Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ready to Soar...

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who WAIT for the Lord shall renew their strength; 
they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." 
Isaiah 40:28-31

Stefan and I met this beautiful eagle at the zoo in Houston, TX recently and were stunned by her silent beauty. While she'll not be taking to the skies anytime in the near future her beauty got me thinking about Isaiah. As Stefan and I stared at her, I couldn't help but think of her intricate design which allows her in "normal" circumstances to soar. This eagle is in Houston because she is wounded and can no longer life alone but rather has become completely dependent upon the "community" around her to care for and protect her. 

Isaiah paints a beautiful picture for us here....
He reminds us of purpose in a season of waiting through which God infuses strength, energy and determination. 

The word WAIT isn't a word we generally enjoy - at least I don't. And yet I can look back in my own life and see where God has used such seasons to put on display His own character while at the same time infusing me with the strength needed to survive the season. 

Here's the thing:
We are in one of those seasons and while I'd like to confess that I am trusting God, relying on His strength and wisdom or even waiting patiently - that would be a lie! I've thrown some good fits before the throne of God lately and have really wondered what is going on! 

Many of you know that we took some time to rest this past summer! It was GOOD! Stefan was able to spend the summer - May - August at my parents house, resting, relaxing, re-connecting with family and just enjoying life. I joined him in July for a month and while we spent much of that month getting caught up on homeschool we also began a season of reconnection as a family! And at the same time we were entering the great unknown. After twelve years of ministry, community and life with Casa Bernabe, God was clearly calling us out but He wasn't giving many details about where He was calling us to! And thus began our Abrahamic journey! 

Arriving back here in Guatemala was a totally new experience. We were not bound for CB to be greeted by the 150 children that we love so very much but instead were heading toward a small little cottage, alone. I'm gonna lie, we cried ourselves to sleep wondering just what God was doing. I wish I could say that things got easier but they didn't! 
  • Several weeks after arriving we took a trip to Chichicastenango in order to train some dear friends in sexual abuse prevention. During that weekend, actually as I was packing up, Stefan took a "great fall" and ended up with 30 stitches and a few fractures in his right arm which would need surgery. 
  • A week after Stefan's surgery we ventured out and went to the movies. It was dark and raining as we made the u-turn to enter our little community and we were struck by a drunk driver! (my first thought was - SERIOUSLY?)
  • About two weeks after that poisonous spiders took up residence with us in our home and our roof began to leak - like we had a cool little waterfall happening in our kitchen!
  • Two months after arriving back in Guatemala we moved out of our little cottage and into a house. 
  • During the moving process our truck was hit and our dog was attacked! 
Seriously! So what is this all about? It'd be nice if I could end this entry with some amazing good news. But the thing is I can't - not in physical at least. What I can say is that even though I've thrown my fits and begged God for a glimpse of what is going on, even though I've experienced doubt, fear and struggle - there is one thing that remains constant - - my faithful Abba Father. He's not given answers but He's encouraged and filled our home with peace and joy. He's not shared the blueprints for our ministry/life here in Guatemala but He's directing our steps one day at a time. 

The amazing thing is that while our experiences over the past 3 months have been challenging, the words that God has spoken over us and ministered to us are words, concepts ONLY He would know we need to learn RIGHT NOW. Don't worry I'm not going to share them all but this one sticks out above the rest: 
God is working beauty and strength out of my deep brokenness and real weakness. In my weakness His character has the most potential of shining through. 

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." II Cor. 12:9

So maybe what I have experienced is GRACE....truck loads of grace in the last three months and I guess my hope is that in my weakness, despite my doubt, my fear, my fleshly desire to NOT SUFFER, despite ALL of that weakness - my hope is that God's power be MADE PERFECT in my weakness. 

"...He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength." 

that is my hope and prayer for you too, dear friend.
sincerely,
hopelesswithoutgrace


Sunday, September 9, 2012

The battle belongs to the Lord...

