Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13

But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior... Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.... “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”
Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13

Friday, July 30, 2010

Brownwood in Word Pictures

We have been in Brownwood now for 2 weeks and leave tomorrow for our long trek back to Michigan, via Memphis. I realized tonight that I have been a terrible picture taker the last 2 weeks, with no grandparents' cameras to back me up, so I decided to give you a taste of Brownwood in 'word pictures.' Here's some of the things we've enjoyed the last 2 weeks.

-Hot sun, chlorine and sunscreen, and cool water with Ruthie and the Chessers
-Watching the girls feed and chase the goats at the Washburns
-Steak 4 times!!!
-yummy church potlucks and fellowship
-taking the kids to the eye doctor for the first time
-playing with Mr. Potato Head's at the Ruizes
-watching the girls laugh and jump on the trampoline all together (first time they've ever enjoyed jumping together) at the Benton's
-watching Michaela and Mark play in the pool together
-petting the goats and donkeys at the Rogers
-poor Jana's feet getting blistered up by fire ants
-watching Jana put away 4 helpings of mac and cheese every other meal
-chocolate milkshakes at Doc's drugstore
-Eliana feeding a cow 'cake' on Bill and Charlotte's ranch
-homemade peach icecream at the Pursch's
-watching Jana get loved on by Shnitzel the dog
-watching Michaela make friends wherever she goes... on any playground... within 30 seconds
-the kids playing cops on the playground outside of church with the Lykes kids
-watching the kids enjoy Bible class so much
-walking up to our old apartment here in Brownwood and remembering Michaela as a little bitty baby
-movie in bed with my husband
-donuts and coffee with Billie
-a play date and chitchat with Melanie and James
-hearing a couple of great marriage classes
-a comfortable and spacious place to stay!
-a trip to Abilene to see my brother and Janille's sweet, newly-wed apartment and taking them out to Abuelo's
-a trip to Mardel's

It's been a wonderful stay, Brownwood! We love you all! Thanks and see you soon!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Farm

After Hot Springs, we drove over to Oklahoma. Josh's grandad has a ranch near Lawton, and Josh's folks just bought a doublewide trailer home to be installed on the land too. They were hoping to have it all set up by the time we got there, but had some last minute problems with the water pipes... so we had to 'rough' it without water for a couple days. At least we had air-conditioning, because it was hot! We enjoyed doing all the fun things you do on a farm...swimming in the creek (which was full because of all the rain they've had!), jumping on hay bales, picnics. And we were able to celebrate Josh's parents 34th anniversary with them! We went to see Toy Story 3 and out to eat... and ended the day with an unexpected show of fireworks (which I was super excited about seeing as we missed out on seeing them on the 4th.) We had a great time and pray Nana and Papa's new US home (which they'll live in 6 months out of the year... the other 6 will be in Ecuador) will be filled with lots of happy memories.

Hot Springs- Stephens family reunion

We were able to meet up with my whole family in Hot Springs, which is quite a feat seeing as my sister and her family live in Portugal, Matt and Janille just got married, and we are all over the country on our furlough... so we were very blessed to find a time and place to be able to meet up with everyone. We spent a few days just playing games, going on family outings and enjoying each other's company. Every time we meet up, I think to myself, "I wonder how long it will be until we're able to do this again." But God is good... it seems like every time I think it will be the last time to see my sister for several years, God provides another opportunity for us to be together. We are very blessed.

At the park....

Frisbee golfing at the park....

And the girls first time to mini-golf!

One of the highlights was presenting Matt and Janille with our wedding present to them... a year's worth of date night's in a box for their first year of marriage.... complete with....

Bitter Lemons!!! The real soft drink in glass bottles that we had in Kenya. Rusty found them at an import store in Nashville.

And of course... lots of family time... including pillow fights with Babu!

Sikes Reunion 2010

After Matt's wedding, we drove from San Antonio to Mahoney State Park for the Josh's Sikes family reunion. It was a little different this year since this is the first time in about 20 years that they/we have not gone to Estes Park. But we were able to enjoy lots of activities just the same. Josh was able to go golfing; we went swimming; the ladies went to a fun luncheon/ dress up place called Art Chicks. Mostly we just enjoyed reconnecting with family... all 150 of them.... listening to the first generation share their favorite passages of Scripture.... singing old hymns... watching the next generation of cousins/great-grandchildren developing friendships.... playing cards. It was a beautiful time (a little crazy at times trying to keep up with all 3 kids: Jana got away from us during one meal and climbed the 50 ft. observation tower outside the lodge... by herself!!! This mommy almost had a heart-attack over that one!) But God is good. We are so thankful to be part of such a heritage of servants loving and following the Lord.
Sikes reunions aren't complete without lots of food! Our family cooked potato stack up for everyone.

Art Chicks Fun!

The Jack Sikes family

Nightly devotionals

Fun with family

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Matt and Janille's wedding

It's a beautiful and nostalgic experience watching your little brother (7 years younger) marry the wonderful woman he loves. God has designed us for relationships... primarily with Him, but also with other people. I loved seeing my brother, all grown up, serving and loving his bride. I loved seeing Janille radiant with happiness. I loved seeing the look of pride on my brother's face. Mostly, I enjoy seeing 2 people who love God and each other committing themselves to a life of love, and friendship and service to each other. Congratulations, Matt and Janille! We love you both and pray God's blessings on you as you walk through the joys and struggles of life hand in hand.
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Fun times with the Harrolds

We stopped in Wichita on our way down to Texas and spent a few days with long time family friends and supporters. We had a wonderful visit. They borrowed an amazing blow-up water slide... Michaela and Addison had so much fun! We enjoyed lunch out with Van and Mary Ann at Yaya's Bistro (the most amazing hummus I've ever had!), and a day trip to a water park near Hutchinson which was a blast. Mostly, we just enjoyed visiting, sharing our lives (Josh got the American consumer experience by standing in line with Justin and Donna to get the new iphone4 :), and watching our kids play together. We are so thankful for this family and the many ways they contribute to our lives with their friendship and their support. We love you, Harrold family!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Furlough 2010

It has been a busy summer so far! We started our furlough out with our Cochabamba Connection Conference in Dallas, celebrating 5 years in the life of our team. It was a wonderful time with our supporters to show how God has worked in the past 5 years and share our plans for the future. We then flew up to Michigan. Joshua and I were able to get away for a few days in north Michigan to celebrate our 10th anniversary and really enjoyed the time at a cabin on Torch Lake. Pictures have I none! Josh then left for 2 and a half weeks of classes in Dallas. He is beginning work on his Doctorate of Ministry. He was extremely fulfilled and blessed by his classes. The girls and I stayed at my parents house and enjoyed our 3 weeks with them. Here is look at some of the things we did:

Michaela had lots of fun on the Wii Fit.

We made a couple trips to Greenfield Village - the live museum in Detroit. One visit was in celebration of Memorial Day and they had Civil War remembrances set up. We enjoyed the carousel, the train, feeding the ducks, playing old time games on the green, and riding in one of the original Model T cars and an old timey bus. Eliana even got to touch a snake!

We visited Miss Peggy's gymnastics with the young families and made several trips to the library.

We went to a special Africa section of the Battlecreek zoo and fed the giraffes. Jana did not like their long tongues! Pictures to come of that event, as soon as I get my hands on my dad's camera. I had my hands full helping the girls feed them :)

We enjoyed being with my sister and her family and had lots of cousin time.... playing in the sprinkler, reading, and going to the park.

We made a trip to Chuck E Cheese.

We missed Daddy while he was in Dallas very much, but we filled our time with lots of fun activities and special memories with Nyanya and Babu and family.