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.

21 December 2012

Weeping... (and Hope!)

Twenty months have passed since the night of April 20, 2011. Together with Esther and Esteban and Marcos, we face our first Christmas in SC without Jona. The rest of our extended family faces the Christmas Season in Uruguay. At this time last year, we were all together in Uruguay.

But we are very aware that even as we sorrow (but not without hope), many families in the northeast of our country are facing grief beyond words this Christmas...

Others echo my thoughts better than I could ever pen them right now...

As we yearn for the Day of the Lord, we grieve with those who grieve. We sit with them and pray for them and acknowledge that their loss is truly unspeakable and that their tears are unspeakably true. We pray and look for openings for grace and the hope of the gospel. We do our best to speak words of truth, love, grace, and comfort.”

The darkness of Christmas, whether the first one or the one this [year], serves as a reminder of why Jesus had to come . . . and why He will come again...”


This life, with all its joys and blessings, is part of a long story that is – in a very real sense – a story of human pain and sorrow. We long for babies that never come. Children come but die in the womb before we get to meet them. Parents bury children they never planned to bury; and children bury parents with words left unsaid . . . and memories of words that should have never been said. We walk through the children’s cancer ward, where bright colors and happy toys fail to hide the stinging knowledge that here are little people who are very sick. Our hearts – and sometimes our voices – scream to the unanswering sky . . . “Why? Is this what it is to be human? Where is God in all of this?” And in our most honest moments, we admit that we’re tempted to question how there could even be a God who allows such suffering. These questions are not new. And though we will never understand all of the answers in this life, God has told us a lot about why we suffer . . . and about how the long story will finally end.” [Read the whole story: God’s Story and Yours!]

17 December 2012

from Psalm 73

You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever...
 
It is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord GOD,
That I may declare all Your works.

~ from Psalm 73

13 November 2012

Do pray specifically!

On November 2 we posted our latest ministry report in which JM commemorates several significant anniversary milestones. We appreciate your reading and praying specifically for our current North American ministry and for what God is doing in Uruguay.
 
Recent travels took us to PA and VA. We’re thankful for educational extras we experienced in the DC area:
 
Pray for our nation!
 
JM used airline miles to fly to UT, where he participated in Kaysville Bible Church’s 40th anniversary celebration, taught a Sunday school class in Liberty, and met with friends in the Salt Lake Valley.
 
 
Do pray specifically for us! We do not take your prayers for granted. We are in constant need of them. Without God’s grace we cannot for one day – let alone 40 years – be faithful in our service to Christ.

28 October 2012

¡Feliz Cumple, Flaco!

Happy Birthday – to my dearest friend on earth!

He has two more avid fans, too!

September 2012

December 2010

21 October 2012

Solid Joys!

Today we sang a hymn I’d memorized in high school. My now-favorite stanza wasn’t included in the hymnbook used back then, but it’s well-worth our singing and meditation:
 
Savior, since of Zion’s City
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity;
I will glory in thy name.
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show.
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know.
(by John Newton)

20 October 2012

Love 'em!

They’re my favorite people in the universe – and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them at the soccer game tonight!

Note the Uruguayan national team shirts!

You may be wondering about our secret to getting great smiles? Well... This time JM balanced a marble-sized, crumpled-up paper on the camera! (Whatever it takes!)

18 October 2012

Autumn Drive!

We enjoyed cooler fall weather – and wonderfully warm fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. We’re now once again “sojourning” in SC after encouraging meetings in VA and PA.
 
An added bonus on this latest trip was driving the Skyline Drive and part of the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way back. We enjoyed amazing fall color and saw two black bears and lots of deer: 7 on one day and 21 on the next.
 
Views of the Shenandoah Valley were incredible!
 
Fall foliage was on display everywhere!
 
We drove through various changes in climate!

Rows upon rows of mountains stretched to the horizon.

See the black bear – disappearing into the woods? 

What a lovely time of year for such a drive!

Fall is definitely our favorite season!

A typical shot of our Little Lady in motion:
Her feet aren’t even touching the ground! 

Lovin’ freedom, sunshine, sticks, and leaves!

The does and fawns were so tame... 

Look at the detail on her face and ears!
(What a marvelous Creator she has!)
 
We caught just a glimpse of the famous Mabry Mill at twilight!

A life of travel with two little people in tow definitely has its challenges. (That’s actually an understatement!) But opportunities like these remind us that we have much to be thankful for!

