Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How Are You Meeting The New Year?

Each year I get to the end of December, and along with everyone else, I start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Some years I have been full of resolve to make some big changes having felt the Lord’s clear prompting to seek growth in certain specific areas of my life. The New Year is a perfect inspiration for new beginnings. At those times I’ve taken joy in setting goals through prayer, and asking God to lead me toward growth in the New Year. 

Then there have been times that I’ve gotten to the end of a year and realized that I had been striving much after my own personal ideas of growth and self-betterment and not enough toward what God may have wanted from me. At those times my reflection has revealed to me how I had set sky-high standards based on pressures from the world around and had certainly been harsher on myself Lord would have been had I accepted His goals for my year. I've finished the year feeling tired and defeated by my own overly ambitious and legalistic standards. Such realizations then caused me to come to the New Year with a desire to live free from self-imposed burdens and rather to simply resolve to abide in Christ and follow His lead day-by-day. Those were seasons for focusing yet again on what it means to carry His easy yoke and light burden rather than creating my own grueling and heavy ones.
There are also the years where January 1st has come in the midst of such flurry that the only resolution I can muster is to cling to the Lord and try to survive whatever season I’m in! One of those years involved an incredibly colicky baby that gave me no more than 45 minutes of sleep at a time during his first 5 months of life. My resolve then was basically just to cling to God however I could and keep my family alive until the massively stressful season of no sleep and constant crying would finally come to a resolution of its own. I think that was the year that I firmly resolved never to have any more children… But that was also after the second of my now four children...

I would imagine that there will be a number of other ways that I’ll meet the New Year as I continue on in life. How about you? How are you meeting 2015? Do you feel the Lord prompting you toward some specific resolutions? Is this year a year to resolve to let go of your own plans? Or, is this an intense season where you are feeling like the biggest resolve needed is that of clinging to the Lord for survival?  Any other sorts of New Year’s feelings that you’re experiencing? 

May God richly bless each of you as you meet the New Year wherever you are at!

P.S. Tomorrow we look forward to sharing some updates with you about our community here! We’ve got some resolutions of our own!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tempted to Tell ALL

“Mama, when we were at the library the other day, I was tempted to tell someone about Jesus and how He was born to save us. Is that wrong?”

I couldn’t help but smile.

Funny question for a missionary kid to be asking…

After all, isn’t that what missionaries do? Isn’t that what we teach kids that missionaries do?

Missionaries go, into ALL the world for this reason: telling ALL who have never heard or who have never believed or who just need to be reminded - ALL about Jesus.

The message is first one of confrontation - the horribly bad news that ALL, are sinners and that as sinners, we are unable - in and of ourselves - to DO ANYTHING to remedy our sin problem. Which brings us to the second part of the bad news: the required punishment for our sin is death.

Grasping that part of the message is necessary; thankfully it doesn’t stop there or we would ALL be without hope.

The second half of the missionary message tells of reconciliation and restoration. It’s the hopeful part… the better part.

ALL men need someone to save them...

It has been a busy week... a busy month... and it just so happened that I was scheduled to write at two different collective blogs on the same weekend.

Instead of reinventing the wheel (and I hope you don't mind), can I redirect you?
To read the rest, please click on this link and join me over at a life overseas: the missions conversation!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Several thousand years ago, Jesus arrived on a chaotic scene. He was born into a land with political strife, and He was born into an oppressed people. They lived in a state of longing, waiting, and hoping for more.  God’s people couldn’t understand why God wasn’t speaking, or where He was. He had been silent and here they were beaten down, struggling, and confused.
Into the chaos, Jesus silently arrived. Humbly, quietly, where He was least expected and where He was least hoped for. Into the space of a dark night in a dirty corner came the great Deliverer.
I can find myself in that chaotic place…right now I am in one of those seasons. Dear missionary friends are hurting, a women in our ministry is in crisis, and bad news seems to be in our local paper every day. Add some homesickness and the stress of the holidays and it is easy to feel broken down. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing it all on my own and I wonder why God doesn’t say what I want to hear.
But there is also an unseen longing and hoping that cannot be shaken. It can’t be shaken because Jesus steps in where He is least hoped for, and sometimes least wanted. The Deliverer arrives in our pain, our confusion, and our exhaustion. He arrives in such a way that we often don’t see Him coming. But He is there.
Jesus comes into that place with a promise, and with a reason to hope. Advent means coming and this season of light and yearning brings a glimpse of something more. The heavens opened and poured out on that silent night so long ago, so that every silent night to come would not be the end. The chaos will not win, and the darkness cannot hold us.
There is always hope. Sometimes it is silent, but it remains. There is always a chance that we will see more happen in our lives. There is joy in the sorrow and peace in the unknown because He has come, and He is coming again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Together: What are you reading?

