Saturday, June 21, 2014

Finding and Following Jesus ~ Our Testimony

About a year ago, a godly older Sister asked me if I would be willing to write down our family's testimony  ~about how we came to believe in Jesus and His Words~  for a book she is putting together.  

I gladly accepted.  I worked on writing it, in between and around the going-ons of our home and community, in bursts here and there... until the due date came, when I passed it on to her.

I didn't realize at first how many decisions it would take. 

What should I put in or leave out, even just for the sake of space?  What would be too personal, for me or for others in our lives?  (And how could I help the children be just be a bit quieter while I worked on it?  : )

For a disclaimer, this is the short version.  I wish I could add more now, simply to show more of the power of God in our lives... S
o maybe I'll have to keep working on it as time goes on.   : )   
Just to mention a few things that should be included... there's the amazing story of when God used a television in my life (like Balaam's donkey), the time Brodie prayed about his ball when he was little, the miraculous healings (of Hannah, myself, and especially Don), the pliers on the road before we even asked... Oh, the Lord has done SO much in our lives.  My heart swells just thinking of it!  I truly stand in awe and wonder at how great our God is, when I consider all He has done for us, completely unworthy as we are.  If you want to know more of our story, you are more than welcome welcome to ask us.  

I think it's Leonard Ravenhill who asked, "What have you been saved from?"
I can truly say we have been saved from so, so much.  What I can put into words doesn't even scratch the surface!  Our story could go on forever... and I guess it really will, whether I write it down or not!  : )  

Please read it with grace.  

To those in our lives, thank you for being a part of our journey to Him.    
I hope, after you read this, you will understand a little of why Jesus means so much to us... Both because of the things that are mentioned below, and also ~maybe especially~ because of the uncountable, unmentioned things that we hold in our hearts.

As the song goes, "Wonderful... It is wonderful... What Jesus has done for this soul of mine, the half has never been told..."

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, 
to those who are the called according to His purpose."
~Romans 8:28


My husband, Don, and I were both raised in small towns in Illinois.  We grew up in worldly environments, and we experienced difficult childhoods.  We did have some exposure to religious beliefs, but none of it had any real significance in our family lives. 

My family lived by a protestant church, where we would sometimes attend a brief service.  I also had several Catholic relatives who took me to mass a few times.  One of my other relatives was involved with different ‘new-age’ beliefs.  When I was around twelve, he brought me to some classes, where the instructor put me into a ‘trance.’  Then the instructor asked me questions I had no human way of knowing the answer to, and I was able to answer correctly. 

Don’s family briefly attended a Baptist church when he was rather young.  In school, we were both friends with a kind, generous boy our age who was interested in Satan.  (Sadly, this young man ended up committing suicide as an adult.)

As I was growing up, different relatives had bought me books on magic, some 'new-age’ books, occult items, and a Bible.  I tried to read the Bible over the years, but being a child with no  guidance, I started in Genesis and didn’t get very far.  I also experimented with the occult, especially in my teenage years. 

I remember always believing in God, and in the little I understood about Jesus.  I would sometimes pray to Him, and I remember some of the answers.  

There were times I would see a person out somewhere, such as a lady with very long hair and a long skirt, and I would sense a feeling of peace about her… I would feel like she knew God.  I remember wanting to be like that, to know God, but I didn’t know how or what to do. 

I think Don and I both had a basic idea that Christians believed Jesus died for their sins, and that they prayed some sort of a "sinner's prayer"… But from what we had seen, that seemed to be pretty much the end of it.  Growing up, we had rarely seen anyone living any differently than anyone else- no matter if they attended protestant church, Catholic mass, new-age events, or nothing at all.  

Don and I fell into various sins by our late teen years.  At the time, a lot of it seemed normal due to the worldly culture we were living in.  I look back at that time with regret, and I praise God that Jesus’ blood washes deeper than the stains.

When I was twenty, Don and I were living together, and I realized I was pregnant.  We already had a wedding date set, and I was grateful for that.  One evening, I went though our house, took the occult things I had, and burned them in our burn barrel.  I knew I didn’t want them in our house with a baby coming.

We were married in a protestant church, and even had our little baby boy, Brodie, baptized there.  We still didn’t have a good understanding of what it all meant before God.  It just seemed like the ‘right thing’ to do. 

