Saturday, December 14, 2013

What Blessed Me the Most in Mexico

At the end of all FMC mission trips, each person is asked to reflect on three questions:
  1. What are you going to leave behind?
  2. What are you going to take with you?
  3. What blessed you this most on this trip?
I was so sick on that last week that all I could think about was leaving behind the sickness and the cold weather and taking home a new appreciation for health and heat.  But as I got to the third question, I immediately perked up and became overwhelmed with emotion.  I knew exactly what had blessed me the most during this trip---my husband's and kids' sharing of their testimonies.

A year and a half ago on our first trip to General Cepeda, none of us were very enthusiastic about sharing our testimony with anyone much less people who didn't even speak our language.  On our second trip last Thanksgiving, Travis and I were a little better about sharing our faith journey with others.  But on this trip, Travis was eager to share his story with the Mexican men of the ranchos we visited.  He was truly a man on a mission.  He wanted all these men to understand the important role that they were called to play in their family's journey to Heaven.

By the third week, our kids were ready to share how God had worked in their lives.  Listening to their stories about their own personal faith journeys brought tears to my eyes.  Remembering the tough times and looking back at how God had worked in each situation through their eyes is what blessed me the most on this particular trip.

I hope they bless you in some way....


Isaac telling about how God may take away good things, 
but replaces them with better things.


Philip sharing about his adoption and baptism.


Emily sharing about how her faith grew 
when we began homeschooling.


Olivia sharing her story of her hemangioma 
and the healing power of prayer.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ultimate Gift Update: Prayers Needed

Last year at this time, our family went down to General Cepeda, Mexico on Family Missions Company's Thanksgiving mission trip.  While there we met this family whose home was damaged by a fire and by a flood.  Our family felt called to help this family repair their damaged house.  Read about it here:  Thanksgiving Mission Trip, Part 5.

This week we found ourselves visiting this family once again.  I was ready to be greeted with huge smiles, but instead the woman looked so sad when we arrived.  She immediately began to tell us how the government is trying to make her move from this home due to a land dispute.  They have been living in this home for over ten years.  I'm not sure what all she was saying and what exactly is going on with the government, but she begged us for help and prayers.

So, I'm asking all of you, especially those of you helped repair the house, to pray for this family.  Please pray that whatever is going on with the government is resolved soon and that this family will be able to remain in their newly repaired home.

She did send her thanks to all of you who helped us repair their roof and walls and give them a cement floor.  Here are a few pictures that I took of the repairs:

Existing roof of bamboo, adobe, and plastic tarps was replaced.
Outside adobe walls were repaired and concrete was added for more durability.


Dirt floors were replaced with concrete floors.

Please pray for this woman and her family.








Sunday, November 10, 2013

Back in General Cepeda

We made it back to General Cepeda, Mexico!  We have limited Internet access, so this will be a quick picture blog of our first few days.  Please keep praying for us!

Beautiful Mountains of Mexico


Hanging out at the playground after a long drive.


First Rancho Visit---Packed chapel!


Ninos offering intentions at Mass.


Isaac and Moses serving at Sunday Mass.


Seilhan Family in front of the church in General Cepeda.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

New Life in Christ

Romans 12: 1-8
 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

In this passage, St. Paul begins to lay out the morality that every Christian should aim for in this life in order to imitate Jesus Christ.  Having just threatened the Romans with the possibility that God may cut them off, he commands them to be obedient to God.  He begins in verse one by telling them that their bodies must be a living sacrifice offered in spiritual worship to God.  St. Chrysostom (Chris sis tum) said that in order to do this we must let the eye abstain from sinful looks and glances, the tongue abstain from speaking ill, the hand do no lawless deed.  Instead, the hands must do alms, the mouth must bless, and the ears should rejoice in hearing the scriptures.  There is no other reasonable worship then men offering their bodies and souls to serve God.  We, too, must dedicate ourselves, bodies and souls, to God---all that we are, all that we have, and all that we do.
       
In verse two, St. Paul tells them not to be conformed to worldly customs and desires of the flesh.  This is the enemy of the renewal of our bodies as a living sacrifice.  He is urging them to transform themselves into new men who despise those things the world admires.  A renewing of the mind leads to a conversion that causes a change in the quality of the soul. St. Paul then tells them that once they are transformed they will be able to discern what is most pleasing and acceptable to God.  This is the verse that changed my life and ultimately led me to this very moment.  For a good part of my life, I was living for the world.  I wanted to have what everyone else had.  I wanted to keep up with the latest “fashions” and trends even those that I really didn’t care for.  I was always trying to fit in somewhere, yet, I always stayed just far enough out not to get sucked in too far.  Thank, God, for the conscience I had early on.
       
But as I got older and began our family, I realized how crazy this world really was.  I begin to see how rude and selfish our society was.  This was not what I wanted to teach my children.  Travis and I strived to put God first in our lives and not to fall into the temptations of the world, but as our kids grew older we began to fall into the trap of the enemy.  We began to stray from living totally for Christ.  We were offering incomplete sacrifices to God---not offering our whole bodies, just giving him parts.
       
