced my fears this week. I know I have not been trusting the promises of God. I have been allowing Satan to whisper lies into my spirit which have weakened my resolve and my effectiveness as God's child. I decided to ask God to make changes in me. I wrote out a prayer to him yesterday from my repentant, trusting heart. And I already have some confirmation that he will open doors for me to speak if I take time to be with friends. I'm thanking God for an opportunity yesterday and another today to share these verses from Rev. 21 which have led to God's truth being shared as I trusted God to help me know what to say and when to say it. I am experiencing joy today. May my compassionate bravery continue. And may more names be added to the "Lamb's Book of Life" from every nation, tribe, people and language.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Joining The High Calling Blog Community...

Blogging is getting into my blood and it's becoming a passion for me. The High Calling blog site shares the thoughts of like-minded writers and so I hope many will read, reflect and be energized to think, live and act more Christ-like. I take very seriously Jesus' command to "Go and make disciples of all nations.." Matt. 28:19a and blogging for me is another way to respond to those words. Being part of this community whose premise is REAL COMMUNITY SHARED VALUES is something I humbly and enthusiastically join.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hallowed Moment in Church Today...

I sing with the choir at my church and today we sang an especially beautiful, meaningful and hopeful song. This was one of those days when I had a difficult time keeping my emotions from overtaking my focus on singing. I had to suppress the effect of the words on my heart so that God's message through our music could be communicated clearly to the congregation. We sang the Steve Green song, Calvary's Love and here are some of the lyrics of that song.

Calvary's love can heal the Spirit
Life has crushed and cast aside
And redeem til Heaven's promise
Fills with joy once empty eyes
So desire to tell His story
Of a love that loved enough to die
Burns away all other passions
And fed by Calvary's love becomes a fire

Calvary's love has never faltered
All its wonders still remain
Souls still take eternal passage
Sins atoned and heaven gained
Sins forgiven and heaven gained

Calvary's love, Calvary's love
Priceless gift Christ makes us worthy of
The deepest sin can't rise above
Calvary's love

The specific words which had the greatest impact on me this morning were the words, Calvary's love - Priceless gift Christ makes us worthy of. As I sang these words, I found myself once again overwhelmed by the enormity of the love which Jesus expressed by his obedience in dying on a cross in order to atone for my sin. It was Calvary's love - love that paid the penalty for my sin - which is a priceless gift I am only worthy of because of his sacrifice. How can anyone truly fathom such amazing love!!! Loving humanity enough to suffer and die for them is incomprehensible. So when I sang those words this morning, I marveled again with deep joy and gratitude that I can be a recipient of that gift which I am so unworthy of. I am also grateful that I had parents, extended family and a church who told me about Jesus and the gift he has made available for anyone who wants to receive it. It was a gift I received at age 6 when I prayed beside my mother one evening at our church and asked Jesus to come into my heart and forgive me for my sin. I had a child's faith but that has deepened as I have matured.

Another reason I was so moved by the words of this song this morning was that there was the Dedication of a 2 year old little boy whose adoption had recently become final. I knew something of the story of that little boy's birth family and of his adoptive family. As I thought about his birth family, this part of the song had great meaning:

Calvary's love can heal the Spirit
Life has crushed and cast aside
And redeem til Heaven's promise
Fills with joy once empty eyes

This child's birth family has experienced pain but today I saw joy in the once empty eyes of the Grandmother who herself had been adopted over 4 decades ago. And I saw joy filled eyes as the adoptive parents treasured the hallowed moment they had been longing to experience for many years and which they had waited for through lonely months of infertility. What joy they and their family experienced as they dedicated themselves to the Lord and willingly promised to raise him so that he will one day chose to become a member of God's family.

I am filled with deep gratitude as I share these thoughts. I am also grateful for the song I sang this morning which got me thinking about the meaning behind the lyrics. And I'm grateful that God is in the Redemption Business and that his gift of grace is available to anyone who asks for it.

Autumn in the Texas Hill Country, Part 2

Autumn in the Texas Hill Country, Part 2

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, November 7, 2008

Bible Study in the Book of Revelation #2...

