Thursday, April 14, 2016

God is on the move

Wednesday night, our family had a fabulous privilege to travel to a sister church in Chester, a few towns over, to share about this Honduras journey that we can't stop talking about lately. We're good friends with the pastor and his family, so obviously it was a nice time to reconnect our families, but it also happened to be the first time our family has been to church since October on a Wednesday evening. (I was anxious about  bedtime and how it would affect behavior and attitudes on Thursday but far more important was our family being present all together for our first real sharing in front of a congregation about these mission hopes and desires.)

These friends were SO welcoming. We of course felt right at home and the girls didn't skip a beat when it came to mingling. 

In the preparation of the presentation, it seemed a bit difficult for J to really be as involved as I was, just because he had never been before so he didn't have much to share. But as he gathered important facts about the country and basic trip itself, I could see him really become overcome with desires to know more. This made my heart so happy!!
We put together a little power point and covered the basics. Then I followed up with a little more history and testimony of my past time in the country and how we feel God moving in our lives to pursue further ministry there. 
Y'all. I can't help but be excited. God IS on the move in our life and in everyone of those that surrounded us last night to pray for us, encourage us, support us, and truly desire to know "why is it that this gal is so passionate?!" 

We've now surpassed the point of being amazed in the Lord's provisions. And when we pray for God to do far beyond more than we can ask or imagine, I guess that's where we find ourselves now. :)

I spoke a little last night about how God's provisions and protection in my life have brought me to a place of praising God (inwardly). But my time in Honduras brought a new facet of Christian living to life: bringing GLORY to God through all things (outwardly). And we couldn't be more pumped to do that. So we praise God and pray that our testimonies would bring glory to him. 
Our verse of encouragement over these last several months has been this:
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all peoples! (Psalm 96:3) So, I won't stop, can't stop, and will not pause from expressing our joy, HOPE and gratitude!!!

It's so encouraging to see others get excited for us and about the upcoming trip. We take every piece of spoken support straight to our hearts and return thanks for it. 
There is a dear lady close to my heart in these last years...she told me the other day she can't help but think of us every time she hears "God is on the Move" by 7th time down. And now when I listen to it, I smile. Not because we said "here I am, send me" but rather because in sharing these pieces of our heart and greatest desires, others are seeing how God truly is on the move. Here, there, and everywhere. And that is the most important thing ever!!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Watching it unfold

The Ghent girls have been so involved in our Honduras trip and seem to carry the same excitement that Jeremy and I have for the week. Everyday for the last few weeks we hear "how many more days til Honduras?" And up until today, we'd respond with some large number, and lost count. But today, an exclamation of "we're just one month away!" Took me by surprise. ONE MONTH. FOUR WEEKS. 28 DAYS. 672 HOURS. It's getting so real! 
11 months ago, upon my return from Tegucigalpa, I longed with such emotion to return to that great city. Not because it was "fun" and not because the fashion and food were affordable. It wasn't because I took a week away from mothering, nor was it because I got a week of "vacation" from teaching. Instead, I was determined to go back because God had stirred up such a desire to do the hard, long, and draining work of ministry with the people in that city. Though part of me was a little skeptical-Jeremy won't be as excited and the trip will fall through. 
My soul was a bit downcast in the months that followed, in the uncertainty of how we would actually get back to Teguc. We began praying for the opportunity, the logistics, the financial responsibility, and the "what happens next?" part. We reached out to our nearest of friends and family and pleaded for their prayers for us on this journey. We sent support letters to a handful of these folks and asked to pray for these specifics:
1. For Jeremy's up to date passport to return in expedited time (without paying expediting fees)
2. To secure financial support for our trip. 
3. To arrange care for the Ghent girls in our absence. 

These three were burdens on our hearts and as we began to share with others that we were pursuing this call, affirmation came flying from every direction. Within a week, over half of the monetary support was delivered in the mail. And by the next week (13 days after applying for the renewal), we received Jeremy's new passport. While we continued to receive support and encouragement for the trip, Gods provisions through his people were confirming our desires. We pleaded even more as we realized arranging care for the girls was going to prove to be more difficult than we had hoped. Our families, though they support us greatly, were unable to assume primary care for the girls over the entirety of the trip. We were discouraged, realizing A. We couldn't go without having secured their care and B. They couldn't go with us this time. 

We asked a few folks, but all doors closed. Until this past week, literally out of nowhere, a couple from the church inquired if we had made arrangements yet, then offered to keep them Sun-Saturday of the trip. Friends, it was as if I heard the trumpets blast and it showered sunshine to blind me!!! They had seen our prayer requests in the church newsletter and had prayed about offering. 

