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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another Update from CSU...Inspired Again

I just returned from the 10th Avenue North was such a blessing. I surprised myself by suggesting perhaps I could go with my teammate, Shannon, and Jared stay back. I've been just as happy to stay in most evenings and watch the live feeds of the sessions that I can get after JJ goes to bed, but tonight, I thought "Why don't I just go??!!"

That decision is kind of indicative of what God has been doing in my heart and life in these past few weeks culminating here at CSU. I've once again been finding myself in this place of "holding back" and limiting myself based on what I can see. I feel the presence of my mom as I see the Lord break me out in ways of this "dwarfed" thinking. Sort of her last words to me via my sister, Kristen, were "tell Abby not to 'hold back'".

For most of my life my mother would have advised me to 'hold back' as she saw me jump head first into academics, sports, later this both perfectionistic and dreamy-eyed view of the world and also the signifigance I could have in it. She was always just reminding me to 'relax' and 'be' and was always concerned I would burn out.

I can say now that those concerns were very valid and in many ways with a wide array of circumstances in my mid-twenties I did 'burn out' or even 'break down'.

What has happened since in the 10 years since then has been fighting the opposite tendency to just live a "dwarfed" gray-tinged life...but the beauty of it has been that in the wisdom of these years, I truly see how the inspiration and faith to step out truly take believing and relying on the Lord's Spirit--being so fully aware of my own limitations.

Well, I can say that I have definitely been wanting to retreat in and just have felt weary in every way--emotionally, physically, and especially spiritually. I've been wondering where is my heart to pray for the great things I want to believe God has in store for us in this life He's called us to? I've settled for just "getting by" and had many reasons that this is just the "season" that I am in. I will be very clear and say that I know that God loves me just as deeply when I am living like this as when I might be stepping out in great faith, but if I truly reflect on the Life I want to live--grey-tinged glasses just will not do.

Through hearing the hearts of leaders like our President, Steve Douglass, Vice President, Steve Sellers, Family Life Founder, Dennis Rainey, our Student Venture Director, Daryl Smith and getting to worship with so many on similar journeys...the theme has come through loud and clear: "What are you willing to believe God for?"

I am being reminded of a God who yet will do the miraculous...Who indeed is working in incredible ways all over the World. The original vision of Bill Bright, Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, was to see "the Great Comission fulfilled in our generation". He believed the Lord for it to the end and as we've heard some of the histories of different ministries that have come out of Campus Crusade, it has been said that the most prominent thing people would say of him was "he's crazy". He believed God for the humanly impossible and time and time again saw the Lord bring to life things like "the Jesus Film" that have touched billions of people in ways we cannot fathom.

This is the legacy we inherit as we have been blessed to be called to this ministry family. It is one I believe that flows right from the pages of the Scriptures and seemlessly links with the times of the apostles and the Early Church. Slowly I can see the cynicism and dullness of my heart and vision be washed away and pure faith in the God who lives and is good and calls all of us to take Him at His Word take its place.

I am beginning to silence what I hold onto--my family with a 2nd child on the way. All of the doubts of whether I can juggle anything significant in ministry with this family...the ways I want Jared to fill up where I need to rely on the Lord's strength. This does not mean that I am to disregard priorities of home, motherhood, wifehood...but simply, I think, to trust that the Lord has even more of a heart to see those things be honored in my life than I do and that in letting go I will find them becoming even more precious and His and more full of the fruit of His Spirit.

It is a beautiful thing coming in the midst of a third trimester of pregnancy with all that can weigh one down (no pun intended;), trials of sickness (including JJ throwing up TODAY), and in many ways a hard first year of ministry filled with disappointments where hopes had been much higher...

This is so often how our Great God works. He takes us to a place where everything that could bring us comfort circumstancially is taken away and we have to ask ourselves if we really believe "He is for us"?? In the words of the last section of Romans 8 (I have it all memorized--finished the day before we came here!) "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own son but GAVE HIM UP FOR US ALL, how will He not also with him graciously give us all things?" Everything we need to love and LIVE FOR HIM!...All that matters...

