Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tuesday Topic: 2013!

Happy New Year! I haven't been too regular with the Tuesday Topics lately. Sorry. Send me suggestions of what you want to talk about.

I do have one for today: What is your favorite memory from 2013?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Light In The Dark

Something deep in our souls longs for a light in the dark. At Christmas it spills out on Christmas trees, and Advent wreaths, and twinkling lights on houses. We desperately want to believe the words that angels proclaim in the night.

This Christmas season I have felt like the night is long and dark. All throughout December and leading up to Christmas Eve I felt like I was carrying heavy burdens. My heart aches for the girl who has no home, and it breaks for the man on the street who has fallen again into the addiction he hates. My stomach turns at the poverty and desperation all around me, contrasted with the Christmas lights and holiday music. Maybe the tears fall from your eyes too as you ache for the ones you serve.

The whole world groans under the weight of darkness.

Is this the groan that God heard from heaven on high?  The cries of humanity thrown out into the night?

Is this why He could not stand by? Divinity stepped down, down into the groaning darkness and was born as a mortal child. This is the wonder of Christmas.

God born like us. Born to change our story, and to stop our cries.

When we hear the groans around us, we have a way to answer. There is a peace to be preached, and an unlikely joy to be found and celebrated.

We love the Christmas lights because they defy the darkness. They whisper "hope" into the deepest night. They show us that we can overcome every day of the year.

And so we light the Advent candles, and we sing the angel's song.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all you lovely ladies, in all corners of the world. I pray that you will have a lovely time celebrating Christ's birth with your families.

Jesus said:
I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

Enjoy His light and pass it on to others, especially during this season!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent and the Unexpected

We of course don’t truly know all of the things that Mary was feeling as she awaited the birth of her Perfect Son, but as we’ve been in our own season of Advent, of waiting, I’ve been imagining what Mary might have been feeling as she herself anticipated the birth of Jesus.

Surely she felt the feelings of awe, joy, anticipation, excitement, and wonder. She was about to give birth to God’s own Son! We to seek to focus our hearts on those same feelings as we remember just exactly what Jesus’ birth means to us as believers. It means everything! 

But I’ve also been wondering what sort of natural motherly feelings and concerns Mary might have been having. Here is the most significant event of her life and most significant event in eternity, and she finds herself headed on an arduous journey far from her home to an unknown place that she can’t even fully envision considering they didn’t know where they would stay while there. She, like every mother, had likely spent much time nesting and dreaming about the arrival of her baby boy. Then the decree calling for the census goes out and all of those dreams abruptly change their setting.  Mary had likely prepared her home and had been picturing in her mind what Jesus arrival might look like there, surrounded by those close to her, in her lovingly prepared home.  I can imagine the concern and perhaps grief that she may have felt as she realized that it was likely that she would be living far from home, who knows where (though probably better that she didn’t know she'd be in a stable at that point!) when her baby boy and Lord entered the world. Nothing went as she had planned and expected! Far from it!

But, that was God’s perfect plan! He intended to come in a way, time, and place that nobody, not even Jesus’ own mother, could have expected. 

During the Advent season and as the actual day of Christmas approaches I know that each of us have had hopes, plans, and expectations for what this season will be like. But so often, for one reason or another, this season and the actual day look so very different than we had hoped and planned that it would. Despite these unexpected turns though, Jesus, Immanuel, is coming! He is with us!

(This is what our Advent season has looked like)

For my family, this year’s Advent season has meant weeks of ongoing illness. Stomach flu, flu, and now one with bronchitis and two more kids with high fevers…  MY plans involved friends, and special celebrations, and eating yummy treats, and happy times singing songs to Jesus, but instead we’ve had countless days of kids in bed, no appetites, feverish and sleepless nights, and weeks separated from friends… It is tempting to fall into self pity, but thinking of the unexpected yet sovereignly ordained circumstances that Mary found herself in for Jesus arrival, and how God made those circumstance perfect for His coming (though certainly not easy), has helped me to see this change of plans differently and to try to look for the things that God has prepared for us this Christmas season that we may not have planned to focus on otherwise. We’ve focused a lot on the Lord’s comfort and care, His love, and His power to heal. We've thought about how He is enough and though celebrations and traditions are meaningful and fun, they are not the reason that we celebrate.  I’m thankful for these special things to focus on as we remember that Jesus truly is Immanuel, God with us, no matter our circumstance!  

