Take Courage, Brave Hadassah

Before we jump into the meat and potatoes of this blog first an update on the prayer requests last Monday.  One may recall last Monday we asked you all to pray for mine and Amy’s vacation to Western Belize.

We prayed for

  • The kids having a great day with Kayla and Michelle – THEY DID PRAISE GOD
  • Michelle and Kayla would have energy and the kids would sleep in – THEY DID PRAISE GOD!
  • REST, RELAX, FORGET – We were able to rest and relax (hard to forget all that’s going on when you are moving in about a month – But God answered.  It as an awesome vacation!!
  • Energy upon return – We have MORE energy than we did before we left – PRAISE GOD!

Vacation was incredible.  Amy and I enjoyed great fun, hiking through waterfalls, up mountains, and tubing down rivers.  There were some touch and go moments.  For example, while on our hike to the top of the mountain we encountered 4 snakes (3 of them poisonous!!!)!!  Also, I flipped out of my tube while heading down the waterfall, but don’t worry, I hopped right back in and didn’t lose my sunglasses.  We had a great food and a lot of great, (some hard) but great conversations.  Finally we had GREAT naps!  Vacation was exactly what we needed heading into these last 30 days! Thank you for praying!

Now onto today’s update….

Courage what a great word.  What does courage mean?  I could look it up but I think (at least for right now in my life) it means taking risks without knowing the outcome.  I think courage and faith are almost synonyms.  Courage could be defined as faith in action with risk.

Each night our family (Amy, Michelle, Kayla, and myself) sit down to glean from God’s Word.  We have just gotten through reading Ruth, Esther, and Daniel.  These books are filled with great faith, great risk, great courage.  Look at some of the examples:

  • From Ruth
    • After her husband died she was determined and courageously affixed her life to Naomi’s saying I am your and your are mine.  Her courage was so deep that Naomi said no more (Ruth 1:16 – 18)
    • She risked physical harm or worse by going into the fields to glean after the reapers so Naomi was taken care of (Ruth 2:2)
    • She obeyed Naomi and offered herself to Boaz by laying at his feet (Ruth 3:4-5)
  • From Esther
    • After learning of the plot to kill the Jesus, Esther puts plans in place to foil the plan for Haman.  Each time she talks to the king, she gets more and more and more bold, eventually having the courage to point her finger at Haman and telling the king that he was the one to kill all the Israelites.  She risked her own life by going before the king without being summoned.  She risked it even further by identifying herself as one of the Israelites. She risked it again by pointing her finger at the kings 1st in command and accusing him of trying to eliminate her people
  • From Daniel
    • He had courage to maintain his resolve and not defile the king’s food
    • He had courage to rely on God for an interpretation of a dream he had not heard told to him.
    • He had courage to continue to pray even when the result was guaranteed death.

Such stalwarts of great faith.  What examples of great courage.  Look at those situations, they are all different. There are different situations for Ruth, for Esther, and for Daniel.  Even in each individual’s life the situations that called for courage were different each time.  Courage is like that.  Activities that we once thought are courageous are now normal.  I look at my own life as an example.  The first time that we took a step of faith and volunteered in Children’s ministry in the 2yr old room…that was courageous. Then I went on to be a small group leader for 2nd grade boys and followed them through middle school..I thought that was courageous.  I remember vividly in 2007 the courage that it took for me to come on our first mission trip Belize and then in 2009, 2010, 2011, the courage it took to help lead some people from my church on their first mission trip to Belize.  Then there was the courage it took to move to Belize and now the courage it takes to follow God’s call back to the States for who knows what next.

Each time in my life when we as a family made a decision to act courageously, to step out in faith, it was different.  It required a different type and at times a different amount of courage.  Each time we were prompted to act courageously, the risk was different.  Sometimes we risked ridicule, sometimes we risked friends.  Now we are risking the comfortable.  Life here in Belize is comfortable.  It is know.  It is NOT easy but it is what we know.  We are stepping back into the States without truly fitting in anywhere. We are too American for Belize, too Belizean for America.  We will be brave.  God makes us brave.  He is calling us and we will respond.

