Father, we bring our new year before You and lay it at Your feet. We know that You are already filling every minute and second of the year in front of us. It may be new and unknown to us, but it isn’t to You. Thank You for always being with us and in us. Thank You for giving us life abundantly. Help us to keep our eyes on You, the Author and the Finisher of our faith. We worship You in Spirit and in Truth. In Your precious and Holy Name, Amen.
A Time of Reflection
by Angela O’Dell
Over the last few months, I’ve found myself battling extreme burnout and exhaustion. During my end-of-the-year reflection time, I spent a good amount of time praying about it… I’ve come to realize that I haven’t been pouring in enough – cutting short my Bible study time, dropping hobbies and fun-reading, and not taking time to exercise.
Each year, I ask God to give me a word or phrase that represents what my focus should be. I wasn’t expecting Him to direct me to Matthew 11:28-30. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’”
My word for this year is REST. Not that I’m not going to be working, but I AM going to be allowing God to show me areas that I’ve been carrying too much. As a driven, focused, over-achieving person, this concept is perhaps the hardest for me to submit to, yet I know from experience that I cannot do life in my own strength; I need His strength and direction desperately. Maybe you, too, are at this place in your life. Perhaps you need prompting and permission to “be still and know that He is God.” If you are at this place, I encourage you to join me in a Sabbath for our souls.
May the peace that passes all understanding guard our hearts and minds…
A couple months ago, I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across a post written by one of my online friends/followers. Jani’s words and faith brought me upright in my chair. Thoughts such as: would I have what it takes to face something like this? Do I have that kind of faith? I knew that I needed to ask Jani to share her story with the rest of us Steadfast Moms. She kindly said she would.
Below is the Facebook post, the first part of her story…
Today we remember how God changed our lives drastically 9 years ago:
Jungle birds made their loud and happy chatter songs as we quickly sat down to breakfast in our humble little two room house on the edge of a clearing.
We were pioneer farmers in a rather remote area of jungle forests. Our goal was to share the gospel with the native Brazilians and also teach them farming skills.
This morning was a hurried one. We were making the trip down river to a sawmill to get supplies that had recently come on a barge. We were also taking a woman named Sandra, along with her two small children, a 3yr. old daughter and a 7 month old baby boy. Senara, a 13 yr. old girl would join our group as well.
Although the distance was not so great: traveling 7 km by truck on a jungle road(about 30-45 min. depending if there were any trees to clear out of the road or not), next there was a 2 hr. trip on a big, heavy, wooden boat downriver to the sawmill. Once there, we would wait till we were able to unload all the cargo from off the barge(by hand) onto our boat, then head back upriver again; it would definitely be an ALL day trip and prove very tiring.
We made it to the riverside and pushed off close to 11am.
The ride down river was pleasant. Lucas worked on something to do with the motor, while I piloted the boat and the children enjoyed the ride immensely (like always)
I had a small Portuguese Bible that I had brought along and now would be an excellent time to read. It fell open to the first chapter of Job. As I read the story of Job’s losses, I was again amazed at how after Job had lost EVERYTHING, even his ten children, he blessed the Lord, even in his deepest pain.
Wow, how could someone do that?
Having arrived at the sawmill during the “noon” hour, which is from 12 pm to about 3 pm, when the sun is at its hottest, we would have to wait till things opened again. The sawmill village had a small pharmacy, cantina(basic food store) and bread store.
After getting things done and our heavy boat loaded with roof tiles, many sacks of cow mineral, two big drums of diesel, food supplies and three goats, we slowly pushed off around 6:30pm, right at dusk.
The boat was heavily loaded and was very tipsy, due to a problem it already had with being “off balance”.
Chugging along very slowly upriver, with Lucas piloting the boat and all the rest of us at the very front of the boat in the chilly evening air, we tried to get comfortable enough to rest from the long tiresome day, but all in vain.
Sandra’s seven month old baby boy and three year old girl were put to sleep in a tiny little cabin directly behind the pilot seat. Our five year old son, Joel, curled up and fell asleep right in the front of the pilot seat along with Senara, who found a rather comfortable place to sit up on the wooden floor. But our two girls, Karen and Grace(ages 4yr. and 2yrs.) could not get comfortable enough to sleep on the hard wooden boat front. I decided to take them further back in the boat where there was a hammock to try and get them to sleep. I sat on top of the cow mineral sacks while I swung the hammock, putting them to bed.