The scripture I studied today in Seminar 5 of The Vision of His Glory; Finding Hope Through the Revelation of Jesus Christ, by Anne Graham Lotz was Rev. 21:1-8. There are several things which stood out to me as I pondered these verses.
1. God speaks with a loud voice at times v. 3
2. God speaks specifically at times v.5
3. God will be done at some time v. 6
4. God will satisfy those who are thirsty v. 6

For each of these points there are some thoughts I'd like to share.

1. God's loud voice
In the book of Revelation, there have been quite a number of verses describing God's words and actions being loud - his spoken voice with words and his action voice through nature. This is liberating to me because of some messages I got as a child. Our family - 3 sisters and 1 brother - was loud!. We all had things to say so we all tried to be heard in the limited time there was for 7 people to get things said. We were also enthusiastic, passionate and determined about things. Somehow this led to a pretty noisy household. My Dad and youngest sister were soft spoken but the rest of us liked to be heard when we had something to say. Apparently my mother had hopes of tempering my decibel level for fear I would scare off any potential suitors. I still hear her saying, "Keep your voice down, Linda, or you won't be able to find a husband." Fortunately, either her advice took root or I found the one man who wasn't deterred by decibels and I have been happily married for 42 years. But God's loud voice tells me that sometimes it's OK to be heard loudly and clearly. When we are telling His good news which is worth being heard to the ends of the earth, we can be bold and sometimes even loud.

2. God speaks specifically
The book of Revelation was recorded by the apostle John. God shows him what will happen and shows him truth about Jesus. As John is shown these things, God says to him, "Write this down." And John does that for which I am very grateful as it has made knowing the truth about Jesus possible. Throughout this book, there have been many times when God has said to John, "Write it down." God had chosen to get his message out through fallible human beings who have listened to his loud voice (or perhaps even his soft voice) and have obediently written down his words which are "trustworthy and true". Each time I have read, "Write it down", I have felt a sense that those words are for me also. I do not claim to be on the spiritual level of the Apostles nor do I hear an audible voice telling me what to write, but I have heard through my heart his encouragement to "write". May I communicate his truth as it has shaped my story.

3. God will be done
In Rev. 21: 6, God says, "It is done." He is referring to a future time when "Overcomers" will inherit all the wonderful things he is bringing about. But it's a reference to the same future time when all those who have not believed him and have done evil will find themselves "in the fiery lake of burning sulphur." These words have quickened in me greater urgency. There is a time when "it will be done." There will be no more opportunity to write, speak, share, respond. Fortunately God is patient, merciful, resourceful, creative and most of all loving. But a time will come when he is done and his justice will be carried out.

4. God will satisfy the thirsty
When I read the word "thirsty" in verse 6, it made me think about how people know to listen and respond. God says that he will "give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life." The thirsty are those who are seeking God and he knows their heart and gives them the eternally satisfying "water of life." Further thinking about this leads me to realize that my part in getting people close to the "water of life" is to create "thirst" in individuals. And what might that look like? We are told to be the "salt" of the world as salt creates thirst and thirst leads to THE water of life. I don't have lots of ideas yet about this but I'm pondering this. It seems it will help create thirst if I'm exhibiting the "fruit of the spirit" so that people will see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and then begin to wonder "How is that possible? I want that too." It's a tall order because I already know I need to improve in some of those areas before anyone will find themselves thirsty after watching my life. But what a privilege God has bestowed on us when he asked us to be his witnesses - his salt; his thirst-creators - in this world.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Tribute to Poll Workers...

I will never again cast my vote and think to myself, "That was easy. Nothing to it." And here's why. For the first time in many years of voting, my husband agreed to be the Election Judge for our precinct. And with that volunteer acceptance began the education process for us of the whole voting process and its complexities. He attended a 4 hr. training session; he has spent hours pouring over the Election Judge Manual so that he will be ready to assist voters with every aspect of the process throughout the day; he picked up all the materials - ballots, signs, forms, pens, stand up sections for tables, etc...; he got to the polling site by 6am to get all things set up with the other workers who arrived before then; he administered the "Oath of Office" to the poll workers before 7am and will stay all day to respond to anything which may arise during the voting process. He considers this an honor - a precious privilege. It has been a learning experience for both of us. I hadn't thought about the folks with mobility problems who may not be able to leave their car to walk into the building. The law provides for a secure and secret way for them to cast their ballot curbside. My appreciation for the US voting process has heightened considerably because of the increased exposure to the process this year. I had a minor part to play. I shopped for and provided some snacks for the poll workers if they are ever able to take a break. There had been no time for even a cup of coffee before the doors were opened to a line of people ready to vote at 7am in our precinct.

