Surprise Christmas Gifts

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Our good friend Arturo came over for Christmas breakfast and brought us all a gift. Can you guess what it is? Now I own my first Hawkeye item. 🙂

“So do you love the Hawkeyes, Arturo?” someone asked him.
“I love JESUS,” Arturo exclaimed.

No question there, Jesus is basically all Arturo talks about.

“Jesus loves us. Soooo much, too much,” he said, with a glow on his face.
Anyone who knows Arturo knows you only have to talk to him for about five minutes and he’s quoted you about five Scripture passages. Hard to believe he’s memorized so much Scripture since Jesus radically transformed his life five years ago. It is no stretch to say he is an example to all of us!

Instant Family :)

IMG_8580 You know how you can meet someone and bond so quickly you feel like you’ve known them forever? That’s sort of how it was when Anderson, Josue, and Keren visited us over their Thanksgiving break. (They’re students at Rio Grande Bible Institute, a Spanish speaking college in Texas, and a mutual friend arranged for them to come help with Spanish ministry in Cedar Rapids for a few days…sort of a “practicum” with our church.) It didn’t matter that they were still learning English, we were instant “family,” and we appreciated their fellowship and passion for Christ so much.

IMG_8520 The first thing they did while with us was help with the annual Thanksgiving Event that our church hosts. We do this every year, partly as an outreach to extended family and international students. It’s always a great time.

After dinner we had a time of sharing and our Hispanic friends shared Christ boldly from the heart. I believe it left a real impression on everyone.

IMG_8554 Good talks also developed with the international students at their table …

IMG_8579 So much so, we arranged to meet at a coffee shop in Iowa City to continue the conversation.

IMG_9100 Josue (from Argentina) told us that one of his dreams was to build a snow man. He wanted to know if he could go outside and make one. Of course we said “sure!”. I thought he might make a 1-foot snowman on the back deck of our office (because we didn’t really have that much snow), but he got some help and the snow man ended up being huge!

IMG_8568 In fact, it started drawing observers over to chat, and we ended up sharing with two people about the Lord — all because of the snow man. (New evangelism strategy: build a big snow man and see how many neighbors come over to start chatting with you. 🙂 )

IMG_9198 Keren got together with a Hispanic mother at our church that really needed some encouragement. At the same time, the guys met up with some of the Hispanic guys from our church, and one boy trusted Christ for salvation! There was much excitement.

IMG_8585 After 3 great days of ministry, discipleship, fellowship, street-witnessing, coffee shop discussion, and snowman witnessing, our three Hispanic friends shared with the rest of our church of what God had done. What a joyful time that evening was as we rejoiced together.

IMG_8589 As we drove to the place we’d have to part, we shared some verses from the Word on “thankfulness.” Though it had only been 3 days, it felt like 3 months. We had bonded so quickly as we did ministry together. That’s what I love about brothers and sisters in Christ. And, the fact that goodbye is never really goodbye. 🙂

Belated Mother’s Day

IMG_7645 Our family went out for a belated Mother’s Day dinner last night and had a wonderful time. We also went to see the War Room and we’re praising God for the victory this excellent movie is and for the impact it will make. I was expecting it to be great and it was. I know it has already impacted me and it’s only been a few hours… I came home and started a new prayer journal to do a better job keeping track of answered prayer. I think it can be a very helpful thing for us to actually have a “hard copy” of some of the key things we’re asking the Lord to do.

God’s Surprise Provision

It all started when Sarah told us, “We really should start praying for the guest house plumbing and shower – I don’t know what we’re going to do with 12 girls staying there this summer!”

A few weeks later she brought this concern up again as a prayer request. That very night, an old friend of ours who was visiting told us, “The Lord has put it on my heart to remodel your basement bathroom at your guest house.” His offer was a complete surprise!

IMG_5706Randy and his son Michael

As I write this, Randy is working hard, as he has been for many days. Not only is he replacing the shower, he’s enlarging the whole bathroom down there! Those who have seen our basement shower downstairs and were brave enough to take a shower in it know what bad shape it was in. [smile] There was also a large leak from our upstairs bathroom into our downstairs one.

Additionally, our friends Tracy Jarmon and Dave Fuller (who helped us remodel our office) got on board, and volunteered to replace the vanities, fixtures, flooring, you name it, in BOTH bathrooms.

We can hardly believe this is happening and praise the Lord for how He answers prayer!