I don't know how many of you will read this (as it's rather long and no pictures), but if you get to here, I want to challenge you to not "hold back" in this life. Do not believe that grey-tinged lenses are right for you...believe the Lord for more. Trust Him and ask Him to give you His desires in ways you may never have opened yourself up to. Will you believe Him for the salvation of your neighbors? Will you believe Him to greatly increase or perhaps begin a ministry to a sector of people in your circle of influence that you are uniquely equipped to reach? Will you come together with your husband or wife or your Savior and throw out old habits and ways that bind you into patterns of complacency and will you ask Him for fresh vision and the belief that "He is able to do EXCEEDINGLY, IMMEASURABLY, BEYOND ALL WE COULD ASK FOR OR IMAGINE"?

I promise to do the same by His grace and strength alone.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Update from CSU

"CSU" for those of you who don't know (most, I assume) stands for Colorado State University and that is where we are at. We talk about CSU as the bi-annual conference all U.S. staff are required to go to for Campus Crusade. I was exempted 2 years ago with being full-term with JJ at the time of the conference. This time I am "only" 7-8 months pregnant:) so I am here. Truth be told, I probably could have applied for an exemption, but I didn't want to because it's a big family reunion. We see people here that we haven't seen for the people we trained with 2 and 1/2 years ago to join CCC staff. And others that we only see at special it is great!

I have been feeling the pregnancy here, however. We do alot of walking and my sciatic nerve was going crazy last night (lots of pain in the back side, hard to walk) but prayerfully it went away during a picnic today while I was sitting in the grass of all things! I am so thankful.

Unfortunately, I don't have a way to upload the pictures I've taken so far. There's been a fun carnival and JJ got to ride a "choo choo" and a "erse" (horse) and I will post those pictures when I can. It's tough to be surrounded by the Rockies and not be able to hike:( The good thing is that I can in 2 years!) but it really is beautiful and I am enjoying the break from the Florida heat.

JJ also gets to go to child care during the day. Today was his first day and he did great! (other than the normal crying when I leave him there) In general, the kids love child care and I'm so happy he gets to interact with other kids. He's in the 2 year-old class A (there are 4 or 5 2year-old classes alone!) and there are 15 kids and four college age or older girls that work with his class. They have their hands full! But they are really sweet and love JJ:) I actually kept him there today from 8:30-3:30pm and he took his afternoon nap there. I didn't know how he would do, but he did the best of any in the class...sleeping about 2 hours!

This is great because if he naps well there then Jared and I can go to the morning session together and to afternoon seminars. Even though we miss him, it really is a unique opportunity for us (me especially) to be able to hear from the ministry leaders and special speakers. Today and tomorrow we hear from Tim Keller who is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and I really enjoyed him. He spoke today of the Gospel for the believer and how in "Americaology" we have made even our surrender to God and desire to have Him enter our life a means of somehow doing something good enough to earn God's favor. He also talked about how often when we speak to non-believers we really need to start with where we "boast" in our flesh even more than our areas of sin/brokenness. That is because it is so subtley a part of the core of our humanness to think that we can do something to please God. We take even the amazing good things we are to be about--raising Godly children, making the Gospel known to teenagers, loving our neighbors--as things which define us and "justify our existence". He talked alot about how in Americaology we all must have a VPR--Validation Performance Record. Something that says we are worth being alive, etc.

Needless to say, it was really great to hear...I so appreciate the blessing of being able to come here and be renewed. Though I am tired and weary and actually have had near breakdowns (today was so much better) I know that it is a gift to be here. It was amazing the amount of things we had "thrown at us" before coming here and when I finally saw that we were being attacked spiritually to discourage us before CSU, I got really excited knowing that God was preparing something very special for us here.

We will be here until next Thursday, the 30th, and I will give you another update, probably. Can't wait to post some pictures!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

When It Rains It Pours...

I hope you enjoy reading the next several posts about our time in PA and NJ as we travelled north to visit family and friends...I am so thankful to have gotten these posts up...concerning the title to this post it has been "pouring" sickness in my life. Nothing so serious, just difficult to feel anywhere near a level of functioning I would hope for--compounded, of course, by being in the third trimester of a pregnancy.

I got sick after JJ did while we were in PA. I was actually angry that the Lord would let it happen. Though not right to be so, it was how I honestly felt. I was so wanting to have a great, "to the full" time at home and instead, I found myself battling sickness.