So, now, four weeks out, we are so blown away at how God provides so specifically when you pursue him and does far beyond what we can imagine. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Easter Eggs

From the several years I served on ministry staff after college and before L was born always encouraged me to present the Truths of the gospel in unique ways.  Our Christmas programs weren't descriptive of Santa Claus, and when it came to Easter, no bunny was ever the center of attention.  But somehow, we couldn't move away from the classic egg hunt (not to be confused with an "Easter Egg Hunt").  So, it was more about the Resurrection!!! Resurrection!!! Resurrection!!!! then, a few minutes to grab some eggs.
I lead 80+ sweet preschoolers (ages 2-5) every Monday in chapel, and the Easter story is one of my favorites to share every year! This year, I wanted to do something a little different to span over all of the ages of the children, so I decided to do a shortened version of the classic Resurrection eggs. And, behold, the "bunny" never showed up. This is a great, simple and easy way to remember the basics of the gospel-so adults will benefit too in hearing the message of HOPE. Share this message with as much gusto as you can and as often as you can!!

Gather 6 different colored plastic eggs.  Gather a heart, bandaid, cross, stone, and a butterfly (simple cutouts of the heart, cross and butterfly work well!).  Put one object in the 5 different eggs (the other egg will be empty).  Here is the explanation for each egg.

1. Put the heart in the first egg.
God's love is so big and wide.  He loves each us of us so much, that he created the world and all of the beauty around us for us to enjoy.  His love is for everyone!  (John 3:16)

2. Put the bandaid in the second egg.
Unfortunately, we do things that make God sad all of the time, every day.  It's like we are sad too, because we have boo boos (that's what we use bandaids for anyway, right?!).  God knew that we would need something to heal our boo boos and protects everyday. (Romans 3:23)

3. Put the cross in the third egg.
Because we do those bad things (what we call sins), God had a plan to help us - more than just a bandaid.  He would change the world forever by telling his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross, even those Jesus didn't deserve to die.  He was so perfect and never made God sad.  But, God loved the world so much that he sent Jesus to die for us. (John 3:16; 19:17-18)

4. Put the stone in the fourth egg.
After Jesus' death, the guards took him off the cross and wrapped him in white linens and laid him in a tomb.  Then they rolled a stone, so big and so heavy, at the entrance of the tomb and guards kept watch to make sure no one came near the tomb.  (Matthew 27:59-60)

5. Leave the 5th egg empty.
Three days after Jesus' death, some of his friends were on their way to the tomb to pray.  They were sad that their friend had died in such a horrible way.  But when they arrived, they saw that the stone in front of the tomb had been rolled away.  Concerned, they looked inside and only saw the white linens that wrapped Jesus' body.  Frightened, they heard a voice speak to them from behind "Don't be afraid! He is not here, for he has risen!"  They were so excited to know that Jesus was alive and wanted to tell everyone.  (Matthew 28:5-6)

6. Put the butterfly in the last egg.
It is so sweet that Jesus isn't dead, but now alive!  Because of Jesus' death and that he rose from the dead, we can have new life when we follow Jesus.  When we love Jesus, we become a "new creation", much like how the caterpillar turns into a "new life" as a butterfly.  The Bible tells us that anyone "if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation.  The old has gone, the new is come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)  We can have new life in Christ, because he died for us.

Make this as exciting as you can-aren't you JOYFUL in your new life?!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A return

Dear friends,

It is with great excitement that I share with you, that two months from today, Lord willing, I will return to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, but with Jeremy joining me this time for another week of mercy ministry.  We have been praying for the opportunity since before I even landed on US soil from last year's trip.  God continues to stir our hearts and we are excited to see what is next - for the the immediate future and long term - for our family.  There is so much to accomplish before we leave and we extend our hearts to ask for help; prayerfully and financially.  

As always, a new year can  bring new opportunities, celebrations, achievements, and growth, and for this, we are excited for 2016!  God has been faithful in His provisions and protection over our family and those around us, and in this last year brought great perspective to our ministry as a family.  We are excited to share with you a bit about 2015 and give you insight to what we are looking forward to most in 2016.

Last May, I joined a team of 7 other adults from Tirzah ARP Church and my own church, First ARP Church in Rock Hill, SC for a mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  While there for a week, we served alongside the ministry staff of Manos Extendidas (Extended Hands) in the community of the most populated city in the country.  Alvin and Nelly, missionaries and leaders of the ministry, instructed us each day in the ministries where we would serve, giving background and history of the people we would meet and how we could best share our testimonies in a cross-cultural experience (and in a non-native language)!  Many of you have already heard the stories of meeting people and moments that were life-changing.

