Sunday, December 6, 2015

life and joy

by Alanna

My mom and I went to visit a happy mom with her new little son this weekend. He is one month old today, and so beautiful. Half Congolese and totally African, with dark curly hair and gorgeous eyes.  I just held him in awe, wrapped up in warm soft blankets. His momma is happy. His life seems somehow more precious to me, sacred, because of the way he was snatched from death. Months ago, his mom was at Planned Parenthood for an abortion, and a Christian there talked to her and offered her help. She changed her mind, left, and decided to love and carry her son. His birth was a hard one, not easy. His mom is so young and there is no dad in the picture. But her joy is so evident.  Her happiness and her love for her son couldn’t be contained.

This precious little boy makes me think of the others. The survivors, and the ones who didn’t make it. The ones for whom the womb was not a safe place, but a place where they lost their lives. I wonder sometimes who weeps for them, who prays for them. How often do we believe that abortion is entrenched, here to stay forever.  And like poverty or evil it seems hopeless because it will never be overcome. Hopeless might be a word you can apply to the worldwide eradication of abortion, because sin will be here with us until Jesus comes back. But the little ones scheduled to be killed tomorrow, here in our midst? There is hope for them. There is always hope. Hope that some Christian will be there to speak on their behalf. Hope that their mother will hear, turn, repent. Hope that another little baby will be born, months from now. Hope for a baby’s life and a mother’s joy.

I don’t know what things God has called us all to, or those He has called us to love. We have families and friends and ministries and we do our best to seek God’s will for us. But I for one want to hope for the babies. I think they are forgotten sometimes because they are hidden away, because we can’t see their faces and we don’t know them and it is an overwhelming tide. Holding this little baby in my arms forced me to remember. To rejoice in his life, to hope for others. I want to pray and to hope and to be a voice for them when I have the chance. Because while the tide of abortion might not be stopped, someone made a difference here. To the baby, his very life. To the mother, her unbounded joy.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Open eyes

by Alanna

Once again I hold joy at arm's length, refusing it until I'm granted that one thing I think I need to be happy. There is always something right? It's sinful, this refusing joy. Like my baby throwing a temper tantrum because the yogurt is all gone, even when her plate is full of other food she loves. This is me.  

I wanted to remember good things that God has done, so I read over my answered prayer list. I started it on December 18th- almost a whole year ago now. Seven pages now, full of things I asked God for and He granted me. In His grace, in His mercy, in His goodness, in His love. If the Israelites were forgetful, then I am Dory from Finding Nemo. I forgot. When things look bleak, He is at work. When I have laid on the floor and cried and cried for my son, He heard and He knew, He always knew, what He was going to do. He was going to do good.  When I asked the Lord of the universe to help my baby nurse happy, He granted my petition. When I asked Him for joy He gave it. For wisdom, for peace, for my attitude on so many days. For my siblings' restoration to my parents, for a job for my husband, for another baby growing inside of me, for hard nights redeemed and hard mornings where I was rescued.  For safety the night I found her sitting up in bed crying, enclosed in her blanket, trapped.  For working internet when I needed to skype, for things to do when I needed to keep my hands busy. For joy for baby girl, and the way she laughs and laughs. For her birth and all my fears dispersed and pure joy come into the world.  For a trash can, a double stroller, safety all these miles in the car.  For affection, reassurance.  For things surrendered that He let me hold again.

And I remember too, that sometimes He says no. But the joy today is in knowing that He hears. That any suffering, any good thing withheld, is part of His sovereign plan.  He knows what it is like to cry out to the Father and hear only silence.  To be slain.  I want to learn from His submission to the Father's will. And from His joy.  Job said it- "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"  I don't want to complain anymore about the things I don't have. I want to ask my Father, and to wait. Then I want to rejoice. To remember when He gives, to be thankful. And to bow my head in submission when the waiting is long. To rejoice in knowing that He hears. To trust His heart for me.        

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sometimes four is the loneliest number

By Mary

I try not to be too much of a complainer, though this goal is probably mostly realized only in my friendships and social media posting. My mom gets a little bit more of my crazy, the one who hears it when I'm really at my wits end or completely depressed or bewildered about a situation. And unfortunately my husband and even my kids bear the brunt of my discontent and complaints. Which of course are just as bad whether they are expressed in words or in attitudes.

That being said, I hope this will come off more as confession than grumbling.

I'm kinda lonely.

When we first got married, when I first moved away from home, it was much the same. We knew some people, there were a couple families I considered friends...we had lots of struggles in our marriage. I was lonely during the 11 hours of the day I had with nothing to do and nobody to do it with. And sometimes lonelier still when my husband was around, because marriage just wasn't exactly what I hoped.

