“It is not good that the man should be alone.” Genesis 2:18

Lemuel the great Arabian king of Massa once posed the question, “A good wife who can find?”(Proverbs 31:10) Following his question, he composes a list the attributes of a godly wife. She is precious to her husband, trustworthy, she works well with a willing heart. She is reliable, especially in tough times. She is prudent and knows how to run her household…As I read the passage I of course can see so many attributes that Lemuel discusses exemplified by my wife Teresa.

Teresa is one of the most hardworking people I have ever met. She often starts working before I begin and continues to work even while I am napping. She pays the bills, cleans the house, manages the kids, folds, washes, paints, sweeps, vacuums, I could go on but there are so many other great things about her.

She has the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. It lights up a room when she enters and makes you feel like a million bucks. I think she knows that if she smiles she gets her way with me. “Your lips distil nectar, my bride.” (Song of Songs 4:11)

She is profoundly reliable. The last few weeks have really tried us and proven Teresa is gold. She has supported me, held me up and made me stronger. She calls me on constantly to make more of myself and to become a better man. God has used her so many times to convict me of my sin and correct me. Tough times seem to bring out the best in her. She has taught me how to manage money better and how to stave off the impulse to buy things (especially books).

“She opens her hands to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:20)

My wife has always had a profound and radiant passion for the poor. She is ever thinking of ways to open her hands unto them and never asks for things in return, including credit. She is humble in her giving. She probably will hate the fact that I am even writing this on the blog but I want to memorialize her.

I have been deeply blessed to see her live her life striving for sanctity. She carries about her a fresh air that lifts your face when your down and encourages you when you feel discouraged. “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26)

I love you Teresa so much. “Your love is better than wine” (Song of Songs 1:2) The last few months of our lives have been the best yet. They only get better. “I am sick with love for you” (Song of Songs 2:5) I have found the one whom my soul loves, I am holding her and will not let her go. “You have ravished my heart with a glance from your eyes.” (Song of Songs 4:9)

Saint Teresa, guardian of my heart, I honor you

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Live Like That . . . . . . . . . By Teresa

I’ve started this first sentence so many times . . . I am having a hard time finding the right words to say what I want to say. It seems our experiences since we have arrived here in Louisiana have an ineffable quality. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. It is said that God’s love in so immense and so deep that even to begin to describe it you will inevitably do it a disservice. Here at the Big Woods Mission, or even in the retreat house, Our Lady of the Bayous, which is where we are staying, I feel so surrounded by God that there are no words to begin to express what an amazing blessing it is to be here. I know it’s only temporary. We will be here for four months or so, and then be sent out to serve who knows where, but these months will inevitably be the most powerful I have yet to experience in my lifetime.

Just try to imagine being surrounded by people who love God with such a powerful love that they reject all but the most essential necessities in life so that when God calls them to a new location they can leave without hesitation. Every act they do is an act of love. You can see it when they are playing with their children, you can see it when they are cleaning out sewage pipes or doing dishes, it is the essence behind every conversation, and when they worship . . . oh, when they worship it feels as if the room could literally burst from the passion and energy with which they sing. It seems almost unreal doesn’t it?! But I tell you truthfully, it is the life here at Big Woods. How can you help but grow in such an amazing environment? How can I not desire to grow closer to God when all around me there are people who radiate a love that is greater than any I have ever seen. THIS is God’s love! It is so real, and it is being lived out by all of the missionaries at Big Woods. There is a selflessness that I pray every day to attain. I am humbled at every moment, but in a good way. I know that I have room to grow and I am ready and willing to be changed.

This is everything I didn’t know I needed, but exactly what my soul was thirsting for. This is the perfect image of church life. To live in a community where everyone is striving for the same goal – to love God and reflect His love at all times. I wish everyone I knew could experience this, even if just for a little while. It is . . . life changing! Thank you God for this moment in time. Let me absorb all that I can. Let me be forever changed. Fill me up God so I may carry your love to the ends of the Earth!!!!

