Friday, December 30, 2011


December 29

One more December update. How quickly Christmas comes and goes. I realized how much I love anticipation. Although Christmas is done I still have so much joy in my heart and look forward to a new year.

We had a wonderful and quiet week leading up to Christmas. We had Guzzaldos over for a double in home date. The kids went to bed and we lit the candles, put a fire on the computer (yes, a dvd with all fire places you can watch and listen to), and had a wonderful four course meal. We sat for almost four hours together enjoying each on tray. We finished with chocolate fondu. Everything was so good, special, and fun with the Christmas lights and fellowship. I love those kinds of nights!

Josh made Christmas cookies with the kids. The kids enjoyed it and they taste really good but what a lot of work. I did a lot of baking too. I even made eggless egg nog – and it was good! Lydia helped me make maple bun bars (one of Josh’s favorites) but we didn’t have cook and serve pudding so we had to first make pudding. It didn’t turn out perfect but it was so good. Good thing I made a half a batch or we would gain too much weigh. I had the ladies for coffee on Friday just for fun and made almond cinnamon rolls for the first time and they were a keeper too.

We have been doing advent candles this year and one night Lydia read for us. She read from Revelations when the woman gives birth and the dragon is there to snatch it away. Lydia was so excited about the story and realizing what it was about that she read it again the next day. It was great to see her understanding scripture. Betty ate lunch with us one day and we read 1 John 1. She had never heard that before and liked it so much she wanted to memorize it. I love God’s Word and it is a true joy to see my children and others love it too.

By the way, Luka is now telling us and going to the bathroom (most of the time)! I am so thankful. I prayed he would choose to and he is finally even stops to go potty when he is playing basketball. (But he still asks for a diaper for number 2 – all good things in time I guess.) Luka is really cute how he talks. I often hear him say, “Gwerls!” (girls). He only knows “he” so his sisters are also “he” when he tells on them.

Josh and I wrapped presents about Wednesday night and Lydia was super excited from then on. She would literally just lie in front of the Christmas tree and look at the presents. It was an exciting week. Josh was around most of the time so we tried to make things special and Christmasy. We had friends over and went to friends. The kids loved playing at their cousins where they did slip and slide. Yup, Christmas is different living in Africa.

Finally Christmas Eve came. We baked most of the day preparing for supper and for Christmas Day. We also talked with the grandparents. It was fun but made me want to be two places at once. We stated our family party with the traditional pizza dinner. After supper we opened presents together. Everyone was happy and I enjoyed watching their excitement with each gift. Lydia especially has a lot of joy. Grace’s favorite was her Bell princess dress Lydia found for her at the second hand market here. She put it on and paraded around like a real princess the rest of the night. Lydia loved it all and Luka loved every car and truck and train he got. I really enjoyed our family Christmas. And after the kids were in bed I just sat in front of the tree with Josh thankful (and tired).

Christmas morning we went to church in Obule after putting the ham in the oven. It was suppose to start early so people could get home to prepare food (that is the main way Ugandan celebrate Christmas – eat meat) but when we got there we were the only ones with the pastors. We started anyways and slowly kids came and then some men and eventually the mothers. The singing was joyful and I was glad to be celebrating with our Obule family. Charles led and I see Jesus in him more and more. Josh preached and had everyone all ears. He challenged us with “Do you care?” Do you care for those hurting, abused, broken…around you cause God does. When you care you have faith and action like Mary and Joseph, you risk material things like the shepherds who left their flocks to see Jesus, and they went and told others. It was really exciting today when Josh went back to Obule and they were still talking about the sermon and how it made them think and challenged them.

We ended up leaving church early to get back in time to prepare for our team Christmas party at our house. We had a wonderful Christmas dinner together, exchanged Christmas gifts, played games, and worshiped our new born King with some Christmas carols. It was a fun day. Once it got dark we moved the party inside and enjoyed more games and food. It was 9:30pm by the time everyone left, things were picked up, and our kids were in bed. Even though it was late Josh and I watched the Nativity together. What a beautiful way to end Christmas. It will always touch me to see my Savior as a precious baby. Surprising the world and being honored by the lowly and the kings. Joy to the world the Lord has come!

Now we move on to 2012. Sometimes it is hard for me with every precious year going by so quickly but I am also excited to see all God has planned. I have hope with all His faithful promises to hold on to. May God fill our year!

(Pictures to come as soon as I can get them to upload.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Dec. 17

What a great week. Sunday night we had Sliedretchs and Tiesingas over and had a fondu candlelight dinner. We put the kids to bed and enjoyed an adult supper. It was so good – steak, pork, chicken, battered mushrooms, onions, and pineapple…and ice cream with hot fudge and crushed candy canes for dessert. Yummy! It is a treat to sit and enjoy a long meal and talk without interruptions.

