Monday, March 28, 2011

Parties and Taxes

It's almost my birthday. I love birthdays. Well, I used to anyway. I used to celebrate for a whole "birthday week" and secretly hope every year I'd get a big surprise party. I loved any excuse for a party! It's not like that so much anymore, though. I still like birthdays, but they seem to get less exciting as the numbers go up, don't they?

But you know who else loves my birthday? Uncle Sam!

Why?? My birthday is April 15th. Tax Day.

And here's why I am thinking of tax day today. I finally did my taxes this year. I usually get them done by mid-February, but it took me a bit longer this year. I have a photo business on the side and this year I preferred procrastinating to trying to crunch all the business and personal accounting numbers that needed crunching before taxes could be filed. But the point is I did it. Finally. And you need to do yours before my birthday.

And here's why I'm talking about it here...
Let me share a little more about us. We've always tithed. The Bible says we should, and we do. Of course, the Bible says we should do lots of things and we try but fail in so many of them. This one however, this command, is one we've always worked hard to follow. God even asks us to test him in this in Malachi 3:10. Go ahead and read about it. "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it." Pretty cool, huh? How can we not do it when God makes that promise? Anyway, we tithe to our church, but when we get extras (like tax refunds - 'cause we already tithe on the gross income) we look for good causes to give IJM.

And yes, we still need your support. Every dollar counts and no amount is too small. Please prayerfully consider giving to help us as we leave for Cambodia in just a few short weeks. If you get a tax refund, consider giving a portion of it. And hey, if you find another cause that speaks to you more strongly than ours, then give to that. God will bless you for giving wherever you give. It doesn't have to be us. We know God will provide for us! Also, for those who aren't lucky enough to get refunds and instead OWE money in taxes, maybe making a tax-deductible donation in 2011 will help you out next year? : )

Just a thought....

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Nature Hike

What better way to enjoy nature than to go for a little walk in it? We decided to take one Saturday morning and go to a park. Our little Hulk calls it "the park with all the animals." It has a nature center. That's fun for the kids, but I don't really like it. Snakes are weird. They're gross. They crawl on their bellies and swallow food whole. Their bites can be poisonous and it's always freaked me out the way they move. But whatever, I'll be the "cool" mom and pretend like snakes are awesome. I'll do that for my boys because I love 'em! So, we went to the "park with all the animals" and I even took a picture of a snake for the little boogers! It turned out pretty neat - well, for a picture of a snake behind a piece of glass.

I don't really care for it, but I can appreciate the art, since I have a love for photography and all. Anyway, we went outside after that and had a little fun. Little Hulk chased some poor, helpless geese, looked for fish in an empty river, and got a ride on Daddy's shoulders.

While our Iron Man traipsed through the forest hunting and gathering. He found all sorts of "swords" and weapons. And he thought the fuzzy little pinecone/pineball thing (what do you call those anyway?) was pretty cool! He carried that stick until we got to the car, where we insisted it ride in the backseat so "it," (see how we were careful not to accuse him of such a thing) wouldn't poke his brother while on the way home.

Goodness, how I love these boys! This is what it's all about, huh?
Stephen on the other hand....
He knows me. He knew that after seeing all those snakes in the nature center I'd be watching my step and cautiously looking for snakes, all the while trying to act brave for the kids. He couldn't resist a joke, though. He never can, especially at my expense. But it's ok. I can take it. This is him laughing after he fell down pretending a snake bit him on the ground. Not all that funny to me, but boy, he looks like he thought it was funny. Haha, honey. You're hilarious!

It was a fun day. Here's me with my little superheroes and their treasures.

And if you're expecting me to wrap up here with something inspirational and meaningful, well, I can't. Not when a picture of a snake was in the post! I just can't do it! I came home and googled "snakes in Cambodia." WHAT WAS I THINKING? Ha! Oh well, I'm from Texas! I bet googling "snakes in Texas" isn't much better!
But Stephen if you are reading this, remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? Next time you think its funny to fall down and pretend like a snake got you, I'll show you that google search I found about Cambodia!
Have a fun week, all! Enjoy yourselves, and get out and enjoy God's creation, too!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

We officially have a new job!

...and it's super crazy busy!!!

