Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Footprints

Happy Autumn, ladies!  Check out these links below to boost your weekend!

Ways to Serve

Looking for a way to actively live out your faith this fall?  Author and speaker Leslie Ludy has a wonderful and encouraging site called "Set Apart Girl" that has some great resources here to help you get started!

Pumpkin Bread

Need a dessert with fall flair to serve at church, a Bible study, or at home?  Look no further than this scrumptious pumpkin bread recipe, a favorite in my family!  The original recipe makes three loaves (great for freezing), but you can change the servings easily on the site.

The Briefing

Recently a friend told me about this fantastic podcast by Dr. Albert Mohler, The Briefing.  In a world where chaos seems to becoming increasingly the norm, along with a huge deficiency in Biblical wordview and standards, Dr. Mohler's podcast is a refreshing and welcome one!  Each weekday, Dr. Mohler takes some of the top world news of the day and filters it through God's Word and a Biblical wordview.  This is a great resource for us as young women as we seek to understand the world we're in, what God is doing, and what our response needs to be to the events that are happening.  Make sure to check out The Briefing and download it from iTunes!

May the peace and joy of Jesus be your companions this weekend!
Joanna, Krista, Megan, Emily & Victoria

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

No room for us

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{This is the third installment in my Reflections from Cambodia.  Be sure to check out part one and part two.}

Kim’s face is filled with regret.  He speaks in English, stumbling over his second language.  He profusely apologizes over and over.  I simply accept it and smile gently.  My friends do the same.  I nod and assure him it’s okay.  He apologizes again that the hostel got my reservations wrong.  That we don’t have a place to stay.  He tips his head down, eyes downcast, waiting.

He expects me to scold.  To rage and yell and threaten.  I see it in his eyes.  He expects me to do all that because I’m a foreigner and from his experience, that’s what foreigners do in Cambodia.

But I’m not just a foreigner – I’m also a Christ follower.  I seek to follow His example in each part of my life.  I’m not perfect.  Far from it.  But I follow the Spirit’s leading this day, calmly accepting his apology and telling him I’m not angry.

His head slowly raises.  His expression is incredulous.  Foreigners always get upset when he makes a mistake.  Yet I am serenely standing there, with a peace that’s not my own.  It’s that peace which comes from my Savior that overwhelms me there at the desk.

Together we work on finding other accommodations for the night.  Every minute or so, I feel him looking at me, trying to figure out why.  Why I am not lashing out at him, treating him like scum?  He tells me that almost all foreigners do so.  But I don’t.  My friends don’t.  He mulls over that the whole week.  He still can't comprehend it.  He sees such a marked difference in my friends and myself that he wants to know why.

Our week ends in Cambodia and we go downstairs to say our goodbyes to the hostel staff.  They are sorry to see us go - and not just because of our business with them, but because they know we treated them differently, with kindness and respect.  We leave with many well wishes from the staff, all smiles.

My friends and I write two notes – one for the staff and one for Kim, the desk clerk.  In these notes we share that we are followers of Jesus, that that's why we don't get angry or yell or treat them poorly.  I share the web address of a Christian radio that broadcasts in the country.   I tell them that I prayed for them and wish them a “God bless you!”.

Today I look back on our first arrival and my response to Kim’s apologies.  I kind of shake my head in wonder.  I didn’t do that.  I know that.  It wasn’t me speaking and smiling peacefully.  It was Jesus working through me, speaking through my lips.  He is the One who works in the midst of plan changes and interruptions and discomforts.  He’s the One who deserves the credit.

And perhaps that makes this story all the more needing to be told - because He's powerful and good and faithful and it's all Him.

I find myself whispering along with John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
 Never me, always Him.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Heroines of History: Sara Frankl

When we first developed the Heroines of History series, our goal showcase the lives of faithful women, that together we may be inspired and encouraged to live a life closer to Christ.

Yet, do you ever look at these stories as a check list, and think that what makes these women remarkable is their actions? She started an orphanage. She rescued kids from slavery. She moved to dangerous places as a missionary. 

Impressive, impressive, impressive. 

I've made that mistake, too. But my sweet sisters, today I simply want to remind you that their lives, and our lives, matter not because of what we do but who we are and the faith we have. 

