We will always remember Ellie for her love for others, her creativity, sensitivity, and delight in life! Ellie's light has spread far and wide... may it continue to shine in our hearts.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Prayer Request

I wanted to pass on a prayer request to you, as you have all been so faithful to pray for us over these years.

Some of you will remember me telling you about my friends Josh and Tania Julin and Tania's daughters Tamra and Jessica. (The girls' dad, Mark Rich was kidnapped and killed with my dad and their friend and co-worker, Rick Tenenoff.) During Ellie's memorial service in Florida, Jessica sang a song that she wrote while her new step-dad Josh accompanied her on the keyboard. During that time, Tania was pregnant and then lost the baby.

Well, Tania is again happily pregnant and due in April. I believe that things are going pretty well, other than Tania needing to be off of her feet more towards the end of the pregnancy. But they have just received the news that Josh has non-Hodgkin’s, high grade, Lymphoma. He just completed more tests to determine what stage it is, and they don't have the results back yet. Yesterday Josh had a port put in, and Monday he will start chemo. His schedule is six rounds of chemo - one every 2.5 - 3 weeks - just like Ellie's. The doctors feel that Josh's prognosis is quite good, but of course will know more once all test results are in.

I must admit that my first thought was "Oh Lord, no! Please don't let this sweet family go through one more thing. Why can't they just finally have some peace and happiness?" I cried off and on for the better part of a day. Tania and I have been emailing back and forth some over the past week about it all. I have to tell you - I just admire her so much. Tania always has this way of being able to be sad and even ask God the hard questions, all the while knowing that God is still faithful. It's hard to describe, but I've always seen her this way. When Tania feels sad, she is SAD. And even when God's plan doesn't make sense, she finds a way to both question Him and trust Him all at the same time.

Tania has also said that they have had some sweet times together as a family. Tamra is in college in Gainsville, and had just come through surgery on her knee when they got the news of Josh's cancer. Jessica is in her senior year of high school and living with Tania and Josh. They all gathered with Tamra as she recovered and had a very special time. I have been in such awe of the way that God brought their little family together. I believe that their bond is quite unusual. Those girls were teenagers when their mom remarried, but they love Josh with all of their hearts. They even decided that they didn't want to call him "Josh". They decided to call him "Papa." And Josh has been the best Papa ever. I have loved watching Tania and the girls flourish in his care.

The other day when I was picking Ethan up from school, I heard a song on the radio. I had never heard it before, and it took some doing to track it down on the Internet because I wasn't able to hear either the title or the singer. This song could have easily been written for and about Tania and her family.

Our Hope Endures - by Natalie Grant
(click on "pop-out player")

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You would think only so much can go wrong
Calamity only strikes once
And you assume that this one has suffered her share
Life will be kinder from here

Sometimes the sun stays hidden for years
Sometimes the sky rains night after night
When will it clear
But our hope endures the worst of conditions
It's more than our optimism
Let the earth quake
Our hope is unchanged

How do we comprehend peace within pain
Our joy at a good man's wake
Walk a mile with a woman whose body is torn
With illness but she marches on

Sometimes the sun stays hidden for years
Sometimes the sky rains night after night
When will it clear
But our hope endures the worst of conditions
It's more than our optimism
Let the earth quake
Our hope is unchanged

Emanuel, God is with us
El Shaddai, all sufficient
Emanuel, God is with us
El Shaddai, all sufficient
Emanuel, God is with us
El Shaddai, all sufficient

We never walk alone
This is our hope
Our hope endures, the worst of conditions
It's more than our optimism
let the earth quake
let the earth quake
let the earth quake
Our hope is unchanged

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My beloved computer has come home...

...wish I could say the same of my beloved husband. Ah well, one thing at a time.

I am so happy to have my laptop home safe and sound! It's just not right how much I missed it.

John and I shared our morning coffee via webcam this morning. On some nights, John will even read Ethan his bedtime chapter of Narnia over the computer. Isn't technology great?