It’s not just in the “big” things.  God may be calling you, calling us to courage in the small things.  Maybe it’s forgiveness offered to someone who has hurt you.  Maybe the Lord is calling you to volunteer at your local church, or share the Gospel with a coworker you haven’t shared your faith with yet.  Maybe The Lord is asking you to be brave and start going to same grocery store every week at the same time or to go inside to get your favorite coffee and learn the names of those people who serve you.  Whatever it is, it’s different for you than it is for me than it is for someone else.  And this I know, it’s different in each situation of our own lives.  Step out act courageously.  Be brave.  And when that action seems normal act courageously again the Lord will show up!

Those stories of Daniel, Esther, and Ruth are such great example of people after God’s own heart acting courageously and then more than that the Lord using their courage to bring more of himself and his glory, to accomplish His great rescue plan.

  • Ruth
    • great-grandmother of King David – “Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed,22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.” Ruth 4:21
  • Esther
    • Esther foils the plot to kill her uncle and save her Jewish people.
    • At the end of the book of Esther this is what it says “The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.” Esther 8:16-17
  • Daniel
    • After refusing to eat the Kings food and having The Lord sustain his health, Daniel and his 4 friends were promoted to the top of the king’s court.  (end of Daniel chapter 1)
    • Daniel relies on the Lord to interpret the dream of the King and after the interpretation, King Neb says “The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery” Daniel 2:47
    • And after the episode with the Lion’s den, the King writes a decree to all people of the kingdom stating that “for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.  He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonder in heaven and on earth he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” Daniel 6:26 – 27

Each time, each life, each instance of courage, the Lord showed up.  He delivered.  He rewarded and He was glorified.  SO the question remains in your life, where the Lord calling you to act courageously.  It’s time to Take heart, to be brave like Esther Hadassah and see the Lord be glorified.

The start of our 3 hour hike to the top of the mountain!

The start of our 3 hour hike to the top of the mountain!

One of our many breaks on the walk.  Here i think Amy is trying to lick the sweat off my head for electrolyte nourishment

One of our many breaks on the walk. Here i think Amy is trying to lick the sweat off my head for electrolyte nourishment

the view from the top of the mountain.  it was a beautiful sight!

the view from the top of the mountain. it was a beautiful sight!

At the end of our hike.  This is our tired face!

At the end of our hike. This is our tired face!

As self-proclaimed "foodies" we don't get that fix much in Belize.  This is an example of Roots and Wraps in San Ignacio town delivering.  The chef there is an artist.

As self-proclaimed “foodies” we don’t get that fix much in Belize. This is an example of Roots and Wraps in San Ignacio town delivering. The chef there is an artist.

Me addressing the teachers at Pastor's Ed's children's ministry training.  The fact that on Saturday the Lord used me to  address and encourage 150 teachers from 65 churches representing 10K kids all across Belize...blows my mind.  He is a great God.  I will continue to be courageous.

Me addressing the teachers at Pastor’s Ed’s children’s ministry training. The fact that on Saturday the Lord used me to address and encourage 150 teachers from 65 churches representing 10K kids all across Belize…blows my mind. He is a great God. I will continue to be courageous.

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A special prayer request – 18-May-2015

It’s 6AM here in an already warm Belize, but I guess it seems that every day is warm.  I’ve been up since about 3:50 unable to sleep.  Amy and I head out on vacation today.  3 days of rest, relaxation in the Mountain Pine Ridge area of Western Belize.  We are staying at Black Rock Lodge again and can’t wait.  I am sitting here with the kids watching Jake, waiting for everyone else to get up.  I thought I would send out a prayer request for me and Amy.

Pray for….

