Friday, January 29, 2010

Marshall Lucy

We almost finished painting our bedroom blue today!
David Marshall helping Mark with some electrical work.
Joan Marshall sweeping the dusty floor in the apartment.
The family standing outside the door of our apartment on our "almost finished" porch.
Aaron trying to get out of working in the apartment!

This has been an interesting week for the Marshall's. We have had company...Mark's parents! We have had a lot of fun, and worked hard, but there are 3 incidents that stick out in my mind that I'd like to share.

On Tuesday, we went to the market so they could "experience the culture." We had been there about an hour when I realized that my wallet had been stolen. So much for experiencing the culture! Instead of seeing most of the market, we had to come home so I could call my credit card company, my bank, and the Indiana License Bureau to report my stolen cards. I had let my guard down, I guess, because I was beginning to feel comfortable in my surroundings. I lost my focus, and I paid the consequences. Now, of course, I'm much more careful, and maybe a little paranoid! But I know what I need to focus on when I am at the market. Stay alert, be mindful of everything around me, and pray.

On Wednesday, we took Mark's parents to Los Manantiales (The Springs). We found the place with no problem, even though we had hoped to get there with the Tomtom (Global Positioning System). When we programmed the place in, it said it had no route for it. We felt pretty confident that we could find it so we went on, and got there in record time. But on the way back, we decided to use the Tomtom to get us home. The problem with that is that it took us a different way that we were unfamiliar with through Cuernavaca! Instead of the major highway we took to get there, we were stuck in city traffic in an area we were unfamiliar with, hoping we would get home before dark! Since I'm writing this, you can be assured we did find our way home, but we have learned that the Tomtom doesn't always know the best route to take to get home. We will stay focused on what we know next time.

The last incident happened yesterday as we were beginning to paint in the apartment. Aaron was on the top of a ladder. If you've ever looked at a ladder closely, you'll notice a warning that says do not stand on the rungs above this point. Well, they mean it! Aaron was on the next to the top rung, and fell backward onto the concrete floor below! I was in the room, and saw it happen. I can still see it happen when I close my eyes. He could have been hurt badly, but instead came away with a few bruises, scrapes, and a sore wrist that is now in a splint for a few days. What I saw was very strange. I turned as he yelled, and saw him falling backward. As the ladder got a few feet from the floor (Aaron was tangled up in the ladder and could not get away from it.), it seemed to slow down for a second, then finished falling to the floor on top of Aaron with his feet tangled around it. Aaron says he turned and stopped his fall with his hand, but when everyone came in, he was on his back. I'm not sure how it happened exactly. All I know is that God was there! And not only was He there, but He planned it so there were a doctor and a paramedic visiting the Ranch yesterday. Aaron was well taken care of, and I praise God that he is okay, although a little sore today. I will remember this incident every time I doubt whether He is with me.

I am hoping that I have learned some things from this week.
1) Stay focused on what is truly important.
2) Stay on the right road, and don't get sidetracked by distractions.
3) Stay in His will, and He will be right beside you.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Little Steps Forward" by Ashleigh

I do not mean to disappoint anyone who was expecting the Marshalls to blog today. They had the opportunity to take a day trip with Mark's parents who are here and so we switched days. However, I wanted to share a little testimony of praise with you all!

When working with a ministry like Refuge Ranch, progress is most likely seen in little steps toward understanding, receiving and living truth in the kids lives. There are many little opportunities that each child has to step out of their comfort zone and embrace Christ. I think you would all agree that getting out of your comfort zone isn't easy. That is exacerbated when you you have been significantly hurt in the past. Your natural tendencies and defense mechanisms are to protect yourself from any future hurt increasing the difficulty in trusting anyone including Christ.

Yesterday morning I had an encounter with one of the kids in this regard. There was a stubborn display and refusal to a request that was made from them. It was clearly based out of nervousness and fear but was not well founded. Praise God for my some of the training I have had with counseling and being able to see past the immediate present and into the struggles of the heart. I was disappointed because I could see they were choosing self preservation instead of trusting the Lord and trying something new.

