Monday, November 26, 2007

Sharing our first meal in our new home!! Yes, Randy and I closed on our first home last Wednesday just before Thanksgiving. We are moving in slowly in the midst of very busy lives but we are SO excited. We are still living in Fort Worth and moving less than a mile from the home we have been renting.
Thanksgiving for our family was spent in Baird with the Jeffrey/Cardwell clan. We always enjoy time at the ranch but being here to celebrate Thanksgiving this year was extra special. As we drove out Wednesday night the traffic was thick and you could see the stacks of cars for as far as your eyes could see. My sweet husband said, "Isn't this great? We live in a country where everyone in the nation is trying to get home to family and spend time with people they love?" For years we have spent this day alone as a family and we do have many special memories from these times and yet our hearts truly overflow with joy at the experience of being in the same room with friends and family sharing great food and taking the time to reflect on goodness of God in 2007. We all felt a special blessing when the snowflakes began to fall and stick to the ground...the morning had started out cold but none of us expected the snow!!! The kids were beside themselves and had so much fun playing and building a snowman!

Friday afternoon we left Baird and drove straight into Fort Worth for the Parade of Lights and the Lighting of the Christmas tree. We were freezing cold and my arms were shaking from holding Jonathan and Lael for almost the entire time...and to be truthful little Lael was not enjoying herself, she was so cold. We did have fun being with Donny and Kendra and their precious boys, as well as the Yowell family!
The Christmas season has officially arrived!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Most of you know that Randy and I returned with our family to Fort Worth Texas this summer after over 8 years in Benin, West Africa. We are so thankful for the experiences that the Lord gave us in Benin and for our many dear friends who remain there. When we left, there were 9 churches that had been planted. The last two churches planted were planted solely by the Aja Christians! We give praise to God for this great work! Randy and I have told many people since our return that our departure from Benin was somewhat like a storybook ending. We are thankful to be home, yet our hearts are very tender towards Benin. We all enjoy opportunities to speak about our life there. The Lord is good and we witnessed him do amazing things in our lives and in the Aja people.

We have been generously welcomed home by the Richland Hills Church of Christ! Their love and support has been needed and greatly treasured. Many dear friends poured their hearts and lives into assuring that we were cared for from the minute we stepped off of the plane. Our adjustment has been more difficult than we anticipated so we have been extremely grateful for the continual grace and encouragement given.

We’re also grateful for this unique window in our lives when Randy can launch his own marketing/advertising/graphic design company. This has been a lifelong dream and it seems there’s no better time to do it! Started alongside a silent partner (we’ll keep his name anonymous until he quits his job and goes full-time), the company name is "1429." An unusual name, yes, but one with important meaning behind it. Ask and I’m sure Randy will love telling you about it! Randy graduated from ACU with a degree in Marketing. He is exceptionally gifted in graphic design. When you see his work and how much he enjoys doing it, you can not help but think, this is what Randy was made to do!!!

Just a few weeks ago, I received a phone call presenting me with a job opportunity that I am very excited about. I am now presently working for Christian Homes and Family Services as their Metroplex Adoption Case Worker. I will be working with families in the DFW area who desire to adopt through Christian Homes. I worked for CHFS before leaving for Benin and absolutely loved this work. Now being a mother who has adopted a precious baby girl, I am even more excited about the occasion to be involved in bringing families together. I will be working from our home. This job is a very timely and specific answer to prayers for our family.

You are probably wondering about how our four children are transitioning into to this new life. They love being with friends and family and they love eating at fast food restaurants with playgrounds. They love going to Bible classes and playing at parks. We believe they are all transitioning well. At the same time, they greatly miss their friends in Benin, our home, and our Superdog Booker.

We are so thankful for the prayers prayed for our family. Because of your prayers we were sustained and delivered, more patient and encouraged, and never alone. Because of your prayers we were able to leave for Benin with one child and return to Texas with four. Because of your prayers we are all adjusting and our eyes are being opened to the Lord’s provision. Our hearts are filled with thanksgiving!

Let us shout God’s name with a praising song!
Let us tell his greatness with thanksgiving!
Psalms 69:30

Randy & Kelly
Tori, Timothy, Jonathan & Lael

Saturday, November 17, 2007

This morning was much anticipated and every moment was thoroughly enjoyed. We were invited by our dear friend Peggy to come and spend the morning at her ranch. We each took a turn riding "Peppy Lee Bueno" and we learned some special lessons about caring for horses from Peggy. This was definitely a day for making sweet memories!

You will notice that we are starting to get into the holiday spirit! (the Christmas music on the side of this blog) Tori has the entire week off next week. Yea!! We will be spending the Thanksgiving Holiday in Baird. We have so much to be thankful for and we look forward to sharing more of the exciting things that the Lord is doing in the life of our family in coming posts! This is a wonderful time of year. We are missing our friends in Benin and the traditions that we have shared with them there. Even so, we are excited to participate in the joys of the season right here in Texas!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tori's High School Musical Birthday Party

Tori had been dreaming of this day for months and it finally came! The sun was shining and the HSM Soundtrack was playing loud! My parents helped to host this party in their wonderful backyard. We invited friends and cousins and most everyone was able to come. Tori had 3 uncles there, her Aunt Becky, all DFW cousins, and all of her grandparents present. What a blessing to share this day with them. We were sure missing those of you in our family who could not be with us.

