Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our Christmas Tree

Yesterday we bought our Christmas tree.  We do not have many ornaments or pretty decorations (and I am quite happy about it this year).  In our quest to make this Christmas stress-free and more about Christ we will only put 2 types of decorations on the tree this year.

1) Ornaments for the Jesse Tree.  Our Christmas tree is our Jesse Tree this year.  We are using a Ann Voskamp's Advent devotional to prepare us to celebrate our Savior's birthday (you can get a free downloadable devotion book with ornament print outs included here).
Christmas tree @ Sweeneys house in AZ

2) Our yearly meaningful ornaments.  Each year we get an ornament from Bryan's mom that represents that particular year in our lives.  The Christmas tree at their house may not be color coordinated and matched with the rest of the decor... but every little ornament tells a story, carries a special memory, reminds of the moments past.  I could stand by that tree for hours and just listen to the stories of what these ornaments represent.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Is For CHRIST

This will be the third year that my husband and I will be celebrating Christmas as a family.  It is taking us a while to sort through many practices and traditions, and expectations of the season to finally figure out one simple unchangeable truth... Christmas is for CHRIST.

Today is the first day of Advent.  The word "advent" means "coming" or "arrival".  The focus of this entire season should be to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus on his very first Advent many years ago and to anticipate the return of Christ the King.

So this season we are walking away from the craziness, from the pressure, from the expectations... to focus on Christ.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Freedom to Worship

As American families get ready for Thanksgiving and Facebook statuses abound with thankful updates - I take a minute to ponder what I am really thankful for.

I came to the United States over 8 years ago... and one of the main things that I am grateful for today is the freedom that this country is giving me to worship God.

Below is a short video about the history of one of the biggest protestant churches in Belarus.  It's worth the watch to help you understand what the situation is like over there.

May your heart overflow with gratitude today.  Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Starting and Growing a Church-Based Orphan Ministry

God has given the Church a mandate - to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27)
For those interested in orphan ministry - this is the recording of a webinar by Christian Alliance for Orphans

Starting and Growing a Church-Based Orphan Ministry from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Resources mentioned in the recording:

Monday, November 22, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #45-55

Today I am thankful for...

45. good laughter
46. Jamaican curry chicken
47. pumpkin chai
48. heat
49. taking a week off from doing outreaches to refresh and refocus
50. Thanksgiving - a time forcing people to focus on how much they really do have
51. a microwave (#47 got cold)
52. real books with real pages
53. unexpected no-pressure gatherings of friends
54. being surrounded with people who love the Lord
55. visitors (I love having people come visit us and see what we do in ministry)

holy experience

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Forgotten Sinners

I posted this video yesterday.  And I couldn't stop thinking about it.

It is easy for those of us in ministry to focus on the group that we feel "called to".  It is easy for me to extend love and forgiveness to hurting children, victimized by their environment, hurt by those who are often closest to them, caught up in the never-ending cycle of family problems, addictions, secrets, and pain.

But today I am throwing this out there - for all of you to think about...

What about those who victimize those hurting children?  What about the murderers, the adulterers, the liars and the gossipers, pedophiles and rapists, drug dealers and gang members?

How do I treat those who have fallen?

Am I extending God's grace to those who slipped?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Grace Is For Sinners

Amazing testimony, isn't it?

For those of you who are interested in checking out Serena's blog - she blogs here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #31-44

Today I am grateful...

for finding boots that fit for the price you can afford
for "I think of you" gifts from far away friends
for peppermint hot chocolate that is less of a drink and more of a "hug"
for seasons in nature (they don't have those everywhere you know)
for crisp air
for the gift of joy and laughter
and for those who bring it into my life

for the best chocolate chip cookies in the world made with love in our own home
for moments of refreshing when I feel like I can't go on
for challenges at Women Living Well which inspire me to pay more attention to my family and home
for finding cheap candles (why are they such a luxury item, does anyone know?)
for getting my vacation dates approved by the leadership
for hope
for seconds of time and inches of space that make all the difference between life and death

holy experience

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Just wanted to give a little update for those of you who are praying for our situation.  Our Sidewalk Sunday School looks a little bit different these days.  No truck.  No sound system.

At first it felt very strange... strange and quiet...

... and then kids started coming... and the quiet area became filled with voices and laughter and songs.  We had a great time on Friday with our kids (even without the truck and the sound).

I am reminded once again how little one really needs to make a difference in a life of a child.

