Thursday, January 27, 2011

January Newsletter

I have just posted our January/February Newsletter.  For those on our mailing or emailing list, I will be getting those out later today.  The mailed copies will go out by Friday.  For our Florida friends and family, check out the section on our travel to your area.   We look forward to getting together with many of you!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Have you had one of those days where your kids drive you absolutely crazy?  They complain about everything. They are not content with what they have.  They have a serious case of the "I WANT".  Well, that was my day yesterday.  We took the kids on a field trip to the Mayfield Dairy.  Andrew didn't want the size of ice cream I was going to buy, he wanted the great big one.  He wanted half of the stuff in the gift shop.  And that was just the beginning. Then we went to the mall.  OK, so I'm sure you can figure out that was probably not the best decision on my part.  By the time we got home and they had to clean out the car, they were fighting and arguing.  The straw that broke the camels back was when at dinner Bekah commented "these noodles are cold."  I took a deep breath and went into the Mommy lecture of why they should be grateful.  No, I didn't talk about the starving kids in Africa.  I told them about some of the kids right here in our neighborhood.  We explained that some of the kids in their own class at church doesn't always get breakfast in the morning or food whenever they want it.  I think it might have pricked their hearts a little.  Tim & I decided that they would go upstairs to bed immediately after dinner.  They had to take some paper and pencil and sit in their bed to write down what they were thankful for.  I really don't do this enough with my kids, but I got such a blessing out of reading their lists when I went to tuck them in.  Here is what they said.  (I had edited for spelling but not grammar) 

Bekah said- "What I am thankful for- I'm thankful for my room and my toys and the main thing -the main thing is God and Jesus and the earth."  On the back of her paper she drew a picture of God "using my imagination of what God looks like."  On the front she drew a picture of the earth with Papua New Guinea. 

Andrew's list- God, dogs, friends, family, church, bed, blankets, home, toys, my animals, books, being a missionary, mom, dad, Rebekah, earth, Christmas, room, hats, places, me, food, legos, army, clothes, snow, outside, Mr. Fox, logs, cars, work, money, sun, light, dark, birthdays, knives, ots, pans, songs, ship, wood, milk, drink, Jesus, homeschool, Lego Ninjago, star wars, cross, football, Navy, tv, movies, Awana

As I read through their lists and talked with each of them, I felt refreshed as a mom.  Their hearts were sincere.  Why am I sharing this?  I'm not bragging because I certainly have many mess ups as a mom, but I'm sharing to encourage all of you.  It is hard and tough.  Our society screams at our kids that they need to have everything.  It isn't easy.  I'm still finding the balance between being a "no" mom and a "yes" mom.  I pray they will have the same attitude as Paul- content in every circumstance.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 
Philippians 4:11-12 (NLT)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Actions Have Consequences

 God has some exciting adventures in store for us as a family and as individuals.  We are growing individually and together as a family as we prepare for PNG.  Sometimes in all the excitement and stress, we forget about the challenges that our kids our facing, too.

I just had a heart-breaking conversation with our son.  These last couple of weeks have been very rough at our house- attitudes and anger and just overall frustration with the kids.  We've had some good times, don't get me wrong, but we've had some more than usual tough times.  After a very rough ending to our school day, Andrew ended up being "sentenced" to the finishing his school work in his room and spending the rest of the afternoon cleaning it.  He was none to happy about having to stay there the rest of the afternoon.  After he calmed down, he came downstairs to get his stuff, and we sat down to talk for a few minutes.  I wanted to try to get to the heart of the matter.  I didn't just want to correct the behavior, but I want a better understanding of his heart.  I've been reading through the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds to begin to prepare us for the transitions our kids will be experiencing.  One thing that really struck me as I read it was that many times the kids are not given the "ok" to be sad about leaving all they know. We don't even give ourselves permission to grieve over the losses because we are doing this move for God, and it is where He wants us.  We aren't sad because we are going but because we are leaving.  We'll experience very similar emotions and feelings when we come back to the States.