As I left the polling place, I thought about all the polling places across the country. I can't begin to estimate the number of volunteers it takes to make this event happen. It is huge!!! And these people are serious and faithful with a common sense that what they are doing is a privilege not a pain. At our polling place, I detected a slight accent in the speech of one of the volunteers. I asked where this person had grown up and she admitted to being from a European country. What a wonderful response from someone who is grateful to be a citizen of this great country.

And I haven't begun to list all the pieces of this voting puzzle that must be in place for voting to take place. We picked up the items for our precinct from a storage facility and someone there had carefully counted and packaged everything we needed and carefully signed our materials out. But someone created the ballots, had them printed, wrote the manuals, set the tabulating machines, created the signage, established and marked the "Campaign-free zones" outside the doors and so much more.

When I was a child, my mother was a volunteer at our local voting place which was a One-Room Country School in Bluff Siding, WI. The one-room school I attended was used by another part of our county so I rejoiced that we had a day-off from school. My mother thoroughly enjoyed the day as time to interact with other adults and have some time-off from caring for 5 children, a husband and our dairy farm. She started early and stayed very late to make sure every vote was accurately counted and recorded. She, also, felt that her service was a precious privilege of being an American. Being patriotic was a high priority for my mother and she motivated my father to construct a flag pole on our farm where daily she flew the American flag with great pride.

With deep gratitude, I pay tribute to every paid worker and volunteer who has been and is at work today seeing that the election process is held fairly, accurately and humbly as would pay honor to our forefathers and mothers and respect the prized right of every citizen of the United States of America.

Mom, thanks for your example; and John, thanks for your willingness to take a "vacation day" from your work to provide this service to our precinct. Both of you are fine examples for our family and friends to follow.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Weekend before the Election...

I am so grateful to be learning of many people across the US who are involved in prayer and fasting for this election. There are wonderful websites with daily calls to prayer. The Presidential Prayer Team ministry has many wonderful resources to enhance one's prayer life. Focus on the Family Action is also spending much time encouraging prayer and fasting. Prayer is hard work because it takes discipline and can so easily be interrupted with "good" things. But it is important to be relying on God for His direction for our country. I feel a level of peace knowing that He is sovereign and whomever is elected, will serve at His will. I do earnestly plead with God, however, to motivate people of faith to vote this year and vote for the ticket that promises to protect all human life at all ages and stages of life and to preserve the definition of marriage as one man and one woman. I have voted and now I'm praying.

Returning to Moldova in December...

I will be joining a team of people from many places who will be going to Moldova as part of OPERATION KNIT TOGETHER. Teams will be fanning out all over Moldova to take winter shoes and socks to all orphans there. Check this site to learn more about the work of CERI - Children's Emergency Relief International. It will be awesome to give these gifts at such a wonderful time of year. Pray for me as I prepare and as I go. I want to be aware of opportunities to share about the greatest gift ever given which got Christmas started over 2000 years ago. A friend from my church will go with me for her first trip to Moldova. Stay tuned for more of the details. The dates are Dec. 12-21, 2008.

Bible Study in the Book of Revelation #1...

I'm participating in a Women's Bible Study at my church which is using a book written by Anne Graham Lotz called, THE VISION OF HIS GLORY: Finding Hope Through The Revelation of Jesus Christ. For this study, participants have personal study during the week where they write out their answers and thoughts in a workbook then come together for a small group discussion with other women plus a video teaching session with Anne Graham Lotz. This is my second study using her material and I am very pleased as she really emphasizes in-depth personal study which has proven to be very rich and nurturing. I am amazed at how much more I am seeing in the verses we study than I've seen in more cursory reading in the past.

