Monday, February 13, 2017

Guest Blogger: Ezekiel and the Dry Bones

I was sitting with my friend, Heather, sipping coffee in her home while my kids played in her backyard. We caught up for several hours, and during that time, she shared this story with me. I asked her if she would share it, and she was happy to oblige. Thanks, Heather!

Our church was struggling.  Leaders and members were disgruntled and leaving.  Our elders were aware of tough issues and hurt feelings, and were making long-term plans.  But long-term plans take a long time to plan and carry out.  My heart ached Sunday after Sunday, weekday after weekday, at the unmet possibilities of all the Godly people who were in our church, and of how difficult it had become to go there to worship our Lord.
One option the elders worked towards was a merge with a young, growing church which had been started a few years past out of a Bible study from our church.  Familial and spiritual relationships thrived between members of the two churches.  Reading Ezekiel 36:36-38, I began praying these verses for our church, as the verses themselves seemed to invite:
“Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the LORD; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate.  I am the LORD: I have spoken, and I will do it.  Thus says the LORD GOD; this also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them:  to increase their people like a flock.  Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of people.  Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
The verses following this passage tell an amazing story of Ezekiel being taken to a burial valley, full of dry, human bones.  But God asked Him “Can these bones live?”  Unlike mine might, Ezekiel’s answer didn’t include a plan for God of HOW to raise them!  He simply answered “O Lord GOD, you know.”  Then God raised the bones and gave them life!
This seemed perfect to me!  I felt as if we were a nearly dead church, and I wanted God to bring us instantly to life as He did with the dry bones!  All He had to do was bring the other church into our midst!  Just as Jerusalem would be normal nearly all year, the three annual feasts would bring men, women, children and animals from all around the country to worship God.  The city went from normal to overflowing in only a few days!  The flocks greatly multiplied because people would bring their animals to sacrifice to God.  This is what I wanted for our church—from normal to bustling and overflowing with only a vote from the churches!  
But God had other plans.  The vote did not pass, and our churches did not merge.  Bitterness deepened.  Hopelessness appeared.  God had to remind me many, many times that He is sovereign, and in control even of church votes.  
And He continued to speak to me through Ezekiel.  I admit, it did take me a few months to return to praying from this passage.  He reminded me that when I first read the words, “This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them:  to increase their people like a flock,” He had allowed me to pray for Him to increase our people like a flock.  But He hadn’t told me He’d let me choose HOW.  So I continue to pray.
Two years later, the children’s Sunday morning lesson was Ezekiel 37.  Reading and meditating on the passage for the lesson, the Holy Spirit showed me important details I had missed:  the bones revived, and came to life, but in steps!  First, Ezekiel prophesied, then the bones came together, then sinews came over the bones, then skins covered the insides.  But they were not breathing.  God and Ezekiel both spoke again before God’s breath came into the bodies and “they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”
Amazed, I could only kneel down, cry and worship God, because I easily could see steps He had taken in our church family.  We are now united, as if the bones have come together.  He is healing our minds and hearts and spirits like the sinews.  He is setting up new church structure and methods.  He has shifted authorities in the body.  And He is even adding young, new life to our fellowship!  I look forward to worshipping Him with others again!  
Ezekiel and the skeletons continue to remind me tangibly of what God is doing spiritually and physically in our church body.  Praise to God, who continues to work in our church body, and who does not give up His work in me, either.  I hope and pray to trust Him more tomorrow and each day after, because He and His plans are trustworthy.

~Heather Neumann
 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Corinth's Surgery


Of course I am biased. I am her mother. She is my first-born. But I really do think she is adorable. She is quirky, friendly, super-smart, and beautiful. Where we live, she's like a little 4-year-old movie star. People always want photos with her! I suppose a bit of my pride of being her mother came from the fact that I really thought she was a gorgeous tiny girl. Then, 1 week before her third birthday, her eyes suddenly and drastically crossed. On Monday, her eyes were normal. On Wednesday, I mentioned to my husband that something didn't look right with her eyes. And on Friday, her eyes were completely crossed. She and her dad travelled to the capital to get an evaluation of what was going on. She came home 5 days later wearing glasses. 

1 1/2 years later was last week. My sweet 4 1/2 year old had surgery on both of her eyes to correct the lazy eye. The doctor is great and the surgery went well. What I didn't know is that her lazy eye is caused by two things. First, the muscles in both eyes were too tight. The doctor loosened them and fixed that issue. The second issue is that she is extremely farsighted. A normal farsightedness (is that a word?!) for her age is up to a 3. She is a 5 on one side and a 5.5 on the other. For that reason, her eyes work so hard to compensate for the farsightedness that they cross. With glasses, this issue will also be fixed.

