Thursday, December 21, 2017

Smothered

You know how a fire can be smothered, and your bread can be smothered?  If your fire is smothered, it's almost always bad, especially if you're a Watkin and pride yourself in having nice dry firewood.  If your bread is smothered, it's almost always good, especially if you're a Watkin and you pride yourself on not depriving your stomach of delectable treats during the holiday season.

Well, we've been smothered in the most wonderful of ways.  We have been smothered by the love of family in the last couple of months. Here are some pictures of us dripping with that strengthening acceptance and lavish care.

Tea parties with Nana before an afternoon nap.

"Can I go to Auntie Sarah's house now?" This picture only begins to show the enthusiastic joy my sister finds in Mariama.  Mari feels it and rejoices in her time with Auntie Sarah.

Sister-in-law takes time to go sledding!  This was a first for me! 

Uncle Josh stopped into the farm supply and left with a gift for Mariama!  Some of my earliest gifts were given to me by my brother as well.

Papa puts to use his fence building skills...he found making ones for cows easier.

Christmas cookies...it may be slower, but it's so much more fun this way!

Grammy comes from Indiana and goes sledding!

Uncle Josh comforts Lydia.  He's always been good at cuddling and comforting little ones.  I should know, he's often done it for me as my older brother by 12 years.
We remember as we put up Nana's Christmas tree decorations!
 All this smothering has filled up our cups as we turn our minds towards our Nigerian home.  I, Christy, know family in a new way now.  I have experienced those who raised, cheered for, and treasured me now doing the same for my girls. I didn't know what I was missing, what they were missing.  Now I do, and the leaving becomes harder.

 Please pray with us as we prepare to leave this warm, smothering embrace. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Lydia...Purple Baby

We didn't give her the name Lydia because she came out clothed in purple hues, but because we admire that purple cloth seller in the Bible.  Lydia was in Philippi and had found her way to the river where she, a Gentile, was worshiping God with other women.  How do we know she was there?  Paul saw her, and told her about the "Life that was the LIGHT of all man kind." She believed in Him, and opened up her home to the new body of Christ that was being established in Philippi.

I see Lydia as:
Industrious- She was a merchant...a seller of purple cloth
Hospitable- She invited Paul and his companions into her home
Proactive- She believed and she was baptized
Influential and Respected- She and her whole household were baptized
Sensitive- She heard the truth and she knew it was true
Countercultural- She was worshiping God as a gentile...doing what she knew was right even if others might have told her this God wasn't for HER to worship
Spiritual- She was a worshiper of God
Natural- She was worshiping by the river
A Traveler- She was not in her hometown, but in Philippi...and quite at home there!

Like Lydia, we are gentiles, and like Lydia, we believe that Jesus is the life, the life that is the light of all men.  We pray our Lydia will be everything God has intended for her to be!

Welcome, Lydia!







Patnership


What is partnership?
When you could be doing your new puzzle or practicing the piano or watching a murder mystery or drinking diet Dr. Pepper but you're stuffing envelopes for your sister and her husband who work in Nigeria!
When you could use the money you make from cleaning stairwells in apartment buildings to buy music, movies, and drinks you love, but you're sending some to Wycliffe every month to be part of what's happening.
When your sister comes home from Nigeria and you make her feel loved by talking about the special things you've done together.
Refusing to eat dinner until you've prayed and thanked God for your sister at the dinner table.

We've had an outpouring of love since we've been in the United States, and my sister Leah is one of the many who have taken the time to refresh our hearts.  If you get a newsletter in the mail, Leah is the one who makes it happen. Three years younger than I am, Leah has been my own personal cheerleader at every event, and now in every season of my life. We are thankful for each person who's partnered with us in their own unique way over the years.