02 October 2012

Keep praying...


Read our latest report for specific requests and updates.
 
Pray for us as we continue preparations for a move to Uruguay. God is faithful; we are trusting His perfect timing and provision.


We were encouraged by a conference near Chicago.
 
Elizabeth sang with her grandparents at a retreat!

02 September 2012

Pray for us!

Read our summer report for specific updates and requests.
 
We found the “Uruguayan Sun in Ogden Valley, UT!

11 August 2012

Surprising comfort...

He seemed to know exactly how to comfort that night – the night of August 10, that would have been Jona’s 18th birthday. As he cuddled in my arms he opened his eyes, looked right into my eyes, smiled until he dimpled, and said: “Jonatá!” I was amazed; our Little Man seemed to have read my mind, right then full of memories of Jona.
 
“DJ” (as Jona called our Little Man) was most likely thinking back to earlier that day when he sat on  my lap at the computer, looking through lots and lots of Jona pictures with Elizabeth and me as I compiled a collage to commemorate Jonas birthday.

Up until that evening all our Little Man’s attempts to say “Jona” had for months been “Nana” (interesingly also his word for sweet things!) and then more recently “Nona” – but earlier on that evening of Jona’s birthday he had said “Jonatá!” for the first time. And he had even cooperated so we could get a video clip:

video
 
As he lay in my arms that night, his saying “Jonatá!” – so happily, confident that he was going to make me happy by doing it – was a blessing beyond description. Our loving Heavenly Father knew that we needed the extra special timing of it...
 
The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms...
(Deut. 33:27)

10 August 2012

Jona’s Birthday

Today would have been Jona’s 18th birthday...

It’s hard to know what to write...

So many precious memories...

Please continue to pray for Jona’s family – especially for his mom and dad and Marcos.

We know God is faithful; we continue to rest in His truth.

Jesus said:
I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?

27 July 2012

Trying to catch up – again!

I found it amusing that when I typed sonidos serranos blog into the search bar, the first entry that showed up was one from late summer last year entitled Trying to catch up... (Sigh...) That seems to be the story of my life these days...

Were temporarily back (again) in the Upstate – trying to adjust to the humidity as we work on organizing our belongings with a view toward a permanent move to Uruguay!

You can read our spring ministry report on our ministry blog. Overall, we remain encouraged in this stage of ministry God is giving us among North American churches. Do pray for us!




Elizabeth finished kindergarten on May 25, and we have since begun homeschooling her first-grade studies. A strength of her early elementary school experience continues to be geography! Please continue to pray that our children would faithfully follow Jesus.

Our most recent travels took us back to The West! We logged over 7K miles (i.e. spent many, many hours in the car!) and had some bonus educational and memory-making times as a family as well. Internet time tended to be limited for me, but I am planning to do some catch-up posts...

Thank-you for reading – and, most of all, for continuing to pray for our extended family. Random moments are often hardest...

In the spirit of catching up, here are some recent family snapshots:

Celebrating 13 years of marriage on July 16!

JM just finished an intense two weeks of D.Min. classes today, so he’s planning a real date” for later. Meanwhile we managed to squeeze in a family outing to our favorite little restaurant, The Pita House. And, yes! DJM really is trying a sip of very strong Arabic coffee! He loved it – just like his sister did (but she was slightly older).

Celebrando el 18 de julio... ¡Viva Uruguay!

Celebrating our multi-cultural Little People!
We love em – lots and lots and lots!

Elizabeth is turning into an avid reader. As you might guess, DJM can be mischief personified! He loves to try to do whatever she’s doing; that’s his latest artwork in the background.

10 May 2012

"Welcome, Spring!"

We’re enjoying late spring now – with currently cooler evening temperatures after recent rains. But we’ve already had some hot “summer” days and nights, too. And we’re still not sure we ever got any real winter weather here in the Upstate...

At any rate, we’ve been enjoying the flowers all around us – and especially in our own yard!

First came the crocus and daffodils:



Elizabeth was inspired to send a picture she drew to a children’s magazine. She received a nice letter of recognition in response. If the editors decide to publish her drawing, we were told that they’ll send us two copies of the magazine. Either way, the experience has already been exciting!

"Welcome, Spring!"

We also enjoyed the camelia and hawthorne and iris and roses – all of them wonderful reminders of our amazing Creator!



“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”

29 April 2012

His Sheep

Jesus said:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

21 April 2012

Remembering...