What matters is not how public our lives are, whether anyone ever oohs and aahs over something that we accomplish. Yet I know how much of a struggle it can be to believe that, especially in a world that is so performance-based, and especially if you battle perfectionism as I do. 

This past spring, both Joanna and I were super sick - continents apart! Thankfully, many of her ailments seem to have been simply temporary and awful. While I am still recovering, I am hoping this is something that also doesn't last but is simply a case of building my body back up. That said, there were many moments where I felt simply defeated. It was hard to work, I felt frustrated that I couldn't make a contribution to my family and required care instead, and I felt completely useless. The pain was a sideshow to the battle in my heart. 

It's still a battle, to be honest. But I want to learn from the spring, and respond with faith throughout various health problems. That's why today I want to share a little bit about Sara Frankl (link is to her personal blog). 

She had a very rare disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis, which took away many of her abilities. She was a gifted writer, singer and artist, and I believe the symptoms started to become more and more pronounced throughout her mid-twenties and into her thirties. (In other age.)

She perhaps never did anything you would think remarkable. She didn't move to a foreign country or start a nationally-recognized ministry. In fact, for many years near the end she was bedridden and would need to conserve her energy for several days to be up for a short visit with a loved one. 

And yet: Her faith was larger than life. Despite her inability to ever go outside due to reactions, her bed-ridden state, the fact that she had to give up her singing, her career, and her dreams of a family of her own - those who knew her described her as the most joyful person they knew. 

She chose joy, she chose praise, and she chose faith. In the midst of debilitating physical sickness and life circumstances she would never chose. 

And she made a difference in this world, just because she was faithful and chose to praise in the midst of deep pain. 

We will all have painful trials, both because that is how God refines us and grows our faith and because the world is sinful and broken. So if you need encouragement right now, please turn to her writings (link is to the (in)courage articles) and delight in her story. She brought praise and honor wherever she went, and that is a goal we can attain in any circumstance. 

We're learning right along with you, lovelies. 

"I choose the joy. When something is going badly and I’m dwelling on it, I think instead of something for which I am grateful. I swear to you, it’s as simple as that. You just have to decide today, and again tomorrow. And before you know it, you’ll have an attitude of joy more than any other attitude you have at your disposal." 
- Sara Frankl, Attitude of Joy 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Footprints

As many of you (and us!) head back to school or college, or have lots of new changes ahead, here's two favorite findings from this month to encourage you...

Advice for Engaged and Newlywed Women {Really All Married Women} by Joy Forney

This compilation by Joy Forney is an inspiring and truth-filled read.  Even if you're not engaged or married, this is a good post to read and let soak into your soul.

All is Well by Sovereign Grace

A friend of mine (Joanna) sent me this song a few weeks ago as I am going through homesickness for Taiwan and missing my Taiwanese kiddos.  It's an all-time new favorite, with words to comfort and remind of His presence and goodness.

May He be with you every step of the way as you seek Him, Sisters!

Joanna, Krista, Megan, Emily & Victoria

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A letter from Joanna

Hello, sisters!

Hope your summer was filled with His presence and His workings in your heart and those around you!  I know mine has been, along with some difficulties, yes, but those things are the ones that press me even closer into Jesus.  It's been a crazy, exciting four weeks where God has taken me on adventures in four states and four countries (thus, nothing here on the blog for awhile until today!).  I actually didn't realize it had been four weeks + four states + four countries until I sat down to write.  Then I realized - wow, God has been taking me on a lot of travels lately! 

Taiwan:  The end of July I left the island of my heart and headed for the United States.  The hardest goodbyes were telling my little orphan friends that I was leaving and then my rough boys in the village.  I thought for sure my heart would be completely torn out, but we serve and love a wonderful Father who kept me in His arms during these farewells and in the weeks following.

Once in the plane to the US, little did I know the travel troubles my friend and I would go through in the next hours, including two fires in the plane's galley.  In those initial moments, as the flight attendants scrambled to get everything in control, I just remember leaning back in my seat and giving it all to the One who holds the keys to life and death.  I wasn't frantic or scared as I expected.  Instead that peace that passes all understanding of His swamped around me and I sat there, praying and knowing I was in His hands.