 

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Benediction

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God speaks a benediction over us.  Scripture itself echoes his love and affirmation and blessing.  Despite the knowledge of this, there is a longing in my heart to hear the affirmation of Scripture spoken right to me, in an audible voice.  I don’t know if I even knew that reality until, with his hands on our shoulders, Ben Patterson spoke a benediction over me and my husband, Scripture being spoken into the deep places, the longing places.  
No only did Ben and Loretta send us out with a blessing, but the attention and love poured on us while in their home gave me a sense of God’s love and presence in a new way.   They wanted to hear what had happened to us, where we are now, and get our news in the future.  They wanted to stay connected.  I so highly respect this couple, I wasn’t sure I’d say the right things while with them, but their unbridled acceptance melted those self conscious jitters.  

May we be speakers of blessing, in our very attention of those around us, those who “show up” in our lives unexpectedly.  May those who spend time with us know that the longings of our hearts is to know them and for them to share the beauty of their story and experience…sending them out with a blessing and the strength that comes from being known and loved.

Thank You for Your Persistence

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“Hello, this is the Patterson’s, please leave a message!” the familiar, welcoming voice spoke for the third time.  For the third time we left the message.  “We’re in town, we’d love to see you, give us a call.”  This time, though, we were sitting outside the Patterson’s house, listening to the phone ring.  I was looking through the open screened widow at a beautiful art piece of Ben Patterson with his hand raised, a gathering of students responding with arms raised and the unseen angels portrayed in the rafters of Dimnet Chapel of Hope College where Ben was chaplain for three of my four years. Yes, I was stalking my college chaplain outside his house in California.  I had called his office, and, after seeing his son, who attended our rival high school, the secretary called me back and said, “He’s on his way home, and so is Loretta.”  I didn’t know what they’d think of me…14 years after graduating college, intruding on their lives.  I felt silly.
Then Loretta Patterson burst through the door, with elation written on her face and gathered my pregnant self in her arms in singing laughter, giving me a solid hug.  She held me at arms length and eyes beaming declared, “You’re beautiful.”  A much more subdued, but equally warm welcome came from Ben as he arrived, briefcase in hand and said, “Hi Christy!” 
As we left, an hour later, after sharing a bit of our journeys together, Ben said, “Thank you for your persistence.” I responded jokingly, “Maybe persistence is my spiritual gift.”  We took a picture, and got into the car.   


As we pulled away, I said to Zach, “I don’t actually think persistence is my spiritual gift…I don’t persist very well in prayer.”  In wisdom he responded, “Maybe it is…you just need to start using it in prayer.” 

May God help me to be a persistent person in prayer, as I am determined in so many other areas of my life.   May I want to see Him so much that I seek him out, call many times, go to his place, look in his “windows”, and wait for him to show up!

Da Kai Na!

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Learning to climb!
"Da Kai Na!" (By myself!) is a common phrase in our home these days. I have heard it to be said that 2-year-olds are fiercely independent.  Well, our Mariama, at 2 years 3 months, is no exception.  Today as we boarded yet another plane, with her boarding pass in hand, she said, “Bye!” to us and headed to the front of the line as everyone greeted her happily.  When she saw we were approaching, she said, “I’ll do it myself! Bye! Bye!” As she pushed her daddy back. She didn’t want Daddy following too closely behind her as she searched for row 36 (the only open seats on the plane). 
Mariama makes her way to row 36
It is striking to me, however, that her independence comes to a screeching halt…literally…when she finds she can’t do it by herself!  “Mommy, help me!” She cries in desperation, as though I abandoned her while she climbed Everest in a snow storm.
A lego tower of unusual size.
As I experience this phenomenon multiple times a day, a picture of myself has been sketched in my mind.  I set out to do some impossible task, which my experience or giftings have not yet equipped me to do…like start a program for girls or raise a 9-year-old, and I suddenly come to that despairing moment where I cry out in frustration at my patient Father who wanted me to learn of his enduring wisdom and presence by allowing me to do my best so he could demonstrate his.  Oh, and then, I get the immense pleasure of watching him work, all the more delighted in his skillful handiwork because I have tried and seen how impossible the task is.

Praise God for his Fatherly wisdom, and pray that this fiercely independent 35-year-old will remember to keep crying out so she can experience Him at work. 

Like mother like daughter!




