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.

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.