I know Andrew is really struggling because some of the things that have been the norm for us are no longer guaranteed.  We aren't doing co-op classes or even additional extracurricular activities because of our current schedule.  Andrew thrives on the expected and the routine, and I know change is not easy for him.  We sat down and talked.  He is sad about leaving his friends and homeschool group and all that he has known.  This has to be one of the hardest parts about leaving.  It really broke my heart because of the struggle he is going through to go with mom and dad on a mission God has called us on.  Don't misunderstand, he is very excited about the new adventure, but he is also terribly sad over the loss of friends and the unexpectedness of the unknown.  Please pray for us to be able to help him get through the transition of the next year or so.  Pray for our sweet, tenderhearted boy.  Pray we will have wisdom on dealing with the behavior and showing him appropriate ways to deal with the conflict that is very real and for wisdom in dealing with his heart.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Difference the Son Makes

Over a week ago, it started to snow.  I woke up last Monday morning to a beautiful winter wonderland.  Then it changed to ice and ended up keeping us confined to the house for a week.  Our house is situated on a hill, complete with a steep driveway.  Not to mention we have lots of tall trees surrounding our house and neighborhood.  Over a week later, we still have snow in our front yard and on parts of our driveway.   This afternoon I really thought it odd as we were driving down our street and most of the snow was gone until you rounded the corner and got the first glimpse of the cul-de-sac.  You see our house and the house on either side of us with pretty much a yard full of snow still.  It seemed so out of place.  I looked out my back window yesterday and could see the same ole' drab look of the brown pine needles covering the ground.  I look out the front and it looks like the winter wonderland.   So, what is the difference?  It's not like we have a snow machine on the front yard or heaters going in the back.  The difference is the sun.  Our house faces North, so the backyard receives the most sun. Of course, that isn't all that much sun since there are lots of trees.  Well, the backyard got the sun, but the front did not. Then the rain came.  Wow, the rain and warmer temperatures helped melt even more of the snow. 

I started to contemplate how the Son makes a difference in our lives.  That would be the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  When He shines in our lives, he reveals what is really there.  I don't like to see what is under all that beautiful snow.  I don't like to see the selfishness, the pride, the sinfulness of my life that is revealed when the Son shines in my heart.  But it is when that snow melts away, the beauty of Spring- the flowers, the green grass, the trees- comes forth.  God wants that facade gone and the true beauty to shine forth.  That true beauty cannot shine through when the ugliness of sin is covering. 

I don't know how or if this will speak to anyone, but it has been on my heart.  I wanted to share it.  Pray that God will shine on the areas of our lives that need to be cleared away.  Pray that through the tears that may need to be shed (like the rain), our lives will be ready for Him to do a great and mighty work in and through.  I want the fruit of the Spirit to be evident in all we do. 

But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
 Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified. 
Galatians 5:22-24 (The Message)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Flexibility is the Name of the Game

Flexibility is not usually the favorite word of a Type A personality.  We like our plans, we like them in advance, and we like everything to go as planned.  We tend to stress when things go off time schedule.  The more they go off schedule, the higher the stress level.  I admit, I'm a bit Type A, just a little- OK, quit laughing,-  maybe more than just a little.  On New Year's Day I sat down and wrote out on my calendar the plans for the month.  I would prefer to write everything in ink, but I am learning that it just makes a mess on my calendar with all the scratch-outs, so I have learned to use pencil.  We had a very busy week planned for this week.  It was to begin with a trip to Mayfield Dairy, speaking to the AWANA club at church, going to see Beauty & the Beast with Bekah, bowling and sleepover party for Andrew, and concluding with dinner with friends.  That is what our calendar said last week.  Then they started talking about a snow event on Sunday night.  OK, so that might just postpone the field trip.  No big deal.  This is Atlanta, these things don't last long.  Little did I know that on Saturday, I would still be at home with just a small path (finally) cleared to walk down the driveway and snow and ice everywhere else. 

The Birthday Boys!
When you have two Type A personalities in the same family, it can make for some interesting dynamics, especially when it is father and daughter, errr, I mean mother and son.  Andrew has always been a schedule child.  He likes to know what is going to happen, when it is going to happen and what to expect.  He is the child that would plan out the theme for his birthdays years in advance.  I got to decide on his birthday theme exactly two times- his first and second birthday.  When you have a January birthday, you have to learn to be a little bit flexible.  We've already experienced the challenge of re-arranging a party due to an ice storm.  This year was full of flexibility.  We planned a combined birthday party with his best buddy.  We were going to go bowling, play lazer tag, eat pizza, and have a sleepover at his buddy's house.  The boys were so excited. None of us ever dreamed that the snow & ice that began Sunday night would still be affecting us on Friday night.  Thursday night we (the other mom & I) made the decision to postpone the bowling and lazer tag.  We changed the sleepover to our house since we couldn't leave our house.  I knew it wouldn't be the ideal situation for Andrew, but he took it ok.  He was disappointed that the events weren't as planned, but the boys still had a great time and got at least 2 or 3 hours sleep.  I want him to learn flexibility.  His Type A personality is part of who he is.  I totally understand that!  (being slightly type A myself...)  What we are both learning is that God's plans are so much better than ours. 

