Friday, December 31, 2010

The Butterfly Effect Mark

For Christmas this year we found a nice little book under our family Christmas tree. It is a short book that you would expect to read in one sitting, but also a book that could change how you look at every day and every thing you do. It is called The Butterfly Effect and it is written by Andy Andrews. The butterfly effect is a scientific principle that can be applied to all aspects of life. According to the book, Edward Lorenz presented the hypothesis to the New York Academy of Science. Simply stated it says:
A butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air-- eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet.
I do not know how scientifically Mr. Lorenz made his presentation, but he was not taken seriously, actually laughed out of the conference. However, more than 30 years later, the principle was proven true and has become a law known as The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions.

I do not want to ruin the book for you, you should read it for yourself. But the premise of the book is that everything you do matters. Everything?!?! Yes, everything no matter how big or how small. I have said for a while that we need to pay attention to what we are doing because someone else may be paying attention to what we are doing. I know this is true here at Refuge Ranch. The smallest children copy everything they see, and the oldest ones question who you really are when you screw up.

It is really cool to spend time with little Danny. He repeats every word you say and asks questions about everything you do. Two or three months ago I was repairing a little wooden chair that had come apart for some reason. Many of the glue joints had loosened up, so the chair was in several pieces, which I had spread out on the sidewalk in front of our apartment. Danny, who is always interested in the current project, came to see what I was doing.

Danny checking out the pieces of the chair.

I told him about the pieces and how I thought they were supposed to fit together. He was very interested in the project and wanted to help. This is the point when I am put to the test in many projects, allowing people to help me. (I tend to want to do things my way, and have trouble watching.) Some of the pieces fit pretty tightly, so they needed some coaxing with a hammer. I had my long handled, 24 oz. framing hammer handy and that was what I was planning to use. Danny wanted to try it out too, so I showed him where to hit it.

"Hit it right here Danny"

Wow! He is a natural. Even with the extra large hammer, he hit it right where I showed him.

Danny making the repair!!

We continued to glue and assemble the chair until finally we had it all back together. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the completed chair with Danny sitting in it. He was too busy looking for something else to use the hammer on.

How does this relate to The Butterfly Effect? This is a time with Danny that I will always cherish. What caused it to happen? Was it one of the older children who sat in the chair and possibly leaned back, breaking the chair? Was it possibly because the person who built the chair did not use enough glue or nails? Was there a shortage of glue at the factory because the person who orders glue missed work? Did the person who missed work, miss work because his wife just had a baby or was there a death in his family? How is it that Danny came along at that time? Had he just gotten up from a nap? Did someone make a loud noise in the house and wake him up? Were some of the kids chasing each other and making a loud noise? Why were the kids running and making noise in the house?

All of these events lead to other events. It does not matter how small or insignificant an event seems, each event has an impact on another event. My parents gave us this little book, probably as encouragement and to make us think. The really cool thing is to know that God is in control. He can use events, even when we screw up, for the good of the Kingdom.

Have a blessed new year, making an impact with everything you do.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Monday, December 27, 2010

Transforming Refuge Ranch Project

Well, this is the official announcement of the launching of the Project: Transforming Refuge Ranch. This project consists of raising the $20,000.00 in funding needed to bring 220 power to Refuge Ranch!

This is the official announcement of the END of the Transforming Refuge Ranch Project because God has provided all the funds - all $20,000!


Praise God!

He is amazing and His people are too!

Here's the story: When we moved to Refuge Ranch seven years ago it was no more than an overgrown hillside. We cleared the land and the Lord provided for the building of our one-story home. At that point, in order to have electricity, Victor built our own wooden electrical poles leading from our house and up the hill about a 1/4 of a mile to our closest neighbor's house. The neighbor kindly allowed us to tap into his electricity and we would pay a portion of his bill each month. However, since the transformer was about a 1/4 of a mile from the neighbor's house, then he and his two sons' homes pulled electricity before the wires traveled another 1/4 of a mile to our house - by the time the electricity got to our house there was nearly no electricity to speak of. We could not read after dark and we would run the washing machine off of a gas generator.