Neighborhood Ice Cream Social

Last Thursday, we joined together with some neighbor friends to run a “Neighborhood Ice Cream Social” at the park a block from our house. About 100 neighbors came! We were so grateful.

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This idea started forming several months ago when my dad and I ran into our neighbor, Seth, at a coffee shop. Seth works with youth at his church and has a heart for ministry. We began talking about our neighborhood and our desire to have more contact with our neighbors. We decided the first step was to pray about it, so we invited some other like-minded neighbors and joined together for a time of prayer in our basement …

IMG_4688 Prayer with neighbors, April, 2015

Then we decided, “Let’s just put something on the calendar right now. Let’s do an ice cream social at the park.” We put “June 4” on the calendar.

IMG_5617 Invitations were made and distributed…

IMG_5642 We told everyone to bring a topping and lawn chair

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We were thrilled with the turnout. We were able to have conversations with many that we had not even met before! Neighbors stayed around for a long time talking. They all enjoyed meeting each other too!

IMG_5670 Looks like this might be the start of a new tradition.

IMG_5655 We all cheered for the lady who had lived in our neighborhood the longest: 51 years!

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If you’d like to do this in your neighborhood, here are a few tips.

1) If you don’t have a park a block away, consider doing it in your driveway. (See pie party post as an example…)

2) Team up with a few other neighbor families so you aren’t doing it “alone.”

3) Be aware that you may actually have more conversations with neighbors when you go door to door inviting people than at the party itself, so block out sufficient time to do that. (Believe it or not, I found that not one person minded being invited to a neighborhood ice cream social! 🙂 )

4) Make sure you have name tags and sharpies. We put the name tags in the front of the line before the ice cream to make sure people got one.

5) Consider starting an e-mail or texting list so that it is easier to invite them to future neighborhood events. (But remember that face to face conversations are much better as they are more personal!)

6) Bring a simple map of the neighborhood so they can put an “x” where their house is.

7) Don’t forget: tables, chairs, napkins, bowls, spoons, lots of ice in coolers (or dry ice), ice cream cones, and garbage bags.

8) Most of all, pray and thank God for what He does!

Todd Biegler’s Memorial Service

IMG_5170 Last Saturday hundreds in our community experienced a beautiful, sad, and very God-honoring memorial service.

IMG_5187 The Biegler family did a wonderful job preparing for this day amidst such a hard week.

IMG_5243 Mr. Biegler and baby Nickie

IMG_5249 Visitation line

IMG_5288 Mrs. Pratt, (talking to Sarah in this picture), wrote on Todd’s tribute wall, “Now Todd can really turn his eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face!” (“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” was Todd’s favorite song, sung frequently to him during his sickness. He had it on an alarm that went off every three hours.)

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IMG_5217 Todd’s youngest granddaughter. I have come to conclude that this is her default expression. Must be because she has great parents. [smile]

IMG_5251 It was common knowledge that Todd’s favorite color was lime green because he wore that color a lot; however, I will admit that this is the first time I saw Mrs. Biegler and the others wearing lime green. [smile]

IMG_5276 Talking with good friends who drove up from Virginia for this day

IMG_5404 Steven shared about the many things he had learned from his dad. His final point was that his dad taught him to trust in Jesus — both by his words, and by his example. Steven shared that he was blown away by watching his dad go through cancer: never complaining, but steadfastly proclaiming that God has a purpose and we can trust him. “I really loved him a lot,” Steven said in closing.

Jessy, Michael, and Jim (Laura’s husband) also shared about their dad. Their high compliments for their father, and their testimonies of how his standards and godliness formed their convictions and lives, were powerful. No one could leave that service without seeing a picture of a godly father who invested deeply into shaping the lives of each member of his family. As my dad mentioned, “All the fathers in the room should have been convicted.”

From family devotions twice a day to tackling huge projects with his boys to his steadfast commitment and high standards, he paved a path that his family is so grateful to follow.

Todd’s younger brother shared how Todd consistently planted little seeds in his life… how he was there in the hard moments, pointing him to God.

Several other men spoke as well. The gospel was shared beautifully and passionately. Many worshipful songs were enjoyed.

Cheryl Kissling, Deb Biegler, and Edie Dukek playing “The Prayer.” I heard this song first when they were playing it in the hospice house.

The Biegler’s asked Bekah and her sisters Hannah and Leah to sing “Blessings.”

IMG_5476 Afterward the gym was filled with beautiful table arrangements, delicious food, old friends, smiles and hugs, a sense of closeness amidst the sadness, and a gratefulness to God that we do not grieve as others who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4).