There is so much more to say, but I will save it for another day. I want to leave you with a song. I have heard it many times, but lately I think I have claimed it as my theme song. I will attempt to link it to our blog, but if my computer illiterate mind can’t figure it out do a search for Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets. “I want to live like that, and give it all I have, so that everything I say and do points to You. If Love is who I am, then this is where I’ll stand, recklessly abandoned, never holding back. I want to live like that.”  These words reverberate within me. I pray that this may one day be the perfect description of me. It is the greatest desire of my soul.

Our mission in the Bayou begins -by Jonathan

The First Stop – God’s House in the Bayou

 “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us his ways and we may walk in His paths…For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.” Micah 4:3b, 5

 It’s been awhile since my last blog post. I am sitting right now in an old convent dining hall, sweating and ready to start another week down here in the bayou. Our days have been so enriched with God’s presence and so flooded with His blessings that there has been little time to stop and reflect upon all that has happened. Even now I don’t know that I can share all that has happened in our lives but I really wanted to try and give a glimpse of where we are at at this time and how far we have come.

 After painting the entire house, listing the house, finding tenants for the house, detailing the car, listing the car, selling the car, canceling the phone, canceling the internet, returning borrowed materials long ago misplaced, dropping the last (yeah!) load at the goodwill store, changing our mailing address, studying how to fit all (nearly) our belongings in our mini-van, loading the van, twice, and having 20 kids over for a going away party inside the house, we headed down to Mississippi (after a short detour to sign over the title of the car which I had forgotten to do!). We decided to stay with Teresa’s parents for a week before traveling to Abbeville, Louisiana, the home-base town for Family Missions Company.

 Our week went by fast, fishing and exploring Nana and Papa’s yard. We got stung by jellyfish at the beach and learned that fire ants are NEVER friendly. We saw almost all the cousins and by the time we left we realized just how beautiful a family we have down in Mississippi. The real journey felt like it began when we began the trip to Louisiana. We were not heading northeast as we usually do but southwest to a place that has more bugs and reptiles than anywhere I’ve ever known.

 The trip to Abbeville from Mississippi runs through Baton Rouge and Lafayette then south into the swamps. A place where you can see alligators swimming under the freeway, where the water smells funny and every mile hosts a different species of roadkill. Incidentally, since we have arrived a few days ago, we have already discovered four different types of snakes, seen hundreds (literally) of lizards, a family of raccoons crossing the street at noon, spiders the size of a hand, and more. The boys have been in heaven on earth!

 When we arrived, we were put up at an old convent called Our Lady of the Bayou. It is a rustic retreat house now and only one of the sisters still lives here. Her name is sister Jeanette, a quite woman with a beautiful smile and a french accent. A sign on the wall says she arrived here in 1956.

The house is dated by the conspicuous presence of wood paneling the inside walls. The floors are all wood with an occasional rug lying here or there. There is a chapel in the house with the Blessed Sacrament always in the tabernacle. That place has been our joy for many mornings and evenings now. The house is two-storied but we don’t go upstairs. It contains many rooms and beds and bathrooms for large retreats and youth conferences. Each room has a small sink and mirror in front of which you can imagine many a sister used to get ready for her day of love and service. Our quarters are in the back of the building along with another missionary family who are currently state-side while the father finishes a medical degree.

 From the day we got here we were put to work cleaning, mowing, weeding, moving things, or running errands for ourselves. It’s good to stay busy during the day working for the Lord. While in the US, most of the missionaries live in a place called Big Woods. Big Woods is the headquarters of Family Missions Company. It is about 15 minutes from Our Lady of the Bayou, where we are housed. This week there have been visitors to FMC for a “Come and See” week so we have been over helping out when we can.

 The missionaries at FMC work and pray with such passion. Everyone from young to old has a place, a job, someway to contribute and they work with joy. Wherever I look I can see Joy and Sweat.

 We wondered how we would fit in but the people have been so kind and tenderhearted to us. They have welcomed us into their lives and we are daily called on to greater lives of holiness and love of God. I can’t wait to tell you more about all that’s happening but I’ll save it for another post.

 “Our life and our death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ.” – Saint Anthony of the Desert