After breakfast I could tell that I was being watched by this child but I just continued with the morning routine. I was planning on taking the Marshall's to the market after breakfast and so I headed up to the basement to gather my things in my bedroom. It wasn't long and I heard my name through my bedroom door by the one who had been watching me. :) I told them they could come in and they entered. They inquired if I was mad at them and I was able to honestly say, "No, I am not mad at you. However, I am disappointed". They began to protest at why they were justified in their behavior and I was able to listen and acknowledge that their feelings were justified. I shared that when I first came to Mexico I was scared as well because I was doing something I had never done before. However, if I had made the same choice as they did that morning, I would never have come. I then shared with them 2 Corinthians 12:9 which says, "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

A sheepish grin of understanding came after reading the verse and they knew there was nowhere they could go in the argument. A simple matter of trusting the Lord in the little things which is really anything but simple when you are fighting the flesh. It was a real encouragement to me, to be able to speak a grain of truth to one of the kids and see it grasped for the moment. It is not often that I get those opportunities because of language and the fact that it is primarily Julie's responsibility as mom. But when mom is gone...and language can be overcome God encourages me by allowing me to speak truth.

And so I thought I would share the little blessings with all of you and thank your for your prayers. It is by those that we are sustained! Now it is off to continue painting the ceilings in the Marshalls must go on! :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Worship" by Ashleigh

Several people have commented in the last couple of days about my deeper involvement in the culture and they are completely right. It is mainly coming with the exponentially increasing understanding of the language that I am able to be more involved and develop relationships past the chit-chat level of acquaintance. There are aspects of the culture that I completely LOVE! I love how, culturally, if you are a believer you greet each other with a "kiss". I love how believers call each other "brother" and "sister". I love when I am able to participate in a conversation and be able to laugh with them without having to ask someone to interpret. I love that Magda feels comfortable enough to ask me to come to her house for the weekend (which I haven't been able to do but will soon). I love knowing faces and have memories come to mind when I see those faces or hear their names. I love worship at church where it's more about the raising your hearts (and often hands) to the Lord versus wondering what others are thinking around you and what is considered "correct". All these things I have come to love and love deeply.

There is a part of me that yearns to know others more. To be able to express the thoughts of my heart, blessings and encouragement to those I have come to know and love, within the family and without. I am still so constrained within the box of language barriers. I have taken to the habit of praying that God would bless people when I cannot, encourage where I cannot and pour His love when I cannot communicate mine. And through this experience I long for heaven more then I ever did before. I long to sit beside my spiritual family members and be able to praise God together uninhibited, recount His goodness and learn together without hindrance. To worship our Father in complete unity. I loved worship time at church when I was in the states but there is a depth that I have found here when worshiping with believers in a different culture that I never could have experienced in the states. I tiny glimmer of heaven where men from every tribe, tongue and nation will bow down and worship together. That day will come and what a glorious day it will be!

So in thinking and talking about worship I thought I would share with you a little video clip that is just under a minute. I captured this several months ago. Diana was watching the children so she put worship music on the computer and was having all of the little kids dance to the music. It was so sweet to encounter and I had to try to grab a little video to remember it. :) I hope you enjoy watching!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An update from Mark

It seems like a long time since I made a Blog entry, so I may just ramble about what I have been doing. As I am sure most of you know, there was a very cold arctic weather system that dropped from Canada. We even noticed it here. The weekend after our camp-out, it was snowing in northern Mexico. I did not snow at Refuge Ranch but it felt like it could. It did snow on Mount Popo, so we tried to take the kids to see the snow on Sunday after church. Unfortunately we were not the only ones with that idea. The police had closed the road because there were too many cars up on the mountain. However, we did see some snowmen coming down the road toward us. People had built snowmen on their cars, and were taking them home. I wonder how far they got. There must have been quite a bit of snow for all the snowmen we saw.

