Beyond Ourselves

lonely-273629_1280If you live your life for yourself alone, never reaching out to others, it is as though you sleep. It’s a great waste of a life.

Opportunities arise, just to be ignored because you just want to be left alone, to live your life and be comfortable.

I want that, too, but I can never be comfortable with that itch irritating me.

The itch to do something real.

To reach out to others and help them past a difficult time.

NewbornPhilMothers know how it is. Once that tiny creature is in your care, you know you’re locked in for a certain number of years and maybe, forever. All your life, you will be Mother. Whether it’s the middle of the night, or halfway through your workday, when they call, you have to answer. You have to go and see to their needs.

I made it past some obstacles in life. I made it through because of God’s grace. First, there was grace, then there was faith. And I overcame through that faith because I found the strength to move beyond my past. I, who am forgiven, found strength to forgive others, and to forgive myself.

And now I have the opportunity to help others do the same. It was like being awakened in the dead of night by a child’s cry. My mother’s heart said yes.

alpaca-984891_1280In less than eight weeks, I’ll step onto a jet that will set me down in Ecuador–into the direct path of God’s call. Not that I am anything. He could speak through a donkey, or an alpaca, for that matter.

The opportunity came, and I will go.

My life will change and  probably never really be the same afterwards. That could be a good thing. When you get too lazy, you end up wasting your life. Yes, I’m writing words on paper and cluttering your screen with ‘isms, but my life is a blank sheet. I’m hoping to end up with a page filled with life-giving words. A story well told. A life well lived.

note-pad-1215425_1280I would appreciate your prayers over the next few weeks, as I prepare my heart, mind, and spirit for the task God has placed upon me. I want to carry the good news of His forgiveness and grace to those whose hearts are in deepest need. And I want to be a vessel He can use. Just an ordinary vessel, prepared and ready.

There, when needed.

To encourage those who need strength to believe in themselves, that they can accomplish what may seem to be impossible. A dream? Perhaps, but we must dream in order to achieve. I dare to dream and even if my dreams never come true (to the extent I dream them) I want to be able to say I ventured.

Nothing ventured. . . nothing gained.

I am especially grateful to all of those who have sent funds to help us on our way. You’ve pledged your thoughts and prayers and the wish to be a part of the call. I can’t really put into words how grateful I am for your faith in us and in the God who called us. I pray God’s blessing over your life.

Below these photos, you’ll find links to several places you can go to help. Some of these are long-term missions–in it for the long haul. They need strong shoulders to help them bear up under pressure. Even if you can’t help them financially, maybe you can commit to pray, or just help them by publicizing their presence and what they do.

Our team...
Our team

Owens to Ecuador Facebook Page

YouCaring for Contributions – Owens to Ecuador

If you’d like to help with the Spanish version of Annabelle’s Ruth, you can click the link below to make your contribution (and please type “Annabelle’s Ruth” in the comment box): https://giving.ag.org/Give/Details/600001-693941?MinistryName=unsion&Page

Unsion Foundation, a Christian World-View television network is actively “Engaging the culture with the gospel.”

http://www.lacworldmissions.org/home
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lacworldmissions

Ecuador Hope House

Joil & Leah Marbut, Jungle Missionary

For more information about Cuenca, Ecuador:

http://www.ecuadorexplorer.com/html/cuenca.html

Springtime and Ordinary Days

It’s raining as I write this, washing away the green dust that coats every outdoor surface. I call it “oak dust.” It makes me sneeze. Makes my eyes water.

0417121830I’m happy for the rain. My flower garden was a bit too dry, and I’ve a bumper crop of iris blooms. Gerbera daisies, red geraniums, roses, and sage are open for business. I love this time of year.

This is Derby week where I live. Many of my friends already bought their hats. I don’t go to the Derby–I watch  it on television. I love to see the horses run, and oh, those hats! If you’re anywhere near Louisville, Kentucky on Derby Day, you’re bound to see women decked out in colorful hats, on their way to Churchill Downs.