Saturday, October 7, 2017

Come...I like you

"What do you notice about the father in this story?" the speaker asked after telling the story of the prodigal son.
"I don't dare get close enough to the Father to notice him..." I found myself thinking sadly.

To me, those steps back home, over the hills, after squandering precious days away from the father looked something like reconnecting with a friend I haven't seen in a long time.

Look them up on facebook to see what they've been up to.
Send them a message and see if they respond.
Find out where they are and get contact info.
Call or go visit.
Small talk for the first hour.
Then get into the real stuff.

Or, with God...

Try to get glimpses of him and what he's doing around me.
Shoot some prayers up and see if I feel he's listening or sends me a message through his Word.
Ask him where hs'e at and if we can get back in contact...that is, if he has time, if he wants to, if I'm not imposing....
Make a little more effort to be with him.
Do some light devotionals to get myself in tune with his Spirit.
Then dive into the real deal of intimate relationship...

I feel that day when I disparagingly realized I wasn't allowing myself to get close to the Father because I was afraid of his judgement, he declared, "You are free to come." Wow, thank God he's not human, and he doesn't feel like I'm rushing our relationship if I just run back to him, jump in his arms, and say, "Oh, you're awesome.  I've missed you.  Thank you for loving me all this time though I was so foolishly distracted by so many things that can, in no way, compare to you!"  He delights in that.  He longs for it. 



The next day the song played, "What a beautiful name it is...the name of Jesus," my heart responded, and yet I felt like I would be assuming to just worship God when it had been so long I'd abandoned myself in his presence.  "You're free to come," I felt the Spirit wispering to my hesitant heart, and come I did.  I raised my hands, the yoke was lifted, I was really loving Jesus with everything in me.

Ask me again, devotion dude.  "What do I notice about the father?"
I say, "He sure likes me, doesn't he?"

"He  chose us before the creation of the world to be adopted as his...in love he predestined us...because it gave him great pleasure." Eph. 1

Rest and Relationship

God provided through a couple we have never met.
I had asked the announcement for a short-term house to be taken out of the bulletin.
This couple were, down to the days, going to be gone while we were planning on being in town.
We spent two weeks in a fully furnished home...they even left macaroni and cheese and a booster seat for our little person. We were a bike ride away from my family, the grocery story, and the beach!




So many of you have been praying for rest for us. Well, God did provide a place for us to rest for a week, and the second week, we did a different kind of rest. We met a lot of dear brothers and sisters in Christ and rested in his grace as we told the stories of his faithfulness in Nigeria. We sat in partner's living rooms, thanked God together, and rested in God's provision and calling in our lives.  I (Christy) rested in my family's joy in hosting us for many meals.  Mariama rested in the pleasure of being loved by aunties, uncles, and cousins all wanting her to come and play!

Now we are in Indiana for a week before we head across the country once again for a couple of weeks!  We praise God for how he's blessed us with family that has embraced Mariama and made home wherever we go!  We continue to pray that God will help her to know his love through us and others, making her feel secure and known as we go from house to house. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

10 States. 9 weeks.

We've landed at last! Most birds find themselves heading South as the cold winds start to blow.  Well, as Hurrican Irma made her way to Florida, we decided we would make our way OUT of Florida.  Hence began an unexpected road trip to Michigan.  Here are some highlights along the way.

SIFAT - I spent 3 years at Servants in Faith and Technology (SIFAT) with my family from '96-'99. I attended the local public high school and worked on campus during the summers and also when tour groups came through.  My desire to be in missions was fanned into flame as I sat under the mentorship of Sarah and Ken Corson (SIFAT founders), and developed a holistic perspective of missions.  Well, SIFAT did it again, as I was inspired by being with loved ones who spur me on to love Jesus in practical ways!

They've built a Nigerian house in the global village! It was built by a graduate of SIFAT who has actually helped us with a project in Jos as well!

Sarah Corson's stories and love for others have inspired me throughout the years.
God has established this beautiful family in a homestead near SIFAT to partner with them in ministry through appropriate technology, which they use on a daily basis!