Please pray for Corinth. She's a super awesome girl. She doesn't think anything of wearing glasses. However, people are sometimes very unkind. Especially where we live, people often ask why she has glasses, what's wrong with her eyes, what happened, etc. I know they don't mean any harm, but I never want Corinth to feel sad. I still think she is absolutely beautiful! God is good. He makes different people in different ways, and I want to value and celebrate the ways God has made Corinth unique. Love on her, pray for her, and say hi next time you see her!

 

The 50 States of 'Murica

Well, my goal was to do a blog a week. So, now that it's February, I guess I should get started with the year! 😛
 
Before we headed back to America, I wrote the tourism office of all of the 50 states of America, explaining that we live abroad and I was hoping to teach my kids a bit about America while we were stateside, and would love any fun stuff they could send us. We got lots of great responses. I also let them know that I'd write about what they sent, so here we go!
 
P.S. Get excited about a guest blogger coming soon! (I'm excited!)
 
All of these states sent us maps, magazines of tourist destinations, and/or brochures about state parks:
 
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
On top of that, these awesome states went above and beyond with some extra goodies! (Starting top left in the picture)
 
  • Kansas- Good job Sunflower state! Fun things for my kiddos, including a series of 'Fun Facts' pamphlets, Fun Folder, 2 coloring books with crayons, and a package of sunflower seeds.
  • Delaware- Someone put extra effort into printing out the kid-friendly info for their state and put it into a fun packet for easy-reading.
  • New York- Activity Book, Trivia Book, bumper sticker, and 2 I<3NY buttons. Score!!!
  • North Dakota- Fun poster that looks like a license plate.
  • Mississippi- Postcards. Corinth and Noah will love sending these to friends!
  • Wyoming- Bookmarks from a bookmark program their state did- cute!
  • Maryland- A series of pamphlets on major historical events that happened in Maryland. Nicely done.
  • Missouri- More postcards they'll enjoy sending!
  • Wyoming- Fun, retro-style bumper stickers (one of which my husband claimed and put on his journal before the kids even got to see the goods).
  • Nebraska- Another fun postcard!
Last, but opposite of least, is the great state of my birthplace. And not just because it is my birthplace, but because they are genuinely awesome people (every citizen, actually!). Way to go
 
OKLAHOMA!!!
 
(Boomer!) Not only does Oklahoma obviously have awesome graphic designers, but they sent a bajillion pamphlets for fun stuff to do in Oklahoma! You should go, and say hi to all of my extended family while you're there!
 
 
Thank you to all of the states who participated. Go do fun things wherever you live- there is LOTS of world to see! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Awesomeness in America

My prayer before we came home is that I would not make America an idol in my heart and in how I talk around my husband and my kids. We have been back for 1 week now and, while I think it has successfully not become an idol, I must admit that being home has been awesome! Here are some highlights (in no particular order)!

1. The backie garden. This is what Noah calls the backyard about 100 times a day when he asks to go out and it is GREAT! I love letting them go play outside and run around without fear of anything. Corinth didn't want to go the first day because she was afraid of the monkeys. She told Gran, "we can't go outside because monkeys might come." After Gran convinced her we don't have monkeys, she was so happy to play outside. It's GREAT!

2. Church. Kyle and I were admittedly a bit nervous about being thrown back into church after being in such a different world for so long, but it was wonderful. Seeing people from my childhood church and getting lots of hugs, seeing my mom sing in the choir, singing old songs I grew up singing, and hearing my hubby preach. All great things!

3. Being around family. Nothing like it, and will always be the thing I miss most about living abroad and the thing I love the most about being home.

4. The public library. Its total brain candy for everyone in the family!

5. Packaged food. Now, I would not generally consider myself lazy, but I can prepare a meal (I intentionally did NOT use the word 'cook') in like 15 minutes by opening packages and warming them up, and I find it strangely exciting. In a lazy sort of way. :-)

6. The playground. I love walking down the street and watching my kids play at the park. I feel so much like a mom (in a good way!) with 2 kids imagining on the playground and a baby strolling in a stroller. Heart. Full.

7. Running. I LOVE RUNNING!!!! And I can go without my phone and before the break of dawn and not be fearful. It's great! (But, after not running the last several months of pregnancy, I'm quite sore...)

