Category Archives: Bolivia

Joy Comes…

Joy comes.

It came for me tonight as I chased the sunset to its rest. This evening, my feet carried me far and fast with the gentle breeze of a better wind. Tonight I ran with the Spirit, and we were moving in praise to the God who authors each day and scripts it with his living witness at every turn (you wouldn’t have believed my pace, Runner Mom).

It came for me this morning in a Sunday’s worship service. Today, I chased the ice-cream truck (thanks, Laura, for your post); my son led me there. He gave us all a glimpse into his heart as he chronicled a few memories from the pulpit about his recent trip to Bolivia.

It came for me in the hugs from my church family, all of whom genuinely enjoy being together in worship on Sunday mornings. How many churches can say that? Today we needed to be there for so many reasons, not the least of which was to gather our hearts in tender pause as we try to gather our bearings after experiencing such a tremendous grief.

It came for me in you, dear friends. The collective mass of you who took the time to pray for us all and leave your comforting thoughts in the comment section. Your time before the throne has been profoundly felt by me and by Beth’s family. You didn’t have to, but you did; I’m continually amazed by the way God is using our cyber connections to bring praise to his Name. He, alone, is worthy of our pens.

We could write about many things, and, indeed, we should. Our lives are not immune from the “everydayness” that creeps in and takes over. But God is there in every one of our days. The key for us is to be more intentional about looking for him.

As my son put it so well this morning…

“We may not always see God coming, … but boy, once he crosses your path, he sure is a sight to behold.”

Joy comes.

On Sundays. On Mondays. In Bolivia. In church. In hugs. In a graveyard. In a run. In a sunset. In sleep. In the rising of the sun. In the resurrection of the Son!

Joy comes.

Look and see; behold and believe. There’s more to this moment than meets the eye.

As always,

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PS: I’m adding a video clip from this morning’s service. Unlike his mother, my son has a softer tone to his speech, so turn up the volume if you want a listen. I realize that most of you won’t have the time; that’s fine. I’ve put this here, as I put many things here on my blog, as a “touchstone” of remembrance. My “thus far, the Lord has helped us.” So I do this for our family (paps, are you watching?) and for you if you would like to listen to the witness of an amazing God who is ever in the process of shaping his children and bringing his joy. Shalom.

Paz para el viaje (peace for the journey)…

Paz para el viaje (peace for the journey)…

Hey Blogland! Instead of getting Elaine’s daily dose of “Peace for the Journey,” I’m afraid today’s entry comes from her 20-year-old son, Nick. I know, I know…in no way can I match my mom’s conciseness, clarity, and writing panache, but I’ll give it my best shot (And I won’t hold it against you if you stop reading now and check out someone else’s blog…)

I recently returned from a 10-day mission trip to the South American nation of Bolivia. Twelve of us went through an organization named Curamericas and were led by a bilingual 22-year-old volunteer named Andrew Herrera. A majority of our time in Bolivia was spent in the village of Tacachia, nestled cozily in the Andes Mountains about 35 miles from the capital city of La Paz. We worked at the Kory Wawanaca Children’s Home, an orphanage with 18 children and several staff members. I had the unique privilege of having this be a “return” trip to Bolivia, as I went last year with a group from our church.

Our team of twelve set out on a Tuesday at 3 p.m. with plans calling for us to arrive in La Paz the next day at 6:00 a.m. It seems that nothing ever goes according to plan, though. We missed a connection flight in Miami and then had to change our plans on the fly in Miami. As an occasionally hotheaded 20-year-old, I grew frustrated and impatient very quickly, and worried a lot about our new travel plans. Long story short, we did some South American globetrotting the next day and went through Venezuela, Peru, and finally reached La Paz at 12:45 a.m. on Thursday morning after 35 straight hours of travel (that’s the southern tip of the U.S., the northern tip of South America, the western tip of South America, and the highest capital city in the world for those of you keeping track…not too bad, eh?).

Already God had taught me a basic lesson in Christian living: I had to trust Him, and realize that everything was in His hands.

Exodus 33: 12-18
Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.
The Lord replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Then Moses said to him, “If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

In the days leading up to our trip, this passage from Exodus was a daily prayer and inspiration for me. Countless times during our trip, it would come to mind as a source of comfort. I always ended my prayers by echoing Moses, “Now show me your glory.”