Snowmen on a van coming down the mountain

It continued to be cold and rainy for the next few days. Lucy even bought gloves for herself. This is supposed to be the dry season. I guess that is OK, since we aren't dealing with a lot of dust yet. The rain also was good because it let us know that the roof of the apartment needed to be sealed.

With the Zaragozas gone on vacation it has been pretty quiet here. I used this to my advantage, because there were a few little fix-it projects I wanted to take care of. The biggest was the leaky kitchen faucet. For some reason even the smallest plumbing projects can take all day. I began by fixing the hot water that would not shut off, but also discovered another leak under the sink. The good news is that it only took one trip for parts and I think it is all fixed. I am glad we Americans were the only ones here that day since I had the water for the kitchen sink turned off for a while. The other big project was repairing Julie's desk in the school. It is built from a large piece of counter top on top of two small file cabinets. The problem was that when the kids leaned on the front of it, everything on top dumped on the floor as the top tipped. The drawers were in rough shape too, so I did a little work on each drawer. They should last a little longer now. I hope she does not want to move it now because it is all fastened together, and will be hard to move very far. I also worked on one or two small things around the house while it was quiet and there weren't little hands to wander off with tools I left on the floor.

Cirino and Alejandro have been working on the apartment roof, adding cement to the low areas so water won't stand on the roof. They have also been plastering the walls that will be the new section of the school. The work on the roof had to happen between rains so it took a long time. I have been finishing drywall seams and doing wiring in the apartment. Some of the electrical has to be surface mounted on the cement, so I have been installing conduit too.

Yesterday and today have been much nicer, in terms of weather. Cirino had told me last week that we would be able to seal the roof on Tuesday. I thought to myself, "If it stops raining." He was right. Yesterday I began putting sealer on the roof. I was surprised by how much loose dust there was. As I started putting the thick red sealer on the surface, I was having trouble getting it to cover because of the dust and the rough texture. I was about to go look for help when Lucy asked if I needed any thing. She came up and started sweeping the roof. The more she swept, the more dust there was. But she stuck with it and stayed ahead of the sealer. Aaron came up about the same time and started applying sealer with me. We had to work the sealer into the rough surface to get it to cover. Before we were finished, Lucy had giant blisters on her hands (I told her to quit or get some gloves, but she refused), Aaron and I were both stiff from bending even with the long handles on the brushes, and sunburned where we had missed with sunscreen. It was hot enough I put shorts on for the afternoon. What a great change in the weather. We worked until almost sundown and used more than half of the all the sealer we had for one coat on the apartment section of the basement. Today Aaron and I did the second coat. It was much easier and the sealer went much further. We got along very well and were finished and cleaning up by 4:00pm. Aaron said he was glad to help today because it kept him busy while he is waiting for his grandma and grandpa who are arriving for a visit tomorrow. We are all excited about that.

Aaron and Mark sealing the roof

Well, the Zaragozas are home so I want to hear about what they did on vacation.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"Life Without the Zaragoza Family" by Ashleigh

I know that I was suppose to type yesterday but the entire day got away from me and I completely forgot! :) Oops!

As I sit and type this I am looking out the window to the fog that is rolling across the valley right beneath us and is heady our way. It will be here within the next 20 minutes and we will be enveloped in cloud. :) I love when that happens!

This last week has been a unique and wonderful experience for me. The Zaragoza family went on vacation together. Magda, Erika and Rosa all when home. So, Refuge Ranch is much MUCH quieter with just me and the Marshalls here. In fact, it was kind of weird the first few days and definitely was an adjustment. :) However, it has been a wonderful opportunity for me to relax and really allow myself to enjoy doing things (or not doing things) without the pressure of everyday "normal" life down here. Usually there is so much activity going on that even if I take an afternoon off to work on a project I am not able to really relax as I feel tugged by all that is calling my name and going on around me. :) Thank you Lord for rest and refreshment (not to mention the Marshall family with whom I can do that with! You guys are awesome!).