We have been blessed with a pretty healthy past few months and it's so easy to take that for granted. Thankfully JJ was over his sickness quickly and really didn't have a runny nose or cough at all (I am so glad). Jared got sick but only briefly (I say he has the "Bert constitution" from his mother's family)--I tell you this husband of mine is STRONG when it comes to fighting off sickness and not getting down physically with anything--sickness or lack of sleep. What a rock!

I, however, be it because of the pregnancy or whatever, got WALLOPED with an intense cold. If I used 1 tissue I have used 500 over the past 9 or 10 days! I couldn't sleep a couple of nights at home and started to cough this week. I started on an antibiotic this past Monday and am definitely better. However, I found out yesterday (Tuesday) that I have pink eye which I have never had--I really had to laugh just not even imagining what could come next! Perspective however, reminds me that it is annoying and frustrating but really nothing compared to what so many I know and love have been battling (cancer and the like).

But, you can pray please that I fully recover before we fly to Colorado next Monday. We will be heading to the bi-annual national Campus Crusade Conference in Fort Collins, CO. I have been looking forward to this, but know it will be a taxing 10 days as everything seems to take so much more out of me at this point in the pregnancy.

All in all, I would say that there is a consistent theme of what the Lord has been seeking to teach me amidst this pregnancy. My joy is so easily robbed because of the pressure I put on myself to do "everything" I think "must be done". I have these lists of projects and if I make no progress I consider my day a failure...yes, something is definitely wrong with this thinking, I know. I also have such a hard time knowing my limits--like when I was home, I would have tried to do so much more and see so many more people. In that way, the sickness forced me to focus on what I could possibly do...

Please pray that I will learn more/again/anew how to rest in Jesus. It is the lesson of my life, I think. I know it will only be more important in the days ahead and I truly see how crucial growth in this area is right now for my current peace of mind and ability to love those closest to me.

Do you struggle like I do in this area? Let me know how I can pray for you.

Another visit with Judah and Layna

We didn't fly back to Florida until Saturday evening and originally my in-laws were going to be away all day, so my twin planned to come down and visit with her twins. It was so much fun to see them again before we came home! We miss each other so much and so we can't get enough time together when it's possible.

It was also neat to have my mother-in-law, Marie, (aka "MiMi") home and able to see my twin and her twins too. Every little kid easily warms up to her as you can see with all of the kids around her on the swing below and Judah in the top center smiling at her:)

Near the end of our visit we walked down to the cul-de-sac down from the house and watched JJ "doot" the ball in the "boop". He had done this with MiMi the night before and, as you can see, it's a little above his head. He had made "eight" baskets then because it is his favorite number (though "doo!" of 2 is quickly catching up!, I wonder why?:) He is developing quite a little form! When we got back, we were able to borrow our friend's hoop so JJ can "doot it in the boop!" daily!
Also, notice adorable Layna and the brief twin shot we got. We tried to get one with JJ and the twins, but you can guess, it didn't work!

Sara had the idea to go up to my mom's grave together and I am SO GLAD that she did. I have been the only one who has lived close enough to visit regularly and that stopped when I moved to Florida. I am not sure if anyone has been to her grave since I went on Mother's Day '08. It is such a beautiful spot and we had a short-but-sweet time there. Sara is planning to come back with our older sister, Nea, and she is planning to have the different families and grandkids make some grave markers with handprints. We have tried to put flowers, etc. there, but they always get mowed over, so this is something that we can put there and come back to see over the years. It is amazing to me that it has been over 7 years since my mom was pretty crazy to see how her grave isn't "new" anymore. It looks like all of the others that have been there for some years with a flat grassy area where she is buried...
(p.s. notice, bottom right, JJ loved riding in the bike trailer!)
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Friends...then and now

When we were home, we got to see "Aunt" Jamie and "Cousin" TJ. As I looked at the pictures of TJ and JJ from this trip (they are one month apart in age), I thought it would be great to post some pictures of these two together when they were younger and then the ones from now.

These pictures are from a little over a year ago. Aren't they just precious? I love in the second from the top right, how they are reaching out for each other and also in the top left how TJ is reaching over to JJ. Jamie was remembering these pictures and how we couldn't swing them like this now...oh, they grow up so quickly!!!

They are equally cute here (in the photos from we just visited in PA), but both are close to 2 and so they weren't quite the buddies they were a year ago...we'll give them time to become best buds again:) TJ just needs to come visit us in Florida and realize that JJ lives right next to Shamu!