One day this verse popped up in our path.  We had heard it before, but this time we felt convicted to stop and re-examine our life.  We began to “renew our minds” by taking in account all of our thoughts, actions, purchases, etc.  Then through prayer and scripture we began to discern God’s will for our family.  The more we sought out God’s will the more our lives began to transform eventually leading us to completely give up everything to follow His call to become full time missionaries.  This wasn’t an over night transformation and one that won’t be completed until we are in heaven.  The type of transformation that St. Paul is calling for is ongoing, one that must practiced daily.  Each time we sin, we must renew our minds and seek conversion and repent, always seeking what is pleasing to God.
       
These first two verses seem to be the most familiar verses of this chapter and the rest of the chapter tends to be overlooked.  I know that when I first began my transformation I did not go any further than verse two.  After ridding our lives of things we thought were “not of God”, we thought we were living holy and righteous lives and began to think more highly of ourselves and less of others who in our eyes were still living “for the world.”
       
Had we read further at that time, we would have read that the very next verse cautions against the sin of pride. Pride is that feeling of happiness we have when we do something good, but it can lead us to think that we are better than others or deserve respect from others for our accomplishments. Pride is considered one of the seven deadly sins.  It is often referred to as the “key” to all other sins, because once we believe we are better than others we begin to treat others poorly.  Pride fools us into thinking that we are the source of our own greatness.
       
But St. Paul continues on in verse 3, reminding us that even “our measure of faith” is assigned by God.  How humbling is that!  Humility is what this verse is calling for, and St. Paul even acknowledges in the opening words of this verse that the words he is speaking is dependent on the grace given to him by God.  We too must continually remind ourselves that we are only where we are by the grace of God not by anything of our own doing.      
       
After calling us to renounce our pride and increase our humility, St. Paul calls us to unity in verses four and five.  He compares the physical human body to the body of Christ in order to show the importance of our relationship with other believers.  He tells us that we each belong to Him and that each of us is important not only to Him, but to each other.  Not only does the body depend on each part, but each part depends on the other parts.  Verses six through eight explain how this unity works for the good of all.
       
St. Paul explains how each of us are given different gifts through the grace of God.  Each of these gifts is to be used to build up the body.  Each one is ultimately designed and given to bring glory to God alone.  While we cannot be prideful of our gift as we heard in verse 3, we cannot become slothful in using our gifts for the good of others.  This is another one of the traps of the enemy I fell into during my transformation.  Once I began to renounce my pride in the gifts that God gave me, I was afraid to use my gifts and share them with others for fear of becoming prideful once again.  I quietly kept them to myself and to my family and didn’t share them with the other members of the body of Christ.  But St. Paul tells us that we should humbly, generously, diligently, and cheerfully use our gifts for the good of the rest of the body.  Only when we do this will we begin to see the transformation Paul is calling for in this passage.
       
So, how do we begin this renewing of our mind in order to completely transform our bodies into living sacrifices?  We first begin by looking at our day's thoughts each night before going to bed.  I once read a meditation that explain that the crown of thorns were due to our thoughts of sin and pride.  After meditating on this, I really began to try to understand how dangerous our thoughts can be to our souls.  Our thoughts eventually lead and guide our actions and how we treat others.

Here are a few questions to get you started on your examination of thoughts: Were they all acceptable to God?  Were they thoughts that Christ would have had? Did you try to stop the thought at any time? Did all your thoughts revolve around you?  Or did you think of others?  Were you prideful in your thoughts?  Did you think ill of others? Were you jealous or envious of others?  With each thought, think about how you  could have and should have been more Christ-like in your thinking.  

If we faithfully examine our thoughts each night and truly think about how to make them more holy, we will soon find ourselves examining them throughout the day without much effort and changing our train of thought immediately.  And once we begin to retrain our minds to think thoughts that are pure and holy and acceptable to God, then we will see our actions begin to be more pure and holy and acceptable to God.  And only then will we begin to truly discern God will for us and begin to use the gifts He gave us according to His plan.  So, that’s my challenge to you:  Begin to examine your thoughts each night, so that your mind can be renewed, your bodies can be transformed, and your will become God’s will.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Pray?

If God knows the future and has it planned out already, then why should we bother to pray? Will it change His mind?  Does it have any affect on what is already destined to be?  And why must I pray if He already knows my needs?  These are all questions that I have asked myself in the past.  Maybe some of you have asked some of these too.  Today, I’m going to try to answer these questions.

So why should we pray? The most important answer is because God commands us to pray.  This is evident throughout scripture. 
Colossians 4:2 - “Devote ourselves to prayer”
Ephesians 6:18 - “pray in the Spirit…”
Romans 12:2 - "Be faithful in prayer…”
                        Philippians 4:6 - “let your requests be made known to God”
1 Thessalonians 5:17 - “Pray without ceasing..”
God calls us to pray, therefore, as Christians must be obedient to what God is calling us to do.
         
But why would God call us to devote ourselves to pray without ceasing if He already knows what we need?  The answer is that He simply wants to have a relationship with us.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that when a person prays, he enters into a living relationship with God. In order to have a relationship with someone, we must first begin to communicate with that person.  We must talk with them, share our thoughts with them, and more importantly listen to them.  The better the communication is between two people the better the relationship is.  This is the same with God---the quality of our prayer life determines the quality of our relationship with God.  God wants to reveal himself to us and He does this through prayer.
        