  • The kids that they would have a great (3) days with Michelle and Kayla.  That they would listen and obey, love everyone and be happy to share in EVERYTHING and EVERYWHERE.
  • Michelle and Kayla that the Lord would give them great energy, that the kids would SLEEP IN.  Pray that the Lord would shower his rich blessings on Michelle and Kayla.  May He pour out 10x as much blessing as they have provided in our lives for them being here.
  • Us (Amy and Josh) that we would REST and RELAX and FORGET.  May this time just be a time of enjoying each other, hanging out, being silly, reading books, drawing close together, and of course drawing close to the Lord
  • Energy upon return.  When we return from vacation it’s as if we are down-shifting and pushing towards the big move and start of summer.  Pray that we are able to work smarter and not lose sight of the Lord in all the details, packed bags, and start of summer trips!  We are NOT thinking about ANY of this while on vacation. so that’s why you should pray for….
  • Clear minds…just pray that we can unplug our minds from everything and just be PRESENT with each other in the PRESENT!

Thanks for praying for us!  Thanks for celebrating with us. It’s hard for us to feel that we “deserve” this time of relaxation, when we know that there is so much to do and that there are people, our friends, that don’t ever get the opportunity to relax.

One of my favorite songs right now (since meetings) is “Desert Song” by Hillsong.  The last verse says:

This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow.

We are excited to be filled over these next few days and even more excited to sow the seed we have received over the rest of the summer to our friends, family, staff, pastors, and teams!  We know that we know this summer, the Best is Yet to come!

 

Family

In a scene in Romeo and Juliet as they are discussing their families Juliet asks of Romeo “what’s in a name?”  She was referring to it doesn’t matter of what house you are from, if you are a Montague or not, I still have love for you and I am going to love you no matter what.

Names are funny things.  Names denote character.  Names, especially those on the “back of the jersey” denote family.  But what is family?

We used to sing a song at church when I was small “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.  I’ve been washed in the fountain cleansed by His blood….”  I remember walking around and shaking hands with everyone in the church.  It was a time of gladness, a time of love.  It was a family.

My family growing up was my dad, my mom, Molly and me (Brother)….well that and Molly’s 100 animals. NOTE: At one time we had a bird, a dog, 4 cats, 2 ducks, and a rat, with most of those living INSIDE the house!  But that was my family.  Small but mine.

As I got older I saw what a “big family” looks like.  I remember I was over at the L’s house one day and Mrs. L got in from the grocery store.  I’ll never forget we just finished with an insanely large meal and Mrs. L just walks right in.  I was stuffed and for my portly high school self that was saying something.  Anyway, all 6 of the L kids were unloading the groceries and when they got to the ice-cream sandwiches, I watched each kid take one out of the box and eat it immediately.  I asked “what are y’all doing? Are you not full?” Of course they were, they answered.  They knew though that if they didn’t eat it right away they wouldn’t get one.  That was my first experience with a big family.

As time passed I hung out with the L’s some more and I saw how awesome a “big family” was.  I loved the activity, the chaos, the people (I’m 100% extroverted).  I knew from that moment on I wanted a big family.

While all of that was happening with me, in a little corner of Burlington, NC Amy was being exposed to the J’s and felt a deep love for a large family too.  Enter a lot of time, more of God’s grace and two worlds/people combine and voila..we have a desire and a calling for a large family.

You all know the story of Madeline, it’s somewhere in the archives of this blog.  And how in summary, we longed for a large family but the Lord was delaying getting pregnant.  2 years and many tears and a few demanding prayers later Madeline was here…then 19 months later – Jojo….then 20 months later – Elijah.

After Elijah, since Amy had some physical issues from having (3) monster kids in 39 months, the doctor said “umm…don’t have any more kids.” With that we felt that maybe (3) was a big enough family for us.  But there was uneasiness in our hearts.  We just couldn’t shake it.  I just couldn’t shake that there are more kids for us.  Adoption? Perhaps? Something else? Sure but who knows.