So, Monday it became official. Stephen signed out of the Army on to his terminal leave. That means no work until we get to Cambodia, right? Ha ha ha ha! We are up to our noses in papers and to do lists. We've moved a few times now and sure, every time we learn something new and get a little more efficient, but this time is like nothing ever before! There's all the usual stuff, plus deciding what to bring and what to put in storage, learning a bit of a new language, trying to find airfare and travel arrangements in our very low budget, and the most daunting task of all... raising support for a year serving God overseas. That means lots of travel, lots of mailings, lots of phone calls, lots of "stuff."

But we have to work some fun time in there, too. After all, life is about to be drastically different. We need to cherish every moment here and let our boys be boys. We are so grateful for the beautiful weather this week. The sun is shining on us and that means lots of time outdoors. I'd love to share some pictures of the boys playing.

We'll call this one Iron Man. They both love super heroes like their dad, but I think Iron Man is a good name for him. Like Tony Stark, he gets into trouble because he's too smart. And this little one is Hulk. Yep, that's right, the big green guy who gets bigger and stronger when he gets angry. That sounds about like him. But Bruce Banner ("Hulk") is also very smart and enjoys experimenting and studying. They are so sweet and play together so nicely sometimes. I'm so thankful they have each other. Even when we move to the other side of the earth they'll still have each other... a live-in best friend to experience it all with! I try to remind them of that when they aren't getting along.

So, yes, we have a new job. A job that requires giving our time, our talents, our faith, our all to God's will. And I'm confident that He wills for us to have a little fun in the midst of all the to-do lists. Hopefully we'll have lots more fun times to write about in the coming days!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

We need your help!

Dear friends:
I am in awe of some of your spiritual gifts. I've always wanted to sing, or play an instrument, or write pretty songs. But I'm not good at that. I have seen people who can show an unbelievable amount of love and forgiveness to others. I've seen those who can teach, those who can preach, those who pray in a way that makes others truly comforted. Some of you have gifts of generousity and hospitality that others can't even imagine. I've watched people work in ministries that they are so passionate about that it overflows into every conversation they are part of. We all have gifts. God gives them to us and calls us to use them.

When I think about all the many gifts He gives people, these verses come to mind:
"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. " Romans 12:3-8

I have taken spiritual gift tests, and so has my husband, and we try to use the information we learn from them to grow and be useful. But this is a time when what we have just isn't enough. See, God isn't sending just our little family of four to Cambodia. He's sending all of you with us. We are to be the hands and feet you can't be and you are to be all the many things we can't be.

Here's another passage about the body of Christ.
"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it."

1 Corinthians 12:12-28

And since we are all one body, we're all in this together. Let's see if we can find a place you will be able to help. If you see something below that speaks out to you and is an area where you can help, email me right away! We'll be in touch when these teams are formed.

1 - We need a website! Now, I can design this if needed, but I have to buy some good software first. What I need from you is a NAME! Help us name the website that will point people to us and our time in Cambodia. Go ahead and leave it here as a comment so others can vote and comment on the names! And if you can help with website design (or at the least, help getting software for us) then email me.

2 - PRAYER TEAM - we need people praying. Lots of people praying! We need a committed team of volunteers who will stop everything and pray when there's an immediate need and who will also commit to praying for us weekly. If you can help, email me and we will get you a list of specific requests.

3 - FINANCE TEAM - we need some help designing/organizing our support raising materials, sending mailings out, making contact by phone or email, brainstorming fundraisers, and whatever else arises in this respect. I sure don't have a gift of organization by any definition of the word!

4 - SUPPORT - We need your financial support to make this year happen. If you would like to give please email me with your name, address, phone, and email (don't need to tell us how much - it can be anonymous) and we'll make sure you get the information on how to make a tax-deductible donation to IJM to be allocated to our funds. I'm not supposed to post all the info on that here, so I'll email you out a response after I hear from you.

And if you have thought of something that I haven't mentioned, because I'm sure some of you have a gift that helps you just plan and think of things that I forget, just let us know how you would like to help. All sorts of needs arise, and it'd be nice to have a database of people with special skills or talents - like a property manager for home, or a travel agent to help us arrange transportation, or whatever else arises. Just contact us. No talent or idea is too small! We are all one, remember? We need you!

And we thank you. We spoke last Sunday at our church here, what will be our "home" church in this, and we are amazed at the outpouring of love and financial support already shown. We have a huge "to-do" list and all of you make it easier. So, thank you doesn't seem like enough.

How can we thank you enough? Maybe by reminding you that your gifts of time, money, talent, and prayer will help the people of Cambodia live better lives.

Thank you!