But if God already knows the future, why would He want us to waste our time praying for things He knows will never happen or are already destined to happen?  Because our prayer may be the means through which something is destined to happen or not happen.  God has already predestined for our prayers or for our lack of prayers. In 2 Corinthians 6:1, we are called God’s co-workers.  He simply invites us to share in His work through our prayers.  When we share in the work of something great on Earth, we are excited about it.  We want to share with others about the good work.  When we get involved in a particular work, we are excited when it succeeds and want to share its success with others.  This is the same with prayer.  When we pray and our prayers are answered, we want to shout it from the rooftops.  We want to tell everyone about how God answered our pray.  The more we participate in God’s work through prayer, the more we also begin to trust in Him and the more our faith grows.  The more we work with God, the more our prayers begin to line up with His will for us instead of our own will or selfish needs.  Prayer doesn’t change God, prayer changes the “pray-er.”
        
So, if God commands us to pray faithfully without ceasing for things that He already knows we need in order for us to grow closer to Him, then how and when should we pray and for what should we pray?  In Ephesians 6:18, we are told to “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”  There is no “best” prayer.  Or best way to pray.  There is no limit to what we can pray for.  If God’s main purpose of prayer is to have a relationship with Him, then we can begin by just talking to Him---telling him our thoughts and feelings, our fears and our desires, our frustrations and our joys just as we would talk to our closest friend.  I think St. Ignatious of Loyola says it best,

"We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel." 
And once we are done, we must sit and listen to Him just as a good friend would in turn do.

Monday, October 14, 2013

God is Love


In his first epistle, St. John tells us twice that God is love. Being an English teacher, I would classify this as a simple sentence. But in reality, it is probably the most complex sentence ever written. How can God be Love? In order to begin to understand what this sentence means, we must first understand what love is. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said that the word “love” is misunderstood and misused so much. I believe that this is very true especially in today’s world and in my own life.

We tend to overuse the word “love” so much (I love that dress. I love your hair. I love pizza.) that it has lost its true meaning. When I searched Webster’s online dictionary, I found that there were 28 definitions and examples for the word “love” ranging from a warm affection for someone or something to a sexual desire for someone. I think these are the two most commonly accepted definitions of “love” in our world today, which is very sad. Love is so much more than a warm fuzzy feeling and so much more beautiful than a sexual desire for someone.

So what does scripture tell us that love is? I believe that St. Paul describes love best in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous; it does not put on airs; it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is never self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth; Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;”

If this is what love is and God is love, then this is also what God is. God is patient. God is kind. God is merciful. God is not jealous. God does not put on airs. He is not quick to anger. He does not brood over injuries. God rejoices in the truth. God bears all things. God endures all things. God never fails.

This is so different from the so-called love we see in real life. As humans, we are not patient with one another. We are jealous of one another. We are prone to anger and do brood over injuries. The love we seem to have for one another waxes and wanes and is often dependent on the actions of the other person. But God’s love is unconditional.

Throughout my life, I was a people pleaser. I thought that the more I did for people the more they’d like me or the more they’d love me. I felt that my parents only loved me when I was being good. I thought that they stopped loving me when I did wrong, and they had to discipline me. Because I didn’t know the true meaning of love in my human life, I could not understand God’s unconditional love. I felt that I had to earn God’s love by doing good deeds. I thought that He’d love me more, the better I was and the more I did for Him. I spent a good part of my early adulthood trying to “buy” God’s love or to make Him love me more. But there is nothing that we can do to make Him love us more than He does right now, and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us any less than He does right now.

As hard as it is to understand that God’s love is unconditional and unchanging, it may be harder to comprehend that His love is eternal and everlasting. Our human minds cannot comprehend what eternity is. People say to imagine a line going on forever and ever without stopping. Or to look at the sky that s endless, but even those in our minds seem to have a stopping point or a border somewhere. Here on Earth, everything seems to have a beginning and an end. But God’s love has no beginning. Scripture tells us in several places that He knew us even before He created us in our mother’s womb and that He destined us for love even before He laid the foundation of the world. There has never been a time when God did not love us.

Just as His love had no beginning, it has no end. It will last forever. It will never fade away. We see so much divorce in our world that we find it hard to believe in an unending, everlasting love that endures all things with patience. But in Psalms 118 and 136 the words “God’s love endures forever,” is repeated over and over. And God tells Jeremiah, “ I have loved you with an everlasting love.” And He told Isaiah in chapter 54, verse 10, “Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, My love shall never leave you.”

Although, it may be hard for us as humans to understand this kind of unconditional, eternal, and everlasting love, it is ours. It is given to us freely. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that God created us out of His love and that His Love was written on our hearts from the beginning of time. He created us for no other purpose than to share in His love. This Love is waiting to be embraced. It is waiting to be accepted. It is waiting to be returned.

*********************************************************************************
UPDATE:

I recently gave this "God is Love" talk to the faculty of Holy Rosary High School on Camguin Island here in the Philippines.  After the giving the original talk (above), I discussed how each one of us as baptized Christians are called to reflect God's love, to share God's love, and to love as Christ first loved us.

