Unexpected Blessings

We had a meeting last Saturday for those who responded to the literature that was passed out during the recent outreach. Unable to meet everyone one-on-one, my husband set up a meeting where all those who wanted could come and hear the Gospel preahced. We had a small, but good, group.

After the meeting was over, I was visiting with some ladies that came. They wanted our email address for any questions they might have on the literature handed out, so I wrote it on the back of a booklet for them. I had picked up the “wrong” booklets when we went in. I had picked up the ones we printed for the church in Mochudi. I intended to bring in the other batch

One of the ladies looked at it and asked if we lived in Mochudi. When I told her we didn’t, but we were working with a church out there, she said she had read our website. Then she started to list some of the pictures and posts she had read, including the picture of the cows crossing the road on our way to church one Sunday. She had read our testimonies, how we met and got married, and our posts since we arrived. She talked about how we came over here, all the way from America, to witness, and how many others who live here aren’t witnessing. She didn’t have any resources, so we gave her some booklets to give to her friends and family.

We all got a bit excited as we realized God had brought us together. It made me think of my husband’s testimony. He got saved, but didn’t know where to go to church. He was praying about where God would have him attend when he heard preaching on the radio. Each time he heard this station, it rung true with him, but he didn’t know who ran the station. He always had to turn the work truck off before hearing who was preaching. One day he visited a church off the interstate. As he listened to the pastor, he realized it was the same man he had been listening to on the radio. He knew he was at the church God wanted him to attend.

I think we sometimes forget that God is involved in every aspect of our lives. He wants to direct and lead us. When we are praying and following Him, we get to see these Divine Appointments that He sets up. They have to be Divine, because we could never set things up like this. One lady (as far as we know) in a city of approximately 232,000 people reads our website. This lady then sees a booklet that a friend has, and gets the contact information from it. She contacts my husband and ends up at the meeting where he is presenting the Gospel, and recognizes us from our website picture. We could not have orchestrated this, but our God can. We are excited to see what He has planned next.

I am fairly convinced that we have more Divine Appointments than we realize. I am afraid that often we do not recognize them. We let the opportunities pass us by because we are not closely following and carefully listening to God. May I always pay attention and be aware when God is leading me.

New Website

screen-shot-2015-10-19-at-4-28-29-pmSacrifice of Praise

I wanted to introduce you to a new website. Well, the site is actually an old one that has been re-purposed. When I was single, I set up a website. I used it for ministry updates and a very hit-and-miss blog. When I married, we moved my stuff to this location. The old site was the primary on our web hosting account, so I couldn’t delete it, and it has sat unused for years. I’ve been praying about what to do with it. I didn’t just want to put something out there. I wanted it to be something God could use. Something I would maintain. After much prayer, I’ve started the new Sacrifice of Praise website.

The name came from a devotion the Lord gave me when I was asked to speak at a Ladies Meeting some time ago. Praise doesn’t always flow from a heart full of joy…sometimes it’s a sacrifice. The devotions and posts on this site mostly revolve around infertility, multiple miscarriages, and chronic illness. That’s because these are things I know, and the devotions are things God has given me as I have gone through these valleys. In spite of that, they are intended for anyone who is struggling to praise in the middle of trials.

Satan would love to steal our joy. He wants to sidetrack us, and get our eyes on the storms around us. God wants us to seek Him, keep our focus on Him, and give Him praise whatever our circumstances. I pray this new site will be used of God to encourage someone. So many people, books, posts, songs, and sermons have encouraged me along the way. I want to share some of that with others. So I hope you’ll take a peek and maybe share it with someone else.

Because all I am is His,
Myra

Getting a Makeover

I’m getting a makeover! No, not hair, makeup, and clothes, but my routine – how I plan, and spend, my days. For instance, I signed on to Myra’s Musings this morning, only to realize it’s been 3 months since I’ve written here. I’ve spent most of the morning catching up on cleaning my kitchen, because it got waaaaay out of hand. I nearly wore myself out before my afternoon Bible study, trying to catch up. It was time for a makeover.