After I saw and held my baby, I knew I couldn’t leave him and return to my old job.  I also decided not to return to college, and I started attending La Leche League meetings.  I was so happy to go and have support for the way we parented.  It was there I met a mom who often invited me to her protestant church, even though I turned her down.  We still had a lot in common and became good friends.  She was basically the first person I knew who seemed to care about God, and she would even talk about Him occasionally in regular conversation.  That was very new to me.

About this time, my husband and I bought a nice, small house.  We had a beautiful yard and lived on the edge of our little town.  Don had a good job, and I was a committed stay-at-home mom.  Our son was two when we were blessed with our baby girl, Hannah.  She was born at home with a group of believing midwives.  I remember choosing them because they talked about God like they knew Him.   Both of our children were very sweet, and I remember an older lady telling me that we just had “the perfect family.”  

I continued to go to La Leche League meetings, as well as volunteering with them.  It seemed the moms at the meetings were all very caring and involved parents.  Besides nursing, the standard for their families seemed to be very limited television, simple toys and clothes, natural things, healthy food, and often home education.  I learned a lot there, and our family fit in well.  I think God was using this as a way to prepare our family in many ways.

One day, I was talking to my close friend from La Leche League on the phone.  She invited my family to an event her protestant church was having, on the topic of creationism.  It took me a moment to realize what she was even talking about.  I remember feeling shocked, and saying, “You know evolution has been proven, right?!”  I had never known anyone who actually said they believed in creationism before.  

During the conversation, she asked me a simple question that challenged what I had been taught about evolution, and opened my mind to consider other ideas.

It was around this time that the 9/11 attacks happened.  I remember my friend was not nearly as shook up as I was.  She said she knew God would take care of her family, and that really made an impression on me.

Through our LLL meetings, I also eventually met a few plain Mennonite ladies.  They were the first plain people I had ever known.  I didn’t give too much thought to them being Mennonite, because I just kind of assumed it was something one was born into. 

It turned out that my husband worked with one of their relatives, who was also Mennonite.  At my husband’s work, this Mennonite man had always stood out as different.  He was the one who read a Bible at his desk, prayed before he ate, and quietly seemed to disapprove of some things that went on there.  When I had thought about this man in the past (before I knew his relatives), on one hand I respected him.  But on the other hand, I wondered if God really even expected us to follow the Bible that closely in today’s world.

During this time, there were certain things happening in our lives that were causing some extreme hardships for me.  
In hindsight, things would have went much better if I had simply been able to accept my wonderful husband's advice.  But either way, we were going through a lot for a young family, and some days (due to the outside pressures) life seemed almost unbearable to me.  

I know now that God uses hard times in our life to draw us closer to Him.  God can, and does, turn evil circumstances into good for His children!  This was about to happen for us in an amazing way.

One night, our two-year-old son just couldn’t fall asleep.  This was a rare thing, and I didn’t want him to wake up my husband or our baby daughter, so I took Brodie out of our bedroom and sat in the living room with him.  I turned on a small lamp and sat down, thinking that if things were quiet and dull, he would soon nod off. 

I decided to read to myself, but Brodie would playfully take my books and was happily building a little tower with them on our coffee table.  I suddenly remembered a little green Gideon Bible I had gotten when I was in college.  The Gideon men had visited and were handing them out one day, but I had been too shy to go and get one.  Later, as I was leaving, I saw one carefully placed in an empty stair well, and I felt like it had been left just for me.  I eagerly picked it up and took it home.  Now, I thought that since the Bible was so small, I could almost hide it in my hands, and my little son wouldn’t even notice I had it.

As I read the Bible that night, the words came alive to me.  I sat there, completely transfixed.  It felt like waves were flooding over me.  I don’t know exactly what parts I read, but I do know it was hours later when I finished, although it seemed to happen in an instant.  My son was sleeping peacefully next to me on the couch, and I jumped up to get a pen and sign my name on the line in the back.  I now know the experience I had was from the Holy Spirit, and I had been born again.

When I woke up in the morning, I excitedly told Don what had happened, and that I was a Christian now.  I think he thought I was a little crazy, and that it would wear off.  He did agree to come to church with me though.