I have been impressed to share some of my thoughts as I'm studying. The book of Revelation has much that is difficult to understand but it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ and therefore there is much that is very understandable and which reveals the unique worthiness of Jesus to be my Savior and to receive the worship of all beings. Last week we concentrated on Revelation 5 with the Subject, "Hope When You Are Discouraged". The chapter begins with God holding a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed. There's a search for someone worthy to open the scroll but no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was found who could open the scroll. The apostle John is writing this book and is witnessing what he writes. He begins to weep because no one was worthy to open the scroll. But then an elder told John to stop weeping and look - "the Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed and is able to open the scroll". John saw a Lamb who still showed the scars of having been slain. This lamb is Jesus - the lamb who was sacrificed on the cross for the sins of mankind. He took the scroll from God. When he had taken it, those who were present "fell down before the Lamb and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints".

As I pondered that scene, I thought of these bowls of prayers. They are being presented to Jesus in humble worship. I can imagine that Jesus is very pleased and honored to receive these offerings of prayer. But I wonder how many of those prayers have come from me? I am afraid that my prayer life has been weak. The bowl of my prayers may be nearly empty. I asked myself, "Do I comprehend the importance of prayer knowing that those prayers are being kept for presentation to the Lamb?" I don't want an empty bowl. I want to please the Lamb with a lifetime of prayer knowing that He hears and answers and saves my prayers to be presented to Him in worship in Heaven. I long to be a more disciplined prayer warrior so that I'll be able to join with others in worshipful presentation to our worthy Lamb of those prayers. And these thoughts give me hope when I might otherwise be discouraged.

Driving VW Convertible in Homecoming Parade!

This was a first for me!! I "qualified" to drive this VW Bug in the Tivy High School Parade in October because I was the only friend of Olga who knew how to drive a stick shift. Olga doesn't really show very much in this picture but she and Marcus are the Mock Trial Sweethearts and needed a driver for their convertible. The car was being loaned by another student's Mom but she didn't want to drive in the parade. It was a beautiful evening and we all had fun "crawling" down the street in Kerrville, TX. Olga and Marcus threw candy to the on-lookers though they ran out quite close to the beginning of the parade and had to just wave for much of the route. The parade ended in a park where there was a big bon-fire and pep rally. Fortunately, the Tivy team won the Homecoming game the next night. Anybody want my autograph?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I voted today!!!

Early voting continues through this week in TX so I joined many others from my community and went to the polls early. I expected to find only a couple of tables with workers facilitating the process but I was amazed at the many volunteers ready for voters by 8am. The gals who served the table for my precinct were efficient and joyful. The man ahead of me did not have his voter registration card with him as he "couldn't find it" he said, but that did not affect how he was welcomed and treated by the special ladies making it possible for him to vote today. I did have my card so my "check-in" went a little more quickly but both of us were able to join many other registered Americans to participate in the treasured privilege of voting. How grateful I am that I live in a country with this ingrained freedom. How grateful I am that so many fellow citizens have volunteered to be at work by 8am and stay until 5pm to facilitate this process. How grateful I am for all the "behind the scenes" workers who take seriously this opportunity to serve our country by taking active part in the process. I greatly appreciate their diligent commitment.

So please be sure your voice is heard in this election. Prayerful, informed voting is a blessed privilege and opportunity. Our country needs the support of devoted, active citizens in order to continue as a great nation. Don't sit this one out. And keep praying that God will be honored through the choices that are made.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The 2008 Elections and the Pro-Life Issue #2

Please be an informed voter. The following link will provide the facts about Obama's position on abortion. He is the most liberal senator on this issue so please be aware of where he will lead our nation if he is elected. I cannot be silent so I am speaking for those whose voices have been or will be silenced due to abortion. There have been 43 million abortions since Roe V. Wade was passed in 1972. Life begins at conception. Those precious voices cannot speak for themselves but they were lives that should have had the choice to come into this world. Please read the following and cast your vote for McCain/Palin who will continue to advocate for pre-born babies.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The 2008 Elections and the Pro-Life Issue #1

My thoughts about the Election and the Pro-Life issue #1

The seriousness of the election in just over 2 weeks is weighing heavily on my heart. I will be voting for the pro-life presidential ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin but if the current polls are accurate, more voters will be voting for the pro-choice candidate. There is much available on many websites to inform voters on all aspects of the abortion issue so I will let you research independently at such sites as National Right to Life, ; Focus on the Family Action, ; The Witherspoon Institute, ; etc.

