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Through It All

praise himGod’s promise is that He will be with us through the trials and fires of life. Not that He will keep us from them, nor remove us from them.

This is a promise I believe all too often we fail to remember. Instead, we resist the struggles, question whether God cares, and believe lies concerning God.

In our three years in Nepal, I’ve seen the Lord be with us through so much.

He was with our family through two major devastating earthquakes in 2015. He was with me for the weeks and months following when I struggled to sleep at night out of fear that another would strike. His Word comforted my heart, strengthened my resolve, and enabled me to press on.

The Lord was with us through the unofficial blockade with India in 2016. When all cooking gas, petrol, food items were unavailable because of the blockade. He was with us as we got creative with our resources, became thankful for the small things, and enabled us to endure to the end.

This past year the Lord has been with us through changes in our ministry, and has enabled us to seek Him and know His will as we have navigated our course.

The Lord has been with me through the homeschooling of our children, through the sickness of our kids in a foreign land, through the trials and problems we’ve encountered living here.

He has not made our life here a bed of roses, giving us everything we want simply because we obeyed Him to come.

He has not removed us from the trials or problems living here brings forth.

Yet, through it all, He has been with us!

What a misconception we have when we believe the lie that Christians won’t struggle. When we believe the lies that say God owes us. When we believe the lies that the enemy feeds us in the midst of trials, saying God doesn’t care.

The God we serve, has not promised we won’t encounter trials. He has not promised that we will not suffer.

In fact the opposite is true. For Jesus made it clear when He said, just as they persecuted Him, they will persecute us.

Paul relished the trials and struggles of life, not because he was crazy, but because they drew Him closer and closer the Lord.

I do not know the trials you face right now, but God does. Your trials and struggles are different from mine, and yet we face them.

And the truth is, no matter what they are, God is with us through them. Though you may not recognize Him, He is there. Though you may reject His help, He is there. Though you may not understand, He is there.

So I encourage you to reach out to Him. Allow His presence to be your strength. Allow His joy to fill your weary heart. Allow His grace to carry you through!

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.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you.

(Isaiah 43: 2-5)

Being Thankful

children-on-stepsI just needed to make a quick run to pay the electric. So after lunch I stood waiting for the public transport. A new looking bus I’d never seen before pulled up, and there standing at the door, holding the money was a young boy (probably 7 or 8).

This wasn’t the first time I’d seen a young kid running the door of the bus, (calling out where the bus is headed, and taking money when people get off.) But this one tugged on my heart.

He was filthy, and small, and all I wanted to do was take him home and give him a good scrub, feed him til his belly was full, get him an education, and tell Him of the One who loves Him most.

All such small things, that most kids receive daily, but not all.

Later after paying the electric bill, I was walking to the main road to catch a tempo, when I saw an even younger boy, walking along the dirt path. He had stopped to readjust the large sack he was carrying upon his back. And once again, my heart was torn. The bag was bigger than he was, and yet he hoisted it upon his shoulder, and continued to walk.

Sights like these, unfortunately, are far from uncommon here.

That night as I related these things to my family as we sat down for dinner, my eyes teared up. As I reminded myself and my kids how much we have to be thankful for. Food to eat, beds to sleep in, clothes to wear, even education.

I told my kids, that I’m sure those kids would jump at the chance to get an education, and yet they are no allowed. Simply because their families can’t afford to buy the supplies and uniforms. Or because their families need them to work, so they can have food that night.

The truth is, we all have things in which we can be thankful for. Though we may not have the latest gadget, we don’t all get the fancy vacations, or dress in the latest fashions. This is all trivial to what most experience each day.

So, today, I encourage you as the Lord encouraged me, to count your blessings, and name them one by one.  We all have reason to give thanks!

Citizens of the Kingdom

4th of julyI love the 4th of July. For me growing up it was BBQ’s, swimming, family, and fireworks. My mom went out of her way to make red, white and blue desserts from cool whip, strawberries, and blueberries, and we sat outside until late at night, watching the fireflies and fireworks.

Now, years later I find myself on this 4th of July living in Central Asia, where most have never heard of such holiday nor do they care. Because we have 3 kids of our own, we still attempt to make it into a special day. Inviting friends over, barbecuing chicken, making cold salads, and even making our own flag cake with a prized bag of red, white, and blue m & m’s we’d saved for today.

