Thursday, December 27, 2012

Twas the Day Before Departure...

‘Twas the day before departure and all through the place
Bags were being packed till there was no more space.
Hugs had been given, some near and some far
Last minute details being taken care of, including the sale of the car!
Your prayers have been felt and are ever so great,
To see what God does next on this journey, we cannot wait!

Dear Friends, 

A Small Taste of the Chaos
  Thank you all for the texts, calls and emails letting us know you are thinking of us as we get ready to leave for language school in Brazil tomorrow.  We will be flying out of Roanoke, VA shortly after lunch, switching planes in Atlanta, arriving in Sao Paulo around breakfast time on Saturday morning.  We then will take a shuttle to our apartment which is about 1 ½ hours away in Campinas, Brazil.  We will work on getting settled and learning our way around the neighborhood before language class starts January 7th.

  We have no doubt that you have continued to pray for us as we see prayer after prayer answered.  Our car has sold (just today!), we have an apartment to call home in Brazil and visas/plane tickets to get us there.   If you have time to lift us up over the next few days, please consider praying along with us for health, safe travel, arrival of all our luggage, smooth transitions, school details for the boys and friendships in Brazil to begin forming.  Above all, pray that we would walk in a manner worthy of our Lord, boldly sharing His love and grace.  

  As we get settled, we hope to send you another email with all of our contact information, including mailing address in Brazil.  Until then, you can contact us by responding to this email, as well as calling or texting us (message us for the numbers). Life will be busy over the next week, so please understand if it takes a while for us to respond.

  Thank you for being willing to be used by God to touch our lives and to bring His Word to the Bibleless of Mozambique!   We love you all and will continue to be praying for you often!

For His glory,
David, Wendi, Caleb & Nathan Richards

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Making a List...

10 days to go till we depart for language school and we are making our list and checking it twice...

-Visas. Check!  We are cleared and able to travel to Brazil.  Your prayers and the power of God going before us made this process extremely smooth! 

-A place to live in Brazil.  Check!  Just this week we have agreed to rent a 2 bedroom apartment which puts us in walking distance of the language school, grocery store, several restaurants and a playground.  (The playground is especially welcome knowing how much the boys love to play outside.)  For those of you interested in having the address, I will be sharing it sometime soon in our newsletter.  (If you do not get our email newsletter, sign up by clicking on contact.)

-Commissioning service.  Check!  Sunday night was a special night of worship for our family and friends.  We praised God together for His provisioning and for allowing all of us to be a part of His work to redeem the nations to Himself.  We will not soon forget the words of encouragement, the prayers of faith and hug after hug.

-Good-byes shared.  Check...almost!  Some have been said, many more to say.  Lots of special memories being made as we leave those we love and those who love us so well.  This task has been emotional for all of us (and will continue to be so.).  One of our dear friends summed it up well when she said to the boys, "I didn't want you to cry as we say good-bye, but I welcome your tears because it means we love each other so much."

-Bags packed.  Check...almost!  We have roughly packed most of the toys, books and household items we are taking, but will wait till after Christmas to finalize it all.  (Currently we have 100 pounds of books packed...which seems completely reasonable to me, the book lover...but that amount might be going down as we shift things and learn of new things we need to bring.)

So that is the list...or at least the list so far.  We will keep adding to it and keep double checking it. 

Thank you for continuing to pray that God goes before us preparing friends, a church, a school and all that He desires to share with us! 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Building Our Homes (part 3)

God has graciously given us the perfect blueprint to build our homes in His word and through the life of His son, Jesus Christ.  

God has also graciously given us some very important tools with which we can build our home- our hands.  

The verse we are focusing on today holds our hands as such an important tool that it is with our own hands that the foolish woman will tear down her own house.  As I thought of this, I could not help but think of that other famous wise woman in Proverbs- the Proverbs 31 woman.  This woman knew how to use her hands- she works with willing hands to cultivate fields, to sew garments, to provide food for her family, to run a business.  Her hands are busy building her home nonstop.  

So is this what we should obtain to? Do we all need to learn to sew, cook and sell our items?  I hope not.  I can remember when I was first married, doing a study of Proverbs 31 and feeling defeated before I even started.  I don’t sew, quilt or anything crafty in the least.  I could barely cook at the time and had no idea of how to cultivate fields.  If this was it takes to build our houses with our hands, I was miserably behind.  

