stm’s.

This summer holds some new adventures for our family. Stella, Chris and I are all headed out on short term mission’s trips. Stella will be going to serve at Joni and Friends Family Camp and Chris and I will be traveling with a group of 6 others to support our friends and missionaries in Italy, Bob and Sue Kummer. We are anxiously waiting to see how God will use this time in all of our lives. We’d love it if you would pray for us as we all go! Our letters that we sent out are below. Thanks for praying, friends!

(from Stella:)

Dear Friends and Family,

I have been given the great opportunity to serve at Joni and Friends’ Family Retreat at Spruce Lake Retreat Center in Canadensis, PA, from June 18-23. Joni and Friends’ Retreats serves families affected by by a disability. As an STM (Short Term Missionary), I will be ministering to these families by offering support in the camp activities. By doing this, I will be able to build relationships with the people around me, spread the gospel, and tell others about Jesus. Our church, Community Evangelical Free Church of Elverson, sends out many summer short term missions teams each year. From Africa to Czech Republic to Italy to Pennsylvania, each team is hoping to spread the gospel to the people they will be serving. I am praying that God will use me to help these families know the love of Christ. To support me when I go, I am asking you for prayer:

  1. For physical and emotional strength
  2. For my faith to grow even more when I’m there.
  3. For the families coming to Camp, that they will know Jesus’ love.

Finally, I need to raise $385 dollars to pay for the cost of my room and board, and to help the other families attend. If you choose to support me in this way, checks can be made payable to CEFC with “JAF- Stella Palladino” in the memo line. Please mail or deliver your check to CEFC, 52 Brick Lane, PO Box 299, Elverson, PA 19520.

Thank you for reading my letter and for supporting me as I go to serve God in this way. God Bless!

Love, Stellakh

{This photo is of me and my friend, Katie at VBS last year. Her family has “adopted” me for the week at JAF. I am so excited to get to serve along with her this summer!}

 

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(from Chris and me:)

Dear Friends,

On a cold January morning, while getting ready for church, Melissa was daydreaming about our future. She told me how she imagined our church’s Missions Committee approaching us and asking us to go to Italy. I told her that sounded great but that we would have to have a reason to go! That day at Sunday evening prayer, upcoming summer short term mission’s trips were discussed, and there near the bottom of the list was Sesto Calende, Italy! This came as a great surprise, as this is the first year CEFC will be sending a team to Italy.  Melissa signed us up for more info immediately.

Our church has supported the work of long-time missionaries Bob and Sue Kummer for many, many years. Most recently, Bob and Sue have been working in the town of Sesto Calende, just north of Milan, Italy. There, they have established two churches within the community: one Italian and one International. When we learned that the summer mission would be about supporting the local community through teaching English classes in area high schools and offering a kids’ summer day camp, we realized this suited our abilities perfectly. Our applications were submitted.

“Unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain.” Melissa and I know and believe that without prayer and God’s Spirit to lead us, we are without the means to be of any lasting use on this mission. As we prepare to go to Italy, we are writing to ask if you would make a commitment to pray for us. Would you please pray for us as a couple, our team as a whole (there are 8 of us), for our kids and family here in the States, and for the people of Sesto Calende. Our travel dates are June 22-July 4. If you would would like to receive updates as we prepare to go and while we are there, please email Melissa at mammaknits@gmail.com

Finally, there is a financial need to this mission. We need to raise $3600.00 to cover the cost of the trip for the two of us as well as supplies for the day camp. If you would like or feel led to support us in this way, you can send a check made payable to CEFC with Italy Mission Team – Palladino in the memo line. You can mail the check to CEFC, 52 S. Brick Lane, P.O. Box 299, Elverson, PA 19520 or drop it in the offering box at church. Thank you!

In Him,

Chris and Melissa Palladino

“Contributions made payable to CEFC are tax deductible. Please be aware that CEFC will have complete discretion and control over the use of all donated funds.”

italy team

 

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speechless.

Not much renders me without words. I can normally formulate an opinion, draw a conclusion, put my heart into words. But this weekend, words escaped me.

My younger sister defines “faithful.” She radiates love and deep care. She faces adversity with strength that only comes from knowing an all powerful and loving God and Savior, Jesus Christ. She always puts others first, even if it is heart breaking. She is a woman who inspires and encourages me. Her faith steadies her weary feet.  I’ve witnessed this over the last years as she faced difficulties and sadnesses I couldn’t sometimes imagine. She never gives up. She always hoped. She always hopes.

Did you catch that? Yes, I can’t decide on tense.