But there is something that living overseas has taught me. A lesson learned again and again, this world is not my home. See, for our family we don’t really fit. We are that odd puzzle shape that doesn’t quite fit in that picture or this picture. The USA is our home country, a country we love, but Nepal is our host country, which we also love.

I read an article recently, God Bless America! (and other dangerous prayers), which I could totally identify with as well.

In this article the author said, “As followers of Christ, our great desire is that he would be made great. We desire that his greatness would be known everywhere, not our country’s. We want the banner of our God to be raised up, that his Love would be seen, and that all those who see it will run to Him and be saved.”

As citizens of the Kingdom, we should celebrate and cherish and love the global Church, the Bride, wherever she may be found. Her flag is our flag.

And she is not just in America. She’s in Algeria and Russia and Brazil. There are millions in the Kingdom who speak Arabic and Urdu and Mandarin. Our fellow citizens live in the jungles of the Congo, along the Amazon (and in Nepal).

And everyone who’s not already a part of the Kingdom of God? Well, we want them to know they’re invited! So may God bless Algeria and Afghanistan and Argentina. And may God bless America!

So on this 4th of July we celebrate our home country, and the freedoms we have because of her.  And we celebrate the independence so many brave soldiers fought for. But we also celebrate our “true home” country because we are all simply passing through, no matter where we may live today. We also celebrate the freedom we have in Christ. A freedom that is available to all people regardless of race, color, or nationality.

For one day we will all be home, and it will be a joyous day as we all fall to our knees singing the Lord’s praise in a host of different languages!

 

 

The most dreaded thing….

visaVisa’s and immigration, two things I would safely say most expats despise and dread. There is just something about having to jump through hoops to remain in a place you came to serve. You’d think, they’d be more welcoming, somehow seeking to make it easier. Yet, that is far from the experience we have had thus far in our life overseas.

As we drive to immigration, my stomach feels sick, as I imagine the worst. Visa denied, leave immediately! My palms sweat as we wait in line holding possibly every document they may or may not ask for.

Then when we get the new stamp, for however long it is good for, I can breathe freely. That is until we have to start jumping through hoops again.

As you can imagine, dealing with visas and visits to immigration are not easy or fun.For my husband, he is never it seems concerned. Somehow believing it will certainly all work out, it always has. And most usually he is right. But for me, the what if’s are suffocating.

I realized last night why this is such a difficult thing for me. Prior to coming to Central Asia, our family lived and loved Busan, South Korea. I could have lived there forever. We made plans for a furlough so my husband could complete his PhD and graduated, with intentions of return.

Yet, two weeks before our flight was to leave, we found out returning was not an option, and in haste packed, shipped and sold our things. Hastily saying goodbyes to people, we knew we’d probably never see again this side of Heaven.

It was a horrendous time, ripping my heart to shreds. When we arrived back to the States, I wanted to be anywhere but there. It is true what they say, reverse culture shock is worse than culture shock!

So, now when we deal with visas and have to go to immigration, I always have the worst case scenerio in mind. Making something simple hard!

Today once again we had to make our way to immigration to ask for an extension on our visa. This proved to be no easy task, we were even sent to the director’s office to get a signature.

Yet, one thing I was reminded of today is that our God is the most High God, and though we are seemingly helpless in situations such as these. In reality we are not. For though we may not know what to do, we rest our eyes on our Savior, who whispers, “Fear not!” And who fights on our behalf.

Tonight I can rest a little easier knowing we have our visa extension, and I can trust the Lord even more knowing that in the most difficult situations He is there. And not only is He there with us, He moves and works on our behalf.

What a mighty God we serve!

When it all seems meaningless…..

insigificant-lifeLast night as I lay in bed trying to go to sleep, the thought crossed my mind. Is it worth it all? As we begin to prepare for our furlough in a few months time, this it seems is a constant question.

We sold everything to come here, was it worth it?

We have to spend lots of money on visa’s to stay in country, and jump through beurocracy hoops to get visas. Is it worth it?

Our kids are missing out on “normal” life in the states, and are far from their grandparents who love them, is it worth it?