Looking deeper into this woman and her hands, I think it is far less about the activity of her hands as their position before her God.  

Follow me for a moment.  There are two major positions in which we hold our hands, open and closed.  I believe it is with closed hands that the foolish woman tears down her house.  

It is with hands closed in anger, failing to forgive the wrongs that have been done to her or her loved ones.

It is with hands closed with fear, clinging to that which means so much to her, refusing to let go in fear of what might happen.

It is with hands closed with the need to be in control, never allowing God to intervene and change her plans.

It is with hands closed in hurt, never willing to risk love or disappointment. 

It is with closed hands that the foolish woman tears down her own home.

Yet, it is with open hands that the wise woman builds her own home.

It is with hands open in trust, ready to be used in whatever way God sees fit.

It is with hands open in worship, surrendering the fullness of her life.

It is with hands open in love, ready to fill her arms with whoever needs her.

It is with hands open in service, willing to give all that she is and has to those who are in need.

Yes, the activities of our hands are important and God will use them greatly.  Still far more important than the specific activities in which we involve our hands is their position before the Holy One.  As a wise woman of God, our hands must be open to receive the glorious gifts with which He desires to lavish us.  

Friends, let us open our hands to God.  Surrender our lives fully to Him.  Live intentionally and begin to build your home as the wise woman He has created you to be.  

-part 3 of 3 of a talk Wendi shared with the women of Westminster Presbyterian Church this past week

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Building Our Homes (Part 2)

As the wise woman, who has surrendered our lives and our homes to God, what do we do now to build our home? What does a house being built by a surrendered life look like on a daily basis?  

Jesus gives us the rough blueprint when he answers a question posed to Him, “The greatest commandment is to love God with all that you are and the second is to love others like yourself.”  Simply put, the blueprint that a wise woman follows in building her house is to love God and to love others.  

“To love God and to love others.”  So easy to say, so hard to live.  I am sure it is a phrase, a concept you have heard many times.  Again, one of those precious, quick treasures of faith to which we all will nod in agreement and then most often move on way too quickly.  

I believe it is the wise woman of God who will stop at this truth, study it intently and then intentionally work to make this blueprint of life a reality in her home.  You see, we can all agree that loving God and loving others is important and should be the foundation of our homes, but until we INTENTIONALLY apply it to our lives we are doing no more than foolishly tearing down our homes with our own hands.  

Our lives are often over full- work, family, extra-curricular activities for the kids, hobbies, friends, housework. With the holidays you can add parties, traveling and gift-buying.  I could go on and on.   Our lives are full to busting at the seams.  And the funny thing is more often than not, it is all good stuff.  But more often than not, we get so busy living life, that unless we are purposeful and intentional about loving God and loving others, that blueprint gets moved to the bottom of the pile, the greatest thing forgotten among all the good things of life.    

The dictionary defines intentional as "to be done with intent or purpose, to be firmly or steadfastly fixed or directed." The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: "Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." (v 1-2a)

Intentional living with our eyes fixed firmly on the author of our faith requires action and commitment.  It often requires planning and even a little sacrifice.  For me personally, it means sacrificing a little sleep each morning as I try to spend time with the Lord before my day gets loud and busy.  Throughout my day it means less facebook and email time, in exchange for time spent in playing with the boys or serving my husband.  Intentional living is often a sacrifice of what is comfortable and easy for what takes effort and energy.  But it is so worth it in the end.  

As we live intentionally, our time becomes more than our own and our lives become more than living the day to survive to bedtime. Intentional living recognizes and invites the very presence of God into our everyday lives, allowing the mundane to become glorious.  Intentional living realizes there is far more than today, far more than this moment; intentional living recognizes the eternal significance in our daily living.  By purposely living in such a way where we intentionally give time and effort to loving God and loving others, we as the wise women of God, begin to build our homes in such a way that eternity is its focus and desire.

 This idea of intentional living brings me back to my lack of building skills as seen when I play Legos with my boys.  I can take a stack of Legos and do my best to create something, stacking one here and one there.  And at the end, when they ask me what it is, I look at in and say, “I have no idea.”  That is the life I feel like we live most days.  Adding things here, taking away there, living life in the midst of much good, some bad and little of the best.  