Please keep praying for favor with authorities as we are still trying to sort everything out.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Prayer Request

This holiday season our ministry is facing a challenge of great proportions.
Please pray for favor with the housing authorities, housing managers, police officers and all those involved in the decision-making.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Give What You Have

"He who gives to the poor will not lack, 
but he who hides his eyes 
will have many curses."  
(Proverbs 28:27 NKJV)

I live in one of the biggest cities in the world - New York City.  Millions of people... so busy... rushing to their daily activities, meetings, functions... overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life.

There are so many beggars in New York that one almost must become immune to them to keep their paycheck.  Every time I take a train to the city it's almost a definite that several people would approach me and ask for money.  When I drive our Sidewalk Sunday School truck to one of our sites there's always a lady in a wheel chair asking for money at the red light.  And then there's another lady who lives close to our parking lot.  I see her daily.  She is one of the most beautifully spirited homeless people I've ever met.  It is easy to hide our eyes from these people... because then we're not confronted with their need... and if we're not confronted with their need - we don't have to do anything about it.  Right?

Or how about this one?  They're probably asking money for drugs or alcohol.  I can't support them in their addiction.  This is not good for them.  Right?


God never made a difference in His Word that our giving can depend on the amount of people who ask.  He never gave us a right to judge their motives.  He simply says, "Give to him who asks of you" (Matthew 5:42a).

And for those of you (myself included) who can't afford to give money every time someone asks, I want to share with you what we taught the children a couple of weeks ago in Sunday School.  We taught on the story of Peter and John healing a lame man from Acts 3.  This is what Peter says to the man when he asked him for money, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you" (Acts 3:6).  Then Peter proceeded to minister to the man and he got healed.  Last time I was in the city I gave the man my coffee.  And the woman who lives by our parking lot often just wants to talk.  I gave her some cookies when I saw her last and she was happy.

So be encouraged, dear friend.  Give what you have and amazing things will happen.

Another wonderful thing in that passage is that Peter fixed his eyes on the beggar (v.4.).  He did not turn away, or pretend to be busy in the conversation with John - Peter gave the man his attention. May I dare suggest that many of these people just want to be noticed.  They need someone to connect with their pain, to understand that even if their situation is brought about by their own choices - it still is no easier dealing with it.

I want to challenge you today not to hide your eyes from the people in need.


There's still time to give for Blessie's surgery (story here).  We have not been able to raise a full amount needed yet.

Monday, November 1, 2010

One Thousand Gifts - #30

Today I am grateful...

... for random and unexpected dinner parties where fridges and cupboards get rampaged through in search of various ingredients that have nothing in common but their purpose - to make an unexpectedly great meal

holy experience

Make time to connect with good friends this week!

Making Home A Haven: Fall Favorites

Today is the last day for Making Home A Haven challenge over at Women Living Well and we're talking about cooking.

My mother is an amazing and incredible cook.  All those who ever sat at our table can testify to that.  But she never taught me to cook.  She could not stand anyone in the kitchen and felt like things would go wrong.  I found relief in knowing that my grandmother was the same way.  My mother became and exceptional cook learning from the cookbooks... my hope is that one day I can measure up too.

Oh do not get me wrong.  I love cooking.  I wish I had all day to do menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking from scratch.  Life in ministry does not give me such luxury.

My challenge this week was not so much in getting to the business of cooking.  It was finding the time to do so.

And I loved it.  My husband and I ate a homemade meal each day this week.  It tasted much better than take out and saved us quite a few pennies too.

What made it a success?

Making it a priority I guess.

1) I did not cook EVERY night.  Instead I cooked more than my husband and I could it and arranged the leftovers in small plastic containers in the fridge.  Next time we wanted a homemade meal we just turned the container over onto a plate and heated it up in the microwave.  At times I freeze the containers for longer keeping.

2) I stuck with EASY recipes.  A simple homemade dish may not always stand up to a gourmet dinner at a fancy restaurant but sure beats McDonald's every time.

Here are 3 of my favorite easy recipes this week:

Pumpkin Pancakes (recipe from Raising Homemakers website)
Easy Morning Breakfast Casserole (recipe from Parents Connect website)
and one of my favorite Vegetarian recipes of all times:  Squash Creole


1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced, optional
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups canned or cooked tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups diced butternut squash

1) Saute onion, garlic, and pepper in oil until tender.
2) Blend in flour. Gradually add tomatoes, mixing well.  Cook over low heat.
3) Add sugar and seasoning. Stir until thickened.
4). Place squash in greased 1 1/2 quart casserole.  Cover with sauce and bake 60 minutes at 350.

Serve on a bed of white rice. Enjoy :)
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