We got a puppy. Then we got pregnant. Then we moved, and that was the best thing ever. We found a church to connect with pretty quickly. We had friends we actually hung out with. The days could still be long but our puppy really was helpful and you know, during your first pregnancy if you're a stay at home wife you get do this awesome thing called napping whenever you want which kills a lot more time than you may think.

After our little girl was born things definitely shifted. As we adjusted to being new parents (and the first in our friend group at the time) we seemed to cope with it most by pulling back. I think we both struggle with asking people for help or favors and being so far from family just meant we juggled everything on our own between the two of us. It was rough sometimes those first couple of months but soon a women's bible study started meeting in our home every week. It started out with one young wife along with me and two more experienced wives and moms (with Gianna as the only baby) and grew to be a group of about a dozen with over a dozen little ones running around by the time we had to move away. We became one of the family with a large family at church, with kids for our kids to be friends with, couples to do couple-sy things with, and families to gather in one huge group with for all occasions. I'm pretty introverted over all, but regardless of that I've learned that life feels so rich when you have others to share it with.

So let me say (and remind myself) that life is rich. So rich. Even though this first year + in South Carolina has gone by without any significant headway in meeting people or forming friendships, I truly am thankful to have my little family of four to take care of, to test me, to pour into, enjoy, and be left exhausted by the end of every day. I'm ever so thankful to be adding to this family in just a couple short months (I'm due about a month before Alanna with our third little munchkin!) But-confession time again-I was quite vehement when I said I did not want to have another baby while we're stationed in South Carolina. And I continued to say this just as vehemently until I took a positive pregnancy test.

The truth is, it feels so hard sometimes doing everything alone and living life in anonymity. And it just seems harder and more lonely the more there is to do. But there's a few things I've learned during this year of lonesomeness.

One is that God really truly is enough, and nothing is impossible with Him. When I remember this daily, the quality of the day is of course much better. But even when I forget and act like He's not enough, the truth still stands firm.

Another is the realization that after five years of marriage...we still struggle with some of the key problems we started with. Sometimes this depresses me, but sometimes God opens my eyes to ways we've grown and changed in other areas, and even how within those struggles significant progress has been made. It seems to me also that the hurts we cause each other now tend to be less frequent, but maybe deeper. Even in that I'm thankful because in the end its a sign of our roots together growing deeper. And no matter what we go through or put each other through, they hold us up.

And the third is that life is what you make of it. And even if it is just us-just wonderful little ol' us-I want to be making laughter and memories and music and peace and joy. Every day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

He knows more

by Alanna

 We all struggle with it right? It greets us in the grocery checkout line, surprises us in a mountain town bookshop, cropping up everywhere to remind us that we don't quite measure up. And although in my heart and mind I'm ok with not measuring up to the world's standard of beauty, I still compare myself. I notice the girls showing off more of their body than I am; I cringe when I walk with my husband and my brother in this fallen place. I'm tired of this particular battle, this tide of sensuality that seems to infiltrate my whole world some days. It's wearying, facing temptations to compete or despair.
  I got a beautiful mostly escape from it all this weekend. A trip to the mountains with my grandparents. It was breathtaking and peaceful. Driving home I stared out my window at the clouds. These huge ones- storm underneath and white billows on top. And words could never describe them, and a picture wouldn't half do them justice. They are moving and changing and simply beautiful. People will never make anything to compare with them. No picture, no invention, no art work, no poem. We'll never even come close to Him. His creativity, His glory manifest in His creation. And then I realized.  

He knows more about beauty than we do.

 And why I choose to listen to these lies, when my Father is the author of beauty. I get lost sometimes because I forget to immerse myself in His truth, in the things He calls beautiful.
   I want to remember what He says. A gentle and quiet spirit, precious in His sight. A beauty that is imperishable. The beauty of this world He calls deceitful and vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. A husband loving his bride, I'm reminded in the Proverbs and Song of Solomon. A woman submitting to her groom. Real love. I want to drown in it, to be so filled with truth that there's no room for lies. The world knows so little about the things that are important. It's time to listen to the Creator of beauty and believe what He says.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

life lately

by Alanna

I thought I'd just post a little brief update on our lives and what good things God is doing here.
Isabella will be 9 months old tomorrow. She is crawling all over, cruising on all the furniture, babbling and playing peek-a-boo. She has definitely become more of a cuddler, and is wary of people she doesn't know well. She's had some tummy troubles the past month.  Had a hard time pooping, lost some weight so now she's just a little peanut at 14 lb. 14 oz. She is our joy and we love her to bits.

We are expecting our second little baby in mid January. Feeling thankful that God entrusts us with these miracles, although I am so weak when it comes to being a good momma. What joy He's giving!