Intentional living is instead like me building Legos while looking at the book of instructions that come with the sets.  Ok, the red block goes here. Two black blocks.  Wait, not there.  Ugh. I have messed up.  Let me look closer at the instructions to see what I have missed.  The wise woman who lives intentionally will give her life to live what is best, intentionally filling her times with opportunities to love God and to love others.  Looking closer and closer at her instruction book, the Bible, as she goes about building her home.  

Friends, I cannot be up here in good conscious telling you to be more intentional without confessing to you this is something I struggle with daily.  It is so easy for me to be caught up in the daily motions of living, teaching my boys, working on our ministry, checking facebook, writing emails, and all the tasks that fill my day.  “Be intentional” is something which God has been whispering to my heart for many seasons.  

There are a couple of practical ways which I am working on this currently that you might consider applying in your day to day living.  One, as I wake up in the morning, I give my day to God.  I praise Him and recognize He has ordained this day.  He has specifically ordained its details and all that it contains.  I ask Him to show me how He would like me to fill it, who He would like me to serve and what He would like me to do with the gift of this day and all it holds.  

Then, as I walk through the day, I try to stop myself often to ask myself, “What can I do with the next 15, 10 or 5 minutes to bring the most glory to God?” Sometimes, this is specifically, intentionally playing and cherishing my boys- regardless of what I think I “need” to fill that time with doing.  Sometimes this is sitting in a chair doing nothing, but thinking about the love of God.  Sometimes it is sending a note of encouragement to a friend.  Daily, moment by moment, I am working on building my home and life as the wise woman by being more intentional with my focus and time.  

-part 2 of 3 of a talk Wendi shared with the women of Westminster Presbyterian Church this past week

Monday, December 10, 2012

Building Our Home (Part 1)

One recent windy day, David and the boys decided they would like to spend some time flying kites.  They gathered all the necessary supplies and began building away.  As I stood nearby watching their activity, Caleb asked me if I remembered building kites with them at our old house.  I smiled remembering the day with fondness.  

“Mama, I hope these kites work better than yours did.”  

Just a little crestfallen, I listened as Nathan chimed in, “Yeah Mama, your kite didn’t work because you aren’t a good builder like us and Daddy.  But don’t worry, Mama, even if you aren’t a good builder, you are a good reader…and a good cooker.”

Ah, the encouragement of a little one is so true.  You see, I am not a good builder.  My kites were a mess of string and torn garbage bags, while the kites made by their dad soared high and fast.  

While God has not gifted me with the skills of a good builder, there is a verse in His word that calls all of us women to be a builder of one of the most important aspects of our worlds- our home.  

 The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1

Such a quick treasure of God’s truth tucked in amongst many others.  It is easy to read it, nod in agreement and move on. Yet, while I hope we will nod in agreement today, I don’t want to miss out on the far reaching implications of this verse for myself or for you.  

The truth of this verse applies to all of us- whether we are married or single, in the throes of children or empty nesters, young or mature.  We as women have the unique ability to build and shape our homes. 

If you are single , you have the choice of whether your house will be a sanctuary or a place of gripping loneliness.  If you are raising children, you have the choice of whether your home will be a place of encouraging love or sharp criticism.  Every woman in this room is the builder of her home.  While we are often not alone in this building process (our families definitely pitch in for good or bad), it is our responsibility to do our best to build and shape our home to be a place of Christ-centered love and peace.  

I would even go so far as to say as women of the church, it is our responsibility to build up our spiritual home, our local body of believers, as well.  This church is your home of worship.  As wise women of God, part of our task is not only to build up our place of physical living, but also our place of spiritual living.  God desires to use each of you and the talents with which He has gifted you to serve the church and one another.  As wise women of God, we will be used by Him to build up His church, creating in it a spirit of worship and love.

Before we go on to talk about how we do this- what are the things that God uses to build up and how we tear down with our own hands- I think we should pause for a moment and consider a key part of this verse.  Let’s read it again.  

The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1

It is the WISE woman that builds her house.  So, what makes a woman wise?  Is it knowing how to cook a five course dinner, while raising perfect children in an immaculate house?  I hope not, because I definitely missed that boat if so.  No, I think it is much, much more. 

Proverbs 1:7 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  This is echoed again in Psalm 111.  To fear the Lord- not in a scary movie, dark night, spooky noise kind of way- but to fear God in a reverential, awestruck, God is HUGE kind of way- that my friend, is the beginning of wisdom.  

