In the Shadow

It’s May 31, 2016 and I sit in the Atlanta airport for a way too long layover, heading back to Nicaragua to serve the Lord, serve our Pastor partners and further Gospel.  But first I am sitting here reflecting.  See I am in the shadows of my 35th birthday.  35 years old, and at times I feel just that way…old.  (Note: When I was 18 and getting into working out, I remember hopping up on the cardio machines and seeing the first age that popped up was 35.  I remember thinking to myself, couldn’t they put something younger as the median age.  I mean 35 was ANCIENT.

Now here we are.  And 35 is me.  SO yes I am in the shadow of my 35th birthday.  And if that wasn’t morbid enough, I just read that my life-expectancy based on American male averages is 70 years  old.  I am half-way done with my life.

Sobering that fact is.  The youth of my life is in the shadows cast by my own mortality. While only mildly depressing, it does cause for some reflection and projection.

My first 35 years were filled with

  • a lot of learning
  • a lot of mistakes
  • a lot of idleness due to age but mostly due to laziness
  • a lot of wasted time due to requirements like “class” and “grades”.  So guess what at age 35 having read or not read Beowuf hasn’t impacted me one bit….there’s some time I would like to have back.
  • a lot of beating up my body
  • a lot of love placed in myself and the things of the world

My first 35 years were also filled with

  • a lot of love placed in the right things
  • a lot of firsts (love, kids, house, career change, graduations)
  • a lot of grace, mercy and love from the King
  • a lot of refinement into who He has called me to be.

It’s been a full 35 years.  But I’m not done.  I calculate that I only had about 10 years of useful time (where I was not an idiot, after 25 years old) and present.  And I calculate that by no way am I done.  So then the natural question is what’s next? What do I want to do and see and feel and have  in my next 35 years?   The answer is simple, I think.  The answer is more.

My next 35 years will be filled with:

  • More of God’s presence in me.
  • More of an understanding of who God is
  • More of me serving, loving, extending grace and mercy
  • More of Him refining me through the reading of His Word
  • More of me listening to Jesus and doing what he says
  • More….

More which really means less.  It means less wasting time.  Less selfishness.  Less pursuit of the world and more pursuit of Him and His presence in all that I do.  And it starts right now. 

As I mentioned I in the airport, heading out to Nicaragua to serve, to pursue God, to take his name proclaim His glory to the nations.  And I am so excited.  I can’t wait.  I can’t wait to hug and see the kids I hugged and saw earlier this year. I can’t wait to look Pastor Roland in the eye and tell him I was serious when I wanted to partner with him in how God has called him to his people to further the gospel in his kingdom.  I am excited to sit with Pedro Pablo in the dump community, bring him cold water and listen to his story.  I am excited to see lives transformed from encountering The Lord without all the distractions of the US.  I am excited.

I am also excited for you all to partner with me and our family as I am out on this trip.  Would you consider partnering with us in prayer.

Here are some specific ways you all can be praying for us each day!