I had read a post on Facebook a few weeks ago about a mother who had her daughter replace the word "love" in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 with her boyfriend's name as a test to see if he was truly "the one."  I recalled this post a few hours before I was to give my talk and decided to challenge the teachers was to replace the word "love" in that verse with their own name as they thought about their relationship with their students and fellow teachers.

I challenged them to something I had not yet done myself until that very moment when it came out of my mouth.  "Wow" is all I can say!  It was truly an eye opening exercise.  I couldn't get past the first one without wanting to run to Jesus in the confessional!  It has taken me several times to get throught the entire passage using my own name.  Boy, do I have a lot of work to do!

I challenge you to do this, but only when you have quite a bit of time and a lot of Kleenex on hand.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What is In-take Anyway?

In-take is what Family Missions Company calls its 3-month training program that all new missionaries must go through in order to be sent out into the world to proclaim the Gospel.  It's a time to make sure that the missionaries not only understand the Gospel they are to preach, but believe in it and live it to the fullest.  During this training, we live in community: sharing meals, studying, praying, reading God's Word, and serving in the local area.  Basically, we are doing what the Apostles and the early Christians did to grow in holiness and become more faithful to the teachings of Christ.

Each morning all 50+ of us get up and head over to the community house aka the Big House for breakfast about 8 am.  We begin with a song followed by the blessing of the food.  After breakfast, we have morning prayer in the Big House.  We begin with praise and worship and then pray the Liturgy of the Hours as a community and later divide up into smaller groups for personal sharing and prayer intentions in which we pray for all of you and your needs.  Following morning prayer, we alternate between two "classes".  One is called Si SeƱor and the other is a teaching workshop.  

During Si Senor, we are learning the "ins and outs" of being foreign missionaries.  We are learning about what is required of us not only through scripture and Church documents, but also through the experiences of the Summers family.  For the teaching workshops, we are broken into two groups and are learning how to give different kinds of talks and teachings.  We have all given our first talk which was our own personal conversion story.  We were very blessed to be able to hear how God first began to work in each of our lives eventually leading us all to In-take 2013.

About noon, we get a little break before gathering back for lunch.  This is usually when we check back in on the kids if they weren't with us during the morning session.  We all gather back at the Big House for lunch which also begins with song and prayer.  After lunch, we gather for our afternoon session.  Again, alternating between two different sessions.  We are studying the Acts of the Apostles and Mission of the Redeemer by Pope John Paul II.  Both of these lay out the "job" of lay missionaries.

After lunch study is chore time.  I know many of you moms were thinking, "Who does all the cooking, cleaning, washing, etc. for 50+ people?"  Well, we all pitch in.  We have chore teams that take turns with the cooking and dishes for each meal, but we also all have personal chores that we do each day.  Some of us clean different areas of Big Woods and/or the Big House.  Some of us are in charge of yard work.  Some work in the office.  Everything is divided up, so even though there is a lot to do, it all gets done pretty quickly with such a large crew.  My job is entering new benefactors into our database and updating previous donor's info, helping to promote our upcoming Proclaim 2013 conference, and helping with grant research. Travis is the trash man and helps keep the grounds mowed.

Once our individual chores are done, we have time to rest and/or study until dinner time.  This is usually when we meet back with the kids to finish up school or do our own homework.  Yes, we have homework too!  On Tuesday afternoons and some Thursday afternoons, we all go to daily Mass down the road.  Then meet back at the Big House about 6:00 for dinner.  After dinner, we have various evening activities:  men's and women's bible studies, community leisure night, game night, praise and worship night, etc.  Lots of fellowship time!

On Wednesday nights, we have "Mission Formation" which is a potluck prayer meeting that is open to anyone.  We'd love to have you join us one Wednesday evening. It is held at Our Lady of the Bayou Retreat Center on Henry Street in Abbeville at 6:30 pm.  We share a meal, listen to reports from the mission field, share anything that God has been doing in our lives, and pray for one another.  Sometimes a missionary or two will share a testimony or teaching.  I was asked to share mine last Wednesday and was so blessed when I began to recall how God had changed me from the selfish, wordly women I was to the submissive, God fearing woman I am today.  (Click here to receive reminders and more information about Mission Formation and other FMC events.)

Thursday is probably my favorite day of the week!  It's ministry day, and we get to spend the entire day together as a family.  Our family, along with the other three families and four of the singles, accompany Mr. Frank, our founder, to one of the local nursing homes for a rosary and communion service.  We have always loved visiting the nursing homes back home and really felt that God had hand picked this ministry for our family.  After the nursing home, we break up into smaller teams and visit some of the homebound from the parish.  Our family visits a beautiful lady that recently had a stroke.  She can't communicate much with us, but I know that she loves seeing the kids each Thursday.

We return to Big Woods for a quick lunch and meet back up with the rest of our ministry team.  After regrouping, we head out to a local trailer park for some door to door ministry.  One of the other teams ministers at the "soup kitchen" in Lafayette while another ministers at a different nursing home here in Abbeville.  Thursday night is family night which means that we don't have a community meal.  We usually take the kids out for a bite to eat and then come home for family movie night or family game night.  