Flights for a family of 5 to return to the States are not cheap, is it worth it?

Serving those who sometimes take advantage of you and hurt you, is it worth it?

Struggling to learn a language, speaking like a five-year old, and seeking to understand what is being said. Is it worth it?

Being bone weary, stressed, and emotionally spent. Is it worth it?

Going home for a few months only to return and start again, is it worth it?

As I lay in bed and thought on these things, in my weary form of thinking, I wondered is it worth it or not?

Yet, the break of dawn brought about a fresh perspective. Especially as I opened God’s Word.

This morning I began reading about the fall of Solomon, and how his love of foreign women led him astray. Which turned his heart hard, and destroyed his relationship with the Lord. Also bringing upon his life the discipline of the Lord.

It was in the midst of this time that it is believed he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. A book that begins with talk of how meaningless life is.

As I read the first few chapters the Lord spoke to my heart clearly.

Yes, all of the above are meaningless if done for the wrong reasons. Yet, they hold great worth if they are done unto the Lord, and for His glory.

So, though the thought of packing, planning, preparing for our furlough can be wearisome, it is worth it.

Though finding someone to take care of things in our absence, and thinking upon the hoops of obtaining a visa upon our return make me nauseous, it is worth it.

Allowing our kids to experience life overseas, does lead them to miss out on things, but it also gives them experiences most never have, and it is worth it.

Having others take advantage of you hurts, but that’s okay in the long scheme of things, and it’s worth it.

Things are just that, things. And things can be replaced, so it is worth it.

Seeking to learn a difficult language, though tiresome is worth it.

Making the long trip home, despite the cost, is well worth it.

Living and serving here, in obedience to the Lord. Yea, it’s worth it.

It is all worth it if it is for the Lord.

So when you’re strugeling about your day, wondering if all you do is worth it, feeling it is simply meaningless. I encourage you as the Lord encouraged me. To see things afresh and anew from His perspective.

Make sure whatever it is you’re doing, you are doing for Him and for His glory. Then no matter what it is, it is worth it!

Satan longs to steal our joy, to make us want to quit. Yet, the Lord is right there with us telling us we can go on, and gives us the strength to do so.

Everything has meaning when done unto the Lord!

Embrace what God has called you to,surrendering it into His hands, and watch as He brings about beauty from the ashes!

Blessings from Nepal!

Trusting God Even When it’s Hard

mandylynncarpenter

How do we trust God when we can’t see the way?

How do we trust God when nothing makes sense?

When life seems to be spinning out of control?

When someone we love is sick or hurting, and we are helpless to help?

We all know trusting God is easy when life is good, when all is well in our worlds. Yet the true test of our trust is shown not in the good, easy times, but in the difficult.

Trusting God to do the impossible is easy to instruct others, but difficult to hold onto when you’re the one needing to believe.

Holding fast to the Lord seems painless until He is all we have to hold onto.

I think of the saints of old, and how they trusted God. Abraham trusted God with Issac. Joseph trusted God as he waited in prison to be remembered. David trusted God…

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When we miss out on what God has because we are afraid…

mandylynncarpenter

I still remember the fear, I had never done any evangelism before. Yet, here I was, a first year seminary student doing evangelism on the University of Memphis campus. I listened and learned as others in my group approached students hanging out after class. Then they said it was my turn. I was so afraid. I mean I knew God desired that I tell others about Him, I knew that these needed to hear the Good News. But, man was I afraid.

I could have gone running the other way or got my friend to take my place. Yet, if I had I would have missed out on what God had in store. For as I began to share the Gospel, the students listened respectively, but in the end basically said, thanks but no thanks and walked away. I was disappointed, but happy I had obeyed the Lord. But amazingly…

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When you long for Home..

homeWhere do you live? This is a question I get asked a lot, and it is also a question I’m never quite sure how to answer. Do I tell them where I live “here” or where I’m from “there?” It can get complicated even telling where we are from, because technically I’m from Mississippi and my husband is from Indiana. Yet, the last place we lived in the USA was Tennessee. You get the point, where are you from is a complicated question.

Since my husband and I married we have lived in 6 different homes, 3 different States and 2 different countries. All in the mater of 15 years. And bless their hearts, the same is true for our children, although the youngest certainly doesn’t remember all of these “homes.”