So this week has been filled with laundry, newsletter, cleaning my room, working on my mother's Christmas present (I can't wait to share more about that but I have to wait until I give it to her because she follows this blog!), making a fire in the fireplace (Julie, you said we should make ourselves at we did! :), and cooking American food just for starters. Lucy and I both like to cook and she was really missing some of the American flavors and familiar food.

Chili and Cheesy Garlic Bread
(I actually made this several Sunday's ago when we stayed back from church but I thought I would include it!)

This last week we have had beef and noodles over mashed potatoes, smothered grilled chicken, salad, brats, apple dumplings, bagels, chicken pot pie and sauteed green beans with bacon. There is great plans for today through Wednesday as well!

Today happens to be my birthday and Lucy's is tomorrow! We are making plans to go see a movie and go out to dinner somewhere tomorrow in celebration! So, on that note I am going to wrap up this post for now and focus on enjoying vacation again! Have a wonderful Christ glorifying weekend y'all!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Lucy

The Zaragoza family in one place!
One of the many waterfalls at Los Manantiales

Aaron showing off with his "no hands" approach to the zipline

Victor takes the lead in the zipline
Martita makes the zipline look so easy!
Ashleigh gracefully ziplines through the trees
Fidel enjoys the view from above
Josiah shows no fear on the zipline
Ashleigh enjoys one of the many pools at The Springs
Josiah and Daniel get some "Mom time" with Julie
Caleb enjoys the flowing warm water of the springs
Ruth plots which brother to take out next
Lucy and Mark enjoy the scenery and peace and quiet at the Falls
Caleb gets ready to explore the depths of The Springs
Diana chases after Ana after being attacked by her little sister
Ruth and Angie get ready to race
Martha and Erika pose during a brief moment before splashing off to play
Daniel and Magda spend some quality time together while Mom kayaks down the river
Mark enjoys being Lucy's model for her nature photography
Martita smiles for the camera from the ropes stretched across the pool
"Anybody want to play chicken?"
Joanna tries to teach Ana how to float on her back
Diana and Julie enjoy some mother-daughter time
Rosa and Joce sit by a warm fire waiting to toast marshmallows
Joce smiles for my camera anytime!
The double falls with a cave under the left one
Joanna plays under the waterfall
Lolis first time swimming
Boy, did she have a ball with her new brothers and sisters!
Ana, or the Jungle Girl as I like to call her, was completely at home in the woods
Mark and Aaron attempt to cross one of the springs
Angie climbs a tree for a better view

We had an awesome time at Los Manantiales. Thank you for all your prayers for staff unity. God is working here, not only in the children, but the adults as well. We treasure your friendship and prayers. Keep praying!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lots of pics!

Since a picture is worth a thousand words (right?), I thought I would save myself from writing several thousand words (and save you from reading several thousand words!). So, here are several of my pictures from the Refuge Ranch staff campout. Since Mark and Lucy's arrival in Mexico, Lucy has quickly become the official photographer. Ashleigh and I are taking a lot fewer pictures because Lucy ALWAYS has her camera onhand and takes great pictures! (So, Lucy, if you don't have any urgent messages for Wednesday's blog - we would love to see the really GOOD pictures from the campout!)

Victor and I swimming with Daniel, Jocelin, Ruth, Caleb and Ana!

Ana ready to explore!

Josiah, me and Joanna on the rope crossing! Who's gonna fall in first?

Ana ready to swim!

Erika, Josiah, Caleb and Jocelin swimming in a pool created by the natural springs.

Ruth and Angie having fun together.

Lolis and Ana swimming together. Cool goggles, Ana!

Caleb ready to hunt for fish in the natural springs and streams.

Angie crossing the pool on the rope.