Japan: God is good, always.  Our plane was able to turn around and made an emergency landing in Japan.  When we landed, I looked out my window and was greeted by the intense faces of numerous paramedics, rescue squad, policemen, and airport personnel.  In that moment, I realized how much danger we had been in.  And how my mighty King had kept us in His strong right hand!  After the professionals examined everything and realized we couldn't fly until the next day, the airlines put us up in a hotel near Tokyo and I had the pleasure of seeing some of the country.  That was the bright side and my friend and I enjoyed our time there, exhausted as we were.

US:  A day later than planned, after many delays, I arrived home to rush into my family's arms.  It was such a joyous reunion after being separated for a year - as I was doing missionwork in Taiwan and my family was in the States.  The next days were spent in four different states doing a variety of things and visiting others.  It was a time of great fellowship and joy in the Lord!

Mexico:  Yesterday I just flew in from Mexico where I went for a friend's wedding and did some exploring and praying, too.  My Spanish came out like this the first two days in Mexico: "你好, como estas?  Estoy 很好, gracias!", which made for some hilarious laughs and more than a few bewildered looks.  And some confusion in my brain at what language I was trying to communicate in after using Mandarin for a year and a half.  Thankfully by the third day, the craziness in my head finally began clearing and I could then communicate with my Mexican, Panamanian, Costa Rican, and Guatemalan friends in Spanish.  The wedding of a my friend was such a lovely, spectacular, Christ-focused one that started out with worship.  What an amazing opportunity it was to worship and celebrate with Brothers and Sisters from 10+ countries!

So, four weeks + four states + four countries later, here I am, currently in the States.  What's next for me?  Only God knows all those details for now, and I'm content to do the little things He's called me to and let my body rest and attempt to recover from all the travels and sicknesses I've had over the past months.  The moments come when I'm homesick for Taiwan, for sticky hands to grasp mine, for worship in Chinese, for hearing that precious word, "Teacher", but it's okay.  I rest in Him, because He's good and that's what matters.

In His hands,

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tales from Taiwan #9

Dear sisters,

My trips to my favorite aboriginal village continue every Saturday.  Again and again, God speaks to the children in ways I never imagined.  So many times He's working  behind the scenes, in ways invisible to my human eyes.  Truly, He continues to show Himself strong and faithful and amazing!

Like the other week when I shared the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and how they refused to bow down to the statue that the king put up.  My ten village boys crowd around me, intently listening.  These boys grow up rough.  They are often neglected or have broken families.  They use cuss words, get into fights, and have bad manners.  Yet when I sit down on this particular day, they scoot closer as I share the Scriptures.

I am praying the whole time.  I don't want these kids to leave saying this was an amusing story.  I don't want them going home thinking that Teacher Joanna is a good storyteller.  I want God Almighty to reach down into their hearts and work on them.  I want His truth to shine brightly into their lives and change them.

Continuing with the story, I realize that this is the first time these kids have heard this classic Sunday School story.  The boys are convinced that the three friends will give in to the king's demands.  When I inform them that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood firm in their faith and didn't bow down, these village boys simply stare at me.  Their amazement continues to mount as they find out that when the king threw the three guys into the fiery furnace, God protected them and they lived, with not even the smell of smoke on them!

When I finish, I ask them what they can learn from this account.  I'm not sure what I'm expecting they will say but it's definitely not what I hear.  One boy speaks up: this Bible story means we shouldn't bow down to our Taiwanese idols.  It means we should instead only worship Jesus, the one true God.

I try to imagine a kid in America giving the same answer but I can't.  When I had prepared to share this particular story, I never realized the significance it could have in this culture or the way God would use it to open their eyes to His truth.  For kids in Taiwan, worshipping and bowing down to idols is a common practice.  So when I shared this Bible story, God used it in a special way in their culture.  Truly, He continues to awe me and make me realize how powerful and wise He is!

Prayer requests:

~ pray for these village boys.  That God will continue to work in their lives and their hearts, that He'll break down their Mr. Tough barriers they put up and shine His love and truth into their lives.

For Him in Taiwan,