Sonidos Serranos

Sonidos Serranos: Sounds of the Sierras...
Reflecting some of my family's interests: God's wonderful creation (especially mountains and hills!), music, and language...

Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

30 December 2009

Christmas Program!

There's been a lot of excitement this month! Sandwiched between the Pottery Outings was the K-3 Christmas Program.

This year's program was longer than last year's, and Elizabeth did sing out a good bit more... Perhaps the most memorable moment for me was the huge smile she flashed at her Daddy and me when she first spotted us in the audience. She then kept looking our way throughout the program, smiling widely every time she did so!

Pottery Outings!

The Annual Pottery Outing is another "sort of" family tradition – for Steel Ladies only! We varied things slightly this year...

A friend and I checked out the more northern location, hosting its Open House the week before our usual place did. We got our complimentary mugs, of course – and, as a bonus, we got to see snow!

Elizabeth was very excited!

The Steel Ladies ended up traveling in two groups this year. Here are the memories, chronicled in photos, for our group...

Fun times!

Christmas Lights!

The Lighting Ceremony has been a sort of family tradition for years. We enjoyed it once again on the evening of December 4.

The cousins enjoyed the experience, too!

As you can see, I also enjoyed playing with Picasa
– and learning some new tricks!

Pretty cool, eh?!

December 30: Update on Jonatán

A long overdue but quick update!

Jona left the hospital on Monday, December 21, having gone in for the three-day chemo on Friday, December 18. He went back for routine blood work this past Monday, December 28. All levels were good, and he did not need a transfusion. We are praising the Lord that so far Jona has bounced back fairly quickly from each chemo treatment and has not yet needed a blood transfusion!

He is now enjoying two weeks off before the next chemo, which is scheduled to take place in January.

Please continue to pray. We continue to look to the Lord, the Great Physician – and we rest on HIM!

18 December 2009

December 18: Update on Jonatán

Quick update!

We are praising the Lord! Jona was able to take final exams this week and, as far as we know, successfully finished first semester – with the one exception of some outstanding reading and/or projects for English class.

This morning he goes to see the doctors to have the routine blood test as well as the preliminary battery of tests for the next round of chemo, which will probably start this evening. This is the same 3-day chemo that he had previous to the surgery, so we are thankful to not be navigating unknown territory – yet!

Please pray for wisdom for Esteban and Esther and the doctors as they discuss the two suggested courses of post-surgery treatment. We are continuing to trust the Lord, and we know that whatever the computer might "randomize" is ultimately controlled by the Sovereign of the universe. By faith in Christ's completed work on Calvary, HE is our loving Heavenly Father! We rest on Him...

Thank-you for praying with us!

16 December 2009

first self-portrait

Two evenings ago, a little voice at my elbow, said:

"Dis is uh pitcher of me on duh gwass."

You have to look closely to see the light blue eyes!

It was, as far as we know, her very first attempt at self-portraiture. The only precursor I'm aware of was her drawing of a bear when imitating her second-cousin Hannah, during our visit to Indiana in September. (She tends very much toward perfectionism!)

Pleased with my admiration of her work, she then proceeded to enhance the self-portrait:

The finished product has been dated and is now tucked safely in my Bible, to serve as a reminder to pray, giving thanks for the little everyday blessings, and cherish the fleeting moments of toddlerhood...

10 December 2009

December 10: Update on Jonatán

We have been thinking much about King Asa of Judah, who most of his life exemplified what it means to “seek the Lord” – and only the Lord. Sadly, at the end of his life, he failed in this very area:
In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians.
To whom does our heart first run in a crisis? By God's grace, we desire to follow Asa's earlier example of trusting in the LORD: he and his footsoldiers were outnumbered almost two to one. Judah had 580,000 mighty men of valor, but their enemies had one million men – and 300 chariots.
So...they set the troops in battle array in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.
And Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said:
“LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!”
After church last night, I called Esther and Esteban. We talked until almost midnight. They continue to be encouraged, looking to the only One who can hear and answer prayer – the One whom we are trusting to do His perfect will in each of our lives.
Jonatán and Esteban met with Dr. Porter, the orthopedic surgeon, and with the oncologists as well. They found out that the tumor was nine inches long (?!) and that only 85% of it had been destroyed by the six chemotherapy treatments that preceded the surgery. Medically, that means that Jona was a “poor responder” (to the chemo). The doctors had been hoping that the results would be above 90%, preferably above 95%.
One of the oncologists commented that in the (ten to fifteen?) years since his medical school days until now, Jona is only the second osteosarcoma patient with results of less than 90% of a tumor destroyed by chemotherapy.

According to the doctors, from here on we are going into unknown territory. Basically, the doctors will now put all the data into a computer which will then “randomize” (their word) a suggested course of treatment. We know that all details are in the wonderful hands of the Sovereign King of the Universe – and nothing will happen by chance!
Per Esteban's request, Jona's next (yet to be decided) treatment will begin on Friday, December 18. Delaying one week will allow Jona to take final exams at the academy next week. Yep! He went from his medical appointment straight to school yesterday!
Jona is encouraged, trusting in the LORD. How thankful we are for God's work of grace in his young heart! And you know Where to look if you're feeling discouraged by this news. Look to the LORD, and please continue to pray fervently with us:
  • Pray that Christ's name would be made big in the earth – in Jona's life, in the lives of our extended family, in the medical community here, in the eyes of others on the oncology floor, in our churches, and in the lives of our Christian brethren all over the world who are interceding for Jona.
  • Pray for wisdom for Esteban and Esther and the doctors as they make major decisions day by day.
  • Pray that the LORD, the Great Physician, would completely heal Jona.
  • Pray for Jona as he endeavors to finish out the semester, taking final exams next week.
As we continue to rest on the only One who can ultimately heal Jona, we echo the prayer of King Asa:
LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!
The LORD answered Asa's prayer, routing the Ethiopian army, because HE was keeping His covenant promise with Asa's predecessor, King David. There was more at stake than one battle in one time period. We who know Christ as Savior serve the same LORD! HE is hearing our prayers and keeping His Word to us:
He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
Please be encouraged in HIM – and pray! Please pray specifically.

