In Florida

Last weekend I flew down to Orlando, Florida, for the FPEA home school conference. (In previous years, we’ve gone as a family with our van and trailer, but this year we decided it would be wiser for just one of us to fly down.)
A good friend and Bright Lights leader, Chelsea Owen, picked me up at the airport, helped me run the booth at the conference, and helped me give the session Sarah normally gives on “Training Young Ladies to be Bright Lights for the Lord”. Chelsea was a great “partner” for the week—definitely the Lord’s perfect provision! She was also a lot of fun. 🙂


Chelsea and I, (and our “now water-proof boxes”), ready to head to Orlando.

We saw our Heavenly Father watching out for us in so many specific ways. Although we did face several “glitches” along the way (it wasn’t exactly our “typical conference routine” [smile]), one by one each problem worked out.

For example, Wednesday afternoon after I arrived in Florida I learned that the tables I thought we were going to be able to borrow from another vendor weren’t available anymore. Great. Now what? Thankfully, Chelsea’s church had tables we could borrow—exactly the size we needed. (And, they were the lightweight plastic kind, too. Whew! I really dislike those super heavy 8 ft. wooden tables…[smile])


Loading up tables from Chelsea’s church

We drove from Chelsea’s house in Clearwater to Orlando and arrived in good time. Although parking last year was a nightmare, this year a security man directed us to a parking spot right by the entrance, and some boys with an extra cart took all of our stuff in for us in one trip. That was easy!


Chelsea and me


Katie, Chelsea, Myself, Alethea

Katie, Alethea, and Chelsea all lead Bright Lights groups in Florida. It was really nice to be able to have some time to get better acquainted and hear about their groups!


Carissa and Hannah, new Bright Lights leaders.


Chelsea explaining about Bright Lights to people at the booth

We sold out of just about all the Bright Lights material we had brought. Yea! We were encouraged by the enthusiastic response we received about Bright Lights.

As we were packing up, Chelsea asked, “Do you think it’s going to rain tonight? Because we don’t have a tarp to cover the boxes in the back of my pickup—and the garbage bags we used on the way here are now ripped and ruined.” We had a long drive home, and we knew it was too much of a risk to transport 15 cardboard boxes of books in the back of an open pickup.

That wasn’t our only problem. Upon our first trip out to the truck, we found that the bed of her truck had a few inches of standing water in it. There’s no way we can carry our boxes in here, we realized. Additionally, the sky had suddenly grown dark and we could tell it was going to start pouring at any minute.

Thankfully, God knows our needs before we ask Him. Chelsea’s brother, Cale, “just so happened” to be stopping by on his way home from college and agreed to take the boxes in his vehicle. Now all we needed to do was load them into Chelsea’s truck temporarily and then transfer them to Cale’s vehicle which was parked in a lot a little farther away.
Quickly, we laid the plastic tables down in the truck bed and piled the boxes on top. We couldn’t close the back, but that was okay, because Cale jumped on top and held them all in place while we took off to find his vehicle.
The sky was now a dark gray and lightning was flashing around us. Our boxes were about to get drenched! “Lord, we really need you to hold off the rain!” Chelsea prayed.
Cale was shouting directions to his vehicle, but in that gigantic parking lot it took forever to find it.


(Yes, I had to stop and snap a picture… [smile])

When we finally spotted Cale’s vehicle, we all jumped out and loaded the boxes into it as quickly as we could. As we were putting the last box in I almost started to laugh. Yes—the rain started to come. “I knew it!” The Lord was so good. One minute later, it was a heavy downpour, but we didn’t mind because the boxes were safe and we were dry and ready to go find something for dinner!

We wondered what we ever have done without Cale there to help. I really have no idea! On the way to dinner, we were praising the Lord and naming all the other dozens of ways we saw the Lord taking care of us all throughout the trip.

At church the next morning we sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I had to smile, feeling as if the Lord arranged that hymn choice just for us. When I think back on this trip, I am definitely going to remember God’s faithfulness.