Soon we started going to a nearby protestant church.  I was so excited about Jesus, and I expected the people there to be the same way.  Unfortunately, that was not exactly the case, and I felt very disappointed. 

During this time, I went to a book store and got a Bible for myself.  I was so excited to have it!  I even loved the way it smelled.  I would read it for hours and hours every day, while I held my baby daughter, with my little son nearby.

This is where I think not having been raised in any specific denomination was a blessing.  When I read God’s Word, I didn’t have much in the way of preconceived ideas.  I had no denominational views, no knowledge of doctrines, and no human teachers.  I just had God’s Word, time to read it, and an open heart. 

Because of my Bible reading, one of the first things I did was go to a thrift store and buy long skirts to be more modest, and a simple white cloth to cover my head.  I remember taking my children for a walk in my new clothes, and feeling so joyful, hoping that people could just look at me and know I was a Christian!  

When I woke up in the mornings, I had a feeling inside me like the one I remembered on Christmas morning as a child.  I was just so excited to know Him!  It felt so amazing and, in child-like enthusiasm, I wanted to share Jesus with others in my life.  Of course, I soon realized that most people were not as eager to hear about Jesus as I thought they would be.

Around this time, with Don's permission, I went through our home from top to bottom and got rid of many items…  music, books, clothing, and whatever else we had that I knew wouldn’t be pleasing to the Lord. 

I have to admit that, despite everything, I did not consistently wear a head covering, or long skirts, and I eventually stopped.  At the time, I felt like I didn't want to stand out among all the ladies in church.  None of the women at the churches we visited covered their heads, and many didn‘t dress very modestly at all.  I had heard some reasons why they didn‘t follow those verses, but they didn‘t seem very convincing.  I didn’t understand how they picked and chose which New Testament commands were to be obeyed today, and which commands could be disregarded.  But, I reasoned, they had been believers for much longer than me… and there were so many of them… Shouldn’t they know?

Also at this time, my husband was still not a Christian.  While he didn’t seem to mind if I did some things differently now, we were starting to have a heated debate every Saturday night.  (Unfortunately, I was not being very submissive!)  Basically, I wanted to attend church on Sunday mornings, and he did not.  During this time, I think we went to eight different protestant churches over eight different Sundays, trying to find one we liked.  It was very discouraging.  The churches we were visiting didn’t seem to have any life in them, and one little church even had a woman pastor preaching the main sermon. 

Finally, we attended a protestant church that was different.  When my husband was in the parking lot, other men came up to him and asked him if he knew Jesus.  I think this was the first church we went to where somebody had actually talked to us about the Lord!  Many men there were my husband’s age, and they were very friendly and sincere.  A lot of the families there home educated their children, which was another blessing.  Don willingly agreed to attend this church, and I was very happy. 

Soon after that, a man we didn’t know contacted my husband and offered him a new job.  It turned out to be such a blessing from the Lord.  This new job had a much better moral environment than his old one, and it was only a few minutes from our church building!  Don has always been outgoing and friendly, and now he often went to the church on his lunch hour, to talk to the pastor and other men who gathered there. 

Our new pastor told us they would be having a baptism at the church picnic in a few months, and I could be baptized then.  Don wasn’t born again yet, but I was hoping he would come to know the Lord soon, and we could be baptized together.

Of course, there were still some issues with our church.  Beyond not covering, I didn’t understand other things, such as why even the pastor and his wife were in a divorce and remarriage situation.  But since this was the best church we could find, I tried to accept their reasons, even though they did not come from a plain reading of Scripture. 

At this church, we met a very kind family, who trusted the Lord with their family size.  The dear wife shared books with me, and really encouraged me along in my walk. 

Then one day, another lady visited our church.  She told me that if we always trusted God with our family size, that we would always have the exact child God wanted us to have at the exact right time.  This really struck me.  It also fit in well with a lot of the natural-minded things our family had learned through La Leche League over the years… which were making more and more sense to me as I grew in the faith.  I really thought about how if we say ‘no’ to the blessing of a baby, we are also saying ‘no’ to an eternal soul.