IMG_5445 I got the impression this wasn’t the first time these fathers went through the food line with a 2-year-old. [smile]

IMG_5415 Some lingered in the auditorium providing prayer support … how could we go through such a time without the solace of coming to His presence for the much-needed grace He gives?! Thank you to all who have joined in prayer for the Biegler family.

Mr. Biegler With Jesus

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Nickie’s dad went to be with Jesus Monday morning. Please pray for grace and strength for her family as they will continue to miss him greatly. As Mrs. Biegler said, “I’m deliriously happy for Todd; not so much for the rest of us.”

It is a happy thought to think of all he is seeing and experiencing now in the presence of Jesus.

I know the Bieglers would appreciate prayer that his memorial service on Saturday would bring much glory to Jesus. Pray that the light and hope of the gospel would be seen by those who do not yet know Christ!

See more information here.

Update on Nickie’s Father

Tood_Deb Photo: Hannah Sandersfeld

I wanted to share an update of what is happening with Mr. Biegler.

He is still alive, though he continues to show signs that it won’t be much longer. Sarah and I have been at the hospice house a lot this week, and I think we have been more encouraged by them than they have by us. There have been many tears, but words of praise and gratefulness are consistently coming from their lips. There’s a definite peace from the Lord.

I appreciated Michael’s words as we were leaving the other night: “We know that God is good—He was good yesterday; He’s good today; and He will be good tomorrow. And we know he has a purpose for this. If God wasn’t doing something great, He wouldn’t be doing it.”

His family echoes the same words of faith.

“I am planning to write down all the ways we have been seeing God’s hand providing for us and given us grace,” Laura said.

Mrs. Biegler often plays peaceful hymns on her guitar, and there have been some sweet times of singing. I’m sure the hospice house does not have many families like the Bieglers. The Lord is using them to be a bright shining light right now in this time; please keep upholding them in prayer—and please pray for those who are being touched by their family right now. They would like prayer for the salvation of others who they are interacting with during this time …

Here is Mrs. Biegler’s latest update (from three days ago):

Thank you for praying for Todd and for our family. Thank you for phone calls, texts, emails, cards, food, music, etc., etc. …

We’ve been here for several days. I have lost all sense of time. Somehow, I see by the calendar, we slipped into May. Todd’s pain is able to be managed for the most part, and he spends time hovering between semi-consciousness and deep sleep. Todd is continuing to decline, and continuing to hold on. The doctor thinks his time is very short – yesterday she said yesterday or today. 🙂 A few minutes ago, she said normally hours, but could be a few days because he is so strong. God knows.

God is continuing to make Himself evident. There is pervasive peace that is impossible to explain. The support from the staff, from volunteers, from friends – in such a variety ways – is incredible. God is blessing us with verses, prayers, songs, encouraging words, pictures – via email, texts and delivered in person. Food is abundant and delicious. We are being sustained.

Family and friends were here most of yesterday and several stayed overnight. After Todd had been unconscious most of the day, he had a time of being fairly coherent last night. God orchestrated an unpredictable, unimaginable, unbelievable gift. Our entire family was here gathered around Todd’s bed. We spent about an hour singing, praying, laughing… Todd was awake for the first time all day. He joined in for most of it – and he was hilarious. There were lots of hugs, kisses, good-nights… joy, peace. I can’t begin to explain the specialness of it, but it sure felt a little like heaven.

After everyone left the room, Todd was in extreme pain, and right back to the bloody, leaky, messy place he’s been in for so long. There were some intermittent rough spots overnight and this morning. Now he is heavily medicated to help with pain, and pretty much out of it.

I have come to some conclusions. Pain, disease, suffering, anger, fear – are a huge part of our world. Death stinks. Sin is not worth it. And, yet, we do. I do. I don’t think I go five minutes (and I’m giving myself extreme grace in that estimate) without sinful, selfish thoughts, words or actions. It is our nature. My nature. I hate it. Even in the midst of this terrible, necessary season of Todd’s life, of our family’s life, when it seems like there are so many needs, I find myself thinking, “Hey! What about ME?!” Why God would be so forgiving, so loving, so kind…showering selfish, inadequate me with grace upon grace is beyond my comprehension. And to think, because of His love, He paid the price – eternal death – for our sin; for my sin. He died for us. For me. We are forgiven. I am forgiven. He conquered death and rose again. He rose again and He loves all of us with all our unique gifts and faults; and we are to do the same. I am to do the same. Oh, that I could. sigh…

Thank you for supporting us for so long. We are praying for many blessings on the known and unknown pray-ers who are holding us so tenderly.