She always hoped her beloved husband would be able to beat his addiction. She always hoped they would find redemption and restoration this side of heaven. But Friday brought the heart wrenching, devastating news that this hope would be deferred. He lost his fight. Lura lost her husband, her friend, the one her soul loves. Her children lost their father. Chris was a son. A brother. An uncle. He was a hard worker. A talented chef. His sudden death has broken many hearts.

But Lura still hopes. The Bible tells us in Romans 5: 8   that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There was a day when Chris understood his sin before his Holy God. He repented and believed. And we cling to the truth of that often claimed, often recited verse in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Yesterday, as I sat and wept my way through worship, I felt the weight of this particular sin and the harm it has done. And then I wept more. For my own sin. Every one of us, when we take our last breath, will be caught up in some sort of sin. Perhaps it will be a gripping, destructive sin like drug addiction, or maybe it will be the less flashy sins like lust and bitterness. But we will all breathe our last breath sinners. But those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord will open their eyes FREE. REDEEMED. WHOLE. LOVED.

That thought…..of Chris free from addiction, of the pain and hurts of this world…..gives me joy. But tearful, heavy joy. There remains a loving, young family that needs to heal from the wounds of this pain. I praise my God that Lura CLINGS to Him. I am so thankful for the gift of faith. In John 16:33 we are given words straight from Jesus: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is greater than all our sin. Jesus is greater than all our pain and suffering.

Take heart. Have peace. Repent and Believe.

If you are struggling with something that causes you or your loved ones pain, please….I beg you…..open your heart to the Lord. Find a friend, family member, pastor, counselor….get the help you need to walk through this life. We are all broken, but we get to carry each other.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.               -2 Corinthians 1:3-5

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If you would like to help Lura during this time, a Go Fund Me has been set up. You can donate here17643192_1485178672-8449

make plans.

Last year, I made a list of things I wanted to do for 2016. goals. Well, quite honestly, I forgot that I wrote it and really didn’t accomplish much of it. So, don’t put too much weight on what gets jotted on this post, either.

THAT BEING SAID.

If I don’t plan, dream, hope, then, well, life is pretty flat.So,Ii am making some plans.

I plan on reading through the Bible this year.

I’ve always shirked this off because *just* reading through doesn’t do a lot for me. However, I returned to doing a Precepts study this fall and don’t think I want to stop doing that….ever. So, to accompany the digging deeper of Precepts, I am hoping to read through the entire Bible this year. I am doing the 5 day a week reading plan I found here.

I plan on doing normal life better.

You know the drill: I hope to eat more veggies, drink more water, play outside more, stress less, look people in the eye when I talk to them…..

I plan on reading books my friends write/have written.

For example, Kory’s book, David’s latest, and Matt’s upcoming one. (go, click, buy, read along.) I also have a big list of recommended books from friends and family that I hope to make my way through.

I plan on making stuff.

I am going to keep on sewing, spinning, knitting, and maybe learn something new! (Sashiko? Weaving? Who knows!) I still have the goal of a handmade wardrobe. I stumbled upon a blog where the writer/maker sets out to make 9 garments this year. Her blog was nice and inspiring, so I thought, “that’s doable.” Thus, I’m joining in on….

#2017makenine

1. archer shirt        2. fingerless mitts (for chris)        3.linden sweatshirt        4. handspun hat              5. toast sweaters        6. hampshire trousers        7. more monetas        8. notched hem tank        9. more wiksten tanks

Truthfully, I hope to make multiple Archer shirts (including the popover variation), Wiksten tanks, and a couple Monetas. I will probably make both Toaster sweaters, too. I would like to add a skirt into the mix, too, and possibly a pair of shorts. Maybe I will even take pictures and post them here, but….don’t count on it. heh.

Do you make plans, goals, resolutions? Lists? What is at the top of yours this new year?

 

welcome home.

Yesterday, our church opened its doors to the new sanctuary. While we have been truly blessed in many ways in the building process, we have been also seen some hard times as a church body. This day filled me with giddy hope – like a child on Christmas morning. Not because of the newness of the building, comfy chairs, or any tangible thing, but because of God’s goodness and mercy that has been ever-present.

The past couple weeks were filled with looking back. Remembering. I was thinking back on when I walked through the doors of this very church, with a smaller “old” sanctuary….25 years ago. It was the first church I attended after the lights went on for me…..I was remembering the people, the relationships, their patience, love and rebuke. The caring – practically, emotionally, spiritually – that was poured out to me and my family. It was humbling and hard to remember certain things. Some relationships have “moved on” and that was sad. But, where absences appeared, God filled them to the brim with His love and kindness. He is at work in my life…and I thank Him for putting me in THIS body.