May Jesus Christ be praised!

Our Advent Calendar

We've been thoroughly enjoying our first Christmas Season with an Advent Calendar. The frame was a prize find at a post-Christmas clearance sale last year. Because our main goal is to emphasize the Savior – and the fact that HE is our Reason for celebrating Christmas – in the little compartments on our Advent Calendar, we're placing little objects that emphasize specific truths about HIM, followed by Bible verses that state those truths. The detailed plan is posted on my bargain blog.

Confession: Most of the time, I'm barely keeping up with the day by day plan! Many of the items have been the result of very last-minute scrambling, so I've tried to introduce variety by writing the verses on various shapes, etc.

We've been enjoying the great excitement and joy Elizabeth demonstrates over the simple objects and their accompanying lessons. And it's turned out to be a great educational tool. She is remembering very well what specific truth about Christ is represented by each object – and by Monday, one week into the program, she had John 3:16 completely memorized!

09 December 2009

December 8: Update on Jonatán

Jona's follow-up appointment with the orthopedic surgeon will be tomorrow, December 9, at 9:00 a.m. – followed immediately by an appointment with the oncologists. I plan to post a detailed update tomorrow after I learn more.

Please pray! Pray, most of all, for complete healing for Jona, and pray for wisdom for the doctors in discerning the best next step.

Jona continues to be encouraged, trusting in the Lord.

And Esteban is a well beloved pastor!

¡Feliz Cumple!

08 December 2009

The Beauty of Providence

“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven…
He has made everything beautiful in its time…”

“We must make the best of that which is, and must believe it best for the present, and accommodate ourselves to it: He has made every thing beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and therefore, while its time lasts, we must be reconciled to it: nay, we must please ourselves with the beauty of it.

Note 1:
Every thing is as God has made it; it is really as He appointed it to be, not as it appears to us.

Note 2:
That which to us seems most unpleasant is yet, in its proper time, altogether becoming. Cold is as becoming in winter as heat in summer; and the night, in its turn, is a black beauty, as the day, in its turn, is a bright one.

Note 3:
There is a wonderful harmony in the divine Providence and all its disposals, so that the events of it, when they come to be considered in their relations and tendencies, together with the seasons of them, will appear very beautiful, to the glory of God and the comfort of those that trust in Him.

Though we see not the complete beauty of Providence, yet we shall see it, and a glorious sight it will be, when the mystery of God shall be finished. Then every thing shall appear to have been done in the most proper time, and it will be the wonder of eternity.”

from Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary

04 December 2009

December 3: Update on Jonatán

We are, once again, in a holding pattern, waiting to hear results of the pathology analysis on the tumor...

Most of all, we are waiting on the LORD...

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31)

Jona is such a blessing to us; we're thankful to be his extended family!

Speaking at a Thanksgiving Banquet on the day prior to surgery

Recuperating at the hospital on Thanksgiving Day

What a loving big brother and cousin!

Christmas Cheer

We’re getting ready for Christmas, and Elizabeth and I had opportunity to review Christmas Cheer, a Custom Designed Project Pack from Hands of a Child, a premiere lapbook provider since 2002. This was our first experience with the idea of lapbooks, and I enjoyed exploring the concept. I have a vested interest, of course, since we’re planning a four-month trip for next summer – and I’m intensely interested in projects that can be done in a car seat!

It was good for me to slow down and enjoy these projects. (There’s something therapeutic about coloring!) Elizabeth and I enjoyed some real quality time, working on the projects together, looking forward more than ever to the joy of the Christmas Season.

I like the e-book format because pages can be easily printed instead of photocopied. Wherever the laptop might be, the e-book is there, too!

Although we did not yet complete all the activities, our favorites so far are:
  • Mini Book: Decorating the Tree
  • Puppets: Snow People
  • Shapes: Santa Claus
Because of the hands-on educational value it represents, I think the Christmas Cheer Project Pack would be a great addition to a young family’s Christmas library. It can also be a tool for teaching little ones the much-needed lesson of giving at Christmas (instead of just getting) by having them make the projects for others – grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors, etc.

A complimentary e-book was provided to me, as a reviewer for Mama Bzz, by Hands of a Child, in exchange for posting a complete review on my bargain blog (B1G1, Bargains & Blessings in a “Banana”) as part of today’s blog tour. And I’m very excited to add to our Christmas Book Collection!

You can read my complete review here.

A big “Thank-you!” to the folks at Hands of a Child for the opportunity to enjoy and review this fun Project Pack!

01 December 2009

¡Feliz Cumple, Vivi!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! my favorite Uruguayan sister (in law)...

¡Te quiero pilones, hermanita!

November 30: Update on Jonatán

Undoubtedly because of God's grace in answering our prayers specifically, Jona is doing remarkably well – all things considered...

