Friday, November 24, 2017

Time on Earth

"Work on your relationship with God, and everything else will fall into place."
That's the biggest word that stuck out to me when we attended the Your Life Speaks event in Topeka, IN, where Nathan Harmon shared with many youth groups his struggles when he was younger and where his hope came from to be freed from drugs, alcohol, self harm, and suicidal thoughts.  What a powerful testimony to youth of focusing on God, and when doing that, their life will fall in line as they seek HIM and HIS plan for them.  So much that night spoke to me as a part of my journey that I've been going through over the last year.

We are given so much time, here on earth, to live out our purpose.  Are we actively pursuing God's plan for us or our own?  What if His plan looks different than ours?  I've been pondering thoughts for a couple months, trying to sort them all out and piece them back together.  Focus on God, and He will make the negative and bad flee and will rise up the good and blessings as we draw closer to Him.  If you're struggling with alcohol, don't strive to not drink.  Strive daily to become closer to God and serve Him, and He will take the urge away as you are drawing closer to Him.  You become filled with His goodness instead of the desires within your flesh.  It can apply to many areas of life.  HE can fill voids, bring healing, and strengthen areas that have room for improvement all by focusing on Him.  That takes life out of our hands and puts it into His, which is where He desires each of us to be. 

 We all know that there is strength in numbers.  What if we actively pursue Him in numbers.  Even if it's just within our family?  Do husbands and wives pursue God's calling as a couple?  Do parents pursue God's calling for their children?  Might sound strange, but let me explain.  If we see a gift or talent that our children have that can be used for the kingdom, shouldn't we encourage and help them pursue that as a way to minister to others?  Instead we let them experience many things, that they choose they want to do, and we bounce around from activity to activity, outside the family unit, with parents separated trying to support each child.  Separation.  That's what the enemy loves in a family and uses for his purpose.  When a family isn't keeping God focused, then it allows the enemy to creep in and steal peace, faith, joy, contentment, a bond, and many other things.  Are we pressing toward the mark of the higher calling or pressing toward our own mark?  Are we teaching them to press toward the higher calling or their own satisfaction and achievements?  I love seeing youth serving together and ministering together.  In our family, we've incorporated our gifts into ministry as a family.  Some of us do music, give food, send encouraging cards, plan kid's activities, etc.  We all work together at serving.  We take our children along and be the example of  serving in our gifts.  This keeps the family together, pressing toward the higher calling and seeing results of our faithfulness to God.  Such a greater reward than personal achievements. 

Don't misunderstand me.  If God is calling you or your child to a particular activity, then He must want to use you in that area.  Don't get caught up in your or your child's glory and successes, but stay focused on God's plan.  God has recently been showing me this in my own life.  When I reach out to a lady that I know I can encourage, what do I do when she doesn't respond to me or rejects me?  Do I go cry, because she doesn't want to be my friend?  The Father has opened my eyes and mind in keeping my response focused on His plan.  If God's plan is to use me in her life, then I want to pursue her.  If His plan is to use someone else, then I need to step aside without sulking and feeling rejection and allow someone else to be obedient to what He wants them to do.  I don't want to waste time and energy on having a pity party for myself.  When we put the focus on ourselves, it's completely taken off of Him and becomes our plan, our agenda, our purpose, and our own desires.  Don't let those get in the way of living out HIS plan. 

We are finding that as we serve alongside our children, we are teaching them respect for others, team work, putting others first, real life pain and struggles that we can help and pray people through, how to serve as one body, putting aside personal beliefs and/or opinions.  When we serve together as a couple, we are finding that we are growing together beyond what we imagined.  We are finding that the bond of marriage grows stronger, not allowing room for the enemy to creep in.  The areas that we longed to be changed in the other, just naturally does because God is our focus, and HE is changing that within us as our relationship with HIM grows. 