Yonas is working hard at 2 jobs and still going to school for his master's degree. He is hoping to apply to seminary this fall and then if he's accepted, we'll be off to Minnesota next summer. After that, we still hope for missions. My heart still longs to be with orphans, loving them and telling them about Him. My husband still wants to be a pastor in the third world. I'm excited to see what God will do with us and where He will send us. It's easy to get comfortable here, but I'm praying He keeps our hearts yearning for the place He will send us. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Feminism or femininity

By Mary

Feminism has been on my mind a lot lately. Now, put aside the secular, man-hating, anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better type of feminism. The concept that’s been kicking around inside my head has been whether or not Christians should be on board with feminism, with the simplest definition for feminism in this instance being the pursuit of “gender equality”.

I’ve read some very well written words on the subject, words that have made me go back and evaluate my beliefs about men and women and the foundations of those beliefs. And in the end there are two particular points that seem to be core beliefs among those who pursue gender equality and with which I disagree.

The first is that if limits or boundaries are placed on you because you are a woman (or man), it automatically follows that you are devalued. The second is that femininity and masculinity are basically just culturally manufactured concepts.

My goal for writing this is not to provide some kind of detailed viewpoint of Biblical roles for men and women.  But I would like to address in particular those two points and challenge the idea that “equal” automatically means “the same”. Or that gender roles of any kind are a sexist perversion of the proper way of things, instead of God’s well-designed order from the beginning.

I agree wholeheartedly with the concept that men and women deserve the same amount of respect and that their minds, hearts, bodies, and souls are of equal worth and value. It has nothing to do with our abilities or our IQs, it doesn’t come from our achievements or any of the statistics people may gather. “When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. Male and female He created them, and He blessed them and named them Man when they were created.” I am completely in favor of pursuing equitable and honorable treatment of all human beings, but a pursuit of gender equality is unnecessary-God made us all and He made us equal.

So when the Bible says, “For man was not made from woman, but woman from
man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man”, it doesn’t mean He created half the population to be prey to the other half’s vices. When humans were first created, there was no sin, no vice to mar the relationship between them. But it does say “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for[e] him.”“ It seems that many times those words are read negatively and I’m not sure why. In the business world, we’re honored to be considered qualified by an employer for the job opening we’ve been aiming for. How much more of an honor to be designed perfectly qualified, and suited for a position from our God to partner in the stewardship of all the rest of His creation, and to enjoy relationship with Him. That job, that role is for His glory and in accordance to His plan, not men’s.

My understanding as a Christian is that women are not made for men’s personal pleasures, purposes or designs. But neither are we made for our own pursuit of pleasure, ambition, or self-fulfillment. The same is true of men. None of us exist purely to do as we please or to benefit ourselves (or anyone else on earth). As believers in Christ, male and female, we willingly accept God’s claim to our lives and we place ourselves under His authority, even to the point of self-denial*. So if God also asked something of us based on whether we are a male human or female human I don’t really see where the problem arises. I don’t know how that would take away any of the value He has given to our lives.

The vast majority of everything written in the Bible outlines the same goals and purposes for men as for women. He gives His gifts of the Holy Spirit to all, He uses all, sanctifies all. He tells us “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Again, all equal. Yet He gives guidance on how to utilize the gifts He gives us if we are a man or woman. For instance; “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet”. Because of the rest of the content of the Bible, I know this isn’t because God doesn’t value a woman’s intellect, or doubt her capabilities. It doesn’t mean He never gives women gifts of teaching, or leading. It merely means He has other avenues for us in which to use those gifts--and honestly if we think we are only truly valued if we are able to teach men then what does that say to the value we place on other women, the importance of their instruction? Or why should we not be content to guide and teach the next generation in the way that they should go?

Any unbalance between the sexes does not come from Biblical, gender based roles being imposed upon them but rather by the abuse or neglect of those roles by men or women due to the sin nature we all inherit.

I also believe it is harmful to attempt to minimize the differences between men and women. We are all created in His image but He chose two unique subcategories. This doesn’t mean that any particular sex has a monopoly on any character quality or physical trait, whether it be emotional intuition, physical strength, patience, intellect, verbal communication, leadership, problem solving, compassion, cooking skills, organizational ability, empathy, service, or anything else under the sun. God makes us each individually unique and our experiences in life do much to shape us. Perhaps that is why people sometimes try so hard to avoid having categories of “feminine” and “masculine”. Nobody really fits completely inside one box or the other. However, I think this is not because femininity and masculinity are merely artifice but because both come from God. He is neither man nor woman, nor even the sum of both together and we are too limited and finite right now to fully understand Him. But the unique characteristics of our natures, roles and affinities reflect His attributes, from the macho man to the girly girl and every kind of variance in-between. As sinners we will always have something to work on, something to grow to appreciate, or perhaps an area naturally weak or lacking in which God shows us we need to grow, as well as desires or inclinations that may require restraint. Even so, I believe it’s better to acknowledge distinction between men and women as unique creations of God and appreciate the differences between us than to try to disregard them entirely.