With health challenges, I’ve finally come to grips with the fact that my life and routine will never resemble what it did in the past. They days of rising at the crack of dawn, having my devotions, and then spending most of the day at the computer, and finishing up with home cooked meals and a clean house are over. Done. Finished. They have been gone for years, but I’ve been trying to keep it up, or recover them. It didn’t work. They’re gone. Probably they will never be seen again. And I have to be okay with that because this is from God’s hand.

So what’s a girl to do? I know I can’t do what I used to, but I have to find a way to be productive in the season I’m in now. I was struggling to find a way to make the most of my limited energy and stamina. I’ve tried to-do lists, read books and posts on how to be productive and effective, and tried so many “programs” that others swore helped them. Most of them I didn’t even finish reading because the first few paragraphs or chapters exhausted me and I knew there simply wasn’t enough health and energy to do a fraction of what they suggested (or demanded).

I was despairing of ever being effective again when I saw a post from another missionary wife. She had dealt with poor health too, and had found something to help her. I was eager to try it, but afraid it would be another fail – and this one wasn’t free. It was inexpensive, but not completely free. I messaged back and forth with her one day, and decided to take the plunge. I am on Day 10 of this 14-day challenge, and I love it!

I still have some work to do, but I’m developing an evening and morning routine that actually works for me, not for some healthy, energy-filled lady. They are simple things I can do every single day, unless I’m sick in bed with a virus or migraine. I am learning to make to-do lists that work for me, not against me, and how to spend a short time every day catching up on those long-term projects that have overwhelmed me. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there. When I am finished, I will probably go back and watch the videos and read the handbook again. (My Lymie brain needs repetition.)

I’m sure by now you’re wondering what has me so excited. It’s Make Over Your Mornings by Crystal Paine. There are several things that made this work for me. First of all, it’s not about you have to get up early. I was a morning person, but I am not right now. It’s the season I’m in, and I have to work around that. Secondly, it’s not a list of things you must do to be productive. It’s about helping you set up your own lists (evening routine, morning routine, to-do list, goals) that work for you. Keeping it simple and doable.

This is making such a difference for me, I signed up as an affiliate. That simply means, if anyone buys through the link(s) on my site, I get a commission on the sale. I did this for two reasons. First, I want to be a Proverbs 31 lady, and we see she was a business lady who bought, sold, and helped generate income for her family. If I make a bit of extra money on the side from this, I can pay for things we really want or need (like books, or books, or maybe some books), without putting a strain on the family budget. I want to be a good steward. Secondly, I want you to know how much I recommend this. For someone who thought they’d never be productive again, it’s made a big difference already.

If you want more information, click on the graphic below. You can read all about it, and see if it’s right for you. If you scroll to the very bottom, you can sign up to watch the first video free. For me, this one wasn’t very helpful in deciding, because I needed to know more details to see if I could use it in my condition. If you have questions, please feel free to email me (there’s an email form on the side-bar) or send me a message on Facebook, if we’re friends there.

Crystal has two more courses that I may try when I have my mornings sorted. One is Make Over Your Evenings, and the other is Make Over Your Year. I can’t recommend these yet, because I haven’t started them, but you can check them out through these links. If you enjoy them, please let me know! I’d love to hear how they helped you.

Stay tuned. In a few days, I’ll be sharing a new website with you. Yes, that’s one of those things that I’ve finally started, now that I’m making over my mornings.

Debbie

This week we went to our first Botswana funeral. If this had been just any funeral, I probably would have written an in-depth post of the experience of a funeral in another culture. But I can’t do that. This wasn’t just any funeral. It was for a beautiful little girl that we know and love. I called her “my Debbie”. She was the daughter of a friend and faithful man in the Mochudi church. She was in my Sunday School class. Her smile rivaled the brilliance of the Botswana sun, and her giggle brought instant smiles and happiness…and she laughed a lot when we were around. She thought my husband was funny and loved copying what he said, then laughing.

I have a beautiful picture of her. She is smiling, of course. She had been laughing at Rob again. He taught the kids to sing “Love Lifted Me”, and to stand on their tip-toes while they sang the “lifted me” part. They all thought it was funny, but Debbie couldn’t even sing because she couldn’t stop laughing at Moruti lifting to his toes while singing.