Babysitter turned daughter

Several months before we moved, we met Jordin, who at the time was our small group babysitter.  In such a short amount of time, she became much much more than that.  She started staying later after small group, started to become our family babysitter, started staying after babysitting our kids (sometimes a little too long)…But then Amy and I looked up and Jordin was a part of our family.  Of everyone in the US who we were close to before we left, Jordin is the only one that visited us.  She is family.  She is a daughter in our family…just like Madeline.  And this year I am especially honored to officiate her wedding.  I actually told her I would be HONORED to do the ceremony but she would have to work with me on my snot-bubble tears because when a daughter gets married, the dad cries!

As Amy and I have been in Belize, we have been praying about a growing family.  We want more…we want more kids.  We want more activity.  We have much more love.  We want to care, nurture, shepherd.  We want to share more of ourselves with others….even in all of our oddities, weirdness, love and fun.

 

In 2014 our family grows….more kids

First we start to see Bella and Christopher (neighbors from next door come over).  At first our kids have a hard time playing with them.  At the time Madeline was 3 1/2 or 4 and Bella was 7.  But soon enough and through some growing up on Madeline and Jojo’s part, everyone started playing together.  It started as one day a week, then two days…now almost every day.  It started as just playing then one day, Amy and I looked up it was homework club.   See Bella and Christopher are from Honduras so their family doesn’t speak English.  That’s not a big deal except when all the homework from school is in English, they can’t get any help. So now every day around 3:15 Bella and Christopher (and now their younger sister Star) come over for homework and play time.  I LOVE getting the knock on my office door to see all of our kids (Bella, Christopher, Madeline, Jojo, Star, and Elijah) waiting just to say hi!

But it didn’t stop with Bella and Christopher.  Soon they shared with their friend Evelyn that there’s this family in the white house with the playground that can help with homework.  One night at dinner, we hear the dogs going crazy next door and the next thing I know there was a knock at the door.  I look out and there is Evelyn standing with her mom and her brother Jose.  She had a note that was sent home that she needed me to translate from English to Spanish.  And that was that.  Our love that God had poured out on us flowed through past Madeline and Jojo and Elijah to Star and Bella and Christopher and Jose and Evelyn.  Our kids grew from 3 to 6 and now to 8.

2014 our family grows again…more kids?

In the beginning of 2014, Amy and I resolved (made the decision ahead of time) that we needed to do more to serve our staff serving in Belize.  Specifically we wanted to minster to, love and serve those students (kids) that have committed to spend some of their summers in Belize.  So our family grows to bring those into the fold.  We have staff dinners every Friday night to celebrate all the Lord did in the previous week and we seek God for all that He will do in the coming weeks. It was for myself and Amy (and the kids) the highlight of each week and the highlight of the summer.  We cooked “American meals” like grilled cheese and tomato soup, lasagna, and chicken parmesean.  We fellowshiped, loved, listened and prayed.  We celebrated birthday’s together, addressed conflict together, and just were with each other.  We were a family.  And our family had grown to fold in these 15 or so adult children.

 

2014 – 2015….another daughter

But more than that….we met Michelle.  She was quiet, off in the background, unassuming, just incredibly loving.  At staff dinners, she took time to read to our kids, to really love Madeline, Jojo and Elijah.  And she was AWESOME, clearly serving in an area that God has gifted her.  Children fall over themselves to get to her and mine were no exception.  The kids and I go to visit a team that Michelle was serving with one afternoon in August 2014 and I half jokingly / half-serious ask if she wants to live with us in Belize, to serve on some trips and in general be part of our family.  She laughs at the offer, as I learn later she does when something may be too good to be true.  I remind her that I was serious and just to let me know. Well some time passed and later that fall I get a message from Michelle asking if I was serious. I tell her yes and in Jan. 2015 we gained a 21 year old daughter, a role model for Madeline, a friend to Amy.  Just like when we had Elijah or Jojo and our hearts grew to love them, the second Michelle walked off the plane in January our hearts grew to love her.  Michelle is family and we are blessed. To have Michelle here in Belize for community, for help, to shepherd, to have in our family has been one of the biggest blessings for our family ever.