Well, for now there isn't much to share. The days have been passing in a reasonably sane sort of routine. I'm off to wrangle a tired little boy into his bed... wish me luck! Seriously.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Checking in...

I still don't have my computer back from the shop, so I am down at the big house using La's computer. I just can't stand to be disconnected that long. In case you ever had any doubt, I would so not do well living "off the grid".

John has safely arrived in Florida. He had a good and uneventful trip. Ethan has been doing reasonably well. He does miss John, and loves to snuggle up in one of John's tee-shirts at night. Once I get my computer back, we plan to do lots of web-camming. John will even read Narnia to Ethan at night over the web-cam. I'm hoping that it doesn't end up making Ethan sadder.

Ethan is enrolled in "Little Guy Wrestling" at school, and so far seems to be loving it! He flat out refused to consider wrestling if he had to wear the "singlet" that they are required to wear for tournaments, and I was facing one of those all or nothing kinds of decisions. I was able to work a deal to allow Ethan to go to the practices three nights a week, and keep him out of the Saturday tournaments. This has worked out wonderful so far! He loves getting to excercise and wrestle, but has none of the pressure of competition, cheering fans, and singlet torture. And I don't have to travel all over western Montana every Saturday. See? Everybody wins! Under ordinary circumstances I would have forced the issue and made Ethan go all in or not at all, but there is only so much trauma that the little guy can go through at one time. It was easy to see that just participating in practice would do a world of good for Ethan. It has been hilarious to watch the practices. Ethan is among the smallest boys, with the exception of a couple of pre-schoolers, and it is just so cute to watach these little guys attack each other's legs and roll around on the mat. A couple of times I had to hold my breath, just waiting for Ethan to explode in anger over the offence of having his head whacked or arm twisted as he fell. But the boys just roll over and grin at each other. And the warm ups are just as entertaining. They run back and forth, cartwheel, and summersault down the mats. Needless to say, he sleeps great on those nights! I plan to get some photos and video to share with you.

Hopefully I will be back in touch before too many days go by... I REALLY hope that my computer is done by Monday! :-)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Offline for some time...

Hi. I just wanted to let you know that John will be leaving for Florida sometime tomorrow. Please pray for a safe trip (it will probably take around 5 days).

I will be offline for a while - I'm not sure how long yet. My computer has a vicious virus. John's been working on it, but it's too complicated to fix in time, and he needs to pack. John will be taking his computer with him to Florida, and I will try to get mine fixed ASAP.

I'll be back as soon as I can...

In the meantime, I leave you with some photos of my parents with my new nephew, Tanner!

Gary (AKA "Papa" to all the grandkids) feeding Tanner:


Mom (AKA "Grandma") with baby Tanner:


Kisses for Grandma:


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

John and I went out last night for sushi to celebrate Valentine's Day. We had a great time and enjoyed seeing Vinnie - the owner/sushi chef. He's great! When we came in he asked if we wanted to order something or if he should just put a little something together. We opted to trust Vinnie's judgment and were not disappointed! The man is just plain talented. I thought I'd describe what we ate for the sushi lovers out there... One of the rolls was the freshest Hawaiian swordfish you can imagine with avocado and tobiko (flying fish roe). The other roll was white tuna with cream cheese, mango, and citrus tobiko. Pure Heaven!

John and Ethan let me sleep in this morning, and when I woke up, I found them dressed in matching flannel shirts! John had a beautiful card waiting for me, along with a little book of quotes. We have been buying each other miniature books ever since we got married, but it's been years since either one of us has thought about that. I loved the fact that he remembered. John also got Ethan a really cute card with a lion on it that lights up. Ethan LOVED that! And this year, I did absolutely nothing. Bad wife. Thankfully, John understands...

Here we are on the top of Mount Aneas last summer (We were wearing mosquito nets on our heads because the bugs were so terrible.):

So, I hope that you are all having a lovely Valentine's Day. Go and hug someone you love!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Just busy...