8. People. They are so nice! The lady in the refrigerated section of Walmart is nice. The people letting me go before them while driving are nice. The librarian is nice. The checkout girl at the grocery store is nice. The toll-tag lady is nice. Pretty much every person I've interacted with is nice. Pretty much every American is nice. Right?! :-)

9. There are Indian people everywhere!!! I mean EVERYWHERE!!! I wore a kurta on Sunday and when I was at Costco a worker asked me why I was wearing his country's clothing. I told him I live there, and ended up having a 10 minute conversation with him in Hindi. It was so fun!

10. Driving. Glorious! I don't even mind that I'm driving a broken, 20 year old, total high-wasted-jeans-mom minivan. I'm rollin'.

Thanks for reading! Tune in for more soon!
 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

I live in Bible times!

We live in a country that is developing. We live in a city that is NOT. It is stuck, and the people here kind of like it that way- in fact, most people in the city consider it "preserving the ancient culture." Because of that, I could make a list of literally hundreds of things I hate about where we live. I have often thought about making this list, but God has somehow kept me from doing so. However, there are also many things that are good about the city not advancing, one of which is that, after living here for 3 years, I understand the Bible so much more. For so many reasons. I understand the stories about people having their feet washed upon arrival into a home because my feet really are that dirty when I get to people's houses sometimes. I understand what the place where Jesus was born was like because I walk by similar cattle stalls on the way to my friends' homes. I understand the men casting their nets, because I see it every time we go to the river, which is part of why our city is famous. I understand the Samaritans and outcasts because the caste system is so prevalent in our area. I understand the familial situation where the wife, often very young (15-18 even) lives with her in-laws in a strange, new land, very far from her family. I understand the temple Pharisees, though the idol worshipped inside is different here than in the temple of Biblical times. I understand the call to take care of the widowed and poor because nearly every time I go out, I pass by beggars asking for food or money. I am sometimes able to help, and sometimes only able to give a smile of hope and God's love. I understand every verse that refers to sowing, reaping, harvesting, planting, etc. because much of our work is in villages, and our friends in those places are farmers whose lives depend on the crops that they reap. The scenes of the Bible come to life as I read them, because oftentimes I can put my local community right into the story and picture it playing out. This may not seem of much importance to you, but I'm very thankful that God has opened my eyes in this way. I may have many things I don't like about where I live, but I get to understand God's word in a way I never could have otherwise, and for that, I am thankful. God's methods are funny sometimes, but I'll take the blessing any way I can get it! :-)
 
 
 
 

Ruthie's Birth Story


My birth story: Ruthie Grace Ferguson

It seems that each successive pregnancy is more difficult (unenjoyable) than the previous. With Corinth, my feet were SUPER swollen, but I was active the entire pregnancy, ran until I was 8 months pregnant, and climbed the tallest mountain in Texas at 7 ½ months. I actually enjoyed being pregnant! With Noah, I had super bad heartburn, but nothing much more to speak of. With Ruthie, I had increasingly painful contractions starting at 28 weeks until I birthed at 39 weeks, and a pain in my side that was possibly more painful that birth itself. Really. I was SO ready to have her! Here is Ruthie’s birth story. If these weird you out, there is an X in the top right corner of your screen, and you’re welcome to click on it! I love reading others’ birth stories, and I want to record my own so that I can remember them as they actually happened, not as I morph them as time goes by. Enjoy!

Because I have been in so much pain for so long, I was ready to do anything possible to have a precious baby on my outside instead of my inside. I scheduled an appointment for Tuesday morning to have my membranes stripped, to basically get my labor started a little. But, Monday, I felt super convicted that I wasn’t trusting in God’s timing, so I changed my appointment to when it was supposed to be, which was Wednesday. The doctor had already told me she would strip my membranes at 39 weeks, but I was previously being so impatient that I wasn’t going to wait even the extra day. Then, God reminded me that His plans are best, convicted my heart, and made me wait a bit longer. Instead, our whole family went Tuesday and explored some ancient historical monuments (forts) in Delhi, had some lovely tea and a good lunch, and fed carrots to deer in a beautifully treed park. It was totally exhausting, but a good last outing as a family of four, plus Mimi!

