Death was never a part of the plan…..

I got some news today that made me sad and once again reminded me of how grateful I am that I know Christ.

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A lady, from the church I went to growing up, passed away. She was hit by a car while on vacation several months ago and today she passed away. She was a good friend of our family, she taught Sunday School when I was a kid, she invested in me, in so many children. She was a teacher, a mom, a grandma, and she loved God, she knew Jesus. The real reality is that her life is now just truly beginning.

Its hard to think about, this idea that death comes. That our lives end, whether in old age, from a disease or from an accident. Death comes. It sucks, its filled with sorrow and grief, there is a new hole made in peoples lives, a grandchild grows up without a grandma, a child lives without their parent, a husband losses his wife.

Death the very thing that happened in the garden, the very thing that God never intended to be. I was reading my bible a few weeks ago and all of a sudden it hit me that God never intended for death to be a part of the plan. He never wanted death/separation from Him. He didn’t create us to die. He created us to be with Him always. There was never meant to be a separation. This idea had never crossed my mind. He never wanted us to experience losing someone, He never wanted to lose any of His children. We brought death into the picture when we chose to sin, to eat the apple, to sin against God, we brought the separation.

14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. John 14:14, NASB

The amazing thing is though that He made a way to conquer death. To restore His children, to bring us back to the way He had originally intended. Eternity with Him. No more death, no separation.  Thru Jesus the one who brings us back into life. He is God’s answer to death. God’s plan for true life. That’s why I say that my friend who passed away is really now just beginning her real life. Life the way God intended, life the way He created it to be. Whole and complete. No more separation.

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. John 17:16, NASB

Our old pastor tells this analogy in his sermons sometimes. Imagine God at home, a parent sitting in his chair. He hears the garage door open and in drives a car to park, the child gets out and God gets so excited and sighs “my child is home” That’s what its like when we die, God gets to say to us “Welcome Home”.

This is what I dream for my life that I would get to be a part of leading others to true, real, never ending life. That they would hear God say one day “Welcome Home!” That they would never fear death or be separated from their father and their family again!

Death was never a part of the plan…and it doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

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2017….What it looked like!

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Starting the year off with a sisters trip to Prague, a city I have dreamed of visiting for as long as I can remember. As we explore and discover this amazing city God reminds me that He always fulfills His promises. I look towards 2017 stretching out in front of me. Full of possibilities and dreams about what it will be filled with. I name 2017 the year of fulfilled dreams! We begin the year filled with hope! -January-

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“I just got rear ended!” the first words I hear on the phone from Joel after picking up his call. “What???” I say in response. “What are we gonna do now?” A few weeks later we have purchased a new car which along with it came a brand new relationship, one that has turned into a friendship. A new perspective dawns on us that even in buying a car the kingdom is impacted! – February-

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Days feel so long, our hearts and bodies long for the sun to return! Winter seems never ending with days that are dark for more hours than are light! Life begins to feel monotonous! Will there ever be hope again? When will we start to feel alive again? Then a quick trip to a little town 30 min away. We sit on the cold beach the 5 of us and watch the sunset. The sunset could have been monotonous. Yet God chose to make each one unique. We are reminded that God is in the everyday, in the days and weeks that feel so much the same that life starts to lose its flavor. He brings hope to the hopeless and those days are not wasted. We begin to get a glimpse of Hope again! -March-

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I begin to cry a little as I watch his hands raise in worship and his voice singing out strong with so many other voices. 8 years old and full of worship. We are again reminded that these moments, these times set aside to be with others from many different countries, are soo valuable, not just for us but for him. If anything he walks a much harder road. Surrounded every day by so many who don’t acknowledge God in their life. He is such an amazing child. His faith is strong, built in the secret places and lived out everyday with such fervor! -April-

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These two so full of life and joy, such craziness they bring to our life but so much fun as well! Who will they become??? One full of passion and so smart. Studying everything around him and learning all the time. The other so full of joy and light and life. Always bringing hope to others, full of fun! Gifts long awaited and undeserved. Soldiers in the kingdom purposed to be here in Estonia as a part of the plan of salvation for these people, this country! -May-