Has this season of Advent and soon approaching Christmas day gone as you had expected, or have you also found yourself in unexpected circumstances as you wait to celebrate Jesus’ coming? How have you experienced Jesus as your Immanuel, your God-with-you, during the events of your life this season? Merry Christmas, dear friends! I pray that you experience the closeness of our Lord coming near in ways like never before!

Sunday, December 22, 2013


One of the traditions that have developed over the last 10 years in our little family is our Christmas card.   Somehow, that first year we were married, we had a silly one.

And then things went downhill...like this one

Or this one

And now, I give you this years:

So what traditions do you all have?  Silly, serious?  What has worked in both your home culture and your host culture?

Friday, December 13, 2013

When You Feel Far From Home


Here is a taste from my home that touched my heart. 

Do you feel far from home this holiday season?  For many cross-cultural servants, Christmas can be a bittersweet time. You may feel twinges of loneliness as you long for friends and family from home, wherever that is.  Many of us are not even sure anymore where home is!  You might feel special joy over celebrating together with the “family” God has given you where you are.

For me, Christmas overseas is a mixed blessing.  I miss the joyful holiday atmosphere in America. On the other hand, I am thankful for the opportunity to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, far away from commercialism and shopping frenzy. I’ve had many sweet, quiet Christmases in this country where almost no one else is celebrating.  I long to be with our family back home, and I wish my children could spend Christmas with them. However, I’m honored that my kids get to spend Christmas among brothers and sister who pay a high cost to follow Christ.  It is a privilege to be part of their community.

How are you holding up?

If you feel lonely, I pray that fellowship with Christ would be sweet to your soul.

If you feel weary, I pray that His strength would be made perfect in your weakness.

If you feel far away from home and loved ones, I pray that you could make yourself at home in Christ’s love.  He is always there for you, always waiting for your arrival, always ready to sit down and be with you.  May Christ make himself at home in your heart. He is sufficient for all of your needs.

If you feel joyful, I pray that Christ would make your joy abound still more.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:16, 17

This is a re-print from 2011.  I've been busy with holiday preparations and activities because Christmas is a GREAT time to share with our mslm friends.

When I thought of all you, my cross-cultural working mom friends, this came to mind.  Blessings to you all!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Shopping

I was talking to someone planning to move here with a large family (more children than Richelle!). She was asking where to buy in bulk and such, and that got me thinking: How do you shop? In bulk? Daily at the corner store? Outdoor market? One a month orders brought in by plane? What are the options where you live, and how to you make them work for your family?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, December 9, 2013

I'll be home for Christmas...

... home, in Costa Rica. 

We'll be here, just the four of us, for Christmas this year. I've been feeling nostalgic and homesick for the States the past couple of days. When I'm missing our family there, my mind can wander to a scene of what it would be like if we were there with them.  I see candles glowing, stockings hanging, fire burning, family laughing, snow falling, grandparents and my little ones snuggling. A mist of tears drowns this scene, and as I wipe them away, my eyes and ears are opened to the scene surrounding me here.

I see a sweet newborn babe's newly discovered smile, a big open-mouthed grin, as she gazes up at me...

I hear our tea kettle whistling, even though it's sunny and 75 degrees outside...

I see the glistening reflection in our tile floor of the twinkling lights of our cyprus Christmas tree...

I hear a precious, clear, 2 year old voice singing "Away in the Manger" as he plays with his little paper and plastic nativity scene...

My heart is lifted, a smile comes, and my spirit rejoices.

I'm home.

I'll be home for Christmas. In Costa Rica.