My thoughts center around the word "choice".
My research shows that >.5% of abortions are done for the reason of rape. Below are listed the reasons women have an abortion taken from a Fact Sheet found on the National Right to Life Committee website.

Social Reasons given as primary reason
1. Feels unready for child/responsibility 25%
2. Has all children she wants/other family responsibilities 19%
3. Relationship problem/single motherhood 8%
4. Feels she isn’t mature enough 7%
5. Interference with education/career plans 4%
6. Parents/partner wants abortion >1%
7. Other reasons >6.5%

TOTAL approximately 93%

“Hard Cases” given as primary reason
1. Mother’s health 4%
2. Baby may have health problem 3%
3. Rape >0.5%

TOTAL approximately 7%

What these statistics show me is that less than 1 abortion per 100 is done because a woman's pregnancy was the result of force and not her "choice". Therefore, over 99% of abortions are done because a man and woman's "choice" to be sexually active had unintended or unwanted consequences. Ending a pregnancy by medically induced abortion deprives the new life of the "choice" it should have to live. A woman makes a "choice". If the result of her "choice" is a pregnancy, shouldn't that new life she carries have the "choice" to live? I think pre-born babies should be protected, nurtured and welcomed into a world with the rights our Constitution makes possible. A woman has a "choice" about behavior which can result in pregnancy. If that happens, the consequence of personal, private behavior must take into consideration the new individual life that has been created.

People can make "choices", but people cannot control the consequences of all "choices". A person chose to drive while drunk and my brother-in-law's death was the unintended consequence of such a “choice". A person can choose to overeat but health problems may be a consequence even if unwanted. A person can chose to exceed the speed limit but the fine when caught will still have to be paid.

I'm passionate about the life of pre-born children. My husband and I have been involved in a local ministry for unwed mothers including house parenting for a number of teen girls in order to save their babies’ lives. Please show that you care about preserving the "choice" of LIFE for every pre-born baby.
Please consider this very important issue as you go to the polls.

Please vote for McCain/Palin who will continue the fight for a culture of life in this wonderful and blessed country.

Your vote gives voice to those whose voices
have been or may be silenced.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


John and I took some friends and saw the movie FIREPROOF recently. We were very impressed with the quality of the production and especially with the message of the movie. We highly recommend this film for all married couples and for anyone planning or hoping for marriage in the future. It is gripping and godly - such an amazing combination for a major movie shown in theaters nationwide. You'll love it and you'll find ideas for improving your own relationship.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Life in WI

I am in WI to visit my 89 year old mother and to attend my 45th high school reunion. I am posting the info below to let you know how things are going on this visit. The state is incredibly beautiful as rain has been abundant and things everywhere are lush, green, fruitful and healthy. These trees, fields, flowers and family are so nourishing to my soul. It is lovely!!!

Hi Folks,
Weather has been super here so far.
Today was cooler than usual as it reached 69 for a high.

Just to recap some highlights which I don't think I've written about previously.Sat. Aug. 30 - High School class reunion. It was modestly attended but several people were present whom I hadn't seen since graduation including one of my favorite teachers so it was good to connect with them. Several people didn't recognize me (nor I them) but others didn't think I'd changed much. I learned that LuAnn Veraguth has recently had a double masectomy and was too weak and ill to attend. Another gal who attended has been told she has 6 months to live because of lung cancer.

Sun. Aug. 31 - I picked Mom up at 8:30am for church and we attended the 9am service and then a Sunday school class. Many people were delighted to see her. She seemed to be engaged throughout the time there. She sang along with some of the songs and filled in the blanks when the SS teacher quoted some verses and waited for some words to be added. I returned after her nap and we took a ride out to Sunshine Dr. near Stoddard and then down Hwy 35 a ways. It was very beautiful along the Mississippi. We ate supper together at Culver's and she ate everything she ordered. She seemed to enjoy watching people there - families with children of all ages mostly. We got back to her room about 7pm and shortly afterward, Ruth and Mark Dregne arrived for a visit with her. He is my second cousin - son of Ruben and Beulah Matson Dregne. It was good to chat with them. They have 4 children and live in LaX. They stayed about an hour and Mom was very expressive to them of appreciation for their visit and asked them to be sure to come back sometime again.

