Love Letters to My Children {no. 1}

Love Letters | no 1

Dear Children,

I want you to know something: we really, really like you.

That may not seem like a big deal, but it is.

You’d be hard pressed to find parents who don’t love their kids. But liking their kids? That’s another subject altogether.

But you all…we really, really like you. We like spending time with you. We like playing with you. We like eating meals around the table and playing silly dinner games like Goober Goat and Mrs. Mumbles.

Sure, there are times when the noise level gets to us and there are times mom and dad want time alone. Spending time with you, though, is not just something we have to do, it’s something we want to do.

And the reason is simple: we think you are really amazing kids. At least once a week I say to dad, “We have really great kids.”

Yes, you are kids. Yes, you make mistakes. Yes, you can be loud and crazy and forget your manners (though Bethany likes to remind us all that she has manners.) But you are some of the best kids I have ever met and I don’t think I am saying that simply because you are ours (and the fact that others regularly tell us how great you are attests to this. It isn’t a coincidence that the park ranger in most of the campgrounds where we have stayed come to tell us how great you all are.)

You are kind. Every day I see you helping one another. Whether it’s getting milk for the littles or saying, “I’m making bacon. Would anyone else like some?”, you are always thinking of others. You aren’t mean to each other. We rarely have hitting or yelling and we don’t call each other names. You build one another up instead of tearing each other down.

You are obedient. When we ask you to do something, you do it. You be may be sluggish about it at times and you may not be excited, but you do it. You never argue with us, say, “no,” or complain that “it’s not fair.”

You are helpful. I have made it a point since you were little to differentiate between me giving you a command (“Bring me a diaper”) and making a request (“Would you mind bringing me a diaper?” If I give you a command, I expect you to obey. But if I make a request, I am giving you the permission to say yes or no. It’s important to me that I am not just barking orders at you. The thing is, 99% of the time you still say yes and do what I asked. I apologize if I ever take this for granted. I need to be better about not asking you to do things simply because I don’t want to do them. You all are so helpful that I can get lazy. I’m sorry.

When we are getting ready for homeschool co-op and we have to be out the door at 7:15 after being up late on Wednesday night for homegroup, you all are so incredible about helping to get everything ready without me even asking you. Katie packs Zach’s things. Alaina does the little girls’ hair. Caleb and Levi work to pack the lunch basket. You all work hard so that I don’t have to do it all alone.

You are fun. You all are a crazy bunch of silly! I love to watch the games and activities you all come up with. Whether its dressing up in pretty dresses and letting your sister do your makeup (I’m not naming names here….um…cough….cough…rhymes with Bevi…) or surfing down a snow hill on a sled, you all are always making me, and each other, laugh.

You are happy. Ever since Alaina was born, people have commented on how happy my kids are. I’ve been asked dozens and dozens of times, “Are they always this happy?” I have to answer honestly: yes. You all have bright smiles that light up the room. In Elisabeth Elliot’s A Chance to Die (the biography of Amy Carmichael, missionary to India), Amy states, “Never was there a happier child than I.” I read that years before having children and thought, “If my kids can say that, I will have done a good job.”

You are grateful. Whether it is making a meal for you, making holidays special, or helping you find your shoes, you are all so quick to say, “thank you.” I should do my mothering jobs with or without thanks, but let me tell you: it’s a lot easier and much more fun to do things for you all when you express your gratitude. It’s good for a mother to know her work doesn’t go unnoticed.

You are beautiful. Maybe it’s silly, but I just love to look at you. I am not sure you could get any cuter. All of you and your blond hair. Levi and Katie’s freckles. Alaina’s gorgeous, thick hair. Your sweet smiles. I am sure most mothers think this way, but I know I am right. Even the police agree! Remember when we were stopped in Snow Camp while they were doing random checks for licenses? The police officer looked in the car and said, “Are those all yours?” After affirming they were, he said, “None of them are ugly!” See…I told you you are beautiful!

I could go on. And on. And on. You’re creative and smart and sweet and flexible and thoughtful. The point is, though, we really, really like you. We love you, of course. That’s what parents do. But I am so thankful that I also can also honestly say we like you. You are pretty amazing kids and I am so grateful to be your mama.