As sad as we are right now, we are thankful that she is no longer sick, nor in pain. We are thankful that this little ray of sunshine is in Heaven. She has met the Jesus that she just recently started learning about in Sunday School, but was too young to fully understand. Now she knows Him. She is waiting for us, and we will see her one day. What a comfort that has been this past week. For now we continue to pray for her family to be comforted, and that those who heard the Gospel at her funeral will to come to know Christ.

It’s Not About Me

Mommy readingMother’s Day is coming. For some, it’s a day of great joy. For others it’s a day of sorrow. For many, it’s a combination of both. To be honest, I’ve hated, and hidden, the last couple of Mother’s Days. I was a mother, but had none of my children with me. I was relieved last year when I was needed to help in a class Mother’s Day morning. Having recently miscarried yet again, I felt I couldn’t face another Mother’s Day message. And that’s where I was wrong. Because, you see, it’s not about me.

Oh, I often think it’s all about me. That’s the human failing. I often succumb to Satan’s lie that it should all be about me. But it’s not. I fall into the trap of wanting (I think I’m needing) my needs met, instead of seeing to the needs of others, and trusting my needs to my Father. I slip into the pattern of wanting certain blessings, instead of rejoicing in all God has given me, and seeking to be a blessing about others. I forget this important point: Not one bit of this life is about me. It’s about my God. It’s about loving Him, and loving others.

As I face look toward this Mother’s Day, it’s different. Yes, there will be a bit of sadness that my children are in Heaven, not with me. I miss them. There will be a bit of longing to see my dear mother (so thankful for Skype!), and my sweet mother-in-love. But I’m looking forward to this Mother’s Day as I haven’t in many years. Because this year I’m setting out to help my Sunday School children learn to be a blessing to others as they color a card for their mother. I’m looking for ways to encourage, help, and love on others. Because when I focus on me, it all goes downhill from there.

So this Mother’s Day, whether you’re a mother or not, whether your mother is alive or not, whether Mother’s Day has been a blessing or a trial in the past; I encourage you to look around and find someone to love on. Set out to be an encouragement. Focus first on our loving and faithful Father. Then focus on being a blessing to someone else. The pain will not go away, but it will not be magnified either. Try it. I dare you.

ladyatdesk3“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look full in His wonderful face,
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
in the light of His glory and grace.”

I know it’s true. I proved it!

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

When Joy & Pain Live Together

LEA0008Today would have been my due date for our last baby “born to Heaven.” For the last few weeks I’ve been contemplating what an adventure these first 6 months in Botswana would have been if we had been expecting, and preparing for, the arrival of this little one. (The guests we have with us this week would have had to schedule for another time.) But instead of holding, or preparing to hold, our child, we’re celebrating his/her life in Heaven.

Our first baby would have been 2 1/2 right now, or the second would have been 2, or… You get the picture. Images of what might have been have played though my mind. But in spite of the pain of loss, images of what is plays even stronger. You see, all 6 of our children are enjoying Heaven. All 6 of them see our Saviour’s face. Not one of them will ever know the ache of loss, pain or bad health, the agony of betrayal, or the sadness of separation.

More glorious than that, they are enjoying Heaven and Jesus in the purest, most blessed way possible…without regret. No sorrow over sin or wrong decisions. No shame over having grieved God in this life. They get to enjoy the beauties of Jesus and Heaven in the purest innocence. No mother could ask for more than that for her children.

Yes, my arms are still empty. My heart still hurts. I still miss them every day, and more so on due dates and birthdays. Pregnancy announcements, birth announcements, and all the other milestones I see others celebrate still cause joy for them, mingled with sorrow for our loss. Yet in the midst of sadness, there is peace when I keep my mind stayed on Jesus. I will never hold them, or see them grow up here, but I will go to them one day. And for now I can rejoice in remembering that Jesus gave them a great blessing when He gave them Heaven without the sorrow that comes from living on this fallen earth. And my mama’s heart is content. Sad, but content. Because my God doeth all things well.