  • Every Day More – specifically that our staff (myself, Burton, and Trent) would have the time to sit and hear from the Lord and get filled with more of His presence.
  • May 31st
    • Safe travel as Trent, Pastor Roland, Burt and I come from all the corners of the world.
    • Easy pick up from the airport
    • no problems with our hotel rooms
  • June 1st 
    • Meeting – We have meetings with a new key ministry partner in Managua reviewing lodging, transportation and just hearing his heart for his community.  Pray for clarity and that this pastor is able to meet some of our lodging needs in Managua
    • Meeting – We will be meeting with 5 potential Nicaragua staff.  Pray for the Lord’s hand of discernment and wisdom to be on Burton, Trent and myself and for warmth and immediate connections with these potential staff
    • Setting up – Pray that we are able to set up all the logistics for the upcoming trip (meals, ministry, meeting with the dump community, visit to the prayer overlook, transportation, and laying eyes on the recreation.  Pray for smooth logistics, no hiccups
  • June 2nd
    • This day we will be meeting with our host pastors for all of our other trips for the summer.  Pray for our meetings with Pastor Umberto, Pastor Edgar, and Pastor Juan.  Pray that they receive us well (they will) and that we can communicate the excitement and love that we have for them and returning to serve them and their mission.
  • June 3rd – It’s GO TIME
    • Team arrives – pray for easy travel and smooth travel for the team and immediate connections between the team and the staff and patience on our drive to the lodging facility.
  • June 4th – meet the pastor and pray
    • Today we will meet with Pastor Roland, hear his story, his heart, his call to ministry and the region of Matagalpa and spend some significant time in prayer overlooking the area of Matagalpa.  Pray this prayer time sets the tone of expectation and worship for the week.
  • June 5th – the community and church
    • Today we will be out in the community visiting everyone, seeing how the live, serve, work, and go to to school.  We will invite them to church in the evening and pray for them as needs are shared.  Pray specifically for open doors, literally to the homes, for invitations to come in and sit, and for our team to immediately feel comfortable taking the conversation from “hey my name is” to “hey how can I pray for you”
    • Pray for our church service at night that we can truly surrender all and worship as One Church in multiple languages praising and worshiping the One True King.
  • June 6th, 7th, 8th, 
    • Morning – Dump Communities – a couple of times during the mornings each of these days we will  be visiting the dump community in Matagalpa.  Pray for open hearts of the people, open conversation with Pedro Pablo and his group of guys, and for touched hearts.
    • Afternoon – This is our VBS time.  Pray for over 100 kids.  Pray for joy and opportunity for us to love kids where they are.  Pray for the Lord to break down communication barriers that the participants may be concerned with and pray that kids love deeply and participants reflect that love of the Lord to them.
    • Evenings – Our evenings will be spent visiting more homes.  We will have the opportunity to take some food staples to homes and meet a real tangible need of families that are starving.  Pray these parcels of food are opportunities to love people where they are and present the gospel to them.  Pray for open hearts and for heats to be transformed.
  • June 9th – Recreation Day
    • Today is our day to say our goodbyes to Pastor Roland and his community and go and experience some of the beauty of Nicaragua.  Pray for those “see you laters” that they are heartfelt and genuine.  Pray for our time during recreation, for fun, for joy, for laughter.  Pray most of all for our debrief time that it’s a time to reflect and celebrate on all God has done and then speak on and expect more from our lives after encountering the Lord as we have for the past week.  In short pray for lives transformed as we experienced more of the Lord.
  • June 10th – Up and at ’em
    • Flights out are around 7AM, so pray for not oversleeping and for a great trip home.  Ready and prepared with answers for “how was your trip?”

God is in this.  This is the first step to more for my next 35 years.  Thank you for partnering with us in prayer.  Thank you for praying for the specific needs of the trip and thank you for continuing to pray for Amy, Madeline, Jojo and Elijah as they are back at home and missing daddy (and for their daddy as he misses them).  God is ahead of us.  He is with us.  God is going to give us more!

Nicaragua staff team - Representing!

Nicaragua staff team – Representing!

Goodness, my looks have come a long long way!

Goodness, my looks have come a long long way!

With Pastor Roland and Trent overlooking Matagalpa and praying for the trip that I am getting ready to lead.  We were expecting God for more, not knowing about the team and here we are asking him for more again.

With Pastor Roland and Trent overlooking Matagalpa and praying for the trip that I am getting ready to lead. We were expecting God for more, not knowing about the team and here we are asking him for more again.

Pastor Roland.  A man of God.  A brief encounter in Feb led to a great friend for life.

Pastor Roland. A man of God. A brief encounter in Feb led to a great friend for life.

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We have a 6 year old?!

So it’s been a month and a half since our dearest Madeline turned 6.  Where did time ago?  How was / is our little Madeline moving from a baby through preschooler and now in a couple of weeks finishing Kindergarten.  It’s crazy!!!

The Lord brought Madeline into our life in His perfect timing.  He has saved her and brought her into His family in His perfect timing.  But sometimes I just want time to slow down and for her to always want to snuggle in my chair in the mornings, or have me rub her arm and sing her to sleep.  Sometimes (even as she was crying from a bad dream twice last night), I want her to always need / want her daddy.

I know I am limited.  I am not God.  I know that at some point she’ll leave Amy and myself and be off to get married (around the age of 47 that seems old enough…then again maybe not).  I know she’ll have kids of her own (and we will spoil the snot out of them!).

But right now as she’s our 6 year old.  Our compassionate, tender-hearted, wild and free spirited, honest, artistic and loving 6 year old.  And for just a little bit we wish time could stand still.

Happy Birthday Madeline! Here’s our prayer for Madeline this year (and every year).  We ask that you consider praying this over her as well.

Lord we praise You and thank you and know that you are in control of everything.  You knew just when to give us Madeline and you know exactly the plans you have for her.  We pray for her.  Oh how we pray.  We pray for continued passion, compassion. We pray for a continued hunger and thirst for you and your word.  We pray God that she continues to see everyone has her friends, continues to love everyone equally and passionately.  We pray God that she loves you with everything she has and that you draw her close to you.  May her story be filled with sins and temptations that she was kept from because of her closeness to you instead of those You redeemed her from.  Life with Madeline is not without challenges.  As we parent through those and honor you in how we love her and help refine her into more of your character, God give us the patience and wisdom.  Show us how to parent Madeline how she needs.  And God for her.  We KNOW you have BIG PLANS for her.  We have had many people see that in her and speak that over her.  And God we have NO IDEA what that means.  So we pray this. We pray that Madeline draws close to You, that she has the boldness to step out into your plans and obedience to follow Your calling no matter what.  And God we pray that as her parents, we have the boldness to pray her through those, wisdom to counsel as needed but most of all the obedience to get out of her way.  Madeline is Your Daughter Lord.  You loved her before we did and You love her more than we do.  We completely trust you Lord!  And we expect great things, miracles in her life.  Have your way God!  In the mighty Name of Jesus we pray!

