Tuesday, March 29, 2011

a harsh realization...

Greetings! Once again, the lack of computer has caused a lack in postings. Bear with me.

As most of you know, Tim and I have been on a media fast since the Philippines....we felt a strong call to enter a bubble in which to shelter our minds and spirits from movies, TV, magazines, and even the news. We hear updates on the world's trials through family, church and the occasional e-mail....our media input has been limited to Buzz Lightyear, Dora and Veggie Tales for the last 6 months. Gotta love living with a toddler!

To be blunt, we have thoroughly enjoyed our fast from all things media (with the exception of e-mail and skype in which to communicate with friends and family). Instead of ending our day with television, we end our day being relational with each other. We read stories with Promise and then read devotionals to each other....followed by some FABULOUS intimate times....you can fill in the blanks. :)

With the many trials we have been experiencing ourselves, we have felt it necessary to focus intently on Christ...it has been too easy to get distracted in the past. Our focal point being Philippians 4:8 -
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

We have also been trying to spend more time listening to worship music instead of our previous diet of Dave Matthews. It has challenged us enormously to moment-by-moment abide in Christ...our spirits so valuable that even a moment breathed without Christ can lead to destruction. I have come face to face with my vast need for Christ. Without Him, I am and can do nothing.

So, Tim and I watched a recommended movie last night. There was only one slight fleshy bit and mild language. Rated PG. It was a suspense thriller type...the kind Tim and I used to watch quite frequently. I watched feeling my anxiety level rising, my heart sinking and my spirit aching for sanctuary. We call this "being entertained". Whoa. I got a heart check.

I realized just how NOT READY I am to consume media as entertainment. Surrounded by a somewhat "peace" as a result of not having outside influence through TV, movies, news and such, I have been so full of joy...but my anxiety levels sky rocketed while watching this 2 hour movie and I almost started crying.

I realized what an incredible blessing it has been to starve myself of emotions brought on by pointless "entertainment"! How is it entertainment when I feel anxious about a completely fictional story? How is it enjoyable to be distracted by someone else's pain, crime or situation? What have I or "we" become as humans that we thrive on being entertained by lifestyles we cannot attain or other people's pain? I was totally humbled and completely wrecked. I am not ready to leave my protective bubble created after my world was destroyed. And I think it's okay.

Anyways, I am not judging people who DO watch for entertainment, but I know for me, I just cannot do it anymore. I didn't sleep well last night. With the world TRULY experiencing such pains as the earthquake in Japan and the recklessness of sin, how can I sit and watch it for entertainment? I am making a mockery of those whose REAL lives are so greatly affected by such humanity.

What if we all stopped watching TV and movies? Would we all be moved so deeply by people's actual lot in life that we would become more compassionate and more helpful in their plight? I dunno. Perhaps that's where I am at right now.

"Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours. "
Be blessed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tearing down walls

So we are still settling here in Abbotsford. This coming week, we will be knocking down our living room/kitchen wall to connect our bedroom to the rest of the basement suite while expanding the kitchen a bit. This is pretty exciting because this tiny kitchen is in desperate need of cupboard space and the wall coming down will help. :)

Other walls are coming down, too. Walls of miscommunication that have grown over 9 years of marriage between Tim and me are beginning to crumble. Walls of fear and insecurity are slowly coming apart, too. Tim and I are realizing just how weak and unstable our foundations have been and how hard they are tumbling down. We are so grateful we serve a God of restoration.

Speaking of restoration, we are excited for tomorrow evening. We were connected with a couple in their 80s at our church who have a ministry mentoring couples. Tomorrow night, we have the privilege of meeting with them while my dear friend, Arnica, babysits. I cannot begin to tell you what an incredible blessing it is that they are willing to meet us and how amazing it is that God even provided Arnica to watch our kids.

We had a interesting week regarding restoration. One of our dearest friends, whom you have read about on here, I am sure, came all the way from Ontario via New Zealand to visit us. Aunt Sylvia, of the famous Uncle Bob and Aunt Sylvia, stayed with us for a few days just to BE with us. Her presence was deep deep refreshment for our spirits.

This was the first time we had seen her since the death of Uncle Bob, so it was a time to share each other's grief, but also share the wonderful memories we had together. You see, Uncle Bob and Aunt Sylvia were our precious mentors, but even more than mentors, they were our spiritual parents....our dearest friends. Uncle Bob passed away suddenly when we were in the Philippines, and I can honestly say, his absence has been incredibly painful.

However, having Aunt Sylvia here seemed so comfortable....even without her other half, she was whole. And she wholly devoted herself to blessing us. She held the kids while I got work done around the house, she helped with chores, she did laundry, cooked, played cards, made espresso and encouraged us. She walked through our house with us praying over each room for the Holy Spirit to take over and cried with me as I shared Tim and my current journey. We had an amazing time of dedicating our new home to Jesus. I needed that time with her. God knew that and I am so grateful she came.

Sorry this post is so scattered, I am busy listening to my tantrumming Promise in the bath tub and Tim trying to explain to her that it's almost time to get out of the tub and stop playing "hi-one" (basically playing dolls with Little People). I love my family.