Saturday is Work Day/Desert Day/Lord's Day.  All are welcome to join us on Saturday.  Just call the office and let them know you're coming!  We tackle some the "big" projects our here at Big Woods or for someone in the local community in need that can't be done during the week (carpentry, plumbing, electric, painting, etc).  After lunch, we have what is called Desert Day.  Everyone spends the afternoon in the outdoors in prayer with God.  We take our bibles, journals, prayer books, and bug spray, and then we find a nice quiet place to spend with God in His creation.  Saturday night is our Lord's Day dinner.  We get dressed up and celebrate the arrival of the Sabbath with a small ceremonial meal similar to a Seder meal---song, scripture, prayer, candles, bread, and wine (aka sparkling grape juice).  Afterwards, we usually have community game night where there are usually several board games going on at once all over the Big House.  

Sunday is our free day!  We attend Mass and then have the rest of the day to rest, call home, and waste our two hours of personal Internet usage scrolling through a week's worth of Facebook statuses and junk email.  We are allowed to leave and have lunch/dinner with family and friends IF all other In-takers are invited.  So, who wants to have all 37 of us over for Sunday lunch? ;)

For the most part community life is awesome, but like with all families it can be difficult and burdensome at times to live so closely with others.  The reality is beginning to set in for many of us as the newness and excitement wear off.  Anxiety levels are beginning to rise, and of course, Satan is constantly trying to swoop in and use that against us.  But the power of so many people seeking holiness through Christ is so much greater than all the trials he keeps sending our way.

We are growing our patience as our pride begins to die.  We are feeding off of each other's wisdom and starving our own arrogance.  We are learning humility as we learn to give of ourselves completely and totally for the good of the community.  Please continue to pray for all of us as we learn to totally die to self and give Christ our everything.



Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Not About the Shoes (or the Notes)

A few months ago, I got a phone call that I was unavailable to answer. When I saw the missed caller's name on my phone, my heart sank because I had a gut feeling about what she was wanting. As I listened to her voicemail, my stomach did a flip flop. Yep, I was right. She was calling to ask me to be the next speaker at our Lake Charles Diocesan Women's Magnificat Breakfast. I laughed and thought how flattering, but "No, thank you!"

I called her back later to let her know that I would have to pray about it before deciding because we just had so much going on in our lives at that moment with the selling of all our possessions, quitting of our jobs, moving, and becoming full time missionaries. I had no intention of praying about it. I just wanted her to think that I had discerned my answer, because that's what "good" Christians do. A week or two (maybe three) went by before I realized while sitting in church waiting for Mass to begin that I hadn't called her back. I decided to call her after Mass and let her know that I just couldn't do it.

Mass began, and I realized it was the Feast of the Visitation. I smiled as I thought about Mary going to visit Elizabeth. I had just been bombarded that week with people frowning upon my love for Our Blessed Mother Mary. It was a confirmation to me that "Yes, Mary is important." Through her "Yes" Christ Our Lord came into this world. I was still thinking of this when the responsorial psalm began. It was from Isaiah, chapter 12, verses 2-6.

 I smiled again as the words, "Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name." We had also been questioned heavily that week about becoming full time missionaries with Family Missions Company. Two confirmations in one Mass; God is always so faithful. I was still thinking about how God always speaks to me at Mass, always letting me know His will and continuing to confirm it at the exact moment I need it.

That's when I heard it...THE Magnificat. Father McMillin was reading from the Gospel of Luke and was reciting Mary's words which we refer to as the Magnificat. At that point, I knew two things: 1) I had to say "Yes" just as Mary did. 2) I knew that He wanted me to speak about doing His will and not my will. So, after Mass I reluctantly called and accepted the invitation and then put it out of my mind for a few months.

One day, I realized it had crept up on me. I began to panic. I couldn't do it. I couldn't follow all the wonderful ladies that had spoken before me and been such an inspiration to me. I was just a regular person, ones who struggles everyday to be a kind, loving, generous, faithful, joyful, patient wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, Christian. "Why me?" was what I continued to ask myself. "Why not all these other ladies who have it all figured out?"

I sat down a hundred times to write out my talk. I can write blogs all day long, but knowing that I was going actually be saying these words out loud to people I knew, I couldn't write anything. I kept thinking about who would be there. I imagined what they think about me if I said this or that. I thought about how they would judge me for having done this or that. Or how they might laugh at or make fun of me afterwards in their "cliques." (I know how Jr. High of me! But I was terrified.)

I then panicked even more when I realized that I had sold all of my "good" dresses and clothes at our last garage sale. It would give them even more to talk about afterwards if I showed up in my one dingy dress and flip flops. (Yes, it was junior high and high school all over again!) I suddenly lost all the confidence I had gained over the last ten years about my appearance, height, style, etc. It was crazy!

So, the search began for a new dress and shoes. I am 4 foot, 8 inches and wear a little girls size 2 1/2 shoe. Try finding a dress and shoes my size without butterflies, hearts, or peace signs! It's not easy! I searched and searched several towns and numerous stores. My new worry over the clothes took the place of worrying about the actual speech I was going to be giving in two days. Finally, after driving home from a day of shoe shopping, I was really upset with God for not answering my plea for the perfect pair of shoes to match the dress I had finally found, when I heard Him say, "It's not about the shoes."