The Zaragoza family leaves on our yearly family vacation tomorrow for a week! It has become a family tradition to take our family vacation in January for several reasons: 1) January is our least busiest month as we have finished the previous year's agenda and activities and we usually don't schedule any crusades until February. So, January gives us a good chance to reconnect as a family before this year's activities begin. 2) An increase in year-end donations provides the funds needed to afford a family vacation for a family of 14! 3) January is a low vacation time in Mexico. We wait until everybody else is back in school and at work because prices at vacation hot-spots go down and we don't have to worry about crowds! Vacation is much more relaxing when we have the pool or beach to ourselves and I can actually play with the kids or read more than a sentence in my book without counting to 12 to make sure we haven't lost anybody (literally!).

So, we are heading to a natural beach on the Pacific Coast near Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo in the state of Guerrero! As always, we appreciate your prayers for safe travel and that this would be a blessed week as a family - that each of the children would feel Victor and my personal attention towards them, that they can enjoy each other's company and that we could work as a team so that we have lots of time to play and relax! This is an especially important vacation for our family as we have three more children than our vacation a year ago. This is Jocelin's first family vacation without her Mom. Of course, this is Daniel's first family vacation with us, too! One of our older girls commented the other day: "Every time we go to the beach we have a little kid with us!" Actually, the younger children are a huge blessing for the older kids (although the older ones may not always recognize it) because the smaller kids get so excited about small and simple things. They help bring the innocence back into the older kids' lives and, in a way, give the older kids "permission" to fully enjoy the little things too! I'm not sure I am accurately expressing this concept. Our older children have gone through so much junk in their short lives that the magic of living, the innocence of childhood, has been robbed from them. They tend not to find joy or wonder in the little things of life. However, the Lord has provided a great set of teachers in their younger siblings! When the older kids see the younger ones get excited about something it teaches them how to get excited. What is even funnier to watch is when the older kids then follow suit and get excited they act like they are doing it "for" their younger siblings, as if to encourage the younger ones or validate them. You know they just really want to get excited themselves, but don't have the self-confidence to just let themselves go, so they "blame" their excitement on wanting to encourage the younger kids. So, we pray that on this vacation each child can be a child and fully enjoy sand between their toes, building a sand castle and watching it wash into the sea, a bonfire on the beach, family movie time, the wonder of a sunset over the ocean, the way a crab scurries over the sand and all the other wonders at hand!

Of course, this is Lolis' first vacation with us! Poor thing - her list of "firsts" in this past month is quite long! She enjoyed her first movie a couple of weeks ago and this will be the first time that she sees the ocean. When we went on vacation several years ago and it was Fidel's first time to see the ocean, he stood on the beach and stared at the blue expanse of water below and the blue expanse of sky above and declared: "Two skies!" So, we'll see what Lolis will do - probably the same thing she does most of the time around here - giggle!

OK, I wasn't going to write several thousand words - that was the reason for uploading so many pictures - oops! Well, enjoy the pictures....and the words!

May the Lord bless you with His presence, purposes and power!


Friday, January 8, 2010

"Camping" by Ashleigh

As most of you know we had a Refuge Ranch camp out this last week from Tuesday through Thursday (which is why the Marshalls didn't blog on Wednesday). We packed up and headed south to a natural campground that is built on the edge of a river and in the middle of natural springs. Driving in it was dry, dusty ground, cactus everywhere and very unattractive. And then it seemed out of nowhere there came this campground. The pools that they have where all natural spring water and were fed from multiple springs. The water would usually flow into the pools on one end and there would be a small opening on the other end of the pool to let water out so that the pool always maintained the same level. Because the water in the pools as well as in the creek was spring fed it was crystal clear and warm!

I was going to upload some pictures for you all to see what we did but my Internet signal has been really low and on the fritz all day. So, I will leave the pictures to Julie or Lucy if they would like...if not, I will post some in my next blog.