Mon. Sept. 1 - I picked Mom up mid morning and we headed to a Goodwill store to look for new pj's for her. We found 4 perfect pair and got those and a few other items. Then to McD's for lunch before heading to Sparta to stop at Aunt Marie's. She was home and so happy to see us. We were there till 5pm and got caught up on all her family. Marilyn and her husband and Roger came over while I was there. Marlene is now spending nights with her 90 year old mother but she wasn't there before I left. We returned to LaX by driving up the valley near Leon where their first farm was in Link Coulee. Mom could point out the land and the area without any hesitation. We continued our drive from there up Fish Creek and wandered around the back roads until we got to Hwy 33 and back to LaX. She had been very engaged and sharp all day but twice on our way home, she told me I was heading the wrong way as I was heading toward LaX and not toward Viroqua. I asked her where she lived and she said, "I live in Viroqua, don't I?" She seemed disappointed in herself that she was getting confused but it's not too surprising to me. She hasn't been in and out too often at Hearten House so may not actually know that she's relocated to LaX. We stopped at Berndt's where Marge had a delicious Ribs supper ready for us.

Tues. Sept. 2 - I knew Mom would be exhausted because of her busy days on Sun. and Mon. She had mentioned some burning when urinating so a specimen was tested and we have learned that she does have a UTI and has started on an antibiotic - cypro. I visited Mom at HH but didn't take her out. I received a phone call from Audrey Justin. I had done a web search for her address and phone # and had sent her a note before coming here. She was my 8th grade teacher at Cross Ridge School where she was starting her 37 year teaching career - CR closed after that year but she went on to teach in MI and MN. All of us CR kids loved her. She said she was available to meet for lunch in Winona on Wed. or Fri. I told her I would talk to Marge and decide which day was best. Jonathan Berndt returned from VA and repacked to head to Stout as his classes started today.

Wed. Sept. 3 - Mom got her hair done this morning at HH. Marge is off today through the weekend. Since it was beautiful today and we didn't know what Fri. would hold, we decided to meet Mrs. Justin for lunch today. We decided that Mom probably needed to rest with her UTI so we went without her. We spent at least 2 hours catching up with Ms. Justin (having a hard time calling her Audrey). She was so pleased that we called and connected. She lives in St. Charles - half way to Rochester from Winona. Her husband, Jerry, of 49 1/2 years, died last Dec. of a malignant brain tumor. They have 4 children - many grandchildren and she's still missing her husband a lot but has many great memories. She can name almost all the kids that were at CR and remembers the # of kids in each grade. She has VERY fond memories of her year there. To return to LaX, we crossed the bridge, drove past the farm and stopped at Eckers and another roadside stand to purchase apples, sweet corn, cantaloupe and raspberries - very yummy. I learned at my reunion that Gary and Kathy Sutter have separated and probably have divorced so things have stopped on our home place in terms of fix up. She has moved out and lives in Ft. City. The place looks terrible. I doubt the lawn has been mowed this summer and huge weeds have overtaken the place. Doesn't look like anyone is there. It is very sad. I visited Mom after we got back to LaX while Marge fixed supper. I asked Mom how she was as she was sitting alone in her room in her rocking chair. She said, "I'm lonely. I miss Dad and the more I think about him the more I miss him." She also added that he can't come to her but she will go to him before too long. I helped her get into her "new" black pin striped pj's and she said, "Well, I guess these are my prison garb pj's!" She's still pretty clever with her comments.

I must have been thinking about all of the children headed back to school this week as I had a very vivid dream before waking up this morning that it was Sarah's first day of kindergarten and John and I had overslept. I was looking in the refrig for something to make for her lunch and there wasn't a thing!!! Finally I woke up and felt exhausted from the frenzy!!"
And that brings you up to date for now.