We participated in church worship services, visited teenage girls in a detention center, showered mothers of 12-24 hour old newborns in the maternity hospital with blankets, onesies and prayers, played with preschool children in feeding centers, and fed homeless men, women and children in some of the poorest areas of the world.  

And because I could speak Spanish, I had the  opportunity to teach Bible lessons to young children and share the Truth of the Gospel after a church service with a woman addicted to pain pills.  In “Teguc” we were simply the hands and feet of spreading God’s love however we could with whomever we could.  The Lord’s presence was in our coming and our going, everywhere we went.

The landscape of the city was absolutely phenomenal.  One morning before breakfast, I hiked up a mountain behind the Manos Extendidas house and was able to see a breathtaking view of a lesser populated region in the valley.  On that mountain, the Lord brought great encouragement and deepened a desire to serve the people of that neighborhood in a permanent capacity.  Jeremy and I have prayed diligently for the people of  Honduras and for an opportunity to return and serve as partners there, and potentially seek opportunities for how the Lord could use our entire family there in the upcoming years.   These things give us great excitement!

The Lord always keeps His promises.  In just a few short months, Jeremy and I have an opportunity to serve at Manos Extendidas with another team of adults in May.  We are thrilled, but we understand that this opportunity comes with its share of needs.  You can join us and be an integral part of this ministry, too!  First, we seek your prayers.  Pray for us, for safety in travels, for good health, for logistics in caring for M and L in our absence, for the preparation of our mission, for Alvin and Nelly, for the people in Honduras to be receptive to the Good News they hear and love they receive, for positive relational building among other team members, and for language acquisition to continue to grow. All of these things need constant prayer and we would be most grateful if you would become prayer  partners with us before, during, and after our trip.

Because Jeremy and I will both join the mission team this year, there is great financial need as well.  The total cost for both of us will be approximately $2400, but we are grateful for our supportive church that will fund a portion of that cost.  As a couple, we are responsible for raising $1200.  We know God abundantly provides more than we can imagine each day, and reaching this financial need is no exception.   As you commit to praying for us, will you also pray how you may support us financially?  If you feel you could participate in this way, you may send a monetary gift to us before April 1st (via PayPal- or to our church with "Ghent-Honduras" in the memo.  We are so grateful for your support, in any way, and we look forward to “extending your hands” (Manos Extendidas) as we minister to and through the people of   Honduras.

You are such an important part of our family and we are thankful to have supporters to our right and left, in front and behind us.  We will keep you informed about our trip, specific prayer needs as they arise, and our days while we are in Tegucigalpa in May.  You may find Honduras updates here as the weeks continue (  Thank you for serving the body of Christ along with the Ghent family!

Amanda and Jeremy Ghent
c/o First ARP Church
201 East White Street
Rock Hill, SC  29730

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.                        Ephesians 3:20-21

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pinching Pennies

When J and I first got married, every single meal we ate was carefully planned for and prepared, sometimes a week ahead of time and frozen. We were wildly prepared for dinners and flexibility with meals and fairly well on spending. As we got more settled into "life" then life with a child, then life with children, we slacked (who am I kidding...I slacked!!) on meal planning and shopping prudently. Perhaps we were careless, unhealthy, and went out as we desired. But, tough times call for strapping down. Nov-February of each year is always teeth grinding....will there be enough money after we pay last years medical deductible and the start of this years, car insurance, life insurance AND Christmas gifts?!
So in December we committed back to our savvy meal shopping and thoroughly enjoying our meals at home no matter what. And, we tried to keep it simple, since we still have dinner on the table by 5 pm most night. 
We went out to eat on New Year's Eve, and went over 5 weeks before dining out-and even then we paid with those with gift cards!
I quickly discovered a few things:
-we spent less planning for 8 days of meals (an extra just in case we changed our minds) than we did planning for 5 (weekday meals)
- it's easier to spend money on breakfast than any other meal
- we can now effectively spend $40 less than our weekly grocery budget from two years ago (when our little people didn't eat like big people)
- we have about 2.5 weeks worth of dinner meals that we have the freedom to rotate
- we are committed to eating our leftovers as to not waste the prepared meal
- each week has a "splurge item" and it's super fun for the girls and I to choose when we are out shopping (sugary cereal week is probably the most looked forward week each month😂)
- the grocery trip has always been, but even more so now with my opinionated girls, a favorite pastime. We learn so much about our food, reading, people, and "sales"

We took the bill from our last meal out (with just me and J) and compared some prices. We can fix 5-6 dinners (to fed 4-6 people) for the price of one night out. Totally worth it when you're trying to save money!!!