Remembering one year ago tonight...

So many thoughts... We sorrow, yet not without hope...

So much to be thankful for... So many precious memories...






Jesus said:
I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?
(John 11)

You can read more about our loving Shepherd and living Savior at: www.jonatorres.com

14 April 2012

These words are true and faithful!

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

12 April 2012

Jesus put an end to the agony of death!

Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—

This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

11 April 2012

Answering a 5-year-old's metaphysical questions

Mommy?

Hmmm?

Why is Jona dying?

She was sitting across the table from me, eating an evening snack. I looked across the laptop screen and met the big, blue eyes – wide-open with the question. In a frank and very calm manner, the little voice had captured the cry of all our hearts...

Well, Punkin, we often dont know why God is doing what Hes doing... Her question had caught me off-guard. I bit my lip, thinking...

In reality, were all dying...

Were all dying?! The always-big eyes got even bigger – and very serious.

Its because of sin – and thats why Jesus had to die on the cross...


And thats as far as I got with this post on April 10, 2011 – exactly one year ago tonight. Hospice care, sleep deprivation, caring for a five-month-old, and many other demands kept me from getting back to writing any more.

There are many angles to the story, but the main answer is the one I discussed with my five-year-old that night and many, many times since that night; its the answer I wished Id had time and energy to articulate on this blog that night. But, almost one year later, JM summarized that answer (God's Story – and Yours) on www.jonatorres.com.

We invite you to read it, believe it, and rejoice in it!

07 April 2012

Do you believe this?

Jesus said:
I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?
(John 11)

31 March 2012

www.jonatorres.com

April marks the one-year anniversary of Jona Torres’ homegoing. Several friends, along with his family, have worked very hard to put together a gospel tract and accompanying website, highlighting his response to cancer and the Lord’s work in his life.

Please pray for the success of the gospel this next week as students and faculty from his high school, Bob Jones Academy, take these tracts to New York City on their annual evangelistic trip.



Pray for grace for his family during these anniversary days.

Visit the website and view the tract (in English and Spanish); read, see, and hear Jona’s story; and give glory to Christ for His gracious work!

25 March 2012

Sorrow, Joy, Hope... Grace!

This evening marks the beginning of almost four weeks that hold an anniversary every day. On March 25 (the Friday afternoon of BJU’s Bible Conference last year), Jona took a marked turn for the worse. We were told that evening by the hospice nurse on call that that night would be Jona’s last. But God had other plans, giving him almost four more weeks of ministry among us – and answering our prayer that He deal gently with us.

We would appreciate your continued prayers for us as extended family – and, most of all, for Esteban and Esther and Marcos. We continue to grieve. But we also continue to find our Savior faithful as we walk this valley, and we know that we can trust His words. He is Faithful and True!

Our loving Shepherd continues to answer our prayers, dealing gently with us. We are encouraged as we trace His hand and see His working. He eased the pain of our first Christmas without Jona by giving our extended family ten days together in Uruguay in late December and early January, culminating with the joy of Julia’s and Dilney’s wedding.

And now during these almost four weeks of anniversary dates, He is giving us joy and hope – in spite of our deep sorrow – as we look forward to the printing of a tract containing Jona’s testimony (in both English and Spanish) and an accompanying website. The tract and the website are targeted for realease on March 30. Please pray specifically for God to continue to use Jona’s testimony of faith in the Savior for His glory!

13 March 2012

Our Little Lady

Our Little Lady is six years old. Time has flown! Watching little ones grow seems to augment the speed at which days turn into weeks then into years... With God’s help, we’re trying to cherish the precious, fleeting moments.

Elizabeth continues to be a great source of joy. By God’s grace, we are constantly reminded that she is a trust – on loan from Him. What an awesome, humbling responsibility! (In early February, I paused to jot some notes – lest in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the timing of events and milestones blurs.)

Enjoying her little “Secret Place” in the back yard

In December, Elizabeth became an avid reader. She continues to learn by leaps and bounds. Upon realizing that Spanish has only five vowel sounds, she taught herself to read Spanish, too, while we were in Uruguay in late December and early January. Her doing so is extra special to me because Jona did the same as a young boy...

