Tuesday, August 4, 2020

TO MY VIOLIN CHILDREN

The night before one of my children prepare to take flight out of the family nest, I don't sleep well.  Last night was no exception.   During the moments of prayer and contemplation, the thought came to me that children are a lot like violins.


God is the master Craftsman lovingly creating each unique instrument, but then He places each unpolished gift into a parent's hands.  The violin spends time aging and maturing, sometimes being exposed to sunlight to darken its beautiful grain and expose its hidden beauty.   Layers of varnish are added through years in training and teaching.  Sadly, some parents don't take the time to brush the varnish on evenly with smooth strokes, and their work is evident in the appearance and behavior of their children.  Some parents push the children out into the world without adding a protectant coat, and the instrument is quickly damaged.  But those parents who realize the value of the gift God has entrusted to them, lovingly spend years with that brush in hand, patiently waiting for layers of varnish to dry before adding another coat.  Each coat takes on a different appearance depending on the circumstances, influences, and culture the child is exposed to.  


As the strings are slowly tightened, there are some intense moments as the wood adjusts to the pressure.  But as we have completed the work on each instrument and tuned it one last time, our hearts clench and our eyes weep as we watch each child walk away to begin their symphony of life.  

Although you came from the same wood, your personalities are different and circumstances changed, so the pigments and dyes added to your varnish will be varied.  Each one of you received a different type of polishing, but the purpose was all the same: to shine for Jesus.  Your strings have carefully been fitted and tuned to the same tone: to praise the Lord.  This is the music we have desired for you to make.  This is the sound that will bring such peace to our minds and such joy to our hearts  -- that your music be to praise the Lord.

But the polishing and tuning isn't just a one-time project.  Now it is up to you, my children, to keep your violin looking its best.  It is up to you to keep it in tune to sing the praises of the Lord by keeping your eyes on the Director and your ear always open to His instruction.  If a wrong note is played, but quick to correct it and get back in tempo.  It is your daily duty to wipe the smudges off through confession of sin, Bible reading, and prayer.   You must protect your instrument from damage by listening to instructors who themselves have learned through years of performing.  



You are now playing in a larger orchestra than the family band.  More people are watching you and listening to you.  You are on a bigger stage.  You will not sound the exact same as the person next to you because you may have a deep tone as opposed to their smooth tone. But differences add the beauty to the music as long as you are playing the same song.   By wisely choosing which orchestra to join,  your music will always be beautiful and bring glory to your Maker.  Play with knowledge, knowing when to be bold and when to be soothing.  Don't be embarrassed to follow the lead violinist for a time,  but play with the goal to be that lead some day.  Let your "behind-the-scenes" warm-ups and daily practice be as beautiful as the watched performances.


I love you, my instruments of grace!

"Come thou Fount of ever blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy praise!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

FURLOUGH 2020 Growing the Family

In case you haven't heard - our family is increasing!


We are so excited to be able to add another girl to our family, 
but we are grateful that she has already been raised by fine Christian parents.


Although Shane (our oldest) has been living and working in Ohio and Rachel was going to college in California, Dad Stensaas took the opportunity to introduce them to each other via FaceTime.   


Long distance dating isn't easy, but they have made it work.   



Rachel "just happened" to be visiting Shane in Ohio last week during our surprise visit there, 
so we were thrilled to be able to spend time with her.


We love you, Shane and Rachel.

(Shae-Lynn did a great job taking pictures of them together during our quick visit.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

FURLOUGH 2020 Happy 50th Anniversary!

Bryan and Cheri Stensaas

This past week we really put the miles in.  We are on the east coast for the next month, visiting churches in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.  Last week, my in-laws Bryan and Cheri Stensaas celebrated 50 years of marriage.  A party was planned for them,  and we decided to surprise them by attending, although we were 7+  hours away.  

The Cake Was a Replica of the Original

Andrew and Jacky (Andrew is the 3rd Stensaas kid) invited Mom and Dad and our son Shane to their house for lunch on Thursday.  We had arrived just minutes before them and hid in a bedroom.  Before praying for the meal, we walked out and surprised them.   

Keith Captured His Mom in a Hug as I Hugged Shane

Stensaas Cousins (and Aunt) - Blessed with Great Family

It was so much fun being with family.  
Many years ago, all of the Stensaas families served in Uganda, so we greatly miss that connection.

Andrew & Jacky's Family with Mom and Dad

Our Family with Mom and Dad

On Friday we enjoyed celebrating with mom and dad and the great church family of First Baptist in Eaton, Ohio.  