College Friends - Zach and I have dear friends we rarely get to see, and as we headed North, we passed through Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.  Spending at least one night in each of these states.  One friend Zach hadn't seen for 12 years.  It always surprises us how these sweet friendships, refreshed by the common bond in Christ, continue to build us up, even in this new season of life.

Mariama made new friends with the children of our dear old friends!


Didn't get a picture with my college friend, here, but with her dear mama who ministered to us while we were visiting.
So beautiful to hear testimonies of God's faithfulness through the years from these precious souls.



Sharpeners - You know those who give you a good, spunky kick in the right direction through their very passion for Christ?  Well, we saw some of those folks too.  Sharpeners, I'll call them...you leave them ready to pierce the darkness.

His passionate reading of a well-known verse made tears spring to my eyes, as God's word spoke afresh. They knew me at 14, and have loved me well. They were youth leaders then, and today we can share a common passion for reaching the world for Christ.
From ministry in the prisons to the pulpit this couple inspired us!


With all those miles and all those connections behind us, we are now here, in Holland, MI for a couple of weeks.  God gave a great, spontaneous gift through a couple in the church who have offered us their beautiful home to stay in for 2 weeks before we head to Terre Haute, IN.  Thank you Irma for blowing us north via our little rental car, and thank you, God, for having good plans in 10 states these last 9 weeks. You, Oh God, have once again surprised us with your love and better plans.

Our happy traveler.  Praise God for her resiliency.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dear Friend




We’ve walked different roads, but found ourselves in a Thai restaurant talking about a similar struggle.  The need to hunger for God, and the lack of that desire that must be stirred in us to do the hard things that he’s calling us to do.  I treasure this friendship that spurs me on toward love and good deeds.  It is a rare friend when, in her own struggle, can call out the woman she sees in you and spark her back to life.  I feel that person, the one that I wanted to be, the one that this friend saw in me even as a child, rising up to be victorious again.  How does she do it? The same way every great woman does, she sees beauty and calls it out. What a treasure. 


Parking Lot Prayer




I was standing in the parking lot on Randalsville New Life church, where I came to Christ and started my personal spiritual journey.  What happened as I stood was heavenly, a familial connection that is so rare in today’s world. In the course of 5 minutes, 3 different people embraced me and prayed over me because they saw I had a need.  Praise God for the love of his body who not only says they’ll pray for you, but does it, setting an example that you can follow for a life of loving others! 
Another example of this divine family was when I was preparing my role for the closing of VBS and I was enjoying the little kicks our new baby was giving me in the womb.  A Christian sister I hardly know walked by and I exclaimed in sheer pleasure of the moment, “Feeling my baby kick brings me such joy.”  Without hesitation, she said, “You bring me joy.”  Tears sprang to my eyes because it was to me a great demonstration of what we all long for, a place where we are known and loved, a family without conditions.

Speeding




Sometimes while we drive on slick American highways, I look at my speedometer and see that I am going way over the speed limit!  How does that happen?  Do I have a need for speed?  Despite my years as a sprinter, I don’t think so.  I think that it is a reflection of how the rest of my life gets going so fast.  I go with the flow of the traffic around me!  I start out at a normal speed, but as I get drive along, focusing on the road, cozying myself down for a long drive, I start to move with the business around me, the cars that are going to fast, or the opportunities that are just a little too out of reach.  I find that I don’t realize that I’m speeding along,  dragging my precious family along, out of breath, until I’m just too far past the limit.  I need prayer on this, and am hoping that this furlough, I can start noticing myself zooming along before I'm way over my emotional speed limit.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mommy, Where Are We Going?

--> I’ve just packed up our two green suitcases for the third time and we head out on the road for our next Vacation Bible School.  I hear from the back seat a sweet voice speaking clear English asking, “Mommy, a going?”, which I understand as, “Mommy, where are we going?”  It tugged at my heart, and I wanted to stop the car, and hug my little resilient missionary girl.