Wednesday morning, Kyle and I went to my appointment at 10 am, and the doctor checked on everything. Baby’s head was down. I was 50% effaced and at 3 cm, so the doctor stripped my membranes, and told me we’d probably be back later that afternoon or evening. She had also done this before Noah was born, and I had him the next day, so I knew it wouldn’t be a super long time. Pretty much as soon as we came home my contractions were more ‘real’ and I knew the process had begun. We had lunch, put the kids to bed for nap time, and watched something on the computer for a bit while we waited. Kyle kept saying, “do we need to go the hospital?! You’re making faces…” I was in pain, but I really wanted to watch the rest of the show and say goodbye to the kids before we left. J After they woke up, I cuddled both of them one last time, told them I loved them, gave them hugs and kisses, and then Kyle and I made our way to the hospital.

We arrived about 3:30 pm. When we got there, everything went so quickly because they doctor kept telling the staff, “this is her 3rd baby! She’s going to deliver very quickly!” (A little background info- the hospital we delivered at is a very nice hospital for here, and only very well-to-do Indian families deliver here. Also, well-to-do families in India only have 1 or MAYBE 2 babies, and they question why you would ever have more. We even found out that most Indian insurance companies, including the company that insures the hospital staff, only covers expenses for 2 children, and doesn’t provide anything for 3rd children (or 4th, 5th, etc). That said, it is pretty rare to have a mother delivering her 3rd baby.) So, the staff were all running around getting everything in order so quickly. In my head, I was thinking, “I’m not a doctor, but I’ve done this before, and I know I’m nowhere near pushing this baby out…” but I kept my mouth shut! One of the doctors said, “okay, I’m going to break your water now!” and I was like, “wait! I want an epidural and I want it BEFORE you break my water!” Then, things slowed down, thank goodness!

I’ve heard some bad things about epidurals in India, and had my first Indian baby without any meds, so I was pretty afraid of the epidural, but it went great! After I was wheeled to the Operating Room (here called the Operation Theatre), the anesthesiologist explained everything very well to me, and then asked me if I had any questions. I said, “have you done this before?” I think he might have found that a (tiny) bit funny, and replied, “I’ve been doing this for 15 years.” “You don’t look old enough to have been doing this for 15 years…” “I’m 40.” “…you don’t look 40…” Okay, glad we got that all cleared up. At least I knew I wasn’t his first patient ever. ;-) He actually did an awesome job, and I had no complications at all! After that, another doctor came in to break my water. While she was prepping everything, she was telling me that now was the time to pray to God because God always listens to a pregnant woman’s prayers. This doctor is Muslim, while my main delivering doctor is Hindu. I told her, “actually I’ve been praying non-stop today, and reminding myself of a verse in the Bible. Can I tell it to you?” “Sure!” she said. “’You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is fixed on you, because He trusts in you.’ I have great peace right now, because I know that my God is with me, and that He loves me so much.” She seemed to really appreciate that, and I was so glad to God that He was giving me opportunities to share His love with people even during labor! Also, I was really believing it! I had so much more peace throughout this entire labor process than with my two others, and I know it’s because I was trusting Him who is able to be trusted! God is good! Okay- so, the doctor broke my water, and it was like the floodgates were opened. They filled 1 entire container, about the size of a 5 gallon basin, and then had to run to find another one because it was still flowing. The doctor and nurse just kept saying, “there’s so much fluid!”

After that, I was wheeled back from the OR to the delivery room. Kyle was there, and asked me how I was feeling, to which I responded, “great!” Man, let me just say- I’ve had 2 babies with epidurals and 1 baby naturally, and epidurals are AWESOME! While I “relaxed,” the nurses pumped me full of 4 bags of fluids because I was really dehydrated (probably from exerting myself too much while we were out the day before). Then, the doctor gave some Pitocin to increase the strength of the contractions. While inducing drugs isn’t my preferred method, I was pretty sure I would have to do this, since both previous deliveries also needed it. My body contracts, but not effectively enough to push the baby down. So, because I knew that, I was okay with the Pitocin. After that, I started getting more pains, and after laboring a while, I started pushing at 8:30 pm. Her head came out fairly easily, but her shoulders got stuck. Then, with a strong push and the doctor pulling as hard as she could, the shoulders came out, tearing me quite badly. I didn’t think about it at the time, because there was my baby! 5 pushes in 5 minutes and Ruthie Grace was born! She was completely silent as they took her to get her APGAR and get cleaned up, and I kept asking, “why isn’t she crying?!” Longest moment of the entire process was waiting for that cry. Then it came, and my heart was so full! Kyle went with Ruthie and the doctor helped me finish laboring. I even got brave and asked the nurses if I could see the placenta. Yep, just as disgusting as I imagined it. J While the nurses were taking care of Ruthie, Kyle came back in to check on me, and watched the doctor stitch me up. He said she used 3 sets of thread, each about a foot long, and that the tear looked incredibly painful and that the doctor did a really good job stitching me up. Again, so glad for the epidural. She considered it a “very bad tear,” and it took her about 30 minutes to stitch up everything.

