Happy Birthday, Dear Jovelle

Five Years Old

Please, everybody, look at me!
Today I’m five years old, you see!
And after this, I won’t be four,
Not ever, ever any more!
I won’t be three – or two – or one.
For that was when I’d first begun.
Now I’ll be five a while, and then
I’ll soon be something else again!

-Mary Louise Allen



Five.  She’s a sweet-spirited, strong-willed, loving, smart, giving, whining, hammy bundle of energy.  She’s shy but has spunk (as evidenced when she boldly told a 12 year old who was teasing her brother, “Hey!  He’s littler than you!  You’re not supposed to pick on kids littler than you!”), loves learning about Jesus, likes to dance and make up songs and is daring.  I love that she wears stripes with plaid, cowgirl boots with fancy dresses and rainboots to church, and I hope she doesn’t outgrow a sense of style that doesn’t care what others think.


And, oh, the things she says!

This morning, even, before getting to try something new for breakfast…. “I’m so excited to explore the taste of them!”

Random reflections on her name:
Jovelle: “Jovelle doesn’t really sound like a  name. Bob sounds like a name, but Jovelle doesn’t.”
Me: “Oh really?  What does Jovelle sound like?”
Jovelle: “Just a word.”

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Jovelle: “I feel pretty.”
Me: “Oh yeah, why?”
Jovelle: “I just feel how I look, that’s all.”
Me, chuckling:  “Ok, get buckled up, please.”
Jovelle: “Why are you laughing when you say that?”
Me, not wanting her to think I was laughing at her: “Because I love you.”
Jovelle: “Why are you laughing at that?  I thought it was happy when you love someone.”

Me to Judah, who was building with Legos: “Whoa!  Look at that!  What are you building?”
Jovelle: “Just the fanciest thing in the universe.”


Jovelle at bedtime, suddenly talking and reflecting on having taken communion for the first time at church that morning: “It’s not actually Jesus’s body and blood we had.  It’s just crackers and juice.”
Me: “Yes, it’s just supposed to remind us about what Jesus did for us.”
Jovelle, a few minutes later: “It’s a good thing I took communion today because I was starting to forget that Jesus died for me so it’s good I took communion so I could remember.”

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Judah, picking up couch: “Look how strong I am!”
Jovelle, trying unsuccessfully to pick up couch: “Look how light I am!”

Happy birthday, five year old!  Still the cutest birthday girl ever!  😉


This Little One

This guy…. Two. Already.

Seems like so many moons ago….

Likes: bubbles, balls, books, pretending to be a puppy (complete with tongue-hanging-out-panting and crawling, a feat he can keep up for a good thirty minutes without breaking character, even while crawling on cement at Sea World (I mean in theory, cuz what mom would let her kid do that??!)), throwing things in the toilet and trash can (pretty sure we’ve lost half a set of kids cups and silverware to the trash can and many a lego and marble have been bathed in the toilet), milk (“no no”), nap time and bedtime (a miraculous change from the past!!), throwing food from his high chair to signal he’s done or dislikes something, giving kisses, food

Dislikes: being left out of things Judah and Jovelle are doing, vegetables (as a general rule), characters in costumes (I.e. Mickey Mouse, Chuck E. Cheese, etc.)

In general Josiah is really good natured and almost always smiling, but he’s got quite the stubborn streak as well.  He’s quite snuggly and very expressive.  And cute. Did the very objective mother mention cute?!

Happy birthday, little one!

One Year

It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since I got a phone call that my spiritual mentor, my second mom, my best friend’s mom was gone.  Some of you have heard me talk about her (and talk about her and talk about her….  😉  ) and probably only know her as “Mrs. Nilsa,” but oh, what an amazing woman of God she was.  Even in the midst of fighting cancer, she had such strength, courage, conviction and faith.  I remember a conversation with her not long before she passed away when I was really struggling with the idea of pain and suffering in general, but also with her cancer.  She looked so peaceful as she told me that she wasn’t angry, she wasn’t struggling as much as I thought she should be because “I know my God, and I know His character and who He is.”


Truth be told, I still struggle with it, but often when I think of Mrs. Nilsa and the dignity and faith with which she walked through her journey, I am humbled and moved out of my own self.  This is just one of many gifts Mrs. Nilsa gave me, one of many legacies she left and things she taught me.


To list them all would be impossible, but here are a few….