Love Mama3

Love Letters to My Children {a new project}

Love Letters | Introduction

Last January, a friend died. We didn’t know each other all that well, but after living in Indonesia for a few years and getting together with other young moms, we spent a good bit of time with one another. We had coffee, played with our kids at the park, and had many discussions about faith, marriage, and parenting.

Her death was quite sudden. From what I understand, the timeline from her diagnosis of breast cancer to death was less than a few weeks. She was young. Beautiful. Smart. Witty. And she was a mom. Three little kids, all age five and under and all little blondies like my own, will never get the chance to really know her.

Her death changed me. In the days after hearing the news, I was mad. I kept thinking, “It isn’t fair! She didn’t have enough time! She didn’t know!” I thought of all the things I am sure she would have wanted to do if she had known she wouldn’t get to see her kids grow up. All the letters she would have written. All the stories she would have wanted to record. All the words of wisdom she would have wanted to pass on.

We think we have forever. But we don’t.  None of us know the end our days.

Over the past year, I have thought many times about the stories I would want my kids to hear. The letters I would want to write. The rationale for decisions I would want to articulate. If God were to call me to Himself without me being able to finish raising these sweet kids, there are things I want them to know. Many of the stories of our family are in our scrapbook albums. The tens of thousands of photos we have show a mother who adored her children. But there are still thoughts and feelings and dreams that still need to be given words.

And so, Love Letters to My Children. I want to be intentional about taking the time to share with my kids the thoughts and truths that live deep within my heart. I want to make sure I take the time to articulate the whys and hows of our family, not just the whats. I want them to know why our family does the things the way we do. I want them to know why we value the things we value. I want them to understand the rationale for decisions we have made and will continue to make. I want them to know the mistakes we have made and what we have learned from them. I want them to know the dreams I have for them and the prayers I pray for them.

Not all of these letters will be for public view. Some things are better off being kept private. However, I am choosing to share some of these letters publicly. I do this because maybe…Maybe it will challenge you in your parenting. Maybe it will encourage you. Maybe it will help you feel you aren’t alone. Maybe it will help you think of parenting issues and challenges in new ways. Maybe it will inspire you to make changes in your family or in yourself. Maybe it will give you the courage to be the mother God made you to be instead of the mother the internet says you should be. Maybe you will think of the stories and truths and dreams and love you want to share with your children.

Through my years of blogging, I have often wondered about the value of sharing my words. I often fear that I am talking to hear myself talk or that others will assume that to be my motivation. We all know there are plenty of people who are so enamored with themselves they can’t help but share it for the world to see. I question my motives daily. I wrestle with adding more words to the cacophony of parenting advice which usually confuses and divides rather than encourages and unifies. I ask myself, “Wouldn’t it bet better if we would all just be quiet?”

And then I am reminded that words themselves are a gift from God. Of all the ways He could have chosen to reveal Himself and His heart to His creation, He chose words. Communication of His thoughts and will could have been accomplished in any way He imagined or declared. But He chose words as the means of communicating truth from Himself to His children. And if words are the way God chooses to communicate most effectively, then I must believe that words are the means by which we as humans are able to communicate most effectively.

I’m flawed…so much more so than I would like to admit (and probably much more than I even realize.)  I don’t always get it right…in life, in marriage, or in mothering.

However, I am the mother God has chosen for these children. These are the children God has chosen for me. I must believe that even with my flaws and faults, I am God’s best for them.

I want my children to know my heart— not only for them, but also for God and His Word. These love letters will be my attempt to share the inner workings of my mother-heart. I hope I live long enough to share these stories and truths and dreams while looking into each of their eyes, but for now, I will rest well knowing that I have paired words with feelings and have written them down to be read and re-read. Whether I am with my children or at home with the Lord, these love letters will be theirs.

I want them to know.

©janetphillips_PTS_loveletters-1

Because There is Snow and Ice Falling Outside My Window…

©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-461

…and because my posts have been a little heavy lately, I thought I would finally share some photos from our trip to Florida in December.