Then, several years later we were able to get an actual contract with the electric company and have our own meter and electrical connection. However, the meter is now about a 1/4 of a mile down the hill and our electrical service is still very weak and undependable. We have three buildings running off this connection: Cirino's house, our two-story house and the main house, which includes the Marshall's apartment, the school, the dining room/warehouse and staff quarters. This means that the Marshalls do not have a refrigerator, their computer shuts down numerous times throughout the day, if the milk pasteurizer is running then nothing else electrical works, the washing machine cannot spin at full speed due to the lack of electricity, etc., etc., etc., - you get the idea!

Finally, this past year we were able to contact a Mexican contractor and begin the process of getting an estimate of the cost of purchasing our own private transformer and bringing 220 power up to Refuge Ranch. In the meantime, several individuals began donating towards the unannounced project and Ashleigh Weis organized the Refuge Ranch Cookbook fundraiser. We had not officially launched the 'Transforming Refuge Ranch" project to raise the funds, as we were waiting for the final estimate for the project and also wanted to assure that the proper permits were in place before we began promoting the project.

However, the Lord had other plans in mind! Within two weeks time, we received the final estimate, the permits were secured and the work team from Upper Deer Creek Church, who will arrive at Refuge Ranch on January 31st, expressed their passion and willingness to do all the on-site electrical preparations needed in order to hook into the new 220 system. We were so grateful for how the project was progressing, but were still in need of a little over $15,000 in order to complete the project. We did not even have the chance to officially launch the fund raising campaign, when we received a phone call from a donor who committed to providing the $15,000! How do you respond to something like that?! Thank you just does not seem like enough! When I asked to whom I should give the credit, the donor's response was: "Give God the credit!"

So, thank you, Lord Jesus, for your undeserved faithfulness and generosity! May our lives bring you honor and glory!

The goal is for the transformer, new wiring and electrical posts to be installed before or while the Upper Deer Creek work team is here from January 31 to February 6 so that they can have the honor and joy of "flipping the switch" and giving Refuge Ranch the electrical power that we need so that, with God's power, we can continue to transform lives!

We appreciate your prayers throughout this month that the Mexican contractor can get his part of the work done and ready for the Upper Deer Creek team's arrival on January 31st!

To God be the Glory!

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
Ephesians 3:20-21

Thursday, December 23, 2010 Lucy

Shell ornament to remind us of our time in Acapulco-made by Joanna

A friend made these for us when we got married

I made these stockings one year for Christmas
A friend gave me this carousel that really turns
Recognize this family?

A few days after we returned to Mexico, we went on a search for the perfect Christmas tree. We went to a tree farm nearby, without jackets, gloves, hats, or boots. There was no need for hot chocolate when we returned home because the weather was beautiful and sunny. Weird, huh?

Soon we were busy stringing lights on the tree and listening to Christmas carols. Then out came the boxes of ornaments. I love this part, opening the boxes, and remembering each ornament and when it was given or made, and the people who gave or made them.

Mark has quite a few handmade stitched ornaments made by his mom, his grandma Mac, and his aunt Ginger. My mom has also stitched some snowmen and made angels out of pasta. Each one is placed on the tree with reminders of their makers.

We also put up the ornaments that Aaron and Joanna have made through the years. There are the Santas they each made in 2nd grade from little flower pots turned upside down. There are angels made from construction paper and aluminum foil. There are snowflakes made from pipe cleaners and glitter. There are numerous ornaments they have made with their photos in them. They always make us laugh. And of course, there are the "baby's first Christmas" ornaments with photos as well.

I also have school ornaments. I have a stocking with my name on one side, and the year "1973" on the other side. I think I was in Mrs. Gotshall's class when a room-mom gave us those stockings. I also have ornaments that students have given me. One is a glass ball with black and gold paint inside and a Panther paw painted on the outside for the Pioneer Panthers! Mark has a Santa he made when he was little that is practically falling apart now!

We also have ornaments that represent something about us. I have a soccer ball from the time when I was a "ball girl" for the soccer team at Huntington College. Mark has one with Greek letters on it from his years in the Sigma Chi fraternity at Hanover College. He also has an ornament with a fireman on it that reminds us of his time as a volunteer fireman in Royal Center, IN. Aaron has one from his time spent in marching band, and there is a snowman on the tree that Joanna made during her time in Student Council. She also loves to paint, so she has painted pictures on some glass balls. We also have an ornament of the old Shiloh Church to remind us of family and friends there.

