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,

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Footprints

Happy Summer, readers!

Here's a collection of our fabulous findings this month...

A craving for a delicious blueberry muffin brought about a search for the best blueberry muffins on the web. This recipe takes the cake! (er uh...muffin!) We added a sweet crumble (melted butter, brown sugar, and flour) to top these yummy muffins off.

If you haven't already... Watch "God's Not Dead" the new movie, featuring the Newsboys and the Robertsons from "Duck Dynasty", about a college student's struggle to defend his faith on campus, specifically in a philosophy class taught by an atheist professor. This awesome movie deserves a review all its own.

Speaking of the Newsboys, check out two of our favorite songs! "God's Not Dead" the theme song of the movie and "Restart" a great song about God's forgiveness.

With so much negativity and non-Christian messages in media today we're refreshed to see these great Christian productions. We hope you are as encouraged by them as we have been!

Blessings to you!
Joanna, Krista, Megan, Emily & Victoria

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mission Trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong

I was so excited last summer when I found out about a mission trip opportunity to Taiwan. I’d never been out of the country, and all the way on the other side of the globe is certainly out of the country! Also, if I went, I could visit my sister, Joanna. I was super excited, but the journey to Taiwan was a long way off - not till January.

As it so happened, I didn’t find out for sure if I was going until a month before we were set to leave. When I did find out, I was happy and excited, but a bit scared too - I needed to raise $2,500 in a short period of time. It was a journey of faith for me and my family. At times I felt for sure God would supply the money, other times I wasn’t so sure - what if it wasn’t His will for me to go? I realized, though, that it wasn’t my job to raise the money, it was God’s job. I just needed to do all I could and let Him do the raising.

The financial situation ended up working out amazingly! I even was given extra money! After the mission trip I had the blessing of giving the leftover money away to be used for God’s work in Taiwan and Hong Kong. 

The ministry I worked with is called Children's Institute, which offers children a VBS-like setting while their parents attend Christian seminars. Each small group of kids had at least one American and one translator. Biblical character qualities were taught, games were played, and crafts were made. During large group time, when everyone came together, we learned songs (in Chinese, of course!) and motions. Also, this was the time when inspired skits were performed with great zeal, impromptu, and hilarity. Ever heard the story of Daniel and his three friends who offered the king a test to see which was better - eating the king’s choice foods or vegetables? Well, in our version Daniel and his friends could not eat the king’s favorite food - Oreos! We showed how we should honor our authorities, and if we have an idea we should present it respectfully. The kids loved the skits and stories and so did I!

We worked in four different locations over a month’s time - three cities in Taiwan and Hong Kong. My favorite was our last week - in Hong Kong. My group leader and our translator and I worked really well together and we had twelve precious children aged six to twelve. Mind you, we had some kids that stirred up trouble, but overall our group was awesome!

Two nights in Hong Kong we got to have worship time with the kids. Those two nights were some of the most amazing experiences of the trip! Even though I couldn’t understand most of what we sang, I felt God’s presence there. It was amazing and I realized that worshiping God is something that transcends languages and is a language in and of itself!

Also, in Hong Kong I got to play soccer with a lot of boys one day. I was the only American and the only girl playing, and I’d never played a game of soccer before! It was great fun running around after the ball and occasionally yelling “Jiao!” (it means "go on" or "fight on"). I even scored the first goal! It felt good to give my teammates high fives.

After the trip I got to spend a week with my sister Joanna! It was neat to see the school where she works and meet her co-teachers. When Joanna first went to Taiwan I never thought I would get to go visit her, but God certainly has ways of working things out! I'm so glad God gave me the opportunity to not only visit her, but to join in His work in Taiwan and Hong Kong. I look forward to sharing more with you in future posts!