The song that says, "You won't relent until You, have it all", rings within my mind and heart as I desire to turn it around and express to Him that I won't relent loving Him until I've reached the mark.  As we've been in more and more contact with hurting people needing and wanting change, we know we can't stop running after His plan, because what if He wants to use us to reach one more person we can pull out of the enemy's pit of drugs, alcohol, suicidal thoughts, stress from the demands of life and being successful, and every day struggles of being a faithful follower of Jesus.  We don't want to miss it!!!

Our family isn't perfect!  We are still learning, being disciplined, growing, and hopefully taking strides forward of making changes for the good.  Some things that we've chosen to make a regular part of our lives are:

~Family worship
~Discussing Scripture (even if it's one verse)
~Pray blessings over the children every night
~Encourage open eyes to see who needs help
~Not forgetting the importance of the elderly
~Using gifts to bless others (even when it's uncomfortable)
~Expressing daily what we are thankful for

I want to encourage you to serve together as a family.  Decide what you want your family to represent to those around you, then set out to live that way, bringing your children up with hearts focused on serving and loving in that manner.  Here are some ways you can do that, teaching, instructing, and serving alongside your spouse and children:

~Make and send cards to the sick or shut ins
~Prepare and deliver food to someone with a health challenge, new parents, or elderly
~Volunteer to watch a single mom's children
~Visit a nursing home
~Help at a homeless shelter or food bank
~Collect coats for a winter coat drive
~Rake leaves for someone
~Shovel snow for someone
~Be friendly to neighbors
~Smile at everyone you make eye contact with
~Pray together for certain needs and watch them be answered
~Walk your neighborhood as a family and pray for those who live in each home
~Talk over the dinner table of ways you served or encouraged that day. 

Maybe you can use some of these ideas in your own family or come up with others that fit your family and where you are at in your journey.  As Christ followers we can get so complacent in our every day life that we miss the real battle going on for each soul out there.  It's real.  No matter how much we go to church, read our Bible, pray before every meal and at bedtime, or sing a hymn or chorus in praise, there is still a battle to take over the souls that are doing that.  The fight is real.  Take it seriously, brothers and sisters.  We wrestle not with flesh and blood but against principalities.  It takes numbers to fight for each other.  It takes intentional living at following God's plan to have victory over sin and darkness.  Won't you join us?  Won't you step your faith up a notch and get out of your comfort zone to reach the hurting and broken, or to reach those that HE is calling you to reach?  Maybe it's the widow next door.  Maybe it's the orphan child that lives with grandparents.  Maybe it's a couple from church that needs encouragement.  Maybe it's the drunkard within your own family.  Maybe it's your children that need to have the continued teaching and example of godly living.  It doesn't matter who it is!  Be warriors and fight the battle with boldness, with His strength, with relentless love for the Almighty, the Creator of all human kind and with love for all people. 

All of the photos were taken at the community event with Your Life Speaks and the Night of Community Worship at Prairie Heights.  Our family has been ever so blessed to be a part of both of these events.  Reaching out and serving our community in the giftings He's blessed us with to bless Him and others.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Feast of Tabernacles 2017- Pokagon State Park

Another year of celebrating with friends the wonderful feast of tabernacles or sukkot.  Sukkot in hebrew means "booths", which describes the aspect of this feast of dwelling in temporary tents for all seven days of the festival.  Leviticus 23:33-36 and Deuteronomy 16:13 talk about the feast and what it entails.  Further into Leviticus 23 it speaks of the offerings that were required during the feast.  There are always lessons learned or challenges faced during Sukkot that help us grow as individuals or as a group.  This year I really felt some heart tugs in regards to how I serve my fellow brothers and sisters and those surrounding me.  Not how I do the act of serving but how my attitude is when I do it.  What am I offering.  During this feast they were to bring extra offerings in addition to their normal offering.  What was I bringing in addition to what I was already offering?  