First, a little backstory:

  • Our kids didn’t want anything for Christmas. As in, I asked them to write lists and they all said, “I can’t think of anything.” It was at this point I felt reaffirmed in thankfulness for not having TV with commercials in our home. Our kids don’t even know what is out there to want!
  • I loathe winter. I am trying mightily hard to find some redeeming factors in winter by looking at the deeper lessons to be learned. I even went outside a few weeks ago to photograph the deadness of the trees and yard in an attempt to remind myself that even though we can’t see it, growth and rebirth are happening. In the end, though, the truth is simple: I hate being cold.
  • We desperately needed some time together as a family after my trip to the Philippines. Camping is always my favorite way to be together. Plus, it’s cheap and you rarely have to plan ahead. I won’t rehash my love for camping (though I never lack things to say about it). You can read some of my thoughts about it in this post.
  • Florida was warm. With the unseasonable warm fall and early winter in the US this year, Florida still had 85° air temps and 75° water temps. What more convincing was needed?

So, just a few days after returning home from the Philippines and with not a single Christmas gift planned or purchased, Jason and I decided to surprise the kids with a trip to Florida for the bulk of their Christmas present. We were fortunate to get a fantastic campsite with only a few days notice (so great, in fact, that when we checked in and the guy at the desk said, “Oh, what a great site! You booked December 9th? So that was December 9th of last year, right?” Nope. Just four days before arrival.

We wanted to really surprise the kids. So, I did a bit of Christmas shopping and wrapping. The kids couldn’t decide if they were glad to see presents under the tree two weeks before Christmas or if it was more like a form of parental torture. “Can’t we just open one?” A few days later I answered their oft repeated plea with, “Well, maybe we’ll let you open two.

©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-10 copy

It’s our tradition to let the youngest child open his/her present first and then move up the age order. After Zachary opened a pack of beach balls, Bethany opened a bucket of sand toys, and Katie opened a new rainbow kite, we started to hear unsure whispers of, “Are we going to beach?” The three bigs were then told to grab their specially-marked gifts and open them in unison. With boogie boards open, the kids were on to us. New swimsuits were opened next.

©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-28 copy

“Yes, we’re going to the beach! To Florida!”

To which they replied, “When?”

“Just as soon as the car is packed. Let’s see if we can make it out the door by lunch!”

Squeals of glee and frantic packing ensued. I was once again thankful for having a camper that stays stocked with everything but clothes and food. A few hours later, we were on the road.

©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-466

©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-246

Let me tell you…it was bliss. Five days on the beach, our campsite just minutes away from the boardwalk. No useable internet to distract us. Easy camping food our kids love because we never buy that much sugar-laden prepackaged junk when we were home. An awesome tree that provided shade from the sun and hours of climbing fun and squirrel watching. Boogie boarding, an attempt at surfing, bird watching, gorgeous sunrises, fire and s’more by night, and lots of hot coffee (which I am sure the clubhouse regretted being complimentary after our family of eight trooped through every day.) We even got to spend a few hours with great friends who visited from Orlando.

©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-50

From where I sat (warm in the sand rather than chilly in the water), I kept telling my family, “I don’t need any Christmas gifts. This trip is the best gift I could ever ask for.” And it was. It reminded me of who our family is, what we enjoy, and how we “do life” best. There is little I like more than watching the people I love most in the world laugh and play and enjoy one another.

©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-542

And now, a photo overload. I have never been good at only sharing a few. Consider, though, that I took over 1500 photos, culled it down to 500 to edit, and I am only sharing a small fraction of those. If photos were a love language, I would claim it as my own.