So what do we fix?? These meals cost us between $4-9 a piece (4-6 servings). And we have left overs for lunch or dinner the next day.  Tacos, Chinese chicken w/fried rice (think general tso), crock pot BBQ chicken sandwiches, bow tie chicken pasta w/creamy ranch sauce, turkey tenderloin w/veggies, and some of these warm-fill-you-up meals:
Nana's chicken pot pie
Chicken casserole
Homemade pizza-EVERY WEEK :)
Minestrone soup 
Breakfast is always a winner!!-more elaborate like this, or just a simple casserole. 

So much freedom and fun in being together in this whole strategy! Always up for something new too!

Friday, February 19, 2016

The anniversary

"This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

It's come again, all too soon, another year has past and today we remember the crispness of the air and the beautiful sunshine that came through the clouds while we sat by my mother's bedside in the quiet corner in our home. Where, surrounded by all of the family and a few friends, we witnessed the last breath on earth for that sweet lady. Today marks 7 years since her death and sometimes I wonder if I'm waiting for some large emotional attack to occur at any moment. I almost never know what state I'll be in on this day, but it seems that as the years go on, my poor distraught self disappears more and more. I don't know if that's a sign of "growing up" or what, but I think that's happening a lot lately (ahhhh I'm getting old!)

This month is quite a mix of remembrances- mom's death, the rough three weeks we had 4 years ago when Ludia was born in severe respiratory distress, and another comes to mind=celebrating 16 years of owning my violin. I had to put it in the shop for the first time in 16 years earlier this month and the whole 10 days it was away I was a wreck. That's my outlet and I need to play!!! My parents got it for me as a high school graduation present right before I went to play with the All-state orchestra that year. It was such an expensive stretch for them then and sign a sacrifice. But I think they were well pleased with how it got me through college and practically paid for me to go to school. :)

Mom always loved when I played (but not practiced) and so she had requested earlier on in her treatment that I be there to play happy, uppity music when she finished her last round of radiation. That day at the clinic was filled with so much joy. We thought her tumor would soon be gone and she'd regain hair, strength and life back. 

It seemed to be a miserable 18 months that would follow until the last straw was pulled and she ended up in a hospice bed in the corner of our living room. She was unresponsive for the most part, unable to move and we simply waited around the clock until she would stop breathing. 
Then, I got out my violin, and played for two solid hours. Hymns and melodies from the hymn book on and on and on. I knew she had a few favorites and we had ours, but it was some of the most peaceful two hours we spent just hours before her death. It put us in a state of worship and we'd sing along with the praises of God's faithfulness, his mercy to us, his provisions in our lives, his goodness and his presence always, and the promises he has for us. 
I remember those moments as if they happened minutes ago. They were so real and pure. 
Shouldn't that be like our everyday? Not just in the midst of our sadness (or our joy), but that we would turn to worshipping our Creator of ALL things. 
I think as the years go on, I learn more and more about the compassion of the Father especially when I comb through memories of mom's illness. And it only points to worship and praise. And for that, I'm thankful for the beautiful orchestration of the sickness, death, and healing of an amazing, wonderful woman. 
May today be filled with praise to our Great God. May you be filled with His presence and may his love overflow out of you so that you shower it on your neighbor. 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.””
John 13:34-35 ESV

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Using God's Word to correct and train...part 3 (The application)

You can read the introduction and part 2 for more encouragement before continuing on...

In the book of Matthew, Jesus gives us the same instruction to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with your soul and with all your mind” (22:37).  We do that by reading God’s Word – his true, infallible Word – written to guide us, love us, and save us.  We come to know God by reading His Word.  That “time” looks SO different for all of us – but filling your heart, soul, and mind with the God-breathed words grows strength to love God with all of our might.   So, we start with the Scriptures.  Read them.  As often as you can.  And seek to KNOW God through them. 

Deuteronomy 6 gives a charge to the parents, to us – “teach them diligently to your children” (vs. 7) and even gives parameters of when and how! There you have it folks.  Easy peasy!  But if you keep reading, you uncover that it’s more than that, it’s a lifestyle (change) for us!  When we sit in our houses, when we are walking, when we lie down and when we rise.  So, that encompasses just about all parts of the day, right?  But if we are filling our hearts, soul and mind with the scriptures as we were earlier instructed, shouldn’t teaching our children all parts of the day just naturally occur?  