The surgery left him very weak initially. On Wednesday, he slept most of the day. On Thursday, he walked to the end of the hall and back. On Friday, he walked a mile in laps around the nurses' station. And on Saturday, he came home from the hospital. On Sunday morning, he attended church. Today was the last day of the Thanksgiving Break – and I won't be surprised if he tries to attend school tomorrow!

I have several recent pictures to share later, but I wanted to get a quick update out tonight.

Thank-you for your loving concern and, most of all, for continuing to pray! The road of full recovery looks long... But we continue to look to the Lord, asking Him for the miracle of healing...

27 November 2009

A list of blessings...

While we were driving yesterday, I asked: What can we say Thank-you! for to God today?

The following is Elizabeths spur-of-the-moment, spontaneous list – in this order:
  • the Bible
  • Jesus
  • God
  • praying
I misunderstood and thought she had said playing – so the next one was...
  • playing
  • soccer ball
  • police cars
  • stores
  • stop signs
  • red lights
  • trucks
  • houses
By this time, I suspected that the fact that we were driving was influencing the development of the list! So, I suggested: What are some things that you can thank God for?
  • mouth [sounds like mouse]
  • lips
  • yards
  • our spruce tree [in our yard]
    [Shes looking forward to putting Christmas lights on it!]
  • trees
  • windows
  • toys
  • Mommy and Daddy
  • toys [again!]
  • churches
  • monkeys
    [There are two new ones at our house now, compliments of los Abu]
  • octopus [a small hand puppet, courtesy of Publix Preschool Pals]
So much to be thankful for!

26 November 2009

So much to be thankful for…

The following is a script of a testimony I shared on Wednesday evening at our church's annual Thanksgiving Praise Service:

As we recited together this evening, Psalm 103 says:

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies...
(Psalm 103:1-4)

Many of you have been praying for my nephew, Jona Torres, as he has been undergoing chemotherapy for osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, and as he underwent surgery to remove the tumor from his upper arm yesterday.

God did not choose our extended family to go through this experience because we had arrived at some milestone of spiritual excellence. On the contrary, we recognize our own great weaknesses and the all-too-evident struggle with our sinful flesh every day. But we are trusting God’s promises – that this experience is part of the “all things” HE is causing to work together for good… That we are called according to His purpose: to be conformed to the image of His Son, to be conformed to the image of the only perfect Human Being who ever lived – so that HE, the Son of God, might be the firstborn among many brethren – so that HE might be the Preeminent One among many that have been made like Himself, to the eternal praise of His glorious grace!

As an extended family we have much to be thankful for:
  • We are thankful that Jona’s faith is in Christ as His personal Savior from sin.
  • We’re thankful for Jona’s sweet testimony, trusting the Lord in this trial, thanking God for everything – including this trial.
  • We’re thankful for the Lord’s constant provision for Jona and his family in too many ways to name – especially in a two-minute testimony!
  • We’re thankful that the Lord is the Great Physician, the Only One who can ultimately heal Jona.
  • As we look to the Lord, asking Him for the miracle of healing, we’re thankful for the fact that less than one month before Jona’s initial diagnosis, the Lord had relocated Dr. Porter from Mississippi to Greenville to begin working at Greenville Memorial Hospital; Dr. Porter is the only orthopedic oncologist nearer than Charleston.
  • We’re thankful for the highly qualified medical team in residence at Greenville Memorial Hospital, making it possible for Jona and his family to avoid having to travel to Charleston or out-of-state in order for Jona to receive the necessary medical treatment.
  • We’re thankful that yesterday’s shoulder replacement surgery, though lengthier than initially expected, went smoothly.
  • We’re thankful for God’s provision of tickets through frequent flier miles so that Jona’s missionary grandparents from Uruguay could be here with us during yesterday’s surgery.
  • We’re thankful for the many opportunities that Esteban, Jona’s father, has had to share the message of salvation in Christ alone with other families on the pediatric oncology floor at the hospital, with the medical staff, and with many others here in the area.*
  • We’re thankful for the thousands of believers, literally all over the world, who are praying for Jona and for his family.
  • We’re thankful for God’s work in our own hearts, teaching us our daily need of His grace.
  • We are thankful that the LORD is constantly and graciously refocusing our eyes on HIM, and we are praying that HE, as the Great Physician, would completely heal Jona.
  • We’re praying that Christ's name would be made big in the earth – in Jona's life, in the lives of our extended family, in the medical community here, in the eyes of others on the oncology floor at the hospital, in our churches, in the lives of Jona's classmates, and in the lives of our Christian brothers and sisters all over the world who are interceding for Jona.
*Edited to add:
Please pray for Esteban. He was unable to be at the hospital during the surgery yesterday because he was very sick, coughing and running a high fever. This afternoon he was diagnosed with the H1N1 virus! Please pray for a quick and complete recovery with no complications – and pray that Jona would not get sick when he comes home.

Thank-you for praying!

25 November 2009

Out of surgery!

A very tired but happy Dr. Porter just gave us the news – Jona is out of surgery! The surgery took over seven hours, the last hour and a half of which were spent sewing muscles back together and of course closing the incision.

I'll plan to send a detailed update tomorrow, Lord willing.

Do continue in prayer! Perhaps the biggest item is that the doctors are hoping the chemo destroyed at least 90% of the tumor for the best statistical survival rate.

Remember that God is good – all the time!