©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-490©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-42 copy©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-46©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-54©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-63©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-78©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-65©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-59
©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-81 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-88 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-103 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-120 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-123 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-126 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-128 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-131 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-136 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-140 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-141 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-153 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-170 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-172 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-175 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-185 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-192 copy ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-212 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-256 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-261 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-252 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-249 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-263 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-273 copy©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-214©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-233©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-282©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-299©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-304©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-309©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-322©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-344©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-357©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-366©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-374©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-376©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-388©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-390©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-394©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-396 copy©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-402©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-407©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-408©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-410©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-413©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-426©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-429 copy©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-434 copy©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-447©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-448©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-454©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-474©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-496©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-497 copy©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-502©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-510©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-512©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-519©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-534©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-587©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-585

This is Better

PTS | This is Better

Every month, as I read through Proverbs as part of my Bible reading plan, I have a few days where I am reminded of some very specific truths:

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
    than great treasure and trouble with it. — Proverbs 15:16

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
    than a fattened ox and hatred with it. — Proverbs 15:17

Better is a little with righteousness
    than great revenues with injustice. — Proverbs 16:8

Better is a dry morsel with quiet
    than a house full of feasting with strife. — Proverbs 17:1

I won’t lie. 2015 was a hard year for me, for our family. Those who know us best still only know 10% of it; acquaintances, less. I can, and probably will, share more in the future, but suffice it to say I wasn’t sad to see 2015 close its doors.

©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-474 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-472

In the midst of the struggles in my body, my heart, and my mind, another war was brewing. It was a war on my motherhood. Most days I felt like a failure. Many days I was a failure. I was not the mother I wanted to be. Sure, I was “good enough.” But “good enough” has never been my goal.

©janetphillips_january6_2016_web-7 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-109

Guilt, fear, and self-loathing were constant companions. I asked myself many times, “If I am going to end up failing them, are they better off without me? What if everything we have worked for as a family comes to nothing? What if my convictions about who our family is supposed to be and the decisions we have made based on those convictions turn out to be nothing more than naive idealistic dreams of a foolish woman? What if….What if…?”

©janetphillips_january6_2016_web-29 ©janetphillips_january6_2016_web-25

But then.

But then we go on vacation as a family, and I am reminded of who we are.

But then I see kids with smiles hanging out together out of choice, not coercion.

But then I see the bigs begging the littles for hugs and cuddles and kisses.

But then I see big brother helping little brother.

But then I hear roaring laughter coming from a bedroom where siblings are playing.

But then I see kids snuggled in a recliner, laughing as they tip themselves over.

But then I see piles of folded laundry on the school table with a little note from an 11-year-old that says, “You’re welcome.”

But then my almost-13-year-old snuggles in my bed with me as we watch Downton Abbey.

But then I hear big sister give little sister permission to sleep in her bed while she is gone.

But then.

©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-436 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-384 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-136 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-49 ©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-44

We have huge question marks that loom foreboding over our days. We are still wrestling with physical and emotional health. We have hopes and dreams and fears we cannot share with anyone. And yet, God reminds me of the better things in life:

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
    than a fattened ox and hatred with it. — Proverbs 15:17

©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-147

And let me tell you…there is a lot of love over here. It’s more than I could have ever hoped for, ever dreamed. I am so thankful that even in the midst of my struggles, my questions, and my failures, God has made me the joyful mother of children. I don’t take the responsibility lightly or the privilege for granted. I worry constantly about my adequacy as a mother, but then God reminds me of His great sufficiency as a Father.

This is where love is, and it is better.

Peppermint Cookies (aka Christmas Delight)

PTS | Peppermint Cookies

A few years ago during one of my pregnancy-induced cooking obsessions, I made dozens and dozens (and dozens) of various Christmas cookies. I even made my sister frozen cookie dough plates with about 20 dozen cookies of all varieties. It got a little out of hand.

Of all the cookies I made that year, though, these are by far our favorite. My husband took one bite and said, “It tastes like Christmas delight in my mouth!” The kids love them because they taste good. I love them because they are so stinkin’ pretty.

I actually combined a few recipes, with the original inspiration being a sweet friend who brought similar cookies to a cookie exchange. I used a different chocolate cookie recipe and then added a few steps of my own (to make it all pretty!) The end result is two soft cookies with light crispy outsides, sandwiched together with oh-so-creamy peppermint frosting. White chocolate (or powdered sugar icing) drizzled over the top and sprinkled with crushed peppermint finishes them off.