My sister had given Tori the HSM party planner and one of the ideas was to have a concession stand and serve popcorn, nachos, and hotdogs. After playing some fun games like Twister, attempting to get 3 Baskets in a row, and HSM Name That Tune, we passed out tickets and everyone went to the concession stand for food and drinks! This was a big hit! Randy made another awesome cake this year for Tori. Tori was pretty specific in what she wanted and her words when she saw the cake for the first time were, "Oh Dad this is even better than I thought!!"

We had a wonderful day celebrating her life and it was a JOY to share this time with our family and special friends. We thank God because Tori is the WORK OF HIS HANDS!! He has created her with love for a purpose and we are so thankful to be her parents.
My heart was so full as I watched her interact with these girl friends, most of whom she did not even know 4 months ago. Another very specific answer to prayer! God is so good.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Praying for the Aja People: 3rd of 4

Rule #1: never start a series of blog posting by titling the first one “Week #1”…this places the author into a nonsensical predicament of having to actually follow through on a weekly basis with Weeks #2, #3, etc. So I apologize for all of you who have been sitting on the edge of your seat ( ha ) waiting for this next installment.

After a brief overview in the first post, a few weeks ago I encouraged you to pray for the BELIEVERS in Benin West Africa. In a few weeks, I’ll focus on the present/future African Christian leaders. These guys are amazing men of faith and will need your prayers for perseverance (and yet don’t take that as a signal of weakness…these brothers and sisters will often usurp me in the faith department!)

Today I want to encourage you to pray for the non-believing populace. As Christians, the Bible teaches us that, before we were “in Christ”, we were deceived, enslaved, blinded and basically incarcerated to whatever our own selfish desires dictated. But when we surrender ourselves to the Lord Jesus, we ask God to forgive us for all of our failings, trust Jesus to have paid the appropriate sacrificial price for our errors, and we begin to learn to allow the Spirit of God to give us the strength to be as God intended and bear the fruit He had in mind when He created us.

My friend Murphy Crowson has some excellent insights into West African religion as he works with a specific people group in Togo. His website is so cool and an excellent resource for understanding the role God’s missionaries have in communicating His love. I have drawn much of the descriptions below from his site. (Thanks MC for doing all the work!)

Like so many similar people groups in West Africa, the Aja people of Benin are animistic in their beliefs. God is Creator (powerful but distant), but aided by a host of lesser spiritual beings (powerful and close). Alongside this pantheon of power are departed ancestors (influential and close).
- Pray that as God demonstrates His intimacy with His created people, that these non-believers will have the blinders lifted to witness it!

When crisis happens, unbelievers rush to the witchdoctor to divine the cause of the tragedy. These persons divine the source of the problem, which often has little to do with what we might determine as non-personal impacts (such as diagnosing a near-death child with some sort of medical verdict). More often than not, someone in the family has committed a grievous action against someone else, thus invoking the “effects” of their actions onto the present situation. I know many of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been targeted as the reason other family members died or their crops failed. All because these familiy members rejected the traditional family religion to follow after this “apostate named Jesus”. In addition to the power of sorcery and the muscle of all those gods, the pagan world wrestles with one another in intense jealousy and envy. Curses can be placed upon others, even loved ones or family members, who might possibly be interfering with their lives.

- Pray God will speak clearly His sovereignty in the midst of a seemingly perpetual state of crisis (so many sicknesses, pains, troubles, deaths, and other calamities that visit these people almost every day!) Without reducing it too simplistically, I might say that fear is the prevailing barrier to coming to Christ. Not just a “fear of what my friends might say” (for those of in the West, we value our reputation), but a “fear of what my friends might do”. They live in a state of fear that their actions will have a domino-like effect on the lives of others and fear being blamed for it all.

The people’s concern for spiritual security and safety from evil are primary. Their ideas of God do not include viewing him as a particularly loving God or one who expects his creatures to love him. The relationship between father and child is more often one of distance and severity based in obedience rather than closeness and forgiveness based in love. The emphasis is upon proper behavior rather than upon right thoughts and motives.

- May the minds of the unbelievers be opened to the freedom we have in Christ, when we realize that it is not because of any righteous thing that we have done that we are saved, but we are rescued and redeemed because of the intimate love of our brother and friend, Jesus.

These nonbelievers are more immediately concerned about power over evil spirits and protection from sorcery than pardon from sin or right relationship with God. Their ideas of morality are centered around outward prohibitions and have very little to do with inward attitudes. In general, they fear magic which is a body of techniques used to control the universe. This body of belief and methodology is based on the assumption that if certain procedures are followed minutely, certain results are inevitable. They also fear specifically imitative (homeopathic) magic which refers to the belief that one can be harmed by destroying something that belonged to the victim such as nail clippings, hair clippings or clothing.