Some highlights of the trip...planning! :) Actually there is a humorous story I wanted to share. During our staff meeting on Monday to divide responsibilities of packing and cooking while we were there I volunteered to make dinner on Wednesday night. I didn't have any ideas as to what to make and Julie asked for sloppy joes to which I agreed to make. However, in trying to translate that one it comes out sounding like "Joseph's garbage" in Spanish. Not exactly appetizing as the name for a food, eh? We all got a good laugh out of it and just moved on. Sometimes that's all you can do when working with a language barrier.

Other highlights for me:
-Having Rosa as a tent partner
-Spending time in a quite corner of the campground and journaling
-Swimming with the kids
-Playing chicken with Julie on the ropes above the pool
-Euchre with the Marshall's at night
-Going on a walk and taking pictures with Lucy
-Kayaking with Julie, Angie, Diana, Martita, Mark and Joanna (and then playing in the waterfall with a cave behind it when we finished)

Another story: We had the opportunity to zip line across the lake. The staff at the campground gave us a generous discount if a large group of us went. So for a mere $4 a person (give or take a little) most of us from Josiah on up went zip lining. I was a bit concerned about the weight limit as there is always a limit on this kind of activity. However, with it being just never know. :) I had Julie ask them about the weight limit and they said there wasn't any. They then asked what my weight was in kilo's. When Julie told them the reply was, "Yeah, that is should be fine. If the line breaks she will be the last one to go." Not exactly comforting is it? :) However, Julie has seen two people come across it tandem earlier that morning and was sure that it would be fine. So, I went and am so glad that I did! It was a lot of fun!

And that would be the summary of our camping trip this last week. Hopefully we can upload some pictures in the next week for you all to be able to visually participate in our vacation!

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Dates

I love routine! When I was in college and majoring in social work, we had a class that taught us about different types of family structure. My family of origen (my Dad, Mom and brother) fell into the "structured family" category! It became a classroom joke that if we needed a living example of the "structured family" my classmates would all turn to me and say: "So, Julie, what did your family do?" To this day, I can think about what day of the week it is and what time of the day it is and tell you, almost exactly, what both of my parents are doing at that moment! So, now, after the excitement and unique routines involved in Christmas and New Year, and after spending nearly all of last week sick, it feels wonderful to be in my office in the wee hours of the morning, while the house is still quiet, enjoying my Father's presence during devotions, a good cup of coffee, my sweet roll that Diana bought for me yesterday and some time with you as I blog!

To start with, I would like to share our latest family photograph with you. Several weeks ago, on the first Sunday that Lolis was a part of our family, we got all dressed up for church because it was our church Christmas program and most of our family, along with other Refuge Ranch staff members, were going to sing. (Scroll on down several posts and you can see the video of us singing, if you haven't already.) Somebody had suggested we all try to wear some combination of red, black and white. So, our family was the most coordinated we have ever been and we decided to take a new family picture, especially since we had just added a new member. So, with Ashleigh as our expert arranger and Lucy as our expert photographer (and Adobe PhotoShop editor!) here is our latest family picture!

Back: Fidel (9), Josiah (8), Lolis (12), Martita (14), Angie (16)

Middle: Joce (7), Julie (33), Victor (38), Caleb (5)

Front: Diana (15), Daniel (2), Ruth (4), Ana (3), Martha (11)

And now...what many of you have been waiting for...the Fishers of Men 2010 calendar! Following are the dates for all of our major crusades and work teams. (We also hold numerous one and two day crusades throughout the year in the metropolitan Mexico City area that we refer to as "local crusades". I have not put those on this calendar as they only last one or two days at the most.) We would love to have any of you join us on one of these crusades, whether you have specific medical abilities or not, there is plenty to do on a crusade that you can help out with, no matter what your talents and abilities. We would also love to see you on a work team here at Refuge Ranch. Whether you join an already scheduled work team or come some other time, just let us know and we would love to welcome you to Refuge Ranch. There is always lots to do!