I was so grateful that when it came time for the summer picnic, Don was ready to be baptized along with me!  We held hands under the water while we waited for our turns among the other new believers.  It was a very sweet, special time for our family.  My husband had come to the faith gradually over the past few months, and now we both wanted to follow the Lord together.  I praise the Lord for bringing both of us to Him, so close in time!

It was in the this same time period that some of the painful things others were doing in our lives came to a boiling point.  God proved Himself so real, so close to me during that time.  The answer to my prayers was so specific and immediate.  I was in awe of my Father, God, and just the absolute realness of Him in my life.

A few months later, due to a combination of factors, our family decided to move and get a fresh start for ourselves.  In the end, we chose beautiful Washington State.  After a bit of a rough start, we bought a nice house in the woods.  Don eventually built a shop out front, where he was able to work from home by restoring cars.  We were happy to be together as a family, and never sent our children away to school.  During this time, the Lord graciously added little Aden and Elijah to our family.

Through everything, the Lord was continuously with us, teaching us, answering prayers, and leading us on.  We were still searching for a church group that practiced the New Testament teachings, instead of explaining them away.  We were definitely not perfect, but we did long for a place where Jesus’ words would be accepted and followed, and where we could learn and grow with like-minded believers. 

One Sunday, we ended up visiting a small Baptist church, when the Lord graciously brought us into contact with two other like-minded families.  Soon, our three families agreed to start meeting together the way we read about in the New Testament: simply, in homes, with every man having something to share.  We were excited to see what the Lord would do, as we sat together in our living rooms, Bibles open on our laps, sharing how the Lord was working in our lives.  We would sing, pray, bounce babies, listen to recorded messages, and have meals. 

This was a very special time, as we came together, and desired to live out the teachings of Jesus, as well as the rest of the New Testament.  Sometimes others joined us, and even our friend's huge living room was packed full.  Other times, only we three families would fellowship together. 

We were learning together, seeking the Lord, and He was with us.  We hoped to try and have community together, where we saw each other throughout the week. It was new territory for our family, and there were definitely times when we fell short, but the Lord was faithful.

I learned so much from the other two families, and will be forever grateful to them.  I went back to wearing long skirts, and we ladies began wearing the head covering.  The Lord encouraged me along in this area, and I even received positive comments in public. 

Of course, most changes were not outward dress!  We grew so much by listening to recordings from Charity Ministries, some from the Godly Home Series.  We studied out divorce and remarriage according to the words of Jesus, and started practicing the Holy kiss.  We began calling each other 'brother' and 'sister'.  It seemed like everything was new.

While I don’t remember the exact order of how everything happened during this time, the real break-through for me came when one of the dear ladies from our group was ordering more home education books.  She called an Anabaptist publisher, and they offered her a book called “The Kingdom that Turned the World Upside Down” by David Bercot.  Her family liked the book so much, they gave us a copy too.

I had never heard the term “biblical non-resistance” before.  Learning about it was life-changing for us.  Of course we had always wanted to follow with Jesus’ teachings on turning the other cheek and loving our enemies… but this book opened my eyes to practical, real-life ways to live these things out, when even our very earthly lives could be at stake.  Through this, many other things became clear to me.  I eventually came to such a deeper understanding and commitment to the Words of Jesus, that words can hardly describe it. 

I will never forget the evening we three families gathered in one of our living rooms and sang “This World Is Not My Home” together, knowing we were all committed to following Jesus, even unto death.  I had never heard the song before and my spirit was filled with the meaning of it all.

Now that we were familiar with the term ‘Anabaptists,’ we were eager to learn more about them.  My family made a wonderful order of books from Rod & Staff Publishers, and soon my husband eagerly poured over "The Martyrs’ Mirror."  We were amazed at the testimonies and letters in this book!  I have sweet memories of Don sitting on the couch reading, and our children happily gathered around.  We were so excited to find this group of people, who strived to obey the Words of Jesus in their everyday lives, no matter what the cost. 

We read and listened to teachings about the two Kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world.  It made many Biblical principles fall together like puzzle pieces before my eyes.  We agreed Anabaptism was the closest thing we had ever seen to true, early Christianity…  and we wondered at it all. 
We heard of an Anabaptist-minded fellowship a few hours away from us, and so we traveled down to spend time with them occasionally.  We were so blessed to meet them, to learn more about Biblical non-accumulation, to see their zeal for witnessing to the lost, and to see the simple, plain dress many of them wore.