PTS | Peppermint Cookies 2

Peppermint Cookies

Yield: 20

filled cookies

Peppermint Cookies

Ingredients

    COOKIES
  • 1 1/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • PEPPERMINT FILLING
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • GLAZE
  • White chocolate bark OR powdered sugar icing

Instructions

    COOKIES
  1. Cream butter and sugar on medium until fluffy (aprox 1 minute).
  2. Add eggs in one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  3. Mix in vanilla.
  4. In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda.
  5. Add mixture slowly to the butter/sugar mix.
  6. Beat until combined.
  7. Drop spoonfuls (I prefer to use a cookie scoop to ensure same sized cookies) on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes. (I like to remove them when edges look crisp but centers still look slightly moist.)
  8. Remove cookie sheets and let the cookies stay on the sheets for two minutes before transferring to a cooling rack or paper towels.
  9. Let the cookies cool completely. While cooling, make your filling.
  10. PEPPERMINT FILLING
  11. In a large bowl, beat softened butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.
  12. Add 2 vanilla and peppermint extracts.
  13. Beat in 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar.
  14. Beat in the 2 Tbsp of milk.
  15. Beat in remaining powdered sugar until smooth.
  16. PUTTING THE COOKIES TOGETHER
  17. Once the cookies are cool and your filling is made, take two cookies and place filling between them, being careful not to bed or break the cookie (I fill a pastry bag with the filling and then quickly pipe the filling on an upside down cookie) Repeat for remaining cookies.
  18. Place all the filled cookies on a cookie sheet (line with wax paper if using white chocolate for glaze). Melt chocolate according to package instructions. Fill a pastry bag or zipper bag with chocolate or icing and snip a small opening.
  19. Quickly drizzle over the cookies, adding crushed peppermints before chocolate/icing hardens.

©janetphillips_december22_2015_web-9 ©janetphillips_december22_2015_web-12©janetphillips_december22_2015_web-14 copy

If you find yourself with some extra time and a craving for peppermint, I can’t recommend these cookies enough. And although they contain more sugar in one cookie than I normally consume in an entire week, the indulgence was 100% worth it. One warning: if there are leftovers, the kids (and husband) just might ask for them for breakfast. You can say no if you have cinnamon rolls in the oven like I do.

Enjoy!

Back Where I Belong

©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-6 copy

Bethany, our four year old, has quite a way with words. She always surprises us. On the way home from the airport yesterday, she told me, “I missed you as much as I love Gracie!” (Gracie is our dog.) She must have missed me very, very much for me to be anywhere close to on par with Gracie!

©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-23 copy

Later she told me, “I missed you to the last number!” She later wanted to clarify her statement so she was sure I understood the extent of her missing me: “Mom, you know the numbers never end, right? That’s why I missed you to the last number!”

Right back at you, kiddo.

My trip to the Philippines was amazing. I talked with so many people and listened to so many stories. The work going on in Davao is truly inspirational. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to travel there, spending twelve days learning more about the work and location than I would have been able to do in months if my family were with me. Most days I woke up with few plans and little idea of what the day had in store, and yet each day managed to be filled with new people and new stories. I definitely wasn’t bored, nor did I play the tourist. Instead, I sought the stories of those living and serving. I was not disappointed. I also appreciated the time I had alone, the time to read and write and process and pray. God did some pretty amazing things in my heart as He and I wrestled deeply with questions of ministry, purpose, God’s will, and the power of God’s Word.

I will be sharing more about my trip in the coming days, but for now, suffice it to say, I am back where I belong. As amazing as the trip was, I was incredibly grateful to step off my 12th flight in as many days and walk out of the airport to see my people. Oh how I missed them! I missed their hugs and snuggles and kisses and I missed their creativity, sensitivity, and maybe even a tiny bit of their hyperactivity. Our home is loud and crazy and filled with all sorts of uncertainties, but of this I am certain: my place is with them. My family is such a gift and I can’t imagine doing life without their love and support.