This week's discussion is simple: What are you reading, or what have you read recently? What books can you recommend? Something really, really good to read online would also be nice.

(And does anyone have a Tuesday Topic to suggest? Any questions you want to talk about? Send them to

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wedding Rings and the Concept of Home

 My wedding ring is a frequent reminder to me of the transient life that I live; a life where the concept of home is not a stable and fixed thing, like we have discussed here recently and in the past.

When I was first married and living in the US, my wedding ring was at home on my left hand. Even when we first moved to Russia two years later, still for a time my ring did not leave the comforts of its left-hand home. As I became comfortable with my new and drastically different life in Russia, my ring too found a comfortable new home in the culture of the right hand. 

Probably on our flight back to the US for our first furlough began the tradition of moving my ring from the right to the left, somewhere mid-way over the Atlantic Ocean. The tradition reverses itself when flying back from Seattle to Russia. I didn’t realize it when the tradition first began, but in so many ways it and my ring in general have been symbolic of my relationship with the idea of home.
For the first two years, I actually wore two rings; my actual wedding ring on whatever hand was most culturally appropriate, and a band on the other hand that would otherwise feel somewhat naked without it. If the wedding ring was "home" on one hand, the home of the other hand would feel abandoned. I compensated by having two rings, perhaps as to not deny the significance of the home temporarily put aside. In hindsight, I see how the two rings reflected my feelings about home as a new missionary. Home was in both places and my heart needed to claim both simultaneously in many ways, especially during our first years overseas.

Down the road came a time when I took off my extra band, leaving only my wedding ring on the right side. We were in Russia when I stopped wearing the other band, and I had finally begun to truly feel at home in this new place. Now when we head back to the US, the single ring moves to the left, where after a season of feeling out of place, it gradually settles into it's other home. The right hand also feels naked at first when the ring first makes its move, but it too gets used to letting the band live elsewhere. And then the tradition reverses when we go back.

My heart and my ring have a home in both places and though there are times when the switch from one to the other is followed by a time of feeling out of place and awkward, soon the awkwardness fades. Over the years I have become more comfortable with this two hand, two home life that God has given me, and I praise Him for it. Praise the Lord for the blessing of not only getting to have one but TWO earthly homes.

Ultimately though, I praise Him that though this concept of “home” is so fluid and at times confusing in this missionary life, we have a perfect and permanent home waiting for us with the Lord!

What has your experience been with adjusting to having two (or more) earthly homes?  Is there one place or multiple places on this earth that you consider your true home? How have your feelings about home changed since moving overseas? 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesdays Together: Home

(I'm having rather severe technical difficulties here, but I think I can get this published.)

Again, it's time to get together and enjoy some quiet conversation. So, settle in and take your time. I've had the topic on "home" on my mind lately. Actually, it's often (always?) there. To be very honest, even though I wanted to live this life from the time I was little, and even though I love it, I never really knew how challenging some aspects of "home" would be for me.

But first, for your viewing pleasure, here are pictures of three homes around the world.
Ashley's in Russia:
The first view is actually out their kitchen window,
but their building looks like the one on the right.
Sarah's in Costa Rica:

They'll have to move soon; let's pray that their next house
will be just as much of a beloved home as this one has been.
Here is where I live:

Half a house in Ukraine (It's like a taste of heaven!)
Then, here's some more to read and look at:

These verses have been a great encouragement to me when I have struggled with various homes:
"Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations."
Psalm 90
“Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it!”
“Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going.”
(from 2 Corinthians 5 in The Message)

And now your part:
What do you consider your (earthly) home? What makes a house/apartment feel like home to you? How many times have you moved in your ministry life? Do you have photos or a blog post that you can link to, showing us where you live? What else can you add to this theme of "home"?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Word became flesh...

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning." - John 1:1
As part of my personal Advent celebration, I've been daily reading a chapter from "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus," a compilation of Advent readings, edited by Nancy Guthrie.