2015 – more adult children

As I sat with our staff (shared this last post about shepherding), the Lord said this is your family….lead them.  So Amy and I are excited to grow our family and fold in more of our adult kids this year.  While we are transitioning out of Belize to relocate to the States, loving on our summer staff again is a top priority for myself and Amy.  We will be direct and intentional.  Over lively conversations, lots of tears, and many prayers, we will love some of the same kids from last year and fold in our new ones.  Kids we are your family.  We have love to share.

Winston-Salem and beyond.

Family isn’t necessarily a name.  Family is a feeling, family is a unit.  Family is unity.  The Lord has called us to love, to unify, to serve, to bless others.  We have always wanted a big family and He has so graciously provided.  Whether it’s Jordin, Bella and Christopher, Evelyn, and Jose, Star.  Where it is Michelle or Kayla or our staff teams over the years, The Lord has grown our family.  And Amy and I are so blessed to share God’s love with each and every one of our family.  It’s not a name. Family is love.

Now what… Amy and I carry all of our family with us where-ever we go.  We may not have A LOT of kids from us but we have the large family the Lord has called us to.  We are excited to go to Winston-Salem and see our family grow more.  He has given us love to share and we will go out and love all we come into contact with.

Praises:

  • LADIES NIGHT – Amy, Michelle, and Paula had an AWESOME ladies day / night last Saturday.  They went and got massages, hair cuts, pedicures and just generally loved the fellowship with one another!  It was a breath of fresh air for all!!
  • Kayla is here – Kayla, an awesome woman of God who served with us last summer, has returned to serve with us again this summer.  She arrived in Belize yesterday to live with us until her first trip mid June.  We are so blessed and excited to have Kayla as part of our family now!
  • SOLD – Most items from our house are sold.  Therefore, now we are transitioning into packing all of the things we are taking back into the suitcases.  It’s bittersweet for sure but we are excited to move onto this phase of preparation.
  • Community – A couple of weeks ago I lost it praying for community for Amy.  And every knows that we have been praying for YEARS for the Lord to answer that prayer.  We got an email that Amy can go on a mission trip with some of the ladies from REVO in Winston-Salem, many of the same ladies that she was in bible study with before we moved!  It “happens” to be during the same time that I am back in the States before finishing out the summer in Belize!  God blew us away with this opportunity and we are so excited for Amy to go and build community.

Prayer Requests

  • Vacation – Amy and I are heading to the Black Rock Lodge again on Monday for about 3 days of vacation just the two of us.  Pray that it is a time of rest, relaxation, and enjoying each other’s company. Pray that we aren’t worried about the details of everything (move, work, kids, etc) but instead that we are truly unplugged and focused on The Lord and each other!
  • Summer Trips start – Our first trip of the summer starts this Saturday! Pray that this summer our teams, our staff, the local church that we are serving alongside of would experience the Lord in a fresh way.  Pray that they would encounter Jesus and HE would be made known.
  • Cars – We are wrestling with some frustrating car issues right now in Belize for two of our trucks.  Please pray that these are resolved quickly, that we are able to source the parts, and that the cars would just not give us trouble….it’s a HUGE pain to me!
  • Community – we are asking for continued prayer for community.  Specifically community for myself and Amy when we are back in the States.  We know we wont “fit in”  We are praying for friends and a church family that will just understand that we will need a lot of time to adjust.  Pray specifically for community for me, with the travel that I do or that is this summer’s schedule, I wont really get to plug deeply into community until September. I do fear not having friends.  I know it is the enemy but pray for low-hanging fruit in this.
  • Leadership – continue to pray for my leadership, specifically that I can shepherd our staff serving in Belize well. I pray that I am KNOWN as someone who truly cares.  Pray the Lord gives me the wisdom and ability to communicate that I care deeply about everyone! Pray I can shepherd our team into the fullness of God that is their calling!
Jordin and Madeline in Belize!

Jordin and Madeline in Belize!

From L to R: Star, Bella, Christopher, Madeline, Jojo

From L to R: Star, Bella, Christopher, Madeline, Jojo

Michelle with her brothers and sister.

Michelle with her brothers and sister.