©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-6

©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-12 copy©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-22©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-26©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-13 ©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-10 copy ©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-8 copy ©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-7 copy ©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-3 ©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-2 copy ©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-1 copy©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-16©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-18 copy©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-20 copy

I’ve spent the last 24 hours just soaking it in. The kids had a welcome home party planned, complete with cupcakes and a talent show. The Christmas tree was up, just waiting for me to return so we could decorate together. Although I had been joining the family for Advent lessons via video calling, it was so much better to be with them in person as we learned about the way people celebrate Christmas around the world. We played a Japanese Christmas game and laughed at the little ones’ antics. Today Jason took Katie to the store and the rest of us cuddled on my bed as we watched silly pet videos on youtube, laughing as Gracie tried to get into the computer to the other dogs.

©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-30 ©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-29 ©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-28 ©janetphillips_december6_2015_web-27

I’m back where I belong and it feels so good.

Hard to Know

©Janet Phillips_november27_2015_web-9

Today is my last full day in Davao. I am just itching to get home to my babies and yet I am sad to leave, knowing I have only seen a small portion of the work that is going on here.

When you visit or move to a new culture, lots of information is thrown at you. Many missionaries refer to this as “trying to drink from a fire hydrant.” The metaphor works.

©Janet Phillips_november27_2015_web-312

I have spent nine days trying to see both the big picture of the work here in the Philippines as well as hear the specific details in the myriad of stories I have heard from individuals who serve here. It is humbling, encouraging, overwhelming, and inspiring all at the same time.

©Janet Phillips_november27_2015_web-40

There are people who have served here only a few months and those who have served for decades. I have read and listened to the stories of Bible translators, media specialists, teachers, medical workers, tent-makers, administrative staff, pastors, mobilizers, orphanage staff, anti-sex trafficking workers, evangelists, social workers, and more. I have talked to people working with kids, mentally dialed adults, orphans, sexual abuse victims, missionary kids, Filipino Christian youth, Christians, Muslims, the poor, the wealthy, the forgotten.

©Janet Phillips_november27_2015_web-42

And the fire hydrant just keeps spewing water.

Sometimes it is hard to know where you fit into the big picture of what God is doing. We struggle all the time. We wonder, “What can a PE teacher and a stay-at-home-mom who likes to write and take pictures possibly do to make an impact on the needs of the world? How we make a difference here in the Philippines? How can we help those in the States make a difference right where they are?”

©Janet Phillips_november27_2015_web-278

Our human tendency is to want to see impact in a straight line. If I do this, follow the line, the impact will be on the other side. We want to know that doing A will cause B. From here to there. If this, then that.

But missions (and life in general) doesn’t work that way. We may never see a direct line from action to impact. And it’s only our pride that cries out for it.

©Janet Phillips_november27_2015_web-192

Just this morning (well, my morning, it’s still evening in America) Bob Creson, CEO for Wycliffe Bible Translators, posted some images from a conference he is attending for Every Tribe Every Nation (an organization whose sole purpose to eradicate Biblical poverty.) On one of the slides he shared was a term I had never heard, a term most appropriate: knitworking. Not networking, knitworking. Just as a blanket or sweater is not made from a piece of yarn merely stretched from end to end but rather through the careful handiwork of knitting needles weaving strands and colors into something of value, making disciples of all nations is done by the careful handiwork of God who weaves people and places and passions and purpose into a beautiful piece of artwork that will only be revealed when we get to the awe and wonder of Revelation 7:9.

©Janet Phillips_november27_2015_web-21

And so, as much I long sometimes to see how exactly we fit in and the difference we can make, we’ll be content to be a single strand of yarn, given up for the cause of this great knitting project. We’ll trust in the handiwork of God. God, who through the beauty displayed through the mountains and the seas and the birds and the trees, leaves no doubt of His capabilities. We’ll offer our loaves and fish to a God who is able to take them and feed the masses.

©Janet Phillips_november27_2015_web-318

God has knit each of us in our mother’s womb and he will knit each of us together in such a way that every nation, people, tribe, and language will know that salvation belongs to our God.

Beauty in the Chaos

©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-postimage

Beauty in the chaos.