I celebrated my 33rd birthday on Thursday! Josh gave me a break from teaching so I had a nice long morning, in the afternoon we had a team meeting but they did sing to me, for supper the kids had a special dessert and gifts, and after they were in bed Josh and I had a mini date in front of the Christmas tree with appetizer and more dessert. I am so thankful. God is my Father who loves me, made me, saved me, called me, leads me, protects me, fills me, and blessed me with my family and many others who have shaped my life. God is in control of my life and holds the plan. I celebrate where He has brought me to today. To Him be the glory. Can’t wait to see how He fills and leads me this year.

Last night we had everyone – I think 37 people – over for candlelight Christmas carols. The program was full of scripture reading and Christmas songs. It sounded so beautiful!!! I love singing Christmas carols! The kids also got dressed up and formed the nativity. We had 20 adorable shepherds, angles, wise men, Mary, Joseph, and even two baby Jesus’ (one baby got sick of sitting in the basket so the other baby took over). Lydia was an angle, Grace was Mary, and Luka was a wise men. We also had a time where families or individuals could share a song, dance, play an instrument… Lydia and Grace did a dance to “Away in a Manger”. They did a great job. Bobbie and Rachel sang the whole genealogy of Jesus. The whole night was a wonderful night of worship and fellowship. After the program everyone brought Christmas goodies to eat. Maybe you think I go overboard on Christmas stuff here but the truth is you have to make Christmas here. If you don’t you could totally forget it is Christmas time. Ok, you would know by the decorations for sale at the supermarket but in the culture there is nothing until Christmas Day. I want to celebrate and remember Jesus birth all month! How thankful I am to have friends to worship my Savior with.

I was thinking this week of the line in the song Joy to the World, “let every heart prepare Him room…” How sad that we need to prepare room in our hearts for Jesus. More than sad, we need to repent of this. God commands us to love Him with ALL our heart, soul, and mind. All means 100%. If we have to make room then Christ doesn’t have 100%. Forgive us God for filling our hearts with so many other things that there is little or no room for You. We have loved things, money, business, self, entertainment, sports, people, jobs…and it has left less than 100% for you. We need You. You’re the gift we need again this Christmas. And it is free! Remove everything in our hearts until there is room for 100% of You.

Grace lost her top front tooth this week. She was really excited and looks pretty cute too. We have all had sinus colds around here (the whole community). Everyone thinks it is because the rains have stopped and dry season has started. So instead of snow and cold for Christmas we get dust and heat! Josh thought he broke his toe this week running. He kicked a stump and the toe was all black and blue and swollen. (Yes, he had shoes on running.) Thankfully, God answered prayer and took most of the pain away and he was able to teach two days this week without pain.

Thanks for all the birthday and Christmas greetings!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2nd Annual Ladies Christmas Tea

December 10

I wanted to take a week off from writing but then we had our Ladies Christmas Tea and I just have to tell you how much fun it was! Earlier in the week I was about to call the whole thing quits. It seemed like no one really knew what was going on, couldn’t come, or didn’t seem too interested. Besides that I had been trying to come up with a Christmas craft for a couple weeks and nothing seemed good enough. I had made a few things and made lots of runs to town getting what I needed or hoped for. So I was doubting the whole thing. Josh assured me I should do it and I knew I should too so I began to pray over it. I asked God all week to be present at the tea and bless the ladies…and He did!

I really enjoy anticipation and preparation. The whole day was Christmasy and exciting. The house was filled with Christmas music, lights, decorations, and all ready by the time Angie, my sister, came over at 2 to start the pumpkin lattes (from scratch – the best!). It was fun getting ready with her and talking together. All we needed was snow instead of sunshine and it would have been just like at home. The ladies arrived at 2:30 with gifts and goodies. We all sat together fellowshipping while making Christmas crafts. I had to be creative but the ladies seemed to really enjoy the crafts. We made rag wreathes, pipe cleaner ornaments, bell and ribbon to put on the door, and Christmas tree with ribbon. Not everyone is crafty but they did it with a smile on their faces. I love being with the ladies and being, talking, and being creative all at the same time! There were 13 of us so the room was buzzing.

After that we moved into the other room for the gift exchange. Everyone brought a gift and we had to write something about ourselves no one else knew and guess who it was. If you guessed right you got to pick a present. I got an ornament, pot holders, two candles and lotions – quite a gift! Then our teammate Margaret gave each of us the Team Beyond cookbook she put together with all our recipes as a gift. Fun!

Before we ate I read from John 1:1-14. What a beautiful passage on Christ coming and plan. He made the world but the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own but they did not receive Him. But to those who to receive Him and believe He made them children of God. Not of natural descent or a husband’s will but born of God. Jesus became flesh and lived among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of God! What a reason to celebrate Christmas together!

Then we eat – boy did we eat! We literally had a table full of Christmas goodies. It was beautiful. I made a tea ring (cinnamon rolls in the shape of a wreath) and mocha mint brownies. Everyone brought enough so that we could eat one and take one of each home – kinda of cookie exchange. We all went home with a plate full of goodies.