Then, my now thankful eyes fall on yet another scene, the simple nativity in the center of our table. I think of Jesus. My King. My God who left His home, the glory of heaven, to redeem me, to give me an eternal home. With Him.

And, my heart is truly home. In Jesus.

I'll be home for Christmas.

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sins and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great, glad tidings tell,
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

This is a 2010 post copied from my personal blog.  Now, three years later, Costa Rica is home to us, but we plan to be in the States for Christmas and I am anticipating missing Christmas in Costa Rica - the smell of the cyprus tree, Spanish Christmas carols, tamales on Christmas Eve, worship with our church family...  I'm praying for myself, and all of you, that we will find our joy, hope, and home in Jesus this Christmas! 

Where will you be this Christmas?  How is God encouraging you as you may feel far from home, loved ones, and special traditions?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Praying for our countries

This might be a little different from the usual here, but it's what is on my mind these days.

Has Ukraine been in the international news lately? Have you heard anything of what is going on here? The president of Ukraine unexpectedly pulled back from the path toward the European Union, and people are protesting that. The protests have become a cry for freedom and an end to corruption, too.

For me, it has been a wake up call to remember to pray for Ukraine: for the people, for the leadership of this country, and for other countries of the world. I've had this beautiful song ringing through my head almost non-stop:

(The chorus: "God, I pray for Ukraine. God, I pray for the people....")
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

So, may I ask for you to pray with me? Let's remember the leaders of the countries we live in and pray for peace! How can we pray specifically today for the country you live in? 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Advent!

I'm back! We had a wonderful visit, and then a lovely, busy whole week of Thanksgiving. I hope you all have been doing well, too.

It is my very favorite time of year already. Last year we shared an Advent devotional here. This year we don't have anything new like that (but of course you can go back in the archive and find last year's again). And even though Advent is already here, I still want to ask.... Do you observe Advent? How? What does it look like in your home this year? And even if you don't "do Advent," how are you preparing for the holidays?

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Monday, December 2, 2013

"I will spend the rest of my life as a missionary from the Kiowas to the white people..." ~ Do you know who said that?

Last time I wrote, I asked y'all about some of your heroes. Today, I'd like to share about one of mine - albeit a bit obscure, mostly unheard of single missionary woman. Her career did not end illustriously - but rather under discipline from her mission board because she could not obey their directives and consider herself acting with integrity... 

But I'll let her story, as I was first introduced to it, speak for itself ~
Six young Kiowa braves sat on their horses, calmly watching her. All were naked to the waist. Their heavy black hair hung in thick braids, interwoven with rawhide and strips of ermine. All wore bone chestplates and copper bracelets.

Isabel pulled her team to a halt. Moving slowly to hide her racing heart, she raised her right hand, palm forward in greeting.

One by one, the Indians guided their horses down the slope toward her and formed a semicircle, blocking her path.

"You come here all alone and you no scared? Maybe we scalp you." The leader's face was solemn.

The banks of the dry wash screened Isabel and the six Indian men from the outside world. She was truly at their mercy.

"I think maybe we scalp you now." the leader signed. He prodded his horse forward. A knife appeared in his left hand. He snatched the Winchester from his lap and placed the end of the barrel against Isabel's head. She heard the click of the hammer as it was cocked.

Isabel went completely numb. Every thought went out of her brain. The roaring in her ears grew into a crescendo as she awaited the fatal bullet. Cold chills shot up her spine. She closed her eyes and prepared to die...
A few years ago, my daughter handed me a book. The cover of Light on the Mountain, by Leonard Sanders, shows the picture of a beautiful young woman and several Native Americans in the background behind her. Those words above formed the teaser paragraph on the front pages, designed to hook prospective readers. My oldest girl emphatically proclaimed this to be her favorite book ever when she placed it in my hands. At that point, I figured it was nothing more one of those formula-pioneer-western-romance-sort of novels. But? I'd promised my girl I'd read it, had the gift of some unexpected time available, and so I opened the pages to "do my duty."