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him:
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honour him.
(Psalm 91:15)

24 November 2009

Update on Jonatán

Greetings from the hospital!

After "hurrying up only to wait" this morning, Jona was finally wheeled back to the Operating Room at almost 1:00 p.m. We received a phone call shortly after 2:00 p.m. to tell us that the surgery was beginning.

The orthopedic surgeon explained this morning that there are actually two procedures involved in today's surgery. Removing the tumor will take about two and a half hours, and then reconstructing the arm will take at least another two and a half hours. As was explained to us this morning, "surgeon hours" mean a two-hour leeway either way.

Esther received a call at about 4:00 p.m., stating that the surgery was going well. The staff will continue to update us periodically. So, we're "hanging out" at the hospital, looking to the Lord and appreciating the blessings of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been accompanying us.

We just found out that the tumor has been successfully removed! Praise the Lord! (This also means that Dr. Porter is enjoying his "Snickers and Diet Pepper Break" before returning to the Operating Room for the second phase of the surgery!)

We appreciate, more than words could possibly say, all of you who are accompanying us in prayer. We are experiencing the grace of God and the peace that surpasses understanding. Please continue to pray!

If you would like to send a note of encouragement to Jona at Greenville Memorial Hospital, you can do so by clicking here and then clicking on the eGreeting link in the first paragraph. Or go to and then to the "Patients and Visitor Info" tab on the top left and then click on the eGreeting link in the first paragraph.

Thank-you, most of all, for praying!

November 24: Update on Jonatán

Surgery to remove the tumor is scheduled for this morning at 11:00 a.m. It is expected to last five hours. Please pray for successful surgery (if necessary, for God could heal him without it!), for complete healing from the surgery, and for no recurrence of the cancer.

21 November 2009

November 21: Update on Jonatán

The date for Jona's surgery has been set: Tuesday, November 24. Please pray fervently!

Sometimes it's hard to know what to think... Thankfully, the Lord is very clear as to Where we should look:

Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith...
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

In the last update I stated that the tumor had shrunk almost 30% – but upon carefully examining the beginning and ending x-rays (at Esteban's request), it was admitted that the tumor had not shrunk anywhere near that amount. It's another good reminder that our faith must be in the Great Physician alone – only HE is ultimately the One who can and does heal! And HE wants us to ask!

Last week's updated prayer list included a request that Jona's arm be spared. We are praising the Lord that the orthopedic surgeon is planning to do that. He did say, however, that he will have to take the shoulder because the tumor is so high in the bone. So, a shoulder replacement surgery is being planned.

We continue to be encouraged – in Christ! And we are counting our blessings, thoroughly enjoying precious time as a family with the Garwood grandparents who are currently in town. In fact, to hear Jona and his Grandpa joke around, you would think we didn't have a care in the world!

Here they are, comparing how much (more than ever!) they look alike.

And last night as we were leaving, Elizabeth was brushing her hair out of her face; Jona remarked that he too had the same problem with his hair getting so long! The look of confusion on Elizabeth's face was priceless! (How I wish I could've gotten it on camera!)

Last night we also had the blessing of listening to "The President's Club Awards" on CD. Jona received the "Overcomer Award" (a huge surprise to him) during a chapel service on campus this past week. And the entire ninth grade class (and their families) were publicly commended for the way they have rallied around Jona and his family. The dear folks at the academy and university have been such a wonderful testimony of what true believers in Christ should always be. We are so humbled and blessed...

As we face the challenges of this coming week, please do pray fervently:
  • That Jona's arm would be spared.
  • That the planned shoulder replacement surgery would go smoothly.
  • That the LORD, the Great Physician, would completely heal Jona.
  • That Christ's name would be made big in the earth – in Jona's life, in the lives of our extended family, in the medical community here, in the eyes of others on the oncology floor, in our churches, and in the lives of our Christian brethren all over the world who are interceding for Jona.
Thank-you for praying!

May Jesus Christ be praised!

17 November 2009

The Story of Christmas

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere we go!” And we’ve been preparing for this joyous season a bit earlier than usual, enjoying a brand new book at our house. The Story of Christmas, published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., is a colorful retelling of the birth of Christ and the events surrounding it.

Reading aloud to Elizabeth, I was impressed by the clarity and simplicity with which these Bible stories are retold in language she could readily understand – and without extraneous embellishments! And as I read the truths I’ve known and loved since early childhood, I was gripped once again by the reality of Christ’s humble birth and the fact that the King of Kings was laid, not in a crib in a palace, but in “the box where the animals were fed” when HE was born!
Elizabeth loves the book and is very eager to hear the stories again and again. A highlight for her is “reading” her own name in the account of the birth of John the Baptist!

Another highlight was having “los Abu” (who are in town for a short visit) read her current favorite book to her.

A pedagogical bonus is that each two-page story also concludes with a thought-provoking question. For example, having recounted the angel’s message to Joseph (“Name the baby Jesus. He will save people from their sins.”), the follow-up question is: “The name Jesus means “savior.” What does a savior do?” As we endeavor to communicate the message of the Gospel to Elizabeth on a daily basis and as we work to explain the true meaning of Christmas amid our culture’s abundant distractions, I’m thankful for the opportunities this book presents to highlight these Bible truths.

A complimentary copy of the book was provided to me, as a reviewer for Mama Bzz, by Thomas Nelson, Inc. in exchange for posting a complete review on my other blog (B1G1, Bargains & Blessings in a “Banana”) as part of today’s blog tour. And I’m very excited to add this gem to my Christmas Book Collection!