No, we've not fallen off the face of the earth. We've just been busy. John leaves on Monday and he's been spending all of his non-working time fixing up all the little (and big) things here at the house and sorting stuff in the attic. So that's it. Nothing exciting.

We did break the news to Ethan that John was going to Florida to work and so far he's taking it well. We shall see how it goes once John leaves... We are not telling Ethan of our plan to move to Florida yet. We're trying to hit him with one thing at a time. Plus, if something changes in our plan and we end up staying here, we won't have jerked Ethan's emotions around too much. So, for those of you who may come into contact with Ethan, the official word is that Daddy is in Florida working and will be coming back when Kindergarten is over.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Our first snow day!

... Or I should say "ice day". I've discovered that they don't cancel school around here on account of the snow. Snow is just a way of life! But there is a weather condition going on today that is causing everything to ice over. Ethan got to wake up to the news that he gets an extra day to his weekend. (Unfortunately, his built in body alarm clock did not let him sleep in.) He's eating his cereal and watching a movie right now - and humming! The boy almost never hums. I must admit, there is something so happy about a snow day! (Or hurricane day, like we got in Florida.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Limbo... you gotta love it (or not)

We are now in the throes of sorting stuff. John wants to get the things in the attic sorted and packed so that when he comes back in June, the bins can be moved right into the U-Haul. It's a good plan.

Unfortunately, yesterday I had a crisis. I got so overwhelmed with the combination of too much chaos and not enough space. Every room in the house was jammed. A week or so ago we put together a huge fort of cardboard boxes in Ethan's room, which takes up half of the space in there. And then we realized that having our bed fill up the small room it was in had caused condensation to form where the wall meets the floor on two sides (they are outer walls of the house). Our king sized mattress was all moldy on the bottom - about half of the mattress was wet and covered in mold. We hauled it to the dump immediately. It's just not worth the health risks... We will now be sleeping on the sofa and an air mattress until John leaves. Then I will continue sleeping on the sofa. By yesterday afternoon I was about to hyperventilate from the chaos of it all. So we did a little re-arranging of the living room and set up our bedroom as a staging area for things to sort. It did a world of good for me! As of this morning, I have a clean and fairly organized house. Or at least set up to be organized. I can now take big deep breaths. Ahhhhh.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Superbowl Sunday

For years, this has been the saddest day of the year for me. I now have several more days to compete with it. Sixteen years ago yesterday (Jan. 31) it was Superbowl Sunday, and my dad was kidnapped. He was not killed on this day, but it marks the anniversary of the day he was ripped from our lives.

I've never known how to honor Dad or what to do to commemorate the day. I usually end up going to some Superbowl party and feeling sad. Perhaps Ellie's death has taught me something. I don't know, but today I decided to look through letters that Dad sent me over the years as I was growing up. I spent a lot of time away from my parents in junior high and high school, as they were in the tribe and I was in the dorm. We kept in touch through letters. I thought I would share some excerpts of these letters with you...

My freshman year of high school

February, 1987

I love you Sarah, how could any dad be happier with a daughter? I look forward so much to seeing you and Chad again. You've grown to be more important to me than ever. Maybe I'm just paying more attention during the last few years, I don't know, but I love you and couldn't be happier with you as my daughter. Keep your head up sweetie-pie. You're special, God has someone special marked out for you, so look forward to that.

I love you. Happy Valentines!

My sophomore year of high school

September, 1987

I miss you sweetie-pie. I just figured this will be our longest separation (not counting the Navy), almost 3 months. I've been praying for you every day. Don't get a big head or anything, but I couldn't be happier with you. You are all any father could want in a daughter, with frosting on top. I really love you Sarah, with all my heart. You make me proud to be your Dad. I know, that sounds like something most dads would say, but I mean it more than most dads. I love you.

See you before Thanksgiving if you don't get another letter in the mean time.