Everyone stayed and chatted for a long time. It was great. The ladies loved it, enjoyed getting together, and were very thankful. A few people talked about how it was the first time it felt like Christmas. Others told me how welcoming my house was. One told me it was the best day she has had in a while. Everyone thanked me and I thanked the Lord! He really did bless us.

My only regret is that it went too fast. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Can’t wait till next year! Or I will just look forward to my birthday this week…

Sunday, December 4, 2011

This week in Review

December 4, 2011

December is such a wonderful month. All the anticipation, lights, Christmas music, get-togethers, my birthday, Christmas…what a lot to enjoy. I have to admit yesterday I was really homesick for Christmas in Michigan. I wanted to put a sweater on, go to the mall with the family, see all the Christmas decorations, and go out for supper. Instead I put Christmas music on, put a fire on our TV (thanks to a DVD from my husband with all fireplaces you can watch and listen to – I love it), made stromboli, and sat by our Christmas tree with my family. Sometimes it is still a sacrifice to be away, but really what do I have to complain about? It’s Christmas time!

The week of Thanksgiving Grace kept saying to us, “I was sad when Grandpa Stahl died but now I am happy that he is in Heaven.” Grace is a lot like Josh and needs to process and it takes time for her to deal with change so it was the first time she talked about Grandpa Stahl dying. It seemed perfect with Grace thankful for Grandpa being in Heaven to tell the girls about Great Grandma Shaarda’s death. So we got a picture of Grandma out and sat Lydia and Grace down and told them. Lydia cried and Grace just sat quietly. Josh shared stories of Grandma from when he was a boy. It was a nice time of remembering Grandma, mourning together, and celebrating her love for Jesus.

A couple nights later at our team worship we were praying and Lydia prayed that Grandma Shaarda was having a good time in Heaven and that she could now talk better. She also asked God that Grandma Stahl would stay health and be alive next time we go to Michigan.

If you haven’t heard Tim & Angie (my sister and team leaders) are expecting a baby in June! It is a true miracle. After eight years of infertility (a 2% chance of ever getting pregnant), three adoptions, and frozen embryo adoptions – they are having a baby. That is God at work in His own time and plan. Lydia was so cute when she announced to her Grandma that Aunt Angie is having her first white baby!

Lydia had a really cute week I guess. The funny thing is she doesn’t even realize she is being funny she is just being herself. She came out of bed one night and showed Josh and I a spot by her nose. We told her it was a zit. She looked at us with excitement and said, “You mean I am becoming a young lady?!” Later she told someone she is now getting zits like her Daddy.

Josh taught in Obule this week. He started a new course on Freedom in Christ. He has been spending a lot of time preparing the course and it seemed satan wanted to discourage him because he seemed to be under a lot of stress and things were just not going well in our family. We prayed over it and knew God would use this course in powerful ways. Josh came home from teaching the first day excited and exhausted. It was deep material but once the people got it it was worth it. I could see the stress in Josh was gone. He said by afternoon it was light bulbs went on and the people were changed by the message. The second day went just as well. The people realized they were saints, they have assurance, when people sin they can still be used by God, they don’t have to work for their salvation, God loves them and they are part of His family based on what Christ did. Amen! What really impresses me about the people in Obule is that they learn something from God’s Word and BELIEVE it. It changes their lives! When we were in Michigan I thought there was so much work to be done then I realized the Truth is there but people aren’t putting it into their lives. It doesn’t help to know something without believing it.

Josh and I had a couple nice dates this week. We realized we need sometime together to connect again. It was a lot of fun. My husband loves me and I sure love him!

I also got to go to a yard sale this week. Some missionary friends had too much stuff so they had a sale. I even got a lazy boy! Now our family is fighting over sitting in it. It is so comfy. One teammate thinks we should raffle off tickets to see who gets the chair Christmas Day.

Karen Lubbers arrived this week. She was with our team a couple years ago for a year (taught Lydia 1st grade) and has now joined our team. Never a dull moment here!

I think that is the wrap-up for our week. Looking forward to next week and our Ladies Christmas Tea! May God be with you this week too.

I forgot to put Josh's Thanksgiving poem in last weeks blog so here it is:

THANKS by Josh Shaarda
T is for Team Beyond, this family here today
Was divinely selected to serve, eat, and play.
H is for hungry, which I am thankful I am not
But to hunger for righteousness is our God-given lot.
A is for Amanda, known to some as Mandy
The amazing woman God gave as he perfect wife for me.
N is for new experiences, we felt were too cool
Colorado, potty training, Mombasa, and the 1st day of school.
K is for kids, three great ones we’ve got
We love them unconditionally, even though perfect they’re not.
S is for Soroti, the home for our family,
I thank God He called us where He wants us to be.