A Little Botswana Update

We have had a busy, productive, and blessed week. Last week was a bit of a down (physically) week for me, so I had some catching up to do. Monday and Tuesday morning were spent getting my house back in order after only getting the most important things accomplished last week (like food, and washing enough dishes to cook and eat again). My husband was an amazing help and I am so thankful that he pitches in when I need him, even though he is busy with ministry and taking care of the business of living here.

HammettsTuesday afternoon we got to spend some time with the Hammetts, and we even went to their Bible studies with them. It was great to study, meet new people, and visit with friends.

Tuesday night Bro. Lawrence and Noah arrived! What a great time of fellowship we have had. It was fun catching up on the news from IMG_20160323_123006home. They have been working almost since they arrived. They’ve helped with literature, helped take care of some things around the house that we’ve had on our to-do lists, but just hadn’t gotten to yet, and they’ve even helped clean up after meals! We’ve had a lot of fun.

Today we’ll all go to the Game City Mall, where Rob and I have Bible studies. Tomorrow we’ll go out to Mochudi. I will have Bible studies, as usual, with a friend and her daughters. Instead of studying, as they normally do, the men are going to take Bro. Lawrence & Noah with them to do some outreach in the village. We’ve been preparing literature for this outreach the last couple of days. There are three paper boxes filled with Gospel booklets, stuffed with response cards, and ready to hand out.

IMG_20160323_163034370Along with the Vandal men, came some things we had ordered from home. Among those was my Betty Luken Through the Bible in Felt set! I gave my set away a long time ago. I was overseas, and not teaching children, so I gave it to someone who could use it. Since I am teaching again, I got a small set. I am excited to start using it again. I know the kids will love it (almost) as much as I do.

We hope you all have a blessed weekend as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. His gospel is the reason we are here. It is the reason we have hope. It is the reason for living. Because He is alive!

The House Where We Live

P1201286While on deputation, one of the most-oft asked questions was about where we would live and what kind of housing we would have. It’s a good question. When you think of Africa, you often think of traditional huts with grass roofs (like this one), but you know some places have changed. So, what does housing look like in Botswana?

Of course, our answer was that we didn’t know what kind of house we would have. There is anything from a traditional mud hut with a thatch roof, to modern cement & tile houses here, with all manner of variations in between. What we lived in would be largely determined by where we would live…and God hadn’t shown us that part yet.

Those of you who know me well, know I’m a bit adventurous. I’ve stayed (and lived) in houses ranging from a pit pit hut (walls are made of small split, bamboo, woven into mats) to a really, really nice house. So not knowing where I would live didn’t really bother me.

When we arrived in Botswana, we were locked into temporary housing. We had very limited options while we waited for our resident and work permits to be approved. We spent the first 3 months in a nice cottage (apartment) attached to someone else’s house. It was fully furnished, with utilities provided. This was necessary because to get utilities hooked up, you have to have your permits now.

When we got our permits, we immediately began looking for more permanent housing. By this time, we knew the area that God wanted us to settle in. It’s in the northern part of Gaborone. There were several reasons for settling in this area. It is a secure area, and parts of Gaborone have high crime, so this was a blessing.

It’s also a self-contained area. The neighborhood we’re in has its own shopping area. Two little grocery stores, a pharmacy, a doctor’s office, a couple of fast food places, and a few other shops. When we arrived, I was not in great shape. Deputation, chronic illness, and an international move had taken its toll on me. The Lyme Disease (and the fatigue from it all) brought back the brain fog and slow response time that I had started recovering from. For this reason, driving in Gaborone traffic was not an option for me. (In fact, I got behind the wheel for the first time last week.) Living in this neighborhood meant I could drive on little back roads to take care of daily essentials. This would especially be important if Rob was away for a few days.

One benefit that we didn’t realize until later was the perfect location this neighborhood would be. We are working with a group in a village about 40 minutes north of us. We are also having Bible studies now with some people who live and work in the south part of Gabs. This is a 30-40 minute drive south. God put us in the perfect location to work with all the people He has brought our way. There are also other villages in between that Rob is hoping to reach. We had no idea how ideal this location would be, but God did.