"the battle belongs to the Lord..."

One of my favorite childhood memories our bedtime ritual. As a tiny girl my dad would tuck the three of  us in and read the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Just before praying for the night he would teach us a new Bible verse - I suppose the hope was that even at our young ages that these words would be sealed on our hearts and radically alter our perspective and thinking. So today as I awoke yet again to a raging battle, God brought to mind that very first verse you taught us:

"Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's."
II Chronicles 20:15

One of my new opportunities is to really dive into PREVENTION work here in Guatemala. I've been working over the past month with AMG (Advancing the Ministry of the Gospel) to put together a strategy for combatting sexual abuse in the communities that they serve. It's been amazing to watch the Lord open doors but it's been discouraging to experience the enemy pushing back on our family just as hard. 

Two weeks ago I was to begin work at AMG and my son fell from a rope swing - lots of stitches and some fractures in his right arm. So a week and a half went by before we were able to connect with AMG again to make a new plan! Last Wednesday I sat down with their social worker and we made a beautiful plan.....

Then last night we were driving home and were hit by another car - presumably a drunk driver. He fled the scene and maybe that was best but the damage appears to be severe - severe enough that we cannot drive the car. SO yet again I will not be able to begin at AMG tomorrow! I can't help but think that the enemy does not want light brought into his darkness and so he is pushing back so incredibly hard! 

We are so glad - so grateful that no one was hurt in the accident and that it wasn't worse. "when it rains it pours" and as Stefan says, "when it pours it floods!" that is how we feel! Overwhelmed and just praying for God's protection and provision in our lives.

Friends, there is a very real battle out there for the souls of our children. Satan knows the tools he has and he's not the most creative about how he uses them! We fall for his traps all the time and it's time that we stand up and fight - no, I am not suggesting that we take up literal arms against those who hurt children but I am crying out for the Body of Christ to wake up and take up the "sword of the spirit which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance making supplication for all the saints..." Ephesians 6:17b 

I wish that I could say that the enemy's darts - aimed at my family - have caused me to take up the shield but reality friends is that those darts have hit our flesh and we've been bleeding doubts: 
"Are we suppose to be here?" 
"Did we make the right choice?" 
"Is there sin in our lives?"
"Are we walking in disobedience?"

The word says:
"In ALL circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one..." vs. 16

So tonight as we prepare to live yet another unexpected, unplanned week my soul is crying out and with all my strength I am raising my shield of FAITH - 








Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why?

"O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance take me not away; know that for your sake I bear reproach. 
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.
I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation. 
Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?" (Jeremiah 15:15-18)


This week was long and challenging. When God first began communicating with my heart as I washed pots in the pila back in 2000, I could never have imagined the journey ahead. I was doing the best I could to prepare myself to be a missionary but looking back I now struggle with whether or not I truly knew what the word "missionary" meant. More was it a romantic idea of rescuing orphans and sharing the love of Christ with them and less was it truly understanding that to "rescue" would require a real and profound amount of suffering. I felt specifically called to broken children but had no real understanding of where God would take me in that "calling."

It is not so much the physical concept in traveling from one place to another but rather the emotional, mental and spiritual  implication of moving deeper and deeper into human suffering. Almost two years ago I began the process of getting to know 160 children and their "stories." I sat for days surrounded by piles of "stories" as I tried to gain a firm grasp on why each one was sent to be protected and provided for on our mountainside. I remember feeling so overwhelmed trying to remember who was a part of a sibling group, in which house each resided and then there was the memorizing of their names....all four names. (never mind their birthdays - which I have yet to get right!) In those days I wept as I read "story after story" and was stunned by the horrible things each one had suffered but I can honestly say that I did not suffer. The suffering has come as I've gotten to know each child, their dreams, hopes and heartache.

The suffering has caused more questions than my mind can wrap itself around. Why the suffering of the innocent? Why the long road to recovery and restoration when such crimes could have been prevented? WHY?