I want both of my kids, especially Andrew, to learn lessons that I'm slowly learning about being flexible and being patient.  "But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind." (Isaiah 40:31, The Message)  I don't like waiting.  I want to know all the plans and details and what to expect.  God gives fresh strength to those that wait.  Are we willing to be flexible and wait on God?  Do we really want to soar like eagles?  God has been so faithful to teach me how to wait on Him, even with the Type A personality.  Waiting entails being flexible. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lessons from Ice & Snow

So the number one lesson I have learned this week is that I'm not made to live any further from the equator than I live right now.  I'm a Florida girl, and this snow and ice thing was not something I was ever taught about.  Actually as I was walking around my yard and house, I kept having flashbacks to youth ski trips to Snow Mountain, West Virginia.  That was fun.  I didn't have to worry about getting out, running out of milk, or anything.  I just skied and played and enjoyed life.  Besides, it was only for a few days, and I had borrowed ski clothes.  Things are a bit different living in it. 

We are beginning Day 4 of our adventure with snow and ice here in Atlanta.
OK before all of you who deal with this kind of stuff up North on a regular basis start accusing me (and the rest of the South) as being a wuss, I will admit it!  I AM A COLD WEATHER WUSS!!!  Seriously, I have a new found respect for those that deal with this on a regular basis.  I can't imagine every morning having to dig my car out or having to clear the driveway.  The day after Christmas Tim & I worked for almost an hour clearing off my parent's van and the driveway, so we could go to church.  We got maybe an inch of snow. The kids and I worked for what seemed like hours yesterday to attempt to clear off the driveway.  Didn't work.  You can see the results in the picture- and that is just the top of the driveway!

One thing God has been teaching me through all of this is I'm spoiled.  Not just a little spoiled like I thought, but I am spoiled rotten.  That's not a good thing.  I had to throw some pears out this week that the kids had begged me to buy them.  I thought I could save them.  Cut the spoiled part out, and then the rest is fine.  These were spoiled rotten.  There wasn't enough "good" left in them to try to save.  Now, fortunately I'm not a pear and God isn't me.  (I know, we are all very thankful for that last part!)  God can save even the most rotten!  I knew I was somewhat spoiled.  Preparing to leave all the comforts of life that you've known to go to a country on the other side of the world has opened my eyes a bit.  This week, they were open even further.  I had convinced myself that I'd be ok without a Chick-fil-A or grocery store or any other convenience I needed or wanted for that matter right around the corner.  Seriously within 5 miles of my house, I have more restaurants, grocery stores, drug stores, and shopping than most people need.  So, we have been at home for 3 whole days (as I type this I realize how crazy it sounds when put into perspective) without the ability to safely go anywhere.  With the exception of coming home for about an hour on Tuesday, Tim has been at work since he left early Monday morning.  I have been a pretty poor sport about it.  I've had my share of pity parties- "I'm stuck here by myself with two kids and no incoming relief and no where to go to get this extra energy out" "We're out of milk, butter, and anything else I need to make what I want to cook" "I sure wish Papa Johns would deliver".  OK, you get the point, I certainly haven't been very thankful for what we did have.  So, I've started looking at things from a thankfulness perspective.  Afterall, when we get to PNG, there is no Papa Johns to bring us pizza.  There is no fast food at Ukarumpa, unless you consider leftovers fast food.  And there is no Target or Belk or Kohls.  It's not even super easy shopping online because not everywhere delivers to Papua New Guinea.  You get the point.

Here is what I'm thankful for during this week:
  • My husband's integrity and work ethic.  
  • My husband's preparedness.  He knew there was a good chance he'd have to be at work, and we could loose power.  He stocked us up with plenty of firewood and even moved the grill into the garage, so we could cook if needed.
  • My kids are used to playing with each other and love to play with each other.  In fact, they've done better when I've just let them play rather than get on the Wii, computer, or watch a movie.
  • We did NOT loose power, so we stayed nice and warm.
  • The time to get my clothes and toys tagged and ready for the Spring/Summer consignment sale.
  • Homeschooling- We didn't miss any school days this week!
  • The $3 pair of rain boots I bought myself on Saturday for Papua New Guinea.  They've made great snow boots.
  • Our warm clothes.
  • Just a taste of what it is to live in this kind of weather.  (As we meet this weekend with our friends who are missionaries in Alaska, I'll have a new appreciation for them!)
  • The God of the universe that loves me and cares for me is right here with me, even when I'm spoiled rotten.
 As I pray that this evening Bekah and I will be able to enjoy our girls night outing to see Beauty and the Beast, I'm reminded that no matter what happens, God is in control.  I can sit and be miserable over things I can't control, or I can rest in the loving arms of the One who IS in control. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Well, it is snowing and has been snowing!  I had to change the background of the blog to the snow picture to go along with this post.  Don't worry, it will be changed back soon, I'm sure. 