It wasn’t long before I saw the motor stop pumping water and begin to overheat. I called up to Lucas but the loud diesel motor drowned out my voice. Frantically I raced to the front to tell Lucas to stop the boat, but in doing so, the boat leaned to one side and something heavy, we’re not sure what, slid across the deck floor, and all at once the boat lay over on its side.
I immediately scrambled over the outside of the boat (now laying over, but not sinking) trying to get back to our girls.
Lucas, who was piloting the boat, was thrown the furthest away from the boat, and Joel, who was sleeping, woke with a start in the cool waters. Thankfully he knew how to swim. Senara helped him back to the lain-over boat.
Sandra appeared from the side cabin window, screaming hysterically; she had not grabbed either of her babies.
I clearly remember the sound of the diesel motor dying out as it went under water, the smell of diesel fumes and oil floating on top of the water, the piercing screams from Sandra, as I plunged into the dark water where my girls had been, crying out in a groan from the depths of my heart, almost gasping, as if just breathing was a struggle for me right then,
“O God, please let me find the girls, please, God, have mercy on my girls!! Please let me find them!”
For some reason, I could not draw a breath and go under water in search of our girls even though I knew how to swim quite well. So I just clung to the railing on the side of the boat and pulled myself along feeling with my feet as I cried, prayed, and begged the Lord to save my girls.
And then… something struck my foot,
I took a breath and went under….
It was Karen, our 4 yr. old. I pulled her up onto the side of the boat, where Joel, Senara and Sandra were. Lucas had swam back to the boat and had come to help me find the girls but I asked him to search for Sandra’s children instead, and I would stay looking for Grace. Sandra’s little 3 yr. old daughter was brought up and Lucas was repeatedly diving back under in search of the baby boy. I stayed in the water looking for Grace and begging the Lord to help me find her.
I don’t know how long it was before Lucas came up with Sandra’s lifeless baby. As soon as he thrust the baby up beside his mother, he immediately dove back in, this time, looking for Grace. I pulled myself up out of the water and crawled on the side of the boat toward Sandra and her baby, as though I had purpose and knew what I would do. Which looking back now, I’m amazed at how God put that in me at the time to just do it, because honestly, I’ve never done CPR on anyone before and really don’t even know how to.
I reached the baby and grabbed him up, turning him over expecting a gush of water to come from his throat…no water ever came. His body was cold and lifeless…how did I keep going? God. Only God.
I put my mouth on his and blew air into him and tried sucking water out, while turning him over repeatedly and pressing his little belly. Sandra’s screams continued to pierce the night air as she saw how lifeless her baby was.
I remember pausing in my attempts to revive the baby and reaching over and taking Sandra’s hand, looking her in the eye and saying,
“Sandra, you must ask God for the life of your child!”
She was not a believer,
but at that moment, she began to cry out to God for mercy as she begged Him for the life of her baby boy.
As I continued my vigorous attempts with the baby on the side of the boat,
A little hiccup came….
Then a small breath…..
His eyes opened!
We gasped in delight,
“He’s alive, he’s alive!”
No water came from his mouth, no crying from his lips,…
Just silently he looked into our faces as though nothing at all had happened.
We witnessed a miracle.
My husband’s soaking wet arms wrapped around me.
“She’s gone,” he said slowly, “God took her. I can’t find her.”
There before us was our two shivering wet children, Joel and Karen, and I was pregnant with our fourth child. And now, Grace was gone, no longer with us!
The thought that came to me so clearly that night was this,
“These are not your children, they belong to God; entrusted to you by Him for only a short while.”
I remember looking up into the clear night sky and seeing a fingernail moon just about to disappear beyond the horizon and a lonely star or two. “Grace is with Jesus,” I whispered, “She now sees God face to face!” As we talked with Joel and Karen about Grace, and how she was no longer with us, there were tears and sobbing as we prayed then began to sing, at first very weak, but then our voices grew stronger and stronger as we sang the comforting words of, “It is Well with My Soul” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
How could we possibly sing on such a night as this?
How could Job possibly bless God in the midst of his pain?
It is all because of God, not us. He makes us strong to face the foe!
It is all God from start to finish!
He holds our feeble feet from falling and girds our loins with strength for the battle.
To Him be all glory and praise forever and ever!
“As for God, His way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: He is a buckler to all those that trust in Him. For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.”
Grace’s little body was found about 30 hrs later. She is buried behind our little jungle house on the edge of a clearing. Her tomb stone reads as follows:
Grace Anne Stenberg
“The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21b
“(Better) is the day of death than the day of one’s birth.” Ecclesiastes 7:1b