I am so blessed to claim Bryan and Cheri as my in-laws.

Love you much, Mom and Dad.

Monday, July 27, 2020

FURLOUGH 2020 Where Have We Been

Despite the restrictions many states have had on travel and meetings, the Lord has been so good to us in opening the paths before us.  In the 4-1/2 months since we have been back, we have been in 24 States.  



The variety of beautiful landscape God has created has given us many opportunities to say, "What a great Creator we serve!"  While in California, we were able to enjoy walking and wading in the Pacific Ocean.  I love to feel the warm sand beneath my feet as I walk the beach and watch the power of the waves.  One of our friends was stung by a stingray the week after we were with them at the very same place we had been to.  One of my favorite things to do is to pet stingrays at the aquarium, but I do not want to experience their sting!

Pacific Ocean

Poppy Flowers In Bloom

In Northern California we enjoyed forests, lakes, and hiking trails.  

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park Glacier Point

Idaho surprised us with a beautiful canyon right under the highway that we explored with beautiful waterfalls and underground springs.

Malad Gorge State Park

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse on July 4th

Tennessee was beautiful with its forests and Christmas tree farms.

Mountain City, Tennessee


After a Rainstorm

We are so blessed by the vast beauty God has created in nature.

What beautiful scenery have you enjoyed lately?


Monday, June 22, 2020

FURLOUGH 2020 Motels On Covid

Part of furlough for a missionary is living out of a suitcase and sleeping in several different places each week.  Sometimes the church has a mission's apartment.  Sometimes we stay with a family.   Sometimes we stay in motels.  Even though so many businesses closed during the COVID restrictions, motels were considered essential and have remained opened.  However, their service has greatly changed.  

One of the things our children look forward to while traveling is the motel breakfasts.   Our first meeting, which was a mission's conference, they thoroughly enjoyed the pancakes, eggs, biscuits and gravy,  yogurt, cereal, bagels, juice and coffee.  But then....COVID happened, and all changed.   



So what does a motel breakfast on COVID restriction look like?  We have noticed a trend - if it is a nicer motel then there will be no breakfast of any kind served.  The middle class motels will serve a sack breakfast with water, granola bar and a fruit.  During our trip out to California, we stayed two nights in New Mexico at the cheapest place we could find, and they were the most generous with juice, 2 granola bars, fruit cup, fruit, muffin and yogurt.  Sad to say, most of the motels have done away with coffee.  After three consecutive days of staying in different motels, none with coffee, I think it must have started showing on our countenances.  We attended a Wednesday night service that was being live-streamed with few attending.  Because of social distancing, we just sat in our seats and greeted people who were close-by.  A  staff member greeted us and offered us bottles of water, but then added the fact that they could bring us coffee, too.  He probably thought we were going to pounce on him.  We were so elated to get a cup of coffee...and it was very good!


We don't know what changes will remain permanent in the hotel industry, but we certainly hope that they bring back their breakfasts and especially the COFFEE!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

IT'S TIME TO MEET

Our Engagement - New Year's Eve at Midnight 1992

One of the things Keith and I pray daily for is godly mates for our children.  Our prayer and desire is to see our children continue to grow in their Christian life after they leave our home and to marry someone who will help them accomplish more for God.

Rachel - A Beautiful Lady Inside and Out

With help from his Grandpa, our son Shane was introduced to Rachel in 2018.  She took several of Dad's classes at West Coast Baptist College and became better acquainted with Shane through FaceTime, texting, and phone calls.  (Shane lives in Ohio, and Rachel was in California.)  After graduating from college, Rachel accepted a position at Hope Children's Home in New Mexico.

Rachel said, "YES!"

Their relationship blossomed into an engagement on Christmas Day 2019.  On our way from Texas to California, we were blessed with a couple of extra days to meet the lady who stole our son's heart.

We are excited to welcome another member to our family.

Rachel King is as sweet as her smile is.  Although we had just a couple of hours together, we enjoyed the time together, and she survived the meeting of the in-laws all alone!  We know she will be a great help meet to Shane, and that together they will accomplish great things for God.

Just like an Oreo - the sweet stuff is in the middle.

Shane and Rachel, 
We love you and pray for God's blessings on your relationship 
as you grow closer to each other through your walk with God.


Mark Your Calendars for September 26!