Front of the houseThat brings us to what kind of house we live in. It’s a nice house. It is mostly cement and tile. The kitchen is small, but perfectly adequate, and God even gave me a pantry! What an unexpected blessing. We have three bedrooms. It seems like a lot for two people, until we start planning for the families and groups that are coming over to visit and help. The guest rooms are not large. When I think about the group of 10 coming in the Fall, I start measuring off floor space in the living room, seeing how many air mattresses or mats we can fit in.

The adventurous part of me is just a tiny bit disappointed. I was looking forward to living in a village. I like the challenge of daily life, and I like living in a village setting. You get to know people better than in a community with tall fences and gates. There’s more of a country or small town “feel” to it, which is what I grew up with. I’m not a city girl at heart.

The part of me that is trying to recover from chronic illness is just a tiny bit relieved. The village life is something I enjoy, but it’s harder. Seeing how I struggled when we first arrived (and still struggle at times), I’m thankful for a nicer house, more convenient shops, and more consistent utilities than we would have in the village.

Occasionally I look around and Satan tempts me to feel guilty. “Look at all you have. You should be suffering for Jesus here. What kind of missionary wife are you?” But I refuse to listen to him. Instead I listen to my Father’s voice, which reminds me that He chose where to put us, and I should rejoice in His blessings, not second-guess His choices.

So I am content and happy. I know we’re right where God wants us to be. One day, He may indulge me and let us move to a village. For now, I am happy to be in my medium-sized home in a nice community. I am thankful that as we prayed about where to settle, God led us to exactly the spot we needed to be.

Christmas & Moving into the New Year

This was our first Christmas in Africa. We have both been overseas at Christmas time, but this was our first in Botswana. We had a quiet Christmas planned, but it turned out even quieter. Rob came down with some kind of stomach bug, so he was mostly down the last half of the week. In fact, he’s still not feeling too well. We would appreciate your prayers because we are moving in the next couple of days.

Thankfully we don’t have much to move out of our current cottage, but there is a lot to do and a lot to move into the new place. I have started making curtains, but I’m slow and the holidays and a sick husband slowed things down a bit more. We went yesterday and bought a few basics and today or tomorrow we need to go buy a couple more items. Then we’ll be all set to camp out in the house while we start getting set up.

When we look at the house, we not only see our home, but we see those who will be sharing it with us. We see visitors from the region and the U.S. and the students that will come help and learn. I see a place where my husband can rest, regroup, study and prepare in between Bible studies, outreach, and the frustrating days of trying to get something accomplished in Botswana. Yes, sometimes those days are trying.

We are praying we get utilities sorted out before our first night (Friday, the first). Rob has already been to get that taken care of, but promises were not kept, and we still have no electricity. There seems to be water, but it’s not sorted out properly. With the Christmas holidays, people have been out of the office, and out of town. It seems the plan of moving at the end of the year was not the brightest plan we’ve ever had. We were told this morning that it can sometimes take 3 weeks to get electricity turned on. I hope and pray this was a dramatization, exaggeration, or an exception, rather than the norm.

I don’t know when our next update will be. When we move, even the intermittent, slow and unreliable internet will be gone until we can get it set up at our house. We have been told this is sometimes a slow and frustrating business too. Of course, we can’t even address that until we get electricity. So, If you don’t hear from us for a little while, don’t panic. We’re still here. We’re just trying to get set up for living and ministering, but it’s slow at times. We will have our phones for calls, texts, WhatsApp, and even a bit of Facebook, but not for updates like this.

If we don’t “see” you before then, we hope you all have a wonderful beginning to 2016. Who knows? Maybe the Lord will return even before then and we’ll begin eternity with Him, instead of beginning 2016. If He does, are you ready to meet Him? Do you personally know our Creator, the Ancient of Days, the Holy One?

I’m not asking if you’ve prayed a prayer or if you attend church, or if you do good deeds to appease Him, or if you are working hard at being good enough for Him to let you into Heaven. I want to know if you have a personal relationship with Him. Is He your Father? Do you walk with Him? Are you ready to stand before the Almighty God? If not, we’d love to help you enter 2016 (or eternity) knowing our great and amazing God.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Thanksgiving is past and Christmas is almost upon us. For most of my life, this was my favorite time of year. Thanksgiving was our favorite family holiday. Christmas was a time for family, fellowship, special services at church, remembering God’s greatest gift to us, and of course, lots of lovely food for both holidays.