So, yesterday. We met in the “old” sanctuary one last time – standing room only and bursting at the seams – to pray together as we journeyed to the new sanctuary. We were offered noisemakers to help celebrate. At first I thought, how cute….for the kids! But as I walked next to Earl Krieder in his wheelchair and he honked and blew that thing like a kid at a birthday party, my eyes filled with tears of joy. Rejoicing.

It took me to Psalm 42:4

These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

I had to pull myself together to prepare to give the short announcements to the congregation once we got settled, so I took a deep breath, did a bit of a fist bump (I kind of couldn’t contain it!) and walked through the doors. My heart was beating pretty much out of my chest as I was handed the microphone….but as I stood up on the step to welcome everyone, I took a second to look around. Every seat was filled. The foyer had people on benches and lingering by the doors. I saw my family sitting all together. I saw my friends from years ago, and newly made. I was overwhelmed with joy. We were all home.

I could go on about the service….the choirs, the hymns, the communion service and sermon and how wonderful they were….but what gave us all that sense of wonder had nothing to do with the people on the stage or in the new, comfy chairs. God met us and filled us and our hearts overflowed with thankfulness and joy. And my eyes, well, they kept overflowing, too. “Welcome home, gather round. All ye refugees, come in.”

(yes, again…) Sandra McCracken: All Ye Refugees

I am the One, the earth is my handmade work
The skies I laid them wide, beauty unfurled
Horizon to horizon
Creation to creation, sings you home

Welcome home, gather round
all ye refugees, come in.

Oh refugee, I did not cast you out
In death and broken ground, Salvation springs
My body and my blood, the healing that you need
Come and receive

Welcome home, gather round
all ye refugees, come in.

Watch and wait and see, what is yet to be
Watch and wait and see, for the morning

Go out in joy and join the great procession
The mountains and the heav’ns all will rejoice
horizon to horizon, creation to creation
horizon to horizon, creation to creation
With one voice

Welcome home, gather round
all ye refugees, come in.

ontology.

“If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.”
— Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

repentance.

Can you feel it? That dull ache in your stomach? The slightly heavy head? The shallow breath?

Sunday morning we all awoke to news of the deadliest mass shooting in US history. 49 people were killed. 53 injured. This came on the heels of a week of news stories surrounding a rape sentence that was all but a mockery of the woman who survived.  And really, no one knew what to say. So what did we all do?

We looked for our symbols. Our one word slogans to stand behind, define us, define them, explain it away and dissolve any involvement. Guns. Gays. Consent. Terror. Hate. Them. Us.

We sought reasons….

the shooter was an extremist. the club was gay. she was drunk. he’s an athlete. the religious right. the liberals.

We sought solutions…

bomb ISIS. ban guns. protect bathrooms. dress modestly. don’t drink so much. ridicule the right. mock the left.

 

And we never said, “I’m sorry.” I didn’t see you. My eyes are clouded. My fear is ruling. I want to promote and protect myself. I don’t care about you. I only care about me.

What if we all stopped? What if we all closed our mouths, turned off our screens and walked outside. Walked to our neighbor, our enemy, our community, our stranger and looked them in the eye? We’ve seen the videos of refugees and Europeans meeting face to face and just sitting in silence together. It’s moving. It’s powerful. Because they SEE each other. They are forced to reckon with the OTHER.

That person that hurt you, irked you, scares you…..guess what? She is just like you. Hurt, irked and scared. He faces the same day you woke up to. She wants to be seen. He wants to be loved.

It feels so senseless, but I know it must be true – all of this violence comes from a deep desire to be loved, or a deep disappointment from NOT being loved.

The hateful memes. The slanderous blogs. The prayers of vengeance and destruction. What if, before you hit send, before you uttered amen you looked up. You saw the eyes of the man you want to destroy. You wiped away the tear of the woman whose soul you wish to steal. Would you stop? Would you be moved?

I dare say we are all terrorists. We are all murderers. We’ve all done damage. And it’s time to say we are sorry. We want to change. We don’t want laws that make us look better. We don’t want the right story. We want to be known. We want to be loved. And we really can’t until we lay it all down.

Let your face be cupped by the hands of the One you’ve murdered. Let Him look you deep in your eyes. And as you see his tear-stained cheeks, red, puffy eyes shine love back at you, you will melt. You will know you are forgiven. You will know that even though this world is filled with trouble and sorrow, there is hope. Because there is a Savior who conquered death. He loved the unlovely. And I don’t mean THEM. I MEAN ME. AND YOU.

Repent. For the kingdom of God is at hand. It is ready to be received.

Jesus tells us to come. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Do you know what his yoke is? His yoke is love.

Put down what you are doing. It’s time.

I am so sorry. Please, please forgive me.

 

goals.

yep. 2016 goals. resolutions. hopes. plans.