Among other things, I really wanted our family to dress in such a godly way.  I had already become weary of searching for simple, modest clothes in worldly stores.  I wasn’t sure what to do, considering our budget at the time, and the fact that I didn’t know how to sew.  After trying to work the situation out myself and failing, I was feeling discouraged.  I actually said that at this rate,  if God wanted us to wear plain dresses, He was going to have to send them to us in the mail! 

About a week or so later, a package arrived in the mail.  In it was a little girl’s Mennonite-style dress and pinafore!  A dear long-distance friend, who is not plain, had sent it!  It turns out one of her relatives had visited Lancaster County and bought the dress as a gift.  But it didn‘t fit the girl it was intended for, so she passed it along to us!  It fit my oldest daughter, and was such an encouragement from the Lord.

As we three families grew in our faith, one thing we all desired to do was to reach out to people for the Lord.  One of the families had the Sermon on the Mount printed up into simple tracts, and we all handed them out.  When our children were sick, the two other families spontaneously took their Thanksgiving dinner and their children out in the rain, and shared their food with homeless people gathered under a bridge. 

The two other families were such wonderful, willing examples to us as they led the way in being like Jesus.  I learned so much just from watching the other ladies joyfully practice hospitality, pray openly, and concentrate on what truly matters in life.  Our hearts and lives were really changing.

Probably because of how we looked, it was common for people in public to approach our family and ask questions about what we believed and where we fellowshipped.  This was an amazing ministry opportunity, and we carried boxes of books in the back of our vehicle to hand out at these times.  Besides our ‘Sermon on the Mount’ tracts, we gave out “The Faith Worth Dying For” from Lamp & Light Publishers, “The Kingdom that Turned the World Upside Down” by David Bercot, and “The Doctrine of Non-Accumulation” by Roger Hertzler.  We were truly blessed to be used by the Lord in this way, although it did become a family joke that we couldn’t even pick up milk or bread without it turning into a missions trip!

God is good, and He gave our family two more lovely baby girls during this time, Abigail and Chloe.  Children truly are a blessing.  In fact, people who might not have approached us otherwise, came up and started conversations with us about how much they enjoyed seeing our children.  A believing nurse we knew even started covering her head because of our oldest daughter, Hannah! 

After our home fellowship had been meeting together for a few years, the two other main families felt led to move.  One of the families was preparing to go to Belize, to share the full gospel with souls there.  The other family had their house on the market, and were contemplating traveling together in an RV, as the Lord led them, sharing the gospel as they went.

Our family didn’t want to be without close, like-minded fellowship.  We considered our options and decided to move to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, at least for a few years.  We thought we would we could learn and grow there, and see where the Lord led our family. 

My husband flew out to visit a church in Lancaster County, and even though he didn’t know anyone well, he felt instantly welcomed.  He stayed with a kind family in their home, and many other families welcomed him for meals.  When I called Don to see if he had found a house or a job on his short trip, he was often busy- helping someone from the church move, or even helping with cows!  We were amazed at the feeling of community, and the family-like hospitality.

Thankfully, my husband found a job quickly, and a local brother helped him find a lovely home in a rural neighborhood, near many other Anabaptist families.  So, while expecting our seventh baby, we left beautiful Washington State, after over seven years there.

Although we have always had good friends and neighbors, we have been so blessed to be a part of the family of believers here in Lancaster County.  We arrived at our new home late one night, after a very long day of flying and driving.  One of our new neighbors (without knowing us at all) had cleaned our house for us before we arrived.

Before I knew any people from our new church, they drove our moving truck across the country for us.  Then they came and completely unpacked the truck, and even assembled beds and furniture, all in one morning, before feeding us lunch!  Sisters sent welcoming notes and brought over many meals. We were also given a “pantry shower" to fill the pantry in our new home. 

Our neighbors here are some of the most helpful people I have known.  When we first went out to run errands, we would often come home to find fresh baked goods on our kitchen table.  After we had lived here for a while, and a storm blew our electricity out for a few days, our neighbors jumped in with meals, and even dried our laundry over their wood stoves.  This is the first community we have lived in where people really do borrow (and loan!) cups of sugar, among other things.  It is such a blessing. 