After all of that, they brought my Ruthie to me and it was wonderful. The first time you hold your baby is simply wonderful. A total gift from God. This whole thing- motherhood, pregnancy, labor- is a gift from God. I have friends that have never experienced it, and friends that won’t ever get to again. I do not take it lightly that God blessed me in this way, and for that I am SO thankful to Him. Our God is SO good to us! Praise Him from whom ALL blessings flow!

Last bit- here’s how we chose her name!

Ruthie- means ‘friendship.’ I love the story of Ruth in the Bible, because it is full of devotion to God, providence from God, faithfulness (from and toward God) despite worldly circumstances, and God having a great plan for each life. I wanted a little less traditional than Ruth, so we put the ‘ie’ on, and I think it suits her well!

Grace- means ‘unmerited favor and love from God.’ We daily need to be reminded of God’s grace in our lives- how much he loves us, cares for us, provides for us, despite ourselves or anything that we can do. His love for us is so much greater than anything we could earn on our own.

 

Thanks for reading! Pray for Ruthie- that she would grow into a strong, healthy girl and someday woman who loves God and serves Him with her heart and life! To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Swimsuit Season!

Christian ladies, this is my appeal to you. Please read this with the mindset "she IS talking to me," not, "she must be talking about someone else." I could be talking to someone else, but just play it on the safe side! :-) 

I had Corinth at the beginning of May, and had all summer to be a stay at home mom, laying out by the pool with my baby sleeping in her car seat under the shade. I did it, and I loved it. And I wore my bikini to show off my "yep, that little baby is mine, and I can still wear a bikini" mindset. I even remember one lady telling me I looked so good that she couldn't believe I just had a baby. And it felt fabulous. 

Fast forward 3 1/2 years. I've lived in India for 2 1/2 years, in the most conservative city in a conservative country, where you are considered a scandelous, inappropriate woman if you wear: jeans, sleeveless shirts, a shirt not going down to you mid-thigh/knee, a scarf over your shirt, or anything showing you legs (or even ankles). I would probably be murdered if I wore a bikini here. (Not really, but you get the point!) And let me tell you, some days it drives me absolutely crazy! I'm sorry, but have you ever met a man who was led astray by seeing someone's ANKLES??? Or SHOULDERS??? Good grief. But the more I live here, the deeper respect I have for Indians' modesty. It is not oppressive. It is Biblical. I know that about 5 of you who read this live in India and understand this already, but I'm mostly writing this for my American ladies, so let's bring it back to the good ole U.S.A. 

Summer is coming. I know you're getting "swimsuit ready." I already see you wearing your shorty short shorts on Facebook. While hanging out with church friends. At a church function. In a church. Actually, that's why I'm writing this post. My appeal through this blog is to all women, but most specifically to married, Christian women. 

Please think of what you are wearing with this mindset: "Is what I am wearing something that I would like my husband to see another woman wearing? Would it bother me if my husband were looking at another woman wearing what I'm wearing?" We, especially your Christian brothers, do not need to know what 90% of your body looks like while 10% is covered up by a swimsuit. We don't need to see you in shorts that you aren't comfortable sitting in or bending over in because they are THAT short. We don't need to see you in clothes so tight and clingy that nothing is left to the imagination, if you know what I mean. Save it for your hubby at home. When you're out, represent Christ with what you are wearing. If in doubt, cover up more. No one will look down on you for being too modest. Be someone that women are comfortable being around (when their husbands are with them), someone that your children will use as a measure of what they want when they grow up (for girls, to be like Mommy, for boys, to marry someone like Mommy). And be for Christ an example that is above reproach and a right representation of His gospel. 

I've still got a body that I would feel comfortable wearing a bikini in. I just don't have a mindset that would feel comfortable anymore. I'm okay being more modest if it means saving brothers from temptation, sisters from jealousy (ha!), and lost souls from hearing the message of salvation because what I speak doesn't match up with how I live. 

Food for thought- chew on it.