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The last weekend gathering of the past two years. An end to some beautiful times. God speaks mightily in this weekend. Prayers prayed, scriptures studied and applied, prophetic words spoken! This is what the Christian life was meant to be! Full of Spirit, full of joy! Healing, hope, life! Oh that this would be our everyday! Servants sent out ready and equipped for the next stage of the battle! -May-

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Time spent serving one another. Branches cut, trees chopped down, a boys paradise! Living life together as one body! The first of several weekends spent together doing just this. So many life lessons learned in serving. Evening times around a fire sharing and learning from the Word of God! The church! Oh long Estonian summer nights how we adore you! -June-

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Some family visits, two full weeks, not much time but its something. In between times of sickness there are life changing conversations. Hard times shared and small moments remembering what each has given up by us being here in Estonia. These visits give us the connection time that otherwise would be lost. As we look towards the future and see ourselves here for years to come, there is a remembrance that this life is the short time. That heaven is reality and there will be no more separation there. Eternity is limitless. So the short is sacrificed, that the long will be filled with many more souls! -July-

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4 days! Days filled with gathering, learning, worshiping, conversations, eating. CAMP! The best memories of childhood. The future leaders growing together even if just for a few days every year! One of our families favorite times each year! -August-

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These boys! Man do we love them and their parents. Many times spent together this year! Walking thru the woods together, playing together, time picking apples and making juice together. Deep spiritual conversations and times of insight. The hope that someday we will be servants of Christ together! Prayers go up for the salvation of this family.

-September-

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The three musketeers –September

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Family photos done in our neighborhood! This photo capturing a small part of our everyday life, yet meaning more than just a ride from here to there but reminders of the people around us. Some drunk and loud. Some smelly. Some just like us with kids. Some going to jobs. Some old traveling the store to buy groceries for the week! All with stories to tell, all created by God for a purpose. Riding this tram helps us to not forget those around us. Eyes kept open to see what God is doing all around us. -October-

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A relationship of five years. A full day spent together sharing about life. Life in a new country for her these past 3 years. A boyfriend, a child, a new home and many new adventures. She means so much to us. One of the first people we met, one who grew up knowing who God was, reading the bible, praying and fasting and then walking away. One whom we have no doubt will return one day to walk with Christ again! Oh that day we will celebrate another fulfilled dream! -November-

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A weekend spent making new friends, visiting other parts of this country. Other believers struggling along with us to bring light in the dark places. A long and tedious journey but one with glimpses of hope. Like this one. A promise that these are the future leaders of the church in Estonia. Prophetic words that glimpse into the future. We will build on the foundation that has been laid here and they to will continue to build His church here!-November-

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The end of 2017 slowly drawing to a close. 3 weeks of sickness finally breaks and we spend an evening trying to finally get into the Christmas spirit. Asher clapping and celebrating the Christmas lights every time we see one, helps our perspective. Everything about this season is exciting for them! I am reminded that even despite our current circumstances everything can seem new with the right perspective. So we embrace the last few weeks of this year and ask God how does the end of this year look for you? We don’t want to waste a single day. These days will never return but we can use them for the kingdom before they are gone! -December-

His blood crosses out my sins.

One of our goals for our house church movement is that there is no one person who is the “pastor”. There is a leader but everyone can be used by God. He has given every person gifts. With that in mind we really wanted to build in to the fabric that each person takes a turn leading the group, practicing their gifts.

For the past several months Joel has been leading, but as we fell into a good routine with a simple bible study we decided it was time to step out and each of to begin taking turns leading. So I volunteered to be first.

Our study this time was on Worship, Prayer, and Fasting. As I was working thru the study I was reminded of another important part of the Christian faith, communion. We hadn’t done that yet in our house church and I felt like this was God leading us to start adding that in 🙂

So as we sat down in the hallway of their home God brought an idea to my mind. Joel shared what communion is and then I shared my idea that we would write down on a piece of paper two columns. One with our sins we felt like we needed to confess and the second a story of Gods answers to our prayers or things we were thankful for to Him.

It was easy for me to write down my sins this time. I had been having a very crappy week, but as soon as I began to write down my thanks and remember his faithfulness to me it all flowed out so easily.

A few minutes later we went around the room confessing our sins and after that we began sharing our stories and thankfulness.