Picture from the cover of
Isabel Crawford's autiobiography -
KIOWA: A Woman Missionary
in Indian Territory 
Boy, was I wrong!

The book tells the story of Isabel Crawford. She moved onto the Kiowa Indian reservation on Oklahoma Territory, against the recommendation of her colleagues. Mostly deaf, she communicated through sign language, reading lips and worked through a Kiowa man who agreed to serve as her interpreter. She encouraged the Kiowas to "walk the Jesus-road" while never forgetting that God had created them Kiowa, and that that fact was "very good." By God's grace and with His strength, her life, her words, her service and her consistent, persistent, gracious yet meticulous application of Scripture to daily life  penetrated Kiowa society with the light of the Gospel message. Through her, God did what no "Jesus-man" had been able to accomplish.

At the beginning of the book, she defines her approach to one of her colleagues: "I'm confident that if you approach a savage in a womanly way, he will respond with respect." Thus, it was never her goal to "preach the Gospel" or "shepherd a church," but rather to help the Kiowa learn to live and walk a new path and point him to Scripture to determine what that meant in his world and his culture and his day. She wanted to live in community with the Kiowa as a godly woman, and to disciple them through Bible study so that her community would also desire to walk the Jesus-road with her. After several unbelievably hard years (she experienced first hand the white man's cruelty and ignorance towards Native Americans as well as the frequent lack of integrity by the United States government), the impact of this approach that God had impressed on her heart was unmistakable; several of the Kiowas had organized into a church and were determined to find (or disciple) their own Indian pastor.

I was in tears as I read the final chapter of this book. Isabel held fast to the authority of Scripture, regardless of the accepted traditions of the church. She valued immensely the cultural fingerprint with which God had created and marked the Kiowas, clearly recognizing many aspects of their way of life where God had already revealed Himself to them. She discovered that she had much more to learn from them than she had to teach, once she had introduced them to the Jesus-road. She guided them to a salvation by faith, given by grace. For example, the greater church at that time flat out stated that an Indian who had more than one wife could not become a Christian. Several Kiowa men said that they would not become Christians because they could not abandon the women who were their wives. Isabel helped them see that even though the church might never recognize them as "Christian," they could still choose to walk the Jesus-road, believe that Jesus died for them, trust Him as Savior and Lord, and ask Him to live within them and guide them.

Because of church politics, after nearly 11 years, she was asked by her sending agency to leave the reservation. She felt obliged to resign her position because their stand was contrary to the authority of the Bible: a man-created mission organization was trying to dictate and interfere with the autonomy of a local church seeking to obey Scripture. Her final words to this godly congregation of Kiowa believers?
"For ten years, eight months, and three days I have been a white missionary to the Indians. I have thought hard and I have prayed hard and now I know what I must do. This I promise you. From this moment on, I will spend the rest of my life as a missionary from the Kiowas to the white people. I will write books and magazine articles. I will make speeches. I will do anything and everything I can to tell the world about the most wonderful people I have ever known - the Kiowa Indians.... If I said good-bye to each and every one of you, there would be nothing left of me to put aboard that train this afternoon. I know that. So I want to ask of you one last favor. [A friend] has agreed to take me to the railroad in his new surrey. My trunk and bags are already in it. He is waiting at the door of the church. I want you now to bow your heads in silent prayer. I want you to keep on praying until I am out that door and gone. It is the way I want to remember you -- praying in the church that we built together." For one heart-stopping moment, Isabel feared they would not comply. But they were only taking one last lingering look at her. The heads went down...
I cried as I read those words...

I don't often do that...

Since that point in time, I've researched some to find out more about this incredible woman. I'd encourage you to do the same. I know that I've been challenged once again to consider what it means to minister to others and share what it means to walk the Jesus-road in a foreign-to-me cultural context.

What do you think of Isabel's stand?

Has God ever placed you in a similar situation, where He's asked you to act contrary to established protocols?

If you were to be a missionary from your local group of believers to those living in the United States, what would you share?

Edited from the archives