- Pray that the love embodied throughout the writings of our God would penetrate their hearts and bring them to a strong conviction that reconciliation with God is foremost and the key to finding peace and hope. Pray that they may have opportunities of various kinds to see, hear and experience the tangible love of God.

OK – so I’ve oversimplified West Africa religion way too much, reducing it to a single blog post. Volumes have been written and there are numerous places to go on the web to learn more details. Honestly, it can be overwhelming to think how these barriers can be overcome. But having lived there for almost a decade, I can say that God DOES show up in the lives of non-believers and he DOES arrest their minds with His power and compassion. God is able and in spite of an overwhelming battle in the minds of unbelievers, our Lord is faithful so that none should perish but that all should enjoy abundant and everlasting life!

Thanks to David Ker for encouraging us to thinking globally and praying for the world! Thanks DK for encouraging us to voice these perspectives so the Christian world can pray!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Seriously . . .

OK, first of all, you might not take the rest of this post seriously after this picture. Seriously, this is what happens when you are Daddy-ing it alone (Mommy's out of town) and you step away for 5 minutes after letting the kids enjoy a leftover BD cupcake from yesterday! This picture hardly does the mess justice! I'm sure some of you guys out there would never have been so candid - - usually these are moments that a Dad DOESN'T want captured on film! But hey, this is life (occasionally) in our household! Ha Ha! Obviously, for Kelly's sake, I would agree that she probably would have never given them the cupcakes to begin with, or at least done it with supervision!

OK - now to the serious side of the post. This week my heart is turned in a unique way to the global impact the church of Jesus can make. Not every believer will make a trip overseas, nor will every believer have the thrilling experience of cross-cultural Christian friendships. But through the power of praying and the gift of generously giving, we all can play a role in seeing ALL the nations of the world presented with the Gospel of Christ.

Our local congregation has an amazing history of giving so that people in this part of the world, as well in nations all over the world can hear about Jesus. I'm proud to not only be associated with them, but Kelly and I were recipients of such generosity for over a decade!

God is eager to grant believers access to the nations - access to planting seeds of the Kingdom, access to establishing churches, access to demonstrating His compassionate care to hurting people, and access to making friends in all the nations...friends who are bonded together through a single commonality: JESUS.

God is SO FULL OF LOVE for every person on this earth. His heart cheers for the seeker and runs after those who have turned from God - or more likely, have been turned away from God by the actions of "well-meaning Christians." The Bible does remind us that He sent Jesus for ALL of us and that He doesn't want ANYONE to miss Christ.

The vast majority of people reading this are, by the world's standards, extremely wealthy. Yes, you. Yes, me. If I also belong to Christ, what enormous responsibility I have to give of my resources generously so that message of Christ can go forth! Not that American or Western wealth should fund worldwide evangelism exclusively (for many missionaries, including myself, rightfully teach poorer Christians to give just as cheerfully to see the gospel message advanced), but we wealthy Christians do have a significant opportunity to use our wealth for something close to the heart of God.

If you are a part of our RHCC family, then this week I pray you are feeling the call to give generously. If you are not a part of our local church family, I pray that these thoughts still stir you to examine your giving to global missions. It is not a competition as if to say "well, I give my money locally where there are just as many lost people." To say so would split the commissioned task of Christ into a unbiblical battle between believers over WHERE to spend our money. Sounds like local politics! Our task as disciples is to spend our money over all the earth so that ALL the nations hear the Great News of Christ. God has given this opportunity as a gift if we ask for it and are willing to accept the challenge: Give Generously!


Monday, November 05, 2007

We have had a wonderful DAY of celebrating Tori!! We started out early with a few presents and taking cupcakes to school. My mom and I were able to join Tori for lunch and then join her in the classroom when she shared the cupcakes. After school we opened some more presents and played a fun Twister game to the songs of High School Musical...see if you can find the picture of that game going on below!!! Tonight we were with the Jeffrey side of our family at one of our family favorite restaurants...Lubys!!! We had a blast being together and watching Tori's reaction to her presents. My mind has been reflecting on one of the absolute best days of my life all day today!! I love being the mother of Tori Vaughn! She is such a precious girl. My heart truly overflows with enthusiastic LOVE for this girl! The Lord's plans for her are GOOD!

Happy Birthday TORI !! #9 !!

Happy Birthday to our beautiful daughter, Tori! She's 9 years old today and it's going to be a week long celebration for sure!! We're so proud of her and thank God for this wonderful young woman! I loved being there in the room when Tori was born and taking a thousand pictures. Oh - those early lights certainly must have prepared our girl for a lifetime of photo ops. I am thankful for her laughter, her leadership, her love of her grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins...and even as a Dad, I "appreciate" her latest infatuation for "High School Musical". I love listening to her sweet voice singing along with the CD as she sings Lael to sleep every night (meanwhile of course, the brothers in the other room yell out, "TORI STOP SINGING SO LOUD!!!") I love her kindness to her siblings, her inquisitive questions about life, her growing understanding of God's good grace, and for the fun she can have with so many "best friends". I love you Tori - have a great happy birthday!!