A funny thing happened to me as I shared my thanks. I began to realize that every single thing I had written down to be thankful for was a covering over everything I had listed out that I was sorry for. It was literally that God was erasing my sins. I hadn’t realized it until then but He was showing me in a very real way what it is that He did and continually does for me.

I have been a christian all my life and so often I don’t really understand or see these basic truths as practical but this was a very good lesson for me that its real. That God really does cover our sins by His blood.

As I was reading my bible the next day I came across this verse and was again struck at how God has provided such a gift for us. Such an undeserved freedom.

24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” 

Hebrews 7:24-25, NASB

 

The only thing greater than my FEAR was my CONVICTION!

We have been listening to this song on repeat lately.

Specifically this version by Bethel Music.

King of My Heart. (written by Sarah McMillan, John Mark McMillan)

Verse 1
Let the King of my heart be the mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from; oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life; oh, He is my song

Chorus
You are good, good, oh

Verse 2
Let the King of my heart be the wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves; oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart be the fire inside my veins
And the echo of my days; oh He is my song

Bridge
You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down
(repeat)

(Turnaround into Chorus)

You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down

There is a part during the song where she starts sharing some things from her heart and there is phrase that rings over and over in my head.

The only thing greater than my FEAR was my CONVICTION!

Going back to the song with that in mind I am brought back to my conviction, the truth that God is good! That trumps all the lies that are thrown my way.

As I sat in my car this morning, after leaving the twins kindergarten feeling a bit lonely as I watched some of the workers in the kitchen laugh and talk together and thinking I miss the normalcy of a job in my country where I was born, I miss coworkers and feeling a part of something instead of always feeling on the outside of something, I was reminded that my conviction is that God is good! That truth out ways the loneliness.

The song has this drum part that drills into my head with the phrase, “GOD IS GOOD”! I listened to it for awhile in the parking lot and let it soak in that GOD IS GOOD! That I am grateful to have a conviction that brings me comfort and that these convictions are what I want the people here to come to know, so that when they have fear they to have a rock  to stand on.

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GOD IS GOOD!

 

Narrow is the gate……

11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 

1 Corinthians 2:11-16 (ESV)

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day. I had expressed an opinion about something during our conversation. For the first time my friend expressed a different opinion, another perspective on what we were talking about that felt a bit like a slap on the hand. I think it just caught me off guard. It wasn’t done in a mean way but the conversation got me thinking even into the next day.

A bit later during our conversation I shared two stories of what God was doing in my life. As I was talking I could see my friend shut down and close off. I finished my story but it made me sad.

In the last year we have become more and more bold to share about Jesus, about what He is doing in our lives. So far we haven’t encountered too much opposition. Yet as we step out more and more and as we challenge the worlds views with kingdom, the bible says we will encounter opposition.

22 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Luke 6:22 

Our message isn’t a popular one. Its a narrow road, its sacrifice, its giving up our life. I had a very real moment where I realized this, that I might lose friendships with people I care very much for. In fact there are so many things we will lose but in the end we will find life.

We will stick close to the One who gives life and give our lives to Him. We will continue to speak about True life. We will win some.

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13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  Matthew 7:13 & 14, NASB

 

Year in Review 2016 – in Photos

 

January 

The beginning of this year started a bit different than expected. Atlee ended up getting the chicken pox a few days before his 7th birthday. We had to cancel his party and instead spent the time trying to make him feel special despite the disappointment of sickness.

Despite this God was so faithful and gracious. We had planned to take our first family vacation the end of January and amazingly atlee was healthy enough to go and the twins didn’t get the chicken pox until a week after we got back. We enjoyed our time on an Estonian island for 4 days.

-All that happened to Joseph- God used to accomplish His plan to save many-it seemed hopeless and that it got worse and worse and yet in the end-he brought salvation to thousands.

-Don’t be discouraged-

February

As I mentioned about a week after we returned from the Island the twins got the chicken pox. Their’s was very bad and lasted a month before the spots finally were gone. Overall we had 3 sick kids a total of over a month the first part of the year.

“Into the hovels of the poor, into the dark streets where the homeless groan, God speaks: “I’ve had enough; I’m on my way. To heal the ache in the heart of the wretched.” Ps. 12:5 msg

After the sickness was finally over we were able to start our bible study again. In this photo Riina is receiving a bible from Tammy in her favorite color (Tammy hadn’t known this). She told us that she just had a feeling that she would get one and was blown away that it happened. (Yay Holy Spirit)

March 

The beginning of March we flew to Vilnius, Lithuania to attend the 1st ever Nordic Leaders retreat. It was awesome to get away and be a part of growing with other leaders. We got to know people who are also working in this region and continue to build on these relationships!