You can read my complete review here.

A big “Thank-you!” to the folks at Thomas Nelson, Inc. for the opportunity to enjoy and review this wonderful book!

14 November 2009

November 13: Update on Jonatán

Thank-you for praying! Please continue to do so!

We were in a holding pattern for ten days or so, waiting to hear news from the doctors. Jonatán had an appointment yesterday, and now we know a bit more:
  • Jona's blood levels are where they need to be. He continues to be able to attend school and church, and we are praising the LORD that he has not needed any blood transfusions.
  • The lung scan came back clear. This is a huge answer to prayer!
  • The tumor appears to have shrunk 30% as a result of the chemotherapy treatments.
  • Surgery to remove the tumor from his upper arm is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, November 24.
Please pray specifically...
  • That Jona's arm would be spared.
  • That as the doctors endeavor to save Jona's arm, he won't have to have a shoulder replacement.
  • That the LORD, the Great Physician, would completely heal Jona.
  • That Christ's name would be made big in the earth – in Jona's life, in the lives of our extended family, in the medical community here, in the eyes of others on the oncology floor, in our churches, and in the lives of our Christian brethren all over the world who are interceding for Jona.
If you are just now becoming acquainted with Jona's situation, you can read our specific prayer list here. And you can read Jona's testimony of trusting in Christ here.

Jona's missionary grandparents (from Uruguay) arrived in town yesterday.

We attended part of a community youth football game, where Jona was surprised with an autographed football and a team jersey and then asked to assist in coaching the rest of the game. It was a great blessing to see the group of players, coaches, and parents gathered on the field after the game, with heads bowed in public prayer. We have so much to be thankful for!

We are endeavoring to fix our eyes on Jesus,
and we feel keenly our need of His grace.

Please pray for us!

13 November 2009

The Farmer Gets a Life!

In modern Elizabethan at our house, the Farmer in the Dell gets a life!

There's at least one other nursery rhyme that has undergone modification, too. If only I could remember which one... I know it made me smile!

Speaking of smiling, we're very happy to have "los Abu" here in Greenville for a few weeks...

07 November 2009

una adivinanza (¿original?) en español

Para mis parientes, amigos y estudiantes hispano-parlantes:

¿Qué dijo el Papá Fuego al Bebé Fuego?

“¡Soy yo que mando!”

(El autor permanecerá anónimo...)

06 November 2009

On God's providence and provision in missions

We were challenged by a wonderful missions emphasis in our church services this past Sunday. Thinking further on testimonies shared by several of our current missionaries and on several quotes from missionaries of the past, I was encouraged to also find the following quotes from Hudson Taylor, English missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission:

"Many Christians estimate difficulty in the light of their own resources, and thus they attempt very little and they always fail. All giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and presence to be with them."

He also wrote:

"We are supernatural people, born again by a supernatural birth, kept by a supernatural power, sustained on supernatural food, taught by a supernatural Teacher from a supernatural Book. We are led by a supernatural Captain in right paths to assured victories. The risen Saviour, ere He ascended on high, said: 'All power is given unto Me. Go ye therefore.'"

“I have found there are three stages to every great work of God: first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”

"Our heavenly Father is a very experienced One. He knows very well that His children wake up with a good appetite every morning... He sustained three million Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. We do not expect He will send three million missionaries to China; but if He did, He would have ample means to sustain them all... Depend on it, God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply."

04 November 2009

Girl Talk: a book full of practical & frugal tips

Did you know...
  • ...that putting an avocado pit in the middle of freshly-made guacamole keeps the dip from turning brown?
  • ...that a homemade tomato facial can tighten pores and make your face glow?
  • ...that putting some Sweet N’ Low in hair dye keeps it from irritating sensitive skin?
  • ...that lemonade flavored Kool-Aid can act as a stain remover?
  • ...that cereal box liners can work great as freezer bags?
  • ...that gift-wrapped cereal boxes can make great (frugal!) shirt boxes?
  • ...that some leftovers (including used tea leaves and coffee) can make specific plants in your garden really flourish?
Etcetera! Etcetera!

Girl Talk, compiled by Gigi Garner and published by Five Star Publications, is a collection of useful tips, confidences, and anecdotes like the ones we women might share with our girl friends over tea or coffee. It's the kind of book that can be picked up and then easily set aside when the next duty calls – and it’s full of both useful and amusing tips.

Thank-you to the folks at Five Star Publications and Mama Bzz for the opportunity to enjoy and review this book!

(You can go here to read my complete review.)

02 November 2009

A new game at our house!

We're enjoying a new game at our house. Since it arrived a week ago, Elizabeth has begged to play it every day. I guess I won't be wrapping it up (at least not as a surprise) for Christmas...

We received the Rapelli Game, compliments of Timberdoodle (a great site for homeschool supplies) in exchange for my posting a complete review on my frugal blog as a reviewer for Mama Bzz. I was very happy when I received the email stating that I'd been selected to review Rapelli; Elizabeth is an avid little learner who loves games, building things, and learning in general.

We especially like educational games at our house – games that teach critical thinking skills to little ones – and we are pleased that Rapelli fits that bill. Using a giant piece of bamboo as the game board, Rapelli reinforces color matching, counting, and even rudimentary logic! An added bonus for us is the fact that the game instructions are in five languages, including Spanish and French – of great interest to our family! With Christmas less than two months away, I recommend Rapelli as a great addition to a young family’s wish list.