What a trooper.  Mariama has been in three states, four countries, and slept in eight different houses (including a tent) in the last three weeks.  She has met 11 cousins, 13 blood related aunties and uncles, and dozens other aunties and uncles from Indiana to Michigan to New York.  She has played with lots of new children in church nurseries and homes across those states.  She listened to a dozen new songs and clapped along with me, doing the motions that I would soon be doing in front of a mob of enthusiastic children as she watches me from the crowd. Our prayers for Mariama, that God would help her in these transitions have been answered in a lot of special ways, including us learning how to prepare her to meet new people, wonderful hosts loving her by buying special treats and playing with her, and learning how to nap on the go.

Our lovely, artistic host "Auntie Julie" showing us her garden.

We will probably get asked this question again on Monday morning as we pack up once again.  This is what I will say, every step along the way, as we head to the next days destination.

1.     We’re going to New York City to celebrate Daddy’s birthday!
2.     We’re going to Pennsylvania to visit our friends!
3.     We’re going to Schenectedy to visit a friend!
4.     We’re going back to Pastor Al’s house in upstate New York!
5.     We’re going back to Grandma Jane’s house in Rochester!
6.     We’re going back to Nana’s house in Michigan!
7.     We’re going camping with Nana and Papa!
8.     We’re going to Orlando, Florida!
9.     We’re going to Ft. Meyers, Florida!
10. We’re going to Cape Coral, Florida!
11. We’re going to Nana’s house.
12. We’re going to Grammy’s house.
13. We’re going to Nana’s house.
14. We’re going to have a baby!
15. We’re going to celebrate Christmas somewhere!
16. We’re going back to Nigeria!

If, while we’re going to one of these places, you are on the way and you want your house to be one of the answers to this destination question, “Where are we going?”, send us an email and let us know!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Peter and the Savior's Knees

He'd been fishing all night...a master fisherman, and caught nothing.
Jesus, the master, said one word, and the fish came.
We strategize, working up to the last day of our departure, working throughout the night to plan, organize last minute details, hand off to the right people, train, pack...
We have tried to be obedient to cast our nets where Jesus has told us to, and yet, we must cling to his knees, cling to the Savior, for only he can bring the "fish", the fruit, the impact of our obedience.

Here we are in the United States of America. What did our last days look like as we clung to the Savior?

Saturday, July 1st: 
6-7am Zach and I could be seen finishing up final details on the map we painted with the children in the children's classrooms at our church.

7-9 am Found me doing teacher training for the Thursday Bible Study teachers who God has sent, equipped, called to carry on this ministry for these children.
9-11 am We finished painting the children's hands on the tree and I went home with the girls
11-2:30pm We made lunch and then prepared for the Beautiful Me program
1:30pm God provided a translator, which I desperately needed to communicate with the mothers of Beautiful Me.
2:00pm It started raining heavily
3:30pm-7:00pm The mothers and daughters arrived (over an hour after scheduled time) in sprinkling rain for our last Beautiful Me before we go on furlough.
7-10pm we clean up, put the girls to bed, and pack some more

Sunday, July 2nd
5am I go to the office to print quiz questions before electricity goes out
6am The electricity goes out right before I hit print
6:15am I'm walking out the door of the office and the electricity comes back! (Thank you God!)
8am We arrive at the church to get the children ready for the big quiz!
9am Church starts
10am The quiz begins with me reciting 2 Timothy chapter 1, the children singing a Scripture Song from 2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness,"  and the youngest group doing a fabulous job remembering all their quiz answers.
10:30am I witnessed a child I didn't even know was paying attention tell Saul's story of redemption on the Damascus road. His oversized winter coat hung below his knees and over his hands, but his words were clear, and the message moving that God can do and change any situation. The other two groups went, surprising me with their clear answers the demonstrated a lot of practice and understanding of God's word.
11am I recited all of 2 Timothy (except the final greetings), which God had most certainly helped me do, and I encouraged the congregation to know God's Word, learn it, love it!
11:30am We ate lunch with the Pastor's family, an unexpected blessing for this pregnant mama.


12pm Went to have a final meal with our dear friends who are currently caring for Daso in our home
2:00pm-7pm I took a quick nap, visitors came to the house to say goodbye.  One of them is a woman who has inspired me again and again with her continual support and work in the ongoing Bible translation in her own language, Kuce. She's 75 years old.