Amen!

Also in true Josh and Amy fashion and for your enjoyment and probably for her embarrassment later on in life: Madeline’s 6 year old Interview:

  1. Favorite Color – VIOLET RED
  2. Favorite Toy – MY LITTLE PONY
  3. Favorite Fruit – GRAPES
  4. Favorite TV show – PEED and QUACK
  5. Favorite Lunch Food – CHEESY CHEF SALAD
  6. Favorite Outfit – DRESSES
  7. Favorite Game – MARIO
  8. Favorite Snack – PRETZELS
  9. Favorite Animal – TAPIR (Yay Belize!)
  10. Favorite Song – LET IT GO
  11. Favorite Book – THE BIBLE (melt my heart!!)
  12. Best Friend – MARY SCOTT
  13. Favorite Cereal – FROSTED MINI WHEATS
  14. Favorite Family Activity – CAMP FIRES
  15. Favorite Drink – JUICE
  16. Favorite Holiday – EASTER
  17. What do you take to bed each night? STUFFED ANIMALS
  18. Favorite Breakfast Food – CINNAMON TOAST
  19. Birthday Dinner – CHICKEN PARMESAN
  20. What do you want to be when you grow up? A WEATHER REPORTER
One of my favorite pictures of all time.

One of my favorite pictures of all time.

Beautiful Madeline getting ready to perform a cultural dance at school

Beautiful Madeline getting ready to perform a cultural dance at school

Winner of wacky-tacky day at school

Winner of wacky-tacky day at school

Daddy gets to be the coolest!

Daddy gets to be the coolest!

Madeline LOVES Belize and parades!

Madeline LOVES Belize and parades!

How was she ever this small?!  But she was always wild!

How was she ever this small?! But she was always wild!

Why are we the ones to be obedient?

It was April 2013.  We had been in Belize about 8 months, which meant Amy was around 6 months pregnant with Elijah.  The spring had been a hard time, which really means from about Jan – April I had worked non-stop.  I was determined to prove myself to the Belizeans, the other full-time staff with Praying Pelican Missions, and really to myself that I could do this job.  I would spend most of the morning ’till supper visiting ministry partners and then post kids in bed to my own bed time ‘organizing our information.’  Work-life balance wasn’t something I was even trying to do.   Amy and 1, well we had the “talk” of “you’re working too much. You have a family.  This is really hard on us if you aren’t around, etc” And I listened or more appropriately heard what she said but my actions didn’t change.

I had led 3 trips that Spring so far (1 in Jan, 1 in Feb, 1 in Mar) and was heading into a back to back (2 trips in a row) in April.  To say that tensions in our house were escalating would be an understatement.

As I said it was early April and I was packing up my things, getting ready that Saturday morning to head out the door to lead Mt Bethel.  They were coming back and it was my first “return team”  There was new leadership, a guy named Cary who would later become a dear dear friend.  And I was extremely nervous.  I had prayed.  I had had and did have bubble guts.  I loaded the waters into the truck, the trip leader supplies (a lot of paper towels, trash bags, bathroom cleaner, toilet paper, etc) and through my backpack over my shoulder.

I was heading out of our bedroom when I looked up and saw her.  Amy was standing in our bedroom door, sobbing.  It was partly tears of anger; it was mostly tears of frustration.  But there were tears and some strong language.

Why do we have to be the ones to be obedient?  When’s the Lord going to show us, show me my ________________ blessing?  This isn’t fair.  This just isn’t fair.

I felt the same way.  When was the Lord going to show us our blessing?  It isn’t fair!  We’re missionaries.  Our lives are supposed to be sunshine, rainbows, unicorns pooping rainbows.  We’re supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit and surrounded by angels.  We should radiate the glory of the Lord.

The truth is we didn’t.  It was hard.  We were in a season where we needed to walk in obedience and choose to follow the Lord.  I hugged Amy and told her I didn’t know.  We cried and we both prayed Proverbs 3:5-6 over and over as we stood there in our bedroom doorway.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

I knew God was going to pour His blessings over us but I had no idea how / when / where / etc?  What would it look like?  Would we see it?  And to be completely fair and honest, God did continue to pour His blessings, favor, and everything else over us again and again and again.  At times it looked like provision.  Other times it was friendship, or miracles of healing we were able to witness.  Perhaps the best blessing of all came a week ago from yesterday.