Our back deck at 5:30am.
OK, back to the snow.  Last night it started with some sleet and snow around 9:00pm.  This morning we woke up to a beautiful winter wonderland.  It was dark and cold last night when the snow started.  Frankly, it was just ugly outside.  To even see if it was snowing we had to turn off the inside lights and turn on the outside lights.  This morning as Tim left to go to work at 5:00, the light reflecting off of the snow just lit up the world.  What little light that was outside bounced off the snow creating a beautiful peaceful picture.  It is strange to look out our big front window and to see the front of our house illuminated.  Normally you look outside and just see the single light across the street.  Our neighborhood is very dark at night with no street lights. Our house is situated on a hill and even when we have the outside lights on, it is very difficult to see down our driveway and into the cul-de-sac. This morning I watched out the window as Tim brushed the piles of snow from his truck and left for work. 

As I watched the snow, I was reminded of the verses in the Bible about snow.  The first one that comes to mind is Isaiah 1:18 “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." As I thought about it, I was reminded as Christians we are the light of the world.  As I looked out over the snow and realized just how much the small amount light was reflecting off of the snow and brightening our normally dark cul-de-sac, God began to show me that this is what I am supposed to be doing.  This is how my light as a Christian will shine and illuminate the darkness around me.  If I have sin in my life, the light cannot shine and reflect Christ.  This morning during my quiet time, I prayed and asked the Lord to search my heart for sin that is blocking the reflection of His light in my life.  

Today I pray that I won't just be a lone light that attracts the bugs, but that I will be a light that is reflected and lights up the entire world around me that is in darkness.  

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year

"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

Another year is over and what a year it has been in the Ellis family.  We began the year wondering where God was going to lead us.  We look toward 2010 with eager expectation.  We had this feeling that God would do something, we just weren't sure what it was.  Our little finite minds thought we'd be staying here in the States and helping out in some form with missions- maybe part time, but certainly not full time.  Never in a million years would we have guessed that just a year later we would be preparing to leave all that is familiar and comfortable to us to move to the other side of the world to assist in the Bible translation process. As we began searching and praying, we asked a few close friends to pray as we attended a conference with Wycliffe.  We left that conference knowing that God wanted us in full-time missions.  We continued to pray and seek Him.  He clearly showed us that He wanted to use us in Papua New Guinea.  We continued to pray and seek as He showed us we were to go with Wycliffe.  Things didn't go according to our time line, but they went according to the perfect timing of our Father. 

As we begin 2011, we know we have many changes in front of us- many things that we anticipate and many things that are very uncertain.  Again, we have to rest on that perfect timing of our Father and not our own time line.  I don't do very good not knowing the plans and time line.  I like to fill my calendar out in ink and plan on everything going as planned.  But, I've learned to use pencil and to be flexible as things will change. 

God taught me a very important lesson last Fall about trusting Him for each step.  When we accepted our offer of membership with Wycliffe and assignment in PNG, we were sent a TON of information.  Being the Type A personality, I read through EVERYTHING with a fine tooth comb.  My mind started going and wondering how in the world would we do all of this.  How would this work with the kids and their schooling?  What would be our exact timing?  I came close to going into a full panic attack with all the worries and concerns I was piling on myself.  Finally, I heard that still small voice telling me "Give it to me.  It is my burden to carry.  I'll take it and lead you."  During my quiet time one morning I took my large binder with all the information and physically laid it down as I prayed and gave it all over to the Lord.  Wow!  You talk about instant peace and renewal.  It was such a powerful reminder to me that as we are following His leading, He will take care of all the details.  Now, that doesn't mean it will be an easy path, but it is the best path to follow.  It's like the scene in Indiana Jones where he has to cross the large ravine and has to take a step in order to "see" the bridge the goes over it.  We are taking each step one at a time. 

I'm not sure where we'll be next year as we ring in 2012.  All I know is that it will be an exciting adventure as we follow God and trust Him each day.  Come join us as we go on this adventure.  No, you don't have to board the plane with us.  You can pray for us.  You can keep updated through our blog and newsletters.  You can partner with us financially.  There may even be another way God wants you to join us. Pray about it and ask us. It is very overwhelming when we look at all that is required and needed over the next few months.  It is so comforting to know that we serve a God who is able to take care of all the needs we see and even the ones we don't see!