Probably the largest number of ornaments on our tree revolve around the Christmas story. We have ornaments with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, ornaments with the three wise men, ornaments with the shepherds, and ornaments with angels. Of course, there is a large star at the top of the tree.

Remembering the real reason for the season is easy when I sit and look at our tree. It tells the story of Jesus' birth, and the ripple effects that has had on our lives through the people represented there. The tree is full of memories and reminders of our Savior who came to redeem the world. The tree itself is also a reminder of God's mercy to us. We went in search of the "perfect" tree for Christmas, but Jesus died on the perfect tree over 2,000 years ago. And the perfect gift wasn't found under the tree, but on it! Praise God for the perfect gift He gave that first Christmas, the life of His Son, Jesus Christ!

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!--2 Corinthians 9:15

Merry CHRISTmas to all the world!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hepatitis A

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This blog (and the identical email I have sent) is to ask you to pray for our family and inform you of the latest developments here. About two months ago, Cirino's (our mason/farmhand's) daughter, Berenice, was diagnosed with Hepatitis A. At that point we were caring for her and her brother during the day while Cirino worked. Upon knowing the diagnosis, we asked Cirino to keep his kids at his place in order to prevent others from being infected. When Ruth got sick about three weeks ago she was then diagnosed with Hepatitis A. Despite our best efforts at hand washing, bleaching the bathrooms on a daily basis and even cancelling school an entire day and washing every surface in the house, school and dining room/warehouse with bleach, I was diagnosed with Hepatitis A and Bronchitis on Sunday and Angie was diagnosed with Hepatitis A on Monday.

You can read more about Hepatitis A at any of the following links:

Basically, Hepatitis A is a virus that affects liver function. It is passed from an infected person to another through fecal/mouth contact that can come from not properly washing one's hands, etc. Hepatitis A does not cause permanent liver damage. There is no medication with which to treat it and requires lots of rest and fluids to get better.

There is a vaccine for Hepatitis A, so anybody making travel plans to Mexico, at any point in time, should get the vaccine. For example, the Marshall family and my parents have had the vaccine. (We were wondering why I never got the vaccine, but the vaccine came into use after I had already started my many travels to Mexico, so it was never brought to my attention that I should get the vaccine.)

Here in Mexico, the Hepatitis A vaccine is considered experimental. However, after doing research, we have found a pediatrician in Monterrey, Mexico who can supply us with the vaccine so that we can vaccinate the rest of our family and staff before this continues to grow. Lord willing, the vaccines will arrive here tomorrow. The incubation period for Hepatitis A is 15-40 days, so even if we vaccinate everybody, somebody else could be infected already and not have shown signs of the virus yet. The vaccine will not prevent them, if already infected, from getting sick, but it will prevent this from growing.

Our family will not be going to church for an entire month, or going anywhere, as we do our best to not spread the Hepatitis any further. Once the month has passed we will be home clear because, if anybody else is infected, they will show symptoms within that month, and everybody will be vaccinated so that will prevent further infections. (Once you have had Hep A you are immune for life. Yeah!)

On a personal note, Angie and I have been put on bed rest for a month. I am hoping that as I feel better I can do a few things throughout the day, but total rest is very important for the liver to recuperate and for no permanent damage to be done to the liver. My blood tests also revealed low counts of just about everything: red blood cells, white blood cells, sodium, potassium, etc., which aren't strictly connected to the Hepatitis A, so it is important that I gets lots of rest. For any of you who know me personally, resting is not my forte! So, the Lord has His way of speaking to us! My theme verse right now is: "Be still and know that I am God." Well, I am still!

Please pray for:
  • recovery for Angie and I
  • patience, strength and wisdom for Victor as he cares for me and carries the load of the family and ministry, a load we usually share
  • patience for the older girls, Martita, Diana, Lolis and Martha, as we depend more on their help with the little ones, since both Angie and I are sick. This is especially true when getting kids up in the morning and ready for bed at night.
  • continued understanding for the younger kids as Christmas has been postponed. We didn't even have the gifts bought yet when I got sick last week. In fact I got sick the day Victor and I were going to go shopping. So, this year, Lord willing, we will follow Mexican tradition and give gifts on Three King's Day on January 6.
  • that our entire family will be open and willing to learn the lessons the Lord has prepared for us as we spend a month together here at home
  • strength and patience for staff throughout this entire time
  • for financial provision to cover the medical costs: Up to now we have spent a total of $1850.00 U.S. dollars on lab work, doctor, meds and the vaccines. The vaccine is costing $900 pesos per shot and we need vaccines for 19 people. Fishers of Men had an emergency medical account with a balance of $998. We have wiped out that account, leaving us no cushion in the event of another medical emergency. (Medical care in Mexico is very poor and is government run. There is no such thing as medical insurance here.)
While this is illness is bothersome and, at times, painful, the hardest part is not being a part of daily life - not being able to run to a child's side when I hear them fall; not being able to rock Daniel to sleep at night; missing meals, etc., but I am so thankful that this is an illness that does not require me to be in the hospital or on an IV, but requires simple, disciplined rest to get better. Thank you for your prayers that continue to sustain us!