There were two definitive moments when I witnessed the glory of God in Tacachia—two “passing-by” moments. Sure, the entire experience was glorious, but two were the kind of glory that I’m sure Moses witnessed there on Sinai with the Lord. These two have seared themselves into my memory and will not soon be forgotten.

The first came during a Sunday lunch at the orphanage. 10-year-old Roy, who was an avid chess player, had brought his set out and was looking for an American to play against. He had already done battle with Frank Ferrell, an adult on our team, earlier in the week; Frank had been victorious, but not without some difficulty. By the grace of God, I knew enough Spanish to help set up the first contest between the two; neither was very knowledgeable of the other’s language.

I was able to then witness the rematch on Sunday, sitting next to Roy and being able to translate somewhat for both parties. The match was a tight and silent one, with both players extremely focused on the task at hand. With a pair of brilliant moves, however, Roy was able to checkmate Frank and claim victory. Here were two people (completely polar opposities) from different age groups, neither speaking the other’s language who were bound only by a common knowledge and love for the game. Sensing Roy’s excitement, I leaned over to Frank and said, “tell him ‘buen hecho’” (Good job, well done…). Frank tapped Roy, who was walking away, on the shoulder and said, “Roy…Buen hecho.”

And as he walked away, the grin that exploded across Roy’s face was, without a doubt, the most vivid and radiant smile I have ever seen.

The second “passing-by” moment came at our departure from the orphanage, a morning that was one of the most difficult mornings I have ever experienced. My week of getting to know the 18 kids at the orphanage was over; I bonded with all of them, but to a higher degree with some. I enjoyed a special bond with 13-year-old Miguel, in part because I saw so much of myself in him. He, like me, was the oldest of four siblings, had an avid interest in athletics, and a penchant for sarcasm at times. We talked one night about how much I enjoyed being at the orphanage and getting to know Miguel and his family. The most enduring image I will take from Tacachia, and the one that tells me that God worked through us in this trip occurred during our tearful goodbyes (there were some tears, and some floods).

My last goodbyes were Miguel and Roy, who were standing around the monkeybars. I told them I really enjoyed meeting them and would miss them. Roy asked if I was going to return with such a pleading look on his face, and I said I hoped that I would. Miguel was silent as his and Roy’s eyes began to fill with tears. I looked in Miguel’s eyes and said, “Somos hermanos. Dios te bendiga” (We are brothers. God bless you.). We got in the cars and pulled out, but not without me taking one last glance at Miguel and Roy, still standing next to the monkeybars with their heads down; spasms of heartache at telling these kids goodbye have bothered me ever since.

For the days leading up to and during the trip I, like Moses, had been pleading with God in my prayers, “If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
Only the presence of God can bring out those two images. Only the presence of God can help one overcome language and altitude and attitude barriers to serve Him. Only with the presence of God can we, like Moses, witness the glory of God.
I truly feel at home in Tacachia, and hope to return there again next year to further strengthen the bonds I’ve formed this year, as well as to cultivate new ones. This trip, as is most often the case, stands as proof that yes, God worked THROUGH me. But he worked so much more IN me, and for that I am eternally grateful.
In the days since returning from the orphanage, Relient K’s song “I’m Taking You with Me” has been running through my head. My heartfelt pledge since returning to the United States is found in these lyrics:
“If home is where the heart is then my home is where you are;
But it’s getting oh so hard to spend these days without my heart.
So I’m taking you with me anywhere that I
Could ever wanna be for the rest of my life.
I want you there with me, and If there ever comes a time
When I should have to leave, I hope you know that I,
I’m taking you with me.”

So may you, blog readers, go with the presence of God, may you witness His glory, and may you take Him with you wherever you go.
Paz para el viaje (peace for the journey)
~ Nick
Where the Heart Is…

Where the Heart Is…

I sensed my son’s immediate discomfort with the statement spoken to him by a local parishioner while waiting in the check-out line at Wal-Mart:

“Sure bet you’re glad to be back home.”

Nicholas squirmed for a gracious response.

“Yes, sir. It’s good to be home.”

Even as he spoke it, I felt the painful cut that seared his heart with more clarified precision than that of a sharpened knife. The words weren’t intended to hurt, but they did. They reminded my son of everything he’s been trying to process since returning home from Bolivia.

If home is where the heart is, then my son’s home (at least for the “right now”) resides somewhere in the remote mountainous village of Tacachia, Bolivia. He spent the better part of a week walking its soil and tending to its harvest–a harvest that exceeded the fruit of the land to include the fruit of relationships.