Deuteronomy 16:14 "Be joyful at your festival- you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns."  God wasn't simply directing this to jews only.  He even included the widows in their town to be celebrating this.  This is why we keep this feast and celebrate it.  Besides, in Zechariah 14 it talks prophetically about this feast happening again.  Some how our brains can't wrap around the idea that it happened in bible times, He will have it happen later on according to the prophetic writing in Zechariah, but we shouldn't be doing it now?  It just doesn't make sense to us, so we observe this feast and practice the joyful celebration of our King coming (this just might be the actual time of Jesus' birth too if you look into it a little) to dwell with us as we camp out in temporary dwelling places.  After all, isn't this earth our temporary home?  I sure don't plan on being here forever.  Waiting for that day when HE comes back for us to tabernacle with us for eternity.  

Every year it looks a little different for us as far as where we are and who we are camping with.  Every year is a blessing no matter who we're with because it's the joy and the remembrance of Him being with us and rejoicing in the blessings that He pours out on us.    Here are pictures from this year's celebration.  We camped with 5 families, but we had so many other families trickle in to visit, study, eat, play, sing, and enjoy each other's fellowship.  If any of our readers are interested in this feast and keeping it with us, let us know.  We'll keep you posted in the coming year.  

You can watch Alegra's vlog here of our week or continue to scroll through my view of the pics she took.  :)   
We all love some good hikes during the week.

This is one of our family's offering.  We bring harvest from our garden and cook up a big pan of deliciousness that everybody helps prepare.  It's one of our favorite things during the week, working together from the bounty of our harvest and feasting together on it.

The children played lots of games all week.

We visited another group up in Marshall, MI who also observe this feast.  A meal of chicken and veggies over the fire and peach cobbler and ice cream were quite satisfying along with the singing and Scripture story.  It's always a treat to visit the Twelve Tribes community and partake in fellowship together.

The first and last day of the feast are to be high holy days or a special Sabbath.  On the regular Sabbath, the families enjoyed doing their own thing, children played, and we had a long time friend and teacher from Valpo come share a teaching he has done in the past called Moshiach (Messiah) in the Feasts.

We took the children halfway through the teaching to make graham cracker sukkahs.  It's always a fun activity for the children.

A group of us went horseback riding at the park.  It was a gorgeous morning to ride and stroll the trails on horse back.

We loved having friends come hang with us.  
The Danberry and Ferris families came to enjoy a hike and visit.

Lots of 4 square happened.

Alegra had fun doing a photo shoot with her friends.

There was plenty of love to go around with all the little ones to keep track of and care for. 

We had some random people end up in our camp for some medical needs.  We hoped that we were the servants Yahweh needed us to be for them.  We had various health issues within camp- poison ivy, blisters from walnut juices, bee stings that kept us all caring for one another and each other's children.  Those things bring us together.  We had meals together.  We played together.  We sang together.  And we sat around enjoying each other's company, encouragement, and gifts that they could offer during the week. 

We each had offerings that were brought to the table that weren't planned ahead.  The paramedic in the group was of great help to our group and others in the campground.  Different ladies had ointments and oils that came in handy for children and dogs who were in need.  Ladies who opened their arms to hold little ones so mamas could shower or prepare food or put other little ones to bed.  Knowledge of RVs came in handy for those who needed help.  Bringing together the food we had prepared always made for more than enough food for us and others visiting.  Even the spilling of popcorn all over the ground resulted in a fun opportunity for the children to see how an accident can be used for the good and as a blessing as they put the kernels from the ground in a paper bowl to cook over the fire.  What delight they had as they watched the kernels pop all over the place. 

A week of joy.  A week of rejoicing.  It went too fast.  We didn't get everything in we wanted to.  But the love and celebrating was filling and hopefully glorifying to our Saviour.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

And the Trumpet shall sound

Sometimes we go into feast days/weeks prepared and ready for all that the Father has for us, and other times, we go into them unprepared and just barely being ready to participate.  This year we didn't feel entirely prepared but open to what He wanted to show us through it.  Our hearts have been preparing but last minute preparations and gathering everyone up sometimes gets me. 