  • She taught me grace.  She reminded me time and time again – not merely with her words but with the grace she poured out on me and the kids – to give the kids more grace than I often do.  She looked at them with such kindness and love, and they felt that.  They knew they were loved.  And she always had dessert and chocolate to offer them, so that didn’t hurt.  😉

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  • She was a prayer warrior.  Even when some things got too tiring for her to do, she never. stopped. praying.  In fact, she told me once that most of her time was spent reading and praying.  How I long to be such a faith filled prayer warrior!
  • She loved well.  She loved her family and her friends, and oh how she loved her God!  She was one of those people that made you think you were her favorite person in the world – only to find out that everyone else thought that too!  She genuinely cared about you and often would turn the conversation to you even when you tried to make it about her!
Mrs. Nilsa was a tricker!  ;)  That wheelchair was supposed to be for her, but when we turned around she was popping Jovelle in it and pushing her around!

Mrs. Nilsa was a tricker! 😉 That wheelchair was supposed to be for her at Disney, but when we turned around she was popping Jovelle in it and pushing her around!

When we were in Nigeria, I read something about personalizing Scriptures for people, and so I mailed Mrs. Nilsa a personalization of Proverbs 31, which I had the privilege of also sharing at her memorial service.

Proverbs 31: The Remix, for Mrs. Nilsa

A woman of noble character, who can find?

She is worth far more than diamonds

or even chocolate chips in Nigeria.

Marty has full confidence in her

and lacks nothing in value.

She brings him good, not harm,

all the days of her life.

She works with eager hands.

She is like the Publix semi-trucks,

bringing her food from afar –

or at least sending it afar

in packages stuffed with goodies,

sweet treats from home for the blessed receivers.

She gets up while it is still night

(night owl that she is!);

she provides food for her family –

delicious variety, ethnic experiments,

all cooked with love and sacrifice –

and portions for her friends

and the occasional church youth group.

She considers before she buys

to make sure she gets the best deal –

and her garage is stocked to prove it.

She sets about her work vigorously;

even when her arms are not strong for her tasks,

she somehow leans on Him

and perseveres….

But she is also strong enough now to admit

when she can’t do it alone.

She accepts help graciously

and shows her gratitude with an offering

that is worth far more than the money she saves:

on bended knee, her prayers

sweet smelling incense before her Heavenly King.

Her lamp does not go out at night,

for it is often in the darkness and solitude

that she cries out:

prayers of gratitude, thanksgiving, praise,

salvation, healing, forgiveness, intercession….

In her hand she holds her Bible

and grasps it with her heart, too.

She opens her arms – and her home – to the lonely,

the misunderstood, the teenagers, the lost,

the ones that society calls “misfits,”

the patients with whom she shares a waiting room,

the high school girl looking for answers

(now a mom still looking for answers)

and finding them in the dark of night

in the patient responses and questions

of the mom of a friend

(now a friend herself)

who was willing to listen and point her to

the One True Answer….

She extends her hands to them all….

When it is sweltering outside

she has no fear for her household,

for the AC is set to freezing.

Too freezing.   😉

She is clothed in fine linen and purple

(or at least she was before she told the Red Hat Ladies

exactly where her priorities are).

Her husband is respected at the church and at work,

where he takes his seat among the elders of the (Disney)land.

She is clothed with strength and dignity,

even when she might wonder if sickness

has taken her dignity away.

(It has not.)

She can laugh at the days to come,

even when the days are uncertain,

and her laugh can make you laugh, too.

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue,

even when the phone connection

isn’t too clear from overseas.

She offers advice – prayerful, thoughtful advice –

when asked and mentors those blessed enough to be in her life.

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness

(In fact, she eats hardly any bread or carbs these days –

though she likes them – a testament to her willpower.)

Tammy and Sharli, her children –

and her children’s friends! –

rise and call her blessed.

Marty also, and he praises her:

“Many women do noble things, but you, Nilsa, surpass them all.”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting –

though her beauty doesn’t seem to fade

because it comes from a joy deep within –

but Mrs. Nilsa, who fears the Lord, is to be praised.

Honor her for all that her hands have done,

and let her works,

the meals she has cooked,

the packages she has mailed,

the friends she has made,

the family she has raised,

the teenagers to whom she has listened,

the people she has brought before the throne,

bring her praise at the city gate.

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My best friend wrote the other day that “grief is a circular staircase.”  There are days when things feel okay, and there are days when the loss of my dear mentor and friend – from whom I still had so much to learn and am even still learning from in many ways – is just as raw as when it first happened.  And there are days, truth be told, when I play this game where I pretend that we’re still in Nigeria and it’s just a little hard to stay in contact what with the time difference and bad internet so of course things have been silent for a while.