I’ve recently been mediating on Philippians 4:6-7 and this conference was a perfect opportunity to work on application! “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Photography


(Photo courtesy of Caleb Williams)
Can you tell which one is Stephen? He’s the 7th person down. Stephen continues to get frequent jobs from our local newspaper and other online wire services. This picture was taken about a month ago.

Yesterday, Stephen received a call from the New York Times asking him to cover the “illegal alien arrests” in Postville, Iowa. He’s there at this moment and from what we hear, he’s having a pretty interesting time.

Painting the Basement

We had a little painting party at the ministry building last night. We got a significant amount done, thanks to a great team! 🙂


Nickie and Toni


Chrissy


Karen and Supriya

We have a great place to buy paint. “Weber Paint” is the store right next to us, and we’ve enjoyed becoming friends with our new neighbors. They gave us a big discount and even came over to help us decide what color to paint. It’s nice to have good neighbors.

Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

What could I write in just a paragraph that could express adequate appreciation to you?!
Mom, you have always been slow to criticize and so quick to praise. You’re willing to sacrifice pretty much anything for us kids to be happy! Mom, you are one of my greatest examples of humility. I respect the way you get up early every morning without fail to review the verses you’ve been memorizing/meditating on. Thank you for all you have taught me. Thank you for all the times you’ve prayed with me and helped me work through struggles by pointing me to Scripture. Thank you for teaching me to honor Dad. Thank you for all the ways you’ve protected me from things that would have distracted me from Christ. Thank you for being real and honest with us. I love being with you, mom!

One day I hope to be a mom very similar to you! 🙂 I love you so much!

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed…” (Proverbs 31:26-28)

News from today:
Sarah’s voice was almost gone when she woke up this morning, but her voice came back and held up through our whole talk, PTL! Stephen still hasn’t been feeling very well, but he’s done a good job hiding it. He’s been working hard, and now he’s sound asleep.
The day went well and we were encouraged. Thanks to a lot of help, we got packed up pretty quickly and enjoyed celebrating Mother’s Day tonight. Tomorrow morning we head home.

Theft

“Harold, I need you to come here right now!” my mom, panicking, called my dad on his cell phone. My dad was down in the hotel lobby eating breakfast. My mom’s two rings (her own wedding band and my grandmother’s wedding band) were missing. She had left them in the hotel drawer yesterday and now they were gone.
After more searching and conversation, we were convinced they had been stolen. However, just as my dad went down to speak with the hotel manager, she found it. Wow, what a huge relief.

20 minutes later we went out to the van and found this:

In contrast to the little “lost ring episode”, this was for real. Yes, it’s as it looks. Last night someone shattered our back window and stole our GPS, a laptop, a whole lot of Stephen’s Microsoft Software, and his newest camera.

Sarah and I stood there looking at the van, feeling how strange it was that we have had things stolen from us two weekends in a row now. (Last weekend in MI, Stephen’s $450 voice recorder was stolen.) We can’t remember having anything stolen from us ever before!

But we couldn’t stand there long because the convention hall opened in just a few minutes, and we were already late… so Sarah and I hopped in a mini van with a gracious home school family who was headed to the convention. We got there just in time to set up before the convention started. I’ll admit, the morning felt a little unreal.

Stephen was still feeling pretty down with his sore throat, although it did get a little better for the second half of the day. Now Sarah is losing her voice, so we’d appreciate prayer that it will be strong enough for our session tomorrow (10:45am). So Sarah can’t talk and Stephen can’t hear…they don’t make a very good combination when it comes to communication. [smile]

The good news is that when the enemy is attacks, it usually means there is something good he’s trying to damage or prevent. We’ve seen that the Lord is working here. We were very encouraged by how things went at the convention today. Thankfully, our session went smooth and we were encouraged by an enthusiastic response. We feel that it’s been a fruitful weekend so far, praise the Lord.