We usually celebrate the Feast of Trumpets with City on a Hill in Sturgis.  They start with a Mikvah (baptism) service, then continue celebrating at the house with food, dance, and games.  We've been going through such an amazing time spiritually right now, we were ready for whatever He wanted.  We went to the Mikvah not feeling the need to participate, but once I got there, I felt this huge urge to go into the water.  I typically prefer doing it with my husband's covering alongside me, but he wasn't planning on doing it, so I thought I'd just let it be.  Then Benaiah nudged him and said he wanted to to start a new chapter.  Then Alegra went to him and asked if he was going to because she felt like she needed to.  Sooo, right away I said, "Yeah, I'm supposed to also".  We often times think of baptism as being a one and done kind of thing, but Peter said, "Repent and be baptized".  We are continuously repenting for sins, sometimes daily, so why would it mean that we would only need baptized once.  We can often times think that it's just for making the decision to walk in faith, believing in Jesus as Saviour, and publicly demonstrating that through being immersed in water.  A mikvah was done for that and also for a renewing, cleansing, starting over, etc of life.  It also wasn't necessarily done with one person dunking another into the water but with a witness to their profession and action.     

 We started the time off with worship, then began taking turns, sharing why we decided to participate, then entered the water.  
 Some entered by themselves...

 Some entered as a family...

 Some entered as a first time profession of wrong in their life and wanting to be made new...

 Some entered, wanting to wash away the old and start over with whatever Yahweh has for them...

For me, I entered to continue my journey forward of walking and living for Him.  My spiritual growth has been so great this past year, but I know that there are things that are holding me back, that I'm not letting go of, that need to be gone in order for me to move forward in my growth and in serving and helping others.  I entered to be washed of those things that are holding me back.  I entered to be made clean, becoming wholly devoted to Him and the work He is calling me to for His kingdom.  
When someone finishes, the shofars blow, while some shout and cheer in joy of the cleansing that takes place in each heart.

The rest of the evening continues with food, fun, games, dance, and lots of fellowship.  It's all a reminder of when He will return, coming for us, His bride.  I want to be ready.  I want to be made new, clean and pure for my groom.  I rejoice that He will be coming one day for me.

Leviticus 23 speaks of the command to observe this feast.
Matt. 24 speaks of His return.
1 Thess 4 speaks of His return.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Moonlight arrived!

 We were so excited when our hereford, Rosie, gave birth to a heiffer, safe and sound.  We still were hoping for Iris to be pregnant, but the farmer was really having his doubts.  Then one evening he called me out to walk with him out in the pasture.  We walked out with the girls and he made Iris stand up.  Looks like a change in her udder.  We just might have another baby coming.

The very next day we were all busy about with jobs.  I sent Benaiah out to take some food garbage to chickens when he came back in and said, "Uh, Dad, I think Iris has a baby out there".  Our first reaction was to ask him if he was telling the truth.  Rosie and Iris look similar but that boy knows his animals and keeps good track of the farm right alongside his dad.  Then Josiah said that he thought he saw one too.  We scurried around getting boots on and headed out to the field.  Sure enough, a sweet little bundle lay out there next to her mama, Iris.

 We missed it by a short bit because after birth was still hanging out and there was still a lot of cleaning that needed done.  Iris sure did a great job and took care of her new baby.  Iris was the one who was always nannying the other calves when they were born, not wanting to leave them by themselves in the field when their mama's would go up to the barn.  She has been such a great mom, staying right close to her precious, white faced babe.  Since the other white faced calf was named Eclipse I guess the children decided to go with sky names and named this one Moonlight.  

The farmer's tally for the summer was 1 bull calf and 4 heiffers, though one was still born.  He is quite happy with the ending of his calving season.  Right now we have a bull with our girls hoping they'll get pregnant to be ready for next spring.  The new mamas will need some time, but the angus will be ready.  One evening Jonathon asked me to walk out in the field with him to look at his cows.  We walked through the field hand in hand talking of how happy this would all make his dad.  How he would love seeing the cows back on the farm.  How he would love seeing the children on the farm.  How he would love seeing the children love the farm, the animals, the equipment.  We feel so blessed to be here, raising our children like this.  We walked through the pasture with our boots on, tears in our eyes, and grateful hearts for this life that we live.  The animals are a blessing!  Our children are a blessing!  Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!  Our hearts are full!!!!