Madeline – a girl after God’s own heart.

Madeline has always longed after God, walking close Him.  Often Amy and I felt that she was walking closer to the Lord than we were.  For example, as we were searching out houses in NC, we had come up to the 3rd of 5 houses for the day.  Before we go inside, Madeline pulls on my leg (she’s 4 1/2 at the time) and says “Daddy, God says this is the house that we are going to buy.”  I remember patting her head and thinking that’s cute little girl.  She must be tired from looking at these houses and wants to be done.  But as sure as I was then, now not so much.  I am currently sitting in the basement of that house writing this blog.

Anyway, our church had baptism services a week ago Sunday and we had been talking them up for a while to all the kids.  They had already seen one service but we wanted to remind them of why we get baptized, why we celebrate like crazy, and what it means to follow Jesus.

Madeline woke up Sunday morning of Baptism services and just goes up to Amy and says “Mommy, I love Jesus, He’s my best friend.  I want to follow him for the rest of my life.  I should be baptized so everyone will know”

So I’m in Florida at our Spring Staff Meetings and Amy texts me that.  I immediately call her and tell her “NOT TODAY, I’m not there!!”  Then as I sat in our meetings and took communion reflecting on God’s goodness that conversation from April 2013 with Amy standing in the doorway came flooding back over me.  Here’s your blessing Josh, was what God was telling me.  See I am doing a work you cannot comprehend.  Just like Abraham was the father of many nations, me working through you will extend generation to generation to generation” I sobbed.

Where are you at in your obedience to what the Lord’s calling you to do?  In forgiveness of someone, in your personal pursuit of Him, in stepping out on faith and going on a mission trip or serving locally at your church.  With your finances.

Whatever it is, I know the Lord is faithful.  I do not believe that we serve to be blessed, not at all.  I do believe that the Lord’s favor rests upon us when we walk in obedience to Him and the more we have the joy and peace of Christ in us, the more the world begins to change around us.  Praise God for Amy and myself, the Lord used our time in Belize and uses our heart for the world to save our daughter and bring her into His Kingdom.  Now she is being trained up ready to be unleashed to her school, and ultimately the world!

Madeline Grace: Go Forth and Make Disciples of all Nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teach them to obey all of God’s teachings.  Do not lose heart because you can be sure God is with you always, even until the end of time.  

20160414_171045 FB_IMG_1460201728469 FB_IMG_1461436947871

Praises

  • Madeline’s profession to Love the Lord with everything she has and to obey him in being baptized!  There is nothing better than that!
  • Community for Amy – followers, you know that our biggest prayer has been community for Amy and He has answered it time and time again.  Belize changed Amy so much (mostly for the better).  It is a true blossom to see Amy step out and tackle community head on and to be honest I can learn some lessons from her.
  • More on Amy – Amy has started to volunteer at Salem Pregnancy Center.  She is in the process on completing a 9 week Bible study and then will be unleashed to minister to those who come in to the Center.  She is so excited and totally at peace knowing she’s walking in obedience to how God is calling her!
  • Spring Staff Meetings – We had a great set of Spring staff meetings (it was the 2nd Annual Mustache Miami). I went with the “monkey tail beard”.  Google it if you are not familiar. But it was a great time of celebration and refreshment and preparation moving forward into how the Lord is directing us this summer and beyond.
  • Baptisms at church – we had 14 people get baptized a week ago at church.  Praise God for life-change and a church that hungers and thirsts for more people to be drawn into the family of God.

Prayer Requests

  • Nicaragua – I am preparing to lead a team of about 30 in Nicaragua at the end of this month.  I fly out the last day of the month! Pray for the team, our partner pastor, and our staff as we get ready to pour ourselves out to the Lord!
  • Community for Josh – For my whole life, friends just came naturally. Now with kids it’s harder.  Our church is awesome and bible study is phenomenal.  I think I, Josh, just need to get out of the house some more (more frequently) during the week.  Working from home does have advantages and disadvantages for sure.   Pray for more opportunities and for discipline to arrange my schedule to get out and get into community with others during the week.
  • Healing for a friend – A great friend of mine Tony had some vascular problems and infection and long long long long story really short; he had a below the knee amputation on a leg this past week.  Pray for immediate healing and pain relief for my friend and continued patience and steadfastness for his family!

Friends we love and cherish each on of you. Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, and support.  Please please let us know how we can be praying for you all!

Thankful for our partnership in the Gospel!