Your Dad

October, 1987

I'm glad you shared your feelings with us, that's much better than keeping them bottled up. I'm sure you know you can also share exactly how you feel with the Lord in our absence. You used to sing a song that contains the words "He knows how a young heart feels." In praying for you and Chad I have quoted that back to the Lord many times on your behalf when I didn't know exactly how to pray concerning some particular thing. God does know how you feel, and more importantly can act quickly to comfort your heart and change a situation. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." I Peter 5:7. I don't want to be guilty of 'throwing a verse at' your concerns, but this really works. God is just waiting for us to recognize our inability to handle our own difficulties.

Recently in Boca de Cupe I found myself in a situation so frustrating I just wanted to jump in a canoe and leave, even if I had to paddle up river alone. Two families had marriage problems, there were nasty rumors to contend with, false teaching, people out of fellowship and not even wanting to walk with God, and church hardly meeting at all, with no sound teaching. I was sick at heart. But God reminded me that He is sovereign and has all power to solve every problem, the solutions are not up to me, only the 'walking'. Dario and I had prayed for wisdom even before we knew what we faced in Boca de Cupe, we had confidence God was "able to immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." So we continued on with peaceful hearts and saw God work out several problems and start the process in others. We left the next day praising Him.

Sarah, we love you and have confidence you are walking with God and will see Him triumph both in your heart and in this situation. God has taught us things through you and the grace He always seems to give you.

Well, time to go. I love you Sarah honey, and look forward to seeing you before Thanksgiving.

Bye for now.

(After this letter, I sent one to Mom and Dad in which they gathered I was having a really tough time. Mom came out of the tribe to spend almost a week with me - it was a total surprise! Dad had carved a small heart out of wood and sent it with this letter.)

Hello sweetie. How are you doing? I can't come, but I'm sending my heart and your mother. Have a good time with her, maybe you guys can get something worked out or at least cry on each others shoulders. Anyway I felt it was important that your Mom come out to see you. There has probably been too many adjustments to make all at once... a new dorm, Chad not there, us longer than usual interior. We understand how difficult so many changes, all at one time, can be.

I love you Sarah, sorry things have been so hard lately, but we know "all things work together for good..." We just trust the Lord in them.

See you in November sweetheart.


March 1988

Dear Sarah Sweetie,

Hello... how is everything? Well Nurse Nancy did it again, every one's 'earth mother' helped deliver more babies, two at once this time. She thinks someone wants to give us one; I think it's just talk, but it doesn't take much to get your mother's hopes up. She is going to start an orphanage in Pucuro yet.

We did pretty well on our language tests. Your mother is now into level three and I'm a high two. We can carve another notch into our tape recorder. Maybe we will both be mid-level three by the time we go on furlough.

We have BIG surprise for you when you come in so you can be curious about it until next Saturday. It's really BIG!

How is the food supply in Chame? Are you down to a diet of bee's knees and humidity yet? We are doing o.k. in here. The people say we can eat with them if we run out of groceries.

Well, we will see you in a week sweet-heart, can't hardly wait. (It's really BIG.)


(I flew in a week later for spring break. The big surprise was that Dad had knocked a hole in the wall of my bedroom, and built a BEAUTIFUL window seat. Mom made cushions for it and covered them with pink and white gingham, and made pink curtains for it. I loved it. I could sit there and read, or look out over the village at sunset. He was right - it was BIG.)

My junior year in high school.
(We were on furlough, so I spent most of this year with my parents. But in September, Mom and Dad were in Florida taking a computer course, while I was in California staying with friends and going to school.)

September, 1988

[Regarding the computer course] Every time I sit down in front of this thing I have an irresistible urge to fasten my seat belt, but I can't find one on the chair. We are having a great time and learning a lot in the process. These are such amazing machines and programs. They are to writing what "Space Mountain" at Disney is to walking. Simply thrilling!