Still in the Lord's service,
Julie Zaragoza

Monday, December 20, 2010

"The Results are In" by Ashleigh

I wanted to posted again about the cookbooks and the result of the fundraiser so that you all would know about it since so many of you made it worth while. As I was preparing the recipes for the cookbook I was praying that I would be able to sell 70 books. I calculated that if I sold around 70 cookbooks it would make a little over $500 of profit! Figuring that I couldn't just afford to give $500 but I could invest my time to produce it I thought it would be worth while. :)

So, with much prayer and effort on the part of those who promoted the cookbook for me I can very happily announce that we sold 142 cookbooks! :) I sent a check to Fishers of Men for $1,250 this past week! That was more then double what I was planning on needing in order to make it a successful venture! Thank you all for your support with this fundraiser for 220 power at the Ranch. It blessed me to see the enthusiastic response from all of you.

Thank you so much,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Coming Lucy

We are back at the Ranch after almost a month of time in the United States. It was a bittersweet trip for me as the first part of our time in Indiana was spent at the hospital with my grandma, and then attending her funeral. Many mentioned that it was definitely God's timing for me to be there for her at that time. She had two goals for the last few months. One was to reach her 96th birthday (which was October 26), and the other was to see our family. Then she was apparently ready to "go home." Praise God that "home" for her is with Jesus, and we can rest peacefully, knowing that is where she is spending all her days now.

We also spent quite a bit of time making presentations about Fishers of Men and our home here at Refuge Ranch. If I added it up correctly, and include Aaron and Joanna's presentations to the high school Spanish classes, I believe we made 22 presentations! Aaron kept saying that we weren't getting to do much "vacationing" on this vacation! We replied that it really wasn't a vacation! We felt that it was important to speak with as many people as possible about what God is doing in Mexico. I'm hoping, of course, that many of you will feel the call for short term mission projects, and come visit us here while you work! If you need any information about how to go about planning a trip, just ask! We are all willing to help prepare people to serve God here at the Ranch or on an Evangelical Medical Mission Crusade.

One thing we really enjoyed while we were home was all the good food. We love Rosa and her good cooking, but it is also nice to have some of the comfort foods we grew up with. Don't even ask how much weight we all gained while we were home! Mom made peanut brittle, chocolate covered pretzels, and other goodies to munch on, besides all the wonderful meals she prepared. Mark's mom also made some requested favorites of ours. I also got to do some cooking myself, which I don't do much here because we don't have our own refrigerator.

Spending Thanksgiving with both our families was an extra blessing we received while we were home. We got the traditional foods from both our families since Mark's parents came to share it with us too. We met our new neice (Luiza from Brazil is an exchange student staying with my brother's family), and reconnected with all the other neices and nephews who may have not remembered us after a year away!

We also spent plenty of time with our friends. This was interesting because Aaron's friends are now driving so they came to pick him up and take him out. Before, the parents were doing all the driving! Joanna's friends planned a whole weekend at Emma's so she could also see KitKat (Our cat that the Groff's graciously adopted when we moved). Mark and I also got to take some time to just hang out, go shopping, and eat out at favorite restaurants.

Lots of other things happened while we were home. We have a critter story to share in a future blog, a brand new baby was born (I have friends I graduated with who are now grandparents...How is that possilbe?!), and a new Walmart came to Logansport (It's a small town so that is big news!). I got to drive again, Mark got new workboots, Aaron got to help his grandpa on the farm, and Joanna got to amaze all her friends and family with her expertise of the Spanish language and learn some Portugese from Luiza. We thank all of you who greeted us so warmly and treated us so well while we were there.