Having fluctuated between speaking mostly Spanish as a baby and young toddler, to rejecting it while in K-2 and K-3, to picking it back up during short visits to Uruguay, she now speaks more Spanish than ever – thanks mostly to the fact that we speak primarily Spanish to her baby brother. We are constantly amused (and delighted!) as we hear her speak quite fluently to DJM. She loves to tell him what to do – especially if there’s opportunity to tell him not to do something! But, in general, she continues to be “Best Big Sister” to him. And he adores her in return.

On the plane, traveling back from Uruguay

She continues to love drawing and often surprises us with drawings of events or objects she experienced or saw in the past. Some of her latest artwork includes Uruguayan themes! And she continues to love drawing “manger scenes” – with lots of detail.

Probably my all-time favorite!

During the last year or so, she also designed several of what she called “tracts.”


When not drawing or reading, she is constantly on the move. (Her Daddy often says that she went from crawling to running – and has never stopped!) She is a delightful juxtaposition of “princess” and “tom-boy” rolled into one! Favorite pictures of mine include moments when I’ve caught her in mid-air:

At a random rest area in Iowa in early October 2011

At Plaza Independencia in Montevideo in early January 2012

She continues to be tender-hearted, and we’re very thankful.

03 March 2012

News from the Little House and the Big House

The past seven days have comprised “quite the week” for our little family! All four of us are either fighting or trying to recover from a nasty stomach bug (referred to as “12-hour flu”). The little people have also been battling chest colds and congestion. So... Nights have been short (full of “interruptions”), and days have been long. (Welcome to the “real” world of parenting, eh?)

(I’m thankful for the tool FaceBook can be in cases like this, allowing us to put out a request for extra prayer.) The Lord has been answering, giving grace and strength to JM and me – and we’re very thankful! Elizabeth seems to be doing better, though she’s still (uncharacteristically!) tired. And the little guy had a fever this morning but seems happier at the moment.

Last night was definitely an improvement over the night before, and we’re hoping tonight will be even better. Please pray for complete healing for all of us.

In other news...

About a month ago, we were “Celebrating the Little House.” And a week ago on Thursday, we toured part of a very big house – America’s largest, we’re told. We enjoyed a drive up into the NC mountains to one of my favorite places – the Biltmore Estate. (Thank-you, PaPa and Grandma, for the one-day passes!)



DJM was very excited about the size of Comodore, the stone lion!



Our Little Princess is always excited about castles!
(She’s eager to learn more about this one.)


The flowers were just beginning to appear in the gardens.


In the conservatory, we saw abundant testimony of our amazing Creator’s handiwork!

(This is only a small sample...!)

The farm animals and tractor are always a highlight.


This was DJM’s first visit to the Biltmore Estate, and Elizabeth enjoyed his enthusiasm.

(And this is my favorite snapshot of the day!) 

19 February 2012

Remembering and praying...

Six months ago, Amy Caldwell Bixby was promoted to Heaven. Please pray especially today for her family (her husband and seven children) – and for all who knew and loved her.

It will be well-worth your time to take a few moments to read (or reread) a blog post that was written by Amy shortly before she went to see her Maker and Savior.

I love her testimony!
I want to shout from the rooftops that if you will just believe Him, even though you can't understand now, even though some things hurt now, He will never truly hurt you. The pain we feel is a reminder that He is making it more than better – He's redeeming things so perfectly, that the pleasure He's preparing for me is beyond my comprehension; and so, even the pain is a grand evidence of His grace. 
~ Amy Caldwell Bixby (May 23, 1974 - August 19, 2011)

Brothers and sisters, pray earnestly for those who are suffering such great loss!
The pain of loss is severe because the pleasure of life is so great; it demonstrates the supreme value of what is lost. The screaming pain I feel at the loss of [a loved one] reflects the pure pleasure I felt in knowing [that one]. 
Jerry Sittser in A Grace Disguised

17 February 2012

Remembering: One year ago...

One year ago on the day-before-yesterday, we had just returned to the Upstate from travels in Ohio to learn that Jona had had a near-death experience. (A tract that is in the works tells the story, and I plan to share more on that later. Meanwhile, please pray for God’s guidance of and blessing on the tract project!)

You would never guess what Jona had recently been through by the pictures and video clip we took that evening:



We’re more thankful than ever for the “bonus” time (over two months) that God gave us with him.


We now miss him more than ever! Some days are harder than others. And as time passes and reality comes more and more into focus, we face new challenges. But, by God’s grace, we continue to rest in the knowledge that His way is perfect – and that the number of our days are ordained by Him!

You [God] formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You,
For I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.