For my husband, Derby Day means golf. For me it means I can plant annuals without fear of frost killing them. Both of us have our priorities well in place.

TakeoffAs the excitement of spring fades into ordinary days, I turn my attention to summer. Instead of our usual vacation this year, we’ve opted to spend our time serving others on a mission trip. I’m writing this post just a few days after the devastating quake that hit the coastal region of Ecuador. We may see some of the damage as we leave Guayaquil, but our travel plans will send us into the Andes mountains, to Cuenca, Ecuador.

For a writer, every new scene in life is an opportunity to tell a story. I assure you, my eyes will be wide open, and my imagination will be well engaged. I hope the beautiful sights and sounds of Ecuador will inspire a story or two. The long journey may provide plenty of time for contemplation. If I’m awake. In which case, my eyes will not be wide open.

hiking-1220297_1280I have several friends who are full-time in the mission work of Ecuador. Some of them trek into the Amazon region, carrying gifts from the outside world, along with the message of the gospel. Yes, this is the region where several missionaries were killed in the last century.

One thing these men and women share is a call. They’ve turned their backs on the world and its desires to fulfill the call on their heart. A purpose they believe is God-given.

There’s nothing ordinary about that.

Have you ever experienced what you believe is a call from God to leave your home and family and go to another place? If so, did you heed the call?

Whether or not you accepted that call, I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page. If you’d like to help with the mission efforts in the Amazon region, check out the links below.


10425158_10205772526809279_9049688175581175135_nUnsion Foundation, a Christian World-View television network is actively “Engaging the culture with the gospel.”
http://www.lacworldmissions.org/home
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lacworldmissions
Ecuador Hope House
Joil & Leah Marbut, Jungle Missionary

Sobre Cuenca (about Cuenca): http://www.ecuadorexplorer.com/html/cuenca.html

Owens to Ecuador Facebook Page

Into All the World

Mothers waiting for food and supplies.
Mothers waiting for food and supplies. (Photo by Tiffany Sexton Riggs, Cuenca, Ecuador)

World missions…how do you feel about them? There are those who think we should deal first with the problems on our own doorstep. Why travel to a foreign country? We have hungry, homeless, hurting people within walking distance, or at least a few miles away in our inner cities. Spend your time and money there, they say.

What if your boss called you into his office, and said, “We need you in Tokyo for a few days, to help set up our new software”–? Would you say, “No sir–our corporate money is better spent here, to upgrade our systems. Let them take care of their own needs.” I feel I can accurately predict what would happen to you, as an employee of said corporation.

So if God calls one of us to drop everything we’re doing and head to Nepal, carrying a message for the Nepalese and whatever else you can take with you to meet their dire needs, would you make the above retort, or would you say, “Yes, Sir…I’ll go pack my bags.”

This is what many have done before us. Packed their bags, updated their passports, and luggage-22901_1280made the trip they felt God impressed upon them to make. For this reason, I support world missions with money and prayer. I also support inner city missions in the same way. Many of my friends and local church members give enormous blocks of time to feeding the homeless and the hungry. They’re taking the Word of faith and hope to those in the greatest need within our own community.

In the 1980s, my husband and I took our three young sons on a summer mission trip to El Paso, Texas. Daily, we crossed the border into Mexico, carrying Bibles, food, and Phil-Mexlaborers to help those in dire need. It was a learning experience for me. Though I grew up in a low-income home situation, I had never witnessed such severe poverty. But I was surprised to find smiling, welcoming faces, even in some of the worst situations. Our presence sparked hope. Help, though temporary, had come to them.

Yes, by all means, support home missions. Contribute your time and money to the hurting and homeless and hungry. But remember that when our director (God) calls, we should answer, no matter where He’s sending us. Refusing to go probably won’t have the same effect as it would on your boss at work. But you could end up in the belly of a whale.

whale-303626_1280Wait–don’t know what I’m talking about? You can read it for yourself, in Jonah (Old Testament). Jonah was called by God to carry a message to Nineveh. He had an opinion about the call, which he made known right away, then proceeded to high-tail it in the opposite direction. His disobedience not only caused loss and destruction to all those around him, but also great discomfort and near death to Jonah. And a severe bellyache to the previously-mentioned whale.