Thank-you to the folks at Timberdoodle and Mama Bzz for the opportunity to review this great product!

(You can go here to read my complete review.)

01 November 2009

November 1: Update on Jonatán

Jona went back to the hospital on Friday to begin the last chemo before surgery. We're praising the Lord that last weekend's chemo took only a little over three days to be "washed out" of his system – and Jona was able to attend classes on Tuesday when he got out of the hospital! We're praying that the same will happen with this weekend's chemo.

Please be praying for the surgery which is tentatively scheduled to take place sometime between November 16 and Thanksgiving weekend. Pray for wisdom for the doctors as they prepare, performing a whole battery of necessary tests in the two weeks preceding the surgery. Most of all, pray that the Great Physician will grant the miracle of healing we are asking of Him.

27 October 2009

Enjoying the beauty of God's creation!

We went for a fall drive this past Sunday afternoon. The leaves might have been at their peak – especially since today's rain seems to be causing them to fall off more rapidly...

Every year, I'm awed by the beauty of God's creation!

And I'm so thankful for my family!

24 October 2009

Christmas in October!

Yes, the stores have started putting out Christmas trees and decorations – lest we forget that there are only two months till Christmas!

But the extended Steel family got a head start on October 10 this year, taking advantage of Dad and Mom's being in town.

We're thankful for a wonderful time of fellowship with family!

23 October 2009

October 23: Update on Jonatán

Jona attended school for two class periods before his regular Friday appointment at 10:30 this morning. After the routine tests (blood work, kidney check, etc.) he was admitted to the hospital for the fifth round of chemo which is scheduled to start this evening. This is the 4-hour type that can cause sores in the mouth and entire digestive tract. With the help of IV administered fluids, it's supposed to "wash out" of his system in three days. Please pray that it will do so – and not take longer, as it has twice previously for him.

Jona seems to be encouraged, catching up slowly but surely on school work and trying to keep up with new material presented in class. He's been going to school every day – and has also been out jogging in the evenings! We're also praising the Lord that Jona's blood levels have been acceptable throughout these chemo treatments and that he has not yet needed a transfusion.

If all continues to go as planned, Jona is scheduled next week to have the last chemo before surgery. The doctors will then run a battery of tests to check the status of the tumor in order to know just what needs to be done and how extensive the surgery will need to be. They're hoping that the chemo will kill 90% of the cancer cells and greatly shrink the tumor before surgery. We know that all things are possible with God, and we are specifically asking Him for this! Please pray for wisdom for the doctors as they prepare for the surgery, and pray for the timing of the surgery.

Jona's missionary grandpa from Uruguay is scheduled to fly up on November 9, arriving in Jacksonville to meet little Charlie, the latest grandson, on November 10 – and then coming to Greenville the week of the surgery with Grandma Pat who is already in Florida with Charlie and his family. Please pray for safety for them as they travel. Pray also for extended family in Uruguay who would like to be here at this time but cannot...

Again, thank-you for praying! We are continually in need of our Savior's grace!

21 October 2009

A preview of the (fast-approaching) teen years?!

That's what I thought as I contemplated the collage on the fridge...

A classmate's birthday party invitation, a dental appointment,
a full church calendar, a fieldtrip...

But she's only three and a half years old!

It's a good reminder to "make the most of the opportunity" each day!

And as I meditated on that verse, I took note of its context:

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;
Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ...
That I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

Oh, how we need Christ's grace to pray as we ought, to speak His truth to ourselves and others, to conduct ourselves wisely, to speak with grace – to obey Him!

How thankful I am for His promises:

He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
And these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

17 October 2009

Indiana Memories

In spite of the sadness (for us) of Gramma's home-going,
we're thankful for opportunities to spend time
with extended family and family friends...

PaPa and Grandma (and the grandkids!) had a good time
at Lemon Lake, the park they frequented with their kids
decades ago...

We spent some time strolling around the beloved plot of land...
A wonderful piece of God's creation...
So many memories there...

16 October 2009

October 15: Update on Jonatán

The Lord has graciously been answering the prayers of His own!

If you’ve been reading updates on Jona’s situation, you know that he had a very rough day about a week and a half ago. His heart rate slowed to only 40 beats per minute, and he was passing blood. We are amazed at how well he looks now – in comparison to how low he was just two Mondays ago…

When he went for his check-up a week ago on Friday, his blood test results were good; the levels were where they need to be! We're so thankful he hasn't needed a transfusion yet; this is a great answer to prayer! He does still have some "blistering" (for lack of a better word) in his digestive tract but is definitely able to eat better than he was a week or so ago, so he's slowly gaining back some strength. We are humbled by the Lord's goodness in answering prayer above and beyond our expectations!

Although Jona is still weak, he’s been going to school every day (taking naps as needed) and slowly but surely catching up with his work load. He’s enjoying being back in school. In fact, he told his English teacher earlier this week that he was so tired he would need to sleep through her class. After getting the reaction he was looking for, he told her he was kidding! He certainly hasn't lost his sense of humor – and his teacher appreciated the little joke! (She obviously has a wonderful sense of humor herself!)

Please continue to pray. Jona goes back to the hospital for the next chemo in about a week – most likely on Friday, October 23. He will then go back a week later for one more chemo and then have another week or so “off” before the surgery to remove the tumor, which will be scheduled sometime in November.