Incidentally, Jamie (TJ's mom) is due with her second baby about a month after I am due! She is having another boy, so he and Susie can be buddies too or perhaps more:) in about 25 years (at least!);)
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PA visit continued...

My friend Liz (who very unfortunately I didn't get a picture of--sorry Liz!) invited a bunch of my friends over and some of our mutual friends for a pool party. Alot of people were away or sick, etc., but I was so glad that my friend Sarah could come with her boys Caleb and Noah. Even though they weren't used to a "big pool" they still had fun, although (bottom left) Noah doesn't look particularly happy in that floatie. Actually Caleb sat in that one like a "King on his throne" most of the time. Liz's younger son, Michael is sitting with the life vest in the top left and PJ, the fish, is in the bottom left with the goggles. JJ was starting to feel better and then just came to life in the pool. He is an absolute "Florida fish" at this point. I am hoping to do swim lessons with him in the beginning of August. He is so ready for them and usually just wants to dive out of our arms in the pool. It will be so great when he can swim by himself.

Below is a good picture of our "hang out" time at Jared's parents. JJ and his cousin James loved to "help" their PopPop on the patio. He was off work the week we were there and was working on a water feature. James loved to water the flowers and was really good at holding the BIG watering can. JJ, as you can see, took to the broom and had lots of fun sweeping. He didn't quite get the hang of picking up the stones with the shovel, like James, but had fun watching and just being with "Dayes" (how he said 'James').
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Time in NJ and PA

We were so excited to be able to go home to PA and also spend time in New Jersey for a little over a week in the beginning of July. It was really special to be with dear aunties, uncles, and cousins and honoraries of all of these. Really the whole reason for this trip was because of the tremendous relationships we have in our lives and we couldn't imagine waiting until Christmas to see many of these people.

Below are some photos of our time in New Jersey. JJ had a great time playing with his cousins Judah and Layna (my twin sister's twins) who are 7 months younger than him and catching up to their big cousin quickly! As you can see JJ had nothing on them as far as eating goes! In the bottom left is a picture of JJ having the time of his life with a "t-ball". We went to one of Uncle Brian's softball games and JJ just loved running around with the other kids who were playing with their bats and balls. As you can see too, Judah, prefers being a spectator lounging in his little lawn chair.

The following pictures are from our all-too-short visit to where my Dad lives in Elizabethtown, PA. Unfortunately, JJ got sick the day before this trip and "wasn't himself", but we made the best of it and had some great moments in our day there.
First of all, most of the pictures below are from my Dad's house. His neighbors let us use their playset that is right next to my Dad and stepmom's yard. My stepmom made an amazing lunch (dinner for them--their big meal) full of fresh items from their garden and mostly everything she did on the grill! Thanks Nana Marie! We felt so special!
Also, I love my Dad in that straw hat cooking on the grill--does he look like a hillbilly, I mean farmer, or what?
The middle of this collage was the highlight for my nephew James, who got to ride the "Kubota", a big golf cart type vehicle that they use to get around the 300 acre farm where my Dad works.

This was my favorite part of the day...although it was clear that JJ wasn't feeling right, he kept pointing to and repeating "Dows!" for "cows" and I think that the pictures are priceless. I will be framing at least one of these as the born and bred farm girl in me is quite touched to see my own son in this setting...It is our hope that when he gets older he can stay and work with his PopPop Keener on the farm! How fun would that be!!!??

JJ made friends with the dog, "Daisy". Again, there were so many confirmations on his love for animals, that I was very encouraged by our visit to the farm!
(Note the bottom left as the cousins "konked" out after their big day on the farm)
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Friday, July 10, 2009

Romans 8 Update

Thought I'd let you know where I've gotten to:

Romans 8:1-25 (English Standard Version)

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free, in Christ Jesus, from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh, set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law, indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if, in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

So then, brothers (and sisters) we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if, by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons (and daughters), by whom we cry, "Abba Father". The Spirit himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God. And if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from it's bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons (and daughters), the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is no hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

This has truly been one of the most exciting endeavors I have been a part of recently and I am so thankful to be going through this passage over and over again...I can't help but know it is sinking deeper and deeper and will be such a rich storehouse to draw from in the days, seasons, ahead, wherever I may find myself.

Have you started some scripture memory since my last post? Please share how it is going and what you are memorizing...I hope to hear from some of you!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Time with Cousins and Sister Time...