Our precious little girl, Isabella, was born not long after we moved here.  After a while, we learned we were expecting another blessing from the Lord, and Don and I chose the name ‘Noah.’  We weren’t sure if our baby was going to be a boy yet, but if he was, we would then have four sons and four daughters.

When the doctors thought I was about 30 weeks along (instead of the usual 40), I went into premature labor with our baby.  Thankfully, Noah was born healthy, but needed a NICU stay.  God spoke to my heart that first night, and told me Noah would be home within 40 days.  Noah came home on day 39, a sign of God’s mercy!  He is currently eleven months old, and doing very well.  Noah is a sweet, joyful blessing in our family.

Our family is now blessed to be meeting together with a wonderful group of brethren, that assembles in different homes.  They once again showed us the meaning of true brotherhood when our son was in the NICU.  These loving families jumped in and helped in every way, including buying airline tickets, so a dear sister from Washington State could come and stay at our house and help.

Between the brethren at our fellowship, and other friends and neighbors, we have learned so much about  what it means to be a community of believers, sharing together and helping one another.  I have witnessed so much here, concerning simplicity of life and possessions, heartfelt hospitality and genuine fellowship, and just truly loving Jesus and living for Him alone.

I think I must feel a bit like John did, when he said in the Gospel that if he told of all the things the Lord did, the books of the world couldn’t contain them all.  God has mercifully and graciously done so much in our lives.   There have been miraculous healings (spiritually, emotionally, and physically), countless answers to prayer- many amazingly specific and direct, and above all, just the wonderful and abiding love of Jesus in our lives, as we grow deeper in our walk with Him.

Of course, our life isn’t perfect.  We definitely still have our struggles, and we will always have trials on this side of Heaven.  But I praise God that He is faithful to be with us each step of the way.

I don’t know where the Lord will lead us next, but I pray our family is able to serve Him faithfully all of our days.  I pray that if He tarries, our future grandchildren and great-grandchildren will love Him with their whole hearts, because He is worthy.

Thank you, Lord. 

"But as for you, you meant evil against me; 
but God meant it for good
in order to bring it about as it is this day, 
to save many people alive."

~ Genesis 50:20

Isaiah 54

1 “Sing, O barren,

You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,
You who have not labored with child!
For more are the children of the desolate
Than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord.
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings;
Do not spare;
Lengthen your cords,
And strengthen your stakes.
For you shall expand to the right and to the left,
And your descendants will inherit the nations,
And make the desolate cities inhabited.
“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame;
For you will forget the shame of your youth,
And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
For your Maker is your husband,
The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth.
For the Lord has called you
Like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit,
Like a youthful wife when you were refused,”
Says your God.
“For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
But with great mercies I will gather you.
With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”
Says the Lord, your Redeemer.
“For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn
That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
10 For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.
11 “O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
12 I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.
13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children.
14 In righteousness you shall be established;
You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
And from terror, for it shall not come near you.
15 Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me.
Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.
16 “Behold, I have created the blacksmith
Who blows the coals in the fire,
Who brings forth an instrument for his work;
And I have created the spoiler to destroy.
17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.

The "Before" Pictures: 

Growing up...

Don and I met in public school, at ages 14 and 15.

 This last picture was taken around the time we became believers, 
after Brodie and Hannah were born.

Thank you, Lord!

"Feed My Sheep"

I appreciate my husband for so many reasons.  

Just to mention one, Don knows I can get distracted and busy with all the things that "need" to be done.   So he will simply say to me: "Feed my sheep."   It means to care for our little ones, to feed our children spiritually.   

"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? 

"He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. 
He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 

"He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? 
He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. 
He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 

"He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? 
Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? 
And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. 

"Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep." 

~ John 21:15-17

These are pictures Aden took recently of the sheep surrounding our yard, 
including a newborn lamb.

One thing the children and I have been doing, are making Sermon on the Mount notebooks together.

In the morning, we write the next verse in our individual books.
We talk about what the words mean, and go over it, little by little.
(Depending on age and ability, I write the verse for them, and they trace it.)

Then the children draw a picture above what they wrote, that represents the verse.
I was inspired by this post am grateful I read it. 