Tonight my heart is broken for so many children and youth in our care who find themselves in dark places. My heart longs for HOPE for them, for a cure for their pain and an end to their suffering.

Sometimes it's not enough to bandage wounds....
"Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed;
Save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.
Behold they say to me,
Where is the WORD of the Lord? Let it come!"

What is this place that God has called me to? It is not Casa Bernabe or even Guatemala but it is suffering with those who suffer, weeping with those who grieve and it will one day mean dancing with those who dance. This suffering does not mean that I need to walk around in sackcloth but sometimes I wish I could just stay in and process before facing the next set of circumstances. So this season is challenging me to face the "whatever" and truly be a reflection of Christ. My response to suffering should be different than that of one who has not yet found hope in Christ. Our response to suffering as the body of Christ should be different!

More to come in Part II...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cultivating beauty....

This past weekend was so beautiful for our family! God provided rest, sweet fellowship and amazing moments of worship!

As I sat on my porch Sunday I was amazed by the beauty around us! Sometimes I take it so for granted but it really is something, not only the mountains but the sounds of sweet little voices and the pitter patter of little feet! As I sat in my favorite chair I noticed a new vine that is growing in several of my flower pots. About two years ago I bought this beautiful vine that was killed shortly thereafter by a cold spell. After trying to revive it I threw the plant out and started a fresh with different dirt and new flowers. Over a year later the vine has reappeared and it's BEAUTIFUL!

God is using that vine as a reminder that our work here may be long and may show no signs of progress but under the surface something is happening, roots are growing and in due time a healthy plant will emerge. This word is BEAUTIFUL and has been such an encouragement to my heart!

This week will be busy! I just received our weekly planning memo and there is so much going on! Please pray for us as we continue to invest in the lives of these truly amazing children!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 2, 2011