I probably should be going...tired...tired...tired. We are spending about 12 hours a day at this, but it is exciting. I love you Sarah honey, sure do miss you. A good thought, it says in Hebrews that we have "confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus." Let's not forget that our access moment by moment is gained by the blood, not by us or our maturity in the Lord. Bye for now. Happy Birthday Sweetie-pie.


My senior year of high school.
(I don't have too many letters from that time, but this ending to one makes me smile...)

February, 1990

I should go sweetie. I love you. If I tried to tell you how much you mean to me I would probably get the paper all wet. Suffice it to say you won, free and clear, a big part of my heart.


I spent the next year living with my Grandma Lois in California.
(I was dating someone - not John. Dad sent this letter to both of us.)

July, 1990

Dear Sarah and _______,

Hello, how are things these days? I have been thinking a lot about our conversation yesterday, Sarah, on the phone. That is why I decided to address this to both of you, because you are going through this together.

First of all, know that we are praying for you both every day and have been for over a year. You are on our hearts a lot, even in the day to day stuff that we do. We know something of how you feel. We haven't forgotten what it is like to meet someone who captures your attention and affection, to the extent that most everyone else fades into the background. Time apart, any time, seems too long; time together, not long enough. Yeah... we remember!

We also remember the frustration and pressure to sort out your feelings. Fearing to move too fast or too slowly in a growing relationship. "How does he (or she) feel? How do I feel, really? Am I liable to hurt them? Am I going to get hurt?" That seems to be all part of the normal process, which knowing doesn't make it any easier, but it does make us human.

You two have a huge advantage that we didn't have. You know and love the Lord. We were on our own for the most part, feeling our way through this delightful mine field. You have the Guide we didn't have. You have an opportunity to enjoy the best part of your relationship without bogging down in the mud of thinking with your feelings. Please, trust the Lord and walk with Him in this the way you do in other things.

It is too early to sort out your feelings. You have no commitment to each other, don't feel forced to make one. I just read in Mark, Peter's brave words about dying with Jesus rather than denying Him. In a matter of hours Peter was reduced to a mournful liar. He didn't know his own heart. But the Lord did, and He knows our hearts better than we do.

We, by nature, seem to run to two extremes. Either we refuse to commit ourselves to someone or something, or we are too hasty in making commitments that we can't live up to. Jesus said "count the cost." Sure He was talking about discipleship, but the principle applies to any kind of commitment. Of course we can also make a charade out of counting the cost by never reaching a decision.

So, we have to rely on the One who knows our hearts and the situation best, and His own plan for our lives. In the mean time you can relax, knowing that God in His own timing will reveal to your hearts what your true feelings are and where His is leading you. Go ahead, spend time together, a lot of time. Get to know each other, enjoy each others company as only two know and trust God with their lives can. Would to God that we had known what you know now when we were in your shoes. When I said mine field, I meant it. You can't possibly understand what it is like without the Lord during that same time in our lives.

One final parting shot. It is truly a rare thing to really love someone this early in the game. I read once that most often we are in love with love at this stage, or at best infatuated. I would have to agree with that. Love comes over a period of time as you go through the hard things and come out the other side intact. It comes as you learn to accept the uglier things about the other person without it effecting their value to you. It comes when you don't fear that one knowing what you think or how you feel, because they will still love you anyway. It comes when you notice those little things about the other one that they don't even notice themselves, but make you love them all the more for it. It is the result of time in a relationship. Being good friends as you are now is the best place to begin. Who knows, maybe you really are falling love.

Therefore, (your mother says I need a 'therefore') relax and love the time you are able to spend with each other now, that is the good part. Don't be afraid of hurting each other, or you won't truly get to know each other. Which isn't to say it's. o.k. to be careless with each others feelings either. The Lord will show you the balance. I think I will leave it there with the Lord.


So... on this day, I will remember my dad's legacy of wisdom, and love for God. I remember that he was reserved and incredibly creative. He had a dry (and in my eyes, hysterical) sense of humor. And I remember how very much he loved me. I will imagine him getting to meet my sweet Ellie. That thought brings me comfort, even as I cry.