At different times throughout our day, I will ask them questions and talk to them about the verses we have wrote down so far, and they are doing an amazing job of remembering them!

"For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; 
line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little..."
~ Isaiah 28:10

While it's not in the photos, today Chloe included cookies on baking sheets in her latest drawing, because she thought that was a good way to help bless those who are sad.  
It was very sweet.

This morning, we also talked about the words to the song, 
"How Tall is that Mountain?" by the Esh family:

"There's only one solution
Before the Lord I'll bow
Get on my knees and promise
I'll follow Jesus now."

We also discussed this article, that the Lord showed me last evening: 

It is the Lord

Written by A. B. Simpson.

“All things work together for good to them that love God….” Romans 8:28
Every moment the great Refiner is waiting to add some new touch to your strength and beauty, and fit you for a higher place in His eternal life.
We are so prone to think that these things that come to us are accidents, incidents, mishaps or personal injuries from personal hands. But after a while we learn that His hand is above every other hand, His love above every hateful blow. You get up in the morning and find everything wrong in the kitchen and dining room and you say, “Oh, it is that cook; it is that wretched stove.” Oh, no; it is the Lord trying and proving you. You come down to business and find things wrong in your store and you say, “Oh, it is that careless janitor.” No, it is the Lord trying and proving you. You open your mail expecting a check according to promise from some person. It is not there. You say, “Oh, it is this dishonest and unprincipled man.” No, it is the Lord trying and proving your faith. You meet with a friend, the very one that you look to for help and comfort, and something happens to try you more keenly, and everything in your life seems to become a source of annoyance.
You say, “Oh, it is the inconsiderateness of others.” No, it is the Lord showing you something in you that is wrong and that He wants to have buried away.
God tries us, proves us, and establishes us. It is not by a very quick process. “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” He sits down to His work; He takes plenty of time. He will wait years with you over a single lesson if you make Him to do so, or He will get you through it at once if you are willing to take the quicker process and the hotter fire.
How touching is the love that will take so much trouble with all these little matters. No wonder that Job should say, “Lord, what is man that thou shouldest magnify him? And that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?”
And so He comes to you every moment, as Job says, from morning to night. If you would understand life as He does, you would see nothing but God; and as you meet Him in everything, you would see nothing but God’s ever presence, and every unfriendly blow be warded off. Against every fiery dart you would have a shield of faith that nothing can pierce, and out of every storm you would shout with the great apostle, “None of these things move me.” Beloved, they will come until they don’t move you. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” “That he might present to himself a glorious church not having spot of wrinkle or any such thing, but that is should be holy and without blemish.” “Not as though I had already attained...I press toward the mark....”


"Blessed = enjoying spiritual happiness, and the favor of God, 
feeling close to Heaven"

This is what's on our white board right now, after we consulted Noah's 1828 Dictionary to study, as we worked on our notebooks. We're sure this is only the tip of the iceberg on what "blessed" means, but we also think it fits.  

May God bless YOU!

Last Weekend Together

Don works in a metal fabrication shop, with some wonderful brothers. 
The other day, he brought home a big metal ring, to make the fire pit safer for little children.

There is a huge rock pile in a field behind our house, and we were blessed to be able to go over and get as many as we needed.  

Even though Aden is in this picture : )  Don had asked me to help him, and so he and I mostly built this small rock wall together.  

I was very surprised a how fast it went!  We were done before we knew it.  

Some of our very good friends stopped by in the middle of of it, and this is me cleaning up a bit after their enviromentally-friendly mode of transportation.  : )

Why are there no pictures of me working?!  : )

We saw some rocks we thought were a bit crooked... 
but we figured it wouldn't matter in the end.

"And Jesus said unto them, 'See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, 
There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.'"
~ Matthew 24:2

It was a hot, dirty job, but I was so blessed to help Don.  Especially because now when I look at the fire pit, I have the memory of us doing it together!  

Daddy opening up a gift from the children.

Enjoying the fruits of our labor.  

Can you guess why they call this one the 'bunny stick'?

Singing to Daddy!  
What a blessing!

Here, the children are all playing a game together with Daddy.

They really enjoyed themselves.

I think it tired them out!

Picking up for the evening.

Don always makes the best things out of extra concrete.  : )

Amie & Don