This quote from the second chapter immediately grabbed my attention, "When a person makes his home among people, he moves in with them.  He identifies with them.  The incarnation is the moving in of the eternal Word so that he utterly identifies with us in every way.  He took the whole nature of a human being, fully and totally identifying with all it means for us to be human..."  What first struck me was how amazing and how counter-intuitive the incarnation is!  Jesus is God, and He left His throne in heaven to become a human, humbling himself not only to man's body, but to a helpless baby's body, so that He could identify completely with us.  He chose to live a complete human life, from birth to childhood to adolescence to adulthood.  Jesus experienced everything we experience!  And, He came for us, to save us!
"He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.  He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.  Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." - John 1: 10-13
He lived a human life, in order to reveal Himself and His truth to us.  He lived a perfect life, so that His righteousness could be imputed to us.  He died for us so that our sin's penalty would be paid and we could be saved.  He conquered death, revealing His glory and giving us hope of eternity with Him.  God became man to give us the right to become His children, to His glory.
"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." - John 1:14

This is the Christmas message.  It's so much bigger than a sweet baby boy born in a stable (and so, so much bigger than I can write in this post)!  The truth of the incarnation is incredible, and provides such an important springboard for talking about the gospel.  And, that's why we are where are, doing what we are doing, right?  To quote the book I am reading again, "When a person makes his home among people, he moves in with them.  He identifies with them."  The author was talking about God becoming flesh, but it struck me that that sentence describes missionaries, too!  We move to a foreign place and work to make a home among a new people.  We work to identify with them.  We live among them in order to reveal the truth of the gospel to them, to God's glory.  While this change and adjustment is so tiny compared to Jesus', it was very special to me to identify with Christ in this small way. 

I pray that this Christmas, we can stay focused on the true awesomeness of the incarnation.  I pray that as we decorate for Christmas, plan our Christmas programs and events, and celebrate with our families and communities, that we will keep in the forefront of our thoughts our purpose for being where we are - to live among the precious people God has called us to, so that they may know Him and worship Him.  I'm praying for opportunities to share this message with those who have not heard it, who do not believe it. 
"From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.  For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made Him known." - John 1:16-18

How have been encouraged spiritually so far this Christmas season?  How can we pray for your heart this month?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tuesday Together: A Day in the Life...

No one volunteered to write up a day in their life, so you'll have to hear from me. Maybe this will break the ice so that someone else will want to do the same soon.

As a foreword, I grew up in a homeschooling family. There was a very popular homeschool magazine that featured a different family on the cover each month. Then, inside that issue, it would follow them through a day in their lives in great detail. I always thought that was the fun part of the magazine; now I know that at least some moms found it intimidating, though. (They did always seem to be perfect families!) That's obviously not what I want here. I just think it would just be fun to see how very similar and very different all of our different lives and locations are and get to know each other a little bit more. Yes?


I'm just going to tell you about yesterday here. Real life:
Our day started off very early when our son burst in to our room in the wee hours of the morning to announce that his sister's new pet rat ("he" was named Martin the Warrior; any other Redwall fans out there?) had given birth to five ratlets? ratlings? whatever... five baby rats! So, Martin is really Marta. Fortunately, we were able to get back to sleep after that bit of excitement.

We actually got up and moving a bit later. My husband made breakfast for us and went out to pay for another month of internet, since it was the first day of the month. The rest of us ate and then took care of our ducks. That means breaking the ice on their water, filling it up with hot water, feeding them, and collecting eggs.

Then we got a slow but good start on school. Every day with start with "Morning School," a time when I read aloud and work on memory verses and such with all four children together. Then the youngest was dismissed to play, while the older ones worked on math and music and history readings. We kind of dawdled and dragged through school, after a very busy weekend, but at least we got something done.

Honestly, there wasn't much excitement yesterday (except for the rat!), and sometimes that's really good. After school we had:
--husband left for the office
--quiet time when the youngest sleeps, next older listens to audio books, and the rest of us read.
On Mondays, while it's still quiet time, I send our oldest off to his piano lesson, then a little later our second child leaves for her music literature and theory classes. On other days there are art classes or other music lessons. They all go to them on their own, though. I just have to get them out the door at the right times and headed in the right directions.

When quiet time ended, I took the three children who were home out for a little walk and some sledding. Littlest got whiney fast. He hasn't resigned himself to mittens yet this year. So he and I went back for hot chocolate and starting on dinner prep. The others stayed out to continue sledding with a group of neighborhood kids.

A little later the sledders returned, and we did some reading aloud and painting. Then my husband came back from the office, with our daughter, who he had met up with when her time at music school was done. We ate dinner, did some cleanup around our house, and then settled in for an Advent reading.

Then it was already time to brush teeth and head to bed. All four children share a room, so one of us sits and supervises to be sure they actually get to sleep, instead of partying. My husband did that, while I sat at the computer, worked on this post, and enjoyed a quiet cup of tea.

And that's that. A very ordinary day in the life of Phyllis.

How are your days similar to mine? What is very different? Who wants to share a day in your life next, probably next month? What else do you want to say?  

And now your assignment for next Tuesday: we're going to share our homes and some thoughts on "home." To start with, if you want to, please send me a photo of your current house or apartment, preferably from the outside for this time ( I'll compile those and post them, and then we'll discuss. Thanks!