We were all so blessed to have a special visit from my sister Kristen and her two oldest daughters. She completely surprised them, not telling them until they were on the way to the airport!!! It was such a great time all around and JJ really loved them. Especially Annika...she is really such a great big sister, cousin, etc! As you can see they were very happy to hang out together at the house...Annika and Chloe LOVED watching Veggie Tales with him!

Below are a BUNCH of pictures from Sea World. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures from our fun time at the beach or at our neighborhood pool...maybe you'll see them later??

By the way, my sister, Kristen, is the one in the salmon shirt who likes like me but is not pregnant:) She is actually my "next to older" sister even though she is often asked if she is my twin!
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OOPS! Forgot to include...

...these shots from Sea World. Below is JJ on his first carousel ride. It was actually sea creatures, horses, etc. instead of regular horses. As you can see in the second from the left on the top, he is doing his characteristic "OOOOHHHH!!" with excitement. Bottom right are Chloe (blonde hair) and Annika (who just turned 10!-brown hair)...aren't they beautiful!!

There is a small but really neat aquarium at Sea World. The neatest parts are the fish floating right under your feet (top left) and in the ceiling above (top right). It was another winner for Sea World!
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Sea World!

I had my first ever Sea World experience when my sister visited last weekend. Jared and I actually invested in the 2-year pass because it is so reasonable (the equivalent of 2 single day admissions and you have unlimited access for 2 years!!!) So, as I said to JJ when we arrived, "Ok JJ, you are going to be spending a lot of time at Sea World, so get used to everything now and yes, YOU WILL LOVE IT!" Well, there was no coaxing needed, he truly loved every bit of it...survived the whole day with just a 10 minute nap and spent 8 full hours in the park! The great thing with having the annual pass is that we can go for a couple of hours in the evening or just stay until we're tired, etc. It is only about half an hour away! (see why I keep telling you all to come visit us!!!)

Here is a picture of the entrance and some of the dolphins that there are close to the entrance. There is a much bigger dolphin pool where you can touch them (my nieces almost did!), but we didn't get there until JJ was TOAST, so, next time, we will go there first!

There is a splash pad at Sea World and in the collage below you can see his progression. He started out only wanting to touch with his fingers (this is how he's been for a while), then he became gradually more daring (especially with Daddy as he always is!) and as you can see in the bottom right, he's totally drenched!! Thankfully, I had brought a change of clothes for the rest of the day! Note to self, next time WE WILL bring your swimsuit and a towel and a swim diaper!!

Jared rode a couple of the bigger kid rides with my niece Annika. They are sitting in the very back here. I like how Jared has his hands up looking like he is bracing for the big thrill...poor guy he had no one to ride some of the bigger rides with especially the new one, "Manta"...good thing we got the 2 year pass! We think we might go for a date some time (probably after the baby, so I can do more...or maybe before too, we'll see!) and do all of the things that we can't do with a little one (except maybe he will ride the big roller coaster himself!)

Tea cups! My niece Chloe was less daring than her big sister, but tea cups are her favorite! She went 8 times or so, including a few by herself. As you can see BIG BOY JJ went on and even went with just his big cousins! How cute is that! He loved spinning and was sad when it was over!
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The Shamu show was one of the neatest things I have ever seen! I teared up several times at just the magnificence of this creature! There were actual several little Shamu's and then the Mama Shamu came on the scene...they are truly incredible!

JJ was wanting to climb over everywhere before the show started, but once it did, he was enthralled. It is called "Believe" and is really worth the whole Sea World price to see! (of course you get MUCH MORE!) This first collage is from the first part of the show when several "little" Shamu's come out and do different flips, tricks, act as surf boards, etc.

I like this collage because you can see how special a connection the Shamu's have with their trainers.

This is when Mama Shamu burst on the scene. The show "Believe" has a short movie of a child's dream involving working with Shamu. You learn later that the little boy is actually Shamu's main (I think) trainer. In the top right picture you can see where they have the little boy and then the trainer as he is today. I'm sorry that some of my pictures got cut off in the collage, but I have the best one (bottom left) featured in the next post!
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Best Shamu Shot!

Jared just told me this looks is amazing because my camera is sort of broken and I can't turn on the flash if it is going, so all of the pictures were it was amazing to get this shot on the exact timing!
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