Monday, July 3rd - Two days before we leave
9am We finish a Scripture Listening and Reading Group (SLRG) training for another ministry.  I was not sure if I should go because of our impending departure, but I was so thankful that I did.  The testimonies were so touching. They said things like, "This is the best seminar I've ever attended!" and "My children were listening and answering questions.  They were so attentive!" and "I will really use this in my ministry because I can see how this is better than what I'm doing when I'm disciplining."  These leaders work with male and female prisoners, patients, female prostitutes, and male drivers at transportation parks.
11am While the training is going on, I run to town to buy the radios they will need to go and apply what we have been teaching them.  I tie in some last minute gift shopping as well. 

2:00pm we wrap up the training and I go home.
2-6pm I pack while Zach is working hard at the office meeting with people.
6pm Our dear friends Rachel and Uche bring us dinner.
8pm We get the girls ready for bed, and then continue packing.


Tuesday, July 4th - The day before we leave
10am We have a meeting with Rachel (who is also on the Scripture Engagement team) about continuing ministry.
11am I go to meet a mother in a remote part of Jos.  Her child has been a part of our ministry over the last year and I couldn't leave without meeting her. 
12:00pm I get a hair cut from a visiting beautician from, of all places, Holland, MI. 
1:30pm I pick up Daso from school.
1:35pm Go to Mashiah foundation and the House of Hope Sewing Shop to see if the sewing is done for gifts to take home.
2:00pm We go to visit a ministry that offers refuge and support to abused girls and women. Give hugs.
3:00pm We go home to continue packing to find some sweet children have come for homework help.  Zach has been working with them, but I tell them they need to go home now.
3:00pm We pack.
5:00pm We go to a July 4th celebration where people talk about all the things they love about America.  It made me rejoice that we're going to this special part of the world, and weep as I held Daso in my arms and they prayed for us.
7pm (July 4)-2am (July 5th) We pack.

Wednesday July 5th
7:30am The car arrives to take us to Abuja.
3pm We check into a beautiful apartment for the night (provided for us free of charge by Peniel Apartments).
4pm We watch Despicable Me 3 in a theatre with Daso and her friend, Reese, Zach, and Mariama.
6pm We get Dominoes pizza and enjoy Coldstone creamery.
8pm We have devotions...a meaningful time in the Word of God, praying with Daso about the days to come.
9pm We present her with a Nigerian girl doll that is dressed from her own culture as a going away gift.
10pm We repack and get ready for the next day.


Thursday, July 6th
5:30am We load in the car
6:30am We say goodbye to Daso with tears and "You are my Sunshine"
7:00am We check in and board BA for London and then on to Indianapolis (a day earlier than our flights were first booked, do to the flight being cancelled on Friday).

Friday, July 7th
8pm We arrive in Indianapolis where my sister-in-law, Susannah picked us up.

So the furlough journey begins.   
Oh, Jesus, we cling to you!
May you show yourself faithful and true, 
Complete what you started in us there
May each we left behind sense your care. 
May the children learn and grow, 
May Daso your love know, 
May mommy's and daughters connect, 
May those trained remember, reflect, 
May your Word go forth with power, 
May you be their strong tower. 
Father, we cast on you our desire to see results
For only you can show yourself strong through our weaknesses and faults. 
Increase our faith that you will indeed do, 
What you have have planned as we surrender to you.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Painting the World!

Isn't that what we want to do?  Paint the world?  To leave splashes of life and beauty everywhere we go? That is what we pray we have done in the last five years since we joined our ministries in Nigeria. We pray that God has been in full color in our lives, clearly seen and experienced by all who spend time with us.
We are returning to the US as a family (minus Daso who will return to her biological family) after     2 1/2 years in Nigeria.  Oh, Lord, we pray your color spreads, that what you have done through us brings light and life to many!

This morning, though, Zach actually got to begin painting the world on the wall of our children's Sunday School classroom.  What fun to think of leaving behind this physical representation of what we hope our lives are about!










Chosen Banquet

"Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.   God decided in advanc...