Now, I’m not saying that something like this would happen to you if you refused God’s direction for your life. Not at all. But I have a pretty good idea you’ll be more at peace with yourself when you live the life God has planned for you.

WinterRoadMaybe you’re there right now–living in the wrong place–God called, and you said, “No.” In the interim, you supported the missions of others, perhaps out of guilt, but it still counts. You tried to make amends for your disobedience. But something was missing in your life, and now you’re filled with regret. This is something between you and the Father. You can make it right by asking His forgiveness and making yourself available now. But you’re afraid. He may ask you to give up everything you’ve worked so hard to obtain. He might, but I have a feeling you passed that door long ago. He will forgive you, but someone else accepted the call in your place. They’re the ones who will reap the rewards of obedience. But you can still have peace in knowing you’re forgiven, and your path–though different–is still blessed.

There will always be those who disagree with your pursuit, whatever it may be. But I encourage you to seek God’s will for your life and be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. Because you’re an ambassador, and as such, you’re on call. He may only be asking for your support to send someone else, or for your prayers and encouragement for those who are sent. But be assured, God is not above sending a whale to swallow you up, if enough lives hang in the balance. That’s the bottom line. Because He loves those who are hurting, he sends those who know how to love.

EcuadorChurchThe road to Ecuador – for more information about my upcoming trip to Cuenca, Ecuador: https://www.facebook.com/groups/896477563799642/

When You’re Not Looking

cat-393294_1280You know how it is. Something you’ve wanted for so long suddenly drops into your life when you’re not looking.

That’s how it was when I met my husband. I wasn’t looking. Though I was still very young, I’d pretty much given up on ever finding that perfect someone. But there he was. Three months later, we were married. Forty-one years later, we’re still married.

But I wasn’t looking. We strive for success. Work hard for recognition and promotions, only to lose out to someone else. It’s discouraging, sometimes even heartbreaking, to watch others around you celebrate their accomplishments, their big sales numbers, and you wonder if it will ever happen for you. Then one day, when you’re not looking for it…there it is.

But some of life’s successes are temporary–trophies to display on one’s mantle–and later to pack away in the attic or toss in the trash. If you never won a trophy, made top rep, or got to sit at the head of the corporate table, you can get pretty discouraged. That’s the trouble with contests–there’s only one winner. All the others are basically…losers. My second-grade teacher had an idea about that. She’d made sure every child in our class won something, everyday of the school year. Each week, the class held an election. By the end of the year, each one of us had served as class president.

award-148961_1280I remember that feeling of pride, standing at the front, holding a blue ribbon for my perfect spelling paper. And the day they voted for me to be class president–I smiled for hours.

The truth is, it doesn’t take that much to make another person feel special. I’ll never forget that wonderful teacher. She inspired me. l wish she’d been in my life a little longer. Are you a parent, a teacher, a coach? Do you seek to inspire those entrusted to your care? I encourage you to do so!

manta-91745_1280In a few months, I’m headed to Cuenca, Ecuador for a few days. I’ll be speaking to a group of women, and whatever else we can find to do. I hope to carry a message that will inspire and encourage those to whom I am sent. A message like the one I received from that beloved teacher. Everyone can be a winner.

Abuse is a worldwide problem, especially for women. In some countries, though, women have more difficult lives. Many of the situations are universal. Since being asked to speak to these women, I’ve been researching the problems that are relevant to them. I can’t solve those problems, but perhaps I can encourage some to think differently. About themselves, about their life.

What does that have to do with NOT LOOKING? I wasn’t looking for this opportunity. It kind of dropped into my lap. Totally unexpected. But I’ve accepted the challenge and now I’m determined to do my best.