Deb

Prayers for Nickie’s Father

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Nickie’s family is walking down a very rough road right now, as many of you already know. They are handling it beautifully with love and grace, but they need prayer. Her dad is now at home receiving hospice treatments. They are dealing with episodes of extreme pain. They testify to both their weariness and God’s faithfulness.

Sarah and I visited Mr. and Mrs. Biegler and Nickie in the hospital a few days ago. We shared how concerned we had been. Mr. Biegler (Todd) said, “What’s the concern?” He shared his confidence in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

I think you will be blessed to read some sections from reports that Mrs. Biegler has sent out.

Report from Nickie’s Mom, Earlier This Month:

… I wish I could say he was doing well, but he is suffering. I have to say, he is faithfully stoic as he’s dealing with this. He knows God has a purpose and a plan in everything. He is finding all kinds of reasons to thank God, during and through this. Todd has mentioned several times that his suffering is nothing compared to that of Jesus. God is always with us, showing His love in various ways, depending on the need of the moment. I guess I’m trying to say, things are really hard, but God is really good.

Knowing that God is sovereign and always has the best for His children is easy for me to understand, but is not always easy to live through. I know that this pain and disease will end in healing – either through life or death. I want Todd’s body healed here (and now!), but knowing how great it would be to see Jesus, I struggle with the selfishness of that prayer. Todd has an alarm that goes off several times a day, singing the song, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” which goes on to say, “Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!” I am fully incapable of having God’s perspective on this, but I do fully trust Him to be at least a bazillion times wiser than I. I have to decide, several times a day, to trust Him with Todd’s current situation, that He knows what’s going on and has His hand in it.

If you are called to pray for Todd, please pray for His faith to remain strong, for endurance, patience, and wisdom. Please pray for healing, for pain relief, for rest.

Report From Nickie’s Mom, This Past Sunday:

… Todd is steadfast, and stoically facing each day. He is not afraid of living and he is not afraid of dying. Our house is usually peaceful and quiet, with soft instrumental music often playing. Sometimes he watches videos for distraction. He knows His God and trusts him implicitly. When he can, we have good conversations about God, life, death, family, the future, the news, big things, little things, whatever. There is a joy and richness that I marvel at. We revel in His blessings.
Last night I was hit by one of those sudden fears the Bible tells us not to be afraid of. Bottom line was I know there is no one who will love me like Todd loves me – and there isn’t, by God’s design of marriage. The potential emptiness was so bleak and dark. The fear was making no sense and was quickly becoming overwhelming. All I could think of was the children’s song based on Psalm 56:3-4 “When I am afraid I will ______ in Thee, I will ______ in Thee, I will ______ in Thee … in God who’s Word I praise.” I could not think of that word that I would do! It was terrible, because I didn’t know what to do when I was afraid… so I praised God’s word. Suddenly I remembered, “Perfect Love casts out fear!” It hit me that that is God’s Word, He has perfect love, and He will never leave me or forsake me. (Even Todd’s love is not perfect. 🙂 It is going to be okay. I fell right asleep. I knew all those things, but I guess I just needed to live it a little. This morning, I remembered the word – “trust.” 🙂
If God calls Todd to mind, please pray for him. I just want for relief for him, and selfishly, I hope for God’s healing here on earth. Jesus says we don’t have, because we don’t ask, and that is what I’m asking for. However, I know that God knows best. Jesus asked to have His cup pass from Him, but more than that, He wanted God’s will to be done. That is what both Todd and I pray for, and that we would walk this walk the way God would have us walk it.
Thanks,
Deb

Report from Nickie’s sister, Laura, this morning:

Thank you for praying so faithfully for my dad, mom and the rest of our family! God’s grace has been so evident in our days and though it has been a long, difficult week there is hope and there is joy. My dad is home from the hospital receiving care from in-home hospice and his favorite caretaker, my mom. He is still often in pain and has had some “episodes” of severe pain. (For those who know the hospital smiley/frowny face chart, the last one he rated as a 10.) Please continue to pray for relief from pain and for healing. We know that God will heal him in His perfect time … Thank you again for your prayers and support! There have been many tears, but there have also been many smiles, times of laughter and blessings. Indeed God’s grace is sufficient.

Resting in Him,
Laura