The Kory Wawanaka Children’s Home (an orphanage sustained through the Methodist Church of Bolivia) houses nineteen orphaned children, ranging in ages from three to thirteen. When Nick first visited their community last year, the orphanage had four residents. Newly licensed for operation, the home has experienced strong growth in every way during the past twelve months.

It was especially meaningful for Nick to witness the growth of the past year. The “pulse” behind the work there is strong and evident, stirring his heart for further involvement.

“I want to go back, mom. And not just for a week. I want to stay longer next time.”

Next time.

My heart can barely get around these past “two times.” Still and yet, I listened to him pour his heart out over cheeseburgers and fries during a mother and son outing. I knew it was coming, this unwrapping of his feelings. Even as his emotions welled with the “telling”, mine welled with the listening.

God is moving Nick’s heart in a new direction. The shaping that’s taking place is what I’ve prayed for his entire life. In fact, I’ve prayed that prayer for all of my children over the years.

That they would, each one, know early on in their lives what God would have for them. That they would walk in their calling in their twenties rather than waiting until their forties to figure it all out. That they wouldn’t spend their days wondering about what they were supposed to be doing but rather would spend them knowing that whatever they were doing, they were doing so with an eternal purpose in mind. A kingdom purpose.

That they would find God, sense God, believe God, and know God in the everyday and mundane of a life that doesn’t always make sense but that is content to walk hand in hand with One who possesses perfect sense and understanding for the road ahead.

That they would listen to the promptings of God’s Spirit within and not brush it off as a momentary whim or selfish fancy. That they would, in fact, trust in the truth they’ve been given as children of the Most High God. A truth that tells them God is living and active and moving on their behalf and that because of this “constant working” they shouldn’t be surprised when he shows up on the scene of their lives, prompting them to keep in step with his leading.

God is faithfully answering those prayers for Nick. I heard it in his words and saw it in his eyes as we shared a table and bared our hearts to one another. And while Nick has always imagined his life to be headed in a certain direction, God is asking him to imagine bigger. To dream better; to see beyond his raw capabilities and to, instead, take hold of his sacredly bestowed giftings.

That kind of living, friends, is where it’s at. God has planted his own seeds of promise within our lives. When we begin to see those seeds harvest toward kingdom gain, then our hearts, like my son’s, welcome the growth of a new soil. In fact, our souls can’t help but cry out for it. For the untilled lands of an untouched country that is completely and “holy” surrendered to the idea of God’s unlimited possibilities.

As we connect with that kind of “heart-stirring”—when we begin to see our lives framed within the context of a greater good rather than within the parameters we’ve so carefully and comfortably created for ourselves—then we walk our part in the Great Commission. We walk our callings; no matter the location; no matter our age; no matter if we have the credentials or the education to go alongside.

We simply and profoundly walk our faith with all the confidence of heaven as our guide. We don’t worry about the particulars. The details belong to God. But the steps?

Well, they are ours to journey, whether here or abroad. When walked with the Creator, every step moves us closer to him … to heaven, where the final proclamation of our earthly life will resound in perfect unison with perfect wisdom…

“Yes Sir, it’s good to be home.”

No tears; no pain; no more wondering about our callings. Just rest for our hearts in the place where they were always intended to land.


By the grace of God I’ll get there; by his grace so will Nick, so will my other children. So will you. Thus, I pray…

Thank you, Father, for meeting us in this day. For showing up on foreign soil to till our hearts for kingdom purpose. For allowing us the “wrestling” of some things that further shape our understanding about how you intend for our lives to live. Give us the courage to “work the thing out” before you, with you, depending on you so that because of you, we come to a greater place of obedience to you. Use our pain to teach us Father, even when it hurts and our preferences call out for its burial. Meet us in those deep places; stir us all the more, and keep us to the pilgrimage of a final grace that will walk us home and welcome us fully. Amen.

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PS: I’m in the mountains this week; the picture above stands as my witness. Nick has promised me a post regarding his own thoughts about his trip. I hope to have it by week’s end, along with some pictures. Shalom.

A Fine Child

“Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.” (Exodus 2:1-4).

The Nile is a difficult “letting go.” A hard release. A gut-wrenching surrender.

It was for Moses’ parents. It is for me.