Our first holiday season after we married was wonderful. We weren’t close to our families, but we enjoyed our time together and with my former church in Texas. By our first Christmas I was expecting. Other than not being able to take care of the meat because of morning sickness, it was perfect.

By the next Thanksgiving and Christmas, everything had changed. I had miscarried 3 times, the third was just days before Thanksgiving. My baby due in August was in Heaven, my baby due around Christmas was in Heaven, and now I had just lost another one. I went through the motions, I enjoyed family, I was thankful for all of God’s blessings and the gift of Jesus Christ, but part of me was empty.

I thought it was because the loss was so fresh, the wound still open. I have learned since then that it’s not just the newness of the wound that causes this. Each year has been the same. We spent the next two Thanksgivings with my family and Christmases with Rob’s family. We had good food, great fellowship, and loved being with family, but part of my heart wasn’t in it. It was seeing shadows of what might have been. I saw (in my heart) each little one we had said good-bye to. I knew how old they would be, if they would have been nursing, eating mashed potatoes, or gnawing on turkey, or if they were due just days after the holiday. I saw their eyes light up with the festivities, I saw myself slipping into the bedroom to put them down for their nap. I saw their grandparents’ joy and delight in meeting them. But it was all dreams and wishes. None of them were there.

This year, we have 6 babies in heaven, not with us. Thanksgiving was bittersweet. We spent the week with friends. We had good fellowship, lots of good food, and a great Thanksgiving service. I enjoyed their children, but everywhere I looked, I ached at what might have been, but wasn’t.

Over the last few days I’ve been moping. That’s the only word for it. I’ve carried on with the work I need to do. We’ve been planning for our upcoming move, measuring for fabric for curtains, finding fabric stores, doing Bible studies, planning the week’s menu and Christmas dinner, and all the other things we do each day. But my heart hasn’t been in it.

Through all the work and planning, I’ve been seeing shadows of “maybes” and “should/would have beens”. Which room would have been a nursery, which baby would have been big enough to prod us to decorate for Christmas, even though we’re moving just days after, which baby would have been still too little to notice, and the baby that would due in just a couple of months. In the middle of that is the wonder if we’ll ever have a child. I’m now 45. There’s a strong possibility that I won’t have children. So I’ve been moping. Might as well call it what it is.

But this morning, again, the Lord is drawing me out of the mopes. He’s reminding me that keeping my eyes on my losses (babies and dreams), keeps me down, but keeping my eyes on Him lifts me up. You see, it’s really my choice whether I have a blessed Christmas or a sad one. Yes, the ache of losing a child is always with me, but I can choose not to dwell on the pain and loss. I can thank God that I was privileged to carry them for even that short time. I can thank God that I will see them one day in Heaven. I can thank God for an amazing and supportive husband. I can thank God for so many things.

The loss and ache are always there, but they can take back seat to the joy that God gives when I choose to praise, rejoice, and keep my eyes fixed firmly on Him. I can look at the waves and wind, and sink like Peter did. Or I can keep my eyes firmly on my Saviour and walk with Him in the midst of any storm or heartache. The choice is mine. So today I chose to stop moping. When the memories, would have beens, and heartache comes, I choose to thank God for His manifold blessings and rejoice in this season.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:6-8

May God give you peace and joy in this Christmas season, no matter what heartache, what loss, what grief you bear. Because peace on earth (or in our hearts) can only come from the Prince of Peace. Comfort can only come from the Comforter. Only He can give joy our of sorrow and peace out of turmoil. May the Prince of Peace reign in your heart today.

*As embarrassing as it is to post my failings and my moping (I’m grown up now, I shouldn’t act like a child), I choose to do it anyway. Because if just one person is encouraged or finds joy in the midst of sorrow by reading about my failings and my God’s faithfulness, it’s worth it.