On the hard days here I will often find myself telling my husband I just want to go home. Which leads me to feel even worse because then I wonder well where is home? In all essence of the word… we are actually quite homeless. The last place we lived before coming here was my parents home. In a matter of months we will go on furlough and will once again live at my parents home and my husband’s family home. All before returning to our home here.

And though I know that this earth is not my home. I realize my true home is in heaven, and that we are just passing through. There is a huge part of me that longs for “home.” here.

Thankfully since moving here, we have remained in the same house and it has become home. My kids handprints are on the walls (to my dismay 🙂 ), the dog has dug holes in the yard, and the house has become ours.

Just the other day the house owner who lives in England was in town. He asked to come by to get some things he had left behind. I told him of course he could come, it was his home. And he smiled and said, no it is yours. He was of course being very kind, and I appreciated his words. Yet, I know that in reality, that house isn’t really ours.

When we were living in my parent’s basement before moving here, I couldn’t wait to have a place of my own once more. A place to hang curtains in the windows and decorate to my liking. The house we moved into was furnished, which meant I didn’t have a lot of say other than adding my own little touches here, but we have made it our own.

We painted my daughter’s room pink and the boys have decorated their rooms to their liking. It’s their space, their room. Since being here, we have thought a couple of times of moving houses, but every time I think of doing so shake my head no. Not because I love our house so much, but because it has become our place and starting over again doesn’t thrill me at all.

But what am I to do when I just want to go home? What are you to do? I think we have to daily remind ourselves of that heavenly home. I read a quote recently about the word missionary.. it said what is a missionary. It is a person who leaves their family for a short time, so that others may be with their families for eternity.

I have to remind myself why I’m here. And remember my call. Knowing that my heavenly home will well be worth it all.

So when I’m longing for home or for the familiar. I have to do things that are familiar like baking chocolate chip cookies, and watching hallmark movies via YouTube. Paying high prices for the taste of home. Drinking coffee at the coffee shop or even having a getaway to a nice hotel. Whatever it takes.

How about you? What do you do when you long for home? How do you cope with this? What do you do to make your home away from home your own? How do you help your kids grasp these things? Would love to hear from you!

The Not so Glamorous Life of the Missionary

insigificant-lifeFor about 6 weeks from Thanksgiving on through the first of the year, we had house guest from Australia. They were such a blessing to us. A team of 9 stayed for 2 weeks, 1 girl stayed 4 weeks and another girl stayed 6 weeks.

The two girls who stayed the longest and I had many discussions. One day I asked what surprised them most, and they were both quick to share their surprise of how I still had to do the normal, day-to-day life. Of course they realized this must be true, but somehow had not given it too much thought.

This is the not so glamorous life of the missionary, especially the wife/mom. The truth is life still happens. Clothes still need washed, food still needs cooked, medicine bought, bills paid, school work taught, homework helped with and the list could go on.

And the truth is, this not so glamorous work can seem insignificant. Just yesterday as I was up on the roof, hanging out the clothes to dry. I wondered to myself for like the hundredth time, what am I doing here. Am I really making an impact? Or is this all wasted effort and time?

I know the truth just as I’m sure you do when you ask such questions. That God is using my life, just as He is using yours. I realize that nothing is ever wasted in God’s eyes and that He is using me here in the life of others, in the life of my family and that He is using this land, these people to change me as well.

But the reality is we all still long for more. For many of us we want to be out their on the front lines EVERYDAY. We want our lives to COUNT BIG. We expect our everyday lives to read like one of the great missionary biographies. And when it doesn’t we are left wondering.

Yet, God has to remind me again and again He is there in the day-to-day and the day to day matters. For three years Jesus did His ministry. For three years he taught his disciples, ate meals with them, traveled with them… but it was that final day that we focus on. Yet, those days He spent with His disciples were just as necessary.

You may feel your life is insignificant. You may wonder what God is doing, why He has you were you are. So I want to encourage you as God has encouraged me. You are where you are for His purposes. And if you are doing what He has called you to do, then every seemingly insignificant thing you’re doing matters to Him. And He is pleased.

 

 

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