Whoa! I always wanted to hear His voice like others have claimed to have heard, and I finally do, and its about shoes! I just laughed at myself thinking about how silly I had become over the dress and shoes especially when I hadn't even prepared the actual talk yet.  I looked up and said, "OK, I get it!"

Once again, I sat down at the computer and typed and typed and deleted and deleted. I was so certain about what God had wanted me to talk about in the beginning, but as I sat down to plan it all out I keep second guessing what it was that God had wanted me to share. Satan has a way of getting into your head and messing with you when he knows God has big plans for you. Finally, I gave up and begged my community to pray for me and over me.

With one day left, I poured my heart out onto the pages and didn't look back. I typed and typed and typed just letting the Holy Spirit guide me and praying that it would all make sense the next day since I was not going to have time to proofread and edit it before the next morning. Actually, I didn't get to finish it before it was time to leave for Jennings, but knew that I could "wing" the ending about our call to missions since I had told it numerous times lately. No worries!

The morning of the talk I went down to the hotel business center to print out my unfinished talk only to find that the printers didn't work. I laughed thinking about how Satan was so determined to keep me from sharing my testimony. No worries! I emailed my talk to a friend and called her to print it out and bring it to me. And off I went to the breakfast without a computer or any notes leaving my husband standing in the hotel parking lot panicking enough for the both of us.

My friend arrived at the breakfast with a folder in hand. She opened it to show me this document that was printed in a microscopic size font. I laughed. I had sent it to her in a Word document in a size 16 font and double spaced for easy reading. It was printed in a size 8 font and had very little spacing between words much less between each line. I continued to laugh, knowing that this was part of my growing as a missionary for Christ.

I had questioned God many times about how I was going to be able to preach the Gospel in other nations. I had been told by numerous people, "God will give you the words. Just TRUST HIM." I knew this was a test. I knew that this was part of His plan for me. I knew that I just had to trust Him to give me the words that He wanted me to use. I got up on that podium and gave my testimony (over an hour long) without any notes and without new fancy shoes!



Thursday, August 1, 2013

My First Interview

About a month ago, I received an email from Stephanie Shick, A Dreamer's Wife.  She had stumbled upon my blog and wanted to "Spotlight" my blog on hers.  It sounded great at first.  Then I read what that meant---an interview.  I laughed at first and thought "Interview me?"  That was crazy.  Why would anyone want to interview me?  We hadn't even done anything yet.  We are still just sitting and waiting for our life as missionaries to begin.  What could she possibly want to ask me?

Then I panicked and closed the email without fully reading it.  I was worried that this might be a phone interview where I'd have to come up with answers on the spot and would sound so dumb. Or worse; it might be a video interview where I'd have to be on camera coming up with on the spot answers. I'd not only sound dumb with all the "uh, uh, uh", but I'd look dumb too!  Two of the things I hate more than anything---public speaking and cameras!

But I knew that I was going to have to say "Yes" no matter what it entailed.  I had made a decision long ago that I would follow Christ no matter what He asked me to do.  And this was NOT the first time that He had called me out of my comfort zone to do things that I did not want to do.  He had recently been calling me to lots of speaking engagements that I did not want to do.  Each time I was blessed abundantly for my "Yes."

This was just another one of those things that I was just going to have to do no matter how horrible it sounded to me.  So, I opened the email back up to see what I needed to do next and prayed, "Lord, help me to be able to do this and to know what it is that You want me to say." To my relief, Stephanie just wanted to email me some questions! Whew!  Writing! That's what I love to do.  Thank you, Jesus!

Hopefully, many new people will read about Family Missions Company and feel the call to do as Jesus commanded.  "Go and proclaim the Gospel to all nations."

Here's a link to the interviewA Family on a Mission {July’s Dreamer in the Spotlight: Melissa Seilhan}.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

And the Blessings Continue...

In my last post Blessed Beyond Belief, I shared how God had been answering our prayers and blessing us way more than we deserve.  Well, He has not stopped pouring the blessings upon us.  He has continued to show us that this is our family's vocation and that He will take care of our every need.  For those of you still doubting our call to missions or still worried about us, keep reading.  After this, you can't doubt or worry anymore!

Since I last wrote, we were able to sell our car thanks to my dad and his wonderful friends at Gulf Coast Autoplex who offered to buy our car.  We had been trying to sell it for a few weeks with no luck.  We were upside down because the car was new.  We hadn't consulted God about His future plans for us when we bought it two years ago. Lesson learned:  Always consult God before every purchase no matter how big or how small.

After selling the house, we began to pay down the car note with all the extra money we had.  But it didn't seem to be making a big enough dent.  We still had other bills to pay off before Travis's last day of work next month; we desperately needed to get rid of the car note. So, we prayed harder for God to send someone to buy it for a reasonable price that wasn't too far from what we owed.  And as always, God heard our plea and sent the awesome guys at Gulf Coast Autoplex to us to make an unbeatable deal.  

With that huge burden off our shoulders, we could then focus on the other three bills that needed to be paid off before entering Family Missions Company's Intake (missionary training) in September.  We soon realized that we had kept the car for so long that it would be impossible now to be able to pay off the other bills with only a few paychecks left.  So, we planned another bake sale fundraiser at a neighboring parish where we often attended weekday afternoon Masses..  We planned to use that money to help "pay down" that note.  We baked and baked and baked.  And then prayed and prayed and prayed that we would make enough money to put a dent in that loan.  