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in a bottle. Are they not in your book?” Psalm 56:8
Our mountainside has not moved, we are all still here but there is a sense of extreme suffering from the smallest to the greatest here on our campus. It seems like the past six months have left of spinning and as a result grasping for a sense of stability and hope. As I read these verses this morning they fell as a sweet rain on my troubled heart!  God is not unaware and He is truly the ONE who sees!
He sees the rejection, the abandonment and the sorrow. He sees the fear, the insecurity and the lack of confidence. He sees....
Last night during our nucleo I was so overcome by the Spirit of God to just speak bluntly and truthfully about LIFE and DEATH. I had driven up from the city moments before we began and just 3 kilometers before our house we came up on a terrible accident. I do not know how it happened but it was a gruesome sight. And in the moment I was acutely aware that there would be no medical helicopters for a rescue, no jaws of life....no those inside the cars would have to rely on the dozens of men who were surrounding their cars attempting to lift them off of one another. Then they would have to wait for the ambulances to take them to a national hospital, ill equipped for such trauma cases. As these thoughts rapidly flashed through my mind I could feel the Holy Spirit inside me saying, “I am the solution. I AM LIFE.” As I began praying out loud, I felt the Spirit of God so strongly in my being...I felt LIFE. God has used that accident as physical reminder to me of my tendency to seek solutions in all kinds of different places. But reality is that even the best equipped trauma center is ill equipped for the state of our messed up hearts. There is only one who can breath LIFE eternal into us and it is to HIM that we should RUN! I shared this experience with the girls and an excitement filled the room. The girls grabbed their Bibles and began to share the Words that God has spoken to them over the past month. As they read I couldn’t prevent the HUGE smile on my face, GOD is MOVING in the midst of such great sorrow and suffering. In school the girls are reading biographies of Great Christians and they’ve been stunned to say the least by these men and women and even more by their faith. One girl confessed, “I hate to read, I don’t read my Bible but I had to read this book. After reading it I can’t help but pick up my Bible and look for what these men and women found.” Please continue to pray that God speak clearly to our youth, that they encounter HIM and their hearts be forever drawn. 
This year has drawn me out of my comfort zone and into the unknown. Each day I encounter situations that I am not capable of handling on my own and am thus forced to rely on the Spirit of God. From driving challenges (may sound funny but Guatemala City can seriously test your patience and will to survive), to speaking in court hearings, to finding creative ways to love our children, I’ve felt challenged!
In the middle of one such challenging day I walked by the huge window in my office and saw BEAUTY and a bit of comedy! The toddlers where out on the swings playing and one of the littlest boys stole a toy from his buddy and a chase ensued. The littlest one ran with his head tilted, laughing hysterically and just about the time he realized that he had out-smarted and out-run his buddy his pants fell down around his ankles. I’ve never seen this little one laugh so hard and boy did I need the good laugh. At that point all bets were off, all anger subsided on the part of the buddy and they just sat and laughed together. Friends again...
This week I had a serious battle with fear. My greatest fear is that for all our GREAT programs and our wonderful staff and our Christ centered environment that we will not reach these kids, that they will grow up and walk away without a true, intimate relationship with the Living God. My fear is that in attempting to raise 169 kids that we miss so many little details that we actually turn kids from God because our relationships give a perspective of a distant and busy God. Please pray that God would open my eyes to opportunities to just listen to our children, that He would open my ears to truly understand what they are saying and that He would fill my mouth giving me words to express His heart for them. 
I have also experienced a deep fear in regard to those making laws for the littlest in our country. I can be passionate and quick to judge....also quick to speak up in “inopportune” moments and so in really evaluating each circumstance we find ourselves in where new laws and government entities are involved I’ve become fearful to say the least. I’m learning the law....something that is new for me and praying like crazy that God steady my thoughts and that He sort through them for me, closing my mouth when it’s best to be silent and opening it with passion when it’s best to make noise. 
BRIGADA is my passion! I love our youth, the opportunity to truly walk with these 45 kiddos through life and the chance to lead them to Jesus. This year our leadership team has provided more challenges than I was honestly ready for! At the beginning of the year I read a great book about shepherding and really gained a new appreciation for the art. I also gained what I felt was a passion for applying such principles in ministry but must admit that it’s not at all gone as I expected. This fact has brought much sorrow and confusion to me as a leader. I must confess that I feel like I know less about leading today than I knew five years ago, three years ago or even three days ago! Please pray for our team as we plan a retreat/service project for our youth. We plan to take our kids to work with a sister ministry, blessing their community as well as those who live in and around the dump. Please pray as we prepare creative and encouraging moments to share with our youth. Pray that their hearts would be tilled and that the WORD of God would fall on good soil. 
A short look back at 2000....
When God first led me to Casa Bernabe, I can remember feeling so led to be a part of the lives of these kids over a long period of time. I didn’t feel called to just come and bless and leave but rather to plant my life here, to grow with the kids, to walk through valleys and mountain tops with them. 
One of the first girls that I met was Nora. She was bright, genuine and compassionate. And through the years our friendship remained constant. Of all of the children that I prayed for daily she was a priority for me....I can’t tell you how many times that the Lord would wake me up to pray and intercede for her. This week she came to my office, a bundle of tears. For years Nora has dreamed of going to medical school but this past year she really focused on earning a scholarship to study at a medical school in Cuba. She applied and we all waited....until this week! AND the answer was YES! Nora got the scholarship and she is in CUBA! But before she left we had the chance to sit down and just cry together. This girl has gone from being on of our kids to being a friend, an inspiration and even an instrument of growth. Her story is so impacting and words cannot express how proud I am of her! As we wept together I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude well up in me that God allowed for me to see her to her high school graduation and now off to medical school! GOD IS GOOD!
Nora has fallen in love with her Savior and He’s sent her out as a remnant. BEAUTIFUL!  
Thank you for being a part of this incredible thing that God is doing here on our mountainside. We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! And we couldn’t be here without you. Your faithful support each month allows us to do what we do, to come alongside our children and walk with them into the arms of a loving and gracious - ever so close God. 
Totally His,
Tonilynn and Stefan Steere

Friday, February 4, 2011

the market....