January 31-February 6
EMMC to Minatitlan, Veracruz and Chacalapa, Hidalgo
February 23-March 2
EMMC to Colonia el Arenal, Atoyac, Guerrero
March 13-21
Refuge Ranch/EMMC team from Oklahoma
March 16-20
EMMC to Tlaxcala
April 13-17
EMMC to Zapotitlan Tablas, Guerrero
May 9-17
EMMC to Guadalajara and Atotonilco, Jalisco
June 5-12
Refuge Ranch work team from Shiloh Christian Church, Logansport, IN
June 12-19
Second Refuge Ranch work team from Shiloh Christian Church, Logansport, IN
July 3-10
Refuge Ranch work team from Upper Deer Creek Church, Galveston, IN
July 10-17 or 17-24 (dates to be confirmed)
Refuge Ranch work team from Mayfair Plymouth Congregational Christian Church, Toledo, OH
August 16-21
EMMC to El Chilar, Oaxaca
September 21-25
EMMC to Chiapas
October 17-23
EMMC to Zihuatanejo, Guerrero
November 22-27
EMMC to Orizaba, Veracruz
December 13-18
EMMC to Hidalgo
We look forward to seeing many of you throughout this year, whether on an EMMC or here at Refuge Ranch!
In the Lord's service,
Julie Zaragoza

Friday, January 1, 2010

"New Year Resolutions" by Ashleigh

I'm not very big into celebrating New Years. I never really have been. I think it is because somewhere deep inside always resented the push for "New Years resolutions" and "starting new in a new year". Change should be able to happen any day of the year and it always seemed silly to me to wait until a certain date on the calendar. The things that should change are faced in the day-to-day parts of life.

New Years has always been much more important for me in a solemn and reflective kind of way. I usually spend some time thinking over the last year and what life was like one year ago as I was looking forward into a new year. Remembering the spiritual triumphs that I had by the grace of God, the trials by fire that I was not expecting, and the areas that I did not have the strength to stand firm.

As I was looking forward into 2009 I prayed that God would allow a season of spiritual rest and refreshment as there had been, what a appeared to me, a long period of spiritual attacks and stretching lessons. I longed for a reprieve, for a spiritual plateau and time of rest. The prayer and the hope for that faded on January 2nd when I got a call informing me that my grandmother had had a heart attack, was taken to the hospital and then went into cardiac arrest. (She had double bypass surgery and by God's grace is doing fine now.) This last year has been much of the same for me with lesson and testing upon temptation and trial it seems. Lots of refining fires and tests to reveal my true self. It wasn't the year that I prayed for and it wasn't a spiritual plateau like I had desired but through it all God has been more then sufficient.

So, as I am peering into the beginning of 2010 I wonder what kind of year it will be. I decided not to ask for the same request this year as I did last year. This year my heart is asking of the Lord for the ability to be steadfast and faithful. In every day and every moment that my eyes would be turned heavenward and that whatever my physical position my soul will rest in the Lord. There are a lot of unknowns for me this year. My two year commitment with Fishers of Men will be up in March. Although I feel like God is calling me to stay until at least May what lies beyond that is still a mystery that is veiled from sight. But, no matter, God knows and I can rest in that.

I challenge you to also look back and remember. Remember God's faithfulness to you during this last year. Remember His mercy and grace that has been poured out on you. However, also be willing to remember where you did not stand strong or perhaps were not faithful. Remember God's mercy to you in those times. Rejoice that you have lived to see another year completed and that you have more opportunities stretched before you to continue climbing higher. I encourage you to spend some time really meditating on the words to the song "Higher Ground".

I'm pressing on the upward way
New heights I'm gaining every day,
Still praying as I'm onward bound,
"Lord plant my feet on higher ground".

My heart has no desire to stay,
Where doubts arise and fears dismay.
Tho' some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

I want to live above the world,
Tho' Satan's darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sounds,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height,
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I'll pray till heaven I've found,
"Lord, lead me on to higher ground".

Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith on heaven's table-land.
A higher plain than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.