Saturday, May 2, 2020

FURLOUGH 2020 - April

MONTH 2

What a change the COVID-19 restrictions have made to our furlough.  This has to be a record for the amount of time we have spent at our home church.  But God is taking such good care of us.  We have a great place to stay, friends to be with (at a distance), and great online devotionals and messages to listen to from our home church.  A great blessing to me has been to hear our pastor's wife teach the Ladies Bible Study each week.  Normally, these aren't put on our livestream, so Shae-Lynn and I have really been enjoying hearing Mrs. Kim.

I made this to keep in our Bibles to remember one of my favourite lessons Kim taught.

Yes, we have had cancellations even though we are in Texas where churches are exempt from restrictions.  Pastors are still being very careful and moving with wisdom to avoid the preaching of the Gospel being blamed for any outbreaks.  Several of the churches that cancelled have still sent a love offering, and we thank God greatly for this act of kindness that is helping meet our daily expenses.

Austin stores had mandatory mask-wearing regulations.

Uganda is under strict lockdown until May 5, but we are thankful that they have had no COVID deaths despite the 85 confirmed cases.  The Lord is taking care of His children, and the Christians are learning to trust God in new ways.  Our radio station is being listened to by hundreds of new people as they sit at home with little to do.  Especially in third-world countries, the radio ministry is a HUGE outreach tool.  The Gospel is reaching into thousands of homes through radio broadcasting and is not being thwarted by a virus scare.

Savannah really misses being able to travel so she came up with this.

As Shiloh celebrated his 18th birthday, the scales tipped to the majority of our children being adults.  Shae-Lynn and Shiloh are quite disappointed that they aren't able to get their learner's permits this month, as was planned, since all the license places are closed.

An ice cream cake for Shiloh's 18th birthday

This week we made the decision to stick to our furlough schedule and travel to California.  We are praying that restrictions will be lifted, and even if we aren't able to attend regular services, that Keith will at least be able to livestream with the churches.   The Lord provided us a place to base out of, and we are anxious to see our son Stanley.

Pray with us for this nation and for the world.  
Pray for Christians to be bold and take a stand for what is right.  
Pray for lost souls to turn to Christ.
Our God is more powerful than a virus or the politicians who desire to hurt our nation.
Trust in the Lord!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

FURLOUGH 2020 - March

It's Furlough Time!

2020

COVID-19 FURLOUGH!


That means I might be able to start blogging again - fast wifi and extra time with everything shut down.   

Since it has been a long time since I have been on the blog, 
I will be doing some flashbacks just to keep a record of events.  
I print my blog into books, as my kids love to look through them and reminisce.

But before a flashback...let's look at the current month - March 2020.

On March 2, we left Uganda -- which was a big deal for Shae-Lynn and Shiloh as they will not be returning with us in 2021.  

Siblings waiting for the first flight
As we had our last Cafe Java's meal (our favourite restaurant in Uganda), the manager, who knows us so very well, brought out a going-away dessert for us to enjoy.  

Manager's gift to us
What a great start for our journey - a sweet blessing for us.  We are very thankful that we got through airports before all the panic and that we had no delays.  Our third flight was nearly empty, so we were able to get a little bit of sleep.  Our first week was full of shopping (new clothes are a necessity after intense Ugandan sun and life), acquiring a rental van (thank you BMTM), unpacking and repacking (one suitcase each to live out of), and greeting family and friends.

After just one week back in the States, we left the house at 4:30 in the morning to avoid
 the I-35 Austin-Temple-Waco traffic.  

American roads - so wide and smooth
Our first night on the road we spent with longtime friends of the Stensaas families and had a great time catching up on the years.  The next day we reached Illinois for our first meeting which was a great missions conference.  

The cold weather has caused our consumption of coffee to double
By the end of the week, Covid-19 restrictions were starting to get tighter, so our next meeting was home church with the pastor's family, then a cancelled meeting, and so on.  We have come from Uganda, Africa - where many people fear to even visit - to arrive in an America that we don't recognize.  

We had just entered a restaurant for lunch when they shut down dine-in
People are walking around with masks.  Roads are void of traffic  Store shelves are empty.  
The stores that are open restrict the number of customers and remind you to stay 6 feet away from each other.  Restaurants are drive-through only.  

Returning to America is always a culture shock, but this is culture shock on a different level.  We are sincerely praying for the world, as everyone has been affected in some way by this virus.  The furlough road we had planned now has detours, but God is still in control.  We will trust Him.  


Please keep us in your prayers.