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE strolling through the market! The colors are so brilliant and the people so interesting! I can't help but wonder what each of their stories are....
The other day as we were walking with friends through the market looking for a hat for Stefan a woman approached us. At first I wasn't really paying attention but when she pulled her little boy's shirt up I was stunned and my attention diverted from our shopping experience to the plight of this child. I have no idea what his medical condition was but I imagine it had something to do with his colon. The open wound on his belly was huge, the patch covering it dirty and the family obviously in desperate need.
My mind has gone back to that little boy so many times! My heart is overwhelmed by the extreme need in this country. There is truly a deep spiritual and emotional brokenness and it is most evident in the children of this beautiful country.

As I listened to the director of another local ministry today I recalled this experience yet again. There are three types of people, he said. The first would simply ignore this woman and her child, never noticing the wound....the second would notice it and in disgust would move as far away from the situation as humanly possible and the third type of person would step back, take in the situation and ask, "what can I do to help?" In this environment it would be easy to become numb to the intense need, it would be easy to become blind, emotionally and spiritually to the broken and weary to our right and our left and it would certainly be easier to simply plead ignorance to the plight of our world, our families and our children. Harder is it to stand up and extend a hand of compassion, a creative solution or simply a shoulder to cry on.

This week as I plowed through my "to-do list" I realized my own tendancy to become so focused on the task at hand that I miss the world around. me. I miss the beauty of the market because I'm thinking about that store on the corner that may or may not have Dr. Pepper today. I miss the opportunity to laugh with a crew of girls on the soccer field because I'm walking toward one specific child with one specific word to share. I miss the joy in my own little boy's smile because I'm too busy folding laundry, making dinner and grading papers......

This week God has challenged me to do a seriously self-evaluation. I believe He's charged me with two specific tasks....
First, He's challenged me to take an honest look at those things that fill my heart and determine whether those things are taking up space that belongs to King Jesus.
Second, He's challenged me to stop and ENJOY! (I'm not sure that this is a new lesson....so I'm praying that it take root and produce real/lasting change in the way our family functions!)

Our lives here are busy....but they don't have to be consumed by our "to-do lists!" In fact they should be at all consumed by tasks but rather our lives should be consumed by a Holy, Jealous GOD!
More to come on this topic....

Monday, January 17, 2011

GRACE....

Lately I've been astonished by the GRACE that God so abundantly showers on and over my life. I see his hand of protection as I drive, I experience His PRESENCE in ministry and I also recognize HIS hand of discipline as I continue to journey on!

This week as I thought I'd loose my mind between my work in the office, ministry and Stefan's homeschool, I ran into some sweet ladies who quickly jumped to help! In a moment they became Stefan's own personal cheerleading team.....encouraging him through his tough material, making him laugh and helping him to not feel so alone in this battle! THANK YOU LADIES! Stefan said, "mom, seriously I think I thanked them a million times!" Here at CB we go through crazy busy seasons and it's such a challenge to balance life! We are grateful to serve a GOD who is so WITH US and who comes to our aid when we cry out!

GRACE defines my story and gives it meaning....direction!
"It reminds me that my life need not be imprisoned by my own rebellion, defeated by my own foolishness, or paralyzed by my own inability. God's grace is most powerful and effective at the moment of my greatest weakness."

Pondering GRACE, grateful for MERCY and just so glad that Jesus loves me! So grateful that Jesus LOVES us and allows us to journey together.....

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About Me

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I am the daughter of the most amazing parents in the world, the sister of four amazing women and mother of the most amazing "little man" on the planet. My son Estefan and I are preparing to answer God's invitation to join the work He is doing at small orphanage in Guatemala. On June 22, 2009 we excitedly resumed our role as Discipleship Coordinator and Social Worker.

Lov'n Life!