It’s my favorite thing about Asia. Well, that and the food and the weather and the people and the pace of life and the value of relationships and the really good coffee. All of those are my favorite. But this one is perhaps my most favorite.

©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-10©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-22©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-14

There is chaos and there is beauty. An American with virgin-Asia eyes would most likely see only filth, garbage, and broken roads. They would see the absence of road rules, or at least of any of them being followed. They would see peeling stickers on every cement wall along with dogs and chickens and children on the streets where we don’t think they don’t belong. It really can be chaos, at least where our Western preferences are concerned. And yet, there is so much beauty. Hidden amongst the chaos is a stunning and awe-inspiring beauty that leaves you breathless. The trick is, unlike the always-in-your-face beauty of the West, with its manicured lawns and perfect law-abiding drivers, the beauty here is often hidden. Only those with eyes wiling to slow down enough to see get to drink of its delight. The flowers growing over the garbage. The bird landing on the jumbled wires. The crooked smile of the elderly woman offering hot coffee from her make-shift shop on the side of the road.

©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-11©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-29

Of course, there is the obvious beauty as well—the gentle sway of the palm trees, the birds of paradise framing the doors of buildings, the put-together beauty of the petite jet-black haired woman sitting next to you. But it’s the hidden beauty I long to catch a glimpse of. I know that if I just open my eyes and see, if I look beyond the dirt and the poverty and pot holes that could be mistaken for a swimming pool—if I look beyond those, true treasure is found.

©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-30

And isn’t this really how life really is? Pain and hurt and dissapointment make their presence known every chance possible while the beauty goes unnoticed. The radio plays song after song about being sad, broken, and without hope. We put our mental playlist of tragedy and despair and unmet expectations on repeat, all the while the real beauty in life is there, hiding subtly, framing not just our doorways but also our experiences. The beauty…it’s there. Everywhere we go and in everything we do, God gives us glimpses of His goodness. He whets our appetite for the beauty of a sinless world that needs no light but Christ Himself. If we look past the garbage and the broken bottles and the dogs digging for a bite to eat, we will see beauty.

©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-21©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-28©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-23

And isn’t that what we as believers should be? Beauty amidst the chaos? The world lets out its cries of distress and hunger and horror and they long for the beauty. The world longs to find something beautiful, something poking out from underneath the chaos, something beautiful to frame the doorposts of life. They don’t know it, but they are longing for the light of Christ and the true hope that only He can offer. But where is the beauty they so desperately long for? Where are His image bearers? Where are those of us who have been summoned by a Great Grace to let our lights shine? Are we hiding under baskets or sitting as cities on a hill? I know where I spend most of my time—muffled light buried beneath a pile of self-centeredness and comfort-driven ideals.

©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-49 ©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-43 ©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-37

It’s been a year and a half since I have walked these dirty Asian streets and searched for the beauty. As the sun made its ascent over the acacia tree in the corner of the soccer field, I refilled my cup with bold Filipino coffee, its steam rising in the yellow light, and I stepped outside the gates of the guesthouse. Camera in one hand, coffee in another, I walked. And I looked. Just as the faded and peeling street signs boldly proclaim the names of precious jewels, the sights and sounds of this same-but-different Asian city boldly proclaimed its own precious jewels. As I saw the flowers and the birds, as I heard the rhythmic swishing of the brooms of the women clearing the sidewalks, as I breathed in the humid morning air, I was reminded of how much Asia reminds me of home. Not my home in America, but the home in my heart—the place that is filled with all sorts of sin and garbage and bitter disappointments and yet bears glimpses of HIs goodness, holding out hope for the life to come.
©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-45 ©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-36 ©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-35 ©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-34 ©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-32©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-24Beauty in the chaos. I feel at home.

Headed to the Philippines

Philippines

Bags packed, passport dusted off, hotels and transportation booked. My babies have been held and kissed and told they will be missed. My heart is full of expectant wonder and trust in a God whose ways are not my ways and whose thoughts are not my thoughts.