We become wise women by recognizing who God is. He is the Creator of the Universe. Colossians 1, speaking of Jesus, states, “16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

As we begin to get a small understanding of who God is, we cannot help but to see who we are as well.  You and I will never be the wise woman in ourselves.  No, you and I and all others have failed God, we have sinned and in ourselves are the very enemies of God, deserving nothing but His wrath. 

BUT GOD, being rich in love mercy, through His grace alone, sent us His son, Jesus the Christ, who lived the perfect life and died the death we deserved so that we might be forgiven and adopted into the family of God.  Jesus Christ, who has all authority in heaven and earth has authority over our lives.  

Becoming the wise woman is not about attending church, reading our Bible, or trying to be the “good Christian woman,” the wise woman is one who recognizes God’s authority over her life and then surrenders her life fully to Him.  Being a wise woman is not about praying a prayer one-time, making a single decision- To be a wise woman, to be disciple of Christ, is to live a life surrendered to Him. 

Friends, before we go on, we need to ask ourselves that question, am I a wise woman?  Am I a disciple of Christ? Am I living my life surrendered to His Lordship and authority?   This is too big of a question not to ask ourselves or one another.  Nothing else that we think of and nothing else that we talk about today will make a difference like the answer to that question.   I urge you, sisters, if you have never come to the end of yourself and cried out to God for forgiveness of your sins, submitting yourself to the saving Lordship of Jesus, do that today and become the wise woman that God desires you to be.  

For it is the wise woman, the woman who fears God, the woman who knows God intimately, the woman who is surrendered to His authority over her life, it is this wise woman who builds her house. 

-part 1 of 3 of a talk Wendi shared with the women of Westminster Presbyterian Church this past week

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Taking a Hike

The path stretched before us steep and rocky.  But looking down the side of the mountain, tangled with mountain laurel and boulders, I was thankful for the path that lay before matter how hard it appeared to be to follow it.

Life following Christ is like that sometimes.  The path is rough and the journey hard.  We are asked to sacrifice and give up our desires for His will.  But if we really start to look around, we can see just how thankful we should be for the path itself- no matter how difficult it might be. 

This was just one of the thoughts that crossed my mind as we were out yesterday.  The days have been unseasonably warm lately, so we decided to take advantage and head out for a picnic and hike.  Hiking and being outdoors is one of our favorite things to do as a family, so it was a great gift from God to be able to do this once more before we depart on Dec. 28.

We headed up to the Peaks of Otter only to find the picnic area (and most of the park) locked down for the season.  Not to be deterred, we parked by one of the trails and did a little side hike into the camping area to find a pit to roast our hot dogs on.   After a yummy lunch, we headed up the mountain trail.  Up being the key word.  1 1/2 miles of rocky steep terrain.  The boys (and Sky) did great, but David and I realized just how out of shape we have become lately. Gonna have to work on that one. 

As we walked, over and over again we were stunned by the glory of God's creation.  Huge boulders, a tangled mess of leafless trees and a wide variety of mosses begged for our attention.  Much to our chagrin, the boys had to touch/scale/conquer every rock formation on the hike of course.   They are truly fearless when it comes to climbing and scaling rocks.  (They get that from their dad.)  Nathan told me more than once, "It is ok, Mommy.  You don't have the climbing experience Caleb, Da and I have."  Have agree with him on that one.

The vistas at the top of Flat Top mountain were stunning.  The day was clear and bright and we could easily see for miles around.  God's handiwork is breathtaking to say the least.  And yet, as we looked at it, a friend's comment from year's ago, came to mind.  "See all this?  See this beauty?  This is NOTHING compared to heaven and eternity with God."  That will get your head spinning for a moment.

After enjoying the views, we headed back down the mountain.  Going down at points was harder than climbing up.  As I was helping Nathan over a particular rocky area, he slipped and we both went down toward the ground.

Since we had fallen closer to the rocks, we were both able to see something we would have missed otherwise, a single ladybug walking across the rock.

Nathan exclaimed, "Look! I see a ladybug!"  I guess sometimes it takes falling down to take in and appreciate the little details of life.  We got up smiling that we had shared the moment and continued on to catch up with Caleb and David so we could finish taking our hike.

 A beautiful day.  A rocky path.  A glorious view.  Memories well made.

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