We were blown away when we counted up the money and realized that we would have enough to pay off the whole loan. The amount we made was almost the exact amount we owed.  It was so crazy!  Only God could have planned and orchestrated that.  First came the tears of joy, and then came the disbelief that God would do this for us---especially after all the poor decisions we've made regarding our finances over the years.  It was almost too good to be true.

With that bill out the way, I sat down once again looking at our finances.  I knew we would be fine while in missions because God had already proven that by the awesome donors and monthly sponsors He had sent our way. I wasn't worried about the "later" anymore, but the "now." We still had two more bills that needed to be taken care of before Travis officially quits his job next month.  I figured out that he would have enough paychecks to pay off one of them, but that there was no way that we'd be able to finish paying off my student loan.  

Yes, I've been out of college for a LONG time, but we had to defer my student loan for a few years back when our youngest was born.  She needed numerous surgeries, and I needed to stay home to care for her.  We were lucky to be able to defer that payment during that difficult time, but now it sat as a big bump in our path to becoming missionaries.  We didn't want to have to defer it again, but I couldn't think of any way to raise that much money in just a month.  Even though the payment wasn't much, we were going to be without an income for the next two years and wouldn't be able to pay even that small amount.

I wondered if we could possibly take it from our monthly missionary stipend once we were in the mission field, but that would either take food from the mouths of our kids or from those we were being sent to help.  We couldn't do that; we'd have to defer it again.  I looked one last time at how much we owed, how much Travis would make these next few weeks, and figured out the amount we would need to raise or have fall out of the sky before Intake.

Then I prayed for God to show me a way to raise this money by September or for the student loan company to grant the deferment when we told them why we needed it.  I knew that it would work out one way or another, God had already shown us numerous times that He could move mountains.  I just didn't realize that He'd take care of this one the next day! 

Before I even had a chance to sit down with Travis and give him the "bad" news, we received a call from the priest at the parish where we had just had the bake sale.  He told us that someone had given him a very generous check after Mass to give to us.  As he revealed the amount of the check, I almost fainted in the driveway.  It was the exact amount that I had just figured out two days ago that we would need to pay off that student loan---the amount that only I knew.  And it wasn't a number that someone would normally donate.  It was a rather "odd" number for someone to pull out of the air.  It was definitely divine intervention.

God is definitely making sure that we know without a doubt that He is calling us into full-time missions.  And most importantly that He has our back!


*** A HUGE thank you to the anonymous donor!  Thank you for listening to and obeying the prompting of the Holy Spirit and being the answer to my prayer!  We are praying that God blesses you a hundredfold for your generosity!






Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Are You Man Enough?


A post by my husband Travis who IS man enough...

      Since becoming a father, my biggest fear has been that my children will fall away from God and the Church.  I know that the best way to teach is by example. Jesus tells us that in John 5:19, when he says, “Amen, Amen I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; For what He does, his son will do also.”  
           
      After reading that verse, I have often worried about whether I’m a good enough example for my kids to follow especially my two teenage boys. I want them to grow up to be “Men of God” not men of this world.   I always felt that there was something else I should be doing to show my boys just what it meant to be a Christian man, a follower of Christ.  I always felt like there had to be more to the Christian life than just going to Mass, saying your prayers, and being a “good” hardworking person.
            
      There is no better place to lead by example than in missions.  I learned this while on a short term mission trip with Family Missions Company in May 2012, and God confirmed it to me on our second mission trip the following November.  Being in Mexico, serving the poor, and bringing the Gospel to them, changed me in many ways, but most importantly, it confirmed the importance of a Father’s example to his children.  

        Seeing those rancho chapels
empty of men and hearing the prayers of the women for their husbands and children, made me see the great need for more men in missions.  Strong Christian men are desperately needed to help lead these lost men back to God, so they can become the Christian leaders for their own families.   As men, we must step up and show the love of Jesus to the world because it is in desperate need of that these days. 

     Think you're man enough?  Watch this video and share it with other men who may be read to step up and be real Christian men.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Blessed Beyond Belief

These past few weeks have flown by.  It seems like just yesterday we were packing up our house to move out to Big Woods. But it's actually been almost three weeks since we left behind our old life and began our new life. Yet, at times it seems as though we've lived out here all our lives.

From the moment I unpacked and set up the house, it has felt like "home."  Yes, I know that your "home" is where your family is and that the location doesn't matter.  But each time we've moved in the past, I felt that sinking homesick feeling in my stomach as I laid in our old bed in our new house at least a few times in those first days or weeks.  Here, I'm laying in a strange bed in a strange house, and haven't had that sinking feeling once. It's very weird to be perfectly happy in a strange place.

I also expected the girls to be in our bed or at least trying to come get in our bed a few times the first week or two until they got used to the new place.  But we tuck them in at night, and they stay put until morning.  I keep waiting for the "homesickness" to begin with someone and then to snowball into a huge family meltdown.  But it hasn't happened.  I know that this is only a "baby" step compared to the move we will be making in January, but it still seems too good to be true, too easy. But it is such a huge blessing!