Perhaps, but for me, “naturally” just didn’t happen until I began to pray for God’s help in guiding my children to knowing the scriptures as well, which would in turn affect their behavior and grow their character.  So this is how we slowly began to start changing the way we ran the ship at our house and allowed God, and His Word, to guide our comings and our goings each day.
11.  1. Be in God’s Word and make it evident.  We wanted our children to see the Bible, know what the Bible is, and know how important it is.  And not only that, but to actually see us READING it, imagine that?!  Sitting on a shelf (or closed on the night stand), it grows dust.  But, with it opened on our counter and being used it’s seen as our sword, every day.  And, the Spirit brings conviction to our own hearts when it’s open and we haven’t taken a peek into it after a while.  Try it.

22. We “wrote them on the doorposts” (Deut. 6:9).  The Word of the Lord should be meditated on day and night (Psalm 19:7), and one of the best ways to claim the promises of God and to remember them was to have them written throughout our house.  I painted a small wall in our kitchen with chalkboard paint so we could write scripture verses that could be memorized by all of us (yes, even my 2 year old at the time!).  I printed out verses that gave me great hope that I had found on and framed them and hung them in places that I would see them multiple times a day.  We have scripture in different rooms in the house and God’s promises written in our walls. There are so many creative ways to post scripture through your home so you can see it each day.  I’ve even heard of people who have built their home with Bible verses written on the lumber they use.  Literally – writing God’s word on the doorposts so that we can begin to hide his word in our hearts.
This is where life and faith get so creative! I LOVE my chalkboard wall and finding lovely fonts that inspire the presentation of God's words written on our walls each week. Here are a few ideas:

33.   We began a family prayer time and using scripture in our prayers.  We stopped using the “now I lay me down to sleep” rote prayer with our littles and began developing a time of prayer before bed that included our girls so they would learn, by example, how to praise God for his goodness, how to thank Jesus for his death on the cross, and how to pray for those in need.  We pray God’s Word with confidence and ask for our own faith in His daily abundant provisions.  They all take part in this time of corporate prayer and are learning how to pray God’s word, too.  As they have gotten older (now 5.5 and 4), they have no fear in “praying to God” at all times (Ephesians 6:18).
44.   We use scripture to rebuke AND praise our children.  All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16).  This can be one of the hardest, most difficult things to do and to do with consistency.  But when it’s done, there is such reward.  But before we could start doing this, we had to maneuver through (and still do) reading, writing, and praying God’s word.  By doing those things, the Lord has orchestrated a respect for His word and teaching that we all value as a family.  So when we fall short in obedience and are able to use God’s word as our ultimate source of correction, we straighten up and are speechless for argument.    We can turn in repentance and even find teachable moments for gospel truths.   When our children are kind to one another or display love to others, we praise them in the same manner and use God’s word to encourage them forward.  We as parents continue to pray that God will guide us through the trenches and over the mountains in this way over the coming days and years ahead (because we all know the trenches will still be there!). 

55. It isn’t always just enough to use the scripture.  We try to take the time to address the behavior, speak the appropriate Truth, and correct it with an active apology, and a time of prayer.  If necessary to give consequences, whatever they may be, it’s been helpful for our children to have warning of the consequence and to see how the consequence matches their poor choice in behavior.   Whatever the situation may be, when it’s covered by the Spirit and prayed over with God’s word, we all seem to walk away having grown and matured toward obedience…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).  Isn't that the end goal of each day, all the more as we see THE DAY approaching?

Just yesterday, M (my oldest, and always the most stubborn!) had difficulties listening to my instructions the first time...and even after the stern deliverance of them the third time, she looked me in the eye, and disobeyed anyway "because she wanted to help."  In my busyness to prepare dinner and a cake for the evening, I got carried away in my frustrations. And then there was an explosion. But, after a few minutes of sadness, and me gathering my better wits, I proceeded to console her and approach her disobedience with God's word and the important responsibility we have to obey not only mommy but God too-and that's how we can show love the best. The weeping and temper quickly faded and we rejoiced that we shared love with one another. That time was so special with her, and so encouraging for this "living in the trench" momma. 
God has given us as parents such a responsibility to train our children, and we can rejoice that we all journey together until His return.  

I hope you are able to find a sketch piece of paper, a wall you can chalkboard paint, or even one of those thousands of different scripture boards that you see in Hobby Lobby to fill your home with God's word this week and in the days to come.