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We once again celebrated Easter in our home! We invited a few extra friends and really enjoyed our time. The morning of the celebration Joel painted the painting on the wall above the fireplace in this picture. It has been a good reminder of what God has done for us all year long.

11-12 Boaz answered her, “I’ve heard all about you—heard about the way you treated your mother-in-law after the death of her husband, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to live among a bunch of total strangers. God reward you well for what you’ve done—and with a generous bonus besides from God, to whom you’ve come seeking protection under his wings.” -Ruth 2:11-12 msg

April

April found us once again flying away to Lyon, France. We actually hadn’t planned to go but God opened the doors and we were able to attend. It was an incredible time of refreshing, connecting and serving. Spur of the moment we were able to serve the body doing media. It was so fun to be able to step into that role again.

“The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Isrealites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.” Joshua 5:12

May

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The beginning of May we welcomed Rami & Nathan and our nephew lincoln to Estonia. We so enjoyed having them and the boys loved playing with their cousin.

While they were here Joel took and passed the first test level in Estonian (A2)! We were so proud of him and his studies! We both hope to continue taking classes in 2017. I hope to pass the A2 in May 2017 and Joel will try for the B1 in the fall of 2017.

Just before they arrived I attended my second KWAM in Gothenburg, Sweden. On the way there I had a long conversation with a young swede about Jesus. It was an amazing weekend full of learning and practicing the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The day before they left Joel and I flew to Amsterdam to celebrate our 12th anniversary and my birthday.

3-4 You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.

Romans 2:3-4 msg

June

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The beginning of June saw Atlee graduating from Estonian Kindergarten. It was so amazing to see him grow in his learning and speaking in Estonian. We were so proud of him!

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Shortly after this we headed to another one of the Estonian islands. Hiiumaa! Were were able to stay a neighbors summer home and enjoy island life for a couple days. We attended one of atlee’s good friends birthday party! The day after the party we spent the day touring the island with them and really enjoyed our time together!

A few weeks later I took the boys to their first ever week of summer camp. I had been praying for a Christian kids camp where atlee could learn about God in Estonian. It was the perfect answer to prayer! Both he and Pelle loved it and we plan to have him attend next year as well!

July

July found us hosting a dutch/american missions team. It was such a pleasure to get to know them and to host them. They spent a few days in Tallinn with us prayer walking and serving and then spent time serving at the Nordic-Baltic summer camp. They were a huge blessing to us especially by watching our kids! They made it possible for both Joel and I to serve! Plus we built relationships that will last.

August

August brought with it another missions team from my home church in Rhinelander! One of the highlights of the trip was the evening we spent at our Estonian Chiropractors home. She and her husband were amazing hosts and it was such a blessing to get to spend an evening with them. Joel and some of the team had a confirming and challenging conversation with the husband. He had been a christian but had walked away. We are following up to see where God has taken him since that conversation.

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The twins attended their first day of Estonian Kindergarten. Little did we know that this would be a rarity for the next three months. They ended up being sick for 3 months straight and were only able to attend a few days every month. On top of this we also were plagued with sickness ourselves and I hurt my foot which took me out of commission for two weeks.

September

September 1st we stepped into a new season of life. Atlee began his first year of school. In Estonia they start 1st grade at 7. He is attending the local school across the street. He has most classes in Estonian and then 3 classes per week in English. He seems to be thriving there and is a good student.

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In September I began an entry level Estonian class (A1) this ended up being an amazing experience despite difficulties when the twins ended up being home for 3 months.

We also got to spend time with our neighbors at their summer home making apple juice from scratch and some evening walks around our neighborhood with them. This family is a huge blessing and we love seeing God working in them through conversations.

45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.

Mark 1:45 NASB

October

October was a huge month for us. Joel turned the big 40! On the day we celebrated by having a couple friends over and opening gifts and playing Mario Kart. We had Sour Cream Raisin pie and had a very low-key fun evening.