Tonight a group of young ladies who have been doing a study together of Before You Meet Prince Charming arranged for Sarah to meet with them at a park.

While we were having a question/answer time, the mother who had led the study, Thelma, asked the girls “How many of you have totally changed your way of thinking on this topic of purity because of this study?”

As you can see, almost all of the girls raised their hands! These girls are truly seeking God’s best way, and it was a blessing to see their teachable hearts. It’s so exciting to see this group of young ladies (ages 11-14) who have caught a vision for how much better it is to follow the way of purity than to follow this world’s “have fun now” mindset.


Young Ladies who just studied “Before You Meet Prince Charming” together

My dad just called a family prayer meeting a few minutes ago. We are in a spiritual battle and we have an enemy who is real, but our God is in control. We have so much to be grateful for. Thank you for all of your prayers. Tomorrow will be another big day.


“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ…” (2 Cor 2:14)

Set Up



Today we spent most of the day setting up our booth here at the Arlington Home School Book Fair. Afterwards, we went out to one of our favorite restaurants: (which we don’t have in Iowa!) Souper Salad.



Please pray for Stephen. He came down with an ear ache and sore throat tonight. We are speaking tomorrow at 10:45, plus it will be a busy day talking with people at our booth, so it will be a rough day for Stephen if he is feeling sick.

In Texas!


We arrived in Texas at about 3pm this afternoon.

You know you are traveling south when all the gas stations play country music, all the road kill are armadillos, you pass signs along the highway advertising “fried pies”, and the cashier lady at the gas station says “thank you, sugar!” as you leave.


We finally left Iowa at 9pm last night and drove through the night. We made pretty good time and everything was smooth-sailing…but as you can imagine,we did spend quite a bit at gas stations!

Since gas stations can be good places to get into witnessing conversations, I’ve been trying to take advantage of my frequent opportunities. (We use a lot of gas!)
At one station I noticed that the cashier was just eating pringles and looked kind of bored.
“Hi, how are you?” I asked.
“Ready for lunch,” she said.
I handed her a tract and asked her my new favorite witnessing question: (I absolutely love using this question– it works so well as a spring board into a good talk!) “Do you think Heaven is a free gift or something we have to earn?”
“Hmm…well I think it’s a little of both, I guess.”
“Okay” I replied, “well to earn it we would have to be perfect, right?”
She agreed.
“Well, no one is perfect,” I said.
“My opinion is that if you ask God to forgive you, then you have nothing to worry about,” she said.
“But, you know,” I replied, “God is a just Judge. A just judge doesn’t necessarily forgive anyone who asks, because sometimes people deserve punishment. None of us are perfect and, really, we all deserve punishment. But Jesus was perfect and He is the way to Heaven.”

The conversation was interupted there, but she has a tract that clearly explains the way to Heaven, and I pray she reads it. I’ve been trying to learn to spark people’s curiousity so that they’ll actually read the tract I give them and take it seriously.

I have so much to learn regarding witnessing and I often feel that I didn’t handle the situation as well as I could have. But I’m glad for the fact that the Lord is able to use weak vessels to accomplish his purposes. (2 Cor 4:7!) Plus, I know that the way to become a good “witnesser” is to practice, practice, practice. The worst thing is to not try at all.

Mystery Solved.

“There’s a dead animal in the trailer” Dad announced.
Once we stepped into the trailer and caught a whiff of the stench in there, we all agreed.
“I think it smells like rotting fish!” Sarah said.
Unfortunately, our trailer smelled bad throughout our whole last trip to Michigan. We looked and looked and couldn’t find the dead mouse…or whatever it was. So when we got home we took everything out and did a thorough search for the stinking intruder. And we found it.

Stephen\'s unappreciated crab

A dead crab. Stephen’s crab, that is. When we were in Florida last year, Stephen found this really neat dead crab and he put it into a plastic sack, intending to preserve it in a solution when we got home. Well, he forgot. When everything thawed out this spring, so did his crab.
It’s not that funny, Stephen. [smile]