Tonight I stand on the riverbank of the Nile and watch my son from a distance as he boards a plane at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, heading toward the mountainous regions of Bolivia. He will spend ten days at an orphanage, tilling the land, repairing the chicken coops, working on latrines, and playing a pick-up game of soccer on every occasion.

He will bathe little; sleep even less. Stomach Bolivian delicacies and try his best to speak the language he’s been intensely studying as his college minor. He’ll make me proud, of that I am sure. Others will love him, of that I am more certain.

And while all of this makes my heart smile with gratitude for the man he is becoming, there is a pang of sadness for me. Not because I desire to keep Nick to myself, but rather because I won’t be alongside to watch the unfolding of this “fine child” before the eyes of others. Moments and memories that I’d like to scrapbook for myself will be given as a remembrance to those who stand further down the river’s bank, eagerly awaiting his arrival and anticipating his participation in their lives.

I see the bigger picture; it’s been growing in me for a long season. God has amply supplied me with a series of “letting go’s” that continue to shape my heart for sacred surrender. They always make me cry, and I’ve never shied away from their wet. I simply allow the tears a spacious place to land in order to water the growth of my tender soil … my fragile soul. I pray them not to be too much, but rather just enough to seed my pain with some purpose.

It’s a good prayer to pray, especially because our “letting go’s” are going to arrive. It is the way of a forward journey, regardless of our willingness to stand still and not move one moment beyond this one. How much better would it be to allow our moments of “needful release” to birth in us a sacred shaping that will serve a better end—both ours and God’s.

Moses’ parents understood this better than most. They were commended for their faithful release and duly memorialized for it in the Hebrews “hall of faith”:

“By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw that he was not an ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” (Hebrews 11:23).

By faith, they hid their son. By faith, they released their son. By faith, they watched their son from a distance. By faith, they understood that their son was no ordinary child, but rather a “fine child” destined for a better end than that of most of his contemporaries.

By faith, we should equally trust our Father with the release of our children to the River Nile.

They’re all “fine.” Special and beautiful and worthy of the nod of heaven. Like Moses’ parents, from the moment they’re born, we hide them. Shelter them beneath our wings because we understand that while heaven has marked them with eternity, hell has marked them otherwise. For destruction—as ordinary, expendable, unremarkable, and worthy of the nothing more than a swift slaughter simply because they carry the bloodlines of a King.

But three months passes quickly. Eighteen years for most of us. For a few of us, a painful and difficult less. For a few of us, a painful and struggling more. Still and yet, there comes for all of us a moment at the river’s edge. A time of release when we must find our peace at a distance and trust that Father God has something bigger and something beyond us that awaits our children on the other side of our hard surrender.

We may not see his wisdom in it all; rarely do we catch a full glimpse of our children’s forever. But occasionally we have an inkling—a heavenly whisper reminding us that, indeed, there is a wisdom that exceeds understanding. A “more” that is coming because of our willingness to “let go” and “let God.”

Tonight, I “let go” again of the son I dearly love. It won’t be the last time my heart is called upon to make such a surrender. But I do so in the spirit and strength of my spiritual ancestors who better understood the painful trust of a difficult release. Thus, I speak these words of release to my Nick as he flies the night sky and as I try to find him there, amidst the stars and dark that separates our flesh…

Go with God this night, my son. Sail the Nile with all the trust of heaven to guide you, shape you, strengthen you, and mold you into the man that God has intended for you to be. I will be keeping watch, but my arms aren’t long enough to catch you this time. God has orchestrated events accordingly. He means for me to stand on the riverbank while you engage with the wild and wet of a river that calls for your participation. You are a fine child, and you were meant for more than my arms. You were meant for the world. Embrace it, and it will embrace you. It’s time that others discover the wealth of who you are.

And just in case they don’t, if for some reason they reach any other conclusion, you can be certain that I’ll be waiting at the river’s edge to welcome you home and to remind you of just how extraordinary you truly are. I love you, Nick. I’ll see you on the other side of your river’s ride.

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A Sabbath Pause, Some Parenting Thoughts, and a Giveaway

A Sabbath Pause, Some Parenting Thoughts, and a Giveaway

It’s been a good Sabbath rest for me and my family. The highlight?

Watching my almost twenty-year-old son as he stood in our church fellowship hall, serving up drinks over the noon-time meal. Why?