Promise continues to astound me. Though she has reached the TERRIBLE part of the 'terrible twos', she is so very smart and creative. Her giggles and silly songs make every tantrum worth it. While I cannot seem to get her to eat anything but cheese, yogurt, bread, pesto pasta and chicken nuggets, she LOVES to cook and help with all the daily chores.....though I have to follow behind her cleaning up her cleaning. :)

She often talks of Jesus and believes with all her heart that He lives inside of her. She talks to him everyday. We also do a Bible study together that she gets from her children's church every Sunday. She asks if we can go to church almost every morning. I love that she is loving Jesus. She even thought the furniture delivery guy with the long curly hair and dark beard was Jesus and was so very excited he had come to bring Grandma Christina a table. :)

Toby just cut his first tooth and still explodes from his southern orifice greater than anything I have ever known (this coming from a midwife!). He loves to wrestle and is already fitting into 12-18 month clothing at just 8 months. He is so cuddly and sweet. He is saying "Da-Da" lots now and has learned to fart with his lips, which he is so very proud of. While he still cannot crawl, he is RUNNING after Promise in his mind.....his eyes are always following her and you can see he is just itching to get up!

I guess I should stop writing now. Anybody reading this anyways?
So that's what God has been up to the last two weeks in the Stewart home in Abbotsford.
We are clinging to Haggai 2:6-9....the passage God has given us for this season at home.
Be blessed. I will make sure there are pictures in the next post.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Newsletter and news

Sorry about the last post....or lack thereof. It was supposed to tell you that we were moving, but my computer broke and because Tim takes his to work everyday, I have to quickly check e-mail and blog on Tim's iPad before Promise gets wind of it. However, the iPad doesn't do blogger. Sadness. So all you got was a title. Sorry.

So I am currently writing on Tim's computer....in our new home in Abbotsford. :) Our basement suite has quickly transformed from an empty 3 bedroom 1.5 bath stranger's place to a homey, busy, and bright toddler land....complete with a very happy Promise and a giddy Toby. They love their new home....as do I. It's the perfect size for us and with upcoming renovations to the kitchen, it will be quite nice.

While the transition has been tough, we're excited for the future here in Abbotsford. I met with the women's pastor from our new church today and she seems very eager to connect me with a mentor and get me involved in the women's groups. I am so excited to see how the Lord provides community here.

Tim wrote a brief newsletter to play a bit of catch up....Complete with pics from our new home.
Here it is:

Bethany and I returned to Canada near the end of 2010 after having spent three and a half years in the Philippines. During those years we gained a deeper understanding of God's grace than we could have ever imagined. As I look back at our time in the Philippines, I am astonished by what the Lord accomplished through us. It is so humbling to see how He can use us despite our weaknesses.

When we arrived in the Philippines in July of 2007, Bethany had never delivered a baby, I had never seen a water filter, and we were without children. By the time we left, Bethany had delivered 80 babies and was a registered midwife, we had seen the distribution of 4000 filters, and we were the proud parents of two beautiful children, Promise and Toby.

God is so good. And my wife is amazing.

We have withstood the reverse culture shock that returning missionaries face, and have begun to re-prioritize our lives. This will be a season for building up our family and seeking the Lord for restoration and refreshment.

We have just moved to Abbotsford and are living in the basement suite of my parent’s new home. After living on the other side of the world, we are looking forward to being close to family. Promise and Toby will be near all of their Stewart cousins and of course their grandparents will be just upstairs.

The move to Abbotsford has led us to search for a new church. For the last seven years our home/sending church has been Life Center Community Church in Vancouver, and while we will forever feel at home there, we will simply be too far away to attend regularly. We feel very strongly like the Lord has directed us to Northview Community Church in Abbotsford. We look forward to getting plugged in to their various programs for children and adults.

God’s provision never ceases to amaze me. Shortly before we left the Philippines, our water project was adopted by a Vancouver organization called WOW Ventures. They have committed to assisting us as we attempt to develop a sustainable business model. At the beginning of January, WOW sent Daniel Anggara to Davao to take my place as the new CEO of Impact Nations Philippines Inc.

In partnership with WOW Ventures, I will continue my work with Impact Nations through to the end of May. I continue to serve the water filter business in the Philippines as a technical advisor and sales consultant. I’m also working to raise awareness for clean water initiatives and other Impact Nations projects.

Bethany is looking forward to a season of home building. She will spend time with the kids and set up our new home, making it a space we can call our own. She is currently looking for ways to keep her midwifery skills sharp so that she is ready to serve the poor in the developing world when the time comes.

Promise and Toby are doing great and have adjusted well to life in Canada. Promise is now two-and-a-half and loves to spend time with her cousins. She is also really enjoying the Sunday school program at the new church. At seven months, Toby is a big healthy boy who lights up any time his mother walks into the room.

Many have asked us how long we will be in Canada and whether we will one day return to a less developed country. We can honestly say that we have no idea what the Lord has in store for us. We do know that we will follow Him to the ends of the earth, but we believe we are right where He wants us right now.

Let me conclude by saying thank you. We have had an incredible team of supporters throughout the last several years. I don’t know how we could have done it without you. I cannot express how much we have appreciated your prayers and continued financial support.

If you have been giving on an ongoing basis and would like to continue, your gifts are certainly welcome. As mentioned, Impact Nations continues to pay me a salary for the work that I am currently doing, both on the Philippines water and other projects. Your gifts make a big difference. Alternatively, you may wish to contribute to a specific project that Impact Nations is spearheading.

We would love to hear from you. The best way to reach us is either by email or by phone. We look forward to catching up with you soon.

In His Service,

Tim & Bethany Stewart