For eleven days, I will dwell in what we hope to be our future home. I will see the sights, ask the questions, take the pictures. I will visit the ministries, experience the school, and drink in the beauty that is Asia.

It wasn’t an easy decision to leave my family for two weeks. It was so difficult, in fact, I purchased and canceled tickets multiple times. How does a mama leave her little ones and fly across the world?

Well, she does it because she has an amazing husband who encouraged her to go on behalf of the family. A husband who knows his wife’s heart speaks in real conversations with real people and with taking photos that show the world through her eyes. A husband who is more than competent and confident in caring for the little ones, making sure school gets done, putting food on the table, and having fun through it all. (And there is a big sister that will ensure little sisters’ hair gets brushed occasionally!) That’s why a mama of six can get on a plane with only one passport instead of eight, with a bag full of books and journals and dreams instead of sippy cups, diapers, and chewing gum. She has a good husband and a good Father.

As I spend this time in the Philippines, learning about what will — Lord willing — be our home starting next summer, my prayer is for a vision for how our family, with its unique perspective, personalities, and passions, will find its place in Davao. Our conviction and desire is to be serving full-time with Wycliffe Bible Translators and play our part on a team that longs to brings God’s Word to a world still waiting.

I’ll be visiting this space quite frequently while I am away. Come for a visit, will you?

The Moment My Life Changed

I still remember hearing those precious words for the first time: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). As a young girl, guilt over sin threatened to overwhelm me. I was utterly convinced that there was no way God could love someone like me. He may be good and loving, I thought, but those character qualities go out only to the deserving. But when I heard those words, the walls around my twelve-year-old heart started to crumble. The love I so desperately desired and sought after was right there waiting for me. God would take my sin and remove it so far from me that it could never be reached again. That was the moment my life changed.

What if I hadn’t heard those words? What if the condemnation and complete unworthiness I felt were never remedied by the power of God’s Word? That hot summer day, a new eternal life began, all because I had access to God’s Word.

I admit it…this road to working with Wycliffe and gathering a group of prayer and financial partners has not been easy. There are days when we have wanted to give up, to quit, to enjoy the wonderful life of church, school, and fellowship we have here in America. However, it doesn’t take long for us to be reminded that hundreds of millions of people have never had an experience like I have, nor the thousands of experiences I have had since. These people, the almost 1800 languages in the world, are waiting for God’s Word. They are lost in their sin, their condemnation, their feelings of complete unworthiness. I think about that moment back in 1989 when God’s Word breathed life into my heart, and I know we have to go. We have to do everything we can to ensure people are given the opportunity to experience the new life that God’s Word brings.

What about you? Can you remember some of the moments when God’s Word spoke to you in a way that changed everything? What would your walk with the Lord look like if you never read your Bible, never heard a pastor speak from the Bible, never read a book written by someone intimate with the Bible? You have been given so much! With over 400 English Bible translations to choose from and thousands of Bible-saturated books and sermons at our immediate disposal, we have been entrusted with a great gift. We have been asked to be stewards of God’s grace.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11.

How will you steward your gift? We invite you to partner with us in our Wycliffe ministry as we strive to steward our gifts to bring the hope of God’s Word to those who wait. What can you do?

1. You can pray for us. Above all, we need people committed to praying for us. We need prayer for strength, wisdom, perseverance, boldness, and trust.

2. You can partner with our Wycliffe ministry financially. We need regular, monthly financial partners to help us meet our minimum monthly budget (set by Wycliffe) and be freed to serve in the Philippines. Click here to become a monthly financial partner.

3. You can sign up for our newsletter so you can stay up-to-date on our ministry progress and plans. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

4. You can pray about going. It doesn’t matter what your professional qualifications are. Teachers, pilots, doctors, nurses, IT professionals, accountants, translators, managers, and mechanics are needed all over the world to aid in the 2000+ translation projects already underway and to give hope for the almost 2000 projects still waiting to begin.

P.S. I realize that I have never mentioned in this space that our assignment with Wycliffe has changed from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines. We announced it in our newsletter, but not here. I apologize. Lord willing, we will be serving at Faith International Academy in Davao, Philippines.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...