Enjoying one of her favorites, Dole Pineapple Whip, at Disney

Enjoying one of her favorites, Dole Pineapple Whip, at Disney

The pain of losing someone you love just sort of lingers beneath the surface, though, even when it’s not boldly rearing its ugly head.

But there are also those sweet, precious memories, countless memories… of trips to Disney… talking until 3 am… the time when the kids ran around catching dead leaves that whirled around on a blustery day, saying they were for Mrs. Nilsa – who accepted them with a big smile on her face as if they had brought her a bouquet of roses and proclaimed, though it was March, “You brought fall inside to me!  Fall is my favorite season!” – so that to this day they associate fall with her… her voice when she would get angry or frustrated and silently exclaim, “Oh hush puppies!”

And there is the Hope of things to come, too.  I am eternally grateful for the time that Mrs. Nilsa took to pour the Truth of God into me because I know that one day I will join her in eternity, a place where there is no more sadness or sickness or pain or tears, and together we will praise our God.


Doubling Gifts

A few days ago, our remaining commitments needed to start our new assignment seemed daunting.  However, thanks to a partner who wants to see us get started in our new role very soon, we have a special opportunity that we think will push us over our goal by October 1, our anticipated start date.

From now through the end of September, all new commitments (or increased commitments) will be matched up to $750 per month for the first year.  This effectively doubles your monthly, quarterly or annual commitments and gets us into our new assignment twice as fast!

Three new partners have already joined the team in September and another has increased, leaving only $400 per month in new (or increased) commitments that is available to be matched.  Will you help us meet our goal and have your money doubled?  Click here to make your commitment and/or e-mail us to let us know.

(If you received our e-update from last night (you can see it here), you may notice that the remaining need has decreased already!  This is great news, but the match will only be available for another 16 days so if you want in on it, please do so soon.)

He’s Here!

Okay, okay… more like he’s been here for 7 weeks.  😉  It seems that God has us in a season of a lot of changes and transitions (More details coming soon!), but the cuddliest and cutest of all the new things right now is this little guy….


Josiah Benjamin was born on February 4 at 3:33 am.  (Whew!  And I thought childbirth in general was tough.  Childbirth in the middle of the night takes on a whole new dimension!  We were really blessed, though, in that labor, from start to finish, was about 5 hours, and by the time he decided he was ready to come, a minute and a half later, there he was!)  He was 8 pounds 9.7 ounces – the biggest by quite a bit of either Judah or Jovelle – and 21 inches.  He had a bit more hair than they did, too, which has resulted in a particularly soft head that I have decided is remarkably stroke-able.  It’s so soft!

Fresh from God!

Fresh from God!

He is also quite cuddly and loves being held, and quite honestly, I love that about him.  Judah always liked to be facing out and seeing what was going on in the world, even from a really young age, but this guy, oh he loves being held close and tight.  He is such a sweet little guy… though I must confess that I was pretty shocked when Chris announced, “It’s a boy!”  For some reason, I really thought the baby was a girl; in fact, Chris said when he announced the gender, it was the most alert he’d seen me all night when I sat straight up and yelled, “It’s a BOY!?  What?!”

Josiah means “The Lord heals,” “The Lord supports” or “The Lord saves.”  I’ve always like the person of Josiah in the Bible (See 2 Kings 22-23 for more about him.); I love that he became king at 8 years old and that he was a just ruler who followed God.  In fact, the Bible says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2).  He was also responsible for renewing the covenant between God’s people and God.  When Josiah found the Words of God and realized that they had not been following His commands, Josiah basically kick started a revival: He “renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant” (2 Kings 23:3).  How cool is that?!  Since we work with Bible translation, we find Josiah’s reformation because of his encounter with the Word of God especially moving – it really is such a strong reminder of what can happen when one encounters the living Word and why we believe everyone should have access to it in a language they understand best.


Of course, Josiah wasn’t perfect, but isn’t that true of all of us?  Still, though, the Bible tells us that “neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25).

Our hope and prayer is that our Josiah will follow the ways of the Lord, even from a young age, and turn neither to the right nor the left, even with the pressures of a society trying to redefine right and wrong.   We pray that he will follow the Lord will all his heart, soul and strength, and that he will love the Word of God passionately – and that this love for God and the Bible will give him a passion to want to see others walking with Him.


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Yup, we’re in love!


*Thanks to Tiny Bear Photography for the last picture of Josiah.