I would like to say on behalf of the family that we appreciate every expression of loving concern and, most of all, the great encouragement that so many – all over the world – are praying for Jonatán. So many have expressed their love in so many ways! We have been overwhelmed by your demonstration of genuine Christian love.


13 October 2009

Para leer este blog en español…

Para leer este blog en español vaya al siguiente sitio web:

Entre el nombre del blog:

Elija traducir del inglés al español.

¡Haga "click" (en el enlace) – y lea en español!

Va a estar leyendo una traducción computarizada. Es decir, no va a estar leyendo mis escrituras en español. (Los que me conocen se darían cuenta de eso casi de inmediato al ver tantos “horrores” gramaticales.) Por favor, recuerde que Google es “creación” del hombre y no de Dios.

09 October 2009

October 8: Update on Jonatán

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s...
(Psalm 103:1-5)

At church last night, our pastor encouraged us to begin memorizing Psalm 103 for our annual Thanksgiving Praise Service, coming up in seven weeks. He also challenged us to "forget not all His benefits" by specifically listing at least one blessing per day. We have so much to thank God for! The Lord brought the first five verses of Psalm 103 to mind as I drove home from visiting Jona and his family tonight...

The Jona I found completing a Physical Science assignment, intent on working hard to catch up on school work he has missed due to chemo and its complications, was an incredible blessing to me. God is specifically answering our prayers! Although Jona is still weak, he went to school all day today. He did take a nap while there and was (understandably!) quite tired this evening, but he is also encouraged. He even has some of the usual sparkle back in his eyes! Praise the Lord!

Thank-you for praying specifically. Please continue! Jona plans to go back to school tomorrow before his mid-morning appointment for blood tests. Please pray that his blood components will be at the desired levels so that he will not need a transfusion and so that he can keep attending classes. He loves school!

(See our specific prayer list here.)

07 October 2009

October 7: Update on Jonatán

Praise the Lord! Jonatán came home from the hospital yesterday. He is still quite weak but very happy to be home.

This past chemo treatment was the hardest one yet. Prior to starting the chemo, Jona's lung partially collapsed due to the laparoscopy to remove the second spot; he recovered enough for the doctors to go ahead with the chemo on Saturday evening. Then, besides experiencing the nausea and pain usually caused by the chemo medicines, on Monday his heart rate dropped to only 40 beats per minute! Thankfully, he was (comparatively) much improved when we saw him at his home last night.

Please continue to pray that Christ would be glorified during this difficult time. We know that HE is always good and completely in control of every situation. Esteban has had many opportunities to minister God's truths to several other families whose children have cancer as well as to some of the hospital staff who have serious questions about the character of a God who would allow such suffering...

Even those of us who are trusting HIM for salvation and are believing His Word find it difficult to focus on His truths in moments of pain. Yes, we are in pain. (We're normal, too!) It's very hard to see our Jona so sick. How often we forget that we are all pilgrims in this life – like Abraham was – "looking for the City which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God."

The Girl I Used to Be

The following poem brought tears to my eyes as I read it on another blog... I'm so thankful for the high calling of motherhood!

She came tonight as I sat alone,
 the girl I used to be…
And she gazed at me with her earnest eye

 and questioned reproachfully:
Have you forgotten the many plans

 and hopes that I had for you?
The career, the splendid fame,

 and all the wonderful things to do?
Where is the mansion of stately height

 with all of its gardens rare?
The silken robes that I dreamed for you

 and the jewels in your hair?

And as she spoke, I was very sad

 for I wanted her pleased with me...
This slender girl from the shadowy past,
 the girl that I used to be.
So gently rising, I took her hand
 and guided her up the stair
Where peacefully sleeping my babies lay,

 innocent, sweet, and fair.

And I told her that these are my only gems

 and precious they are to me;
That silken robe is my motherhood

 of costly simplicity.
And my mansion of stately height is love,

 and the only career I know
Is serving each day in these sheltered walls

 for the dear ones who come and go.

And as I spoke to my shadowy guest,

 she smiled through her tears at me.
And I saw that the woman that I am now,

 pleased the girl I used to be.

~ Author Unknown

01 October 2009

October 1: Update on Jonatán

Jona is back at the hospital for the laparoscopy procedure to remove the spot on the left lung. Pending how smoothly that goes (how much pain, etc. the surgery causes), he's scheduled to start the fourth round of chemo (72 hours worth) tomorrow. Lord willing, he'll go home on Monday.

Please remember the following requests Jona has shared:
  • Jona’s testimony to touch the many people he comes in contact with at the hospital and at school so that Christ will get all the GLORY.
  • Jona’s need for strength.
  • Jona’s need to keep well. (There’s a lot of flu going around here in Greenville!)
  • Christ’s guiding of the surgeon’s hands in a few weeks as they take out the tumor and part of the bone.
  • Jona's chemo treatment this week as it is a long and hard one.
  • Jona’s family's strength.

Thank-you for praying!

The Scriptural text of Sometimes a Light Surprises, a hymn by William Cowper, has been a blessing to me this week. The Lord is at work in the lives of His children; may He find us faithful!

30 September 2009

Post #101

Read about the beginnings of our missionary travels on our ministry blog:

Ohio and Indiana

East Tennessee

We are trusting the Lord for His perfect timing and provision for our arrival in Uruguay to take a more active role in the abundant ministry opportunities there. Meanwhile, we are enjoying this stage of His preparation for us!

Sometimes a Light Surprises

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises
With healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation,
And find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow
Bring with it what it may.