It was wonderful to be home, and yet, it was good to get back home here to Refuge Ranch too. I sent Julie a message one day in which I commented about being "home," and that I would share more with her when we got "home." Home is now more than one place, and not really any place. We feel at home here, with the comfort of our own beds and pillows (Remember what it is like to sleep in someone else's bed and use someone else's pillows?), with our own stuff. But there are days when we miss home in the states too... when we can't seem to have a real conversation with people we care about because of the language barrier, or we miss a birthday or holiday back home, or we need some spiritual nourishment and can't understand the sermon at church! When we were in the states, there were days when I wished I could be two places at once. Reading about Thanksgiving here at the Ranch in Julie's blog made me realize that I hated missing that Thanksgiving too. Our first morning back, Ana and Danny greeted us with arms open wide, waiting to be picked up and hugged.

That is kind of how I picture it will be when we get to our real home in Heaven. Jesus will be excited to see us and pick us up in His arms and hug us tight! And we will truly feel "at home" because we will truly be HOME. He'll have our pictures on His refrigerator, and He'll have rooms prepared just for us with our favorite pillows on the beds. He'll prepare our favorite meals and it will feel like the best family reunion ever. I can not wait!

"But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Spoiled by God

"The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing."

Psalm 34:7-9

The Bible tells us to "taste and see that the Lord is good." In modern language you could say: "Try Him out! You'll like Him!" The other day I was clothes shopping and the seller offered for me to try on the clothing. Since this was a street vendor my first thought was "Where?", but they can be pretty ingenious! He had rigged up a corner of his stall with some sheets to form a little changing booth. So, I tried on the skirt and blouse. He knew that there would be a better chance of me purchasing the outfit if I only tried it out. The place didn't even have a mirror, but the feel of a new outfit, and the approval of my husband :-), led to a sale for this vendor. You see, he knew that if I only tried it out, I would like it. The Psalmist knew the same thing! If you only taste, try out, a bit of the Lord, you will see that He is good!

I have already shared with you throughout the month of November the huge blessing that the women's retreat in Acapulco was, not only for the 141 women who attended, but for myself personally. I then shared with you the story of my best Thanksgiving ever due to the sacrificial love of two of our staff members and my children. But, this past weekend has led me to feel totally spoiled by God!

Victor and I had been wanting to take an overnighter together for over a month. Now, when I was growing up, my parents, on every President's Day in February, would go on an overnighter together. My brother and I got to spend the night with a wonderful lady from church, Marilyn Chinnis, who would take us cross country skiing and other fun stuff to keep us distracted from the fact that Mom and Dad weren't around. As much as I hated being without my parents, I knew that time was important to their marriage and, hence, to our family. I thank the Lord, on nearly a daily basis, that my parents have a strong marriage after 38 years together and for the example they were to my brother and I as to how to care for and work in, and on, a marriage. But, if we do the math, they got an overnighter once a year and had two children. I have twelve children. That means I get an overnighter with my husband six times a year, right? :-)

So, Victor and I decided to spend our time in a quaint town nestled in the shadow of some very impressive cliffs in the state of Morelos, about 45 minutes from Refuge Ranch, Tepoztlan. (We took several work groups there to visit this summer.) We looked online and found what appeared to be a nice little "hotel" and made our reservation. It turned out to be an incredible gift from God!

We arrived by driving over cobblestone streets that got increasingly narrower, bumpier and further away from the center of the village. (Exactly what we wanted- away from people!) We pulled up to the huge metal gate, knocked, and were let into a mini paradise! The hotel turned out to be a conglomeration of several different buildings spread throughout beautifully cared for gardens and lawns. The retired owner had lived on the property in his own beautiful home for several years, but, seeing the beauty of his surroundings and the cost of upkeep on such a large and gorgeous home, decided to turn the property into a romantic getaway.

Victor and I stayed in a precious cabin set away from the other buildings. (Check out the website at: My camera is broken and the website wouldn't let me copy pictures.)

I really don't think that I am going to be able to accurately describe what those 36 hours meant for me or did for me! God is simply just so good! We arrived and settled in, took a nap, went down to the village where Victor bought me three new outfits of my favorite style of clothing (long skirts and typical blouses) and a beautiful floral arrangement with my favorite flowers (Cala Lilies). We had a nice afternoon dinner with a gorgeous view of the cliffs, then spent part of the evening sitting in the heated jacuzzi under God's incredible starry expanse. From there, we retired to the cabin where there was a fire in the fireplace and ate pizza! On Saturday, we slept in, had a delicious breakfast, read for awhile and then went back into town to start some Christmas shopping.