A few days later we celebrated Asher & Lars turning 2! We had a small party and cake and presents! It was perfect.

Asher – Left, Lars- Right

A few days later Joel and I flew off to a spanish island called Mallorca to celebrate his 40th birthday just the two of us. It was such a needed and amazing time away.

On the last day of our time there I flew to Madrid for my 3rd KWAM while Joel flew home to be with the boys. The topic of this KWAM was Discipleship.

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“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.” John 15:4 msg

November

The highlight of our month was Thanksgiving with some friends old and new. Two turkeys, two pies and lots of other favorites.

Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the Lord tested him.    Ps 105:19 

December

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Christmas time! With December of course comes Christmas! The first year here for Christmas was fun but ever since it ends up feeling a bit lonely. We have no family here to be with and all our friends are usually with their family. So we go to a christmas eve service in Old Town and then spend the day just us. So this year instead of being sad we are taking a trip with my sister who is visiting for Christmas! We are excited to feel like its a celebration again.

Also this year we were able to take a very short trip to NYC for the weekend. As many know Joel still works part time for Maintenance Connection and they always have an employee Christmas Party in the US. This year it was in NYC! We had never been and since the tickets were cheap we were able to also bring atlee! It was an amazing time just the three of us. God totally orchestrated this trip for more than just a christmas party! It was a huge blessing.

-Hurt can make us feel like one area of our life is the way our whole life is-

(All of these quotes or scriptures are things that God spoke to me over the past year. Im so grateful He understands and speaks directly to encourage or help me see things as He does.)

Plane Conversations: Madrid – Vilnius

img_7156I was really dreading my first flight home because it was a four hour flight from Madrid to Vilnius. I don’t like flying alone and especially for 4 hrs. On the way to the airport that morning Lindsay and I had a conversation about a muslim believer, he said that before he became a christian he could count 200 touches or encounters with Christians before he started following christ. This really stuck with me.

I was thinking about it as I was walking through the airport.

As I looked at my boarding pass before getting on the plane I noticed that my seat was the very last row middle seat. I was so annoyed. When I got to my seat and sat down I ended up being seated between two Lithuanian men. One was 30 and was a pilot the other was in his 70’s and a diplomat. I found out through the flight that both were returning from a several day walk in spain called el camino. They both told me that often people go on the walk to find themselves or to search for something.

I spent the first 3 hours in conversation with the younger man. During that time he helped to calm my fears of flying and along the way we were able to talk about God and Jesus. He mentioned that he went on this walk to discover his inner gods. He also told me about his encounters with religion and how it seemed not relevant today. He is a big nature lover, hiker, mountaineer type of guy and I got to share with him that God can be found in nature that the bible says the nature points to God. He was very surprised by this and we had a few moments where I know the Holy Spirit placed seeds in his heart. I told him I hope that he will find what he went searching for as he goes home.

Then with one hour left I ended up talking with the older guy and asking him several questions. He couldn’t tell me what he was searching for on this walk. The Holy Spirit put on my heart to say very bluntly that I think you are searching for Jesus. He told me he believed in God and that he thought maybe God cared about him. He told me his struggles with God and asked me many questions about my relationship with God. I could tell it impacted him.

img_7162I came away at the end of my 4 hr flight realizing that God had me on this specific flight  for a reason. To have the opportunity to share about Jesus with both of these seeking men. That my annoyance and fear about a 4 hour flight in the back middle row actually lead to more opportunity for the kingdom then if I had a short flight in a normal happy seat 🙂 I was able to disciple these men who are seeking. And I ended up loving that flight. I walked away so encouraged and realized that I got to be a few touches in what I hope will become a relationship with God for both of them.

I also realized that both men were at different points in their search for God. The younger man seemed only a small part open but the older man was very open and I believe close to walking with God. We can be a part of each persons journey towards walking with God. I was again struck that I got to be a part of the chain, I didn’t see them saved but I was a link in a chain of many others who God is using to bring them to Him.

img_7168Be encouraged that its not on you to do all the work, you probably wont be the one to go from start to finish with someone but you can be the one to plant the seeds in one persons life and you can be the one to see the plant almost push up through the soil in another who is closer or maybe even someday get to be the one to see the fruit. No matter what be faithful in the moments God gives and lets see His kingdom grow one seed, plant and fruit at a time.