It can bring with it nothing
But He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing
Will clothe His people, too;
Beneath the spreading heavens,
No creature but is fed;
And He Who feeds the ravens
Will give His children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their wanted fruit should bear,
Though all the fields should wither,
Nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice,
For while in Him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

Text by William Cowper
Based on Malachi 4:2; Matthew6:24-34; Habakkuk 3:17-19
Music by Craig Courtney
Copyright 1993 by Beckenhorst Press, Inc.
A sound clip is available here.

26 September 2009

September 26: Update on Jonatán

We’re thankful to be back in Greenville after eleven days on the road. The Lord gave grace, and we truly enjoyed the experiences of our first two deputation services. (We learned a lot, too!) We also enjoyed the fellowship of gracious believers in the churches and schools we visited as well as in numerous homes. We’re very grateful to the Lord and to His people. It was also encouraging to meet so many who are praying so faithfully for Jonatán and his family! Thank-you!

We also appreciate those who have been praying for John Mark's extended family. Gramma entered her Savior's presence on Friday, September 18, 2009. We’re thankful that she is now free from pain, rejoicing in Heaven. (But we will miss her!) We praise the Lord for the testimony of her life and a memorial service that glorified Christ. As we reminisced with extended family and friends, we again realized how much we have to be thankful for!

We’re now in the process of doing laundry, catching up on e-mail, and generally settling back in… Several notes regarding Jonatán have come via e-mail, so I’m going to post excerpts here. (Some of the information may be repetition for some of you.) Thank-you, more than words could possibly say, for continuing to pray.

First, some notes from the coordinator of the “Praying for Jona Torres” group on FaceBook. (This was posted on Thursday, September 24, 2009.)

I was in last night to see Jona; he was more of a blessing to me than I think I was to him. His spirits are high, and he is full of joy. As I talked with him, he shared something that we as a group need to be taking to The Throne Room of Heaven.

Please plead with Christ for the following:
  • Jona’s testimony to touch the many people he comes in contact with at the hospital and at school so that Christ will get all the GLORY.
  • Jona’s need for strength.
  • Jona’s need to keep well. (There’s a lot of flu going around here in Greenville!)
  • Christ’s guiding of the surgeon’s hands in a few weeks as they take out the tumor and part of the bone.
  • Jona’s treatment next week as it is a long and hard one.
  • Jona’s family's strength.
I just want to say thank you for joining in and praying for Jona. I just know that God has something great for him to do.

And the following are excerpts of notes sent from Jonatán’s missionary grandparents in Uruguay:

Praise the Lord with us for answered prayer! Jonatán returned to the hospital on Friday morning of last week for blood tests. His blood counts were actually better than they had been the last time they were checked. This was an answer to prayer. He was therefore able to have the four-hour chemo treatment on Friday evening of last week. He then went through the follow-up process of lots of IV fluid to flush the chemo medication from his system. He experienced quite a bit of nausea due to the chemo but was doing better on Thursday and had been able to eat a bit. He was holding his weight. This was another answer to prayer!

Perhaps the greatest cause for rejoicing is that the bone scan came back negative. The doctor also told the family that the tumor seems to be shrinking – after only two chemo treatments. These are both answers to prayer, and we are thankful. The main potential side effect of this second chemo drug is sores around and in the mouth. Jonatán hasn't had any trouble with this. Again, we are thankful for answered prayer!

A follow-up note sent yesterday adds more information:

We just talked with Esther. We asked how they were doing, and she said: “Fine. We're all home together." Then she went on to explain. Jonatán had originally been scheduled to start his 72 hours of chemo yesterday. However, after looking at previous scans and with the result of osteosarcoma in the spot on the right lung, the doctors decided to remove the spot in the left lung as well. So the revised schedule, for now, is:
  • September 29: See the doctor for blood tests.
  • October 1: Undergo laparoscopy to remove the spot on the left lung.
  • October 2: Be admitted to the hospital to begin 72 hours of chemo.
After all this, Jonatán will have two weeks of rest. Tentatively, sometime between October 19 and 26, he'll be in the hospital for the final two rounds of chemo before surgery – four hours for each treatment. These are the treatments that require him to stay in the hospital on IV fluids until all the medication is out of his system.

Jonatán has been able to work on his school work even during hospital stays. Esther has been able to work almost every day, and they work with her when she needs to be off. Marcos is enjoying having Jonatán home for these extra days. This extra “time off” from chemo will allow Jonatán’s body to gain strength and also allow the chemo he has already had to work longer in reducing the tumor.

Please continue to pray:
  • That Jonatán’s blood levels and energy level will stay where they need to be for continued treatments.
  • That the surgeon will be able to do the laparoscopy quickly and that there will be less pain than there was from this procedure on the other lung.
  • That Jonatán would not get sick from flu or other things going around.
  • That they'd be able to control the nausea and other effects when Jonatán has the 72-hour chemo treatment.
  • That Jonatán would be able to continue eating well and would not lose weight while undergoing the treatments.
  • That Jonatán and his entire family would continue to be encouraged in the Lord and that God would be glorified.
  • That the insurance company would pay well for expenses and that the Lord would provide all the family needs.
Esther said the surgeon who does these laparoscopies is very thorough in what he does and wants everything possible to be done and everything done properly. They are thankful for the doctors the Lord has given Jonatán during this time.

Thank you again so very much for praying so faithfully for Jonatán, his family, and his extended family!