A huge part of this successful move and transition is all of you!  All of the prayers that you have said for us, all of the encouraging words, notes, text messages, emails, and calls have blessed us so much!  I know that these last few weeks would not have been so easy and the transition so smooth without all the prayers that everyone has been offering up for us and the graces given to us by God through your prayers.  We could definitely feel the prayers and are so blessed to have such a wonderful support team!

We are in awe daily of the generosity that people continue to show to us.  The number of donor/pledge cards that have come back to us is absolutely overwhelming.  Some days I walk back from checking our mailbox at the FMC office in tears and disbelief at the generosity of our friends, family, and even strangers.  It is a huge blessing to have so many awesome people joining our mission "team".  I love watching our prayer list grow each day.  Since there is no way to fully express our gratitude or to ever repay you all, praying for you and your intentions each day helps me feel like I'm able to give something back to you.  I pray that you will be blessed a hundred fold!

The Father's Day Bake Sale that we had at Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church, our home parish, this past weekend was an unbelievable success.  We had so many wonderful friends and family members help us bake.  We had so much stuff that I was a little worried that we wouldn't be able to sell it all, so I prayed that everything would sell while the kids prayed for leftovers. I also prayed that God would allow us to make a couple hundred dollars to help with some of our future expenses.

Once again, the support was amazing!  As our fellow parishioners began to file into the St. Mary's Center after Mass, the baked goods began to quickly disappear. But what blessed us the most was all the hugs, the smiles, the words "We are praying for you," uttered by so many---some we had been close to, some that we had never officially met before, and some that we had never even seen before.  After the Masses, the tables were empty, the money bag was overflowing, and our hearts were bursting.  We are so blessed to be part of such a wonderful parish and community.

This week a wonderful family donated a minivan to us, so that we could sell our car and still have a vehicle to drive.  The car is the last big weight hanging over us.  We desperately need to get rid of the monthly note of the car, but still need to be able to get around at least until In-take (our training) begins in September.  I hitched a ride to Lake Charles yesterday to pick up the van and was once again in awe of how faithful God is to us and our needs.  The owner, a mechanic, began to list all of the things that he had changed or fixed before giving it to us so that we wouldn't need to worry about anything.  He even stopped to put gas in it!  The van is in excellent shape, very clean, and perfect for our family!  Once again, we were blessed way more than we deserve!

God has given us just about everything we have prayed for and has provided for every need thus far and then some.  Each night as I lay in bed and think back over the day, I can't help but think at how crazy all of this is. I never imagined that this journey would be so blessed. We have truly been blessed beyond belief and you will too!  God confirmed that tonight at Mass with the first reading.

June 19, 2013 First Reading:  2 Cor 9:6-11
Brothers and sisters, consider this:
whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.
As it is written:

He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.


The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

You are being enriched in every way for all generosity,
which through us produces thanksgiving to God.

May we all be blessed beyond belief and give thanksgiving to God!

Monday, June 3, 2013

St. Francis House: Our New Home

We have officially moved to Big Woods!  We closed on our house Friday and are now all settled in at our first "mission" house.  The kids and I participated in the community morning prayer this morning while Travis went off to work.  The girls and I helped out in the office answering the phone and stuffing envelopes while the boys went scouting the property.  Thanks for all the prayers for a smooth transition!  It has been great so far!

Here's a few shots of our house and some of the other community houses here at Big Woods Mission.


St. Francis House:  Our New Home


Living Room

Main Kitchen





Boys' Room/Music Room/School Room




Girls' Room/Laundry Room





Back Apartment/Master Bed & Bath
Travis & Melissa's Room
2nd Kitchen



St. Michael House



St. Paul's House

Community Playground



Family Missions Company's Office

The Community House aka The Big House



Beautiful Horses

Fishing/Swimming Pond

Baby Gator in the Pond

Beautiful View


Monday, May 13, 2013

Seilhan Family Missions Update

Selling, cleaning, and packing.  That's what we have been doing for the past two weeks.  Almost everything is sold and just waiting to be picked up this week.  The house is beginning to echo which the kids think is kind of cool.  We all still have beds for now, but the kids are very anxious for them to be picked up this week, so that they can sleep on the floors.  If we'd have known they preferred a sleeping bag or mattress on the floor to a bed, we could have saved a lot of money a few years ago!

We are waiting on the final word from the Mortgage company and for the title work on the house to be completed, so that we can close in the next few weeks.  Our tentative move date is May 25th.  We'd like to be settled at Big Woods before Family Missions Company's "Come and See" which begins on June 5th.  Anyone interested in seeing and learning about mission life? "Come and See!"

With all the "craziness" going on here, I do not have the time to blog weekly about our journey like I promised.  But we did create a Facebook page just for our mission work.  It's easier to post a quick status update than to sit down and type up an entire blog post.  If any of you are on Facebook and would like to follow us there for more timely updates, you can click here and then "LIKE" Seilhan Family Missions page.  https://www.facebook.com/SeilhanFamilyMissions

Again, we are truly grateful to all of our friends, family, community, and those of we from afar that we do not know, for all of your support and prayers!  Please continue to pray for us as we get closer to actually leaving everything behind.  And know that we pray for all of you daily.

The Seilhans