If I don’t jot them down, how will I know for sure if I reach them? I need a reminder of what I hope to do this year….so here is my list.

routines. I thrive on routines. Maybe that’s lame, but, hey, whatever. I love a good morning routine and evening routine. Perhaps it borders on ritual, but it gives my day a rhythm and bookends the craziness.

the Word. I plan on writing through the Bible. Perhaps a verse or two a day. Kind of like grown up copy work. I retain better when I write, so this should help. I also plan on continuing to use the She Reads Truth app for monthly or seasonal Bible studies and inspiration.

daily walks. This has been something that I know helps my brain and body, but haven’t always found a way to put it in my day. I am hoping to make space for it daily. Perhaps these walks will be alone, some hopefully will include Jude, and weekend walks could be with the whole family.

afternoon reading. You know that 2 o’clock lull? The one where you could fall asleep, but instead just get grumpy and become a drill sergeant? Oh, that’s just me? Well, I plan on giving myself a treat and gathering everyone to the coziness of our living room for some quiet reading, together. When I read, I am a better person. My kids are readers (Eli more than Stella currently, but hopefully she’ll get her groove back.) Therefore, I will curl up with a good book for at least a half hour in the afternoon.

evening knitting. This will be part of my nighttime routine. After the kids are in bed, I tend to sit in front of a screen and zone out. I have been working on a delicate scarf since my father’s last Christmas. That was four years ago. It could be done this month. Plus, working with my hands gives me joy and peace.

sew two things a month. I have been tempted to subscribe to Seamwork magazine for a year or so and I think this is the year. It’s a great e-magazine all about sewing. I love the style and detail and it is just enough to get me inspired and not feel overwhelmed. It comes with two easy patterns a month. I could really begin to build my handmade wardrobe this way.

healthy living. Not much needs to change here. A lot of good came about last year. Finally, there was relief from my gut problems. I figured out foods that work for me and foods that don’t. I lost a bit of the religiosity about it. I plan on exercising more deliberately, because it helps my brain and body. I plan on eating the way that works best for me. No more fads or trials. Probiotics are definitely worth the investment. I am hoping to use no or very few chemicals in our home. I recently won a huge load of Norwex products and love them. I have a couple more to invest in before all chemicals are gone, but that’s the goal. And, I have embraced th mild use of essential oils as aromatherapy.

write something. I kind of want to journal my childhood. All its humor, pain, joy, and small town weirdness. But that will be completely private. I may continue here sometimes too.

people. I don’t need to be reminded to include my people in my life, because that is my natural bent. I just want y’all to know that my family, my community, my girls…..they breathe life. If you don’t make room for people, for rubbing shoulders, then you can be missing out. Yes, sometimes it feels like sandpaper, but more often than not it is healing balm. Just choose wisely. Have boundaries. Speak truth and life.

finally, buy a home. All of the above are good, but this is our dream. Pray with me that all works out in the next couple months for us to finally own this home. We love it here. We want this. We need to see if this is where God will have us root ourselves.

ordinary extraordinary.

How can one run-of-the-mill day hold so much in it?

Cloudy gloom broken through by rays of sunshining warmth. But then the clouds return. Gleeful squeals of a game of chase end in cries of pain. But then laughter comes in the comfort.

A friend announces that her family is adopting for the third time. I can not wait to meet and hug Moriah! She will be prayed for (and has been) for the months in between now and her arrival!

Another friend whispers that her waiting is over. Her sweet in-utero baby has no heartbeat. This little life, lost to the world, gained heaven.

How Lord, can these things be communicated within minutes of each other? How can our hearts hold these things with the weight each deserves?

How do you do it, God? Seeing the full weight of sin. Oh, bearing it! Seeing your creation weep in its aftermath. Yet, glancing over and seeing your Son on the throne, triumphant.

Today, I am reminded by Timothy Keller of something CS Lewis once said. “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”  Whether the extraordinary happens here on earth in tangible ways or we need to wait until heaven, these ordinary days can bloom extraordinary.

Let the heaviness of our days weigh on us and mold us, with both thanksgiving and cries of woah. Let us see the King on His throne.

growing pains.

funny how we all want to be grown ups when we are little, isn’t it?

Truth is, growing up hurts. It’s uncomfortable, stretching, challenging, and quite often, in the midst of it, we just want it to stop.

Today, I was reminded so many times about the fact that God gives grace for the moment. Manna. What do you need today? RIGHT NOW? God will give you the grace to face this moment, in this moment. Not a second too early, but most definitely what feels like a whole lot too late. But it isn’t. It’s right on time. After all the tears may be cried out. The tummy in knots. Exhaustion creeping in….peace comes sweeping in.

It’s quiet here now. Except for the cicadas. And that, too, is a bit of grace.