If you’re reading this and you know what it’s like to endure the pain of abuse, then please pray for me that I will know how to minister to and encourage these dear ladies. That’s my heart’s cry. For more information about our upcoming trip to Ecuador, please check out our Facebook page and https://www.gofundme.com/OwenstoEcuador2016.

What Lies Ahead

  1. Write first post for 2016.
  2. Complete book 2 of Kinsman Redeemer Series: Sutters Landing.
  3. Get passport photo.
  4. Get passport.
  5. Fly to Cuenca, Ecuador for mission trip that includes a speaking engagement.
  6. Did you see #5?
  7. Omgosh! I am actually going to Ecuador!

Here’s how it happened:

My youngest son decided he wanted to go to Ecuador on a mission trip, and he wanted me to go with him. After a moment’s hesitation, I said, “Umm…okay…” In my head, I was already formulating all my excuses for why I could NOT go to Ecuador. But first…

12247775_10206343088474606_5277214904899162802_o
Bill & Connie McDonald, Missionaries to Ecuador

Why Ecuador? A couple of my acquaintance (Bill and Connie McDonald) left for Cuenca in 1989. I admired them greatly, and was so proud of them, but I have to admit–the very thought of going so far away frightened me. So I pledged to help them, which got me off the hook for the time being. All these years later, that couple–lead by God, of course–accomplished quite a lot: “…they have pioneered the Pentecostal Evangelical church in the Andean region of Ecuador, headed the Latin American Childcare (LACC) program to plant schools with a Christ-centered focus throughout the nation, and founded the Unsión Foundation and Unsión Television.” –from Unsion Foundation‘s webpage.

Bill and Connie are no longer full time over there, but travel back and forth. However, both their children are now serving in the Amazon regions. See Joil & Leah Marbut’s Jungle Missionary page.

11028013_10205835655310433_4512249505539321019_o
Youngest son & me

In early December, my son approached Bill McDonald and asked about making a trip. What could we do to help while we’re down there? Bill had an idea. He turned to me and said something that sounded a lot like: “I’d like to have you speak to a group of women in the area church…a three-day conference with around 150 women–possibly as many as 500.”

After I retrieved my chin from the floor, I realized that God had been preparing me for this. My first clue was the head nod. Instead of the back-and-forth of a negative response, I was nodding…as though accepting the invitation. Okay. That very morning, I had “happened” upon a blog post titled “Do It Afraid.” The writer speaks at conferences around the world. In the post, she confessed her constant battle with fear. Fear of flying, fear of strangers, fear of crowded places, but she refuses to let any of those stop her. So I knew instinctively, if God is calling me, He would give me all I need to accomplish it. Courage. Confidence. Material needs. Monetary provision. Strength for the journey.

Preparing the way. The last few months, I’ve been reading and studying scriptures and messages regarding forgiveness, pointing to certain topics, pinpointing painful circumstances in my life, as well as the lives of others close to me. These prodding messages caused me to turn inward and ferret out all the dredges of bitterness. I’m not claiming to be perfect, far from it. I think because it’s been an issue in my life, much of my writing includes the message of forgiveness and reconciliation. As Bill spoke about the problems faced by the Ecuadorian women, understanding flowed over me like rain.

TakeoffOver the next few months, as I prepare for this trip, I hope you’ll think of me and say a prayer for me, and for those going with us. We have a Facebook page started, called Ecuador Trip, and also a “Go Fund Me” page for those who’d like to help us make this journey. We’re also looking into translation of my books to Spanish.

The needs of these women are not so different from those of women around the world. I’m praying God will use the message of grace and forgiveness to heal their hearts and set the stage for what He has called them to do.

file0001745124941Along the way, I plan to keep you informed of our progress and give you insight into what God is speaking to my heart. He is not overwhelmed by the need, and neither should we be. Following his call should not be cause for fear, but for honor, and humility. Because I am well aware, He often chooses the least to accomplish his work.