One day we will see clearly and know fully, both our God and ourselves.  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” For now, when we embrace our roles and follow them in the unique ways God has planned for us, when we grow in our areas of weakness and utilize our strengths in accordance with His design, we not only stay in the path He has laid for us but also understand and know Him better here and now. And what calling could be greater than that? “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Saturday, June 27, 2015


by Alanna

This week has been hard. Giving in to fear, believing lies. Acting out of my own selfish heart, all my decisions grown out of fear. I want to protect my heart, and so I lock it up sometimes and hide the key. And depression- that ugly word that I rarely admit to even myself- it grows in my solitude.  I wake with a heavy burden on me, my heart who knows where but not here and not beating joy and love. Sometimes I blame Him, when I know that if it wasn't for His rescue of me, I'd be hopelessly lost. Sometimes I envy those who seem to wake up to joy. No matter how their life is going, joy comes easy and they are happy. And when my life is beautiful and blessed, full of people who love me dearly, with a shining sun and a beautiful place to live, I cry because I can't shake this. Why is joy so hard to grasp? This baby girl crawls toward me with her big smile, sure that I love her. And I'm sure of the Father's love like this. Why don't I run to Him? I read these words over and over again, written on my whiteboard. Out loud. Silent. I believe these promises to be true.

And the ransomed of the Lord 
shall return and come to Zion 
with singing; 
everlasting joy
shall be on their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
I, I am He who comforts you;
who are you that you are afraid
of man who dies
of the son of man who is made like grass,
and have forgotten the Lord,
Your Maker
who stretched out the heavens 
and laid the foundations of the earth...

Everlasting joy. A some day promise that I long for with all my heart. And a Comforter- here, today, in the midst of all this. My Maker. I want to run to Him and I don't want to just wait and hope for the someday promises. I want to reach for joy today. No matter how many times it takes, to choose to rejoice. Because for some of us the quest for joy is a battle. Thankful that we have a Mighty God on our side.

Friday, May 29, 2015


by Alanna

I type this at the kitchen table, and next to me stands baby girl, holding on to the chair with two hands.  When she’s brave she only uses one.  She sticks out her tongue and focuses, her whole body wobbling as she balances on tiptoes.  Sometimes she’s not even standing up straight, her little bottom sticking out.  She first started pulling herself up about a month ago.  I used to be scared, hovering not too far away.  Her knees cave inward, her dark curly head wobbles from side to side and looks as if it will pull her whole body down with it.  She is so very unsteady.  And I’m protective, and it used to scare me.  Our hard wood floors beneath her.  But now I wash dishes in the kitchen while she stands at the couch, still shaking unsteady and smiling at me.  Because although it appears precarious to me, I could count the times on one hand that she’s fallen.  She somehow always manages to grab on to something as she’s tipping, or she sits herself down hard.  She knows how to get down without hurting herself.  In some ways, I see me in her.  So very unsteady.  I’m the one, tentatively, pulling myself back up after I’m down again.  One more bad attitude, grumpy tears springing to my eyes when baby girl wakes up from daddy’s drill and I don’t get to nap.  My ugly self gnaws at me some days.  And I’m afraid to stand, afraid to try.  Because sometimes my Christian walk seems so very unsteady.  I stand on tiptoes on grace, rather than letting my feet rest solid.  I don’t trust.  But somehow He holds me.  And miracle of miracles, I don’t fall to crack my head on the hard floor.  Miracle- unsteady me, held up by grace.  Sinful me, held up by His strong arms.  So I don’t want to fear.  If my faith and my love and my patience are going to be lacking, I want to at least trust that He is at work in me.  That someday me and baby girl will both stand more steady.  She reminds me to keep trying, and to smile in the midst of these attempts.  Thanks to our good Father, we are both held up by grace.      

Thursday, May 21, 2015

happy birthday

by Alanna
May 20th, 2015
Dear little one,

I don’t miss you these days, 
in the sense that I wish you were here with me.
I know that God put you where you are 
and I’m so sure that His plan was best. 
I still ache to see you
to watch you grow 
to catch a glimpse of the things God is doing 
now in your life. 
I still ache with mommy love and prayers for you. 
My daughter lays her head on my shoulder now
and another life grows inside my tummy. 
And I’m glad that God grows love this way
that He gives beauty for ashes. 
He puts the lonely into families
He makes the barren women rejoice. 
But I know who opened my heart to love like this.  
It was you. 
You will always have my heart dear one.   
You are turning 6 today.   
Not a baby anymore, not even a toddler, 
but a growing little boy.   
I hope this birthday is extra special for you.  
I pray that it’s the one where the eyes of your heart start to open- 
to the One who gave you life.  
To the One who loves you 
more than any mommy ever could.    
I hope you know, today, how loved you are.  
Happy Birthday

with all my heart