God spoiled me so much that when the cook brought out our breakfast, she had served Victor's eggs with tortillas and refried beans and mine with toast! Here, nobody can eat without their tortillas. While I like tortillas, fried eggs are not complete without toast to sop up the egg yolk! However, I am very used to having to look after myself and hunt down the bread and toast it at home or, at a restaurant, having to order toast and getting it long after my eggs are cold, or eaten. The cook/waitress/cleaning lady came out of the kitchen and I asked for toast....she was already bringing it out before I had even asked for it! Do you see what I mean when I say that I was spoiled by God? He even gave me perfectly toasted toast without asking for it! I mean, really! God loves me so much that He made sure I had hot toast with breakfast! He is the Creator of the universe, the Savior of the world and He paid attention to my toast!

Without wanting to sound like Paul, but following his example: I have lived in Mexico for over 7 years. I have spent Christmas after Christmas, Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving without my extended family. I missed by grandfather's funeral. I have a niece who is a year and a half old whom I have never met. I spent my honeymoon picking up missionaries at the border, getting bit by gnats in Alabama (Lousiana? Arkansas? Who knows - I really don't want to remember the place.); rescuing a drowning man while wearing a white sundress and sandals; and outdriving a tornado. We slept on the living room floor of a borrowed apartment for our first week of married life, after the lovely honeymoon and then, the day we were to move into our mobile home, discovered the water heater had malfunctioned and the place had flooded. By the age of 21 I was helping my fiancee plant a church and was basically copastoring with him by the age of 22. I have done laundry for 6 by hand, hunted down medical care for broken bones, eaten cow's head tacos and watched the most beautiful sunrises over volcanoes and beaches. If you add the ages of my biological children and the number of years that we have had each of our adopted children, I have a total of over 50 years of parenting experience. (Check out 2 Corinthians 11 and 12!)

However, this is craziness, my intention in sharing this is to say that the last 13 years of life have not been years in the lap of luxury, nor a walk down easy street. But, in the moment in which I want to complain, or even worst, boast, I cannot - because Christ has given so much more for me! I cannot - because others give so much more than me! In the moment that I am tempted to think: "I deserve a bit of pampering", the Holy Spirit reins me in and nearly shouts at me: "Hold it there! Deserve? You want to talk about deserving? You deserve hell and condemnation." It is only by the grace of God.....! It is only by the grace of God that I am who I am. It is only by the grace of God that I am were I am. It is only by the grace of God that I do what I do. It is only by the grace of God that any good comes out of my life!

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I stand in awe of the fact that I deserve hell and condemnation, but in His grace, God offers me His love, forgiveness and eternal life. And He doesn't stop there! Not only does he grant me freely His mercy, but He gives me the incredible privilege to be an instrument of His grace in the lives of others! Then, not only does He grant me the incredible privilege to be used by Him (by His grace only), but then He spoils me like this past month!

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

This past month felt like living out Isaiah 35:1-2, 6-7:

"The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.

Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow."

In the month of November, God spoiled me by allowing me to watch Him work, and be a part of His working, in the lives of the women at the retreat. In the Sundays since the retreat we have started a women's Bible study at church. Thirty-nine women attended the first week and 56 this past week! Then, the Lord gave me a beautiful Thanksgiving where He touched my children's hearts to love me in a very tangible way! Then, God topped it all off by giving me an incredible weekend in a beautiful place with my husband, and touched Victor's heart to be more sensitive and attentive to me than he has ever been before! As I have been reflecting on all of these wonderful gifts from God I see more and more of them around me: every time one of my kids hugs me, says "I love you" or calls me "Mom"; every time Victor fixes a broken lamp or doorknob; every time Martha pronounces her English correctly; every time the sun comes up beside Popocatepetl and sets behind the hills; every time the phone rings and one of the kids shouts out: "It's Grandpa and Grandma!"; every time...., every time...., every time....

While God is sooooo good and has spoiled me soooo much, His goodness simply prompts me to want to be even better and serve Him even more!

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21