Because I was reminded, once again, about the fine young man that he’s becoming and that his growing up Godly has been no accidental pursuit. It’s been a hard-fought deliberation—a combination of parental intention, his cooperation, and a whole lot of grace served downward from on high.

I blinked and nearly two decades of my life have traveled the miles and through the years and enveloped my best efforts at parenting within the flesh and frame of a boy whom I call Nick. And while I cannot predict (or would even want to) how the next twenty are going to breathe, today I bask in the truth that growing Godly kids is not only possible, but it is probable when done so through the trust and faith in a God who’s brought into the process … a lot.

Nick, along with a dozen other members of our church, will return to Bolivia this summer for more mission work at the Kory Wawanca Children’s Home in the mountainous region of Tacachia. Remember his post from last summer? My husband will not be making the trip this time, and so there’s a bit of a sting in this mother’s heart for the release of my son to his journey–a journey without any parental involvement to go alongside … at least not in the physical.

Still and yet, my worries about the potential risks involved wouldn’t keep him from it. Life is filled with risk … with unknowns … with walks along the street where the corners up ahead provide all manner of intrigue and possibility. And while, as a mother, I would sometimes like to be the one to absorb those corners on behalf of my children, I am fairly confident that it would stunt their growth. Mine too.

Parenting involves a great deal of trust for the process of an eighteen year seeding and beyond. At some point, our influence—our shaping and our guidance—needs some room to breathe apart from us. Rarely is it an easy approach to these moments, but it is a necessary one. It is a good walk and a good trust and good growing for all parties involved.

Thus, Bolivia and Nick without any parents this time, yet fully and completely with the God who held him first and who loves him best. It’s time to turn that corner, friends, and I am ready for some new growth as a mom.

Perhaps, some of you are in your own season of “letting go” and learning to trust the process of your parenting. Perhaps many of you are still in the midst of the training years. Perhaps, there are a few of you who are profoundly longing for your turn at this parenting thing. Regardless of your station in the journey—whether in the prelude, in the middle, or in the aftermath—parenting is a sacred trust and should not be entered into lightly.

It is a profundity that exceeds expectation. A complexity that forces the issue of our maturity. In the end, I am confident that God will use my parenting as a tool toward my perfection. Kids do that … perfect us in a way that would otherwise be missed should we decide to go it alone. Nick has offered me ample opportunities for growth along the way. There are three others who follow him and who will, undoubtedly, continue to proffer me many occasions for growth—mine and theirs. They still walk under my umbrella of influence; they still eat and sleep at the hands of my provision.

And until they walk in independence from my 24/7 constant vigilance, I have a few moments of profound persuasion left within my control. Thus, I will spend them on behalf of kingdom shaping and kingdom purposes so that when the time comes for my children’s autonomous launch from the nest, I can let them go knowing that they go with the truth of Jesus. What they choose to do with that truth is their choice to make, but they will make an informed decision because their parents were willing to sow some seed toward that end while they were yet young.

It is all that I can do. It is the best that I can give. It is the daily choice that I will continue to make for as long as God allows me the journey … corners and all. May I always have the good sense to walk them with the good grace of heaven as my guide. As always,

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As promised, friends, I’ve compiled a short list of some resources that might be helpful to you in your daily life of “doing” family. It is by no means exhaustive, but rather is a jumping off point for you to seek some further guidance in many of the areas that I addressed in my recent posts about purity. Take time to review some of these resources by clicking on the highlighted words, which will link you to the corresponding website.

Leave a comment to today’s post, and I will draw a name to receive a copy of one of the books or CD resources listed. The winner will be announced on Tuesday. You do not need to be a parent to win a prize. All are eligible! Peace to you and yours as you walk this week beneath the light and comfort of Almighty God.

  • The Focus on the Family website is always a good place to begin with all things parenting and family related.
  • One of our favorite family resources from Focus on the Family has been the “Adventures in Odyssey” listening series. Our children have grown up with Mr. Whitaker and Whit’s End and all things Odyssey. Great for road trips and for listening to after bedtime tucks and prayers. I promise! I’ve been addicted for years.
  • Plugged in online: movie reviews/ music reviews/ television reviews. This has been an invaluable resource to us as a family as we make the weekly Blockbuster run for movies!
  • BSafe Online: filter for home computers…very restrictive, but can be tweaked according to parental preferences.

Focus on the Family Radio Interviews (CD’s):

Book resources:

Vicky Courtney Resources:

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